The Best of 2006. A tad long at 8.5k words. Might be best printed and read at leisure (26 A4 pages in 14-pt Times New Roman). Please bear in mind the age of the material and, if you feel moved to argue about anything, save your energy, I’m not getting involved. Otherwise, comments, as always, are welcomed.
The text here has journeyed through several versions of Word, a few iterations of Windows, as well as a FrontPage and, finally, Dreamweaver. Inevitably, some formatting weirdness won’t go away but, hopefully, won’t detract from your enjoyment overmuch. There’s just too much to rewrite it.
This, I hope, represents the best from a year of my embryonic blog, which, in very short order became subtitled Ron’s Rants, a name, now on the WordPress.com platform, it still retains (though when written it was as an appendix to my website, Ron’s Realm, moving to WP in 2007. On Twitter, to retain my “corporate identity,” I’m @rantsfromron. In my blog’s case, people tended to take the “rants” bit a tad too literally, and some would actually complain if I was perceived not to be angry enough! I was never angry – if I were, I couldn’t write – but I can feign it quite well.
The writing, as ever, you may find a little variable, depending, as it does now, on how ill I was at the time. It’s interesting (well, to me, anyway!), to see how my writing has developed over the intervening years.
January 1 2006.
Why a blog? Why not? I’ve corresponded with quite a few people since my first Ron’s Realm column in July 2004 (this was in the ME Association’s magazine – my website was created as an overflow area for that and, eventually, to maintain editorial integrity, I quit the mag, and put everything into the website, initially, and then into my current blog ), one or two at considerable length so, I thought, why not seize the opportunity to bore even more people? I also thought, having ploughed through lots of evilly ill–written blogs, “hell, I can do better than that…”, so here we go, a new year and a new project.
First, though, for those of you who haven’t waded through the rest of my website, a little background. I developed ME in 1985 – that is, I became very ill with ME in the autumn of that year. With the aid of that wonderful thing 20–20 hindsight, I suspect I had had a milder form of it for several years previously, maybe as long as 10 years. It would account for a lot of things that would otherwise be inexplicable – and no, I’m not going back over it, there’d be no point. What’s done is done – the only way to move is forward – re-hashing the past is futile.
January 22 2006
The welfare reform green paper – to be launched on Tuesday, January 24 – contains this gem.
GPs will be expected to collude with this execrable government’s attempt to railroad the long–term sick and disabled back into work. A good trick when the most recent unemployment figures show an increase of over 100,000 – where, then, Mr. Blair, are the jobs, assuming any of us are well enough to do them?
GPs will be offered financial inducements to encourage people to return to work – this, to me, is about as disgusting, immoral and unethical as shopping your granny to the secret police, and for GPs to go along with this (there’s no guarantee yet that they will, but I doubt you’d get good odds against it at William Hill), simply beggars belief.
Patients on Incapacity Benefit who are deemed capable of “some work” will have to prepare CVs or action plans, and be forced to undergo training or have their benefits cut.
I know that Incapacity Benefit is abused, and that doctors were actively encouraged, during the Thatcher era, to hive off some of the long–term unemployed, who may have had transient illnesses, onto it. However, there are a great many claimants from that era – and I’m one of them – who’s illness and inability to work are genuine. It seems that, in the 21st–century Labour Party, the spirit of the 13th–century Albigensian Crusade, at the sack of Beziers, “Kill them all and let God sort them out!”, is still all too prevalent. (Note to pedants – I know it was actually “Kill them all! God will know his own,” but the popular version looks better.)
There needs to be a better way than this to sort them out.
January 31 2006
I found the following stat on the BBC website: 20–30% of all accidents are the result of alcohol consumption. Deplorable, you might think, but hang on a minute. It follows from this that 70–80% of all accidents are actually caused by sober people. Avoid them at all costs…
February 22 2006
Today, the Bavarian village of Elsa has been flooded by almost 53,000 gallons of pig slurry, when a storage tank burst. I live in Birkenhead, and feel quite strongly that a twinning opportunity has been allowed to slip by.
February 14 2006
This is for… well, you know who you are.
Winter Song 2004
When the summer fled past my window
and autumn’s chill was in the air
there was a special kind of lonesome
’round that ending time of year.
When the leaves fell
and they drifted ‘neath the trees that soon were bare
I felt that wind blow,
you were there.
We laughed and scuffled
and the cold gave your cheeks a glow.
And in your arms come evening
a kind of peace I know.
Now I go my way
and you go your way
now that the winter’s come and gone.
with the springtime
your golden warmth still lingers on.
March 4 2006
Ever heard of this? I hadn’t until today. In a nutshell, its proponents believe that a malfunctioning hypothalamus is the cause of ME. I accept that a malfunctioning hypothalamus can be a feature of ME – that’s well documented – but the cause? There just isn’t any evidence. Anyway, having bought a book (of course), and a video, the bottom line is that you talk to a therapist (while, presumably, thinking happy thoughts!), at £100 an hour, and your ME, by some obscure means, melts away – along with your bank account. The hypothalamus, which anyone with a smattering of sixth–form biology will know is an area of the brain concerned with a whole raft of bodily functions (yes, I do know what they are, it doesn’t matter at this point), is described as a gland, for pity’s sake.
