Friday, 10 February 2017

Swans Are The Queen's Idiots

I don't like to see wildlife hurt. I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in that.

So imagine my wonderment when the traffic on the A50 to Raynesway in Derby very suddenly grinds to a halt and the car in the right-hand lane puts his hazard warning lights on. All I saw was a flash of white. Then I noticed an RSPCA van pull up on the other side of the road. This is a dual cariageway witha metal barrier in between. It was as I looked back to my side I clocked the flash of a white wing, some flippery feet waddling in front of a car.

"Why don't they just run the fucker over?" the young man in the car at the side of me says, after I wind my window down and tell him what I think the problem is.

"Well," I say inside the confines of my head, "Because some of us have a bit of humanity left in this post-truth era. And I know that because I'm soon to be appointed to the European Kebab Standards Council." It's true.

The swan wanders onto the verge on my side, and the two cars in front move partly onto the verge. The ones in the right-hand lane speed off, the bird no longer an issue. The RSPCA guy legs it across the 50MPH carriageway and scurries over the barriers, clad in dark blue uniform. I can immediately see how this is going to develop: a man clearly in his late fifties is going to get hit by rush-hour traffic rescuing the bloody thing.

I put on my beacon, pull onto the verge, and stick my own hazard warning lights on. I'm aware that this means precisely fuck-all to most road users, but at least I'm kitted out to be a bit safer at the side of a road than this guy dressed pretty much like a ninja. By this time I've watched him stumble over at least twice, and I'm reminded why our place constantly harp on about checking your surroundings.

By this time the swan has decided to have a crack at flight. It manages a good ten feet back towards the now moving traffic just as the other concerned citizens have decided we look like we know what we're doing. I don't know what I'm doing, and as I see the RSPCA guy fall on his arse on the embankment thanks to the snaking brambles there, I'm confident he doesn't either. But moving traffic clearly isn't for the swan so it veers away.

We try a pincer movement, forcing it onto the embankment. It's clearly out of energy. We get close. So close. So it hisses, then launches itself like a kamikaze blur of demented ripped pillows into sapling thorn trees, more bramble, weeds, and grass clumps. Down the other side of the embankment, we only see it again when we've found a human way through that doesn't involve getting stuck.

It's getting more and more stuck. It even manages to trip itself up, and that's when I get the impression it's exhausted. We agree to leave it where it is so he can get his van, bring it onto the right carriageway, off the carriageway, and I can watch it from the embankment to show him where exactly to stop. Great plan. Safe plan. Apart from him going across the sodding dual carriageway again...

Then something amazing happens.

A young woman turns up. I can't really hear what she's saying, but I make out the words "Wildlife", "I know about", "Seen it", and "Sanctuary". She pursues it with an agile vigour that reminds me I really really need to either get fitter or succumb to old age in my forties. As it scurries into a gully, where the overgrowth is vertical, she calls out that there's a footpath the other side, and she can get to it. Moments later, she has it by an allegedly arm-breakingly strong wing, pins it down as though this is the most natural thing in the world, scoops it up in her arms while I'm still breathlessly fighting weeds, and emerges onto the footpath.

I'm pretty sure I said "I'll go back to the main road so the RSPCA guy knows where we are."

By the time he got to me (it's now almost 5pm and the traffic is predictably office hours Friday) she'd gone. We even went around the other side of the gully and footpath in our respective vans, onto a housing estate I'll say "I am familiar with" and couldn't see her. Naturally we were a bit worried, so we both scoured sections of the pathway, covering about a mile.

Eventually the RSPCA guy (let's call him Dave, because his name is Dave) calls it in to the office and we find out... happily... it might be a wildlife rescue centre in Burton that the woman represented. We're pretty sure from what we've seen that A) she's younger and more agile than us, B) she's done this before, C) she's got experience and initiative enough to not hang around for two old grunts.

After more contact with the RSPCA call centre we then learn our hunches are correct, and also D) the wildlife rescuers are on Facebook, so I messaged them there too, E) she was in a vehicle liveried to establish this, which we'd either not seen or wasn't nearby.

The swan is safe.

The swan is being released tomorrow. :-)

So what I learned today was this: Some RSPCA folks are a bit crazy but will go to any lengths to get a result. A flashing beacon and a hi-viz jacket are actually quite helpful for not getting killed trying to get a result. A young and intelligent woman can achieve in ten minutes what two old farts can't in an hour, no matter how intelligent. No-one is going to believe my tracker report. And finally...

Swans? Jeeze, they're dim. The very body language suggests it might have just read this!

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Go Now For Good

I think it's my favourite book, Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman that contains the quote "The Scots, forever at war with their mortal enemy: the Scots."

