Can’t think of a title for this one

It’s early October.

In horse racing terms, the flat season (champagne and pate de foie gras) begins to give way to the jumps season (beer and a burger). In football terms, the league table starts to mean something and a Premier League manager or two are ripe for the chop. The nights start drawing in and I start to wonder where, back in May, did I put my bike lights? I can walk down the street in a coat without attracting disapproving looks like those I got in July from those who were convinced that we had been transported to Death Valley, California. But the massive down-side is that the days of hanging-out the washing are fast disappearing. Perhaps the number is now in single figures. This may indeed be the last weekend where I can stand, in ever-weakening sunlight, and deliberate about how many pegs each item deserves.

What’s that?

Ah, yes. Er. Well…

You’ve got your “one peg” items like a sock or handkerchief. Then there’s your “two peggers” like a pair of trousers. But beyond that it gets complicated. Some items fall between the two. A child’s pair of trousers, for instance. One peg or two? A large bath towel? Yes, I hear you saying “Oh definitely two” but you’re forgetting other factors. The towel is quite wet (therefore quite heavy) and it’s a sunny day (in early October, admittedly) with very little wind. I therefore put it to you that said bath towel can be regarded as a “one pegger” in such circumstances. There’s not enough wind to blow it off the line, saturated as it is (I think the spin cycle on the washing machine is playing up). I may even be so bold as to advance the theory that no pegs at all are required, but I understand that such bold thinking is frowned upon. Austerity doesn’t extend that far.

One of my polo shirts? Start it off with just one peg. If the wind gets up as it starts to dry we may need to get out there and add another peg.

Socks? One of the more problematic items. Ideally, tumble dryer (where they will be left with all their relatives, for days and days until I start to wonder where all the bloody socks have gone). If you have to hang them out to dry, they don’t deserve a peg of their own. Two socks together qualify for a peg, yet can hamper effective drying. See what I’m saying here?

The weird thing is, we have bloody hundreds of pegs. I could peg each sock, double-peg each shirt, triple-peg each pair of trousers, each bath mat, each duvet cover. We have enough pegs for that. Yet it can’t be done.

Firstly, when that big black cloud moves over (as it inevitably will), it’s a race against time to get all the stuff off the line. That’s when you’re thankful that you only “one-pegged” that pillowcase. But, in addition and much more importantly, the committee are watching.

You what?

Er, yes. The committee.

A group of men. Middle-aged and older men. They sit in a boardroom in, I think, Canary Wharf. There’s about seven of them. One of them is James Spader (I have no idea why). And to them I justify how many pegs I’m using for each item. (In my head of course, I’m not completely unhinged). Another one is that bloke, I can’t remember his name, who played the nasty one in “Robocop”. They sit in judgement on my peg allocations. Occasionally, I’m called in to appear in front of them because of some outrageous error of judgement on my part.

“You three-pegged a child’s jumper on Tuesday, Carter. What the hell were you thinking”? would ask the one from Robocop.

“We had single-pegging on a duvet cover last week, despite 15 mile-an-hour winds, and it ended up on the shed roof” barks an old bloke in a grey suit with even greyer hair (I think he may have been in “Patriot Games”).

The committee aren’t happy. Over-pegging, under-pegging…not good.

I’m asked to stand outside for a few minutes whilst they discuss things. I get a plastic cup of water from a machine. Then I’m called back in by the secretary. I think she was in “Backdraft”.

“You’re a loose cannon, Carter. But we’re going to give you one last chance. But no more screw-ups” says James Spader.

I can see that Ed Harris isn’t happy with me getting another chance. Bollocks to him. He was rubbish in Apollo 13.

“Thank you, sir” I splutter.

Backdraft woman ushers me out.

 

 

 

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Fuck off, Blair.

An all-too-predictable thing happened in the weeks before Jeremy Corbyn was elected as the leader of the Labour Party. Yes, Tony Blair had his say.

The former “New Labour” leader, a man who now charges gullible imbeciles hundreds of thousands of pounds an hour for the privilege of providing him with a platform from which he can spout his nauseating platitudes, indicated that Labour had “rediscovered losing successively” and that he preferred winning to losing. (I have no idea whether “Winning is better than losing” is the title of a speech he is soon to give to a conference room full of corporate types for a six-figure sum, but it wouldn’t surprise me). He was, of course, horrified at the prospect of a Corbyn victory for a variety of reasons, though I don’t think Corbyn’s propensity for mass murder in the Middle East was one of them.

Like many of the “old guard” (and Blair, you are one of them now) his argument was centred around the idea that a Labour Party under Corbyn would be highly unlikely to win a general election. Well, maybe. But he’s missing the point.

