Thursday, 30 August 2012


So, as you’ve probably already seen on Twitter and Facebook, today I finished the picture of my very favourite, most inspirational moment of the London 2012 Olympic games.

There were so many highlights to choose from. Each day seemed to bring a clutch of new and remarkable success stories. But for two Saturday evenings running (<----do you see that clever use of a word there, my blog reading buddies? This isn’t even supposed to be a ‘funny’ post and yet without even trying a joke has appeared. What’s that? Just say ‘pardon the pun’ and move on? Okay then.), Mo Farrah had me dancing around my front room with delight.

Unfortunately, tonight of all nights, Blogger isn't letting me upload the picture to this site, so here's a link to the image if you haven't seen it yet...

Distance running is a funny old event. Unlike the 100m final which is over more quickly than the time it takes me to think of an example of something really quick, the ebb and flow of the five or ten thousand metres has you on the edge of the seat wondering exactly how things will pan out. Has he left it too late? Has he gone too soon? Has he been blocked-in, jostled and had nasty names shouted at him by a gangly Ethiopian?

The gently paced monotony of the early laps work up into a frenzied last 800m or so. As I watched Mo head to the front, kick on and then hold off the charge of his competitors, I was on my feet, jumping up and down as if that would somehow speed him along. During that final bend, my arms were pumping and I was shouting “Come on Mo!” until I was hoarse. I’m almost certain that I was more in need of a sit down than he was once the race was over.

Never before have I wanted a sportsman to win quite like I did Mo in those two races. Usually I’m far more detached - even about sports that I follow regularly. For some reason, I had a genuine sense of desperation for this person who I don’t really know and have very little in common with, to succeed and achieve the pinnacle in his races. The relief I felt when he did so was immense.

I’m still trying to work out exactly why my emotions told me that Mo’s victories were a matter of life and death importance to the world. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to answer that, but it is how deeply I felt about it.

No surprise then that I just had to draw Mo as my favourite Olympian. I already felt like I had a bond with him and inevitably that grows when you spend many hours staring at and interpreting someone for a portrait. Although he doesn’t and most likely never will know it, at some deep and meaningful level, Mo and I are good mates.

So, onto the competition! Thanks so much to everyone who entered. There were a broad range of possible subjects suggested that really reflected the breadth of the British success in the games.

Several people thought I was likely to paint one of Team GB’s pretty girls, which was a good effort and may happen at some point. But as much as I love Mo, the only time I would describe him as “pretty” is when used next to the word “amazing”.

In the end, two of my buddies from Twitter - Kev Bedford and Geraldine Banks both correctly guessed that it would be Mo that I was drawing. This is unless I’ve forgotten a correct entry from someone else - in which case, unlucky.

I’m currently trying to devise a tiebreak to decide the ultimate winner. If everything goes to plan, I’m actually going to video this, so Kev and Geraldine - you’ll both have to wait just a little longer. Don’t worry about that though because the anticipation is probably better than the prize itself.

To everyone else who is interested, I’m going to get a print run done of some postcard sized pictures. These will measure 6” x 4” and cost £5 including postage. All profits will go to Mo’s charity - the Mo Farah Foundation - who help provide life saving aid to people who face starvation and disease in East Africa.

I’ll be listing these on my Etsy shop in the next few days if you’d like to help a good cause in return for a small slice of Olympic joy.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Lion around

As you will have no doubt already seen, there are reports of a lion on the loose in Essex (or on the 'lose' in Essex according to many misspelt tweets, like he was having a bad night at a casino or something).

When news of this started to trickle in late last night, Twitter seemed to explode into a big cat frenzy. Somehow, the idea of a giant beast prowling round a populated part of England captured the imagination and led to a spike in tweets - mainly jokes about lions, most of which were paw.

See, even now I can't help myself. But I'm trying, that's the mane thing. Emotions are still roar. Lion? No I'm serious.

So just why did the image of a potential killer freely roaming the streets appeal to the average tweeter so much? Will he be this year's Raul Moat, where some people help him evade capture for a couple of weeks before he takes a final stand, threatening to bite himself to death?

I don't suppose we'll ever know fur sure, but let's paws for thought and chew over a couple of potential reasons for the popularity of this topic.

If your upbringing was anything like mine, your childhood would have been full of stories about animals escaping from the zoo or circus (as well as some 'stranger danger' ones where bad people from the circus did very improper things to young children, but we won't consider those just now).

I mean, in one famous story, a tiger actually came round for tea for crying out loud!

Escaped animals were a source of excitement and fascination. Plus they may even lead to mum getting out the best crockery and baking some homemade cakes. In all the stories I was ever read about escaped animals, not one went and even did a little bit of shoplifting, let alone mauled innocent people to death.

The closest I ever came to experiencing a wild animal coming to tea, was when a cow escaped from the local cattle market just down the road from where I lived. It ran up the road and crashed through a neighbour's window into their living room. I remember being genuinely disappointed that it didn't make it slightly further up to our house. However, I later found out than rather watch a bit of tv whilst eating dainty grass sandwiches, it was actually destroyed in an almighty mess of blood & cow poo. So it was probably for the best.

So, I reckon this rogue beast has reignited the excitement and wonder each of us has rarely felt since childhood. A kind of innocence towards danger - something that we try and recreate in adulthood with scary theme park rides and horror movies.

But it's not only that. The other reason I think the lion tweets were spreading like wildfire was the myriad of possibilities for joke tweets. Not only did you have the roar material of the lion to work with (puns by the ton), but he was strolling round Essex - a hotbed of stereotypes ready to be worked into the jokes too.

