Friday, August 28, 2009


I have just returned from my bi-weekly soul destruction session at the job centre. Car*le of Crewe JobcentrePlus, I want this job: I wish to be your nemesis. I pray for at least one day of working once again with the general public and that you are my first customer. For I will completely ignore everything you say when you try to answer my questions or attempt to engage me in polite conversation and when I actually deign to listen to you I will give you a faintly condescending grimace and answer neither your questions nor concerns and proceed to talk over you. Our brief professional relationship/customer interface will be over when I turn away from you and tap details into my computer or till, acting as if my last uninterested glance at you caused your molecular disassembly, doing like a scared toddler and metaphorically covering my eyes so you can't see me. You will of course have access to my manager in order to complain about my surly treatment of you and I will get the sack; a luxury I do not currently possess as the Jobcentre Plusses have made it quite clear in the national media that they are overstretched and interviews are of a minimal timespan, exonerating their own behaviour. I realise that this ultimately makes you my nemesis but I would have had the brief satisfaction of being able to treat you in exactly the same way you treat me.

It is already bad enough that I am knocking 49, have not had a proper job for nigh on 7 years due to other concerns and have come to the conclusion that unless I want to clean either offices or old people, I am probably unemployable. I respect the fact that these things have to be done, but not by me they won't. I really have no wish to be a skivvy and while I have done the caring thing, it was out of love and duty, not a career option. I have O levels, not GCSEs, in subjects that do not exist anymore. I didn't go to university because universities back in the 70s were for exceptionally clever people who could already read and write when they left school and for which local authorities gave you a grant to attend. Polytechnics were, er... you went to a poly? LOL. No, I went to art college and eventually dropped out, man, and drifted into industry. I have spent a lifetime doing jobs that didn't really matter (and in a large part were empire building) and building up a set of useless non skills with office software that is the equivalent of being very good on a calculator. My body is also failing; I can't bend very well and although I'm generally fit I can't lift much as I've had the full set of hernias and may well have another brewing. I don't even have any proper referees, which is hugely embarrassing. The jobs I'd really like to do (I would, for instance, really love to while away my declining years doing something meaningful on the waterways) are very few and far between and modern offices bear no relation to the ones I used to work in. In order to claim benefit, I have to make myself available for work almost round the clock yet in the real world, if I eat later than 8pm I am up all night with vicious heartburn because of my hiatus hernia. I can't sleep during the day as I turn into an utter shit because the rest of the world is up and being noisy. I live next door to a family whose children, while quite nice, take advantage of the fact that their parents are both profoundly deaf and can't hear the racket they make. I would probably end up killing someone during nights. So no, C*role, the shiftwork admin job at the warehouse you told me to apply for is a non-runner.

In the 90s, following my redundancy, I was, for a brief time, a regular attendee at the Job Centre in Erith in South East London. Signing on there was almost a pleasure and the staff friendly. When I finally secured a job extorting tolls at the world's premier tolled river crossing in Dartford, one of my very first customers on my very first day was the nice lady with whom I used to sign every week. We had a laugh and I thanked her and she was visibly pleased I'd found a job, however menial.

Which was nice.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Can you spare me 5 minutes of your time?

I am a very great fan of all those interesting quizzes one finds on the Facebook. They are, to a man, insightful and revealing and I have learnt so much about myself and my online friends through completing them and viewing the results of others. Freud and Jung must be spitting feathers over how easy psychoanalysis has become. Fun for all, eh! Anyway, while not wishing to belittle the prodigious amount of work and effort the compilers obviously put into devising these tests, I spent ten minutes knocking one together yesterday evening so would like to run it past one or two of you before I unleash it and allow it to take the world's premier social networking hub by storm. I have taken the liberty of running it through a new Firefox add-on, "Facebook-o-fix" in order that you don't have no probs readin it. Here here!

Men - How do you Slice You're Toast?!!?

Did you know that the way you slice you're toast can tell evryone about you? Do my quick quiz and find out if you can really cut it!!!LOL!

1) Square quartered

Your outwardly solid and dependable. You aer careful with you money and make lots of provisions for you and your family for when your made redundent. You like family holidays and have a dog. You have a shed concealing a large collection of vintage Danish porn. Job = C.I.D.

