BOYS WILL BE BOYS. GIRLS WILL BE GIRLS?

outdoor summer parties for girls in surrey

Well I was going to talk about Scottish Independence, since it has been so much in the news this week. I was going to talk about how Alex Salmond cynically lowered the age of voting so that a more impressionable and patriotic youth vote might sway the balance, even for this not to work, according to the polls. That must have left egg on his face. Or more likely porridge.

I was going to talk about how the Scottish first minister doesn’t want Scotland to be governed by a load of ex -Etonian Tories in London. Well, since they failed to secure a majority of English voters, neither do we. So for that I have some sympathy. But if he really wanted to win a vote on whether Scotland should break from the UK, then he should let the English vote. Bingo.

That’s what I was going to write about. But then something was brought to my attention that I am actually interested in. And that something is the rise of the Little Girls Pamper Parties.

If you are unaware of these historic events, let me enlighten you.
A Pamper Party is ‘a female-oriented party where each guest receives beauty and massage treatments and generally spends time indulging and pampering themselves.’ And the Little Girls Pamper party is of course the junior version of this.
And they are happening everywhere. Just try typing it into Google to discover the endless pages of them. Princess Pamper Parties, Essex Pamper Parties (yikes!) Tinkerbell Pamper Parties, Little Divas Pamper Parties. Little Divas? You don’t say!

Now I don’t want to be a party pooper. I don’t want to be the one to flag up the tyranny of gender stereotyping. In my humble opinion, boys will be boys, and girls will be girls. Through no conscious pressure on mine, or her mother’s part, my daughter is as girly and pinkly princessy as they come. Seriously, if you came round to my house, you’d think my flat mate was Danny le Rue.

But it did make me uneasy to drop my daughter off at the latest of these pamper parties, looking like my lovely little nine year old daughter, only to pick her up looking like Dolly Parton.

Honestly, I was instantly considering the merits of the burka.

“Oh put a sock in it, you humorless, joyless prat. It’s only a harmless bit of fun.” I hear you cry. Ok, sure. Of course it is fun. And I’m certainly not trying to criticize the parents throwing these parties. Lord knows I’ve clutched at many a straw when wondering how to entertain a covenette* of screaming, e-numbering little girls myself.

But I’m not convinced it’s harmless. I’m just not. At worst it’s the over sexualisation and body fixation of little girls, who will all too soon find out the pressures of that for themselves. And at best it’s filling my daughters smart little head with endless glittery twaddle that is hardly going to get her a science degree. I’m not trying to be down on looking good. I’m all for it. To quote the great Ian Dury, as I think I have once before in this esteemed newspaper, “Every bit of clothing should make you pretty”.

And why not? I for one could tell you the exact shade of red lipstick Robert Smith of The Cure used to wear, and look at the heights I’ve scaled now! (ahem).

My point is not that wanting to look good and being smart are mutually exclusive. Of course they are not. My point is does it have to start SO young? Plus if I have to sit through another glitter-festooned film where my daughter provides a running commentary on what every female cast member is wearing or doing with her hair, then I swear, I shall be moving to Scotland, whether it’s independent or not.

*Here I was wonder what the collective noun is for a group of 9 year old girls, ampted up on pink icing sugar, coca-cola and nail-varnish fumes. Any suggestions welcome on my twitter!

SEEN AND NOT HEARD

1db5daccfa1bfb359cbc47dc874f0129f33c633da7801d1179f955904f90b90a

I am currently at my father’s house. I have come down to paint his kitchen. I know, I’m such a doting son and nice guy. That’s me, I am all heart. I’ve had no sleep because my 9-year-old daughter was wriggling all night in the bed we had to share. How I ended up on the sofa, whilst she luxuriated on the double mattress, I’ve no idea. How times have changed.

Ok, who here has a father that you love very dearly, but who essentially gets on your nerves? My father wouldn’t have slept on the sofa that’s for sure.

He was the kind of man who felt that children were much better seen and not heard. It’s similar to how I feel about Beyonce.

My father and I get on perfectly well now, just so long as we discuss nothing more divisive than the weather or the form of Andy Murray. Anything of importance and we are headed for choppy philosophical waters.

