Monday, November 26, 2007

Mila's 10th Birthday

I spent yesterday afternoon on a 10th birthday clothes shopping trip with my eldest child Mila. Although I returned exhausted after walking up and down Oxford Street twice, it was a real pleasure to see her choose outfits, putting together a ‘look’, during the day. I felt rather proud that my girl was growing up and developing her own style.

According to a lot of reportage in the middle class press, 10 year olds are all supposedly ultra-demanding and cynical ultra-consumers, adults before their time. I guess if parents allow them to be by being incapable of saying ‘no’ then it’s possible. However, maybe it betrays a fear of children growing up. Rather than fret about it, I’m going to go with the flow and enjoy Mila’s increasing sophistication and discernment.

On a very strict budget of course!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Best Apocalypses in the World EVER!

I think everyone agrees that we now live in the future and it’s crap. My generation were told in our Usborne books that we’d be jetting around in space by now, hanging out with robots, living in a domed city on the moon or in a twisted post-nuclear war wasteland with loads of cool mutants and adventure. Instead, we’ve got really tiny computers and the slow-burn apocalypse of climate change. I mean, what kind of Armageddon is that? Where are the all mutants and road-warriors?!

Having had the benefit of a few years on this Earth, I also notice that the apocalypse is always changing. Anyway, all this leads me to the point of this entry – my list of the 5 best apocalypses EVER!

1. The biblical apocalypse

This is the daddy of apocalypses, straight from the fevered brain of Saint John. It’s got some great destruction going on after those seven seals are opened by the Lamb of God. Notable for introducing the Anti-Christ and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – Plague, Famine, War and Noel Edmunds.

2. Nuclear war – the classic!

As a child, we watched Threads and The Day After which scared the living shit out of us as we lived in the world of Mutually Assured Destruction. However, comics painted a picture of survivalists battling disfigured mutants that made the post-nuclear hell sound rather exciting and fun.

3. Zombies

Somehow a virus reanimates corpses and they bite living humans, so they become zombies too. Quite why, after a few months, all the undead don’t simply rot to pieces so they can’t actually pose a threat any more isn’t explored. Maybe it’s all the preservatives in food these days?

4. Charlton Heston is the last man on Earth…

…or at least the last noble, macho, normal man on earth. Charlton Heston was the face of the apocalypse in the 1970s, railing against man’s inhumanity to man while kicking mutant/ape butt. Soylent Green, Planet of the Apes and Omega Man gave him plenty of opportunity to grimly witness the fall of man and display his righteous Romanesque profile.

5. Everyone goes blind and gets killed by intelligent plants from the stars

Speaks for itself – John Wyndham wrote Day of the Triffids in the ‘50s, but I remember the BBC series featuring John Duttine, which featured extremely badly put-together Triffids that appeared to be made by a man with Parkinsons out of fibreglass. Bad special effects didn’t stop the series terrifying the pants off me at the time, of course.

Monday, November 19, 2007

My Gym Induction with Conan the King

As some longstanding readers will know, every now and again I engage in a futile attempt to get fit. More specifically, I join a gym in an attempt to lose weight; diligently go for a few weeks; then cease to go as my willpower ebbs away like the tide on Morecombe Bay, exposing the mudflats of my laziness.

The other key element of this process is the slightly humiliating gym induction, where a hugely fit bull-male condescendingly takes me through the necessary steps to approximate some form of fitness.

Now the cycle is starting again: I’ve joined a gym near work and have started my induction process, guided back to fitness by a taciturn man-mountain of non-specific Northern/Eastern European origin named Jan (or “Yaaan” as he pronounces it). Having an induction with Yaaan is a slightly disconcerting experience. For one thing, his arms are wider than my thighs. I can’t imagine he can use a urinal, as his arms are so muscle-bound that they surely couldn’t reach round to hold his winkle. Secondly, he delivers assessments of one’s health in terse, sinister statements:

“You haf waist of vun metre. This…not good.”

