Wednesday, 27 May 2009

I'd Rather Have Thieves Than Another Hitler

"It's not worth bothering. They're all crooks."

"What's the point? It won't make any difference."

These are the mantras of the apathetic voting age adult in Britain. I know. I used to be one. And the great thing about believing this is that the more you believe it, the more it becomes true. It's like if God really existed: the sheer weight of belief would compress into a physical form and you'd not need extremist groups or two thousand years of alternating between being violently oppressed and violently oppressing. The smiting would be there for all to see.

The fact is, it's true. It isn't worth bothering, because they are all crooks. There is no point, because it won't make any difference. Hang on though... If they're all crooks, then surely the fact they get away with it says something about those who elect them? The people who vote... consistently deliberately vote for crooks!!! So you, apathetic voting age person, have it in you to make a difference. Oh, and do you know why it won't make a difference whether you vote or not? It's not because nothing ever changes, it's because the system we have is the only one that works in a capitalist system without looking a bit like, y'know, Germany in the thirties.

So we're apathetic because of politicians. Yet isn't it ironic that at the moment this apathy is being jumped all over by "legitimate political parties" such as the British National Party, the UK Independence Party, and something I found a leaflet for today, called the UK First party, which had the same vague nationalist agenda as the BNP and UKIP?

The timing of the local elections couldn't be better for cunts (and I don't use the world lightly, I promise) like these. We're in the midst of a fake economic decline, engineered by massively rich corporations, and we distrust the main political parties on account of them suddenly not being the squeaky clean, dilligent and honest men and women it appears the public suddenly believe they've always been. We're propping up financial organizations with our taxes, we're in the midst of a backlash against eastern European workers in the UK as the dole queue lengthens, and finally there's the simple fact that everyone, including ethnic minorities, has finally had enough of the social embarrassment that is extremist political correctness.

You stick any/all of the subjects of political integrity, taxation, immigrants, political correctness or employment opportunity into your political manifesto, and you will, right now, attract the attention of the apathetic. Stick in a picture of Churchill in your party political broadcast and on your posters, and you'll get the attention of people who know roughly who Churchill was. But not what he stood for.

As a result, the main political parties are wheeling out their squeakier cleaner personalities to tell us that no matter how we feel about the current "crisis" in British politics, it's important not to turn to extremism as an alternative. And rightly so. I agree entirely. I don't want BNP councillors alive, let alone in positions of power. Fascism by any name is still fascism, and I know enough to know that Churchill (and let's not forget pretty much everyone else in Europe) fought the ideology for the greater good of the world, not just this tiny island nation.

Churchill, for all he was a ruthless and devious bastard (as the people of Coventry can horrifically testify, history fans) believed that the fight he fought was for the greater good of the whole world, not just us Brits. He knew that Britain didn't win World War Two. He knew the French weren't cowards. He knew that we all had to stand together to go forwards. He knew freedom had a huge price.

Fascists don't do freedom. Remember that if you hear some numpty extolling the virtues of not being a part of the EU, sending the Poles home, or how Britain didn't need Europe in 1939 and doesn't need it now.

Real Brit's don't do fascism. Real Brits know our ancestors largely came from Europe. Real Brits know politics is bullshit, whatever the philosophy. Real Brits know that when the chips are down, it's our spirit and our sense of fair play that picks us up and sets us on the right path again. That path, of course, which leads to the future. Which has been consistently brighter since we were invaded by the Romans. Even if it did go a bit pear-shaped when the bloody Christians turned up.

So if you hear someone say they're thinking of voting for the far Right (or indeed the far Left) just remind them there is that other option: continued apathy. Because if enough of us band together and sit and vote for X-Factor instead of the way our councils are run, then when next you hear someone lamenting the fact that more people vote for a caterpillar-eyebrowed Scottish hag than a caterpillar-eyebrowed Scottish thief, you can rest content in the knowledge that while our political system doesn't work, the apathy it generates provides comedians with material, and keeps extremist politics where it should be: on the internet. Being mocked.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Energy Efficiency Will Make You A Smelly Jumper Wearing Hippy.

Working in the Utilities industry as I do, I'm quite familiar with the whole concept of waste and efficiency, usage and metering. These are not interesting aspects of the industry, and perhaps less so in water than in gas and electricity. Which is fair enough, right? Because most people pay a flat rate for water, but gas and electric is metered, the prices varied and perceived as unfair. It's not that long ago that some companies jacked the price up by as much as 35%, but that's something your water companies won't do, mainly because we live in a country where the stuff we drink and wash in comes at us from above so often, if they did hike the price you'd find my colleagues and myself strung up from lamp posts. So it won't happen.