Don’t misunderstand me, he is a decent man. He means well, I’ve no doubt. But he’ll start sentences with phrases like, “The problem with modern society is…” which is essentially another way of saying, “I’m arrogant enough to assume that my opinions are actually the facts.”

I rarely find out what he actually feels the problems are with modern society, because in order to avoid an argument, I have invariably stopped listening. One of them could be that younger generations don’t listen to the older generations, and he might have a point.

Recently, we were discussing the thorny issue or Immigration. I don’t know what I was thinking, getting drawn into this territory with him. It was never going to go well. My father cranks in with “It’s not that I’ve got anything against immigration…..” and I know we are rowing towards the rapids and over the falls on this one. Because that’s a phrase that is NEVER followed by, ‘ so I shall say no more.” And indeed it wasn’t. “It’s not that I’ve got anything against immigration, it’s just they don’t make much effort to fit in.”

Terrific Dad, because of course when we Brits go abroad we make every effort to fit in! Standing drunk at the bar in a sombrero shouting “Oi garcon, dos cerveza por favor, “ is NOT trying to fit in.

And of course every bit of my being is screaming – please shut up, SHUT UP! But you bite your lip don’t you, because, well, he’s your Dad.

And because it’s very difficult to insult your Dad and then in the next breath ask to borrow 10 grand because you’re desperately trying to buy a house. Oh the dilemmas of modern living!

But of course it then dawns on me that this derision with which I speak of my father, this put upon contempt, is this how my own daughter will come to view me? My daughter, who currently holds me in such smiling, hugging reverie, will she one day come to view me as some derelict old fool with the opinions of a fascistic, bigoted baboon?

Me, her fair minded and left leaning Daddy. Her eager to listen and happy to help old Baggy, her taking his fair share of nappy changing and making her school lunches old Pops, her don’t worry you take the bed I’ll sleep on the sofa even though it’s you that’s wriggling, Dad. When oh when, will I become that crumbling Nazi fossil who’s only reason to exist seems to be to spoil her fun?

Soon, very soon.

I feel my generation of father has made massive efforts to be less distant, less dictatorial, more hugging and more emotionally and practically engaged. I see it in so many of my friends. This is of course a correct reflection of the current climate of gender roles, but it is also born in no small part out of a very real desire to be most definitely, NOT LIKE OUR OWN FATHERS.

But will it work? Will we be any closer to our children when they grow up? Or will my daughter in 30 years time, be writing articles that begin, ‘Who here has a father that they love very dearly, BUT essentially get on your nerves?

More importantly will she have painted my kitchen?

Perhaps it is the role of every child to break away from his or her parental mould? Perhaps the sole purpose of parenting is to teach your child all the things they will need in life, so that they no longer need you. And with that come the inevitable conflicts and clashes. If they agreed with you, their thinking would be out of date. They would not be independent. Not thinking like you is a vital part of it.

My pajama-clad daughter has just surfaced from her clearly restful slumber. She looks good enough to eat. She bounces in and sits on me.
“Are you down here because I was wriggling in the night?” she enquires?
“Yes I flipping well am!” I reply, “but it doesn’t matter.”
“I’m sorry Baggy”, she says, as I melt. “I love you Daddy.” I melt some more.
And then she farts on my leg.

“Children should be seen and not heard,” I state, rather after the fact, and we are both really laughing. And I hope we can carry on like this forever?

STILL SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT

$T2eC16hHJH0FG2fgtJjsBSBWKGWssQ~~60_32

And all of that on pink vinyl! What more could you want from a song? Well loads of other stuff of course, which is why it’s fairly preposterous to have a ‘greatest song of all time’. But since the good journos, past and present, at NwME have gone to the trouble to compile their faves, I’m pleased something like “Smells like Teen spirit” came out on top. Firstly because it’s clearly stunning. And secondly, because it’s a vast relief to know that officially the best song of all time isn’t some luke-warm cultural porridge by Robbie or Beyonce et al.

This I suspect is because it was not voted on by us, the public, but by people who actually know what they are talking about. If they’d left it up to the actual public, we would no doubt have chosen something unspeakable. This brings to mind one of my favorite quotes, from another anthemic rebel, Johnny Lydon. “People say you should listen to the man on the street. But I’ve met him and he’s a ****”

Well quite.

