Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Internet Dating

I have a friend who is internet dating. Let's call her Elaine Benes, because she's choosy and picky about all men, just like Elaine.

Anyway, she is currently struggling to find any men who are a) funny and b) don't use emoticons.

I am sympathetic to this, as surely using emoticons if you're a man is just one step away from having wheels on your suitcase and sharing an umbrella with another man.

Just a little too delightful.


Is there a nicer set of people than Ghanaians? Whenever I meet Ghanaians (which is surprisingly often these days) I like them. They seem to be much happier, friendlier and more helpful than anyone else. And they have cool handshakes.

Good old Ghanaians.

Sunday, 25 February 2007

Duh....Duh duh duh....Duh duh duh...........Duh duh duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh.

Giles Coren is a genius and I love him in a muscular, physical way. This Saturday he was talking about the Rocky films and how great they are. Too right. Every one handed press up that's ever been attempted since has been due to Rocky and I ran my first marathon thinking I was Rocky.

Rocky. It's weird when you say it a lot of times.

Anyway, Coren got it so right when he compared the reactions of Britain and America to Rocky:

"English film critics are not red-blooded. And that is why most of them didn't get Rocky Balboa. They kvetched about believability, sneered at the sentimentality and mocked Stallone's muscular, monosyllabic conception of masculinity. This is because English critics are a snide, whey faced, nerdy bunch who at the age when I was grinding out press-ups to Eye of the Tiger, were getting hard-ons for Belle de Jour and pinning another Morrissey poster to the wall".

YES, YES and thrice YES! There's more:

"American critics are not like that. It's why they have Updike, Roth, Clint Eastwood, Joe DiMaggio and Champion the Wonder Horse while we have Philip Pulman, JK Rowling, Hugh Grant, Mark Ramprakash and Muffin the Mule".

So that's it. This is so good I am adding Coren to my fantasy dinner party list, even though he's so funny I know he'd get off with Girls Aloud before I've even finished speaking to Larry David and Nasser Hussain.

But welcome to the club, Giles Coren. I'm off to run round Victoria Park strapped to a tyre.

Saturday, 24 February 2007

Barcelona away

I declined to comment on the mighty Reds' triumph in Barcelona, the irony of Bellamy and Riise scoring, the bizarre clothing of Samuel Eto'o in the stands etc, but the highlight of the night for me was one of the banners in the Liverpool end:

Reds go Catalan, Blues go Matalan


Lakisha must win

And so what if I did catch up with American Idol on a Friday night? So what? Does that make me a bad person? Some kind of loser?


Well that's fair enough then, you make a good point.

But my new favourite for the competition is of course Lakisha. Last night she was so much better than everyone else that I want her to be my new Mummy. Second favourite is the fabulously named Melinda Doolittle . She sang Since you been gone and was nearly as good.

In fact, if either Lakisha or Melinda don't win I am going to make my feelings known in the traditional manner by parading nude through Roman Road market whilst dancing to the tune of You'll never walk alone.

Ziggy’s Disgust

This weekend I am cat sitting for a neighbour. The cat in question is called Ziggy. He’s long haired, beautiful and neurotic.

He’s extremely demanding. He wants food, love, stroking and general attention and he wants them NOW. He does these violent sort of nuzzles on my face when I'm trying to work on the computer.

This must be what it's like living with Robbie Williams.

However, I was singing along to one of the acts on American Idol last night (look, I got carried away when Randy kept saying "You go dog, REPRESENT!" once too often) and Ziggy gave me a look which was part disgust, part pity, part Simon Cowell.

It’s over to the voting public now – only they can save me for another week.

Wednesday, 21 February 2007


So my sabbatical now feels like it has truly begun. In November I was still working part time, then I was in Australia for 4 weeks, then I had exams. But now I'm properly in it and rarely if ever going in to work. Off until June, I have this feeling of wanting to try new things, do them differently, and to think differently. (After all, if everything I’ve ever done is wrong, the opposite must be right).

