Old Man/New Year

For those of you who have been around long enough to formulate the question, but not long enough to have gleaned the answer, I will myself embark upon the New Year Blogging Schedule by addressing the conundrum that I know will be occupying your holiday brains: why do my blogs so rarely tackle the issues of the day?  Well, it is because what is topical on the days that I write these little nosegays seldom remains so by the time I publish.  Time moves on and I post so far in arrears that it has often left the building before I get round to hitting the button.  So, New Year/New Man etc etc and so on, here’s what I intend to do about it.  Henceforth I will collect all my ‘musings’ (I hope you will excuse the word – propriety will not allow me to use the word that is closer to the truth) into two piles: General Twaddle and Topical Nonsense, the contents of the latter, I will be able to drop into the stream of the former like a turd into the Thames.  It will be seamless: you will not spot the joins – even when a general topic suggests itself to me mid-topical rant, I will be able to accommodate it by instigating a third pile, a ‘somewhere between mis-understood topical issues and palpable tosh’ pile, which would occupy the space heretofore occupied by The Sun.

Today’s little time-waster is itself almost topical – a chance to wish you all a happy, peaceful and primarily healthy New Year – but already I have managed to drop a full day behind.  I am no great fan of the New Year Celebrations – it makes me too aware that the years that lay ahead are very much fewer than those that lie behind – and it takes me until today to resign myself to the bloody-minded rationalities of the year ahead.  First among them is my birthday.  I am 64 years old today.  In the days of my youth, that would have put me just one year shy of my pension (and judging from those at that time around me, probably two years from death) but what it does today is make me wonder exactly when it will be that I actually start to feel my age.  When I was a boy, men of the age I am now had worked much harder and for much longer than I have.  Most of them had fought in the war.  Women had kept the home fires burning, brought up the kids, controlled the purse-strings, managed house and home and husband and lived with the knowledge that they deserved far more than the second-class status that they then endured.  They had definitely all earned the right to feel a whole lot older than I do today: old enough for a young Paul McCartney to assume that 64 was as close to ‘end of life’ as it gets.

Now don’t get me wrong here, I do not feel like a spring chicken – probably just as well given the current avian flu situation – I start every morning with an array of pills that serve to remind me that my blood pressure and my cholesterol levels are not at all what they should be and that the little time-bomb inside my prostate is still ticking, but I don’t actually feel anything like as old as I expected to and I worry that this just could be the year when it all drops in on me.

I’m doing what I can, but I don’t want to allow staying alive to take precedence over being alive.  What I most desire from this year is that I can end it in the same kind of fettle as I head into it and that the world, itself, is still there for me to be part of on my 65th birthday.  It’s not too much for an old man to wish for is it?

Anyway, I wish you a Happy (belated) New Year one and all.  May your God/Boss/Wife/Mistress/Children (delete as appropriate) grant your every wish.

Family Blog

Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

I was idly searching for ‘growing older’ information on Google* when I stumbled across one of my own blog posts and then a completely different blog by somebody using my name.  I was taken aback.  Am I not the only Colin McQueen on the internet?  Well no, indeed I am not.  I am, for instance, not the Colin McQueen who publishes the aforementioned ‘Family Blog’, who drives a camper van and plays classical guitar.  I am not the Colin McQueen who publishes a ‘Stratum Security Blog’ (although I could well be the only one who has no idea what that means) and I am not the Colin McQueen who is ‘a finance professional of over 25 years experience’ and therefore (obviously) attempting to flog you insurance online.  I am not the artist on Twitter and I have never published a ‘Fund Manager Fact Sheet’ although I might well do so as soon as I discover what it is.

Shaken by the knowledge that there are multiples of me out there, I decided to click on ‘Images’ in order to check out what I look like and glory be, I appear to be a dozen different people, none of whom look anything like me.

Now, part of me wants to follow the McQueen Family Blog – they look a decent bunch – particularly since I see that Colin is just a year older than me and drinks beer in the sunshine, but it feels uncomfortably like stalking, so I’ll give it a miss… just as soon as I’ve finished reading one last post.

