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.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

I wash my hands.

When I said all that stuff about considered debate the other day, I didn’t mean here, obvs. Take the other day. i was washing my hands at work and hadn’t even got through my first rinse and repeat before I got befuddled in the silliness of the situation. Palmolive. What does that even mean? Turns out some bloke called Johnson invented a soap made solely out of palm oil and olive oil in 1898. Mmm, that sounds clean.

And I still don’t understand the attraction of liquid soap that promises it’s going to kill 99.9% of bacteria. How do I know it’s not going to go off-reservation and start coming after my fingernails, or find its way inside my body and start viciously going after my spleen, like some tiny Terminator?

It’s the nuclear option, masked with an artificial floral smell, or a tinge of coconut and something creamy. It’s as if when the US dropped the thing on Hiroshima that party streamers and balloons came out along with a megaton or two of hellish destruction. Although, having said all that, Chernobyl might have been easier for a lot of people to swallow if it had left eastern Europe smelling lemon fresh.

It’s that 99.9% that I have a problem with – the assumption that all bacteria are terrible. There’s not so much of a gulf as we might have first thought between facial cleansing and ethnic cleansing. And why just the hands? I imagine some sort of ninja tuberculosis landing in droves across your whole body, not just your digits. I think next time I use the bathroom I’ll have to smear a bit of Palmolive on my nose.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

A nice unconsiderered debate.

All this controversy about spikes outside buildings to stop homeless people kipping down outside…there’s a load of Indian tramps sitting looking right smug about now – they can sleep on nails, isn’t it.

There was this frothy story on the Daily Mail website the other day about Nigella Lawson getting an apology from New Zealand because they’d stopped her from trying to get into the country because they thought she’d been banned from getting into the US because of drugs and that. Outrageous, said the Mail. Of course, it was the same paper that breathlessly revealed but a few months ago that Nigella Lawson had been banned from getting into the US because of drugs and that.

It’s not just the shameless manhandling of the truth that takes your breath away, but also the marvellously po-faced upset later on that any media outlet in the world would have considered publishing such obvious nonsense.

There’s this depressing tendency – homeless people, Nigella – to print now and ask questions later. Or leave it to someone else to ask the questions. A subtle retraction is now part of the narrative, extending the life of a story by a couple more days. The anti-homeless devices have been a feature of buildings for many years, but what did it take here, the installation outside the front door of a tabloid writer?

I doubt the inside of a newspaper was ever the place for considered debate, and yet it still makes you wonder where is…

Monday, 2 June 2014

Turning 30: the liveblog

As it happened:

8.04am: It's a day off for me today, because I'm too depressed to go into work.

8.05am: Jokes. My mum and dad are visiting London for my birthday and that. We're going to do old people things together, like feed the ducks and check out nursing homes.\

8.45am: I don't officially actually turn 30 until half five this evening. So I have a few more hours of kidding myself that I am still a swinging young hipster in his twenties with the world at his feet.

9.43am: It's been quite an intensive weekend. A surprise party for me on Saturday evening, which was a nice surprise. And then I went to a friend's surprise party yesterday. She's a day older than me, so I've already been able to see that life doesn't come to a crashing halt on this momentous occasion. Amusingly, mum and dad decided to surprise me my coming to my church yesterday morning, only I wasn't there because I'd gone to another church for said friend's surprise birthday party. Oh, the japes.

12.00pm: I am officially old. I've just joined the National Trust. My mum and dad have recommended it, but they seemingly travel to historic properties to have cream teas and then go home.

12.41pm: So it turns out that we've come to Morden Hall Park and it's free to get in. This is annoying. Now I'm old I might have to write someone a strongly worded letter. After my cream tea.

12.57pm: 'Three cream teas, please. One with a cappuccino, one black coffee and a hot chocolate.' My dad's an expert at ordering these scones. He has apricot jam, I retch and grab the strawberry. Preserve first, then cream. We're not philistines.

2.19pm: On the train into central London. We are covering all based today. Nice to have a sit down after that mild walking. Bit chilly, glad I brought an extra jumper.

3.11pm: Queuing for tickets to see An Musical. It's only like a fiver or something if you sit in the toilets for the whole performance. I could cheerfully punch all sorts of tourists in the back of the head because they get on my nerves, but this is not a Grmpy Old Man thing, it's just me.

6.43pm: Have gone dark because I am suffering from acute battery stress. Down to 33% - the world could be in major peril. Given that half five has passed I am officially 30. But that's fine, because I've eaten. I can be 30 on a full stomach.

