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Saturday, 13 April 2013

My strength is my Geekness

Yeah yeah yeah, it's been ages. Get over it.

There's something I want to get off my chest, and its only after two glasses of rather good Rioja that I feel I'm able to articulate it properly. Here goes.....

I'm a geek!

I'm not a geek in the contemporary sense. Society has opted to turn being a geek into a fashion statement, and that's fine, but it’s not me. I'm not part of a 'geeky' scene. I don't wear 'geeky' clothes, I don't listen to 'geeky' music* and I don't hang around in 'geeky' groups. By my defiance to adhere to those parameters, am I even allowed to define myself a geek? Maybe not by today's standards, but I'm oldskool.

I'm a geek because I love science, and fantasy, and computer games, and board games (proper board games that take fucking hours to learn and days to play), and facts, and figures, and spreadsheets, and space, and magic*^, and shit*^*.

None of these subjects directly dictate how I should dress, or with whom I should associate myself, or whether or not I should pepper every sentence I utter with the word 'jokes' in place of the word 'good'.

I first experienced the newly defined word 'jokes' being used at a barbecue last summer at a friend's house. The guest list comprised mainly of people at least 8 years my junior, and I politely whiled away most of the afternoon speculating that as I was now a man in my 30's, and most of these people were clearly in their early 20's, they were probably having more sex than me, however I was probably better with my money than them. Everyone was having a lovely time.

However, the one thing that stuck out like a bodybuilder at a bake-off about that day was when someone said to me in passing as I stood at the buffet table:

"That onion relish is jokes mate"

I literally had no idea how to respond. The only thing that I could ascertain from this brief statement was that 'jokes' appeared to replace an adjective. But there were so many adjectives to choose from, and I had a limited amount of time to react. I decided there and then that 'jokes' meant 'oniony', and left the relish alone.

I have since discovered that this was a poor decision, and the relish was in fact delicious. But what would you have done in my place?

Its only in recent years that I've come to the realisation that I am a geek. Prior to that I must have been in denial. I guess I never made the connection between my love of all things geeky and actually being a geek. I mean, I own a telescope for fucks sake, and not just one of them flimsy National Geographic 'oooo, doesn't the moon look slightly bigger' pieces of crap. I mean a real, tripod mounted, auto-tracking, 'fuck me, I can see Neil Armstrong's footprints' kind of telescope.

I own a book co-written by Patrick Moore AND Brian May. Case closed!

I think that seeing a quote posted on Facebook not long ago played a hand in my own personal revelation. It's attributed to Simon Pegg, but as so many people now find it such good sport to display a quote, and photoshop a random celebrity as the background, who can be sure? Still, it sounds like the sort of thing Simon Pegg might say, and it struck a chord with me, so I'll leave you with it. Maybe it will stir the geek in you?

“Being a geek is all about being honest about what you enjoy and not being afraid to demonstrate that affection. It means never having to play it cool about how much you like something. It’s basically a license to proudly emote on a somewhat childish level rather than behave like a supposed adult. Being a geek is extremely liberating.”

*may not be 100% accurate

*^not real magic. You know, card tricks and stuff

*^*obviously not actual shit

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!!! .....oh, wait, no we're not.

I’ve finally broken free of my original self imposed boundaries – This one’s nothing to do with cars. It’s about conspiracies, and how to deal with them (or more to the point, how I deal with them). This actually started as a comment on someone’s status, but I had so much to say that Facebook melted and didn’t let me post it - Or was it the government trying to silence me?

Regardless, I’ll say it here, where my tinfoil hat protects me from spying satellites and alien mind probes.

I have a massive problem with most conspiracy theories. Not all of them, because some are benign, harmless and fun (The Loch Ness Monster, The Surrey Panther, Brian Blessed, etc). What I have a massive problem with is when people or groups provide potentially distressing pieces of information, stated as fact, based on no evidence whatsoever. I like evidence. Evidence is cool.

Worse still are conspiracy theories based on fabricated evidence, which are, by their very nature, harder to unravel, and at their most destructive, can cause lasting psychological damage.

