Harry, Basil and Keith


We have had a new arrival this week in the shape of Harry Kevin Nicholas Sims. Mrs T2b’s brother and his girlfriend welcomed their new baby son into the world a few days ago weighing in at an impressive 10lbs 2. Early reports are that mother and baby are doing well as the three of them embark on their journey of sleepless nights, endless dribbling and a house that smells of poo. A bit like our house did last Sunday morning after our visit to the Indian restaurant in Westerham the night before. It’s times like this when no matter what the world throws at you and no matter what day to day hurdles, obstacles and bullshit gets in the way, the arrival of a brand new, box fresh baby can fill even the most hardcore pessimist with a renewed sense of purpose and direction. I’m yet to meet the little fella myself but judging by the pictures that I have seen he already looks like a contented little guy and I know he’s going to have parents, grandparents aunts and uncles who are going to dote on him and probably spoil him just a little bit. And why not. What’s the world coming to if you can’t spoil a little baby.

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When Harry met Cally

We had a new arrival ourselves this week too in the shape of Basil the spider who announced his arrival by sprinting out from behind the DVD unit in the corner and making a break for cover for the underside of the small sofa a few feet away. It’s true to say that I’m not overly keen on any kind of spider but given that Cally hates them, I had to assume the role of chief hunter/protector and get rid of the little blighter. Armed with a large glass to put over the top of him, I set about the task of moving the sofa and in an attempt to quickly pull the sofa forward to reveal his whereabouts I managed to dislodge 3 fingernails instead as I yanked it forward. Not only was Basil nowhere to be seen but I was now beginning to drip blood on the cream sofa. Round 1 to Basil. Round 2 went equally badly for me after our new house guest was spotted scampering to safety under the tv stand and hid perfectly under it, right at the back where I couldn’t get to him. No amount of coaxing could get him to to come out so I decided that hitting him with a stick would encourage him to come out which he did, only to run, Usain Bolt style,across the lounge and behind the bin. I won’t lie I was starting to get cross at this point. The Mrs was behind the door shouting encouraging comments at me like ” have you stopped bleeding yet” and ” don’t make too much mess” while Boris proved more illusive than a tame unicorn. A quick lift of the bin only caused him to dart across the room and under the big cupboard where he appears to have stayed ever since. So for most of the last week neither of us have wanted to walk around the house in bare feet incase he re appears and there is a strange uneasiness while we wait for his reappearance. Not only that, I’m sure he’s pinched one of my beers from the fridge. If your wondering why I’ve called him Basil then there a simple explanation for this in so far that I learned a few years ago to name scary things with silly names to help take the fear away. For example we had a spider that moved into the bathroom a year ago and we named him Keith. He was only little and given that he was less scary than a pillow fight with the krankies we let him stay and missed him once he left. I used the same coping strategy with Adolf, my ex mother-in-law.

Also this week I had promised to deliver a customers new car to their house as they were unable to get to us to pick it up. I don’t mind doing these kind of deliveries as its a chance to get out of the showroom for an hour or two but on this occasion there was no part exchange to come back in so I had to take a driver with me so step forward Martin Pyman whom we all know and admire as the worlds most reluctant driver. This is the man who on a trip to the Bluewater shopping centre managed to go the wrong way round the roundabout leading to the car park and who regards any journey of more than 15 miles to be one which should be accompanied by a packed lunch, thermos flask and an updated will. So with his Swedish pornstar moustache quivering in the gentle breeze off we set, in convoy, on our way to Surrey, but what I’d forgotten was that as well as struggling with medium distances and roundabouts he also doesn’t agree with speeding. Any kind of speeding. In fact he regards a speed road sign as a bit of an optimistic challenge rather than a damned inconvenience, so even through the 50mph average speed bit of the m25 we were overtaken by climate change, continental drift and Wednesday. We do actually have 1thing in common though which is our like of heavy metal. I should point out that for Martin, metal begins with Iron Butterfly and ends with Led Zeppelin So we had to have a play through of the opus that is ‘ Stairway to heaven’ which despite being recorded in about 1873 is still a sublime piece of music. There was a slightly bemused look on his face when I played him a bit of a new album that’s being released by a british metal band called ‘ The more I see’ which by all accounts is going to be a belter. Given that he didn’t care for that too much I was probably not going to get too much of a positive response from playing a succession of dragonforce and devil driver at him but we did in the end settle for a brief play through of some thunder and acdc which lets be honest unless your either mental or tone deaf you’re bound to like.

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Not Martin Pyman. Honest.

A couple of news stories grabbed my attention this week too. The first one was about a university professor who has come up with a plan to stop sending burglars to prison on the basis that the prisons are full and that depriving them of their liberty is too harsh on the poor little lambs. Instead of prison the professor said that they should instead be made to do community service and in order to back up his view,an ex con was then brought in to whole heartedly agree with him. No way, really? An ex con saying that prison is a bad idea? He went on to say that none of his spells in prison (?) had rehabilitated him and that community service would be more rewarding and not turn petty criminals into more hardened ones. Well here’s my view of this utter garbage. Firstly, we’re forgetting the victims here. If someone breaks into my home and steals the things I have worked hard for I want them to go to prison. Or an electric chair. I was brought up to believe that thieving is wrong and doing so would mean I would go to prison and it wouldn’t be too pleasant. Therefore I never stole things! Simple really. Also why should the a******e that has burgled my house be afforded the same freedoms as I have got? Any thief who goes to jail and then claims that they learned more crimes as a result is a complete tool for one reason and one reason alone. And that reason is that the fellow cons they are learning from are also in prison. Therefore they got caught. And therefore they’re cleary not very good at it are they! Also the other story is the one where middle lane hoggers are to be subjected to fines and points on their licences. This is a great idea and one I fully endorse and support assuming that it remains illegal to have a harpoon fitted to the front of your car so that you can fire it at them and then drag them to the hard shoulder and verbally assault them until your throat hurts. Other roadside crimes and my suggested penalties that I would introduce include the following.

1) Overtaking a queuing line of traffic and nipping in at the end: death by firing squad
2) Overtaking and then braking once in front: public flogging
3) Parking so close in a car park that you can’t actually open your door wide enough to get in your car: 12 points and a disqualification
4) Parking so badly that the space to the side is rendered unusable: roadside tasering
5) ‘Amusing’ rear window signs where one cartoon football fan is shown weeing on a rival fan: the car should be towed away and crushed. Followed by a tasering

I should point out that I am of course joking. The public flogging should be televised as well.