On which set of principles and policies is Corbyn supposed to stand? On those he believes in or those he chooses to adopt because they give him a better chance of victory against the vile Tories? Adopting a set of principles, or selecting them from a menu as you might select your entree in some pretentious West End restaurant, may well have worked for others (no prizes for guessing who I mean) but surely the British people have had enough of such charlatans (again, no prizes) and chancers?

Party politics is not football. With apologies to the late Mr Shankly, it’s much more important than that. The aim of taking part in a football match is to win it. The aim of taking part in a general election is to win it because you can then go on to enact a programme in which you believe and for which people have voted. This bizarre belief that general elections are purely for winning must end.

What is the point of standing outside 10 Downing Street on the morning of May 8th 2020 having won the election with a manifesto you do not believe in? Creatures like Blair may regard that as “victory”, yet those of us who function on a different mental plane (and thankfully that’s an awful lot of people) can see the complete pointlessness of such an attitude. If you’re not going to change anything, what would be the point of winning?

In 2020 Labour may well lose. In fact, I’m pretty confident that they will. The only type of Labour leader the majority of the media can accept these days is one who is barely indistinguishable from the half-wit on the other side of the despatch box: same suit, same haircut, same education, same platitudes and same wife (probably). The British people will (and more fool them) fall for the same old scare stories and the same old Murdoch-inspired claptrap and lies that they did before. But that’s their look-out.

Having never voted Labour in my life I am now closer to calling myself a supporter of the current Labour leader than ever before. Do I agree with everything he says? No. Of course not. It’s virtually a statistical impossibility that I would agree with him on everything.

But I would (if an election was tomorrow) lend him my vote on the basis that he has principles which he is prepared to stand up for and argue, and not just go with whichever way the wind and a couple of focus-groups are blowing at the time. I would lend him my vote on the basis that someone needs to provide an intellectual counterweight to the despicable, selfish and downright disgraceful Tory narrative.

And I would lend him my vote on the basis that nothing would annoy his most sanctimonious predecessor more.

 

 

Hey, preacher, leave those kids alone

Children tend to believe things that adults tell them: there’s an evolutionary need for it.

“Don’t go outside the cave” was great advice a few thousand years ago if there was a pack of wolves or wild dogs nearby. The kids needed to believe the adult, rather than test whether what the adult saying was true or false. Not believing what the adult told you could easily mean you ended your day, after the wild dogs had finished with you, as a pile of bones being picked clean by vultures. Not good. Should have listened to Mummy!

These days, listening to Mummy can still be the difference between life and death. If you don’t believe Mummy about the busy road, or the electric socket, or the kettle that’s just boiled, well, things may get serious. The number 45 bus can kill you, and we have statistics to prove it.

And it’s this evolutionary fact, that children need to be disposed to believing what the adult tells them, that is the reason why religion continues to be so successful. Ironically, religious people who themselves deny “evolution” as scientific fact benefit from that very same fact as they indoctrinate the young with their assorted mumbo-jumbo, fairy stories and baseless tripe. Children will believe adults and place their trust in them, which is one of the reasons that the crimes of paedophiles elicit such horror and disgust. Betraying the trust of a young child is something which, even in our often grotesque society, we still regard as a hideous act beneath contempt. And we are right to do so.

But then along comes religion.

And, all of a sudden, everything we ever believed, ever thought, and ever said about betraying the trust of young children gets flung from of the nearest window. All bets are off. We set up schools that we call “faith schools” as if “faith” was somehow a commendable virtue to possess. It isn’t. It’s believing in something for which, by definition, you have no evidence. Nothing to be admired, only pitied. Such a school would not be allowed to teach that 2+2 = 5, or that Hitler was the Charlton Athletic goalkeeper in the 1935-6 season. But “deeply held personal beliefs” (as the religious will often describe their nonsense) are awarded a free pass.

Well, keep your “deeply held personal beliefs” to yourself. Keep them “personal” if that’s what they are. I respect your right to believe whatever you want, but that doesn’t mean I have to respect the belief itself. Which is fortunate, because I don’t. If you have a “deeply held personal belief”, that’s fine. Like I said, keep it to yourself: it’s “personal”, after all. I don’t want or need to know. Your belief doesn’t deserve “respect”, as it’s preposterous and barmy, but believe it if you want. Just don’t go around telling others, especially young children, that they have to believe your nonsense on pain of death, or eternal damnation, or whatever such garbage it is you say you believe (I use the phrase “say you believe” because I’m actually quite sure that many of these people don’t really believe these things, but that admitting it would represent such a climb-down that they keep banging on about them, as if repeating a falsehood over and over again will somehow make it true).