By way of example, I am now going to do something which, despite my oh-so-grown-up age of 32, I have been scared to even think about since I was twelve. I’m going to write the Lord’s Prayer backwards. I’ll explain why afterwards:

Amen ever and ever for glory the and power the kingdom the is thyne for evil from us deliver but temptation into not us lead and us against trespass who those forgive we as trespasses our us forgive and bread daily our day this us give heaven in is it as earth on done be will thy come kingdom thy name thy be hallowed heaven in art who father our.

Writing that (and subsequently saying it out loud) was like therapy. I’ve been irrationally terrified by the thought of those words, in that order for well over half my life.


Because when I was twelve, my next door neighbour showed me a book, inside which was a picture of a Nun with bleeding sockets where her eyes once lived. The caption underneath the photograph said something along the lines of “After reciting the Lord’s Prayer backwards, Sister Sledge (may not have been her real name) lost both her eyes in a really nasty way”

I don’t know what the book was called, not that it matters, but the point is that that was all the evidence it took, a page in a ridiculous book, to scar a young boy’s mind enough to permanently terrify him whenever he even accidently thought of the word “Amen”, lest his own mind betray him and recite the whole thing backwards against his will (which, after now writing it down, I realise would have taken some considerable effort on my subconscious’s part).

There were nightmares. Lots of them.

But this is how conspiracies grip us, in the part of our subconscious that doesn’t know any better. The inner child who doesn’t question authority. A book said it, and grown ups write books, and grown ups tell the truth, so it must be true. Now we have the internet, which is essentially the whole world, in a book…… and the biggest double edged sword ever created.

It’s a place that contains articles of such exquisite lunacy and hysteria, that people can lose themselves at the drop of a digital hat (I bet Justin Timberlake wears a digital hat). However, the antidote to this poison – and it is a poison – is more often than not right there as well, on the internet, and just as accessible at the drop of a slightly larger digital hat.

The only problem facing those who are susceptible to conspiracy theories (which is all of us to varying degrees), is that it’s easier to digest dubious facts than it is to research their validity, and to quote Christopher Hitchens “people prefer a junk theory, to no theory at all”.

And why wouldn’t we? As a species we love mystery, we love answers, and we especially love it when those answers are mysterious (Which is why so many of us loved that gobshite ‘Lost’ – myself included until about 2 years after it finished, where the thought suddenly occurred: “Hang on……. That was bollocks!”).

However, for whatever reason, it is our tendency to ‘fill in the blanks’ in acquired knowledge by stuffing it full of any old shit we can dream up at the time – and by doing this; by siding established phenomena with utter fiction, it can give the powerful illusion of truth.

Point in case, someone posted this on Facebook yesterday (and therefore prompted this post):

Go ahead and read the article. It’s fucking ridiculous!

The established phenomena, in this case, is meteors, and what they have the potential to do. Meteors obviously do exist and if one sufficiently large enough smacks us, everyone on the planet would have an adequate excuse for not going to work the next day. Now, couple the fact of meteors existing, with the fiction that one is definitely going to hit us very soon indeed, and all you have to do now is post it on your blog, set the comments to ‘user approved’ (thus giving you the option to filter out any of those pesky comments that disagree with you) and BINGO! You have yourself a bona fide conspiracy theory.

Let’s overlook the fact that this particular article is housed on a website called philosophers-stone.co.uk, and the fact that all the banners advertise stuff like tarot reading and astrology, and the glaring fact that it provides absolutely no sources whatsoever for the claims made within it. It was written by someone. Someone grown up, who is so sure in their writing that what they are saying is true. How can you argue with that? Well, if merely seeing something written down has the ability to satisfy your thirst for knowledge, then you can’t, and I find that massively frustrating.

It doesn’t matter who posted that link, but here’s what Facebook wouldn’t let me say about it:

A Google search on the keywords Asteroid+Antarctica+2012 pulls the same story in various forms from about 10 different websites… all with really sensible names like: plantosurvive2012.com, godlikeproductions.com, and my personal favourite – davidicke.com (where I go for all my rational fact-nuggets).

There are anywhere between 10 - 40,000 amateur astronomers in the UK alone – god knows how many worldwide. Something that big would have been spotted and published by at least one stargazer who isn’t foaming at the mouth and gleefully rubbing their hands in anticipation for Armageddon – ‘The Government’ can’t silence that many people with such an open forum as the internet – Look, they let me post this! (except they didn’t!)

