When Mediocre times go Bad in a significant fashion

At some point today, something is going to go wrong for you. It might be a small disaster, for instance putting some really noticeable dents in the front of your car because you failed to notice a small yet significant wall as you attempted to drive to the supermarket; or it might be a big disaster like running out of tea.
It therefore becomes necessary to learn how to deal with disaster in a calm and adult fashion so that when something untoward does occur, people don’t get the impression your hobby is doing Kate Bush impersonations.

I am rather lucky in that I was blessed with a Mammy who regards virtually anything as the end of the known universe. Ask her what she wants for dinner and she will end up with her head resting on the table, weeping quietly and saying that she doesn’t know but that she definitely doesn’t want any of the 18 things you’ve just suggested. This flair for melodrama is also present in Strider who has a tendency to huff grumpily and roll her eyes before shouting something about chavs and pikeys. It is also present in the local wildlife. Murders of crows flock overhead and caw balefully down at me whenever I venture from the house.
I have learned to be somewhat more laid back about things. I could spend my days getting annoyed by all the things that don’t happen as they are supposed to but when disaster occurs I find it far simpler just to deal with it. There is no point in shouting at people. It makes them unhappy and gives me a sore throat. What’s done is done, say I, just try not to do it again.

It also helps that I am deeply pessimistic. Whenever a disaster occurs, I can immediately think of lots of other things that could be going wrong and be grateful that they aren’t. So there’s a savage dog biting your leg? At least there’s only one of the little blighters! Your boyfriend has been having it away with your best friend? At least it wasn’t with a man named Clive! Your car appears to have been designed by Frank Gehry? At least it isn’t on fire! And so on.

Sometimes though, things happen about which nothing can be done. They cannot be fixed. They cannot be made to go away. Instead there is only the prospect of a future in which you strive to be strong enough for the people who can’t be strong for themselves.

I spent much of yesterday afternoon in the meat aisle of the supermarket looking confused. I spend so many of my days neither in the meat aisle nor looking confused, so it was nice to have a change. I also found myself reciting dialogue from 1984 in an effort to work out how many packets of sauce mix I needed. My list specified litres but the mix claims it makes a pint. Odd looks were sent in my direction.

The Boys who have been visiting think I’m a sad old wench but are too polite to say anything. I like to think they were impressed by my ability to crack walnuts with my bare hands (it’s all about technique and oblivion to pain). They weren’t but I like to think they were. They’ve gone off to Cork and Clare and will be back at the end of the week.

Anyway. My Great Aunt in Canada is imminently expected to become somewhat vitally challenged. There is nothing I can do for her.

Boys who come to Stay

Today is officially my favourite day of the year. Today is better than my birthday because I’m not required to feign enthusiasm about anything and it’s much better than Christmas because Strider isn’t here. Today is the day the clocks go back which means I get an extra hour to waste as I see fit.
This year I have chosen to spend my extra hour cleaning in a frenzied fashion. Do I know how to have a good time or what?

There is actually a reason for this. I have visitors coming to stay. I am terrified of my visitors. Two of them are teenage boys.
Logic says I shouldn’t be. Logic says that teenage boys, like woodlice, are far more scared of me than I am of them but I am not at home to Mr Logic and remain convinced that the woodlice are just waiting for an opportunity to strike. When we are all under the repellent wriggly legged rule of woodlouse overlords you’ll be sorry you didn’t listen to me on this matter.

The local teenage boys seem to have a fondness for standing on street corners in gangs, looking at old ladies in a menacing fashion and wearing worried expressions in the presence of nuns. They also seem to like having very bouffant hair. My visiting teenage Boys, if the pictures their father sent to my father are to be believed, like standing in a healthy outdoor setting gurning at somebody holding a digital camera.
The eldest is 14 and wishes to join the Air Force. Clearly a natty uniform and the ability to kill people from great heights are important to this boy. It’s probably best not to remind him that the last time we met he had a tantrum because his mother wouldn’t let him wear nail varnish. The younger is 12 and has red hair. That’s all I know.

I suppose my greatest fear is that the moment they arrive, I will suddenly transform into one of those sad Grown-Ups who wants to be Cool. Actually, I think my greatest fear is that the moment they arrive I will suddenly transform into a Grown-Up. I’ve never been a Grown-Up before. I’ve never been a Responsible Adult before. I’m usually the kind of person who has to bribe small children into not letting their mother know I’ve carelessly been allowing her first-born child to eat leaf mulch all afternoon.
Mammy seems to think I will pick up where I left off a decade ago and look after them both while the parents have a conversation in the other room (and so fail to have the time to get my A-Level Art coursework done and subsequently get shamed by the teacher when she shows my work to the entire class as a demonstration of how not to do it.) Mammy even suggested the Boys and I could play Resident Evil 4 but I’m afraid they’ll sneer at me for having a Wii. I’ve hidden my DS because it’s pink. They aren’t going to understand that it was an ironic gift; they’re just going to think I’m a girl.

I’ve been trying to remember what I was like when I was 14. Waistcoats seemed to feature heavily as I recall. And Stephen King novels. And The X-files. And babysitting children with stupid names.

The Anti-Conversationalist

When you are young and you don’t need anyone, making love is just for fun but eventually, those days are gone and you find that everything becomes much easier if you stop engaging with people who want to have a random conversation with you.

The trouble with me is that I am what is known in the trade as a Nice Girl. In my youth I felt obliged to politely converse with all who approached me. I would frequently be approached by old women at the bus station who, having pumped me for information regarding the number 86, would begin telling me about their grandchildren and offering me Werther’s Originals. On a train a slightly drunk and unpleasant man once tried to be my friend but rather than telling him where to get off for fear of appearing rude, I discretely moved my ring to a different finger and invented an imaginary fiancĂ©e. I also quietly reasoned that should I run into trouble of that nature, a ring on an appropriate finger would solidly back up my disinclination to his requests.
Now that I am older and my time is that much more expensive, I am far more comfortable offering politely dismissive smiles to those who feel the need to pass comment on the contents of my shopping trolley or on the amount of junk in the back of my car (although to be fair, there is a saucepan lid in there at present so I’m not surprised it gets mentioned.).
It’s nice that people feel I look approachable but, quite honestly, I don’t really want to have a conversation with whoever happens to be standing in line with me. I have a lot to think about and your talk of your small child, your latest lampshade acquisition or your gangrenous head simply distracts me and makes me late and unhappy. Sorry.

Unfortunately, life is such that there are some occasions upon which one is required to stand around with an alcoholic beverage making inane conversation with people you’ve only just met. For the unwary this can result in getting trapped in a corner with an old lady who wants to tell you in detail about her recent colostomy. It is therefore important to immediately assess everybody you come into contact with and decide whether or not a conversation with them will result in your brain leaking slowly from your ears in confusion so that you may politely extract yourself before that happens.

I was once at one of these shindigs when an old woman rambled up to me. She examined the glass of orange juice I was clutching.
“Don’t you drink?” she enquired.
I explained that such a thing was so.
“Are you an Alcoholic?” She asked in a loud voice causing several nearby people to look round.
After a carefully calculated pause I again responded in the negative and resisted the urge to tack something unkind to the end of my reply.
“Oh.” She nodded and carefully examined my waistline. “Are you Pregnant?”

I’m sure nobody could have blamed me if I had shoved the old bat out of the nearest window and swiftly emptied a bottle of Pims down my throat but Nice Girls have to smile and be pleasant especially in the face of provocation. Nice Girls are not even allowed to make pointed comments like “At the point at which it becomes your business, I’ll let you know.”

Anyway, it helped to prepare me for all the subsequent occasions upon which I’ve been asked if I’m an Alcoholic.

Ruder and Ruder Behavior

Old people. It seems like the world is full of them walking around slowly with sticks and taking drugs; drugs to keep them alive and healthy beyond the lifespan dictated for them by nature but nevertheless, still drugs. Just Say No kids.

Something you may have noticed about old people, apart from the chronic drug taking, is the way they enjoy complaining about how rude the younger generations are.
I was recently reading a list of things people found insufferable about the modern world. Everything you would expect was there: feet on seats, gum chewing, headphones with noise leaking out, shop assistants who serve you while having an animated conversation with their friends, all the usual malarkey. The one that really caught my eye was from the old gentleman who cited a general lack of respect from youngsters towards people of his age and a general lack of recognition of the time they gave Jerry what for.

I’m sure that most of us, at one time or another, have heard of or been subjected to the “You lot aren’t grateful for all we did for you during the war!” tirade from somebody old. I’ve a growing temptation to answer with a tirade of my own along the lines of “You lot aren’t grateful for all we’re doing for you in Iraq and Afghanistan!” That’s something old people never think of is it? Maybe they should start giving up seats on the bus to show how grateful they are to us lot. Where do their pensions come from, eh? Young people’s National Insurance payments, that’s where!

Perhaps the trouble is not a lack of respect, but a lack of pride. Maybe there is an expectation that I and my generation should be proud of what our parents or grandparents did during the war.
Only one of my grandparents fought in the war. The other lacked a full complement of legs so did something else instead but the grandfather who did was a Commando. He spent a week in a tank with a number of dead comrades unable to leave due to the shelling. When he did eventually get home there were medals. There was probably even jam for tea. Should I be proud that he endured that? Or should I hate that it had to happen at all?
My Great-Uncle was held in a Concentration camp. He was later held in a POW camp. Should I be proud of him? If he was alive today, should I respect him for fighting in the war? Even though he was conscripted into what is generally held to be the losing side?

I am thankful that I have never had to join an army. I disagree with war. I disagree with Iraq. It does not stop my thanks to them who do the things I will not so that I may hold such opinions. It does not stop my thoughts being with the families of the children who don’t come home, whichever side they are fighting on.

