Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Where it's apparently possible to be too good-looking.

It must be hard to be beautiful. Rippling man-crumpets Kit Harington and Douglas Booth have both been in the press rather recently complaining about how people don’t take them seriously because they’re too handsome. My immediate inclination, when I hear these violins warming up, is to help them out of their desperation by taking to their excellently proportioned visages with a fold-up chair.

I’m not denying that these fine specimens of human beings feel like they’re being disadvantaged in life, but then I’m also fairly convinced that the disadvantages of being too gorgeous rather outweigh the repulsive qualities of looking like a morbidly obese manatee that’s been ravaged by a lawn strimmer. I mean, there are setbacks we have to overcome in life (‘nuts, I’ve run out of coffee/cut my finger/am distractingly good looking and no one takes me seriously as an actor’), and there are setbacks. Y’know?

Perhaps it’s a humanitarian gesture on the part of Kit and Doug, picked up from the advice column of Really Really Good Looking People magazine. It’s really very kind and considerate of them to wear their outrageous genetic luck like a noose, as if it’s intended to make those of us less fortunate a bit happier about our hideous lots in life. Dreamy eyes, inflatable lips and a stomach you could play a tune on are really a disability, so obviously it’s unfair of me to make fun of them in any way.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

I spend a week without a mobile phone.

My phone is broken. Totally banjaxed, if I may be permitted a brief use of technical parlance. It crashed like Richard Hammond on a straight piece of road and I had to send it away to be repaired/replaced/controlledly exploded. This sudden mobilectomy has left me with a gaping hole in my life, I'm missing a comforting presence. It’s like someone has chewed through my umbilical cord to the world with their rancid teeth.

It is, on the other hand, a blessed relief, to be unencumbered by the stresses and strains of modern life. It turns out that my neverending anguish to remain constantly connected over recent years has been almost entirely in vain. The fact is, no one calls me, I barely get any text messages and I may as well check my emails once a week. I am as unimportant as anyone could be.

My only concern is that the people of Twitter have been less able to follow my hilarious insights than usual. I say only – I could end up trapped in a hellish wilderness, stalked by a madman or vengeful animal and not be able to contact anyone for help. Then again, if it was a film, I wouldn’t have any signal anyway.

I glide blithely on through life, unaware of the attempts by the modern world to reach out its invisible talons and claw at me. The waves just crash on past, ready to pull some other unsuspecting Harold into their grasp. Thank goodness my replacement phone arrives soon though – I can’t check the weather, call my mum or tune my guitar at the moment. Nightmare.

Friday, 17 April 2015

I really love Hillary Clinton.

I really love Hillary Clinton. If I had any combination of the time, money or inclination required I would be legging it over to America just to follow her round for the next two years. I would make my own placards and get dragged away by the secret service at various venues around the country. I would make friends with folksy people who work in diners and get shot at least twice.

Hillary is like Superman, only she wears her pantsuit on the outside of her trousers and Superman never doesn’t have his own email server. Her pillowy face conceals a steely underside, a grit and determination to squash everyone who gets in her way, and a willingness to grab plenty of cash off those lining the route.

Hey – I’m not criticising. Needs must. A girl needs a cool billion or two to run for president these days. What’s the difference between a pitbull and a hockey mom? Well, the pitbull is probably going to get elected. And you’ve got to feel for the Wasps if Hillary does make it – the first black guy and the first woman...the old white guys will have been frozen out of the oval office for a cool 16 years. Someone needs to stand up for their rights.

And who would be surprised if that argument got trotted out by the Republicans at some point in the next two years? Hillary’s a polemic, she makes people go crazy, one way or the other. She’s uber-Marmite, she’s the Terminator, only with set hair and pearls. I really hope she gets elected president, just for the fun of it. Sort it out, America.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

In which we're at the mercy of the people who don't care.

Can you tell anything from what’s on the nation’s mind? Or can you even tell what's on the nation's mind? I guess Google searches and suchlike are more a snapshot of what we know we don’t know, rather than the things we know we know and the things we don’t know we haven’t got a clue about. Or is that last one a double negative? I don’t know. Trying to keep up with the news is a difficult process, you’ve really got to have your concentration switched on, otherwise it becomes a swilling mess of Madonna kissing Ed Miliband shortly before he was run over by an angry voter in the Paris-Roubaix race.