Turning to credible sources then, NASA run a program called the Near Earth Object Program, with something called the JPL Sentry System – a project that tracks near orbit meteorites and calculates their potential collision courses – a cosmic risk assessment if you like. As it stands, all projections for meteorite collisions within the next 100 years present 0 - 1 on the impact risk scale (a scale of 0-10, where pants should be shit at around 5 upwards).

Worryingly, there is a potential collision anticipated with an asteroid called 1950 DA, but not until 2880 – I’ll pop the kettle on while we wait.

There will always be conspiracy theories, for the simple fact that the rapidity at which they are devised far outstrips the speed at which they can be debunked.

Plus astronomers, scientists, historians and governments have got better and more important things to do than sit around reassuring everyone that we’re not, in fact, going to get hit by an asteroid in 2012, and despite what the Daily Mail says, you can’t get Cancer from EVERYTHING!, the Holocaust did happen, and that there are not plans afoot to create a New World Order.

Because of the enormity of internet based conspiracy theories out there, it just isn’t possible to spend as much time, money and effort as is needed to refute them all (and it is my theory that conspiracy theorists know this), so here’s my guidelines for dealing with them in general:

1.      Who told you? Are they the sort of person that likes conspiracy theories? Only you can be the judge of the volume of salt that should be pinched when accepting information from this person, but if conspiracies are their thing, chances are that credible channels of information gathering aint their stomping ground.
2.      Where was the information sourced from? Was it a reliable news organisation or was it from some website with the word “conspiracy” or something as equally obvious in the URL? You can go ahead and ignore it if it was the latter. This is certainly not a measure of truth, but national, local and independent news sources tend not to get caught up in conspiracy theories for the simple reason that there is bugger all tangible evidence for most of them.
3.      If you can be bothered, check the sources yourself –Try and disprove everything, even if it’s stuff you want to be true (especially if it is). Sometimes when doing this I draw a blank, and I can’t find anything that disputes what I’ve been told…. If this happens to you, don’t panic! It brings me neatly on to my last point;
4.      Does it sound like horse shit? If it does, chances are, it is.

I apply this mental checklist to everything from Astrology to Tarot cards, organised religion to UFO’s, Ouija Boards to Hover Boards. If it doesn’t meet the right criteria for each point, I happily discard it with wanton abandon. I hope you do too.

I realise that this post has the potential to prompt responses along the lines of:

“The New World Order is happening – look at this website: www.thenewworldorderisrealandnotmadeup.com”

To those people, I say this: Go ahead and build your bunker, stock up on tinned food & bog roll, and don your tinfoil hat. I’ll be down the pub if you need me…..

…..Wait!..... WHAT’S THIS COMING OUT OF MY EYES???????..........

Twitter: @Ihavewrites 

Saturday, 29 September 2012

The Really Wild Show

One of the greatest things about my job - apart from the tiny motorbike, flashy cars and the occasional disproportionately generous tip - is that during my many nighttime jaunts in the sprawling Sussex countryside, I get to see wildlife.... Shitloads of it.

I'm not just talking about the occasional glimpse of a fox or fleeting glance of a squirrel. I'm talking about animals that you know exist, but you've only really ever seen on tv being fondled by Terry Nutkins (may he rest in peace).

Take last night for example. There I was riding down a private little country lane at 1 o'clock in the morning, minding my own business, when SMACK! A badger with a death wish pelted out of the hedgerow and head-butted the side of my bike. I made a noise that I can only liken to a small girl suddenly, and unexpectedly having ice cubes poured down her back. As for the badger, well it disappeared pretty quick back from whence it came. I reckon it got off pretty lightly with a sore noggin and something to tell the grandchildren.

Distressing as this was for all parties involved, it doesn't come close to the distress I endured a couple of weeks ago on the way back from another job.

I'm no stranger to occasionally seeing animals hit and killed by vehicles - goes with the territory of the job unfortunately - although I've only ever been in one vehicle that's been involved in such a collision.