In the Land of Political Correctness

Due to a heavy combination of Soluble Panadol Max and Sudafed (remember, Just Say No kids), I am feeling somewhat better today. The grotesque throat pain I feared would turn into full blown pharyngitis has dissipated and my snot filled head is able to think with a little more clarity than yesterday. Thus, I now feel fit enough to complain about something.

If you, unlike me, have been watching Coronation Street recently you will be familiar with the dastardly Scot, Tony. You may even have chuckled quietly into your semi-warm beverage when he made a comment about the football team Rangers a couple of weeks ago. What you may not have noticed was the dodgy voice over edit job last week to get rid of a second Rangers joke due to the very small volume of complaints ITV received from Rangers fans over the first joke.
What an earth does it say about society that ITV felt the need to do that? I mean, aside from anything else, disliking Rangers is part of the character of Tony. Knowing that he supports Celtic gives us an insight into his background that we would otherwise not get. Are we suddenly not allowed to dislike anything in case there are people who are going to complain about it?

He Who Knows Everything tells the story of an occasion many years ago when he was writing the instruction manual for a computer program. The program in question transferred data but in order to not tie up the receiving computer, it would break the information down into chunks and send them one at a time so the receiving computer could still be used. To explain this in a way everybody could understand, the manual likened it to a grandmother taking her 18 grandchildren to the bank to make a deposit of their pocket money and the bank manager ordering them all to sit in the corner and approach one at a time so the other customers could also be served.
Following a single complaint that the example was sexist, it was changed to a monster taking children to the bank.
HWKE, in a move that proves him to be the genetic source of my own extreme pedantry, complains that it wasn’t sexist in the least because women live longer than men so it is far more likely a grandmother would take her grandchildren to the bank than a grandfather would.

How have we got to the point where we feel obliged to back down over every complaint? Where we can no longer say things in case somebody out there doesn’t like it? Why do we feel we have to take this seriously?

The way I look at it is this; somebody somewhere is feeling offended by something you have or have not said or done. Live with it.

The Right to die?

You who keep one eye close upon British news will be familiar with the story of Daniel James, a 23 year old Rugby player paralysed from the chest down who ended his life this week at a Swiss clinic. For the rest of you http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/new...

I agree with euthanasia. If I ever develop a terminal illness or meet with something so destructive I should be required to spend the rest of my life hooked up to a machine, I wish to be switched off at the earliest opportunity and my organs handed to the needy. I do not, however, agree with this.

Still. It’s easy for me, isn’t it? I am very clever and good looking. I’ve not had my spine crushed in a rugby accident. I have a full set of limbs and a pulse. It’s easy for me to sit in judgement on this boy, isn’t it? I am not in constant pain. I do not require almost everything to be done for me by other people. I do not have to bear the guilt of being a millwheel around my parents’ necks for the rest of their natural lives. My career is not over. My hopes for the future are not dead. I can give love to those I care about. I can help others along my way. I am lucky because I am alive in this small moment and I am lucky because I believe I know what that means, although I could be wrong.

Does anybody have the right to suicide? These are, after all, our own lives. One’s own life is the only thing that we can be said to own completely. If we wish to end it for any reason, can it be said that it is our own business and our business alone? We can do as we please in our free time, what concern is it of anybody else? If it is what one wants, why not?

Doesn’t it seem simple when laid out like this? Doesn’t it seem logical? My life, my choice? It isn’t. It really isn’t.
Maybe you think to yourself, as Daniel James no doubt did, that you are doing other people a favour by taking yourself away from them. Maybe you envision yourself slumped Chatterton-like upon a couch. Maybe you have some Romantic notion that it is a good and noble thing. Maybe you just have so much noise in your head that you are thinking no further than how to make it stop.
Whatever you are thinking, please, don’t think that it is a good idea.

In this particular case, I have to wonder where the doctors were when he decided this was what he wanted and when his family decided to assist him. Anybody in that situation should be getting some kind of psychological support, as should his family. Anybody in that situation with two previous suicide attempts should have big red letters and alarms all over their medical files.
What happened when he became a danger to himself? Did they look at him with pity and think to themselves how glad they were it wasn’t them? Did they decide to let him have that last bit of dignity? Were they there at all?

It is the hardest thing in the world to ask for help. It is harder still to get it. The psychiatric services in the UK are hopelessly overstretched. The ones in Ireland are worse. Ireland has one of highest suicide rates in Europe and Wexford has the highest rate in Ireland. Most weeks the local rag will carry the story of somebody who died “suddenly”, as they put it.

If you are in a bad situation, please, don’t go there. Sometimes things happen. Eventually everything becomes a long time ago.

Keep yourselves safe and, if you need to talk, my inbox is always open.

The Wexford Festival of Good Singing and Cultural Stuff

When you think of Wexford you think of many things. For most of you, these things will be varying degrees of concern at your inability to think of anything to do with Wexford that doesn’t involve cheese. American Naval boffins will think of Commander Barry, the founder of the US Navy. Sports followers will launch into a chorus of an appropriate song and mutter uncharitable things about Kilkenny. The chronically confused will think “Ah yes, Wexford, that’s the county that looks like a partridge if you really squint”.
From the Opera buffs, however, there will be a protracted silence. That’s because they are all in Wexford for the World Famous Festival.

I will forgive you if you have never heard of it before now. I had never heard of it before I moved here and I am very good looking and clever. I will also forgive if you are now frowning in quiet bewilderment and/or saying aloud “What on earth is an opera festival doing in Wexford?” because I, too, expressed such sentiments when I first came across it. Eventually I concluded that, long ago, somebody decided opera would be a great way to relax the cows and increase the milk yields. Thus the festival was founded.
I’m not a great one for opera. Handel’s Messiah and Madame Butterfly are the only two I know properly but I like the former so much the phrase “despise-sed and reject-ted” has entered my personal lexicon of abstruse phraseology. If something goes wrong it is declared to be because I am despise-sed and reject-ted.
My opera education is not likely to be furthered by the presence of the World Famous Festival. They only seem to perform the most obscure operas known to man and, if the word from the street is to be believed, there usually turns out to be a reason for this previous obscurity.
This I do not mind because during the opera festival, other good things happen which I do know about and can appreciate. Art exhibitions.

For the duration of the festival, everywhere in the town and many of the environs there is some kind of exhibition on. The shear variety is astounding. From tinpot anaemic watercolour and garish oils of horses to Louis le Brocquy and Jack Yeats. To give a little perspective to you who don’t appreciate I am reaching Adam Hart-Davis levels of enthusiasm over this, it’s like going to Basingstoke and finding it’s full of Lichtenstein and Hockney. These are important artists.

Unfortunately, the presence of such illustrious works brings with it a breed of Irish folk I am keen to avoid. The Irish Nouveau Riche or, as I like to call them, The Iriche.
Being a Republic, the Irish do not recognise titles and the like. Unlike we Brits, they do not know their place. Instead they seem to have evolved a class system based around the amount of money one has. To show everybody else how much money you have, your hairdresser will make you look like a poodle that has spent too long in a wind tunnel and your personal fashion adviser will dress you in hallucinogenic tweed with extra shoulder pads. To complete the look, you must regard on people who are not part of your set with deep scorn and flick them from your path with your oversized handbag.
In a gallery they will be clustered around the work of the most famous artist while the gallery people fawn, barely stopping short of offering to chew their Atkins friendly hors d’oeuvres for them. The rest of us plebs must stand as a respectful distance and not interrupt even to, say, request a catalogue or purchase some Art ourselves. The Iriche may be a distinct minority but they certainly manage to leave an impact on a room.

In other news, I fear I am coming down with pharyngitus or however it is spelled. My throat feels as though it is filled with glass.

I also notice that a new gallery has opened in Wexford town. Rather bizarrely it is called the Jonathon Swift gallery. I have no idea what the Stena Fast Ferry has to do with visual art, but there you go.

Newspaper, Anyone?

As we are all such good chums, I feel I can admit to doing something I am deeply ashamed of. When I stopped for coffee at the services just outside Swansea on the way back to the Ferry Port, *whispers* I ended up reading the Daily Mail.

Briefly for foreigners; the Mail and the Express are the two papers which attempt to bridge the gap between broadsheet and tabloid. Thus they contain Serious News stories, such as the fine details of Guy and Madonna’s imminent divorce, as well as more light-hearted stories about the destruction of the world economy.
Please feel free to begin accusing me of intellectual snobbery… now.

I haven’t actually read the Mail regularly since I was a checkout monkey at Tesco. They didn’t put the broadsheets in the canteen for staff consumption. I would normally make a trenchant observation here but they were actually a good employer who ran a tight ship. This is not true of Tesco Ireland. Tesco Ireland is rubbish.
The problem I have with the Mail is its Middle Britain sensibilities. It ran an add campaign a couple of years ago trying to show it represented the ordinary Briton who worked hard and paid their taxes. I would hate to think of Britain as a nation of Daily Mail readers, I really would. At least the tabloids don’t take themselves seriously. The Daily Mail is like a tabloid that does.
To give you an example of what I mean, take one story I read in the paper on Monday.
Jeremy Clarkson was seen riding a motorcycle.
To understand why this is apparently relevant, the paper reminded us how outspoken Clarkson has been about motorcycles in the past. *gasp* He’s gone back on everything he said about them and is riding one! Good heavens! Watch out for the wolf eating the sun, chaps!
Now. I have a lot of respect for Jeremy Clarkson. He has always struck me as a bit of a grafter who clearly knows his stuff. I like his apparent integrity. If he ever turns out to be a shallow, lazy dolt I shall endeavour to hire his PR team immediately. If he wants to ride a motorcycle then he should be able to do so without a national newspaper smugly pointing out the disingenuously of the event or implying that he, or anybody else, should not be allowed to do something they have been vocal against in the past.
I am incredibly vocal against aubergines. If I should be struck with a blunt object and subsequently decide they are what I need to complete my future happiness, I hope nobody will feel the need to lecture me on the matter. Ditto gastric bands. I am really regretting all that Ikea cake.