7.28pm: We have walked for a bit to explore Soho and ended up at the theatre in time for a judicious wee. These days it's important to pace myself between toilet stops. We are about to watch Wicked. Which is not to be confused with WKD: the musical, in which eight lads from Bolton go to Blackpool, get smashed and vomit off the pier. It's got some catchy dance numbers in it. There is a giant dragon above the stage. I am excited. 31% on the battery.

9pm: The intermission. I do feel like perhaps I should have watched The Wizard of Oz at some point in order to have got the most out of this spectacular. That said, it's enough of a show to be totally enjoyable on its own. The story of how the wicked witch of the west came to be - it's really how the Star Wars prequels should have gone.

9.08pm: 26%

11.44pm: Home. This is about three hours past my new bedtime. I will be paying for this for weeks to come. Jumping into bed. 6%. Phew.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

I turn 30 in a couple of days.

I’m not necessarily into celebrating birthdays, but that doesn’t mean you don’t mark them. Only at 30 you have enough notches for the post to collapse from being made weak with all the notches. So many notches. 30, in fact. I’m doing that old people thing where they explain the joke too much and it isn’t funny. I’ll probably tell you this same story three times, but you’ll have to be polite and sit through it. I’ve started slowing right down for those last six inches before you hit the floor when you sit down. Although at least I can still sit on the floor, right? I can cross my legs and everything.

But anyway - it’s the crushing weight of under-achievement that gets you. The realisation that promise is about to expire, and if you have it it’s time to cash it in. The dawning knowledge that you’re no longer a kid, you’re most definitely an adult. If you’re a 30-year-old you have to do sensible stuff, like get a mortgage and look after your kids. I have neither, more’s the pity. Add that to the bonfire of things that I’ve failed to accomplish. I have driven a Ferrari at the Fiorano test track and learned to play the guitar in the last few years, there’s always that. I have less hair and a lot more USB sticks than I used to. I wear a beige jacket during this in-between weather, but it’s become a sort of ironic homage to Walter White (ssh, don’t tell anyone I had it all along).

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

When Harry Ate Sally.

I like a rom com as much as the next guy, and When Harry Met Sally is up there with my two or three favourite films, but it sent a shiver down my spine to see Meg and Billy at the 25-year reunion for the gig just the other week. It’s all very well to see people in their prime, at their sexiest and most fun, but the two of them looked wrecked. I love Meg Ryan, I really do, but she’s fallen prey to Hollywood’s vanity in a way that you never thought she would. And alright, Billy is 66, but his hairline is clinging on to his toe-like head for dear life. They both could have done this a bit more gracefully – Harry and Sally would have been happy just getting old and saggy and rough together, you know?

The young and vital thing, though, I guess that was the point of the clips throughout WHMS, showing the old couples talking about how they met, showing them at the end of their long and happy lives together. It’s a lovely sentiment, but completely boring when it comes to films. That’s the thing you’ve got to bear in mind when you’re watching them – this isn’t ordinary life, because by default no one would make it into a film when you could swivel your eyes 90 degrees from the screen and feast on it in glorious actualcolour. Films are out of the ordinary – they take the weirdness and the oddness and the things that don’t happen but you’d really quite like them to if you weren’t you and were in fact the rather attractive looking person on the screen.

‘For those of you who wanted a sequel all these years, well, this is it,’ said Billy Crystal at the 25-year celebration. Sweet crap, no.

Monday, 26 May 2014

I went to see Godzilla the other day.

I went to see Godzilla the other day. It’s a nice little film, perfectly entertaining. Not one of those things where you’re clawing your eyes out with boredom or completely depressed that you’ve just spent a tenner on complete crap. The cinema did smell of air conditioning and farts, that’s something they could work on. Though it’s not like they can crack a window in there or anything.

There are a series of things that happen. Bryan Cranston yells at things, Aaron Johnson runs around and some monsters destroy some stuff. It’s all very formulaic in many ways, yet still a considerable amount of fun. What with Bryan Cranston and the monsters. Aaron Johnson really just runs around.

The monsters are the real draw. Essentially end up at the inevitable conclusion that the humans in the film are not merely contributing nothing to the story, but actively making it worse. And distracting from the fun stuff that seems to be happening in the background of every apparently emotional shot. It’s like there’s a whole second film with just the monsters in it, and that’s kind of the one I wanted to see.

What Godzilla does do very well is prove wrong the theories that everything is getting better - you know, like culture and history and that. The Romans had central heating, for goodness’ sake. What have we done since then except find more inventive ways to kill each other? Godzilla is a case in point: the 1997 version was serviceable enough, and the new version just sort of does the same thing but slightly different. It’s really just a nice way for a studio to make a few hundred million dollars. Monstrous, really.