Friday 28 December 2012

Driving with your brakes on

I used to be under the impression that when 90% of British people got in their cars they switched off their brains as soon as they attached their seatbelts. However, now my opinions have shifted to a conclusion that they don’t have any fucking brains at all!
For six hours yesterday I had to endure the madness that is holiday season on the M6 for imbeciles whose only other driving experience is sitting in an urban traffic queue on their way into their sad little daily office lives. At 3 miles per hour it is acceptable to drive along and put your foot on the brake every 2 seconds – but not at 60!
If you are that person who stabs the break pedal every time you want to slow down from 60 to 59 mph, I hate you! 
If you are the twat who sees an overhead sign whilst near junction 12 at Stafford that states that there might be congestion at junction 15 in Cheshire and you stand on the breaks just in case, I hate you!
No, hang on, hate is a strong word.
I really really really absolutely HATE you!
It is because of idiots like you that the British motorway system doesn’t work. Because while you are panicking in Stafford by flashing your eye-level brake lights at 70 mph, the guy behind you just shat himself and stood on his middle pedal. Behind him – or her – ten thousand cars did the same until one distracted Mummy in Gloucester didn’t react fast enough and ploughed her Clio into the back of a Range-rover and wiped out her whole family. And it’s all your fault.
Strangely, through Birmingham, statistically the busiest stretch of motorway in Europe, they have overhead signs telling you to drive at 60. And you do. You have to, otherwise, if you slow down, the car behind blows it’s horn and if you speed up, David Cameron’s people will take your licence from you and charge you lots of money to get it back. You see the sign and obey it, because that is what you do in your everyday life. Someone gives you an order and you do it, without having to engage that miniscule organ that masquerades for intelligence. But take the instruction away and you panic like a chicken in a coop full of foxes. See a gap of 200 metres in front of you, put your foot down to fill it. Then, when you are 2 centimetres from the car bumper in front, put you foot on the brakes and create yet another backlash tailback as far as London.
Question. If you follow a lorry at 60 mph in the slow lane, how many times do you see its brake lights come on?
Answer. Well there are two answers here. The correct one is very rarely, because he drives at a constant speed and uses his engine to slow down. The other answer is that you have probably never followed a lorry because, in your BMW you are far too big-headed and clever to be held up by such a pleb?
Today I am writing to the government,
In my letter I will request that every car driver should have to take an annual motorway test – in a simulator, not actually on the slab where they are a danger to every one within a fifty mile radius – where they will be driving on a bank holiday.
In this scenario, if you get within a hundred yards of the car in front of you, you will FAIL. If during this test you brake unnecessarily you will FAIL.  When you fail, you will then be instructed on how to drive properly, possibly by a lorry driver. If you fail again, your driving licence will be put in the glove-box of your car which will be driven down to the nearest refuse dump and set on fire. Then, for the remainder of your sad life you will be demoted to being a passenger or to use public transport. Or maybe you could emigrate – to Greenland!
I will then write another letter to Jeremy Clarkson, the current Minister for car manufacturing, and suggest a few modifications to all new vehicles. These will include a sensor near the brake pedal that, when your foot goes near it, will flash a signal on your dashboard saying ‘ARE YOU REALLY SURE YOU NEED TO BRAKE RIGHT NOW AND KILL MRS DAVIES AND HER ENTIRE FAMILY?’ This will hopefully make you wake up from your slumber.
Then, if you do brake, a red halogen light with the power of a supernova will flash up on your dashboard, so that you have an idea of how this looks to the car behind you.
Finally, an electrode will be fitted to your seat which will induce a few thousand volts through you every 2 minutes, to ensure you are awake at all times.
The voltage will be trebled on Bank Holidays!
Then, after these improvements have been implemented, I will ban eye-level brake lights which are the invention of the God of Health and Safety, otherwise known as the Devil himself!

Thursday 27 December 2012

The Leviathan Awakes

The human body is a triumphant machine, maginificently complex and scientifically programmed.
Until it goes off balance.
It’s been a few months ago since mine started to go wrong, listing my standard walking pattern to one side when that blasted Achiles heel wrenched itself out of its socket. Then the machine became a bit like driving a well oiled car – on three wheels. In a straight line it is manageable but the steering somewhat unreliable at best, with ‘incline’ mode causing major problems. As with a programmed machine, so it compensates by overloading the other supporting systems- eg my other leg - until that gives up too and my knee says no more.
‘Pull into the pits man! All this fast and furious stuff is getting us nowhere. I think we’re ginna crash.’
Take a seat, sir. Chill.
But then one of the other departments in the mechanism finds a slot in my slowing down schedule to throw in a new crisis.
Sitting dormant for a couple of generations, one of the old guard from the dental society decides to make an airing in time for Christmas, wise old thing that it is.
Wisdom tooth?
What’s so fucking wise about a heavy-duty piece of calcium sitting at the back of the mouth doing nothing but hide until it can pounce and cause pain?
Thirty years ago I went into hospital and had three of them removed by a psychopathic butcher with some pretty heavy duty implements that left me bruised all over for a month. At the time it was a bit traumatic, but I was young and able to endure all the swelling and hamster jokes that came my way.
At the time also, I wondered why someone as wise as myself only had three of the damn things, the other one being nowhere in sight! Most people have four?
Well here it is folks, awakening from its slumber like a leviathan from the depths and tunnelling its way right into my mouth at right angles. After a dramatic axe-through entrance like Jack Nicholson in The Shining, it now sits there with its razor sharp edges exposed, evilly waiting to snag anything that passes.
One never considers the tongue really. That piece of soft equipment that tirelessly works back and forth like a con-rod connecting all the senses together as it sends signals to the taste buds and shovels food down the hatch. Cleverly it translates brainwaves into coherent sounds that ears can interpret, some of them so rapid that it has to resist spontaneous combustion on an hourly basis. Fortunately it can be occasionally cooled by refreshing doses of alcohol.
Did you ever consider it doing all that work? No? I hadn’t either – until it no longer can.
Because now, due to the imposition of a craggy outcrop of calcium in its path, it has been snagged more times that a wetsuit in a coral reef until it all its sinews hang out behind it like a decapitated victim of trench warfare.
Oh so hard it tries to carry on its job, dragging its torso through the muddy quagmire of Christmas pudding or delivering jokes that it has heard several thousand times before.
Well, today, quite rightly, it has given up. ‘If you wont stop using me,’ it says, ‘I will swell up like a bouncy castle until there is no more room on the cave to move at all.’
These are but a few of the latest perils to endanger my lonely existence until those nice stone-masons at the National Health with some modern mining equipment can remove the bell-bottomed ice-berg that is in danger of taking us all down.
One hopes that the waiting list for such surgery is not as long as the queues for those Boxing Day sales at Argos which snaked past the emergency dentists in Kidderminster’s downtrodden town centre yesterday.