Maybe you have too? Maybe you've witnessed an unfortunate moggy meet it's maker under the wheels of your Nissan Primera? Maybe you've caught the demise of a pheasant as it bounces with ill grace off the bumper of your Toyota Corolla? Perhaps you have brought about the termination of bountiful bunnies in your Landrover Discovery? Well, you ain't seen nothing until you're in a transit van that's just hit a full grown deer at 40mph. Such is my only ever experience of direct roadkill. It was a long time ago.... I don't like talking about it.

But let's get back to what happened a couple of weeks ago....

So there I am once again, riding back home from a job over Ditchling Beacon (one of Sussex's finest viewing points) on a beautiful clear night - another fabulous thing about working so late in the countryside is that there is seldom any light pollution, and I rate a clear starry night high on my list of all time favourite things, sandwiched in between sand and sandwiches - when all of a sudden the car in front of me shudders, swerves, and completely fails to avoid the rabbit that has just leaped out in front of it. Normally, I wouldn't have stopped, were it not for seeing the poor little fucker's front legs still trying to do something about the fact that it's back legs were no longer three dimensional. They had length, breadth, but no depth. I turned round, rode over to the mess of legs and fur and weighed my options.

I needed to kill this thing quick, so I wanted to make sure that whatever I did, it stood no chance of surviving. I thought about putting it back in the road and taking a run up with the bike, but I figured that I couldn't guarantee it's death, and I'd probably be poking bits of rabbit out of my mud guard forever more.

Maybe a severe blow to the head then? Maybe not. Rabbit heads are pretty tough, and although I did have steel toecap boots on, again I could not guarantee it's demise, and I really didn't want to go searching a nearby hedgerow to see if the rabbit I just booted into it was dead or not.
Stamp on it? Too gory!
Grab it's back legs and smash it's head on the floor? See stamp on it.

In the end I crouched down and gingerly gathered it up in my hands - it didn't even protest - lay it out flat on my lap with its head facing away from me and Karate chopped the back of its neck as hard as I could. That did the trick, instantly.

Unpleasant, but utterly necessary. In retrospect, I'm perversely proud of my actions - even the bit where I launched it into a nearby field to get it as far away from the road as possible, thus avoiding any harm that could potentially befall any would-be scavenger if the carcass had remained by the roadside. True, I didn't necessarily have to drop-kick it, but my throwing arm is dreadful.

However, these horrific scenarios are exceptions to the norm. I am more often than not but a mere observer to the comings and goings of the nocturnal wildlife community. Hedgehogs, rabbits, badgers, foxes, deer, bats, rats and mice are but a few of my woodland friends that happily hop, scuttle, waddle, flap, slink and prance around me as I go about my nightly business. It's brilliant!

I've just recently seen an owl for the first time.

I saw it whilst riding down the moonlit high street of one of Sussex's many impossibly quaint villages, and there it was, sat atop a sign that advertised that this particular impossibly quaint Sussex village welcomed careful drivers. It was facing away from me, but it's head turned to observe me as i approached in that way that only owls and people possessed by Satan can do. I passed it, turned round and slowly inched back towards the sign. Me and the owl regarded each other for a while.

Then, without warning it stretched its massive wings and took off towards me. I shat myself! However, it merely sailed over my head and disappeared into the night. It was an amazing thing to see (the owl that is, not me shitting myself).

Anyway, I'm off out again later and the weather looks good. I wonder what the Sussex countryside has in store for me tonight?

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Toyota Prius as driven by Rambo.

Sometime I seriously wonder if I could live by foraging, hunting/fishing and brewing.

I’m talking about swapping my regular meals and trips to the off-licence for dandelion & nettle salads, rabbit stews, fish pies and ‘Jake’s Kidney Abuser’ home-made ale. This idea regularly grips me to the point of distraction. It’s not an uncommon occurrence for me to spend hours fantasising about myself as some sort of Ray Mears/Rambo survivalist type, wandering the woodlands and lakelands of my mind’s landscape, imitating complicated bird song, bringing down mighty stags with my trusty handmade crossbow, and retiring to my palatial tree house where I then crush juniper berries with my bare hands to make gin (I think after which point, I smoke a pipe. Which I made.) All of this, by the way, is happening to the soundtrack of Lord of the Rings.

Hopelessly childish beyond reason, I know, but I can’t help it. I love all that shit. Here’s the thing though: I’m crap at most of it!

