Monday, 30 December 2013

Happy New Year...

...A few days early with that, aren’t I?

In my opinion I’m not. Why can’t we say that every day? Every day is the start of another year long period in our lives so why should we wait for just one of them? Why make resolutions on December thirty-first? What was wrong with September the eighth or sometime mid March? Answer, absolutely nothing.

What if, in November, you decide you want to quit smoking but you’ll do it in the New Year? What if, having decided on that New Years resolution, that on December the eleventh you smoke “that” cigarette. The one that causes the cells to mutate and begin their destruction of your lungs. The one cigarette from which there is no return. By February you’re still coughing up horrid, speckled phlegm. You stand, looking at your sputum in the sink or toilet or handkerchief and, feeling proud of yourself, think that’s just the badness coming out. And that cough, you’ve had it a month but that’s just you acclimatising yourself to a life without smoke, isn’t it? No need to bother the doctor. No, you’re getting fitter. (You probably are getting fitter, but the cancer isn’t causing you any problems yet. It will.)

Don’t you wish you’d quit in November?

Next year we’ll get better jobs, eat healthier, make an effort to build bridges with loved ones and learn to dance. Won’t it be wonderful? It was wonderful last year when we gave up smoking, joined a pilates class, cut the driftwood from our social circles and learnt to paint, wasn’t it?

If you’re lucky enough to have been able to purchase a ticket for £40.00 to visit your local hostelry on NYE (the hostelry you’ve spent money in all year long, there’s gratitude for you) then think about this at two minutes to midnight.

That girl crying in the corner, drunk and ready to throw herself at the first man to smile at her, wasn’t she here last year? Doing the same thing? Maybe not, but there was certainly another girl in a very similar situation sat in the same pub crying tears for the same reasons.

Those three lads that have had too much to drink and are going to kick the living daylights out of some stranger on their way home later, didn’t they do that last year?

The life and soul of the party, stood over there by the fruit machine, he’s having a great time, isn’t he? He’s been here all night, drank more than he’s used to and, in about an hours time, he’ll be sat alone crying over the children he’s lost or the bills he can’t pay since his accident caused him to give up work. You’ll see him again tomorrow, in the corner shop buying milk. He’ll wish you Happy New Year again, forgetting he saw you last night. He’ll tell you all about the fantastic night he had and the hangover he’s suffering. A little ray of sunshine. But his happy tales are  edited. If he tells you about being sick when he got home he’ll laugh as he does because it’s hilarious. He’ll not tell you he went to bed alone without brushing his teeth and cried himself to sleep. Because who cares?

There is no “New Year”. There is a new date, a date that’s not been used before, but nothing has changed.

You’re a year older? No you’re not, you’re a day older. And tomorrow you’ll be another day older.

This will be “your year”? Probably not. If your life’s shit then chances are it’ll be even more shit next year. Decay isn’t just for the dead, we’re all doing it.

I’m aware I may be coming across as a miserable bastard, I’m not miserable at all. (I am a bastard though.) I have a shit life. Maybe it’ll get better next year, maybe it’ll get worse, but either way it won’t be as a result of my surviving another period of three hundred and sixty five days. The universe doesn’t give a shit about you, me, the crying girl in the pub or whether you’re trying to be a better person. It’s all in your hands. If something needs changing, change it. And change it now. Seize the day. By the throat. Grab it, shake it and shout in it’s face if you need to. Let a little bit of spittle escape as you shout and land in the day’s eye. Be angry when you need to. Be gentle when you need to. Tell people if you’re sad, but don’t expect help. Don’t expect them to care. They almost certainly won’t. They’ll say they do, but once you’ve parted company and they’re chatting to their families they’ll not be chatting about you. Don’t believe me? Remember that colleague whose grandmother died? No? Really? But when he/she told you about it you reassured them, made all the right, caring, noises and told them if they needed anything to let you know. Remember?

All that said, I actually believe January the first is a magical day. A special day. I really do. The sun comes up in the morning. The world is a beautiful place on the 1st of January. You’re loved ones love you on January 1st.  And second. And third. September 10th is magical. March the 21st  also. Oh, and November 13th…

See what I mean?


Monday, 16 December 2013

Appreciate that which is diminutive...

A change of style for my blog tonight
A bit of a break from the usual shite
I didn’t intend to make all this rhyme
I just sat at my laptop and wasted my time
I wanted to write of stuff good and stuff daft
To give all you readers a bit of laugh
I intended to blog about the best things in life
Things making us smile whilst suffering strife
The fries in the bag after sharing out Maccy’s
Playing the piano just using the black keys
Waking up two minutes before
The alarm interrupts your dreams in mid-snore
The yoghurt that’s stuck to the peeled back lid
Licking it clean like you did as a kid
Dancing in the kitchen while no one is looking
Shimmying to Elvis whilst doing the cooking
Finding a tenner in an old pair of jeans
Or eating Kentucky and flicking your beans
(That sounded rude, I’m sorry for that
I mean the bean in the bucket, not the one on your twat)
Playing with puppies, rolling on the floor
Ignoring the phone and not answering the door
Hearing the dawn chorus on the way to the bog
Climbing back into bed and spooning the dog
Staying in there and snoozing ‘til ten
Trumping and yawning and getting up when
You’re called for your breakfast, its bacon on toast
(You can replace that last line with what you like the most)
The mug of tea that sits by the plate
Is just cool enough so you don’t have to wait
Curled under a blanket watching crap on the telly
Eating the olives and cheese you bought from the deli
Knowing more answers than the team on the Chase
Sitting there smug with that look on your face
We all think it’s funny to fart in the bath
Those tickly bubbles make everyone laugh
It doesn’t matter how bad is the day
Whether its raining or foggy or just a bit grey
There’s a whole, wide, world for all to enjoy
Every man, every woman, every small girl or boy
To climb on and run round and sit and just chill
Whilst taking a break half way up a hill
Just sitting and watching the folk passing by
Admiring the birds flying high in the sky
Soaring and swooping and singing with glee
Reminding us all how much fun it can be
To see all the wonders each new morning brings
And be able each day to enjoy little things

Enjoy the little things. S’very important.


Thursday, 5 December 2013

You cheap, lousy faggot.

I bloody hate Christmas, of that there can be no doubt. If Santa has a Nemesis then I'm it. It's cold, everyone of us will have a massive argument at some point, there will be tears, it's expensive and, even having asked that prick in the red suit every year of my childhood, I still never got the puppy I wanted. And why? Because tradition dictates Santa draft two lists, naughty or nice. What a judgmental bastard he must be. Yes, okay, I did break that window with a football and blame my sister and yes, I did steal a "Dubble Bubble" bubble gum from the counter or my Aunties shop on Partington Lane when I was six but in my defence A) It was windy and that pane was loose and B) Dubble Bubbles were GREAT for blowing bubbles. I can resist anything, with the unfortunate exception of temptation.

There are twelve months in every year. Only twelve. Christmas exists in just one of those months. Depending on your view it lasts either for that one "special" day or for twelve special days. Therefore every year Christmas takes up something between one thirtieth and one three-hundred-and-fifty-sixth of the year. I could accept that. What I can't accept is being reminded Christmas is coming before October is finished. The "run up" to Christmas is over two months long, a SIXTH of the year. Advertisements on the TV reminding us that we need to spend money we haven't got on loved ones and people we can't abide on one specific date. A date that no one forgets. No one. Men forget wedding anniversaries, children forget parent's birthdays and I forget my wallet a lot, but no one who hasn't suffered major head trauma forgets when Christmas is. In fact, even those that do experience major head trauma know full well when it is, they just use their misfortune as an excuse to pretend they don't. Every cloud has a silver lining.