An unfeasibly high cure rate is claimed, presumably with patients who didn’t really have ME in the first place, but what scares me is that normally intelligent people can be sucked in by such egregious bullshit. This is nothing more than sympathetic magic for the 21st century. I know sick people can be desperate for a cure, but really, does that mean you leave you common sense and critical faculties at the door? I don’t think so… Get real, people, this is nothing but smoke and mirrors.
April 10 2006
Music – sort of…
Aaargh! I’m ready to slit my wrists! Just been listening to The Streets’ new album on the radio – is there (has there ever been), such a whiny, juvenile and clichéd shower in the history of pop music? Someone should put them out of my misery.
May 28 2006
While shopping for a manual wheelchair, I stumbled across one of the most blatant disability rip–offs I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen a few). 9″ tyre levers, for scooter and powerchair tyres, at an insane £28.99 a pair! So, if you need tyre levers, get them at your nearest motor–cycle dealer or here, for around £7.00 a pair – even including postage there’s a huge saving. Another website sells the very useful Rex peelers for almost £7 each. These guys sell the Rex for £1.95 – the stainless–steel version, called the Star, is the same price. They do great espresso makers too – the Bialetti Moka Express. Take care, though, the mug equivalents are underestimated by 50% (e.g. they say the 3 demitasse size equals one mug, it’s actually half a mug – good coffee though). I have notified them of the error, but they haven’t changed it.
If you are thinking of buying any disability kit that you think may have a “real world” equivalent – or is just horribly over–priced – feel free to ask me. I was a buyer in a previous incarnation, so I can probably help.
May 24 2006
For those of you without digital TV (you’re not missing much), the Channel 4 s–f serial “Invasion” ends on Sunday. Except it doesn’t. Like the pain–in the neck “Lost”, it’s simply the end of this series.
What’s going on? Why does no–one write self–contained serials these days, but succumb to the urge to stretch them out way beyond anything that’s sensible? The guy behind “Lost” says he can keep it going for 8 years without ever reaching a conclusion. Who the hell cares? Life is too short for such self–indulgent nonsense, and the viewing audience will have tired of the concept long before they find out who was doing what to whom, why and with what.
It’s lazy writing. It takes less effort (and, dare I say it, talent), to just keep the thing trundling along for years, without having to make the intellectual effort to tie everything up tidily in 22 episodes. There are a few exceptions (the superb, unequalled “The West Wing”, for example), but mostly it’s down to the profit motive, of course – and poor writing – “Invasion” could have been brought to a sensible and logical conclusion very easily, if each episode hadn’t been overburdened with over–written drivel.
All fiction requires the willing suspension of disbelief – abuse that willingness by stretching a concept way beyond its natural end–point and the audience loses interest, the US networks can the show and anyone who is still genuinely engrossed is left in limbo.
And please, someone, tell me that the egregious “Prison Break” really will end next week! There’s so much wooden acting there’s a real risk of spontaneous combustion – the world doesn’t need any more of this dross. Yes, I do know it’s won awards in the US – it just confirms my view that US standards are abysmally low.
Here’s a thought, though. The cast of “Lost”, especially the women, are – when not erotically mussed and sweaty – immaculately turned out. The laundry is done on the beach – presumably in sea water – which is a rubbish idea (salt–stiff clothes), but ignoring that, who does the ironing, and how?
June 27 2006
I saw a very young woman, yesterday, who had recently “pinked up” her car. Among the various pink doodads I was surprised to see that bane of the 60s and 70s feminists, the Playboy Bunny, proudly emblazoned on the side. So I asked myself, after a few despairing thoughts about yoof, whether this was intended to be intensely ironic or, quite simply, dumb, and 40 years of main–stream feminism has gone down the pan? I’ll let you decide…
Against my better judgment, I occasionally have a rummage through the odd forum – odd being the operative word.
Why is it that almost no–one who contributes to these things can neither spell nor punctuate, and has only the most minimal grasp of their native tongue? It’s as if they learned English from an Albanian who had been taught English by a North Korean, using a Norwegian phrase–book. And, for some reason, they seem utterly incapable, almost to a man, of seeing anyone else’s point of view – or even accepting that they’re entitled to one. Don’t know why I bother…
June 23 2006
1 minus 1 =?
On a fly–fishing tackle website, I spotted a product which, when dribbled on the knots in the fly line, “reduces knot size by 100%”.
Is it me…?
June 12 2006
Lucy Siegle writes for The Guardian – given the intellectual level of her drivel, The Dandy might be more appropriate. I won’t bore you with much of her dim–bulb wittering, just two examples that she was blathering on about on Radio 2 tonight (as if the Ginger Pillock isn’t bad enough).
