Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Getting away Scot-free.

Well all this arguing over Scottish independence has been fun, hasn't it? I'm rather partial to a bit of square sausage and some tablet, so I hope no one whacks any ridiculous taxes on those whatever happens. Here's my special summary of the two sides:

It would be kind of fun to have a separate Scotland. I miss the good old days of border crossings, stopping the car to get your passports checked, driving 50 metres and having to do the exact same thing all over again. I enjoy the political ramifications in my head of what a yes vote would entail - the prime minister's resignation, the change in Westminster dynamics with the loss of many influential Scottish MPs. How much fun the close parliamentary vote between September and independence, the inevitable furore over those meddling Scots trying to influence British laws. On a personal note, I'd look forward to the dual citizenship my mother's thoroughbred Scottishness would surely afford me. I'd feel just like Jason Bourne with a second passport. Although it would have to have the same name as my British one, wouldn't it...nuts.

It's never going to happen, is it? The Scots aren't a breed apart, they just have funny accents and the men like to wear skirts. As long as nobody messes with their right to bear tartan or new European rules on the contents of black pudding start to appear, everyone's happy, are they not? On a scale of Cornwall to Chechnya, Scotland is clearly aiming for the cuddly end of independence. They don't even really want to change anything - the debate so far as centred more on furniture shuffling than a wholesale revolution. That's mainly because Scotland is marginal on its own - once everything came out in the wash and the two states had reached a marginally amicable solution, what would an independent Scotland have to play with? It's a lot of responsibility to take on when mum and dad still pay the rent.

Monday, 25 August 2014

A jingo ate my baby.

I find it perplexing that Nico Rosberg gets criticised for not being German enough, or not doing enough to win over members of the public to his cause.

Cripes, I always thought Formula 1 was about driving fastest and getting the most points at the end of the year, I didn’t realise that it came packaged with a media onslaught to make everyone else in the world understands that you actually deserve your title.

We’ve seen enough gimmicks in recent seasons designed to boost popularity of the sport – double points in the season finale – perhaps there should be 50 bonus points for whoever is voted Miss Congeniality by international fans.

I find it odd that racing drivers are defined so much by their nationality anyway – it’s certainly not like the Olympics, where state-sponsored teams of amateurs are shipped to a central location somewhere in the world to have their patriotic way with whatever their speciality happens to be.

F1 is a private affair, where young chaps have to make their way through the ranks without any afternoon lessons at school, government clubs or particular subsidies to help them get ahead. It’s a particularly capitalist endeavour – persuade companies to emblazon their logos on your torso or about your head in return for cash and you get to move up a rung off the ladder.

If I’d slaved my way through to Formula 1 I’d be well annoyed at everyone suddenly piling in and claiming the credit. I’m not sure I’d allow them to hoist a union jack above my head on the podium – what on earth would that have ever done for me? They could fly a flag with my face emblazoned across it and the national anthem would be a chirpy little ditty I’d compose on my mac.

Winning over the public? Pff.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

I roast a chicken.

Yesterday all my chickens came home to roast. I say all my chickens – there was really just the one, an impulse buy from the reduced section at Waitrose. It said on the label that it was organic corn-fed, and had watched nothing but French arthouse films during its free time. Which explains the succulence, and made it well worth five pounds. I don’t know if the chicken would agree.

There’s something terribly grown up about sticking a chicken in the oven though – nothing particularly demanding about the endeavour itself, but I guess it takes you right back to childhood memories of mum hammering away in the kitchen for hours at a time on a Sunday afternoon to produce a feast.

Cooking a chicken is like doing a barbecue – everyone has their own little tips and tricks that never seem to work for anyone else. I like to stuff some garlic up it, and leave some lemon juice and water about the dish before I cover the whole affair with a bit of foil to keep it all steamy and moist. After I’ve stripped the carcass bare I shall boil it for many hours and make some delicious soup, while considering how to get the smell of chicken stock out of the walls.

