Monthly Archives: June 2012

We don’t need no…stinkin’ cruise control

Cruise control – dangerous in less than ideal conditions.

I hear the gossip that Tom Cruise and his wife are entering into the difficult process of divorce. That’s sad to hear – not because I am a fan of either person (I am not, for the record) but for me the news that someone close to my own age – he is 49 years old, and poor geezer, he isn’t wearing as well as me – is going through such an emotional upheaval. My thoughts are not directed at the Cruise family, with whom I have no connection (just in case you were wondering if I had those kinds of friends), more at people at my – our – time of life.

Still, Mr. C. can be consoled with the knowledge that his name has inspired the subject of this rambling entry into our transatlantic blogarismo.

We’re approaching fifty, but that’s just a number and the age itself really has no significance – I have after all enjoyed my thirties and forties as I have grown – at times painfully –  into who I am. I hate being ‘typical’ or predictable, but I must admit to the feeling that I may be experiencing that awful cliché – the ‘mid life crisis’. I HATE that phrase; it’s poorly named – this is very likely not the mid point of my life, and I don’t feel in crisis, but I think that I probably am reflectively taking stock.

Let me be clear here – I am not looking and feeling around for things I have gathered or collected along my journey. Instead I’m trying to look at who I was and who I now am. I have in the past three years made two deliberate decisions to walk away from success in well-paid jobs, essentially into a void. That would seem to indicate that the accumulation of personal wealth is not part of who I have become – and neither is singing from someone else’s songsheet. It would in many ways be so much simpler to put life on automatic and settle into a 50+ hour work week, travel all over this part of the world, and hardly see my family. Cruising through life on that treadmill would indeed be a simple choice – but I can’t do it and remain congruent. I tried it for a number of years and it has led me to frustration and a lack of fulfillment.

I know that you’ve done this in a different way and you have now found and are following your own direction, and I genuinely admire you for it. I can (with an embarrassed cringe) remember a very long time ago thinking along the lines of ‘what a waste’ with regards to you because you are brighter than I am, and you had more choices available to you as a result. I was of course dead wrong. I followed my personal direction, and you yours – and there’s no right or wrong about our respective choices. How could there ever be? They were simply choices after all. What a fool I was to think that way about your choices. Although it’s pleasing to see we both had a Viva.

Now, you seem to be getting into a groove in more ways than one, and from this distance it looks like something that fits you very well! It is a real treat to get glimpses of your life, and to witness that you are enjoying yourself. You’re doing it your way, and it’s worth repeating – I admire you for that.

I am dragging myself through this process of…whatever it is…and discovering that I’m looking for my groove. Shame on me for not finding it yet!Since I am rather large it probably needs to be a deep groove, man. Deep…hmmm.

Writing is what springs to mind as the thing which captures my imagination, however I suffer from a seriously disorganized brain.  I delude myself that I’d probably be a darn sight more intelligent if I was organized. But then I forget about thinking that when I see a squirrel or a piece of paper litter blowing along the street and have to chase after it…It would indeed be nice to have sustained periods of brightness rather than be generally overcast with sunny spells, so to speak.

Occasionally I will write something, leave it, then find it months later. Generally the initial response goes something like “Bloody hell, did I do that?” This should probably tell me something I am prepared to listen to (and maybe it does, but how would I remember it if I didn’t listen?) but mostly the old “NO,NO, no, nobody’s going to find that interesting or entertaining” programme kicks in and drowns out everything else until the moment of enthusiasm wanes.

And so I am sitting on two unfinished books and a barely started short story. Although I do rather like the first two pages of the short story… Upon immediate reflection, saying that I’ve got stuff already written is not something I ever thought I’d be able to say….hmmm again!

Life on cruise control sucks. I’ve hated doing it for the last however many years – I’m not doing it any more, now I’m trying to find out just how groovy I can be. I hope I can be as successful at finding it as you seem to have been.

Well it’s been nice having this little chat, doctor…I see that my time is up….

Snot funny

I’ve felt better but at least I don’t look so bad…

This has been an odd week. I have been struck down by the dreaded lurgy, lost a day or two to general feverish confusion, and finally passed the illness on to my wife – who shall, I suspect, remain eternally grateful.

Funny thing, illness. Well, not funny in the ‘haha’ sense, but a subject that is well…funny. See – I told you I was ill.

