Saturday, 30 May 2009


I'm sure we are all familiar with the saying 'If you don't ask, you don't get'. Well unlike many such adages, this one seems to hold true.

Working our way through this recession has most of us looking for ways to cut costs and recently I thought to try and bring down my mobile phone bill. I'm on a contract and pay roughly £20 a month which includes a number of 'free' minutes and texts. So I phoned my mobile service provider.

I explained that as a fairly light user I felt that £20 a month was excessive. I added that I was being tempted by low monthly offers from other providers. Well was I glad I made the call! (The answer is yes).

After a couple of minutes the guy was back to say that instead of £20 per month I could pay £9 per month for which I would receive the same texts and minutes as before and in addition he would send me a free phone. Well I've sold the phone for £40 and cut my costs by £11 per month! WooHoo!

Maybe you could improve your mobile phone deal - must be worth a shot!

Thursday, 28 May 2009


I have belatedly realised that my training as a teacher of children with special needs leaves me well qualified to work with children who have a limited life expectancy. As a result, I have recently started as a volunteer in a Children's Hospice. I shall do 'befriender' training later this year after which I shall be working with individual children. Until then, I shall be helping in a variety of ways within the hospice. In this way, I shall be able to learn how things operate and get to know the staff. Today I first worked with a small group of teenage children doing some art and craft activity and then after lunch, I spent some time in the Admin office.

The hospice has 10 bedrooms. It mainly takes in children on a respite basis. Children will attend for a few hours or a few days. Families may also wish their child to end their final days there, in a place they know well and are happy in and this is welcomed.

When a child dies there, an event which occurs every two weeks or so, the other children in the hospice know nothing of it. Life goes on as normal and parties or routine activities take place as usual. Ribbons and rainbows are put up in the entrance foyer to alert staff and volunteers to the fact that one of the 'special' bedrooms, which are kept well chilled, is occupied.

The children coming to stay find 'their' room pretty much as they left it. This is because their own special toys and pictures are kept in a box with their name on it and put into the room in readiness for their arrival. They don't know that perhaps fifty other children have used the room since they were last there.

I am mainly doing this because I will thoroughly enjoy it but also because I am well aware that many people can't face the prospect of doing this work but I can. Many of the other hospice volunteers are unable and unwilling to work directly with the children and this is perfectly normal and understood. Because of this, they may work in the kitchen, in the office or in the garden. They may also work far removed from the hospice itself in one of their many charity shops. These are very necessary, for the government only funds about 8 or 9 per cent of the costs involved. The rest is made up from sales and donations. Obviously then, volunteers are vital to the work of the hospice.

If you have any time to spare, perhaps you could consider helping out in whichever way appeals to you at your local facility. You will receive no salary but I assure you that you will feel completely rewarded.

Sunday, 24 May 2009


When I was about 16, I tried out being a bully. I was feeling a bit big for my boots having reached 6th form and one day I decided that this particular 5th former needed my attention. The attention took the form of me grabbing the school cap off his head and holding it out of his reach. You will have spotted that my attempt at bullying was extremely feeble and indeed it is questionable whether it was actually deserving of the title 'bullying'.

It was a rather impromptu act for which I had made no preparations other than a cursory glance to ensure that the basic rule of bullying was being met - i.e. that I was bigger than he was. My first foray into being a bully would have benefitted from a little research. In particular, it would have been helpful to have found out who the lad was. This elementary exercise would have revealed that Stuart, for I believe that was his name, was considered to be very talented on the rugby field. Armed with this information, I might well have left him well alone. As it was, there was a blur of action, and some time later, I regained consciousness nursing a rather sore jaw. I was alone, and my embarrassment appeared to have gone unobserved.

I relate this unflattering episode from my formative years for one reason only. That is to reveal the point at which I learned that bullying was not for me. I am against it and would never condone it. Having made that clear, I will tell you a story about an experience of my daughter's where I hope you will agree that the humour of the event, eclipses the minor act of bullying involved.