It's quite funny, listening to this awful "Yes/No" debate on the impending Referendum on independence, that history seems to play such a large part in it. Not for the likes of Alex Salmond, but for people interviewed in the media. It seems to me, that everyone interviewed in the "Yes" camp has been watching Braveheart on a loop, for inspiration. The "No" camp seem to focus on how much Scotland has done for British industry and economics, such as the pneumatic tyre, tubular steel, whiskey, and battered everything.

It's a clear division between what people are hearing from two reasoned debates and what they have already made their minds up about. We know Britain is currently shit, Scotland. We can see why you would want out. But who made it shit? Worldwide failed banks and people with imaginary money investing in imaginary funds in largely imaginary places. Not the shipbuilders in Liverpool. Not the shipbuilders on the Clyde. Not the National Park rangers in The Cairngorms. Not the Park rangers in The Peak District.

It might sound by now like I'm saying I don't want Scotland to become independent. What I actually want is for the people of Scotland to do what they genuinely think is best for Scotland in the future. To add to the amusement I've felt listening to voters, I've had even more fun listening to the Westminster morons, Cameron, Clegg and Milliband jumping late onto the bandwagon begging for a "No" vote. My particular favourite moment so far was Dave Cameron saying "Don't vote for independence just because you want to stick it to the effing Tories!"

And that was actually what he said. And he has a point: "Sticking it to the Tories" would be brilliant just to see the look on our illegitimate Prime Minister's smug, self-important face.

It might sound now like I'm saying I do want Scotland to become independent. What I actually want is for the people of Scotland to do what they genuinely think is best for Scotland in the future. In the big scheme of things, David Cameron will be soon dead in his grave, and Scotland will still be Scotland, United to a Kingdom or not.

The best thing I've heard so far was a discussion in the street, which I sadly didn't catch all of. It started with a woman saying "Well I just hope they all know what they're doing, because you know they like a drink!" which I initially didn't realise was about this topic until the man replied "I just hope Scotland doesn't become another Ukraine."

That was quite brilliant: on the one hand, we know the Scots are all drunken ginger-haired kilt-wearing caber tossers, but on the other hand, the referendum could result in either civil war with foreign backing or the overthrow of a legitimate government through a military coup (depending on how far back your recollection of the recent history of Ukraine is). Totally plausible.

As far as I'm concerned, I have no opinion on Scottish independence. I'm a Henderson. We're from there. My daughter is a land-owner there. Okay, it's only a square foot of land, but it's land, right, Lady Amelia? I'm very much rooted in what might happen to people, places, and things in the future. While I have a love of history, I'm very keen on using it to avoid repeating old mistakes. As a species we're still not civilised enough to avoid waiting a couple of hundred years for another bout of boundary based bloodshed based on what is essentially What Our Keith Said About Our Dougie At Our Vera's Wedding.

We're a family on the verge of breaking up, and I'm okay with that. You shouldn't stay together for the kids. You shouldn't remain in an abusive relationship. You shouldn't maintain a nuclear fleet that makes you uncomfortable and is pointless. But you should still think about those kids, get some anger management counselling, and ditch the arsenal because sometimes it works in everyone's interests to still remain friends.

Soon, we may no longer be the United Kingdom. But that, to me, doesn't mean we can't be Great Britain. We're still an impressive island even if the people steering it are only in it for the money. Even if Scotland gets independence, the rest of the world are going to think of us as "Britain" for years to come. English people won't be deported from Scotland any more than vice versa. No one's going to be burning Billy Connolly DVDs in the street any more than Burton's strong lager plants will ban exports to Scotia.

I hate Westminster too. As I get older, I'm starting to think maybe it's time I lived in Mercia. It doesn't seem like the Seat of Power does anything for me either. Maybe things were better when this area was called Mercia? Maybe we will find oil in Codnor (Codnor Live Oil?) and rape the landscape there to finance a cry for independence from uncaring, capitalist London? Who knows?

Dear Scotland,

Go now, for good. I don't mean "Go. Now. For good." I mean "Go now: for good." Do the right thing for the good reasons, not the vague, blue-faced bullshit reasons. We know by the bricking-it edicts of our "leaders" that you can survive on your own, but it doesn't mean you have to, or will always be able to. Don't worry about splitting debts. Don't worry about NATO. Don't worry about me not buying any more whiskey.

Just do what is right for the future.

Best wishes,

Ian Henderson

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

5 Reasons Why I Haven't Blogged For Nearly A Year

Hello. It's been a while. In fact it was only a message on Facebook from my good friend Danny that actually made me sit up and say "Wow, you've not posted any crap for almost a whole year!" Hence the blog title.

So why? Why, Ed, why? Here's why.

1: There hasn't been anyone asking "Why haven't you blogged for almost a year?"

This is really selfish and not a little egotistical. When I started writing blogs about 10 years ago I did it because it was essentially an online diary to myself. It was back on MySpace, and in time I ended up with a regular readership of a couple of handsful of people who didn't seem to mind me complaining about work, talking about going for a dump, or trying to set the world to rights. But I enjoyed the limited attention. When I moved to blogging here, it was because MySpace was shit, and linking it to Facebook was better. It seemed easier to have a rant there that became a conversation than to rant and wait for replies to a blog.