This ‘Other Colin’ it transpires reads and reviews books, paints and, as far as I understand it, has extensive conversations with God whilst he is driving.  Not by mobile phone, I hope – I don’t wish to share my name with a law breaker!  Just for the record I should, perhaps, point out that I (for the sake of clarity, I will henceforth refer to myself as The Original Colin McQueen) am unlikely to review the books I read, not because they are unworthy of review, but because I am unworthy of reviewing them.  I have not painted properly since ‘A’ level when, if I’m honest, I still didn’t paint properly.  I scraped a pass because, I fear, nobody could actually prove that it was bad.  And finally, I do not converse with God whilst I am driving, although I do have fairly protracted conversations with myself from time to time (not to mention the occasional somewhat shorter and louder conversations with other drivers).  Please don’t get me wrong here, I most certainly am not saying that taking the opportunity to chat with the almighty whilst the tarmac whistles by is a bad thing – I’m just suggesting that ‘Other Colin’ might want to check that he is not actually in the midst of an on-going chatting with the Sat-Nav scenario.

They (who?) say that you should never Google yourself – although, to be fair, I didn’t: I Googled something I wanted to know and, Google being Google, it decided to throw one of my own blogs into the mix and, having done that, decided to throw half a dozen namesakes at me.  I suppose with a Christian name like Colin, they would all have to be the same kind of age as me – I can’t imagine that anybody has been given that name in the last 50 years – and I’m pleased to report (in my mind at least) that none of them look as young as me, nor anything like so much fun of course!

Oh, and in case you’re wondering what I Googled in order to find myself vicariously delving into the life of this fellow Colin McQueen (Blogger) well, if I’m honest, I forgot for a second the title of my own little bloggy potpourri and I typed ‘Getting On’.

It’s an age thing…

*Other search engines are available – although nobody uses them.

Nothing to Report

I have spent so long writing about what happens to me that I have quite forgotten the nub of my problem: nothing ever happens to me.  I am not an adventurer or a socialite, I cannot report from the centre of the Amazonian Rainforest nor the shadow-lit back booth of a reality star lined nightclub.  I do not move in the kind of circles that would allow me to report on the foibles of the great and the good.  I walk about a bit, occasionally I trip.  I don’t have much to say.  If I start a post with ‘It rained this morning’ it is not the prelude to some fantastical recollection of a financially overloaded neighbour building himself an ark on his back lawn, it is merely a statement of fact.  End of.  I don’t know anybody who has been into space: most of my friends can just about manage the Co-op.  If I made attempts to ‘drop names’ they would not hit the ground with much force.

I have a steady readership that just about troubles double figures and the nearest I have ever been to going viral is when my wife had a cold sore.  I have never attempted to make money out of this thing – I fear, if I did, I might end up in negative equity.  For all those bloggers who decide to ‘follow’ me in order to sell me the means to make my fortune out of blogging, I can only say that I really wouldn’t bother if I were you; this is exactly all this blog will ever be: an exploration of nothing in particular, the odd trip into wishful thinking and an occasional wander through the land of make-believe.  All I can do is meander around anything that I think might amuse you and allow you to do the same for me.  I won’t change what I do in order to make money because a) I have nothing to change it to and, b) nobody in their right mind would pay for it if I did.  Anyone that actually reads this over an extended period will already know quite enough about me, thank you very much.  In the case of yours truly, less is definitely more.

I run, but I am not a runner.  I am not going to buy protein drinks, mega-vitamins or super-shoes.  Try me on Mars Bars.  I don’t need professional counselling or well-being advice.  I need chocolate and wine and diversion.  I do this thing simply because I want to.  It’s what I do.  I’d like to think that I occasionally raise a smile, but I seriously doubt that it is anything that anyone would ever pay for.  (How would I charge: a pound a grin?  Would I have to offer refunds to the straight of face?)  If I could become rich through people laughing at me, then I think I might already be loaded.  I would be very happy to ‘make $millions’ from this twaddle, but unless thousands of people suddenly decide that they want to learn about everything that never happens to me, it’s just not going to happen.

I will carry on telling you about the meagre salmagundi of my life, about the dustbin men, the gas fitters, my maladies and my hobbies; I will continue to bore you with my rose-tinted recollections and half-baked theories.  I will implore you to educate me whenever bafflement with daily existence proves to be too much for me to process.  In short, I will continue to report at some length on my vacuous self and you can choose whether you wish to read it or not – and all without charge.