Education and religion should be kept entirely separate. Filling the heads of young children with stuff that you have “faith” in but cannot possibly know to be true is wrong when eternal damnation is promised for those who don’t share your view. A science teacher who had “faith” that water boils at 20 Centigrade would be dismissed. A geography teacher who had “faith” that Paris is the capital city of Spain would be similarly dealt with. Yet people are allowed, in fact positively encouraged, to set up schools whose whole ethos is based on something which cannot be known to be true in any meaningful sense. This is not “education”. The correct word is “indoctrination”. Why are they getting away with it?

It stinks.

And as the father of a six-year-old child who has been indoctrinated with this stuff, I now have to choose the right moment to sit him down and introduce an idea to him: the idea that what he has been told is “true” is in fact not “true” really, just the unsubstantiated belief of some people and not others, and that I am one of the “others”. How he’ll react to this, I have no idea. Will his trust in adults be dealt a severe blow? Will he wonder what other things he’s been told are “true” that actually are not? Will he wonder why I’ve sat by and allowed him to be lied to? I wouldn’t blame him if he did.

Of course, none of the above prove troublesome to the “faithful”: their breath-taking arrogance makes sure of that. Such considerations never enter their closed minds. The idea of allowing a child to grow and, when no longer a child, make his own decisions about what he believes and what he does not, horrifies them. No, they need to get them early, whilst still credulous.

And if that isn’t a form of child abuse, it’s uncomfortably close.

Hark the UKIP half-wits sing

Hark the UKIP half-wits sing

“We don’t like this PC thing

We’re so full of mercy mild

Foreign equals paedophile”

Joyful all these pillocks rise

To watch Nigel live on Sky

See the slimy git proclaim

“Immigrants are all to blame”

Hark the UKIP half-wits sing

“Nigel is the newborn King”

 

In the pub, he’s so adored

Not born here? Then you’re abhorred

Late in time, behold him come

Delayed, he says, by foreign scum

Veiled in tweed and toad-like see

Nigel’s monstrous vanity

And no man with man can dwell

Even in this foreign hell

Hark the UKIP half-wits sing

“BNP, are you watching”?

 

Hail the Kent-born Prince of Peace

Hail the son of Righteousness

Light and life to all he brings

Bar those nasty foreign things

Mild he lays his glory by

All viewed with his one good eye

Born to raise the sons of earth

Pint in hand and full of mirth

Hark the UKIP half-wits sing

“Reasoned thought is not our thing”

Hark the UKIP half-wits sing

“Vote for us, you stupid thing”

 

Stop talking sh*t

If you open your ears you’ll hear lots of people talking lots of rubbish most of the day. Often, it’s stuff they heard someone else say and, being a bit dim and incapable of thinking for themselves, they decide to repeat it. When you challenge them they often reply with “Yeah, well, that’s my opinion” as if this in itself is a stout defence of stupidity. What they really mean is “Oh shit, I’m talking crap and someone’s noticed. What do I do? I know, I’ll state that it’s my opinion and hope they go away”.

(1) “ISIS is not Islamic”

Barack Obama likes this one. Apparently, those nice people at ISIS, IS, ISIL etc. are “not Islamic” because they don’t represent “true Islam”. Hey, doofus, there is no “true Islam” just like there’s no “true” interpretation of any other religion either. But if there is a “true” Islam then shouldn’t you come out and say whether it’s the Sunni or Shia interpretation that is “true”? That would be fun.*

You can’t say that a non-violent interpretation of a religion is “true” just because it happens to suit you. Religion is steeped in violence and various holy books prescribe violence for all sorts of “sin”, and the Koran is one such book. Those psychopaths are Islamic, whether you like it or not.

It’s like men with moustaches denying that Saddam Hussein was a man with a moustache, or Sagittarians denying that Stalin was a Sagittarius.

 

(2) “Atheism is a religion”

No, it isn’t.

Religion as a word stems from the Latin ‘religio’ which, roughly translated, means reverence for gods and the sacred. You can’t be “religious” if you don’t believe in “God”, no matter how much religious people would like to smugly tell you otherwise.

If atheism is a religion then I take part in the sports of “not playing tennis”, “not playing cricket”, “not playing badminton” and “not playing rugby”.

 

(3) “What God meant was…”

Sorry? You’re interpreting the words of the Maker of Heaven and Earth? Have you checked with him that he’s happy for you to do this? If I was him, I’d be a little bit pissed off that one of my creations was running around telling everyone what it is I meant when I said something. I’d probably think that, having written it all down for them in my book, they didn’t need to “interpret” anything.