2: No one has really pissed me off in the last 12 months.

One of the reasons I blog is as a distraction. It takes my mind off my worries, and is easily done drunk or sober - albeit edited sober. During quite a lot of the time I've been a blogger the world has been a personally shit place because of the threat of redundancy and other daily binds. I've simply not had that sort of bullshit hovering over me for a year or more. I like the people I work for and with, and I have great people around me. Life isn't perfect, but it doesn't have the worrying overtones of doom and fear it has had before. For that I'm grateful, and less likely to be distracted.

3: The world isn't really any shitter than it was a year ago.

I think I've reached the age now where the media just doesn't impact on me. I don't give a shit about "ISIS" because they're just another Taliban. I don't give a shit about Royal babies because some people are lucky enough to have babies every day. Yay them. I'm not the slightest bit bothered about UK politics because I genuinely can't tell the difference between Labour, Liberal, and Conservative. America seems to be sorting itself out. The Middle East is still the Middle East, with Israel still the most incredibly stubborn and cruel faction operating there (which makes me anti-Semitic despite my issue being political not religious) and people still haven't figured out that Iraq isn't really a nation.

4: I haven't had a really good poo lately.

The only really momentous occasion on the fecal front was when Mark Goulding introduced me (by phone, urgently) to the concept of "The Banksy". This is a poo that slides out, leaves an impression on the porcelain, and then disappears. That was singularly the best expression of a poo type I had heard in a long time. Other than that, I can't think of any reason to bring poo up. No, not like that. I've not been eating poo.

5: No desire to complain.

I have it pretty good, don't I? I have great family and friends, I love my job, and I don't have a serious illness or any immediate sign that my old mental health issues are rearing their ugly heads again. I could go into great and extended detail about the troubles experienced in the last 11 months and more, but you know what? It's all come good. But then that's the trouble with me: I'm half optimist and half pessimist. It makes the status of a metaphorical glass very difficult to decide.

On the one hand I try top be positive about everything, but on the other hand I spend time judging worst case scenarios. It's no bad thing. When the woman you love announces she has cancer, worst case scenarios - carefully considered - make you think "Let her be the blogger" and you find yourself reading her heartfelt outpourings and hugging her tight at the end of it. When you find yourself wondering what the future may hold, it's become easier to actually deal with what the future may hold than to write a blog that suddenly just doesn't seem that important, even though once it was a great way to vent frustration and find an aside to the daily grind.

All that said, it's something I've always enjoyed doing. I might even keep doing it. Not annually though. Maybe just when a cowpat looks like David Cameron, or I think about what it would be like to wake up mid-air, clutching a tiger wearing a parachute. That was a recent dream.

I've never really bitten a tiger. But I would, if I needed a parachute.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Almost Like They Listen, Or I Know Stuff #1

Good evening hockey fans. May I divert your gaze to a blog I did at the end of the '11-'12 season? The reason I get straight to the crux of the matter is I don't want to do another blog with ten bullet points. I can now do a shorter one based on the ten previous gripes. Yay. So, if you haven't read the linked text, here's the basics, based on each bullet point from the previous season, factoring in the post-season and summer decision making.

1) Ditch the "Bilingual coach" nonsense.

We didn't. We hired and ex-coach, and I wasn't happy. In fact almost all of the staff we hired were bilingual. But the coach was one I thought presided over an utter shower of shite when he was here before, and I was prepared to give him a shot after my initial disappointment. And he did not let me down.

2) Let the skilled forwards be skilled forwards.

It wasn't always there, but it was a great start. Prinicipally, the emergence of Lars Eller as an offensive threat, the proof that Alex Galchenyuk was (at least initially) a good first pick, and Brendan Gallagher demonstrating he is a direct replacement for Captain Brian Gionta by playing like our "C" did in his prime and being nominated for the Calder Trophy. For the first time in a long time the Habs could roll two scoring lines without looking desperate. We even welcomed Michael Ryder home, let him play his way, and he served us proud.

3) Have some defensemen who look like they could get served in a bar.

PK Subban won the Norris Trophy. He was, as far as I was concerned in 11-12 the only healthy NHL defenseman we had apart from Gorges. Yet we have ended the season with PK as the agreed elite NHL d-man. Gorges was solid. Markov practically came back from the dead. Diaz matured, and we added Davis Drewiske and Doug Murray for the sort of solid, dependable depth we need. My wish for last season was for Jarred Tinordi to get a shot at cracking the line-up, and he did not disappoint. All looks well on the Habs blueline, and the farm doesn't look too shabby either.

4) A General Manager prepared to take risks.