First, she gaily shrieks – hair is self–cleaning, and there’s no need to wash it. Bollocks! Hair is no more self–cleaning than the bag in your vacuum cleaner. It effectively filters all sorts of environmental gunk from the air, from dust and dead insects to unburned hydrocarbons from motor vehicles, and tobacco fumes from the toxic morons who think they have the right to pollute everyone else (hey, how cool is that – two axes ground in one item!). I wash my hair every day; if I don’t it gets manky, greasy and itchy. I shampoo my beard, too: why not? I have, on very rare occasions, not washed my hair for a week (in hospital, for example, or when camping on sites that have third–world plumbing) – it’s revolting, and the colour of the water when I finally get to wash it gives the lie to the idea that it has any self–cleaning properties. Siegle thinks it doesn’t become self–cleaning until after 6 months, and insists it doesn’t smell – I don’t think anyone would want to get close enough to find out by then – I sure wouldn’t. But here’s a thought – Siegle washes her own hair!!
Siegle’s other nugget of brainlessness was a seemingly unstoppable urge to prevent us all using so much toilet paper. She didn’t offer any solutions, though. How about “Use both sides!”
June 3 2006
There’s nowt so queer as folks…
Regular readers will know I’m planning a couple of camping trips (when I get my blasted car anyway – delivery has gone back another week, to June 14 – I’ve just found out they’re made a few hundred miles away, in Holland – not the other side of the world, as I thought – so why is it so bloody hard to get one?).
Anyway, I’ve got myself a new campsites guide (as the one I had was for 1999), and I’m a little peeved to find that several sites that I really want to use specify “couples or families only”. One, though, really takes the biscuit for Victorian prudery. The Stocking Farm site, at Calver, in the Peak District, unbelievably insists on “married couples and families only”. Married couples – what the hell is going on? It’s as if the last 50 years hasn’t happened in Derbyshire.
I’m divorced, and prefer to camp solo (actually, I don’t, but I’ve not lately met a woman who is into camping), so why should this make me undesirable? Likewise, single–parent families – clearly not married, but families by any definition – presumably find themselves unpeople in the strange world of Stocking Farm. Likewise gay couples.
Does marriage, and/or being part of a family, somehow confer virtue upon the campers? Not in my experience it doesn’t, as families with kids are some of the most selfish, noisy and disruptive people to be found on a camp site (exceeded only by groups of students or bikers). Note I said “some” not “all”, before reaching for the green ink.
In my experience, campers, no matter what their marital status, come in two distinct varieties; those with a genuine love of the countryside, who actually like outdoor living (among whom I number myself), and who have consideration for their fellow–campers, and unregenerate townies who are just there for a cheap holiday, who fail to realise (more likely simply don’t care), that a few tenths of a millimetre of nylon is NOT soundproof, and keeping rather more quiet than they would at home is not a bad thing. Nor do other campers appreciate their kids, dogs, footballs or frisbees intruding on their space.
Solo campers are almost always the quietest, most considerate members of the outdoor community, so why some camp sites shun us is utterly incomprehensible to me (especially as getting a single room anywhere is almost impossible, so some singletons are pretty much forced to camp if they want to spend their leisure time in the countryside).
I know that families with 2.4 kids and a dog sometimes bring in more revenue (though just as often spend their money off–site), but surely banning an entire segment of society because, by choice or circumstance, they are alone, is nothing short of bigotry – a modern version of the “No blacks, Jews or Irish” boarding–house signs of a lost but unlamented era. It is equally unacceptable – and it’s a great pity it’s not an offence; it bloody well should be.
July 31 2006
Is it me? (part umpteenth…)
What, for pity’s sake, is going on? Watching the news last night and what popped up before my bemused eyes? Football! Not some meaningless Euro–competition (look, if it’s football, it’s all meaningless, OK?), but the start of the Scottish season. It’s bloody JULY!
Football, when I were nobbut a lad, was an autumn and winter game. I know it’s been getting earlier every year since then, but just when, exactly, did it become a midsummer game? If we see a return to heatwave conditions – apparently August will be hotter than July (and won’t that be fun?) – are we going to see footballers dropping like flies? One can but hope…
July 16 2006
Why me? Why not?
I came across something, today, which – regarding ME – raised the question “why me?”
I have to say that this is one question it’s never occurred to me to ask. One might as well ask, with equal validity, “why not me?”. It simply doesn’t matter why. Likewise, it’s never occurred to me that I might feel envious of other people who are much fitter than I am, are free from ME, and thus have (apparently), much easier, fuller, lives. On some level I’m aware of it (or I wouldn’t have just written that), but it simply doesn’t matter to me. I might as well ask why I’m shorter than average. Knowing why I’m not tall (my paternal grandmother was very small, that’s why), will not make me any taller – it’s therefore an irrelevance, and asking the question a waste of effort.
I have ME; it’s a 24/7 fact of life, and I deal with it in the best way I can. That is really all that matters – bitching about it won’t help.
July 13 2006
What, for pity’s sake, is going on with the great British pork sausage? All a good sausage needs is some prime–quality pig, nicely minced, but not too fine, a handful of breadcrumbs to lighten the texture, maybe a touch of sage, plus black pepper and salt; it goes without saying that the casings must be natural. That’s all. (Tip: a straight sausage has an artificial casing, usually cobbled up from something described as “beef protein” – whatever that means; natural casings, being derived from intestines, are curved, and so is the sausage).
