Friday, 30 March 2007

See Tom Greeves!

I'll specify times and other details nearer the time of each, but herewith a list of upcoming gigs:

26th April Basingstoke

30th April Baker Street London

10 May Oxford (Possibly)

28 May Westminster London

UPDATE: The 28th May gig has been switched to the 29th.

Thursday, 29 March 2007

On Smack

I have made a couple of bullish comments on Conservative Home today.

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Constant Craving

(k.d. Lang/Ben Mink)

Even through the darkest phase
Be it thick or thin
Always someone marches brave
Here beneath my skin
Constant craving
Has always been

Maybe a great magnet pulls
All souls towards truth
Or maybe it is life itself
That feeds wisdom
To its youth

Constant craving
Has always been

Craving
Ah ha

Constant craving
Has always been
Constant craving
Has always been

Constant craving
Has always been

Craving
Ah ha

Constant craving
Has always been
Has always been
Has always been
Has always been
Has always been
Has always been

Aussie Politics

The other day, I can't remember where, I read about a brilliant heckle in the Australian parliament (it might have been in a state legislature, but I think it was the national one). Aussie MPs are superb at hilarious interventions.

One MP was on his feet to make a speech, and said: 'I'm a country member.'

'We remember', another MP responded.

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Football, Football, Football, Football

Things could be worse, I suppose.

I’ll Take That

Last night’s gig went very well.

I was quite right to prepare a little more, but I still managed to stay loose. I was immensely filthy and dark, even by my standards, but the crowd seemed to enjoy it.

I was reminded of the fact that not feeling wholly confident or right before a show doesn’t necessarily mean that it won’t be a big success. That’s heartening. And, as ever, it was fun.

Norman Lovett is a smashing guy. Friendly and unspoilt, and funny too. His immensely laidback, deadpan style on and offstage is most engaging.

Monday, 26 March 2007

You Really Do Get A Free Beer

Just to remind y'all that I am on at the Free Beer Show in Oxford tonight, supporting Norman Lovett from Red Dwarf. Doors open at 8.

I really want to put in a good performance tonight. I'll let you know how it goes.

Saturday, 24 March 2007

Most Amusing, Most Unpersuasive

A while ago I wrote about how irritated I get with comedians who consider themselves to be political sages. I also commented that no comedian has ever advanced my understanding of politics one inch. Here is a classic example of the latter phenomenon.

It’s all the more interesting for the fact that Marcus Brigstocke is actually quite funny in the exchange. Perhaps that’s his main function, and certainly I see no reason why politics shouldn’t be comic material.

The problem is that these kinds of shows often get more prominence than serious discussion programmes. (Admittedly this one seems to be on BBC Four, so it won’t have a huge audience.) I have a strong feeling that it’s all part of the dumbing down of our television news. ITV’s main bulletins are SHOCKINGLY tabloid these days, and the BBC is little better for that and unapologetically biased.

Marcus Brigstocke also fell into the trap of grotesquely misrepresenting Oliver Kamm for a cheap laugh. Iran and North Korea are not civilised states – stating that truth is not the same as damning them as ‘bloody foreigners’. Indeed, the people living under those regimes suffer terribly. OK, in this one instance maybe it was just a joke, in which case fine. But I’m more than a little irritated that leftie comics cry racism ALL THE BLOODY TIME.

Marcus B did at least have the grace to concede that his views were ‘utopian’ which, of course, they are. It’s very easy for a skilled comic to come off as ‘the winner’ in an exchange, especially if they are chairing the discussion too. But Oliver Kamm debated far more intelligently.

I just wish Oliver K had screamed ‘Put that down, or I’ll break you neck!’ when Marcus B held the trident over him. It would have been a novel way of illustrating the importance of a deterrent.

Comedians make good court jesters. They don’t tend to say much that’s worth taking seriously. I hope I’m one of the exceptions!

Finally, I see no reason at all why a left wing comic shouldn’t have a show like that. I just look forward to the day when a centre right comic can mock an idiot supporter of the fair (sic) trade movement. On the BBC.

