Sunday, 30 September 2012

My big day out! (part 2 of 3 or 4 or thereabouts) - The Tempest

Hello, and welcome to episode two of 'Toby and Keira Ponce Around London'. Before reading this, you really ought to read part one here, or just be aware that we had successfully navigated London's subterranean minefield and had just broken through to what should have been daylight...

After leaving the cosy surroundings of Tower Hill tube station, we were faced with the harsh reality of a wet and windy day on London's surface. The imposing features of the Tower of London greeted us and the howling ghosts of the condemned men and women who spent their last days on this earth there, were shrieking on the wind. Or, it could have just been the complaints voiced by my hungry belly. Either way, it was extremely frightening.

We scurried past the Tower and headed towards Tower Bridge. With each footstep that took us closer to the Thames, the intensity of the wind and rain increased proportionately. The conditions were so abysmal, it was hard to see more than a few feet in front of our faces. We then had a fright as one of the Tower of London's famous residents landed beside us. No, not a beefeater, but a raven. Although closer inspection revealed that this may have actually been a dark coloured pigeon.

Either way, it was an eerie omen as we headed towards the violent maelstrom that had engulfed the middle of the bridge. Many tourists were turning back, deciding against making the trip across the raging Thames.

Children were crying as their worried parents clutched them close as they desperately looked for shelter that was, alas, non-existent.

A man holding a golfing umbrella was whisked up into the air and was last seen being buffeted towards the sea.

There was a loud crack! Thunder? No, the top of The Shard had been snapped clean off! Although, later we realised it had actually just been obscured by low cloud.

I contemplated turning back round and calling the whole day a write-off. All the signs were telling us not to continue. But being both brave and in need of a wee, the only choice was to head in One Direction (<--- a little bit of search engine optimisation there) - forwards.

For the first time in the three years I'd owned it, I unravelled the hood that was usually concealed in the collar of my coat, knowing full well that I'd never get it back into quite the same condition again. If that doesn't tell you just how bad the conditions were, I don't know what will.

Whilst I was clutching the hood over my rain lashed head, my companion, Keira Husky, had use of my umbrella. You may think that lending it to her was an incredibly gentlemanly thing of me to do. But having seen what happened to the man with the golfing umbrella, it was actually far from gallant and just a matter of self-preservation.

With great strength and skill, Keira managed to wrestle with the writhing brolly like an angry king cobra. Despite its best efforts to whisk her away, she managed to keep her feet on the ground. Several bystanders lost an eye or two in the struggle, but the important thing was, we finally reached the south bank of the river in one piece.

Despite wearing my glasses, the rain still managed to seep into my eyes causing them to sting. Thankfully a couple of kindly souls stopped to let us cross the road as we'd wandered straight past the stairs that led down underneath the bridge to safety.

Eventually we were heading along the little cobbled road of Shad Thames that offered some merciful shelter from the wind. We stopped in an alcove to get our bearings and looked at one another. Nobody else would ever understand what we'd been through to get here. Our lives would never be quite the same again. We had a bond the like of which only soldiers who have fought alongside one another in battle could possibly know.

Keira's once sparkly ballet pumps, had now become dull and extremely squelchy. The only options my glasses offered me were wet, or smeary. Together, we crawled the final few metres towards the Design Museum. In the words of my friend Tom Tom, we had reached our destination.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

My big day out! Part 1 of 2 (but could be 3, who knows?) - The Journey

Last night I was walking across Tower Bridge when, like an over excited teenager in gym class, it suddenly started to rise. I actually felt quite emotional, such was the spectacular sight of road and pavement soaring gracefully into the air, when just minutes before, pedestrians and traffic and been trundling over it. It was a marvellous feat of engineering to witness.

They say that if you're on Tower Bridge at the moment it is raised, you should make a wish as it will surely come true. I might have wished to have one of the best evenings of my life ever, if I hadn't already just had it. So instead, I wished to be on the other other side of the bridge and just minutes later, I was! If that's not proof enough for you sceptics who don't believe in such miracles, I don't know what is.

But let's take a step back, before all of the merriment, to the start of the day. My feelings then were very different. I was a mixture of nerves, excitement, apprehension and wonder. I was headed to London to attend a private viewing of an exhibition where one of my photographs was being displayed.

I wrote a post about this a few weeks ago, so you might like to check it out here out before continuing. Although that might be a bit of an effort, so in summary, I entered a competition organised by Pentax and my photo was shortlisted as a winner. An exhibition of mine and 29 other pictures were on display at the Design Museum, which is situated close to the aforementioned magical bridge in London. As well as the photographers, guests, PR people and Pentax representatives, the event would also be attended by Radio 1 DJ and all round cool hipster Reggie Yates and Girls Aloud performer Sarah Harding.

Having never been to anything like this before, I had no idea what to expect and whether it would be my cup of tea. I'm really not a fan of 'poncey' and was concerned that this could be an occasion full of trendy folks looking for the deeper meaning and symbolism behind a photograph of a fried breakfast.

One comforting fact was that I wouldn't be facing this ordeal alone. It had been such a difficult decision of which of my two best friends, Jessington Cupcake or Keira Husky, was to be my plus one (more details about them can be found in this earlier post).

Being mature adults, they settled this amicably between themselves by engaging in a series of hair pulling, scratching and all round fighting that would have put the Hunger Games to shame. It was Keira Husky who finally proved victorious and would be my companion for the afternoon. In a state of giddy excitement, we set off on a lunchtime train to London!

I'd never traveled at this time before, and expected it to be really quiet. Surely a Friday afternoon would see people trying to escape the capital for the weekend, not heading towards it. With this mindset, I graciously let an old man with a walking stick onto the train ahead of us. After initially hobbling, he suddenly showed a great turn of speed to grab the only free seat within sight.

Thankfully, much further on down the carriage we managed to find the last vacant seats on the train. It was a group of four with a table and we were quickly joined by what turned out to be a journalist and a mad woman who kept talking to herself and sniggering whilst playing games on her phone. A journey on public transport just wouldn't be the same without the company of a lunatic!

The train was rammed full, with many people standing for the entire journey. The drink and snacks trolley couldn't move because of the congested gangway and was stuck right by us. I was tempted to pinch a packet of biscuits that were winking at me, but to do so, I would have had to lean across the giggling mad woman and was worried she might bite me.

It's a good job I didn't need the toilet because there was no way of making it through the crowd. If I'd had to go, things would have got very messy. Although me soiling myself may well have delighted Mrs Mental as she'd probably have thought she'd finally found her equally troubled soul mate.

The weather deteriorated, and as we arrived in London, it was horribly wet and windy. I hoped it might ease off by the time we left cover, which was still some time off as we had to go subterranean and head towards Tower Hill tube station.

Our underground journey was complicated by a fire at Embankment which meant no trains would stop there. So instead we had to head in the opposite diretion to Westminster before resuming our journey east. I was pleased that I'd built in some contingency time into our journey to allow for such an occurrence.

What I hadn't planned for was our experience on the District line. The tube train was mainly packed but we spotted one carriage that was nearly empty. Thrilled at being able to sit down and not being put in that awkward situation where there is mass personal space invasion as you practically climb aboard the shoulders of your fellow travellers, we gleefully hopped on and sunk into our seats.

About two seconds later, it became apparent just why this carriage was empty. An ample Indian gentleman was sat a few seats up from us. He seemed very relaxed and had his arms spread out across the top of the two seats next to him. This had the unfortunate side affect of sharing what can only be described as his 'gargantuan stink' with the rest of us. Boy oh boy it was awful. His body still seemed to be trying to sweat out a hearty meal he'd eaten several years previously.

Now, being one myself, I'm fairly used to dealing with the odour generated by smelly old men. Dear Keira however was finding it increasing difficult not to gag. At first I thought she was joking, but the stench combined with the rocking motion of the train started to make her genuinely look like she was going to be ill. So, despite being a very un-British thing to do, we headed up the carriage away from this filthy behemoth, trying to take emergency breaths of deodorant and aftershave from the cleaner passengers along the way.

We finally arrived at Tower Hill, but was then engulfed by a sea of foreign students, whom it would appear had not come to see the Tower of London, but instead found it more entertaining to congregate in large numbers on the staircase and in front of the exit to the station.

With sharp elbows, we bowled through this loud, unruly group and finally broke free of cover, out into the fresh air! But suddenly we were faced with an even more almighty enemy than the bubble gum chewing, gibber jabbering Italian kids. The weather was even worse than when we had first arrived...

Would we make it to our destination? Or would wait, you know that we obviously do make it because of the introduction to this post. But it was bloody hard! Tune in to part two to find out how we somehow managed to survive a howling gale and the adventures we had once at the exhibition.  

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Problems be gone; it's Uncle Toby time!

Some heroes slip off into phone boxes to change into a bedazzling costume before helping to save the world. Not me though. Once again I'm donning my comfy knitwear with a vile pattern. I may not be able to fly, look through walls or dress myself without help, but that's not to say I'm no less capable of saving YOUR life.

That's right folks, tonight sees the return of Uncle Toby, ready to listen to YOUR problems and giving YOU sound and sensible advice to see YOU out of your hellish predicament. 

