Warning: This blog contains signs of the wear and tear of middle age.
1. Listening to music on public transport loudly. This is includes using those useless headphones that seem designed to leak whatever racket you’re numbing your aural and neural pathways with, just enough to give everyone else in the vehicle/carriage a sort of hip-hop tinnitus. Then there’s not even bothering with headphones and just playing it loudly with a swagger that suggests you’ve got a knife or have no fear about administering a punch to a remonstrator. This shows that consideration for others in this country is about as popular as brushing your teeth with a chainsaw or drinking a syphilis milkshake. It’s also a sort of challenge, daring the timid commuter to ask you to desist just so you can give them lip or bust theirs. You may like your music, and fair play to you. You’re welcome to listen to it – so long as you use headphones that actually do the job headphones were designed to do. Lest we forget, they are the key component of something called a personal stereo – personal, as in for your own, private use. Otherwise it would’ve been called a Bus Disco, Tube Rave, or Pendolino Glastonbury. There are things I enjoy doing that it might not be appropriate for me to do every time I would like to, and certainly not on the bus in the presence of other people. Like say, playing Twister, pretending to be a soldier in a film, or making love to my wife. And are any of these ear rapists listening to Suzanne Vega, Showaddywaddy or Daniel O’Donnell? I think not. My point is made.
2. Saying “yourself” when you mean “you”, and “myself” when you mean “me”. Using words of unnecessary length makes proceedings appear neither more formal nor more intelligent. It just makes yourself sound thick.
3. Shrinking TV credits. That our major national broadcasters think that the sudden appearance of the English Language on our screens will have us reaching for our remotes insults us. Yes, there are some people who do that, but in my kingdom those people will not exist. They will never have existed. Readable credits are a conduit behind the scenes, and a good theme tune stays with you forever and gives you a comforting shroud of nostalgia on a lonely night. They are essential elements of the viewing experience, not to be used as nests for the advertising cuckoo. If I want to watch what’s coming next, I will, but not because you’ve just shouted at me to do so and thus mucked up the ending of something into which I’d happily immersed myself. Would the Mona Lisa really be improved by having sticker in the corner with “Look, over there, it’s the Venus de Milo, she’s ‘armless!”? (the answer to that, by the way, is no). As punishment, any TV exec who sanctions this will have someone shout in their ear, every time they make love, “Coming soon, a melancholy feeling of at worst shame, and at best inadequacy – stay tuned” just at the moment of orgasm.
"You couldn't make it up," he says. And then does.
4. Treating the opinions of Richard Littlejohn with any seriousness whatsoever. This will be redefined as a hate crime and awarded the maximum possible sentence.
5. Dropping litter. I sometimes pick up discarded things like cigarette packets and say “you dropped this” and when they reply “oh, it’s empty”, I put it in the nearby bin and say “Oh, look, that was difficult wasn’t it?” This will, one day, get me killed. If you’re a grown-up who can’t use a bin, you don’t deserve democracy, frankly.
6. Sitting on a train where one of the few plug sockets is but not using the plug socket for anything. This will be a capital offence. With no right to appeal.
7. Tabloid newspapers quoting “a friend” of whomever they’re doing a hack job on, who speaks in apposite puns. You know the sort of thing, a friend of a cricketing cuckold’s mistress quoted saying that “after a short first innings his middle stump wouldn’t stay up for a second one” or the friend of a woman having an affair with a World War 1 veteran saying that when they first saw each other it was “The Phwoar To End All Phwoars”. It’s bad enough that they use something as precious as freedom of the press and abuse it to reduce national discourse to childish tittering. But to parade such dishonesty about using the weakest humour available to humanity on one page and then assuming the umbrage of the morally affronted on the next is worse than stabbing a sleeping child’s head with a pin whilst its mother isn’t looking.
8. Talking on the phone when you serve me in a shop. Can I take a call when I’m at work? No. Halfway through a set I’d be rightly pelted with eggs if I said to the audience “Hang on, this is more important than you” and answered my mobile. Bus drivers don’t do it either. Or teachers. I’ve never seen a judge dial out for pizza during a trial. I’m sure not even the most bargain basement lady of the night would break of her servicing of whichever inadequate requires a siphoning to book a holiday or ask about improved broadband services. So, shopkeep, nor should you when I’m purchasing a Wagon Wheel, crucifix or lingerie magazine.
