Saturday, 31 December 2011

The Great Big New Year Blog Entry (NWS)

You want a really shoddy, pathetic, basic and ill-thought out review of the year? Of course you do! And who better to give it to you than me, Mr Ewar Woowar!

(I criticised someone yesterday for starting a sentence with the word "And" and then I go and write that. Ha.)

Anyway, Letsby Avenue!

Man of the Year - Jeremy Clarkson

We have a lot to thank Maggie T for, you know, particularly when it came to the bully boy trade unions. Oh yes, they didn't like it when she crushed them under her stiletto, did they? Poor old Ricky Tomlinson and the like soon realised that whacking people with baseball bats wasn't going to change a thing with The Iron Lady in charge!

Ahem. Sadly Maggie is no longer with us - she isn't dead (yet) just conveniently out of the way - and the trade unions have slithered their way back into prominence. Have they changed? One look at Bob Crow - genuinely one of the worst people of all time - should give you your answer. But fear not! Because finally there is resistance, and it comes in the form of my god. My deity. The saviour of the BBC. CLARKSON.

It takes a real man to announce, live on TV, that people on strike should be shot in front of their families. It takes a real man to attach a toilet to his vehicle whilst driving around India, in preparation of the dreaded "Delhi Belly". It takes a real man to say words like "torque", "revs" and "grrrrrrrr".

O Clarkson! My Clarkson!

Woman of the Year - Liz Jones

A horrible woman, a mentally ill woman, or a fantastic comedy creation that has us all fooled? The Daily Mail's Liz Jones could be any of those things, and in 2011 she ramped up her game to an impressive level. Every week there seemed to be yet another astonishing and bewildering column from Liz, but two in particular really stand out. Firstly, her piece on Joanna Yeates's murder will live long in the memory, especially the section where she takes time to break away from the horror of the crime committed and complain that the veggie burger (FFS) she ordered in the bar Joanna was in the night of her death came "without the burger - and without the bun!"

Secondly, who can forget her vivid description of going into her bathroom and "sperm-stealing" from her partner? Wonderfully candid and honest, you have to admire Liz for her forthright views, her sincerity and her magnificence. Why aren't more journalists like her, you wonder?

Band of the Year - Westlife

For having the guts to call it quits. We'll miss you boys.

Record of the Year - "Good Feeling" by Massa Chussetts

I genuinely think that's the only record I've heard this year. When is Elvis coming back, FFS? I'm bored of all this shit modern stuff.

Quote of the Year - Mohamed Al Fayed

"Football fans love it. If some stupid fans don't understand and appreciate such a gift, they can go to hell."

Yer man Al Fayed on erecting a Michael Jackson statue at a football ground. Seriously.

Sportsperson of the Year - Novak Djokovic

Finally, the Serb ditched the japes and the impressions, realising instead that whilst the comedy can wait, the tennis couldn't. Before he got hurt, Novak dominated, winning three out of the four grand slam events and losing a handful of games all year long. Outstanding.

TV Moment of the Year - Adrian Lewis's 9-darter in the World Championship Final

Immense, immense dartistry.

Worst TV Show of the Year - Big Brother

Kill it now, please.

Sorry To See You Leave Us In 2011

Gary Speed
John Barry
Gerry Rafferty
Dean Richards
Eric Parsons
Elizabeth Taylor
John Sullivan
Elisabeth Sladen
Terry Jenner
Christopher Hitchens
Dan Wheldon
Amy Winehouse
Sir Jimmy Savile
Steve Jobs
Nick Clegg's political career

Best Advert of 2011 - John Lewis

Love it? Hate it? Doesn't matter. You know what it is, so it's a huge success.

Chump of the Year - Nick Clegg


Most Pointless Letter Writer of the Year - Val Duncan

More EU-bashing to come in 2012, you fear.

Best Photo of the Year - Jawad Laouira

Congratulations to Jawad for this very impressive photograph. The perspective, the shades of light and dark, the calming background - everything about it is simply splendid:

Blog of the Year - Cynical Ben

For the second time, Cynical Ben wins the accolade for my favourite blog of the year. "Who the fudge is Benjamin Judge" is a triumph, even if it is WordPress. I feel 2012 could be an exciting year for The Cynical One.

Twat of the Year - Nick Clegg


Football Moment of the Year - #19

Goal of the Year - Wayne Rooney

Hottie of the Year - Kate Upton

UK News Story of the Year - Murdoch/Millie Dowler/Phone Hacking etc

The Leveson Enquiry is strangely addictive viewing.

Man Most Nervous About 2012 - Nicholas Sarzoky

Or is it David Cameron?!

Film of the Year - Moneyball

Not seen it, but it's a film about the second best sports book of all time, and apparently it's great, so that's amazing and cool.

2012 Resolution - Kick start "Project Renford", get my own personal website up and running

Farewell, then, 2011. It's been emotional.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Das Boots

It's hard to believe, typing this today as the rain absolutely shnozzes it down outside, but the past few days I've taken advantage of the mild weather and gone out walking. As I've got nothing else to blog about, here's a few pics of my adventures. I've cheated - one or two of these pics were taken a few months back and I'll tell you which ones they are - but the rest were taken on two really nice days in late December, a statement I never thought I'd write.

(Clicking on the pictures will make them a bit bigger and easier to make out, hopefully)

The stone that greets you as you enter the quarry between The Ercall and The Wrekin. There is a poem engraved onto it, but it doesn't rhyme so naturally it's shit.

A plague about 2/3 of the way up the quarry. You wouldn't know it if you've never heard of caching, but this plaque is an "Earth cache". You can find out more about those at

This is the view from the plaque. In the distance you can see The Wrekin which I would be trekking up the next day.

The top of The Wrekin, looking towards the south and Ironbridge.

What I love most about the views at the summit are how they represent the different ages. Look one way on a clear day and you can see some of the Cambrian mountains, a stark reminder of just how old Earth is and how beautiful it can be. Look another way, and there's Shrewsbury - a market town with windy lanes and wooden houses, an important place for commercialism in the Middle Ages. To the south, there's the furnaces of Ironbridge, the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. One final turn of the head and you see Telford town centre - a new town which boasts tall glass buildings hiving with people wearing suits and working for private businesses.

There's something really powerful about slowly making a 360 turn and taking in those different views. When I do I wonder what a person 500 years in the future will be looking at when standing in the same place.

Two pictures of the terrain at the top of The Wrekin. There's a conventional path to follow, but if caching sometimes a little "off roading" is needed. There is a cache buried down a hole near the rocks in the first picture.

The Toposcope at the summit of The Wrekin. These two pictures were taken a few months ago.

Hunting another cache I thought I would take a quick picture of the summit from a bit further away. The dark thing in the middle is the toposcope, the thing in the air just to its right is a crow which was flying around all the time I was up there generally making a nuisance of itself.

Final picture, and I've deliberately left this one till last. This is a bush about 2/3 of the way up The Wrekin in which someone has placed a bouquet of flowers. Why? There's no note, no plaque, nothing to suggest any motive whatsoever for doing so. The writer in me finds that fascinating - you can get 10 short stories out of that picture, I think.

I know nothing about flowers so maybe what type they are signifies something - anyone know? The obvious guess is a remembrance of  someone who passed away in that location but I guess we'll never know.

It's still pouring with rain here. The shopping and the gift buying is done, all I have to do now is wrap and then eagerly await all the food/celebrations/sport we enjoy over these next few days. I'll be back just before 2012 with a round-up of the year or something but for now I'll leave you with this:


Sunday, 4 December 2011

Ken Dodd's Dad's Dog

Getting a dog proved to be a bit of a rigmarole, truth be told. It was 1998, and though we already had a cat, my parents decided that what the household really needed was a puppy. So, one day when I was at school, off they trundled to the nearby Dogs Trust (called the NCDL back then) re-homing centre and picked the one they wanted. They couldn't take her home, mind. What followed was a lengthy process that involved people checking out our garden, our house, our family and our sanity before we were finally able to bring her home and add one to the family. Even then, she wasn't allowed to walk out on pavements for the first week or so, for reasons I'm still not entirely sure of.

She's not able to give us her life story - she's a dog - so all we know about her past is what the NCDL people told us, and that might be one tall tale. Nevertheless, they told us that she belonged to a farmer based somewhere in North Wales, until he realised that she wouldn't be suitable for a farmers dog, so he promptly dumped her on some mountains somewhere and left her to die. Fortunately she was found by someone before she froze to death and was taken to the re-homing people. That's the line I've always been given anyway - quite how she went from North Wales to the NCDL place in West Sussex is anyone's guess, to be honest.