If your haven't experienced Uncle Toby before, you're probably either stupid or on the list of people I'm not allowed to be within 50m of. Check out some of his previous wisdom here..

Without further ado, here are today's problemees:

Nick from London writes:

Dear Uncle Toby,

Two and a half years ago, everything was going so well for me. I had enjoyed a meteoric rise in popularity, not long after having achieved the highest rank in my organisation. But almost overnight this came to an abrupt end.

I entered into a relationship with a guy named David because I thought it would help my career. Despite our very different backgrounds and some reservations, I thought that somehow it was the right thing to do. He promised me earth and said he was committed to being my partner for at least the next five years.

Despite bending over backwards to accommodate his needs (quite literally - he'd obviously learned a thing or two from his time at Eton), he soon changed from the man I thought I'd hooked up with.

Despite appearing as charming to the outside world, behind the doors of our London town house, he was a violent bully and would make me do things I had PLEDGED never to do.

I have lost all self respect and my popularity has never been so low. Please tell me what to do!

Thanks for getting in touch Nick.

Obviously you are in quite a predicament. It's not easy to know how to tell you this, but it's only fair that I be completely honest with you: you only have yourself to blame.

You danced with the devil and he rogered you violently from behind with his dirty great trident. That is a well known risk of dancing with a lord of darkness.

You've obviously hurt a lot of people and let your friends and supporters down badly. Will you ever recover from this? Possibly not. But you do have a chance to do the decent thing and apologise before walking away with your head held high (assuming you CAN still walk after all that time on your knees).

Just one final tip - issue the apology in the form of a letter. If you upload it as a video to YouTube, it could be edited into a song and then no one will be able to take it seriously.

Okay, here's the next troubled soul, Justin from Bristol:

Alright? So I was with this woman right. And to begin with everything was all a-maze-in and good times, but then she started flippin out cos I wanted her to write down every luvver she'd ever had in a note book. When she never did, I pushed her in front of a car, AS A JOKE, but she takes it all serious like and gets the police involved. Now I'm in court and being charged with assault and that. What should I do?

Thanks Justin. Hmm, well, as this is in the hands of the court, I have to be very careful what I say.

It sounds to me like you may be suffering with VSMS or 'very strange man syndrome' as it is properly known. Symptoms include excessive hair growth (on both the head and face) and the continued use of a very strong regional accent, even though you've not lived in your place of birth for many years. Some scientists have suggested that the condition is exacerbated by spending too much time with bespectacled gay men, but these studies have yet to be substantiated.

There is no known cure at this time, but symptoms can be reduced by getting a smart hair cut, talking properly and not pushing your loved ones into traffic.

If that fails, then the only other way out is a late night walk along Clifton suspension bridge at high tide.

Good luck!

And finally tonight, here's one from K in Inverness:

Dear Uncle Toby,

I find myself getting angry and aggressive towards people for no real reason. I always regret doing it, but can't seem to control myself much of the time. Everything starts off fine but soon I lose my patience and JUST FUCKING ANSWER ME ALREADY WILL YOU?

Hi K, thanks for your email.

Okay, I sense there is tension and anger deep inside you. You need to try to get to the bottom of what has caused this. Be kind to yourself and let it bubble to the surface in a gentle and non judgmental way. Oh and a rollicking great orgasm would help too, but you're probably frigid.

And that's it for this evening folks. Remember, you can always email me your problems, no matter how big or small. As you can see, I will handle them delicacy and care.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Weight a minute

As the wise and learned regular readers of my blog will know, I decided a few weeks ago that it was time to terminate the baby that Mr Kipling had deposited inside my belly and get, if not properly fit, at least a bit more comfortable within myself. Here's another progress report for you about how it's going.

My dear and lovely mother said to me the other day that she thought I had lost some weight. By 'weight' she could well mean general standing and influence in the community, but I think she actually meant it in relation to my portly girth.

Now, the reason for her saying this will either be because:

a) she knows that's what I've been trying to do. So being the kindly soul that she is, she's telling me what she thinks it is I want to hear, whilst privately weeping about how I will never present her with a grandchild while I remain this large. (Hmm, a lot of 'she' in that sentence there. Oh look, here come some more).


b) she genuinely thinks that I have lost weight. Whilst on the surface she pretends this is great, inside she'll be worrying that I'm wasting away and will start baking me lots of cakes and pies.

But in truth, I really do feel like I am making good progress in the right direction to get in shape. I have deliberately stayed away from monitoring the situation with weights and measures because I know I'd get obsessed with them and the roller-coaster of emotions they'd trigger.

I have no hard facts to present to you as evidence of my stoic adherence to a way of life that now excludes the second, third and fourth helpings I would have at one time shovelled down my gizzard.

So instead, I have to rely on other, more wooly indicators. These are far less tangible, but they still provide me with encouragement and hope.

I thought I'd share a few of the things I've noticed that have changed since I've started eating a bit less and doing a bit more. Who knows whether they're all related to my new regime, but I think in all likelihood they are:

* previously when I used to walk along, I felt like a cow who had reared up onto her hind legs and was strolling along with very full udders that were swinging from side to side (not sure where the teats came from mind). But now I feel like someone has given me a jolly good milking and there is far less udder / belly sway during movement.

* my trousers keep trying to fall down! Honestly officer, it happened all of its own accord. Yes I know it was an unfortunate coincidence to be walking past a 6th form college at the time. No, it's always that shape. Yes, it is cold today.

* I now get full half-way through a meal. This has honestly never happened to me before! I usually manage to last right until the end and then come back for seconds straight away. So embarrassing.

* I've somehow mastered the art of taking tea and cake without the cake! I know this sounds abhorrent, but a cup of tea by itself is actually really nice. I've started to appreciate the flavour of it much more. Plus, it can actually be quite filling in an odd way.

* I've learned that eating healthy food has an interesting effect on one's bowels. Who knew that filling up on fruit and nuts (note: not Fruit and Nut) could actually power you to blow your entire duvet clean out the window. And by 'clean' I really mean, oh never mind. Was particularly proud of a late night [insert polite word for fart] that sounded exactly like the noise they play when someone gets an answer wrong on Family Fortunes. Epic.

* no one has given their seat up for me on the bus in ages now. Although that could just be because of a moral breakdown in society, rather than people no longer thinking that I'm expecting.

One insight I have had from reducing calorific input, is just how much my excess eating had been emotionally based. I know that comfort eating is a well known phenomenon, and I would do my fair share of this. But actually, more often I would have a feast to celebrate feeling well and happy. Either way though, the end result is the same.

I am aware that my feelings of good progress could all just be clever trickery on the part of my subconscious. My cunning mind might be trying to convince me that all is fine now, so I can stop this reduced eating nonsense - "ooh, looking good Mr Skeletor, now stop this charade and feed me with cake again".

But I will persevere because I HAVE THE POWER!!! *holds baguette aloft like a sword*

And if you've never watched He-Man, you'll be thinking I'm mentally disturbed right about now. But really, we both know you're the one who has missed out.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Dear Uncle Toby...

Hi guys,

I’d like you to take a minute to picture the scene.

I’m sat in an armchair next to a log fire (obviously in a room in a house and everything, not just randomly outside).

I’m wearing a knitted sweater with a lovely (or ‘ghastly’ as the non visually impaired among you might say) pattern on it and corduroy trousers. In my hand I have a notebook and on my face is a caring and empathetic expression that says I’m ready to listen to you [points at you].

Oh look, opposite me is a really comfortable sofa. Between us is small table with tea (or coffee or hot chocolate or warmed Vimto or whatever your favourite comforting beverage is) and biscuits on.

The person you're visualising right now is me, Agony Uncle Toby and you are here in my Cosy Safe Space where you are free to express yourself anonymously and without judgment. Come and have a sit down and a drink and tell me all of your problems.

Whether you choose to listen to my advice is up to you, but to be honest, you’d be a fool not to. And frankly, you’d also be downright rude after taking up my time like that and scoffing all of my biscuits.

So just relax, get it all off your chest and then do whatever I say.

Tonight’s first request for help comes from ‘L’ in Middle Earth:

Dear Uncle Toby,

I have a ring dilemma. Not as bad as those crazy kids in Mordor but when my ex and I split up we gave everything back to each other including gifts.  One of the items he returned was a ring I'd bought him for our first anniversary. I've kept it and he now wants it back.  Should I keep it or return it?

Please help me because you’re awesome,
Love L xx

Well L, this is a tricky one. One of the main reasons it is so difficult is because you’ve mentioned the word ‘ring’. In order to retain my professional integrity, I’m going to have to refrain from making any jokes about bums here and, to be completely open with you about this, I find that really hard.

Anally way Anyway, you had a very clear agreement where you returned all of your gifts back to one another. Why do you think it is that he’s suddenly changed his mind about this?

Is it because he has met someone else and wants to give them a present but is just too tight to buy one properly?

Is it because he’s been seduced by a Cash 4 Gold advert?

Or is it because he’s had a change of heart and wants to get back together with you?