But no, look at any pack of sausages (and this seems to be a mass–market crime, that so far hasn’t spread to local butchers – I hope!), and you’re likely to find a whole garden of chopped herbs (I’m looking at a pack of Sainsbury’s “pork with fresh herb” sausages – note it says “herb”, singular), and they have sage (which is fine), but also basil, parsley and chives, which are not fine, and have no place in a pork sausage. Not content with that, the abomination is topped off with lemon zest – why?
The trend for lemon zest in an otherwise blameless sausage, I think, started with photographer Norman Parkinson’s “Porkinson Banger” many years ago, where it was used with restraint. Now, though, everybody and his brother has jumped on the bandwagon, and is loading their sausages with the stuff. Take into account the compost–heap of herbs as well, and the chances of actually tasting the pork are pretty slim. So I have to ask myself, is all this herbage and orange–peel there to disguise the fact that, basically, what I’ve just bought is a pretty sub–standard sausage?
July 2 2006
World Cra…, er, Cup…
So England’s out of the World Cup, and the country is plunged into mourning. Oh, please! Give me a break: it’s only a game, for pity’s sake, and not for nothing does the competition have the initials “WC”, given the frequency with which the ambitions of our national team, not to mention the rest of the UK teams, go down the pan. Oh well, only another week and we can get back to sanity.
Oh dear, the statistics brigade are out again, “proving” that 30% or so of road accidents are caused by excessive speed. Or, possibly, proving that the majority of drivers who abide by the speed limits are causing the vast majority of accidents. Hmm…
August 29 2006
It beggars belief…
So, I toddled up to my local at lunchtime, to find, on the bar, a sign advertising “All day Breakfast”.
Being an awkward sod, I asked if it would still be available at 3.30. Go on – guess!
Yep, quite right, it wasn’t. The all day breakfast was only available from noon until 2.30.
I didn’t actually want one but, if it’s advertised as an All day Breakfast then it damn well should be – anything else is in breach of the Trades Descriptions Act.
Is it me?
August 26 2006
Staff of life?
The buzzword on the menu at my local (Shrewsbury Arms, Oxton Village, Wirral, since you ask), is “artisan” – rarely has such an innocent word been so abused. Take, for example, the “artisan baguette”, a slab of bread as irredeemably chewy as half a pound of bubblegum (but without the charm), and one can be forgiven for believing that the artisan involved in its production may well have been a plumber – it surely can’t be a baker. Call me Mr. Picky, but I want my baguette to be light and crusty, not something that could be employed in building a fallout shelter. Is that so much to ask?
August 7 2006
“War is a poor chisel to carve out tomorrow.”
– Martin Luther King.
“There was never a good war or a bad peace.”
– Benjamin Franklin.
“I find war detestable but those who praise it without participating in it even more so”
– Romaine Rolland.
“Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind… War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today.”
“Fighting for peace is like fucking for chastity.”
Anon (but sometimes ascribed to the hippie clown, philanthropist and philosopher, Wavy Gravy).
August 4 2006
I can’t believe the selfishness in this country when it comes to global warming, and the recent spell of absurdly hot weather. The prevailing attitude, judging by a recent Radio 2 phone–in programme, seems to be that as long as we can grow fruit and veg that we couldn’t grow a decade ago in this country, all’s well, and if people on the other side of the world are dying because their temperatures, like ours, are 10 or 20 degrees (F), higher than normal, killing crops and animals, and worsening perennial droughts, well, that’s just too bad, as long as we can sunbathe seven days a week, and the fat, sweaty, tattooed oafs can let it all hang out (and oh God, do they ever!), then the fact that the planet’s going to hell in a hand–basket seems to bother very few.
The same people, though, will be the first to bitch and whine when their water runs out, as it surely will if present trends are maintained for a few years, especially in the South. I wonder who they’ll blame for lack of foresight then?
August 3 2006
Call me irresistible…
According to my website stats, overnight Tuesday/Wednesday, one person spent almost 11 hours on my website. Now, unless this is someone even more in need of a life than I am, it seems clear that whoever it is has accessed my website, then just cleared off and left his/her PC running all night. So, I have a question – why?
Or is this a deliberate attempt to ramp up my bandwidth usage, thus inconveniencing me and everyone else who visits my website (in which case it’s not working)? Or is there, perhaps, another reason (that it’s just so riveting they can’t tear themselves away, maybe!)? I’d love to know, whoever you are.
September 29 2006
On October 1 2006, new laws will come into force to protect workers from age discrimination. On the face of it, this is excellent news. Except it’s not, entirely…
Consider this legislation in the light of this government’s avowed aim to get as many people claiming Incapacity Benefit as possible back into work, though, and an entirely different picture emerges. There are many claimants who would previously have been precluded by age from any attempts to force them back into employment.