She was teaching in a school for boys who were too badly behaved to attend mainstream school. The class that lesson, aged about 14 or 15, included a giant of a boy, well over 6 feet tall and with the build of a tank. Apparently anxious to please his new and attractive lady teacher, he offered to clean the blackboard. My daughter accepted his offer.

The gargantuan lad duly stood up and approached the front where he turned and bodily picked up a much smaller boy who had been sitting quietly minding his own business. Holding him horizontally, he proceeded to clean the blackboard up and down with his human board wiper. He then turned him to a vertical position and completed the job with a side to side action.

The entire class erupted with laughter, my daughter included. I am pleased to say that the board wiper was laughing as much as anyone.

Thursday, 21 May 2009


I think that online dating agencies are a wonderful idea. Meeting and dating is normally a very hit and miss affair. I see nothing wrong with tweaking things so that you are meeting someone with whom you apparently share interests. Both of you will have had time to consider things and will usually have seen each other on video.

There was a time in my youth when I tried using a dating agency. It was not a success! The agencies were not as refined back then and there were certainly no videos to see. I mainly remember feeling petrified when I was on my way to the arranged meeting. I'd seen a 'studio' photo of her and we seemed to have things in common but my worst fears were realised when it dawned on me that the hideous smiling female homing in on me was she. The photographer had really earned his money in producing a likeness which, it now dawned on me, featured a lot of artistic shadow. She also had the personality of a dead fish and teeth which appeared to be forever trying to escape from captivity. Call me shallow but this combination didn't work for me.

How times have changed! I have learned of a modern day 'dating site' where 'Sugar Daddies' can meet up with 'Sugar Babies'. The Sugar Daddies pay $45 to join plus an optional $5 extra to keep the site off their bank statements! Guess what? Sugar Babes join for free - and women want equality?

The job description for being a Sugar Daddy is for a rich male who may, among other things, be looking for an extra-marital affair. Sugar Babies it is suggested, will be young, attractive females who need financial help. I know what my parents would have called this arrangement - and it would be nothing to do with dating agencies!

It also has nothing to do with Cupid who as you can see, has left in disgust.

Monday, 18 May 2009


I confess to being a bit of a foodie. I like to dine out a lot. Luckily, my wife shares my interest. In the better restaurants they often have the cooking area on show. This gives the customer a feeling of confidence in the hygiene and in the food quality of the establishment. But in addition to that it usually starts me thinking about how glad I am that I'm not a chef. As I see them toiling away in all that heat, I am very thankful that they chose to do the job and I'm very appreciative of the outcome!

Being a chef is not the worst job in the world though. I am also grateful to the many other people who have chosen to do jobs which I directly benefit from but which I would never want to do myself.

Lets consider a few examples. The guys who collect my refuse - working with rubbish all day surely can't be too pleasant! My dentist is well paid but in my view he deserves it. Just think about doing a job where you stare down people's mouths all day and no doubt suffer the effects of the bad breath many of them will have. Then there are the toilet cleaners who have worked hard to ensure that my visits to the Gentlemen's loo are as pleasant as possible. We've all cleaned our own toilets but there's a big difference when you're cleaning them after strangers have used them.

This started me thinking deeper about what are the worst jobs ever. I considered people who work in the fish industry. I know that the smell of fish can seep into your very pores and give you a social problem! Then I thought of sewer workers and how they are so necessary but are a level lower in job satisfaction than the toilet cleaners since they deal directly with the waste matter and maybe even with rats.

I was getting really curious now so took to the Internet which suggested various possibilities to fill the 'worst job' title. How about working in a blue cheese factory? As with fish, this must surely destroy your sense of smell as your body puts up aroma defences in earnest. Then there was the poor guy who told of his job cleaning chicken shit off eggs. No, on reflection, I think I could do that job because you can wear protective gear to distance yourself from the guano.

Then I found it. OMG! This has to take the biscuit. The worst job ever was here in front of me. Ladies and Gentlemen, I invite you to apply for the position of....wait for it.....Flatulence Analyst ! I kid you not! Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to bend down so your nose is by someone's backside and then ask them to fart! You proceed by breathing in their fart and making notes on your smell experience which will be used in the study of farts as an indicator of intestinal problems. No, I won't be applying.