One day, I’ll write a post about it…

Monochromatic Me

Despite the fact that I know nobody will read them, I cannot resist the urge occasionally to write ‘guides to’, be it History, Subversion or Gardening; I just can’t pass up the opportunity to expostulate on what I know nothing about whilst my readers showing, as usual, far greater insight than I, do not bother to read in their droves.  (Earlier in the year, having decided once again that I just ‘couldn’t do this anymore’, I stopped posting altogether and still scored more readers than I did last week!) I love to write these things but, weirdly, according to WordPress, what my readers most want to read about is me – and there is so little of it to go around.  My life is so uneventful that it could be a Zoom concert by James Blunt: why anyone would want to know anything about it I cannot imagine.  None-the-less, my life is an open book – albeit full of empty pages.  If somebody were to make a film of it, I would be the intermission – Pearl & Dean would not concern themselves with the insertion of various advertorial mini-epics in preparation for my main event – never-the-less, every now and then, as fascinating as I find myself, I have to take a break from it and, ironically, the cinema is the ideal place to do so – isn’t it?

Well no, of course it isn’t.  Somebody – possibly the God of Pissing Off Older People – has seen fit to change it all.  There was a day – almost certainly pre-decimal currency – when I loved a diversionary couple of hours at the pictures.  It was while I could choose my flavour of Poppet by the scoopful; before anybody even thought of salting the Butterkist; before some bright soul changed a Mivvi into a Solero.  It was a lifetime before a trip to the cinema became the stress-fest it is today.

It starts with buying the ticket.  I don’t want to choose where to sit.  I want to be given my ticket by the en-kiosked, pinch-faced woman with the creosoted hairbun and all the charisma of a mackerel fillet.  I am happy to be told where I will be sitting.  Just give me the simple choice, ‘Stalls or Circle?’  I do not want the pressure of selecting row and seat number.  I’m going to wind up seated behind a giant anyway.  I really don’t need to choose where I’m not going to be able to see the film from.  Just give me a ticket stub and a woman with a torch to light my way.  Just give me a pack of Olde English Spangles to suck in peace.

I don’t want to sit behind somebody eating nachos through a megaphone.  I really don’t want to sit in front of a family of four sucking eight gallons of Coke through a sump.  I do not want to sit aside two people who are determined not to let the main feature get in the way of a perfectly good conversation.  Who goes to the flicks to watch a film: that really is not the point at all.  Who wants to focus on a screen that is smaller than the TV in an average student flat?  Who wants to surrender concentration, even when the volume is cranked up to nursing home levels?  I honestly do not need to know what’s coming up soon – I won’t be coming back.

And tedious my life certainly can be at times: it is not destined to be next year’s big blockbuster.  It cannot be CGI’d into a Technicolor rollercoaster.  Watching it through bi-coloured spectacles will not make even the slackest of jaws gape.  The kind of mini-incident that punctuates its steady progress will not trouble a stunt double.  The only thing that ever breaks it up is exactly the kind of thing that nobody wants to read.

And all in all, I’m probably happy with that…

Idle Speculation

It’s all part of a normal cycle for me: a few weeks ago, fresh back from the Aegean sunshine, my carefully curated backlog exhausted, I was writing my posts on the hoof and fretting constantly over what to do when inspiration did not come to call.  Today, I sit with a pile of essays in front of me, wondering if I should start to publish every day in order to get rid of them.

I won’t, of course, because I know that the days of nothing to report are just around the corner.  It is, as I say, just part of the normal ebb and flow for me: sometimes I can write this hodgepodge in abundance – it just oozes out of me – whilst on others I can spend an evening staring at a semi-colon, trying to decide whether I can do without it.  I am consistent only in my inconsistency.  I think that the knowledge that there is ‘work’ in hand gives my head the latitude it needs to wander off in all the wrong directions.  Torpor sets in and the cardigan comes out.

It is, for reasons I have not yet managed to identify, a quiet day on the building site behind me.  All work appears to have halted and silence prevails.  I swear I can hear birdsong.  I am sure that if I were to half close my eyes, I would be able to see soldiers playing football in the mud and the puddles.  I wonder, should the work actually stop today, how long would it take nature to reclaim the land: to subsume the proto-roads and infrastructures, to re-establish homes, not for humans, but for beasties of all types and sizes?