So we had tweets mentioning that he was actually a female snow leopard who'd overdone the fake tan and had excessive hair extensions. Some clever wag questioned just how far he'd be able to make it in white stilettos. And then there was something about a vajazzle, but thankfully I can't remember the punchline on that one.

The whole scenario had suddenly offered everyone the potential to become a comedian. Who cared whether there really was a lion on the loose? The imagery was funny whether it had a basis in truth or not. There always seemed to be one more joke to get your teeth into.

Given that at the time of writing there are only a couple of eyewitness reports and one photograph of such poor quality that even experts at the zoo can't determine if it shows a lion or not, there's still a fair chance that this is all just the result of a couple of people having had one too many drinks anyway.

But there's no denying it transformed an average Sunday night on Twitter into quite a circus. At times of national hardship and despondency, releasing wild creatures into urban areas may well do wonders to lift the public mood. In the absence of any more Olympics / royal weddings / jubilees, monkeys riding zebras could be just what the country needs.

EDIT: The search for the lion was called off by police this afternoon after no trace of it was found. I need to do something to get the same buzz as last night though. Going to report to police that I've just seen a pterodactyl. Good luck spelling that Twitter!

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Always the right results

So earlier this week thousands of teenagers had disturbed nights and woke up feeling nauseous. No, not because Gary Glitter was doing his rounds, but because it was GCSE results day.

For most there was much fretting about, and sweating on, whether the grades would match those required to take these youngsters onto the next stage of the education or work of their choosing. Like a kindly uncle, I pointed out on Twitter that however important these results seemed right now, in the wider context of one's life, it really didn't matter if the grades fell short of expectations.

As is usual at this time of year, I was on hand at the school gates to comfort the especially disappointed and vulnerable young ladies who needed a shoulder to cry on.

It got me thinking back to over twenty years ago when I received my GCSE results. I remember feeling ridiculously anxious as I saw the postman getting ever closer to my house, only to feel the most dreadful disappointment…when it turned out that I'd got the days muddled and had to go through the turmoil of waiting for another 24 hours.

As it turned out, I was thoroughly thrilled with my marks. They were more than enough to get me into the college course I was planning to do and for a short time, made me feel a little less thick than usual.

Back then, when exams were much harder (honestly kids, they were), the levels of achievement were nothing like they are now. There was no such thing as an A* grade and anything above a C qualified you to count Stephen Hawking among your peers. Get an A in science, and you walked into a job at NASA.

What I finally realised this week was, not getting the grades you wanted could be the very best thing that ever happened to you. The BTEC National Diploma I had chosen to do at college wasn't done so through dedicated drive and passion in the field of Business and Finance.

During the college open day we'd been required to attend, I had originally decided to go and choose some A-Levels to study. But I had no idea in what (other than English because  I adored writing stories). I loved art but had been so discouraged by the teachers who stifled rather than encouraged my creativity at school, I hadn't even studied that at GCSE level. I was an aimless drifter with no sense of direction (or fashion).

But then I saw my mate Adam heading off with a great sense of purpose to the presentation being given by the faculty of Business & Finance. At a complete loss of knowing what to do, I found myself falling in step behind him and the gang of other would-be entrepreneurs, ready to take the world of commerce by storm.

After being sweet talked by some of the Business lecturers who promised not only guaranteed riches beyond our wildest dreams, but also lots of trips away to various organisations (including a brewery), I eagerly signed up. Looking back I realise that a previously dormant passion for market forces hadn't actually been ignited by this. The feeling of purpose and hope I found within myself was formed purely from finally having some purpose and hope in any-bloody-thing for the first time in many years.

So it was with massive relief that my results were adequate to get me on this course. If they hadn't, I'd have slipped back into that horrible void of purposelessness and no doubt had a fresh crisis of direction. It later transpired that, according to one lecturer, they were so desperate to have people on the course (for their own funding purposes) that they'd have accepted substandard grades anyway.

Privately the lecture conceded that the interview and selection process was what he termed "a mirror test". In other words, they'd metaphorically hold a mirror in front of the face of each candidate and if condensation appeared to indicate evidence of breathing, you were in. So not for the first or last time in my life, I'd worried myself sick over nothing.

But what if I hadn't made it onto the course (either through extremely bad grades or overly shallow breath)?

Yes I'd have faced a crisis, but maybe from that my true vocation would have emerged. As it was, I successfully completed the college course and, even though I hadn't particularly enjoyed the subject matter, then went and did the same again at university level. Once you get used to a way of life, usually the easiest option is to continue with it, even if it's not very fulfilling.

Successful graduation from that led to an IT career in financial services (something I'd genuinely dreamed of until it came true). Whilst I'm grateful for much of what it has given me - enough money to get by and friendships with some lovely people I'd never have otherwise met (although mainly the money, obviously) - with hindsight, it's not what I would have chosen.

But what is hindsight other than a cheeky bugger who turns up in your head and mocks you for making the decisions you did, even though at that time in your life, you couldn't have known to do anything else? Even though it wasn't 'me', I've learned much from my studies and work (and not just how to calculate compound interest).

Whilst I wouldn't have chosen that path if I'd known what I know now, I don't beat myself up about any of it. Somehow, through the midst of the confusion and more confusion, I've ended up in a place I'm happy with.

The moral of this story is I'd suggest, don't worry if life doesn't bring you what you think it is that you need. Somehow you'll always get to exactly where you need to be.

Thursday, 23 August 2012


Hurrow! My name is Harry and I am dog. I am in the photogruff up there with my boy. I am the one with the lovely thick hair and the fresher breath.

My boy tell me that uveryday on Twitter, people say to him, ‘who is that luverly handsome fellow in your avi?’. Obviously he realise they not talk about him. So I fort it be grrreat idea to write guest blog post to introduce myself properly.