Likewise the difficulty of political polling. I find you shouldn’t really trust people who are certain about what they have strong opinions on, and you don’t really want to trust people who can’t make up their minds at all. You see these awful folks vox popped on the street by the television news and they haven’t got a clue who the prime minister is. How do these people live in the world? At the very least they’re running the risk of unnecessary emergency neurological treatment when they bump their head and can’t tell you what day of the week it is.

I despair sometimes, I really do. The fate of the nation is not in the hands of those proactive souls who seek information out and keep on top of what’s going on in the world (Twitter trends and Google top searches aside, that’s getting a bit weird), but rather we’re all at the mercy of barely functional cyborgs who’ll be playing a game of pin the X on the donkey come polling day. Still, keeps everything fun I suppose.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Some manifestos get launched.

It’s strange that a manifesto attracts so much attention, in many ways. I mean, how often are so few people held to such high standards by something that so few people have actually looked at? If political parties had that much faith in their holy scriptures perhaps they’d be shoving a copy of that through every door in the country rather than pictures of ugly middle-aged people in bad suits crouching next to potholes.

It’s strange too that alongside the publishing of a document setting out aims and objectives we get this parallel universe of media launches. What politicians hope for is a sort of drip-filter coffee approach to building up a rapport with the electorate (although the murky brown liquid we get at the end is rather different. What we actually get is a load of disconnected policy ideas chucked into the public domain via a series of controlled explosions.

Not all political parties are created equal, either – where the Tories have David Cameron and Theresa May performing an energetic floor routine complete with confetti cannons and a phalanx of sinister media stormtroopers, on the other side of the political spectrum you get Natalie Bennett launching the Green party manifesto in front of a couple of £40 roller banners from a place in Brockley.

When it comes to the top parties, there are no surprises in store in the manifestos because they’ve spent so much money on focus groups and private polling that all they’re really doing is telling a narrow band of people they’d really like to vote for them what they already believe.

The election continues.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

I do some babysitting.

Where does the term babysitting even come from? I rather think if you're perched awkwardly on someone's sofa with the wellbeing of their children your primary responsibility for the next several hours, sitting on the little blighters is the last thing you should be doing. Best case scenario you'll wake them up, and that's fairly disastrous.

But you know, time never goes more slowly than when you're in someone else’s house babysitting. In a whisper-quiet abode, the mere act of turning over the page in your book is so raucous as to set your pulse racing like a thousand kettle drums. A racing pulse loud enough to wake children three streets away. I find myself bolt upright in the living room, staring at the wall and trying to blink as quietly as possible.

It’s not until the parents arrive home – flinging open the front door and smashing several panes of glass, standing aside to allow some space for the mariachi band to squeeze by – that you think that maybe these kids don’t actually sleep that lightly. Indeed, sometimes the quiet can freak them out. Perhaps it’s advisable to wander round the house smashing saucepans with wooden spoons to convince the wee cherubs their loved ones are still in residence.

I made the mistake of joshing around an eight-year-old when I was looking him the other week. He’d crept gingerly downstairs, peering around behind things as he slowly came into the room. ‘Where is my mummy and daddy?’ ‘I don’t know – they left here an hour ago with a pair of suitcases saying “tell him we love him”…’ Bad move, I realised, as I got halfway through the sentence. The eight-year-old took a moment to digest this new piece of information, before alighting sensibly on ‘joke’ and indulging me with a light patter of laughter.

I’d broken one of my two cardinal rules: don’t ever mention their parents, and never talk about monsters. Especially the ones under the bed. Sweet dreams, kids.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

In which I miss Tony Blair the teensiest bit.

So Tony Blair has finally popped up again, like the world’s slowest Whack-a-Mole. I miss him being around frontline British politics, purely because the man’s a good box office draw. A superstar amongst a field consisting of weasels and stoats. As he struts about the world stage the closest contemporary figure we have is Gordon Brown occasionally lolloping about behind him, but as we know from the Scottish referendum, when the old GB shows up you’re really in for dinner and a dance.

Tony remains as divisive as ever - that vibrant tan (#nofilters) could either be seen as bathing its onlookers in a suffuse glow, or perhaps the toxic side-effects of wallowing about so much muck. Ed Miliband never had any time for the PM back when he was one of Brown’s rabble-rousers in the bad old days, but him and his advisors really have picked up the old fellow with a 300-mile bargepole and dumped him as far away as they could for his wee election speech up near Durham.

