Wednesday, 25 February 2009


Shrove Tuesday is a term used in Ireland, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia for the day preceding the first day of the Christian season of fasting and prayer called Lent.

The word shrove is the past tense of the English verb shrive, which means to obtain absolution for one's sins by way of Confession and doing penance. Thus Shrove Tuesday gets its name from the shriving that English Christians were expected to do prior to receiving absolution immediately before Lent begins. Well my penance was to eat some very nice pancakes, courtesy of my very own pancake chef!

Monday, 23 February 2009

Super Kim

The Monday blog

As you may have noticed there was no Monday blog entry last week due partly to the fact that I am the procrastinator from hell but also that I was on a plane to Korea and for the few days following my return was in an almost vegetative state of narcolepsy.

I recently purchased a new iPod from Amazon for the long trip across Europe and Asia and was reflecting on why and how I had bought a new one whilst I was loading it up with all kinds of good stuff. Amazon was the cheapest place I found and even then that was only by 10 quid, but who am I to disregard a tenner? I had thought I might buy it from a high street store, if the price was right but in the end was glad to get it from the internet because of the shocking levels of customer service I have experienced in the past. I buy everything from the internet nowadays, it is easy and convenient and usually cheaper. I am fully aware that jobs may well be lost on the high street if everyone did what I have done but frankly if the customer service in the UK approached anything like it is in Korea then I wouldnt hesitate in contributing to keeping jobs. Anyway, thats the how and one of the whys. The other why regards the need to buy a new one due to its complete and utter destruction of my previous iPod.

My sister is a delightful person and I love her more than words can say but if only she had listened to me. After playing football with her kids my trousers were a little muddy and she offered to wash them, No, dont worry, Ill just wash them when I get home I said. Putting on a pair of shorts, I continued entertaining my nephews. Suffice it to say she washed them anyway with the poor little iPod nano in the pocket. It was in a spongy, protective case but stood little chance against what must be like being in the perfect storm. The spongy case was so severely smashed against the inside of the machine that it still has an indentation that wont ever leave. Submerging an iPod in water and detergent for an hour or more is great way to kill one, but an hour of smashing will almost certainly make any Jesus style resurrection impossible. Anyway I have my new iPod classic, 120 GBs of podcast, music and video delight and this one comes with a restraining order limiting my sisters proximity to 100 yards. 

Speaking of iPods, I regularly download podcasts from Stephen Fry, who I think is a genius and was recently watching his series Stephen fry in America. In this episode he was in the Deep South. He spoke to Morgan Freeman about the blues and about 'transcending the past' and how we dont have to talk in terms of black and white or of oppressed and oppressor anymore. After leaving he headed into Arkansas on a canoe powered by the paddle power of three black youths whilst he sat on a wicker chair looking out over the river. Only Stephen Fry in this day and age could get away with that.  3 black boys paddling him down the river as he sits in a chair. I imagine that Oscar Wilde might have approved. It turned out that the boys werent hired but were on a craft course for urban kids run by a bearded man sitting behind Mr Fry.

I also watched Tomorrow Never Dies, the Bond film that deals with a mad media magnate, not very loosely based on Rupert Murdoch. This film stars the 3rd best actor to play James Bond. My politics have changed over the last 10 years and no longer do I willfully suspend disbelief at what is happening on screen. I can suspend it and do enjoy films for what they are but I can no longer applaud the wanton destruction of Vietnamese markets and the like. I often find myself feeling very sad for the widows and children of the dead grunts, the deceased henchmen and the market stall owners who have just had their weeks supply of mangoes strewn all over the road.

The morning after my first night out in Korea, I noticed something I hadnt experienced in a while; my clothes stank of stale smoke. Korea doesnt have a smoking ban and the morning following my night out they bloody stank. I dont smoke, never have and I welcomed the smoking ban and I dont care what all the walking caners think. How would they feel if, whilst in a pub or bar, I started throwing drinks around, covering everyone in little droplets of booze? They would be pissed off wouldnt they? Well what is the difference between that and me getting a lung full of smoke and my clothes getting engrained with smoke particles? I might have to find out.