Idle speculation of course because, even now, I see herds of hi-viz approaching me from the left and a lorry (presumably a Brobdignagian tea-urn) disappearing to the right.  A casual glance from the window finds me staring into the jaw of a giant digger.

Half a century, or more, ago I read a story in what well could have been ‘Amazing Tales’ or ‘Astounding Stories’ which, unusually, did not centre on the Aliens living, undetected, next door.  It supposed that the Solar System was a molecule, each planet an atom, a tiny fragment of a reality that was infinitely bigger than our own – the Universe as a coffee table – and I can’t shake off the image of all the giant machinery around me as vast insects, themselves part of some huge colony, simultaneously building and pillaging.

At which point, doubt kicks in: do I mean pillaging?  Wasn’t that a Viking thing alongside names like Bloodaxe and helmets with horns on?  Always makes me wonder how primitive we English were back then that the Vikings could be regarded as civilising.  We had plenty of Vikings around these parts and the influence still persists.  I know that the suffix ‘by’ simply meant ‘village’ (hence Ingleby – the English village – and Normanby – the Norman village) and that Thorp(e) meant a village of lesser importance e.g. Thorpe-on-the-Hill, Thorpe-le-Fallows, Thorpe-near-the-Bus Stop and Thorpe-where-the-old-village-pub-is-now-an-Old Tyre Dump.

What I’m hoping, of course, is that they might dig up Viking remains behind me, a Viking village perhaps, fatefully named Colinby or Thorpe-on-the-Back Field, accompanied by pots of gold and enough ancient artefacts to keep Baldrick* happy for months – just long enough for a Preservation Order to be slapped on the whole shebang.

Fanciful?  I guess so, but the thought has kept me occupied for a while – even if it does mean that another day has gone by with nothing for me to say…

*A hugely popular character from Rowan Atkinson’s ‘Blackadder’, played by Tony Robinson, who later hosted ‘Time Team’ in which all manner of things were dug up by a team of people with whom you would love to spend an evening in the pub, but probably, all things considered, would not want living next door.

First and Last

I hang onto first sentences.  I hoard them about my person, on my office notice board and, more often than not, on torn pieces of paper crumpled in the midst of snotty tissue, conker shells and secreted Daim wrappers in the darkest recesses of my trouser pockets.  They are normally scrawled, semi-legibly on to whatever paper is immediately available, with whatever writing implement comes to hand and, by the time they are dredged from the lint-lined depths, have lost all relevance to whatever train of thought they were intended to precipitate.  I like to think that this is a good thing.  I somehow write a post that follows on from this disembodied little nosegay and, more often than not, like yourselves, have no idea of where it is likely to take me.  I hope that it’s exciting, but I fear it is merely confusing, like mistaking episode three for episode two, when you fell asleep half way through episode one of what turned out to be a completely different series which actually followed on from series two, most of which you missed altogether.  Like Blade Runner, The Matrix and ice hockey…

Over my time on this platform I have fielded more questions than I would like to admit about my writing process.  The general consensus appears to be that I have a theme to work to and various bullet-points that I meet on my way to the conclusion.  Sadly I do not.

Generally I am aware of my theme only after I have finished writing and I only know what the conclusion is because it comes at the end.  Bullet points would only provide me with something to miss along the way.  The ‘grand idea’ almost always comes after the writing is finished and I know the ending only after I have reached it.  It is a ridiculously amateurish way of writing, I know, but it is all that I have.  It is like knitting a blanket and deciding that it’s a pullover only after you discover it has sleeves.  Most of my time is taken up in trying to get the sleeve out of the neck-hole and the pattern running in the right direction.

On the rare occasions that I have a point to make, I have forgotten it long before I have worked out how to punctuate the first sentence.  The content of my brain generally just overflows onto the paper – the basis of my conviction that shit floats –  and such concentration as I can muster goes into making some sense of it all.  It is seldom the sense that I intended. 