My boy duz not know what I am doing here. He at wurk right now, earning money for bones and cakes and squeaking toys that I destroy after only wurn minute.

While he out, I like to use compooter to look at pictures of fluffy poodles and watch video of bad things happening to all the cats. My favourrite wurn is when lady put cat inside the wheelybin. It make me barrk a lot because I don’t like cats. Or crrazy mad ladies. Or bins.

It verrry hard to type properrly on stupid little Apple keyboard though so please furgive bad spells. Still betterer at this than my boy though.

Although I look friendly in photogruff, I am actually very angry with strangers. Why you walk past my house? Why you put bits of paper through my leterrbox? When I furnally get to knows you, I make good frriend. But until that time, I will bite off of your face.

You can speed up the frriending process by giving me treats (note: not the little chocolate sweets with the peanut. Not allowed chocolate. Bad dog. On your bed).

Wurn of my bestest skill is weeeing on lampost. I don’t mean to boast, but I have bestest, most dominant smelling wee in all neighbourrhood. Even when I have weed out all of the wee, somehow I finds just a drop more to make sure everyone knows this here is my lampost buddy.

But when it cold and wet outside of the doors, I prefurs to use our indoor toileting facilities. Why go and get all cold wet when just a short trot to kitchen lets one get relieved in warm condition whilst enjoying nice cooking smell?

My boy Toby is prretty good boy to look after. Most of time he do what I say. Sometimes I even let him sit on the furrniture, but if he bad, I makes him sit on floor. I often share his foods, but neverr let him eat from my bowl. It just not hygeenic.

I used to sleep on his bed, but he move arround too much and he snore and he scream out fings like “I come to get you Kelly Brook!” or “But why can’t I wear your clothes mum?”. So nowadays I sleep on my own bed nice and peas fully. At least he can not blame me for his farting now.

I must be going now. I have not yet done today’s Times crossword or barrked at the cars outside. My boy be home soon and then I have to pretend to listen about his day. I try and nod, but usually go sleep.

If you have any questions for me, please get in touch. I verry clever and wise and know stuff. Just don’t tell my boy I did this post. *wags tail*

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Toilet humour

It strikes me as incredibly sad that 50% of you will have never experienced the dirty, stained sanctuary of relief that is simply known as ‘The Gents’. In fact, given that there’s a picture of me on this page, it’s actually likely that my readership consists of proportionately more ladies than men, so this figure is probably even higher.

Though having said that, I guess some females may have accidentally stumbled into the Gents before. Maybe because the queue for the Ladies was too long and you couldn't hold on. Or maybe, whilst the silhouetted figure on the door was wearing trousers, he'd adopted such a feminine pose that you were fooled into thinking 'he' may actually be a 'she'. Or maybe you're just a weirdo. Whatever the reason, visiting once or twice doesn’t count - it's only with prolonged exposure to this environment that you learn its subtle culture.

For the purposes of the science within this blog, I’m going to ignore the anomaly that is the ‘Unisex’. This strange and thankfully rare creature is one of those poor blighters that is born to annoy everyone. There are certain activities best done in as much privacy as possible and certainly not in front of the opposite gender. I’ll explore this in another post at some point in the future as one of my favourite cafes has this peculiar set up and I’ve frightened many a woman in there.

But anyway, back to the Gents. Firstly, let's be clear about the name. You don't HAVE to be an actual gentleman to use these facilities. Social class is irrelevant. So long as you have a penis (or at least an ability to urinate standing up), you are welcome. And, it doesn't even matter if you're not very good at weeing whilst stood up - many a wade through a piss-soaked floor has told me that most men are not (or they simply don't care). 

No, these places are far from being some cosy gentleman's club with oak panelled walls and comfy velvet seats. They are in fact utilitarian facilities that allow males of any caste to offload their waste.

One of the strangest things is that for the purposes of urination, you will often be given just a ceramic coated wall to pee against with a gutter at the bottom to collect the run-off. Or sometimes there's a metallic trough fixed to the wall.

Whatever the container, a quick glance at the gathering puddle and ingrained stains on the floor beneath, will tell you which is the most favoured place to stand. You then have the choice to keep your feet dry and go to a different spot, or you can get wet shoes but be the dominant male and leave your wet scent lying on top of everyone elses.

Often you will find yourself in what is an uncomfortable situation for many - urinating alongside other men. A strange scenario that is made all the worse if you think about it too much. Personally, I find my bladder to be very shy when peeing next to another man. I’ve been known to have to wait there for ages before I am finally able to relax enough to let go and do my business. The resulting torrent can last for weeks, especially when there’s a full moon.

It was in this very 'group wee' scenario that lead to the most unfortunate toilet event I have ever experienced. I was in my teens (so, like last year or some when not long ago), and stood next to a wizened old man in a denim jacket. Rather than a flat wall or trough, we were this time actually using our own individual finely crafted ceramic urinals, complete with several purple cubes of zesty toilet cleaner that provided a fine target at which to aim, and which rewarded a direct hit with the release of its refreshing odour.

Everything was going fine to start with. It is an unwritten, yet strictly observed rule that one should pay no attention to the activities going on either side of you during a group wee, though occasional casual banter is fine, especially to excuse the passing of wind. Though I have to admit to 'sneaking a peek' once in a while, just to make myself feel proud or inadequate.

However, despite the promising start, things took a downward turn as the denim-clad old guy was doing his finishing off ritual (this is where a futile attempt is made to shake every last drop of moisture away from one's manhood, before returning it back inside one's trousers, only to always find it actually still needed a little more drying). Obviously this chap had built up much experience of peg-shaking over the years, and even out the corner of my eye, I could clearly see he was an old hand at this noble cleansing art.