Yet.

Unless you live in a cave, or don't have the responsibility of paying an electricity or gas bill, or a water rates bill, you'll be aware that there has been suggestion in recent months that all houses should be fitted with "smart meters" so that the utiltiy companies don't have to go into your house to read your usage stats to work out your bill. I don't recall it being specifically referenced for water, but I know quite a lot of water meters aren't in houses anyway.

One of the alleged drawbacks of these smart meters is that the rollout will be incredibly expensive. The meters aren't cheap, and every household and business in Britain will need one. What the businesses mean, of course, is that they aren't cheap to install at a reasonable retail price without severely hitting shareholder pockets for years to come. Because, let's face it, it will be you and I that foot the bill for all these meters, whether we actually want one or not. Okay, under nationalization we'd pay for them too. But we'd not see our expense go to line the pockets of the already rich while our pockets get a significant fraction lighter.

The thing is though, it could actually, if we actually gave a shit about the world we live in, turn out to not only be the best thing to happen to our pockets since realizing unsliced bread is cheaper, but also a massive boost to our attitude to the environment and the impact we have on it. Let me explain my theory:

You have an internet connection. You awlways pay a flat rate each month, right? Wrong. I bet you that nearly everyone with a modern broadband connection will have something in their small print about a Fair Usage Policy (or Acceptable Use Policy). The short of it will be that you only pay your set fee as long as you don't spend 24 hours a day downloading hour after hour of music, film and television, legally or otherwise. Once you start using considerably more than your Provider's "fair amount" then you'll get charged, and in some cases you'll be charged quite a considerable amount. But the reality is that the majority of us will ever even touch on that limit, let alone exceed it.

How does this apply to gas, water, and electric? Simple. You can apply the same code to these utilities as you can to movies, TV and music dowloads. You know damn well that if you have a bath every day you'll feel great and be clean. But you know it will use a lot of water. So you shower twice a day, because the media tell you everyone around you thinks you stink of shit or B.O. And all winter you have the central heating on, warming those underarm germs, heatin' up the ol' crotch bacteria. So you keep buying into the stinky hype, and you keep using that precious energy.

And then they bump the price up 35% again because we're running out of oil. Again.

Stop showering twice a day. Wear a nice warm sweater around the house instead of a teeshirt and the heating cranked to 30. You will notice in next to no time that A) You don't actually stink, and B) Your utility bills will go down a significant amount. In short time you'll then realize that you can reduce your energy use even further by getting food out of the freezer in the morning to defrost for the evening meal, rather than nuking it in the microwave every day. You'll boil your veg in less water. You'll use that water in your stock. You'll use rainwater for the plants, instead of running it from the tap. You'll buy more fresh veg. You may even, shock horror, think about growing your own.

It's amazing, once you realize you have been paying through the nose for something, how quickly you can adapt. So while none of the utility companies will introduce their own pre-determined fair usage policies, those amongst us that aren't yet that bothered about rising costs will soon find those that are bothered about more than just costs are defining fair usage policy, and redefining the way we live our lives and the way we're beholden to corporations out to skim profits to the shareholders in the easiest way possible: metering us and artificially raising fuel prices.

I'm not saying we will all do it. But I am saying that those of us that enjoy the finer things in life but don't have a huge income will soon learn that you can still enjoy cool things like PCs, nights out on the town, overseas vacations and suchlike, while still having a positive impact on the environment, just by adjusting your attitude to what you use in the home. And we could do it. Because historically speaking we've never really been as beholden to the massively rich in our daily lives as we have today. I don't see it as a trend we're likely to tolerate for another fifty years.

You never know, we might even get our public utilitites back in that time. But I won't be holding my breath. Not at 88.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Politicians Conning Us? And We're Shocked?

It doesn't seem that long ago that we, as one nation, were up in arms about the revelation that our politicians have sex with people that aren't their spouses. Then it got really gross when it was disclosed that John Major had been shagging Edwina Currie. I can handle our politicians banging high class hookers and snorting lines off the tits of ex-models, but doing each other? There's something just not right there, especially when you look at the pair involved...

