Bargain hunt (or the imperfection of memory and instant cappuccinos)

I am shopping for instant cappuccinos in Home Bargains (don’t judge me – my tastebuds are aspirational middle class but my wallet cannot back them up) when a woman in her early-60s cries out:

“Alan – it’s you!”

She greets me with utter certainty and gives me a hug. She smells of mints, nicotine and Brexit.

I’m blind-sided but – against my own will – instantly snap into autopilot.home-bargains

Smiling in a frankly disturbing manner, I offer a piss-weak watery gambit:

“Oh hiya – how’s the family?”

While she chunters away about getting a new ring and more hours at her cleaning job, I try desperately to place her.

  • Work? (possible)
  • Distant relative? (also possible)
  • Ex-girlfriend? (not possible – unless mind-damaging chemicals were in operation on both sides)

Continue reading “Bargain hunt (or the imperfection of memory and instant cappuccinos)”

Misery on the buses – next stop Hell

If Hell is other people then public transport is the modern day equivalent of a ferryboat across the River Styx.

I don’t want to give too much of a slippering to buses and trains – communal transportation is great, connecting society and reducing isolation – what’s not to like, right?

The clue is in the word communal. bus_hell_4413

A person is fine, but when they multiply and become people then I find myself adopting the role of an alien sent to Earth who is trying desperately to fit in, but failing.

Perhaps I should explain here that since an early age I have been a magnet for malcontents, truculents and trumpets of all shapes, sizes, ages and genders.

Simply put – I have an unerring knack for finding fruitcakery – like a desperate pig on a truffle hunt.

If there’s awkwardness, embarrassment and potential thuggery I will draw it to myself – like water on a bathroom floor seeking dry sock. Continue reading “Misery on the buses – next stop Hell”

If Trump Jr is an alpha male then I’m an omega feminist

Masculinity is a foreign country: they do things differently there. 

With due apologies to L.P. Hartley for mangling his wonderful line, that elegantly sums up how I feel about being a man.

The nature of manhood cropped up again recently when the New York Times published a frankly disturbing photo of Donald Trump Jr sitting on a tree stump sporting dad jeans, plaid shirt and dead eyes.

Bored menace

Is this what a real man looks like, I thought – faux-lumberjack outfit, awkward body language and an expression somewhere between bored menace and a Terminator having his hard drive defragged?

Truth be told, I’ve never been brimming with blokery – when it comes to chromosomes my X is next to my Y, but neither feels particularly comfortable – it’s like the Chuckle Brothers wearing skinny jeans or a coalition government. Continue reading “If Trump Jr is an alpha male then I’m an omega feminist”

Freedom of speech comes at a cost, says world’s oldest baby

It seems counter-intuitive that free speech might have a cost, but the more I look at social media, the more the true price becomes clear:

Our collective sanity.

The sheer volume of abuse, opinions and half-facts on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Buzzfeed et al is surely reaching event horizon.

There has to come a point of no return after which the crushing weight of invective and inhumanity collapses in on itself like a dead star.

(Before you point it out – I know this opinion piece itself is yet another piece of flotsam adding to the flood. I never said I wasn’t a hypocrite.)

I realised the deleterious power of social media first hand when I – briefly – trended on Twitter. Continue reading “Freedom of speech comes at a cost, says world’s oldest baby”

Don’t worry about being happy – feeling okay is good enough

This statement isn’t going to blow your mind – in fact, it may not even wheeze on it to any significant degree.

But I think I’m content.

That’s no small thing – not in today’s societal stew of selfishness, intolerance and deranged one-upmanship.

Serve that broth with lashings of corporate-sponsored envy, a side order of sour grapes and then over-salt the whole thing with sensory-deadening threats wafting from every orifice.

Suddenly the dish is less appetising than Piers Morgan in a candy-floss thong.

So why am I content?

Why am I even – on occasion – happy? Continue reading “Don’t worry about being happy – feeling okay is good enough”

Empathy for the Devil – Surviving Cynicism in 2017 

Care, share, create, connect, organise, act

Forget the Euro, dollar, pound or even the Smackeroony – cynicism is the new currency being traded across the world.

And cousin, business is a-booming.

If society is a stick of rock then the word cynicism is written through it on every strata – from kids on YouTube to flat-capped fogeys ranting about Islams at the bus stop.

Somewhere along the line we decided we’d had enough. Continue reading “Empathy for the Devil – Surviving Cynicism in 2017 “