Wednesday, 29 September 2010


I had a curious conversation with my wife recently during which she informed me that in her opinion there was no greater turn-off than seeing a man 'adjust' himself. She added that she was very glad that this particular behaviour was not included among my long list of bad habits. She then thought for a moment and asked "Why do so many men do that?"

Well it's an easy question to answer. The reason is that they are wearing the wrong underwear. In the good/bad (delete as appropriate) old days, British gentlemen had little choice. We wore 'Y-fronts' which we had bought from Marks & Spencer. These were available in a choice of colours - namely white - and after a few washes they turned uniformly grey.

At some stage, the fashion of wearing 'boxers' came in. These were named after the style of shorts worn by ring fighters which were designed to allow freedom of leg movement. They seemed to prove popular with our lady friends and gradually, Y-fronts lost popularity.

Now boxer shorts have an obvious disadvantage. Anything which dangles has to choose to fall to the left or the right, there is no centre ground. Having made that decision, the dingle-dangles are periodically squashed between the underwear and your thigh and need to be rescued - hence the 'adjustment' which my wife finds so distasteful.

My own solution to the problem is to wear the type of briefs which have a pouch at the front in which to keep your crown jewels both safe and supported. When playing sport, I wear the 'hipster' style which is a little more close fitting and in bed I wear boxers because they allow air circulation and the dangle issue doesn't occur when lying prone in bed.

So there we have it gentlemen. If you wear the right underwear there will be no need to adjust yourself and your fingers will therefore be free to pick your nose with.

Sunday, 26 September 2010


I have a lovely photo of myself taken immediately after the birth of my daughter. She is lying on my lap and I am gazing down full of obvious pride and awe at this wonderful gift which somehow shrouded in mystery, my wife and I created. There can't be many better moments in life than the first view of your own new born child. For those lucky enough to experience it, it is a feeling that will stay in your memory throughout your lifetime.

It is precisely because I remember that feeling so well that I recognised it again the other day when I experienced it for the second time. No, I haven't miraculously conceived. If I had I'd be demanding a refund from the clinic and a grovelling apology for the expensive and excruciating pain which they caused me.

No, I had created a totally different baby. It was round and perfectly formed. It was beautiful. It was tough skinned but soft and yielding within. It was a gorgeous shade of brown. It even smelled almost as good as a new born baby. In short, I had baked my first ever loaf of bread.

I had toiled hard to create it and kneaded it to within an inch of its life. The effort proved to be worth ever bead of sweat as I sliced the crusty loaf, lavished it with butter and devoured it sensuously. It was quite delicious. The next day it also made perfect toast.

As a result of this, I am so pleased with my new creative ability, that I can't wait to get another bun in the oven.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010


Consider for a moment the humble toothbrush. An everyday essential I'm sure you'll agree. Now imagine that you manufacture them.

First you need to make it look good and feel good in the hand. Then it needs to feel good in the mouth and do its job well. Assuming you got all that right you fix the price and start selling them. But wait. Did you make a really good quality one which will last for a couple of years? Oops - then you'll go bust. People wont need to buy another from you because you did so good a job that they're still using the old one.

So will you make a substandard version instead whose compact bristles will resemble a hedgehog's bad hair day after a few weeks? Then no-one will buy your brush ever again. We need a compromise. Let's make a brush which is designed to wear out after say 6 months of use. Job done. But wait again. Even though the brush will last for 6 months, you would really like people to change it after say 4 months. This would add a third to your profits right? So how to persuade them to change the brush earlier than necessary? Easy. Colour the bristles so that the nice bright colour has gone after 4 months which you tell people means that it needs changing.

You may have encountered this principle with other products. Do you have a printer attached to your computer? Then no doubt you get annoying messages telling you the ink level is very low and you should change the cartridge. Hello? When the ink RUNS OUT then I will change the cartridge OK? In the meantime stop with the messages.

Have a battery powered computer mouse? "ATTENTION. THE BATTERIES IN YOUR MOUSE NEED REPLACING". I beg to differ. The cursor still moves which is how I was able to turn off that annoying message.

You can see their problem. They make a good product but they want you to buy more. The other trick that they use is to make you buy more of the product than you need. Have you tried buying just one battery recently? No chance. Commonly they are in packs of eight, four if you're lucky.

I needed to buy some dental floss sticks. You know the things. They're shaped like a mini catapult with some floss strung over the end. Of course once the floss breaks, its useless. So the wise consumer will find some with very strong floss - unbreakable would be excellent.