One of the things I'm doing is to start my family tree, in a joint project with my Granny. Although it isn't exactly rock n' roll, it’s great to think about Granny’s life in a bit more detail.

The more I think about Granny, the more I realise how much has changed in her lifetime. She was born in the year the Treaty of Versailles was signed and Prohibition started in the States. The picture below shows her as a school girl in around 1933. She has her school uniform on (note the gloves), and I have no idea what she is doing. Has a dog escaped from the car and run off? Bizarrely, she tells me that this was half term - they had to wear their school uniform pretty much all the time it seems, apart form in the evenings when they changed into their 'velvets' (velvet skirts).

Granny became a typist in the Bank of England because her family refused to allow her to be a florist for some reason. She soon left to become a nurse so that she could do her bit in the War, and that’s how she met my Grandfather as he was sent home with a shrapnel wound and damage to his lung.

Married in 1944 she moved to Liverpool and had four daughters, one of whom, Rowena, later died in a car crash. She loves sunshine and complains about the lack of sunshine in the Wirral. So I always tell her it's raining in London, even when she knows it's a heatwave. She always laughs at my jokes (see below)and loves it when I put on silly accents.

She's not religious, but sets a great deal of store on good manners and standards, and always talks about how at her school they had to speak to their neighbour at dinner - no sulking was allowed and they had to pass their neighbour the salt and pepper without being asked.

I think the most amazing thing about her now is one of the most subtle. That is, she has remained interested in the world, and curious about things. It's so easy to forget how much is new to her. So not only can she can e-mail, and even use Skype, she also sends little words of encouragement over text, in this weird sort of Granny / text language. She’s basically from the hood.

On a day-to-day level she still tries to understand what’s happening in her Grandchildren’s lives. She took my cousin’s coming out completely in her stride, and now loves his boyfriend. She counsels on girlfriends, and offers stern advice on the rights and wrongs of re-heating food but understands that people have less time than they did to roast dinners and iron underwear. She's pro-microwave, pro ready meal.
She rarely talks about the old days, because she still wants to understand today. That’s amazing to me because I reckon I’d be one of those boring old twats that only talks about the old days. It must be exhausting trying to keep up with all the changes going on in life, especially when so much of modern life seems vain and stupid.
So this project is about me thinking about her world for once.

And that’s why today, I salute my Granny.

Monday, 19 February 2007

My Sister Freaks Out

The Guardian's American Psyche told me about this:

This sort of thing interferes with one of my long-held dreams which is to raise my family in America. Not that I have a child to raise, but if I did, or did in the future, I have always thought it would be better to do it in America.

For this, I blame The Wonder Years. This was all the bits of my childhood that I felt I missed. It had a Dad, it had a lovely Mum (OK, I didn't miss that), there were brothers and sisters, cookies, white picket fences and carefree ridings of bikes, and I fancied Winnie. I know that’s wrong, but everyone did.

I loved the exceptional unexceptionable-ness of it all. So I first fell in love with America with stories of Kevin Arnold doing gym class with his best mate Paul, and walking Winnie home and carrying her books and getting all tongue tied, like I used to with Claire Williams, who looked a bit like Winnie, but who refused to go out with me even after I played the lead in the school play* and gave her flowers.

And I cried – I mean actually really cried – when it was over, and Kevin’s Dad died and everyone sort of grew up and moved on. Because it felt like an end to my own second childhood. I guess that’s when I realised (ha ha – funny Wonder Years-related joke there, done in the narrator’s voice) that I really wanted was for my lad to carry some girl’s books home, and to advise him what to do when she takes someone else to the School Prom and to have my heart broken when my daughter leaves home and marries Ross from Friends.

I really want that.

But I don’t want my daughter to complain about me buying the wrong coloured Saab for her when she is 16.

* They still talk about my performance as The Tin Man in hushed tones at Neston Comp.

Saturday, 17 February 2007

Bernard Matthews

I am not sure I trust Bernard Matthews.

I am not sure I trust any man whose profit margin depends on a) using as much of a whole animal in b) as many meals as possible.