9. Not tipping your waiter, who’s given you good service because “well, it’s optional innit.” Yes, you have the option not to tip if the service wasn’t very good, but not just because you’re not in the giving vein today. It’s optional for me not to batter your face with a cactus mallet or scythe your baby, but I doubt you’d take that as an excuse. If you had decent service and you don’t tip you’re a twat. Simple. Don’t try to intellectualise it by saying – well, I don’t tip person in x,y and z job, either. Waiters’ wages are kept low because of the tipping system. You’re not bucking that system or campaigning for higher wages by not playing ball, you’re simply denying the person who has worked for you all night what they might reasonably expect for doing a good job.
10. Being anonymous on the internet. This would suddenly emasculate the world’s keyboard warriors pretty quickly. Imagine having your name and address flash up every time you fancy yourself as a cyberspace Oscar Wilde (if Wilde was a witless hobgoblin who only developed a pair when cloaked in anonymity and protected by a monitor screen that serves as a vileness amplifier). They’d also, in true Bullseye! style, be shown all the real life girls they could have touched if they hadn’t spent their lives articulating their own crushing lack of self-esteem and achievement through a conduit of bile pixels that contribute precisely nothing of value to anyone or anything, anywhere, ever.
Oooh, what’s that sensation? Oh yes, my chest feels much lighter now.
Warning : this blog provides mild amusement at best.
Now then, in my blogging for a week experiment I have discovered that the (relative) pithiness of my Top Ten from the other day (Oh God, it was weeks ago: so much for “every day”) seems to have elicited the most popular response in terms of feedback and numbers.So I shall do a repeat (if it’s good enough for UK Gold it is good enough for me) but this time trying to accentuate the positive (a bit like in my book Running Through Corridors which lesser men than me would blatantly plug whilst warning that the first print run has nearly sold out).
As well as the best feedback it has also had the silliest, with someone telling me that my Ten Things That Annoy Me More Than I Think They Would If I Were A Reasonable Human Being were quite normal and that I had erroneously used the phrase “personality disorder” to describe my grumpiness. Possibly, or perhaps I was taking something that has a basis in truth and extrapolating it for whimsical or comic effect. Almost as if I was adopting the modus operandi of a professional comedian or something. Similarly, if I type a sentence like “I was so shocked I almost had a heart attack” I don’t mean that I was actually really having a heart attack or that I am somehow undermining the true suffering of heart attack victims. If you think that I am, I suggest you spend less time trawling the internet looking to take offence and find some stuff in the real world to get annoyed about as there’s plenty that doesn’t involve the application of semantic gymnastics to manufacture umbrage.
Anyway, positive, positive:
1. Tic Tacs – Just another sweet, sure, but a veteran of the confection world (he’s outlived the Pacer, the Banjo and the Texan Bar) who was never my first choice as a child but was always noted for its uniqueness. No other sweet quite rattled so in a box. Tics Tacs were also always mint – I remember the introduction (to my world at least) of the orange and lime flavours and was initially quite impressed if a little suspicious of this dual coloured interloper. Hitting Europe in my travels I’ve discovered a large number of varieties, but as with voting and love making, clearly we Brits can only be trusted with the most straightforward and uncomplicated varieties. Euro-sceptics could reasonably cite the recent creeping barrage of passion fruit and cherry flavour onto our territories as evidence of our capitulation to the continent, but most of us will simply enjoy the inspired taste-combination for its deliciousness. The lesser spotted sleeper agent that is lychee and grape, however, possesses that petrol fume flavour for which yer actual lychee is so inexplicably prized. And as an occasional weight watcher, that you can neck a box with apparently little threat to your waistline is final proof that these are little sticks of joy dynamite that blow your tastebuds but not your physique. In America they have cinnamon flavour, which almost makes up or their inability to spell theatre properly.
