Friday, 26 November 2010

Doctor Sam Beckett Doesn't Have Nuthin On Me

I have occasionally found myself returning to a daydream in which I get to re-live a large part of my life. I understand that this is actually quite a common fantasy - a selfish Quantum Leap, if you will. The idea would be that all of my current knowledge, experience and personality is somehow (through means mystical, technological, cosmological or what have you) transferred back in time to the brain of my much younger self.

In effect, it is basically just a narrative structure slapped onto a pedestrian desire to have taken missed opportunities, bungled fewer social situations and not bothered exerting time and effort into relationships which were ultimately a giant waste of time. If I was in a position to make such a wish, it would seem better than just vaguely wishing that such-and-such an event had never occurred, because ultimately, what would that achieve? What would I have done instead, in this suddenly incomplete timeline of my life? How would that action change where I am now? Nope...the Selfish Quantum Leap (as it shall now be known) is the superior codswallop for many reasons. Not only do you get to avoid the pitfalls of life, but you get to do so whilst still retaining knowledge of said pitfall, and are thus able to make a much more informed decision regarding alternate pathways through the years. I'm being a bit vague here, so let's indulge in some specificity. My school years would be a good snapshot, because they are awkward and horrible for everyone...

- Age 11: Get caught by my entire maths class, teacher included, pressing my face into the grill of the heater at the back of my classroom, just to see what it feels like. Answer - Incredibly embarrassing. Selfish Quantum Leap Rectification Measure - Don't do that and stop acting on pointless impulses so much.

- Age 13: Get picked on a lot by bullies at school, and fail to respond to their violence because you have been told it that it is better to turn the other cheek, the consequence of which is a couple more years of getting picked on. No biggie, but not exactly fun. Selfish Quantum Leap Rectification Measure - Punch them in their stupid faces. It would be nice to know that getting a detention at school isn't the life-ending event that it was publicised to be.

- Age 16: Spend more time drinking this wonderful new "beer" invention than doing homework, resulting in exam failure and an extended period of self doubt and disappointment. Selfish Quantum Leap Rectification Measure - Less beer, more studying.

- Age 17: Cop off with a munter. Not a failure in itself if you believe that it's what is on the inside that counts, but she was also a horrible person. Selfish Quantum Leap Rectification Measure - Leave party early/Aim higher.

The list could go on, but even thinking of a couple of examples makes me bite my fist and go "Noooo no no no. Why would I do those things?"

A question that springs to mind though, is what WOULDN'T I do if I was to suddenly make a Selfish Quantum Leap? I couldn't go around telling everyone what their future holds, because it might spoil the surprise for them. I could probably make a few wagers on sporting events and whatnot, but I would probably be best to avoid mentioning any major news stories. It seems selfish, but what if I was to mention 9/11? Sure, I could stave off a massive terrorist attack, but a lot of people would be very interested to know how I knew so much about it. I would imagine that waterboards and orange jumpsuits would play a much larger role in my life. That could be one I would have to play carefully.
And what about predetermination? How much of an effect could I really have on things? Would everything end up forcing it's way back to "normal" after a spell anyway? Would it all just be a futile attempt to change my life? Also, what about all of the nice things that have happened just by chance? Would they happen again? Could I force them to happen? I would very much like to think that if I had to live it all again, I would still be able to hook up with the missus. Yes, I could make sure I was at the same party in mid 2006, but would the missus be so interested in a gambling millionaire 50 year old trapped in the body of a 25 year old who has a penchant for knowing the unknowable? Probably not. She would think I was a bit weird and avoid me and then the whole caper would have been for naught.

What a waste of time! Quantum Leaping has made me miserable. I guess I'll just stick to my crushing regrets and try to make better decisions in the future. Heck, at least I seem to make terrible decisions less frequently these days.

Peas out.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

It's Our Party And It'll Be Horrible Gaudy If We Want It To Be

Over a year ago, the missus and I moved into our first ever bought house (as opposed to all of the rented houses we had lived in previously). Initially we were excited at the prospect of being able to customise various bits of our new pad in whatever manner we saw fit, which was a luxury never before afforded to us. If you stick up a shelf in a rental house, you either need written permission in triplicate before drilling the first hole, or you need a foolproof backout plan so that when you move out, nobody notices what you have been doing. Same goes for painting walls, putting up pictures, not to mention large scale renovation.

