Sunday, 30 December 2012

Prepare to be vajazzled

When someone recently told me about something called vajazzling I was a bit confused. So I've done a little research to find out more (thank you Google), and I'm still confused.
Vajazzling basically involves the decoration of a womans freshly waxed pubic area with shiny things.
Now as a man I can honestly say that I'm never looked  down at the old chap and thought "What that really needs is a bunch of rhinestones in the shape of a heart to really set it off, and while I'm at it maybe I'll paint the spherical bits gold so they look like christmas baubles."
So why on earth would a woman want to do this? Granted, at least it's not permanent like a tattoo (god, you really don't want to get me started on the tattoos on women thing) but it does raise some questions.
Firstly, why go to so much effort on something that's going to have such a limited audience? Get your hair done and everyone can see it but I seriously doubt you could go showing that off to all and sundry without raising a few eyebrows.
Also, if you've gone through what must be such unimaginable torture having all the hair ripped out in the first place, why would you just replace it with something resembling Michael Jackson's favourite glove? I'm by no means a fan of the 'scary hairy' look and if the short and curlies are making a bid for freedom out of your knickers and down your legs then maybe it's time to do something about it. Regular tending of the garden with some judicious topiary never goes amiss - after all, a nice picture is always better mounted in a decent frame.
But as a strictly heterosexual bloke I can't help wonder what would make someone want to adorn one of natures most beautiful creations with bits left over from homemade greeting cards. I mean it's bad enough getting a blackberry seed stuck in your teeth let alone a miniature fake jewel.
At a time when women are increasingly and unfathomably drawn to body editing involving ugly great tattoos and piercings in inadvisable places I dread to think what we're going to see next.

Peace in our time

Listen, can you hear it? No? Me neither. The neighbours have gone away for a few days and the peace and quiet is wonderful. OK, I haven't been to crow-bar the boy out of his whiffy pit yet and I know that once he's showered the zombie mode away the mere notion of peace and quiet will be a distant memory as he'll either be playing crap music or shouting abuse at other players on various online Xbox games. Or both at the same time.
So I'm pacing myself this morning. I'm not going to launch myself at jobs like yesterday when the need to do something about the six foot featherboard garden fence that was blowing around at worrying angles resulted in taking the whole thing down, leaving just a four foot chain link behind. Bit of a bummer as I only put up the extra tall bit to get some privacy from the olds next door about seven years ago. Can't be arsed to do anything more with it now though as we'll probably be moving house this coming year.
The downside of the way so many people live their lives at full volume, combined with a general lack of consideration for others, is that true peace and quiet is hard to come by. Is it really too much to ask to be able to sit and read a book without ending up reading the same sentence ten times before giving up because some bugger's distracting you with comedy sketches on YouTube in the corner of the room or some old fart is shouting loudly down the phone next door. What is it with old folk that they assume that just because they're deaf everyone else must be? Especially on the phone because they're a long way away so you have to shout if they're going to hear you all the way up in Scotland... And now the bastards have got themselves a speakerphone. Great, so now we get to hear BOTH sides of the conversation. AAARRRGGGHHH!!!!
In my dreams I'd be able to live in a detached house with no neighbours for at least a quarter of a mile. Obviously this would bring about the need for major security involving high steel fences topped with razor wire and a pack of very hungry dobermans if the thieving parasitic f***ers are to be kept away. And some of those automatic sentry guns like they had in 'Aliens' would be cool too.
The reality is though, that we're likely to end up in the midst of many other people with the risk of summers filled with family garden parties, screaming kids, and teenagers playing their music loud with the windows thrown wide open so the rest of the world can appreciate their music tastes too. All things we don't get here, where we could just spend a couple of grand putting up a soundproofing wall and maybe not hear the neighbours at all, but next door isn't the only reason for moving house.
It could be that old age is when you finally get your peace and quiet. You've done your bit for the country by working, paying your taxes and national insurance, and it's time to get something back. Time to relax, have a nice cup of tea and a HobNob, and read your book without any distractions because now you're the one who's deaf.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

What's wrong with this picture?