2. Inspector Crabtree from ‘Allo ‘Allo – ‘Allo ‘Allo isn’t the greatest comedy of all time. It’s not especially my cup of tea (I’m
"I am a TooVoo horoo and no mistook"
more of a satire/dry humour type of chap), but there are achievements in the world of popular entertainment that I don’t think are appreciated enough due to the fact that they were in, well, popular entertainment. And Inspector Crabtree is one – an absolutely inspired and well-wrought creation that was just one part of the make-up of a programme that became televisual furniture for years. Not a programme such as The Killing that makes you sound impressive at dinner parties, or like Brass Eye that demonstrates how savvy and maverick your tastes are, or even The Only Way Is Essex which blithely displays your sense of irony and lack of pretention (whilst unwittingly contributing to the destruction of the universe, may I add). This was just on and people just watched it. The conceit was simple with ‘Allo ‘Allo – take the fact that the actors playing Germans in the brilliant wartime drama Secret Army spoke in German accents and do the same, but with exaggeration (in addition to the comedy French accents which – unlike Secret Army – were given to our heroes). By adding a farcical element and catchphrase characters to the humour it somehow managed to dodge any squeamishness we may have had about a comedy set during an atrocity in which millions died. In series two, someone hit upon the genius idea that an incognito Englishman could disguise himself as a gendarme. In the logic of the ‘Allo ‘Allo world his inability to speak French well would manifest itself as inexpertly wrought English in a daft accent. The result was desperately stupid – and very, very funny. Add to that the mighty Arthur Bostrom playing the role absolutely dead straight and you have a comic creation of such brilliance it should be celebrated every time great British comedy is mentioned. Every time I hear the line “Good moaning” or see Bostrom’s face etched in earnestness, as he conspiratorially whispers that he was “pissing through the streets” I do an enormous amount of pissing, myself (pissing myself).
3. Ladybirds – You’ve got to love a ladybird. Most garden dwellers that are brave enough to hang about with us humans are of fairly mundane appearance (those black beetle fellows, greenflies etc) or nice enough looking of themselves, but not so much so that we don’t soon get used to them (you know, bees and things). But there’s nothing quite like a ladybird – a little compact nodule of colour, gamely crawling on your hand without being tickly or slimy or threatening, and then hoiking itself off optimistically as its dainty wings provide unlikely carriage for its Mini Cooper frame. There’s even a song about them, in which they are encouraged to save their children from arson. What’s not to love?
4. The Shipping Forecast on Radio 4 – It has no practical or entertainment value for me whatsoever. I don’t even know what it means. But the fact that it is there and always has been, I find rather wonderful and comforting. It’s something that interrupts something that the majority of people are enjoying to give vital information to a small minority, and nobody minds. That’s how life should be. It’s like aural mogadon – calming, relaxing, and the key to a less stressful life. Part of me does worry though, that it’s one big joke that’s got out of hand but that nobody has quite had the courage to own up to (I mean come on – Dogger? German Bite? Yeah, right).
5. The nice scrunchy sound my laptop makes when I send something to the recycle bin – I like it. It sounds scrunchy. And nice (see also, Bagpuss’s yawn).
6. Bernard Cribbins – if you need a reason you are not human. Even his name is brilliant. Bernard and Cribbins, the stuff that unassuming British institutions are made of. We all know he’s the charming, quirky array of voices of The Wombles, the comic crooner of Right Said Fred (why does that work? No idea, but it’s fab), and of course, the impossible-not-to-love Wilfred Mott, funny and heartbreaking in a trice in Doctor Who. But remind yourself of his fantastic turn as the irritating suspected Hotel Inspector in Fawlty Towers for a sublime piece of character acting. We don’t make ‘em like Cribbins anymore, and that’s a terrible shame. His knighthood is long overdue (after I drafted this his OBE was announced – well deserved but not enough).
7. Penguin Book Covers – I love a book. I like having books more than I actually read them. And there’s something about the simplicity of the penguin covers – a thick stripe of orange, sometimes green, a penguin, the title and author in a humble, undemonstrative font … classic design work. It’s like the No Frills of the publishing world yet brings with it none of that itinerant snobbery about cheapness. There’s something honourable about a raft of papers containing a great work of literature but being confident enough in its own worth not to carry a hefty price tag. It’s like the millionaire who wanders around with wellies and a hole in his jumper but is well spoken, erudite and intellectual. You can’t buy class. Except you can, in book form, and as I’ve demonstrated, for not very much money.