In my time on this earth, it has seemed not a week has gone by that someone in a position of power has done something wrong. I'm not talking about the political opinion type wrong, of going to war instead of healing the sick, or an open door policy on immigration instead of encouraging people into key skills training the country needs. I'm talking about the bungs, the backhanders, the deals and the spin. The bullshit.

Now it has come to light that the men and women that make decisions on our tax-paying behalf are taking a few extra cuts here and there, in the form of their expenses claims. We've had one using expenses to pay to have a moat around his mansion cleaned. Another spent £400 on a workman to change lightbulbs, and even one spending £300+ on horse manure. All of this paid for by the taxpayer, no less.

Well I'm not surprised. And frankly, I don't care either.

You see, what we seem to have forgotten in all this is that these people also have their wages paid by the tax payer. What we've also seemed to forget is that if we, the workers, put in an expenses claim, then that product or service then becomes the property of our employer. Since technically we're their employers, you have to ask yourself: Do I want £300 worth of manure or a nasty big trench around my house? Because I bloody well don't.

We pay their wages. We pay their wages, and they make decisions for us. Decisions like not paying our nurses very much at all for doing possibly the most heartbreaking, tiresome, exhausting and valuable job there is. Decisions such as sending young men and women off to die in a pointless, fruitless, heartless foreign war, but without actually sending them there with the equipment they desperately need to do that job effectively, be it killing or cooking. Decisions, it must be noted, such as deciding their own wage increases, consistently above those of the armed forces, emergency services, health services and council service staff.

All the while, almost all are shareholders of some company you can bet your last penny of this moneygeddon they have a finger in the pie of.

So why are we suddenly so bothered about these expenses claims? In fact, are we that bothered? Or are we, once again, being told we're bothered by newspapers continuously losing circulation to the 24-hour news channels and tinternet? Do we really think that this new revelation about "Whitehall Sleaze" is new phenomena? In the big scheme of things, we're talking about people who not only earn in excess of £80,000 a year, but have by dint of their occupation a licence to adapt laws to suit their needs, and claim things based on their need to be at the centre of the nation's political machine: London.

I really don't care that they've been bending the rules. We licence them to do this simply by appointed them as watchdogs of themselves and each other. We like to think we live in a democracy because we (sometimes) vote these buggers in and out. But the problem with government is that no sooner have you voted a government out, another one steps up - at our instigation and expense - to take its place. And no matter what we wish of them, they always always get the last laugh.

We're morons, you and I, because we read about it, get angry about it, and do nothing about it.

Possibly because that would be, like, y'know, terrorism.

Fuck freedom. We don't deserve it.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Britain: Statistically A Nation Of Paedophiles

I know I'm not an easy going person. I know this because pretty much every day I turn on the news in the morning and find an item that pisses me off pretty easily. I come home and browse the internet for news, and the same is true. I don't know about anyone else, but I have iGoogle as my homepage, with the BBC website as my main feed for news items. Let's have a look and see what it presents for my reading pleasure right now, shall we?

"Appalled" Cameron Leads Payback.
Exam Pupils Hurt In Duct Collapse
Man Admits Jersey Care Home Abuse
UK Jobles Total Hits 2.2 Million
Father Accused Of Daughter Murder

Wow. Not what you might call good news or light reading. But what is encouraging about these stories is that not one of them - initially, at least - is a dire warning of how many paedophiles are lurking on our street corners and watching our schools through binoculars from seedy bedsits. Which seems to be what the adults of Britain seem to think is the case.

I say this based on a brief debate at my Nana's 94th birthday party, this weekend just gone. Don't get me wrong, it in no way went so deep as to spoil the event, but it did leave me with a sour feeling in my stomach that people in this day and age really are led more by what they see on TV and read in the tabloids than is actually evidenced by the world around them. Because if you would believe what no less that four grown men and women (all the plus side of fifty) believe then the reality is that there is a paedophile on every street corner in Britian. So let's look at that figure in detail.

According to recent statistics, the population of Great Britain stands at approximately 61,610,000. If you take into account that the average street has less than 100 properties on it, that translates to at least 616,100 streets. But then you have to consider that there are lots of little cul de sac's of just 10 or 20 houses, so you can adjust that figure to closer to 800,000. Now consider how many streets cross other streets, and you are left with t-junctions, crossroads, roundabouts and triangles that put the potential number of corners in Britain at in excess of 1,700,000. That's not even including junctions at major roundabouts and motorway sliproads!