Friday 21 December 2012

Mayan mayhem

Wow, we’re still here?
Were you hiding under the bed at twenty past midnight last night? No?
No, nor was I.
But it seems that a lot of people were, as Mayan-mania swept the world in advance of that deathly hour of 20.12-20.12-2012. Well, when I say: THE WORLD, obviously we only talking about America here, as to them, the rest of us don’t really exist.
You see, the Yanks love stuff like this because they have no history or intelligence of their own.
So when some old guy from Mexico put the frighteners on us by saying we will all die in a freak astronomic accident on this specific date, they all go; ‘Oh yeah. That sounds likely. Gee thanks for the warning, Bud. I’ll go hide out in the basement.’
The fact that some other crackpot had said the same about the millennium year - that we would all perish by a similar apocalyptic fate - which never materialised, is by the by. Maybe that guy got it wrong, but those Mexicans, well they are such a trust-worthy bunch, ‘you gotta believe them.’
But now, there is nothing to look forward to anymore because we’re all still here, as the doom-mongers are once again proved wrong and have to park their sandwich boards back under the stairs for a while.
The End of the World is Nigh, they say?
Well just to satisfy you, yes, it probably is actually. When we run out of oil! Or perhaps when global warming fries us up like pork-scratchings after the very last tree has been put on the energy bonfire. Maybe we wont have to wait that long, if a stray meteorite hits us head on one night or we all contract bird-flu from the Chinese?
An even more likely possibility is that we all commit mass suicide after listening to yet another contrived Simon Cowel Christmas number one or maybe die of boredom when BBC rolls out yet another '50 Shittiest Christmas Groans' from the last five decades on TV instead of making some decent drama programmes with licence payer’s money?
The end of the word is nigh?
One thing for sure. Each and every one of us will see the end of our world during our own lifetime.
And if my voodoo classes workout, hopefully Debra Meadan, Louis Walsh and that bloke on the Go-compare advert will go before I do!