Friday, 23 March 2007

See What All The Fuss Is About

The Great Bradford Jordan has very kindly produced two online videos of my stand up.

Both contain VERY rude language, so be careful if you’re thinking of opening them at work. If you have headphones you’ll be fine as the pictures are just of me standing onstage talking.

The first is something of a rarity – a set performed as (sort of) another character. I would stress that not one word of it is true! It is from 4th February this year.

The second is a more regular kind of observational / anecdotal set. That’s from 25th February. I realised I hadn’t made a note of it. Phew, close one!

tommywgreeves@yahoo.co.uk

Thursday, 22 March 2007

The Truth Is Out There

An important aspect of achieving goals is to be able to visualise the end game. For many years, I wanted to be the size of a professional bodybuilder. Maturity, and the realisation that this would have taken a truck load of steroids, caused me to abandon that goal.

Now I am very keen to be lighter, and although I am happy to put some more muscle on my upper body, I wouldn't want to be much bigger, even in terms of my lean weight.

(There's no need for any more muscle on my very strong legs. I can't use the leg press machine in the gym because the weights are so hilariously easy to lift.)

One of the problems I've had with getting fit has been being unable to visualise what I want to look like when I'm in shape. Fortunately, I have found a new role model.

Mitch Pileggi played Skinner in the X-Files. We're exactly the same height (6'1) and I reckon we have a very similar frame. If I trim down - ironically if I 'skin' myself - and do a bit of work on the bench and on my arms, then I can do it. It's the best kind of goal - achievable but challenging.

I'll never be 6'6, as they thought I would when I was a kid, and as I'd love to be. But I can still cut an imposing figure.

Rock and roll!

More On Loos

In further toilet news, Paul Maynard has forwarded me details of this commendable initiative by Richmond Council.

Wednesday, 21 March 2007

David Mitchell On Football

I love Robert Webb and David Mitchell. Herewith a sketch of genius featuring the latter.

I saw this live in Cambridge. One of the funniest things I’ve seen - and I’m a football fan!

More Free Beer

I am on at the Free Beer Show again, this coming Monday night (i.e. 26th March). I am on with Norman Lovett, the first Holly from Red Dwarf.

This is at the Cellar, on Frewin Court (off Cornmarket Street), near the Oxford Union. Doors open at 8pm.

Screw Localism

I have commented on Conservative Home today, about the latest appalling proposals for council tax.

I have commented under my real name, which is Tom Greeves.

Public Nuisance

I’ve just returned from drinks with friends, and as ever it was a pleasure. And as ever, going to the loo was not.

I’m told that things are even worse in France, and if so, God help them. Public toilets in this country are REVOLTING. I imagine that women’s ones are better, and I often resort to using the disabled ones, as the men’s are almost invariably unspeakable.

This is a serious problem. It can’t be healthy, and it’s so frustrating. Fortunately I only needed to visit briefly this evening. But the other night I was at a party in a nightclub. The loos were unusable, and with no alternative location, I had to go home.

It is absolutely routine for the floor to be covered in piss, for doors not to have locks, for loos to be bunged up with paper, and for there to be an insufficient number of urinals. And why don’t the partitions around the crappers run all the way from floor to ceiling?

To top it all, in many public toilets you have to worry that you’ll be running a gauntlet of perverts. I’m not alone in having received these utterly unwelcome advances, and avoid underground loos if at all possible. There is absolutely no excuse whatsoever for soliciting for sex in toilets. The penalties for doing so should be very harsh. And if you end up with a broken nose as a result of engaging in such anti-social behaviour, you deserve it.

Just to be clear, I’m not calling gays or people who cruise ‘perverted’. This is a specific attack on people who solicit in public toilets. The occasions it’s happened to me are among the most upsetting experiences in my life. Just f-k right off. We’re there to offload fluids, not to ingest them.

Please, please, please have consideration when you use a public loo. A grown man can hit a urinal, and knows how to flush. Landlords, please make an effort.

And more power to these guys, I say.