Unsurprisingly, the response to the song upon its release was mixed. Some suggested the song was an “anthem-of-a-generation,” and that lead singer Kurt Cobain was its reluctant spokesman. The New York Times observed that “‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ could be this 90’s version of ‘Anarchy in the U.K.’ MTV said, “We can’t play this.

I can’t understand what the guy is saying.” Which tells you all you need to know about MTV

I can’t understand what he was saying either. Who could? That’s beside the point. Reading the lyrics now, I still can only guess. American rock critic Dave Marsh noted,” ‘Teen Spirit’ reveals its secrets reluctantly and then often incoherently.” And that’s what I like about it. It doesn’t spell out what you should think and feel. The song leaves that up to you. Cobain himself rarely gave specifics about the song’s meaning, stating, “the song was about my friends. It also has kind of a teen revolutionary theme”. You don’t need to understand what he is saying. You can feel it. My daughter could feel it. She was air-guitaring on the bed till she fell off and bumped her head. The truth hurts kid.

There’s hope for your generation yet.

Kurt Cobain did reveal that he came up with the title when his friend spray-painted “Kurt Smells Like Teen Spirit” on his wall. He interpreted the slogan as having a revolutionary meaning. What his friend actually meant, however, was that Cobain smelled like the brand of deodorant called Teen Spirit, which his then-girlfriend wore. No matter, inspiration comes in odd forms. Newton discovered gravity when an apple fell on his noggin. These are the things of legend.

Mind you Cobain also said he thought the song, was “too slick for his tastes.” So it just goes to show, what does he know either? Perhaps he preferred Robbie?

GOD! SAVINGS OF THE QUEEN

CIS:S.759-1990

Britain’s economy is on the up apparently. I can’t say I’ve noticed. But yep, it’s definitely improving say the Government. And why would they lie?

But we, the public, according to a recent Pole, are all still saying we could all do with earning a bit more. And according to another recent pole, it appears that this includes our very own Queen. She needs to earn more money too. I don’t know we are asking the Poles, she’s not their Queen. Mind they could tell us Brits a thing or two about graft, so maybe they are ideally placed to judge those work-shy Royals.

Did I say that out loud? Woops, that’ll produce a lot of hot air in middle England. And let’s hope it does, I’m still freezing, and it’s not even February.

Honestly, I’m not anti-Royal. I’m certainly not anti-Queen. I’ve no idea what she actually does, so judge ye not Markus, lest thee be judged thyself. But thanks to some journalist in yesterday’s news, I now know what she doesn’t do, and that is, earn enough money! She is being urged amongst other things to open Buckingham Palace more than the 78 days a year it is currently open. Who does? Well, how about Bankers, estate agents, and the guy who runs the photocopying shop round the corner from my house. You know who you are.

But the Queen works blooming hard by all accounts. And I’d far rather have her as team captain, than the string of buffoons who’ve graced 10 Downing Street in recent memory.

I don’t want you to think am I pro-Royalist however. Right comrades! In honestly this is about the first time I have thought of her in ages. But it does seem a little unfair that she’s not earning enough. Surely if anyone currently earns enough, in these current fiscally choppy waters, surely it’s the Queen? I can barely pay my looming tax bill, and no one’s telling me I don’t earn enough. Well, that’s if you discount my 9-year-old daughter, who clearly wishes to be kept in a manner to which I was never accustomed. Currently she appears to be competing in the Miss Jnr Imelda Marcos competition, and I am constantly tripping up over new shoe after new shoe. I have a sort of indoor sparkly pink urban assault course to negotiate each morning. And what’s worse is, I paid for it. Some journalist should tell her to earn more! Oh hang on……

CLEMENTINE TALBOTT, DAUGHTER OF MINE, GET A JOB!

In fact, this isn’t a bad idea for the whole countries coffers. Let’s put those kids out to work. After all it appears to have worked in Far East. Look how their economies are booming. If my daughter wants to wear all those trainers, she can get a job making them. That way she might be able to afford the gazillion pounds it’s going to cost her to go to university in 10 years time.

If I could be bothered to look up what the Queen actually earns each year, I’m sure the answer would be, quite a bit. If the Queen isn’t earning enough money, then we really are in worse financial shape than I’d thought.