Eureka! I found the very thing. According to the packaging information, the floss fibre is the same stuff which they use to make bulletproof vests. It is also (I quote), "engineered not to stretch, shred or break during use". So tell me this. If it is so tough that it won't break when I use it, why do I have to buy a pack of 36 of the wretched things?

Wednesday, 15 September 2010


I've just been to a 90th birthday party. The dear old chap is well into his second childhood so we played musical chairs and pass the parcel. I jest.

It was actually a 'celebratory luncheon'. Luncheons are so much tastier than lunches don't you think? In preparation for the event I went to buy a 90th birthday card. Not surprisingly, there were a lot less of these to choose from than say 70th birthday cards. However, I eventually managed to find one that wasn't covered in lavender there being the presumption, which is supported by statistics, that females live longer than males.

Then there was the problem of a gift. This wasn't easy. I mean, what do you buy for a 90 year-old who has evidently been there, done that and has a wardrobe of tee shirts to prove it?

I headed for the book shop where I so often find the solution to my gift buying dilemmas and ploughed through all the ageist joke books about senior moments aimed at those in Death's waiting room. No good. If I couldn't raise a laugh I was sure he wouldn't and anyway, I had no idea what sort of sense of humour, if any, he had.

Then, like a Yukon prospector finding a precious nugget of gold, I found a piece of treasure in the form of a book of photographs called "When I were a lad" by Andrew Davies. The subtitle is "Snapshots from a time that Health & Safety forgot" and it this lack of awareness of danger which provides the humour of the book. It was a delight.

Let me give just three examples to remind you that there was life before the Jobsworths moved in.

Firstly the front cover has a wonderful shot (sic) of a schoolgirls' archery competition. One girl has drawn the bow and is about to release the arrow towards a distant target. Immediately to the left of the target are serried ranks of schoolchildren and staff blissfully unaware that if the arrow were to deviate just slightly, they would instantly become a human kebab.

The second example is of a family who are proudly displaying their new 'conservatory'. This is too grand a word for it since it was really a lean-to with a corrugated plexiglass roof. How best to show off this wonderful addition to their home than by standing the entire family which included several children, on top of said plexiglass roof which was clearly suffering under the weight?

My favourite of all though, must be the photo with accompanying text which said that if you paid the man a farthing, he'd dangle you off the back of the tram as it went along. The picture shows the tram conductor leaning over the rail clutching the back of a small boy's sweater who is wriggling with glee as face down, he sees the road whizz past underneath him.

I feel sure that the book will bring back some happy memories for the 90th birthday boy and who knows? Maybe that was him hanging off the back of the tram.

Sunday, 12 September 2010


We've all done the 'What if we won the lottery?' pipe dream and sorted out how we would spend the money. No doubt like me you were a little more or a little less generous depending on how much the winnings were. It's sad though that this hypothetical flight of fancy has pushed an old favourite out of the picture.

Remember Aladdin? Suppose you found the lamp, buffed it up and the Genie offered you just one wish.......and no, you can't wish for three more wishes!

I've pondered this and one thought was a new life as a bronzed adonis prowling the Californian beaches catching the eye of all the beautiful females. I'd be single of course and would court a different girl each day enjoying the thrill of the chase and the bedroom encounters to follow (sigh).

Then 'pop' goes the bubble as I mentally wind on a few weeks and realise just how bored I would become with it all. Besides, the worst thing about this scenario is that it doesn't include my lovely wife.

Have you decided on your wish yet?

To help you along, my next potential wish is for my wife and I to be young again - back to those heady days of courtship when we would spend hours on the phone finishing with 'You hang up first" - "No you hang up first". (Sigh).

Then I remember some of the difficult times we went through when times were hard or loved ones died. I don't want to go through all that again. Overall I am very happy in my own skin even though it may be over-stretched and a touch flabby.

So here's the deal. My one wish would be that as I continue to grow old disgracefully, comfortably financed by the kids' inheritance, I wish that I can retain my mental faculties right to the end. If only so that I can continue to see through the lure of those Californian blondes.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010


We start to enjoy wrecking things at a very early age. We are taught to.

Toddlers, babies even, are shown how to build the bricks high then knock them down. On the beach, we demolish someone else's sandcastle and then we watch in fascination as the sea destroys our own. Later we build towers of playing cards or matchsticks and then ruin them. Older children delight in throwing stones to break the windows in disused properties.

At school we discovered that tubular metal chairs could be balanced upside down in the pen groove on the top of desks. After arranging 35 such feats of balance and then nudging the corner one, the resulting noise was like a bomb explosion and on the first few occasions at least, brought the teachers running down from the staffroom.