Holy shit! Drafting Alex Galchenyuk, an American recovering from a serious knee op? I don't think you can get a lot bolder than that. Unless you want to insert a 5'9" Giontalike into the line-up. Who then becomes the aforementioned Calder candidate playing alongside that 1st round pick. Marc Bergevin has taken the bull by the horns from the farm up, and openly admitted he uses the Chicago Blackhawks as an example of "how to do it right". I trust the guy. I didn't think I would, but I do.

5) Media acceptance that it's the 21st century...

Oh well, you can't have everything. Montreal is still Montreal...

6) Nail down Staubitz, and for gods' sake sign someone vicious.

Okay, we haven't got Staubitz, but we have signed someone better: George Parros, an undisputed heavyweight and arguably the best enforcer in the NHL these last 5 years. During the season, much of the "bouncer" work was left to the brilliant signing Brandon Prust, who is skilled enough to chip in offensively. We just weren't bullied like we have been for quite some time, and with the drafting of Michael McCarron and Connor Crisp in the spring, we're starting to look a little bit Bruins. And like it or not: that's a good thing.

7) Decidng what to do with Patrick Roy.

Meh. Back with the Avs. I'm quite happy with the Habs front office right now. All they have to do for me, the city, and the worldwide fanbase is improve on last season, and the previous six points all head in that direction.

8) Take the Old Yellers out back and shoot them.

I named Gott Slowmez: he's gone. Matthew Douche: he's gone. Brain (sic) Gionta: he's proved to be the leader the kids need, rather than the must-score must-assist guy he only is in EA NHL-world. Oh, and there was that other guy. The defenseman. Used to be a Laff. Tom something. Tom Cabinet? Something like that. Well, he's gone. Job done.

9) Take a bloody good look at recent Stanley Cup winners.

Done. By a GM with the inside track on a proven formula. And though things in all sports are prone to change, they don't change that much.

10) Not giving me a post-season with 10 bullet-points to rip the team on.

And they didn't. Result. Move along now...

So, to 2014:

I have no real expectations for the season other than an improvement on the last. What the team achieved, from ownership down, was 5-star, and although the end of the season and the brief playoff experience had the press raising their eyebrows and pointing a horrified finger at Carey Price as usual, I consider it a remarkable turnaround; a success.

So, beyond game 2:

You may have guessed now this is a blog I've "held fire" on posting. I really wanted to see how game one went. I didn't think it would go well, to be honest. Playing the Leafs in the first game of the season is always going to be more of a media circus than a true test of either team. Passion and rivalry on display is one thing, but a "game one" situation I think is always a bit like thrashing a car engine first thing on a freezing winter morning. It might be good to hear it's going, but you're not quite sure what damage is really being done.

George Parros got knocked out fighting Colton Orr. By George Parros. No one saw that coming, least of all George!

But losing didn't bother me that much, because one of the things that was quite positive in the press was how we could, technically, roll three scoring lines. The big "?" was apparently putting the youth movement of Galchenyuk-Eller-Gallagher together. Well after game one it seems to be a good decision.

There were obvious questions about defense, but when you look around the league's scorelines I think it's safe to say that the teams that showed good defense didn't really show much in the way of good offense. The fact remains it's really really early for all 29 NHL teams and the Calgary Flames.

I think this might be the tightest season in years, and I'm absolutely certain the Habs have a top 16 team, but the fact remains there are 27 other clubs chasing and studying the Blackhawks franchise. Dammit.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Weather annd the British Public: Kill! Kill! Kill!

I remember when all of this was fields.

I remember, when I was a kid, Spring was a time of crisp morning showers when bumblebees fought against the raindrops to do their randomly organised duty to nature, only for it to brighten up as I pattered home from school to play in the cool afternoon sun under a silver-lined cloudy sky. I remember the Summer that followed, with long hot days filled with water fights, uninterrupted Wimbledon, the raucous call of the often-spotted ice cream van, and the terror of trying to sit comfortably on a Hillman Avenger's vinyl seats wearing short shorts. Autumn brought with it the kicking of rustling leaves, a range of hues to make a Technicolour dreamcoat jealous, and stiff breezes that made kite flying a joy as we wrapped up to prepare for winter. And winter came, often unannounced, with Jack Frost drawing his eerie sketches on single panes of glass, alerted us to the impending days of sledging, snowball fights, candlelit evenings and endless Christmas card scenery.

Of course, none of that actually happened. They're just the bits I remember, because we remember the good bits. We talk about the good bits. Life with Britain's seasons is a lot like an Adam Sandler film: you remember the good bits, and sometimes it's full of good bits. But you can't remember how many good bits there were in a year, and you can't remember what year was particularly good. Apart from Happy Gilmore. Which is probably 1984 for me.