8. Cryptic Crosswords – Nothing in the universe can make you feel both abjectly thick and rather pleased with how clever you are than a cryptic crossword. You can stare at them, baffled, and make absolutely no headway, or you can make relatively decent progress. I’ve never actually completed one, and am certainly nowhere near to being an expert, but there’s nothing wrong with having something achievable to try to crack and improve at. Especially if it stimulates your brain cells and gives you something to do on the bus other than tsk at boisterous young people. I tend to do them when I’m in a play (I generally get cast in roles that have plenty of time off stage and require the acquisition of a hobby) so they also comfort me that I’m being gainfully employed. Favourite clues have included “Half of the alphabet is very small (4)” which is ATOM (A to M geddit?), and “Cowardly Balloonist? (7,2,1,6)” which is, gloriously, CHICKEN IN A BASKET.
9. The “Slippery Surface” Road Sign – because no matter how often I see it, I always try to rationalise the tyre markings which are surely impossible to achieve. It’s one of the Seven Wonders Of The Even More Modern World (others include that unfathomable feeling of approval and admiration one feels upon seeing an old man with a sculpted handlebar moustache, the creation of the name Barry Scott to conjure just the right naffness:knowingness ratio to effectively market a cleaning product, and The Tube Map).
10. The fact that even though raspberries are red, making raspberry slush puppies blue sort of makes sense – it does. They taste blue. I don’t know how that’s possible, but it is.
I thought by saying I would blog every day would make me do it. But it hasn’t. I am going to blog more though, so keep an eye out. I’ve also been doing some other writing, so watch this space. It’s worth noting that the one about how irritating things are was much easier to do than this one about things I enjoy. A sad reflection of humanity, its inherent grouchiness and alacrity for criticism (and by “humanity” I may well mean “me” but what the hell, if I’m going down I’m going to take you all with me).
Warning : This blog’s initial draft contained a reference to Jedward that was replaced with something marginally less predictable.
I’ve been supposed to be blogging every day this week as a test of discipline and to see if I can be remotely interesting, but haven’t posted yesterday’s up as it needs some cosmetic surgery and doesn’t quite make sense yet. I’d left myself plenty of time but I’d had a bit of travel hassle that led to my train journey and subsequent gig being cancelled. Then Doctor Who was on, I drank some Chablis and then the evening disappeared in a blur brought on by mind boggling continuity developments and Bacchus’s brain-fug juice. So I may post yesterday’s blog up later tonight or even tomorrow, which isn’t quite blogging every day but I could get away with it by saying it’s a clever timey-wimey manipulation, or, for the more down to earth, argue that it’s a bank holiday weekend and so one of the days somehow doesn’t count. Or, like the Sinclair C5, the coalition government or Cheryl Cole on X-Factor USA, you could just deem the “blogging every day for a week” thing a failed experiment and gloat.
Anyway, there are a number of things that annoy me that I’m perfectly happy annoy me. I am supposed to be annoyed by things like shrinking TV credits, that little evil plastic hair shard bit from a trainer that sometimes sticks into your foot and itches that you can never quite find or prise out or work out what it’s bloody doing there in the first place, and genocide. Being miffed about those shows that I am a righteous, frail and reasoned human being. But despite the fact that I think I’m generally quite benign, and pretty easygoing if you get to meet me, there are some things that annoy bat-shit out of my brain-cave that in my more contemplative moments lead me to think I have some kind of personality disorder. This isn’t that contrived “grumpy old man” oo-isn’t-Ikea-irritating nonsense. That’s been done to death. I’m actually worried that being irked by the following might just mean I’m evil.
I do hope not, it would be most inconvenient.
The following is best read in a voice of slightly strangulated indignation:
1. Finsbury Park Tube station has a tunnel that leads to and from the tubes. There is a barrier in the middle so people all have to walk in the same direction (decided by which side they’re on) and so not bash into each other. So far so good. However, the whole design is rendered useless when people walk three abreast on one side (making those behind them unable to overtake) and amble, chatting,
oblivious to the fact that people behind them might – what with all the tube trains and things lying about – be in something of a hurry (see also people who stand side by side on escalators and people who stop walking to chat or look at a map in a fucking doorway).