In the UK now there is another problem and that is that at any given moment there is a group of people stood outside any pub or bar smoking. They dont stand away from the door, they have to keep their friends in their line of sight in case they miss something, no they stand right outside the door, creating a smokey corridor that has to be traversed to get into the bar. It is like being on stars in their eyes, emerging from the smoke and telling everyone Tonight Matthew I am going to stink of smoke, and tomorrow morning too!  

My first night out back was a leaving party for someone I had never met. I was reluctant at first but Christina and I decided to be a bit more sociable this time around and so met up with a few friends who were invited and tagged along with them. We walked into the bar and it was as if  Facebook had come to life. Standing around and interacting with each other were all these photographs, people who I had met in another life, a cyber life. It was strange thing to be sat amongst these people, I had seen them at their best and worst times thanks to Facebook and that fact that their so called friends had posted all kinds of pictures of them in all manner of positions and varying degrees of drunkenness. We met some nice people and had a very nice night. We all need our egos massaging from time to time and nothing says popular, in this day and age at least, than getting added as a friend on Facebook no less than an hour after departing from that person and no less than 3 or 4 hours after meeting them for the first time, in the flesh at least.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

The Monday blog

9th February 2009 

America, Korea and Racism are on the agenda this week.

Firstly the so called’ special relationship’ between the UK and the US has been highlighted in a sickening press conference between Bill Clinton’s wife, Hilarious Clinton and David Milliband. She stared by referring to it as ‘a’ special relationship but took the hint when Milliband consistently called it ‘the’ special relationship. What is so special about it I hear both of you cry? Well the special part is that it is in no way reciprocal. We send troops all over the world fighting your war on terror and we get…well nothing really.

Over at the BBC’s green room, Carol Thatcher, daughter of tyrant, I mean former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is said to have likened a black tennis player to a gollywog. Gollywogs were dolls with black faces and frizzy hair that used to grace jam jars in the UK before they were removed due to their possible racist connotations. The BBC reacted to this by saying that they will not renew Carol Thatcher’s contract because of it. The argument made in her defence is that her use of that word was not intended to cause offence and Jonathon Ross’s comments in the Andrew Sachs debacle, where he and Russell Brand left obscene messages on the answer phone of a man known to may as Manuel, the Spanish waiter from the TV series Fawlty Towers, are just as bad yet he was suspended and returned, triumphantly some might say to TV recently. The BBC responded that Ross apologised but Thatcher has refused to apologise on the grounds that it was a private conversation. Highlighting the fact that she doesn’t appreciate how it could be taken as offensive and maybe even that people should be allowed to be racist in the privacy of their own homes, or BBC green rooms. 

Phillip Davies MP defended Thatcher saying that she hadn’t intended to cause offence but, like Thatcher, misses the point that it is not intent but insensitivity that has caused the problem. Political correctness has gone a little bit mad in this country but that doesn’t mean we should hark back to days when it was ok to define people by their skin colour, disability, ethnic origin or anything other than the sum total of their character. On a news program, he used the words ‘nigger’ and ‘spastic’ as examples of words that are used by some people and are not intended to cause offence, the use of the word ‘nigger’ by Coolio for example is seen sometimes as term of endearment in the black community. The news anchor then told the MP that people would call and complain that he used the word 'nigger' on TV, that is how offensive it is. The MP rightly said that if they are offended by a word used in a rational debate that is their problem. Very much like the people who hounded a university professor in The USA when he used the word ‘niggardly’. He had to resign over it ultimately. 

For me, the problem is when he says Carol Thatcher didn’t mean to cause offence. She used the term gollywog to describe a black tennis player. Carol Thatcher should be aware that such comments may well be seen as racist but at the very least they are inappropriate and in very poor taste. Using someone’s skin colour to define them is fundamentally what racism is and we, as a society are much more intolerant to racism than we are to verbally abusing pensioners.