The madness of the sales is in full swing. Having just returned from a trip into Cambridge I think it's fair to say that the world has run mad. We went in mainly to get a replacement phone for the boy as his other one decided to turn up its toes, and made the wise decision to use the park and ride so we didn't have to cope with the nightmare that is parking in Cambridge.
Wandering around there were a number of things that hit me, apart from a great many raindrops.
The obvious thing was the number of people who were clearly on a mission. With a lustful urge for maximum retail therapy, these folk were determined to let nothing get in the way of their goal; clutching numerous bags plastered with designer shop labels and a disturbingly large number with a large picture of a honed and toned naked male torso on (seems so very wrong when it's being carried by a pre-pubescent girl).
Despite the regular downpours these people were clearly living the dream. Spend spend spend, regardless of whether the purchases were necessary or not, because there was 50 percent off so it would be crazy to not have it, wouldn't it?
Now I'm not one to pay particular attention to children - in fact those who know me will be aware that I'll go to great lengths to avoid the bloody things - but there was one that did catch my attention, and not for any good reason. This girl couldn't have been more than twelve, but she was dressed like a thirty-year-old and a thirty-year-old with plenty of money too. When I looked further and spotted mummy I realised where the kid's influence lay and it made me think.
I know that kids seem to grow up faster these days, but what's with this obsession amongst many of them to be grown ups before they've even given themselves chance to be kids? I know most kids look forward to being adults with all the exciting prospects that brings, like your own money, not living with your parents, going to bed when you like etc, but to forcefully bring about changes in appearance and attitude that are too old for you when you lack the physical and emotional maturity to get away with it is puzzling.
I mean, what kind of image are these kids trying to portray? Take a walk around a city centre and if you pay attention you'll spot no end of examples of this phenomena, and the really odd thing is that they're almost exclusively girls. I've yet to spot an eleven-year-old boy dressed like Richard Hammond.
It's like those weird beauty pageants they have in America where they have girls of about eight done up like a cross between Barbara Cartland and a prostitute and paraded in front of a crowd of people of questionable tendencies. Now we live in a world where we're constantly being told in the news about the latest paedo perv to be arrested, and yet events like that are still allowed to take place which I personally think is just sick.
We're adults for a hell of a long time so kids should be making the most of having no commitments, riding their bikes and climbing trees for as long as they can get away with it.
Young girls dressed like grown-ups isn't the only thing you see when walking through a city centre either and some days you wonder if it's halloween or something. Granted I'm not someone who can pass much judgement on fashion, but it beggars belief some of the sights you see and you wonder how these individuals were able to look at themselves in the mirror before leaving the house and thought "yeah, that looks fine".
Guys with their trousers hanging down with their underpants on show is a look that I always thought weird, but I recently discovered that the origins of this habit is traced back to American prisons where an inmate would wear their trousers low round their arse to indicate the (ahem) availability of their rear for the entertainment of other inmates of a certain persuasion. Since I found this out I can't help but laugh to myself whenever I spot someone wearing their trousers like that.
Teenage girls dressed like trainee sluts, men of fifty-plus dressing like a twenty-year-old, and all sorts of shapes and sizes wearing clothes designed for a completely different shape and size.
Which brings me to the ultimate faux-pas.... fat women in leggings. No. Alright? Just no. It's not big or clever and nobody's impressed so please just stop it OK?

