Monday, 12 July 2010

Four More

His voice was a curious mixture of the rough and the educated so that is was hard to place him - as though neither style seemed quite natural to him, somehow. - The Day Of The Triffids, John Wyndham.

For women, word play is foreplay. How else would Woody Allen get laid?

Young people today are by default rude, loud, stubborn, and extremely stupid yet for some reason they're proud of it because they think it makes them look 'rebellious' rather than barbaric.

Even admitting for the sake of argument, the possibility of scientific improvements being ever brought to that pass which will enable a gentleman to eat his own head in the event of being so disposed. - My Favourite Dickens Quote (from Oliver Twist)

On Bozo from 'Down And Out In Paris And London' by George Orwell

The son of a bankrupt bookseller, he had gone to work as a house-painter at eighteen, and then served three years in France and India during the war. After the war he had found a house-painting job in Paris, and had stayed there several years. France suited him better than England (he despised the English), and he had been doing well in Paris, saving money, and engaged to a French girl. One day the girl was crushed to death under the wheels of an omnibus. Bozo went on the drink for a week, and then returned to work, rather shaky; the same morning he fell from a stage on which he was working, forty feet on to the pavement, and smashed his right foot to pulp. For some reason he received only sixty pounds compensation. He returned to England, spent his money in looking for jobs, tried hawking books in Middlesex Street market, then tried selling toys from a tray, and finally settled down as a screever. He had lived hand to mouth ever since, half starved throughout the winter, and often sleeping in the spike or on the Embankment.

When I knew him he owned nothing but the clothes he stood up in, and his drawing materials and a few books. The clothes were the usual beggar's rags, but he wore a collar and tie, of which he was rather proud. The collar, a year or more old, was constantly 'going' round the neck, and Bozo used to patch it with bits cut from the tail of his shirt so that the shirt had scarcely any tail left. His damaged leg was getting worse and would probably have to be amputated, and his knees, from kneeling on the stones, had pads of skin on them as thick as boot-soles. There was, clearly, no future for him but beggary and a death in the workhouse.

With all this, he had neither fear, nor regret, nor shame, nor self-pity. He had faced his position, and made a philosophy for himself. Being a beggar, he said, was not his fault, and he refused either to have any compunction about it or to let it trouble him. He was the enemy of society, and quite ready to take to crime if he saw a good opportunity. He refused on principle to be thrifty. In the summer he saved nothing, spending his surplus earnings on drink, as he did not care about women. If he was penniless when winter came on, then society must look after him. He was ready to extract every penny he could from charity, provided that he was not expected to say thank you for it. He avoided religious charities, however, for he said it stuck in his throat to sing hymns for buns. He had various other points of honour; for instance, it was his boast that never in his life, even when starving, had he picked up a cigarette end. He considered himself in a class above the ordinary run of beggars, who, he said, were an abject lot, without even the decency to be ungrateful.

He spoke French passably, and had read some of Zola's novels, all Shakespeare's plays, GULLIVER'S TRAVELS, and a number of essays. He could describe his adventures in words that one remembered. For instance, speaking of funerals, he said to me:

'Have you-ever seen a corpse burned? I have, in India. They put the old chap on the fire, and the next moment I almost jumped out of my skin, because he'd started kicking. It was only his muscles contracting in the heat--still, it give me a turn. Well, he wriggled about for a bit like a kipper on hot coals, and then his belly blew up and went off with a bang you could have heard fifty yards away. It fair put me against cremation.'

Or, again, apropos of his accident:

'The doctor says to me, "You fell on one foot, my man. And bloody lucky for you you didn't fall on both feet," he says. "Because if you had of fallen on both feet you'd have shut up like a bloody concertina, and your thigh bones'd be sticking out of your ears!"'

Clearly the phrase was not the doctor's but Bozo's own. He had a gift for phrases. He had managed to keep his brain intact and alert, and so nothing could make him succumb to poverty. He might be ragged and cold, or even starving, but so long as he could read, think, and watch for meteors, he was, as he said, free in his own mind.

He was an embittered atheist (the sort of atheist who does not so much disbelieve in God as personally dislike Him), and took a sort of pleasure in thinking that human affairs would never improve. Sometimes, he said, when sleeping on the Embankment, it had consoled him to look up at Mars or Jupiter and think that there were probably Embankment sleepers there. He had a curious theory about this. Life on earth, he said, is harsh because the planet is poor in the necessities of existence. Mars, with its cold climate and scanty water, must be far poorer, and life correspondingly harsher. Whereas on earth you are merely imprisoned for stealing sixpence, on Mars you are probably boiled alive. This thought cheered Bozo, I do not know why. He was a very exceptional man.