It seems that a big part of the debate is whether the BBC's green room is a public or a private space. Personally I don’t think it matters. Is it ok to be a racist in the privacy of your own home? I suspect, suspected terrorists (suspected does not mean guilty) are routinely monitored in the sanctity of their own homes, paedophiles are regularly outed by newspapers but people who use racist terms in private are to be protected? Carol Thatcher made a mistake but one that is unforgivable in the sense that she should not be given her job back at the BBC.

British Jobs For British Workers?

Strikes have been conducted this week in order to save the jobs of British workers who are under threat by an Italian company who want to come to Britain but bring their own employees with them. G Brown borrowed a slogan from the BNP in response to this but is it fair to demand British jobs for British workers? 

I am lucky to have a job in another country and harbour many ambitions to live in lots of European countries, least of all the UK and so if all countries started shutting up shop I would have to rethink my future. It is very important to support our own economy but where do you draw the line? We are living in a global economy and maybe it is time to start thinking about it in global terms. If you have a British passport should you get a job over someone who doesn’t, regardless of any other factors? If you are lazy, complaining bastard, should you have the right to have a job on you doorstep? If I was an employer I would want the best man or woman for the job, regardless of what passport they held and I would be mightily pissed off if I was told I had to hire someone who was unsuitable just because they ticked a box.

This is a tricky topic but I have to say that I think the best man or woman for the job would get my vote. A disgusting, slimy side note to this debate is that it has stirred up the BNP from under their rocks and they are using this unrest to spread their poison throughout the disgruntled workers. I just hope that common decency will prevail, even if the Italians do get the jobs.

6 Nations Rugby

Wales comfortably swept Scotland aside on this opening weekend of the 6 nations rugby tournament. The Scots looked doomed from the moment the first of two of their players knocked themselves unconscious whilst trying to tackle Welsh players. 26-13 it ended and we didn’t get out of first gear.


44's Video address thing

“We can’t ignore what has happened in the past blah blah blah” but president 44 didn’t really offer much in the way of answers. He sounds more like the leader of a coalition government when he talks about democrats and republicans coming together to find American answers to American problems.

So far Number 44 hasn’t really done anything but he is talking a lot, trying to buy time. I understand it must take time to get some of these grand schemes of the ground and to rescue the worlds biggest economy but I still stand by my previous comment that a weekly video is too frequent. He did say thank you at the end though, which was nice.

And finally

 For a recent work experience placement in Cardiff I bought a weekly ticket for the train in order to save some money. I purchased the ticket on the Monday morning of the first day from the less than pleasant woman at the ticket office. She knew where I was going as I had to specify the journey and she took my money after complaining that my passport photo was too small. I paid and she gave me the pass. Straight away I asked her when the next train to Cardiff was, knowing full well it was in around 10 minutes. “It’s been cancelled” she matter of factly said. “So knowing full well where I wanted to go you sold me the pass and even complained about the size of the photo!” I wanted to say. Instead I looked at her with a look of disbelief that failed to have any effect on her. “You are joking I hope” I sad, but she wasn’t. She offered to refund the pass mere minutes after we had gone through the process, which was more painful than I had imagined. Then I asked a stupid question “I don’t suppose you have any information about bus times?” “No”, “Do you at least have a phone book I can borrow?” After phoning and finding out there was a bus leaving from the town centre, 5 minutes away I trudged there with a girl who also didn’t have the luxury of arriving in Cardiff when it suited the train company. £5.10 and almost an hour later I arrived. I filled in a compensation claim and today received 3 rail travel vouchers totaling £5.10. The money I spent was for my dinner that day and so I am a bit put out by the fact they have given me vouchers for rail travel, not costing them anything. And considering I am leaving on a plane very soon I may well have no use for them at all. Both expensive and unreliable, making rail travel in the UK utterly useless. 

Monday, 2 February 2009

It’s a funny old game

Sport is a complex tangle of emotions that people either understand or they don’t. People can often be heard saying that they can’t understand why people like this sport or that sport but the reality is that if you love sport, any sport, and get excited by it you can, if you want to, sympathise with any other sports fan and to a certain degree. You can understand why they act the way they do, which is the way you act when the ball or puck goes in the net, when the knockout blow is delivered, when the try is scored or when a 40 yard pass is completed. 