When my children were small I "did" Christmas. I over spent, I over ate and I drank too much. I watched James Bond rape and murder his way through his fascist missions. I played family games and wore a stupid hat. (I like hats, I'd have been wearing one anyway, but I dislike being told I should.) I danced and sang in the snow to entertain my boys as we were sent on our own (largely rape and murder free) missions to pick up a case of lager or bottle of Bailey's Irish cream from their Grandmothers house because we were running out and Doctor Who was starting soon. And every year, as they got older, I was a year closer to never having to put up with that shit ever again.

My children are now in their twenties, and like the rest of my family don't bother with me anymore. I'm a miserable bastard, I've made silly decisions and I'm now lying in the bed I've made for myself. I am the reincarnation of Scrooge and all the richer for it.

This Christmas, like last Christmas and, if I make it that far, like next Christmas, I will have one long, blessed day without any company other than that of my dogs. I will eat toast a lot. I will probably still watch Doctor Who. I may even have a drink or two. I will open no presents, give no cards, make no phone calls, baton down the hatches and ride out the storm. People will ask "How was your Christmas", not because they give a shit how my festivities went but because, once I've answered them, they can bore my tits off with tales of their own puerile day. I'll say "Oh, it was quiet." and leave it at that. I'll force a false smile as they tell me what ridiculously over priced gifts they bought for their ugly children, how the turkey was a bit too dry and that the sister/wife/mother/lady from next door is no longer talking to them as a result of a simply hilarious (sic) misunderstanding. Then it'll be over, for another ten months.

Christmas, it's said, is a time for sharing with loved ones, for giving and for making the world a better place. In actual fact Christmas is one long wank-fest for the big corporations. It's a time when Tesco can remind you to spend money you can ill afford on foodstuffs that will shorten your life. It's a time for television companies to rake in the revenue from advertising, on behalf of Tesco, that you can purchase foodstuffs you can ill afford and that will shorten your life. It's a time to get drunk and tell your mother in law exactly what you think of her, to give your wife the slap she's been asking for all bloody year and to shout at your children because, inexplicably, they're over excited and annoying you while you're trying to get pissed and pretend your worthless existence has any meaning.

Now before I get it in the neck off those of you that enjoy the forthcoming shenanigans please let me try and defend my standpoint in a very hypocritical and festive way. Christmas is a time for giving, right? So, give me a fucking break. I'll even write you a thank you letter.

If you're one of the three ghosts that I have to be rude to and ignore every Christmas Eve take this on board.

Ghost of Christmas Past - Thanks for the memories. I still have them, I enjoyed a few Christmases, I can remember these occasions, they were perfect, let's just leave them be.

Ghost of Christmas Present - Thanks for nothing. I'm poor, I'm cold, I don't like turkey and I've got all the socks I need.

Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come - Yes, I know I'm going to die. It's all I have to look forward to. Why not show me something useful, like winning lottery numbers, where I've left my ClubCard vouchers or how do vampires shave if they can't see themselves in a mirror?

On a more positive note, there is one tiny piece of 
Christmas I still hold dear. Everybody...


Monday, 2 December 2013

Aaah, bumhug.

As many of you know, either from my rants on Twitter or because you've been unlucky enough to have endured a conversation with me face to face on the subject, I HATE Christmas. 

This hasn't always been the case. Whilst my children were young enough to enjoy the holiday I was more than happy to play along with the disgraceful commercialisation and mind numbing puerility of the whole freak show that it has become. During the period in which I could stomach it I made this little video which has sat, mainly unwatched, on Youtube. A number of my friends and family have said they enjoy watching it in the run up to Christmas and that it always makes them smile, so in a nod to the season of goodwill I've decided to "share the wealth" with any of you that fancy a bit of a smile. 

Merry friggin' Christmas.


Thursday, 28 November 2013

The reason for the lack of title will become apparent....

As a young man I always wanted to work with children. Ideally, I wanted to be a primary school teacher. After leaving school, and before being accepted on the YTS I mentioned in a previous blog entry,  I did a couple of weeks of work experience at an inner city Salford school. I loved every minute of it.

At that time I was still living with parents in a quaint old coaching inn (sic) in Weaste. I would work the occasional hour or two behind the bar of my fathers pub. My wages were the roof over my head and as many halves of lager as I wanted. Funnily enough I think this liberal attitude to alcohol was very beneficial. I do enjoy a drink, and I sometimes enjoy one hell of a session, but I've never felt like I have to drink. There are great swathes of my life in which not a drop of alcohol has passed my lips. If forced to put a figure on it I would say that in the last twelve months I have imbibed the equivalent of maybe ten or fifteen pints of beer. Next year may be different, maybe I'll drink more and maybe I'll drink less, but I digress.

During my sessions behind the bar I was lucky enough to talk to people from all walks of life. Doctors, bankers, navvies, policemen, thieves and gangsters. A wondrous variety of sinners and saints. Everyone knew my name and most had watched me grow up.

One evening, after hours, a number of my father's customers had stayed behind for a drink. It was a regular occurence, curtains drawn and main lights turned off while my parents and both my Grandmothers (Both my Grandfathers had died very young.) flaunted the law and held court. There would be singing, joking, swearing and smiles. These evening form some of the happiest memories of my entire life. I quite possibly learnt more from the collection of miscreants I was surrounded by than I ever learnt at school.

One of those nights my father mentioned my work experience at the primary school. The conversation that followed put me off following my chosen path. I was weird, maybe a "poof" or a pervert and it wasn't a man's job. What kind of man wanted to play with children all day? I'm ashamed to say that, still being very impressionable, I trusted these men's opinions and craved their approval. I dropped my ambition to work with children for no reason other than to fit in and not be labelled a "poof" or "nonce".

I still loved, and still love, children. Children are the very best thing this life has to offer. The sound of children playing, the marvel in their eyes when you show them a magic trick and the belly laughs that take away their breath when you tell them a silly joke or pull a silly face are, for me, some of the most valuable things in life.

A couple of years ago, now older and confident enough to defend myself against accusations of poofery or noncenicity, I took a part time job to supplement my income driving a mini-bus for a nursery and after-school club. I would take the kids to school and be there to bring them back to the club, exhausted and giddy, at the end of their academic day. I had a fridge covered in paintings and drawings done by the children. I would do monkey impressions to make them laugh, make paper aeroplanes for them to decorate and fly, tell silly jokes and lead sing-alongs or games of eye-spy to entertain them whilst the were in my care. Every morning began with children's laughter and every afternoon finished the same way. It's hard not to smile when your life involves so many happy children.

I didn't care a jot if the occasional scruffy, hood wearing sub-human accused me of being a "perv". I'm 6'3" tall, heavily tattooed with a deep voice and a Salford accent, a clean criminal record and a long and varied love life which was restricted to females well above the age of consent. If people intimated there was "something of the Jimmy Saville" about me I would look them in the eye and tell them I hoped they weren't inferring what I thought they were inferring before pointing out that their minds seemed to be drawn toward and focus on paedophilia a little too quickly for my liking.

Unfortunately these days people that like children aren't allowed to demonstrate they like children. Kids are to be kept at arms length, unless you're a parent. Indeed, even if you're a father you're eyed with suspicion if you're sat in a children's playground, tapping away on your phone whilst you let your own offspring play on the swings. I have several friends who have daughters and they won't take their children to such places unless they're accompanied by the child's mother for fear of being pilloried or accused of some nefarious intention. People assume the worst, where in actual fact they should assume the best. Statistically, if someone is nice to children it's because they are a nice person, not because they're a sick and twisted sexual deviant. If a man is sat in a playground reading a newspaper whilst children play on the climbing frames isn't it better to assume one or more of those children belongs to him? You'd almost certainly be right.