Freud would tell us that, despite having become synonymous with the anus, the ring is actually a symbol of the vagina. He wants that ring back. YOUR ring back. And he wants to slip it on his finger. His FINGER!

Are you getting where I’m going with this?

Basically, if you give the ring back, you might as well bend over (or lie back with your legs open - whatever you prefer) and say, “yoo hoo, come and get it big boy”.

Agree to his demand and you will be giving back far more than a shaped-metal fanny symbol.

I suspect this news will either thoroughly delight or repulse you, depending on your view.

Personally I’d tell him to go screw himself. And, because the ring is obviously cursed, you’d best send it to me so I can dispose of it safely. *checks latest price of gold*

Okay, onto the next one:

Jordan from Jordan writes:

Dear Uncle Toby,

I’ve been going out with my beautiful girlfriend for almost a year. To celebrate this, she wants us to get matching tattoos. I do love her, but we’re both still very young. To be completely honest, I'm afraid of commitment and I'm genuinely terrified about getting such a permanent statement of my affection for her. I’m desperate not to lose her and yet somehow this doesn’t feel at all right. Please help me!

Awesome blog by the way,

Thanks Jordan, yeah it’s great, isn’t it.

Now it’s clear that you’ve got hung up on the ‘T’ word. You seem to be equating a tattoo with an engagement ring and in reality, they’re not at all the same. Who can say how your relationship will work out, but it sounds like you’re definitely very fond of her, so maybe after 12 months together, having something like this done would be good for you as well as her.

The key is to completely re-frame the proposition in your mind. Don't think of it as a 'tattoo'. Instead, think of it as a 'golden ticket to a thousand blow jobs'.

Every time you fancy it from now on, even when your girlfriend has a headache or is in that mood that is so bad it makes her bleed, just tap the tattoo and she'll have to consent to whatever you want (and yes, it does cover even that).

If at the end of the day it doesn't work out, tattoos are easily removed with laser guns. Honestly mate, this is priceless, you can't lose.

Okay, time for just one last cry for help in tonight’s episode...

G from ‘close by’ asks:

Dear Uncle Toby,

I’m really concerned that my son is becoming increasingly withdrawn. He doesn’t have a girlfriend and hardly ever even goes out. He’s 38 and by now I had hoped to have some grandchildren, but all he ever does is ‘blog’ or draw pictures on his computer. I suspect these are just cover stories and he’s actually masturbating over pictures of goats. Please advise.

Great blog and pictures by the way, oh and your tea's nearly ready.
Love G xx

Well G, you made some life big life choices when you decided to keep this one and not offer him up for adoption. Maybe if you put in a little bit of effort to try and understand why he is like he is, you wouldn’t be quite so hard on him all of the time.

As with any relationship, communication is the key. But in this case, ultimately, I blame the parents.

So there we are folks, I hope you’ve found some of this helpful. If nothing else, I think we’ve learned that a problem shared with me is a problem that has been told to "jog on matey, because I've just got my life back".

If you’d like to have any of your problems totally solved, just email me and I’ll include them in a future post.

Thanks for tuning in and remember, don’t have nightmares. But if you do, share them with me, because I also know what your dreams mean.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Sweet retweets

I have a confession to make - I have never understood why, when it is someone's birthday, we often say to them, "many happy returns!". Nobody else seems to have a problem with it, but to me it doesn’t really make sense.

I looked up this phrase in a dictionary, and all it gave as a definition was, "just something that people say to others on their birthday, but nobody even knows why lol". This was the same dictionary that had removed the word "gullible" from its pages mind you.

Nevertheless, when it comes to that special day when we celebrate the fact that x number of years ago, you caused your mother unspeakable pain before slithering out of her distended vagina, I still say this confusing phrase to people. But when I do, it's always slightly hesitant in case they reply with, "excuse me, but what does that even mean?"

The only explanation I'd be able to give is, "Erm, well, yeah, obviously by 'many happy returns', I mean that your presents all look pretty rubbish, so I hope you really enjoy returning them for something better. Here's the receipt for my gift by the way. Yeah I know, but it looks more expensive, right?"

This morning I tweeted something to this effect (though obviously it was much more condensed thanks to the 140 character limit). I was thrilled that it got a couple of retweets.

For those of you that aren't familiar with Twitter (here I'm thinking of you mum, and also the person who has accidentally ended up on my blog because the Toby King they googled was the Panamanian reggae singer and not the renowned artist, photographer and blogger who’s a bit up himself), a retweet or 'RT' as it's known in the world of Twitter where every unabbreviated word takes up precious space, is where somebody reads a tweet and likes it so much, they consequently decide to share it with their followers so they might enjoy it too.

Some people can get really quite obsessed with getting RTs off of others. The tacit approval they represent can prove quite addictive. For me it's especially true when you tweet something that could be deemed as rather obscure like my many happy returns joke. I get quite a a euphoric and reassured feeling when it turns out that other people might be on the same wavelength as me. Maybe I’m not quite such a freak after all!

If you post something that you think is funny, but it gets no RTs or any other responses at all, it kind of feels like you've made a joke in a crowded room but the only response is deathly silence (and probably an embarrassed cough, some awkward shuffling and the distant sound of a mewling infant).

So conversely, when it seems to resonate with other people too, it's like your head fills with canned laughter and you feel accepted and validated somehow.

Although they are nice and often genuinely warm my heart, over the years I have learned not to get too hung up on RTs or the absence of them. I know from my own experience of reading tweets, sometimes you see something you enjoy and it may even make you laugh, but still you don't RT it.

There can be several reasons for this. Sometimes my attention has already been grabbed by the next tweet, or I've already RTd lots of other people in a short time and feel like I've done my duty for a while. Sometimes I've lost signal on my phone or had to put it away abruptly as somebody else needs to use this toilet cubicle. And there are even times when I decide something is far too funny for its own good so there's no way I'm going to share that because I'm cross I didn't think of it myself.

Despite being aware of these and many other reasons why people haven’t shared our jokes, we still appear to think that we have developed super-powered magical abilities where we know exactly what other people are thinking about us!

If we get a RT, people think we’re super cool! If we don’t, everyone hates us! We build this false image in our head of how we think we are perceived by others which is always bound to be warped and fall short of the truth.

More than once I’ve tweeted something that I thought was hilarious but didn’t get a single response. So I ended up thinking to myself, actually yeah, that was pretty lame. But then, a while later a couple of people did RT it after all. Suddenly my mindset has changed as I then think to myself, actually I knew it was funny. I can be such a fickle, insecure so and so.

In summary, although no response to a tweet can sometimes feel like a deathly silence, its still likely that is was actually enjoyed nonetheless. And if it wasn’t, who cares? It’s only flipping Twitter!

Now, contrary to the above, sometimes a RT is quite the opposite of a sign that it was approved of and enjoyed. Some people, especially one of my followers in particular, will RT something and often follow it up with a disparaging comment.

Generally I've got no problem with this, especially when someone has expressed what to you seems to be a ridiculous, extreme view. A RT can be the easiest way to highlight it and say, "crikey, look what this wazzock has just said!"

But it does seem almost cowardly if you consistently do so, without then also addressing your concerns to the original tweeter. Mocking someone whilst trying to remain anonymous is just snide (and consequently my nickname for the person who does this bitching from the safety of their own tweets is Snidey Sniderson - one more to add to the list in my previous post - which incidentally, I’m still not going to reveal the identities of, so don’t ask).

Ultimately, as with anything in life, it's the process of actually doing it, of coming up with a humorous tweet that should be enjoyed, not any plaudits that may follow it (however much they might stroke one’s ego).

Having said that, now all that remains for you to do (except for you mum and the reggae fan) is RT this post because you enjoyed it so much!


Hello? Hello!?

*taps screen*

Pah! Seriously? Screw you guys. 

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Twype Casting

If you're a football fan, you'll no doubt know who the late, great Sir Bobby Robson was. For those of you who don't know him (probably the women and poofters among you), he was a legendary football manager and all round thoroughly nice chap. But he was also famous for forgetting and muddling people's names. This wasn't any sign of dementia, it was something that he'd done throughout his life.

One time, a reporter asked one of his players called Shola Ameobi, what Sir Bobby called him - an interesting question to address to someone with an unusual name given Sir Bobby's propensity for mispronouncing them. Ameobi's slightly sheepish reply was "Carl Cort" (another player from his squad).

I often feel that I myself suffer from a bit of Bobby Robson Name Syndrome. It usually takes a good half dozen encounters before I get it fixed in my head what to call someone. By the end of a phone conversation, I've often forgotten who it is I'm talking to. If you're called Rachael, it's highly probably I'll call you Rebeca and vice versa. It's nothing personal of course, just that my brain doesn't seem to be wired up correctly in the naming department.

It's bad enough in the real world, but social media has opened up a whole new area of confusion for me. I love using Twitter, but sometimes find it all a bit overwhelming. Every few seconds a new message will crop up in my timeline and it can be really hard to keep track of what's going on. I follow over 2000 people, which added to the fact that I'm a bit slow and forgetful anyway, makes it nearly impossible to remember who everyone is.

