Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Death Before Dishonour

This is right, and very good news.

Sound

I had a lot more fun last night, and things went well. Which is cool.

I think I'm zoning in on the right methodology.

Monday, 29 September 2008

On Comedy, Music And Rice

I’m struggling to learn my lesson. I had a really dreadful gig the other night where I committed the (for me) cardinal sin of merely reciting material. Tonight I will try to redeem myself by having just a rough idea of what I’m going to say and remembering to perform.

On a happier note, this is great. I saw an interview with Duffy the other day. She was charming. I also like Adele. Hooray for ballsy songs by fine chanteuses.

Finally, I tried to cook rice today. I didn’t get it quite right – it needed longer – but I had been absurdly reluctant to try at all. We soldier on. And by God we’ll win.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Magnificent Nation

I’ve left a comment on Conservative Home today, reminding people why America rocks.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Don't Look Away Now, Even If You’re Squeamish

Yesterday I had one of the most unpleasant experiences of my life.

I had had a good day, seeing Iszi and Andi at my joint and then going on to listen to some live music in Witney. Iszi was compering, which I didn’t envy her at all. Comedy tends to lose when combined with a music event. It’s a struggle to get an audience to laugh when they’re between songs.

But it was an enjoyable night, and I waited for the last bus home feeling that I’d spent the day well. I just had one nagging worry. It dawned on me that I needed the loo, and didn’t have time to go.

On the journey back it became apparent that I REALLY needed to go. It was a horrid sensation – a mixture of panic, embarrassment and considerable physical discomfort. As the bus came to a stop outside Oxford, I saw a hotel. I explained to the driver that I wasn’t feeling well, and that I wasn’t drunk. He kindly agreed to wait while I went to see if I could get inside; I said I’d get a taxi from there if I went in. But it was all locked up.

We made it to Gloucester Green and I raced to the public loos. I knew that the main ones would be shut, but there are two night time WCs alongside. They were both engaged. One morning when I tried to use one there was a tramp sleeping inside, and that may have been the case last night.

I swore, then went over to a fast food outlet and explained that I wasn’t well, and that I would buy something afterwards if they would please let me use their toilet. But they weren’t having any of it.

So I jumped in a cab, and hoped that the driver wouldn’t spare the horses. We were making our way when I decided that I had to find somewhere immediately. Infuriatingly, I knew that as desperate as I was the St Giles’s conveniences are simply unusable at night. Then I saw the Randolph Hotel.

I got the rather confused driver to stop, paid him, and hotfooted it in. I explained my predicament to the guy on reception, and he couldn’t have been nicer, pointing the way and immediately making me feel better. Their lavatories are superb, and all was well.

You may wonder why I have chosen to write about something that normally isn’t discussed in polite company. Well, I think it’s time some of us grew up a bit.

The fact is that almost everyone has to go to the loo, and we all sometimes need to do so unexpectedly. It is an utter disgrace that public toilets are so revolting. And you shouldn’t have to run a gauntlet of perverts and drug addicts if you need to use them. It is ridiculous to assert - as a startling number of people do - that being anti-cottaging is homophobic. It is profoundly anti-social behaviour, and it should carry a tough penalty.

I pay a good chunk of money every month to my council, and I expect them to spend it wisely. I know that one vandal can do a lot of damage, but I don’t believe that councils couldn’t make our loos better. So I’ve added a permanent link to the British Toilet Association.

Pub landlords should prioritise making their toilets decent as well. I’d quite happily see some new regulation to that effect – or maybe existing regulation needs to be enforced.

We face complex problems in this country. But we know that crime is reduced when then the police don’t ignore the smaller things. Might not we all find town centres and cities more agreeable if we took better care of our public amenities? Once something has been allowed to decay, it’s far more likely people will treat it with disrespect.

Last night also gave me an insight into how awful it must be to live constantly with the fear I briefly endured. James Hamilton has written about this phenomenon from a professional perspective. Being robbed of dignity, being in pain, having to rearrange your life and miss out on things – none of that is trivial.

It would behove us to treat this as neither an exclusively taboo nor an exclusively amusing subject.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Jonathan Richman

Several years ago I broke with precedent and allowed my friend Murali to persuade me to attend a music festival. It was the now defunct Phoenix.

We saw several acts, including the Manic Street Preachers, Alanis Morrissette and Neil Young. We also saw Dodgy – who were making a comeback at the Truck Festival last July, which is the second and last festival I attended!

(Needless to say I didn’t camp on either occasion.)