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Let me pull the taser trigger. Please?

One night in London


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I want to ask you a question. How much would you pay for a second hand T-shirt? Nothing? £5? Well I’m not sure if I’d buy one at all but at the end of this post I’ll tell you the street value of an Iron maiden event shirt that’s been soaked in beer and sweat for about 5 hours and I’m pretty confident that the answer may surprise you.

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When I set out to write my weekly blogs about 11 months ago, I did so wanting to write about the things that I know about but at the same time not wanting it to just be filled with posts regarding my passion for Iron Maiden. Since the start I have written a review of Steve Harris’s first solo album and a review of the show I saw in June and left it at that because I didn’t and still don’t want it just to become a fan blog and I have a determination to write about other stuff that goes on in my life outside of maiden. My post ‘One night in Paris’ is the review of the show that we saw over in France in the beginning of June and given that the shows at download and the O2 in London were the same, I don’t want to simply re do a gig review.So today’s post is not simply about the show or indeed my views of it which, let’s face it, are hardly ever going to ever be unbiased. What I do want to try to write about this week is the passion,determination and loyalty that surrounds this band from the perspective of their fans of which I am of course one. A couple of examples of this I witnessed first hand in Paris on 5th June this year. We flew out of Luton on the very first flight of the day at 6am but even though we arrived at the airport at about 4.15 am there were already a number of fans already in the bar in the departure lounge and many more joined us for the flight out and most of us all seemed to be sat together on the aircraft.I later discovered that there were 4 other flights leaving London that morning for Paris that were taking maiden fans over for the show. Before flying out I had noticed that the fan club members were planning a meet up at the trocadero for a group photo so we decided to pop along to see if we could gatecrash it and get in some pictures. At the designated time there must have been getting on for 50 fans that had travelled in from the UK as well as fans from Canada, South America and other European locations too. Other meets were organised for the Eiffel tower as well as other parts of Paris. One of the guys we got talking to was telling us that he had been there since the previous day and the night before had been drinking in a bar with both Nicko (drums) and Janick (guitar) and when I asked if they had got photos he simply said no, they wern’t doing photos and if anyone tried to get silly they would protect the band from them. So here you have a situation where your heroes and yourself can just chill out with some beers with the upmost of mutual respect. The band give their fans a sense of being real and accessible and in return the fans protect them from the press and unwanted intrusion. He also went on to tell us about his global travels watching the band play in Australia, India and Japan and how he arranges his work and social life around the tours.

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And then there are the shows. As a fellow fan pointed out to me the other day, there’s almost no point in trying to explain to the uninitiated just exactly what going to an Iron maiden concert is like because unless you have actually been to one, you’ll never really be able to understand what it’s like. When I try to tell someone about the energy from the band, the lights show or the huge wall of flames that erupt regularly from all parts of the stage set, I get people smiling at me in an attempt to pretend that they are either interested or impressed when deep down you know they don’t care one bit. It’s in many ways a bit like trying to convince someone that you have seen a ghost but you know they don’t believe you or a bit like telling a friend that your in love but that the words you use don’t really convey enough of the emotion that you feel. I’ve seen 19 Iron maiden shows over the years and each one has been just that… A show, an event almost. Heavy metal is the kind a music that makes me want to run around like a lunatic,to head bang to or jump up and down to. It makes me drive faster, makes my heart beat quicker and makes me feel alive. It gets me out of my sensible everyday professional hang ups where I have to be grown up and mature and it it allows me to escape reality. It also doesn’t judge me, it doesn’t tell me what I should wear or sneer at me should I not have the right label on.

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Maiden have also managed to write many of the most iconic metal songs since the genre burst on to the scene all those years ago. They led from the front when the new wave of British heavy metal burst out of punk out in the late 70’s along with Def Leppard and Diamond Head. In order to get noticed in those days you had to graft hard and build up a following over many months and years of touring simply to get noticed. Having a nice haircut or a deal with a clothing company would not sell you a million albums as it does now, so back then you had to graft and keep grafting in the hope that it would bring the success you craved for. You also needed to keep writing quality songs in order to keep your growing fan base happy and so it was that in 1980 after having been formed in one way or another since the mid 70’s and having built up a reputation for brilliant shows,maidens first single actually made it into the charts and when they were asked to do top of the tops,they agreed to do it only on the basis that they could perform it live. Only Queen had ever done that before. Their determination to do things their way and on their terms matched the mindset of their fans and of metal fans in general who usually stand on the fringes of polite society getting looked at oddly due to their long hair and tattoos, but who themselves are determined to maintain a look that matches those of the bands that they follow. So with Maiden what you have is a marriage of convenience between band and fans, both of whom share the same determination to stick to their roots and beliefs but who are also very loyal to each other. This loyalty comes in many forms but for me it stands out when you consider that they have never ‘sold out’ or become corporate and never chased a deal with a jeans company just to make a few quid. But more importantly musically they have never significantly changed their sound and they continue to tour the world doing what they do, keeping the old fan base happy while picking up new younger fans along the way.

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On this tour I saw for myself just what being an Iron Maiden fan means to the fans and the lengths they go to in order to see the band perform. The best example of this that I have is a guy called Adam who answered an advert I posted on the maiden fan forum on their website. I had bought 4 tickets for the show in London on Sunday but due to holidays clashing and babies being due most of our chums were unable to make it, so I put an advert on the site to see if anyone wanted to buy it. Adam saw my ad and asked if it was still available to which I said yes and then he tells me that subject to flights he would like it. Flights? I asked. “Yes” he said “I’m from Stockholm so need to check out flights and accommodation”. An hour later and on nothing more than my say so he messages me on Facebook and says “right I’m there, 3500 kr lighter in the wallet but definitely coming”. Then when we finally met up at the arena he happily helped two of our party get the two remaining first to the barrier wristbands that we were missing so that we could get right to the front.Adam went on to tell me that he had been to 14 of the 32 European dates that the band had done on this leg of the tour as well as having travelled to North America last year for many of the those shows too. And he wasn’t alone either as many of the people who were around us on Sunday were on first name terms with each other and while addressing the audience from the stage, Bruce (vocals) announced that he could see “several familiar faces”.Also impromptu Facebook pages sprung up since the announcement of the London shows where total strangers arranged to meet for beers and group photos on show day to make new friends and share tour stories.