Now? Now we have a Spring where it rains a lot, and everything is damp. Summer comes, and we have two days of brilliant sunshine before it rains a lot, and everything is damp. Autumn is when we accept it rains a lot, and everything is damp. Then winter hits, and it rains a lot. Everything is damp, and occasionally frozen.

So stop moaning about how hot it is right now.

I've put off writing this blog because we are now a definite week into temperatures of 25+°C. I'm now officially sick of people complaining about how hot it is. This is the sort of weather my brain has filtered into my memory that weather should be like as August approaches. As I write this at 7 in the evening I can feel the sweat beading on my brow, despite the lovely can of chilled cider beside me, and the breeze from every window in the flat being open. This is how it is supposed to be!

Us British, we are never satisfied. When the summer is a miserable washout, we complain that it is. But when the following summer affords us the luxury of venturing out without waterproofs and an umbrella, it's "too hot".

Oh, and by the way, working Britain: there is nothing wrong with being "too hot". If you're too hot, then buy a desk fan. Drink lots of water. Take breaks to avoid dying if you work outdoors. Wear appropriate clothing if you know your indoor workplace is going to cause you issues. Don't pass out, because I bet 90% of us now don't get paid to be off sick. Or dead.

That said, a hot summer is dangerous. I know from experience that it can directly affect you not only physically but also mentally. Only last week I lost concentration and almost crashed due to the sun. A lass in a low-cut top was walking in my direction with far too much cleavage, and I didn't see some brake-lights until the last minute. Then a couple of days later I completely forgot what I was saying as a couple of women jogging in ridiculously short shorts passed by me.

Seriously, I think summer is probably the time men have more car accidents at low speed than any other time of the year. I'm surprised insurance companies haven't latched on to it. If they can say "Haha! You're under 25 so you are prone to being shit at the wheel!" then they can as easily say "Haha! You have a penis, and the weather's nice! We know you don't even notice road signs in town centres!" and they'd be right.

Women are no different, a lot of the time, I assure you.

So, here are my  tips for surviving the hot days in Britain:

  1. Wear loose fitting clothes wherever possible. Wear no clothes, if it won't get you fired.
  2. Drink plenty of fluid. I recommend anything made by Westons or Shepherd Neame. Or water. Yeah. Water. (Turn the tap off after use, or I may actually kill you.)
  3. Worship Cthulhu.
  4. Don't leave your pets in hot cars. By "hot" I don't mean a Subaru Impreza WRX STi V4G 1nA with mag alloy wheels and 35 profile tyres, a full 12-point rollcage and surgical grade crank and pistons. I mean physically hot.
  5. If it's too hot outside, and too hot inside, you need a fan. A fan can easily be constructed out of a sheet of paper, corrugated. If this is too much bother, or not effective enough, you need a big fridge to get in. Go do that.
  6. If it's "ridiculously" hot, move to Arizona, or Kenya, or outback Australia. Get a job digging drainage trenches there, or building new infrastructure. Do it for about £1 an hour, or maybe at gunpoint. Do it because there's literally fuck-all else you can do to support your family. Yeah, do that. Don't just flick over to BBC News on your 900-channel Skybox to see when some other weather is coming along for you to complain about. Just go. Shit, if I had the money to kidnap you and drop you off in Somalia, I would do.
  7. Dampen your clothing to aid your body's natural ability to regulate its internal temperature.
  8. Remember that if the environmentalists are right, this may be the last year you experience this weather.
  9. Eat a raw habanero pepper when the weather "gets on top of you" to take your attention away from the heat of the day. Especially the next morning. When it will probably rain.
  10. Seek professional climate advice rather than reading misleading blogs.
  11. Remember that if the environmentalists are wrong, this may be the last year you experience this weather.
  12. Convert to conservative Islamic ideology to minimise road traffic accidents.
  13. Discover a way to make it rain only at night, and maintain a constant 19.45°C temperature in the daytime. This is the Office of National Statistics agreed ideal temperature of British citizens who remember The War.
  14. Take up tennis. Make your kids do the same. Sooner or later Andy Murray will have to retire, and we can't leave it all to Laura Robson. That's sexist. We need something to complain about come June, whatever the weather.
  15.  Wear sunscreen. When the weather gets warm, you girls like the same thing as us boys do. So...
Thank you for reading. Now go and enjoy this brilliant summer. It's 1984, right?

Friday, 21 June 2013

How To Run Everything Smoothly In Modern Society

I know I shouldn't laugh at certain things in this day and age, but I always will.

Knocking the NHS is really easy, and I know capitalists and ultraconservatives do it frequently. I myself do it, although this has been largely when I've had a loved one on a ward staffed by one nurse, one doctor, two consultant golfers practitioners, a ward manager, a customer interaction manager, three H&S managers, a HR representative, and their team of 6 essential clerical staff. Because Angry Birds won't play itself.