Some More Quotes

To be idle is a short road to death and to be diligent is a way of life; foolish people are idle, wise people are diligent. - Buddhism Quote

Pay no attention to the faults of others, things done or left undone by others. Consider only what by oneself is done or left undone. - Buddhism Quote

Leave as many choices open to yourself as possible. Don’t make decisions unless it is essential and don’t take a path before you need to go anywhere.

Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need. - From the movie Fight Club, based on the novel by Chuck Palahniuk.

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us. - Gandalf

He who breaks a thing to find out what it is, has left the path of wisdom. - Gandalf

People can excel doing what they love be it physics or art. Genius is often born out of obsession, Hendrix practised, Einstein read. Without scientists we would have no modern society. They push man forward but the same can be said for the common labourer. Our society is dependent on us all and both deserve happiness equally regardless of elitist attitudes or importance of positions. To say one deserves joy more than the other is garbage.

I've been supporting people's work in my own way whenever I can. Money isn't the solution, it's a problem, and we've got to slowly work through it until we can beat the system, and move on.

This reinforces the culture of suspicion, fear and mistrust that underlies a great deal of present-day society. It teaches children that they should regard every adult as a potential murderer or rapist. Phillip Pullman

Things that other people have created but I use to express my individuality. – Stewie Griffin

The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding. - Leonardo Da Vinci

They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel. - Carl W. Buechner

Wonder is the beginning of wisdom. - Anonymous (Greek Proverb)

Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened. - Winston Churchill

He who knows others is wise. He who knows himself is enlightened. - Lao Tzu

The happiest person in the world is the one who thinks the most interesting thoughts. - Timothy Dwight.

Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together - George Eliot.

Men give me credit for some genius. All the genius I have lies in this; when I have a subject in hand, I study it profoundly. Day and night it is before me. My mind becomes pervaded with it. Then the effort that I have made is what people are pleased to call the fruit of genius. It is the fruit of labour and thought.- Alexander Hamilton.

Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself, but talent instantly recognises genius. - Sr Arthur Conan Doyle.

There is only one success - to be able to spend your life in your own way. - Christopher Morley

I think Charles Aznavour sums it up best when he says Poverty is not so tough when the sun is out. That’s definitely true!

Men of lofty genius are most active when they are doing the least work. - Leonardo da Vinci

Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds. - Albert Einstein

Always remember that you are unique. Just like everyone else. - Anon

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. – Aristotle

Don't take life too seriously, you'll never get out of it alive! - Elbert Hubbard

Pay attention to idiots. They show you what not to do.

Success is buried in the garden of failure. – Rick Wakeman

Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes - the ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules and they have no respect for the status quo. You can praise them, disagree with them,quote them, disbelieve them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing that you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. - Jack Kerouac

Beginning to see life as it really was, a series of illusions that only the scientists can strip away. I wanted to see this hidden world, to lift the veil and hold the secrets of existence in the palm of my hand. – Young Poisoner’s Handbook

Some Random Quotes

It then very soon became clear that the response of a war against terrorism, initially conceived of in a metaphorical sense, began to be taken increasingly seriously and came to entail waging a real war. - Ulrich Beck

Technology, like art, is a soaring exercise of the human imagination. - Daniel Bell

The intellectual takes as a starting point his self and relates the world to his own sensibilities; the scientist accepts an existing field of knowledge and seeks to map out the unexplored terrain. - Daniel Bell

Anything that contradicts experience and logic should be abandoned. – His Holiness the Dalai Lama

As our awareness of this truth awakens, so does our awareness of compassion.

A Buddhist tries to look upon suffering not as something necessarily "bad," but as an opportunity to learn and grow.

It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop. - Confucius

Rise Of The Idiots - Dan Ashcroft

Once, the idiots were just the fools gawping in through the windows. Now they've entered the building. You can hear them everywhere. They use the word "cool". It is their favourite word. The idiot does not think about what it is saying. Thinking is rubbish. And rubbish isn't cool. 'Stuff and shit' is cool. The idiots are self-regarding consumer slaves, oblivious to the paradox of their uniform individuality. They sculpt their hair to casual perfection, they wear their waistbands below their balls, they babble into hand-held twit machines about that cool email of the woman being bummed by a wolf. Their cool friend made it. He's an idiot too. Welcome to the age of stupidity. Hail to the rise of the idiots.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010


People get old. That’s a law of the universe. Every one of us is stuck to the surface of a spherical rock by something we have yet to understand called gravity. Maybe the term ‘rock’ doesn’t do it justice. This rock is quiet special – it contains life, as you’ve probably already found out. This rock twists and turns and interacts with other rocks, doing all sorts of gymnastics. We use these movements to measure time. Few of us will be lucky enough to see the Earth spin around it’s parental star 80 times. I’ve spun around that star nearly thirty times now.