Sunday, 23 December 2012

The curse of the rose tinted spectacles

Nostalgia ain't what it used to be, as they say, and it's true.
So often we say things like "they don't write them like they used to", or "it wasn't like this back in my day", or "hey, I remember this film, it was great, let's watch it again".
Case in point was last night when I spotted 'The Philadelphia Experiment' on Lovefilm Instant and, harbouring fond and distant memories of when I watched it back in the days when I didn't know better, decided we should sit down and watch it. Oh dear. With its crappy 1984 special effects and decidedly dodgy acting it really had not stood the test of time. The other week I heard that they'd done a remake of Total Recall which initially brought up the predictable feelings of annoyance - "Why do they have to mess with things, what was wrong with the Schwarzenegger one?". The sad truth is that the answer to that is probably "lots".
There are many times when we look back through rose tinted specs. If I think back to my early days of video games I'll get all misty eyed over memories of Jet Set Willly on the Sinclair Spectrum or Elite on the BBC Micro. But try those games on a PC now running an emulator and you're reminded what makes Call Of Duty so damn good. Pole Position might have got us excited as kids, but I'm afraid it just can't compete with Forza 4.
And it's not just computer generated cars that suffer from the nostalgia bug - I have many terrific memories of  looning around in my Alfa Romeo Alfasud back in 1989. With its glorious flat four engine with its wonderful induction noise from its enormous Dellorto carbs, and its on-rails handling with its tendency to lift the inside rear wheel off the deck during hard cornering, it's a car I often search for in the classifieds in the hope of reliving those happy days. But I'm also painfully aware that the reality would involve spending every weekend under the bonnet fixing the bloody thing, and welding up whatever new rust hole has appeared over the last week. Seriously - Alfa put the rust in at the factory.
Criticising new music for its appalling lack of meaningful lyrics is a popular passtime for me, but if I think about it carefully there's always been dubious lyrics in music - 'Ob La Di Ob La Da' anyone? To be fair, popular music isn't worse it's just different, but as a paid-up moaning old git it's my job to get all pissy about anything that doesn't sound like Depeche Mode or Genesis.
The reality is that every generation believes that the golden age was many years before - during the industrial revolution there were probably plenty of old farts claiming the world was a much better place back when all people had to worry about was bubonic plague, and why do we need all these newfangled machines and steam engines anyway? Did dinosaurs dream of the good old days in the primordial soup?
It's a never-ending state - in thirty years time our kids will be moaning to their kids about the awful chart music, saying "Why can't you listen to decent classical music like Skrillex?".
The bottom line is that for the most part things DO get better, but we become so stuck in our ways that we're unable to see virtue in new things and so we become more and more detached from the world around us as we get older. I do try to keep up with new things, especially in technology because I need to because of what I do and because it's something I enjoy, but already I feel I'm getting left behind a bit. I know that there will come a time soon when I will regard some new innovation in the same way my father seems to consider the internet to be the terrifying bastard spawn of satan and the cause of everything that's wrong with the world.
So for now I'll sit back and carry on daydreaming of better times when a can of Coke cost 15p, sticking a piece of cardboard in the spokes of your bicycle wheel to make it sound like a motorbike was a fun thing to do, and every sweet shop sold Spangles.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Oh sir, it's only wafer thin!