Wednesday 19 December 2012

The Last Post

Have you noticed lately that all the Little Chef restaurants are closed? Yes, that remnant of the fifties, with their picture menus and powdered omelettes have finally gone out of business. What was once an institution, now confined to the scrap-heap of things no longer required in a modern society, along with rickets and Terry Wogan.
 Quite rightly so.
So why is it that when I want to send a Christmas card overseas I have to enter that dinosaur cave that is the local Post Office?
Impatiently I have to stand in a queue that extends down to the by-pass behind ancient old ladies whose sole purpose for their visit is to have a gossip about bygone days and how shit everything is today.
And why is there such a queue?  Because postmaster or mistress, usually called Ron or Sheila, are themselves as ancient as the very traditions they are trying to uphold. When my turn eventually comes, sometime after dark, Ron eyes me suspiciously from over his half moon glasses because I want a stamp for France. You can see in his eyes that he still hasn’t forgiven the French for not paying him back after his part in the Normandy landings. Moving slower that a rush-hour traffic jam, he opens a large ledger to look up the price of a stamp and then eventually retrieves one from another ledger, blowing off the dust and coughing uncontrollably in the process.
Meanwhile, in the next booth, Sheila is having a long conversation with Mrs Edwards from number 26 about the price of vet’s bills for her Tibby, as the queue waits patiently for their turn to unload their own problems to this librarian-cum-agony aunt.
On busy days there are other staff too, but with the collective intelligence of a teapot, such is the miniscule pay that is on offer. No matter. As long as they all wear cheap Santa hats and incessantly chat with the customers about bugger-all.
How come this archaic institution is still in business I ask myself repeatedly under my breath?
Because the government pours money into it, that’s why.
But wouldn’t that money be better spent on gritting the roads in winter so that hundreds of people don’t needlessly die in traffic accidents on black-ice, or ten thousand folks per winter’s day get admitted to hospital with broken hips after slipping on icy pavements on the way to post a letter? Perhaps the savings could be reallocated to those hospitals so they can afford to employ humans instead of rude bastards with all the social skills of a hungry aligator?
Because I fail to understand what the Post Office can possibly offer that requires it to stay - apart from being a chat-room for octogenarians?
Want to post a letter? Why can’t I just insert it in a slot and get a machine to stamp it for me, for which I can pay with coins? Posting a parcel could be exactly the same. Surely some clever bearded designer can devise a cupboard that I can put my parcel into, close the door, let it weigh it and automatically stamp it. When it advises me the price, I can pay with a credit card. That’s how I get my petrol, isn’t it? And my shopping in Tescos.
Years ago a smiley man called Albert would fill my car up for me, while whistling a happy tune. Now he has been replaced by an automatic machine that will speak to me in a dozen languages while I do it myself.
The postal-machine wouldn’t need to be in a special building either - just stick them in the supermarket. Then old ladies could do their gossiping there instead. Or in the tea-rooms or soup kitchens, or the hair-dressers.
So what else does the PO offer?
Old people get their pension and the unemployed cash-in their gyro? Well use a cash machine like everyone else. Let the government pay it directly into their bank and then draw it out as you need it.
Don’t have a bank account? Well open one.
Don’t want one? Well go without.
Tax a car, How antiquated is that? Do it online and print off a slip to say you have done and stick it on your windscreen.
Don’t know how to go online? Well learn. If you can’t work a PC or Cash machine, maybe, just maybe, you’re too old or too stupid to drive a car at all?
Same with all the other forms that you can fill in and pay for with cash at that bullet-proof window while Ron’s grey face keeps one eye on the door for armed robbers. It is all so totally unnecessary.
There is NOTHING that is offered in a post office that couldn’t be done online anymore.
Oh. Here’s one I forgot.
Collecting your child benefit payment! I find it astonishing that this is still being handed out. Years ago a payment was introduced to encourage young mothers to have more children to help swell the population after the war.
But now the population is swelling faster than a heated pot noodle, until we will all soon be forced to live in bus-shelters. And still they keep churning them out.
In a smart thinking world, people who have kids and can’t afford them should be fined not rewarded. And if they can’t pay the fine, put them in jail.
Or better still, send them off to live in some eastern European country which is now empty because all its inhabitants have moved to Britain so they can stand in a queue to collect their gyro and child benefits!

Tuesday 18 December 2012

Nigella's squigy bites

I know we’re not meant to take her seriously, but I really have to question how the lovely Nigella gets away with her TV show. Or Nigellissima as she now calls herself.
To start with, she can’t really cook.
Well, I suppose that is a matter of comparison. I mean, she can cook better than Little Chef, or your average Glaswegian council tenant – or my Mum. But it’s not really cooking, is it?
Buy a loaf of bread, break it up into crumbs and add some pistachio nuts and a bottle of sherry, put it in the oven and go and have a bath! Then when you get out, smother it suggestively with whipped cream, and all the boys are drooling.
This week she did an Italian Christmas dinner which, by her own admission, wasn’t Italian at all.
That’s like having a Turkish kebab instead of a turkey. Where’s the relevance in that?
But it doesn’t matter does it? As long as she uses words that would make your granny blush.
'Mmmmm...' *licks spoon suggestively* 'Let’s take out our cake with its whipped cream and cut it into voluptuous slices.'
That word alone just woke up granddad with stirrings from within his incontinence pants. Since when did such a word describe anything other than a barmaid in full-frontal?
Not that I’m counting, but three times in one show she uses it!
Then we get the word squigy. Where does that come from? And why use it in every third sentence?
When I speak, it is the words of a farmer. When I write, it is the words of enforced literary correction, albeit they are often in the wrong order. But would I really get away with using made-up words and continuous innuendo if I presented a TV show?
Could I really stand there with a straight face and suggestively talk about squigy breasts and hairy chestnuts – and get away with it?
No, because I don’t have a double-D-cup and a seductive smile.
But then, compared to the cocky-cockney with his mega-funky, harmonious, scummy, proper-rustic dollops of bullshit, at least it’s entertainment!

Thursday 13 December 2012

Whatever happened to the nineteen forties?

        Well, I’ll tell you where they went. Right into my parents’ house, that’s where. John Wayne, Glenn Ford, Audrey Hepburn, they’re all right here on DVD, video, Betamax and cine film. Not only in the rack either, but on vintage TV stations that screen ancient westerns every afternoon in dreary black and white starring a cast of oldies with about as much acting skills as my dog.
I know, I know, we will all be old one day but what is it with old people who get to a certain age and then go backwards in time.
Last night my Old Man was so insistent that we all sat and watched his favourite film, some John Wayne affair about the wild-west that I was forced to go to the pub. In it we get rolled-down paper scenery, a few token cattle and some bimbo with a phoney Texas accent swanning about in an immaculate ball-gown which miraculously doesn’t show up the dirt.
The thing is, it is probably a great story. But it's just over glamorised for those poor down-trodden gullible general public from that era who were trying desperately to cling on to a dream that, somewhere out there, everything isn’t really shit!
Yes, the old forties Hollywood films were great in their day but things have moved on. 
My mother doesn’t like modern films, as they contain too much violence.
Oh, and cowboys shooting each other and falling off buildings don’t? Well, no that isn’t really violence is it? Because it looks about as real as David Cameron's smile. Less so, in fact.
Let’s watch the 39 Steps, instead?
OK. I find it from the rack to see it is the original version, from 1938! Jeez. They made 3 remakes since then Ma, and I quite like the one with Robert Powel because it is actually filmed on the Scottish moors instead of in a papier-mache railway carriage with pretend scenery going by in the background. Not only that, but in the newer ones they all talk with proper accents instead of sounding like Mr Chumley-Warner with a handful of marbles in his gob!
Is it inherent that when you reach a certain age you can no longer face anything new? When/if I reach seventy will I suddenly start hating anything made after the year 2000? Do you reckon I will revert to lusting after Felicity Kendal and watching reruns of The Good Life on Dave? I sincerely hope not.
Will Halle Berry or Jessica Alba in a swimsuit be the very last TV stars that might give me a stiffy?
And anyone born after 1972 be considered as talentless violent rapists?
They say that we all turn into our parent. It is unavoidable, apparently.
Oh what joy I have in store!