I mentioned that fact earlier that people get old. Sadly, I was not lying. People do get old. They start to look shit. Things stop working. Their DNA struggles to keep things together. Eventually, once things seem as shit as they’re gonna get, people die. This in turn makes life a little bit more shit for everyone that knew them. There is however one happy thing about all this and that’s the fact that to be old, you have to have already been young and being young is great!

Let’s get back to this rock. As a special treat we’re gonna go back in time a bit too. On the surface of this rock in the 1980s was a small village on a former island in the Thames Estuary called the Isle Of Grain. If you want to know what this area was like in 1812, read Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. In the 1980s I lived here. That’s where I spent the majority of my childhood, details of which I am now going to relate in this blog.

Picture a small English village surrounded by about 20 square miles of woods, small paddocks, small fields, beaches and coves, marshland, a large power station, numerous crumbling Napoleonic era fortresses, gravel pits, and general unwanted wasteland, accessible by only one road. This is the Isle of Grain or ‘Grain’ as we called it. In the 1980s this was a wonderful place to live. I mean that literally – it was full of wonder. It was a paradise for young, curious, slightly naughty boys.

The village had a small primary school, a church and vicarage, two pubs – one red-bricked, grand and looming called The Cat And Cracker and one quaint and Tudor called The Hogarth, and a few shops, including a butchers, a sweet-shop, a grocers, a newsagents, a wool shop and a bakers. There were maybe about 200 houses, two large unshapely playing fields, long empty roads that didn’t seem to lead anywhere but some other beach a few miles away or some long forgotten 1920s gravel car park, a Scouts hut, and different woods with various well worn paths through them (we never stuck to them).

This was a place where every single person knew who every other single person was. Even if you didn’t know them to talk to, you probably knew their name. I remember priding myself on knowing where every single person in the primary school lived, including the teachers. It was a very small community but in the days before social networking, before each family had a car, and before mobile phones, it was a good community. My mum used to get knocks on the door several times a day from friends just dropping in for a cuppa. More often than not in the summer, our door was left wide open and friends would knock then walk in. I don’t remember a single incident of crime in that village.

The village itself would never win any prizes for beauty. Not in a traditional sense. The place wasn’t developed, polished or preened but it was naturally very beautiful. What it did have was lots of green - trees, grass, wild flowers, nettles, brambles, the lot. All but the main paths and roads was overgrown. A lot of land was owned by the power station people who didn’t really give a second thought by them. There were abandoned car parks and roads and partially fenced off land that no one could remember why it was fenced off. None of it was standard or made much sense. There was so much to explore.

Each year, at the height of summer, there was a big celebratory village fare on the playing fields closest to the school. A large fairground arrived, floats went around the village laden with fancy-dressed kids, art competitions were held in the Village Hall, people did garage sales, things were done by the school. All sorts happened that day. A few decades earlier a wicker man was probably included in proceedings. The best part of that fair was when, on the first night, they gave about an hour of free rides to the kids. Apparently it was to ‘test out’ all the machines but in truth it was probably just a dry run and a way to get some word-of-mouth excitement going around the village. You’ll never beat the excitement got from being in a free fairground at dusk with all the lights flashing and all the different noises competing to be heard!

This was the ‘80s. These were the days before both parents had to go out to work to pay for two cars, or to pay for a childminder or to pay for all the technology that has come onto the market since. We had a black and white telly for years. I remember being surprised when we did get a colour telly because I saw things in the colour they were supposed to be in and I’d been envisaging them all this time in my own colour palette. It was only when Youtube came along that I first saw Trapdoor in the true colours that were, for one reason or another, intended.

People weren’t so hung up about technology in those days. It wasn’t really on people’s radars. Technology didn’t really equate entertainment. If you did have a bit of extra money, a video recorder, a very limited computer (games came on tape cassettes and took weeks to load) and a microwave were the most exciting things you could aim for. The main things people did in the home back then were watch telly, read books and listen to music. It sounds shit to you reading this now and I forgive you for that, but so will this era seem shit in 20 years time to the people with no experience of it. Reading was a great joy, not seen as nerdy (to use an Americanism) at all. I remember the most popular books of some time were the comic annuals (Beano, Dandy, Whizzer & Chips, Beezer, Topper), the Roald Dahl books and the Narnia books, usually after they introduced them to us in the school. A lot of the things we took for granted then are just forgotten oddities now – board games, homemade swings, matchbox cars, Action Man, etc.