And perhaps this is more the truth of it. We all need to earn more. That way, we can spend more I suppose. That was the message at the beginning of this recession wasn’t it? We need to spend our way out of it!

I’m no economist, but that seems perverse.

It just seems a shame the message isn’t that perhaps, just maybe, we should stop valuing EVERYTHING in terms of it’s monetary worth, even the Queen. As if this worth is the only worth that’s worth any worth! (check out that sentence! I thuthpect my writing ith getting worth and worth!)

If only the message was BUY LESS RUBBISH. That way we won’t be so in debt. If only the message was “STOP GIVING BONUSES TO BANKERS, AND STOP ALLOWING AMAZON AND U2 AND JIMMY CARR AND THE LIKE TO PAY NO TAX.

But what would I know? I should probably keep my mouth shut, buy a bigger plasma screen, so I might watch in even finer detail, the latest celebrity, fame-truffling promotion, in a plastic TV dinner induced, semi-catatonic state.
“Go to sleep,” whisper Ant n Dec….”it’s good for the economy.”

IT’S RAINING MEN, HALLELUJAH!

09_Ukip_r_w

Flooding is expected to cause more disruption as some river levels continue to rise in southern England, the Environment Agency has warned. And well, we all know why that is don’t we? It’s obvious. It goes without saying. It’s because of the Gays.

The Gays are taking time out of their busy schedule of marrying each other and bringing down the standards of the nation, to make it rain.

It’s not the ozone, it’s not even the carbon emissions, it’s the Gays what done it.

“What on earth is he talking about?” I hear you cry. I hope I can hear you cry that, anyway. Rather than, “At last, someone finally talking some sense for a change.“ Mind you, I wouldn’t be able to hear that either, over the noise of the storms, and me vogueing to ‘It’s Raining Men’ at 10,000 decibels.

But what I am referring to is the recent comments made by UKIP councilor David Silvester. He said, and I quote, “the UK had been beset by storms because David Cameron had legalized Gay Marriage.” WOW!

Well we all knew the Gay lobby was getting stronger, so is the pink pound, but seriously, they can control the weather now? Who knew? I’m looking through my window and it’s foggy out. Someone must have been up to no good last night? I did see that fella in the pub order a gin and tonic. Hmmmmm?

In fairness to UKIP, (and that is not a phrase I am likely to use again), they did immediately suspend Mr. Silvester. And so he realized the error of his ways by going straight onto BBC radio and saying ‘God wants all gay men to repent and be healed.’ Well, at least he’s learnt his lesson.

Firstly he didn’t say who should foot the bill for healing them. I can only presume it’ll be the NHS and won’t that be a drain on us decent taxpayers. He also didn’t say what he or God wanted Gay women to do, so one can only speculate. Perhaps he doesn’t blame Gay women for the floods? I mean it couldn’t be their fault could it? That would be preposterous. They’d be far too busy listening to KD Lang and trying to adopt children, to meddle with the weather. Or maybe he thinks God doesn’t mind lesbians? I guess we’ll never know.

Now, it’s been a while since I spoke with God myself on the subject of homosexuals. So once again I might be being a little presumptuous myself, but might I suggest that whatever his views are, God might be a little busy with other stuff going on to worry too much about washing away the moral detritus of southern England. Even if it was on his to do list, it can’t be near the top? Perhaps it was one of God’s new years resolutions? If so, we haven’t that much to worry about. You know what new years resolutions are like.

They only last for the first 3 weeks of January, and then it’s business as usual.

If it is the Gay Community’s fault, and they are powerful enough to control the weather, I’d like to thank them for a particularly mild winter. In fact it’s been the mildest since 1988. Presumably that was a very gay year too. Wasn’t that when George Michael came out?

Besides, the only actual casualties from this seem to be the cattle. All that Gay cattle. Yes we need to punish them. It says so in the bible. “If a cow lies with another cow, both of them have committed an abomination.” Leviticus, chapter 20, the missing tapes. It’s all coming back to me now. Perhaps that’s what foot and mouth was all about?

It was God’s wrath, for all that livestock, pansie-ing about in fields eating buttercups.