It works like this: I pick one of my paper scraps and write whatever it says at the top of a blank sheet of paper.  I stare at it for a while.  I write a second sentence to stop the first one getting lonely and stare at that for a while.  I decide not to worry and I allow my mind to wander about for a few hundred words.  I stop.  I attempt to conjure up a final sentence that has some connection, however vague, to the first.  I transcribe the whole thing onto the laptop, convinced that the right font and line spacing will sort it all out.  I read it through and realise why I have worked in a shop all my life.  In a panic, I attempt to add some jokes, but quickly realise that putting a red nose on a pallbearer doesn’t stop him delivering the coffin.

I despair.  I eat chocolate.  I stare at the first sentence.  I formulate a plan to hang on to last sentences too…

A Very British Affair

I have always considered this little potpourri (lit. ‘bowl of dried-up, odourless husks’) of mine to be a particularly British affair in subject matter, points of reference and use of language, particularly colloquialisms (try saying that with a face full of Mars Bar – or spelling it with a head full of cotton wool) and idioms.  It has therefore always come as something of a surprise to me to find that my resident English readers are far from dominant.  Australia, New Zealand and Canada I kind of understand – old colonial ties and extended families could mean that my turns of phrase might be slightly more familiar to the ear; that my use of extended metaphor might not sound quite so much like a message from Alpha Centauri – and to some extent I get (and am certainly very grateful for) the welcoming hands across the ocean from USA: we are separated by a common language, but I think we get one another most of the time.  (With the exception of almost every word ever uttered by Donald Trump or Mickey Rourke, I can personally understand almost 90% of the American version of my language – most of which appears to involve dropping perfectly good letters from words and turning trollies into jockeys – providing it is not spoken by Joey out of Friends.)  In India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Kenya, Madagascar and South Africa a very satisfactory number of people manage to make a little space in the day to spend a moment of time with me.  I am thrilled to find that I have readers all over the world, although I cannot help but wonder what some of you make of it all – please let me know – and am particularly bemused by my popularity in Romania, where, I think I might be becoming a bit of a cult (although I am not quite certain that I have translated that correctly).  To my one reader in the Philippines, I would just like you to know that I have my suitcase packed – please send the address.  I appear to have lost my Russian and Chinese readers recently and I am really sorry about that – we all need to talk to understand – and I presume that my single French reader peruses my weekly output with an ironic Gallic glint in the eye and the kind of shrug of the shoulders that assures me, however low my opinion of myself, I am completely right to hold it.

Now, I am sure that you are wondering what has brought this to the fleeting attention of my restless and febrile brain.  Well, for as long as I can remember – depending on whether I have just entered, or left the room –  I have toyed with the idea of writing a detective yarn with, should anybody have the slightest recollection of it, just the faintest hint of Adam Adamant* about it, (No!  Not Adam Ant.  That would just be silly.) although I’m not 100% certain I don’t mean Hadleigh*.  The concept is not a difficult one – if you haven’t done so before, I can only recommend that you read Conan Doyle’s ‘Sherlock Holmes’ books** to enjoy the sly, and very clever humour that runs through them – my problem is that for as long as I have been mulling over this particular enterprise, I have had but a single name in mind for my hero: Armitage Shanks.  It makes me smile every time I think of it, and then I wonder, would you get the joke wherever you may live?  Would I have to employ a translator simply to work on a nation-by-nation version of the hero’s name?  It worried me for a long time.  It stopped me properly setting my mind to the task, but now I realise, that if my very good friends from Poland, Ecuador and Taiwan can get their heads around this little junket, then a man named after a toilet should be a doddle for them.

*Come on, you’re educated people, I’m sure you can always Google it.

**Gerald Harper himself, by the way, would have made a particularly fine Holmes.

An End to Introspection

Photo by Eileen Pan on Unsplash

Passing through a point in time – a point made all too accessible by advancing age – where every ‘ping’ of the mobile phone heralds news of illness or untimely death, I have found myself becoming (you may have noticed) increasingly introspective.  I have been writing this blog now for four years: originally once a week, then twice, thrice and occasionally four-ice and five-ice and I have grown accustomed to the ebb and flow of it all.  It has always been labelled ‘Humour’ even on the occasions when I knew that it wasn’t funny.  I do try, but occasionally I have to get things off my chest.  Like Ray Alan, I need to vent.  Posting regularly means that I don’t have much scope for writing things that I don’t use.  Whatever comes out of my head will find its way, in time, onto your screen.  It’s not always ideal, but the only thing I have to offer you, dear reader, is me, and I am very often disappointing.