Wednesday 5 December 2012

Mushroom Roulette

Today it’s goodbye you Frenchie’s with your garlic and cheap wine – hello Jockland with your whisky and neeps.
You see we are once again exchanging the few months of short but often sunny days of winter in France for some even shorter and far colder wetter ones by the sea near Edinburgh. Locals up there think we are completely barmy for doing this but at least there are some locals, which is why we go there.
Unlike here in France where all the ex-pats swan off to warmer climes and the locals barricade themselves indoors in case we get a millimetre of snow and they all turn into ice statues. The bars all close because, well, because they’re miserable and cold and nobody goes in them anyway. Basically, France in winter is as much a social no-no as mentioning anything to do with that dead blonde bloke in a shell-suit. There’s nothing much except damp silence and the constant dripping of cold rain on your head – and that’s just inside the house!
We have had a hectic time, gearing up for a few months away, though. All those jobs I have managed to avoid since last winter, such as mending a leaking pipe, plugging up a hole in an upstairs ceiling to stop the cat getting in, and killing a few sheep for the freezer, now have to be done, all in one week.
I mentioned last month that I had also embarked on National Novel Writing Month, which I completed quite satisfactorily in 21 days and since then I have nearly completed another book that I had started previously. So, 90,000 words later, my eyes look like a bloodhound and I can’t sleep for hearing continual twittering in my head. And now I desperately need a week’s rest before editing month begins.
What I don’t need is being up a ladder in the rain trying to fix roof tiles and managing to break more than I mend as they have all gone brittle after last years extreme temperatures. Talk about walking on egg-shells. Finally I think I have managed to keep the cats out of all the bedrooms, as well as the rain, because last year when we got back, they had invited all their mates round for sleepovers and the place was as crowded as an Amsterdam whorehouse. Jeremy Clarkson once described cats as being like footballer’s wives. Pretty and well groomed, but fundamentally they’re just after your money! With that, he’s spot on.
In fact this year we have had to employ a chap to come round and feed them, as well as keep an eye on the sheep. This I find rather galling, especially as I have had to spend upwards of twenty quid buying mouse poison to keep the vermin down because our felines are so useless. Needless to mention, the cats are Wendy’s passion, not mine.
No, the sheep are mine. In fact my latest literary offering is called IN BED WITH SHEEP, which is a somewhat risqué title I know. In it I chart some of the antics that I have got up to showing and working with sheep over the years and most of the tales are rather funny.
 We are also having lamb for dinner tonight which proves that I do enjoy them from all sides, so to speak.
In fact it’s not lamb we are having but mutton. A couple of male lambs that I kept from last year and are now – or were –up around 90kgs and generally being a nuisance. One even head-butted me in a last ditch attempt at freedom before making his final journey to the abattoir earlier this week. He didn’t do it on the return leg, that’s for sure. Not so easy when you no longer have a head, eh?
Cruel? No that’s not cruel. It’s justice! With rosemary and garlic!
And perhaps a few mushrooms.
But that in itself poses me a problem, because this time of year we have hundreds of mushrooms growing on the lawn, in the field, under the hedge, in the vegetable garden. There’s even a few growing out of the roof truss where the rain and cat has been leaking in. In a quest to become reasonably self sufficient, I would quite like to eat some of them.
Generally I am quite an adventurous chef, not frightened to have a go with some whimsical notion such as throwing lime cordial into my duck-gravy or brazing a pork loin in apricots, fresh ginger and figs. I would love to do the same with mushrooms but the problem with that is you could end up very dead. Because they all look the same - a sort of browny-greyey colour with pale fins - and no matter how many pictures I look up on the internet, I fail to tell the Cèpe from the Death Cap.
I just read a statistic that quotes ‘there are over 3000 varieties of mushrooms in France, but only a few of them are edible.’ Yes, but which ones?
Help me here.
The article does go on to assure me that only 35 people per year actually die from eating the wrong ones, so I suppose that’s quite comforting, but lots more have kidney infections and convulsions which may possibly kill you later, especially if you are behind the wheel when the latter happens.
It’s like playing Russian roulette with fungi. Only with far worse odds!
Can I call an expert to help me? Well, actually, yes I can. I can call the pharmacist. In fact, doing this before eating the things is a lot healthier than the other way round. Apparently, if I rock up at the local pharmacy with my wicker basket and dump them on the counter, the very nice lady will test a few, possibly by frying them up with some bacon and sausage, and let me know if my head will explode if I put them in a beef casserole. But she wont tell me the result for at least a week, presumably if she’s still alive, and by that time the sheep or ramblers will have trampled them all into pulp and I will have to select some new ones. At this rate I am more likely to die of old age than be poisoned.
As a last resort I have now bought some brown ones from the supermarket and am trying to compare them with those from our field in a sort of spot-the-difference competition. If you don’t see this column again you’ll know that I was unsuccessful!