If you don’t like any sport, then yes, I agree, you may not be able to comprehend why we sport lovers act the way we do. 

I have never been bothered by American football; in fact it has been the subject of debates between Brits and our trans-atlantic cousins. Rugby for girls is a common criticism and the stop and start nature of the game is often at odds with British sports like rugby and football. I understand American football, the rules that is, and I can easily empathise with the fans and their delirium at a touchdown and the tension and anxiety created with a ticking clock.

I have been turned onto American football, maybe for just a single night, maybe intermittently for the rest of my life and I have a team. That is the key to enjoying sport, you have to care, and you have to support one team or one individual over another to experience the true meaning of sport.

Kids are told, by good parents at least, that it doesn’t matter who wins, it’s the taking part that counts but this is clearly not true and to truly enjoy any game you have to care. I now care about american football. Last night I wanted the Arizona Cardinals to win the Super Bowl. My reasons are not the most honourable but I can’t help that I was excited when the Cardinals scored and disappointed when the Pittsburgh Steelers scored.

I know someone from the Pittsburgh area who supports the Steelers. I don’t like her. She is a horrible person. A bad person and I would take a certain pleasure, however sinister and bitter that might be in thinking about her face if Arizona won. Yes I’m a bad person but then I feel the same when Manchester United play and my best friend is a die hard Man United fan. I have no sympathy for him when they lose and I like and respect him. It is war without the weapons, tribalism at its finest and I love it.

As it turned out Arizona made a fantastic come back to be within a few minutes of winning the super bowl but those god damned Steelers stole it at the death, I hate those bastards. Yesterday I didn’t give a shit about American football, the Pittsburgh steelers or the Arizona cardinals but now I feel cheated. I’m despondent about the touchdown that should never have stood and so many bad decisions by the referee. We were robbed.

I’m a convert and although I may not follow NFL or the Cardinals closely ever again, I’ll probably watch the next super bowl and I might even look back on this night as the night when I stopped calling it rugby for girls.

I might just become an anti-steelers fan but maybe that would a petulant step too far.


Go Cardinals!


The Monday blog

2nd February 2009

Well I have made it to week 2. I have managed to keep procrastination at bay for another week but I make no promises that I will be here next week. 

This week I will mostly be talking about the Catholic Church reinstating a British bishop who has denied aspects of the holocaust. Richard Williamson has recently claimed in an interview that historical evidence was hugely against 6 million having been deliberately gassed, the maniac went on to say that he thought there were no gas chambers. As if that wasn’t bad enough, a day or 2 ago Pope Benedict XVI promoted an Austrian pastor to bishop. The pastor in question said that he thought hurricane Katrina was divine retribution for the tolerance of homosexuality and a general seediness that they think exists in New Orleans. He also thinks that the Harry Potter books amount to Satanism. 

Thank god I’m an atheist.

And while we are talking about homosexuality there is the controversy, lapped up by the Daily Mail, about a gay couple adopting the children of a recovering heroin addict. According to Richard, or dick as I like to call him, Littlejohn in the Daily Bile, they are being ‘stolen’ and given to 2 gay men. The ‘lyrical’ scribblings of these journos would love us to picture a pair of gay child catchers, stalking children with big nets and making their prisoners live a sinful life, growing up with a sixth sense about how to dress and a taste for musicals. If it hadn’t been for the parents contacting the Mail, they’d have got away with it too, Dick says. So wait a minute, the mail received a telephone call from the parents of a recovering heroin addict about her kids being ‘stolen’ by a couple of gay men. Within seconds the headline writers had 2 headlines ready to go, depending on which way it went or how Dick felt that day. ‘Scottish Gays abduct children’ or ‘Junkie Mother loses Kids’. Win win then. After a vote in the office (picture the staff at the offices all standing upright with one arm raised, jutting out in front of them) they decided that heroin was old news but those pesky gays were getting above their station, I mean where will this madness end, they will be wanting jobs at the Mail next, trying to get an alternative lifestyle section in the paper.