Unlike on Facebook where I tend to actually know the majority of my friends there (although 'friends' is pushing it a bit - it’s more people that I just can't seem to shake off), most of my Twitter followers are, or at least start off as, total strangers. So I haven't even got past shared experiences to help jog my memory of who is who.

Added to this, people are also prone to regularly change their profile pictures and, in some cases, even their usernames. This often throws me completely and I'll end up trying to carrying on a conversation with someone that I've never spoken to before.

So what does a feeble minded man do to try and navigate this minefield in order to avoid making 'beaucoup de name related faux pas?'

Twitter nicknames of course! Or ‘Twicknames’ as they shall be known because it is Twitter law to prefix anything Twitter related with a ‘t’ and a ‘w’ (let’s hope there is never a Twitter hat project).

To explain: there are certain people on Twitter who I end up giving my own little name or more accurately, description to. I find this helps me keep track much more easily than relying on usernames and photos alone. This isn't something I've done deliberately, just something that over time, my mind conjured up all by itself to help me out.

So I thought it might be fun to list a few of them here. Maybe you'll recognise yourself or someone else! But don't bother to ask me as I'm not going to identify who any of them are - that's just between me and my brain.

I apologise in advance if this makes anyone feel paranoid, but your mental well being is not as important as my fun and games, so stop reading if you think you could get huffy. The chances are you're not in the list (but don't get huffy if you think I've missed you out either).

Some Twicknames / Twescriptions

The one with the face like a Victorian doll - she's pretty but her face does look like it could be made of porcelain. Suspect her eyes shut automatically when you tip her backwards and she only comes to life at night, having spent the day on an old lady's bedside shelf.

The one who looks like she'd smell of cheese - hard to put your finger on why you think someone might smell of cheese, but she does look a bit whiffy. Quite greasy hair and wears the kind of clothes that look like they could well have Edam rind in the pockets.

The one whose cheeks I want to pinch - she has such a lovely, smiley face, kind of like a giant baby. If I knew her in real life, I wouldn't be able to resist tweaking her cheeks every time I saw her and would probably consequently be up on assault charges.

The one who's well meaning but stupid - thick but smiles a lot.

The one everyone else seems to find funny, but I think is a dick - honestly can't see his appeal. Painfully unfunny tweets, but everyone seems to love him. Suspect he's actually a bot and part of some kind of Twitter experiment to prove that most people are stupid.

The one who doesn't have a clue how beautiful she is - so many girls on Twitter seem to think they're inadequate in some way. Our current culture appears to have skewed what people regard as pretty or beautiful and this saddens me. This one especially has no need to feel anything but pride in her appearance. Could just be an attention seeker though.

The one who knows full well how beautiful she is - if you've got it, flaunt it I guess. Suspect she ALWAYS gets her own way.

The one who thinks she's way more beautiful than she really is - oh lordy, what are you doing? And never, ever post pictures like that again. Please never breed.

The one who looks beautiful in her thumbnail avi, but a right state when you see it full size - so deceptive, as illustrated by the example below:

The one who takes the most dreadful photos ever - oh they're just horrid. I'm all for people following & sharing a passion, but not if it makes my eyes bleed.

The one who comes across as very bigoted - looks like a pig too, so yes, naturally enough I call them 'pigot'.

The one who only seems to tweet me back once a month - Oi! I thought we were having a conversation! But no. Suspect they're on some kind of pay-as-you-go twitter scheme where each tweet costs them money, or a beloved pet.

The one who always seems to retweet my tweets - most likely my mum.

The one who is fat, bald, four-eyed and likes the sound the sound of his own tweets - actually a pretty amazing guy who writes a wonderful blog. Small penis.

So there we are. Ring any bells? Suspect you may recognise some of the characteristics from your own timeline as I’m sure many of these traits are quite common in Twitter land.

New ones of these keep cropping up, so suspect I may well do a follow up post at some point in the future.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Nine Eleven

Although this blog is predominantly meant as a hopefully humorous and lighthearted take on things, sometimes it does stray into darker areas (e.g. posts about dead dogs and religious indoctrination of our children).

Even when covering these more serious subjects, I still try to do so in a way that is hopefully thought provoking without being totally up myself.

Don't imagine for a minute that I actually know what I'm going to end up writing in each post though. I start each one with a general idea, but more than once it has turned into something completely different. I really love the spontaneity this gives and it makes writing each one much more enjoyable for me.

Today is one of those days where I intended to write about something (3D tv of all things) but have ended up skewing off course onto a different subject altogether before even getting started. Don't worry, the 3D tv post will no doubt be with you before long (just as soon as I can figure out how to make the letters all blurry so you can read the post itself in 3D - free sick bags and headache pills will be provided).

But just after getting started today, it suddenly occurred to me to share some thoughts on the tragedy that is 9/11. Possibly the darkest day the world has seen in my lifetime and not a subject to lace with humour.

Obviously this week was the eleventh anniversary of that horrific event. A day that set in motion a series of events that would cost the lives of many, many times the three thousand or so that perished on the day itself.

A couple of years ago, a colleague mentioned that he'd watched a video regarding the conspiracy theories that surround the 9/11 tragedy. My initial reaction was extremely dismissive of the whack jobs who would try and suggest such a thing.

I was guessing that these were the same people who claimed Elvis was still alive and man never walked on the moon.

But a few months later whilst feeling unwell and consequently very bored indeed, I decided to take a look at a few of these conspiracy videos on YouTube (because there are only so many clips of talking cats and helicopter mishaps that one can stand).

I was taken aback by much of what I watched. Although there were some cranks around, it also transpired that there are many level headed, intelligent and well balanced people who are convinced that 9/11 was 'an inside job'.

There are so many odd events surrounding that dreadful day which makes one ask serious questions. Questions which were completely overlooked or brushed over by the official commission set up to investigate what happened (many years after the event and after much reluctance and foot dragging by the Bush administration).

There appears to me to be clear evidence to suggest that the twin towers and more peculiarly, a smaller tower called WTC 7 which suffered no damage from the planes, were demolished with explosives rather than 'knocked over' by the impact of the jets.

In fact, there are some theories which cast doubt on whether some or all of the aeroplanes actually hit the buildings at all. At least not the three hijacked passenger jets (including the one that flew into the Pentagon) that did according to the official account.

There are a couple of instances which show George W Bush, some time after the tragedy, being interviewed about 9/11, specifically on where he was when he first heard about it (something that most people would remember clearly, such was the enormity of the news). He said on at least two separate occasions that whilst he was at a school waiting to give a speech, he had watched the first plane hit the tower on tv.

Of the two clips I saw where he described this, he made a 'joke' about how he'd first thought what a bad pilot it must have been to fly into a building like that (funny George, real funny).

But in actual fact, no footage of the first impact was broadcast on 9/11 itself - it only came to light in the following days. This isn't surprising given that nobody would have expected this event to have happened, so anyone who did film it, would only have done so by accident.

There is no way he could have seen what he said he saw on tv. For whatever reason, he isn't being truthful about when he first learned of the attacks.

In fact, the only 'live' broadcast of an impact on 9/11 was a long distance shot of the second plane hitting. And this appears to show a perfectly intact aeroplane momentarily fly successfully right through the tower itself, before going backwards again and exploding. The conspiracy theorists believe this showed that a hurriedly produced, poorly constructed fake was aired, rather than being a true record of what happened.

But what kind of motive would there be for this most dreadful of acts that is infinitely worse if it could be shown to be self-inflicted?

Maybe the business man who had recently bought the World Trade Centre complex for a few million dollars (it needed vast improvements and asbestos removal that would have cost him tens of millions of dollars more), who then altered the insurance to ensure that the previously exempt event of terrorist attacks were now covered, just weeks before the strike and consequently netted himself around $3 billion in profits.

Many also suggest that this attack supposedly by Osama Bin Laden's Al Qaida (who issued a statement shortly after the attack denying all knowledge and involvement) was a 'false flag' operation, where higher echelons of the US government attacked their own country, in order to create a false enemy. This gave them an outwardly legitimate reason to invade countries in the middle east (and secure the ownership of or favourable terms with the valuable oilfields there, whilst also keeping them away from other superpowers such as China, Russia and India).

There are many anomalies in the official version of events compared to what is easily obtainable for all to see. Having watched many hours of footage - both for and against the idea that 9/11 was not just a simple attack by terrorists - I believe the balance of evidence suggests that something far more sinister than first suspected happened that day.

I know it is upsetting, but if you can stomach it, I'd urge you to pop over to YouTube and search for "9/11 conspiracy theory documentaries" and spend a while watching some. This will allow you to come to your own conclusions.

This week in the UK, we've seen some damning evidence to show that the Hillsborough football tragedy was, whilst not deliberately planned, did suffer with a massive cover up from the authorities regarding their failings.

Obviously it's a completely different set of circumstances but it does show that those in authority will bend the facts and downright lie in order to protect themselves. In order to truly respect the unfortunate souls who lost their lives then and since, the truth really should be revealed.

Who knows whether this will ever happen? If you come to the same conclusion as me from having seen the alternative viewpoints, the deceit and lies will make you furious, terrified and deeply upset all at the same time. But surely it is better to know what some people are capable of, however upsetting that may be.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Let the truth speak for itself!