At the Phoenix they were a number of smaller stages and tents. Murali and I wandered into one of these and saw Jonathan Richman. He was and is terrific. A few years later he gained wider exposure when he appeared in the hit film There’s Something About Mary. The Farrelly Brothers have magnificent taste in both music and comedy.

This is one of the songs Jonathan played. It’s awesome.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Look Away Now If You’re Squeamish

I went for a walk today, and neglected to wear socks. As a result, I got a blister on my right heel. The thing came away, creating a flapper. (In his autobiography, Jesse Ventura writes luridly about the flappers he endured during his Navy service.)

Within an hour, the flapper had reattached itself to the back of my foot and healed over.

Revolting insight into something you didn’t want to know about, or fascinating example of the human body’s remarkable ability to fix itself? YOU DECIDE.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Gary O'Donnell

Reading about Gary O’Donnell is terribly humbling. His job involved doing things on a regular basis that I cannot even imagine facing as a one-off.

This is why I feel like a complete heel any time someone tells me that I'm brave for doing stand-up comedy. Come off it.

God rest his soul.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

The Prime Minister Is A Liar

In his remarks at the Labour Party Conference this afternoon, Gordon Brown mentioned a report by the think tank Policy Exchange. Its authors opined that many northern cities are beyond hope and that their residents should migrate to the south of England.

The Prime Minister stated this afternoon that this document proves that the Conservative Party will abandon the North. There’s just one problem with this assertion. It’s a lie.

It is true that Policy Exchange has close links with the Conservative Party. Some exceedingly talented people – such as Natalie Evans and James O’Shaughnessy – have worked for both.

But the Conservative Party is independent of Policy Exchange, and vice versa.

The Party is also independent of the various policy committees it very sensibly created, and has indeed explicitly rejected some of their findings. Not that Labour ministers will acknowledge this. The Tories will have known that they would be associated with whatever the committees suggested; it was brave and right of them to go ahead regardless.

When Policy Exchange’s paper came out last month, David Cameron was damning, branding it ‘insane’. He rubbished it in the most unequivocal terms.

Last month Cameron said “Regeneration of our northern cities has been a key Conservative theme over the past three years, and one of the first things I did as leader was to set up the Cities Taskforce to look in to how we can further renew and regenerate our great cities.”

You may not believe he is sincere. But the musings of a think tank are neither here nor there. Having a range of people from whom you take advice is not the same thing as being beholden to them.

Gordon Brown understands that distinction perfectly well. He is, therefore, a liar.

I for one don’t think this is trivial. Many people will have seen the Prime Minister’s speech, and some of them will have been misled by it.

Politicians I've Always Found It Impossible To Dislike, No. 1


John Redwood

I'm NOT Saying 'I Spy Strangers'; I'm Just Curious!

There aren’t many things I struggle to find on Google. But one of them is a list of serving MPs who were not born British subjects.

(I understand that all British, Irish or Commonwealth citizens are eligible to stand for Parliament.)

I’ve no axe to grind on this at all – I’m just curious. Can anyone help?

So far, I’ve got:

Paul Beresford (New Zealand);

Patricia Hewitt (Australia);

Gisela Stuart (Germany);

Keith Vaz (born in Yemen to Indian parents);

Peter Hain (born in Kenya to South African parents).

Even if you type their names into Google together, nothing on this subject seems to come up. Which is odd.

I’ll do some newspaper database searches, and maybe even call the House of Commons. I simply don’t understand why people haven't written about what is a fairly interesting topic!

Friday, 19 September 2008

A Piece Of Unfriendly Advice

Your humble blogger was never much of an economist. Nevertheless, he has formulated a policy which would:
a) improve public confidence in the economy;
b) improve public confidence in the government;
c) improve the Prime Minister's chance of saving his job;
d) set a precedent which, if followed, would improve the standing of politicians around the world.
It would help immensely if a Labour minister - preferably Gordon Brown but anyone would be a start - showed just an ounce of humility.
But instead we get the same old spin and platitudinous crap. No-one has the courage to admit and categorise their mistakes. As far as this government is concerned, everything is either the fault of global pressures or previous administrations. Well hang on a moment.
This shower has been in office for over eleven years. Frankly, that would be enough time to make serious inroads into undoing the damage done by a communist or a fascist government! But in fact these clowns inherited a strong economy and initially enjoyed the enormous goodwill of the public. It's their fault that they've squandered it.
Consider this:
Labour didn't have to burden business with unnecessary regulations on a massive scale.
Labour didn't have to create unnecessary jobs in the public sector in order to build a collection of client voters.
Labour didn't have to ignore the worst excesses of the private sector in a desperate attempt to appear palatable to business.
Labour didn't have to continue with the European federalist project, which prevents the UK from signing free trade agreements with any country outside the EU.
Labour didn't have to retain as Chancellor a man who systematically undermined Tony Blair's reform efforts and who has been rewarded for that disloyalty with the premiership.
Labour didn't have to impose a series of stealth taxes.
Labour didn't have to waste billions of pounds of public money on vanity projects (I see the Millennium Dome is now a thriving commercial venture - when are we getting our money back?).
Labour could say 'sorry'. But they won't, will they?
Update: Does the PM look sorry to you?
Second update: Jeff Randall makes the same point, with added economics.