But whatever her past, she ended up with us, and the past 13 years round our gaff have been accompanied by barking, whining, begging for food and loose bowels - those last two attributed to me, admittedly. Sadly though, very soon that's all about to change, because the dog is old. The dog is on her last legs. The dog, alas, is almost out of time. The first notable sign of decline came about a year ago, when we noticed that one of her eyes had gone a bit cloudy. Since then, they've both deteriorated - she has cataracts, and the vet told us she's pretty much blind now. The second sign came at the end of a walk one day, when her back legs suddenly gave way beneath her and she struggled to scramble back upright. The third sign was the tumour.

It's awfully difficult to know what to do. The tumour is the main issue - it's the size of a tennis ball, and with it hanging down under her her mobility is severely restricted - not to mention that she has arthritis and her back legs are now very weak. She's fallen down the stairs a few times, and most nights one of us has to pick her up and carry her as she can't climb them any more. As mentioned earlier, her eyes are going/gone, and she spends most of the day sleeping. All of which leads us to one conclusion, except...

She walked three miles the other day. I don't know how - at one point I didn't think she was going to make it - but she did, even if she just plodded several paces behind us. She still barks like crazy at anyone at the door, still begs for food - though she can't jump up any more - and can still chase after next door's cat at an impressive rate. She still eats very well, and whilst her bowels have never been the greatest she's not incontinent. She certainly hasn't given up on life, of that we're sure, and we're pretty confident that she's not in any pain. There's no evidence to say she is. The last time we took her to the vets, he told us that the tumour is probably cancerous, but finding out would mean anaesthetic, and she certainly wouldn't survive that.

So what do you do? The first sign that she's in pain, the decision is made, but right now that's not a factor. From a purely selfish point of view, we don't want to make that trip to the vets over the Christmas period - although we will if we have to - and there's no reason to say goodbye just yet. But deep down, we know it's coming. It's 50/50 whether she'll see this Christmas, 0/100 that she'll see the next. I'm prepared for it, although the sadness will be inescapable, as will the puzzlement when the doorbell rings and there's no sound or no running to the door. I'm just hoping that she goes in her sleep, peacefully and at home.

I've never taken a photo of the dog, so the other day I went into the lounge with my phone and looked at her. She was sleeping, her tumour sticking out a mile, and I realised I couldn't do it - I couldn't take a photo of her like that. I've always thought that when I "grow up" I would like a dog - a big, cuddly, immensely loyal thing - but now I'm not so sure. They break your heart, pets.

Monday, 28 November 2011

We Need To Talk About Stan

If there's one thing I like, it's a routine. I don't mean a dance routine - although I like it when 'Diversity' chuck the little kid with the mad hair around, I can't lie - I mean a routine which makes my life have a bit of a structure to it. My main routine comes in the morning. Upon waking, I stretch my arm up to my bookcase and grab my phone. With bleary eyes, I first check my emails, then I load up my Twitter app and scroll through the tweets that I've missed whilst slumbering. After I've caught up on the news, it's downstairs for a cup of tea (milk, no sugar - I'm sweet enough) and some toast (usually only with butter on but if I'm feeling daring then Bovril) before I head to the bathroom. I can't shower in silence, so it's either talkSPORT if I'm in a "talky" mood or Classic Gold if I'm in a music mood. After that, I....

Sorry. Not interesting, is it? I don't find it fascinating either, but I'm telling you about my morning routine for two reasons - firstly, the Twitter catchup alerted me to Stan Collymore's fascinating and emotive tweet this morning, and secondly because a counsellor once stressed to me the importance of a strong and basic morning routine. I saw a counsellor - and last year attended group therapy - because since 2008 I've had an on/off battle with mental illness. I did write about this subject once on here, only to delete the post a short time later. In an unlikely turn of events, Stan Collymore has inspired me to tackle it again.

He's a funny fellow is our Stanley Victor. I don't agree with everything he says, and some of his actions in the past have been inexcusable (even if I might cheekily add that if any woman needed a slap, it was Ulrika) but his frank honesty in documenting his depression scored many points with me. "Attention seeking" some people have claimed, but they're wrong - they're wrong because being in a similar position (albeit nowhere near as extreme) I know how hard it is to talk about these things truthfully and directly. I also believe that exposure of and awareness about mental health is a very important thing. The stigma is still there, and it's still large.

(At this moment, I need to break off the blog to tell you that everything you just read, I wrote on Saturday evening. It is now Sunday evening, and the tragic, awful death of Gary Speed is very much on my mind. What caused Speed to do what he did? At this moment, we don't know, so whilst the depression aspect is rumoured, it is only that - a rumour. I'm going to focus this blog on Stan Collymore, but whilst I don't mention him, Gary Speed is not far from my mind)

I don't know why I began to feel anxious, but I know when it started. 2008 was a tough, life changing year for me, and one I haven't forgotten easily. Since then, I've been battling Anxiety. It isn't much fun. At times - the worst times - its been crippling. You over-analyse everything, to the extent that a walk down to the local shop is an ordeal, a long car journey is dreaded. Right now, I'm coping okay. I've educated myself about Anxiety, a tactic Lance Armstrong felt was helpful when he had cancer and one I was determined to employ. Owning books, using websites and talking to professionals has really helped. It's given me insight, an understanding about the illness, and also defence mechanisms which I can use. It's still a battle, and I wonder whether it can fully be beaten, but I'm in a lot better shape than I was about 18 months ago.

There might be some people who know me quite well who feel shocked reading this. They didn't know. I haven't told them. Partly that's because I don't want to make a fuss, partly it's because I don't want friends or family to treat me like I'm mad or somehow a different person, but mainly because talking about mental health is fucking difficult. Many times I've stood outside the office door of a lecturer at university. I can see they're in, and I'm going to go in and talk to them, but I never open the door. Maybe one day.

How does it feel? Perhaps it's best if I tell you how it doesn't feel. How it doesn't feel is what Stan Collymore and many others are going through right at this moment. I will link Stan's tweet for those who haven't read it at the bottom of this blog entry. It is sobering stuff, and thankfully an experience which - touch wood - I'm a million miles away from. Sleeping for 18 hours? Not seeing sunlight for a week? Going to the bathroom a difficult experience? I can't even begin to imagine any of that. Anxiety is closely linked with Depression - both mental health issues, medication for Anxiety comes in the form of anti-depressants, and I notice Stan mentions how initially he felt anxious - but I find it as difficult to see the world through the eyes of a manic depressive as you do.

I mention the word "stigma" a few times, and there is still an ignorance over mental illness, but how do you change that? What is it going to take? Who will it take to stand up in the public eye and make perceptions change? I'm currently looking at a list of people who suffered with Depression. It's a "Who's Who" of famous people - a long list of fabulously talented, clever, funny, smart and good people. Buzz Aldrin, Woody Allen, William Blake, Frank Bruno, Winston Churchill, Charles Dickens, John Kirwan, Hugh Laurie, David Foster Wallace and SO MANY more. These people aren't weak and they aren't failures. Fancy telling Neil Lennon to "man up"?

Yet I don't have the answers. I don't know how the mental health stigma will ever be eradicated. I wish I did. What I do know however is this - awareness helps. Exposure helps. Whilst my experiences are nothing compared to Stan Collymore's and others, his honesty made me write this blog post. And whilst it's sprawling and not the most polished piece of writing I've ever slammed down, it might just be the one I'm most proud of.

Friday, 18 November 2011

The (Un)Official 2011 Children in Need Live-Blog

13:30 Hello! I'm Ewar, and from 19:30 my good self and a few others will be live-blogging this year's "Children in Need" for you - that annual shitfest that the Beeb forces upon us every November.

Before we start though, here's the important stuff:

Official site

To donate

Official Children in Need online auction

Information about Children in Need

Song recorded by Duncan Buchanan & Leeann Davis (Minimum 50p download, 100% of money raised goes to Children in Need)

13:47 Truthfully? I'm not very well, friends. I have succumbed to manflu, which is rather inconvenient and annoying. Thankfully, earlier on in the week I wisely recruited a few pals to help me out tonight. So, if I've got this right - and obviously that's a big "if" - tonight's line-up should look something like this:

19:30-20:00 Me (@Bruno_Di_Gradi)
20:00-21:00 James/Jim/Scruff (@Scruff365)
21:00-22:00 Stephen Fry (@stephenfry)

No, wait...Stephen Fry didn't reply, did he? Bastard.

21:00-22:00 Me again (@Bruno_Di_Gradi)
22:00-23:00 Paul and perhaps his very lovely better half (@PaulMooreEsq)
23:00-Until I get bored Me once again

14:02 How to read a live-blog? It's easy! Keep this blog entry open, give it a refresh (F5) every 10-20 minutes and scroll down for up-to-date thoughts, musings, opinions, bile etc.

Got something funny to say? Either leave a comment (at the bottom) or tweet me at @Bruno_Di_Gradi and if I'm around I'll get your tweet put up on here.

16:21 I think that's everything for now. Time to wait patiently for 19:30 to come around and the show to start....