Do these people buy a Haynes’ car manual and then “interpret” what “change the oil” means, or do they just change the oil? I mean, if you think that a holy book is really the word of “God”, isn’t that enough for you?

“Well, it says to change the oil but what I think it means is…”

No, it means “change the oil”.

 

(4) “My religion is the true religion”

OK. Get a sheet of paper. Divide into two columns. Write the name of your religion in the left-hand column and the name of ALL the other religions in the right-hand column. Feel free to stop when you get to two or three thousand or when your arm is about to drop off. On the back of the sheet of paper write “None”.

What are the chances that, even if “None” is incorrect and “God” does exist, you happen to have been born into the religion (and most people are born into their religion) that is the “true” religion? What makes you so sure about that, other than years of indoctrination and brainwashing?

If patriotism is the belief that your country is superior because you happen to have been born in it, doesn’t the same thing apply here?

 

(5) “I wouldn’t be allowed to do that over there”

This is a particular favourite of ignorant idiots. A group of people, often with a different skin colour to the great intellect who spouts this bollocks, want to do something that wouldn’t be allowed in “their” country. The ignorant idiot therefore opposes it, although of course he would oppose it on principle anyway. He just thinks this is a clever argument, despite it being anything but.

(a) How he knows what he may be allowed to do in a foreign country he couldn’t even find on a map is based on assumption rather than actual knowledge.

(b) He’s often wrong, and if he wanted to he could actually do the very same thing in “their” country. (Not that he ever would, as just being able to walk and talk at the same time is his highest achievement in life so far).

(c) “Their” country is often a hellhole from which they have escaped, precisely BECAUSE freedom is severely restricted.

(d) If it isn’t, then “their” country is often the UK, having been born and bred here.

(e) The idea that you base your morality on what a group of intolerant psychopaths do in a foreign country is a peculiar one. Don’t you decide right from wrong based on how you were raised and the values you were taught? Since when do we prevent people from doing something on the basis that we wouldn’t be able to do that thing in another country?

It would be like a conversation with a Russian in the 1970s that went along the lines of:

“You’ve escaped from the Soviet Union, leaving everyone you have ever known and your entire way of life, and now you want to vote in our General Election? Ha! I wouldn’t be allowed to do that over there, would I? No chance mate. Only when I can vote in Russian elections will you be able to vote in British ones. That’s fair, isn’t it”?

 

* He’s a politician, so obviously he’d avoid a proper question and say that they are both “true” as long as they preach non-violence. Then he’d order more air raids on some kids or shepherds somewhere.

 

Totally b(ark)ing

This “Noah” film that’s about to be released has stirred-up quite a bit of controversy lately, but not of the type that you might reasonably expect.

To recap, the whole “Noah’s Ark” story is the Genesis tale of a man (obviously, this is religion after all) who builds a huge ship-like vessel in order to save himself, his family, and a very small sample of the world’s creatures from a great flood. He does this on the advice of God. Oh, and it’s God who causes the flood. So it’s the usual believable Biblical stuff really. God’s upset, God throws a hissy-fit, God wants to kill lots of things in order to show how really ticked-off he is but has the good sense to not want to kill everything on the planet.

Quite why a God who made EVERYTHING in six days would regard creating a few new creatures as an onerous task I have no idea. If I was him and I was in one of my moods, I’d just wipe out the whole stinking mess, animal, mineral or vegetable. But God takes pity on a very small percentage of the Earth’s living creatures. He’s nothing if not fair.

Of course, the fish are relatively relaxed about the whole “flood” thing, being aquatic creatures and all that. Old Noah was apparently spared the task of fitting out his vessel with an aquarium or two. Again, nice of God to think of others at such a trying time.

Anyway, the whole story is held very dear by Christians, Jews and Muslims. It plays a part in all the respective holy books, though of course they don’t agree about the exact details. There are also parts of the Islamic faith that regard depictions of Koranic figures, such as prophets like Noah, as prohibited. The view is that they may encourage idolatry, i.e people may come to worship the image rather than Allah himself. And this is where Russell Crowe comes in.

Mr Crowe, in playing the part of “Noah”, is depicting an Islamic prophet. And it’s just not on, apparently. Governments have banned, or are about to ban, the film from playing inside their territory. Qatar, Bahrain and the UAE are amongst those banning the film, and more will follow. (And before Western Christians get too uppity about this, they should not forget the way “Jerry Springer – The Opera” and “The Last Temptation of Christ” were received by many in their camp).

So a film is banned because it goes against what a certain religion apparently stands for (though, as is usual, even within Islam there are various strands of thought that take exception to something, and various strands which do not). There are worse things in life than a film being banned, of course, though many of those “worse things” are especially common in the kind of countries that ban films on religious grounds.