So, at that ratio you have an adult population of approximately 40,000,000 with 1,700,000 street corners. That's almost 24 adults for every street corner in Britain. For just one of those adults to be an active paedophile you have to discount the seriously disabled, those serving in the armed forces overseas, and those in hospital or prison. So let's drop that figure another 10% and say 21ish. Factor in that I'm not a paedophile, you, the reader, isn't a paedophile, and you can probably, for the sake of my sketchy mathematics, round the figure down to 20.

That's right. 1 person out of the 20 for each corner must be a paedophile. This is quite a frightening statistic. This means that when you're watching a premier league football match, there are at least 2 paedophiles potentially on the pitch, in excess of 7 of them in the stewarding and concessions staff, and (at a Manchester United game) 3810 in the stands, watching the game. That's up to 3819 paedophiles attending a football match in Britain at any one time.

Oh the plus side, when those 3819 paedophiles are at the game, your kids are a small but significant percentage safer on the streets. Of course, you could make them even safer by not letting them near corners.

I'm joking about this, of course. But it's just like the ridiculous statistics that the press throw at us every day in their attempt to keep us ill-informed and stupid. They're meaningless unless put into context. I'm not going to stop my kid going out to play with a group of friends because there's the potential that there might be a paedophile at some point between my house and the park. Especially when you factor in even more tiresome stats that have the press salivating, like "30% of all victims of sex crimes are known to their attacker". Surely that would mean that if I was with 19 people from our road, standing on a corner, regardless of which one is a paedophile, there are 5 people likely to try and bum me at some point.

Even the women.

The point my family were trying to make, to drag this rant back to it's origins, is that 7 years old is too young for a kid to be playing with other kids in the street or on the park. And this horrified me not because they really felt that, but because I remember going to the park with my friends when I lived in Breaston, which made me no more than 6 years old. They even argued how times had changed, and had I wanted to press the issue I could definitely have cited examples from current press paranoia that adults have been fucking kids since before I was born, regardless of what the percentage was back then. Probably still high enough to fill a Division 3 stadium on a Tuesday night, I'd wager.

The fact is that that kids in packs are unlikely to become the target of paedophiles. My 7-year old traipsing off to the park with his mates puts him in no greater physical danger than he is in while he's at a football match, or in a shopping centre with us. If so great a percentage of kids are abused by someone they know, that means of the easy 100+ people we know, statistically someone would definitely physically harm him. But had I suggested that of the 5 people at the table berating me for letting him go off with his friends aged 6 to 13, that statistically one of them had the potential to violate him, they would probably never have spoken to me again.

We live in a society where we are encouraged, despite the evidence, to trust our public officials, civil servants and journalists, while actively discouraged from trusting our friends and our neighbours, our families and our community. We are told on the news that our kids lives are at risk at every step, interrupted every 17 minutes with advertisements telling us to fill them with saturated fats, sugars, and chemicals, or how they should all focus on greed and want, indoors, in front of the TV. If this is how we want our children to play in this day and age, then my wonder is more that if kids are so at risk of paedophiles on the streets, where are the paedophiles all going to go when no kids play outside at all?

You'll not be seeing my kids at Cub Scouts or Brownies, let alone school.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Shout "Fire!" Watch Them Scurry.

We had a fire. I blogged about it on Monday. Although, in retrospect, calling it a fire doesn't seem quite right, but to call it a "lengthy smoulder" undervalues the damage it did to our household psychologically. So let's stick with "fire".

The culprit in this incident, it transpires after a visit by an engineer from the manufacturer, is not technically the cooker. Nor is it the gas burner under the oven that's a fraction of an inch above the floor and has been conntinually heating the floorboards since we bought the oven 5 years ago. Heating them so severely, in fact, that they resulted in the charring that was visible in the photo I posted.

Anway, onto the engineer visit itself. My wife contacted the manufacturer first thing yesterday morning. They said they'd get an engineer out to look at it on Monday the 11th. And for all the stress she'd had the day before, and the restless night of wondering if there was invisible smouldering taking place under the floor, she accepted this arrangement and called me to let me know. Which she did with such a resigned tone that I didn't go "Fucking what? What the fuck do we cook on until then???".

Instead, I said I'd ring them myself and try to get something a bit earlier. Which I did. Calmly. I explained that I thought, considering the nature of the complaint that waiting a week for an engineer to come and examine a faulty gas appliance that was our only source of cooking our food might be considered a little less than an appropriate timeframe for dealing with the issue. I also suggested that both the Trading Standards office and the Fire Investigation Services (the latter whom I'd already spoken to) would probably agree with me. They said they'd see what they could do.