Sunday, 18 March 2007

No Shit, Big Guy

‘Nobody comes out. Nobody is out. Nobody is in. We are all more, or less, known; all seen in part, none completely; none quite sure what he has revealed; none wholly privy to what others may have guessed, or imagined, or presumed about him.’

So writes Matthew Parris in his wonderful autobiography Chance Witness. I was reminded of that passage just now when making a decision - on this, the second anniversary of my blog – to write in straightforward terms about a very personal matter.

It is something that my friends will have suspected or even assumed about me for some time. Indeed complete strangers might well confidently assume it on their first sighting of me. Whatever efforts we make to cloak ourselves from scrutiny, some things are there for all but the most unobservant to see.

Yet there are always shades of grey in life. And the intensity of someone’s inclinations and frailties may ebb and flow. Precise causes can be hard to pin down. So too can effects.

Matthew Parris follows the passage quoted above with these words:

‘Having got that off my chest I must confess that much to my own surprise I came out first to my brother and sister.’

Somewhat to my own surprise, I am going to come out to everyone and anyone who reads my blog.

I have an eating disorder.

It really does strike out at one when seen in black-and-white. Indeed the hope that it would was one of my motivations for blogging on the subject. But it is a dramatic statement because it is a true one. It is far from an exaggeration. Indeed a seemingly hyperbolic adjective could be inserted into the statement and it would still be accurate.

So yes, it may come as little surprise to anyone who’s spent considerable time with me, or to anyone who has noticed how large I am. What very few people have any insight into is the matter of WHY. I feel that now is a good time to shed some light on this.

It’s not my family’s fault. I was fed responsibly as a child, and wasn’t overweight until the tail end of my school days. I was very tall for my age until about 14, and became broad through genetics and weight training. So I wasn’t the proverbial fat kid. I don’t have a glandular problem, and although I may have certain food sensitivities, that’s not really the essence of the problem either.

My activity slowed down towards the end of school, as it does for so many of us. Never a brilliant athlete, I nonetheless threw myself into football, and later rugby, and this kept me lean and healthy. But other interests took over by the time I reached university.

However, that’s hardly a unique pathway – in fact most of us follow it. Fewer of us develop an unhealthy relationship with food. There can be all sorts of triggers for doing so. What follows explains mine.

I have mentioned my OCD before. At its worst it was sheer agony. Although compulsive behaviour is undertaken in a desperate attempt to offset the obsessions, it doesn’t work, CANNOT work, and so I turned to another route to numb my feelings.

It is thought that low serotonin levels in the brain are a trigger for OCD and depression. Certain foodstuffs release serotonin, which helps explain why we crave them. Also tasty food is a transient comfort, as is eating beyond the point of sating hunger.

But that’s a long way from the whole story.

Overeating for a sustained period of time ingrains bad habits. You get into the swing of eating unhealthily, and don’t get into the swing of eating sensibly. You forget to stop eating when you’re full. You grow, and so your capacity for food grows too. Mine is enormous. You gradually realise that you have gone beyond being a well-built man to being obese.

You seek – probably without ever calling it this – a serotonin high. Some days, or evenings out with friends, are written off because you are so drained of energy.

And if you have other issues then the problem is compounded. If your brain is screaming at you that you are a terrible person, if you want to distract yourself from horrible actions that you feel compelled to take, it’s natural that you seek to self-medicate. James Taylor, one of my heroes, used to do this with heroin. Food has been my route.

Here’s the thing about food. You’ve got to have it. In no way do I suggest that alcoholism or drug addiction are easier than food addiction. One DIFFERENCE, though, is that a drunk and a junkie have a clear-cut route. Complete abstinence. That’s not to say it takes no courage to go down it. Far from it. But that is the only path.

I can’t give up on food. I have to come to terms with the fact that, unlike with other compulsions which I have beaten, I can’t finally say ‘no more’ and quit. There can be no sobriety date when I ate food for the last time. There are no absolute rules about what I can and can’t consume.

I do have particular problems with certain foods, but volume is the main issue. And whilst the alarm bells may ring when you read this, I don’t actually believe that the answer is to say ‘I’m never eating crisps, chips or kebabs again’.