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When you wear your maiden t-shirt you belong to something much bigger than simply an audience. You could be anywhere in the world and if a fellow fan see’s that your a fan too you will almost certainly soon find yourself in a bar sharing a beer and discussing your favourite songs with them. This doesn’t happen with any another band that that I’ve ever been to see. From a marketing point of view it’s probably true to say that Metallica are the biggest grossing metal band at the moment and have been for some time but Metallica are always on the coat tails of maiden when it come to the devotion of the fans, quality of the shows and in my humble opinion the music too. One of the best things about watching legends like Iron Maiden is that they are living legends, still selling out arenas, stadiums and festivals around the world. When people talk about the pioneers/creators of the genre they quickly talk about the style and the influence that Maiden have had in their field since starting to get noticed way back in the late 70’s early 80’s. When you look at those pioneers now, most of them have gone only to be referred to as legends and although people of a certain age will always talk of Zeppelin or sabbath with a kind of nostalgic sense of superiority, its worth pointing out that maiden are still going, still touring the world and still appealing to new audiences all over the world. And still getting bigger. You can actually still see these legends in action.

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I’d love to finish this off by telling you or begging you to go and witness them for yourself but I’d rather you didn’t. I’d rather curiosity didn’t get the better of you and I’d rather you didn’t turn up at the show just to see what all the fuss was about. I’ve worn the colours for nearly 30 years, I’ve been on the end of the butt of many jokes about liking metal and there are a whole bunch of people I could name right here right now who have judged me because of it but I won’t. I’m a better person than that. So despite the fact that I KNOW you would have the experience of your life at a maiden show I’d like you keep away. I’d like it to remain the case that like Paris, Download and London this year as well as all the other shows since the first at Hammersmith odeon on 4th November 1986 it’s just me and the hundreds of thousands of my blood brothers going to see them. It’s our secret.

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I posed a question at the start about a t-shirt and here’s the reason why. When were leaving the O2 on Sunday my friend Mike was approached by a couple who went on to explain to him that they had finished their honeymoon in London that day and that going to see maiden was the icing on their marital cake but like many of the other concert goers that night, the merchandise stalls had sold out of the event shirt. Now you should know that the event shirts are unique to the show and cannot be bought afterwards, they are like badges of honour that can only be obtained at the show. What makes them unique is that the back of the shirt has the date of the show on it and although they can be bought through official stores on maidens website they cannot be bought with the tour date on the back which makes the event shirt a desirable piece of kit. The honeymooners wanted the shirt as a souvenir of the “pinnacle of their honeymoon” and had picked out Mike as he was the same build as the husband. Bear in mind this shirt was covered in much beer and sweat and for reasons that I won’t go into, it had also been very firmly pressed into the floor of the arena by over officious security despite the fact that Mike was still in it at the time.

He got £60 for it. And I think he got the rough end of the deal too.

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Me and Paul Frost from Zico Chain who was kind enough not to run away when I asked him for a photo.

Banknotes and boobs


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A great hoohaa erupted last week when the new chief of the bank of England decided to use one of his first days on the job to announce that due largely to the lobbying of certain feminist individuals a new banknote is soon to be issued that features a woman on the back of it as opposed to a man. Apparently there has been an enormous miscarriage of justice over the last quadrillion years that has resulted in few women having had their pictures on the back of a bank note despite the fact that one of the most famous women in history has had her face on the front of all of them for the last 60 years. So after a long consultation process -I don’t remember being asked- it was decided that Jane Austen was to be the face on the new back of the new £10 note. Speak to the vast majority of the UK population and I’m sure that most of them don’t recognise the woman on the front of the notes yet alone the identity of the person on the back, for example without looking it up on google, can you tell me who is the person on the back of a £20 note? No, didn’t think so. Most of us will at some point have returned home from Europe over the last few weeks and cared not one single bit about which anonymous person, man or woman, adorns the front or back of any of the euro bank notes they have been using and so long as they get a good rate of exchange will probably never do so. That said, the readers of ‘The Times’ will have probably learned who is on our bank notes so that they can remember it in case it comes up in a radio 2 quiz, readers of the ‘Daily Mail’ won’t care either so long as its Princess Diana, and readers of ‘ The Sun’ don’t care so long as she has big boobs. Therefore my most hardy congratulations this week have to go to feminist champion Caroline Criado-Perez who it would appear has changed the mind of the bank of England and succeeded in changing something that on the whole no one give a toss about.

And then I turn the tv on on Monday. It seems that the co op supermarket has recently carried out an exit poll on their customers, asking them if they felt offended by the images shown on the front of various ‘lads mags’ such as Nuts or Zoo being displayed in their stores and It turns out that the great majority of respondents to this question answered yes. So many in fact that the co op have threatened the publishers of these magazines with the promise to stop stocking them unless they are either toned down,made less offensive or covered up.Since as long as I can remember these magazines along with those at the more specialist end of the market, have always been displayed on the top shelf in order to make sure that they are kept out of the gaze of impressionable youngsters. Everybody knows this, so why is it then that people then look up towards the top shelf, tut disapprovingly and then complain that they have been offended. If your that easily offended then don’t look up there in the first place! There is a branch of the co op less than a mile from my front door and with the possible exception of the ‘one stop’ shop a bit further up the street, this is by far and away the worst convenience store I have ever seen or had the misfortune to be in. The only reason I go in there in the first place is to buy beer so I can then get some cash back in order to spend at the Chinese takeaway next door who still refuse to accept card payments. It’s my opinion that the co op has more fundamental problems to deal with rather than bothering too much with censoring boobs. When you go into this store the first thing that greets you is the bread section which also contains some dubious looking “fresh” buns and pastries and a left turn takes you to the back of the store and a display of over priced goods on the shelf. I say shelf, for the most part these goods are displayed in roll cages because the overworked staff haven’t got time to get them out of these cages and onto the shelves in the first place so you end up having to guess how much they cost. Assuming you have made it through the aisles to the counter, you are then funnelled into a queue which is the same length as the one at Heathrow’s immigration counter and then get served by a staff member who does his best but is clearly trying to do too much on his own. After leaving the store I’d love to be met by one of these guys with a clipboard and have him ask me what I think of the store and if this was to ever happen I hope he has got a lot of time and plenty of paper to write on. But what actually happens is that upon exiting this hell hole of a store, someone appears from out of nowhere with a clipboard in hand and asks you if you were put off by the images of boobs.

