Do Not Want

Dragged my hungover, sleep deprived body into work on Monday. The Sun tried a surprise sobering-up tactic by printing unexpected shots of Ashley Cole’s baggy underpants on the front page. No need, really, was there? There is the redeeming factor that it was obviously a cold day when the photo was taken, I suppose…

An email arrived from my landlady. Some kind of boiler inspection is forthcoming. Joy of joys; my mood was not dragged from lethargy and clock-watching, and on returning home I slumped into a heap on the sofa rather than deal with the kind of bedroom you’d expect to see photographed by a whistleblower revealing the truth about “Britain’s Worst Laundrette”.

Getting somewhat fed up with Twitter. This may not surprise the thousands of people whose own accounts and feeds lay dormant after initial interest. I have yet to decide on all the reasons why it has become rather tedious, although recent British “memes” related to domestic politics really has turned me completely off. How can UK politics be so tedious? There is numerous examples of “walled garden” activity, of users with little influence in the real world assuming they speak for thousands in the virtual one. I should know; the readership of this blog is not high enough yet for me to claim world-wide audiences even if occasional visitors to arrive from South Korea, Ireland, and…er…the House of Commons.

A topic to return to later, I suspect.

Up until this weekend, whenever pub or workplace conversations turned to “worst football songs ever” – and every month or so, they tend to reach such topics – I would always suggest with the predictability of a cracker joke the uninspiring dross that was the Embrace/Spice Girls/Echo and The Bunnymen disaster from 2006. Oh, Euro2006, will your consequential ripples stop flowing through history?

Anyhoo, turns out this auto-response will have to be updated. For reasons unknown – and it may take time to find any with credibility – a former X-Factor loser has written a stirring anthem for the upcoming Carling Cup match against Man Utd. Now, given that the song is called “Championee” – as a friend points out, the Spanish for “mushroom” – and no team has ever before been prompted to mark the league cup with an official song, you may be getting the slight hint that the finished product is rather second rate.

It’s not even that. It’s barely a Eurovision song, never mind a future terrace chant favourite. Which, with depressing predictability, is exactly what the writers suggest it will become.

So, then, here it is. I am sure all other teams, not least Birmingham and Wolves, are eagerly downloading this in anticipation of the Utd victory…

battle of the bulge

I am not your typical bloke. Maybe this is not news to most of you. I don’t subscribe to Men’s Health and I don’t have pet names for my favourite muscles. Gym membership is a complete no-no; there is just something about the concept of walking near one which leads me to consider being greeted at the door by a nice enough woman asking if I’m there to film a new episode of Mr Bean…

Okay, so a “significant” birthday is eleven weeks away, so consequently a bit of ‘stock taking’ has occurred with regards to my diet and such like. There’s no danger of my purchasing a wall-mounted Calorie Calender or having watercooler discussions about ‘points’ and ‘quotas’ and ‘green or red days’ or whatever other alien language seems to spurt from the mouths of people following strict diets. There are many aspects to Brown’s Britain I cannot stand – well, all of them, really – with the Nanny State ‘Minister For Public Health’ attitude near the very top. If children must eat a regular amount of fruit and veg, then let this be a matter for parents and schools and doctors.

Adults should not have the State dictating what can be eaten, drunk, or consumed, unless the developed Western democracy we live in, where ‘letting the terrorists win’ is changing how we behave, has suddenly developed an obsession with social engineering from which it cannot turn.

My paunch is all paid for. It’s not a beer belly, as such. If humans could live off a diet consisting in the main of sushi, Frijj drinks, and powdered soup, I’d be a very happy man. Okay, so in living memory I was steaming sea bass with soy sauce and lemongrass, while these days I have a tendency to rely on pizza, but what’s a man to do while he (still) settles down to living under his own roof?