I didn’t use to have a problem with food – it’s not something wired into my system. It’s probably a good idea to avoid certain foods for a bit, but that’s not a comprehensive answer. Right now I have a problem with eating. The key is to learn to eat properly.

This lack of clear-cut rules itself causes panic and confusion in me – because I have OCD. This in turn leads to overeating. I binge on foods that I plan to give up tomorrow, treating myself to one last blow-out on what is supposed to be my Sobriety Day. But tomorrow never comes. And so the cycle continues.

There are deeper issues still for many of us. Although I am moving away from this, I undoubtedly have also overeaten in an effort to avoid facing up to the possibility that people will find me attractive. The reasons for this are beyond the scope of this post, and I won’t be elaborating on them. Suffice it to say that it does NOT stem from any childhood abuse. I mention it just to embellish my point that you don’t know everything going on in your friends’ lives.

I don’t consider myself to be uniquely cursed, or cursed at all; I consider myself to be lucky. But I hope that it’s been worthwhile to write about my eating disorder. Worthwhile for others who are in the same boat, or who know someone else who is. And yes, worthwhile for me. I wanted to get a few things straight in my head, and to talk plainly about something that has been a big problem in my life.

So no special pleading here. But one observation. It never ceases to amaze me how carefree people are about commenting on my appearance, and specifically my size. I’m sure other big people (and small people, and ginger-haired people) find the same thing. Allow me to let you in on a little secret. We may smile and laugh along with you. We don’t really find it funny or charming. We find it very hurtful.

Next time you think it would be amusing to mock someone for their appearance, perhaps you might like to reflect first. The endless stream of rude remarks that, for example, people with red hair are subjected to may not be on a par with what black people have had to endure at times. That doesn’t make it OK.

And by the way, it’s not funny either. It’s utterly unoriginal and uninspired, and deeply tiresome. (I should know, I have a world-class sense of humour.) Ask yourself if it’s REALLY all that witty to call someone a ‘fat bastard’, or to tell them they’re ugly. Chances are that you can do better, and without being truly unkind.

You might think that it’s a different matter if someone’s fat. After all, they’re at least partially to blame aren’t they? Why shouldn’t we have a go at people’s character flaws? This might be a bit easier to stomach if the sort of people who like mocking others for being imperfect were remotely willing to have their own characters dissected. In my experience they are not.

Moreover, the fact that you leap at the chance to point out someone’s faults hardly recommends you as an admirable human being.

God knows I’m not PC, and I’m no saint. Yes of course being unkind is sometimes justified, and I basically take the view that in those cases anything goes. Yes of course rude comments can be affectionate. But there is a limit, and it is likely that if you regularly mock a friend they enjoy it a lot less than they let on. Each of us is fragile. Macho types who hide that fact are only doing just that – hiding. Never be fooled.

As Matthew says, nobody is fully in or out. Assumptions that people make can be miles from the truth. For example, contrary to what some people assert – to my white-faced fury – I am not a lazy person. I am not well. There’s a f-king difference.

But I’m getting better, and I will win. That has been, and will always be, the story of my life.

Happy Blogday

This blog is two years old today.

More later. In the meantime, here's to all our mothers on their special day.

Thursday, 15 March 2007

Trident

Yes we need a nuclear capability, and yes we might need to use it one day.

That is all.

Football Is A Funny Game Already

No.

Friday, 9 March 2007

Grow Up

Read this typically overwrought and absurd article from Yasmin Alibhai-Brown.

If John Reid really ‘wants to stop foreigners taking our benefits and using our health service’, then he is to be commended. They’re our services. Sadly Dr Reid has a history of being all mouth and no trousers.

Patrick Mercer has made perfectly clear, as have black soldiers who served under him, that he never tolerated racism in the Army. Anyone who knows anything about basic training knows that verbal humiliation is a key tactic. To do that properly, you have to be ruthless in cutting to someone’s frailties. Perhaps there is a case for banning that particular form of abuse. But I don’t want to second-guess the Army in such operational decisions.