But then, almost as if in slow motion, it happened. That last stubborn drop of old-man wee-wee was forcefully shaken from his todger. However, rather than obey gravity and run off with the rest of his golden raindrop friends, such was the vigour of this man's shake technique, that final acrid teardrop travelled in my direction, nestling first on my upper lip, before running down inside my mouth.

Inside I was in a state of great alarm and agitation. But being English and awkward, outwardly I remained calm and composed, poker faced, as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Indeed, I waited until the gentleman had re-homed his little friend and vacated his urinal, before I even thought about spitting the invading liquid out.

But after he'd left, boy did I spit. I spat like was a dog puppet that had Bob Carolgees' arm up its backside. Then I went and washed my mouth out several times, before doing so several times more.

Whenever I have since had any health issue in my life, I always think back to this event and wonder if it was the cause of all my ills.

If life was like a comic book, I would now have some sort of superpower, though I'm not sure what gift the urine of an elderly man in a denim jacket could possibly bestow. Eternal life maybe? Perhaps he was actually 271 years old and I've simply yet to realise that I am actually going to live forever.

Of course, it's not all about urinals though. Just like in the Ladies there are cubicles too. As well as allowing one a place to poo, they also afford you some private space, doubling up as your own temporary office / reading library / bedroom.

There are some men who prefer not to join the communion at the urinals and forego the 'wee next to strangers' scenario entirely. Instead, these men use the cubicles purely for the purpose of urination. For whatever reason (penis envy / not wanting to get wee in their mouths etc) they prefer to go it alone. Although it goes against the spirit of things a little, I've nothing against this practice, provided they DON'T PISS ALL OVER THE SEAT. Come on guys, lift the seat up for a start (especially the actual main lid) to at least give yourself a chance of reaching the pan.

Aside from avoidable misdirected urination, the one other thing that annoys me about life in the Gents is the lack of hand-washing after the event. If the facilities are there (and don't look like they might add more germs than take away) use them! Though there are exceptions to this rule - e.g. if you're in a massive rush to get your pregnant wife to the hospital or the second half of the football is about to kick off.

And finally, let us not forget about the Rolls-Royce of any toilet block, regardless of gender - the disabled cubicle. These are often double the size of your standard Ford Mondeo cubicle. Plus they have big handles to help hoist yourself around and dangly red emergency cords that are just begging to be pulled. I've never had the courage to pull the cord, but someone once told me that they did and the voice of an angel filled the room, checking they were okay.

This deluxe toilet paradise should not be reserved purely for the weak or chair ridden. I encourage you to try one for yourself at the earliest opportunity. Obviously, not everyone is so open minded about these things, so unless you've been forced to use one in a McDonald's or Café Nero or a similar establishment because the standard able-bodied facilities upstairs are closed, be prepared for some odd looks when you amble out without obvious sign of impairment.

If you're really feeling the heat with the disapproving stares upon exiting the disabled loo, (especially if there's actually someone in a wheelchair bursting to go) it's best to feign a limp or some kind of mental trouble to get yourself off the hook. Nobody will know - it will be our special secret.

Incidentally, that last sentence was once whispered to me in the toilets at Sunday School, but I'll save that story for another time.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Ungentlemanly Conduct

Throughout history, there have been brave people who have risked their very lives to expose the truth. These whistleblowers have stood at a crossroads and decided the greater good is worthy of the sacrifice they are about to make. They make this decision without the full knowledge of the consequence of their actions. But their gut tells them, even though they cannot bear the load of concealment any longer, it could prove fatal to themselves and their loved ones once released.

It may shock you to learn that, today in this blog post, I am about to join this group of courageous souls.

Forget Julian Assange, hiding away in his cosy Ecuadorian embassy. I will have no place of refuge on Earth or beyond, once I have exposed a secret that is so huge, you’ll wonder how it was ever kept from yourself.

Of course, there are plenty in my brotherhood who do know this truth already. Their worlds will be turned upside down by this revelation and even if they do manage to return to their original axis, their furniture will be out of place and it is likely that ornaments will have smashed.

This is your last chance to stop reading. If you wish to remain undisturbed, return to your business right now. Go make yourself a cup of tea and listen to the Home Service on your  wireless. Walk gayly in the park and pretend that God is in his heaven and all is right with the world.

For the few of you brave enough to’s the thing.

Gentlemen: polite, courteous, generous and always putting other people first. Or are they?

No. They are not. Or maybe I should say, “we are not”, for I am often accused of gentlemanly kindness. But now, with heavy heart and much shame, it’s time to reveal our true motives.

Every single “gentlemanly” act has a sinister undertone. The real motive behind such behaviour is actually a polar opposite to what is presented to the world.

Let me explain by way of some examples:

Imagine the scene. A gentleman is walking towards a door he is planning on entering. As he gets to it, his evil gentlemanly instincts start to kick in. His highly developed receptors are tuned to maximum wickedness as they tingle with the aroma of Impulse body spray and estrogen. He can hear giggling kittens. He recalls the touch of soft, fleshy rose petals and the taste of cherry Chapstick. Then he turns to confirm what he already knows is there. A lady, also heading toward this very same door.

The normal people among you will be thinking, what’s this? Just walk on through that door mister. Go about your day and leave the pretty young lady out of it.

But the gentleman has his mind on other things. As quick as a flash he adjusts his pace, moving his feet into position, ready to perform his depraved act.

The lady has no idea she is about to walk flush into his dirty trap. She just continues walking, prettying her hair and thinking about what lovely sweet treats she can bake for her husband when he gets home from work, oblivious to the evil plan that has just been hatched a mere two feet away from her.