However, we made a conscious decision that when we moved, we wouldn't just paint a couple of walls in fetching colours. Oh no! Call it a poignant refusal to be cowed by popular home fashion, or maybe just questionable taste, but we decided we would quite like to do our house up like some kind of wacky theme park. We started off gently in the spare room (mostly just for practice) and did a kind of an autumnal theme with wall stickers and bits of old tree. It didn't go so well. Next up was the bathroom, which has now been successfully transformed into a Hawaii surf beach party, resplendant with deep turquoise walls and pin-up girls all over the shop.

Our bedroom is pretty much the crowning achievement. We decided to turn it into a forest, so we got a photographic wall mural of a pleasant glade and slapped it up on one wall, bought a bunch of posh reclaimed oak furniture and bunged a ton of plants in there. All good so far. But then it tailed off a bit.

Our study was next on the agenda. It's deep red, gold and cream with a big three metre fixed countertop desk in it. It's a pleasant enough room to be in, but it's a bit ordinary. It wouldn't look too out of place on a design show. It didn't really push the envelope. Nor did the hall, stairs and landing. It's disappointingly cream/mocha with a pine banister. Once again, pleasant enough, functional, and probably just what you want for a hallway. We couldn't help but feel that we had grown a little tame in our ambitions though. For all our initial excitement, the house has been rapidly turning into something you would be happy to show off to prospective buyers. The living room was next. We needed an idea and it needed to be good.

And that is why we are going to decorate it like a Tiki lounge.

Thanks to the internet, I now know exactly where to get bamboo out the wazoo, hula girl neons, grass roofing, volcano lamps, reconditioned casks and all the other stuff that will undoubtedly make people puke out of their eyeballs when they enter. "Why would you do that?" people ask. "It's just horrifically tacky!". I will grant that they are correct, but it's nice to be able to say, for the first time "It's our house, we like tat, and if you don't want to drink mai tais and admire our fake palm tree, you know where the door is". I give it three seconds til they're helping themselves at the bar and bopping to the smooth South Pacific sounds of Martin Denny.

Waka laka chiki tiki!

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Let's Get Polizzical...Polizzical

I won't ever pretend to be vastly knowledgable when it comes to politics, whether local or international. I understand a fair bit about how our system works in the UK, and thanks to the wonders of the internet I have a fairly basic grasp of how the systems work in other countries, most notably the US of freakin' A, baby! Sorry...I got carried away there, much like most of the Americans I have been reading about lately. There's some kind of middle-of-the-term vote thingy going on over there. You may understand it better than I do, but as I understand it, it's a chance to re-jiggle the numbers of representatives from each side in the main decision-making place, so that American people can have some better chance of having their views expressed where it matters.

The only problem I see with this is that Americans seem to be, at least from an outside perspective, an incredibly divided culture. Those on the far left believe in assistance for the needy, freedom for all to do as they wish (within reason) and everyone holding hands and getting through this together. Those further to the right seem to believe in protecting their assets, maintaining more traditional moral standards and promoting independence.

So who has the correct view? Well, both of them. And to be honest, that's why I like the ole' US of A. They may have spurned our glorious rule (SHUSH! We don't talk about that) but all in all, the US seems like a good place to live. As a rule, people are generally free to do as they may, and the system, by and large, works in favour of the individual.

The problem with both sides being correct though, is that they ignore the common ground and start focussing on the differences in ideology their fellow voters are expressing. And one thing the yanks seem to do well, if popular media is to be believed, is to foam at the mouth, scream, wail and mercilessly insult each other if they have different opinions on, say, how the nation's healthcare is managed. Previously innocent words and phrases such as 'Republican', 'Socialist', 'Liberal' and 'Tea Party' are flung around with the full intention of cutting deeper than a jibe about yo momma. Brother turns on brother and instead of reasonable political debate and the graceful anonymity of the poll booth, we are left with images of placard waving mentalists seared onto our consciousness.

I worry a bit (not too much, mind) that our chums over the pond will never be able to live together peacefully. The nation still seems so young when you consider how many people still identify themselves so deeply with the geographical origin of immigrant family members from only a couple of generations ago. It's understandable that such a vast variety of different inherited cultural attitudes will lead to some very different opinions on how the country should be managed politically.

So what is to be done? Well, I have hopefully demonstrated a firm grasp on all of this politics business by now, so let me explain the options for dealing with this situation:

1) Carry on regardless. Keep on screaming at each other and spend at least half of your life being dissatisfied with the actions and opinions of whoever is in power. Engage in damning hyperbole to get your point across. "Bush is an idiot and a murderer" and "Obama is a communist muslamic" being recent examples that spring to mind.