19:27 Still not feeling very well, but I've got a feeling that some videos shown tonight will make my moaning seem a tad silly. So, man up, Ewar. With clear eyes and full hearts, here we go...

19:30 Sir Terrence of Wogan as I live and breathe!

19:31 It's Tess Daly, Alesha Dixon and Fearne Cotton! Calm down Terry! Reminds me though, who else misses Gaby Roslin?

Just me? Cool.

19:33 First performance of the night and it's five little scrotes, I didn't catch their name. Think it was something like "Wand Erection". Is that Rory McIlroy?

19:37 "Every penny gets spent here in the United Kingdom". Thanks Alesha! I can happily donate now, knowing that some dirty foreigner won't be getting his grubby hands on our charity!

19:42 I've never seen 'The Wizard of Oz' yet seem to know all of the songs from it. Odd.

19:47 Ooh that was a very "eggy" moment as Paul Hawksbee likes to say. I like those - moments when the conversation suddenly gets a bit stilted and awkward. Normally seems to involve Sir Tezza as well.

19:55 Twenty five minutes in and we've gone regional for the first time tonight. What are you seeing right now? I'm seeing the lovely Joanne Malin and Pudsey the Bear. Ooh, Joanne just mispronounced 'Lyreco' as 'Lie-reco'. Schoolgirl error tbf.

19:56 Anyway, I'm off for a cup of tea, a paracetamol and the darts on Sky Sports One. No way I'm watching this shit all night!

Jim/James/Scruff? Over to you....hopefully...


19:58 Hello! Jim here. Not James. Only my Mum calls me James. And 'the reason I didn't live my life the way I wanted to'. I'm here for an hour of this shouty lunacy.

20:02 Jesus. Carlos Tevez has earned more than that while this has been on.

20:04 It's seriously a matter of time until the newsreaders have to do a live sex show. This gets worse every year. It's amazing to see where gravitas goes when it dies.

20:08 The male nipple count for this evening is now at one. Repeat. One male nipple. Whereabouts of the other unconfirmed.


20:16 Is the competitive element of Strictly really necessary at a charity event? They - oh that's bullshit! This is a fix!

20:20 That was a very sad, but very uplifting film. However, all things considered, I can't be the only one who's glad Zoe Ball is still so very, very attractive. In that jumper she was like a sexy wasp.

20:24 I do not want to see this man's sonic screwdriver. I do not want this to happen.

20:30 This is like a painfully middle class Sister Act. With a white, male Whoopi Goldberg. In double denim.

20:35 The Yard is basically how southerners viewed Byker Grove.


20:42 Wogan was here before you, Dixon, and he will be here long after you are gone.

20:44 "What would fund raising be without a bit of hair removal?" Ah yes, the age old question.

20:49 Little known fact: Tess Daly is the Princess of Derbyshire.

20:52 Ben Dover is the father of one of those children. The things I have seen his Dad do in kitchens.

20:56 Nick Knowles' face is getting less craggy. Is he having botox or many, many pies?

20:59 I leave this lunacy now to go to the pub. I escape moments before JessieJ and Matt Cardle arrive OH NO THEY'RE TALKING I HAVE TO GO BYE. JIM.X


21:01 Great work Jim, thank you! It's back to me again I'm afraid folks. Y'alright?

21:04 It seems I missed Susanna Reid a bit earlier on. Oh Susanna....Susanna Susanna. Words cannot express what I'd give up for you, my sweet.

21:05 I miss Susanna and instead get Gok Wan. Oh, life. Stop it.

21:07 Does anyone know if Gok is straight or not? Can't quite tell based on this.

21:15 Ah, it's the obligatory EastEnders cast prancing about to the obligatory Queen record. I HATE Queen. Despise them. I'm missing Phil Taylor vs Wes Newton for this FFS.

21:17 What next? I'll have a wild guess - "I Want to Break Free", men in drag, probably Ian Beale.....yes, there we are. Wonderful.

21:27 Hoorah! It's THE MUPPETS! Remember that awful tune they had on the 'BN' adverts? They're doing that, complete with celebrities making dicks out of themselves. It's strangely endearing.

21:39 After a rather sobering film, we're back live with SuBo! She's covering Depeche Mode's "Enjoy the Silence" I think, and it's not very good. Having said that, I'd bang at least one of the backing singers, so, there's that.


21:41 SuBo finishes, and the crowd goes mild!

21:42 Obligatory 'Dragons Den' bit. Oh it's all so predictable.

21:44 Sir Alan Sugar in the Den. It's not very good, though I did enjoy the line where he confused that new weird woman with James Caan. Was alright.

21:46 "Everyone in this room is someone that I hate. Pop Cowell in there and lock them away forever" - @PBC13

21:53 Here we go with the official Children in Need song! They've taken the classic 'Teardrop' and added some yo yo brizzle innit yoof speak bruv. Tulisa from N Dubz is there! But we can't hear her. Microphone fail!

21:55 I don't know who these people are.

21:59 Bemused. That was a load of shit. Anyway, here's Paul!


22:00 Evening all, I apologise for the next hour. I've decided that Children In Need has to be viewed through alcohol.

22:01 You've got to hand it to Debra Stevenson & Jon Culshaw, their impressions are amazing. This sketch is a bit short on gags mind you.

22:04 Ahh, #cin now on BBC2.

22:06 Seems a bit off talking about kids who are hungry because of poverty when theres tumbling Smarties behind Terrys shoulder.

22:08 Probably a bit flippant before, watching this is heart breaking. Can't believe that there are kids who are going without food. However, I notice the kid has the latest Chelsea shirt and Dads playing on the PS3. Something wrong here.

22:12 It's Fearne Cotton time. Seems a little uncomfortable between the two of them. Perhaps Tezza thinks like the rest of us?

22:15 Clare from Steps in a medium phase at the moment... It could go either way. My money is on comfort eating though.

22:18 This is quite painful isn't it? I don't know why they do Children In Need specials of panel shows. They're always absolutely awful.

22:19 Anyone want a top up of whisky? Trust me, it dulls the pain.

22:23 Noel Fielding delivers the first laugh out loud gag of the night. Pudsey is a benefit cheat. I'm sure if you ring up Children In Need they'll give you a refund.

22:28 In Havant they've been selling some of Pudsey's Special Sauce. Is that like the "special sauce" you get on a dodgy takeaway?

22:29 Serious bit. Concentrate.

22:32 KPC? More like KFC looking at the size of her!

22:34 Are all the female presenters tonight sponsored by Bacofoil?

22:35 Ed Sheeran isn't uber-talented Terry, he's uber-dull. And ginger. Pop stars are not ginger. Ever.

22:35 In light of the Blatter thing this week, can I offer a handshake to all gingers reading this?

22:35 We good carrot tops?

22:39 JLS .... oh yes! (Mrs Buxton very happy)

22:50 'Forget You'......that's not a difficult task with the Hollyjokes cast.

22:51 Those spots behind Sir Tel are mesmerising ... it's like watching a huge lava lamp.

22:57 As a parent this scares me to death. I know its easy to laugh at Children In Need, but stories like this are heart breaking. You never expect to bury your own child. Where do you go from there in your life? Even if its a quid, try and give something to CiN. Support services like this need to be supplied by our governments but they're not.

23:00 Right! Thats me done. Hope you've enjoyed the last hour as much as me. Back to the boss!


23:08 Great stuff Paul! Splendid work.

23:09 Feeling insanely tired as well as rough so whilst this nonsense goes on till 02:00, this blog will be finishing soon. Think I'll stick around for The Saturdays so I can have a good old perve over Mollie and then finish up.

Wait, what?

23:16 On a serious note, over 400 readers on this here blog today (at the time of writing). Normally takes me a fortnight to get that many! Thanks I love you all x

23:20 Olly Murs has a very strange head. I think it's that his forehead isn't quite in proportion.

23:34 Disaster! On two different counts! Firstly, my computer just took a funny turn and froze over, and secondly my head has got worse. You know that twat down at Portsmouth FC who constantly rings a bell during their matches? It's like that in my head right now, and it hurts.

23:38 Annoyingly, when my computer was on the blink there was an AMAZING performance by Steps, who have somehow managed to be as annoying second time around as they were in their pomp. Aside from Claire's discovery of pies, they haven't changed much.


23:51 Russell Howard and his mad eyes signals that perhaps it is time for me to go and get some rest.

It's been an emotional night my friends. Thanks to Jim and Paul for helping out so ably, and thank you to all of you who have read this nonsense - either all of it or just bits and pieces.

Goodnight, good luck, and may your God go with you.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

NaNoWriMo? NoNoNoNo!