They could now find themselves hounded and harried into actively seeking employment, which would be massively detrimental to their health, simply because they’re no longer excluded because of their age.
September 22 2006
Right, I’m going to break my own no politics rule, as this is just too absurd to ignore.
It appears that John Prescott is preparing, on the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery, to apologise for Britain’s role in the slave trade. Why?
OK, there’s no denying that slavery was a black period in human history (no pun intended). The thing is, though, that the black/coloured/Afro–Caribbean/Afro–American (you choose), communities around the world would not currently exist had it not been for slavery, and its aftermath.
So, the proposal is that we apologise for an era for which no–one living had any responsibility, and without which many of the people to whom we are apologising would not exist in the first place. It beggars belief. It’s the same PC lunacy that now has us calling blackboards chalkboards.
Where does this wimpish obsession for apologising stop? (Where the hell did it come from in the first place?). Do the families whose ancestors made their fortunes from sugar or cotton give up their money and their homes in expiation?
It’s also being suggested that we apologise not just to the descendents of slaves, but to the continent of Africa – a concept I find even more bizarre. During the 400 or so years of slavery, many African kings and tribal leaders were complicit in the slave trade, and had no compunction about selling their conquered enemies into slavery (there was a thriving slave trade with the Arabs, too), and were often not averse to turning a profit from selling their own people. Is Africa, then, expected to apologise to Africa? – give me a break! And if we do apologise, how long would it be before someone like Mugabe sues us for billions?
There is much that is appalling in British history, but apologising for events that took place hundreds of years ago is utterly fruitless and should stop.
Otherwise, one day, we’re going to wind up apologising for the extinction of the Neanderthals!
It occurs to me that, these days, it’s not ecologically sound to be chronically sick. I take, on an average day, 14 different drugs. A few years ago, most of these, the tablets and capsules, came in bottles of one sort or another. Not any more.
These days they come in blister packs, which in turn are in boxes, and the waste packaging is colossal. There is no real justification for this. If they were calendar packs then, OK, there’s an excuse, but they’re not, and the quantity of waste plastic, foil and cardboard that goes into my bin exceeds that from food packaging. It really is quite absurd.
September 21 2006
Tucking into a bag of Kettle Chips, I noticed a little panel on the back of the bag, “Each 40g serving contains…”. I’m sorry – what?
Who, for pity’s sake, is so obsessive they go to the trouble of weighing crisps? If it bothers you that much, just don’t eat them. Or you can follow my example, pig out and worry later!
September 15 2006
A medical newsletter clunked into my Inbox a few days ago, containing this nugget “New diarrhoea test developed”. Far be it from me to get in the way of research, but I suspect people just might notice…
September 13 2006
A Profit without honour…
Have you noticed that those who “recover” from ME by some esoteric means never tell what it was but, rather, will sell you a book about it instead? When a cure is inextricably linked to the profit motive my cynicism automatically goes into overdrive – I simply don’t believe these people. My understanding is that if you are going to recover from ME, you’ll do so within five years even if you do nothing, otherwise you’re stuck with it long–term (that was confirmed by the consultant at the ME clinic), and I think one just has to accept it and move on.
This is realism, NOT fatalism. Take what drugs you need to function comfortably and make the best of life whenever you can. When you can’t, don’t fight it, or get angry about it (waste of valuable energy) – the good days will come back. It may take a while (my current relapse is almost a year old, but prior to that I had almost 5 very good years), but you have to believe implicitly that, sooner or later, the good times will roll again. Believe strongly enough and you will get through the bad times – the light at the end of the tunnel is not an oncoming train!
I’ve been criticised by a correspondent for forever making plans for the future, most of which, of late, have come to nothing. I just don’t understand this attitude. If one has nothing to look forward to, where is the point? If I thought that the current level of profound crappiness was all there was ever going to be, I’d pull the plug.
I can’t allow myself to believe that, though. The Buddhists have a saying that life is a river, and to cling to the banks is a very bad move. This was elided by 60’s hippies into “Go with the flow,” (ending this with “man” is entirely optional!). So, I go with the flow, making plans for whatever awaits me downstream – sooner or later, these two things will coincide and, at that point I’ll know I’m on the mend (however temporarily).
The flow continues, though, moving me remorselessly into a future over which I have only a little control, and I’ll continue to make my plans and wait for the next convergence. It WILL come.
September 9 2006
I wrote this after an exceedingly crappy weekend…
Intimations of mortality…
This is the way we go on.
One day at a time, one meal at a time, one pain at a time.
We turn away from all our fear, for to acknowledge it would be to imbue it with certainty.
We eschew our demons, denying them lest, in their reality, they destroy us.
But they are us, and may not be denied with impunity but, still, we try, we try.
We do not turn, as the hollow footsteps near, echoing down time’s passages, or at the distant swish of scythe, ever closer, as if, by our disregard, they will become unreal.
Who knows, perhaps they will?
The one that follows I wrote a few months afterwards. I’m not overly fond of the ending but, so far, I haven’t come up with anything better.