I’m not really sure what plants you can eat, I can’t build anything, I tried shooting a rabbit once, but missed – terribly, I’ve caught 1 fish in 2 years of fishing……. and I don’t smoke. So that leaves brewing, which is something that I don’t know if I can or can’t do, cos I’ve never really tried it. My dad does it – in fact I was furnished with a couple of bottles of delicious wild plum wine the last time I visited him, which lit the fires of interest in the whole enterprise, and got me very pissed.

The idea of making beer/wine/absinthe at home intrigues me. If I do it right, I’ll never have to pay off-licence prices again (however, if I get it wrong I could go blind – swings and roundabouts). The trouble is that I have zero space to accommodate the micro-brewery I’ve got my eye on - It’s all buckets and test tubes and yeast (oh my!). I live in a top flat with no garden, and we’re already at spatial capacity, what with having a 10 year old girl and a 7 month old baby filling up every available nook and cranny with toys and nappies and JLS cd’s.

So, my options are:

  1. Ask someone in my local area to house my crazy concoctions – I can’t offer any money, but if you do live in the Fiveways area of Brighton, and have a spare cupboard, you can have half of the poisonous ditch water I will inevitably produce as payment for your services.
  2. Move house to somewhere bigger – This is actually on the agenda, pending us saving up a deposit. This is happening slowly but surely…. While our yearly earnings might not give our bank manager an erection, we’re managing to claw a few pennies a month into a savings account. However, if I want to be brewing up a batch of “Beer Battered” – a name I’ve just thought of, but will definitely be using – within the next couple of years, I will have to refer exclusively to option 1.

So while I wait for the offers to roll in, I’ll fill you in on what’s gone on since I last updated this here blog…..

I know it’s been ages since my last post. I seem to remember saying some time ago that I would have a ton of stuff to write about now that I’ve moved away from exclusively talking about cars – turns out I was wrong…. There appears to be bugger all left in my head when you take the cars away (apart from the occasional ‘Jake of the Jungle’ fantasy).

I’ve driven a ton of cars since the Bentley, but none as classy or fast, so there’s really been nothing decent to write about on that front for ages. That said, my friend wrote this on her facebook the other day:

Had to drive a Prius today. Must be the only car in the world where you need an engineering degree just to start it!

She’s not wrong! I had the same experience not so long ago. For once I was collecting someone who wasn’t pissed, moreover that he’d just had an operation that prevented him from driving (I didn’t ask what he’d had done, but from the way he was limping, it wouldn’t have surprised me if a surgeon had just done something inexcusable to his happy sack). He asked me if I’d ever driven a Prius before. “No” came my reply, “But I’ve driven a lot of other cars before, how different could this one be?”

His smile said it all. After what seemed like five minutes of the most frantic button pushing, horn blasting, windscreen wiper activating, radio tuning madness, he politely provided me with the list – yes list – of actions one needs to perform in order to start and drive his stupid bloody car. Right foot goes here, left hand goes there, press that button for 2 seconds, pull that lever, left foot up, right foot down, grab your partner, and dosey doe.

Once it got up and running, the Prius was actually a lovely car to drive…… until you stop at traffic lights, at which point the engine cuts out and you shit yourself at the thought of having to do all that twatting around to get the thing started again.

Fear not! It’s an oh-so-smug emissions saving device that turns the engine off when it’s stationary. Put your foot back on the gas *tip’s his hat to his American readers* and the engine starts and you’re off again. I had real difficulty coming to terms with this feature – it just felt like I kept stalling it, at which I would automatically apologise. We didn’t talk much, and I’m not surprised considering that I was saying sorry for no reason at every set of lights.

But back to the beer. If somehow a space is procured and I manage to brew anything half drinkable, I will of course review it here. If anyone out there brews their own, all tips/tricks and recipes would be appreciated J
Please leave comments below or on my facebook page www.facebook.com/ihavewrites

In the mean time, I’ll be out in a field munching grass and bothering rabbits.…… anything to get away from JLS.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

The Bentley GT Continental (yes, really!)

Ok, so you’ve got a Bentley GT Continental…..