“Your BMI 16%. This…not good.”

“Your flexibility is 12cm. This also…not good.”

“Your grip…adequate. This OK.”

So I’m feeling pretty crap about myself. Then he finds out I work in advertising and launches into a condemnation of my profession.

“Advertising verrr bad as teach child to vant more consume.”

I remark that I’m fully aware that capitalism isn’t a great way to run the world, but no competing system appears to be emerging and until then I have to feed and house my children somehow. Yaaan nods sagely, a bit like Conan the King on his throne agreeing to the counsel of a lowly underling. Then we’re onto the results: I have to lose 10 kilos, but Yaaan “vill help ju do zis.”

I find out just how tomorrow – I imagine it will hurt.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Positivity Week: Welwyn Garden City Edition

I spent the day in the chilly house on a windy, rain-swept day, waiting for the man to sort out my boiler (please, stop right there – this isn’t a Carry-on film), so one wouldn’t have thought there was a lot of pleasure to be had (unless we were in a Carry-on film).

But – hold on – I’m now Mr Positivity, so I can identify something that did make me smile.

Having procured my lunch from M&S, I was coming back from Welwyn Garden City’s majestic Howard Centre (it is not simply a mall, it is an architectural wonder that rivals the Colossus of Rhodes or, indeed, the Great Pyramid of Giza) when I saw big clumps of foam gliding along in the wind. Then, as I progressed along the street, I was stunned to discover a winter-wonderland of ersatz snow covering the parklands of our charming little town.

Yes, some moron had put washing-up liquid in that other Wonder of Welwyn Garden City, the Coronation Fountain. Normally I’d decry the idiocy of our nation’s cretinous youth, but today the foam looked both spectacular and seasonal. So that’s my small pleasure of the day.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Weekend of Good Things

Yes, I’m still concentrating on the good things in life! Weekend pleasurable moments include:
  • Going to a windswept farm with Stan, Emily, sister-in-law Lucy and brother-in-law Lee. It was one of those ‘farm as theme park’ places. They all seem to have the same stuff in them – a ‘guinea pig village/town/suburb/conurbation’ and an ‘amazing maize maze’. (Oh, wavering close to cynicism there!) Anyway, Stan loved it and has learned the word ‘tractor’ as a result of our visit.
  • Going to the gym with Lee. Admittedly it was in Stevenage (which is one place that could puncture my positivity) but going to the gym with Lee is like having a free personal trainer – so I learned a lot of useful stuff.
  • Another musical rediscovery – Peter Hook of New Order’s side project ‘Revenge’. I played the vinyl album to death back in 1990. Found it again on iTunes and it still sounds great.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Positivity Week, Part Two

Today's little pleasures:
  1. Nutella on toast for breakfast
  2. Working Keith Chegwin into a campaign idea
  3. Rediscovering Weirdo by the Charlatans - what a great organ solo in the intro...

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Positivity Week, Part One

I’m trying to get into blogging again, after a long work-related lay-off. Looking at earlier posts I notice I have three modes of communication:

(a) Fulminating against modern life and (as I perceive it) other people’s idiocy

(b) Describing my own idiocy

(c) Cynicism in general

In an effort to inject some sunshine into this blog, I’ve decided to only write about nice things for a whole week, starting right here.


Jeez, this isn’t easy!


OK, here goes – I’m going to describe the small things that give me pleasure. Those little delights that give me a lift during my day. Perhaps you’d like to leave comments with yours?

The little things that enhanced my day so far are:

  • The consideration of Nintendo game developers

I’m playing ‘Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass’ on the DS (which is a pleasure in itself, but I won’t rhapsodise about it here) and was tickled to find that I was asked before I started the game whether I was left or right-handed. The interface was then configured for a leftie like me. Nice touch!

  • Stan’s new phrase

He’s started to say ‘Oh no!’ when he drops something or otherwise has a mishap. Although he says it in a way that suggests he’s enjoying himself. It really is the most adorable thing.

The map's upside down. Oh no!