NaNoWriMo has been around for a few years now, but I'll wager that at least one person reading this is unaware of it and wondering what the hell that assortment of letters has got to do with anything. Its basic concept is a very simple one however - in the thirty days of November, you write a 50,000 word novel. Once you're done, you submit it, and then everyone cheers and gives you a certificate you print out or god knows what. Sorry, haven't got that far with it, so I may be underselling it a tad, but it's the sense of achievement that makes it, I guess.

I've always resisted it, normally because by the time I've heard about it it's the 12th of November so too much time has passed, or it's March and November feels a lifetime away. But this year, for the first time, it was on my mind as we hurtled through the days and arrived at November 1st, so with a full heart and clear eyes I sat down and scribbled 2,100 words. Hurrah! "Only 48,000 to go!" the website told me. "Keep up your average of 1,500 a day and you'll do it!" it screamed. "Want to look at your overall completion percentage?!" it asked me, at which point I clicked "Help" and looked up how to delete my account.

(Deleting your account on there, by the way, is a right bastard. You have to e-mail them and give them info and all sorts. I gave up and simply logged out, never to return)

It's the 2nd of November now and I've had time overnight to think about this. I have several problems with NaNoWriMo, but it needed me to sign up and give it a go for me to fully realise them. First of all, it's not a bad idea. I think it's aimed at people who don't normally write - to give them confidence to just give it a go and to hell with the quality of it. That's fine, and I wouldn't necessarily stop anyone from attempting it. But, for me, I wasn't comfortable with that.

"Good writing is re-writing" is something I must have heard about fifty times in the past few years. And it's true, even for a non-pro like me. I ain't Ian McEwan, but no piece of fiction I've ever penned has stayed the same from the initial idea to the finished piece. With NaNoWriMo, you're asked to write - to write and not look back. I didn't feel there was any time for editing, for pondering over a sentence, for writing and re-writing and re-writing and re-writing a passage until it was just right. "Oh but you can edit later, you can go back and fiddle about with it after November!" you might think, but in which case why bother with NaNoWriMo at all? In that case, just write a novel! Write a novel without having to fret over the fact that you need to go shopping and drop a prescription in at the chemist but you've still got 436 words to write for the day. That's the thing that defeated me, I think - it's so restrictive. "How many words to go!" and "Let's look at your overall completion percentage so far!" just scared me. It made me feel like I was writing an essay, a thesis, an assignment, and that time was critical and it was all one big challenge. In short, NaNoWriMo, for me, sucked the fun out of writing. And when that happens, it becomes the most pointless thing on the planet.

The funny thing is, the words I did write weren't terrible. They weren't brilliant, either, and that bugged me - I've been taught to re-write until you submit your best work possible, and NaNoWriMo is the antithesis of that - but there's an idea there. I love the location I have, the main character needs a bit of tweaking but is usable, the story isn't a bad one. But it wasn't a novel, and 2,000 words in I was already padding bits out and inventing stuff on the fly just to bump up the word count. I won't delete what I wrote - I'll just shape it into something else. The shorter form of fiction is still my favourite, both for writing and reading. Jeffery Deaver once said about short stories that "all bets are off" and I knew exactly what he meant by that. They're a lot of fun to write.

So then. NaNoWriMo. Nice idea, but not for me.

Thursday, 27 October 2011


The cliché is true, I guess. The older I get, the grumpier I get. So many little things that people do have, in recent years, began to needle away at me. And that's exactly what they are - little things - but I just can't help it. Oh, how I long for the days of the carefree and innocent Ewar! Alas, it is not to be - I'm too old, too cynical. So as I've got nothing else to blog about, here's a list of things - little things, of course - that are seriously irritating.

Once you've read my list, feel free to vent your spleen in the comments box below. Remember I get to choose which comments get published, mind, so any 'hilarious' "This blog irritates me lol" stuff will be swiftly discarded. You don't go attacking my baby! Talking of which...

BABY IN THE OFFICE - I worked for over two years in an office where I was the only man, a lonely child surrounded by (perfectly nice) middle aged women. As we employed about fifty people - the vast majority of which were also female - who traipsed their way into the office most days, I soon realised that the dreaded "Baby in the office" situation was always round the corner. Cooing, gurgling, farting, screaming, crying - and that was just me. Is there anything more annoying than having a stranger's baby waved in your face?

Maybe it's because I'm a man, so I'm not maternal and all of that guff, but it drove me insane. The mere thought of it happening in the future makes me reach for my stress ball. You can breed, well done, but I've got some timesheets to check so kindly sod off.

"SUBTLE" ADVERTISING - This is one where it's easier to show you, rather than tell you:

The song is passable, but it's the video which irritates me greatly - namely the bit between 1:20 and 1:30. Is there any need for such shameless advertising in a music video? No sir there is not!

THE APPRENTICE - Right now really isn't the time to teach young twattish upstarts that the way to succeed in business is to be jumped up selfish twerps obsessed with greed and deceit who will be quick to point the blame at anyone or anything as soon as things go "wrong". One massive wet dream for right-wingers presided over by a hairy cornflake who's technology is, as they say in the trade, "fucking shit".


TARDINESS IN SHOPS - This is usually a female thing I'm afraid. You've gone into a shop and you've selected the goods you desire to purchase. You walk to the check-out where you join a queue. You queue for 3 minutes, and then when you get to the front of the start digging around in your handbag for your purse. WOMEN! Come on, you are better than this! If you are going to do this, perhaps try doing it when I'm not standing one place behind you in the line? Thanks.

BAD MANNERS - When I'm Supreme Leader - and I will be - anyone who is found spitting will be the first to be taken into camps. The same if you litter, if you eat with your mouth open, if you talk with your mouth full, if you have a loud conversation on your phone when sitting in a train carriage.

PEOPLE TRYING TO SELL ME THINGS - I know you're doing your job, and that's good, but if I've said "no" I mean it. Don't persist.

Ewar's handy tip! I've found lately that saying "I already have it" works really well with these guys. e.g. Man with tie: "Five minutes to talk to you about the new Sky+ HD service sir?" Me: "I already have it!" (continue walking)

PETROL STATION ETIQUETTE - Filled up your car? Good for you. Paid for the petrol? Good for you. Now, please, leave. Get out. Don't arse about with your glove compartment. Don't put your seatbelt on until you've reached a safe place on the foyer away from me. Consideration, people.

HAVING NOTHING TO BLOG ABOUT - As I've found these past few weeks. Irritating.

THE NATIONAL OBSESSION WITH PIPPA MIDDLETON - She is related to someone. She has a bottom. Good for her.

SALLY MORGAN - "Psychic"? I can think of other words, none of which I can type here as she seems the sort who'd like a good court case.

ITVs FOOTBALL COVERAGE - Clive Tyldesley, Gordon Strachan, Jim Beglin, Roy Keane. Can you imagine a bigger bunch of pricks? And that's not even taking into consideration the worst human being on the planet, my mortal enemy, Mr Peter "A GOAL FOR ALL OF AFRICA!" Drury. Monumental bell-end.

PEOPLE WHO DON'T WALK - Painfully common at university. What's that? You'd rather take the lift than walk one flight of stairs? Really?

DRAW/DRAWER - Please stop putting things in a "draw".

BOOTS ADVERTS - Perhaps we can have a Christmas without having to hear "Here Come the Girls" seventeen times a day every day?


GOLF CLUB SNOBS - Goddamn phonies with their club jumpers and ties, shouting off about women in the clubhouse whilst reading The Daily Mail and leering at the barmaid. These people are invariably shit at the game despite professing to play twice a week every week.

(I should stop but I'm too angry to do so, so here's a few more)


ACCUMULATORS THAT FALL AT THE FIRST HURDLE - Dear betting gods. I know I'm not going to win. Just at least let me enjoy the tension of it going down to the final game or two? This is magnified a million times when it's the early 12:45 kick-off on a Saturday that screws it up.

PEOPLE WHO WRITE SHIT POETRY - Bet it doesn't even rhyme.




Well, that was cathartic. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to walk to the train station on a wet, cold...

Tuesday, 4 October 2011


Morning. I'm filled up with Manflu today, so my writing won't be as sharp and spectacular as it usually is(?) so I apologise greatly for that.

Today's news is dominated by Amanda Knox and her former partner, Raffaele Sollecito, who have been released from prison and acquitted over the murder of student Meredith Kercher. As far as criminal cases go, this one is an absolute cracker. No matter how much I read about that night, I'm still completely undecided as to what actually happened. We're pretty certain that Rudy Guede murdered and sexually assaulted Meredith, but did he act alone? Were Knox and Sollecito involved, somehow? I get the feeling we'll never know, which drives me mad with frustration, but such is life.

Whether Knox/Sollecito are guilty or not guilty however, what has horrified me during this case is the realisation that if they ever got out - and of course we now know that they have - they would become celebrities. Famous. As I've mentioned before, I really loathe the word "famous", and Amanda Knox provides a decent example of why. Perhaps they deserve their freedom, but the thought of them raking in the dollars and living the high life greatly depresses me, even if they are innocent. Of course, Knox's rise to fame has been, and will be, aided and abetted by the media. I note with an awful lot of regret that Meredith Kercher's body wasn't even cold by the time the phrase "Foxy Knoxy" had entered our lexicon.