A couple of weeks ago I touched on the pleasures of food and drink, which when combined with my little rant about the excesses of the festive season brings me nicely to the subject of overindulgence.
This is the time of year when the whole country comes together in one massive effort to boost sales of Alka Seltzer into the stratosphere.
But although Christmas may be the season of mass liver destruction, it's not the only time people find it necessary to sleep on the pavement. For some, every weekend is one relentless cycle of drink-drink-vomit-drink-vomit-ambulance. Fortunately most very quickly make the link between excessive alcohol and feeling like crap and manage to get these tendencies under control.
There are a couple of people I know who may smile to themselves reading this as they're aware that my inspiration for todays ruminations will be partly a result of my Jack Daniels consumption last night. Indeed this morning my head feels a bit uncertain which way is up, but experience told me when I'd had enough and it was time to move on to the coffee. That experience has been a hard-earned thing and like most people I suffered a great deal in gaining it. Memories of being 17 and crawling up the stairs to the bathroom while trying unsuccessfully to stem the flow of mums homemade wine on its return journey will haunt me forever. The same goes for the time I woke up naked in the bath throwing up something red down the plughole. God knows how I made it home that night but I don't think I've drunk snakebite & black since. There was also the time I got wrecked on Pernod at a friend's 30th birthday. Again, not a drop of the offending liquid has passed my lips since that night.
Eventually you reach a point where you instinctively know that if you have just one more drink there will be serious repercussions and that's when you're able to enjoy a session with a clear conscience (if not a clear head).
Overindulgence in food is another area that some never get to grips with. I'm a firm believer in the old saying 'everything in moderation'. Why shouldn't you be able to eat the things you enjoy? As long as it's part of a balanced diet where's the problem? There are those who despite the amount of dietary information out there still believe that a balanced diet is a pork pie in each hand, and taking a walk round any town you get the feeling that the message is being lost on more and more people.
When I was a kid I lost count of the times I'd be told "Don't eat all those sweets at once, you'll make yourself sick". The natural thought of any kid of course is "Don't be silly, how could something so tasty make me........uh oh.......... that's not right....... can't be the sweets it must be those sprouts.......".
I obviously got a grip of that because despite the call of middle age spread I still sit in the middle of the healthy band of the BMI scale which I must admit feels good, and as long as I can maintain that healthy balance between vegetables and custard creams I hope I can keep it that way.
When ingesting something makes you feel good you're obviously going to want to do it again, and fighting that urge is the key to the whole problem. If Mr Creosote in Monty Python's "The Meaning Of Life" had figured that one out he wouldn't have fallen prey to the wafer thin mint and Little Britain wouldn't have had the inspiration for that obnoxious projectile-vomiting woman.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Sheeple - people who blindly follow the crowd

Why do you celebrate Christmas? Well, it's what you do, isn't it? After all it's hard to be different, and at no other time of the year is it more apparent than now.
Everyone says things like "Are you ready for Christmas?", "Have you done your Christmas shopping?" or "Doing anything special for Christmas?", and frankly I'm sick of it. All of it. I don't do Christmas and I don't want it forced down my throat 24 hours a day, thank you very much.
I don't have a problem with the concept of Christmas - it's a religious festival and if it's part of your faith then there's no reason to not celebrate it in the manner that your religion suggests.
Unfortunately, what Christmas has become for 99 percent of the UK population is nothing more than an annual commercial festival of greed and gluttony, and for me that's just wrong. But everyone's so caught up in this period of rampant consumerism, they don't stop to think "What am I doing this for?"
Ask any kid what Christmas is about and the first word out of their mouth will be "Presents!".
Presents that will all too often be received by someone who says "Ooh thank you, it's lovely" while thinking "or at least it will be when I've returned it to the store and exchanged it for something I actually like".
As for all the bloody fairy lights and decorations..... The worst house I know of in the area is on a corner in Cottenham. Every year it gets worse. I know they have a collecting box for charity donations, but why not just add up the money spent on lights and electricity and just give that to charity and save the rest of us the eyesore. And there's one on the main road in my village that's in desperate need of a midnight visit with a pair of wire cutters.
Then there's the food situation. More food than everyone could possibly consume in a month is stockpiled for a two day binge before being thrown out because either it's gone manky or you've decided that you can never look at another box of candy orange and lemon slices without wanting to hurl.
And after the binge comes the inevitable and predictable new year resolutions, so it's off to Argos to exchange those unwanted gifts for an exercise bike that will be used intensively for three weeks, then gather dust for six months before being dispatched to the next car boot sale.
Then of course there's the new year sales. As if the retailers haven't drained enough of the life blood of the country with their incessant festive bullshit that started in September, they still feel the need to drag the gullible public back to the stores to slap down their already overheated credit cards on yet more crap they don't need on the basis that it's cheap.
After the event, when the last of the giant turkey has found its way into yet another curry that should have had a more deserving meat in it, and you've been to see the bank manager to discuss how the hell you're going to pay back the debts incurred by your irrational spending spree, you'll most likely be saying "Right that's it, I'm not doing it again next year!". But you will. You know you will, because you don't dare to be different from the crowd.

