A Last Minute Christmas Gift

All Clear

Finally got the results of the last scan from the man doing the Chief Consultant impressions up at the Hospital and it all seems to be ok at last. He has taken off the rat poison (Warfarin) and put me onto the aspirin – tho keeping me on statins and heart tablets. So hopefully my blood will start thickening up , I’ll cease bleeding like a Romanov and I can at last get bleedin’ warm this winter.

Says if I do have another stroke, it will be unrelated to me previous ones. I have no idea if that is a good or a bad thing.

 He had no answer about my obese state, however. Fortunately, I have a good track record of losing weight over the last ten days of December.

So, if you were thinking of giving a loved one a shed load of Warfarin for Christmas, I know where you can get some at a very competitive rate.

With My Little Ukelele in My Hand

A mate of mine recently asked me if it was a recording of me singing and playing the ukelele which Sainsburys are using in their current Christmas Ad campaign. Just to put him and anyone else’s mind at ease, it isn’t.

It is, of course a song by the great George Formby, with whom I’m sure you lot are bored shitless by now, he being the subject of many a post or comment within these here pages. I didn’t start writing hit singles til well into the 1970s. This song predates that by about 30 years. But I can see what my mate meant: this song is very me. Having looked up the lyrics (well, I can’t get out much nowadays. See how you like it – stuck at home watching Grand Designs compilations all the fucking time!!!! Piss off !!), I note that his outlook on life would have fitted in quite nicely here at The Sharp Single. Reading the words and dee-dee-deeing along with the video, I find myself agreeing with nearly all he says.

See what you think. And, of course, my regards to you and yours for the festive season.

I can laugh when things ain’t funny
Ha, ha, happy-go-lucky me
Yea, I can smile when I ain’t got no money
Ha, ha, happy-go-lucky me

It may sound silly, but I don’t care
I got the moonlight, I got the sun
I got the stars above

Me and my sweetie
Well, we both share
Slappy-go-happy, happy-go-lucky love

Well, life is sweet
Whoa-ho, sweet as honey
Ha, ha, happy-go-lucky me

On the other hand, if you’re going to be like that, stick your Christmas up your arse.

Only 135 Starbucks Days til Christmas

Tis the season to be jolly, apparently. Pop down to Bluewater shopping centre and see how you feel afterwards. On the face of it, it seemed like a good idea. Since my aftershock a couple of weeks ago I’d not been out much, and not at all if you don’t count trips to the hospital or the GPs. I feel like I’m basically just one dizzy spell away from another stroke, so why encourage the old grey cells to knock buggery out of each other by me overdoing it, certainly when there’s Flog it and Countdown to watch on tv ? I have a week to wait until the promised all-revealing MRI scan and a week plonked on the couch won’t harm anyone, and may even do me some good.

But a chat I had with my father the other day changed my way of thinking. According to him, I’m likely to “pop my clogs” anyway, so I might as well enjoy myself while I can. It is, as they say, good to talk, and a chat with the old man really gives you that warm glow inside. The Season for Giving had clearly arrived, with the old fella at the front of the queue for giving out advice. So in that spirit, and being told by my dad that there was little hope of still being around when the fat bloke came down the chimney (nice trick if you can do it) I decided to go down to the shopping mall from hell, buy and give the incumbent her Christmas present early. Yes I know it’s still November, but she needed it and there’s no point her hunting around in the back of wardrobes for my gift when I’m pushing up the daisies.

There’s a knack to Bluewater. If, like me, you go there infrequently enough to be unfamiliar with it, you’ll find plenty of other like-minded individuals (mostly men) shuffling around like polar bears in Regents Park, unsure of where they are, who they are or why they are here. You can spend days down there. I’ve never been to Westworld, or whatever those malls in Shepherd’s Bush or Stratford are called, but if you have, you’ll understand what I mean. It’s enormous. Exiting Marks&Spencer alone requires the navigational skills of Ranulph Fiennes. Last week a Japanese soldier emerged from the kitchenware dept of John Lewis asking if the war was still on. There are approximately twelve branches of Starbucks, all looking identical, with identical Boys from Brazil serving (very slowly) therein. On every corner there is an extensive map showing each and every shop (sorry “outlet”) in the complex. I stopped at one and noticed a large red dot on one corner, with the words on it YOU ARE HERE written reassuringly. Except some  poor sod, presumably someone who’d been walking around lost since V.E. night had scratched out the word HERE and written FUCKED over the top. I couldn’t have agreed more.