So we'll have the "EXCLUSIVE!" first interview - probably with that morally bankrupt slimeball Piers Moron - and then she'll release her book, which will naturally be a best-seller. A few more TV appearances, then once those cheques have been cashed it'll be some form of photo-shoot, possibly involving the nice people at Playboy Mansion. After that, the reality TV appearances must surely follow. I reckon she'd be a hit on 'Dancing With The Stars'! Cynical? Maybe I am, but I'd be surprised if Amanda Knox ended up working at her local Starbucks, or indeed anywhere else. I hope she proves me wrong.

Let me make it clear - I'm not blaming Knox for that, per se. If I was innocent - and for all we know she might be - I'd go along with it as well, because the temptation to set myself up for life would be too hard to turn down. Instead I blame the "celebrity culture" we've been dragged into, a world where someone accused of murder can write a best-selling book which says "I didn't do it" for 300 pages, a world where Katie Price is a multi-millionaire, a world where the likes of Chantelle Houghton are famous. Nothing would make me happier than shite like "Heat" magazine or "OK!" going out of business because people stopped caring that Cameron Diaz has a spot on her chin, Cheryl Cole is getting married and Ryan Giggs is having sex with a Russian waitress called Olga. Deep down though, we all know that's not going to happen any time soon, and that's a shame. In the case of Knox, it's the sheer shamelessness of it all that bugs me. She's a good looking white girl, but that shouldn't excuse the media frenzy that spins and whirls its way around her wherever she now goes. If she is innocent, she deserves her freedom and allowed to return back home to the US. But what if she isn't? And there's still very strong doubts about her actions that night. One to remember when you're queuing to buy her book.

Ranting about the media aside, there's a bigger issue here and one that saddens me. For all the talk of "Foxy Knoxy" et al, Meredith Kercher has been left behind, a bloodied corpse resigned to being an afterthought when Knox is on TV, sobbing over the hardship of an unjust jail sentence. Whether Amanda Knox has - literally - gotten away with murder, or whether she's as innocent as you or I am over this one, let us not forget the true victim of this horrific crime. We may not know who did it, or why, but we know what the result was. RIP Meredith. I hope and pray that you are never forgotten.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011


Well, isn't this exciting? I haven't done one of these for a the actress said to the bishop! Ooh pardon!

Ahem. Yes, gallimaufry time now, where I round up a few things I need to tell you and shepherd them all into one nice blog post so that we all know where we stand. Let us begin...

1) Are you interested in basketball? Probably not, but if you are, or perhaps you WANT to take an interest in the sport (particularly in terms of the European game) I recommend which is a well-written and informative site created by a Twitter friend. My only criticism of the site would be that it needs more pro-Kobe Bryant pieces, but you can't have everything. Please do check it out.

2) I have started to write film reviews for a website. This is hilarious, seeing as I hate every film ever made, but after sending one off they asked me to write some more so what the hell. It's something to put on the writing CV and it gets me writing so I'm happy enough. The site is and the three pieces I have done so far will just be underneath this paragraph. If you decide to have a look, it takes about 0.5 seconds to click on the appropriate star and rate the film out of 5 (note - you rate the film, not my review, thankfully). I'd really appreciate it if you did that. Even though it doesn't change anything at my end, loads of votes makes me look good, and we all want that.

3) Look away now, Cynical Ben! Yes, it's a quick note about one of my favourite TV programmes - Come Dine With Me - which this past week focused on The Dark Place itself, Wolverhampton. One of the five contestants was Student Union legend Bally Singh, who claimed a well-deserved third place despite making beans on toast as his starter. The five episodes will be on 4OD and your catch-up boxes for a limited time if you wish to have a gander.

4) My "other" blog, Patrick's Myopic Musings, will not be long for the blogging world. I have set in motion its demise.

This is not because I am bored with it, or a lack of stuff to put on it, or that nobody was looking at it. The truth is, I've been thinking for a while now about creating my own personal website which would house my writings (fiction and non fiction) and various other stuff. I would really like to split up my internet use into two clear camps - professional and real life, and then silly anonymous-ish stuff like this blog or Twitter. Which is why linking you to movie reviews containing my real name from this blog immediately contravenes that idea, but I've always been a fucking idiot.

Regardless. If I create a website and put up my writing/bits and bobs on there, the fiction writing blog becomes irrelevant and redundant, sadly, so it is going. I really liked putting up other people's writing on there though, so I'll probably still carry on doing that on t'other place.

5) On the subject of writing, there's a short story competition running over at which is being judged by the incomparable Paul McDonald. I'm currently writing an entry, which certainly won't win, but I'm aiming for 3rd place. Deadline is on the 30th, so if you want to enter, hurry up, yeah?

6) I'd like to take a moment to congratulate all the people reading this who have just graduated from The Dark Place University, an august institution if ever I encountered one. Life is tough for graduates right now, but good people will always muddle their way through. To all of you I simply say "Hat!" and wish you well for the future.

Until next time kids!

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Letters Move On

Enough claptrap about my life in the "real world". Let's go back to what the people want! Crazy letters!


I would like to join the rest of the population in expressing my disgust at teachers striking.

This letter is from July 12th, so apologies for glancing back to past events, but it's so distasteful, arrogant and wrong-headed that I can't bring myself to ignore it and bin it.

Anyway, yes. The WHOLE population was against the teachers who went on strike. Nice to see they concluded that without asking me for my opinion on the matter, but hey ho.

Teachers obviously think that they should be immune from the situation that a government they supported brought the nation to.

If you can't be bothered to read this letter, here it is so far, summarised for you:

1) Everyone in the country opposed the teachers strikes (including the teachers themselves!)
2) Every teacher in the country supports the same political party.

They obviously feel the children are a useful tool to blackmail parents into supporting their demands that the rest of the nation should fund their 


overly generous


pensions. I resent the fact that I work seven days a week to pay for their pensions while being unable to afford a pension of any kind myself due to high taxes.

I want to interrupt this letter for a moment, if I may. Because if there's one thing that pisses me off, it's Piers Morgan. No, wait, aside from him - it's people thinking that teachers somehow have it easy. We've just had the summer holidays, and my seven year old brother got to stay at home for six weeks. By day three, I was just about ready to strangle him. The thought of having to put up with him, as well as about 25 others, 9-3 every weekday, without resorting to frying pans around the head, is absolutely mental. No way could I do it.

Secondary school kids aren't any better, when you take into account their rowdiness, their sullenness and their chewing gum which always gets stuck on the underside of a table. Of course, it's not just 9-3 either. There's homework to set/mark, parent evenings, staying behind to supervise a child in detention, even coping with the politics of the staff room. They do all of this whilst under huge pressure to get kids through their exams and set them on the right path, an Ofsted inspection always just days away. Be a teacher? Not on your nelly would I.

They deserve their holidays. They deserve their pensions. They deserve praise. They deserve respect.

Which is why this letter is fucking me off quite a considerable amount. But let us indulge it for a few moments longer...

Teachers and all other so-called public servants

3) Teachers do not serve the public.

need to join the real world. If you want a generous pension then purchase one and pay for it like the rest of us. You can strike until the cows come home as far as I am concerned and I hope the Government stands firm because if it does not then they will suffer at the ballot box.

Mike Montane

You've made it onto my list. Well done.


Close down Wootton Bassett, it has become too English and traditional - can't have anything English and traditional can we?

If you read my blog often, you'll know who this letter writer is. If you don't, the unsurprising answer will be at the bottom.

By the way, I really like the idea of something being "too English".

"Breaking news coming into us here on Sky Sports News....the FA have released a statement saying that the contract of England U-21 manager Stuart Pearce has been terminated. "The FA would like to thank Stuart for all of his hard work", they say in this statement, "but it became clear that Stuart's services were no longer suitable after he became just too English".

Is CamEUron scared

I give up. I literally do. This is just...I genuinely don't know what to say.

of letting the world see the dead bodies of our troops that leave blood on his and Clegg's hands? Try and hide it away in Worcestershire or anywhere

"Worcestershire or anywhere" is an amazing, amazing bit of writing.

and hope there is no place anyone can come and pay respects.

It's only just re-reading this letter now that I see Val - yes, it's Val Duncan, who else - says "close down Wooton Bassett". Val Duncan thinks a town has been closed down. I'd cry if I didn't laugh.