2) Diagonal quartered

Youre over-sensitive with some inpenetreable depths. You have a few CD's of George Butterworth and Vaughan Williams English pastoral music to assuage your guilt at your huge collection of Norwegian Death Metal. You secretely fear foreigners and would really like to be a vegetrian. Job = Local goverment compliance unit.

3) Half diagonal

As a teenager you had a crush on your best mates' mum. You spent a year in therapyin your 20s but your OK now you think as long as you don't forget your lithium. You keep a picture of K.T Tunstall in your wallet which you pass off as your girlfriend although your probably gay anyway. Like video games and UFO's. Job = Freelance journo for gadget mags.

4) Half square

No flies on you! You sale through life without a care. You outwardly don't give a toss about money and you fear no-one and nothing. But your actually crap at everything and should of gone to university straight away instead of deferring and then getting married. And divorced. Job = What job?

5) I just cut it without thinking

You really love the sound of your own voice and can clear a poub in minutes. Your annoyingly good at DIY and everyone you help out you call your mate. But they only ever call you as a last resort even though they know you got a heart of gold really. You always wash your car every Sunday morning even if its' raining and you like cats. Once went on holiday to Phuket and had embarrassing altercation with a ladyboy. Job = Local councillor

6) I don't cut it.

You think ribbed condoms are dead sophisticated although the last time you used one you put it on inside out and had a alergic reaction to the lubricant. You like long bike rides at the weekend and have all the gear but have always had trouble doing right-hand bends and get a lot of gravel burns taht you like to show off. You drink far too much Red bull and are developing twiches. You have the kind of face that attracts attention from the police. Job = Web designer

There you go. Any tweaks?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

In which cricket causes me to re-evaluate some things

Telly! I am watching the cricket highlights for only the second time all summer. It is good to see a rampant England, the team promises to be a fine one post the retirement of its talisman. Andrew Flintoff may not be everyone's cup of tea and although not the best all-rounder England has ever had, he's still a fine player. He has the right attitude. He's a hero to a certain section of male society, often for the wrong reasons, and I can only hope that the livelier elements of his followers look past the fireworks and his fondness for a pint and learn. The handshake from Ponting as he came out for his final innings was a case in point; he's held in immense respect by his opponents because of the spirit with which he plays the game and that one moment was a distillation of everything sport should be about. It's something you won't see much of in football (Bristol City not doing the decent thing and allowing Palace a soft goal last week for the "non-goal" everyone bar the officials saw scored for instance) and why, despite having always followed it, you will probably never see me in the crowd at a game. The competition is on the field of play, it's not to be taken into everyday life. There really is nothing quite so boorish as a nutcase football supporter. It's only a game.

As for Ponting, can't say I've ever been a big fan but he went up a huge amount in my esteem after taking a full on drive in the mouth at silly mid-off. No helmet and it takes a brave man to field there without protection although I can imagine Brian Close wondering why he didn't head the ball to slip if he couldn't get his hands to it. I did a fair amount of time fielding there when I was playing, something to do with having good hands apparently, and was lucky enough never to get hit although as a batsman whenever I was given a close fielder I tried to hit him to get him moved. Fair's fair, I would have bought him a drink after if I had.

I also have to eat some humble pie. It is well known in some quarters that I am not the world's greatest admirer of multi benipped songstrel Lilly Allen of that London village. I don't much care for her professional yob father and some of her own antics have left me a bit cold in the past. However, she was the lunchtime guest of Test Match Special on the wireless today as it has been well publicised recently that she has come out as a big fan of test match cricket. The interview revealed, quite unexpectedly, a decidedly charming young lady and her quite touching reaction to being presented with a book signed by Graham Onions, for whom she has declared a crush, fair brought a quiver to my lower lip. I dare say a full character reassessment ought not to be made on the basis of a 31 minute conversation with an apparently awestruck Jonathon Agnew, but I'll return my judgement to the reserved box for the time being.

Apologies to the colonials and the ladies amongst my many hundreds of followers, for whom this must be exceedingly tiresome. This was also my 400th post and I really had nothing much else to say.