The image above says it all really. The point is that showing your family you love them is something you should do by your words and actions every day of the year.
There are alternatives to Christmas though. Simply not getting involved is actually very liberating and gives grumpy bastards like me the opportunity to tell people to shove their "Merry Christmas" up their arse.
You can always go all pagan of course, and if you want to celebrate something then the winter solstice is surely more sensible. After all, the start of the return to longer days is something we all yearn for at this time of year.
So on 21st of December we'll be having a good roast dinner, a slice of yule log cake, a small gift each and we'll give thanks to mother nature for the imminent return of days when you can drive home from work in the daylight and spend long evenings drinking wine in the garden and swatting wasps.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Life's little pleasures (sponsored by TVL)

If you're asked by someone what you consider to be life's greatest pleasures it's very easy to lose yourself in a fantasy world of hedonistic partying, piles of cash, or maybe throwing yourself out of a plane wearing a bat suit. I'm sure these things must be wonderful, but not necessarily an option for Joe Average.
The fact is that however mundane we feel life may be, it's full of little pleasures that, when you start to notice them, can be longer lasting and more satisfying than a dusk-to-dawn rave up.
The obvious thing that springs to mind is food and drink. We all eat and we all have foods that send us into mild raptures. These foods are often things that we know we really shouldn't indulge in too often lest we find ourselves on the wrong end of various "who ate all the pies?" jokes. Mmmm....... steak and kidney.......
Chocolate is a common downfall and I'm as guilty as the next chocoholic for destroying an entire 'family size' bar in one sitting. 'Bigger bar for sharing', proclaims the label. Yeah, right. The biggest misnomer in confectionery has to be 'funsize'. A funsize Mars bar is about a third of the size of a regular one. Where's the fun in that? A funsize Mars bar should be two foot long!
I also have a major weakness for cheesecake. Anytime, anywhere, if cheesecake gets wheeled out I'm there for a session. Same goes for lemon meringue pie. Have I had enough? If there's any left then the answer is no, I haven't. There's also the Custard Cream issue. Don't get me started....
It's not just sweet stuff that triggers that feel-good factor either. Roast duck with roast potatoes and a big pile of veg smothered in thick gravy - bliss. The wife's homemade lasagne - heaven. I recently made some red onion chutney. Oh my god.
And then we come to drink. Whether it's a double Americano at Costa, a big mug of Assam, or a nice bottle of Chablis, we can all find pleasure in these things. It's just a question of being in the moment and allowing yourself to become immersed in the experience. There have to be exceptions of course - I can't believe anyone would genuinely want to immerse themselves in the experience of a Big Mac because the only reason you'd eat one at all was because you were desperate and a take-away burger was slightly preferable to eating your own shoe, and even that justification doesn't stop you from feeling shameful and violated afterwards.
Look around and you can always find little things that you probably take for granted, but can appreciate for the pleasure they give if you give them a bit more thought.
I could bang on for ages about the freedom of riding a motorcycle, taking long walks in the countryside, sitting by the open door listening to a raging thunderstorm, and the constant hankering for a bacon sandwich, but everybody's ideas are different.
A couple of days ago I discovered a new little pleasure from a most unlikely source. A knock on the door heralded the arrival of an inspector from the television licensing authority. The conversation went something like this:

TVL: Mr Martin?
DM: Yes
TVL: Our records show that your television license has expired
DM: That's right, I cancelled it a while ago.
TVL: Do you have a television set?
DM: Yes
TVL: Then I'm going to have to sign you up for a new license..
DM: No you don't. We don't watch TV.
TVL: What?
DM: All the TVs are detuned, and there are no aerials.
TVL: Do you mind if I come in and have a look?
DM: Not at all. Of course I know I don't have to let you in....
TVL: That's true
DM: ....but I've got nothing to hide so help yourself. There. No aerial connected, we use it to watch DVDs and Blurays, and we stream content from Lovefilm which we pay a monthly fee for.
TVL: Oh.... Oh, alright then, I'll make a note on your records then to say you don't need a license. Sorry to trouble you.
DM: No problem, goodbye.

Seeing his smug face fall and him sloping off with his tail between his legs was absolutely priceless, and gave me yet another thing to add to my list of life's little pleasures.