If Mercer asserts that he came across a lot of chancers in the Army who utilised our obsession with racism to divert attention from their malingering, who is Mrs Alibhai-Brown to question him? Certainly those words risk being interpreted as a diatribe from a man who subscribes to revolting stereotypes about black people being idle. But the fact that it risks that doesn’t mean the specific cases Mercer cited were untrue, nor is it proof that he was wrong to address the issue.

To describe Migrationwatch UK as ‘against immigration’ is a travesty. It is stated very clearly on their website that they ‘entirely accept that genuine refugees should be welcomed’ and that they ‘are not opposed to immigration that is moderate and managed’. If it is Mrs Alibhai-Brown’s opinion that anyone who believes that immigration should be limited is anti-immigration, then it’s a stupid one.

I am unaware of any evidence that the alleged assault on the woman in South Yorkshire was racially motivated. To assume that is was is exceedingly irresponsible.

There is no ‘white world’ in Britain. We are a nation made up of a huge number of races, and the majority of us rub along just fine. We are ill-served by those who get hysterical at the drop of a hat, and who have a fetish about ethnicity.

It is perfectly proper that someone should be interested in and proud of their heritage. But ultimately race is a trivial matter. It impacts not a jot on a person’s character or on their level of intelligence. Where we find genuine examples of racism – a truly disgusting phenomenon – we should tackle them. But in obsessing about racism, we necessarily obsess about race. That is not healthy.

We should not consider unkindness to be any less potent if it is not racist. We should be very careful about crying racism. We should face up to the fact that racism IS often falsely cited by malevolent people. And we should dismiss the fatuous, alarmist witterings of Mrs Alibhai-Brown.

Thursday, 8 March 2007

Lord Greeves of Barford(?)

I’m very sorry that the House of Lords is likely to become largely or wholly elected.

I should declare an interest at the start – a possibly arrogant and fanciful but certainly real one. I would very much like to be a peer myself one day. Here’s why I don’t think I should have to face an election.

It seems to me that there is no point having two chambers if they serve the same function. If the two chambers are different, it makes a lot of sense for them to be formed in a different manner. Otherwise the two may become rivals. (This is a point made by Enoch Powell. How thrilling it was to read him and Tony Benn when I was an A Level politics student. I suspect that most of the current crop of MPs will prove less inspirational to students.)

I believe in a powerful House of Commons. It would be an outrage if it were not wholly elected. But the House of Lords, which I see as a very capable revising chamber, is another matter.

Remember: the House of Lords cannot ultimately overrule the will of the Commons. It can only delay legislation, and any legislation it generates must be approved by the Commons. The Lords does not interfere with legislation promised in its manifesto by the party which forms a Government. It does not involve itself in financial bills. Its scope is limited to revising and delaying other bits of legislation, and providing some of the members of the Government. (Obviously it’s also a law court too.)

That being so, I don’t see a democratic imperative for making it elected. Rather, I see the benefit of it not being elected. It will encourage free thinkers who are not subject to the whims of the electorate. At the same time, the nation gets to choose the people in ultimate control.

In America, all sorts of roles are elected. Judges are elected. CORONERS are elected! On what platform do you run for coroner?! ‘I’m Zach McGready, and I’m running for Coroner because I think Lincoln County needs a higher rate of open verdicts.’

Sometimes it really helps to have people who can say it like it is, or even who can just say it like they see it.

What’s my alternative? Not an appointed chamber – we have far too much patronage as it is. I want peers who feel beholden to the Prime Minister or to a party as little as I want ones who are beholden to the electorate. Nope, I’d make the whole thing like jury service. If normal people are capable of determining if someone is guilty of murder, I don’t see why they shouldn’t scrutinise legislation.

Some will protest that we need experts in the Lords, and that my system reduces the chance of that. Hmm. Well first of all, it would differ from jury service in that people would put their names in a hat. So the captains of industry (good), trade unionists (gasp) and retiring MPs (groan, though not in all cases) would still have a chance. But so too would housewives, bus drivers, poets, landscape gardeners and stand up comedians.