There are only so many tears you can cry
’Til your heart stops breaking
So many nights, without sleep
’Til the dawn’s pale waking
So much hurt to be borne
As the sun mounts the sky
Will the burden this day
Prove so hard that you die?
Would you live for tomorrow?
Your heart soar like a dove
If the chance came along
Could you live, would you love?
If the chance came your way
Could you seize it with glee?
Give it all that you can
And cry fuck you! ME…
September 7 2006
Mind your language…
I’ve been wondering, of late, why there is such an upsurge in subliteracy? I used to work as an adult literacy tutor, and I know that a great many people fall through the holes in the education system, but the inability to write English (or in some cases, to write a comprehensible language), has gone mainstream.
What brought this to my attention (other than the occasional email in which the writer is apparently aiming for the world’s longest, unpunctuated and un–capitalised sentence – here’s a tip, folks; if you ask me for advice, I need to understand the problem!), was my idea of getting back into sea angling. When it comes to subliteracy, the angling press is pretty dismal (as are the websites), with a seemingly unshakeable belief that rods are rung, not ringed, being not the least of their crimes against English (they also refer to a odd beast, known only in sea–angling circles, as the calamari squid – pointing out that this is a tautology gets nothing but a blank look), but sea angling sites are appalling. You don’t believe me? This is arguably the country’s largest sea angling retailer, and the website text appears be have been written by a (dim), child.
When it comes to blogs, the problem is so extreme it’s off the scale. So many bloggers treat their keyboards as a giant texting pad that the result bears as much resemblance to English as it does to Urdu – possibly less. These people, of course, have great futures ahead of them writing manuals for electronic appliances.
There, that feels better…
September 6 2006
Chris Evans – again…
The Ginger Pillock has said, tonight, that he’d rather not be a cult. Sorry, he already is a cult – mind you, my spelling isn’t what it was…
October 31 2006
Is it me Dept. Again.
I have, before me, a large stick of Pritt adhesive. On the side it says (and to be honest, I was fully expecting it to say May contain nuts – well, everything else does), “not suitable for children under 36 months.”
So tell me, how many three–year–olds do you know that have a pressing need for a glue–stick?
Talking of nuts, at the weekend, I had some Tesco Cumberland sausage (Cumbria should sue – they were unremittingly crap!!), and on the pack it said that, although the recipe did not contain nuts, and the factory did not use nuts, nevertheless, they felt obliged to warn me that the snorkers “cannot be guaranteed free from nuts”. I give up…
Tip – if you want a sausage that tastes of nothing, with skin like fried parchment, you’ll enjoy these.
October 25 2006
Overheard in the pub yesterday, from a brain–dead teenage bimbo student – “I love shouting at people (in the context of yelling at her bank), it makes me feel really good about myself.” I thought, hmm… how good will you feel when you shout at the wrong person, and wind up picking your teeth off the floor? I do hope I’m there for that!
Obviously she has just the right attitude to work for the DWP!
October 4 2006
No change there, then…
I was bitching, last month, about the sub–literacy that’s so prevalent in the sea–angling community. It gets worse…
When I was involved in the sport, some years ago, I was struck by how many of the guys were absolute Neanderthals – evolution seemed to have passed sea–anglers by. One guy – to almost universal hilarity – was fond of putting dog shit in other people’s sandwiches. Come to think of it, I’m being unfair on Neanderthals.
Now I’m making plans to get back into the sport, I’m deeply disappointed to discover that nothing has changed. Consider an ad for T–shirts in a sea–angling magazine – the picture is a back view of an improbably–proportioned young woman (blonde, natch), clad in a skimpy bikini, perched on a stool and fishing. From the way the rod is held, it doesn’t take a genius to work out where the butt is positioned. The accompanying slogan? “There’s nothing better than fishing at the crack of Dawn.” Oh, please…
Remind me – what century are we in?
No doubt, if any sea–anglers read this, they’ll insist it’s just a bit of fun. Er, no, it’s not – it’s crass.
November 2 2006
It’s a jungle out there…
So, British teenagers are the most violent, drunken and sex–mad in Europe – there’s a surprise! But here’s a tip about sex, kiddies – you didn’t invent it!
ASBOs, it seems, are perceived as a badge of honour, and almost as often breached as not, so maybe I can suggest an alternative?
Since ASBOs are, apparently, an act of futility, and branding sadly no longer allowed (a hell of a deterrent, though, were it to be reintroduced, don’t you think?), any juvenile scumbag found guilty of antisocial behaviour (or even of just being young – if we’re going to do this, let’s do it properly 😉 ), should be fitted out with a vivid yellow, steel–mesh–reinforced rucksack containing 50lb of concrete. The harness would be close fitting, and reinforced with hardened steel chains, and permanently locked to the offender’s soon–to–be smelly carcase (Why not? Have you ever smelt a teenager’s bedroom?).
This would have the dual function of not only making it obvious to everyone that they have transgressed – it would also slow the buggers down, so that if they continued with their behaviour they could be rapidly brought to book – or simply pushed over…
Personally, I think this is a win–win situation – it’s low–tech, so not prone to breakdown, nor does it need batteries, and it’s cheap. Oh yes, almost forgot, in case the miscreants should find a way to remove the pack, their faces should be dyed puce, with an indelible dye that won’t degrade for two years. That’ll teach ’em.
