Sunday, 29 March 2015

The arsehole factor

For a long time now I've been harping on about 95 percent of Audi drivers being complete arseholes. If there's a pair of headlights far too close in your rear view mirror there's a high probability that the four rings of terror will be lurking between them.
I kept saying that no matter how good Audis look or how well engineered they may be, I could never own one because I simply don't want to be associated with the sort of person that drives them.
Then I started to question my prejudice, because if I'm honest I often discover that such strongly held beliefs seldom stand up to close scrutiny and I'm left feeling somewhat foolish.

With this in mind I decided to spend a month analyzing the behaviour of other motorists, making a mental note of what cars were involved in displays of poor driving. Aggression, arrogance, bullying, lack of consideration for others, and general lack of skill or attention were the factors I was on the lookout for, and my findings have been interesting.
It should be no surprise that the largest group of idiots on the road turns out to be van-man, with the smaller car-derived vans being even more of a hazard than the standard Transit type. Reassuring to know that some stereotypes are alive and well...
Of standard cars, Fords turned out to be responsible for more examples of bad behaviour than any other marque, with Renaults a close second. How odd. Granted there may be an argument that perhaps Fords are very common and therefore this finding is slightly flawed, but I can only go by what I've witnessed.
Volvo, Seat and Volkswagen also stood out as being involved in incidents of poor driving, but by the end of week three I was getting a bit unnerved by the fact that every Audi I saw appeared to be behaving itself. Indeed many were even seen to be courteous to other road users by allowing them to pull out of junctions!
It seemed that my strongest belief about drivers of particular vehicles had been dashed against the rocks and I would have to retract all my previous accusations, stop having such outspoken views and change my way of thinking.

Then on Friday just coming into Cambridge on the way to work, I saw two outrageous examples of aggressive arrogant and downright dangerous driving within thirty seconds of each other, and can you guess what the cars were?
That's right...... Audis.
With a satisfying feeling that the balance of the universe had been restored, I concluded that arseholes will be arseholes regardless of what make of car they drive. However, if the arsehole is driving an Audi then you'd best beware.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Crumble and Captain Custard

Over the years I've often wondered why I had to pay national insurance when I never seemed to get out what I put in. Not only was I having money deducted from my salary without being asked, in much the same way as the tax man always made sure he got his bit, but even on the extremely rare occasions when I needed to see a doctor the prescription charge was greater than the value of whatever tube of gunk I'd been palmed off with.

Suddenly it's a different story and I feel like I'm being paid back with interest. Whether it all kicked off when I had the bike crash and ended up in hospital with an exploded knee, or simply that I passed the magic 40 marker at which point my body decided it was bored of keeping itself working smoothly, I really don't know, but it's as if I've gone from a body that runs as reliably as a new Honda to one that demands as much attention as a classic Triumph.
For years the top of my bedside cabinet contained nothing more than a lamp, a book and my watch, but over the last couple of years these items have jostled for space against an onslaught of assorted pills and potions. Now I'm thinking of making a little neon sign to hang up bearing the legend "Dave's Apocathary", because the collection of stuff is becoming almost laughable.
There's anti-inflammatory cream for my knee along with a pile of assorted pain killers for intermittent use when the pain gets too much, there's steroids to fight off the nasty reaction I had to some 50-year-old decomposing pipe insulation that fell in my face at work, Bazuka to deal with a stubborn verruca on my heel, and anti-fungal to fight a small case of athlete's foot which literally adds insult to injury considering I've been unable to do anything remotely athletic for a year and a half.

All this goes hand in hand with the less visible signs that I'm no longer a sprightly 20 year old. Increasingly I'm finding that sitting down in a chair is invariably accompanied with an audible and involuntary "Aahhh", and getting up again requires a determined "Ooohh". I used to laugh to myself when my parents did this, and now it's my own son that takes the piss out of me for doing the same thing. The endless energy of youth has been replaced with the knowledge that if I stop doing something and take a break, I'll never get going again.

But it's OK because I can see this as being an adjustment period to ease the transition from young and healthy to old and knackered. Without it the many and varied issues surrounding old age would come as far too much of a shock to cope with, and it makes you reassess any plans you might have for the future.
For so long I've fantasized about moving to the seaside when I retire, preferably somewhere on the North Yorkshire coast like Whitby. More recently though, I've begun to wonder if it might end up being more important to move within shuffling distance of a decent pharmacy.
When old age eventually rears its ugly head I'm going to greet it with open arms, a bionic knee and probably a weak bladder. Old people seem to have the ability to have fun and enjoy a zest for life that can only be fuelled by waking up every morning with your first thought being "Yay, I'm still alive!".
And if I still have the ability to do practical projects, I'll be the only old fart in town with a V8 powered mobility scooter, striking terror into the hearts of the local Barry boys.