The rains will eventually stop, and the floods subside, and it will be business as usual. And hopefully, it’s only the people with views like David Sylvester who will have been washed away. Mind you there was a rainbow over the estuary two days ago. I mean…..come on, a RAINBOW! We all know whom to blame for that.

Smoking

james-dean

I might take up smoking. I’m a grown adult. I can do what I want.

I’ve never properly smoked and I thought it was about time I saw what all the fuss was about. New years resolutions and all that. Try something new. Of course I’d dabbled in the past, at school behind the bike sheds to be cool with the cool kids, with my older sister and her alluring friends, to appear older and more alluring. But I didn’t commit.

Plus it’s difficult to look alluring when you’re coughing up a lung. Mind, it’s easier to look older.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about taking up real smoking! What do you think I am, an idiot? I’m talking about e-smoking. Come on, you know I’m right. You know you wanna. Those e-cigarettes ARE cool! It’s smoking and it’s technology. How achingly hip is that. It’s teenage rebellion meets Bladerunner. I wanna be in that gang. It’s not even bad for you! Result.

I used to be interested in doing things that were bad for me. In my mis-spent and feckless youth. I think all human beings are. Well, the interesting ones at least. Not any more, not at my age. I can’t take it. I need to indulge in things that are good for me, like yoga and salad. In fact I’ve taken to yoga, like a babe to its mother’s milk, but frankly salad can still get stuffed. A personal trainer (Good heavens, not mine!) once said to me ‘salad is your new best friend’.

What a spanner! Who wants salad as a best friend?

That’s exactly the kind of statements that means you have to have salad as a friend, because no human actually wants to be it.

I can state now, for the record, Salad will never be my best friend. What would that say about my life choices? Sure, I might have salad as a casual acquaintance, a fling even, but as a best friend! Snore! However if they produced an e-salad, a space-age metal e-cucumber, a vaporizing e-lettuce, with glowing e-tomatoes, then I’d be all over that, like an e-dressing.

An e-salad and I could be bosom pals.

Apparently, there’s a new on-line community of e-smokers gathering momentum. Or ‘Vapors’, as they are calling themselves. Even the name sounds cool. It sounds like a band. Well it was a band, so that’s hardly a stretch. But that’s what I’m talking about. Trust them to come up with a snazzy moniker. ‘Non-smoker’, sounds like you’ve decided to wear beige as a life-style choice. ‘Non- smokers’ are loyal to their bank. Even ‘smoker’ sounds passé. It sounds grubby and unkempt. But a ‘vapor’ sounds hip. It sounds alluring. It sounds grown up.

Real smoking used to be cool, when James Dean did it. When Marlene Dietrich did it. And I’ll be honest, I’ve always liked smokers. Though I’ve never really smoked, I’ve always hung out with the smokers. In fact some of my best friends are smokers. Smokers are the risk takers, the ones interested in the underside, the one’s with the funny stories.

But ‘used to be cool’ is exactly right. Not any more. It was ruined by the actual facts. Graphic pictures on the side of cigarette packets that were, to say the least, alarming. Statistics that made you cigarette-stinking hair stand on end. Damn those scientists and their actual research. How dare they ruin a perfectly good thing that we all loved? Mind you they did it with God, so I guess this is small beer. In fact they’ll be telling us alcohol is bad for us soon. Imagine that! One day, those joyless scientists will be wagging their judgey fingers and having us drink e-cohol, and loving it.

Anyway, cheers readers, your good health.

NO NEWS IS EVER GOOD NEWS?

sky-news-hd-thompson

The news hasn’t got any less depressing in 2014 has it? I don’t want to bury my head in the sand, but I’m not sure I can take much more. Broken Britain!!! The Economy is in the toilet. There’s binge drinking hoodies and pregnant teenagers on every corner. Benefit cheats under every duvet. Politicians on the fiddle. Everything’s under about 6 ft of water. And let’s not forget the terrorists, who are of course EVERYWHERE!!! We are ALL DOOMED!

Or are these just scare tactics to make us all TERRIFIED of each other, so we’ll stay quiet, stay indoors, in front of the TV and buy more stuff? That’s a rhetorical question. The answer is yes.

Though we definitely do seem to be under about 6ft of water.