Saturday 24 November 2012

Nothing to say

Now I understand where all the time went.
Today is the first day I have not been writing for over a month. I tell a lie, I didn’t write last Saturday either because I was at a book signing. Thank you to all you lovely people who bought books from me, I hope you all enjoy them. The day was such a success I have since had to refill my ink pen.
In fact, I tell another lie. I am writing today – this! I have no idea what it’s about, though. That’s the thing I suppose, that I feel I have to write something. Maybe it’s like a wish and the day you stop wishing for it, you stop believing it will ever happen.
But after 80,000 words in 24 days, I surely would have run out of things to say?
Yes, I suppose I have. But it’s always nice to say something, isn’t it? And the good thing about writing this is that I don’t have to think about it.
No plot. No story. Not even any jokes.
The one thing I do have though is music. New music - stuff I have downloaded but not had the chance to listen to, because I can’t listen music when I write. I know some writers can but to me music is art and art needs to be appreciated. On our wall we have a few pictures and they get looked at, studied even, every hour when I’m at work. Each time the eyes focus on something different in the picture which gives the words a break. Guess what? While I’m distracted, the next words get chance to organise themselves inside my head - all on their very own.
Music is the same. I can’t just hear it, I have to listen and that causes me a problem - because, unlike the pictures, lyrics stay and scratch their letters on my inner wall. And now we have a battle. Music verses the written word.
My written word.
I would so love those lyrics to inspire me rather than distract, but they can’t. Not even musical notes. Every one stays right in there, nudging its way to the fore of my here-and-now and dismissing my own creativity to the back benches.
Some statistics somewhere will show that singer-songwriters are failed poets. Likewise, poets, and possibly many writers, are failed musicians. Well, I’m saddened to announce: that’s me, in a sentence.
I would give my right testicle to be a musician. Both even.
To be able to put my slant on any song I have ever enjoyed, and sell it back to the world in my own name, would be the ultimate bliss. Furthermore, to write my own chords and words into something that flowed like droplets down a window pane - and then have the ability to play it on an instrument. Heaven wouldn’t even come close.
Yes, music is my first love, and always will be.
I’ve missed it over this last month. Welcome back.
In fact welcome, Christine Collister, I am really enjoying your new album and I have only just heard of you. And then you have another five albums for me to immerse myself in.
So much so, I’m going to be selfish and give it my full attention on my day off.

Tuesday 6 November 2012

They shoot horses, don't they?

         Little England? That’s what they have labelled the area where I chose to live. God help us if it is.

And what a load of fucking of morons we are?
No problem to us who live in or near the Dordogne, we realise that ITV’s now flagship programme is just a piss-take. Little England, in my view, is actually far funnier than Little Britain. So now we have a second series, great.
But somewhere along the line, this slice of utter nonsense is seen by people back in UK with even less intelligence that the ones it portrays on the programme, and, just like the tardy soaps they waste their miserable lives on, they believe it’s real. And then, next thing we know, even more lunatics are deciding that moving to a foreign country with which they have no affinity, zero understanding and not even the remotest grasp of the language.
But what will they do when they get here. Something rational perhaps?
A horse sanctuary? How sensible is that? Who the hell will fund looking after a dozen half-dead horses? The French wont, that’s for sure. A quote from Brian, its sponsor: ‘when you retire a horse, you don’t just stick in a field and forget about it.’
No Brian, you either put it down painlessly, or send it to a pair of prats like you who will spend your money feeding it, instead of ours. Until you run out.
Then we meet two more imbeciles, buying an even deader campsite with their retirement cheque, that’s been empty for 10 years. I wonder why? Yes, you can buy a Siberian mud hut for a fiver if you want. Nobody wants it, because it eats more money than a six foot horse.
When I was younger I set up a few businesses – and my first couple failed, miserably. The reason? It has a lot to do with lack of market-research.
That’s alone is what converts an idea into a business plan.
How arrogant that English people think they can just set up a business under the noses of the locals and make it successful when the locals can’t – just because they’re English?
It’s a good job the French are so busy laughing at the self-styled idiots to take offence by implementing a euthanasia policy for ex-pat's with a single figure IQ! .