The story is that the mother of the kids is a recovering heroin addict and the grandparents, at 46 and 59, were judged too old and too ill (Angina and diabetes). The grandparents were understandably devastated but agreed to the children being adopted by another couple, on the basis they would be brought up by a loving mother and father figure, which could have just as easily read loving parents. I am still trying to decide whether the Mail are just looking out for the best interests of the children or if they have some anti-gay agenda. No brainer for me. 

Another hack at the Bile described the legalisation of homosexuality in 1967 as a ‘decent attempt to be tolerant towards a minority lifestyle.’ How jolly decent of us to tolerate them.

In Police news, Sir Paul Stephenson (Why are these people always knights, can we expect Elton John as the next chief of the armed forces? Can you imagine the Mail’s take on that?) has been appointed the new commissioner of the Metropolitan police force, the top job in British law enforcement and guess what he said is his top priority? That's right, reducing crime. Call me niggardly (“You can't say the ‘N’ word!!”) when it comes to dishing out compliments but if the top police officer in the country has to announce that his goal is to reduce crime then I think he is a bit of cretin and we had better introduce someone with a few more ideas, maybe Elton.

On a more personal note there were a few things, amongst the many hundreds, that wound me right up this week.

People who go to the gym. Even though I’m one of them, I think we all need to get a life. Not that I am against exercise you understand, far from it but running, cycling and general health and fitness can be got in the great outdoors. Of all the many gym goers around, I specifically think people who pay about 50 quid a month to go to a gym and walk are f’ing stupid. People who just run are bad enough but walkers, what the f**k are they thinking? Maybe being able to tell people you go to the gym everyday and not strictly be a liar, carries some kind of kudos. But the ones that get right on my wick are the people who go and read whilst walking; propping up a magazine on a treadmill really shouldn’t constitute exercise. If you can read whilst exercising then surely you’re not doing it right!

British quiz shows also annoy me. University challenge, 15 to 1, Mastermind, Egg Heads and to a certain extent Who Wants to be a Millionaire and the Weakest Link show a certain level of intelligence (or in the case of the Weakest Link, an unintelligence) but games of chance, games like Golden balls and Noel's pick a box game are simply an opportunity for numptys to show the kind of outpouring of emotion over money, usually reserved for funerals or the birth of children. 

Traditional quiz shows, as mentioned at the start, usually have no cash reward, just the kudos of being Mastermind of Great Britain etc. Who wants to be a millionaire is the exception, but to get to the million you really have to know your stuff. The others, where the greediest or the luckiest walk home with a sack full of money, are symptomatic of a greedy and sick society that wants everything but doesn’t even want to answer a question to get it. I don’t watch them regularly but have obviously seen enough of them to boil my blood. When I do watch them, usually because they happen to be on in the room in which I’m sitting, I hope and pray for one thing and that is of course that all of the greedy bastards walk away penniless and heart broken. I think there is something fundamentally wrong with a society that wants, nay needs money so bad that they figuratively stab each other in the back. The most recent Golden balls, and the last I will subject myself to for a long while, saw a young, attractive blonde woman steal 77 grand from a lollipop lady dressed like David Essex's wardrobe had thrown up on her. What was the gypsy grannies response? She called the greedy young thing a bitch and later said she hoped that bad luck came with the money and ended by telling her to ‘f off’. She played the part of a child friendly lollipop lady who couldn’t possibly lie on TV when it suited her and true to her word, she opted to split the money at the end and lost as the young girl shafted her. I’m sure the kids she crosses across the road and their parents would have been less than happy to hear their crossing lady turning medieval on the young girl, wishing her ill and using language that should really have prompted Mr Carrot to apologise to all the kids watching who would be scared to cross the road tomorrow.

The penultimate anecdote, if that’s what it is, is a more personal story.

My father is a creature of habit. He always has been and he will never, ever change. Seeing as he is now 70 years old, he won’t get too many opportunities to change. He point blank refuses to wash the mug he drinks tea from. I wash it because after even a day it is almost black with tea stains and I cannot bear to even look at it. The situation is not helped by the fact that he leaves the teabag in the cup for the duration of the drink and even until the next time he makes a cup of tea. But even he has surpassed himself this time for sheer peculiarity.