I read a news story yesterday. A man in Bristol, Bijan Ebrahimi, an immigrant from Iran in 2001 who had learning difficulties, had been racially abused and had his property damaged. He asked the police for help. The police told him to take photographs to help them to help him. He did so. Someone in the community phoned the police and accused him of being a paedophile. (Apparently a very stupid paedophile too, since he was making no effort to hide his actions.) The police turned up and took him in for questioning. The police, who had told him to take photographs, who knew why he was taking the photographs, took him in. They never thought to say to the complainant "Don't worry, we've asked him to do that." They took him in. In front of a baying mob of morons chanting "paedo, paedo".

He was  arrested, taken into custody and questioned. Being plainly completely innocent he was soon released. He went home.

The baying mob saw him released and return to his home. Now not only was he a "dirty nonce", he was also a "dirty nonce that had got away with it". His continued liberty wasn't a sign that he had done nothing wrong, it was a sign that he had pulled the wool over the police service's eyes. The police had, in the baying mobs eyes, let down the children of their community. Something had to be done, didn't it?

As a result, he was beaten to death and set alight by two subhuman vigilantes.

There is a massive shortage of male teachers at primary school level. One in five boys go until they are eleven years old without ever having a male teacher. Some of these will never have a male teacher in their secondary schools either. Even more disappointing is the fact that some of those boys don't even have a male role model in their home lives.

How does a boy learn to be a man without a man to teach him?

I'm not advocating you, I or anyone else let random men into our children's lives. I'm not saying paedophilia isn't a concern in modern day Britain. The only thing I'm advocating is a sense of perspective.

Play with your children in public, smile when an old man magically pulls a coin from behind their ear  on a bus and if you want to be a primary school teacher, nursery nurse or children's entertainer then be it. Don't let a gang of ill educated buffoons put you off.

They may be well meaning. They may believe their prejudices are totally justified. They may even be right on occasion. They're probably not though. A con man doesn't look like a con man or he'd not be very good at conning people and we've all read at least one really good book that had a shit cover.

Anyway, to paraphrase the Bard, maybe they doth protest too much?

Just one more thing.... I always come up with the title to my blog entries after having written them. I sit and stare and think, and sometimes I Google something in search of the perfect pun. The irony of this particular entry is that I daren't use Google to do so this time for fear that my search will be flagged up, my IP recorded on some law enforcement agencies database and my laptop seized when the police officers come to arrest me in front of a baying mob of morons.

Thanks a bunch, modern day Britain, well played.


Wednesday, 20 November 2013

The wonder of wondering.

As many of you chaps and chapettes out there are aware I am, for the most part, what is known as a "white van man". I do a fair few jobs, all self employed, scratching around and at the moment living, basically, hand to mouth. Times are hard for all of us. Or at least for the majority of us.

I'm not one to complain, and I'm aware as I sit here tapping away on my laptop which is connected to my router and using my broadband connection, fire crackling away and telly on mute in the corner, that I should be, and indeed am, very grateful for what I have.

One thing that has held me back my whole life is the ridiculous amount of empathy I have been blessed/cursed with. I'm easily moved to something close to tears at times when I hear about or witness the distress someone is suffering. I look at beggars and wonder at what point, and why, their lives took a turn so bad that their current situation is the result. Next time you see a beggar stooping to pick up a cigarette dimp, swearing randomly under his breath and attempting not to spill his can of Special Brew just think about this.... That person was once a few months old, cradled in the arms of someone that loved them. They were bounced on a grandparents knee, they made someone smile when they first uttered the words "I love you", they had school photographs taken. Maybe they were in love once. They started the exact same way you, I and everyone else started. For that one brief moment as they took their first breath of air and began to cry they had the potential to be anything.

Maybe they lost everything because they did something bad. Maybe their families stopped caring about them after being let down repeatedly. Maybe they were rapists, child abusers or corrupt bankers. Maybe.

Most likely, and by that I mean almost certainly, they were none of the above. They were almost certainly, at least so far as their loved ones were concerned, really nice people. Once upon a time.

Towards the end of the last century there was a tramp, famous on the streets of city centre Manchester, known as Prostitute Annie. I was running a demolition team working on the Royal Exchange Theatre after the catastrophic IRA bomb that made Manchester even Greater. Every lunch time we would all sit in St. Anne's square eating our packed lunches or Gregg's pasties, smoking and enjoying the banter. Prostitute Annie would always turn up pushing her Tesco trolley filled with shoes, newspapers and general detritus. She had an aggressive demeanor and would demand cigarettes from anyone with whom she made eye contact. If she had an audience she would begin preaching about how "no one gets to Heaven if they've metal in their bodies". She would loudly advocate tearing out your fillings and giving away all your possessions to save yourself from God's wrath. She stank of piss and biscuits and ate things off the floor. She was vile.

One particular sunny afternoon a team of scaffolders, not regulars on site, were sat on the steps of some statue or other. Among their number was a new starter, a young man of about twenty years of age and with no volume control. He was attempting to fit in, and seemed to think that all builders/scaffolders/demolition workers were sweary, aggressive and shouty so was playing up to that particular stereotype. He spent the first fifteen or so minutes loudly announcing to any one in a Manchester City shirt how shit their choice of football team was. He then moved on to charming passing office girls with such delightfully whimsical chat-up lines as "Do you like jewellery/chicken? Well suck this, it's a gem/it's foul".

Just before the end of the lunch break Prostitute Annie arrived, her squeaky wheeled trolley announcing her aproach like a fanfare for vagrancy. Possibly feeling quite despondent after a fifteen minute session of being ignored by attractive young ladies wearing their office smarts the young man turned his attention to Annie. He quite clearly saw Annie as some sort of sub-human and began to hurl advice at her. His advice was spot on in a way. She would indeed feel and look better if she "used a bit of fucking soap", got "some proper fucking laces for them fucking shoes" or got "a fucking job, you lazy, scruffy, old slag" but I'm pretty sure it wasn't as easy for her to turn her life around as this young man believed.

A building site lunch gathering is generally quite a raucous affair, dozens of men chattering away like fish-wives about their wives, girlfriends, football teams and preferences in supermarket. This particular day, at this particular point, it was silent. The only one making any sound at all was the young gobshite with the inferiority complex.

After each new torrent of abuse he would turn to us, his audience, for validation. Every time he got none, just blank stares. A more switched on individual may have taken this as a signal to quieten down a bit. Not this plank, who, having failed, would refocus his attention on Annie and hurl viler and louder abuse her way.

As I mentioned earlier, Annie's trolley always contained shoes. None were ever a pair, (Not even the ones on her feet matched) and she would pick them up on her travels. (The streets of Manchester are full of lost and discarded shoes which is indicative of the extremely vibrant night life and high rate of sex-crime.) Annie was doing a good job of shouting the law of God at the young man, her face filled with aggression and venom and waving a bible, or at least a small dictionary, at him. She bumped into her trolley whilst delivering her passionate argument and a single shoe toppled from the pile and on to the pavement. Our young colleague immediately whipped off his steel toe-capped rigger boot, shouted "Here you are you fucking scruff, now you've got two shoes" and threw the boot at her. Hard.