In my day, all the fun of the fair would include a broken crockery stall where we could throw wooden balls to break plates, saucers and so on. Nowadays there are piles of cans to knock down instead.

How many of us have watched films like 'Towering Inferno' or wartime films of the reality and been irresistibly drawn to the sight of the blazing or collapsing buildings? When a large chimney is to be blown up with explosives, huge crowds gather to watch.

Perhaps the ultimate example of this phenomenon are the domino trails which are painstakingly built with each domino the exact gap between the one before and the one after followed by the short-lived pleasure of the knockdown which is eclipsed by the time taken to set it all up.

However, do not think that I am disturbed by the pleasure we seem to take from destruction. On the contrary, I think that in many cases, it is just a prelude to the joy of creation. After all, as they say, you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs.

Sunday, 5 September 2010


Once upon a time, when I was knee-high to a grasshopper, my parents would read me fairy stories. Often the hero was a child,just like me, except that maybe they had wings or superpowers.

When I was old enough to buy my own books, my favourite by far was 'The Borrowers' by Mary Norton. These were stories about people, just like human beings, except that they were only a few inches high and lived under the floorboards. They would 'borrow' things from the 'Ooman Beans' who lived above and I loved the illustrations which showed their living rooms with cotton reels as tables and sardine tins as beds. The main characters were a family consisting of a father, mother and daughter named Pod, Homily and Arriety their names too having been borrowed from muffled names they had heard from above.

As a young adult I was captivated by Tolkien's 'Lord of the Rings' and 'The Hobbit' which told wonderful tales of adventures had by people very similar to us except that their feet were bigger and hairier. I can remember lying flat on my bed for hours and hours as I turned the pages, eager to find out what would happen next.

In mid-life I discovered the 'Duncton Wood' books by William Horwood. These very adult books which dealt with characters who, just like mankind, were capable of love, kindness and heroism and others who were capable of murder, wickedness and rape. But they were not mankind, they were moles. Yes moles, some of whom I came to love, some of whom I came to hate. For some long while, my imagination was confined to dark, underground tunnels.

Now that I am an older man, I still enjoy tales of fantasy. It is sheer escapism which transports you from the humdrum everyday life into realms of exotic and fantabulous fauna and flora. I am currently reading the George R. R. Martin's 'A song of ice and fire' books in which he takes us into a world of heroes and villains just like those of Arthurian legend, except that their names, like the Borrowers' names, are slightly different from ours; Petyr instead of Peter, Eddard instead of Edward, Jeyne instead of Jane and so on.

So in my opinion, the secret of successful fantasy is to create it very close to our lives and understanding and yet just slightly different so that we know that we have left reality safely behind us so that now, anything can happen.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010


My step-daughter Laura is getting married in a few months time and whilst you may think this a happy occasion it has also produced a degree of trauma. The main issue has been finding an outfit for the mother of the bride.

Female readers will no doubt understand this process but from a male perspective it has been very educational.

It started shortly after the wedding date was fixed and my wife, who needs no encouragement to go shopping, was on a mission for several weeks before the eureka moment when I received the text "I think I've found a dress".

There followed much photo-messaging as the prospective dress was circulated to the inner circle (Laura, my wife's best friend and me) and we all gave our general approval. The dress was duly purchased and that evening I was privileged to be the first to see it on. It looked awful. I thought so and more importantly, so did she. The dress went back and the process recommenced.

Weeks later the text came again - this looked more promising. That night, I was asked to give my opinion as she paraded round the bedroom with the obligatory addendum "Obviously, I shall have lost a few pounds by then". I liked it - she liked it - Laura liked it. We were over the first hurdle.

Now the search began for a 'little jacket to cover the flabby bits". In time this too materialised. We were on a roll. I was informed that buying the right handbag was not going to be a problem. I bit my tongue and managed not to mention the groaning handbag cupboard. It seemed the critical issue now was to find the right shoes.

Time passed and the bank account experienced the odd sensation of gaining a little interest before....Text: "I found the shoes!!!!!" There was a further hiatus as the shop had to order the right size but eventually they were purchased and the bride-to-be was treated to the full effect of the complete outfit plus new shoes. Apparently it was a disaster. The shoes made the whole outfit look bad so it was back to square one as my wife planned to take the dress and jacket back to the shop.

I am so glad I'm a man sometimes. All I have to do is put on a suit - job done.

Laura and I have managed to persuade my wife that it is the shoes which are wrong, not the the world waits.....with baited breath.