Do you know how likely you are to be killed by a terrorist? Me neither, but not that likely would be my guess. And certainly not as likely as you are to die of heart disease from smoking, drinking and eating rubbish. Yet we’re told there’s terrorists everywhere!

“Terrorists are a huge threat, citizens, and that’s why they’re taking away all your freedoms. “

And we fully believe them. For instance, you see a vaguely dark-skinned man with a rucksack, everyone’s panicking. And yet you see one selling a kebab, and no-one bats an eyelid. But a kebab is far more likely to kill you. And who eats them? Drunken infidel westerners. See! That’s how Al Qaeda will beat us!

Dodgy Politicians with all their expenses. Didn’t that make you mad? Didn’t that make you just furious? Personally I wasn’t that bothered, since I don’t vote. Don’t vote!!! I hear you scoff? Then you have no right to an opinion.

That’s the usual line isn’t it?

I disagree. I’m with Russell Brand on this one. I didn’t vote for Hitler, doesn’t mean I don’t have an opinion. I don’t vote because don’t want to encourage them.

“Well Markus, Try living in China. “ I hear you say. “Tell them it’s not important not to vote. “

Surely what’s important here, is not to live in China.

Voting is over rated. I’ll tell you why. On 2011 International Women’s Day, women voted the most influential British woman of last 100 years to be…anyone? That’s right, Leona Lewis. No disrespect to Leona Lewis, who I’m sure is delightful, but THE most influential British woman of the last 100 years? I’m not sure women deserve the actual vote!

Broken Britain? Maybe what’s breaking it, is all the people telling us just how broken it is. Ok, it’s a bit tired. I’m not sure if it’s great any longer, but broken? Would you rather we returned to the ‘good old days’ when we went round the planet taking other peoples stuff? Again that’s a rhetorical question, although this time the answer is not yes.

Sadly scaring people does get you elected. And the truth doesn’t. But the truth is there is now in Britain the lowest number of murders for 20 years. Child homicide is down two thirds since the 70’s. We’re now seventeenth on the list, down from third in 70’s when I was a child. I’m surprised I made it.

A British teenage girl is half as likely to get pregnant now as her grandmother. OK, so this could mean either the kids today are doing it less, or there’s better awareness of contraception, or grandma wasn’t as innocent and sweet as we all thought she was.

Binge drinking? Come on, we’ve always been a nation of boozers and fighters. And thank the Lord. You think when the Vikings or the Armada or the Nazis came knocking, you would have wanted to be protected by people with a high regard for personal health and safety?

So lets have some good news. For instance, a London mugger was recently hospitalized when he tried to steal a mobile phone from a small child. The small child in question turned out to be UK under12 Kick -boxing champion, and swiftly handed the mugger his own backside! SEE!. Doesn’t that just make you feel better about everything?

But I agree, the weather is alarming.

NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS

NEW YEAR'S RESOUTION VENN

As I write this, I am peaking over the fence at 2014. I’ll be honest, I usually don’t like the prospect of a New Year, but I will be glad to see the back of 2013. It has been my Annus horribilis or whatever the phrase is, and so good riddance.

The prospect of a New Year usually brings with it that sense of impending dread where you know you will once again disappoint yourself by systematically falling behind on all those resolutions you made. I shall start my diet and go to that gym. I shall learn a new language. I shall take up the piano. I shall visit my parents. I will drink less.

No you won’t. One by one, you will let it slide and you will be reminded of how weak and desperate an individual you truly are. It might be a new year, but it’s still the same old you.

You’ll go to the gym once, over stretch yourself, spend a week in agony, comfort eat and never return.

You will not learn a new language. Don’t be preposterous. You’re British for one thing. If you didn’t learn one at school when you had all the time in the world and years of free lessons, how the hell you going to manage it now, if you’ll pardon my French. Plus learning a foreign language is unpatriotic.

You won’t take up the piano. What are you, 10? I don’t care how much you love Elton John, you are never learning the piano. Where are you even going to put a piano? And this is to say nothing of your actual musical skills. Even if you possess the discipline to practice an hour a day (which you don’t), and you had the time to fit that in (which you haven’t), do you have any flair or ear for it anyway (no you don’t).

If you did, you’d already be playing it.

