This boy reads – a riposte to the gender selective book club ‘This girl reads’ frequented by some of my colleagues (you know who you are!). The beauty of the club is that it only requires ‘this boy’ to read.
There is no such thing as utopia or dystopia; it all depends on the perspective of the individual. This is what becomes apparent after reading ‘Brave New World’ (perhaps it should be relabelled as simply topian literature, but then maybe people will think of it as books about manicured hedges – no, that’s topiary; I digress!).
On the face of it, the future laid out in ‘Brave New World’ doesn’t seem so bad. Ageing and disease are eradicated, child birth is now unnecessary and people are taught not to fear death. Humans are bred and educated so as to enjoy their role in society and casual sex is not just encouraged, but seen as the norm. If all else fails, a euphoric drug with no side effects is handed out freely.
Scratch the surface though and all is not quite as it seems. ‘Brave New World’ has eerie parallels with the modern world. It is these darker truths that the three protagonists of ‘Brave New World’, Marx, Helmholtz & the Savage, find themselves confronting.
Meritocracy is no more, you are bred for your career and brainwashed into loving it whilst the world is controlled by a select few dictatorial world controllers. Is this so different to the elite schools and universities that are exclusive to our leaders? Rampant consumerism propels employment and leisure, in much the same way that consumer spending props up the British economy. Why we may not be quite at the point where everyone belongs to everybody else, a simple swipe left or right dictates who we do and don’t belong to.
But what is wrong with that when the vast majority accept and welcome that arrangement? Messer’s Marx, Helmholtz and the Savage find out that questioning the status quo results in social exile, much like anyone offering a contrarian view to accepted wisdom on social media. The trio are soon faced with a choice that befalls us all, that even World Controller Mond had to make. Accept your place in the system unquestioning or risk ruin and ridicule. Perhaps the Savage finds another way?
For some time now, an occurrence in the corporate world has been troubling me. The rise of zero hour contracts? No! Increasing job insecurity? No! The erosion of the powerbase of the unions leading to the increasing exploitation of workers? Well, it is a concern, but No! It’s the stupidity of suiting up yet siphoning the tie.
Why go to the trouble of smartening yourself up only do undo all your good work by failing to fasten your collar and do your tie. It is the equivalent of the palace guard without his stupid big hat, a jockey without his whip, an aristocrat without his monocle. Or to put in another way, all fur coat and no pants.
I first noticed this peculiar phenomenon when Roman Abramovich and Jose Mourinho adopted this style when Chelsea was conquering the country circa 2004. A few deluded management types literally followed suit. You could see it playing out in their heads, imagining themselves as a suave, sophisticated supervisor or a billionaire boss: “if we deploy Jane from accounts and Steve from marketing as inverted wingers with me spear heading the attack, we’ll really outperform our sales targets”.
If this fashion faux pas was just a case of comfort or trend setting, I could let it go. But as ever in the bullshit world of business, there is a sinister ulterior motive. Apparently, not wearing a tie makes one more ‘approachable’. So this two bit no tie theory is now being taught at every managerial brainwashing camp, hence the exponential spread of the open collared cult. Why would management want to be more approachable? Is it because they want to be your friend? No! It’s so that as you’re drawn in for an embrace by that comforting open collar, you feel the thrust of your P45 knifed into your back. And as you fall to the floor, there’s no tie to cling onto to break your fall.
Only two things are successful in distracting me from the miserable existence that is my life – sleep and exercise. Sadly, my employer selfishly refuses to let me chose a start time that allows me to get my preferred ten hours minimum (and trying to go to sleep at 9pm is impossible!). So instead I seek my solace in exercise.
In my post 30 years my legs depressingly now need 2-3 days minimum recovery time following a game of football (my preferred vehicle for exercising), so I’m now left with little alternative than to spend more time at the gym. At this time of year, there is a sudden influx of podgy people in pristine Lycra popping up, much to the chagrin of the regular gym users. But I welcome these arrivistes; they have noble life transformation intentions, they appear to be vaguely normal and they’ll be gone in a month, which is sadly not the case for the regular gym users.