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It’s an interesting set of morals these stores have. In the interests of research I decided to pop into my local store and look at the magazine range for myself to see what all the fuss is about. As I walked into to my local co-op there was the newspaper stand which featured the daily sport, which for those not in the know is a publication featuring stories connected with nothing but sex,sex and more sex. On the front cover of this paper was a photo of a woman bending over so that you could see her underwear. I don’t remember seeing anyone from the co op getting hot under the collar by this. Then I turn to my right and saw the magazine display, and this displayed what I understand to be the main cause of the problem. Boobs. There in the middle of this display at the top was nuts magazine, which on its front cover featured full length shot of a woman in a bikini with some other smaller pictures of other women also in their underwear. Below that was the latest issue of Men’s health magazine featuring a half naked man with a six pack striking a pose while managing to look rugged and manly. Then there was the row of women’s magazine. Having never read any of these wastes of ink I can’t claim to have that familiar with them but the seem to have headlines on them that in my opinion are more offensive than the lads mags. The first one was ” set on fire by the beast who raped me” and the second one was ” horror hauntings killed our baby”. The front of the Take a break magazine has the heading of “killed because I went for a McDonald’s” and the front of Love it ran the front page of “corpses in the ice cream”. Now in the general scheme of things and assuming for one minute I was an impressionable child, do you think I would be more scared by the thought of being haunted or even raped to death, or would I be more corrupted by the sight of a pair of bikini clad boobs? I know which one I would be most worried about.But it seems that the feminists and the store operators would have us believe that an impressionable child viewing a pair of boobs by accident is by far and away a bigger threat to the moral fabric of our society than the prospect of the same impressionable child seeing a corpse in the freezer or being killed for asking for a happy meal. In my opinion these are the things we should be more concerned with.

The main argument against these lads mags seems to be that women should not be depicted as merely objects and that the women who are featured in them are in some way being exploited. Then just today tesco announced that it had reached an agreement with the magazines publishers that they would be toned down or even displayed in plain covers to protect their customers. The reason they give is that they have taken the advice of the feminist group “lose the lads mags” who claim that it is a “national scandal” that these stores stock and sell the mags in the first place. National scandal my arse. Its a scandal that children in this country are not properly protected against abuse. Its a scandal that in a so called developed country such as this that hard working families have to rely on food banks to get by. Its not a scandal that some women and men want to earn a living by taking advantage of their own good looks.They go on to say that these magazines “underpin violence towards women” and ” send a deeply deeply harmful message that treating women like sex objects is normal and acceptable”. Well not only do they not, I think that no right thinking man or woman wants to see any woman exploited or taken advantage of whether see gets her boobs out for a living or is the CEO of a multinational company. Just as a woman can rise the corporate ladder why can’t she also chose to be a model, whether it’s a glamour model or a catwalk model. Surely it is the final irony of feminism particularly over the last 30 years that young women have been brought up to believe in themselves and to believe that the world is their oyster and they can do whatever they want but when they decide that they can make a good living being a topless model the women’s groups are the first to complain. It goes without saying that no woman, or man for that matter, should be exploited but I’m very confident that none of the contributors to nuts or loaded are doing so against their will. Also I’m confident that none of these women are doing so because they have little other option. It seems to me that this is a fairly short lived career and many of them decide to pursue this as a job while they can before going on to do other things. The women representing so called feminist causes would impress me more if they were to look more closely at more important issues regarding feminism such as young British Asian women being married off against their will but I guess that while it is still easier and less dangerous to complain about banknotes and boobs, they will take the easier option.

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What did you expect from July. Snow?


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It’s July. Traditionally this is a time when the sun shines, the temperature rises and after having just spent the previous 48 weeks complaining that it’s too cold and wet, we instead complain that it’s too hot. Personally speaking i’ve been well prepared for this type of weather condition and have developed a whole load of common sense coping mechanisms over the years after learning the hard way why I shouldn’t lay out in the sun for hours without wearing sun block. Also when the weather gets cold I put a jumper and the heating on and when it gets wet I wear a waterproof coat. When there is lightning I tend not to stand in large open spaces holding metallic objects and when it snows I go out for a drive in my car just to be disobedient. However there are a great many numptys among us that haven’t been bestowed with the same amount of common sense that I’ve been blessed with so for them help arrives via the nanny state, the bbc and the ministry for stating the bleedin obvious. Or the met office as they’re also known. Nature has a way of allowing only the more intelligent of species to flourish and evolve while the less able and least adaptable die out. Having said that, it must annoy the hell out of mother nature that humans have found a way to bypass the whole evolution process and have developed a system where the more stupid you are the more the more likely you are to be looked after and cared for. For example, as an extremely fair skinned kid with ginger tendencies, it was observed by my parents that there was a strong possibility that if I was exposed to sunlight for more than about a minute the chances were that I would end up with sunburn or spontaneously combust. Even these days it is still best practise for me to sunbathe in a coned off area whilst wearing a hi visibility vest to warn fellow sun worshipers of the danger I represent. Knowing how useless at tanning I am allowed us to adapt successfully to the scorching summers we had in the 70’s where sometimes it wouldn’t rain for literally hours, and I’d go out to play with my friends in full length clothing and a hat to protect me from the elements. However What long sleeve shirts, trousers and a panama hat failed to protect me from was the ridicule of my friends, who’s laughter and ridicule were ultimately more painful than the sunburn I’d probably rather have had in the first place. Nowadays though what happens is that people who haven’t had the benefit of growing up with a sensible parent or two or haven’t bothered to develop a single jot of common sense, can rely on the rest of society to devolve down to their level so as to make them feel included and not unhappy.

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I’ve started sunbathing in a coned off area and a hi viz vest to warn people close by of the probability that I will at some stage catch fire.