Anyway. Yesterday was the budget over here. They normally have it at the end of the year but because they suddenly realised a couple of months ago that they actually didn’t have any money, the Brians decided to bring it forward. I bought a copy of the Irish Times so I could find out how much it was going to cost me. They keep the Irish tradition of inserting random photographs where they happen to have a gap so there was a picture of The Stig next to the grammatically confusing headline about job losses in Waterford and Kildare. Then again, maybe they know something about him that we don’t.
Petrol is up 8c a litre. VAT is up half a percent to 21.5%. It’s something like 50c on a bottle of wine and on 20 fags. €200 tax on second homes (although how they intend to track these down I don’t know. There aren’t actual addresses in rural Ireland. The only person who knows who lives where is the postie.). Income tax has increased either 1 or 2 percent depending on your income except they aren’t calling it Income tax. They have also incurred the wrath of the EU for borrowing more than the agreed percentage of the GDP.

They have also cut the amount of money being given to road safety. It would be nice to think this was going to be put into mental health services and suicide prevention instead but it isn’t.

The Wanderer Returns

I have long known that one of my less attractive traits is fixing people I have just met with a steely glare and exclaiming “What do you mean you’ve never been to Wales? Go now! It’s great!” If I am in particularly enthusiastically Welsh mood I may even offer to drive them to the ferry port that very instant. As this is on the interweb I can’t drive you anywhere but I can urge you to drop whatever you are doing and go to Wales the instant you finish reading this. It’s great.

In case you haven’t noticed my absence over the last ten days or so (and if not, why not?), I’ve been in Cardiff with Strider. Her flat is rather lovely. It is on the first floor and overlooks a church so I was able to sit in her bay window and watch two blokes (possibly) nicking the lead from the church roof without the aid of high visibility jackets.
One night some Chavs came and threw eggs at half the houses in the crescent including Strider’s so she spent three days complaining about having egg all over her window. I recommended Fairy Power Spray but knowing her it will be evolving into a new form of life before she gets around to scrubbing it off. She thinks they have a vendetta against her but I pointed out that she was not that special and that they would be unlikely to be able to pick her out of a line up. That went down marvellously, as you can imagine.
Interestingly, the Rozzers came to investigate the incident the following morning, presumably alerted by one of the other residents of the crescent. When the Chavs smashed Strider’s window in her old ground floor flat in an attempt to break in, it took almost a week for the Rozzers to turn up, most probably because Strider does not sport a Welsh accent. I still don’t know why they bothered smashing the glass. If they’d had a screwdriver they could have popped the pane out in one piece.

Anyway. I went to Ikea. I ate lots of Ikea cake. Then I felt sick. I walked through the park to see where I would end up. I ended up at Tesco. I then walked back along the Taff Trail in the hope reliving old times with the Llandaff flasher but he wasn’t there so maybe the Rozzers have finally caught up with him. I went in Marks and Spencer. I stood in the fruit and veg aisle and wept in gladness over the waxy potatoes. I purchased a lovely jumper which makes me look really unsexy but for me that is true of all clothes and even more so of nakedness. I ate Japanese food in the place near Strider’s. I ate much better Japanese food in the place near where I used to live. I coveted the Hello Kitty Dancing Geisha they have on the counter there. Good times were had by all.
Then I decided to branch out and went to Pwll Mawr. That’s Big Pit to the rest of you. You will note that it is not The Big Pit, merely Big Pit. It was the best time I have had in ages and totally free. If you are ever in South Wales, head up to Blaenafon. It’s a World Heritage Site. Like Bath.
It does have a very nice Modernist clock outside the Working Man’s Social Club.

Then I decided to take the car to the Newport Transporter Bridge for a treat as it is making even more odd noises (Possibly something to do with a wheel misalignment according to He Who Knows Everything. They’re all still attached. For now.). It is one of only 6 working transporter bridges left in the world. I’m not one for that type of architecture but it is a seriously magnificent piece of engineering. On your way back from Blaenafon, go to Newport and ride the Transporter bridge. Free on foot or 50p for a car. Bargain.

On the way back over I purchased a pen from the Ferry gift shop so I could do the crossword in the paper (or rather, so I could fail to do the crossword in the paper). It is green. It has a leprechaun on the top and a bubble wand inside it. When you write it lights up with a green light. It is the best £2 I have spent in years.

So. Go to Wales. It’s great.

Ferry Literature

As I am such a kind and socially responsible person, I am going to avoid visiting relatives by packing myself off to see Strider. While it may look like I am shirking my hereditary duty towards them I assure you this is utter heresy; being around visiting relatives will make me unhappy so I therefore perform the public duty of extracting myself from their company before anything drastic can happen. My sainthood should be arriving in the post any day now.
Going to visit Strider will also mean I finally get my birthday present a mere 3 months after my birthday. Strider will get her curtains. Strider will try and get me to fix her washing machine although I’ve already told her I’m not going to bother because it sounds as though the pump has gone. I will get to eat Japanese food and contract some horrific disease from her carpet (I’m hoping for Ebola this time). It also means I will get a break from the little voice which calls to me when I am very busy wearing my Quantity Surveyor hat and says things like “Can you come and help me? I didn’t know what to press so I pressed everything and now it won’t work.”

Packing is not my idea of a fun way to spend my afternoon but luckily I have developed a highly scientific method to make it easier. I put the suitcase on the bed and put things into it until I grow bored. I then shut the suitcase, have a cup of tea and decide that anything I have forgotten, I can manage to live without for a few days. When I arrive home I stare with wonderment at all the things I don’t need providing I am happy to live a life of critically demented hair and dubious fashion sense.
This time I have managed to avoid my usual trick of forgetting to leave a smart travelling outfit in the wardrobe for the next morning. Generally I turn up to the port looking like a crazed sleep-deprived Pikey, earning myself deeply suspiscious looks from the Customs guys at the other end.

The only thing I have left to do, in fact, is make a choice of book to read on the ferry. This may seem like a small task but it is the most important one of all, there are many considerations to take into account.
For a start there is my Dyslexia. I love books deeply and will read anything and everything so it is deeply frustrating that sometimes I just can’t read what is in front of me. The noisy environment of a ferry is not the best place to try and puzzle my way through complicated literature so Beowulf and Ulysses are out.
The second consideration is image. A book you are seen to be reading says a lot about you. “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” is a great way to let everybody know you are the last word in post-modern ironic cool but I’m not sure I can make it stretch to four and a half hours.
Cultural awareness is equally as important so something socially relevant then; “The Naked Civil Servant” would be ideal what with its immortal opening line but Strider has stolen back her copy from me so that will have to keep for the return journey.
There is always the option of classic literature but there have been so many TV adaptations it often just looks sad to be seen reading the book of the TV series. Even modern classics, Jack Kerouac, J D Salinger and the rest are so overdone much the same applies. “A Clockwork Orange” works but not for me because of the Dyslexia. Hmmm.

Anyway. You lot keep yourselves safe and try not to let Mammy break my computer in my absence.

The Allergy Myth

I was at the hairdressers again the other day. In case you’re wondering, I’m sticking with the slinky 20’s bob for now because it makes me even better looking that I would be in normal circumstances. It’s hard to believe that such a thing could be possible, I know, but like they say: every day’s a school day.

Niall the hairdresser has recently discovered he is allergic to many things and has inadvertently been making his own life miserable and bloated for years. Thanks to the attentions of a professional, he can now avoid red meat, wheat and various other good things with impunity. Intrigued by this, I asked him more about the process and this marvellous woman he saw.

She is very clever apparently. She uses a mixture of different disciplines such as Acupressure, Reiki, Traditional Chinese Herbal remedies and the like. Cunningly, she only uses the bits from each one that work.
In order to find out what Niall was allergic to, she gave him various substances to hold and made him stand on a special machine. The special machine would read electrolytes in his feet (or something) and through this his allergies would be revealed. To prove the machine right, the woman demonstrated trying to push Niall’s arm down when he was holding wheat (she could) and when he was holding rice (she couldn’t but she was really trying, honestly she was).
As politely as possible, due to the fact he was wielding blades close to my head, I let Niall know what I thought of this. He agreed that he had been sceptical at first and it was only after his mother, his aunt, his father and several cousins had all been and raved about the results that he had gone at all. Since cutting out wheat and the other things from his diet he has lost a stone, his rugby coach has commented on how much fitter he is and how much better he is playing, and he is feeling generally more lively. I remained non-committal and refrained from asking what he was managing to eat now that bread was a controlled substance.

The sad thing is this woman probably believes her own hype. She is very famous apparently and has a three month waiting list. Everybody thinks she’s great.
Now. I don’t know much about allergies but what I had always understood to be true was that, medically and scientifically, it is not possible to tell you what you are allergic to; only what you are not allergic to. I’m pretty certain I have an allergy to something but due to my lifestyle can’t be sure if my killer migraine has been caused by hormones, turpentine, pineapple or any one of a thousand other things I manage to come into contact with daily. I once tried to work it out by omitting things from my diet and putting them back in again but quickly grew confused and testy and decided it wasn’t the way forward.
Why anybody would pay, heaven alone knows how much, to be told they can no longer eat the things they previously have enjoyed thoroughly is beyond me. She also sold him a load of supplements which have made him feel really energised. I asked if they had caffeine in. Once he had put the scissors down, obviously.
He also told me that he was amazed by something she had told him about himself. Almost straight away, after a mere few lines of conversation in which she had asked for no personal information at all, she was able to tell him that he was a very deep thinker. He told her that he actually tried not to think too deeply about things because he doesn’t like to get too involved. She told him that although he liked other people to think he was that way, in actual fact he did think very deeply about things; underneath mind. Amazingly, he realised she was right.
I told him to go and read “Trick of the Mind” by Derren Brown.