Thanks to Alex Lester, Radio 2, for the germ of the idea.
November 1 2006
Facing up to it…
I think it’s quite possibly significant that, at a time when the search is on for a suitable subject for a face transplant, Chris Evans is having a couple of weeks off. We can but hope…
December 31 2006
Prophetic or what…
What I wrote yesterday about public executions damned near became reality today, when Sadam Hussein’s execution video was screened across the world – all but the critical moment, and I have no doubt that that will find its way on to the Internet very soon.
I sincerely hope I wasn’t alone in being physically revolted by this disgraceful event, otherwise I fear for the future of humanity…
December 30 2006
Echoes of Tyburn…
What the hell is going on in the UK? Leaving aside the morality or wisdom of executing Sadam Hussein (why give militant Islam a martyr?), there is something puke–making about the way British radio, hour by hour, gleefully anticipates his imminent death – and the BBC is as bad as anyone else. They’ll be bringing back public executions at this rate.
Frankly, it’s obscene. An execution is never a time for rejoicing, especially right now, after the most choreographed travesty of a trial in modern history.
Had justice been done, and seen to be done (or even had a soldier put a bullet in his ear when he was found), I wouldn’t have a problem. However, the legitimate ruler of a sovereign state has been militarily, and illegally, deposed – what crimes he committed in his own country were matters for Iraqis to take issue with – for no better reason than that Dubbya is a power–hungry lunatic and Blair hasn’t the balls to stand up to him. In fact, given his mendacity on the subject, he’s probably deranged too.
Iraq wasn’t complicit in 9/11, nor did the country have any weapons of mass destruction – there was not, and still isn’t, any justification for waging a war that can’t be won in a country that can’t be controlled – except by the man they’re about to hang. Has anyone ever paused to consider that Sadam’s brutality was pretty much the only way of controlling Iraq? Because nothing else is working…
Oh yes, one last thought – waging war with the avowed intention of deposing a legitimate head of state is a crime under international law. Can we expect Blair and Bush to be arraigned at The Hague some time soon? Don’t be silly…
December 20 2006
When you’re in a hole, stop digging…
What on earth is wrong with the Bishop of Southwark? He goes to the Irish Embassy’s Christmas bash, gets plastered, falls down a couple of times, behaves like a complete tosser – then makes up a series of increasingly unlikely stories to account for it.
Today he’s saying that no–one who was drunk could make the journey that he did (he claims to have had a mere 2 glasses of wine (but how many times were they topped up!?), but thousands of people know differently. He also claims that the police have tracked his path across London via his Oyster card but that would only show his use of public transport, not his drunken wanderings on foot, or his present–chucking.
He says that getting drunk and behaving like a hooligan is completely out of character, to which I would say – So? And now he’s having medical tests to support his claims of amnesia after being mugged (though the police no longer consider that a possibility), and, of course, there are witnesses who saw him thoroughly bladdered and misbehaving disgracefully.
Asked, at one point, if he was frequently drunk, he said “No I don’t get drunk frequently. I wouldn’t be able to do my job if I did.” The perfectly clear implication, then, is that he does get drunk – he just doesn’t make a habit of it.
If he’d come clean in the first place, admitted being drunk, falling down and generally behaving like an idiot (no shame in it – a great many of us have been there – the only shame is in making a habit of it), then there would have been some brief embarrassment – all he’s doing now, with these ever–more unlikely tales, is making himself appear self–serving and mendacious, and for that I believe he should resign – not for being drunk.
December 15 2006
You couldn’t make it up…
What I find really scary, right now, is just how many apparently sane people are quite prepared to cast their critical faculties to the winds and believe, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that Princess Diana was murdered, and probably by the Duke of Edinburgh.
How and why never cross their minds – it’s in the papers, so it must be true! But here’s a thought – maybe al Fayed engineered her death, horrified that his son and heir was about to marry a Christian – it makes as much sense. And no, I don’t believe that either, though it would go some way to explaining his obsession with blaming someone else for the deaths, were it true!
It’s been suggested to me that perhaps Diana was privy to “secrets” of the House of Windsor, which necessitated her being silenced before she disclosed them. Diana, if she was going to blow the whistle on the House of Windsor, had ample time to do so long before she met Dodi al Fayed. And what could she say? That on the whole they’re a bunch of over– privileged, often witless, obscenely wealthy dolts with a taste for treating young women as brood mares, and adultery? We already knew that – we have a long history of royalty cast in the same mould. And personally, even if she had any damaging information – which I seriously doubt – I think Diana was way too naive to capitalise on it. Which, in my view, is why Charles picked her – a young woman, without the brains god gave a gopher, who would happily bear his children while he carried on with his aging, boot–faced mistress. That he ever loved her I simply don’t believe – she just ticked all the right boxes on his right–woman list. She was a virgin, with no sexual history to be dredged up by the gutter press, and she was gullible enough to be seduced by the idea of eventually becoming queen.