As I got older and reached the age when I should have known better, had I of returned home with sunburn my mum would simply call me an “eejit” which for those not in the know is the Irish word for ” you should have listened to your mum you idiot”. But it seems that these days it’s all a bit different. For the last week or two we have had some of the BBCs most stern faced newsreaders and weather people taking on the parental role by giving us some glum expressions while telling us that the “heat wave shows no sign of abating” and offering us advice on how to survive it. Last nights national flagship news at ten broadcast showed images of an elderly bedridden man in a care home being given an ace lolly to help him feel cool. The poor old chap featured in this “news” item had a vacant stare about him and looked as confused as hell when a news crew arrived in his bedroom to film his lunch being given to him and the look on the poor old fellas face was actually quite disturbing when he realised that far from getting his usual hot meal all he was getting was a rocket ice lolly. On a paper plate. The (lack of) care worker providing him with this joke of a meal looked delighted to be on the telly and no doubt will have it recorded for all time but are we really a country where rather than having care homes with air conditioning we thank old people for winning the war for us by taking away their meals and giving them flavoured frozen water on a stick? The journalist who’s article this was then took to a helicopter to fly over the shore line of Hastings in order to provide a birds eye view of what a beach looks like and to show some parents standing ankle deep in the English Channel while he told us about the perils of the sea. Then we had a story where we were told that local hospitals were being inundated with a 10 fold increase in sunburn cases in the last month. This I would suggest is largely down to the fact that last month it was so wet that the chances of getting sunburn were about the same as the chances of an uninterrupted flight on a Boeing Dreamliner. Also, I’d be too ashamed of myself to have to go to the emergency room for sunburn treatment. It’s a bit like going to hospital for treatment for a hangover or bad haircut. Although talking of ashamed, step forward the latest contestant for the title of Britain’s most useless parent whose 4 week old baby was admitted to hospital suffering from extreme sunburn after having spent four hours on the beach and leaving the child laying there without adequate protection.

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And it’s precisely because this country seems to be jam packed with utter fucknuggets that some people need to be repeatedly told some of the most basic survival skills to get through some of life’s most gentle of challenges. Last night the news presenter Huw Edwards found it necessary to advise us that in order to avoid over heating we should stay indoors, keep the windows shut and drink plenty of fluids. During the 1980’s we were constantly under the threat of a full scale nuclear attack from the Russians and the advice given then was to stay indoors, keep the windows shut and drink plenty of fluids proving that the best way to avoid any kind of injury, accident or bad fortune is exactly the same whether it’s surviving a full scale thermonuclear attack or just a nasty bee sting. Why don’t we all just go one step further and stay in bed all day?. It’s also the tone of the advice that we are given that annoys me. When we’re not being treated like idiots we’re being told that should we step outside for too long the possibilities of certain death become probabilities instead and the met office give us these heatwave warnings graded from 1-4 in the following way:

Level 1) Go outside and stop being a wimp. Although try not to die
Level 2) It’s going to be warm but you should be alright. Just avoid doing anything dangerous like crossing the road or breathing out for too long.
Level 3) Bugger me it’s hot. We don’t recommend you go out but if you absolutely need to, make sure you say some prayers and make the sign of the cross first.
Level 4) You will die.

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So here’s my advice instead. This is England. Normal service will soon resume and the weather will go back to being grey, cool and boring so take yourself out and enjoy it. I don’t give a single damn if you wear sunblock or not but I will insist at laughing at you if you burn or go out wearing a silly hat.Get out of the house and go to our wonderful parks, forests and lakes to chill out and relax and have a well earned break and make sure you take plenty of beers with you. Also take as many family members as possible and if you need to,take a ball or a bat and play some games and make some memories. Take lots of pictures to remember the occasion by and if you feel like it share them on Facebook so that in September when river levels return to their usual flood level status you can remind yourselves of the great summer we had. Take some music with you too.There are some songs that cry out to be played on hot days, songs like Don Henley’s ‘Boys of summer’ and Bryan Adams ‘ Summer of 69’. Enjoy the splendour of a summertime and make the most of it. Lay down in the sun and close your eyes while you feel the heat of the sun warm your soul and I guarantee you’ll feel nothing but positive. So because nobody has ever had a fulfilling life by sitting indoors and avoiding danger, get yourself outdoors, stick two fingers up at the health and safety fanatics and enjoy it while it lasts and if you get stung by some wasps or end up slightly browner as a result of it then my message is a resounding good for you. And with that in mind I’m off to lay on the sofa for the day to watch the golf on one channel and the Aussies getting beaten in the ashes on the other.

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Seconds best


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After a particularly brutal day at work on Wednesday I got home, slumped onto the sofa, turned the telly on and started channel hopping in the hope of finding something to watch that would make my mood better. As it was before 7pm my options were very limited and much to my utter disappointment there wasn’t a single program on where an assistant in a retail environment attacked an utter toss face of a customer for wasting half his week on a pointless and futile attempt to find him a car only for him to back out just after the job had been successfully completed. If this program had of been on Ideally it would have then gone on to show in some fairly graphic detail how the handsome hero went on to spend several happy hours beating the living crap out of this utter moronic excuse for a human being and, to the cheers of many, went on to be knighted for his services to anti- knobism the world over. But alas this program wasn’t on so I watched the golf instead.

This tournament, which was being broadcast on one of the minor sports channels, featured nobody I’d ever heard of and was being played in an obscure location somewhere in Europe and although it was only a minor competition,they were playing for a prize that would probably make a bankers bonus look like loose change. There was an interesting moment on one of the holes that got my attention and gave me an idea for today’s post. What happened was that one of the players tee’d off on a par 3 and hit his ball to within 2cm of the hole and, suitably impressed,the crowd clapped appreciatively and told each other how magnificent a shot it was. Once the clapping died down the playing partner of player ‘A’ took his shot which arrived at the green at a million miles an hour, bounced once and fell into the hole after hitting the flag stick. All the spectators clapped even harder, whooped a little and the players congratulated each other on how brilliant they had been. What struck me about this moment was how bloody lucky player ‘B’ had been because he had clearly over hit his shot and when the ball hit the flag stick and dropped into the hole, it was clearly a fluke. Both players had played their shots to get as close as possible to the hole and player ‘A’ executed it exactly as he planned. Player ‘B’ though got lucky and as a result of getting lucky got his hole in one and a new car from the sponsors. Anyone who tells me that he was planning to get it into hole in the first place is deluded as even the once mighty Tiger Woods would only ever play a par 3 with a view to giving himself as easy a putt as possible and not aiming to score a direct strike.