In other ways Niall is a delightful fellow. He tells me off for oppressing his people. I tell him they needed oppressing and reminding him that all the historically great Irish people got out as soon as humanly possible. He lectures me on the superiority of Irish rugby. I nod benignly and ask how many Welsh players are they talking about for the Lions tour again?

Troubled that this belief in allergies may point to some hitherto unsuspected facet of his character that I might be uncomfortable with because of the blades and everything, I asked him what he thought of these “Angel” mediums who have been advertising their courses in the local rag over the last couple of weeks.
“Put it this way,” he said, “Jesus doesn’t come down from heaven to talk to us. Mohammed doesn’t. The Virgin Mary, Zeus and Allah don’t come down to talk to us. I really don’t think the angels are going to.”
“And even if they did,” I added helpfully, “It wouldn’t be via the medium of cardboard.”

What the English didn't manage to do for them

If you, like me, are living in a foreign country to the one you were born in then you, like me, will no doubt have had the pleasure of having the shortcomings of your race explained to you. If you, like me, are a Brit living in Ireland then you will feel vaguely uneasy, apologise profusely and make a mental note to research the less savoury aspects of the British Empire at the earliest opportunity.
Having done so you will find that the Irish have spent their first 90 years of independence convincing themselves that they are the greatest nation on earth and if it wasn’t for those pesky Brits oppressing them, they would have managed something really worthwhile by now.

My Mammy was at the Foot Twiddler the other day and was telling her about Bath Spa and how lovely it was and about the history of the place and everything and was rather surprised when the Foot Twiddler began pulling faces and muttering bad things about the Romans and how cruel they were what with feeding Christians to the lions everyday and keeping slaves and all the rest of it. She seemed very grateful that they’d taken one look at her Island and decided not to bother.
Naturally when my Mammy told me I pointed out how untrue this was. A lion wouldn’t eat a whole person every day. They don’t have that kind of appetite.
“But they kept slaves!” She retorted, “That’s terrible.”
I asked if she’d mentioned St Patrick to the Foot Twiddler at all, since they were on the subject of slavery; a nice Welsh boy stolen from his homeland by Irish raiders.
In any case, given the choice between freedom and kipping down with my livestock or oppression and indoor plumbing, I know which one I’d go for.

It’s the same when you mention the English to them. Clearly they were all devils incarnate who, lacking entertainment one Sunday afternoon, invaded a sovereign nation and did unspeakable things to its population. What they don’t mention is that the only reason Strongbow invaded was because he was paid to. By an Irishman.

Most leaders, having invaded themselves a shiny new country (or accepted parts of it in payment for mercenary services provided) set about improving it. It’s like when you have a new home. You don’t decide that the lime and orange flock wallpaper from the 70’s needs respectfully leaving where it is; you grab a sledgehammer and begin getting some quotes for modern central heating.
The Romans gave us, oh gosh, lots of things. The Saxons gave us… erm… blond hair possibly. The Normans gave us the Feudal system, if I remember my year 7 history lessons correctly. Cromwell gave us a Parliament we could all laugh at. In Britain we accept our losses and embrace the ways of the new overlords. It usually turns out to be a good move.
In Ireland they spend a lot of time moaning about things and pretend nothing good ever happened. In one of the Dublin museums they have a “What the English Did For Us” section hidden away at the top of the stairs. It’s not made entirely clear what the English Did but after much study I ascertained they introduced an agrarian economy. They are also, although the museum didn’t mention it, directly responsible for the existence of the Newbridge Silverware factory. Think of that next time you’re watching the Rose of Tralee.

Something the English didn’t seem to manage to introduce were trades. When you think of the vast majority of the British Isles, you can’t move for market towns. Everywhere you go there are picturesque villages with brick buildings and mayors and things. In Ireland, there aren’t.
This was brought home to me when I realised that everybody in Ireland has a Norman surname. They are all called Darcy, Devereaux (pronounced Dev-ricks locally), Mansell and Kehoe. When was the last time you met an Irishman called Paddy Smith?
At no extra cost to yourselves I have kindly checked the phonebook on this matter and found that all of those quintessential English trade names, (Baker, Smith, Wright, Sawyer) are non-existent. There are more people in my phonebook called John Kennedy than there are with the surname Archer. It is the same with the Welsh Patronymics: Parry, Pritchard, Jones, virtually none of them. I would have checked some Scotch names but I don’t know any and I am not asking to be told. For an invading force we didn’t leave much of a mark on the population.

Anyway. Welcome invaders into your lives. They’re bound to manage something useful

The Opposite is also True

Most people have, at some point in their lives been required to go and admire Art. A large percentage of these people will hope they are never required to do so again.

The first time you get taken to a gallery it is usually in the most inauspicious manner imaginable; the school trip. 2 hours of being crammed on a bus with a lot of people your own height and instructed to behave yourselves at all costs because the reputation of the school is at stake. Once you get there you are lined up and given a task to complete, usually copying one of the paintings into your sketchbook which, frankly, you could have managed at home from a book and saved the bother of getting dressed up.
Having completed your task you are instructed to head to the gift shop where you MUST purchase 2 postcards. These will be vital to your future art education. If you fail to comply you will be disgracing yourself, your school and the empire. Small children will point and laugh at you in the street. Never mind that the postcards will spend the rest of eternity languishing in the file of vital study notes which will enable you to pass your GCSEs but which are far more useful for raising the height of your telly to achieve maximum bed watching comfort; parting with half of your monthly pocket money is a mandatory requirement.
With your new postcards clutched in your sweaty palm you are now free to use the rest of your time looking around the gallery. 10 minutes later you are on the bus home.

I found these trips rather bemusing. As a smaller child I had been hauled across Europe repeatedly and my Mammy felt that as Strider and I were missing school we should make up for it by doing something educational. I’d been around the major galleries of Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam and Brussels before I managed to set foot in a British one. I may not have understood what I was looking at much of the time but found an endless source of amusement in the Renaissance works featuring people with their heads recently detached and bodies pumping blood in a pleasing volcanic manner.
The concept of going to a gallery and not getting the time to look at the paintings was rather alien to me. The concept of going to a gallery and only looking at paintings deemed suitable for a 12 year old was even more so. There are only so many Dutch paintings featuring fish and a lump of cheese a young mind can take so I would prefer to go in search of more interesting subjects. Fortunately as I was quiet, polite and knew how to pronounce Van Gogh correctly I could get away with neglecting to complete tasks I didn’t grasp the point of. The teachers were rather more concerned with devoting their attentions to those students struggling with the more basic aspect of the task, like staying inside the building.

With this kind of grounding it is unsurprising that the modern world is full of plebs who whine that all modern art is rubbish. While reading the headlines earlier I came across somebody confidently asserting how much they disliked the “The modernist mafia - the Hirsts, the Emins” and who went on to proclaim that when Rothko was no longer promoted as a great artist, the “end of modernism” would be nigh. I haven’t the heart to tell him modernism ended about the same time as the ‘60s.
Personally I find it sad that anybody would dismiss Rothko because, whatever you think of his paintings, he was hugely important to Abstract Expressionism. I find it disrespectful when people feel the need to jump on the Daily Mail bandwagon and start instructing the nation that all modern art is a load of cobblers.
If you are the kind of person who feels the need to negate the recent trends in art and boorishly demand to know why a shark pickled in formaldehyde is Art, you may find it helpful to consider that there is a probably a lot you don’t know about. Begin with DuChamp. Think about Wilfred Owen’s poetry and why he wasn’t writing amusing limericks about a man from Nantucket. Keep an eye on the changes in society as you move through the 20th century and watch how Art is inextricably connected to them.

Somewhere along the line people have got confused about what Art is for. They seem to think it is supposed to be about beauty. It isn’t. It rarely has been. Art is about what Artists say it is about. Traditionally Art movements begin with a manifesto which defines what the members aim to achieve and how they set to go about it. This aim will only be upheld until the bar closes, but in the beginning there is usually some kind of logic.
Art demands to be judged by its own rules. You cannot judge Salvador Dali by the Pre-Raphaelite “Truth to Nature” aesthetic. You cannot apply Surrealist values to Conceptualism. The list goes on.

Art is like philosophy. There are no right or wrong answers about anything. Would you throw your arms in the air and pronounce Spinoza or Descartes a waste of everybody’s time? Of course you wouldn’t (or at least I hope you wouldn’t). You would, quite rightly, regard it as a field of academic interest with little or no bearing on your attempts to get the gas bill paid.

I’m not expecting to change your mind about this. Claims that Holbein (or whoever) are what real Art is about are disingenuous. He was as dependent on a patron as the YBAs were on sensationalist headlines. If Hirst had placidly spent his life drawing a bint with no eyebrows, you would never have heard of him. If one is to earn a living from art these days, fame becomes necessary.

Art is elitist, incomprehensible, hypocritical and intellectually cheap. It is also cerebral, honest, clear and inclusive.

Glad we’ve got that one cleared up then.

How to get things done

There are two ways to get things done. You can either pay somebody else to do it or you can have something far more important you are supposed to be paying attention to but aren’t.