I saw one bloke simply give up hope of ever leaving the place and start writing his will on the back of a brochure given to him by the “nail bar” (they serve neither nails nor four candles. I know, I asked) next to Past Times. If I ran Past Times the shelves would be full of photos from before shopping centres, of when your local street was full of shops other than bookies and charity shops. When you could walk down the high street experiencing the warm satisfied feeling of community, not the cold stroll of terror down a desperate, desolate, derelict street, gingerly bypassing the bored, threatening hoodies and the even boreder (yes, it could be a word) chuggers on every street corner.

Anyway…After what could have only been four hours, I eventually escaped ( I was parked in Brown Squirrel G, Level 3, NOT Blue Stoat F, Level 2, as I had at first thought) and lived to tell the tale, Christmas gift in hand.

Now I don’t know if it’s because I didn’t wrap it (neither nicely nor at all) that, having opened her brand spanking new, all bells-and-whistles, all woofers-and-tweeters steam iron that she didn’t rush over to me, throwing her arms around my neck and pledging her undying love for me. I’d even go so far as to say that her reaction was rather muted. Funny creatures, women. It’s made me think twice about even buying the new kitchen apron which, in my opinion, she so desperately needs. She’ll miss me when I’m gone. About as much as my dad will, I reckon.

A Short Moving Tale

This one is true.

My main preoccupation over the past few weeks has been knocking Railway Cuttings into shape in preparation for viewings by prospective tenants. The floors have been scrubbed, the electrics have been fixed, checked and double-checked and anything that needed mending, sticking or nailing down has been mended, stuck and nailed down. Short of a once-over with the roller and whitewash the old place is looking as near as damn it perfect. I’d rent it myself, if I didn’t already own it. Shame really, but them’s the breaks. Times are tough and needs must etc etc. The Potting Shed awaits and with the fiscal climate the way it is, moving home is the best way forward.  And as my mates Dave, Nick and Gideon never tire of telling me: We’re all in this together.

This photo has nothing to do with this story. It’s merely to remind you of your enemy. (Osborne is 2nd from right)

Thus far I’ve had 3 couples come to look at the property. The first people were very pleasant indeed. An Asian (possibly Indian) couple who looked over the place, upstairs and down, asked all the right questions, smiled, left and were never heard of again. A little bit of me wanted them to be the ones who rented my house, but I suppose I was just being a little optimistic to rent it out to the first people to come along. And anyway (I told myself later) if the first viewers had said they wanted it I would have kicked myself cos I was obviously asking far too little in rent. It’s like putting a treasured item on eBay, spending an angst-ridden hour deciding carefully on the reserve, then some git swoops in and buys it for the price you asked for. Shit.

Anyway. For a week or two no-one else rang to express any interest in my little place and so now I’m thinking I’m asking too much for the place. Shit shit. I looked online to see what the going rate for a Railway Cutting was, but it seems I’m in a bit of a niche market. It seemed that whatever the price, too high or too low, I wasn’t getting out of here in a hurry.

Then, just before Christmas, some good news. My letting agent told me that he had a couple who really liked what they saw in the ad and wanted to come by and see it the following day. Great ! It was the last business day before the holiday, but that was no problem. The place had a nice Christmassy feel about it. I had a quick hoover round, made myself a cup of coffee (they tell me the smell of fresh coffee is attractive to home-seekers) and settled down in front of Film4 to wait for the potentials to arrive. An hour or so later the doorbell rang. Up I jumped and went to the door to let them in.
“Hello, we’ve come to see the house. The letting agent sent us”
“Oh…..er…hi”. I was blushing. “Just give me two secs will you?”
I sprinted back into the lounge in search of the tv remote. I’d been watching Tora Tora Tora which in a snap judgement I decided wasn’t going to go down well with the two Japanese people on my doorstep. Remote found, crisis averted. They were very nice people too. Though they spent less than ten minutes looking around, and I pretty much knew the house wasn’t for them. But I was content in the knowledge at least I hadn’t upset them with my tv viewing habits. (And before you ask, yes I may be ignorant enough to misjudge their ethnicity but I wasn’t taking any chances.)

Christmas came and went and I was fretting about changing the price of the rent (either up or down) when today, out of the blue, the phone went. It was the agent telling me they had a couple in the office who wanted to come round right away to look at the house. I ran a duster and the mop and bucket around as well as I could, but within minutes the new viewers were at my door.

As I greeted them on the threshold they shook my hand and introduced themselves.
“Hello, I’m Tomas” he said in a thick european accent. “Hi there, I’m Mike”
“Hello I’m Christianne” said the woman”
“Mike. Please, go on through”. Hmmm… Germans, I thought, how very cosmopolitan of me.