It’s nice to cook a chicken at the beginning of the week – there are so many things that you can do with it. Chicken sandwiches, chicken and pasta, chicken on its own… I’ll probably be sick of chicken by Tuesday.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

I grow a beard.

It always gets my goat when people say that they are growing their hair, or some such nonsense. Like it would simply stop if you weren’t concentrating hard enough. Or gosh, fall out when you weren’t looking. So the fact that I now have a beard where I didn’t several months ago is in reality down to the fact that I have ceased shaving it off on a regular basis, rather than any special effort or talent on my part.

Grammar misanthropy apart, I like to think of myself as being characterised by a certain joie de vivre. Others like to think that I don’t take things seriously – words like immature get bandied about, God forbid – but I do maintain a steadfast approach when it comes to growing a beard. I’m serious like a serious thing when it comes to that. It’s important – a fine line between hipster shame, Open University geekery and the sort of Ewan-McGregor-Long-Way-Down box cut number I’m shooting for.

Actually, if I’m honest, I’ve been inspired by the first world war commemorations. George V rocked a magnificent set of facial hair, with trimmed sides and a wonderful point on the chin. I’m not sure I’ll ever get the point, but by jove I’ll die trying.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Only so many words.

I used to think that I only had so many words in me in a day – there I would be, churning out a couple of thousand in an afternoon like a little news article machine, slaving over en dashes and trying to balance up columns nicely. One day I shall probably look back on that halcyon period as the good old days of fancy free.

But it felt like at the end of a hard day sweating over the mac that I had nothing left in me. But I still managed to squeeze a little something out on top, a sort of sugary blog icing. Nowadays, with less of a squeeze on my literary gland, I think I would say that the constant stimulation is important for the production of creative juices – same with a cow and her milk, in a weird way. I won’t be having no babies though. Or producing any milk.

And yet…having nothing particular to say never stopped anyone else on the internet, I really need to stop that being a factor. In fact, there’s a real art in saying nothing with style, something compellingly vacuous that takes you on no particular journey back to where you began. I wonder if a great writer can't separate the two, a twin-track enjoyment of message and medium.

At the same time, no brain can be so void, no life so empty, that there are no observations that can’t be dragged out to be observed. It’s one of the things I like about being me – no matter how dull or formless I might be, still no one quite sees the world from my perspective. In fact, no one will ever see the world from exactly the same perspective of my time and place and doing. There’s a bit of something to spice up an otherwise ordinary day.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

No such thing as a free coffee

Tsk, tsk. Really, all this fuss about John Lewis revoking free coffee privileges for the underwhelmingly privileged. It's unseemly.

I'm telling you, they closed the doors to third class ages ago - I signed up for a My John Lewis card and they've opted me into the 12-emails-a-day package, but neglected to pass on the golden ticket. My hand was outstretched for that complimentary validation of my significance and it's hanging there still, like a misjudged high five.

You don't anger Middle England and simply get away with it. What seems likely to happen next is some sort of genteel sit-in, hordes of yummy mummies and freeloading commuters gathering round in the lobby of their nearest John Lewis with ceramic takeaway cups and a slice or two of Mr Kipling.

When did these things become a human right though? That somehow this company has a debt of servitude towards me because of my largesse in almost exclusively buying certain of my weekly requirement of items from their particular chain of establishments. It's a madness.

What they owe you, signor, is goods in exchange for an agreed amount of cash. Anything else is just muddying the waters, complicating the relationship. Weirdly enough, a relationship is what it is though - it starts out with a few groceries and some loyalty points, next thing you know you've left your toothbrush in the nearest branch and they're getting your post.

Cold turkey on the hot coffee is probably for the best.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

I nearly die in a fire.

I love torching things. I don’t think it’s a full-blown illness, just something that gives me more than a frisson of delight to engage in. Like the other day, for example, when I was in the garden burning all of the hedge trimmings that had been obscuring the shed, using the special bin for burning things (it's like a normal bin, but with a special lid and some holes).