Monday 5 November 2012

Trumpy the spider-frog

Despite those who consider that we spend our daily lives entirely in the sun, we do get quite a winter here in SW France. And it’s just arrived. Well sort of. I mean, it was, oh deary me, nearly down to ten degrees on the weekend! So the time has come to move everything indoors away from the potential frost and cold mornings, including the geraniums, lemon trees and the exterior kitchen.
It is also the time for creatures to come in too, of which I was reminded last night when a mouse spent the entire night rummaging around under the bed. After waking up screaming in fear of this mighty beast, Wendy decanted into another bedroom while I slept on. Scratch-scratch, rustle-rustle, it went, possibly having a picnic with some left over sweeties. Eventually I succumbed to checking under the bed only to find it was not a mouse at all, but none other than a moth, noisily flapping its wings in an attempt to shake off a spider’s web which it was wearing like a coat. Despite the urge to stamp on the thing out of spite after it disturbing my beauty sleep, my kind heart compelled me to expel it from the window instead. Unfortunately, I hadn’t taken into account that it was unable to fly, due to its silk straight-jacket, as it plummeted helplessly to the bushes below to be gobbled up by lizards. C’est la vie. I did try.
Then this morning, with a mountain of writing to catch up with, I am at my desk at 6am when another beast catches the corner of my eye as it scuttles across the floor. Well, it doesn’t exactly scuttle, more sort of leaps. This time I see it clearly, a huge mass of grey hair that would befit the most toxicant of tropical arachnids. Even I felt the urge to raise my bare feet up onto the next rung. But spiders don’t jump do they? Any more than mice can fly? On closer inspection, this was actually a tiny frog who had amassed a ball of hair around it which had been shed to the floor by Louis the Pointless Pointer and stuck to its scaly skin until it looked like Donald Trump on a space-hopper! Now there’s an image you don’t consider every day? What that says about the state of our cleanliness, I am unsure!
This time of year also brings us into rugby season where grown men charge around in the rain knocking seven bells out of each other in the name of sport. Now it is common knowledge that the majority of these players are tree-trunks of men to the extent that some of their brains may even be subject to vertigo. So why does ESPN employ an elf to interview them? Yes, this tiny but perfectly formed little blonde Welsh girl, who would need a ladder to even sniff the jock-strap on some of these giants, gets to ask them personal questions, presumably through a loud-hailer like a celtic Stuart Little. Mind you she is married to Irish rugby lock Simon Easterby who is at least 100 feet taller than her and they just had a baby. Hollywood should use it as a script for a King-Kong sequel.
A few months ago I wrote of the absurdities of French rules, many of which had been brought in with little consideration for common sense. Well it appears that, somewhere in the bowels of Parisian government offices, someone has suddenly found some and decided to scrap the derisory ruling about having to carry breathalyser kits in cars. Yes, it was a stupid law, for a hundred reasons. But then we discover that the u-turn is not for reasons of intellectuality but for that of miscalculation, as they simply haven’t made enough kits to go round. This, for a country which has more bureaucrats than Jimmy Saville’s had ten year-old Cubans, seems a somewhat pathetic excuse. How difficult is it to count your own population, Monsieur ‘Ollande? Do you actually know your derriere from your elbau?
Then, as if the malady of incapability is catching, we hear that the British government have too done an about-turn, this time on the subject of pest control. Of course, I am referring to the badger cull, due to take place in the south Midlands of England, um, last month? After sending in an entire army of beardies to do the maths it appears that, although our aficionados can count beans, they are unable to count black and white nocturnal animals to within an accuracy of 50%. It would be laughable but for the outcome of this ludicrous oversight which will continue to threaten the beef and dairy industry of UK to near extinction.
Bringing me neatly on to a little announcement of my own. As many may know, for years I earned my living amongst the pedigree livestock industry and enjoyed every minute of it. So I feel that it is of some reward that I have now been drafted back into it in my career as a writer. Starting this week, I have a accepted a little project to author the History of Aberdeen Angus Cattle over the last half-century, a job which will keep me busy for some time. To compile this coffee-table styled doorstop of a volume will require extensive research and entail me travelling the land, interviewing many of the older generation who have been instrumental in the breed’s redevelopment. For those in the know, which I am sure Tony Neath will back me up, by the early sixties the Angus, along with the Hereford, was reduced to a size no taller than the afore mentioned Welsh bird, in-keeping with overseas demand from Argentina’s corned beef industry, but rendering it little use for much else. For the next 60 years some extremely clever men had to rebuild the genetics into the monster beast that is now the industry’s leading beef producer. Somewhere in the middle of that, a few ungainly long-legged animals resembling ‘black stick-insects’ were imported from Canada in the eighties and paraded, often by a younger me, to a throng of agricultural sneers. They say it’s great when a plan comes together, and I am looking forward to piecing this jigsaw into order and getting my teeth into the project, in more ways than one!
Meanwhile, in a moment of madness, I have volunteered for a couple of charity undertakings during the month of November both of which I am already beginning to regret. Firstly, I have teamed up with 300,000 other participants around the globe to endeavour to write a novel in 30 days for National Novel Writing Month. The rules are quite simple, it must be of at least 50,000 words long and possibly make sense. As I sit here, I am nearly half way through and struggling with the latter part of that requirement. The second, of equal irritation is that I have once again decided to join that band of merry men advocating awareness of men’s health issues and grow a moustache for Movember. Anyone who comes into contact with me in the next few week might find me rattling my begging bowl. You can run, but you can’t hide!