The boot missed Annie's head by a couple of inches at most. Everyone watching gasped as it flew at her, expecting the worst. As it was the boot hit the wall behind her and dropped to Earth having done no harm whatsoever. During it's journey, however, Annie's face had changed. I was looking in her eyes as her face was transformed form that of a wicked, hateful and disgusting witch to that of a very frightened, very vulnerable, little, old lady. She was terrified. I had never in my life abused this woman, but to my shame had laughed at jokes told about her. During this particular incident I hadn't laughed, I had been shocked and disgusted at the lad's behaviour. When I saw Annie's transformation to lovely old Grannie I suddenly felt disgusted with myself for sitting idly by as it had escalated this far. I was angry at the gobshite I saw hopping across the square to retrieve his boot, but I was far angrier with myself.

Being much closer to the boot than the young gent, and being unhindered by hopping, Annie reached the boot before him, collected it and put it in her trolley.

"Oi you scruffy cunt, give me my fucking boot!" He laughed as he approached Annie.

At this point I saw my chance to be a hero, to soak up the admiration of my peers by taking a stand against this despicable chap. I saw it in my head, standing, calling out to the lad, admonishing him and maybe even knocking him the fuck out. Then I would strut in through the security gate as the crowd clapped and cheered.

What I actually did could best be described as "absolutely fuck all". I remained sat on the step I regularly sat on with my ashtray made from my empty coca-cola can by my side and feeling even more ashamed of myself.

Annie was scuttling away, her trolley squeak sounding urgent and her face still a mask of fear. The young lad hopping after her was laughing a wicked laugh. The big, old foreman who had been sat beside him stood slowly, straightened his back, strode after the lad and, if you'll pardon my French, twatted him in the back of the head, causing him to fall face first on to the paving stones. He then, clearly and concisely,  informed the young lad that Annie was going to be keeping the boot, and that since you were required to be wearing two boots to gain access to his site the young scamp would be better served just fucking off home and not bothering coming back.

A ripple of applause went around the square, not just from the hairy arsed builders but from shoppers, office girls and street vendors. The man was, as far as everyone present was concerned, a hero. I say everyone, Annie spat at him, but I like to believe that was just because she lacked the social skills to deal with a knight in shining armour.

Since then I've made a point of wondering. Wondering why people are like they are. Why some people are vile, why some are evil, why some are sweet and why some are sour. No one is ever vile because they want to be vile, they're vile because we perceive them as vile. The young gobshite may very well be a lovely lad. He might treat his mam like a Queen, may have played bugle in the Boy's Brigade, may have raised money every year for Comic Relief. He might be a boy you'd be proud to call "son". Possibly, being new to building sites and scared of the new, sweary, scary, tattooed monsters he was working alongside (And only working there because he couldn't get anything better but needs to pay for his Grandmothers operation) he had made a silly error of judgement and tried to appear to be a big, hard man? Maybe. No one present knew what he was really like. He could have been as horrid as he appeared, but whether he was or not all those spectators believed him to be vile based on that day's actions.

Maybe his loss of job that day meant his mother had reached the end of her tether and cast him out, homeless on the streets. Maybe he had no where to stay except with a guy he hardly knew from work. Maybe that man was a violent alcoholic. Maybe that violent alcoholic viciously raped him. Maybe the lad now lives on the streets, pushing a shopping trolley and pretending he's not constantly frightened. Maybe he drinks white cider to numb the pain of his worthless existence. Maybe he died, sat by a train line, drunk and crying as he remembered his seventh birthday, the last one his dad was alive for, when he received the toy robot that his mother still has. The robot she clutches while she cries whenever she thinks of her wayward, absent son.
Maybe Annie was a horrible woman that had ended up on the streets after being released from prison after knocking down and killing a child whist drunk at the wheel. Maybe Annie was a widow and had a son that let her down again and again until she had to throw him out to teach him a lesson. Maybe Annie never forgave herself after he was found dead by a railway track. Maybe, under that pile of shoes in her trolley, is the treasure she protects. A broken child's toy? Maybe a toy robot?

Who knows? You don't, I don't. Someone does though. Every one is important to someone. No one is vile because they want to be vile. To someone out there you yourself are vile, but think about it... how can they think that, you're lovely. Aren't you?

Lower your expectations of people, don't judge too quickly, realise you're not everyone's cup of tea and give people a chance. Then a second chance, just in case. Wonder how, wonder why and wonder at the ability to wonder.


Friday, 15 November 2013

Just do it.

They say you don't lie on your death bed regretting the things you did, but rather you regret the things you didn't do. I remember my Dad telling me this as a small child and I think that one, probably throw away, comment shaped a lot of my attitude whilst growing up. Have you ever thought "I'd like to try that", "go there" or "have one of those"? If you have, I sincerely hope you tried it, went there or obtained it.

I have had many mid-life crisis' over the last decade or so. I'm still to find out why they're referred to as "crisis'", since so far mine have included buying a BMW, having sex with a woman not much older than my children, buying numerous motorcycles, shaving my head, growing my hair long, covering the majority of my available flesh in tattoos and sporting a variety of beards. Not exactly crisis', but I digress.

Seven or so years ago I found myself single, with a decent amount of money in the bank and doing a job that, although well paid, was so mind numbingly boring I could take no more. My job involved a lot of driving around, and one night, having just finished work and on my way home, I saw an aged minibus parked on a drive with a big "For Sale" sign in the windscreen. The bus had been a school minibus in it's younger days, and more recently had been owned by a chap that used it as a sort of extended MPV for his large family.

It wasn't the prettiest vehicle on the road, but it had a tax disc, a long M.O.T. and six good tyres. Seven if you counted the spare. Almost on a whim I bought the bus for £700.00, stripped it bare and began converting it in to a luxury camper van. I spent a few hundred pounds on plastic coated chipboard, solar panels, ply-wood, caravan fixtures, leatherette and vinyl floor tiles then set about creating something that Austin Powers would've been proud of. A separate and very plush bedroom, accessed through a circular door, contained a large, memory foam mattressed bed. Union flags covered the foam seats, mood lighting and 1960s style fittings created the right atmosphere. After a couple of months hard work I was the proud owner of a dream.

I handed in my notice at work, finished on a Thursday afternoon, went home, packed and, so far as anyone was concerned, disappeared off the face of the Earth.

I drove for seven hours, north and across the border in to Scotland. I turned left just past Glasgow, carrying on up through the Trossacks before turning south and chugging my way down the west side of Loch Long, winding up shortly before midnight on the beach of the Loch in a village called Ardentinny. It was early February, about 11.50pm and, quite frankly, fucking cold.

I pulled off the road and onto the beach, killed the engine along with the twelve orange and twenty green lamps festooned across the bumper, bonnet and roof, flicked the switch to turn off the four spotlights that made my ride look like it should've been hunting kangaroos in the outback and was surprised to find I could still see perfectly clearly, even several miles from the nearest street light.

I hadn't stopped on my journey and by this point had a very pleasant urgency in my bladder. I swung the door open and hauled myself out. Being as stiff as a board and having lost the use of my legs and buttocks I almost tumbled out. Then, stretching, groaning and creaking like a man made of wood, I began fumbling for my flies as my breath froze in the air before me.

Cock in hand I stood, peeing on the beach and feeling very liberated. I tilted my head up slowly, groaning as the stiffness in my neck yielded, and froze.