2. “There’s millions said Henry* all under one roof.” There may be Henry, but the backward R in Toys R (no, I’m not doing it on a point of principle … and because I can’t with this keyboard) Us isn’t the worst of your evils. There are millions Henry, not there’s millions, and it’d still scan if you said it correctly. You benefit neither your ditty nor your target audience by your slapdash approach, Henry. People make spelling and grammatical mistakes all the time – I’m no lexicographical fascist and can forgive this. To perpetrate such felonies on purpose to be either cool or branded makes you Satan’s fluffer here on Earth, Henry, you giraffe-bastard. No wonder our children are feral.
3. People texting or calling me when Doctor Who is on (I should put it on silent, sure, but I expect people to know and leave it on deliberately so that I can get annoyed).
4. I like to cook because I hope I’m quite good at it, I get a great feeling when people enjoy my creations, and like to think the whole process is creative, cathartic and rewarding. Speak to me whilst I’m doing it however, and I’m about as pleasant as a chlamydia sandwich at Jeremy Clarkson’s house.
5. My eldest son remembers the minutiae of television episodes and describes them in detail, without pause, recalling dialogue, jokes, and situations. I find myself getting grumpy with him for doing so despite the fact that it’s what I do for a living and what I did when I was his age (and probably to a greater extent).
6. The fact that the makers of Appletise bowed to public ignorance and renamed it Appletiser. Why? The public were wrong. Just because everyone pronounced it incorrectly wasn’t a reason to change the name. Especially as the people who did it will now think they were right all along. That’s like God ironing the Earth just to make the ignoramuses who thought it was flat feel good about themselves. Or Wendy Richard changing her name by deed-poll to Wendy Richards. Or the word “ask” deciding to spell itself “arks” because some cockneys can’t talk properly.
7. Fussy eaters. I hated loads of food as a kid. My Mum made me eat it. I learned to like it. Anyone else that can’t be bothered to go through that process deserves at best starvation and at worst, some sort of extreme food camp where desperately middle class fascists like me force feed them asparagus and wean them off Big Macs. A bit like those courses where batty Christians try to cure people of being gay, except morally right. “I don’t like any vegetables” I hear people say. As if vegetables all taste the same. That’s like me saying “I don’t like any people” just because some people – like you – can’t be bothered to see if your taste buds might have matured since you were six.
8. The fact that for about 7 years I didn’t realise that Jools Holland’s Annual Hootenanny wasn’t live. When I found out the truth it was, of course, so obvious – why would those high end celebs (no Big Brother winners here ) all give up their family New Year’s Eve to sit in a BBC studio to listen to Ladysmith Black Mambazo doing covers of Kajagoogoo’s back catalogue? Yet I was still crushingly disappointed when I found out. And I don’t even care about music. Or know who any of the people on it are. Except Jools Holland.
9. When I was a kid I did amateur dramatics with a woman called Glenys. That’s right, Glenys. Except my Mum always pronounced it Glynis, even when I’d corrected her more times than Keith Allen’s come across as a bit of a knob in interviews. When I hear her say it in my head, now, as I type, it bothers me so much that I’ve gritted my teeth enough to give me lockjaw. It’s like the mispronunciation equivalent of fingernails on a blackboard. She probably hasn’t done it for twenty years, but I know, deep down, that I can never forgive her.
10. I still haven’t thought of a reasonable excuse for not having done yesterday’s blog, and even though it’s up to me whether or not I do it and it doesn’t really matter, it still really annoys me, and it annoys me even more that I’m explaining it and justifying it in a massively uninteresting way but nonetheless feel the need to clarify my position even though I don’t know what that position is.
There you go. I never said they had to be enlightening.
* Before you both write in, the Giraffe Grammar Pervert is called Geoffrey (of course, alliteration is your friend when luring children into your den of imminent parent poverty) not Henry. I let my initial mistake stand because (a) I’m not afraid to admit to mine and (b) Glenys Barber (very good) who points out the mistake in the comments below does so in an extremely witty way and deserves credit for doing so.