Monday, 15 September 2008

A Word To The Wise

Never, never, never buy a professional football club.

It’s a thankless task. It’s a dodgy business proposition. And even if you’re willing and able to lose millions of pounds, there are more worthwhile charities.

Oh, and when fans take pride rather than pleasure in 'their' team's success or are distressed rather than disappointed by its failings, it is more than faintly ludicrous.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Hey Jews

People who think that Israel as a nation should be boycotted are racist.

No ifs, no buts, no caveats, no doubt.

The End Of An Era(?)

I decided to toddle off to my local gym today, to pump iron. It wasn’t intended as a comeback (as if such a grandiose term could sensibly be applied to as undistinguished a lifter as me), but rather an experiment to see if I would enjoy lifting without a plan, and purely for pleasure.

I didn’t.

The shocking truth is that I don’t think I’ve ever REALLY enjoyed lifting weights.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve loved the camaraderie of training with friends. It was nice as a teenager to be strong. There is a feeling of accomplishment and pleasant tiredness after a good workout. And if I could wake up tomorrow with a physique like Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator I’d be delighted.

But training itself? Meh.

You might counter that it’s not supposed to be enjoyable, and that that’s the point. Like rowing, perhaps the reward only comes at the end. I’m not buying. Seb Coe may have flogged himself silly in training, but running always came naturally to him, more so than walking. Arnold compared lifting weights to sexual ecstasy. He was exaggerating, of course, but nevertheless he had a whale of a time in the gym. I wish I could too.

It’s been a long time since I threw myself through the air to make a save, or hurled a discus, or hit a winner on a ping pong (sorry, wiff waff) table. But I seem to recall enjoying those experiences much more than driving up a weight.

You may also say that weight training is an essential part of a fitness programme. But I’m already carrying plenty of muscle. And anyway, I want to lift weights because I enjoy it, not simply as a means to an end. Very few things are tolerable if they are exclusively a means to an end.

I’m taking better care of myself these days, and I certainly want to make regular exercise an integral part of my life. It’s just that walking and playing sport appeal to me more than the gym.

Moreover, the curiosity that attracted me to great size and strength is now sated through comedy. That is where I can be a showman, that’s where I can prove my mettle, and hopefully it's where I can win deserved praise. If I was going to really thrive in weightlifting, I’d have done so by now.

So I am announcing my retirement today. I may yet come out of retirement, and I will probably maintain an interest in the iron game - I am in fact doing the announcing at a charity bench press competition this Sunday. But, for now at least, it’s over.

Confused?

Dear Sir,
I would like to place on record the fact that searching for car insurance does not drive me crazy but your incessant, wildly irritating television advertisements do.
Please be advised that the voices in my head are telling me, most insistently, that the adverts have to be stopped - by any means necessary.
I remain, Sir, the person who keeps sending you pictures of motorway roadkill.
Yours faithfully,
A Frustrated Viewer

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Yeah I’m Bad

I had cause to pop into the loo of a pub in London yesterday. I managed to SMASH my head twice in quick succession – first on the edge of a doorway and then on a box on the wall.

I was very annoyed that the other guy in the loo expressed no interest. He perked up a bit when I swore loudly and thumped the box though.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

They Done Got It On, But Then They Got Along

I’ve long felt that the one thing that would be less pleasing than seeing politicians bray and hurl abuse at each other would be to see them in constant agreement. That would be sinister indeed.

Nonetheless, the eulogy President Jimmy Carter gave at the funeral of his former adversary President Gerald Ford is a wonderful read.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Hear Me Now

I had the very great pleasure of recording a podcast for Sundays Supplement the other day. It's run by my friends Simon Dunn and Iszi Lawrence.

I'm in Episode 14 (my lucky number) and you can listen to it here. I even use my favourite term, 'counterintuitively'.
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