Anyway I posted on facebook that I was not feeling great, and a few of my facebook friends came back with the depressing phrase; “man flu”. Cue grinding of teeth as I struggle with the idea that a man feeling ill is the cause for derision and disbelief. What a crock of sh*t that idea is, but it is prevalent over here, along with the general idea that the male of the species is stupid, lazy and essentially helpless without the female – oh and useless at being a parent too.  The culture of ‘mom’ is MASSIVE here, while ‘dads’ are almost invisible by comparison.

Also taken as an unwritten truth is that women have to work twice as hard to be appreciated half as much as a man – I hear that one everywhere. Can’t say that I have ever witnessed it though – but then being a dimwitted, lazy and essentially dependent male, I can’t be relied upon to have an informed or remotely objective point of view. Personally I try to treat everyone equally regardless of gender, and I think I succeed. I don’t think that one gender is ‘better’ than the other – in fact I believe the idea is utterly ridiculous. Yes, we are different, but on the whole we (men and women) are complementary to one another. I have always enjoyed working alongside my female colleagues and I’ve never considered any of them inferior or superior by virtue of their gender.

The gender joke has gone way beyond a joke. In the overwhelming majority of TV adverts, for example, men are portrayed as pitiful idiots being cared for and supervised by their female partners – not sure how gay male couples get by on a daily basis then – and I’m not alone in noticing this discrimination, but any mention of these perceptions (for example on radio call-in shows) and the backlash is extreme, with aggressive and dismissive talk of mysogenistic sexism and paranoia filling the responses.

It’s a hard one to fight because it has become part of the fabric of modern society over here – and the most obvious representation of this is that advertisers seem to predominantly sell to women. Now however, even being sick is yet another arena in which men are portrayed as inferior – we apparently make a huge deal over nothing, and are generally considered wimps about our health. The litmus test for this attitude is a simple one (i.e. would society allow us to apply the same attitude toward women based solely on their gender? No – and rightly so) but also something which is for some bizarre reason considered to be bad humour.

For a very long time much of western society was constructed around a christianity-based male ‘head of the household’ (for want of a better expression) model, and that was no less stupid than any other one-sided view of the world. In fact it was a horrible, oppressive way of being which resulted in innumerable injustices and countless cruelties. Surely we have progressed? I can’t help thinking that there is a quicker route to gender equality than repeating the same old mistakes of attitude, only in reverse?

They don’t like it up ’em!

It’s not just Germany…

So, all being well, the lads from Ing – er lund will come up against the old enemy in the semi finals eh? Well fortunately we can all be sure that this will not give rise to any unnecessary nationalism in the papers, no jingoistic – bordering on racist – posts from second rate so-called journalists, and no shaven headed idiots getting locked up for behaving like total arseholes on the strength of a game of footie. No, all will be calm and sensible.

The weirdest part of all this is that England clearly has not had a team worthy of winning a tournament for many years now. And yet every time a competition heaves its bulk over the horizon, the football nation seemingly convinces itself that the team IS good enough to succeed, and immediately claims overall victory almost as an entitlement. Following the inevitable diappointment, what follows usually manifests as hatred, violence and general arse – like stupidity. This kind of behaviour on a national and individual level is the biggest reason I stepped away from following the game. I really can’t understand why a sport which has obscenely over paid cheats/prima donnas flopping around on the floor like dramatic schoolgirls  every time they break a nail (only to get up again once the played – for foul has been given) has such a following.

On the Euro front (or should that be the western front?) it’s been mildly amusing to see all the to and fro at the sporting political level. Why is anyone surprised that just about every European country hates England in particular? It happens every time England goes up against any other Euro nation in any field. It’s the legacy of having once ruled a third of the globe – so why the yearly shock when it manifests itself?

Unless there is a complete reversal of typical form, you will soon be disappointed my old friend…my condolences in advance. If by some freak chance England win then I’m afraid that it will kick off (ha ha, see what I did there?……….I…I’ll…get me coat…) another fifty years of thinking England has the best team on the planet. The same old illusion of greatness based upon a very rich and corrupt sport. If only all that energy could be directed towards different ways to find happiness eh?

Three Lions on a Shirt

“Don’t mention the war. I mentioned it once but I think I got away with it.”

No, no, Leo old friend, you misunderstand! I’m not getting inebriated because of an England win: I’m getting inebriated before, during and after an England win. Do you see the difference? The England win is not the cause, it’s an added bonus.

On Tuesday night, England played Ukraine, with a place in the quarter finals at stake. I met my friends Dave, Neil and Neall in Koi, a bar round the corner from us in Banks Road (didn’t exist when you lived over here).