We walked through to the lounge, and only then did I remember what I’d been watching on telly. There in full view of all three of us was a particularly lavish battle scene from The Longest Day, blaring out of my tv in the corner of the room. I gave an internal shriek and bounded between them to push the off button on the remote. I’m not sure how much they saw, and I don’t even know if they cared. But I did and I do.

Tomas and Christianne were very nice indeed, and I hope I hear from them again. I have another couple coming round tomorrow. Before they arrive I’ll just ensure ITV isn’t showing The Last of the Mohicans. Well you never know do you?



Unfunny Old Game

At the time of writing it’s been a pretty successful Christmas campaign for the lads down at Charlton Athletic. Thus far they’ve not dropped a single point over the festive period. Don’t let the fact that the inclement weather has prevented them playing at all tell you otherwise: This has been a great week for those lovely boys from SE7.

It’s one of those great Christmas traditions – going to the footy on Boxing Day. The cold crisp air on the terraces hits you in the face and gives you that much needed pick-me-up after a week of drowning in brandy butter, pine needles and aftershave (not one of my better Christmas punch recipes).

Donning your woolly hat and knitted gloves your mum bought you from Santa, you escape the hell that is families during the festive season and, along with your best buddies, or perhaps the preferred of your two sons, you make your way to the ground to enjoy a good old-fashioned kick-about. Get in there my son !

This, of course, is not purely a British concept. Footy fans the world over get to watch their favourite teams in action on this most traditional of all activites on the Day-after-Christmas.  Take this bloke Frank, for example. Last weekend Frank took his beautiful girlfriend, Natalie, to watch the local match between Cercle Brugge and Standard Liege, in the Belgium Jupiler League.

What Natalie didn’t know, however, was that he had something extra special in mind before the match to make this year’s Boxing Day that extra bit special.

Get out and buy that hat, mother, I hear wedding bells…

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Retreat Australia Fair

Bloody Christmas. It’ll be the death of me. Even allowing for the size of me in the run-up, following a week of a pretty-much non-stop eating and drinking fest I am – if I do say so myself- a big unit. It’s not that I’ve been painting the town red – or any other colour come to think of it.  I’ve been confined to barracks for the duration, with only occasional trips to Sainsbury’s to break up the monotony of yet another tin of Roses washed down with a nice peppery Shiraz.

A Christmas at home can in certain circumstances, I am almost sure, be fun. But the lurgy put paid to most of our plans, with several members of my nearest and dearest (including my most dearest: me) coming down with the latest bout of cold/flu which has been doing the rounds. The Incumbent and I have had to introduce a strict latrine rota, lest we bump into each other in the smallest room in the house, both of my daughters were laid low for the majority of the festivities and the rest of us have been giving everyone who is a potential carrier a wide berth.

None of this, of course has affected my appetite. I find shite tv schedules the perfect solution to a rumbly in my tumbly. Pringles, peanuts, After Eights, pickled eggs, mince pies, christmas cake, Quality Street and more peanuts have been shoved down my gullet as I gorge myself on re-runs, repeats and rank tv shows in the the name of Happy Birthday Jesus.

Moving is becoming a problem. Thank god for the elasticated waistband on my new pyjamas. My ankles still haven’t healed from last season and it takes a good ten minutes for me to loosen up before I can waddle around the house in comfort. As the days pass, getting up the stairs is becoming more and more exhausting, to such an extent that I may have to consider using the sink in emergencies.

Thankfully I don’t have to get myself fit for next cricket season. I fear it would be a pointless task. In the state I’m in I’d struggle to put on my jockstrap, let alone bowl anything like a straight ball in the vague direction of a batsman. On the other hand, watching the shocking display by the Aussie bowlers in Melbourne gives me pause to think that maybe, just maybe, my chance of an international career is not quite over. Dare I consider applying for Oz Citizenship ? Surely I’m better that Mitchell Johnson ? – even in my shape !

Lucky for the Australian cricketers few of their countrymen witnessed how bloody awful they really were. Aussie fans tend to bugger off home if there’s the slightest chance of their team not winning. I never thought I’d feel sorry for Ricky Ponting, but it must be tough playing on your home turf, against stronger opposition, when your own personal form is shot to pieces and your home supporters won’t even hang around to shout for you. What a bunch of wankers.

The Barmy Army may be full of fat, annoying, boring, neanderthal racists (it is, believe me) but at least they stick behind the team through thick and thin. This bunch of fair-weather Ozzie ‘fans’ head for the beaches or the barbies the minute their opening pair are back in the hutch (or after the opening 12 balls, if that makes it simpler for you). And this from the country that brought the world the phrase “whingeing poms”. WHINGEING ?!?! How would we ever know if you lot are whinging? You’ve all fucked off !