I think autumn (or 'fall' for my friends over the other side of the Atlantic that drive on the wrong side of the road, bless you), is one of my favourite times of year. It's greatly helped this year by the truly magnificent September weather that we're having. They call this an Indian summer, yet I still haven't seen any elephants which greatly disappoints.

Beautiful sunshine that is pleasantly warm but not too hot, is mixed with fresher mornings and evenings where the stars and planets twinkle in the clear dark skies. The only thing I'm not liking about it is a very lousy display by our apple tree who has managed to produced just a solitary fruit this year (and that dropped off way before reaching succulent maturity).

I've always loved this time of year, but when I was younger it was thoroughly spoilt by having to return to the bedlam of school after a lovely summer break. Even now the sights, smells and feelings that autumn evokes, trigger a rising panic in my belly. I suddenly fear that I've not bought a new pencil case or completed any summer homework assignments.

I've seen some dear, almost doll-like, tiny children these past couple of weeks, who I guess are in their very first year of education. They walk along carrying their little folders with a mixture of slight bewilderment and immense pride. It amazes me just how young they start their learning.

And it was this that reminded me about what I really want to blog about today - religion, or more specifically, religious education.

I've no idea what life in a primary school is like these days, but when I started there in the latter part of the 70's, there was a massive emphasis on the teaching of Christianity. Our unquestioning little minds (such is the way that nature has designed the brain of the child) were filled every single day with bible stories and hymns praising Jesus and encouraging good deeds.

I appreciate the good intentions of those handing out this message, for I genuinely believe they were trying to mould young minds to think of others and behave in a way that respects the wider world.

But although I couldn't articulate it at that age, even then I felt troubled that the message implied that 'good people' were only those who followed the teachings of the bible and by implication, if you did not, you were destined to end up in some very deep and fiery shit.

My biggest problem was always around why it was we should believe that the bible is the word of god and our instruction book of how to live and behave in this world. As I got older, I would tentatively ask this question of my elders when the opportunity arose, only to be quoted a passage from the bible itself that stated it was indeed the true source of god's word. Hmm...hardly an independent verification is it?

Of course, one of the key parts of any Christian belief system is 'faith'. I soon learned that when this magic word was mentioned, I was supposed shut up, 'just believe' and stop my questions. At that age, you genuinely think adults are all-knowing, and it was a genuine shock to me when I reached maturity to find, lo and behold, adults ain't got the first clue what the hell is going on and are just as scared and often more confused as any child.

But I did try and just believe, in exactly the same way as I did in Father Christmas. Every year this rewarded me with a fine selection of gifts, so it didn't seem unreasonable to assume that this Jesus guy was much the same and would surely be giving me a whopping great gift at the end of my days.

But of course, as you do get older, the nagging feelings of doubt get bigger and need to be addressed. My concern about the validity of the bible just wouldn't go away. Why should this book be believed over any of the other great spiritual works of any other religious traditions?

It would appear that some people cover up this doubt by preaching 'the truth' of the bible or whatever religious book it is that you've been brought up on, louder and louder as they get older. Shout loud enough and the dissenting voices will be covered up for some of the time. But deep in your heart you'll be unhappy. And I wonder if this is why some people of certain religions seem hell bent on trying to make everyone else just as unhappy as they are.

Brainwashing is a strong term and maybe 'mental conditioning' is a nicer way to say a similar thing. But that's what I felt had happened to me during my formative years at school. The hymns and parables were entrenched in my head and held me back for a long time before genuinely exploring other religions and ways of thinking.

I eventually came to the conclusion that all religion is an attempt to grasp at the ungraspable and answer the unanswerable - i.e. it's all a bit pointless really. Theory and words can never come close to describing what it is to be human and how to navigate through life.

We all seem to have a spiritual appetite, especially in times of trouble, but my experience has taught me that this needs to be explored, lived and nurtured by each individual. Handing it over to a group of believers of one doctrine or another is a bit of a cop out. You need to live and learn yourself and then come up with your own conclusions.

Attaching labels to everything seems a common trait of human nature. You may decide from reading this that I'm an atheist or humanist or whatever term you wish to use. But I would never describe myself that way. It's not about believing or not believing in something, but following your own path that ultimately leads you to flourish fully as who you really are.

If you genuinely allow that to happen, it's my experience that this will bring you to a place of peace and balance. But if you try and force your way on someone else, you've actually robbed them of their own chance of true happiness. And by 'your way' I mean pretty much anything that you strongly believe in, from ultimate reality to your political views, to what football team you should support.

Share your views like you would your clothes - offer them to others to wear for a while but be understanding when they decide your fashion sense is ridiculous and opt for a different style altogether.

In my opinion, 'religious education' or whatever you want to call it, would be so much better if it equipped kids with the tools that helped them discover themselves, rather than training them to believe a set of doctrines. It should be encouraging them to question everything, rather than blindly accepting what is told in books from many centuries ago.

Although maybe the whole Father Christmas thing isn't so bad, as he still brings be presents even now, the nice old man.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012


I must admit that I've never really been a huge fan of photographic competitions. The whole concept that one lovely picture can be adjudged better than another lovely picture is a bit daft when you think about it. It's a very subjective process and it's really down to what particular image resonates with you as an individual. I've seen what I would describe as some pretty ropey photos winning prizes, whilst excellent ones fall by the wayside.

Even so, I have entered some of my own photos in competitions this year. If it's free to enter and there's a chance of winning a new camera or some vouchers, it would seem a bit silly not to have a go. But I've learned not get my hopes up too much - there are lots of people who enter with some really great images. It's really just a bit of fun and win or lose, it isn't a genuine indication of one's photographic ability.

At least that's what I thought until this afternoon when I had an email telling me one of my pictures which I had entered in a competition run by Pentax, was going to be exhibited at the Design Museum in London.

Suddenly competitions are brilliant things and I'm a fucking amazing photographer *struts round living room*.

Okay, obviously I'm deliberately being a bit over the top about it all. But I am genuinely thrilled that one of my photographs is to be exhibited at a pretty cool location. Plus I get an invite to a private viewing of the exhibition that will also be attended by TV and radio presenter Reggie Yates and Girls Aloud girl and actress, Sarah Harding. Exciting and a bit surreal!

I'm pleased that the photograph to be displayed is one of favourites from this summer:

Although Michael Johnson is an Olympic and Athletics legend, the little girl holding the torch really was the star of that morning's London 2012 event. During the performances by her choir, she was doing funky dance moves and pulling faces, always playing up for the camera. There was such a lovely happy and unified atmosphere at the event and I came away with a handful of photos that I was really pleased with, as well as a beaming smile and warm heart.

The thing I most like about all of this is that the picture is of one of my genuinely treasured memories. So for it to be put on public display and hopefully also enjoyed by other people too, is really special.

Now all I have to do is arrange my plus one for the viewing. A pimp like myself really need a plus three or four though, such is my immense popularity and need of an entourage. Who do I take? Maybe I should arrange a series of trials to decide this. These will mainly involve cake baking and a massage of my sore shoulders.

Although in actuality, I'll probably have to scrabble around and pay someone by the hour to come with me.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Crash. Bang. Wallop. Ouch.

It turns out that the all powerful universal driving force (God / Allah / that Indian one with lots of arms / a 13 year old oik who has created me in a cosmic version of The Sims / or whatever your personal belief), has once again given me a helping hand (or bloody great shove) towards my goal of losing weight and getting myself in shape.

It all began yesterday evening. My sister's best friend and his sports-mad family were visiting and invited me to join in with a game of rounders. Now, the last time I remember playing rounders was 1984, but I figured that the basic principles can't have changed that much in the intervening years. I agreed to take part because I thought it would be an enjoyable way to burn off a few calories, plus I'd pretend it was actually cricket and imagine myself to be Freddie Flintoff at his most flamboyant, spraying that tennis ball all over the field for six runs apiece.

As I stood at the crease (no idea what the technical term is for rounders, so I'll use cricket terminology to help reinforce my role playing fantasy), the demon bowler steamed in (as much as an eleven year old girl can steam in). Given that we were playing with a miniaturised rounders bat (unless I have grown twenty times my 1984 height), I was concerned that I'd just spin round on the spot and avoid contact with the ball completely.

But just like Freddie would have done, I absolutely middled it. The ball soared for miles, taking out a couple of satellites before returning to Earth covered in space dust (as in dust from space, not as in the strange fizzy / crackly sweet powder that makes your tongue tingle). Six runs!

As it turned out though, unlike in cricket, one still had to run around our improvised diamond track made up of buckets and table tennis bats, in order to 'score a rounder' or whatever it is one achieves by so doing. So off I went on a glorious lap of honour. I accelerated at quite a pace toward the first base, when I suddenly realised that my legs were doing things all of their own accord. I was hurtling along, but very much out of control.

I knew I was going to crash to Earth harder than the tennis ball had after its journey into the stratosphere, but I just couldn't slow myself down at all. As is traditional at times of calamity, everything went into slow motion as the grass got closer and closer before whacking me flush on the chin. I honestly couldn't imagine that it would have been possible to have collided with it at any greater force.

