No Pain, No Shame

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.

Admire my strength!


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.

Wanna do arms?


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’.


Baby Ink Twice

‘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.

Give my boy the Waddle


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.

You can’t always get what you want

Hey man I’ve got what you need

And have you ever wanted something so badly

That it possessed your body and your soul

Through the night and through the day

Until you finally get it

And then you realise

That it wasn’t what you wanted after all

(The The, True Happiness This Way Lies)

Britain is suffering from some severe beer fear. After a two month-long night out of supping pints with your friends Nigel and Boris, the reality is starting to hit.  What if all those things that they told me aren’t true?  I bet that those bastards just wanted me to put my cross in their box and now I have they’re not interested in me anymore.  That £350 million isn’t going to be given to the hospitals is it?  Those nasty foreigners aren’t to blame for all my problems, are they?

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.


Balls, I was bluffing!


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!

None so Blind

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.

Duck & Cover

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.

No Distance Left to Run

Spine tingling, stomach curdling, truly terrifying. What has induced this fear into me?  Facebook innocently posing the question ‘do you want to be notified when you’re within 10km of a friend’ and vice versa.   Its features like this that convinces me that Facebook are trying to turn us all into agoraphobic loners.

My few friendships are built on the solid foundation of lies. I can keep my distance from them by simply concocting some exotic tale as to why I can’t possibly go on their awful sounding night out.  Or my old favourite of simply ignoring someone’s messages, then claiming that you didn’t see them until after the event.  But it sounded like a great time was had by all and I’d love to do it next time.  Definitely!  I’m already there!  We both know the truth, but like the wife who nods as her cheating husband tells her that it was just a one off and it won’t happen again, we take comfort in this charade.  This feature promises to wreck those foundations.

The narcissist in me is already imagining the doomsday scenario of being out somewhere and hearing the dreaded ping that tells me that someone in my friends list had reached within 10km of me and is closing in, like an enemy missile on a radar screen. All the time knowing that said person has received the same ping and is figuring out ways of hunting me down.  As fast as I move away from them, they’re closing the gap at the same speed; I’m stuck in some kind of existential quick sand and there no option but to stand still and drown.

Now you may point out that the last thing anyone on my friends list would want to do is seek to close the distance, be that physical or emotional, between them and me. And you may well be right in that assertion.  But merely knowing that the above scenario is possible makes me quake.  It’s OK I hear you cry; simply remove those people you don’t want to be able to find you.  Well that would result in a mass genocide of my friends list (frankly, even my own mother wouldn’t survive the cull).

This returns me to where I started; a social network is trying, and succeeding, in making me even less social (this is quite an achievement). It’s enough to make you think up a crazy conspiracy theory that Facebook was set up by some geek with no friends who’s trying to inflict some kind of twisted revenge on the world.