And it was this twist of fortune/ fickle finger of fate (call it what you will) that got me thinking about why it is that I tend to find myself more interested in the nearly men of sport as opposed to the true champions. But before I go on to explain myself, I should quickly say that I do of course admire the true genius of history’s winners and I could spend eternity watching and admiring their greatness. But because I’m pretty rubbish at all sports I tend to remember and empathise with the nearly men, the ones who like player ‘A’ do nothing wrong yet don’t ever get either the breaks or the luck even if they do go on to gain notoriety. For example;-

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Andy Murray: Until last weekend, as far as Wimbledon is concerned Andy had flattered to deceive each and every year and had gained a reputation as a nearly man whom we could identify with. Despite this overwhelming sense that we would all be disappointed yet again, year after year we pinned our faint hopes on him that he might win the men’s singles championship for the first time since a t-shirt manufacturer managed it back in the middle ages. But rather than simply going down in history as a rather dull, Kevin and Perry type of silly haired also ran,and therefore guaranteeing himself obscurity in years to come, he blew it spectacularly by failing to lose to Djokovic last Sunday afternoon. The way I see it is that until he won it, he was exactly the kind of sportsman we like… an underdog or an outsider where housewives up and down the land would love him for his big heart and tenacity, and yearned to give him a cuddle to say ‘ bad luck’. The Jimmy White of the tennis world even.By losing regularly we could call him a plucky Brit or even a useless jock. Now, we’re going to end up calling him Sir.

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Don Bradman: Given that he managed to achieve a batting average of 99.94 in test match cricket, he might seem an unlikely addition to this list, but I think the fact that his average was 99 and not 100 gives his story and added touch of romanticism. Picture the scene: Coming out to bat on his last ever test match at the Oval and applauded onto the pitch by both sets of players, he knew that he only needed 4 runs to secure a batting average of 100 which would assure him an insurmountable place in cricket folklore. The thousands watching sat back in their seats and awaited history being made in front of them. However what nobody could have predicted was that this was indeed going to be a historic day as Bradman had the only off day of his career and ended up getting out for a duck on just his second ball. If he had of gone on to score those runs, the bowler who got him out( Eric Hollies) would never be remembered or have his own unique place in the cricket history books and Bradman himself would have always been remembered as an inhuman machine of a batsman as opposed to a fallible bloke like the rest of us.

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Jean van de Velde: Not a name that rolls of the tongue or one that you’ll find on a golf trophy of note anywhere in the world but this chap wasn’t exactly useless,far from it in fact. In the 1999 open golf championship he led the field by 3 shots and therefore only needed a 6 on the last hole to win his first major, a hole he had birdied twice already in previous rounds. With an amazing display of stupidity, poor judgement and arrogance he misjudged every shot from tee to green finishing up in streams, bunkers and fairway rough before finally carding a 7 putting him into a play off which he lost to eventual winner Paul Lawrie. The sight of him standing with his shoes and socks off,ankle deep in water with a puzzled look on his face is an image that will follow him around the golf world for the rest of time. Had he actually won, the memory of this victory would have been soon forgotten and he would have drifted into the fog of obscurity and disappeared quicker than Buddy Holly and never be remembered again. But because of his spectacular and epic meltdown his name will go down in history more so than if he had of won it and his place in the nearly elite is guaranteed for all time.

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Frank Bruno: if there was ever a book written on sports nearly men Frank ‘glass jaw’ Bruno would be on the front cover. To call him Britain’s best loved heavyweight boxer is a bit like calling Top gear Britains best loved car show featuring Jeremy Clarkson, in that for a long time he was Britains ONLY heavyweight boxer of any note. Fearless Frank had the misfortune to arrive on the scene at the same time as Mike Tyson who without any doubt was the most fearsome heavyweight of his time. Having worked his way through the ranks beating some of his divisions fading stars and also rans, Frank and Mike eventually met in a haze of publicity allowing Tyson to batter our Frank to bits. For a time though history could have been different for both men. Frank landed a fearsome blow on his opponent who for a few seconds looked stunned by it and allowed the 20million watching on tv as well as the commentator Harry Carpenter to simultaneously shout “come on Frank” in the hope that our boy could do it. Sadly it wasn’t just Tyson that looked stunned. Bruno himself also looked a bit on the surprised side at what he’d done and failed to finish the job off allowing Tyson to compose himself, get a bit angrier and go on to knock Frank out. And that was the thing about Frank. Unlike every other boxer in history who, after getting a massive punch in the face, falls to the canvas, Frank just stands there and allows his arms to drop giving his opponent a free shot to finish off the job. Still he did go on to beat some bloke and eventually become world champion but he’ll be more known for his gallant losing, jolly laugh and panto performances than actually winning the title and that’s why we love him.

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And that’s one thing about us Brits. With the exception of our football and cricket teams we can admire and respect those that try hard and even if they fail to cross the line first or achieve glory. I admire the guys who can get their tee shots close to the pin but I feel jealous of the luck some people get when their ball accidentally rolls into the hole as let’s face it,it’s a fluke. In tennis when a player hits the ball so close to the net that it hits the net cord and dribbles over to win them the point,the payer involved usually raises his hand to his opponent to acknowledge his good fortune. In snooker if a player flukes a shot they do the same thing so why not in golf? I think Player ‘B’ should have looked a bit sheepish, apologised and given the keys to his new car back to BMW. As you will have probably guessed I’ve never had a hole in one. Or a BMW.