Send the dead down motorways or back roads then the world won't see our grief? Destroy our military and force us into the EU Military Force? This 'fake' Prime Minister

David Cameron is a fake. The real Prime Minister is locked in a cupboard somewhere. It's in such a secretive location that not even Gideon Osbourne knows where it is. But he knows WHO it is, and isn't it interesting how you don't hear much from Michael Heseltine any more, eh?

is adding grievances to a list of things the people (remember us?) are keeping count of and one day Major (Maastricht Treaty), Blair and Brown (Lisbon Treaty) and Cameron and Clegg (Destroyers of our defences) will all stand in court to answer for their treason. The list grows longer and longer and the people (remember us?)

You've done that one.

are feeling more and more angry with the social engineering of our population, the wrecking of our economy and the insidious intrusion of the EU. Something will give and woe betide Westminster and those politicians and civil servants who are complicit in the destruction of our country. We will have revenge without mercy unless we are taken out of the insidious

You've done that one.

EU and given our own laws and liberties again.

This is vintage Val Duncan. Take it in, and enjoy. You'll miss this when she's gone.

We are a peaceful and just people, but we will not be sold to a foreign dictatorship while this Prime Minister pontificates over democracy for the likes of Libya and kills our own country for his own political ends and gold-plated pension


via a wasteful and corrupt union.

Val Duncan

Is there any way we can start an on-line campaign to make someone be considered as an MEP? Because I can't help thinking that Val would make an excellent candidate for that role.

Valerie Duncan MEP. You heard it here first, kids!

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Canary Row

Telling people about a wedding you've been to is like your Football Manager game or your holiday. Very interesting for you, but thoroughly dull and pointless for the person forced to listen to the whole sorry saga, desperately trying to finish their champagne so they can go off and get another glass and find someone far more interesting in the room. I understand that, and I sympathise, but a) It's my blog and b) I have pictures - albeit only about two - so that makes this blog post perfectly acceptable.

The drive from The Shire across the country to East Anglia took just over three hours. Our destination was Carrow Road, which you might know as a road in Norwich, but which you'll more likely know as the name of the football stadium located there. A rather plush Holiday Inn is located next door to the stadium, but alas my room faced the road and not the pitch. Here is a picture I took of the Carrow Road sign using the camera on my phone: You can't read that sign, can you? You'll just have to trust me on that one.

The wedding was on Sunday, and it was Saturday, so after checking in - where we stood behind the one and only Jimmy Tarbuck at reception - and unpacking we trundled over to a bar inside the football stadium entitled "Yellows" to meet up with the wedding party. We were greeted by my step-sister who was getting married for the second time - this time to an ardent Norwich City fan, hence the location. After a few hours of socialising, we all decided to go our separate ways for the evening (even though we were all in the same hotel), have dinner in different places and then an early night. On the way back to the rooms, we were once again reminded of what was going to happen the next day, and where:

Sunday arrived, and with it came a truckload of nerves, which were nice considering I wasn't actually doing anything in particular that day. As all around me tucked into their fried breakfasts, I cautiously had a few croissants with jam and a cup of tea. Strawberry, by the way, thanks for asking. The suits were put on and off we walked to the football ground, where, after the initial photos, we were ushered up three flights of stairs and into the room where the ceremony was taking place. Sitting on the second row, next to my big bro (that rhymes Marge!) we patiently waited. Ten to fifteen minutes later, a version of "Run" by Snow Patrol - sans lyrics - began to play, and we stood for the bride. I'm not going to lie - when my sister walked down the aisle with my dad beside her, I began to feel the tear ducts wobble a little, but one look at the picture of Darren Huckerby on the wall stopped that (I'm not joking either. He's a bit of a cult hero there, for some reason).

You know what a wedding ceremony is like, so let's skip that bit. A glass of Pimms, some canapes, more photos, a walk around the main stand and then back in for the meal. You may know that the Blessed Saint Delia Smith - best know in this country for her rousing and intoxicated "Let's be 'aving you" speech - is head honcho at Norwich City and the restaurant in the main stand comes with her seal of approval. To be fair to her, the meal was amazing:

I could have done without the sorbet, which was rather unnecessary and just a palette cleanser, but I wasn't complaining. After the main course there were speeches which were touching and well handled, particularly the one from the best man who, as well as speaking, had taken the trouble to create a slideshow of pictures which were shown on the two TV screens on the wall. Pictures of the bride and groom, obviously. Not just any old pictures - that would have been odd. After the meal there was a tour of the ground hosted by a former player, but my younger brother was tired so I took him back to our room for a sleep via the bar where the United-Arsenal game was blaring out.

In the evening there was a disco, which took place in the same room as the main meal. After the gloriousness of the food a few hours earlier, the buffet that was laid on was a huge disappointment. Everything was either stale or thoroughly dull, and it was fortunate that we were all full up from the lunchtime meal and didn't have to eat a great deal. The disco was your standard fare - shit pop "classics", an over-enthusiastic DJ and middle-aged people doing the "walking to the dance floor walk" - but a really nice touch was a photo-booth set up at the end of the room which allowed you to put on some fancy dress/a stupid hat and have some pics taken. On that note, the author would like to point out he has no knowledge of who these two idiots are: About 11pm we left, armed with a small box of chocolate footballs and a cupcake ( each and that was pretty much that.

Highlight of the weekend? I'm ashamed to say it came on the Bank Holiday Monday. Before driving back home, we decided to have a walk round Norwich, which was perfectly lovely and splendid and just happens to contain a splendid Disney store. As a kid I was obsessed with Winnie the Pooh, particularly as I only lived about 20 miles away from Ashdown Forest, the setting for the stories. So when I saw this, I just couldn't resist: Drink not included.

The weekend as a whole got me thinking about marriage. I have always wanted to get married, but I honestly don't think I could go through with all of the rigmarole (at this late stage of the blog entry, what a word to pull out!) that goes with a lavish wedding. All of that planning and preparation...maybe it's fun, and exciting, and the day is certainly unforgettable, but I'm starting to think that maybe my Uncle was right. He and his lady flew off to New York, got married, had the honeymoon there, then came home. "Booked it, packed it, fucked off!" as Peter Kay would say, and neither of them have regretted it for a second.

So, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to buy two tickets to Boston. I believe the Yanks allow civil partnerships now, so the second ticket is for my friend Dan. Toodles for now!

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

The One Where I Ponder Life

In four months time, it will be December. December 2011, to be precise, and I will be twenty five years old.

25. Twenty five. XXV. A quarter of a century.

For the first time ever, my age is beginning to freak me out. Because in December I'll be 25, and that feels an eternity away from 20, yet ominously close to 30. Before I know it, I'll be wearing cardigans, and sandals. I'll have a drawer set aside for handkerchiefs. 11pm will be considered a "late night", and I'll find myself agreeing with Ken Clarke.

The funny thing however is that I've always been a bit like that anyway. I had my childhood stage, the awful puberty stage, and then I seemed to skip the stage where everyone tried drugs, went to raves and music festivals and instead ploughed straight on to adulthood. I did a personality test the other day which told me that I was a 50 year old man stuck in a 24 year old body. Not literally - that would be odd - but you and I both know what it meant. For Gods sake, I fucking love sherry. And Pimms! So not only am I middle-aged, but I'm middle-class as well. How strange it is then that growing old terrifies me ever so slightly.

I've never, ever been physically fit, but this past year or so, I can feel the change. I've lost half a step, and I know it. I can feel the pain in the back of my legs whilst walking up The Wrekin. I can feel my stomach muscles aching a day after I've done gardening. Gardening, by the way! You see! Most of all, I can feel how sensitive my ankles are, after "going over" on them (particularly my left) once or twice a month. I was watching my football club play tonight. Our goalkeeper is 20, and the average age of the side was 23. Lewis Hamilton had won a F1 World Championship by the age of 25, Rory McIlroy a US Open. I appreciate none of that is exclusive to me, but, Christ, it makes me feel old.

I'm currently re-reading one of my favourite novels - 'Le Grand Meaulnes', written by Alain-Fournier. Two things strike me whilst reading it - a) How it's a precursor to 'Catcher in the Rye' (another novel that I love) and b) How both novels aren't about "coming of age" as many people think, but instead the exact opposite. They're "refusal to age" novels. For all the world-weariness and maturity shown by Augustine Meaulnes and Holden Caulfield in places, both of them are young adults who just can't force themselves to let go of their childlike tendencies. The reason why I love these books is because I can relate to them. I read Holden Caulfield and thought "fucking hell - that's me" and it's true.

Every one of you reading this will know this question: "What's the meaning of life?"

I hate to brag, but I reckon I solved that one a long time ago. The meaning of life, in my opinion, is to reproduce. Because if you don't do that, than your species dies, so your whole purpose is to keep the chain trundling along so that it's still going strong 100 years after you've pegged it. Here's where I become Augustine though. On one hand, all I want in life - realistically - is to fulfil that, to have a wife and a child. On the other, I want to watch baseball, eat crisps and try and get a degree without giving a solitary fuck.