I laughed at the news about the Care Quality Commission. It would appear that not only did the organisation cover up some serious issues with the management infrastructure and staffing levels of (a) particular hospital(s) but they also thought it appropriate to shred the evidence. Worse still, it transpires that the people initially responsible for suggesting everything was "okay" have no medical background other than how to buy paracetamol and Google "NHS". Yes, the CQC admitted that people involved in the decision-making and analysis of our dedicated medical professionals had no professional experience or qualifications to perform the role they were in.

I'm not surprised. It's a bit like appointing a bit-part actor and tabloid journalist as, for example, Secretary of State for Education. Or, perhaps, having major child welfare issues and assessments determined by data entry clerks and HR managers as opposed to seasoned, professional social workers with a background in psychology and field experience. Maybe it's even like having a major engineering company that the nation depends on run by people with massive experience in accountancy and banking... who can't change a lightbulb.

So, bearing all these brilliant decisions in mind, I think we can further improve the infrastructure and management of the entire nation by making the following appointments:

  • Foreign Secretary: Jim Davidson. Comedian Jim has a wealth of experience in detailing foreign people. He understands not only "wogs", but also "poofs". In a time where Britain is coming to understand that radical Islamists don't like people from their culture, and that they also don't like women being able to do as they have every right to, not to mention having a distaste for homosexuality, there can be no better person to send out - at massive taxpayer expense - than a violent racist homophobe under suspicion of being a sexual abuser.
  • Work and Pensions: Spongebob Squarepants. Although not a real person, or in fact a real species, Spongebob would be the ideal candidate to deal with affairs related to both the infirmity of the elderly and work-related issues. Having no concept of old age, Spongebob is one of those characters (like Top Cat - future Justice Minister) that has a broad appeal to all ages. In this age of fast-paced animation and government-fuelled nonsense media hype there is no reason why the public can't have trust in a square with no clear morality, who talks nonsense, and appeals to the lowest common denominator. Right, London? You twats.
  • Transport: This is a tiny island in the big scheme of the world, right? How hard can it be to determine when you can be somewhere, and when? Not difficult at all! So, as pretty much everyone I have ever met will testify, the best people to run our transport infrastructure are London Cabbies. They know everything. It doesn't matter if it's related to someone broken down on the M9, or temporary traffic lights because of a burst water main in Chelmsford. You can guarantee a 45-year old Cockney would have managed the situation better from the driver's seat of a Ford Mondeo with no MOT certificate and no insurance than anyone else on the entire planet. And he will only charge you £80 for every mile he has to travel.
  • Children's Welfare: This week we saw a Nabokovian nightmare made real by the imprisoning of a man for abducting a child and forcing her to have sex with him. Or we saw the imprisonment of a misguided and stressed professional teacher for having an illicit relationship with a young woman. I don't know any more. I won't pretend to. No one even knows what a paedophile is. I know, but then I read Lolita when I was 19. So I know what a hebephile is, but I've not heard it mentioned in the mainstream media once. So in light of recent news there is no better candidate for determining the welfare of children than Rolf Harris. Find me a proven fault with Rolf for the job.
  • Finance: Barry Scott. "The dirt is gone" indeed. Firmly in the same field as Squarepants, Robert, Mr. Scott has touched the lives (although not genitals) of thousands of Britons. His marketing portfilio alone is enough to warrant him the role, although his evident charisma and ability to read a script may overqualify him for the role. Anyway: it's him or Keith Chegwin.
  • Home Office: James Gandolfini. Because he was a topical anorexic homosexual, and that's what our understanding of current Britain is all about. Apparently he was great in the Sabrinis.
  • Governor of the Bank of England: Mamoud Ahmedinoujad seems perfect. We complain about what he does overseas, but like most foreign investors in the UK, as soon as he looks for the cheap dollar and gets it from privatisation he's quids in and the press go quiet. Iran is about 200% less of a threat to the British way of life than British Governments selling off British industry is. Seriously: name me a British company you're proud of. I certainly can't. Professionally, at least.
  • King of England: Olly Murs. But only if he delcares war on the USA to impose the Glee Extermination Act. Because even a hippy liberal* like me can see the need for extermination camps. Honestly. Now, go discuss. And that's not an Olympic event, Mail and Sun readers.

    *Note to Americans and other aliens: find the actual worlds I meant there and win £10 worth of game credits on an online game of your choice! Find the words you think I fucking meant and win £1 of the same, over a timeframe that suits me and your hopeful treatment.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

10 Reasons Why I'm Proud To Be British

Sometimes, I hear people say "You know what? You can't even say you're proud to be British anymore, because it makes you a racist!" I usually reply with something like "Well I'm proud to be British, and like most immigrants, I have good reason to be."

You should see the look on their faces. I've said I'm an immigrant. I'm white, I speak with an Ingerlish accent, and I'm not praying to Allah. How can I be an immigrant?