But it’s too late. The door is held open with a flourish as the gentleman beckons whilst uttering the chilling phrase, “after you...”.

The kindly smile on his face does nothing to betray the evil inner smirk that now spreads violently across his blackened heart. For whilst she continues her journey, grateful for not having had to touch a filthy door knob, she has not a clue that right at that moment she is being mentally ravished.

From the gentleman’s perspective, all he sees as the innocent girl passes through the door is a delicious, rounded posterior, swaying alluringly with each continuing step of its journey. It looks as though he has now let go of the door as he moves through it himself, but inside his mind he’s performing unspeakably indecent acts to that poor lady’s behind.

He may even follow her for a while, like a cat stalking a canary. But even this example falls short of the true malevolence of the situation, for the cat doesn’t imagine the canary in exotic lingerie, before pouncing and ripping her apart.

To the outside observer of this situation, nothing untoward has happened. But those in the know will feel nauseous.

The same is true in the situation where a gentleman gives up his seat for a lady in the crowded Pullman carriage of a train. A chance to rest her dainty, weary legs? Or the opportunity to have a jolly good look down her blouse whilst standing above her for the rest of the journey?

And don’t think the gentleman is above surreptitious insults. The bolder cad may remark to a lady that she’s a “fox”. In common parlance, this has become synonymous with having extremely attractive qualities. This makes the woman titter, thrilled and flattered to be noticed by a gentleman in this way.

In fact, those of us in the know realise that far from being regarded as sexually appealing, the gentleman has just called her sly and cunning, with an excessively hairy brush.

I hope that by revealing these dark truths, that ladies everywhere may feel emboldened to slap the man holding the door open for her; to call for the guard to remove the man offering his seat on the train; and to rip the face off the man comparing her to wild vermin.

May God help us all.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Brown paper packages, tied up with strings (and containing cake)...

Thanks so much to everyone who has entered the competition to win a signed print of one of my heroes from the XXX Olympiad (full details from earlier post here).

I must admit that originally I thought the 'XXX Games' were something really quite different. But having seen the incredibly buff guys in the diving final all chilling out together in the jacuzzi and the extremely dodgy looking (greasy side-swept hair, big glasses) Chinese gymnastics coach hanging around very flexible young Chinese girls, I realised that they're actually much the same.

Anyway, I've had around a dozen entries so far. Usually I wouldn't be very tolerant of people who can't follow the original, clear instructions to leave an answer in the comments section of my original post. But to the simple folk who have tweeted, DM'd or emailed me your answers instead - don't worry, you're still in the running!

And the more entries the merrier too - anyone else who'd like to enter can still do so. And you can contact me with your answer via any method you like. Answers frosted on the top of cakes are especially welcome.

In fact it occurred to me that in order to help me with any tiebreak situation, it might be a good idea to list a few of my favourite things to help you influence my decision in your favour.

My favourite things:

1. Justin Bieber
2. Make up
3. Dressing up in my mum's clothes

Oh wait! I got muddled up and thought I was updating my fake 12 year-old girl blog there. Let's try again.

1. Cakes
2. Biscuits
3. Sweets (not liquorice)
4. Ice cream
5. More ice cream
6. A nice meal out
7. A nasty meal out e.g. McDonalds etc
8. Beer (but only smooth, non-fizzy stuff - e.g. Caffreys, Boddingtons, Guinness etc)
9. A nice shoulder rub / Indian head massage
10. Money (or book tokens if that's too vulgar for you)
11. Carex alco-rub hand gel (the green or creamy one preferably - I have a slight obsession with clean hands)
12. Nice hand cream to help with excess alco-rub use
13. A flash car
14. A chauffeur for a flash car (note, only get me this if you're also getting me 13.)
15. An au pair
16. General flattery (as in saying wide ranging nice things about me, not as in a highly ranked soldier named Flattery).

That should do for now. Feel free to also get me a surprise, but do make sure you keep the receipt.

There have been a couple of times this week when I've so nearly tweeted a progress update about the picture that would have given it away. But in broad terms, I wanted to mention how funny it is when you stare at someone intently for even a short period of time, that they start to change in appearance.

Ordinarily our brains seem to look at someone quite quickly and log a set of characteristics to help us remember what somebody looks like purely for recognition purposes. It helps us differentiate one person from another, but not see how they actually really look.

This is why it's so easy to miss noticing that a lady friend has had her hair done - your brain has recognised that this is Ms X, and then stopped the process of looking. One of art's great gifts to the artist or photographer etc, is a keen eye that really sees things as they are, going beyond our everyday, filtered view of the world.

So ladies, if your gentlemen friends don't notice your new hairstyle, don't be too harsh on them. It's not because it doesn't look nice. In fact, if it was awful, it's more likely to be noticeable and get a fake compliment (there we go guys - I've covered that one off for you - no need to thank me).
*brushes hands together to indicate completion of a good job*
*covers them in alco-rub*

Friday, 17 August 2012

Camera for sale!

The stats that I’m able to see about this blog are very interesting indeed. If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that in an earlier post, I mentioned that I hadn’t had any visits from Australia (note - apologies to all the Austrians out there for sending bad thoughts to your country before realising I was on the wrong page of the atlas).

I’m pleased to report that since that post was published, we have now had two whole views from down under, and a further two from down-even-underer in New Zealand. The only continent I’m now lacking any coverage from is South America. And technically also that big white one right at the bottom where the screw goes into my globe, but I think that may be hoping for a bit much.