Concerned people rushed to my aid whilst my sister collapsed into hysterical laughter - something that only made the almighty pain feel a million times worse. Her friends seemed to think that I'd literally thrown myself into the game with tremendous gusto and this was just a heavy landing from a deliberate dive. So far as I'm concerned, it's better that they think this rather than knowing that, in truth, my legs took on a mind of their own. It was like the game of Misfits where my usual upper body had been paired with the legs of a newly born foal.

I did my best to dust myself down and laugh along with everyone else. In reality though, I felt like I was about to faint, be sick and couldn't shut my mouth properly since it had born the brunt of the impact. To add insult to injury, technically I had been run out as, despite my Tom Daley-esque exploits, I hadn't even made it to the first table tennis bat.

I somehow managed to stagger back to the house despite feeling ridiculously dizzy and sick. I had to navigate through where we keep the chickens which felt especially dangerous because if I'd collapsed there, I fear they would have pecked me to pieces.

After lying on the sofa and moaning and groaning, it became clear that I really ought to go to A&E to be checked out. As well as feeling dazed and confused, I couldn't shut my mouth which felt like it was very much out of alignment.

I hobbled into the reception area like an extra from Casualty and tried to explain what had happened. Not being able to stand up straight and talk properly made communication very difficult and at first the receptionist thought I was trying to tell her that I had burned my head. Eventually the message got through and she sent me to sit with the other unfortunate souls who were destined to spend their Sunday night at the hospital.

I heard the receptionist make a phone call saying that she was very concerned about me, although I guess you would be if you thought someone's head is actually on fire. After just a few minutes I was ushered through to a cubicle where I was prodded, poked and questioned about what had happened.

For some reason, I felt a bit self conscious explaining that I'd hurt myself during a game of rounders. It sounded a bit 'gay' to me. I would have much preferred that it had happened during a more manly sport or a good old brawl.

My embarrassment was confounded when the nurse, whilst updating details on the computer, shouted across the whole of the A&E ward to check, "It was a game of rounders you were playing, wasn't it Mr King?". It was the medical equivalent of someone at a busy chemists asking for a price check on the haemorrhoid cream.

I must say that, the often maligned NHS did a fantastic job. I was seen by six or seven different medical staff and they were all incredibly friendly, patient and helpful.

After getting the results from the X-ray back, it turns out that I've damaged the ligaments of my jaw but haven't broken anything. Although this is bloody painful, it will at least fix itself in time. I was so relieved that it was nothing more serious.

Right now, as I hunch tentatively over my iPad slowly writing this, I also still get occasional dizziness and have bruised ribs and a swollen knee. But I count myself as being ridiculously lucky not to have done anything more painful (and more importantly, not to have damaged my glasses or mobile phone).

With my jaw in a bit of a state, eating is quite a painful chore. So thanks once again Higher Power for helping reduce my calorie intake by conjuring up a situation where I'm inevitably going to eat less for a while. Maybe for your next trick you could magic me a lottery win so I could afford a house with a gym, swimming pool and my own personal nutritionist. Cheers.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

In a bit of a pickle. Erm, I mean jam.

Q: How does Bob Marley like his donuts?

A: Wi' jammin!

Although latest research shows he actually preferred custard but this fact was deliberately distorted by joke writers for comedic effect.

Today's blog is all about jam (as in the sweet, sticky stuff that comes out of a jar (but is not honey), not as in an assembled group of musicians improvising random tunes nor as in a long line of cars full of irate motorists). And for those of you who think I over complicate simple explanations, screw you (as in the politer version of 'fuck you', not as in turn you round and around until you seal a bottle of lemonade).

So anyway, there I was browsing my way through Twitter one day, only to stumble across a cry for help from the Janner Jam company. They were stuck on 666 followers and, unless they quickly gained another, very bad demonic things would surely happen to them.

Naturally I went and changed into my special superhero outfit (which is admittedly rather snug nowadays and in need of a good wash to remove some dubious stains) before clicking on the 'Follow' button and becoming their 667th follower. Suddenly the dark clouds had passed and the sun shined on their little jam factory once again.

If they could have done, I suspect they would have hoisted me aloft their shoulders and paraded me around their town like the saviour I was. Although given that the town is Plymouth, they may well have then sacrificed me to some sea god and shared my charred body parts among the hungry townsfolk.

Thankfully, instead of this grand parade, my reward was a jar of their strawberry jam. Let me just write that down again to make sure you understand. I followed someone on Twitter and in return, they sent me jam. Actual, real life, leave-the-lid-off-and-wasps-and-bees-will-come-and-attack-you-for-it jam. How super flipping amazing is that!?

Amazing that is, unless of course, the jam tastes disgusting. However, I'm pleased to report that the jam is actually properly gorgeous.

As a lover of both toast and cream teas, I'm au fait with many different flavours and brands of jam. Unlike with most things, I really do know what I'm talking about. And I can honestly say that Janner's Strawberry jam is right up there with the very best. In fact, if my local supermarket stocked it, I'd forego my usual choices of Tiptree or Bon Maman and definitely buy a whopping great jar of Janner's.

It has a delightfully sweet taste, but which doesn't overpower the actual flavour of the strawberries themselves. It's also got just the right consistency and texture and spreads nicely without then trying to slide off of its carrier. It's like some kindly old relative who has spent their entire life perfecting the art of jam making, has sent you a jar of their finest work.

In summary - it tastes bloody lovely and has inspired me to go and buy some crumpets. Check out their website to taste for yourself (after purchasing your own jar that is - don't lick your computer or phone screen as that will just taste like a mixture of dust and your fingers).

And if anyone would like to send me some crumpets to review, please feel free to send them on.

The same goes for anyone who owns a Mercedes garage, a video game shop or an escort agency (as in ladies whom one pays by the hour for their 'company', not as in the ropey old predecessor to the Ford Mondeo) - feel free to send me your product samples too.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

To do or diet

I must admit that I wasn't expecting to write a 'diet' progress report quite so soon, but after what has been two full days of eating sensibly, doing more exercise and sucking my belly in whilst in polite company, words of this kind are now spilling out of my fingers.

I don't actually like the term 'diet' very much. To me it implies either cutting certain foods out, introducing new ones (like very expensive Chinese seaweed that's been licked by turtles), and generally meticulous watching of calorie intake. I'm not doing any of that.

'Eat a bit less, do a bit more' (or 'EABLDABM') is my philosophy. I shall continue to enjoy cake, faggots, beer and ice cream - liquidised and topped with caramel sauce and nuts - just as I did before, but 'less of it, less often' (LOILO). And of course I shall combine this with more exercise: lots of 'walks and nightly kinetic stretches' (WANKS).

Wow, with all this funky terminology I've just invented, I could probably actually create my own weight loss society. Or a cult where I'm worshipped! The 'cult utilising nutritious temperance' (CUN...oh).

I am tempted to take before and after photographs of myself, just in case I do need to produce some promotional literature to encourage membership. Rather than waste money on two separate photo shoots months apart, I can get all of this done in one go. All I will need is a giant pair of trousers (held out in front of me whilst I look ecstatic) to pose in for my 'after' shots. In fact, wearing giant trousers (or a corset) may be a short cut to looking slimmer any way. Maybe my cult will have an oversized uniform. Join up and even on day one, you'll be feeling a lot slimmer as your baggy jeans keep falling down and tripping you up.

When I do reduce my portly girth a little, it'll be like getting a whole new wardrobe. Well, a wardrobe of tired old shirts that finally fit me again, but still more choice than I currently have.

One of the advantages of having Crohn's disease was, under normally circumstances, a constant slimness regardless of what I ate. This meant that I always bought nicely fitted shirts that were described as 'tailored' or 'slim fit'. I couldn't wear these now for fear it would actually cause damage to the litter of Battenbergs gestating in my belly.

If I ever manage to fit into those again, it will be a tangible sign that my EABLDABM programme is working (or that my illness has flared up and once again I'm wasting away).

Yesterday I enjoyed a lovely picnic in the grounds of Salisbury Cathedral with the delightful company of my two best pals, Jessington Cupcake and Keira Husky. This was quite a challenge as we'd travelled via my favourite local bakery that stocks all manner of tempting treats, but I managed to restrain myself and buy just a sensible lunch that a normal person would enjoy (unlike my two companions who bought every last pasty they had).

It proved to me that I could have a brilliant, fun lunch with my pals and not completely gorge myself. There were also signs that [insert deity or higher power of your choice] was helping me in my endeavour to get trim in three different ways.

Firstly, despite it being a most beautifully warm, sunny day at a busy tourist destination, the ice cream kiosk was shut. I deliberately hadn't bought a cake from the bakery so as to allow myself a nice ice cream for pudding. Obviously, given the surroundings, I had a stern word with the Christian God upon learning of this, wondering why he had been so cruel. A thunderous voice replied, "BECAUSE YOU ARE A FATSO".

Well, I couldn't argue with that. But I did then question Him about why the grass was still so damp. He said He'd get back to me on that one and mumbled something about being too fat to understand.