Banning something because it “offends” a religion, or doesn’t proffer the required amount of “respect” to that religion, is utter bullshit. It betrays a kind of weakness inherent to that religion, an admission that the sand upon which that religion is founded is very soft and may give way at any point. What if I worship a teapot as my “God”? May I require that a film is banned because it portrays my “God” as having teabags placed inside him (it’ll probably be a “him”) before he has hot water poured inside him?

Or would people say “You carry on worshipping your teapot mate, but leave the rest of us to watch the film”?

 

“E petitions”: British comedy gold

The Government “e petitions” website is where you go if you want to create an online petition regarding some pressing matter which you feel needs to be debated in the House of Commons (you only need 100,000 signatures after all!) Many take the “sledgehammer to crack a nut” line, others are just unfathomable and seem to have been written by people on nodding terms, at best, with the English language. Others are just bonkers.

Here are ten of my current favourites:

 

(1) Free pets for sale

It looks like an advert, but it isn’t. It’s a petition against people being able to give pets away “free”.

How would you regulate that, exactly? Come on “Sara Lewis”, tell me. What if I sell a pet for a penny? Is that OK? Have you thought this through? What is the minimum amount one may charge for a pet? What if my pet hamster lets his contract run down? Can he go for a “free” then? What’s the going rate for an amoeba?

Do tell.

 

(2) Performer pass on trains

This man is a comedian. No really, he is a comedian. And he travels on public transport to get to gigs. And he feels he should have a pass entitling him to cheaper public transport. No, I haven’t made this up.

Certain jobs deserve perks of course. But what do we tell the circus clowns, the bearded ladies and the mime artists when they come knocking for free bus passes?

Like I said, he’s a comedian. And a bloody good one.

 

(3) Register Shakespeare’s (accepted) birthday, 23rd April, as a Day in the Calendar

I’ve checked this and it’s already there, between 22nd and 24th April. Yep, it’s already a day in the calendar. While I was there I checked June 29th, October 21st and December 2nd. They’re all in there too.

And…relax.

 

(4) The renaming of Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 gets a bad rap, apparently. The marketing people think it needs freshening up a bit.

So Sandra Jones wants it to get a new name. But won’t “Type 2” then become “Type 1” or will we leave it as “Type 2” and not have a “Type 1” at all? I’m not sure Sandra has thought it through. And she hasn’t come up for a new name for “Type 1”.

I like “Type 3”. Yeah, sounds good.

I’ll just run it past Saatchi & Saatchi though.

 

(5) Ban tax on all feminine hygiene products

You mean like deodorant and toothpaste? Oh no, you mean…

Do you have any idea how much money these generate for the nation? It would be like adding 10p to income tax if you abolished tax on “women’s products”. Have you seen how much of this stuff women buy?

Tax from these things pays for all the schools, all the hospitals, the RAF and Eric Pickles’ salads.

Can’t possibly be allowed.

 

(6) Stop churches being converted into mosques

It’s a supply and demand thing really though really, isn’t it?

Come on, Terry Cheeseman, stop laying about in bed on a Sunday morning scratching your bits and get yourself down to the local church.

Would you prefer churches to stand empty?

If one lot of deluded maniacs want to sell their meeting place to another lot of deluded maniacs, who are you to argue?

 

(7) We should honour the service personnel who protected the UK during the Cold War

You do understand what the “Cold War” was, don’t you?

It’s just that when you refer to it as a “conflict” I start to think you may be struggling with the concept.

That film with Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner, “The War of the Roses”?

Yeah, not a real war either.

 

(8) End Multiculturalism in the UK

And I quote: “We have only 4 cultural identities in the UK…Scottish, Welsh, Irish and English”

Now, what do you understand by the prefix “multi”? Yeah, me too.

But let’s say we go with this idea. How would it work? How would you enforce it? Would the police knock on the door and if you didn’t give the “correct” answer take you away in handcuffs?

Build yourself a time machine and set the date to “Berlin, 1933”. Enjoy yourself.

Idiot.

 

(9) Unwanted telephone calls for boilers – 0161 321 7891

This man keeps getting phone calls from this number. They keep asking him about his boiler.

His options:

(a) Tell them to **** off

(b) Not answer their calls

(c) Create an “e petition” about it.

 

He chose (c). Who wouldn’t?

 

(10) Create a 3 rod license

I’m going to cut and paste this proposal in its entirety:

A petition to create a 3 rod freshwater license for anglers who normally have to pay for 2 licenses costing a extra £27 instead,instead create a license which costs £40.50 saving anglers money.