For instance, my “To Do” list is directly linked to the state of my house. The best way to get me to clean the windows is to require me to urgently spend several hours on-site looking at various types of dust. There is nothing like a pressing issue about architrave to get me scrubbing the decking with sugar soap. If there is ever anything vitally requiring my attention I can suddenly think of 18 others which are much less important but that I would much rather be doing. By contrast, if I’ve nothing much on the house begins to look like I’m trying to evolve a new life form in the bottom of the fridge.
There is a reason for this though. If I’ve nothing much on then my time tends to become occupied with the Secondary To Do list rather than the vacuuming. The Secondary To Do list consists of things which require my attention but aren’t getting it because they aren’t actively on fire yet.

Today I took the oven apart to try and discover why it makes a distressing noise not entirely unlike the one my car makes. It turned out the fan had somehow shifted and was intermittently scraping one of the screw heads. Having fixed that I helped Mammy to hem Strider’s new curtains.
I am not a big fan of curtains. While I understand their occasional necessity, I don’t use them much myself. I am especially not a big fan of messing around with yards of fabric and fiddling around with it to get it to the correct length and sewing it together. Luckily we have magic iron on stickiness (knight the guy who invented that, he deserves it) but there have been occasions in the past when I have had to slip stitch the hems of 4 pairs of curtains by hand to make them fall to the correct length on an uneven floor. I was not at my most amenable that day, I can tell you.

Getting things done on a computer is a whole other game altogether, one probably not unlike the wall game they play at Eton. For a start a computer offers a world of other distractions even if you don’t connect it to the interweb. Microsoft knew this which is why they mentioned it was theoretically possible to complete every single FreeCell game and also why I have sheets of paper with numbers on.
Even if you manage to stay away from card games and online confusion, there are thousands of ways to waste time on a computer. Reading the help sections for instance. These days they are a little dull and instructive but back when I was writing my dissertation (a hundred years ago or more) I used Ami Pro. The Ami Pro help was arranged in “How Do I” questions; “How do I save a file?” for instance, “How do I insert an umlaut?” or, my personal favourite, “How do I bake cookies?” Clearly the programmers understood their audience.

Once you have grown bored with this type of thing, you begin to realise how much potential there is in everything around you. In my study I have a window immediately to my right. Many are the times I’ve been busily typing away to suddenly notice something arresting on the other side of the glass. Last week there was a heron calmly walking along the drive away from me. At sunset there are always dozens of rabbits chasing each other across the lawn. A couple of months ago a dozen cows kindly came for a visit after Young Jim forgot to shut their gate properly.

Personally I find the best way to get anything done is to do it late at night. Other people aren’t around asking you to do things for them, the only programs on television are infomercials and the constant light provided by a light bulb prevents you noticing the passage of time. The only flaw with this plan is its requirement for you to omit sleep but that’s nothing a really strong cup of tea can’t help with.

Of course there is a third way to get things done, and that is to have a television which only receives RTE and TV3. Naturally I wouldn’t wish that on anybody but it’s always worth baring in mind.

The Global Warming Crisis: Solved

If memory serves correctly, a couple of weeks ago some vaguely important body (possibly the UN) decided we should all stop eating beef in an effort to curtail global warming. Naturally I ignored this command completely. I’ve better things to do than go around listening to possibly the UN.

It narks me somewhat that all of a sudden the media and large portions of the population have turned into Energy Facists who regard not using an energy saving lightbulb somewhere on a par with eating babies. Naturally I place the blame squarely at the feet of the Daily Mail.

The trouble with science is that it often gets rather complicated. The people charged with making it less complicated so the rest of us can follow what’s going on very often don’t understand it terribly well themselves. In any case, even if they did they only tend to have 100 words or so to explain everything so prefer to stick to short snappy phrases which imply our mutual destruction is imminent and that it is all our own fault. This means the paper sells and they can all go and drink until they are comfortably horizontal.
The second trouble is that unscrupulous companies have marketing departments who have cunningly worked out that they can fold statistics until they resemble a balloon elephant and still be counted as true. Thus it is that products are marketed as being good for the environment and generally good for everybody when they are, quite patently, not.

Take recycled bog roll. You would think that using paper which already exists rather than chopping down shiny new trees would be the way forward whereas actually it isn’t. The process used to remove inks from the paper is far worse for the environment than chopping down new trees; far better to ensure the paper you use comes from a renewable source.
Take cars. Look at all these celebrities driving those stupid Prius machines because they are apparently better for the environment. They aren’t. They do something like 45mpg. He Who Knows Everything gets 40mpg without trying and he is in a girt estate jobbe. If you want to drive a car that is good for the environment, why not get something tiny and light or, better yet, use your feet; they’re those things down there on the ends of your legs.
Take this obsession with turning lights off all the time and not leaving your TV on standby. I’m all in favour of doing this because if everybody did it we would collectively save about 100 watts of energy every thousand years or so which is going to make a huge difference, obviously. A better idea is for people to start educating themselves about how to save energy properly.
Solar Panels are a complete joke. They take a decade to pay for themselves to be installed. Ditto wind turbines. Ditto any other green energy product you can get from B&Q. If you want an environmentally sound home, build a timber frame house (sustainable product, easier to heat) and stuff every inch with the thickest insulation in existence. It’s simple and easy but people prefer to be taken in with the idea that technology can do the work for them. By all means go for the solar panels and the rest if you want because it does help a little, but really, begin with improving your insulation. I can’t stress that enough.
And have you ever seen these mad yokes that calculate how much energy your house is using ostensibly so you can try and cut back? Am I the only person who sees the flaw in that plan?

I wonder if anybody at possibly the UN thought this whole vegetarian lark through before recommending we all take it up. For a start if we cut back on cows, we will all end up drinking Soy milk in our tea. To grow Soy beans, (I am reliably informed) swathes of important and ancient forests are chopped down destroying the vital habitats of many endangered species. As far as moral reprehensibility goes, it’s on a level with palm oil.
Even if we imagine that they find a way to supply us all with enough milk for tea drinking goodness, if we are all vegetarians we will be eating lentils and chickpeas and things. While these can often be tasty (mmmmmm…. dhal….) one characteristic they share is a while on the stove. Generating heat uses more energy than any other process, if we all start cooking lentils more often I’ll bet you any money you like it will have a greater negative impact on the environment than you would gain by cutting back on cows.

So. My solution? Get rid of the vegetarians. You know it’s what Captain Planet was planning all along

What method of wasting valuable office time are you?

The office. It's not a fun place to spend your day is it? All that paper and telephonic noise to avoid while you wait for beer o'clock to sneak round; it's not like you even get paid for it either. Well now you can precisely identify how best to waste your day with this highly scientific questionnaire.
Just grab a pen and paper to record how many of each letter you score then scroll away to reveal the hidden secrets of your innermost personality. Possibly.


Question 1 – Very important in an office environment; How would you rate your level of personal hygiene?

(a) Very high. Clean as a whistle, inside and out!
(b) Pretty high. It's important to be clean but the overuse of bleaches and sterilizers in the home has lead to an increase in nut allergies and the like in children, you know.
(c) High. Cleaning the body with a solution of white vinegar and horseradish at 12.679 degrees centigrade kills up to 65% more germs than commercially available detergents.
(d) Much better than it was when I was a teenager.
(e) Well… the same jacket has been on the back of my chair for months now…


Question 2 - One of the work experience girls has left a copy of Jackie magazine on your desk. Who does your dream date turn out to be?

(a) W H Smith. The man knows what makes a good paperclip.
(b) Roy Wood. Popular 80's songster with extensive facial hair.
(c) Julian Stonkwostle the third. He wrote the little used Stonkwostle algorithm which exposes flaws in Windows XP.
(d) Davey Jones from The Monkeys. He's such a dreamboat!
(e) Michael Palin. He travels a lot.


Question 3 – Oh No! There's an election looming! The future of democracy is in your hands. Who are you going to vote for?

(a) UKIP. They gave me a free biro.
(b) Well the Lib Dems are historically strong in my constituency but the Conservative party have gained much support amongst women voters in the 26 – 30 demographic with their tax promises which are really just a rehash of the ones first suggested by Pitt the Younger. Let me do some more research.
(c) Clive Butterworth-Chorley. What do you mean you've never heard of him? Of course he exists!
(d) Pah. None of these upstarts are as good as Mr Wilson. Or Mr Heath.
(e) Going to? I've already… ah. No I haven't. I've been working hard. All day. At my desk.


Question 4 – Well you really messed that one up didn't you? A Diabolical Army of Human-Woodlouse Hybrids has taken over the world (I warned you not to vote Labour). Disorder and calamity have broken out everywhere you look. What do you take with you to keep you safe on your way to work?

(a) A Swiss Army knife. It has all sorts of attachments of various uses and sizes.
(b) Some kind of machete as favoured by the Rotuman people in the Republic of Fiji.
(c) A G'nnt o'Nics. It's a type of taser used by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
(d) Chopper Reilly from form 6G always said that a door at an angle of 45 degrees would keep you safe from a nuclear bomb. He's done well for himself. I'll take a door.
(e) A piece of paper with writing on it. You're clearly very busy and important if you are holding a piece of paper with writing on it. Everybody knows that.


Question 5 – Science discovers the new Human-Woodlice overlords must feed on office worker grey matter to survive. Crikey! Luckily, when consumed in large quantities, alcohol will cause a chemical reaction within your brain that will transform the overlords into Dale Winton impersonators who can then be easily overpowered. Keen to do your bit to liberate humankind, you hasten to the pub. What do you order?

(a) Neat Alcohol in wipe form.
(b) A pint of Brains. The Brewery was founded in Cardiff in 1882 by Samuel Arthur Brain. It has a jolly interesting history.
(c) Tia Maria. If drunk while standing on your head, the alcoholic content doubles.
(d) Cider. The choice of youth.
(e) I'm just on my way to the water cooler. It's important to keep hydrated.



Tallied your answers? Right then:



Mostly A's – You are Cleaning your body with Stationary!