Don’t get me wrong here, I paid attention to the fire brigade adverts they used to show when I was little – and I certainly paid attention to the firemen who turned up at school with their fire engine blaring and flashing and hulking, handing out stickers and little plastic yellow helmets. They were well cool, and I got to sit inside.

I well remember the hazards of tealights explained to me by 999 Rescue's Michael Buerk, as he introduced a staged reenactment of someone's neglected flame melting through the telly and taking the living room with it in minutes. Not only that, but I’ve also seen Kurt Russell in Backdraft, so I know the dangers of kicking in the door to a house that’s on fire without first touching the handle to see if any skin gets left on it. I know the dangers.

In many ways, my leaf-burning incident was like a miniature version of one of the many action setpieces that popped up in that seminal early-90s film. I’d blown the fire a bit to try and stoke up the tension (heat), I got my pokey stick out to try and distribute the ingredients a bit better in the bin for burning things, and WHUMPF, a shot of flame in the air as suddenly everything came together to create majestic flames that I would have had a chance to admire were I stood perhaps several metres over there.

Sixth-degree burns to the cuticle. Sam Burnett's warning story coming to a billboard near you soon.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

I have been 30 for several weeks now.

I have been 30 for several weeks now. Nothing bad has happened, which is either to be seen as a positive proof that turning 30 is fine, or you could look at it the other way round and decide that getting old is so boring that nothing happens.

Speaking of desperate excitement, despite joining the National Trust, I have yet to visit one of its venerable properties. I must rectify the situation. I am considering a visit this weekend to one of the many historic properties and gardens that are dotted about these fair isles.

Likewise, I have decided that I’m going to have to make more of an effort and visit some museums and that. I need the cultural stimulus, in order to hold my own at the dinner parties to which I shall no doubt start receiving invites.

I tried reading Monocle magazine, because that’s what middle-aged men of a certain sophistication do. I only really bought it because it had a train on the front (who doesn’t love trains?), but it was so boring I could barely get past the first 20 pages. Leafing through the whole thing, I’m not even sure what the giant train on the cover was even referring to. That could just be the confusion setting in.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

A cut-throat business.

I went to get my hair cut the other day. I still find the whole thing a bizarre process, even after all these years. It’s the stilted conversation, the uncertainty of what you’re going to end up with, the strange fact of this being the only situation in my life apart from sleeping where I have to spend prolonged periods without my glasses on and hence completely unable to see.

But most of all, I hate the bit when the guy whips the cutthroat razor out of some hidden recess, and I begin to feel the metal nibbling away at my neck like a useless barracuda goes in for a taste. It has never in my life happened, but I fear the massive involuntary spasm that ruins my day. After all the shearing and scraping the back of my head feels not so much like the hair's even been trimmed so much as buffed off along with several layers of skin.

What ultimately cheers me is that despite these woes, it still costs me £50 less than most of the women I know. Could always be worse.

Friday, 20 June 2014

The little car that wanted to be noticed.

This is the new Toyota Aygo. It’s always been a nice little car – very light, cheap, reasonably priced on the old fuel bills and that. The three-cylinder engine had a nice thrum that gave it some character, and it never handled itself too badly on the motorway. Sometimes with these small cars you practically have to drop to second gear to overtake mobility scooters going uphill.

The new one, though. Well, gosh. It’s certainly got a bit of a quality to it. Mildly aggressive, you might say. It’s like telling someone they could make a bit more effort and they come back with nose piercings and a PVC catsuit. Brushing your hair and a new pair of shoes might have done the trick, sheesh. It doesn’t just scream ‘look at me’, it’s hired a mariachi band and bought a year’s worth of Facebook ads.

The Aygo looks like Gilette just came out with one of those things that scrapes the dead skin off the bottom of your feet. It looks like Wolverine getting excited about the new series of the X Factor. It looks like a Transformer that got stuck in the middle of transforming because the wind changed and now it’s stuck like that.

Bet it drives nice though.