The fact is, I'm not an immigrant. My family tree is largely English recently, although my Grandpa Henderson researched our family tree so extensively its roots extend across most of Europe. So, in a wide timeframe, I'm of immigrant descent to the sort of Brit who at a positive mention of immigration suddenly finds themselves confused or apprehensive or in denial. So here's why I'm a proud Brit.

1) Take a Look Around.
Our cities boast some stunning architecture. We preserve it well, and it forms landmarks for people from all over the world to set as journey landmarks and meeting places, as well as photo opportunities and history lessons. Move out into the country, and you have some of the most luxurious landscapes you could imagine. Personally I love Snowdonia and the Peak District, but there isn't anywhere in rural England you can't go and find something beautiful.

While we do have a habit of spoiling the terrain with quarries and roads, and Monopoly-board new housing projects, as I've watched the world for forty-plus years I see that over time nature seems to lay claim to what it sacrificed. The new roads are tree-lined and picturesque. The quarries are spent, now a haven for nesting birds and the adventurous. The housing estates are no different to the new housing estates of fifty years gone. They are homes, they are communities, and they are divisive. They're just very British.

2) Taking the Piss out of Ourselves.
There's a reason the British Isles boast comedians as diverse as Billy Connolly, Jim Davidson, Frankie Boyle, Ben Elton, Bob Monkhouse, Frank Carson, Lenny Henry, or (dare I say it) Michael McIntyre: diversity. You see, many a Brit will call themselves a Scot, an Englishman, a Welshman, or Irish. And the associated little islands like the Isle of Man, Jersey, and Shetland aren't overly keen on being lumped in with a general consensus. It's why jokes based on regional culture are so much a part of our Britishness. Even in England you have a North-South divide. In the North you divide it by accent, as in the South. You can even find regional divisions of piss-taking isolated to a county, a town, a suburb. A street.

No one can present a public image of rotten-toothed, thieving, upper-class chav pomposity quite like the British. Foreigners just don't get it. And that's why we're the funniest people in the world.

3) Not Letting Anyone Take the Piss Out of Us.
We are one nation, united in the isolation of being an island. One nation united in conflict both personal and physical, in basic principles of identity, and in knowing that we are the only people with a right to take the piss out of us. We will allow our own idiot government to pass a law that is stupid, but God(s) forbid Europe pass a law that we think is as stupid! Europe passing it makes it more stupid! And that Sharia Law? You know? The ones the Muslims talk about us all having to stick to so we have to stop drinking and allow women to be stoned to death? Well that's taking the piss! We're not having that!

Well no. But then the Bible commends stonings, human sacrifice, and dying in the name of God, and very few of those faiths do it now outside the US Army. I, like many free-thinking Brits who have long since realised that all religion in bullshit, don't let any of these morons take the piss out of me. If it were left to me, any written text professing to be an article of faith that had passages condoning or promoting murder, torture, rape, oppression, or subjugation would be completely banned. But that makes me a communist, apparently, so...

4) Freedom of Speech.
I've never been big on this, and I'm not now. Freedom of speech seems to be a blanket term for sayin ort writin whateva the fuckya like wi out considrin consiqinces o yaction or chekin what ye say 1st b4 u say or rite it. The ability to be able to speak freely does not mean that speech that enables mass negative action should be done without rationalising it first, or understanding the consequences.

As I said to a black friend a few years ago, who was defending free speech: "So, if a white supremacist moved in next door and started leafleting the neighbourhood with BNP propaganda, you'd be okay with that would you?" "Of course not," she said. But that's free speech for you.

Nevertheless, it's a classically British trait that I'm proud we still have. Because as much as I hate its interpretation, I know how much worse things could be without it. Because I know when most people say "communism" they mean "Stalinism". Discuss. Because you can.

5) British Industry's Influence on the World.
Oh my word we have quite a track record, don't we? Regardless of what we actually did or didn't invent, for a very long time what we did was so bloody good that rather a lot of people copied or consulted us. Not only did we invent something as incredible as the Harrier jump-jet, no one ever bettered it. A steel industry that's the envy of the world? Check. Giving birth to the American industrial revolution? Check, my home town, check indeed.

We don't have a lot of that now. Industry is something we sell to investors in the name of global market economy. Our electricity is French. Our gas is German. Our water is Saudi. Even our language, on the keyboard I type on, is American by default. But this is all okay, because we spent the 80s and 90s ensuring that British people benefitted from this development of the Britsh way of life. What we have is a respected and powerful financial centre center that will never be usurped because wages in the key sectors are ever increasing.

And so...

6) The Welfare State.
Where would we be without doctors and nurses, and the horrible, heartbreaking hours they put in? Where would be be without a system that sustains us throughout hardship and crisis? We'd be in the Third World. That's where we'd be. Like it or not, the ability to be able to pay into a system that means your unemployed and disabled neighbours can enjoy a standard of living similar to your own is something to be incredibly proud of. Okay, we all know someone who leeches the system, but that's what systems are about. There are flaws. That neighbour who has never done a day's work in their life is fundamentally no better or worse than the banker whose off-shore bank account and legally registered business in Monaco funnel income that should be paid in UK taxes. Systems will always have scammers, and I think we all know deep down the smarter you are, the better educated you've been, the easier you will find it to cheat.