It’s a terribly ungrateful way to treat the man who rescued Labour from electoral oblivion, but that’s showbiz innit. Vicious. Like the Christmas decorations, Tony Blair will be carefully wrapped up in tissue paper and shoved back into the attic until the next time round. I can’t imagine Ed Miliband’s post-political career will be any more auspicious though. I wonder how long we’ll have to wait to find out...

Thursday, 2 April 2015

I watch the political debate.

By and large the actual process of a general election is quite dull, but these days we’ve got the exciting focus of televised debates to provide popcorn-munching nights in for those political geeks with nothing better to do.

The whole thing played out like a really terrible version of Blind Date, with dinner with the country as the prize. Maybe this is a new idea for an age of coalition politics – Cilla Black gets David Cameron and Nick Clegg on to the sofa to show some highlights of the last five years and find out how they got on. I don’t think she’ll need to buy a new hat.

There was another little hint of a nostalgic 1990s television programme that I picked up - the neon lights on the front of the podiums and the subtle wardrobe cues reminded me of the Power Rangers. The thought of Nick Clegg in a yellow spandex suit is of course retch-worthy.

You never quite know whether anyone’s mind will actually be changed by this sort of thing – I follow as many people on Twitter with completely different ideas of who did best that it quickly becomes clear that people tend to reinforce their own opinions when judging political debates. The only real winners we’ll see on 7 May…

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

April Fools' Day really gets on my nerves you know.

I had a look through some of my old blog posts today. Specifically any I might have made on this particular day in history. 'Gosh', I thought to myself. 'April Fools' Day gets so much on my nerves that I must blog about it every year and what's the point in repeating myself?' It turns out that I've never blogged about April Fools' Day in the last six years, despite the fact that it gets so much on my nerves.

Clearly denying the occasion the oxygen of publicity has not worked - even the merest whiff that my humble weblog [that's what we called them in the olden days, kids] might provide. On this day of inanity, this jour de stupidité, I simply pose a small question to the world. Why?

Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?

You get the idea.

I basically assume that everyone's an idiot all the time, so this is a Shibboleth too far. Perhaps the whole thing is a side-symptom of the execrable 'I'm mad me' culture I blogged about the other week, a need to publicly proclaim a sense of humour that automatically demonstrates your lack as you partake. The only good one I've ever heard was back in 2007 or so when Radio 5 ran news reports suggesting that the Germans were going to leave the Euro and join the pound, but only because they managed to get a peer to give them a phone quote on the issue. 'Ooh, it's just a bit of fun,' you might protest. But then they've said the same thing about Morris dancing and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. I'm not convinced.

In the midst of an election, with the world as it is, these are serious times that require serious people giving their serious attention to matters of life and death. It's a serious business. Are you seriously telling me that all these people who have come up with ridiculous sneery lies and half-truths couldn't have put their heads together instead and come up with half a step in the right direction of solving the world's ills? Have your fun on 1 April, but for goodness' sake let's at least get climate change sorted in the morning.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

A crash happens just in front of me.

I was just driving along, minding my own business. Obviously, minding your own business when you’re driving is a slightly different affair to simply minding your own business. You have to have a larger field of focus.

In this case, my eye was resting on the scooter rider a few seconds in front, just making their way across the crossroads I was planning to turn left at, as a car came from the right at speed and hit them square in the side. I watched as the scooter wrenched violently to the left, the rider thrown up in the air but maintaining momentum as they sailed end over end to the other side of the junction.

The sound just about registered, but it didn’t seem to accommodate the violence of what had just happened. I stopped the car in the middle of the lane, taking in the scene, those few seconds of calm after the storm. Nobody seemed to be stirring as I ran across the road to the rider, one impatient driver trying to get round me in their car and travel undisturbed onwards.

I could see the rider in spasm, lying prone on their side in the gutter. They had fallen neatly into the recovery position, facing the kerb. I knelt down and took the woman’s hand, tried to keep her focus. People appeared around us, all dialing for an ambulance that would take an age to arrive. I was as powerless to help this woman as she was to change what her life had suddenly just become, but I spoke to her, reassured her despite the perversity of it all.

I’ve not been able to find out anything more since then, I’m left simply with the thought that if the grand total of my existence thus far was shifted five seconds earlier, it would have been me being gingerly manoeuvred on to a backboard and slid into an ambulance.