In order to lift myself from this recent slough of despond (literally shed skin in a lake) I have decided to take a closer look at why I started doing this thing in the first place and also why, as I seem unable to write a decent joke these days, I still do it.  The obvious answer is vanity: the narcissism of a man who believes that everyone else wants to know all about him.  (Do I mean narcissism or is that a little yellow daffodil?)  If I’m honest, if you piece together everything I have written over the last four years – although God knows why you would, you could far more profitably pass your time with a jigsaw of The Haywain – you will find that you know far more about me than you would ever want to know.  Having written over half a million words during my tenure – far more than even Jeffrey Archer would lavish on a single subject – I wonder what there is possibly left to tell.

Well, let’s see: I don’t eat meat, I eat far too much chocolate, and the only way you would ever stop me from eating a roasted peanut would be by painting a cute face on it.  I drink far too much wine, ditto gin, ditto whisky and I drink far too little water.  I am sixty three years of age, frighteningly adjacent to sixty four if I’m honest, and most of my clothes, like my beard and my temper are becoming ragged.  I am, none-the-less blessed with huge patience and more empathy than you can shake a stick at – as long as neither is put to the test.  As I write this piece I have something in my eye.  I can’t see it but it feels like a six foot section of 3”x2”.  The only way I can stop it from hurting is to fasten the lid down with a length of sellotape (which I presume should be pronounced seal-o-tape) giving me the impression of being permanently mid-wink.  I think the only cure is wine – but, if I’m honest, it is probably the cure for most ills.  I have a friend who swears that it is the best cure for a hangover, but I have never dared to try it.  Imagine hitting your good thumb with a hammer to cure the fact that you’d just flattened the other accidentally.  I am gullible, but not that gullible.  (Actually, I am.)  I am also the most easily distracted person I know, with the attention span of a… what was the blue fish called in Finding Nemo?

I love people, but am uncomfortable in company and panicky in a crowd.  I am very competitive, but I do have a tendency to give in when I’m winning.  I love silence outside and hate it inside.  Left alone in a house I will often have different music playing simultaneously in three or four rooms, with my mind seemingly able to keep track of them all at the same time.  I am tone deaf like Donald Trump is unpleasant (e.g. very).  I am what I write and what I intend to write here on in will be happy and definitely not introspective – it will possibly be outrospective – because, I have decided, introspection, like the door to a pub, sucks.

And my favourite word is probably widdle.

The Thread

You might just possibly have noticed it: during the course of each post I write, something suggests itself to me as a possible topic for the next one.  It would be stretching it to claim that there was some kind of logical progression, but there is, I think, a common thread that somehow, through means known only to itself, binds this whole thing together; that meanders on from small aside to main theme along a passage all of its own making.  Mostly, it is not a conscious thing, generally I see it only when I bulk-edit at the end of a week, and I do not want to try to deceive you into thinking that it is always easy to spot.  I am notoriously easy to distract.  My head is full of crazy paving, the next slab could take me in any direction.  There are times when my imagination is tethered to the rational by a bungee rope.  The bridges that exist in my brain are often unsuitable for heavy traffic.  The building blocks are all in place, but the infrastructure has been designed by a three year old.

Nor, if I’m honest, is what occurs to me during the course of writing one piece necessarily anything to do with what is being written about.  My brain is seldom in one place at any one time.  What links one thing to another could be a delivery driver dragging me away from the keyboard, a news item enticing me away from ‘research’, a digger in the building site behind me that looks exactly like a praying mantis, ‘why is a bulldozer a bulldozer?’, ‘why do dragonflies suddenly appear to be the size of birds?’   Oh look, a squirrel… 

Almost inevitably, when I go into a piece with something to say, it is that which is edited out in the end.  This is intended to be a lightweight distraction, not a political or social tract, and I don’t do opinion very well.  It is actually very straightforward: it is not about growing old but how the world looks to someone who is growing old.  It is intended to raise a brief smile for those dozen or so brave souls who take the time to read it with any regularity.  As the world grows increasingly bleak, I feel ever more conscious that, both for my own health and for the integrity of a blog that claims to be ‘humour’, I need to ignore this grinding reality.  If you want news, you have The BBC; if you want gossip, you have social media*; and if you want to know why everything about the modern world is so shit, you have The Daily Mail.  So if you wonder why, as the world is falling down, I am discussing my aching knees or questioning why my ever growing ears should be getting incrementally less effective (and, incidentally, more hairy), that’s probably why.  And if you find yourself thinking ‘hasn’t he said that before?’ then the answer is almost certainly ‘yes’ and if I haven’t, well, you’ve got a lot of reading to do to prove me wrong.