I have tried to ignore these dedicated gym people, but a diet of protein powder and steroids (probably) appears to result in an acute case of adult ADHD. My mission to find serenity is oft interrupted by the clatter of weights as some macho man drops them from a great height. The urge to wander over and inquire “those a bit heavy for you mate?” is difficult to resist, but I remind myself that their sense of humour isn’t likely to be as well-honed as their physique. I observed another individual, who after carefully glancing over both shoulders, lifted his vest so that he could admire his midriff in the mirror. Sadly, he did not share such admiration for my laughter, which could not be contained. Perhaps he was engaging in some kind of mating ritual, much like a baboon baring its backside.
All this would be tolerable, but sadly it is not enough for these meat heads to just make fools of themselves. Whilst quietly minding my own business one evening, I was approached and propositioned with “want to do arms?” This caught me off guard and, in a state of blind panic, I agreed. ‘Doing arms’ it turns out is actually just doing endless permutations of bicep curl exercises with increasingly heavy weights. I was on the verge of pointing out that the human arm consists of more than just a bicep, but a thought occurred to me. This is just efficiency in action. Why waste your efforts trying to exercise all of your body when you can focus on a single muscle and exercise the shit out of it. Not sure how this guy will be able to find clothing that fits biceps that are three times bigger than the rest of his body mind. Although that does explain the vest.
So New Year gym joiners, I welcome you. You may get in the way, you may hog equipment whilst chatting on your phone and you may soon be gone, but whilst you’re here you dilute the amount of twats that normally inhabit this place. It makes me wonder if that oft used gym adage should be given a New Year makeover to read ‘no pain, no shame’.
‘Fashions fade, style is eternal.’ – Yves Saint Laurent
Child cruelty can take many forms. Of that I was reminded whilst on the plane to Spain. The chap sat in front of me had given his child a classic Chris Waddle haircut. As if that wasn’t bad enough for the little urchin, his father, who was wearing a vest (this appeared to be for neither aesthetic nor temperature related reasons), had his face, Waddle cut and all, tattooed on his shoulder. So despite the little oik not being old enough to remember when we had what appeared to be road kill on his head, he will have a permanent reminder courtesy of his Dad’s ink work.
I suppose some instant karma is at play in the world though, as the father has now been left with a permanent monstrosity on his shoulder. As tattoos go, this one is horrific. If fashion is fleeting and style is eternal, tattoos had their moment in the sun eons ago. Whenever I clap eyes on a tattoo it screams REGRET in big Chinese symbols. Imagine a world where you are eternally forced to wear combat trousers, a belt with Jesus Saves spelled out in studs, a t-shirt that changes colour when your hot and some charity wrist bands, like some kind of bad fashion groundhog day. This is effectively your fate when you get inked.
Your bad tattoo is also going to get progressively worse when you get older. Imagine a gimmer with a top knot, a granny wearing a crop top. That’s what you’re going to look like when you’re shuffling down the street on your zimmer flashing off your saggy sleeve. Factor in the fact that although some tattoo artists can draw some really good designs, when it is transferred onto skin, it all goes horribly wrong. In much the same way as a big mac can look like an appetising proposition on a billboard but then looks like gastroenteritis when you open the cardboard.
So what to do about that tat? Laser removal is expensive and leaves a scar. Cover ups have the same effect as when Father Ted tried to hammer out a dent in his car. There’s nothing else left, you’re stuck with it. So next time you’re contemplating entering a parlour, to paraphrase Celine Dion, baby (th)ink twice.
The British public are now demonstrating levels of stupidity that even I thought they couldn’t reach. People who voted to leave are now upset that this means that we are going to leave. Who would have thought that? The outrage! Just today at the estate agents a woman was asking “do you think that they’ll let us vote again, because we’re only finding out what it means now”. How the hell did these people decide on which way to vote? Coin toss? Eenie meenie miney mo? Walk into the polling booth, panic and just choose anything? Presumably the same people complaining about the repercussions only becoming apparent now are those that were complaining about to many experts in the run up to the referendum.
It’s not just the ignorant masses wondering what the hell they did last night. Boris, perhaps the most aptly named politician there is, had the look of a man who, after bull-shitting his way through the interview process, has been offered the job and is now in panic mode, because the leave campaign pretty much promised that all our problems will disappear if we leave Europe. There’s going to be a lot of pissed of people out there when that doesn’t happen and they’re going to come for you Boris. In fact, the only people who aren’t going to be pissed are those who were stupid enough to believe that the entire population of Turkey was going to up sticks en mass and move to Britain.