They phoned me later. "We'll have an engineer out to you tomorrow, Mr Henderson. Between 10 and 12."

And d'you know what? He was at our house at 11.30, and the missis was delighted that not only was he very candid about the flaw (sic) but immediately arranged for a new cooker to be delivered that would be okay on a hardwood floor, then examined the old cooker to make sure that the grill and hob could still be used in the meantime. Which they can.

As a postscript to all this, the London Fire Investigation Service have a case file on our specific model of cooker, which is being dealt with by the Trading Standards Office. You can - should I reveal the make and model - go online and read a few other horror stories of the cooker. And out of all this it turns out the cooker was designed only to be used on a stone/concrete/ceramic surface. They knew it would burn wooden floors but neglected to tell the marketing and sales people.

Or perhaps they did, and, as I suspect, they forgot. Or didn't care.

The thing is though, I did mention in no uncertain terms when I was talking to Trading Standards, that my issue is not just with getting the cooker replaced and the floor fixed. I am more concerned that there are other cookers out there that may be stood on a nice stone floor now, that will end up in a few years time as a 2nd hand item in a working class suburb on an old wooden floor, with the owner ignorant of the danger, and the trading standards law no longer applicable (as it expires 6 years after purchase) to give that family any legal rights if their home is damaged.

I worry that had I let my dejected missis go with the flow and accept the late visit of the engineer and the initial lack of help from the Trading Standards enquiry office, that not much would have happened. It's a fact of this recent event that until I actually mentioned phrases like "risk of serious injury", "potential death trap" and "loss of life" that it seemed anyone other than the London F.I.S took the issue seriously.

If you don't poke these businesses with a theoretical big sharp stick, they will sit on their hands and offer nothing but empty platitudes. And to point the finger of probable blame one more time: click here.

Monday, 4 May 2009

The Black Day That Is Jedi Day

Since I first heard the pun in the late 80s, I have always made a point of remembering May 4th. I don't know exactly when people started referring to it as Jedi Day (and I've read that for some reason people also say it's May 25th), but I still like to randomly tell someone "May the fourth be with you" on this most special of special baby-jesus-beating days. And it does. Jediism is way more plausible and relevent than Christianity.

But that's not what I'm blogging about. I'm blogging about The Dark Side of the Fourth. Like, today marks the 30th anniversary of the dawn of Thatcherism. Yep, 30 years ago today, tired of unions with too much power and a government with too little control of the econo
my, we saw our parents surrender their votes to the Conservatives, and unwittingly to a style of government and economics that we are paying the price for even now. In one generation we surrendered rights, controls, and many more subtle systems that we thought didn't work, and placed British life firmly in the hands of people out to make as big a profit as possible, with no regard for the working man at all.

You may think this is just the socialist in me saying this, and you may be right (wing). But the evidence is all there. Our taxes no longer adequately subsidize public transport, our roads are in the worst state I think they've ever been, and the public utilities no lo
nger represent anything like value for money unless you're a shareholder or you're employed at management level by them. Nowadays the working man who would once have got the bus to work can honestly say it's more efficient on his pocket to get in the car and sit in a traffic jam for an hour.

Oh the "plus" side of Thatcherism, of course, there is the advantage that it became much easier for us poor low wage earners to buy crap we don't really need. Never had it been as easy to be offered credit, and of course we didn't really care that we were all paying about an extra 75% for what we'd bought, because now we didn't need to save for the crap
. Why rent your telly for a fiver a month, when you can get a deal on a better TV and a VHS for only 50% more of that amount over the next five years? Why save for a new Austin Princess when you can get it on HP and end up paying the price of a Jaguar XJ6 for a car that looks like a slice of cheese and drives like a pissed seal on thawing ice? Why rent when you can own a home? Why buy what you need when you can get what you want on the never-never?

Of course, I'm as guilty as anyone else in all this. I have 2 maxed-out credit cards, and an overdraft limit that's regularly exceeded. But then I'm also lucky in that those debts are readily manageable and don't affect my ability to keep a roof over my head. But for thousands of others, now the bubble has burst, it's suddenly all got a bit tricky. The banks have looked at the money they've loaned out to us plebs, and they've decided there's no more to be lent, despite the obvio
us fact that those of us that are borrowing from them are not only paying them back, but paying them back with interest and statutory charges aplenty. Oh they have money alright. Pots of it.