Thursday 25 October 2012

Nannu Nannu

NaNoWriMo? Sound like something from that ancient TV series, Mork and Mindy?
Well, now you’re showing your age, eh?
In fact, that gag will be lost on anyone under 50, which is hopefully some of you.
NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month.
I half heard about it last year, but never really got to look at it closely. I also was doing too much other stuff to partake. Same applies this year – except, that I am dropping some of that stuff for a short while – and going to give it a go. Wohoo!
Many people have reasons to partake in an International event such as this, about 75,000 to be precise. But mine is quite simple.
I seem to have got stuck, for the first time in my writing career, with one book going forward - and that one has itself got stuck on Chapter 5. Don’t get me wrong, I can continue it, but I don’t feel it flowing. And if I don’t enjoy writing it and making myself laugh, then I am pretty certain nobody will enjoy reading it. Yes, stalling it may be costly, as it is a sequel to the memoir I released recently, and it was due out by Xmas. A few hundred sales missed, maybe. But if I wasn’t happy with it, it is best not released, surely. Not for now anyway. I would like to think I, as a cross section of independent authors, don’t do it solely for the money. Thank God. We wouldn’t get too fat if we did.
So, to this NaNo thing?
Yesterday I spent a few hours kicking some ideas around my brain.
Write about what you know, they say. Sound advice, especially if you want to scribe a whole novel in a hurry.
Sheep, I thought. I know about them.
Nah. Dismissed. Too specialist. But then I got round to thinking of other subjects and each time my warped mind kept seeing them played out by sheep characters.
Mad? Yes, definitely.
A sheep detective story? Well, I have already done a Cow one of the those.
Then on went the TV and all the rubbish that is shown to the masses – who all watch it religiously. X-Factor, Strictly, brain-dead soaps and mindless documentaries. Just like sheep really.
So then it came to me in a flash. Most of the world are actually sheep, but in human form.
Then bingo, an idea was born.
Within an hour, a story arose, and then an early night.
By today, I am chaffing at the bit and starting to write snippets.
But there is 6 days to go before the November kick-off, during which time this stupid story will fester, evolve and mutate.
So far, here is what I have come up with: A political romantic comedy erotic thriller-drama – with some sheep in it.
Warped I know. But after 50,000 words in 30 days, it may either be crazy or genius. Or possibly both. Or, more likely, neither.
I have never wished 6 days to pass so quickly in my life. Can I cheat and start now?
Nah. You can fool a lot of people, but never yourself. Someone said that once. Wise old owl that he was.
If you fancy a crack at it too, don’t be shy, go to and take up the challenge.
See you on the finish line.
Oh, and just because you are taking part in the biggest synchronised writing stint in the world, that doesn’t make you a sheep…does it?

Wednesday 24 October 2012

Wonga no longer

Who the hell came up with the idea of In case you haven’t heard of it, it is a website encouraging people to take out loans to buy stuff, and it is pretty obvious that their marketing is targeting Xmas.
For god’s sake people, what were you thinking? Why don’t they just call it or Don’t these companies realise the reason why the world is in recession?
It’s due to irresponsible lending. Full stop.
That and greed by people wanting things right now, that they can’t afford.
Then we see an advert on TV for Experian. Now Experian, as some of you may know, has been around for 20+ years and was, once, a quite vital tool for lenders who would use it to check on borrower’s credit ratings and thus evaluate the risk.
But now we see them as offering a service to borrowers with the slogan as follows: “Improving your credit score can get you anything you want…”
What? So, although you haven’t paid your last bill, we can delete that information from the records, if you bung us a few quid…?
Isn’t that complete insanity?
The reason you have a bad rating is that somewhere along the line, you have not managed your money correctly. And that makes you a money lending risk, regardless of what smoke screen you put over it.
Surely, after 4 years in recession, with a pretty accurate understanding of what caused it, the government, or even the World Banks, should be monitoring some level of responsible lending? And outlawing this despicable activity?
They should be countering this with their own adverts showing the bailiffs hammering down a door and repossessing the 40 incher – on Christmas day – while the family are eating their Turkey-twizzler lunch in front of Eastenders.
With the slogan: “…if you buy things you cant pay for you will end up in jail with paedophiles and rapists, and you wont sleep for 3 years for fear of being rogered on your bunk every night!”
Can nobody see the problem in front of their eyes?

Sunday 21 October 2012


Recently I wrote that I rarely watch TV and, equally, I don’t read newspapers. In fact, having not been to the UK for over six months, I am sometimes a little out of touch with the tittle-tattle of the British media.
But this weekend, having returned from a wet business trip to Glasgow, Wendy thought she was being kind by bringing me a copy of the Saturday Telegraph.
So it was, after having written up about the absurdity of the case of Andrew Mitchell, something which should have been settled with a handshake, I then get chastised for presenting a one-sided rant from a friend who was staunchly defending the police-force. She does have a point and I have no intention of undermining their good work or their struggles with government shortcuts.
But on re-reading the case in this paper, I still stand by what I said: that it is irrelevant nonsense, a storm in a teacup, used for political gain. And, in general politics don’t interest me.
Neither does this newspaper, because the first 10 pages – yes ten bloody pages – are full of stories about politicians doing something highly unmemorable, like having an argument with a train guard.
Who cares?
Why can’t these idiots confine their mud slinging to their designated workplace instead of inflicting us with their thinly disguised wrangles. Should all this really be reported for us to read?
Admittedly, this edition came from Scotland, so many of the stories are about Alex Salmon and his marginal ideas on independence. Of this I care even less that the class-obsessed stories from Westminster. News of a £7 million settlement to that criminal Rebekah Brooks enrages me slightly, but then a report on the SNP conference causes me to start glazing over.
By the time I get to the crossword page, I have fallen fast asleep and am snoring like a runaway train.
Thankfully, when I awake, I have 50 supplements, the weight of which must have exceeded Ryanair’s baggage allowance, and I can drool over a review of the new McLaren 12C Spider. For once hasn’t been written by his holiness, J Clarkson.
All in all, I consider this pile of trash an emphatic waste of money, but am thankful that at least we will be able to light the fire for the next three months.