In a previous blog post I talked about the phenomena of 'sidewalk shopping'. The pastime favoured by North Americans that consists of picking up and taking home items of rubbish. Recently I experienced a similar incident a little closer to home.                              

There is a running joke in my family about my father and the fact that he loves a bargain. It is often said that he would buy dog food if it were reduced in price, made ludicrous of course by the fact that we don't have a dog. He shuffled up the path a few days ago and I met him to unload his trolley. He is 70 now and struggles to bend over, never mind carry bags of shopping from the door to the kitchen. 'Be careful, there are eggs in there' he said of one of bags. It turned out that he had somehow managed to acquire 4 eggs in a plastic food bag. I transpired that a woman had dropped a box of 6 eggs outside the supermarket and just left them and went on her way. He salvaged the 4 unbroken eggs, presumably going into the supermarket to get a food bag.

He has for some time had a reputation for hoarding crap that comes from newspapers and magazines, but he can now add collector of food items from the floor outside supermarkets. Just like the boy who cried wolf, he gets the blame for everything strange, useless or both strange and useless that turns up in my mother’s house. An erroneous single glove sat on the settee yesterday and my mother looked at me and said 'He didn’t find and bring home a single glove did he?’

He didn’t but he could have.


Finally President 44’s weekly addresses

Firstly I should probably say why I’m writing this at all but the simple truth is that I care about Obama, I am interested and I want to know what is going on, as much out of curiosity as a concerned citizen of the world. What happens in the US will affect me, in one way or another and I want to be on the inside track. And he seems like a nice bloke, better than the last guy anyway.

So far ‘44’ has addressed the nation twice and you can watch the videos or read the addresses on the Whitehouse’s website. The first didn’t start too well however as he looks like he is actively reading an auto cue and therefore not looking at me, not that he should look at me, not being American and all, but the his public would also surely get that strange sensation that he is talking to someone behind you. It makes him look a bit shifty but then we know he’s not, don’t we?

Anyway he said that efforts into alternative energy sources will be doubled over the next 3 years but I wonder if that will mean signing up to the Kyoto protocol? The entire nation’s health records will also be computerized in an attempt to streamline the system I should think. This is undoubtedly a good thing but surely the country that spawned Microsoft, Apple and all those cool Pixar films should be able to accomplish this in a matter of hours shouldn’t they?

Americans can go to a newly created website,, to see exactly where tax payer’s dollars are spent. A great idea and one I would very much welcome in the UK, especially if I could track exactly where my tax money is spent ( wow, I see I bought 3 rolls of wall paper for an office in the house of lords last year, I wonder if they liked it?)

At the end of the first broadcast he said ‘Thanks for listening’, a very nice Jerry Springer touch that made me believe that he cared and was genuinely thankful that I, a British citizen, had listened. Apparently he didn’t care at the end of the second broadcast, well he didn’t say thank you, let’s put it that way.

The second video had a few odd cuts that jumped from a mid shot to a more close up shot of his face. Made the whole thing a bit like a max headroom video and I don’t think it will be long before people start cutting up these clips and re ordering his words for comic effect, or possibly more sinister motives.

The second video was shorter than the first and I hope that isn’t a sign of things to come, the man is a good speaker and I actually found myself thinking I would email some American friends to congratulate them again on doing the right thing.

Maybe once a month would have been better but then what would I have to look forward to on Saturday mornings?


And to finish, a few quickies

Cancer is really rubbish.

Neil Ruddock is a prat.

I have just re-realised that only fools and horses is a fantastic program


D H Lawrence was 42 when he wrote Lady Chatterley’s Lover. So there is hope for all of us.


Oh and I am well aware that this blog was longer than last weeks and that isn’t a sign of things to come, they shall not be getting longer every week, much like 44’s videos wont keep getting shorter. Shorter next week.

A lovely label cloud

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