Losing my pop virginity again


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It had to happen. After nearly 3 years of taking Cally to see some of the planets noisiest metal bands such as Guns n Roses, Iron Maiden and Slipknot, the tides were turned this week when it was my turn to be taken to see one of her Idols instead. I’ve been going to concerts since the mid eighties and although pop music was never really my thing, I held the view that it would be a missed opportunity if I was unable to see some of the big names of the time, so therefore my musical CV has got Michael Jackson and Madonna on it as well as their support acts Kim Wilde and Level 42. My rationale for this was that I felt that if in the future I ever had children and they asked me the question ” Dad, did you ever see..” then it would be a really cool thing to be able to say yes. I remember Madonna giving a good show but Jacko was awful and until I saw Guns n Roses a few years ago, it had been the only gig I’d ever left before the end. In case your wondering, I left the GnR gig because of Axl Rose’s utter contempt for his fans and his notorious poor timekeeping as they could only be bothered to start the show about 45 minutes before the last tube home. He is an utter tosser. Anyway, having given up the chance to see Queen at Wembley, as I considered them not ‘rock’ enough, I decided to check out some other big names in order to not miss out on them, so as well as the aforementioned icons, I also saw the stranglers and Duran Duran. But then rock/metal took a hold of me in a big way and therefore that was the last pop band I ever saw and ever expected to see. The thing is, when you align yourself to one type of music, particularly metal, you do so knowing that like fire and ice or Millwall and West ham, the two are exact opposites and the fans of both will spend eternity misunderstanding and mistrusting each other. So even though the pop arena is hardly my natural habitat, last Friday we made our way to London to see Robbie Williams at Wembley stadium, the same venue that I saw Jacko and Madge in all those years ago. Despite feeling more than a little out of place as well as being certain of a healthy amount piss taking from my more metal mates, Robbie Williams is one of this countries most versatile performers and I felt that adding his details to my music CV would not prove to be a copybook blot in anyway.

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So with it only having been 3 weeks since the first day of download and the epic 4 seasons in one day where I managed to get soaked, sunburnt and hypothermic all in the space of 12 hours, I found myself standing in the middle of Wembley stadium on one of the hottest days of the year, clutching what seems to have been the most expensive large coke and hot dog combo ever assembled. In one fail swoop I managed to contribute massively to paying off some of this stadiums huge debts simply by buying a snack. One of the other cultural differences between then and now is that THEN there was a field full of 100,000 people, mostly men,who hadn’t washed since……. Well, hadn’t washed, and NOW I’m the only male within eyeshot and the other attendees smell of soap and perfume. After an hour or so of patiently standing and waiting for something to happen on stage the video screens burst into life advertising the new album from support act Olly Murs causing some confusion amongst the ladies who thought this was the signal for his show to start and therefore a hundred middle aged women eased themselves up off the floor grabbed their handbags and shuffled politely forward only to discover that it was only an advert and sat back down again to continue their various conversations. But they didn’t have to wait too long. A DJ from capital radio appeared and started playing some songs and didn’t waste a single opportunity to regale us with his peerless crowd involvement routine of shouting either ” Hello Wembley”, ” How are you Wembley” or simply just “Wembley” at the end of each song, which after about half an hour even he looked totally bored by the whole thing and thankfully buggered off,but not before telling us that Olly would be here is just 5 minutes.

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And 20 minutes later he was. Arriving on stage with all the energy of a small puppy on a diet of red bull and blue smarties, he began his routine with the crowd enjoying every moment and if I’m really honest he wasn’t that bad. Naturally I didn’t really know any of his songs but they all sounded ok, albeit a little samey but to be fair he is a genuinely good performer who can hold a note, engage a crowd and keep them engrossed in the show. I did however feel like a bit of a hypocrite given my well documented views of the x-factor and their contestants, but I was reminded later on in the evening of the time when I saw his first audition and thought even then that he could well go on to win it. I did also feel a bit gutted that my very presence here was contributing to Simon Cowells ever increasing fortune but the guy is genuinely good value for his money. Olly Murs that is! He’s given time to perform a good set that’s delivered in an unrushed fashion and even has time to play a medley of classics during the middle of his set. If there was to be a stand out song, for me it was ‘Dear Darlin’ which is a good song, radio friendly and performed well and it seems to me that judging by the crowd reaction this is one of their favourites too. In summary, he seems like a nice guy who’s making the most of his time in the limelight and I hope he builds himself a good career but for me he’s just a bit to cutesy and squeaky clean. It’s almost as though he could benefit from appearing to be a bit more vulnerable….. human almost. It never did Robbie any harm.

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And talking of Robbie, it wasn’t long after Olly Murs had finished that we finally got to see the main man himself. Arriving onstage on a zip wire secured from the top of the stage to the bottom is one way of making an entrance but then again what else would you expect from a guy who is almost certainly going to go into the pop history books as one of our top showmen. For two hours we saw him give a wholehearted and masterful performance, keeping the crowd entertained with his music as well as his sense of humour. For example he managed to persuade a guy to stop walking out to get an early train during the encore and he managed to poke a bit of fun at radio 1 for presumably ignoring his songs in favour of other artists. But my favourite jibe was aimed at Noel Gallagher who once famously said that Robbie was nothing more than just the “fat dancer in take that”. Robbie responded during the show by asking him “where are you” right now?. While the whole Blur/Oasis britpop thing was going on,Robbie was already forming a solo career having left take that, and long after the world had got bored of blur, and watched Oasis implode, here he is still selling out stadiums, both on his own and with his old band mates. And although the press like to portray the relationship between the various members of take that as “strained” the stage had more than one reference to his boy band past emblazoned on it and why not. It’s not as if Paul McCartney hasn’t made a few quid out of the Beatles in the last 40 years.

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The stage show got more impressive as the night went on culminating in a firework display shooting out of the top of the stage into the now dark sky. This was all timed to coincide with the end of the show and the final song of the night which is probably the one that will define his career more than any other. Introducing ‘Angels’ Robbie told us that we should think of someone that had recently left us and dedicate this song to them and I’m sure they did because looking around us there were certainly a few teary eyes to be seen. And then as the song came to an end the band departed leaving him all on his own to finish it unaccompanied which he did with everyone else joining in before he bid us all goodnight and was gone. So my first pop concert in a couple of decades was over and I can’t lie there were bits of it I liked and hated. I liked the fact that the queue for the gents was so short it didn’t actually exist and I hated most of the people I found myself standing next to. One bellend got a firm shove after the millionth time of dancing so close that I thought he was trying to mate with me and one woman displayed her true class when she vomited into a beer cup and insisted on shouting ” get your dick out” at the end of Robbies first 5 songs. But them aside I had a good time. I won’t be rushing back soon for another pop experience but I’m glad I went because when all is said and done I respect Robbie Williams for what he has achieved and for the show he put on and if it’s going to be the last pop gig I go to, it wasn’t a bad way to bow out.