I can imagine shareholder meetings where they say (dipping their biscuits in the free Bovril) "How can we get more profits Bernard?" and Bernard says "well we have plans to enter the 'Appetiser' market with this exciting new range of dips which we call Cowpate, made with real cowpats, and we have exciting plans to use turkey prostates in a new range of crunchy puddings! Along with our bird flu-infected Turkey Twizzlers this will complete the Bernard Matthews mealtime paradigm." And the shareholders all go wild.

Don’t believe me? Ever noticed how similar blancmange and tripe are, except one is pink? Coincidence? No. It's all the work of Bernard Matthews.

Tuesday, 13 February 2007


Not the Liverpool band who sang about an ideal world, but the religious people who, come to think of it, also sometimes sing about an ideal world.

But I kind of like Christians, though I can’t bring myself to be one. I like Sunday mornings too much, and I only really like singing carols and Amazing Grace in church. I'm not convinced by the bible.

But I like it when I am with a Christian in the same way I am always slightly happier when a Doctor is in the room. I know that, if everything were to end now, I would be in the best possible hands.

Christians care. They listen. The good ones are all about moderation and reason and tone down the hating homosexuals, which is nice, and in an exciting development they've phased out the stoning of adultering women too. Certainly in the South East anyway.

They pray for you too you know. Psychologists argue that if you do a favour for someone (e.g. praying) you feel warmer towards them after doing it (which is pretty counter intuitive, but true) so they tend to love you even more afterwards too.

Good old Christians!

My Mum's coming to town

She's doing a course in London for the library.

Now, my Mum is great – kind, fun, caring, dependable, generally amazing etc etc and a Christian too. EVERYONE likes her, because basically she never does anything wrong and is so kind to everyone.

She sometimes teaches Christianity on this really rough estate in Liverpool. She was telling me at the weekend that they were all swearing and blaspheming at each other (she hates blaspheming) and she simply said ‘Do you mind not swearing in front of me, as it really upsets me?” AND THEY DID!

So now even the local crackheads love my Mum. It's sickening.

Because of course she is my Mother and therefore irritates the shit out of me all the time. Tomorrow I will instantly turn from polite and personable chap to surly teenager, just after I ask how the journey was.

But whenever I moan about her and try and garner support for my cause NO ONE takes any notice and they just say ‘Oh but your Mum is so lovely, how can you say that?’ or ‘what about all that amazing work she does with the yobs?’ or ‘when was the last time you turned around someone’s life?’.

It’s like I’m being picky about Mary Magdalene or Mother Teresa. (No coincidence that Mother Tersea never had children and Mary Magdalene only gave birth to Jesus, who being the risen Son of Man had less to worry about than most in the being compared to perfection arena).

There’s been a lot of research about the damage caused to children by poor parenting (thank God my Dad ran off - at least I don’t come from an unbroken home) but what about the damage from being raised by a Saint? It’s not easy you know.

For those of you raised by wonderful parents who stay together and – heaven forbid – still love each other, I can only offer you the words of the great George Costanza for comfort:

"Divorce is very difficult, especially on the kids. Of course, I'm the result of my parents having stayed together, so you never know."

Sunday, 11 February 2007

Easy access toilets

I wouldn't mind but it was also locked.

Marathon of the sands

I have been talking wildly about doing this thing.

It's probably a bit stupid, or it may just be talk, but I have until 5th March to make up my mind because that's when you have to pay a very large desposit.

So anyway, to do that I would have to do lots of marathons. I'm doing London this year, but I really, really want to go to the US this year and do one there. But where?

I want to run a fast (for me) time of around 3:15 so preferably a flat course, not too hot (yes I realise the Sahara is likely to be hot…), and want to see a new, fantastic city and to stay for a few days (at least) afterwards for my American fix and to eat some jujy fruits.

Any ideas?

Recovery (2)

Oh, and to fit with today's themes, readers may be relieved to hear that my bee is back. God knows what he made of the snow, but he's back.