2) Put the placard away, try to forget your witty and ascerbic put-downs and try to let each other vote in peace. You are all entitled to your own opinion, and that is what democracy is for. Stop trying to force the hand of your fellow countrymen/women. They will put a tick in whichever box they believe will benefit them the most, financially, spiritually, morally, whatever. It's their choice based upon the culmination of experiences in their life, and hollering at them shouldn't change that fact.

3) If you can't play nicely, we will have to separate you. We will slice the country in half from Rugby in North Dakota down to Corpus Christi in Texas. Let the red team have the left hand side, and the blue team can have the right hand side. Never talk to each other ever again. Some would argue that this was already done once, albeit in the perpendicular plane, and the result was Canada. You may take Hawaii on alternate weekends, and nobody wants to go to Alaska, so just forget about it.

4) Fight on the playground after school. Just have another civil war and stop frontin' so much. Put up or shut up. Smackdown or back down. It's your choice, pussies (I hope this doesn't count as inciting violence. Just as a disclaimer, I want to be clear that if you DID have a fight about it, it would be your choice).

Pick one. Or don't. It's not like I live there. Just one favour though - Please don't vote one of your tea-pot people in as President, for I fear that I may injure my face when I repeatedly slam it into the table. Those berks are like Sergeants in charge of the Bonkers Brigade.

Monday, 25 October 2010

She Packed Her (cheek)Bags and Left Home

About a year and a half ago, my wonderful squeeze and I invited a small hamster into our home. It was initially reluctant to be our pal, fearing our every move and spent most of the time cowering in the corner of its cage. As we were unable to pick up said hamster, we were lacking in knowledge of its gender. Male hamsters tend to have nuts as big as their heads, and drag them around in a comic fashion, back legs barely able to reach the floor, but as this was a fairly young one, we weren't entirely convinced that the lack of comedy ballsack wasn't just a symptom of its youth. We needed a name, and it had to be gender neutral (we couldn't just go changing it later on) so we picked Charlie. In later life, this would be extended to the full respectful title of Baroness Charleston P Hamster the First. We were a happy little family, me, the lady and our furry chum, regularly spending our evenings together romping around the sofa and having a bit of a sleep here and there. Unfortunately, last week, tragedy struck...

Somebody forgot to close the cage door at bedtime. And by somebody, I mean me. OH NOES!

Little Charleston escaped from her boudoir and, ever the inquisitive little mite, she went roaming. That was on Wednesday. It is now Monday, and despite carefully laying food in every room of the house, as well as erecting cunning hamster traps all over the place (basically just some apple in a bucket) we have not seen hide, hair nor evidence of her hanging about since.
It seems most plausible that she has left the house, as we have turned the place over about twenty times now. Unfortunately, the world is a hostile place for coddled hamsters with no learned sense of fear. It's been frosty lately, there are cats about, foxes and owls live in the park behind our house, and there are giant spiders in our garden. It is sad, but we have accepted that the worst has most likely happened.

What gets me most is how the whole escapade has been lacking in finality. With little rodents like hamsters and whatnot, you are always aware that they live for only a fraction of the time that humans live for. They rarely get much over two years in which to complete their various projects. I had always assumed that one day I would find Charlie in her cage, having passed away peacefully in a safe, warm, loving home, wanting for nothing and having all that a little hamster could want. Instead all we have now is an empty cage sitting on the living room floor with a sad little trail of yogurt drops leading to the door, and a feeling that our relationship didn't end as it should have done. I imagine that this feeling is some fraction of what a parent feels when their child runs away from home. You worry for them and kick yourself for not having done more to make them want to stay. Children are a bit easier to communicate with than hamsters though.

I would like to think she might still be out there living it up in the park, having made herself a new home and new friends. She might be leader to a pack of wild rodents now, or off on some wild adventure. If she isn't still going though, I hope very much that she wasn't too scared at the end.

Poor little hamster. If only she wasn't so mindbendingly stupid.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Was I procrastinating? I'll get back to you...

I had barely even begun my blog when I went and got bored of it. My last post was six months ago. SIX whole months! That's half a year! One twentieth of a decade! Over 0.017 of my life ago! Well, it seems slightly less bad then. In truth, not a lot happened. I got a tiny bit older, did a bit more to the house, visited a few places. All in all, a pleasant time. Anyhoo, on with my thoughts...

When I was a wee scallywag, I absolutely detested reading. When I say reading, I mean reading for leisure as opposed to by necessity. Obviously I was able to read signs and school stuff, because otherwise I would now be monumentally under-educated or dead from a failure to comprehend messages such as "Danger! High Voltage!" and "Do not stick your head out of the window of a moving train". Anyhow, reading for pleasure was not for me, as I did not find the act pleasurable. Call it a lack of patience or a symptom of today's youth and their inability to carry out a task in which gratification is not instant (although as I near the age of 30, referring to myself as "youth" seems somewhat optimistic).