The second thing that reduced my waistline was the emergence of a random bagpipe player (complete with kilt and funny hat - not sure about pants). Whilst enjoying the tranquil surroundings, chatting to my girlfriends about knitting and 50 Shades of Grey, suddenly our peace was shattered by the lusty lungfuls of air being passed through this dead sheep (or however bagpipes actually work). The anger I felt about this, together with the gesticulations I directed towards the performer, surely helped burn off a few extra calories.

The final bit of assistance I got to aid my weight loss was being held up in a shop, only to have to then run to catch my bus home. Yes, of course I could have walked home, thus ensuring even more energy being used up, but it's hard to tackle greediness and laziness at the same time.

Running is something that I only normally do when being chased by monsters, or if there's a limited supply of free cake somewhere. Since neither of those happen very often, it's not an action that comes naturally to me. I have to really concentrate of putting one foot in front of the other in quick enough succession to propel me forward and not end up going round in a circle or falling over.

The sight of me wobbling through the city centre at speed must have been extremely alarming for Salisbury's Friday afternoon shoppers. I imagine the CCTV operators might have thought for a moment that a small hippo had escaped from the zoo, popped on some clothes and a rucksack and was now trundling menacingly towards a stationary bus.

The worst things about running for a bus are:

a) being too out of breath to ask for my fare
b) having a very crippled old lady offer me her seat
c) waiting for a good three minutes for it to finally depart - during which time, there's the slow dawning realisation that I didn't need to run anyway

But hey, it must have shaved at least a millimetre off my belly (and probably an inch off the length of my pavement-pounded legs).

As I finish writing this post, it's quite ironic that I've just been to answer the door to the postman who has delivered me a pot of jam from a friendly jam company on Twitter. It's with great self control then, that I'm saving it to try later and resisting firing up the toaster immediately. Maybe I could just dip a finger in though...

*heads off to kitchen for a table spoon*
*feels proud that it's not to the shed for a shovel*

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Food for thought

This morning I caught sight of my naked self in the mirror. My reflection made me gasp.

"Gee whiz, am I really that big? Wow, it's colossal! I should probably take a photo and show it to people I want to impress."

Alas, the part of me that was proudly standing there all massive and gargantuan was my belly. I knew it had expanded over the past year or two, but today was the day it dawned on me that I really ought to do something about it.

It looks as if I'm expecting some kind of mammal. As much as I'd enjoy to hear the pitter patter of baby elephant feet trotting around my house, I suspect the birthing process would be really too painful (are they born with tusks? Yikes!).

Those of you who know me will be aware that I do have a particular fondness for cake. It would appear that my love affair with Mr Kipling has, despite being as careful as possible, finally resulted in me being impregnated with his cake baby. Whilst a litter of Battenbergs would be brilliant, eating one's own young is something that I could never do - not even for some delicious, succulent marzipan. Mmmmm...marzipan.

So it's time to say enough is enough Mr K! I'm going to have to start a new relationship with Ry Vita.

Funnily enough, being fat is something that I've absolutely revelled in up until now. Let me explain.

For twenty years I've suffered with Crohn's disease which in case you don't know, is an inflammatory bowel disease that can affect any part of the digestive system.

This arrived literally on my 18th birthday (worst fucking present, ever) and has caused me varying amounts of trouble in the intervening 20 years, some of it extremely severe.

For a long period of this time, I was essentially just skin and bone. Doctors encouraged to eat as much as possible to try and gain some weight, but inevitably when you have poorly guts, absorbing the nutrients just doesn't happen. In fact, eating too much could cause overload, stomach ache and ultimately cause more harm than good.

Thankfully, in more recent times, things have stabilised and putting on weight has not been a problem. The mindset I've had since I was 18 was that I could eat as much as I wanted of anything and, so long as it didn't cause my stomach to get sore, there were no consequences to this. In many ways it was wonderful!

When I was weighed at my last hospital appointment and found to have a BMI of 26 (ie one point into the overweight category), I was cock-a-hoop! After years of struggling to get past 9 stone, I was up to 12 and feeling tons better for it. What would have caused most people to feel despondent, made me feel very proud indeed.

I'm actually not too bothered by weights and measures. What I think is more important is how you feel. I think it's quite easy to tell whether you're really overweight or not just by paying attention to your feelings. I've no idea what my weight is currently and I won't be measuring it going forward. What I'm aiming to do, is get back to a place where I feel well again. If this technically means I'm still overweight, I don't care - I know it's right for me.

Now it's time to break my long entrenched habit of being able to eat whatever I want without consequence, and get back into a regime with a more considered diet. I'm not planning on going crazy, or even giving anything up as such. I'm just going to try and eat a bit less (cutting out third helpings will surely benefit) and do a bit more, developing a new set of habits that will help sustain a healthy weight, rather than a situation where I fluctuate between extremes.

I'm not helped by some of the medication that I take for the Crohn's. It has the dual effect of sometimes causing a ferocious appetite, and also water retention. As much as I'd like to blame this for my current shape, I know that's it's far from the whole story, but it is a factor.

Basically I know that I need to be kind to myself during the adjustment process and let things happen at their own pace. As I write this, I'm thoroughly looking forward to a lovely picnic with Jessington Cupcake and Keira Husky tomorrow. And let's be honest, I'll probably also have an ice cream. But this will be a special occasion treat rather than something to be done everyday (as much as I would like that).

I will blog occasionally about my progress with all this. It will be interesting to see how it goes. This time next week I might be crying into a giant bucket of Hoola-Hoops doused in Ben & Jerry's Phish Food ice cream. But hopefully I'll be eating an apple and feeling all the better for it.

And no Mr Kipling, by 'apple', I certainly do not mean a couple of your gorgeous little apple pies, heated up and covered in fresh Madagascan vanilla custard. *shakes head* Definitely not. No way.

*heads off towards kitchen*

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Dearly departed

It's a very sad day for my family and I, as we've had to say farewell to Lily, our kind, gentle and ever so eccentric Fox Terrier. She didn't seem quite right yesterday, but I was still shocked to see her lying there this morning, mercifully peaceful and happy, but very much headed for whatever existence waits for us beyond this.

Lily was the second Fox Terrier we'd had and judging by our experience with them both and also the tales shared by other owners (note 'tales' and not 'tails' - that would be too odd), they seem to be a very intelligent, determined and slightly loopy breed. They are certainly full of character and if you've ever read the exploits of Montmorency in Jerome K Jerome's 'Three Men in a Boat', you'll know what little rascals they can be.

When I was younger, we always had dogs and other pets, but for some reason their passing caused me little problem back then. I guess it's true that children are all the stronger for dealing with their emotions in a very upfront manner, externalising problems through a spell of yelling or screaming, then when thoroughly cleansed, letting go and moving on.

Obviously the above example is far from perfect and even as youngsters, many of us will have held onto issues that may hold great sway over us well into adult life. But if left to grieve in a healthy way by understanding carers, children do seem to be remarkably resilient at dealing with loss of this kind.

As I've got older though, I now find the passing of my furry friends to be far more painful. I'm really not sure why this might be. Maybe they've become a substitute for children or other significant relationships and consequently when they die, it's far from saying goodby to 'just a dog'.

At one time I would've never chosen to own a single pet, so I can totally understand the lack of empathy some people show at the loss of a beloved animal. My mum and sisters were the real animal lovers and it was somewhat grudgingly that I would take my turn at caring for these various beasties.

Over the years though, bonds were formed and I grew exceptionally fond of these dear little creatures with their own, very distinct natures and personalities. Lily for example was a very gentle, outgoing dog who loved to mix and socialise with everyone. If she were human, I'd have compared her to someone with a quiet confidence, very intelligent yet also with her head in the clouds most of the time. She was very sweet and I will miss her greatly.

It's been quite an unfortunate year with regards to some of our animals. As well as Lily, we also lost another dog (of the same age of 105 in dog years), my dear little cat, a very grand guinea pig and a beautiful pony. Once the initial shock has passed, life goes on of course. But I still find myself at times with terrific heart ache at the thought of never seeing, cuddling, feeding or even clearing up after them again.

Sometimes these feelings just arise by themselves, apparently unprompted. At other times, particular things trigger them in my memory - certain times of day, smells, special occasions or even something daft like when watching a film.

I saw Puss In Boots the other night (the Shrek films and those like it are a bit of a guilty pleasure for a childless man of my age) and those dear little animated cats really made me feel a deep sense of loss for my own. The clever observations of feline behaviours portrayed so skilfully by the animators of the movie, really seemed to strike a chord.

I'm so grateful to Lily and all of our other dearly departed friends who I hope are now skipping around some sunny meadow together somewhere, reunited and in their prime. They have taught me a great deal about what 'love' really means and how relationships can be full of happiness and peace, without any expectation or grasping at particular outcomes.

I'm not sure if I'd ever be capable of experiencing the ideal of 'unconditional' love in a relationship with another human, but with my animals, so far as I can tell, I have done so.

If I come in to find one of them has decided to use the indoor facilities, rather than go outside and do their business in a cold and wet garden, I still can't help but love them. Likewise, even though I may come down from bed a grumpy, dishevelled wreck, there are tail wags and smiles aplenty from my dear pals. Even the experience of keeping chickens has taught me what affectionate and loyal little characters they can be.