You won’t visit you parents. You can always phone. Why trapes all the way over there? And why has it always got to be you going over there? If they’re so keen to keep you up to speed on all the ailments of people you don’t even know, they can come visit you. On second thoughts, go visit them. At least then they won’t visit you.

You know very well, that with every year you get closer to the aching chasm of death, you will drink even more. Particularly if you start visiting your parents.
And once again, for the British, not drinking is unpatriotic. It’s good for the economy. There are pubs closing every week. You want that on your conscience?

I’ve been discussing with various friends, giving up alcohol for January. From time to time I get a puritanical zeal to cleanse my body of all the mischief it’s been up to. In theory this is of course a very good idea. My body is a temple, healthy body, healthy mind, and so on. In practice, however, it’s an almost herculean feat akin to climbing Everest in a pair of Speedos. For instance this January sees my father’s 80th birthday, a short tour of Norway and then a good friend is emigrating to Australia. How am I expected to not drink to those?

No, New Year’s Resolutions are not an exercise in self-improvement. They are an exercise in self-loathing.

Hope goes, potential fades, resolve atrophies, you remain.

So I shall not be making any new years resolutions. I don’t need to do it to myself. Instead I shall tumble on in the same manner as I did in the last twelve months. My modus operendi will be the 3 way Venn diagram it always is. The three circles of HOPE, ACTUAL SKILLS and DESPAIR overlap. Where Hope and Actual Skills overlap, there’s a section saying -‘some progress (illusional)’. Where Actual Skills and Despair overlap, the section reads -‘continued unremarkable slide toward the grave’. Where Hope and Despair overlap, it states -‘I could lose control any day now.’

But where all three overlap in the middle, is where I aim myself. There it states – ‘Blimey! I appear to have accidently pulled something off, I’m not completely embarrassed by!’

I usually fail, but I do aim for that. And so should you in 2014 my friends. And good luck. Next year will be your Annus Mirabilis I’m sure. And if you don’t know what that means, you could always learn some Latin. You won’t, so it means- wonderful year.

Good people, have a wonderful year.

HAPPY CHRISTMAS

5d4e4a62

Ok, I suppose I ought to write something Christmassy. It’s that time of year. The goose is getting fat and so on. I even began my gift buying yesterday, so I’m feeling well festive. I bought one gift, a bottle of Jack Daniels. I haven’t decided whom to give it to yet. Conceivably it might not make it into Santa’s sack at all, and I will have poached it myself to get through the rest of this interminable present shopping. It’s not that I don’t like buying presents. I do. It’s not that I’m a Christmas humbug. I don’t believe I am. And I’m not even going to write one of those sanctimonious bleeding heart rant about how we in the west are so decadent and don’t need all this stuff. Of course we don’t, isn’t it great! I like presents, and I want to buy them for my nearest and dearest. And I suppose my family.

But as if all this Christmas shopping isn’t tough enough, I keep being guilted into sponsoring a yak in Guatemala or adopting a snow leopard in some uninhabitable icy place. Rather than splurge my cash on frivolity (oh the crime!) why not splurge it on an endangered animal? Surely my friends would much rather save a bald headed eagle this Christmas, goes the literature. They’ve clearly not met my friends.

None of them wish to own a bald headed eagle. Not unless they get to cook and eat it on Christmas day with stuffing.

In fact, on my list of things I am never going to do with my money, this is pretty near the top. I don’t wish to be uncharitable, in this festive season, but nothing shouts Christmas less to me, that adopting a bald headed eagle, or a yak or a snow leopard.

Have these creatures seen the size of my gas bill?

Quite frankly if they are feeling the pinch this winter, then the eagle the yak and the snow leopard can get a flipping job.

“But snow leopards are ‘FIF’.” I have just been unreliably informed. ‘FIF’ to the kids, means “Fit as….’, well you can figure out the rest of that. And I suppose they are rather. But quite frankly if the snow leopard is so stupid as to leave the warmth and comfort of the jungle, to freeze its proverbial spots off in the Himalayas then I’ve very little time for it. And another thing, a leopard clearly CAN change it’s spots. These ones are a totally different colour. So not only are snow leopards, work-shy, and geographically idiotic, they’re also liars. She didn’t say how attractive she found Yaks, and I forgot to ask.