I'm a city boy, born in the city, raised in the city and a lover of city living. That being the case I had never in my life before seen what I saw at this point. Above me the sky was filled with stars and planets, the light of the moon bright enough to read by and shooting stars criss crossing the whole, celestial, light show. Until then I'd never seen such a thing, aside from in Sci-Fi films, even when abroad. I stood there, hardly breathing, for what felt like no time at all but was, when I eventually looked down at my hand, long enough for the cold to have sent my penis inverted. (A condition from which I've never fully recovered.)

Back inside my beautiful new home I set about preparing for my first night "living the dream". I lit the little gas heater, closed the curtains and blinds and flicked over to the solar charged batteries for the interior lighting. I boiled kettles to fill four hot water bottles and two large vacuum flasks. I wrapped one hot water bottle in a pair of jogging pants and a shirt, then wrapped that package along with another bottle in my sleeping bag. The last two bottles went underneath this little bundle of warmth and on top of the mattress. A mug of Ovaltine, a bowl of ready-brek and a little read of a book later I, very quickly, got changed in to the lovely, warm bed clothes, dived into the sleeping bag, pulled the duvet over the top of me and, having set my alarm for 4am, went to sleep.

Having woken at 4am to shuffle around the van in my sleeping bag like some gigantic, blue, nylon caterpillar while I swapped the now stone cold water in the hot water bottles for fresh, hot water from the flasks, I slept a further three hours, as snug as a bug in a rug.

When I woke the first thing I did was reach over the psychedelic foam pad that separated me from the doors and yanked on the handle, allowing the doors to fall open slowly and reveal the most magical view. The forest of Argyll rising majestically to the left, the mountains I'd driven along the previous night to the right and directly in front of me the Loch, with little fishing boats cutting through the fine, crisp, white mist that seemed to flow with the current. The sky above crystal clear and multi-coloured as the sun was beginning it's lazy journey. For the second time in seven hours I literally had my breath taken away. Even the bitter cold couldn't spoil the experience.

I'd taken with me enough food to keep me going for at least a month. Not the nicest foods, all either dried, in cans or vacuum packed with enough salt to keep a path free of ice, and my plan had been to drive until I found somewhere I liked and stay a while, but that had only taken seven hours.

I spent days wandering through the forest, and had my breath stolen several times. I built camp fires and spent nights under the clear, winter sky smoking herbs, drinking brandy and staring in to the flames. I was in love with a place and a time, it was incredible.

I found work on one of my forestry explorations and was paid between thirty and forty pounds a day to chop up wood with a chainsaw. I spent nothing as there was nothing to spend anything on and let the money pile up. I spent days without seeing another soul and only hearing the voices of the actors on the radio plays I listened to on my clockwork radio. Had I died at any point in the couple of months I spent there I would have died a happy man. If I'm ever told how long I have left to live I will head straight there, this time with my dogs, lie on the beach and drift away.

I eventually continued on my adventures and spent almost a year living in my camper van. I visited every corner of the Union, worked a dozen shit jobs and met the best friend I could ever have. I had guns pointed at me, was involved in a car chase, did jobs I'd never have dreamed of doing and partied like it was 1999. I spent a week parked in a patch of woodland in Blackpool being spoon fed baby food by a Polish girl whilst suffering with tonsillitis (My throat was so swollen and raw she would trickle it off a spoon and through any available gaps in the mucus whilst I lay on my back with my mouth open, unable to swallow), partied at a mansion in Surrey without a penny in my pocket and helped build a Primark store. At every moment, during every day, I smiled or laughed. The obvious exception being the automatic rifle pointed at my face, although I pissed myself soon after.

It was a wasted year, basically living rough (but in style) and bumming around the country. It cost me very little, and gave me so much. The people I met, conversations I had, injuries I sustained and things I learnt are worth more to me than almost anything. Time you enjoy wasting is never wasted.

It was nothing more than a whim, and had I told people what I was planning I'd probably have allowed myself to be talked out of it. It does sound a very daft idea. But I did it.

A Chinese lad I worked with at one point said he loved to travel because "the moon is always bigger in a foreign land". Similar, I suppose, to the grass always being greener, except he went on "And if you don't like the big moon you can always go home."

Don't disregard a whim. Whimsy is good. Enjoy the little things, and just do it.

You can always go home.


Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Pearly whites at the pearly gates.

Have you ever wondered when you'll die? What the circumstances of your demise will be? And what on Earth is the discoverer of your cadaver going to think when he or she stumbles across your undeniably gorgeous remains?

It's not something I spend a great deal of time considering, though I am prone to taking ridiculous chances with my safety and, on some occasions, with everything around me in slow motion, I've had time to imagine the scene I'm about to leave behind. I'd like to take this opportunity to tell you about one such near miss.

A year or so after returning from my backpacking adventure I found myself staying at my Grandmothers house whilst she was away with my parents, alone save for a kitten, Ed. Many of you will know I have a hatred of cats, though this hasn't always been the case. This entry might give you a clue as to why.

Ed was, undoubtedly, a beautiful creature. Completely black, brilliant blue eyes and a big, bushy tail. Ed was a character, and would leap into my arms whenever he wanted some attention. Sometimes I'd not be ready to catch him, and he would extend his vicious little claws and hook himself on to whatever shirt I'd chosen to wear.

It was a couple of days after Christmas in the early 1990's. I was working as a waiter in a nightclub at that point and had a night off. I'd decided that, after a very busy few days, I was going to spend a whole twenty-four hours in my own company. No friends, no phone calls (in those days before mobile phones this was easy, unplug the house phone and draw the curtains) and absolutely nothing to do.

I slept in until mid-morning, having only finished work at 4am, and woke with that feeling of calm and peace you only get when you know you haven't a care in the world. I decided that the day would be a naked day. No need to dress if no one's going to see you.

After a light breakfast I took a long, hot shower, had a shave and began brushing my teeth. Ed had followed me to the bathroom and was sat cleaning himself on the wicker laundry basket which was directly behind me as I stood polishing my Newtons (Mancunian rhyming slang, "Newton Heath", "teeth"). 

Once finished with my enamel scrubbing I leaned forward to spit the minty foam into the sink. It was at this point that Ed decided he was clean enough and quite fancied a bit of attention. As I bent almost double (I'm six foot three tall) he launched himself, intending to land on my shoulder. My shoulder suddenly not being there he plummeted instead, but his claws managed to find purchase in the cheeks of my arse.

As I'm sure you can imagine, this came as quite a shock to me and I inhaled sharply, drawing in the mouthful of foam I had yet to get rid of. The foam filled my throat, blocking my airways completely. I stood bolt upright, eyes bulging and mouth wide, still trying to inhale and making the blockage worse. Ed continued to scramble, trying to climb higher, but his back legs slipped down and in between my own legs, finding secondary purchase in my scrotum.

Still scrambling he clung on for grim life. I staggered backwards and through the bathroom door, knocking over the laundry basket as I fell. The laundry basket spilled its contents all around me. I've no idea why, but I grabbed a hand full of the dirty washing in my left hand and crawled towards the staircase.

At this point everything began to happen in slow motion. It was hopeless, and I was sure I was going to die right there on the stairs.

I looked around me, feeling quite euphoric as my brain became starved of oxygen, and surveyed the scene. I was naked, lay on the landing, my back scratched to ribbons, my testicle in tatters and several pairs of my Grandmothers knickers clenched tightly I'm my fist. There was also white foam spattered all over my chin and chest, giving me the appearance of a Bukkake participant.

My Gran was due home two days later, and would have been the one to find me if i didn't survive. Would she remove the knickers from my grasp before phoning the ambulance? Would she go to her own grave thinking her Grandson a pervert? Would the coroner be able to tell my Grandmother that I'd been the unfortunate victim of a vicious cat attack whilst innocently completing my daily ablutions? Or would I be in the papers, a poor man's Michael Hutchence? The only thing I could think of that would have made this scene any more embarrassing would be if I was wearing a Manchester United shirt.