I think there are a number of signs to indicate when you are finally recovering. But the best is how you feel when you see them with someone else.

I did that today in the park, and I did this sort of rubbish shy wave. Although it did still hurt there was a part of me that was actually glad.

I hope he’s a good guy (although he didn't need to be quite so handsome). I hope he’s good to her.

Above all, I found myself hoping she’s happy, and meaning it.

Sydney in the rain

We won the rugby world cup in Sydney in the rain and afterwards I confess I got drunk in the rain. We last beat Australia at home in a Test in Sydney, and after that I went for a run in the rain. Today we won the one day tournament…in Sydney in the rain.

What I seem to be saying here is that sometimes England wins sports matches in Sydney, in the rain.

Friday, 9 February 2007


So, went to see Ray La Montagne.

What. A. Voice.

I loved it and I love him, in a manly way. There was a woman doing a funny thing with wrists and fingers which I think was a weird sort of conducting, and doing some singing along too, which always adds to things.

I loved that Ray was so painfully shy he didn’t introduce himself or say anything for 4 songs. Just straight into it. And, my God, what a set. My penchant for unimaginably painful, tortured songs brought a highlight in Burn, but Jolene was perhaps just too beautiful, and should have been escorted from the building for its own good.

At the end, the band left one song after another, leaving Ray to finish with All the Wild Horses. And then he sort of shuffled off too. It was just so good to know that all that pain and torture is real – I can listen to him with renewed confidence now I know he really does share my pain.

I hadn't quite got the hand of my phone last night though as some of these lowlights prove:


So anyway, I went to the park with my mate Andrea. And look! I took photos on my new phone (more of which later).

Look at the natural beauty!

And here is an amusing snowman, well, snowwoman actually.
(I didn't build it*).

*But secretly I wish I had.

And here Andrea and I play an amusing game involving pointing.
Oh, the laughs we had with the snow and the pointing!

Then we stopped for a bagel. I say bagel, what Andrea really meant was cake.

We didn't stop at the pub though, because we were both working....


Then we all went home for tea and jam and to ritually sacrifice some infants.

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

Dirty Secret

I am 35 years old and I absolutely love American Idol.

*Gets coat*


Today two Americans bought Liverpool Football Club. Now, I love America and I love Americans too and I will get on to this because I work with some people who really piss me off when they slag America off. But today they bought Liverpool Football Club and yes, I feel scared.

For Liverpool is a great football club, a team of the people, whose success is based on hard work, teamwork and a real understanding of its identity. And you can’t help wonder, do these guys understand this? Do they know what it means? Do they really care? And anyway, who are they?
But should I feel like this? Instead of an obvious crook like Abramovich looking to launder his money through a second rate outfit and leaving them at the mercy of his and his advisers’ whims, we have people whose intentions are clear.

To make money.

And to make money, generally you have to spend money. Hicks and Gillett are going to have to invest in players in the short term if the ‘brand’ (ugh) is not to suffer. And their knowledge of running sporting franchises might mean that, for once, tickets are easier to come by and merchandise is actually sold to fans (don’t get me started on this – I tried to buy an LFC jumpsuit for a friend’s baby the other day and it was virtually impossible).

But it’s like falling in love. You want to trust, but initially you’re cautious. Treat this carefully please chaps, because it’s very precious.

And don’t, under any circumstances, sell Stevie G.

Monday, 5 February 2007

Poultry Stakeholder Community

Today a Minister actually said the words ‘Poultry Stakeholder Community’ before Parliament. After the initial shock of worrying who this might or might not include, I realised that we are, as a nation, far more at risk of managementese than we are of bird flu.

The response should be similar however. We should simply slaughter 150,000 management consultants and dump them in a decontaminated grave in Staffordshire, to be rid of this curse forever.

I'd include myself but technically I'm on sabbatical.