 

Apart from the English and the Maths, that was beautifully put. Well done.

 

 

 

 

 

The cult of the car

Some years ago I was involved in a heated argument with a man who was on a mobility scooter.

He had decided, as I later found out, that because he paid “road tax” for his vehicle, he had the right to pretty much do what he wanted, when he wanted. I was on a bike (for which I paid no “tax”, as he constantly reminded me) going along the road when he decided to leave the pavement and cross the road in front of me. In his world, this meant that I had to stop, because he paid “road tax” and I didn’t.

It’s an extreme case, and of course the majority of people would say that he still had a duty of care towards other road users. But I can’t help but feel that it reflects the attitude of a large number of road users, most of whom are private car owners, towards cyclists and pedestrians. In short – “I pay road tax, you don’t. Stuff you”. (Of course, there is no such thing as “road tax” and hasn’t been for years, but the uninformed still cling to it like a baby clings to his favourite “blankie”).

They clog the roads at least twice a day because they can’t be bothered to walk to work, or make the kids walk to school, or get the kids to catch the bus, or buy the kids bikes (too dangerous with all the cars on the roads) and they buy the right to throttle our streets and avenues by purchasing “road tax” and extortionately-priced petrol. And yet they want the rest of us to feel sorry for them at the same time.

Well, sorry, but I don’t. At all.

If you want your own little piece of space that you can take with you wherever you go, with nice padded seats and a CD player and a convenient place where you can put your litre of coke from the McDonalds “drive thru”, somewhere you can take refuge from all those horrible other people, perhaps something you can drive around the streets of your town as if you’re commanding a Tiger tank at the Battle of Monte Cassino, then you’re going to have to pay for that privilege. And if you can’t be bothered to walk to the shops, it’s going to cost you.

Yet the incessant whining of motorists about being “persecuted” is becoming an almost daily staple.

One of the first things you to tend to notice about genuinely “persecuted” people is that they tend not to be driving £35,000 Chelsea tractors or removing bits of pedestrian from their wheel arches. They tend not to have the ear of governments in quite the way that the RAC, the AA, or The Alliance of British Drivers do. (Incidentally, the website of The Alliance of British Drivers describes Britain’s motorists as “beleaguered” and portrays them as “cash cows”. Maybe the first description explains why so many motorists drive like they’ve spent twelve hours in the pub? Maybe the second description could be fixed by, er, slowing down and not breaking speed limits? Just a thought).

This persecution complex is pathetic.

As a drinker I am all-too-aware of the price of a pint, and how much of that price is tax. My response to the increasing price of a pint is to…wait for it…drink less beer! Yep, I’ve come to the staggering conclusion that drinking less beer means I won’t spend as much on beer. I’m not whinging about being “persecuted”, because drinking beer is not a “right”, drinking beer is not something that I absolutely must do (unlike drink water or breathe oxygen or stay warm and dry) and drinking beer is something over which I have the ultimate say. I don’t complain about being a “cash cow”, I don’t join organisations which tell me I’m being “exploited”, and when I do drink beer I observe the rules of the pub and I try not to spill my beer, experience having taught me that spilling beer is a costly business.

Car drivers keep on driving, here, there and everywhere. They whinge about being “persecuted” then they park on the zig-zags by the zebra crossing. They whine about being “cash cows” yet fail to observe speed limits, which are nearly always in plain sight. They see the double-yellow lines outside the butcher’s, yet park on them anyway. They see the “EMERGENCY VEHICLES ONLY” painted on the floor in the supermarket car-park yet they drop their wife there anyway (otherwise she may have to walk twenty yards, and they can’t have that). They drive their kids right up to the school entrance, despite the “No Dropping-Off” signs, clogging the road and endangering other children (but the other kids aren’t as important as theirs, so that’s OK).

Near my son’s school there are very clear double-red lines which mean “No stopping at any time”. The parents completely disregard them, as if they apply to everyone else, but not them.

“Hey, I’m taking the kids to school. If I park somewhere else they may have to walk a bit” seems to be the message.

So they drop the kids as close to the entrance as they possibly can, then go home and log-on to the Daily Mail website and complain that children these days don’t get enough exercise.

At a hospital near me, some of the parking charges have recently been increased. This has, of course, sparked outrage amongst those who classify parking at a hospital free-of-charge as one of life’s inalienable “rights”. They are visiting sick relatives, and it’s quite outrageous that some people should seek to make money out of sick people. (Quite where they stand on drugs companies making fortunes out of sick people they never explain. Perhaps there’s a Facebook group somewhere that campaigns for all drugs companies to give all their profits to charity?)