What did surprise me was to see that I’ve had two visits by way of a link from a dating site. And by ‘dating’ I’m not talking about figuring out how old a piece of wood is like they do on Time Team. This is that special kind of dating that only mummies and daddies who love each other very much do. Except it’s with other people’s mummies and daddies.

Seriously, the profile pictures included parts of potential partners I wouldn’t expect to see until my chaperone had left us alone for at least two years. What struck me was just how craggy many of these bits were. Perhaps this is what happens with over use.

Anyway, I felt extremely sorry for whoever logged on full of lust and horn, only to click on a picture of the arid, cavernous orifice of a potential mate, and then find themselves reading something I’d written about the Para Olympics. Unless they were into some pretty specialist niche activities, I’m pretty sure the mood would have been killed.

Now you’ll have to forgive me for this dreadfully rude post. And it’s about to get even more vulgar as I turn it into some kind of infomercial. That’s right, I’m giving you the chance to own one of my cameras!

I’m selling my back-up camera as I’m just not using it. It’s a lovely bit of kit and seems a waste to be sat there with nothing to do. I only bought it in March this year as my main camera was away for an indefinite time being repaired.

The make and model is a Samsung NX100. Rather than go into a ton of detail, here’s a link to the product description on Amazon which has all the key info here.

What I like about it is that it’s really easy to access all of the main settings you’ll need day-to-day. It has a very clever auto mode if you just want to point and shoot, but the nice design makes it really easy to take more manual control. It’s an ideal model to move on from the basics and learn how take really great pictures.

To see some some examples of pictures I’ve taken with it, check out the first 20 or so pictures in my Salisbury Cathedral flickr album here.

As well as selling the camera, I’m happy to give ongoing technical support with it (so far as I am able!), whether that be with the settings of the camera or how to achieve a certain effect in an image.

It’s in brilliant condition as I only used it for around one month and it comes boxed with the additional flash unit described here.

It also comes with a small book detailing many of the features together with tips and suggestions. It didn’t come with a proper instruction manual (as seems to be the way these days), but you can download a very helpful PDF version from the Samsung website. I actually like to download these even if I have a printed version - you can save it to your smartphone and always have it with you that way!

If you were buying this new from Amazon you’d be paying around £234 for the camera and flash, but I’m selling it for £155 all in (including my technical assistance). Payment can either be made via Paypal or you can send me a cheque.

If you’re interested or have any questions etc, just email me at

For an extra £20, I can also include a memory card full of some experimental pictures I took of myself for my adult dating profile.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Pomp and ceremony ('ear me now)

So, I see poor old Prince Philip is back in hospital again. Whatever one’s views on the royal family, surely no one likes to think of an old man in pain - especially if that’s caused by troubles with his waterworks. I remember when he and his wife (can’t for the life of me remember her name now) visited my city in May this year. I’d gone along to see if he’d be kind enough to sign my Purple Rain album. I noticed how much older, taller and whiter he was in real life compared to when I’d seen him perform on MTV, but it was only when I noticed that he lacked any facial hair that I realised I had got my princes muddled up.

When the royal couple pulled up in their immaculate Bentley, I was struck by just how genuinely happy and aglow Prince Philip was to see the crowd of children who were enthusiastically waving their little plastic union flags. I like to think that every young, ordinary carrier bag grows up with just a little hope in their heart that someday, if they wish incredibly hard (and carry the right people’s shopping) they may have the chance of being recycled into a royal flag on a stick.

The cynical part of me (which can at times grow really quite large and refuse to leave my mind - a bit like a novelty balloon in the shape of Susan Boyle being inflated by a child who is fascinated to see just how large she can get before going pop - note: that woman can take A LOT of helium), always imagined that the royals would be pretty blasé about the whole flag-waving children phenomenon. I mean, even by the end of just half an hour of standing in the same crowd, I was growing weary of all their fluttering.

But Prince Philip seemed nothing but absolutely delighted. It was like he was greeting his very own grandchildren - even with all the decades of public service, there was no way he could feign that type of enthusiasm. It was sincere and very lovely to see.

I once made a joke about him on twitter - somewhere along the lines of “Have you ever noticed how much Prince Philip looks like the Duke of Edinburgh? I’m sure they must be related.” As sometimes happens with tweets where I deliberately make a silly assertion for comedic effect, one helpful person corrected me on my error, revealing that they are actually the same person! Who knew?

It can, unfortunately, be hard to convey the correct tone of a message in a tweet, especially compared to making a joke remark in real life. For example, I once posted one somewhere along the lines of, “Before I was divorced, I used to leave little poems for my wife all around the house. Well, I say ‘poems’ but they were more like shopping lists and reminders about all the chores that she needed to do”. Most people know this is just humorous fiction, but one lady (who I’ve since realised just isn’t on my wavelength), was disgusted by my behaviour.

Anyway, back to our friend Phil. At one time, I was no big fan of the royal family. If a woman wearing a lanyard whilst brandishing a clipboard had pushed me on it, I would have answered her that I was a republican. But I feel very differently now. I’m not sure whether it’s just the setting in of old age that has done it, or whether I’ve been caught up in the fervour of recent royal weddings and jubilees, but I’m quite into pomp and ceremony these days (to the point where if I were going to set up an underground dub-step / reggae cross over act, ‘Pomp and Ceremony’ would be their name).

We need some kind of head of state. Would I rather this were a president? Just a glance at how the whole American presidential thing is enough to tell me that is something I’m glad we don’t have to endure. Would I want David Cameron or the nasally chap who sits opposite him and isn’t his brother to be on our stamps? No way!