The explosion of foam and phlegm that accompanied the cough which saved my life shot straight up in the air. I rolled over, spluttering, my throat on fire, and saw, sat two feet from my face, that evil black cat fastidiously cleaning the blood from it's wicked paws.


Friday, 1 November 2013

Vive la difference.

Imagine a child born on a desert island and raised by mute parents with no, or little, life experience. Now imagine that child finds an iPhone (other smart phones are available.) which is still logged in to Twitter, washed up on the beach one day. Unable to learn much about life in the "civilised" (Sic) world, he turns to twitter to learn how to behave in polite, and not so polite, society. And yes, I'm aware there are ridiculous holes in this particular scenario, but let us not get pedantic. If you need the holes filling then let's just say that some super intelligent monkeys taught him spoken and written English. And the iPhone was already logged in with no passcode set. Happy now? Good.

As I was saying before interrupting myself and heading off on a stupid tangent, this boy, lets call him "Geoff", sets to learning how to behave for the day he is rescued from his golden beached, lusciously forested, safe and beautiful home and brought back to civilisation. He dreams of meeting the woman of his dreams and living happily ever after in wedded bliss, of visiting swish functions where he's introduced to dignitaries and celebraties. There is, fortunately, a plethora of useful, and some not so useful, advice on Twitter for just such a situation. So what would he learn? What kind of well-balanced individual will this lead to? Let's take a look at some of the advice currently available.

"REAL men go for a girl with curves, only dogs want a bone."

What an enormous, steaming, puerile, nonsensical pile of shit. Real men? Technically, real men have a penis. That's pretty much all you need to qualify. Men like curves, men like skinny girls, men like fat girls. Some men like blondes. Some brunettes. I see the point, make the "curvy" (Make of that description what you will.) girls feel better, I'm all for that. Everyone should feel valued and attractive. Everyone is valuable, are attractive and don't need you or I to tell them how they should look. But that's exactly what these poor, mislead individuals are doing. How long before skinny girls start binge eating and not making themselves sick on purpose because that's the only way they'll ever get a real man?

Also, the analogy itself is shit. If you have a steak in one hand and a bone in the other I can guarantee you my German Shepherd would be staring at your steak-filled mitt. Dogs love bones AND meat, just like Geoff.

"The best kind of relationship is..."

A quick Twitter search throws up these beauties...

"The best kind of relationship is the one that starts off as good friends." I've tried that, it doesn't work and you lose a friend. (Fuckbuddies are a winner though.) 

"The best thing about being in a relationship is that you don't need friends." If your lovely, new partner tells you this then my advice is leg it. Run. Run like fuck. Isolating you from your friends and loved ones is abuse. Proper, actual abuse. 

"A relationship with God is the best kind of relationship any person can have." Don't get me fucking started.

"I don't care how tough you are...."

Usually followed by something along the lines of "when a little girl smiles at you, your heart BETTER melt and you'd BETTER smile back!" Or what, dickhead? What the fuck are you going to do about it? Sat in your bedroom, listening to Justin Direction, Arcticplay or ColdMonkeys and flicking between Twitter, Sextube and FaceBook. Little prick. Fuck you.

Back to Geoff. What has he learnt so far?

Whatever his real preference he will have to date a chubby girl because otherwise people will think he's not a real man, but he has to be friends with her first. He mustn't have other friends, and ideally he needs to fuck a deity. Also, whenever he sees a happy little girl he should make friends with her.

Fast forward a year or two. Having been rescued from his tropical hell by a passing canoeist Geoff is in a committed relationship with, I dunno, let's say Mary. Mary is Rubenesque, she has no friends, as does he, and before courting they became friends at the local Church.

He's also signing the sex offenders register, is banned from the park and is addicted to Twitter.

Love who you love, hopefully they'll love you back. If not, log in to Twitter, someone will tell you where you're going wrong.


Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Take the red pill

There's a saying, "It's the best thing since sliced bread." Makes sense. Easy to understand and to the point. Basically, slicing a loaf is tedious, tiresome, and easily fuck-upable. The slices end up slanted and uneven. If the bread's very fresh it squidges and squashes. If its older it tears and crumbles. The uneven surface is difficult to butter. Then some genius came up with that funky machine you see shaking and rattling on the back counter in Gregg's the Bakers. Et voila. Brilliant. Evenly sliced for the perfect sandwich. Portion control for toast. There is no down side to sliced bread. Almost all of us buy it without giving any thought to what it actually is. It's a labour saving food stuff. Quick sandwich? No problem.

So why don't we say "the best thing since bags of grated cheese"? I'm pretty sure this is a later development, and saves roughly as much labour. It has the added bonus of reducing incidences of accidental knuckle-grating leading to a pink cheese situation.

How about "the best thing since pre-washed salad"? Another newer labour saving food stuff. Remember the palaver we used to have back in the day, when salad for tea meant fishing the colander from under the sink, tearing leaves into it and rinsing it under the tap? Now all we need do is tear open a packet, rinse it under the tap (because none of us really believe it has been washed to our own standard) then hold it aloft, dripping water down our sleeves and searching frantically under the sink with the other hand for the colander. Piece of piss.

Yorkshire pudding mix, labour saving. Precooked Yorkshire puddings. The greatest batter based innovation since sliced deep fried Mars bars. Pot noodles, dirty and lazy but oh so tasty and easy. And if you are skilled enough to be able to slice two perfect slabs of bread, approximately 17mm deep, the perfect sandwich filler.

There seems, however, to be no end to the lengths some will go to in an attempt to make life easy for us, and they ask nothing in return except profit. I saw an advertisement earlier, on the television. It was for McCain Ready Baked Jackets. Ready baked? Why? It's claimed they are ready in just five minutes. The ingredients are potatoes and sunflower oil. They've had their skins pricked, and they've had heat applied. You no longer have to prick and heat your own jacket potato. Imagine a world where none of us have to miss a bit of the early evening news just because we've had to get off our arses and go and check the oven. Utopia.

It seems we'll buy anything. To paraphrase the whispering corn in field of dreams, "If they package it, some dick will buy it."

Long spoons to help you throw a ball for a dog. Treadmills. Step machines. T.V. remote controls. So now if you want to throw a ball for your dog, walk, climb stairs and turn your television off you can be a consumer and spend money. (And before you say "But the remote came with the TV, it was free", remember the batteries in your remote control aren't. You mug.)

When I was young I'd spend hours on the phone to whichever morally bankrupt and vacuous girlfriend I happened to have at the time. Sat on the stairs, as was she, and with long periods of silence from both of us. Parents would squeeze past to go and poo, occasionally loudly uttering a sarcastic comment intended for the ears of whoever was on the other end of the line. My dads favourite was "Are you talking to Michelle again?" knowing full well that I'd get asked "Who's Michelle?" and have to try and explain what a piss-taking bastard my father was. (This eventually led to me searching out a girlfriend called Michelle. Funnily enough, basing your choice of partner on how much potential there is for your father to take the piss really doesn't work.)