Young boys like me went out to play. Staying in was a very girly thing to do. We’d leave after breakfast, get on our bikes and go off to find our friends. If they weren’t at home they’d be somewhere out and about. Usually we’d be going through some phase – building a tree house, digging a hole, racing our bikes down a hill, chasing sheep, or something else similar. There was always something. Your friends were your life in those days. You shared everything together. ‘Fun’ wasn’t something you did with a Playstation or PC, it was being with your mates getting up to stuff. You didn’t sit in school dreaming of sitting at home, in the dark, looking at a screen. You dreamt of being a mile from your house, in the sun, laughing and messing around with your mates.

Adults always found things to do too. Men were always working on engines or doing some sort of DIY. My dad and stepdad were always outside in the sun, with the car in the drive, garage door open, radio on, head under a bonnet. My mum was always doing some art or something else creative. The attitude back then was this - you’d have an idea then give it a go yourself. People seemed to be more capable of making do and keeping things going themselves. Now people are quick to buy something brand new or pay someone to come in to fix something. We used to bother all kinds of men. If we came across one painting his fence we’d stand and watch and ask questions. That was our Youtube.

We used to hate bad weather days. More often than not we’d still go out to play anyway. In those days kids were kicked out for the day because they were being too boisterous and getting under their parents’ feet. But usually back then we went out first thing in the morning and stayed out until hunger got the better of us. Then we’d come back, make a sandwich, drink a pint of water straight from the tap (no glass), and go back out again. Food was more basic too. Hardly anything came ready-made or in much packaging. By some glitch in the weather system it was always summer back then and most of us didn’t have to be in until it got dark. We used to just sit for hours somewhere out in the countryside or on the beach chatting. Loads of people did.

There was none of this hanging around by shops being intimidating like some teenagers like to do today, wearing sportswear, one usually straddling a bike. Adults were still very much in control of things back then. And fashion wasn’t something we gave a second thought to. That was another thing girls did. We just threw anything on – usually pulling it out the ironing pull, all wrinkled up, in order to do so. Houses weren’t Ikea showrooms either. Furniture was made better and looked more at home. Sometimes, you’d get the opportunity to go into someone else’s house who was a friend of a friend and it would be all dark and musty and mysterious in there and their mum or dad would be sat there watching telly and smoking. If you were lucky they’d give you a few pence to go and get some sweets.

Boys were real boys back then. We used to scrap (fight) all the time. It was the best way to resolve disputes (usually the dispute over who was the toughest). There was none of this stabbing each other with knives business though. We all had penknives but there was never ever any thought entertained of stabbing a person. We climbed anything we could find, we read comics and lent them to friends in exchange for the ones they had, we collected stickers and cards, went trespassing in people’s gardens and nicked fruit off their trees, played hide and seek, made ramps for our bikes. We weren’t into pop-culture at all. Only girls liked pop music and that sort of thing. I do, however, remember buying Look-in magazine for a few weeks but I can’t remember why. I think I just liked the idea of them reserving it for me in the newsagents like they did for my friend Stevie.

We didn’t have a youth club in that village but what we did have was Beavers, Cubs and Scouts which were much better – building things, tying things, penknives, lighting fires, all that boy stuff! My mum used to be involved in the Beavers which I was very proud of. When I was old enough I joined the Cubs but that was held in the school hall rather than the old damp smelly Scout Hut, out near the Big Woods, so it wasn’t as fun.

People were still very English then. Most of our slang we got from the Dandy or the Beano or from our parents. All the cartoons we watched were still English. I miss that undiluted purity. Today children are speaking Valspeak and street/gansta English without even knowing that’s what it is or how foreign it is. I used to sit on the beach and look in wonder across the water to Southend-On-Sea which had all these tall buildings glistening in the sun. I used to think it was San Francisco. My only real interest in America was a slight obsession with the Wild West. I even had a red and black cowboy outfit for some time.

Those were great days. Part of me still wants to dress up as a cowboy and go out, acting like an amateur Ray Mears, but that’s over. I’ve had my childhood and now that part of my life is finished just like I will have soon have had all my life and that will also be over. I think the best thing is to try to capture what we have left of that spirit, try to listen to that inner child and more importantly still – make sure we give our own children the most memorable childhood possible.

Monday, 30 November 2009

The Best Crisps Of All Time

As judged by a panel of myself and @pipboy2009 on Twitter.

1. Steak McCoy's
2. Salt & Vinegar Squares
3. Pickled Onion Monster Munch
4. Walker's Cheese & Onion
5. Plain Hula Hoops
6. Salt & Vinegar French Fries
7. Pringles
8. Cool Original Doritos
9. Cheesy Wotsits
10. Quavers