This idea that everywhere should be accessible to cars is insidious and damaging. I know that we’re supposed to worship our cars (a trend made worse by the witless Clarkson and Co. and the gormless mugs that stand around behind them in the studio hoping that a bit of the stardust might rub off) but they are just lumps of metal that get us from A to B. They have been fetishized and made to be these objects of desire through which we confirm our own “success” in life’s great race.

Why don’t we just grow up?

This kind of persecution of car drivers must stop

This kind of persecution of car drivers must stop

That’s the name of the blame

We’re used to it, of course. The post-match interview with a manager whose side have been beaten.

The referee’s fault, the linesman’s fault, the opposition player who cheated, the man in the crowd who coughed just as the £30 million striker was about to score. We’ve heard pretty much every excuse that we can imagine, and some that we can’t. This week hasn’t really been that out-of-the-ordinary in terms of the excuses that managers being paid millions a year are prepared to manufacture in order to deflect the blame from themselves. Let’s see:

(1) The referee

A huge match between two of the world’s biggest club teams shouldn’t be refereed by a man from a Third World country like Sweden. That was the basis of Manuel Pellegrini’s argument after his Manchester City team were beaten 2-0 in Manchester by Barcelona. It’s almost impossible to imagine the kind of mental state that would lead an apparently intelligent man to spout such utter claptrap. It’s as if he’s trying to suggest that the referee had been plucked from a parks game in the Stockholm suburbs and told “Get on a plane, you’re refereeing Man City v Barcelona tomorrow”. The idea that “there is more important football in Europe than Sweden” is arguably true, yet what gives Pellegrini the right to tell a nation of millions that not a single one of them is up to the job of refereeing a football match in which his darling superstars are taking part?

One could argue that Chile, from where Pellegrini hails, is hardly at the centre of the footballing universe and that the job of managing a financial behemoth like Manchester City should really fall to someone who comes from a “bigger” footballing nation. And that would be nonsense too. Wouldn’t it?

(2) The sendings-off

Martin Demichelis of Manchester City brought down Lionel Messi (either just outside or just inside the penalty area) and received his marching orders for “denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity”. Those familiar with Messi’s work can hardly deny that that was the case. Pellegrini insisted that the foul was outside the penalty area (surprise!) and that, anyway, a foul on his winger Navas a few seconds earlier should have meant that the ball didn’t arrive at Messi’s feet, as Man City should have been given a free kick by the nasty old Swedish referee.

I can’t find Pellegrini’s view on why his best defender, Vincent Kompany, tried to play Messi offside when the easiest thing in the world would have been to close down the Argentinian. Perhaps he did mention it and the papers decided not to report his comments. Or perhaps it’s easier to blame a referee from that backwater than consider that one of your best players made a big mistake?

(3) The laws

Currently, if a defender denies an attacker an “obvious goalscoring opportunity” through fouling him, then he’s sent off. If that foul occurs in the penalty area, then the attacking team gets a penalty as well as the luxury of playing the rest of the match with more players. This, according to managers and fans of Arsenal and Manchester City, is palpably unfair. (No, I don’t remember them saying this before, either).

They whine that, in effect, a team is being punished twice for one misdemeanour. But that’s precisely what was in the mind of the game’s legislators when the laws were changed. If there is an element of “double punishment” then defenders (and goalkeepers) won’t be daft enough to commit such fouls. Will they? Sadly not.

They whinge that “it spoilt the game” when they were reduced to ten men, as if uppermost in their minds is the desire to entertain the fans who pay sky high prices to watch their heroes in action. They choose not to comment on whether the lumbering Demichelis scything down Messi “spoils” the game. They offer no opinion as to whether seeing the Arsenal goalkeeper bring down Robben (who could have been badly injured) “spoils” the game.

On those questions we are met with absolute silence.

(4) The “European” game

In the good old “blood and thunder, stick it in the mixer, boot the winger into Row Z” English Premier League, referees allow people to get away with things that they just don’t on the continent. Johnny Foreigner has gone soft, whilst over here it’s still a man’s game, albeit one where the best twenty players are all Johnny Foreigners.

So, after Arsenal and Manchester City lost, these defeats were partly explained by the “continental” referees giving “continental decisions”. Which doesn’t strike me as particularly surprising in a “continental” competition, but Mssrs Wenger and Pellegrini appeared to be shocked by this. Their previous experiences of European club competitions, ten years in the case of the latter and over twenty years in the case of the former, appear not to have equipped them for the startling revelation that the game is refereed differently in most European countries. For in excess of £6 million a year, I’d have thought reminding your players of this fact may have been a good idea. It seems not.