If you, like me, remember those halcyon days yourself, the knotted, coiled flex, the shivering in the hall and missing Blind Date, you'll remember the phone had one cable. This cable went in to a box on the wall. At some point someone thought "Wouldn't it be great if we could take the phone anywhere in the house with us, and lose it?" then went ahead and produced the cordless phone. How many cables does that have, and where is the new one plugged? It's plugged in to the power supply you're paying for. It is, admittedly, using a tiny bit of power most of the time, but how many of these things, as a nation, do we now have? How many consumers paying an extra few pounds a year for juice they wouldn't need if not for the fact they simply can't face having to get up and answer the phone. Are we really that busy? So, now the phone rings, and we pause the television. With our remote control. If you have a partner then at this point they can go and make you a lovely cup of tea. If you're lucky enough to live in an area where you can purchase sliced bread, maybe they'll make you some toast too.

Escalators. For fucks sake. Wherever there is an escalator, there is a lift. Just give us stairs. If we can't manage the stairs we'll use the lift.

 Motorised golf trolleys, priveliged bastards!

Travelators, that people annoyingly stand still on. Way to miss the fucking point. They're designed to get you there quicker, not get you there without burning a fucking calorie.

Automatic doors. Last week I stopped outside Subway and waited for the door to open. I actually walked to the next door before realising the original door wasn't broken, it simply required pushing. I am ashamed of myself.

Automatic soap dispensers. Oh you fucking idiots. What do your kids do after safely and hygienically getting soap on their hands? Don't they turn on/off a tap? And if you've got some posh, contactless, h2o delivery system don't they turn the door knob? And if you've an automatic door on your loo, you're a bit of a prick. Also, kids eat stuff, off the floor sometimes. They play with worms, clamber up bacteria infested climbing frames and quite possibly masturbate. Just buy soap.

Febreeze. Wash your things. Clean your sofa. When people see you buy Febreeze you can rest assured they're thinking "Scruffy bastard."

Those key rings containing a disc the exact dimensions of a one pound coin, so that you can get a shopping trolley without putting a pound in. You get the pound back, you spent 99p on your stupid fucking key ring. If you still can't figure out why it's a ridiculous notion then just give me your email address (and bank details, for security purposes. Please include your mother's maiden name and the last three numbers on the back of your card.) and I'll explain more fully.

The way we're going there will be no resistance movement when the machines rise up and take over. We'll all be queuing to get a decent pod and be hooked up to the Matrix.


Saturday, 26 October 2013

Careering off the track.

I regularly get asked, on Twitter of course, what exactly it is I do for a living. It's not a question I can easily answer, since I do anything someone will pay me to do. I am, I suppose, a "white van man". Some might say I'm a market trader. Some think I'm a designer. In truth I'd say I was a Jack of all trades and the master of a few. I gave up trying to find a boss I could respect a long time ago and decided the only way to be happy was to have no one in your life you had to refer to as your superior. I have many superiors in many fields, but not a single one of them is my boss.

When I left school, in the mid eighties, with a shitload of o'levels and a natural affinity for computers, I was taken on by a small computer shop on what was known as a Y.T.S. A cynical way of massaging school leaver unemployment figures which paid me £27.00 per week, rising to £35.00 a week one year later. During the eighteen months I worked there, (Leigh Computer Systems in Sale, Greater Manchester.) I had the opportunity to play with pretty much any computer on the market at the time. A time when a 40MB (Not gigabyte, MEGAbyte.) hard drive was the cutting edge, and you could get both green screen AND RGB monitors. Just before I left there I also moved out of my parents home, which was a pub in Salford, and into a high rise flat on Salford precinct. It was a horrible place to live and I didn't have sufficient funds to escape, so I applied, never thinking I'd get it, to be a mainframe operator for a big company. I got it. I'd made it!

In those days if you said you were a computer operator it was akin to saying you were a brain surgeon or rocket scientist. And so it was that, aged just eighteen, I bought a house, car and motorbike, sat back and thought "This'll do".

I worked there until I was twenty years old. At the time I was a typical young man living in that most wonderful era of debauchery and drug abuse, the Madchester years. With an insane amount of money in my back pocket I lived the Madchester scene and immersed myself fully in the "culture" of the time. My weekend began at 4pm every Friday and finished at 6am every Monday, and if I'm pressed to tell you what I got up to on any one of those weekends I'd not be able to. I remember lights, music, people telling me they loved me, dancing, smiling, eating burgers from a van and waking up in stranger's houses. Then, 7am Monday, I'd be back to the grindstone. Shirt and tie, official looking and self important as I passed through the airlock and into the computer. It was an IBM 4381 and you literally worked inside it, dashing around, real time processing and looking uncannily like you were on the bridge of the starship Enterprise.

I drove a Ford Capri at this time. A classic car now, a fanny magnet then. Sitting in the canteen one lunch time just before I turned 20 I had an epiphany. I looked around me at the two older, more senior, computer operators I was working alongside. One, Pete, was a ridiculously tall and bespectacled bald man, only in his late 20s but looking 40, and Jim, a ridiculously short and bespectacled bald man in his mid 20s but looking 40. The conversation between the two of these chaps went as follows.

"So you're getting a new car Jim?"
"I am, This weekend."
"What are you thinking of going for?
(Jim was at this point driving a Ford Fiesta, 1.0L.)
"A Fiesta again. I'm going for the 1100 this time though, I just want a bit more "oomph"."
(Jim made a fist-pump action as he said "oomph".)

I looked at these two, very successful, men. Their thick glasses, cheap suits and male pattern baldness. I wondered how someone could describe a car like that as having "oomph", and I realised I would never fit in that world. Would never genuinely like or be interested in my co-workers.

I left my lunch, went to the bosses office and handed in my four weeks notice. I sold everything I had, bought a tent and backpack and a National Express ticket to Nice, and fucked off.

When I returned, I was determined never to work in a job like that again. Since then I've worked in bars, ran pubs, been a waiter, an aircraft handler, a funeral director. A chauffeur, a damp-proofer. I ran a demolition team after the IRA bombed Manchester. I was a stacker driver, a meter reader, a labourer. I spent time as a plasterer, as a cellar man at Pontins and as a lumberjack, I've even wiped tables in a food court, and many more menial and not so menial jobs that for the moment escape me. I settled at nothing, getting bored too easily.

When I turned forty I decided to do something useful for a change. I became a support worker for adults, and later children, with learning disabilities. This, my friends, is the BEST job in the world. Being a large bloke I was put with the more challenging male service users. Daily violence, being spat at, screamed at, cleaning a grown mans bottom and trying to make a difference to their lives was my life. I loved every single minute of every single shift. Even the shift that resulted in me being kicked in the nuts hard enough to turn one testicle upside down and forcing the other into my pelvic cavity for an hour or two. Paid less than any job I'd ever done before, I was richer than I'd ever been.

Unfortunately, although myself and many of my co-workers were doing the job for the right reasons and put our hearts and souls into it, the company I worked for, Creative Support, spoiled it for me. Can you be done for libel if it's true? I'll take a chance... in my opinion, if you have a loved one that needs support, get the support from anywhere rather than from Creative Support. I witnessed the most appalling treatment of terribly disabled people all in the name of making money. Some were forced to live in squalor, because "if we buy them anything nice they destroy it." Fair enough you might say, except it would be the service user's money, not that of the charity, and to refuse to let a man replace a television he managed to get shit into (don't ask.) out of his own savings is abuse.

I stuck it out with them for a couple of years, then could no longer. After an episode where a man accused of punching a service user with no vocal abilities was placed with another service user who could talk (The rationale being that he could tell us whether or not the bastard had punched him, so the bastard might not punch him just in case.) rather than being suspended and reported to the authorities, I'd had enough. I bought a van, quit the job I loved and will never work for a company like that again. I've carried on as a support worker, part time for private clients, and now work only with children. If you want to be happy and to feel good about yourself I urge you to try it for yourself. Low paid, but so rewarding.