Shania Twain, in her 1997 hit ‘That don’t impress me much’ seemed to suggest that a Brad Pit lookalike rocket scientist with a supersonic car wouldn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting underneath that skin tight, leopard-print Sith Lord outfit, unless they also possessed a certain something that would ‘keep [her] warm in the middle of the night’.

If you’re reading this Shania, I’m an average looking, under qualified, Local Authority officer with a battered Ford Fiesta, but I’ve got a hot water bottle… just saying. However, if the Bentley GT Continental doesn’t impress Shania Twain, then she’s a moron. It’s amazing!

I got the call for the job while having lunch at my Grandma’s house (her of Austen Allegro fame), with the wife and kids. I was going to turn it down, on account of the pick up being miles away, until my boss told me what I’d be driving:

Are you sure I can’t tempt you Jake? I’ve got a couple of jobs for you and the first one is a brand new Bentley.”

I ditched my family quicker than someone who found out he wasn’t the father on the Jeremy Kyle show.

My Grandma said something about her driving the wife and kids home later, but I couldn’t really hear her from where my car was parked down the drive…… and I wasn’t really listening anyway. I raced back to Brighton, where I haphazardly parked my car in the street adjacent to my house (actually, it looked more abandoned than parked).  Once home, I yanked my trusty miniature motorised steed from the communal hallway where I keep it, and tore away to meet my destiny.

I spotted the beast as soon as I arrived at the pick up point. It stood out a mile from the rest of the mediocre specimens littering the car park. A jet-black monsterpiece!
Those Porsche 911 nerves came back in spades, but I marshalled my trepidation as best I could. The door opened with a piston-like hiss, and closed with a ‘clunk’ that sounded – I can put it no other way – smug.

Brand new, the Bentley costs as much as half a house does, so I won’t be nipping to the cash point, then skipping to my local Bentley dealership any time soon.

The first thing I noticed about the inside of the car, apart from it being bloody gorgeous, was that it had a timepiece – not a clock, not a watch – a Bentley signature timepiece embedded in the dashboard. That alone was probably worth more than both of my kidneys. As I stepped in and sat down, I was informed that the leather that coated pretty much all of the interior was hand-stitched. I hoped, beyond hope, that this work was undertaken ethically, however I had a sinking suspicion that it was probably done by underprivileged Taiwanese children. I made a mental note to do something charitable and worthwhile later to redress the karmic balance.

I was actually surprised, and mildly disappointed, that the car wasn’t equipped with some sort of retina scanner or voice recognition system for starting it. All it had was a boring red button on the dashboard. I reached out and fired up the engine. The noise the thing made was unearthly. It was like all the cats in the world started purring at once, through a festival sound system. I revved the engine to the nodding approval of the obviously proud owner. The cats were replaced with dragons.

“We could turn right out of the park. That’s the quickest way home but it’s all built up and residential that way. Or you could go left and join the by-pass…. if you want to put your foot down?”

Being the consummate professional driver that I am, I obviously turned right.

But let’s say – hypothetically – that I turned left instead…..

I would have probably discovered that the Bentley GT Continental  gets up to a hundred miles an hour faster than I can say ‘fuck me, I’m doing a hundred miles an hour’. This is down to the car possessing something called a ‘6 litre, V12’ engine. This should mean more to me than it does – it probably means more to you than it does me. All I know is that it’s not the most economical of creatures, averaging at around 12-15 miles per gallon. If Mother Nature were to own a car, I would be very surprised if it were a Bentley GT Continental. It’d probably be a Honda Jazz.

After dropping off the customer, I unpacked my bike and scooted off to my next job, picking up yet another feckin’ top spec Range Rover. YAWN!!!

In conclusion then: Driving a Bentley GT Continental was an experience I’ll not forget in a hurry, plus I got to do it for free.

In your face, Bentley!

Twitter: @Ihavewrites

Friday, 29 June 2012

Buses and Jet-Ski's and Poop (Oh my!)

While I may suffer the boyish good looks of Justin Beiber, and the upper body physique of an Olympic pommel-horse gold medallist, pretty much everything from my thighs down is knackered. I’ve got connective tissue damage in my right foot, and an irritated ligament in my left knee.

When either of them flair up, I start to walk like Mr Tumnus. When both of them do, I just don't walk.