What words scare you, if any? For me, it's words like "mortgage", "marriage" and most importantly of all "responsibility". The hilarious thing however is that I want all of those things, in the sense that I'll need a mortgage to have my own house, I'll need to take responsibility if I ever raise a child. Every time I dare to stick my neck above the parapet however I instantly think "fuck that" and go back to watching The Jerry Springer Show and tweeting some bollocks. How odd it is that the things I want the most are the things that terrify me the most.

I'm rambling and this is all pointless bollocks so time to wrap it up. In conclusion, I'm a man who's 24 going on 50 who also needs to grow up a bit. Nice to meet you. Now, who the hell are you?

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Letters Pray

It's been well over a month since I've looked at some letters into The Shropshire Star, and the papers I've saved especially for this reason have begun to fester a little bit and really need binning. So, let's cut the small talk here and go go go. I'm treating you by lining up a Val Duncan DOUBLE-BILL first!


Cameron says: "If I was running a Conservative-only Government I think we would be making further steps on things like immigration control or making sure that our welfare reforms were absolutely making sure that if you're not prepared to work you can't go on welfare. I think we'd be tougher than that."


A very bad statement to make because Cameron is already known as Mr U-turn and this confirms we have a very weak Prime Minister who will give ground for an easy ride. Time to change the leader and put someone in place who has a backbone.

Who? I don't agree with Val's opinion here, but let's run with this last sentence. You get rid of D-Cam, and you replace him with....who exactly? Gideon? Michael Gove?

*little devil on Ewar's shoulder* "Don't you like David Davis and think he'd be a good leader?"


Also, Val seems to be criticising the fact that a leader operating in a coalition Government is making it very clear that he's the leader of a coalition Government. Boo! Send him to the stocks!

The Prime Minister made a speech a few months ago enthusiastically welcoming Turkey's 78 million into the EU, which of course means unfettered access to England which is already chronically overcrowded. That's how serious he is about mass immigration.

Of course it does. That is, OF COURSE, what it means. All of these Turkish people are now able to come over here now that they've joined the EU. I'm looking forward to meeting a Turkish person! We've never had one in this country before, of course.

Now please just excuse me whilst I go and get a kebab. Lovely guys down at my local kebab house. No idea where they come from!

We could virtually stop immigration in its tracks if we stopped the benefit system (but I suppose this isn't allowed by the EU!) 


David Cameron is the biggest disaster ever. Need I add more?

"The Biggest Disasters Ever - A List by Val Duncan"

5 Hindenburg
4 Munich Air Disaster
3 Titanic
2 Pompeii
1 David Cameron

Val Duncan


Europe wants to raise the percentage of reduction of carbon footprints from 20% to 30%?

That is a brilliant idea.

What a brilliant idea.

I know! Good, isn't it?

Let us send all manufacturing and wealth creating to China or even India...we can all sit back and let China and India send us financial aid. 


Can I ask just when our Prime Minister is going to start thinking about Britain? Please Mr Cameron will you stop looking in the mirror and practising looking important on the world stage and start looking at the state of our country instead.

This is really annoying, as Val wrote this BEFORE Cameron decided to stay on his holidays rather than come back to the UK once the looting started, so reading this now it appears that she has a point. Damn you D-Cam! Nevertheless, I like this paragraph a lot more when you take it literally, and imagine our Prime Minister taking a few moments every day to look in the mirror and "practice looking important".

Whilst I'm here - "Europe wants to..." suddenly becomes all about Cameron and Britain. Far be it for me to try and wade through Val Duncan's thoughts and make some sort of sense out of them, but I'm not sure this really makes any sense whatsoever. As we've seen in the past, she HATES a federal Europe, but now she wants Europe to keep all of it's profitable manufacturing going whilst banning David Cameron from looking in mirrors.

I think?

We are under-educated and under-defended;

Speak for yourself.

unemployment is abysmal; we are cutting everything and paying more for essentials. Either get a grip or stand down. You are not up to the job.

I for one welcome our new David Davis led overlords!

Val Duncan

Seriously, you were from Wellington a few minutes ago. What's going on?

There's only so much Val Duncan a man can take, so let's move on.

Is Nato finished?


One good reason it will not survive - it is costing America too much.


Allan Tucker

Thanks Allan!

To be honest, I secretly like Allan Tucker. If you're going to be wrong - and he ALWAYS is - it's better to be wrong in about 12 words then 1,200.


I have just been in a local shop and asked where was the fat (very helpful and efficient) girl -

This is going to be a boring letter. Does anyone want a cup of tea? I'm just on my way to the kitchen, so if you want anything shout now or forever hol...hang on, what? Can you repeat that?

I have just been in a local shop and asked where was the fat (very helpful and efficient) girl -

Wow. And I mean that.

a perfectly innocent comment! Not a slur!

When I get to about 70, can someone just put me down, please? I don't want to end up like this person, or like my Gran, who goes to church several times a week yet is the biggest racist I know.

The thing is, she doesn't do it deliberately - it's just the attitude that she's grown up with, and now times have changed she can't adapt. But that's a race thing. Surely there's never been an acceptable time to flippantly describe someone, in a social context, as "the fat girl"?

It reminds me a little of Father Ted, the way that Matthews and Linehan named their characters - "The Dancing Priest", "The Boring Priest" and so on.

I was told by the obviously educated lady serving that I should not say such things etc.

If there's one thing I fucking hate - and which we need less of - it's educated people. Fuck off, learned people! Take a hike, socially aware, diplomatic, courteous and kind folk!

What a narrow-minded nasty little world the politically correct brigade have brought about!

And......I'm bailing.

J H Price

I read the letters page every day, yet I've never seen this name before. That, combined with the last sentence, makes me think that I'm being had here.

Because this is a wind-up, isn't it? It has to be. I don't want to exaggerate my power and influence(!) but I do get readers landing on these blog entries often having Googled a letter writers name. There's a danger that combing through the letters pages, I've set myself up for a right merking - someone has seen this blog and tried to reel me in with a letter like this.

JH Price from Madeley. My eye is very much trained on you. Fat boy.


One more.

I cannot believe the content of Val Duncan's letter (July 4th). While I am concerned about the way some immigrants seem to get benefits, it's obvious that most of that letter is untrue, very inflammatory and intended to stir up racial hatred.

Ron Jones
St Martins

Ooof! It's Ron Jones 1-0 Val Duncan!

Can Val equalise?! Join us next time to find out, kids!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

OMFG Football!!


It was the Community Shield on Sunday, and what a game it was. Regardless of the result however, the match signalled one very important thing - that the new Premier League season is just days away. Exciting, huh?

So allow me to now subdue all that excitement by giving you my Premier League Guide - a quick look at every team before a predicted table which will be thought up off the top of my head. I started writing this on August 8th, finished it on August 10th. The transfer deadline closes at the end of the month. Bear that in mind when I ponder why Chelsea/Arsenal etc haven't signed a midfielder/defender etc yet.

ARSENAL - How long can this continue? For the Gunners last season, it was the same old story - good football, big attendances, stylish players, mental fragility, lack of leaders, a player pining for La Rambla, poor goalkeeper, poor centre halves, stressed manager.

You'd cry if you didn't laugh. Has one game EVER summed up a team as much as Newcastle 4-4 Arsenal did? The really funny thing is that EVERYONE outside of The Emirates know what they need - A goalkeeper. A hard as nails centre half. A spiteful bastard in the middle of the pitch. A miracle to keep Robin van Persie fit.

They'll be Top 4. They'll play, at times, sensational football. They'll blow away teams lower down the league. They'll not win a sausage. Again. How much longer?

ASTON VILLA - When a manager is appointed whom the home crowd instantly dislike, it's very VERY difficult for the man in charge to get them on board and win them round. Alex McLeish has a real job on his hands at Villa, you feel. The Villa fanbase just don't do "solid, steady, defensive" - the things that McLeish preached at their neighbours - and would it surprise anyone if he was sacked 3/4 into the season with the team languishing in about 14th? They won't go down, and N'Zogbia is a nice replacement for Ashley Young, but Villa fans shouldn't get their hopes up.

BLACKBURN ROVERS - As I said to my father the other day: "Blackburn. Now there's a team who are going down." Because they are, aren't they? There's no argument I can make for them staying up, to be honest. Who's going to score their goals? Their forward options:

Nick Blackman. Who? Mauro Formica. Who? David Goodwillie. Who? David Hoilett. Promising, but still raw. Nikola Kalinic. Really? Jason Roberts. Meh. Ruben Rochina. WHO?

When you combine their weak squad with their inexperienced and no-name manager, and then mix all that in with their laughable owners, I can't see anything else than the drop. And once they go, you fear they won't be back for a while.

