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…

Carbuncles and Constipation

As a child, my mum taught me how important it is not to hate: to appreciate people simply because they are people, and that is how I have tried to build my life.  I try very hard not to be blind to colour, to race, to religion or sexuality, but to see them all and celebrate them equally.  Life is beautiful because of, and not despite its infinite variety.  Blindness to variety robs us of its beauty.  And yet I constantly fail my mum because I cannot completely turn my back on hate, and what I seem to hate the most is people who cannot turn their back on hate.  I am a twenty-first century man (admittedly in twentieth century clothes) and I hate the ‘isms’ and the idiots that perpetuate them, the hurters, the abusers, the exploiters and then, because hate is a very broad church, there is okra, pickled beetroot, people who stop unexpectedly just inside a shop doorway, people who walk slowly and diagonally in front of me when I am in a hurry, good chocolate abused by the infusion of orange, the mis-use of language, ‘peated’ whisky, litterers, loiterers, those who say ‘it is not my fault’, my inability to eat a Curly Wurly without losing teeth and many more:

  • a stone in my sock
  • the person ahead of me in the queue taking all three remaining doughnuts
  • internet banking
  • everybody in the Post Office queue
  • the itch that always develops in the arch of my foot at the start of a long car journey
  • the pronunciation of the letter ‘aitch’ with an ‘aitch’ at the start of it
  • ‘it was before my time…’
  • parents swearing at children
  • my mobile phone
  • my laptop
  • my inability to say ‘No’
  • my inability to say ‘Yes’
  • young, fit people who walk inexplicably slowly
  • the intolerance of others
  • life as a mirror
  • grit in my muesli
  • muesli in my teeth
  • brown teeth caused by black coffee
  • milk in my coffee
  • the knowledge that we are unconscious for one third of our lives – which keeps me awake at night
  • hiccups
  • I will forget what I want to say before I get the chance to say it
  • nobody cares about what I have to say

You are rational people.  I know that you will argue that the items listed above cannot be compared with one another, and I will wholeheartedly agree.  I must admit that I have a tendency to concentrate on the smaller scale hatreds, but I think that might even be my point: the scattergun nature of hate is as likely to take out an elephant as a mouse – and you would have to ask a mouse spouse which matters most.  There is no difference between the word to express extreme dislike of a vegetable and 50% of the human race.

I know, we all know for we are privileged and educated, that there are many words to describe types of hatred, but in the end it is still hatred, and it is still something we have to fight against.  Right, so you’re old, you’re feeling shit for any one of a million legitimate reasons, yet you have to watch a group of people being overtly young and happy: don’t you hate them?  Don’t you want to kick their shins?  Suck it in!  What you really want is to be them.  Embrace their joy.  Remember that you used to feel it too, before your hair fell out, before your tits fell below your knees and your prostate turned you into a gibbering slave.  Before you started calling the morning television presenters by their first names; before you started talking to the Sat-Nav; before you gave the Hoover a name.  If you can let it in, joy will easily overwhelm backache and dodgy knees.

Of course, there are those whom it is impossible to love and, for the majority of us who are less than holy, impossible not to hate.  I could give you a list, but you all know who I mean.  I am happy to feel this hate because, to tell the truth, I have no desire to be good enough to not feel it.  I need to believe that there are some people who can never be forgiven.  It is why we invented Hell (and it must be a human invention as an all-forgiving God would have no possible use for it) because we have to believe that, for some, there can only be eternal damnation and a Forever filled with carbuncles and constipation.

Sorry mum…