I’ve had the knee thing, on and off, since I was about 13, but because my Local Authority roll as 'Pointless Desk-based Pleb' has been temporarily superseded by another, much more active position (one that only causes me to consider injecting Cillit Bang directly into my eyeballs once every other day, rather than every hour, of every day, which was customary), this has recently caused the front of my left knee to swell up like walnut, and my right foot to sporadically and painfully relinquish some of it’s responsibility in keeping me upright.

Still, the new job is only a secondment for 3 months, one of which has passed already. Plus it’s such a welcome diversion from the norm that I’ll happily put up with hurty feet and gammy legs in the ongoing pursuit of job satisfaction.

Without going into specifics, the new role requires me to go out and about, roaming the streets of Brighton & Hove in a big hi-viz bomber jacket, which makes me feel like a Policeman, but makes me look like a Lollipop Lady.

The little green van I eluded to in my last post is only sometimes available to me so its more often the case that I have to grab my work-issued, free travel pass (thank you tax payer), and hop from bus to bus as I traverse our fine city.

As a way to pass the time aboard my diesel chariots, I often whip out my iPhone - other smart phones are available...but none of them are as good – and play one of the many thumb-swipey mini-games that I own. They generally cost about 69p a pop, and I’ve spent a cumulative fortune on them, and they’re all the same:
Aim ‘object thing’ in direction of ‘target thing’, swipe thumb back to increase power to propel ‘object thing’, release thumb and watch ‘object thing’ – be it a missile, rag-doll, screwed up ball of paper or disgruntled bird – as it shoots towards ‘target thing’ and yet another 5 seconds of ‘life thing’ slips, unnoticed, out the back door of existence.

Thousands of us are addicted to these little pieces of pointless software, and we continue to commit fragments of our souls to oblivion on a daily basis. Others may have even bettered my score on Save The Pencil (but I doubt it).

Take now for example. I'm currently sitting on a stony beach on a hot summer's day (I like stony beaches. They are a great leveller of people. You may be six and a half feet tall, with a rippling 6 pack and biceps the size of rugby balls, but on a stony beach in bare feet, everyone walks like a twat - with the exception of Joe Addison, who is a mentallist and does everything in bare feet.).

Anyway, here I am on a beautiful day in a beautiful place, and the only thing I'm considering is 'have I got enough time to complete my current level on 3D Mini-golf  before I go back to work'. The only reason I'm not doing it now is because I chose to write about it instead.

Bugger it, let's engage reality for a change. What's going on around me?

Well, there's someone zipping around on a jet-ski about a hundred yards out to sea. Jet-ski's look fun. If I ever get to have a go on one, I will of course review the experience here, although I can probably give you a bit of a preview now:

"....then I hit the water, face first, at 50mph...."

"....I screamed at the swimmers to move, but it was too late...."

"...they had to close the pier for 3 hours to cut me out of the wreckage..."

All I need now is someone with a jet-ski to facilitate my inevitable catastrophe. Any takers? No?

I realise that this post isn’t really going anywhere, which is why I’ll end it with the most fantastic anecdote I heard recently:

A friend recently hired a chalet in a resort in France. Both him and his Grandma were staying there – although he was only staying for a week, while his nan was staying on for longer. On his last day, he felt the urge to go to the toilet and subsequently had the most enormous poop; no doubt a result of the previous week’s gluttony and fine French dining. Upon pulling the chain he soon realised that the small chalet toilet was unable to cope with his transaction. He tried again, and again, and again. Each time the bowl would fill with water, but slowly drain away, leaving the mucky prize behind. This left him with 2 choices: He could either tell his Grandma and leave her to deal with it, or he could seek the assistance of someone who he would probably never see again in his life. So, faced with this lesser of two evils, he went to get one of the maids that serviced the chalets. He barely spoke a word of French but managed, through wild gesticulation, to get a maid to follow him back to his bathroom where he lifted the toilet seat, pointed at the offending item, and said in his best French accent “regard”, upon which he pulled the chain, and the whole thing just flushed away normally…….. Now imagine that you are the maid. What just happened?

Friday, 15 June 2012

Can I be a Cool Rider?

At about midday today, we (the great Brightonian public) experienced a modicum of sunshine through a letter-box sized gap in the clouds – I know! In mid June! Who’d have thought it?