Spending time with these wonderful beings has been such a privilege and I'm so glad to have had that chance. Each time one moves on, I find myself being extra attentive to and appreciative of all the others. But of course, why should we wait until such a sad day for that to happen?

Death is a funny old business. It's the only thing that we know for sure that we shall all face someday, yet usually it is pushed way back into the dark and dusty corners of our minds.

Despite its inevitability, it somehow still always manages to cause us to feel a shock when we hear of the passing of someone we either know and love, or even someone we think we know, but don't really - e.g. the recent deaths of Neil Armstrong and Max Bygraves.

We seem to need to be jolted out of our everyday existence, which we usually try to make as comfortable as possible, to get a taste of reality. Death really is an uncomfortable subject for most of us though, hence the need to erroneously file it away in our minds under "won't actually happen to me".

In many ways, it can be gift, a real reminder of the fragility of life. The impermanence of ourselves and all of our relationships, are what makes all of them so special and precious.

When the kids are driving you up the wall or your dog's just peed all over your new carpet, it's so easy to want to get angry and shout at them. But if you can somehow stop that automatic reaction and take a couple of deep breaths whilst remembering that someday, you and they will have departed company, the extra perspective gained will cool your ire and bring you great relief. You may even find yourself laughing at just how ridiculous it is to take anything that seriously.

Although it's not so comfortable, Lily's passing today does serve as a reminder to me to try and resolve to fully live in and appreciate each moment and all it contains. For who really knows what the next one may hold?

Monday, 3 September 2012

Right or Wrong Guard?

Today I did quite a dangerous thing. Usually I’m not so reckless, but for some reason - maybe because it was Monday morning and I just needed a thrill, or maybe it’s a time of life thing - I took a massive gamble that could have proved fatal. I wore a brand new deodorant without having tested it first.

So maybe not actually fatal then (although I suppose a severe allergic reaction is always possible), but come on, you’ve got to admit, it is pretty risky. I didn’t even do a spray test to get a sense of the fragrance before wearing it. I just shook it up, held my breath and gave myself a hefty dose under each arm.

Usually I’d have carried out stringent tests in safe, well ventilated conditions, well away from real people that I have to interact with.

Aside from the obvious criteria like smell and effectiveness, I’d have been checking that it didn’t make it feel like my armpits were actually on fire just after using it (something that happened with a citrus flavoured can of Lynx I once had for Christmas - luckily the actual flames soon died down and it just caused me to itch under each arm all day, like a fragrant monkey).

Having worn it during real-life conditions, I now feel qualified to bring you a mini product review that might help influence your future buying decisions, whether it be for yourself, a friend or someone you don’t like who you’d love to have fiery pits.

The name of this product is...fairly fiddly to work out because there is a ton of writing on the front of the aerosol - some of it name, some of it blurb, most of it bollocks. It’s definitely made by Right Guard though and I think the name is “Total Defence 5, Cool, 48H”.

It describes itself as a “High-performance anti-perspirant deodorant” and now has “30% more protection power”. Whilst it’s no substitute for more traditional methods, it would undoubtedly offer effective protection against pregnancy and other, less serious STIs - one spray of this on the little fella and it won’t be getting up to any mischief for quite a while.

Performance wise, it does do the trick. I had a normal day in the office where everything was fine.

But walking home was more of a challenge because it was very warm, so I was sweating like Julian Assange on his way to court. Whilst it didn’t prevent perspiration like I guess its supposed to, it did keep everything from reeking of whatever toxic substance I happened to be secreting this day.

So, reading this, you might think it does what it says on the tin and therefore is worth trying (it’s on offer in some supermarkets right now). Well, I’ve saved the worst until last, although you notice this drawback as soon as you start using it: the fragrance.

Boy oh boy it’s not good. It is very reminiscent of the little blue cubes you get in gentleman’s urinals. So although it doesn’t smell of poo itself, it does trigger the very same olfactory receptor memory that you get from being in a Gents, meaning that it smells of poo by association.

I guess “Cool” is a more attractive name to market than “Poo by Proxy”, but it’s far less accurate.

I could only recommend this if you think that the lady of your dreams likes the smell of disinfectant, or if you suspect there’s a chance that someone might try and use your armpit as a urinal.

Guy’s if you’re reading this now thinking, ‘oh flipping heck, I use this all the time and he’s just basically said I smell like a toilet’, I offer no apology. Move on to something else and see how many ladies you get hovering around you now instead of flies.

If your current squeeze actually likes you wearing this, dump her now - even if you’ve been married for many years. She’s probably just saying she likes it to keep all the other bees from yo’ honey, whilst she’s off being a floozy with, let’s be honest, more than one man at a time. Don’t let her trap you like this, escape whilst you can!

One final thing before you go. If you like my blog posts (let’s face it, where else could you go to find a review of a ropey deodorant that also doubles as a marriage guidance post?) please take a minute to click on an advert or two that are roundabout here somewhere.

They should offer you amazing products and services tailored to your needs, based on your previous web browsing. If one of them is a link to Big Black Cocks dot com, you really need to ask yourself some questions. And don’t think for a minute that anyone will believe you were actually looking for large, dark chickens.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Taking Offence

*Advanced warning! This post may contain the words: dick, knob, willy, cattle prod and goats cheese*

A funny thing happened to me on Twitter this week (aside from the usual offers of free iPads and invitations to 'cam' from scantily clad robots).

Somehow I managed to get under the skin of some Mitt Romney supporters. For those of you who don't know, Romney is the Republican Party's presidential candidate who will take on Barack Obama in this year's US election.

You may remember him from a recent visit to the UK where he generally appeared to not have a clue as to who he was talking to, nor what about. Famously, shortly before they commenced, he said he was concerned that London wasn't ready to host the 2012 Olympics. Well, let's just say, “In. Your. Face.”, to that ridiculous accusation.

It's fair to say that, like quite a few people as it turns out, I don't like the guy or his policies.

What with it being the week where he received official approval from the Republican Party to face off against Obama, I decided to tweet something along the lines of:

Dear USA,

Please don't vote for Mitt Romney because we all think he's a bit of a dick.

Yours sincerely,
Everyone Else.

Now, I imagine that during his time in various positions of authority, he will have faced far worse chides and insults. Admittedly my tweet lacked much in the way rational, persuasive argument against him becoming president, but that wasn't the point.

There are far more intelligent commentators who could give you a list of reasons exactly why Romney and co are actually dicks. My tweet was intended purely as humorous way of essentially saying, "I don't like Romney" (as if anyone should care what my view was).

To be honest, I'm not really bothered who wins the election anyway. I'd rather it was Obama, but it's not something I have any influence over. I won't be knocking on any doors asking for support or wearing a rosette with a donkey on (unless the Democrats want to fly me to the States, put me up in a swanky hotel and pay me to campaign for them, in which case I'd happily spread the word & persuade people not to vote for any Republican penises).

Anyway, the tweet got a few re-tweets and a some people found it funny in the way that was intended. But as it turned out, one lady in the US was deeply offended by me calling Romney a "dick". This wasn't at all kind apparently, for he was a good man with great values.

I was really tempted to point out to her that I'd only called him "a bit of a dick", which is surely not quite so bad. It's more like calling him a foreskin or something. But I resisted - her bio pointed out that she was a vocal follower of Jesus and I wasn't sure how she felt about foreskins or the lack of them.

What really struck me about this was just how rattled a Romney supporter seemed to be by the (attempted) humorous tweet of a British man thousands of miles away with barely any influence in his own household, let alone the political system of the US.

It would appear that some Romney supporters are really tetchy about him being criticised. Something that is surely born out of the insecurity of knowing deep down that, although he wears your party's colours and elephant thingy, you have been lumbered with a bit of a knobber.

I do find it really interesting what offends people - especially on such an open, public forum like twitter which is hardly conducive to serious debate. It can be tricky to get the humour in a tweet across in just 140 characters. I'm confident that people who know me in real life will get my tweets as they are generally an extension of the kind of nonsense I come out with most days. But I suppose inevitably there will be some people who either don't sense the intended tone, or even if they do, still get offended by it.

I do find it hard to empathise with genuine victims of offence as it's not something that happens to me very much at all. In fact I'd say that in rare circumstances I am 'troubled' by some people's comments but hardly ever offended (in the way I understand the word anyway).

Romney aside, this week I also tweeted something that I knew some people might take offence at. During the Paralympics opening ceremony, Professor Stephen Hawking gave a speech. I tweeted something along the lines of "Did Stephen Hawking just mime that?".

I didn't get any response to it either way, but did wonder if it may have troubled some. The reason I felt comfortable to share this though was because a) having seen Stephen Hawking on various TV shows and interviews, it's evident he has a fantastic sense of humour and I genuinely hope he'd laugh along with it. And also b) the real joke is not a jibe at him and his electronic voice machine, but at the many acts who mimed at the recent Olympic closing ceremony.

Obviously one can never please / entertain / insult / offend people all of the time. But I reckon so long as your remarks come from a place of honest integrity and right intent, then anyone who does get offended by them are just a bit of a dick anyway.