What we’ve got right now, seems to work okay. Watching events where the eyes of the world are upon us - such as the Jubilee or Olympics makes me think, what other country could do this? Where else on earth could you see all this grandeur and tradition? Okay, yes, maybe Las Vegas, but aside from there? Exactly.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Win win win! (nb: there may be three wins, but there's only one prize)

So, the final curtain has dropped on the Olympics. Let's hope it managed to avoid the dying embers of the flame because, with London 2012's closing ceremony budget clearly spent on Russell Brand's hairspray and gallons of Ovaltine for One Direction, I'm pretty sure it would have been made of very cheap fabric which would ignite in a flash.

I shall miss the games - they have dominated my life for the past couple of weeks. If the aim of the games was to "inspire a generation", let's hope Lord Coe meant that for children of the 1970's, this involved them being motivated to sit on their arses, glued to the tv whilst snacking. Without wishing to blow my own trumpet, these past 16 days have been a personal best for me on that front.

Although it has been the most amazing spectacle, it's actually a bit of a relief to get back to real life again. It's like having eaten a massive, delicious, yet very rich meal. I've thoroughly enjoyed it, but now it's time to sit quietly and digest everything.

For me, this will take the form of drawing a portrait of someone from the games that encapsulated the thrill and wonder of it all. I've not painted a picture for myself for ages, so it's really nice to feel this inspired to do so. I appreciate that in terms of exercise, this involves me moving from my sofa to my computer for the next few weeks, but at least I won't be snacking - baby steps (as in incremental progress, not as in tiny children performing a cover of 'Tragedy').

In order to help share the nice warm feeling of inspired celebration that's within me right now, I thought it would be nice to run a little competition. I'll be giving away a signed print of the portrait to one lucky person who correctly guesses who I intend to draw. Leave your answer in the comments box below - you don't need to be signed in to leave a comment, but please ensure you give a name so that I can uniquely identify you.

Terms and conditions apply - in summary these allow me to do what the hell I like with this competition, so don't get stroppy and stuff. Feel free to offer bribes to help increase your chances, although blackmail is strictly forbidden. And in the spirit of unity and equality, so is whitemail.

It'll take me a few weeks to complete this piece, so entries are open until either it's a) finished or b) I accidentally reveal who I'm drawing in another blog post or tweet and ruin the whole thing.

The only real rule is that it's one entry per person, although if you can be bothered to set up fake email addresses to get round this, good on you.

If there is more than one correct guess, I'll draw a winner at random (as in picking a name from a hat, not as in going into a state of trance and drawing the ethereal face I see hazily floating in front of me).

The only clue I'll give at this stage is that the person I'm drawing was a star of the games and is definitely either male or female - i.e. not one of those big shot putting or weightlifting people from China who look like they have both sets of tackle (and probably also a healthy dose of swine in their family tree).

So, best of luck if you want to take part. Feel free to ask me any questions, just so long as they don't turn this into a game of Olympic 'Guess Who?' with ones like, "does she wear a hat?", or "does he have a greasy comb-over that makes him look like he's overly fond of school children?". Cheers.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Down under the medals table

I've written somewhere in the region of a dozen blog posts now. I say 'written', but it's more a case of dictating some general thoughts to a young Filipino boy, as I relax on a chaise lounge sipping gin, who then collates my ideas into some kind of coherent script.

It's quite fascinating to see exactly how many people from each country have tuned in. The UK is of course where the bulk of you guys are from, but I also have many readers in the US, France, Germany, India and even one person from the Philippines, [probably your mum, Pedro].

But at the time of writing, I have yet to receive even an accidental view from anyone in Australia. I know my blog has, up until now been a bit light on wallabies and boomerangs, but the complete absence of an antipodean audience still surprises me a bit. Most of the traffic to here is from my twitter account, and I have quite a few followers from Down Under.

Not to worry though, because today's post has an Aussie flavour (as in content, not as in the peculiar aftertaste of washing witchetty grubs down with a tin of Fosters).

I've spent an inordinate amount of time checking the Olympics medal table this week. It fills me with pride, excitement and also a sense of bewilderment at just how well Team GB has done. Third place, behind the USA and China is truly astonishing. Realistically, no one else can compete with those two superpowers, so third is basically first of the other nations.

After checking how Great Britain is doing, I next find my eyes scanning down the table to find out where the Australians are. I must admit to feeling a sense smugness at just how far down my eyes need to gaze before I see them down there, in 10th place at the time of writing. I genuinely didn't know why I felt this way, so decided to have a few moments of introspection to see if I could get to the bottom of it.

Aside from former Australian cricket captain Ricky Ponting, who is one of the very few people in the world I just don't like (although even then, I can appreciate his skill as a superb batsman), I'm a big fan of Australian sportsmen. I alway cheer on Mark Webber in the Formula 1 (who seems like a genuinely decent bloke) and although I'm not a fan of his personal grooming, Shane Warne was always a phenomenal talent to watch.

I guess it's just a classic case of a country that has previously done exceptionally well at most sports (and made sure that the rest of the world was aware of this), gradually being brought down to earth.

I had a bit of banter with an Australian guy on twitter whose only riposte to the current state of Aussie sport was a particularly lame mention of their performance at previous games (Atlanta and Sydney if I remember correctly). Believe me mate, as a country Britain knows all about living on past glories, don't fall into that trap! The time is now, and right at this moment you're not (by your previous high standards that you've happily boasted about), so good.

Of course, all things go in cycles and I'm sure in future years, the inherent grit and determination in the Australian psyche will propel them back towards the pinnacle of sporting excellence. And it wouldn't surprise me if London 2012 was the greatest British sporting achievement in my lifetime and never again will we be in such a lofty position.

But I think that in Britain we are fairly used to the highs and lows across a range of sports that will serve us well moving forward. Although we've been envious of countries like Australia and are now thrilled to be where we are, I don't think we'll rely on this sporting achievement to define us in quite the same way.