An intelligent worker knows how to get the most from their equipment and you are no exception. Where most people see a promotional biro, you see a handy tongue scraper. And there's nothing like a paperclip for getting rid of earwax! It may disgust your colleagues but they just don't understand the satisfaction that comes from seeing a pile of fluff you dug out of your own belly button with an empty printer cartridge. Keep up the good work!


Mostly B's – You are Learning From Wikipedia!

They never taught you interesting things like this at school! If you'd known then that Ruskin's marriage remained unconsummated because he expected women to be as hairless as the marble statues he was used to or that Grover Cleveland reputedly used to relieve himself out of his office window you'd probably have paid more attention and have a better job by now. At least this way you can help your office team win the pub quiz. Or at least you could if Wikipedia was a little more accurate. Never mind, eh?


Mostly C's - You are Abusing Wikipedia!

Creative, talented and literate, you like nothing better than inserting "Facts" into random segments of the online encyclopedia. You are the reason journalists get sacked. It takes skill and daring to do what you do, it needs to be believable or you'll get rumbled and banned forever. Why not set up a tournament with your friends to see who can keep their piece of misinformation on a page the longest? Extra points for "Facts" reported in national newspapers!


Mostly D's – You are Looking up old School Friends on Google!

Stuck in a rut and with your childhood dreams in ruins you console yourself by finding out what all those idiots you went to school with are up to these days. Okay, so they've a beautiful house and beautiful children but they've also got less hair than you. Ha! And look at what a moose that girl who turned you down has become! Just don't look up what happened to that little dork Billy Gates…


Mostly E's – You are Appearing busy while away from your desk!

You are a planner. Every detail has to be just so. The military has nothing on you. It takes almost as much effort to look productive as it would to do some actual work but don't let that get you down. Keep a jacket on the back of your chair at all times to let people know you are in the building, have a paper cup handy to carry off that "hydration chic" look or walk confidently with a piece of paper in one hand as though on your way to show it to somebody. If all else fails, find things to laminate.

Geographic uncertainty

Continuing Friday's theme of inanimate objects doing things you haven't asked them to in an effort to be useful, my Mammy has painted a large cream splodge on the wall of my hall. She said she thought I might like to paint my hall a nice cream colour and was giving me the chance to see how it looked before I did it.
As it happens, I'm not doing it. Just like I'm not going to be hanging the attractive minty green wallpaper in the spare bedroom she bought because it was only €6 a roll. It has the texture of old peoples' trousers which is why it is stacked neatly in the spare bedroom with the pasting table and a step ladder awaiting my attention.

Anyway. Some years ago I would find a source of amusement in asking Americans if they knew which part of England Scotland was in but stopped after I realised that not only did they not know, but that they didn't understand the joke. Then Mel Gibson got all enthusiastic about wearing a skirt and shouting things and they realised that Scotland and England were different places even if they didn't quite grasp the relationship between them. These days of course, all of that is forgotten and they have all gone back to using the terms England, Britain and the UK interchangeably. What I didn't realise until today is that those three terms can also be used to refer to Ireland.
Recently America has not had the greatest track record when it comes to things like respecting the sovereignty of other nations but because they invented Hershey's Chocolate, the only foodstuff in existence to make you wish you were eating an aubergine instead, we all put up with their empirical dreams. Not noticing that Ireland exists separately to the UK takes something special and makes me wonder if Gordon 'n' Dubya have a secret and diabolical plan to bring this nation back under British control. If they have, let me be the first to say "welcome" to the British liberators. Tea and scones at my place lads.

Ireland always used to be the one place you could be confident Americans knew existed. Americans like to tell you how Irish they are. However privately amusing you find this, I would urge you to encourage them all to stick to this line because there is nothing like being told by somebody they are three sixteenths British to spark a diplomatic incident. The only occasion upon which somebody is British is when the separate nations have united against a common irritant.

This morning on the radio the DJ was having a chat to some bird from America. They probably did mention who she was but I was too busy falling off scaffolding to notice. She was something to do with the entertainment news because the topic she was wittering on about was Russell Brand and how ill received he had been at the VMAs. She was at great pains to tell us how British humour does not always translate very well and so not to judge the death threatening maniacs too harshly. She then went on to confidently discourse about "your" comedians and how they were really funny, honestly they were, and could be massively successful across the pond. Ricky Gervais was mentioned.
What she seemed to forget was that she was speaking to an Irish DJ on an Irish radio station being broadcast in a country called Ireland.
The DJ did his best. Rather than point this out to her, he tactfully attempted to draw her attention to the fact by repeating everything she said with the words "And Ireland" tacked onto the end. In desperation, he tried to mention every Irish stand-up he could think of in the hope she might possibly have heard of at least one of them. She hadn't. Nor did she notice what he was doing and continued to enthuse about the Brits.

If I were a less original person I would consider now a good point to go on about how dumb America is and possibly mention my favourite survey of all time which found that, in 1996, 42% of high school graduates were unable to name a single country in Asia. However. America is not a dumb place. Ignorant in parts, certainly, but show me a country that isn't.
The world is full of things we don't know. I for instance, despite being enormously clever and good looking, am unable to tell you where Suffolk is. Should I get asked I will suggest it is bordering Rutland because nobody knows where Rutland is, not even the people who live there. I used to know what Europe looked like but politics happened and now I don't.

What makes it even worse is quite often we learn things and later on some clever boffin type person, with a beard, will announce that things aren't like that at all. Then some other boffin type person, also with a beard, will disagree and produce diagrams to illustrate this fact. A third boffin, who has up until this point been off in a corner drinking tea and trying to grow a beard, will tell them they are either both right or both wrong and the three will gather around a blackboard covering it with complicated formulae and getting chalk over everything. At this point the journalists reporting this story go off for a liquid lunch and never return.
When I was small there were 9 planets in the solar system. These days I understand there are actually 10 - the tenth being named Rupert or Xena or something equally as improbable. Then I learned that Pluto isn't a planet anymore so there are 9 after all. Yet if Pluto isn't a planet, surely Curtis (or whatever) is unlikely to be a planet also?

To my mind it's better to stick to uncomplicated things like Quantum Theory. At least nobody understands that. And it doesn't deal with things like geography.

Throwing off the Computer Overlords

Most intelligent people these days have the kind of job and/or lifestyle which requires them to use a computer. An estimated 97% of all these computers are marginally less useful than the electronic offspring of the QVC shopping channel.

Have you ever stopped to work out how much of your time is spent trying to work out how to make it do what you want? And how long you spend battling with the "helpful" automatic settings? Or the "useful" suggestions of how to do things to a generally higher standard than you would otherwise manage to achieve, puny human? It is a pretty long time.

I, for instance, have spent much of the last four days trying to work out how to stop my computer from updating the shockwave player. I will be happily regurgitating nonsense and sending it out into the ether for the enjoyment of others when, unprompted, a balloon will appear and remind me that an update is available. I already know this. It has told me several times already.
When I return to my computer from a vital trip to the kettle, it will be attempting to bypass my frail human reticence on this matter by connecting to the interweb by itself and complaining that it doesn't seem able to. It grows sluggish and unhappy by my repeated refusals to allow it to enrich my life with modern shockwave programming but I don't care because it is an inanimate object. One that hates me, clearly, but still inanimate.

The trouble with computers is that they are designed and programmed by very intelligent blokes who are trying to make something extremely complicated, usable for all. This doesn't work. We've all heard the one about the people who ring the computer helpline because they can't find the "any" key.
The second trouble with computers is that a computer is essentially a small child who is trying to annoy you; it will do exactly what you tell it to. Exactly what you tell it to. People don't work like that. When somebody is speaking to you, your brain is already fizzing away working out the end of their sentence and formulating the appropriate response. When speaking to a person, you don't need to say exactly what you mean because they have already worked it out.

So what ended up happening was a group of people, some of them with beards, worked out that what we plebs really needed was a computer that could run itself automatically without any kind of user intervention. There was, they reasoned, no point in asking complicated questions about whether we wanted things or not because we'd only say no, so rigged it all up to bring dazzling technology into our homes via a telephonic line to the outside world.

In my world, this doesn't work because if my internet connection was going any slower, it would be going backwards. I don't want to leave it connected for fifteen hours so some program I don't use can download, it would prevent people from ringing me up to have vital conversations about anchovies and the like. Instead I spend my life trying to work out how to turn things off.

It is the same with Word. Every single time I open the program it assumes I have become an American and insists on correcting my spellings and telling me to use the letter z more often. Even when I try and turn it to British spelling, it will comply for about three lines then inexplicably start ranting at me again via the medium of squiggly red lines.

I'm sure that someone, somewhere, has invented a computer that will make my life simple and allow me achieve my original purpose in the shortest amount of time possible. A computer that won't take up half my desk, fill my life with useless information or generate roughly the same amount of heat and noise as combine harvester.

Now I come to consider it, I think it might be called a pen.

Driving Miss Mammy

Occasionally, an unfortunate situation arises whereby I am required to drive my Mammy somewhere I do not wish to go and, once there, look at home furnishings. Today, it was Wexford town; a place I have been so frequently over the last week I don’t know why I don’t just set up camp in the Bullring and save myself the petrol money.

It is perhaps a little unfair to claim my Mammy has some kind of lamp fetish. Today we didn’t look at any lamps. We did something worse. We looked at clothes.