I did my Christmas cards on Sunday. That took way longer than I thought. I really must apologize to my ex. I had no idea. This was generally in her area of festive duties. And so consequently I had no clue quite what a Herculean task it was. I felt that in my new bachelorhood I ought to remind people that I still exist, and that I still love them dearly. This is not so much out of a generosity of spirit and more from a fear that I might die alone in rented accommodation. I started well, with the benevolent zeal of a post visited Scrooge, but after the tenth one, I’m basically spreading the same falsehood that the recipient will be in my heart and thoughts this yuletide and I look forward to seeing them next year. Why? I’ve barely seen them this year.

Oh and what’s with all these Christmas jumpers too?

Was there a meeting, when all middle management and office workers thought it would be oh so hilarious to go out dressed like Russell Harty? Whilst the globe was mourning Mandela, did Sue and Dave in accounts get their heads together, and think, never mind all that, lets order a job lot of pullovers with Rudolph on the front. On second thoughts, I might adopt that leopard after all, and let it loose in my local Weatherspoons upon their jumper wearing clientele. I know it’s Christmas, and have a lovely one and all that, but rules is rules.

THAT CHRISTINGLY FEELING

Christinglesmaking

Having spent last week in the clutches of western decadence and orthodox Islam, that is Dubai, it was bizarre to find myself in a small Catholic church on Sunday. There’s nothing like jumping from the entertainment of sloshed ex-pats, to the sobriety of the English churchgoing to remind you of the variety and spice of life.

In fact I was in church attending my first ever Christingle service on Sunday. My daughter and her school were performing as the choir. I’d never even heard of Christingle. It sounds like the name of a rather insignificant BBC TV sports commentator, who once got into the 2nd round of the French Open.
“And now, over to Chris Tingle at Wimbledon “

Now you may be assuming this is because I am a Godless wretch dragged up in some heathen dwelling and an ignoramus. But you’d be wrong. Judge not, lest thee be judged thy selves, good people. In fact, since you ask, I was brought up in a vicarage. I didn’t live troll-like under the stairs.

My father’s a vicar. Stick that in your organ-pipe and smoke it.

Birdman might know a thing or two about Christian liturgy. So how on earth had I never heard of a Christingle? What kind of a spoilsport vicar had my father been that I, and the good parishioners of St Michael’s had been denied the Christingle?

Have you heard of a Christingle? Briefly, if you are not up to speed with the various advent services of the Christian denominations, a Christingle is a symbolic object, consisting of:
• an orange representing the world;
• a red ribbon around it representing the blood of Christ;
• dried fruits or sweets skewered on cocktail sticks pushed into the orange, representing the fruits of the earth and the four seasons;
• and a lit candle pushed into the centre of the orange, representing Jesus Christ as the light of the world.

Visually, to be honest, it’s a dog’s dinner. Well, it’s more of a dog’s snack, if it was a vegetarian. But symbolically it’s rather poetic. And it was lovely to see all the children parading around the equally lovely church clutching them proudly. This was only slightly marred by the irate and bellowing lay preacher, who presumably having been tasked to plan out this procession, was not best pleased when it didn’t go off in the Rommel style she’d envisaged.

There she was in the pulpit, literally pulling her hair and bellowing at the kids. In fairness, at least she drowned out the choir.

You’d think that since they were all clutching the light of the world, that might have illuminated which way to walk around the pews for the little ones, but I’m picking hairs. Mostly those that the lay preacher had pulled out and strewn all over the church floor.

It all descended into a scene from some Christmas special sitcom. And as the parents began to giggle and snigger like their own children, I thought, well this probably wasn’t what anyone had in mind, but it does appear to have brought us all together in a joyful union at Christmas time. Perhaps that’s what the plan was all along? God, after all, moves in mysterious ways.

I asked my father why I had never heard of the Christingle. He said,
“because you are a Godless heathen, and an ignoramus.”

He then went on to say it was because Christingle is a relatively recent introduction to the Church of England (in ’68 by John Preston of The Children’s Society, if you’re interested).
“So it had missed your childhood church going years. Like your mother and I missed the swinging sixties….. Our miss, was probably greater than yours!”