Someone must put an end to this scourge of gun wielding dogs:
In the back of my mind there is ‘Generation Game’ style conveyor belt laden with food that revolves endlessly, night and day.
Where it comes from and where it goes I’ll never know, but it never stops.
Any time I look quiet or pensive, like I’m contemplating great philosophical matters, I’m probably just watching a lasagne go past.
I’m always hungry.
Food has become such an obsession in our time. Our consumption has reached obscene levels of excess.
Television has been overrun by programs about food. Sometimes they are soft, hazy, day-dream affairs with voyeuristic scenes of food being sensually massaged around the work surface. They exist in an alternate reality where cooking takes place in a timeless, uninterrupted trance, with no one storming in to angrily demand ‘where is my football shirt I can’t find my football shirt YOU must have put it somewhere now my life is ruined’ or to simply reduce you to tears with ceaseless, screeching demands for a fifth Peppa Pig yoghurt.
The other kind of programme is the extreme opposite. ‘COOKING DOES NOT GET TOUGHER THAN THIS’ we are threatened. Masterchef brings us scenes where food is not lovingly prepared with care and attention but frantically thrown together, laced with stress and anxiety. When their time is up the contestant is forced to stand by and watch whilst the judges rile themselves up, sneering and leering over the plate like they’re about to gang-rape a risotto.
The most notable by far though must be Heston Blumenthal, who inhabits an entire genre, if not world, of his own. Never has there been such a focused, determined and vile display of waste and squander. The effort and lengths to which Blumenthal goes to find new ways to turn food into extravagant spectacles of excess is shocking. Some say it’s the space between cooking and art. I say not all spaces need to be filled. How disdainful must one be of poor, starving people to put on public display a meal that is so big its not actually possible to eat it? There’s also a touch of the macabre about creating a dish out of various animals that have been stuffed with one another. A duck that’s been stuffed with a goose that’s been stuffed with a pig which was once beaten about the head with a frightened turbot. I thought I’d give it a go. But I couldn’t quite break down my own culinary inhibitions and the closest I got was a huge cake, that when you opened it up, was full of fucking cake.
As a parent of young children I find our mealtimes are in danger of being over saturated with urgency. When I was growing up my parents worked a lot and meal times became a scattered, indifferent exercise in apathy. Vegetables became a foreign concept and potato waffles, burgers and beans moved in to rule my appetite. We ate separately and at odd times. The worst thing that arose from this was not malnutrition -it was the fact that no one talked to each other.
One thing I value amongst the most precious and worthwhile aspects of family life now is the simple act of sitting at the same table at the same time over the same meal. It’s not just to teach my youngest to use her knife and fork. Its a chance to come together as a family and share time together. That time isn’t always harmonious but we will keep trying.
There’s no pleasure to be gleaned from eating food that’s been prepared under stress. I find just as little enjoyment in eating food that’s been prepared as a novelty, or as some sort of joke, as you can never be too sure who the joke is meant to be on.
It’s fine to be creative, even innovative with food. But with so many starving in the world, with poverty on our own doorstep, someone should tell him. ‘Heston – don’t play with your food’
My 2015 non-partisan manifesto.
This year i have found myself in the unprecedented position of exceeding my New Years resolutions – pretty much by not having made any. Instead, i’ve just done stuff. About a month before christmas i took up running again. I used to do a fair bit of running and anyone who knows me has no doubt countless times been bored to tears with my tales of injuries and wonky feet and wayward knees. Couple this with a chronic inability to get out of bed in the morning, and generally not much running took place for a long time.
But then the dog came to stay…
The dog is a fur coated cannonball of energy. He is a blur. He exists in a state of constant motion. He basically needs to calm the f*** down. But when I explain this to him, he just stares up at me in wide eyed delight and fidgets, like someone in anticipation of a hilarious punch-line. The powerpoint was a complete waste of time, to be honest. The only other alternative is to walk him. Every. Bloody. Day. So, in a new, surreal, upside-down reality, I now find myself dressed and awake around 5.30am every morning. I no longer have the excuse of not being out of bed. After a few months of morning walks, I thought we could combine our common interests and turn the walks into runs.