Monday, 9 March 2015

A few hours to myself

The other week while waiting in reception at my works Occupational Health department, I spotted a noticeboard giving information about stress. Reading through the extensive list of symptoms and the advisory note of seeing your GP if you suffered some or any of them, it was with some disquiet that I realised that I could account for every single one of them.
Further research from various sources confirmed my fears, and now I'm sitting here wondering how best to approach my problems - various websites give advice on managing stress and there are a variety of methods common to them all.
What they do not advise is resorting to alcohol, cigarettes or drugs, which I suppose is where I've been going wrong for starters, because after a day at work and driving home in appalling rush hour traffic the first thing I usually do when I get home is open the fridge to look for a beer or maybe something stronger if I know it's in the cupboard.

Clearly something needs to change, so today I got a new beer kit underway which will soon yield 40 pints of bitter which means a ready supply of mental anaesthetic to dull the senses for a while which apparently is the last thing I need. Therefore I need to exercise caution, but that's not the whole story because the process of getting the new batch of homebrew underway was just one enjoyable leisure activity from today that has helped chill me out. The beauty of having a day off work when everyone else is out is being able to relax for a change. I don't need to interact with anyone, I don't have to listen to a teenager swearing profusely at his Playstation while Eminem jabbers repetitively to a bassline that shakes the door in its frame, and basically I can do as I please without having to worry that it might have an affect on someone else.
So along with starting the beer, I've fitted a keysafe to the outside wall, washed the car, done a little laundry, re-watched the finale of 'Breaking Bad', had fried eggs on toast for lunch, and had a go at following a guided meditation on CD that I bought about five years ago. Now I'm sitting on the sofa writing this blog post and contemplating the whys and wherefores of my situation with 'The Sisters Of Mercy' playing because I'm only allowed to listen to them when nobody else is around.

What I need to do is find ways to alleviate stress in my life. It's not as if I have what most would call a stressful life - I specifically engineer things that way - but it appears that my stress threshold is lower than one would expect. Ideally I'd quit my job and do something closer to home which doesn't have any real responsibility or even the need to think too much instead of managing a world-class aerodynamics research laboratory. If we could live on the wife's income I'd happily be a house-husband being creative in the kitchen, doing the chores, and carrying out the odd bit of DIY as needs dictate.
Instead, as my nice day to myself draws to a close with the inevitable arrival home of others, I'm preparing to get started on tonight's dinner knowing that once the dishwasher has been loaded I'll start worrying about what's going to happen tomorrow.
That's the only trouble with time off work - as therapeutic as it may be, at some point you still have to go back.

Monday, 2 March 2015

The Fountain Of Youth - not all it's cracked up to be

A couple of days ago, while watching the 1999 movie 'Brokedown Palace', I saw further confirmation of something I've suspected for a while - many people get better looking with age.
OK, I know this is not exactly breaking news but in this modern culture that positively worships at the altar of youth it's perhaps just a teensy bit controversial.
When it comes to TV it's particularly noticeable that the more mature presenter is something of an endangered species, while those blessed with youthful energy and wrinkle-free skin are doing all the running. This is even more obvious with women than men for some reason; when a grey-haired gent merits a title such as 'distinguished veteran' but a woman is more likely to be referred to as 'retired broadcaster' or similar.
Why is this? Why the assumption that someone younger is better?
It's fair to say that it is more appropriate to have a fit twenty-something doing a programme about extreme sports - it's hard to imagine the X-Games being covered by Michael Gambon - but there are times when you just wish the over-excitable individual on the screen would just stop shouting and using words that nobody over the age of 25 understands, and be replaced with someone who can communicate in clear English without referring to being excited as 'stoked'.

The issue of looks is very personal of course, but I do feel that although younger people are typically enjoying their looks at the best they're likely to be, there are definitely exceptions to the rule.
The film mentioned above starred Claire Danes and Kate Beckinsale, both of whom I was already familiar with, and I have to say that both of them have improved with age. To me Claire Danes looks way hotter in 'Homeland' in her thirties than she did at twenty in this film. Kate Beckinsale also seemed a tad less exciting than she did in 'Underworld', but that was only about four years difference so maybe it was the tight black leather outfit she wore in 'Underworld' that swayed my opinion somewhat....
'Brokedown Palace' also had a tiny uncredited role for Paul Walker who also got better looking as the years progressed. Not that I felt the same about him as Kate Beckinsale of course, but even a straight bloke is capable of acknowledging that another guy is decent looking. And that guy is definitely NOT Benedict Cabbagepatch.
Speaking of Paul Walker, his co-star in the 'Fast & Furious' franchise, Jordana Brewster, gets even more gorgeous with each instalment - and now (approaching 35) considerably better looking than she was at eighteen in 'The Faculty'.
Then we have Kylie who held no appeal when she felt she deserved to be so lucky, but more recently I really couldn't get her out of my head when she was wearing that white dress-but-not-a-dress thing.

This is just picking out a few at random but countless other examples remain, like Leonardo DiCaprio who had a face you wanted to slap when he was just starting out in movies and who personally I couldn't even bear to watch because the sight of his baby face made me want to throw things at the TV. He's way more acceptable these days and I can now appreciate him as a good actor.
Some people are simply blessed with good looks, and some aren't. Some look great when they're young but rapidly lose it as the years roll by. Others age like a fine wine, making me wonder why society puts such emphasis on the value of youth.
Surely it should be down to people as individuals rather than such an arbitrary measure as age?