Sunday, 4 February 2007


Like Robert Crampton I am interested in stats. I can’t help it. It’s what drives my interest in cricket, share prices and research methods. Please still be my friend. So I really love this site which he mentioned recently:


It tells you where your surname comes from, what ethnicity it is and what sort of job your surname tends to do. It seems I am mainly from St Albans, which is nice, or if I was in Australia, Tasmania. Given that I seldom sleep with members of my close family and can spell my name, this is disappointing.

If I was in America, I’d be statistically most likely to come from Maine. I am not sure what that means culturally speaking, perhaps someone can tell me?

However, it seems that Archers are mainly ‘Corporate Chieftains’, which is all very nice and that we are in the top third of names status-wise. I tried to imagine what the number 1 status name would be and came up with Windsor (top 34% only!) but then came up with Cholmondeley (top 5% - inspired!), Churchill (19% - blimey) and Fortescue (top 0% - bingo).

I defy you not to look up your own name. Some of you are right chavs so expect you’ll be down amongst the Rooneys and Goodys.

Global warming

After such a beautiful weekend it seems a shame we are all going to hell in a handcart. By the end of the century Cumbria will be the new French Riviera, and my Mum’s end of terrace house in Liverpool will be a bougainvillea covered villa . I’ll probably have to buy a houseboat.

I have no idea if global warming is caused by naughty humans or not. What I do know is this:

  1. There is a bumble bee outside of my window. Is this normal?
  2. My daffodils bloomed on January 20th. I remember because I wrote it down.
  3. The milk no longer turns to ice in its bottle, like it used to.
  4. I am seriously thinking of getting air con for my flat.

Number 3 could well be because a) milk is no longer in a bottle and b) I no longer have a milkman. In fact I have never had a milkman but you take my point. Number 4 is probably wrong environmentally speaking.

I feel like Kenny Banya sometimes. No one said this blog would be interesting.

Saturday, 3 February 2007

He's back...

The last time I saw Jonny Wilkinson live was in 2003, round about the same time (he says casually) I flew to Sydney for a weekend to see England win the World Cup. It was a perfect, fairytale ending to a story which, it seemed at the time, could never be beaten.

Today I saw him again, and it was.

In 2003 the Jonny story was about the phenomenal, inexorable rise of a rugby machine. One of the greatest tacklers for his size ever, and the greatest kicker, he was the enforcer who routinely punished opposition defences as they tried to resist England's forward strength. His kick to win the final felt like poetry. Or at least to an Englishman who'd lived in Australia through successive Ashes thumpings, poetic justice. All those years of underachievement, of promise, of talk - always talk - of slatings in the press, of being taunted by opposition fans from Scotland to Sydney, all seemed to be banished in one perfectly choereographed drop goal which sliced through the wet Sydney night and changed the way we saw English sport.

But today was quite different, and far greater testimony to the real power of sport. Most people assumed Jonny could never play again, me included. In the intervening years he has injured both knees, his back, his kidney, his feet, his neck, and if I remember correctly, his bicep. I think he threw in a hernia operation for good measure too. Simon Barnes - the greatest sports writer in the world - wondered aloud if he was cursed. It seemed surely he must be, for time and again he returned, only for his frail body to be spat out of club rugby, mangled again in new and inventive ways. (I mean, how DO you lacerate a kidney?) Lesser men would have acquiesced in the face of such implacable fate.

But that is not his way. Today he ran the game as though he'd never been away. But never once did his body language say that this was about him, that this was his moment of payback for 3 long years of misery. He was the quintessential team man in everything he did. And at the end he ran off with the captain as though he was simply a number, another cog in a machine. No theatrical acknolwedgment of the 80,000 crowd, who all stood to applaud.

He is the truly dedicated professional who will not give up and who will not settle for second best. The Australians churn out sportsmen like these for fun. But for once, he is English. Today's performance spoke far more of the man than 2003. And today's performance should speak far more to the rest of us, too.

For he must have felt doubt during those 3 years, he must have tired of the excruciating cycle of rehabilitation, the long roads back to fitness, the questions from the press, the doubt, then the same ruined comebacks. But more darkly he must have wondered that the thing which he dedicated himself to so utterly was to be taken from his grasp at the peak of his powers, like Barnes' Greek tragedy.