The truly depressing thing about this is not that we voted leave (the EU does need reforming, although not by Boris and Farage), but the reasons for voting leave. It appears to be in the large as a result of an unhealthy mixture of ignorance and xenophobia. But as that gyrating geriatric Jagger once sang, you can’t always get what you want, but you might just get what you need. Perhaps the chaos and pain of a Boris led Brexit is the only way that we’ll learn. It’s for your own good!
A Sunday morning spent in Saint James Hospital ophthalmology unit was proving to be a somewhat eye opening experience (sorry!). My initial resistance proved futile as my inner voyeur took over and I listened in to the tales of woe from assorted idiots.
First up was a plasterer who had sealant in his eye “it happens all the time to plasterer’s but I’ll never wear goggles”. He’d struck up a rapport with a woman who had decided that the best thing to do for a bleeding eye was to get on a plane to Spain. She was incredulous that this had made her eye worse, but had decided against treatment and waited until she had returned home.
Eventually the conversation turned to the NHS, more specifically, the problems with funding the NHS. “Idiots like you two” I almost cried out. But no, it’s those immigrants you see! At this point I could stay silent no longer, much to the chagrin of my wife. “What about those immigrants that work in the NHS?” I queried. Well those types of immigrants are OK, but the rest cost us too much was the consensus. “Actually, the problem of health tourism is much exaggerated and isn’t really an issue at all. Do you actually think people will spend hundreds of pounds to travel here rather than just using that money for treatment in their own country?” Silence! I thought that the woman’s other eye was going to start bleeding.
After a sustained period of silence I began to feel a little smug. I’ve educated these people. I’ve overcome the red top propaganda. Alas, the pair of ignoramuses again lamented the cost of immigrants to the NHS, albeit in a much quieter fashion this time. I was not to be deterred. “Do you realise that immigrants are actually net tax contributors to the UK economy?” More silence until the calamity plasterer pipes up with “it wasn’t always that way”. “Wasn’t it? Do you have any evidence to back that statement up?” More silence until the Manuel of the plastering world was called in to see the doctor.
He left grinning 15 minutes later, giving the thumbs up that stating that his eye was “alright”. The doctor who had saved his eye sight was an immigrant, an irony that I suspect was lost on our hapless white van man.
The entire morning left me somewhat depressed. I had long suspected that the majority of the British public were idiots, now I had some confirmation of that. This is why I fear that we will Brexit. It is far easier for an idiot to blame a foreigner for all their woes, rather than look at their own stupidity. None so blind as those that won’t see.
To paraphrase Harry Pearson, “you know that your town is rough when people from Middlesbrough look down their noses at it”. Stockton-On-Tees has the misfortune of falling within this select category of town. So I’m sure that we can all agree that Stockton could do with softening its image and what better way to do this than a six foot duck?
Stockton Council has invested £2.5k in a giant replica rubber duck. That’s a mere penny for every one of Stockton’s residents, assuming Wikipedia is correct (when has it ever let us down?). Given that I would happily pay thrice that to ensure that my place of residence could wheel out a six foot duck on occasion, you’d expect the residents of Stockton to be delighted with such a savvy purchase; sadly not.
“Quackers” is how the Teesside Gazette described the purchase of said duck. Well, I think that it’s ‘quacking’ or even ‘ducking great’. If blowing a rubber duck out of proportion wasn’t enough, a local Conservative councillor took to describing the purchase of the duck as “disgusting”. It that’s what disgusts them, I fear for their mental health when they discover that they are a member of a political party that has just pledged to take millions of pounds from the disabled. Why the outrage? Apparently, “people have their jobs on the line” in Stockton. Only a Tory could equate £2.5k with a job. That’s probably your typical zero hour’s contract wage and it’s still around a fiver a week short of what Ian Duncan Smith thinks that you can live off. It’s hardly a six foot solid gold jewel encrusted duck costing £2.5 million (now there’s an idea).
Far from berating the council leader for this purchase, we should hail the man for his vision. Dare to dream residents of Stockton. Picture this: The mosaic lizard of Park Guell in Barcelona; the pink dog of the Grand Canal in Venice; and the six foot duck of Stockton High Street, Teesside. Imagine the boom to the local economy; no longer will your average Stockton dweller have to make do on a Tory wage of £2.5k. No more, will the folk of Middlesbrough look down their noses at you. Let’s give it a quack.