Yet somehow, I suspect that you dear reader, will come up with something even worse in your comments!

Thursday, 14 May 2009


The public are furious about Members of Parliament having made false claims about their expenses. Evidently some of them have claimed thousands of pounds for their 'second homes' with dubious items such as £110 for hair straighteners! They are being branded as crooks and thieves. I expect it wont be long before sweet shops start putting notices in the window saying 'No more than two MPs in the shop at a time.'

So how honest are you?. Have you ever 'stolen' anything from your place of work? Maybe some stationery, a pen or two? If you work in the food industry did you pinch some groceries? In the fashion business you might have snitched a small item of clothing? Is that enough questions?

The choice of what to pilfer is rather limited by where you work. The perks of my job as a teacher were few and far between. There's a limit to how much you can do with boxes of chalk! I suppose road sweepers don't often buy brushes. Florists surely don't have to buy flowers for their homes. Postmen must have cupboards full of those red elastic bands they use to keep letters in bundles. Though on second thoughts, judging by how many I find outside my front door, they don't bother.

So what would you say is the most pilfered item of all from workplaces? I think my guess would have been pens. Well I would be wrong. No, the most pilfered items from our work places are toilet rolls. How pathetic is that? We Brits are not very inventive if the best we can come up with to steal from work is loo paper. Makes you ashamed of our nation!

Tuesday, 12 May 2009


So M&S have kicked up a storm by adding a £2 surcharge to bras larger than DD cup. This provoked outrage among generously proportioned women and M&S caved in to the pressure. Of course, there were also countless articles in the papers on the subject with 'M&S boobs' jokes in abundance. Fear not dear reader. You will find no pathetic jokes like that here. I am above such levels of titillation.

One of these writers was ranting on about how women's fashions are designed to show off their mammary glands and how dreadful it would be if men's fashions were designed to show off their genitalia!

I beg to differ. It wasn't that long ago when men's fashion did exactly that in the form of the codpiece. Of course these became ever longer and thicker as their wearers sought to outdo their friends in attracting the ladies. No doubt they fell from grace as a mode of fashion when said ladies, having succumbed to these tailoring temptations, removed the codpiece to reveal a tiny caterpillar within.

So I suggest we bring back the codpiece but learn from the mistakes of our ancestors and keep them to a modest size. Perhaps this could be enforced by law with codpiece wardens comparing them to a maximum size model. Think about it. There would be many advantages to men wearing codpieces. Not least, as in the illustration, that dogs would find it easier to see where to put their noses!

Sunday, 10 May 2009


In the same sort of way in which perverts become de-sensitised to pornography and seek greater levels of obscenity, I find that my sense of humour is harder to satisfy these days.

My view is that with both sexes, it can be the case that one's sense of humour develops so that things which you used to find amusing, no longer tickle your funny bone. We start to demand a greater depth of wittiness, a higher level of humour, in order to achieve the belly laughs which we used to enjoy so much and now crave. I don't just mean the 'normal' development from juvenile to adult humour. I believe that just as with intelligence, people have different levels of humour. I also believe that some adults 'stick' at the level of juvenile humour. In fact I know this is true.

I am not being a snob here. I do not feel superior to those with 'juvenile' humour nor do I feel inferior to people whose humour I realise to be at a higher level than mine. Exactly the same is true for my view of people who's level of intelligence is higher or lower than my own. For instance, I often felt that some of my special needs students (I.Q. 0-55) were far wiser souls than I.

I am one of those sources of funny emails. I send jokes to my friends knowing that if they find this tiresome, they will either tell me to pack it in or just not read them - so no harm done. The thing is though, that I have pigeon-holed each of them in terms of their level of humour.

The other day I received a dirty, toilet-humour joke which didn't amuse me but I knew who to send it to. He later told me that he had cried with laughter at it. Another friend, who I regard as at the same level of humour as me, has actually asked me to filter what I send to him using my own level of humour as a guide!