It’s been suggested – mostly by al Fayed senior – that the fact that Diana was about to marry a Muslim (apparently – we’ll never know for sure), was unacceptable to the royal family – but why would it be? She’d already been cast out, and stripped of her title, so what she did subsequently would have had zero impact on them. If she’d left Charles for Dodi al Fayed, then that would have been a massive embarrassment – but no more than that, and the HoW would have gone on much as before. People are not murdered for adultery – if they were the population of this country would be decimated! Anyway, Charles would have had no legitimate complaint, as he was having it away illicitly himself.
There’s one thing that al Fayed, like his fellow conspiracy theorists, has never explained: just how did the DoE – assuming, for the sake of argument, that he was complicit – engineer such a public death? This was a woman who, post Charles, lived her life in the camera’s eye – bumping her off would have been almost impossible – not, I’m quite sure, that anybody, least of all Phil the Greek, had any desire to. It has been suggested to me – in all seriousness, sadly – that because the DoE hasn’t publicly defended himself he must be guilty. But here’s a thought – how does he defend himself against insanity? He can NEVER prove his innocence to the satisfaction of the fruitcakes who believe he’s a murderer, so why should he even try?
Apocalyptically–drunken drivers frequently kill people – it really is that simple – and the fact that Diana and al Fayed failed to belt–up makes them partially to blame for their own deaths.
Blood tests have proved repeatedly that the driver was completely, utterly legless on that fateful night, but the conspiracy theorists (can’t these people get a life?), insist that the blood was switched. Most recently, DNA tests have proven conclusively that the blood is that of Henri Paul, the driver, and that he was shitfaced without any shadow of a doubt.
As for the driver of the white Fiat, who has never come forward, I can’t say I’m surprised. There’s no suggestion that s/he was to blame for the crash, as the Mercedes side–swiped the Fiat from the rear, but to come forward as someone involved in such a high–profile death, however peripherally, given the lunacy lurking around the edges of this affair, might well be a seriously bad idea. Whoever they are, I don’t blame them for laying low.
It’s become clear that Diana was under surveillance by US security, and that Henri Paul was “in the pay of the French equivalent of MI5” – just what exactly was going on is still unclear, but it does NOT change the central fact that Paul was too bladdered to drive, and killed himself and most of his passengers as a result – the only one to survive was the only one to use his seatbelt.
One final thought – if the DoE did bring about Diana’s death, the only way that – as things turned out – he could have done it was to persuade Henri Paul to sacrifice himself, an idea so absolutely insane I’m surprised it hasn’t been suggested by al Fayed. Maybe it has…
December 5 2006
Thomas Wolfe said that you can never go home again – certainly true in my case, as it was demolished 40 years ago. What’s also true, is that you can never go back to your favourite pub – leave it too long and odds are it’ll have been gentrified to hell.
Take The Druid, in Birchover, Derbyshire. Thirty years ago it was a great village pub, where you could get excellent beer and food, to the rattle of dominoes, and it had a restaurant tacked on almost as an afterthought. These days it’s a restaurant – with designs on being the best in the Peak District – with a bar attached. Not, I suspect, too welcoming to wet, knackered backpackers who have just slogged up the hill from Rowsley, and across Stanton Moor.
It’s the same everywhere. I know you can’t stand in the way of change (sadly!), but nearly all the pubs that, a generation ago, provided welcoming refuges for cold, wet or just happily tired hillwalkers and backpackers, have been poncified out of existence.
Good, old–fashioned pubs, where you could be sure of good beer and plentiful, if basic, food, a warm welcome (and a hot fire in the winter), and – quite possibly – a dribbly old dog mooching crisps from the customers, seem mostly to be a thing of the past. Even when they haven’t been tarted up, like Ye Olde Nag’s Head, in Edale – the archetypal walkers pub – they’ve simply gone right down the pan, with dismally inept staff, crap beer and indifferent food. They deserve to starve.
I remember the Nag’s Head in the seventies, when the menu was pie with peas, or pie without peas, and the beer was first–class – it was packed to the rafters every evening and lunchtime. When I went there a year ago it was arguably one of the worst pubs I’d ever been to, and it was a crying shame. No surprise, then, that it was almost empty.
There’s another pub in Edale – The Rambler, known as the Church to many (its original name) – and one Easter Monday in the mid seventies, the manager came down to the Nag’s to ask the manager there to check his quite staggering takings – he’d taken over £3,000 at lunchtime – this was when pubs closed at 3 in the afternoon and, then known as the Jolly Rambler, punters could eat their own food and beer was the equivalent of 20p a pint. That was purely because he knew his customers, didn’t put up stupid “No boots” signs, and made everyone welcome. These days the Rambler is no longer Jolly, the easily–cleaned stone flagged floors are gone, replaced with acres of polished wood and, needless to say, no longer packed to bursting with happy, if muddy, walkers.
Update: I was taken there for lunch one summery day in October, about 3 years ago – Edale was bustling, but not the Rambler.