We go out in the dark each morning, me gasping for breath in the cold air, running my legs off while the dog trots along next to me, barely breaking out of a walk. Sometimes he likes to point out how slow I run by skipping a few steps ahead, stopping to do a little wee, having a shake, and then carrying on alongside me without the lead ever getting pulled. Smug, loose-limbed little bastard.
I also gave up drinking for January. Not for charity, but just because I thought I might die soon if I continue to drink at the levels I have been. ‘Everyone drinks too much in the run up to Christmas!’ friends tell me. Unfortunately, my run-up started several Christmases before this one, so something needed to be done really…
The moment I declared that intention, I panicked, tried to change to giving up something more realistic and achievable, like oxygen or the use of my legs.
But in the end not-drinking helped with getting up in the morning, which helps with running. Which helps with starting to feel like what I imagine human beings are actually supposed to feel like.
But the injuries have begun to creep back in already. This time around I had specially purchased a pair of stability running shoes that were intended to prevent the painful kneecap pain that used to take months to heal. So far, no knee cap pain, but instead a new and equally intense tibial band pain down the outside of my knee. ,which also appears to be taking months to heal. It turns out (a little too late) that there are studies that show that tibial band injuries are quite common with stability running shoes. Which is ironic when they’re designed to prevent injuries in the first place.
So in a month or two, I’ll be back to the neutral shoes again, and have to take my chances with the kneecap problems.
Running is essentially the cheapest and easiest fitness activity to get into. Just open the door, step outside and go (probably close the door after you). There is a great sense of freedom to be gained from running, but this doesn’t come until a few weeks after you’ve started, when you’re able to run a bit further. There’s not an awful lot of freedom involved in getting to the first corner and coming straight back again, the whole experience having lasted no more than 5 minutes. There’s a secret to running that no one seems to tell people when they start out-you don’t actually have to run a lot . Walking is pretty good for you too, so starting off with a tiny bit of running amongst a lot of walking makes it a lot easier to get into it and to keep it going.
Its hard enough to find the time to remain fit and healthy when you have young children, but finding the money is equally hard if not more. Running is free, but very high impact on the bones and joints, and not very good for you if you do too much of it. To join a gym is extortionately priced, especially when they’re not even open when it would be most beneficial to me. If its not open at 5.30 am, theres no chance of getting a workout and still get the kids to school and myself to work in the morning. And if both you and your partner want to join the gym? Might as well remortgage. I’ve not yet found a gym that can understand that it is physical impossibility for me and my wife to attend at the same time. So why no shared membership?
The late Bill Hicks once said, ‘You think you’re free? Just try going somewhere without any money…’ Well going running is probably the only time i can leave the house without having to be prepared to pay for something while I’m out. So as frustrating as it is, i’ll not give it up yet.
Big Brother is on the television again. The concept of the show has strayed far beyond the philosophical exploration of the Orwellian idea of Panopticon Surveillance.
I’ve got a few ideas for gameshows.
You’ve Crossed The Lion!
Contestants are put up in luxury accommodation with a gourmet shopping budget, all the entertainment facilities anyone could ever wish for. Every Friday night a wild mountain lion is released into the house and contestants have to do their utmost to goad, bait and generally irritate the lion to breaking point. Any surviving housemates will be considered ‘winners’, all of whom will gain automatic entry to the lottery for Medical Treatment. Animal rights will of course be of paramount importance. If at any time the animal becomes too distressed, a trained marksman will be on hand to shoot the contestants. All of them.
Bear With Me!
Contestants are filmed going about their daily lives, sharing their their working day, their social lives, their thoughts and private moments – all whilst tethered to an angry grizzly bear. At the end of the series, contestants will be invited to reveal how they have discovered ‘who they are’, and an exclusive magazine photo shoot with the bear, who they will no doubt have married soon after the show has aired.
Each episode a fresh new boyband is dropped into some of the toughest gang warfare zones of Mexico, Columbia and China, armed only with a rudimentary introduction to street-slang, some cosmetic products, and a Hello Kitty Beatbox. They will have to decide whether they will face the terrifying initiation rites of joining one of the gangs, survive as a GangBand in their own right, or bring peace to the region with their unique musical talents.
I’m awaiting feedback from the television companies.
Camping is supposed to be about getting away from it all. The problem is knowing which bits you need to get away from, and which bits you need to take with you to stay alive.