I suppose its all about not seeing the joke coming, but then again I can still laugh at some old jokes such as this one.

A new commander takes over at a lonely desert fort situated miles from civilisation and his aide explains that they have a system whereby they have a camel tethered just outside the fort for the benefit of the all-male troop who often feel sex-starved having no available women. That night the commander makes use of the facility using a nearby stepladder to mount the camel and then have intercourse with it. He is disturbed by the aide who has popped out for a smoke. 'Thought I'd try the camel out! Is that OK?' says the commander. 'Sure is Sir. But the men usually use the camel to ride into town where the women are'.

Monday, 4 May 2009


I was in a sports shop being served by a 'Saturday girl'. Just in case my international readers need a translation (get me!) this means a school-aged teenager who is doing a weekend job to pump up their spending money.

I handed over the item, which was priced at £5.99, together with my payment of £6 in the form of a £5 note plus a £1 coin. The shop was a bit down-market (obviously, since I was a customer) so the till wasn't the complex electronic type which tells the staff how much change is due.

I watched the cogs turning in the girl's head as she first inspected the note and the coin as if I had handed her a boa constrictor then triumphantly managed to mentally add them together to a total of £6. Growing in confidence, she rang up the £5.99 and then hit her next obstacle.

Her eyes played tennis between the money and the price as she struggled to calculate how much change she should be handing over to the expectant old git waiting on the other side of the counter. After what seemed like an ice age she tentatively dropped a 2p coin in my hand.

I'm not sure which was most shameful. Was it the dire state of the level of numeracy which our schools are attaining in their students? Or was it the fact that I pocketed the extra 1p and hurriedly left the shop?


I was recently on a cruise boat heading over Lake Windermere. It was a fairly small boat carrying maybe 100 or so passengers.

A motor boat came up alongside us towing a water-skier. He was pretty good and it became apparent that he was putting on a show for us. He repeatedly jumped to and fro across the wake of the motor boat and sometimes did a full twist in the air. It was impressive. There was only one other thing he could do to make the display absolutely perfect in my eyes. Then - perfection was reached - he fell off!

Was I the only person on the boat who desperately wanted him to take a tumble? Not get hurt you understand, just mess up. Well no I wasn't. After a couple of seconds to take in that the guy was OK, a mass snigger broke out which I subscribed to wholeheartedly. The show-off had fallen from grace and that was just what many of us had been hoping for.

Should I be ashamed of myself or is this normal human nature?

Friday, 1 May 2009


There was a time when going to bed meant brushing my teeth, stripping naked and jumping under the covers. This is no longer the case.

Be warned, this could be your future!

Naked was first to go. I am sufficiently trendy and cool enough not to wear pyjamas so I bought a selection of rather fetching boxers in the most outlandish colours I could find. These didn't keep the man-boobs warm however so I bought some very bright T shirts too. To my mind, this gives me the American G.I. look and I try desperately to forget that my 84 year old Dad wore the same gear in bed - indeed he died in it! I keep my dear wife entertained each night by choosing the tops and bottoms randomly. I think the burgundy T shirt coupled with the two-tone blue and white striped boxers got the biggest laugh.

Now as you will know, people my age love nothing better than to talk about their ailments. No! Stop! Come back! I wouldn't do that to you dear readers. You are going to have to guess what medical problems I have to bravely endure.

So we'll cut to the chase and imagine that I am in the bathroom dressed as my alter ego G.I. with toilet completed, teeth brushed and mouthwash gargled. So we're maybe 10 minutes into the routine.

First and most important, I swallow a small white pill. (No not a blue diamond shaped one!) Next I apply a transparent gel liberally to both hips and rub it well in. Following that, I rub a thick paste on part of my scalp. Sometimes I use a lotion instead as this particular problem is best attacked with different treatments to keep it on its toes. Speaking of toes, I then spray stuff between them (easy one that!). After this I apply a thick white cream to the soles of my feet and finish up by using the same cream on my hands.

Long after I first entered, I emerge from the bathroom all lotioned, potioned and utterly exhausted.

"What's that dear? You feel like doing what?"