I love this country. I love the fact some poor sod from a war-torn faraway hell-hole can come here and we can support them, while we complain that we can't, reading these words on a £500 laptop or £200 smartphone paid for on the never-never. Don't like it? Move to where they came from.

7) Beer.
With perhaps the exception of Belgium, no smallish nation knows quite how to do beer like we do. For all the annoying Carlsberg, Guinness, Coors, and Fosters ads there are on TV, you know one fact of Britishness: most of our beers don't need that level of advertising because they sell themselves. Real ale is a self-propagating entity, and quite a classically pompous one at that. Proper brits don't drink Stella and WKD. They drink John Smiths and Bells. The discerning British drinkers won't stump for a Kronenbourg and Smirnoff chaser when there's a chance of an Exmoor Gold and a Lahphroaig.

Never mind the Weekend carnage of the binge-drinking modern age. That's a fad. We'll get over it. For every pissed-up 20-year old knocking back 20 pints of club-piss in a weekend, there is a 40-something like me who will drink that volume, of British booze, in a week, for less money, and still put more into the nation's economy than we'll take out of it in A&E and the court system. And I say this as an ex lagerboy who's been in both A&E and court, who drinks about 20 pints a week.

8) Integration of Culture.
We were short on men-folk come 1946, that's for sure. We'd been short of them before, and that's historically evidenced by our conquests and being conquered. Britain, as I mentioned earlier, is easily divided. What we succeeded in doing, sadly with a hefty dose of racism or ignorance, was rebuilding the nation to become something that not only could we be proud of, but that people could aspire to call "home".

But we did it. It hasn't always run smoothly, as best demonstrated by the invading Vikings or Normans, but we've always settled in the end, and it's no different now. Britain's favourite dish is from Asia, and many of our national sports players are descended from ex-colonies. That's what you get from integration. Never mind the horrendous and xenophobic concentration on the worst any culture might present in our daily newspapers. If you care that much about this sort of issue with your "Britishness" then do some genealogy. Find out where you're really from. You might get a shock, like someone I know, who is "whiter than white" with Roma and Hindu ancestors.

We're the archetypal melting pot, and we do it better than anyone.

9) (Not) Mentioning the War.
"The" War. Like there's only been one. That iconic moment from Fawlty Towers might just have inadvertently defined modern Britain for far too many deluded people. We don't mention it because America doesn't like being reminded it came into wars late. We don't mention it because the French were cowards. We don't mention it because we kicked Germany's arse, and they're outwardly our mates now.

Until we're pissed. Then we mention it a lot.

But I'm a proud and studious Brit, and I know without America, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Free France, Poland, Russia, and the Colonies we would have been screwed by 1941. You only have to study the input of the RAF personnel (a personal study of mine) during the Battle of Britain to see just how cosmopolitan we are when we face the worst. We haven't truly faced that since, and I am sure that's why the shortsighted amongst us so fear any seemingly sanctioned change in our culture.

10) Music.
This is our best export. I was told recently it started with The Beatles, but I know for a fact it started with with folk music we took to faraway lands. That music was what we think of as "folk" and it bastardised tribal music across the world until it finally amalgamated into modern music, with no specific genre other than people making music. Only time and education has changed musical taste and understanding, and that's probably why Ray Davies isn't richer than Paul McCartney.

I probably like more American bands as favourites than British bands, but what makes that interesting for me is how faithfully those bands talk about British bands as their inspiration. Never German, Spanish, Swedish or Czech bands. I love Pearl Jam. They don't ever sound like Led Zeppelin, right? And Gods bless Black Sabbath and Therapy?. And New Model Army. And Ultravox. And XTC. And Napalm Death. And The Beyond.

I could go on. But I won't. I've made my point: I love Britain. I have 10 very good reasons for loving it. If you can find 10 reasons for loving Britain that contradict what I've said here, then have at it. I'm British, and that makes me open to reasoned debate. If you're not open to reasoned debate, you've not read this far, or you get the Daily Mail delivered.

And to summarize:

In an overpopulated, war-torn world, where the talk has been of mutually assured destruction and environmental catastrophe, terrorism and the New World Order, I can camp at the foot of a mountain in Wales, drinking a bottle of Spitfire, listening to Sondura, while the Singh, Litvinjenko, Despres and Oladijawale families - who all speak my language - enjoy this very British experience themselves. We're all in this together. We can't afford a 5-star hotel in Dubai, like our government masters. But that doesn't matter...

Britain is better than anywhere, and we all know it.