Things began to go wrong when I made the fatal mistake of obeying orders that went against my better judgement namely, when my Mammy cried “Park over there!” I did. Or, at least I tried to.
It isn’t like I can’t parallel park. I can. It is a Micra. Everybody can parallel park a Micra. Even me. It’s just that when confronted with a parallel parking situation I have a tendency to go in forwards and spend 20 minutes shunting back and forth in the space trying to get it right rather than doing it properly because I don’t want to get shouted at for blocking the traffic. Think about that next time you see a woman in a car and you are a man in something stupid and expensive.
When I am officially Queen of Everything I shall introduce Rules about how you salesman berks have to behave in future. Tapping your fingers upon the wheel will be banned as will slumping in your seat and massaging your temples. When I am Queen of Everything I shall personally come round to each and every one of you and explain very carefully and slowly and with the use of accompanying diagrams that you are not being put terribly behind schedule because I need 24 seconds to park the car. If you weren’t watching me, you would only be at the traffic lights. At least with me you are getting a floorshow. Be grateful.

So. I attempt to get into the space. Technically I’m not in it properly but as there is now traffic zooming past me I figure that I could leave it. Mammy has other ideas. She orders me to park properly.
I go forwards being careful not to hit the rear bumper of the Mercedes. I go backwards trying not to hit the front bumper of the BMW. Mammy tries to be helpful.
“I can see in the wing mirror. You’ve got loads of room. Go back more.” She says.
“I have not got loads of room. I can see perfectly well and I can see there is not loads of room.” I mutter between clenched teeth.
“YES there is. Go Back More.” She orders.
“Look, if I drive into that car I am going to be the one in trouble. “My Mammy said I had plenty of space” is not an acceptable excuse to write on an insurance form.” I snap.
“You aren’t going to drive into that car because you’ve got lots of room. I can see in the wing mirror!”
“You can’t see in the wing mirror. You just hate BMWs,” Quickly I can continue before she tells me how much room there is “Who is driving? Me! I am driving! I am perfectly capable of parking a car! People are getting past me fine so I don’t know why I am messing around! You do not get points for neatness!” Wildly I jam into first gear, revving the accelerator and jerking off the clutch at speed as I whirl the steering wheel around one handed in displaced rage. The car slots neatly into the space.
“I don’t know why you have to make such a song and dance about these things. There was plenty of room.” Mammy gets out of the car and calmly puts on her jacket.

She drags me to the department store. She holds up a horrible pink linen top and asks me what I think of it. I can’t tell her what I think of it because she will accuse me of being in a bad mood. I suggest she tries it on. Ditto ugly pinstripe trouser. Ditto hideous linen blouse. The blouse jumper thing she picks up is quite nice and I convince her to try that on too. By now I am carrying half the shop around with me but Mammy looks happy. I deposit her in the changing booth and escape to a chair to listen to Michael Bolton and other popular hits of the day.

Mammy tries the clothes on and rejects everything. She decides to have a quick look in the other department while I remain in the chair being told I am once, twice, three times a lady. Without my malevolent presence brooding at her shoulder, she is quickly pounced upon by the sales lady.
“Mmmmmm…. That’s lovely.” The Lady says. Except being Wexford she says “LUF-lee”.
My Mammy is struck dumb. “It’s a little bit young for me.” She says carefully. She is learning the perils of picking up comically bad items of apparel in quiet areas of shops.
“Ah no, it’s very you.” The Lady says. She is wrong. The item in question isn’t anybody. Not even Liberace.
Mammy carefully puts it down, smiling uncertainly and trying to move away. The sales Lady follows her and lunges for a nearby jacket.
“Look at this now. Isn’t it GAH-geous? It’s LUF-lee isn’t it? Ah God it’s GAH-geous. Jaesus now isn’t that nice?” She continues in this vein until my Mammy agrees to try in on. I wander over to take a look having been confidently informed it is best to do certain things just in case tomorrow doesn’t happen after all. It is just as bad as I expected.

Eventually we escape and have a nice cup of coffee. It is only when I get back to the car that I remember the second reason I didn’t want to park here. I can’t turn round so must instead make my way up past the Roundabout of Small Gradient Ratio, the Nice Hotel and Selskar Abbey. I do so, all the while silently cursing fate, medieval cities and the one way system.

Mammy wants to be taken to another shop. I comply and heap lavish admiration on everything she holds up against her body. When we get back to the car I must reverse carefully. She distracts me by drawing my attention to nearby pedestrians who, if they continue at their current speed and trajectory, will be in my way in a little under 12 and a half minutes. I narrowly miss reversing into a trolley.

We nip to the supermarket and she stays in the car because she is tired out. I buy her a book and some illicit ginger cookies. On the way home she even compliments my driving. I must finally be doing something right.

The dangers of the Guardian

In a highly controversial move, He Who Knows Everything has begun buying the Guardian on a Saturday. I told him this makes him a Leftie (amongst other things I’m too polite to mention) but he claims that as he buys the Sunday Times, it evens itself out. Somewhat illogically, I read all of the personal adverts. It was something of an education.

It’s not anything I’ve paid much attention to before. My natural reserve finds something distinctly unappealing in the notion of telling the whole world how great one is and how you, yes you, should definitely date one this instant. Given this pre-formed notion, it is perhaps unsurprising that I didn’t find the adverts terribly promising.

Take the ones which claimed “Personality more important than looks”. There are two things this could mean. Either the man who has written it is really ugly or, and the more likely of the two: He is a dickhead. Telling a girl that personality is more important than looks is even worse than being hearing the words “Don’t worry, it’s what you do with it that counts.”
While both of these statements are true, it doesn’t mean we wish to be reminded of them. We all prefer to believe that are not applicable to us.

Then there are the cheesy ones:
“Eccentric, passionate M, 38, recovering r/ship disaster area, seeks F rescue team of 1”
I’m never going to reply to that and not just because he is from Norfolk. When sent through my internal (and admittedly extremely cynical) translator, it comes back with “Bloke, dumped, seeks sympathy shags with multiple women. Will not call you as pretending to be heart broken over ex.”
“Corny Fairytale! Grumpy, warty toad, 50, urgently needs princess, 30-45, to kiss and discover her Prince Charming!”
Maybe it’s the exclamation marks, maybe it’s the desire for a woman 20 years his junior; I just can’t shake the feeling he is some kind of middle management who is shorter than 5ft 9.

Being a fair minded individual (stop sniggering at the back) I felt it unfair to rail on the men alone and turned to the women. Predictably, they were a lot better although not better enough to make me wish I fancied girls.
“Who dares wins! Slim, attract, 40s brunette, happy, dry-humoured, fem, generally normal but occasionally quirky, seeks kind, thoughtful, 40s M, who is brave enough to leave a message”
Can somebody call her and tell me if she is a great as I imagine she is? I’ll just bet she bakes her own cakes, drinks too much and laughs in a manic cackle. She probably doesn’t though. She probably regards quirky as filling in a form with a green biro.

My top prize for stupidness, out of all the columns, goes to this one:
“H’some and charismatic guy, alternative therapist, intellig, artistic, passionate, free-spirited, assertive, creative, 35, seeks company of unassertive, slim, quintessentially fem F”
Is it just me or is that one going to end up in being tied to a tree in Epping Forest at Midwinter surrounded by chanting lunatics in robes? And what kind of self-respecting girl is happy to be unassertive? Sure, when you are 16 and having to be an adult and secretly wish an older man would take you in hand and run everything for you, then maybe… but that is merely the desire for a parent substitute.

So, having deeply criticised all of these people, it seams only fair to have a crack at writing one of these things about myself. Describe myself and what I want in around thirty words. As the great thinker of our time says: How hard can it be?

Ahem.

Green-eyed Posh Cymraig, 27, charmingly unattractive with slightly mad hair. Well read and depressingly liberal. Likes: tea, pointless philosophising, cats, art and destructive machinery. Preference given to the mechanically gifted.



All replies to my inbox please boys…

Jobs for the *insert sex here*

If there is a bad way to begin your day, it is by push starting an Omega Estate.

Somewhere in my education I have managed to pick up an “Anything you can do, I can manage just as incompetently” attitude towards Boy Jobs. The very idea of not doing my own tiling or refusing to assemble flat pack furniture just smacks of letting the side down. As a result, when there is a man whose car will not start I am there with my hands against the bumper before you can say “Theo, do you realise how much that car weighs even without the 19 stone bloke behind the wheel?”

Luckily there was a hill at the end of the drive so all I had to do was get him onto the road. Unluckily this meant taking it at a bit of a run because the drive slopes slightly upwards at the end and it took a few attempts because it was Not Allowed to push him into the path of an oncoming vehicle however much I personally felt he deserved to be for making me undertake such a task in the first place. Now he is complaining because he can’t find the magic code to unlock the radio and must drive around in silence rather than to the haunting strains of The Incredible String Band.


Feminism is something which has rather managed to pass me by. When the Spice Girls were being vocal about the Girl Power I surprised to find I had been doing things I wasn’t supposed to but definitely ought to be because it wasn’t right that girls shouldn’t. I read The Female Eunuch when I was about 18 but couldn’t really find any relevance in it.

He Who Knows Everything was moaning about feminists the other day. He had been allowed to watch part of the Kate Spicer program about cosmetic surgery.

“They’re all the same,” he muttered, “They think it’s all a plot by men to oppress them but as soon as they think they can become better looking all their principles go out the window.”


One could argue that perhaps the reason I don’t understand feminism is because I have been lucky enough to live a life in which I am not oppressed because of my sex. One could argue that but one would be factually incorrect. As a child I was desperate to join the Scouts. They played with knives and lit fires. Instead I was made to join the Brownies. Their motto is Lend A Hand. The only badge I ever earned was the Art one. Even Strider had more than me.

The Scouts had a dangerous hut next to a river and filled with deadly insects. We had the hall at the school except for when somebody else wanted it and then we had to use a spare classroom and spend an hour playing Heads Down Thumbs Up. The Scouts did useful things for the Community. We were encouraged to wield a vacuum in the privacy of our own homes.