After several years of failed coaxing from my mum, with such literary gifts as "Around the World in Eighty Days" and "The Neverending Story" (of which the original written version is far superior to the film, I must say in retrospect) I finally discovered the works of Iain Banks via his somewhat darkly disturbing novel, The Wasp Factory.

Holy cow! Books can say swears? Books can deal with odd people doing weird things? Now things were getting interesting. After reading this, I realised that books are actually pretty fun, and I felt all rebellious, because surely my teachers/parents etc had wanted me to read solely to improve my moral and ethical worth as a human bean. Instead, here I was reading stuff like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and The Dice Man. Morally reprehensible, every last page.

After a time, I got to thinking that I should probably try to read proper books too. I greatly enjoyed futuristic ponderances such as 1984 and Brave New World (two sides of the same coin, I have always thought), sober classics, world fiction, Booker prize winning stuff. My mind expanded and I felt very smug with myself. I could now reference things in conversation in the manner of the smartest of arses.

And then one day I got bored of it all. Nobody is actually impressed if I say I enjoy early 19th century Russian literature. I do enjoy it, but stating this fact fails to have the desired effect upon my audience. They are, quite selfishly, not swept up in a wave of adoration and respect. Ultimately, personal experience led me to realising that a lot of people attach a lot of their intellectual self-image to the books they have read. War and Peace? Read it in a weekend. Byron? I shit it, mate. etc etc.

This is now a pet peeve. Why should I be impressed by a person's reading list. It's not like they wrote it or anything. I've read things before and thoroughly failed to get the point, and I'm sure everyone else has too. It took me years to figure out that Animal Farm was all about Communism. I figured it was just about some unruly pigs.

So in conclusion, I no longer care so much for highbrow books. They are often a difficult waste of time. And that, my small group of readers, is how I have justified purchasing twenty second hand Deep Space Nine paperbacks in one go. If you're going to read, it might as well be something you enjoy.

Friday, 9 April 2010

I Wanted The Best, I Got The Best! The Hottest Band In The World....

I feel like I should be starring in my very own 1970s feelgood summertime buddy movie. Not only has the sun now come out, but I have managed to get my greasy mitts on two tickets to see Kiss play live at the LG Arena in Birmingham this coming May.

For those not in the know (everyone....anyone?) I freaking love Kiss and would have possibly foregone a limb to see them. As it was, I only had to pay a few digits, thanks to Ticketmaster's massive price gouging policy, but if any 'get to the gig' movies I have seen have taught me anything, it's that you can't put a price on Kiss tickets.

I hope my journey there is more successful than that experienced by Edward Furlong and his friends in Detroit Rock City. I would hate to get beaten up by a small boy's older brother, or have my mum turn up and inexplicably steal my drumsticks.

So, the question is, who shall I take with me. Well, girlfriend has kindly bowed out, acknowledging that she barely knows any of their songs and doesn't give a hoot about the band. Therefore, I get to live out my 1970s teenage dream and go with my Best Chum instead. I'm going to try and convince him that we need to go in full Kiss make-up. Bagsy not Peter Criss! Nobody wants to be Peter Criss. Not even Peter Criss.

Daily Tourettes: Muthflippin Kiss tickets! Shizz.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Happy Chocolate Jesus Weekend

Well this blog got off to a fairly inauspicious start. Just as I began to post regularly, I was cruelly struck down with tonsilitis for a good week or so and the blog remained unblogged as I sat around struggling to breathe and forgetting how to do basic things like wash myself or eat. Tonsilitis sounds like such a wimpy little disease, like you might say "Ouch, my tonsils are infected" and someone might recommend a cure of gargling some mouthwash, and you will be right as rain tomorrow. Instead, my throat felt like someone was cramming a pine cone down it for 4 days straight, my body felt like it was over-inflated and I was faced with the cruel irony of desperately needing to cough quite a lot whilst desperately trying not to because I knew it would only aggravate the pine cone situation further.