Monday, August 17, 2009

World of Rupe

Being regular readers of this diary you will be well aware that I do not possess one of those new-fangled highly-defined televideograms that everyone seems to have now so while preparing my dinner yesterday evening, I turned on the wireless. It was having none of it so I was forced to listen to it.* It was that little gardener cove, Titsarse, doing your 100 Best Tunes or whatever it's called now, apparently Hubert Gregg no longer being up for the gig having passed away several years ago. Didn't fancy it, nor the god slot after, so I tuned to the medium wave to catch the athletics world championships from Berlin just in time to hear the commentary on something that was quite frankly remarkable.

Exactly a year ago in Beijing, Usain Bolt strolled 100 metres in a time requiring something approaching warpspeed to complete. It was a truly stunning piece of human athleticism that anyone who appreciates any kind of sporting prowess could admire. He made a quality field of the best athletes in the world look like club journeymen. As he had a bad start and also appeared to be slowing down and showboating for most of the second half of the "race" it was surely only a matter of time before he would get everything right and produce something memorable and last night was that night. He ran an insanely fast time and broke his own record by 11/100ths of a second and over 100 metres, where world records are measured in one or two 100ths at a time that is a ridiculous amount. Tyson Gay ran the third fastest time in history - what would have been a world record a year ago - and came second. It sounded a spectacle. But some spectacles can only truly be appreciated visually; it is often extremely thrilling to watch someone do something expertly and if they are a peerless master at that skill then that thrill becomes a privelege, even though that privilege is being shared with millions.

I texted my sister, no mean athlete herself (a multi be-medalled Veteran world champion) and asked whether she'd seen it. Yes, she had and it was superb. Bugger. Oh well, it was 9 pm and time for my Sunday evening indulgence; I'd go and watch the replay in the pub. Bound to be on - that was history being made, wasn't it. 15 minutes later and I was propping up the bar in the Gaffer's Row watching two screens in turn, one showing Rupe-O-News and the other Rupe-O-Sports News. A big yellow tickertape was flashing along the bottom of both screens announcing the breaking news of Mr Bolt's triumph. "Good", I thought, they'll show it soon. Did they bollocks. Two hours I stood and watched that shite. Oh they mentioned it enough and on the Sports channel I saw miniscule highlights of lots of things. Rugby League; Andy Murray winning a tennis match in Montreal; a seagull nicking a bail at the Australia v England Lions game at my spiritual home, the St Lawrence Ground, Canterbury. They talked about the unravelling final round in the US PGA golf and showed a bit of the Moto GP. Wayne Rooney gave a lucid and intelligent interview, Neil Warnock showed righteous indignation at the "non-goal". It was on a loop, the same stories over and over again and and presided over by two of the most vacuous, uninspiring and boring presenters I'd ever witnessed. No sense of history at all. This was the sports channel for crying out loud! Something truly remarkable in the world of sport had happened and you weren't talking about it. Why not? Instead you were showing the Dutch football league table. Who's interested in that? Who buys this crap? Go hang your heads in collective shame.

*© S.Milligna, 1955

Friday, August 07, 2009

I become a laughing stock

As is my wont, I strolled liesurely power walked into town earlier, about 10.45. I was only gone a couple of hours and on returning I happened to glance in through the driver's window of my car as I passed by on the drive. There was stuff on the passenger seat. Lots of it. And a bit more stuff on the drivers seat, too. I went to open the door; it was already open and not on the latch either. I had been the victim of an attempted burglary.

I say attempted as there was no sign of forced entry so I'm guessing I must have left the door unlocked when I got back from my walk along the Trent and Mersey canal through Middlewich yesterday afternoon. There did not appear to be anything missing. The fact that the door was actually open suggests an opportunist who was probably in and out in a few seconds or surprised in the act by a passer-by. Ironically, as I left earlier I'd noticed the van owned by the maintenance company my housing association uses parked next door, unattended, with its sliding side door wide open, a range of power tools within easy reach. It was still there on my return. Modern thieves are as thick as shit.