So if, as expected, both “The Gunners” and “The Citizens” go out of the Champions League in three weeks’ time, expect a tidal wave of hard luck stories. The referee, the laws of the game, the alignment of Saturn with Jupiter and a butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon rainforest will all get their fair share of the blame. The idea that their teams were just not good enough will get short shrift from Mr Wenger and Mr Pellegrini. It’s not the kind of thing you can admit when you’re being paid millions a year, I understand that. So they’ll look elsewhere, for conspiracy and ineptitude, anything in order to rationalise why their teams, who regularly rip apart Norwich City and Fulham, failed to make it to the last eight of the best football competition on the planet.

And the man whose Malaga side just had to NOT let in two injury time goals against Dortmund last season, but failed, won’t have to answer any difficult questions. And the man whose club have a solitary FA Cup victory (on penalties) to show for the last ten years of his leadership, well, he won’t have to answer any difficult questions either. No, much better to talk about a referee, a conspiracy, unfairness, hard luck and injustice.

BLAME.

That’s the “name of the game”, as a pop group from that backward Scandinavian country once sang.

Painter’s radio

I started painting the house at the end of November (interior only – I’m not that stupid that I would try to paint outside during a British winter). With the wife at work and the boy at school, weekday mornings have seen litres of gloss and matt applied to skirting boards, dado rails, doors etc. over the past few weeks. I don’t seem to be any closer to finishing than I was a month ago, but I’ve enjoyed it, being a fairly solitary animal in the main. But we all need company, and “Colin Murray & Friends”  (TalkSport, Monday-Friday, 10am-1pm) has been providing just that. It is an incredibly average show 😉 with Mr Murray being joined by two sidekicks each day (Brian Moore/Perry Groves on Mondays, Des Kelly/Michael Gray on Tuesdays, Steve Bunce/Dietmar Hamann on Wednesdays, Daley Thompson/Danny Murphy on Thursdays and Perry Groves/Bob Mills on Fridays).

Anyone who knows me will know that for over ten years I have regarded Hawksbee and Jacobs as the undisputed kings of daytime talk radio. Those guys have got me through a degree (when I used to leave the university library early to get home for their show) and a couple of really tedious jobs. They remain at the top of their game, but for the first time in years they have a rival. Murray and his guests provide, in my opinion, a thoughtful, humorous, insightful and generally cliché-free three hours of radio that I recommend to anyone with even a passing interest in sport. Anyway, enough of that.

Here’s the thing: since the painting started, when I look at the various bits that I’ve painted over the past eight weeks, so many memories are brought back. When I look at the kitchen doorframe I hear Andy Fordham’s interview from the other day, when he spoke of his health, his drinking, and his attempt to get back among the elite of the BDO darters. I wish him well. The skirting board in the alcove next to my bed is now Perry Groves telling us that Sunderland will not be relegated this season. They had about nine points at the time, I think, but he may turn out to have been right. I don’t think he was saying it to be controversial, he genuinely believed it. And he persuaded me. Another piece of skirting board (this one in the back bedroom behind the wardrobe) will always be Daley Thompson, Eddie Izzard (who seemed to get on like long lost friends though they’d never met before) and the day AVB got the boot from Spurs. Only really good radio can do this. (H&J’s coverage of the Lewis-Tyson “face off” in 2001 that ended in a brawl is another example. I remember it like it was yesterday).

But the best thing is that my four-year-old son’s bedroom door will forever be associated with Dietmar Hamann’s magnificent cover version of Chris de Burgh’s “Lady in Red” just before Christmas. The term “comedy gold” comes nowhere near to doing justice to this incredible moment in radio history. It has to be listened to in order to be believed. I don’t laugh out loud at many things, but this had me (genuinely) in bits, with tears rolling down my cheeks. Fantastic.

At 7.30 every weekday morning, as I go into my son’s room to wake him up for school and push on that same door, I am instantly transported back to the former German international’s rendition of possibly the worst single to reach Number One in the 1980s (and there’s plenty of competition). If it’s cold and wet outside, if I had eight pints the night before and my head is still pounding, or if I have just another day of paint fumes to look forward to, by the time I’m whispering “Daniel, it’s time to wake up” I’m grinning like a demented lunatic.

In years to come my son may well be sitting in a pub somewhere discussing “earliest memories” with a friend and he will recount how he clearly remembers his Dad waking him up for school when he was  just four years old, and that no matter how cold it was, no matter how poor West Ham had been the night before, no matter how monstrous the hangover was, Dad always had a great big smile on his face. What a great Dad!

And for that, Mr Hamann and Mr Murray, I thank you.