I happened to be out on the road at the time, pootling around in the little green Escort van that my Local Authority day job often requires me to use. Driving it makes me feel like an environmentally conscious Postman Pat.

Anyway, at the appointed hour, the clouds parted and sunlight smacked the windscreen, which caused the ambient temperature in the van to rise almost instantly, forcing me to reach for the partially snapped window winder by my knee (no expense sparing spared, when it comes to tax payer’s money). As the wind forced its way into the van and hit me in the face, I was presented with the same thought that often presents itself when I experience a cool breeze on a hot day:

God, I really want a motorbike! (uttered as a yearning statement, rather than an actual prayer – note the absent prefix of ‘Dear’)

A proper motorbike! Not that tiny thing I ride for Chauffeur Monkey, which is, in essence, a child’s toy. I want a proper motorbike with a proper engine. I want something that could not be overtaken by, if such a thing were able to travel, a washing machine – which I worked out some time ago, our washing machine at home could achieve just over 50mph on maximum spin if the drum were in contact with the floor. The long winter evenings just fly past at my house….

It is at this point I must, in order to justify the reasons behind this post, make the single most embarrassing confession I’ve ever put into print:

I used to bunk off school. That’s not the embarrassing part – lots of kids used to bunk off at my school, or to use Sheffield’s finest learning establishment, Newfield Secondary School’s colloquial terminology,‘wag it’:

(the following typical conversation between my schoolmate and me should be visualised and conducted in your best Bernard Manning accent)

“Are you waggin’ it today Jake?”

“I’m waggin’ it. Are you waggin’ it?”

“I’m defo waggin’ it. Wanna wag it round mine? Me mam’s not in”

“Aye! Let’s wag it”

And with that, we’d pool our loose change, buy ten B&H (plus a packet of Rizlas for making ‘butt-rollies’ when we’d finished all the fags), and head to my erstwhile school chum’s mother-free house to watch for the thousandth time – I kid you not – Grease 2!

In my defence, it was always his idea to watch it (he shall remain nameless to prevent any undue distress and/or possible legal action). However, and to my utter discredit, I never objected. While the majority of my peers were gaining that essential foundational education that would set them on course for their glittering careers, I was, more often than not, to be found in a dingy attic bedroom, smoking copious amounts of cigarettes signing along to ‘Let’s Bowl’.

As a plot device, the cars in the original Grease have been swapped for motorcycles in Grease 2, as if by doing so, no one would suspect that it’s practically the same film as it's predecessor, but in reverse. This time it’s the guy who’s all shy and quiet to begin with, while the girl – Michelle Pfeiffer – is a sassy rock chick on the lookout for a ‘Cool Rider’ to sweep her off her feet.

To save myself further humiliation I will say no more about it, other than the idea of being a ‘Cool Rider’ has permeated my entire life since,and refuses to abate.

As a first attempt at achieving my dream, I once bought a Honda C90 motorbike from someone at school for £20. Alarm bells should have started ringing when he produced it from inside a nearby hedge, but my mum said it was ok for her 14 year old son to buy a motorbike for £20 from someone at school, so those alarm bells had effectively been disconnected from the mains.

It didn’t work (obviously) so I free-wheeled it through the park down to my house, where I was determined that I would teach myself to fix it. I lugged it through the back door, through the kitchen and down to the cellar, where it stayed untouched until I moved out. Best 20 quid I ever spent!

From that point to this, I have periodically thought about owning a proper bike - Usually, as I said, when the wind is in my hair, fuelling the fire of boyhood fantasy. The trouble (or saving grace, depending on how you want to look at it) is that I’ve never really had enough disposable income to buy one, so it’s always been sandwiched in between ‘another tattoo’ and ‘salad tongs’ on my list of priority purchases.

And while I still can’t afford one, sometimes, if I’m out on the Monkey Bike on a clear warm summer’s evening, I close my eyes and just imagine myself astride a Honda Shadow 750, with Michelle Pfeiffer (circa1982) dressed head-to-toe in leather, squeezing me round the waist, as I power off into the sunset.

The fantasy never lasts long however, because believe it or not, it’s incredibly dangerous to close your eyes while riding a motorbike, regardless of it’s size.

Twitter: @Ihavewrites