Had we had a genuine Labour Party for the last, ooh, let's say 8 years, I have no doubt we would not be in the mess we're in now. Sure, our taxes would be higher, but the restrictions on lending, and corporate responsibility would have been been aimed to protect society as a whole, rather than to maximize shareholder profit and squeeze as much out of the common man as the advertizing campaigners and the marketing gurus could manage.

If you think I'm wrong, well then you really don't know the basics of socialism, and you should probably stop watching Schwarzenegger movies.


On a final black note, we had a fire in the kitchen today. It was under the oven, and most definitely one which could, had it not been detected early, have resulted in the house burning down.
At first it just smelled like someone was having a BBQ because we could smell something like burning wood. Oh how little we did know.

However, once my wife had dished up dinner and turned the oven off, it became clear there was smoke coming from the oven itself. Perturbed, she sprayed cold water into it, just in case it was some food that had got lodged in there somewhere, and was now charring, possibly damaging the oven itself, at a time when we simply don't have the cash to be worrying about having to fork out for new appliances.

To cut a long story short, we ended up spraying the entire interior of the oven with a fine mist to determine that the smoke was in fact not from the pipes or burners of the oven at all. Once it cooled down we moved it away from the wall and were greeted with the disturbing (and still smouldering) image seen above. I am not one to panic, but I will admit I was immediately struck with a nausea so sudden, I did physically struggle to keep my dinner down. An immediate call to the insurance company was no great help, and tomorrow we contact the manufacturer, because it may be that this life-threatening fault is something we should have been made aware of some time ago. Trust me, I won't be letting this pass by.

For the record, the oven was bought on credit. And guess what? We just finished paying for the fucking thing. Thanks, Mrs. Thatcher.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Pornify Your Cruftiness

I don't know how it came to be, but somehow, about a year ago, someone directed me to a link about poodle art in the USA. Now, I don't know about anyone else who's read this far, but to me the whole concept of "poodle art" boiled down to people wtih the curly haired pseudo-canine breed displayed in soppy, dreary, kitsch watercolour, oil, photo and possibly even pasta form.

Alas. No. There are more like this. There are the racehorses. And the sheep. There are the goats, the hippies, the pirates, the businessmen, and the Simpsons. Amazingly of all there is the... tart.


When I first saw this picture I laughed. But on reading a little further it became clear my laughter was not only justified but taken a level further. Because someone somewhere decided that this dog should not only not be a potential winner in the already fucked-up realm of poodle art, but somehow constituted a travesty of human existence and accepted moral codes.

Yes, this dog constituted something that while technically within the boundaries of screwy mentalist obsessive dog ownership, also constituted something far worse. This dog suggested that there was a sexual nature to the way that people think about how they enter the competition. There was the suggestion that while imagination is clearly an essential component in the competition, using your imagination in a purely fun and ridiculous manner might not be the end of things. No, there might be something more sinister.

It has been suggested, believe it or not, that the image above is, and I quote, "the sexualization of the imagery of competitive canine art."

Yep, someone, somewhere, looked at this picture and thought "You know, looking at this dog, I can see how someone can imagine a genuinely sexual nature to it, and therefore it's not fitting for our compeition."

Which means, however you look at it, that someone looked at this dog and thought "Someone, somewhere, is going to look at this dog dressed as a French Lady of the Night, and want to fuck it. Which begs the question:

"If you think about people fucking dogs, how much of that time is spent thinking about people fucking dogs dressed up as other things?"

Okay, there is something certainly sexy about the cliché of the French Tart. But there is nothing sexy about the poodle. Combining the two is no more sexy than trying to imagine, say, Britney Spears giving you a blowjob if her mouth has been repaced by a belt sander. Or if you're a woman reading this: imagine a dildo made of scouring pads and our beards.

What you are left with, then, is a competition where rather than look at a dog and think "Hahaha! The owner is inventive and has a ludicrous imagination!" someone actually thought "At some level, this dog is worth fucking, whatever the price." And that's what's wrong with the picture, more than anything else. While those of us looking at the pic, and indeed reading the blog now will know, what we have here is a dog made up to look daft for the sake of comedy and the fun of the competition. What the twisted and the genuinely corrupted will see is something of a genuine, humourless, immoral nature. And it's those people you want to worry about when you pick your kids up from school. Because if they can think about the sexual nature of pets, who knows what they think about your letterbox while you're taking your kids to school.

Yeah, you thought I was going to go in a different direction then, didn't you?