The Commercial Vision of a Happily Hirsute Man



OK, given the manifold possibilities associated with coronavirus: serious illness, death, bankruptcy, starvation, fewer episodes of Eastenders, it came as something as a surprise to me to discover that many people considered that not being able to go to the hairdresser was the worst problem they could imagine. Now, I realise that it matters so little to me because I am by nature a scruffy bugger, but I can’t for the life of me imagine why it does matter quite so much to anybody else. None-the-less, times being what they are, and philanthropy being the order of the day, I felt that I might be able to help. I remembered, in the years of my sallow youth, that it was possible to buy a DIY hair trimmer, which resembled a Stanley knife blade fixed to a comb, although I could not remember what it was called. Like everybody at the moment, I have time on my hands, so I found myself a comb, a Stanley knife blade and some Sellotape, and I improvised. To my utter astonishment, my little construction worked in exactly the same way as its predecessor of some fifty years ago: it took a huge jagged hank out of my hair and left me with a laceration to my scalp that a couple of weeks ago would have required stitching, but now, a liberal application of super-glue and a hat. But it set my brain whirring.

You see, I was young during the great days of K-Tel and Ronco, when new products, similar to the hair trimmer (Was it the Trim-o-Matic?) appeared upon our TV screens almost daily in a branded nuclear arms race of tat. All of these products had a number of features in common:
1. They were made from the kind of plastic that shattered into a thousand tiny razor-blades if dropped, shook or stared at in an inappropriate manner
2. They were always designed to do something you never knew needed doing
3. They never did what they were designed to do
4. They always broke the first time they didn’t do it.
It struck me that now could be the time for the return of the great days of built-in obsolescence and in my own modest way, I would like to offer the following suggestions. (In my days of yore, somebody would have paid for an illustrator at this point, but I am afraid that you will have to use your imagination. If you don’t have one, do not despair, you may be a chartered surveyor.) I have almost certainly copyrighted these designs, so don’t even think about it…

Self-removing gloves – you all know the problem. You wear the gloves so that you don’t have to touch infected stuff, and then you have to touch the infected gloves in order to get them off. Well, now you can relax. These little beauties are made from an incredible new material, invented by NASA specifically for Russian underwear manufacturers, that falls apart after – or in times of stress during – the first wear. Simply use the gloves for whatever sordid task you have planned and then sit around for an hour or two without touching anything whilst they slowly decompose with the kind of must usually associated with field-latrines. Guaranteed to leave an unsightly stain on all types of flooring that cannot be removed with any generally available cleaning product.

Self-removing glove stain remover – will stubbornly refuse to remove the stain for which it was designed, whilst effortlessly lifting the surface from the floor, the sole from your shoes and the skin from your hands. Please note: this product is in no way similar to oven cleaner and anyone suggesting that it is merely an over-labelled bottle of Mr Muscle will find themselves tight-up against the iron fist of British Justice (or Big Geoff, as we call him).

All-over body wrap – a giant roll of cling film designed to shroud the full body and thus completely protect from the coronavirus. In reality you will be completely unable to find the start of the roll and will eventually shred the whole thing in a huge explosion of impotent rage.

Telescopic ‘shaking’ hand – a slightly soiled and shop-worn mannequin’s hand crudely gaffer-taped to the end of a two meter garden cane which enables you to safely shake hands with people you meet. The hand will fall off the stick during its first use, which is just as well, as it may be diseased and in need of incineration. The soiled hand can subsequently be retrieved with my cunningly designed Clamp-o-Crap – an over-sized pair of plastic scissors from which one blade will shear on initial ‘snap’ and take the crotch out of your trousers, at which point you will almost certainly stop worrying about the tatty plastic hand in the gutter.

The socially-distancing hat – a construction-site hard-hat with a javelin stuck through it. Defy anyone to infringe upon your personal space from front or rear. Perfect for family gatherings and camping holidays

To purchase any of these products, simply email me your bank account details, National Insurance number and a list of dates when your house will be empty.

So now you know what happens when I’m stuck at home on a diet of red wine and peanuts…

‘Homer, lighten up. You’re making ‘Happy Hour’ bitterly ironic.’ – Marge Simpson

Preparing for Lockdown – Kinda…

white toilet paper

Rather like James (James Proclaims), I am doing my bit whilst working from work during the crisis, but, unlike James (and I seriously believe that all teachers are superheroes), there is no worthy motive to my sacrifice.  I can find no excuse for donning leotard and tights.  (I’m not certain that came out right – sorry James.)  Unless Marvel introduce a character called SuperSchlep, I can have no pretentions.  I wait in vain for Super Waste-of-Time Man to meander onto the scene.  I read the other day, that they are now considering the possibility that Covid-19 originated with Pangolins: Pangolin Man does sound pretty cool, although I’m not at all certain what his super power would be. Not terribly effective, whatever it is, if he can’t save himself from being sliced up on some Chinese market stall.  Mind you, he who laughs last and all that…

I have been at home today, but only because it is my day off.  Tomorrow I will be back at the coal-face, smiling benignly, whilst each happy shopper berates the government for not imposing lockdown sooner, but, ‘Hey!  As long as they haven’t, I’m perfectly at liberty to come in here and give you everything I’ve got – by the way, have you got somewhere to put this tissue?’  It is an unwritten rule that every sick person must tell the shop assistant, at great length, how ill they are, whilst coughing copiously on their fringe.