There is a slight contradiction, I guess, in my stance. Not too much obsessed with my appearance, while too self-aware to consider lifting weights in public. That’ll be the typical bloke characteristic, that’ll be: eager to offer advice, eager not to accept suggestions. As long as I am not found vegged out in front of daytime TV surrounded by WKD bottles and packets of Fruit & Nut, I am confident enough to carry on pretty much ‘as is’. No Government Minister is going to force me to swap a pint of John Smiths for a bottle of Shloer.

Walking the ten-mile round trip to and from work isn’t quite cutting the pounds as maybe it once would have done, I notice. That said, I am not exactly noticing a change into Richard Griffiths. Thought that would be cool. I will not forget the bloke who worked in one of the first offices I temped in, who switched from “girl in every port” to dripping wet calorie counter in the matter of one weekend. Everything in moderation, and all that jazz. Little bit of what you fancy does you good, and such like.

It is perhaps also worth reminding that that nonsense about ‘body mass index’ suggests most professional sports people are morbidly obese. As long as such “official” bunkum is out there in the public domain I’ll remain a happy enough man…


Thatcher’s children turned 18 with the country on an economic high and confidence soaring. Blair’s children turn 18 at a time of deepening recession and unemployment touching 3 million. Such are the circles of history and the echoes which come from whoever is writing the great story of life.

Okay, yes, I know that things are not so simple, but try arguing with ultra-loyal Labour supporters about the real reasons behind the current economic problems faced here and world-wide. They deny that £800bn debt (and climbing) is of any real concern. Gordon Brown was looking somewhere else, doing something different, it was the Bank of England really, nothing to do with anyone on the Government benches. It is such cowardice from Labour and their more vociferous supporters which makes their certain defeat in 2010 all the better to look forward to.

As I wrote some weeks ago this month has turned out to be the complete opposite of what I was expecting. To have only around £7 to stretch out across three weeks is entirely my own doing. How I have lived, and what I have experienced, puts the national politics and economic headlines to one side. I do not want to come across as enjoying these past few weeks, acting like some kind of “poverty tourist” doing it for show.

It has been rather humbling, if nothing else. My 9o’clock or 10o’clock jaunts to the “reduced to clear” aisles as Tesco reminded me how much food waste there must be in this country, and how many people must live without the spare cash available to impulse buy or stock up on expensive treats. “Invisible poverty”, the reality of life behind closed doors, is something which affects thousands of people across the country. Thousands of pensioners who have to choose between heating and eating; a growing number of millions who cannot find a place back on the job ladder.

The first week following the discovery of my less-than-a-tenner situation has been something of a struggle. Entirely my own doing, I have to stress how much I realise this. I have become quite the fan of cut-price hotdogs and sell-by-date skimmed milk. Walking to work – five miles each way – is still hard to master. At Bamber Bridge I start something resembling a hurried trot: I must resemble a sit-com bridegroom late for the wedding after a list of “hilarious misunderstandings” and “you couldn’t make it up” situations.

I had to bite my tongue whenever a beggar asks “Do you have any spare change?”, as strictly speaking I actually don’t, which is different to the times I shake my head and mumble something indistinct about having ‘nothing to give’, whatever that means. As I type this – free Internet!, such things now become welcomed with open arms, thank you, thank you Lancashire County Council! – my bank balance is around £2.70. This should be fine, though, I’ve stacked up on Aldi Shredded Wheat and cup-a-soups. People from work are being quite generous with left overs and unwanteds.

But it’s not a situation I want to repeat. This is a window into another world; of actual poverty, of real life for thousands in this country and millions around the world. Unlike my temporary inconvenience, a lack of money and no guaranteed access to food is the reality for those in developing countries and so-called developed Western superpowers. It’s a bit much, I admit, taking one man’s overspending into the context of starvation in the poorest countries on Earth, but it takes a little of “you don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone” to put things into context.

However – and it’s a big “however” – having said all this, and with two weeks of struggle and lack of food still to go, this pay day weekend will be marked by a night of spending money with some abandon. It is surely my right to acknowledge the achievement of living this way by having one or two swift ales and the best darn foodstuffs So! Noodles has to offer of an evening…

…isn’t it…?