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2013: half time report


So that’s it then, half of 2013 has already happened and yet it only seems like it was 5 minutes ago that we put the Christmas tree away, stuck a middle finger up to 2012 and opened up our new 2013 calendars with a sense of hope and eternal optimism. For me it’s been a whirlwind first 6 months of 2013 having had trips away to Amsterdam,Edinburgh and Paris as well as getting engaged to the very wonderful Cally Sims and seeing the mighty Iron Maiden a couple of times with 1 pending. One of these was my first trip to the download festival on the hallowed grounds of Donington. I have been there before many years ago when it was just a single day branded as the monsters of rock but never in the days since it became a festival so it was excellent to have had the chance to go. In the past 6months I’ve discovered a few bands that I hadn’t previously been that aware of and that I’m eager to see either again after seeing them at download or for the very first time on their own tours later in the year. I absolutely adore ‘Ungrateful’ the new album from escape the fate and ‘Temper Temper’ from Bullet for my valentine, the title track from which makes me want to drive fast and start a mosh pit as I go. I saw Zico chain a few months back supporting Steve Harris’ British lion and would recommend you check them out when they tour later in the year and if you want to see another great British rock band check out The Treatment whom I have been waxing lyrical about since the start of the year and have a new album out later in this year too and a support slot supporting Ac/Dc tribute act Aussie rockers Airbourne. This week coming I’ve agreed to accompany the future Mrs to Wembley so she can see one of her favourite singers which is only fair considering the ear assaulting bands I’ve taken her to see over the last couple of years.

Other than holidays and gigs the other big news this year from me is my engagement. I knew from day one that Cally was ‘the one’ that I wanted to be with forever and despite her doing everything possible to put me off asking her, it was with great pleasure that I was able to announce that she agreed to be my wife on her birthday back in April. I popped the question during a weekend break that we had planned a few months earlier when we went to Edinburgh to see Micky Flanagan on one of our trips away this year. And that’s kind of how our year has been really, we’ve decided against having a weeks or even a two week holiday choosing instead to spend some time seeing some bands we like and maybe turning each show into a mini break of its own. And that’s what I like about these kind of trips in so far as we get a few quick trips away and yet it feels like we always have something to look forward to, something to show for the hard work and effort we put in during our often Monday -Sunday weeks work. And we do work hard. For the first 15 months that we lived together we were working two jobs, getting up at 5am to clean a doctors surgery 5 miles away before coming home to drive to our day jobs which finish at 6pm. For a while we actually did another job after getting home at the end of the day, meaning that we regularly worked a 15 hour day, so when I get the ” you robbed a bank”? comments from certain quarters they should remember that I’ve/we’ve worked bloody hard to pay for some of these trips. Anyway, rant over and I digress! Parties have been another feature of the year so far. My good friend Mike had a very entertaining 70’s themed birthday party a month or two ago which was a blast, and Jill, our morning receptionist, invited all of us to a fish and chip supper at her house to celebrate her 60th birthday while Chris Newbury treated us all to a good hour of his free stand up routine while we were there. Also we’ve been to an engagement party, Cally’s grandparents 50th wedding anniversary party and just last night my old chum Scott and his wife Sarah invited us to their house to celebrate her 40th birthday and it was great to catch up with some old friends.So at the half way point in the year it’s really been all gigs,trips and parties. Happy days!

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And so that pretty much brings things up to date. I won’t lie though I’m pretty keen to see the back of June. When I put this up as my Facebook status on Thursday just gone, somebody quite rightly picked me up on it and said that given that I’d been to Paris and then to download all in the last 25 days,surely I was just being a bit ungrateful and a bit ‘ba humbug’ which, to be fair I probably was. But June is a crap month at the best of times and this one is no different. For the best part of three weeks in June I hardly managed to sell anything and half of the deals I did have blew out anyway. Cally had the same problem and between us we managed to lose the best part of a thousand pounds worth of income so it’s hardly been ideal. There have been times this month when I couldn’t have kept a deal in bed even if it came with a free cuddle and bedtime kiss from Mila Kunis and a giant mug of steamy hot chocolate. But by far and away the worst thing about June is the lack of anything going on. The football season has long since finished and the only soccer on tv is either a pointless under 21 tournament that we’re crap at or uninteresting tournaments on other continents that I have no interest in.It’s at this time of the year that I pretend that I have any knowledge about F1 racing simply to have sporting based conversation with people who know what they’re talking about. And in a final attempt to kick me in the gentlemen area, I’ve got another parking fine for having had the sheer cheek to not keep moving on a double yellow line.

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But worst of all, Wimbledon is here. If there is a sporting event anywhere in the world that is as pompous and twee as this one, I’ve not heard about it. I could come up with a hundred reasons for hating it but here are my top 3:

1) It’s elitist

Whilst you can buy a tennis bat and a few balls for not very much money, the chances of being able to play it somewhere that won’t cost a fortune or require you to own an Audi, are few and far between. And even if you can find a council run court that’s free,the chances are that it won’t have a net and the playing surface is contains more hypodermic needles than a junkies bin. Also this week we saw national hero and Olympic grinning champion Mo Farah being warmly greeted by the crowd as he entered the royal box – if you pardon the expression- only to be told off for taking a video on his phone to remember the occasion by. This years tournament is attracting so many posh people who are so used to being on the fast track to everywhere, that the lawn tennis association is handing out guides to them to help with queueing! Poor little lambs.

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2) We’re rubbish at it.

Given that only posh people can actually play the game, we have to wait for a well to do person to decide to not to be a doctor,lawyer or politician and actually give it a go and try to take on the world. Tim Henman was quite good but not good enough and we even bought Greg ” the chin” Rusedski from the Canadians in the hope that he might be quite good too but he wasn’t either. And now we have Andy Murray, a man so dull and so devoid of any personality that he could quite easily be sponsored by his local library, but even worse than that, he does actually seem to be quite good. We have waited a thousand years for a Brit to win Wimbledon and it’s more than likely going to be this monotone English hater, either this year or next. Also, why does the BBC have to ‘treat’ us to a view of his mother after every single winning shot?

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3) Strawberries

. The humble strawberry is pretty much the only fruit I really like partly because it takes no effort to eat (unlike an orange which is an utter bastard of a fruit) and its pretty affordable too. But for a fortnight in June/ July its turned into some kind of socially essential fashion accessory off the back of wimbledon and therefore the price doubles as the shops cash in.

The ashes is just around the corner though and no doubt we’ll be treated to television pictures of sleepy old men in their MCC regalia dozing through the first test at Lords, but at least we’re quite good at cricket so it’s something to look forward to until August when the football season arrives again.

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