Unbeknownst to me, but clearly beknownst to an awful lot of local youngsters on a budget, the bar had a deal on: all pints half price during every England game until the first goal is scored. This led to one memorable exchange:-

Young lad: “What’s your cheapest pint?”

Girl behind bar: “Becks”

Young lad: “How many pints can I get for twenty quid?”

Girl behind bar: “Twelve”

Young lad: “Twelve pints of Becks please!”

Bless his little cotton socks. Well, I’m assuming young folk still wear socks. Maybe I’ll look next time, if I think on.

Wayne Rooney scored, with a header that even I could have finished. Ukraine scored but the referee didn’t think it had crossed the line so didn’t give it. We won 1-0.

So another famous, albeit unexpected, England victory, meaning we top our group (wouldn’t have bet on that before the competition started) and now get to play Italy for a place in (the dizzying heights of) the semi-finals. Where we will no doubt, unless Greece pull off something miraculous, face Germany.

Always bleedin’ Germany.

Bless me father, I have a confession.

 

“Is that all? Ha ha, you should hear what I got up to when I was the chaplain at the boys’ boarding school! Now for your penance go and say three Our father’s, two Hail Mary’s, run three times around the vestry and thrash me with some birch twigs.”

Getting pissed on the strength of an England win? I have to admit/confess/come clean –  I genuinely don’t understand it at all. Not that I am necessarily right (which of course is a subtle way of saying that I AM), but celebrating a team’s win (any team, any sport) is something I enjoy – but only very briefly. As an example, I enjoy watching F1, and if for example, Lewis Hamilton wins (as he did last week) I feel very happy and momentarily triumphant. I may even enjoy thinking about the consequences for a day or two – but going out and getting hammered does not really occur to me. Same thing if England were to win the rugby world cup again…

Now if I was ON the team in question (as in the past when I partook of the magnificent sport of rugby) – well that’s a different matter and it used to be a fantastic reason to imbibe to some excess – but a team that I was watching? Nah, I just can’t get that involved or connected to a team I am not a part of.

Still, I do enjoy reading about you enjoying life. Now, I’m not sure if this is a character flaw of mine or not, but I enjoy even more reading about your hangovers.

On reflection it’s definitely a character flaw.

 

 

 

 

What a lovely pair of knockers!

Knockers, don’t you just love them? Big ones. Small ones. Rusty round ones screwed to a large wooden door…

It’s a Saturday afternoon, the weather outside is damp and grey. I’m working behind the counter of the local electrical shop, feeling a little jaded from the night before. England played Sweden last night in their second game of the Euro 2012 football tournament. We won. We celebrated. I fell asleep fully dressed. You know how it is.

So here I am, killing time for the minimum wage (it works out at roughly two pints of Carlsberg Export, give or take a small packet of crisps), trying to think of something halfway amusing and failing miserably.

Ten years ago, when I was a wage slave to Her Majesty The Queen (Betty to her close friends), I may well have been at work this time on a Saturday. Overtime. Double the hourly rate of pay. Paid travelling time. Goodness knows how many pints per hour that equated to: possibly a whole evenings worth. Back in the days when work was still almost fun. Til some pocket-sized Hitler took over the running of the office.

But that’s a story for another day.

Balls to you too!

Due to the lowering of educational standards in British schools, Spot The Ball competitions have become really dumbed down.

I wrote the text below on the 10th, so you should read it as a reply to your post entitled A Strangely Shaped Ball. Wonder how come I didn’t manage to post the thing? You probably think I’ve been very rude. I can only apologise.

As you might well remember, I avoided any sort of sport at school, probably because they didn’t play the only sport I had any interest in.

Consequently, I didn’t start playing football til I left school, and even then rarely in competitive leagues, just with friends. And as a consequence of this, I’m still pretty active now (touch wood). Tore a hamstring once, but I think I’d damaged it jumping over the fence in Newton Park to retrieve the ball. Not coz I was sprinting against kids half my age (I was pushing 40, these guys were still in the 6th form at Calday. One or two are now married with sprogs of their own. If I felt at all conscious about my age, I’m sure that would make me feel old. As it is, I still feel pushing 40).

I’m a bit more careful with the old ligaments now. Intend to keep on playing for as long as I can, though I’ve dropped it down to once a week and taken up badminton instead. I used to think badminton was a girls sport, mainly coz the only people I knew who played it were girls. Now I realise that it is also a game for normal folk of a certain age, regardless of sex.

Well, I’m playing in half an hour –  better get my support bra on.

Sporting Helmets

Young scallywags arguing about whose helmet is the most attractive.