The Scouts could look forward to joining the Army Cadets. The Brownies could look forward to being a Girl Guide at which stage we would be allowed to look after the younger girls! Even at that young age I could see the flaw in that plan, it meant all I had to look forward to was looking after people like me. In any case there were only two Girl Guides in the whole village; one of them was the Strider’s Nemesis, the other was the daughter of the head of the PTA.

By the time they began letting girls in, I was too old. Makes you want to weep doesn’t it?


In actuality, the reason I have never understood feminism is because I’m not a girl. I’m a gel. It is an important difference.

Where a girl will ride a pony in a dressage competition, a gel will take the fences at Badminton and break a collarbone like a man. A girl will call the AA when she has a flat tire, a gel will change it herself and probably fit a new exhaust while she is down there. When she is married and has a family, a girl will dress the kids nicely and worry about sending them to the right school whereas a gel flings them in the direction of whichever one is closest (or whichever one their father attended) and dress them in the clothing of older siblings regardless of sex. A girl will hesitate to hold a barbeque, a gel will cook a five course meal (plus sorbet) on an open fire in a jungle in a warzone. A girl will marry a CEO or politician; a gel will marry an army officer or vicar’s son. Girls are bred to have languid arms and nice hair; gels are bred to have childbearing hips.

A girl should do flower arranging and interior decorating, they should dress nicely and make men feel manly. A gel should be able to cook, play the piano, sing and shoot. I don’t do this last one because I’m a hippy but on the occasions somebody irresponsible has given me an air rifle, I certainly put the boys to shame.



On sideways note, I have pulled the muscle in my right arm. Every movement is agony.

It wasn’t caused by push starting the car, cladding the downstairs ceiling, bleaching the upstairs ceiling, falling off the scaffolding (again) or shifting a bookshelf up the stairs. All of those things I managed quite adequately.


I did it while making a cottage pie.

I always said the onions were out to get me.

Make me a Christian

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned in passing that I have been giving a lot of thought to notions of God, religion, spirituality and faith. As it was a thought in progress I assured all of you enthusiastic folk out there in interweb land that I would return to it. Prepare to contain your excitement.

There has been, on Channel Four, a three part series called “Make Me a Christian” in which a group of people attempted to live a Christian way of life. And you thought it would be about spelunking. Being television, this group included a lesbian, a converted Muslim and the manageress of a pole dancing club.
I watched it because I thought it would be interesting and, more importantly, would teach me more about Christianity and the way it is practised today. As it turns out, it was immensely contrived, disinterested in its own conclusion (a real shame as whether or not it intended it, it was a good one) and failed to bother with anything as mundane as information about the different branches of Christianity. Plus there was a woman singing Amazing Grace who was under the impression she was really good at it. She was average.

The conclusion it seemed to draw was that there is a Christianity for everybody. The ex Hells Angel who began by refusing to go into York Minster for a service and spent Bible classes shouting at the preacher and demanding he explain why the Bible was true was sent to work with the Salvation Army ferrying old folk about and feeding them. This he could understand. It was going out into the community and doing something positive for them in the name of God.
The parents of the Family who felt as though they were slaves to the materialistic desires of their children were charged with reading the Bible together every day. They also held a barbeque for all their neighbours. They are now undoubtedly better people.
The young man who spent much time drinking and having it away with young women was sent to have a healthy night out with some young Christians. Rather than sitting in a darkened room discussing Bible quotations with each other, they went bowling. He had a good time. Astonishing. He was also rather enthused at the one of the church services they went to, possibly the Evangelical one, feeling that such energetic singing was a better way to reach God than the sitting very still and listening closely methods of other churches.

As part of my investigations, or “Personal Journey” as it would no doubt be referred to if I had my own camera crew, I went to the book shop to buy a new copy of the Bible. Not only is my old copy is falling apart but it is also the truly terrible Good News Bible (the good news being that you no longer need to buy a door stop); an internet translator would make more sense from the original.
One of the banes of my life is foreign novels which have been translated by an American and considered adequate for the British market. They are not. American English has no subtlety to it and very little elegance. Start giving us translations of books in English as we use it please. And start using British spellings too.

So, in the bookshop and searching for the religious section. It is a very small section. It is two shelves wide. They have one copy of the Bible. It is the Good News Bible. Next to Religion is Spirituality which is 5 shelves wide and has a multitude of books with useful instruction on Tarot, Mediumship, Angels and How to Harness Your Psychic Potential for the Powers of Good.
Failing to procure a Bible I instead pumped for the Koran, inviting an alarmed look from the sales assistant, and Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion”.
I have started reading this second tome and find it very good indeed. Part of the reason I am not religious is probably down to the fact I have never found a person or text which could adequately explain everything to me to my own satisfaction. This is less to do with the inexplicability of the Christian faith, I feel, and more to do with the way the people who are willing and capable of expounding on such subject matter tend to be a little… earnest, shall we say. It stands to reason then that I should seek somebody to explain to me why we shouldn’t all believe in God. By the end of Chapter One I am intrigued but not in total agreement.
In a bout of unintentional irony, I am book marking it with the UCB Thought Of the Day brochure sent to me by a well meaning chum.

In which I attempt to explain why "Myra" is a good thing

A controversy has exploded following the handover of the Olympics into British hands. Not because Boris sold out and had neat hair but because of That painting included for a fragment of a second during the Representation of British Culture film; Marcus Harvey’s Myra.

I was checking the headlines on Sky News this morning while they were reading out the texts and emails sent in regarding the outrage and was astonished to find that nobody at Sky News felt that, in the interests of fair play, they should have a message expressing support for the decision to include it; maybe there just weren’t any. I am going to remedy that.

Let me pin my colours to the mast, I see nothing wrong in the existence of the painting nor in its snapshot inclusion in the film of British Culture. It is one of the most notorious and powerful works of art shown at the most culturally significant British Art exhibition in decades. An unprecedented 300,000 people passed through the doors of the RA to see Sensation in 1997. I was one of them. Illegally, I might add.

This, by the way, is being written off the top of my own head. I haven’t gone out and checked what the people who get paid to write about this malarkey think or what the artist intended, everything here is just my own opinion. An opinion is an opinion. I’m not claiming to be right. I’m just telling you what I personally think.

The portrait of the Moors murderer Myra Hindley, based on the police mugshot of her from the 60s and painted with a child’s handprint (the four year old daughter of a friend of Harvey’s), caused outrage, along with most of the rest of the exhibition. After the painting was attacked with ink and eggs, guards were posted for its protection and the public’s bags searched on the way in.
Relatives of the victims, some of whose remains have never been found, accused the artist of glamorising Hindley, claiming that such a portrait glorified her and the crimes she committed.

There are no right or wrong answers as far as Art is concerned. It has been demonstrated for the last hundred years that anything at all can be art; an Alfa Romeo can be Art if you give it the right precedent.
While an artist may have a particular meaning in mind when creating a piece, this does not mean it is the only way it will be received. All Art is subject to reinterpretation. I once caused consternation by suggesting a famous Van Gogh, in which he had painted the rain coming down, looked as though he had got narked at the change in weather and stomped off home for a mug of absinthe instead.
Forget Truth. It no longer has a place here.

So, if Myra is not about glamorising or condoning the actions of a murderer, what is it about? Is it even a portrait at all? I don’t personally think so.
The image is created using tiny handprints. Think about that. The image of this person is only created by the handprints. It is a loop.
We know who she is because of what she has done to these children, only because of that. If she had not done these things, we would remain unaware of her existence.
She is created in our social consciousness because of her actions toward these children. She is created in our visual consciousness by the actions of these children. They create her who destroyed them.
She is imprisoned in this single image. That is all we know of her, even 40 years later.

Should it have been included in the film then? Yes.
As I mentioned, Sensation was hugely important for British art and British culture as a whole. It remains a symbol of the social shift we experienced and put British art back on the world stage. It was the culmination of the Saatchi decade and the foundation of the stupid Cool Britannia movement that probably helped us get the Olympics in the first place.

Why though, that particular painting? Well, it isn’t that particular painting. I am personally convinced that the only reason that piece is the one being shown is due to the footage they have of the exhibition.

Upon entering Sensation, one was greeted with Damien Hirst’s “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living” in a dimly lit hexagonal room. On the walls surrounding, Mark Wallinger’s “Race, Class, Sex” suite of paintings. While Hirst’s shark is arguably a better and more recognisable choice for a piece of Brit Art, there is not going to be any footage of it in that exhibition which is as suitable to be quick edited into a short film of our achievements as Harvey’s work. The same of Emin’s tent. Or of Whiteread’s Ghost.

So much of the effect of that painting lay in the genius of the gallery layout. As you may notice from the film (of which, I should probably mention I have only seen a clip. If Hirst is in there I’m going to look an eijit. As usual), it was framed by a succession of doorways in the furthest room. What you do not see from the film is that the work furthest from it was Jake and Dinos Chapman’s Tragic Anatomies, an installation of mutated and genderless child mannequins.
Turning around from that to find Myra Hindley’s baleful gaze regarding you at such distance and the realisation that the only direction you have to move in is towards her... anybody who feels that the work was designed to celebrate or beautify clearly never experienced that.

I’m sorry that people feel so against this and it is a shame that we are protesting about it instead of praising things like that topiary skyline of London (that was wonderfully naff, more please!). The inclusion of that painting in the film is there as a representation of an exhibition and a movement. At the end of the day, we should all be grateful we live in a time and a place where we can discuss and protest about such things; so many don’t.

Just remember: Art is about dialogue, not knee jerk reactions. Apart from the times when it is. Obviously.

What they said about it at the time:
“Moors murderer Myra Hindley’s police photograph is reworked by Harvey in Myra (1995); the artist questions the iconic status given to the image and its attendant fascination and repulsion by the media and public alike.”
From the Sensation gallery guide.