In my minds eye it was a pastoral triumph. Who needs electricity in the glorious sunshine and splendour of the unspoilt outdoors? Just stuff a few things in the car and hit the road. Cast off the things you own, before they own you, right?
Fast forward to the horror of a 5am toddler tantrum and being 6 hours away from any chance of a cup of coffee. Heads rolled, I can tell you. Actually eyes rolled and some tuts were heard as my language darkened and my own behaviour began to rival that of the toddler. I wondered how long it would be before I was eating instant coffee granules straight from the jar.
Pretty soon I began to cast an envious eye over the camps of those I had hastily labelled as freaks and nerds when we first arrived. ‘They’ve got a satellite dish!’, ‘what are they planning to cook on a BBQ that big?’,and ‘that’s not a tent that’s a Serious Incident Exclusion Zone’ – all words that I would have gladly eaten – if I had something to fucking cook them on.
The item most noticeable by it’s absence though was the Naughty Step. Yes, the Naughty Step is ultra-portable, being a concept rather than a thing, but there are places that it can’t go. At home the power of the Naughty Step is awesome. Whenever it’s authority is questioned, you can dig in and ride it out, safe in the knowledge that, as much as you’d like one, you’re not constrained by having to have a nap every 5 hours.
Even in a crowded shopping centre, there is already no shortage of kids crying and the general background hubbub of shoppers shuffling in and out of stores and restaurants, and trashy club music being pumped out of clothes shops, means you don’t have to worry too much about about an extra tantrum in the maelstrom.
But in the pure stillness of a touring park campsite, the Naughty Step is suddenly drained of its power. The child knows this already – you can’t help revealing it in your voice. You find yourself breaking all the protocols and procedures – issuing countless offers of compromise instead of the single firm warning that carries so much authority elsewhere, doing anything to avoid the possible ordeal of having to re-enforce the whole process. Eventually it’s too late, something has to be done, and the Naughty Step that you’ve set about undermining for the last half hour is suddenly all that’s left. You curse yourself for not just having bloody done it in the first place. Now you know you’re in for at least an hour of pure toddler vexation and outrage, a battle of wills that is normally best carried out within four walls. The banshee screams of your precious offspring are carrying for miles. Wind breakers are being peered over, caravan curtains twitched and sunglasses raised, as your personal little hell gradually but surely becomes the centre of the universe. Where the hell do you go? Back in the tent? Behind the tent? Next to that tree over there? All of a sudden it feels as though everyone on site has X-ray specs, and can see you no matter where you go.
Of course 1 minute of quiet success was eventually achieved and the horror didn’t last forever, but it did involve the pushchair, a long walk, ignoring some signs about blah-blah-bulls-blah-blah-etc, telling a cow to fuck off, and a strong drink afterwards.
I have since learned that the car is a lot more sound proof than I had realised.
There we’re bits I enjoyed of course. Sitting around chatting, looking at the stars, reading a book for a little while – all of which took place while the kids were asleep and I could have done at home anyway.
Maybe camping just isn’t for me eh?
Cohabiting with a cat is not without it’s share of peril. My wife often tells me she’s had the cat longer than she’s had me; a veiled suggestion that there exists some sort of pecking order, and that I may not feature on it quite as highly as I might hope..
They say ‘My Enemy’s Enemy is my Friend’. But in this case my enemy’s enemies are more cats and, as such, are just as much of a bloody nuisance.
Many of us wander through life wondering what it’s all about, searching for a clue to give us some hint of what our purpose is in life, and why we are here.
The Cat suffers from no such inner turmoil. The Cat knows, unequivocally, that she was placed on this earth with the sole purpose of causing me as much Minor Grief as possible.
Now, Minor Grief may not sound that bad, but it is the quadruped’s equivalent of abuse without leaving a mark. If she were to just brazenly claw my eyes out, for instance, a fair amount of attention would be generated and she’d be in a lot of trouble. She’d at least have a few questions to answer. But she plays the long game. She knows all the little things she can get away with. The purring behind my head whilst I’m trying to watch tv, the death-stare when no one else is watching, the knocking at the door to be let in (isn’t she clever – she’s learnt to use the door knocker! ), weaving between my legs on the stairs or leaping at the arm of the sofa in a thrashing scrambling blur of claws whenever there’s a moment of tension during a horror movie (causing me to behave in a manner not becoming a grown man..)