For someone who worked so tirelessly to eradicate the flaws from his game, to control the pressure situations through his own efforts, he must have begun to doubt himself, and realised that fate was his master after all. And at that point surely he must have felt like giving up? No one would have blamed him after so long fighting.

But - and this is the simple lesson - he never did give up. And today the world saw what sometimes happens if you refuse to accept the cards that fate hands you.

Friday, 2 February 2007

That Cricket

England won a one-day international today, against Awstraya. It’s nice to type that, but it would have been nicer if they had shown any sort of fight before this. It has been terrible, and I witnessed the two low points of this Ashes tour (in my view) - Perth and Melbourne. Melbourne especially was abysmal. The stand between Symonds and Hayden was enough to make me sick in a small bucket. Genuinely, Ventnor CC have more spark and fight than England and I sat and watched as we acquiesced in our own death, like a new client at Dignitas.

What was also sickening was some of the things we saw around the ground. A lack of focus in practice, getting pissed, terrible body language, complaining about homesickness and ‘being away from our families’, not being together on Christmas Day, and above all, seeing the condition of some of the understudies.

In Perth we sat behind Rob Key, Chris Tremlett, Ravi Bopara, Tom Smith, Owais Shah and Rikki Clarke for a day. They were there for the Academy, where, supposedly they were being trained and monitored for fitness and supervised by a special England fitness adviser. I think the fitness adviser may have been Dawn French.

With the exception of Tremlett and Bopara, all of them were significantly overweight. I might even have said SIGNIFICANTLY, that’s how fat they were. Not only that, they were tucking into several burgers, hotdogs, fizzy drinks and ice creams throughout the day in an almost comedic Homer Simpson-type fashion. It was like one of those reality programmes with fat people wondering how they can possibly have got fat when all they eat and drink is this here coca cola and those there pancakes. EXCEPT THEY WERE PROFESSIONAL SPORTSMEN. All the while whilst we sat and parsimoniously sipped water behind them. How can this be?

Oh, it be.

If you were paid to be a professional sportsman and were good enough to be in with a shout of playing for England, what would you do? Genuinely? Their whole demeanour shouted ‘I’ve made it’ rather than ‘I am desperate to make it’ and it made me as sick as they should have felt after their fun at the fair.

I’ve heard that Australian cricketers are hungrier than ours, but now I’m not so sure. It was the single most depressing thing I have seen and I would like to know the following:

1. Could I beat all of the above in a bleep test? Because I think I could.
2. Exactly what nutritional advice do they get at the Academy?
3. What precisely does the England fitness coach do?
4. Why do no journalists pick this up and ask questions about what the HELL is going on? Give a job to my mate Joe Owen he’d ask difficult questions.
5. Why do no county chairmen ask the same things?

In fact, I pose these questions to Matt Thacker who runs this fine magazine here:www.alloutcricket.com What say you Thacker?

The nexus of the universe

OK, just so that you know where this bus is heading, I am probably going to be talking about the following to a greater or lesser extent:

1. A good deal about nothing. And therefore...
2. Seinfeld - and its relevance to everyday life. Well my everyday life at least. And therefore...
3. Larry David - God.
4. News events - especially the type introduced with 'and finally....'. Rather funny. As opposed to paedophiles being released back into schools etc.
5. Jobs, including why do we have them, and are they any good, and how did I end up doing this?
6. Psychology - well I sort of have to don't I?
7. London - fickle mistress that she is
8. The magical sound of the Pan Pipes - never expected that did you?
9. Dogs - for we all miss the Bobster
10. Liverpool FC - the best a man can get
11. Music and
12. Probably other things, like running perhaps. Blimey, could I sound more dull? Mind you, in for a penny...
13. Statistical tests, such as the Mann Whitney, t-tests, or my favourite, a Pearson’s product moment correlation test. Gorgeous.

And we’ll be making all the stops.