But anyway, what didn't kill me made me stronger...or maybe just made me I think the best thing I can say about the whole experience was that it didn't kill me and I'm nearly all better. So much nearly all better in fact, that I decided today that I was well enough to remove a tree stump from our garden. You can see said tree stump in the bottom right of the picture above, still connected to most of the tree (I left it attached so we could swing on it). It's all a part of our wacky plan to level the garden and completely re-jig it. Next job: Fence! Well, technically the next job is to re-do the bannisters on the stairs inside, but I'm feeling rugged and outdoorsy today, so I'm just focusing on that.
Anyhow, I'm off to count my blisters and flex in the mirror.
Daily Tourettes: Bonerfied

Monday, 29 March 2010

Boing! That's The Sound Of Spring Having Sprung

This weekend the clocks finally changed, marking the official start of spring. I have to admit to breathing an enormous sigh of relief when this seemingly innocuous event rolls around each year. The problem is that I pretty much hate everything about winter. I'm sure in other parts of the world, winter is a mystical magical time of the year with happy jolly piles of snow everywhere or maybe even just a mild dip in the usual comfortably warm temperatures. In the UK though, it's six or seven months of unrelenting crushing miserable grey drabness. There is only a limited amount of patience I have for muddy grey midday skies and the constant threat of chilly drizzle. I am definitely a summer person. My brain tends to shut down in winter, and despite the fact that there are the same number of hours in the day, most of them aren't really useful in winter, because I'm too busy falling asleep early, waking up late and feeling that there is no point doing anything with my evenings because it has already been dark for hours, so must be nearly bed time by now.

This is why I am so excited by the changing of the clocks. Last night, it wasn't dark until about 7.30pm. By my estimate, that's about two hours of useful time after work. I don't necessarily need to use that time doing constructive gardening or DIY type things. I just need that time to be able to get on with life, and go for walks or even to simply look out of the window and know that the world isn't hibernating. And from here on in, it just gets better and better. In just a couple of months, the part of the day which is allotted as 'day time' will go on for hours after I clock off from work. The world will be my lobster. I will be chirpier, happier and more downright lovely then ever before.

Many of my friends hail from the north of England, and they don't like summer so much, particularly if it's hot. Their physiology is accustomed to bone-chilling frigidity and constant sideways rain. In the heat, they wilt and evaporate. I, on the other hand, cannot survive in low temperatures without the aid of seven jumpers and at least one winter coat. Roasting heat is a doddle though. Crank that business up to anything above 30 degrees celsius and I will start running at peak efficiency.

When Spring finally springs, I know I have all of this to look forward to, and it makes me happy. All I need now is for Britain's notoriously fickle climate to deliver. If it doesn't, I'm moving to the equator where I will set up an iron smelting factory and run a sideline in modelling thermal undergarments and massive padded coats.

Daily Tourettes: Frottage

Thursday, 25 March 2010

I 'ave bin poorly

I have been laid up with a horrible throat and also floppy limbs. Ergo I have not thought of much to post. I'm sure I can come up with something soon though.
Because you won't want to see photos of me being ill (despite that fact my camera is now operational again) I have drawn a picture instead.
Daily Tourettes: Butt-rot

Monday, 22 March 2010

I Am An All Terrain Vehicle

Yesterday I was lucky enough to go mountain biking in Sherwood Forest, at the insistence of Girlfriend. We hired a couple of swish looking cycles and headed off into the wild green yonder, after only a mildly wobbly start.

I should say now that I spent an impressive proportion of my formative years stuck firmly on a saddle. Me and my peers would think nothing of heading off for hours and hours at a time, exploring the highways and byways of Kent (my spawning ground) with nothing but a bag of crisps and a Twix for sustenance, and our severely misinformed sense of local geography to guide us. I was at home on a bike. Travelling extremely fast on two wheels was fun, and didn't seem dangerous in the slightest. A bumpy hill was a wonderful opportunity and not a threatening force of nature, presumably set with the explicit task of killing me.

As such, it came as some surprise to me that I was pretty shaky when we started out. I haven't ridden a bike in about 2 years, and haven't ridden on anything other than tarmac for about a decade. I soon got into it though, and had all manner of fun swooping down muddy gorges, hopping over exposed roots and splashing through filthy great puddles. Despite her earlier insistence at how fun it would be, Girlfriend unfortunately did not relish the experience quite as much as I had, and the look on her face as she struggled up yet another impassable slope of damp mud said only one word: Ordeal.

Nevertheless, we pressed on and finished the six mile route in a little over an hour, muddy and exhausted. I found it almost as fun as snowboarding, so I'm anxious to try it again soon. I may even get my own bike if the fancy takes me. I'm going to have to come up with a pretty slick argument if I'm going to have any company for the ride though.

PS - I swear that one of these days I will post some photos. They make blog digestion, or 'Blogestion' so much more pleasurable. Sadly my camera ran out of batteries on the first shot yesterday. Soon though, you shall see me at play in full technicolour.

Daily Tourettes - Fistula