I have a massively varied life now, living hand to mouth and scratching around for money. No two days are ever the same, and at some point in every day I will laugh heartily and make a few people smile. Who cares what job we do? In a hundred years time, unless we've invented a cure for cancer or painted the ceiling of a chapel. no one will know or care what you had to do to pay for your food and shelter. Make people happy and they'll remember you for longer than they'll remember their bosses. Enjoy the little things.


Thursday, 24 October 2013

Innocent until reported.

Twitter. I love Twitter. Whatever you call it, I love Twittering, Tweeting and Twatting. Before Twitter all the crazy shit, mad rants and self-depracation stayed inside my skull. That cannot have been healthy.

I've had my Twitter account, @JohnnyBastard, for more than six years now. Initially I used it very infrequently. For the first year or so I couldn't understand the attraction. I struggled to follow what was occurring on my own timeline, got not response to anything I tweeted and seldom received a mention. Then, a couple of years ago, I got hooked. I followed any one that crossed my path, whether I agreed, disagreed, loved or despised their opinions. And guess what? Twitter became a fun place to be. And as my "following" count rose, so did my "follower" count. (I wish they'd not refer to it as "followers", it makes you sound so pretentious when you refer to "my followers". They're not mine, any more than I'm theirs.)

As my count began to surpass those of some minor celebrities I rejoiced. Then, celebrities started following me. The wonderful Mr. @StephenFry being the first. I'm under no illusions though. He didn't follow because he thought I was witty, clever, handsome or erudite. If you follow the logic of Occams Razor then I would say the most likely reason was his accidentally touching the follow button on his iPhone. That aside, I'm still pretty damn chuffed whenever I realise a national treasure of his standing is following.

A few months back I was "FF"'d (To those non-Twits out there, it stands for "follow Friday" and is a way of recommending people to your own followers.) by @REALKathyLloyd. Kathy Lloyd was, when I was younger, a page three model and, without exception, by far my favourite. She took over from Linda Lusardi in my eyes after I had to stop fancying her for being Liverpudlian. A while later I discovered Kathy herself to be Liverpudlian. This led to my stopping disliking my Scouse cousins simply because, well, have you SEEN Kathy Lloyd?

These two events were both massive ego boosts and cemented my love of Twitter. But greater than those, the friends I've met on Twitter and the concern shown by complete strangers during the darker periods of my existence, along with the crazy, slutty or just plain giddy miscreants I encounter whenever I open my Twitter app.

I am a massive advocate of freedom of speech in all things. In my opinion there is no subject, nor is there any opinion, that is taboo or that shouldn't be heard. If we ignore the vile opinions of the few we miss out on putting our opinions to them. If we close down debate we are much poorer for it and vile attitudes based on incomplete data will fester, grow, spread unchallenged and destroy.

Anyone that has followed my Twitter account and actually taken the time to read it properly (Thank you, those that did or do, I appreciate it.) will testify to the fact that I never take offence. People ask me vile questions designed to upset me or enrage me. People attack my attitudes, lifestyle and appearance daily. And, in all those instances, not one shit is given by me. I don't think these people are wrong, stupid or offensive. For the most part I pity them, sat alone in their squalor, only able to feel better about themselves if they can make someone else feel worse. Their actions have caused such misery to some, dare I say it, weaker individuals. Words hurt, I agree, but surely that shouldn't apply to little boxes of up to 140 characters sent anonymously. Twitter is fun, Twitter is Twitter, trolls should be laughed at, not with, or pitied.

Today I awoke and, as ever, stretched my arm across my sleeping partners face to reach my iPhone so I could check my Twitter. I Tweeted some good mornings, read some news and slowly fought off Morpheus' clumsy advances. Then, disaster. My Twitter account has been suspended, and this time (Yes, it's not the first time.) I have absolutely no idea why. Someone, I know not who, has taken offence at something, I know not what, and reported me. Now, I understand that abuse should be reported and that Twitter have a responsibility to be seen to be acting. I understand this. And I hate it. Why? Why are people allowed to complain about something that they CHOSE to become involved in? Twitter is a place to vent, to laugh, to campaign, even to advertise or self-promote. I do all those things and much more. What I have never done, nor ever would do, is trawl the timelines of others to find something to complain about. I see lots on Twitter worthy of complaint. Lots. I even see some stuff worthy of prosecution. But prosecution in real life, not on a bloody social network. It strikes me that one day all justice will be dealt with via the medium, with daily sentencing announced live on the Jeremy Kyle show. A jury of twleve replaced by a jury of millions, "favourite" for guilty, "retweet" for innocent. (Off at a tangent here, but I'd like to take a moment to urge anyone that hasn't already done so to read "Blind Faith" by Mr Ben Elton. A relatively recent publication that seems a little too prophetic for comfort.)

So, here I sit. Bored and awaiting a faceless automaton to decide whether or not I deserve to be able to Tweet about my bowel movements, dog's behaviour and general nonsense to the 27000+ people that have chosen, of their own volition, to follow me, or whether I should have to piss off back to Facebook and look at how cute peoples "lil men" or "princesses" are or "like" something puerile to prove I don't hate children and loved my dead dad, on the behest of an anonymous individual or individuals.

I have a back up account, cleverly named "@johnnybastard2", which I'm forced to use at times like this. It's not the same. In a similar way to the way you see a spider weave a half arsed web to replace the splendid and beautiful piece of work you brushed away yesterday, I just can't be bothered. But this is the problem with Twitter, or at least the anti-free speech zealots that populate certain corners of Twitter. If I was spreading vile hatred, kiddie porn or racism then every time an account was compromised I'd start another and begin upsetting all those that had, quite rightly, blocked and ignored me on the suspended account. The best way to deal with a troll, in my experience, is to playful mock their obvious flaws then move on. I don't even block them, and in many cases I follow them. But I completely disregard any of the shite I see them spout. Give your attention to those that deserve it, bollocks to the rest.

This has been a pointless blog entry. No funny bits, nothing you couldn't have lived without reading. Similar to my Twitter feed. But I've enjoyed wasting my time writing it. Enjoy the little things. S'very important.


Monday, 21 October 2013

The key.

This being my first "toe in the water" where blogging is concerned, I'm afraid I'm flying by the seat of my pants. Infuriatingly, I'm finding it hard to expand beyond the 140 character limit to which I've become accustomed. Also, the design. If any of you fancy giving me some positive, or even not so positive, criticism I'd be most grateful.

Okay, so, where to begin? The Bitch Queen is currently in the bath, the dogs are snoozing and the beautiful clock I've recently finished (I rescue and renew old furniture as a bit of a sideline.) is tick-tocking away reassuringly in the corner of the room, where its propped against a pile of vintage suitcases and right besides my golden, Pulp Fiction themed piano. That's right, GOLDEN piano! My lounge is beginning to resemble a cross between Steptoe's parlour and Liberace's lavatory.

Times are hard in our house. We laugh a lot but, like most these days, we've not a lot to laugh about. Enjoy the little things, that's the secret. Oh, and dogs. Dogs were designed to make you smile. Not cats though. Vile creatures. If a cat looked like what it actually was, you'd never have it in your house.

She's out of the bath now. Cue one hour forty minutes of hair straightening and pouting at herself in the mirror, before she finishes the de-uglyfication process by setting the make-up canon to "slag" and turning it on herself. As ever in these moments I find solace in taking the dogs for a good, long walk. See, dogs. Dogs are the key to any happy home. Take care peeps, and enjoy the little things.