Ok, so I realise that I have started to sound bitter, but truly, I am not.  These are extraordinary times and, somehow, we just have to find a way through them.  Of course we will, but just at the minute I’m wondering, can anybody actually see the end game?  Is it eighteen months and a vaccine away, or is it three months, when most of us have caught it?  If it’s the former, I most certainly am gonna need a whole heap more loo roll, although judging by the TV reports, I might settle for slicing up newspapers instead, whilst those with the time can fight over the last Andrex in the city.  I will grow lettuce in my back garden – something with a nice, soft leaf – and perhaps turn my greenhouse over to Durum Wheat….

Incidentally, throughout my various tasks today, I have been playing the new Wishbone Ash album (Yes, there really is one) in the background, whilst it has slowly eroded my doubts and gradually enticed me into bouncing around the house playing twin-air-guitars.  I also took five minutes with a cup of coffee watching a BEAUTIFUL song thrush search my lawn for food – for those scant few minutes (except for the odd worm or snail) the world was at peace.  In the end, normal service will be resumed…

But I don’t suppose anybody really cares, there’s too many people
nowadays just want to wipe their ass of the whole affair  – ‘Bog Roll Blues’ – Groundhogs (Tony T.S. McPhee)

Rain, Rain Go Away

Photo by Chris Gallagher on Unsplash

Languishing, as oft I do, in this slough of despond, I begin to wonder whether it is possible to drown through syphonic action? Whether I will eventually be overwhelmed by the gallons of water that soak their way through my soles, up my socks and beyond my knees every time I leave the house in anything less water-repellent than industrial- strength galoshes? Will the sky ever stop leaking? One cannot turn on the TV without being made aware of how very quickly this green and pleasant land of ours has become a brown and sludgy mess, where the universally preferred venue for new housing is on the sodden flood-plains of obesely swollen rivers currently fully occupied in the deluge-driven pursuit of bank-busting overflow, leading to the wall-to-wall submersion of everything below fifth floor level. I presume that building new houses on flat land is much easier than having to flatten out sloping bits – especially if the ground is so saturated that the foundations can be dug with a teaspoon. Apparently the house-building industry is spending many millions of pounds in research into how new homes can be made more flood resistant. I have a suggestion: build them where it doesn’t flood. I can only believe that there is a generally held construction principle that states that by putting a building in the middle of a shallow lake, we can stop it being a lake.

I am very fortunate in living in a house that is not prone to flooding (unless the grandkids are taking a bath) although it was built in the sixties, so it is prone to falling down. The village in which I live is not on a hillside – unless I have to cycle to it, in which case it appears to be atop the Eiger – but nor is it in the foot of a valley. I understand the voices that cry, ‘You bought a house that was built on a floodplain. It’s flooded. What did you expect?’ but I also wonder, what else do you do when ‘liable to flooding’ is all that is available? There was a time when rising damp caused the wallpaper to peel, now it teaches the cat to swim. Surely in a time of ever more eccentric weather, it cannot be sensible to attempt to constrain the flow of over-brimming rivers with sandbags and tarpaulins whilst continuing to build new targets for ingress. Common sense suggests that allowing the waters to spread across unoccupied landscapes lessens the chances of them rising high enough to flow into the buildings erected outside the boggy bit. Most old Towns were built up the bank a bit: the walk needed to go down and fetch water from the river being preferable to not needing to walk further than the bedroom. Even in the days of mud floors, nobody wanted a muddy one.

Mind you, there is something almost biblical about this rainfall. I suspect we must be closing in upon the forty days and forty nights by now. I notice that the ‘Timber’ aisles at the local B&Q are suspiciously bereft of Ark-suitable planks. There is no cat-litter in Tesco’s. All we need now is a plague. I have been scanning the horizon for the first signs of frog or locust invasion; I have checked myself for boils. I keep looking at the space between my toes for any sign of webbing, because I am uncertain how long evolution takes. I figure that being a Fen-dweller may give me some kind of a genetic advantage; that I may be naturally equipped to deal with the soggy – although, to be honest, the only natural inclination I detect when traversing muddy terrain is the prat-fall. I am notoriously unstable and, in the right circumstances, quite capable of bringing an entire bus queue down with me.

I wonder if I might drown before I die of Coronavirus? (How interesting. In a world where Coronavirus is mentioned approximately twice every millisecond, Microsoft Word’s spellcheck does not recognise it – mind you, it doesn’t recognise spellcheck either – strange world…) Mystery still shrouds its origins, but whilst I’m not sure if this has any bearing, when I was a boy, the Corona man used to come around the estate once a week, delivering fizzy drinks door-to-door – a bit like a super-glucose milkman – and his van never looked particularly clean. Could well have been a viral breeding ground. Covid-19 (to give it its Sunday name) is apparently only a real risk to the elderly with underlying health issues. OK, is it just me? I would argue that merely being elderly with underlying health issues constitutes a risk to life. Am I the only person here who does not know anybody over the age of sixty without underlying health issues. And yes, I do understand that they mean chest issues. Shortness of breath and a cough… I refer you to my previous answer. I can get out of breath just opening the cough linctus.

The problem is, apparently, that we have no natural immunity to this new virus. Until you’ve had it, you stand every chance of getting it. So the whole world must now join the queue for face masks despite the fact that whilst everyone is being advised to wear them, everyone is being advised that they do not work. In fact, as a mask becomes damp through breathing, it becomes something akin to a virus crèche. I do not believe that viruses can actually multiply externally – I think they need a ‘host’ to do it in – but My God, they can lurk. Pernicious little bugger, your Johnny Virus. The best defence we have apparently is to wash our hands regularly and not touch our eyes. I thought that it was not possible to dislike this virus any more than I do, and then I discover that it gets in through the eyes! If someone tells me it thrives in whisky, I may well throw in my hand. Looking around me now, my only hope is that it might drown…