Of course if I complain about any of these things individually then I’m being unreasonable. If I complain about them collectively as a campaign of terror being waged against me, then apparently I’m unstable and need ‘help’.
It’s like Death by a Thousand Cuts. Each on its own quite innocuous, but when added together it becomes more than the sum of it’s parts and is enough to drive a man to an incident involving a clocktower and sniper rifle.
Or maybe just a catapult and a cat.
Or am I being unreasonable?
Banks are bastards. Everyone seems to be discovering this for the first time, as though banks had always been the stalwart champions of morality and decency, and have only just now strayed from the path of the righteous. Banks have never been there to be our friends. Despite the claims of their adverts, no one from the Halifax has ever magically appeared to help me carry stuff up the stairs or to reach a high shelf or to just generally ‘be there’. What they have done is to help me every step of the way into crushing, crippling, debt by ‘helpfully’ piling on ever-increasing charges the deeper into it I get.
So, as if the collapse of the economy brought about by reckless lending and dubious trading tactics wasn’t enough, we now hear about the deliberate manipulation of the markets for individual gain. We then have to chew on our fists whilst enormously wealthy men get to shrug their shoulders and say ‘i didn’t know – no one tells me anything’ while their Bentley waits outside to take them back to their country estate.
Money lending used to be seen as the crudest and least honourable form of earning a living, and was earmarked for only the lowest and most disdainfully regarded sections of society. Now these moneylenders shape and change our daily lives with their crooked dealings, and when it all goes wrong, they make us pay for the damage (and their bonuses), so that those most responsible can continue living a great quality of life, while us normal folk feel our living standards slipping significantly.
They say crime doesn’t pay, but it depends what school you went to and who you work for.
If I was employing people to manage such vast amounts of (other people’s) money, I’d make them work in a special building where every floor was made of collapsible metal mesh, suspended above a pit of hungry angry lions. Everytime the public was disadvantaged by unscrupulous dealing, a random desk would drop, taking its screaming heartless occupant with it. That would make them think twice.
Right now I’m being subjected to a very (VERY) early morning screening of an ‘In the Night Garden’ DVD. It’s a fantastic program because it’s the only thing in the world that snatches my daughters attention away from me for a random few seconds at a time.If I suffered from micro napping this would be perfect. I could sleep every third or fourth second and pretend to be interested in Macca Pacca washing his sodding stones in between. We’d all be happy.
Unfortunately I don’t suffer from an exotic sleeping disorder. Just a mild form of modern nihilism, and just generally being a parent. There’s also the cat, but that’s a whole separate tome of misery on its own, on which I’ll elaborate another time.
I have not slept much in the last couple of years. I have a 19 month old daughter.
I’m beginning to think these two facts may be connected somehow…
When you really need sleep, there’s rarely just one thing that prevents you from doing so. Things conspire and unite against you, to ensure your sleepless night is written in stone before u even climb the stairs.
Mostly my daughter, often the cat, sometimes my own frantic inner dialogue.
Research apparently shows that lack of sleep can have a profound psychological effect and has even been linked to mental illness. Logical reasoning, mental arithmetic, decision making and memory all suffer demonstrably from lack of sleep.
So exactly how is one meant to function without sleep? There’s plenty of advice (and products) geared towards helping you get more sleep, but what about when that’s all a pile of crap because you live your life in the real world and not in a bloody magazine rack? What’s really lacking is some good solid advice about how not to lose your job when you can’t speak without dribbling, how to walk to work with your eyes closed and above all, how not to go mental and kill everyone.
I try to snatch any quiet moment I can for myself. These moments are few and far between when even a trip to the toilet usually involves being accompanied by a small child.
The few minutes I have on the train each day are almost entirely consumed with making sure I don’t drift off into a surreal dream world because if I do, I will almost certainly miss my stop, and introduce an extra layer of strife and anxiety into my already frayed existence.
The things that bring me peace are playing a musical instrument, reading, and writing, and it’s precisely these things that I’m struggling the most to fit in. I know if I could work these back into my life, I could swing the balance back into some kind of stability. Even more than sleep, I crave the time and space it takes to be able to this.
In the end it seems that sleep isn’t the be-all and end-all of everything. What it comes down to is the quality of the time you have to yourself. If you find yourself on your own, and still just thinking how shit everything is, well, you have only your own company to blame.