I have been the victim of burglary, of both vehicle and domestic kinds, before. It's not a pleasant feeling, especially when nothing's been nicked and all you've suffered is wanton vandalism. My previous car was broken into twice and both times a window was smashed causing me to lose some NCD even though nothing was actually taken. It's the buggeration factor of having to get repairs done and make a claim that annoys me more than anything. At least this time I don't need to make a claim.

The only feeling I've got this time is one of mild embarrassment and I hope the little felon is nobody known to me otherwise he might point and laugh. My car is eleven years old and I've had it all bar 5000 miles of its life. It's part of me near enough and it's almost my own personal museum. I lived in it for several days once, it's home. There were bits of old personal ephemera and effects hauled unceremoniously out of the glove box and spread onto the seat: old bits of printout with maps on; the manual and handbook; my old spare clip-on tie I wore as part of my uniform; some directions with a little billet-doux sign-off my ex-wife sent to me to get to the holiday home she and the kids were already at - our last holiday as a family unit and the one during which I decided to leave; a pair of surgical shears I bought at a boot market and which I use for fishing; a pad of now useless concessionary disabled driver tickets I used to give out as an employee of the world's most popular tolled river crossing (what were rather disingenuously called "cripple tickets". Weren't they, Andy); a pair of pliers and a tyre pressure tester (I haven't checked to see if my torch is missing - I have "a thing" about torches, I don't know why. The provision of artificial light to a small area giving a sense of immediate security and comfort perhaps? Anyway, I'll always accept and appreciate a torch as a gift). The ashtray had been removed, presumably to look for the stash of hobby medicinals I do not use or the emergency tenner I can't afford.

What was most embarrassing though was that he would have seen I still have the factory-fitted entertainment system. It's not even a CD player, let alone a Bluetooth enabled iPod friendly radio, it's a radio-cassette player. With "Rover" on and the same cassette that's been in it for about 7 years (Rory Gallagher, Live in Europe if you must). He probably picked up a cassette and wondered what on earth it was. At least he I didn't take the Postman Pat one that's been in the car since my children were infants and which I can't bear to throw away. No taste.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009


Some time ago I was diagnosed with very high blood pressure, as is often the case with fat old men, and am now "under the doctor". Last week I went for one of my periodic visits to have my BP checked with the nurse. It had gone up slightly necessitating a further review by the GP, which I had yesterday. He immediately doubled the dose of whatever it is I'm on at the moment and I started the new regime yesterday evening. I don't know whether it was the increased dosage, the quick snort of Glenlivet I sluiced down before retiring or a combination of both but I slept like a baby. Once I'd finally got up this morning I found I had about as much determination as a comatose sloth and dozed off on the sofa while reading an Inspector Banks novel. I like Peter Robinson so it wasn't the book.

After a while I was alerted by Mr Jezza Vine of the wireless trying to whip up some kind of frenzy among the English Democrat section of his BBC Radio 2 listenership by talking about the craze of "sexting" amongst teenagers. I was previously unaware of this new diversion, maybe you are too, so I will elaborate: children, teenagers mostly, take compromising pictures of themselves with their mobile phones and send them to each other via the media of text or Bluetooth, hence the scurrilous play on words. This part is relatively straightforward, children have always done this. Indeed, I recall some children at my primary school even making a tidy income (maybe even enough to buy a packet of Potato Puffs) from pimping the budding charms of the more well-developed girls. I never had any money on me but I doubt I would have wasted it on peering down Kipper's vest anyway. Innocent behind-the-bike shed fun and oh so normal. Unfortunately the newer craze has a darker edge.

Teenage relationships are not known for their longevity; young boys are painfully immature, young girls can be unbelievably shallow. Introduce hormones and technology and you've got problems. Both parties, but I suspect mainly the boys because their immaturity encompasses the inability to deal with break-up however shallow the girl is (get used to it lads), are vengeful and these pictures end up being circulated amongst not only their peer groups but also on the Facebook and suchlike. It's not nice is it.

Still. Adults are more mature aren't they. I immediately text my very dear friend who lives a very long way away:

"You heard about this sexting mullarkey where people send titilating pictures of themselves to each other on their mobiles?"

"F*** that for a game of soldiers"

"Here's a picture of my lunchbox"