BOLTON WANDERERS - This is a big season for Bolton. With an ambitious, confident and enthusiastic young manager at the helm, they could push on and improve on their 14th place of last season. OR they can go back to being over-reliant on the thuggery of Kevin Davies for their goals and continue being...well...decent, but not exactly scintillating. Their football now is a million miles away from the nonsense dreamt up by Gary Megson though, and that should be applauded. They'll be fine.

CHELSEA - 2nd, 2nd, 3rd, 1st, 2nd. That's Chelsea over the past five seasons, so you know what you get with them. They have the leaders and the toughness that Arsenal lack, and their first XI is still powerful, strong and on their day dominant. But the squad is ageing, and let's not even mention the Torres headache. Can they win the league? They can, but you feel the answer to that question boils down to the senior players and their relationship with the new manager, Andre Villas-Boas. Their home form however means they are still a lock for the Top 3.

EVERTON - How long can this continue? Everton are absolutely skint, a fact which can be used as evidence when extolling the virtues of their manager David Moyes. What more can he do at the club? Nothing - certainly nothing with the current ownership in charge. Bill Kenwright is a good man, and a good owner, but he can't cope with the money that's thrown around the league nowadays. Midtable is where they will be, probably after a slow start.

FULHAM - "What on Earth happened with Mark Hughes?" is the thing that springs to mind with Fulham. Before his strange exit, Fulham were being Fulham - strong at home, poor away from home, playing nice football and generally being everyone's second-favourite Premier League team. Martin Jol should carry that on, but you get the feeling an awful lot rests on Bobby Zamora's shoulders.

LIVERPOOL - I have to talk about them? I do. Hmmph. Well, they massively overpaid for Jordan Henderson, and Charlie Adam is SHITE. Luis Suarez is top quality, but how tired will he be after a lengthy Copa America? They'll score more than last season - look out for the Downing/Carroll combination - but their defence is susceptible. How much longer does Jamie Carragher have left? Top 4? Possible, but I'd bet on 5th being their final position.

MANCHESTER city - They're getting noisier, let's not pretend otherwise, but the key question is this - can
city win the league under Roberto Mancini? On the outside, he's the calm and elegant Italian, but you can tell that inside he's unsure where to turn. Great job, great squad, but the pressure and the nonsense that goes with it must be a nightmare for him. And that's just Mario Balotelli.

Going back to the question - they've got a great chance, and you can't help thinking that a league title will be theirs sooner rather than later. But this season? So much depends on Carlos Tevez - not just his goals, but his workrate up front. If he stays, they'll get close. Real close.


Good, that's his name out of the way. What a shame that an excellent pre-season for the 19-times champions has been eclipsed by the torturous, endless "will he, won't he" W.S. saga. It's got to the stage now where whatever the outcome, just get it over with already. It is exhausting, and thoroughly dull.

Whether he comes or not, the size of Sir Alex's squad does pose a few questions. Where does Danny Welbeck play? Who starts on the flanks? Tom Cleverley - what do you do with him? Kiko Macheda? Michael Owen? Where does Phil Jones play? What about Dimitar Berbatov, for Gods sake. He was top scorer last season! Who starts as #1 goalkeeper? Why the hell is Darron Gibson still here?

But there's one other issue on my mind. I have to whisper this very quietly, as he's hugely popular - but Patrice Evra had a really poor season last year, an issue that wasn't really helped by the nonsense in the French camp at the World Cup, and then Sir Alex's desire to play him as much as possible. I'd love to see Fabio get more games at left-back this year, if only to give Paddy some sodding rest.

Chances this season? United go in as favourites, and it'd take a brave man to bet against them all the time Sir Alex is at the helm. If they improve their away form, they will be celebrating title #20 next May.

NEWCASTLE UNITED - To be perfectly honest, I don't have a clue with this one. I really don't. Most of the time I'm pretty certain that Newcastle United themselves don't really know what's going on at Newcastle United. They finished 12th last season, which was a fabulous effort, but you do wonder if they can get close to repeating that this time around. Amongst all the silliness however, there's some decent players. Hatem Ben Arfa is highly skilful, Yohan Cabaye has done well in France, Jose Enrique is one of the league's underrated players. The problem is that regardless of the squad, madness is always just round the corner at St James Park. Will letting Kevin Nolan and Joey Barton go come back to haunt them?

NORWICH CITY - Back to back promotions see Norwich back in the Premier League, a rise masterminded by promising manager Paul Lambert. Can they survive? It's going to be very, very difficult - you can't help thinking that they're totally reliant on Grant Holt for their goals, and their squad doesn't read very impressively on paper. Urged on by a strong home support, they might....might....just do it.

QUEENS PARK RANGERS - Ah, and it's a welcome return to Neil "Colin" Warnock back to the Premier League. Haven't we missed him?

Would it be unfair to pin all their hopes on Adel Taarabt staying? Perhaps, but it's clear that he's the stand out talent in that squad. Last season QPR were strong defensively and they'll need to continue that in the top division, particularly as you can't see DJ Campbell and Jay Bothroyd scoring a bucketful of goals. Whatever you think about him, Warnock is a canny operator, and his rapport with his players goes a long way. It should be eventful.

STOKE CITY - Sigh. For the past three years I've hoped and prayed that the rugby team will get relegated, but alas, nothing has been doing. So, this season, I'm going to confidently predict they'll be mid-table in the hope of a jinx.

What can we expect this season then? Dare I suggest it will be a lot of oohing and ahhing over someone throwing a football a long way? An over-reliance on set pieces? The centre halves hoofing the ball upto Kenwyne Jones at every available second? Thuggery from Andy Wilkinson and Ryan Shawcross?

Maybe Stoke City will surprise me. Maybe they'll play like Brazil 1970, and if they do then I'll be the first to applaud them. I shan't be holding my breath though.

SUNDERLAND - Now here's a funny one. On paper, everything looks very rosy for the Mackems - they've improved their league position year on year for the past three seasons, they've just signed players with excellent experience such as John O'Shea and Wes Brown and have tempted promising young players such as Connor Wickham to join the club. But after the exit of Darren Bent, Sunderland went on a dangerously bad run, not winning a single league game in February and March and damaging fatally their quest for Europe which had looked good at Christmas.

Steve Bruce is a good manager, who's made good signings. They'll be fine, certainly, but how high can they go?

SWANSEA CITY - Is it lazy to call them "the new Blackpool"? It is, but you can't help doing it, as there's so many similarities between them. Looking through their squad, the stand out name is Danny Graham, the £3.5m signing who was so highly rated at Watford. It's a big ask for him to keep them in the division, however. Don't be surprised if Swansea are Top 6 after 10 games, top half at Christmas, bottom three in May.

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR - Harry? Harry, are you there? What's going on? It's August 10th and you've signed three players, two of which were on free transfers. What's happened to the "fackin' wheeler dealer" you pretend you're not?

Tottenham still have a Top 6 squad, and without the distraction of the Champions League they look well placed to challenge once again for the Top 4. Can they do it, though? At the time of writing, you wonder if they have the firepower to do so. They may have to settle for 6th.

WEST BROMWICH ALBION - Well done Jeremy Peace. In possibly the boldest move of last season, the chairman of the Midlands club decided that although they weren't in the relegation zone, Roberto di Matteo's brand of football was too open and too risky for staying in the league which is so financially crucial. He gambled, and he got it right. The appointment of Roy Hodgson was a masterstroke, and Roy will keep things very stable there this season as well.

WIGAN ATHLETIC - On the field, the Premier League need more teams like Wigan - teams ran by bright young managers who demand good football and an emphasis on flair. Off the field, Wigan Athletic are the last team the Premier League wants. It's a rugby town - always has been, always will be - and you wonder just what exactly is needed to get more people attending games at the DW Stadium.

It's really difficult to know what to predict with Wigan. They've survived - just - the last two seasons, which suggests that they'll be in trouble again. But Roberto Martinez wants a Top 10 finish, and they're a side who can get on a hot streak and boast a dangerous striker in Hugo Rodallega. For Wigan, it could be going down to the last day of the season again.

WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS - You know what you get with a Mick McCarthy side. They'll battle, they'll compete, they'll be a tough opponent in their backyard, and they'll have a splash of quality, but not much. They beat Manchester United, Manchester city and Chelsea last season, so they're no mugs, and in Matt Jarvis, Kevin Doyle and Jamie O'Hara they do have some good players. Roger Johnson is a big signing for them, although you do wonder if they overpaid when splashing out £7m on the tall defender. I think they'll stay up, but you wonder how much further McCarthy can take them.

1 Manchester United
2 Manchester city
3 Chelsea
4 Arsenal
5 Liverpool
6 Tottenham
7 Sunderland
8 Everton
9 Fulham
10 Stoke
11 Aston Villa
12 Bolton
13 West Bromwich Albion
14 Newcastle United
15 Wolverhampton Wanderers
16 Wigan Athletic
17 Norwich
18 QPR
19 Blackburn
20 Swansea