Having stunned you into a football – fevered silence it is a good time to remind you that the North Americans have a different understanding of the word ‘football’. In N.America this word refers to a game during which, feet hardly ever come into contact with the ball. This is in direct contravention to the names they tend to give other things, such as ‘basketball’ , ‘airplane’ , ‘racecar’ and ‘sailboat’. However, they remain convinced that the name is appropriate, in much the same way as the wearing of crash helmets in body contact sport seems like a good idea to them.

I don’t get it.  The helmet thing.  In the land of machismo and testosterone, whose idea was it to seem tougher by wearing ever more protective clothing in case the nasty man on the other team tackles them? I can’t help wondering how these so called super athletes (and I’ll concede that the system of sports scholarships does produce some rather frightening collections of muscle, speed and agility) would stand up to a good old fashioned game of rugby, sans ludicrous levels of padding and helmets…

What’s actually happened to N.American football (and the Canadian FL came first – American Football was derived from the Canadian game) is that the teams are now comprised of enormous tubs of muscle and lard who, despite assertions to the contrary, are really not very fast at all; whippets who can run very quickly, jump and catch rather well, and who try to avoid the third group; guided missiles who (thanks to their padding) seem intent upon hurling their bodies recklessly at other players. There’s no finesse in that, and not very much skill either.

Even worse, they even have specialists who are the only people to actually touch the ball with their feet.The only ‘football’ -ers are the guys who drop kick (punt) the ball or who kick from the kick off or in an attempt to score a field goal. This latter group involves pale, nerdy men with no muscle definition whatsoever and who can do nothing else except kick a ball being held for them by someone else.

Unfortunately – and this just makes it worse – they all tend to make in one year, more than I will earn in my entire working life.

Bugger.

A strangely shaped ball

A group of men winning the world straining championship earlier this week.

Hmmm…well yes Canada IS still in the Commonwealth – we are that second largest country in the world just across the Atlantic and therefore the largest country in the C’wealth.  We just don’t shout about it.

I’m not a royalist either. I’ve either met or escorted each of the highest ranking members of the royal family in my previous career, and my experiences did not really change my opinion but the amount of money spent  just to make the world look nice, shiny and clean for them is quite staggering. Their world does indeed smell of fresh paint.

I pretty much avoided the jubilee here – they made a bit of a fuss but nothing like street parties etc. My only interest was nostalgic – I watched the BBC coverage of the Thames thing and about ten minutes of the concert (which seemed rather awful) more in order to reminisce about BBC coverage than anything else.

Football? I gave up following footie a great many years ago  for a variety of reasons, the main one being that I found watching it to be just plain boring. As you probably remember, I was more into rugby at school and I ended up playing for 25 years (not all at school you understand – they let me out after about 18 years) all told before I started to get signals from my body that it was feeling the strain. Having said that, I`d probably still be playing if I hadn’t ‘done’ each hamstring, one after the other and had to take most of a season off before I left for Canada.

The upshot is that I couldn’t care less about how soon England drop out of the Euro competition – whether it’s quickly or otherwise but I recognize that a great many people are gripped by it. Similarly I would understand if someone who didn’t follow rugby wasn’t interested in the rugby world cup – obviously they would be wrong but there ya go. I’m happy to be somewhere where the subject of football isn’t rammed down my throat every day and via several different media.

Back to normality

Not sure if I like this new fabric conditioner the wife’s started using…

Well thank goodness that’s all over! Really couldn’t face another drunken afternoon evening night early morning of frivolity and mayhem in celebration of Her Maj being still alive and kicking. I’m seriously all frivolled out.

But it’s been memorable. I don’t recall where we were ten years ago, for the 50th Jubilee, but I’m sure to remember this one. Is Canada still part of the Commonwealth? Did you raise a glass over there? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not royalist in the slightest, just any excuse for a party and a sing-song.

I’m looking forward to getting back to normal. I’m feeling pretty positive on the music front at the moment, what with all the gigs I’ve played and the positive feedback I’ve received from folk re my own songs. I may have some bookings for Christmas at some big Cheshire country pile through having played the street party in Caldy, which is encouraging. Really need to get the business cards and website sorted and start being a little more proactive. Even just a little bit proactive would be a start – I’m normally pro-inactive.

Mind you, Euro 2012 has just kicked off, so I might get distracted by that depending on how well England do. What would be great is if the weather perked up a bit (well, a lot coz it’s really pretty miserable outside at the moment) and England progressed a bit further than the norm. Remember Euro 96 when we got to the semis? Actually, I’m not sure if I do, but I’m sure I’d have had a smashing time…