Saturday 20 October 2012

Grow up, you plebs

I don’t watch much TV in the summer but last night the rainy autumn evening drove me indoors. No problem, I enjoyed an entertaining game of rugby but then that was followed by Newsnight, and within minutes I started screaming and throwing things at the plasma.
It’s a few years since I watched this programme and I recall it used to be reasonably intelligent. What happened? When did it become just twisted bunch of nobodies discussing things in detail that are completely irrelevant. I recognise this, as it is something I do myself daily. But I would like to think my opinions carry a little bit of common sense, if not common belief.
The subject is Andrew Mitchell, that cocky politician who, after yet another media witch-hunt, has just resigned. Good, They all should, if you ask me, and let my dog run the country. He couldn’t do much worse.
But it is the reason he has been forced to resign that beggars belief.  
‘You called me names!’ says a lowly worker. ‘I’m telling on you, and they’ll listen to me, because I’m a prefect, I mean, policeman-librarian-milk monitor-important person.’  
Yes I called you names, because you were acting like a fucking moron, says the Mitchell, and calling people manes is what I do for a living. I called you a pleb. It’s a derogatory term for someone who does a job that requires common sense, and that person is not applying any. Like you, for instance.
We’ve all wanted to say it. Stop acting like a prick and go and catch some proper criminals instead of hiding behind the red tape that gives idiots like you an academic position with a uniform in the name of the law.
Don’t agree?
Come on – a traffic warden in your locale with a big ego who hands out a ticket, 2 minutes after yours expires? A bouncer, bus conductor or museum security guard has hassled you in the last week, I bet?
Because, Ladies and Gentlemen, many of these sad people who hide behind that uniform do it purely for power.
Recently I was aggressively searched by a jumped-up little twat at Luton airport who insisted on putting his hands down my trousers in the name of security. So intense was his antagonism that I am convinced he wanted me to smack him, just to get himself yet another settlement. And he came very, very close. These people are out there – specifically for this excuse – I am convinced.
Don’t get me wrong, we need a good police force, and every manjack should help them do their job by abiding by the law. But surly part of their training should be to withstand personal insults, and focus on people doing wrong?
I swear profusely, every hour. Mainly at myself to be fair, but sometimes at the weather, my dog, my computer, even Wendy. The dogs can’t answer back, nor can the clouds, but Wendy may retaliate a little and when she does, I apologise. Event over.
When I was a kid you and you called someone a name, even a policeman, you got a clip round the ear and were made to take it back.
So when was it that a uniform became a cloak that a worker could use to entice financial gain?
I can just see PC Pleb now, heading off to work on Downing street rubbing his hands, mind full of social uprising, begging for insults from the country’s ruling classes. ‘You can’t ride you bike there, Sir. It’s against the rules, Sir. Stand away from the bike, Sir!
I’m not condoning arrogance. Andrew Mitchell had no business to talk down to anyone, but for god sakes, shake hands – and apologise. And get on with your job.
Instead of filling my autumn TV screen with discussions by morons with the combined intellect of a wool-sack, using childish actions for political gain.

Tuesday 16 October 2012

A Prince's trust

Despite spending half my time writing very un-politically correct paragraphs I am, believe it or not, a staunch advocate of the ‘press’ being accountable to the public, and not the other way round.
I am also a royalist, seemingly one of the few who is of the opinion that the Royal Family’s benefits far outweigh their costs.
However, today, I am intrigued. In my book ‘In Bed With Cows’ I made a couple of references to Prince Charles and how I believe he has quite a blinkered view on society, especially that of agriculture. And now we find that he has been writing to the government, to advise them of his opinions on a variety of subjects including health, education, media and sport, as well as DEFRA - possibly telling the latter we should all be planting organic leeks.
But then, despite a newspaper hack quoting the Freedom of Information act and demanding to see them, the government have declined to disclose their contents. To quote BBC’s royal correspondent: ‘the highlighting of these letters is enough to give his critics ammunition, and fuel their argument that he is meddling behind the scenes...’
For once I agree. He has been meddling behind the scenes, and he is not qualified to do so. In fact, the man is about as in-touch with reality as Jimmy Saville was with Social Services!
So I, for one, would really like to know what it said in those letters and feel myself baying for them to be released to the public.
Let’s face it, if I, or pretty much anyone else, had written them, then Attourney General Grieve would have happily handed them over to the Guardian in a heartbeat. But, in this instance, it is in our own interests that we don’t get to find out what the opinions of our future monarch are, as it may ‘jeopardise his relationship’ and ‘declare his political preferences’.
Is that possibly because they are as mad as his great-great-great mad ancestor’s?
It would be good to find out, wouldn’t it? Before it’s too late.
 For  example, in 2005 was he suggesting to the education minister that primary school children stay away from Jim’ll Fiddle-with-it, or anyone else in a shell-suit with improbable blonde hair and a greasy smile?
Or maybe that the minister for sport to keep Boris Johnson well-away from the cameras in the Olympics? Or from primary schools, for that matter, now they have been issued with the above description.
Perhaps farmers should all sell their gaz-guzzling tractors to Africans and go back to using draft-horses called Dobin to till the earth, feeding them on organic carrots grown on a Cornwall estate until we have a national food shortage. Highland, Shorthorn and Angus cattle could all become the modern-day saviours of the beef industry.
Hang-on. Come to think of it.... Maybe the Emperor’s new clothes aren’t so new after all?