I guess overall the key is to enjoy the success of the moment wholeheartedly, but do so in a dignified way. Then when the golden shine passes, at least people like me won't be waving at you languishing in the lower reaches of the medals table.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Dinner (or lunch) of doooom!

I am very fortunate to have two lovely girl-friends (as in 'girls that are friends' rather than 'girlfriends', who hog the duvet and comment on your personal hygiene). They bake me cakes and buy me ice-creams which is pretty much all it takes for me to love them dearly.

I'm not sure about the whole etiquette of revealing people's identities in a blog, so I've decided to give them code names. Actually, neither minds me using their real names, but come on, who doesn't like the fun and mystery of a code name!?

So, let me introduce you to Keira Husky (as in 'lover of wolves-pretending-to-be-dogs', not as in '40-a-day smoker with a gravelly voice') and Jessica Cupcake (as in, erm, yes the sponge cake with a tasty frosting on the top).

They're both young, beautiful and intelligent ladies who, during a misguided lapse in personal judgement, let me into their lives. Jess is also known to Keira and I as 'Jessington', the shortened version of her full title, 'Jessington World of Adventures' (a name so commonly typed that it is firmly established in my auto-correct dictionary). I'm trying to come up with something similar for Keira that ties in with Alton Towers or Legoland, but alas I've yet to manage it.

As a motley trio, we get up to all kinds of japes and adventures. Sort of. We mainly discuss them whilst eating nice food or drinking cups of tea, rather than actually carrying them out. Either way, it's so nice to have really good pals who I can share my time and thoughts with, without them needing to be physically restrained.

Three may be considered a crowd by some, but for some reason, we all click and get on really well. But, just last week it came to light that we actually have a serious disagreement on something. After many hours of late night phone calls and deep discussions, we have just about managed to patch things up, but I can sense tensions are still bubbling beneath the surface.

So, in the hope that you and your friends don't have to suffer the same trauma as our previously happy gang did, I thought I'd share this bone of contention with you. Then, should it ever rear its ugly head in a conversation, you can quickly change the subject and hopefully still live happily ever after.

In the name of entertainment, I'm going to dramatise events just a touch. It may help you to imagine the following as an American tv-style reconstruction. I've blown the budget on hiring Tom Cruise to play me, so the girls are represented by Bella Emberg and Thora Hird (yeah, I know she's dead, but great value for money).

So we're sat in a local Indian restaurant, enjoying their amazingly good value all-you-can-eat buffet. They serve a really good selection actual Indian food, rather that just curry. Three courses for £9 is an exceptional deal for a greedy fatso like Tom Cruise who was seen piling his plate on many different occasions (in between stopping for autographs and talking to random fans on mobile phones like he always seems to do at movie premieres these days).

It had been a little while since we'd seen each other, so we were busy catching up with what we'd been up to. This usually involves lots of exciting adventures and achievements from the ladies, whilst I curse my atrocious memory and make stuff up so as to appear nearly adequate. But then it happened. What meal were we actually eating? I said dinner. The girls insisted in was lunch.

Sure I agreed, lunch is another name for it, but to me it's dinner. At school, we had 'dinner hour' and 'dinner ladies' - no mention of lunch.

But what then to call one's main evening meal? Jess & Keira insisted that was actually dinner. But I always call that tea!

No, they protested! Tea involves dainty sandwiches, scones and cake etc. I said that's only the case if it's preceded by 'afternoon'.

The only meals we could agree on were breakfast and supper. But despite this concord, the girls were angry and started to thrash their fists on the table and throw their cutlery to the floor. There was the sound of breaking glass as the restaurant fell silent. Somewhere a baby cried.

Luckily, Tom Cruise managed to calm everything down with his winning smile and a quick sermon on Scientology. Having agreed to disagree, we then moved onto pudding. Or is it dessert? Or afters?

Here's a picture of Jess and Keira. Hard to imagine how in just the blink of an eye, these lovelies can turn from rational, intelligent people to enraged wildebeests with such deranged views on meal names.

Feel free to post your views on this in the comments below (but remember that I can delete them, so you'd best agree with me).

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Blog brothers

So, two weeks into it and I'm really enjoying the whole blogging thing.

I now understand why it's so popular. The chance to air and share your views with the world, to hopefully help, entertain, stimulate and inspire, is a powerful draw. I know blogging has been going on for ages and I'm really late to this party, but better late than never (and I brought a bottle! Of Tippex!).

Having said this, I feel at the grand old age of two weeks, it's time for to have a baby sibling! As my many pages of scribbled notes will testify, I still have a ton of ideas for posts about photography and art. However, look among the spidery scrawl, and you will see ideas for posts about a range of other ideas.

So, I've decided to create as a mouthpiece for posts on all subjects other than art and photography. But everything else is up for consideration. By 'everything else' I probably mainly mean cakes, cricket and string theory (just how long is it?), but the fun part is seeing how it actually develops.

I could easily write a post everyday if that was all I had to do. Alas, in order to feed my blog-children with the electricity they need to function, I have to perform my paid duties as an office chimpanzee (or 'chimpanzed' if you prefer the English pronunciation). This sees me randomly typing on a keyboard whilst hoping nothing breaks and no one dies. Inevitably one's mind is left jaded from extended periods in the office zoo, so blogging is often going to be more intermittent than I would like, but please know that I'm always thinking of you.

Thanks so much to everyone who has taken the time to read and comment on what I've written so far.

*hugs you all*

*realises I forgot to tell you I've just been chucking my own excrement around my cage*

*shares out hand sanitiser*