Secondly, I don’t think it should be a complex job. In fact if the Lords rejected some bills on the grounds that they were too complex, that would be a jolly welcome development.

I wouldn’t even bother with any sort of intelligence tests. Some illiterate people are fantastically bright, as are many innumerate ones. The Deputy Prime Minister is a moron, so he couldn’t talk (properly).

I don’t think it’s madness to advocate electing the upper house. And as much as I hated the treatment of the hereditary peers and felt they’d done a good job, that system has had its day. But it just seems a pity that people get so wound up about the Lords when the (sensibly) unelected civil service and the (appallingly) unaccountable EU machine both have vastly more influence on legislation.

Finally, I promise you this. If the Lords does become an elected chamber, the overall calibre of its members will fall. Many of us will very much regret that.

Wednesday, 7 March 2007

Unlicensed Fight

As a result of – largely on a whim – deciding that I would in fact call TV Licensing and tell them I don’t have a television, I have been informed that an inspector is going to visit my flat and ascertain that this is indeed the case.

I asked what would happen if I refuse them entry. Apparently they could then seek a search warrant.

It’s perfectly possible that I will get a TV between now and any visit. If I do, then I will – OUTRAGE though it is – get a licence. However, I’ve bumbled along quite happily without one since September, so I may not.

Should an inspector visit, I expect that I will invite them in. (I may as well get it over with.) But they will receive an even lengthier and even more torturous lecture than the person I spoke to on the phone today. And I fear that unlike with the guy I spoke to on the phone, I may be less than impeccably polite.

It’s one thing to work for TV Licensing on the phones. If you actually turn up to people’s homes demanding entry, then you are fully engaged with what is an utterly egregious, aggressive and indefensible exercise.

I repeat: the licence fee should be scrapped. I should not be compelled to fund BBC programming, especially not in the name of ‘public service broadcasting’. The notion that the BBC needs to be funded in this way because it produces programmes that commercial stations wouldn’t touch is bunk. Do Eastenders, Come Dancing, Match of the Day and all those endless bloody game shows and lifestyle shows fit those criteria? Isn’t Channel Four vastly more intelligent and offbeat these days? Aren’t BBC employees famously and fantastically profligate?

I hate this notion that someone should decide certain programmes are more improving than others, and legislate accordingly. But if you are going to do that, then for crying out loud don’t conclude that the BBC news is more ‘public servicey’ than Channel Four’s. Fine, both have a left wing bias. But at least Channel Four’s isn’t tabloid.

If a programme is all THAT improving, why not go the whole hog and FORCE us all to watch it?!

The irony is that if the BBC became a subscription service, with the same output and at the same cost as the licence fee, I would subscribe. I like Eastenders and Match of the Day, I enjoy many of the movies they show, and like a lot of other programmes too, not least the (good) comedy. And yes, it’s sometimes nice not to be interrupted by adverts.

It’s the compulsion I resent. Nor do I believe in public service broadcasting as a concept. It's patronising, anachronistic drivel (want to see something which few other people are interested in - try the Internet, idiot). This is not to say I want to watch dumbed down dross – which is why I hate much of the rest of the BBC’s output!

But here’s the rub. Even if I DID support the licence fee (and I do only in the sense that I will get one if I get a TV), the manner in which TV Licensing conducts itself is monstrous.

I’ve received an absurd number of threatening letters. And why should the onus be on me to prove I don’t have a telly?! The police don’t pop round here to check I’m not holding dope (I’m not, by the way). Some people (particularly my American friends) find it odd that I don’t drive, but everyone BELIEVES me.

Why make such a fuss? Well, partly because I hate being bullied. But also because other people more vulnerable than me likely feel a lot more threatened. Believe it or not I’m not a natural member of the Awkward Squad. But that’s the squad that makes the difference.

So send someone round, TV Licensing. Oh, and by the way, I conduct all meetings in my home whilst wearing a gimp mask. I expect you to respect that.

Tuesday, 6 March 2007

I'll Be Back

Sorry for the lack of posts - I've been laid low with food poisoning.

You can't keep a good man down for long though.
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