As an old person you cease to expect anything new to happen to you, and when it does it will almost always require a scan.  I no longer embrace the new, I reluctantly adapt to it – like a new pair of pants.  I find that life enhancing gadgets are almost always far too confusing to use and, in any case, almost certainly promise to enhance something that I was, heretofore, unconscious of even possessing.  I suppose, in the fullness of time, I will let the fridge take over the food ordering, I will allow my car to drive me around and the banes of my life will become those of somebody else.  What will I write about then?  Doubtless a fridge full of pickled beetroot, waking up in County Durham when I was meant to be sleeping my way to the Co-op, the fact that inconti-pants are not what they used to be and whoever put my shirt on put the buttons at the back.  I will give up trying to make a point, satisfied merely that I can finish a sentence without forgetting why I started it.

Does it bother me?  Not really, because by the time it does, it won’t, and as long as nobody decides to delete my own last paragraph**, I’ll be happy…

*Whatever that is.

**In case you’re lost – and for that nobody would blame you – you could read ‘Lost in the Edit’ – it might explain, although somehow I doubt it…

Lost in the Edit

I have noticed in myself, of late, a dreadful tendency to take my own views very much too seriously.  It is becoming an all too common practice for me to truncate a post by cutting out the entire final – and unbearably preachy – paragraph because I am aware of how easily the written word can be misinterpreted – especially with my own dreadful standard of grammar.  A single comma in the wrong place can make the difference between irony and deep offence.  I am constantly teetering just a semi-colon away from a series of ‘isms’ so grievous that some of them may well not have been invented yet – except, of course, by the lawyers, who will be primed to suck the life out of both sides at a moment’s notice.  Whatever was in my head as these closing statements were written, had obviously vacated it by the time the words hit the paper and I am forced to burst my own self-important bubble by hitting the ‘Delete’ button on the final caffeine-drenched sentences for fear of finding myself (unfairly, I must stress) in the dock with Katy Hopkins and Piers Morgan.  How can a single paragraph written to, for instance, express my utter loathing of, let’s say racism, sound like something that was summarily cut from Mein Kampf on the grounds of extremism a mere twenty-four hours after it was written?

I am mono-lingual, but it has become apparent to me that my grip on the one language in which I am capable of writing, is tenuous at best.  The only blessing is that most of the time, I do manage to spot it before I publish.  What leaves my head as a simple truth, an undeniable fact, could hit WordPress as an incoherent, pompous rant were it not for my gift with the Delete button and the foresight to never presume that saying what I really think will ever sound like what I really think.  There are so many evils I would like to address, but I am painfully aware that I could only do so by sounding unbelievably pretentious or unforgivably glib.  Occasionally a joke can make a point, but only if somebody else is willing to see it.

Somehow this only ever really occurs in the final, concluding few sentences and almost always I can get by perfectly well by just cutting them out.  Reading my output commonly requires a kind of leap of faith that makes compensating for a missing paragraph an absolute doddle.  I am certain that many of you will have spotted this before now: a penultimate passage pointing unequivocally towards a point being made, but, in practice, finding itself merely abutting the final weak joke that was originally intended to make it clear that I realised that, although well-meaning, I was perfectly aware of the fact that I was talking tripe.

Except that I don’t think I am.  I think I am speaking the truth.  I am just expressing it very badly – and that is what I will tell the judge..

Anyway, I just felt that you should know, that if you feel a piece ends unduly abruptly or (heaven forfend) in a sentence that appears to have little to associate it with all that went before, that is probably why.  Embrace the fact that I have expunged it – not just from your copy, but also from mine – and it will never be spoken of again.  My views will not have changed (if ever you want to know, just ask) but I may well have just grown up enough to know that they are mine alone and that nobody else is in the least bit interested.

And when it all winds up without a joke?  Well I might have had to cut that too…