Of course, you all stayed put when we took our eyes off the prize and you won in Perth. OF COURSE YOU DID. WATCHING A WINNING TEAM IS GREAT. But a few days later and your batsmen couldn’t hit a cow’s arse with a banjo or your bowlers couldn’t hit 12 stumps and you lot are no-where to be seen after the opening exchanges. Why not stick around and cheer on your team in the hour of their greatest need ? No ? Only sing when you’re winning ? Sports fans my big fat 46 year old arse. Enjoying winning and enduring losing (in our case a LOT of losing) are all part of being a fan. Some of us are fans of both English Cricket AND Charlton Athletic Football Club. We know a little bit about losing.

If you can’t take losing, don’t buy a ticket to the raffle. But having watched first your rugby union side and now your cricket team under-perform this winter can I suggest that you’d better start getting used to watching your sides take a drubbing?  It won’t hurt you, we’ve been doing it for years, and after this little blip this winter we’ll doubtless be doing it for years to come too.

You could do worse than read Peter Lalor, below, in The Australian. He’s wittier and immeasurably less one-eyed then his boss, Malcom Conn, and he might just teach you how to take losing with a tad more humour and a shed-load more dignity.

Peter Lalor in The Australian (27.12.10)

HOW many of the new toys of Christmas morn lie motionless and broken within 24 hours? Their shiny promise a forlorn memory recorded only in the improbable picture on the package?

A wheel gone here, a switch broken there, a light that flashed for a moment and dimmed, a leg detached or a circuit shortened. Australia’s performance in Perth was the cheap Chinese gift that never made it to Boxing Day. A glittering, but poorly engineered work that shone for a moment.

The minute the Christmas paper was off the MCG pitch things began to fall apart. There were tears by lunch (4-58) and despair by tea (10-98). You can fish around all sorts of ways to paint the picture.
The scorer announced they had lost 6-40 from 18.2 overs, somebody else pointed out they had lost 9-61 after Shane Watson departed and so on and so forth….

…If you were out Christmas night in Melbourne, you could have been forgiven for thinking you were somewhere in the UK. Those pubs and takeaway places that were open in the otherwise deserted streets were lousy with English accents and song.

While the locals were at home trying to piece together broken toys, the visitors – and there are thousands upon thousands of them – were out in force. At 2.37pm yesterday, as the centre wicket began to take the appearance of a mass grave, a song rose from the Southern Stand.

It was as loud and as rousing an anthem as you have ever heard at this proud sporting stadium.
It was the Barmy Army singing “God save your gracious Queen”.

The Traditional School Carol Concert

This is starting to get creepy.  Our old favourite (see Lenin and McCarthy) seems to have acquired a bit of a cult following. I think this is what da kids call going viral. Nevertheless, is this really what Christmas is all about ?

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I played the part of 3rd shepherd in Normandy Junior School’s production of the Nativity. It was going fine until one of the sheep wet herself. To be fair, she had previous. There were few weeks at school when she didn’t wet herself, though admittedly she rarely dressed as a farm animal. You’ve never seen kids scatter so quickly. I had to leave the stage to be sick in the fire bucket. I’ve been traumatised by school productions ever since.

Very Passable

Ah Christmas ! That time of year when you end up drinking with people you don’t like, in bars you don’t like and getting presents you don’t like from people you don’t know. Yes: the office lunch. Secret Fucking Santa.

Is there any more gruesome event than sitting in the back room of some local office pub-ette, around a table with ten people you wouldn’t otherwise share a cup of oxygen with outside of the work environment, sipping gently at your half pint of shandy (you don’t want to give the wrong impression, do you?), resplendent in your paper hat and unwrapping a “gift” bought half an hour ago from the nearest corner shop, wrapped up in haste in the stationary cupboard with an internal envelope and presented to you between the fucking Yule log and the fucking filter coffee as some sort of token of your colleagues’ affection?

You explode into fits of mock laughter and your cheeks turn scarlet as you unwrap the clockwork hopping-and-singing willy. Those gathered burst into fits of laughter and immediately demand to know which “sick bastard” bought that ? Of course no-one owns up – it wouldn’t be called Secret Fucking Santa otherwise, would it ? Strangely, nobody seems to mind owning up to who ordered yet another round of Asti Sodding Spumante to wash down this lovely Yuletide fare.

The only thing on your mind is when would be the very earliest you could decently make your excuses and leave to find a proper pub with proper company with whom to share your Happy Holiday Humour.

Fortunately, the life of a freelancer (yes I’m still calling myself that, flying in the face of all reason) precludes me having to attend such events. Not spending long enough in the office means you rarely get invited out with the staffers, or if you do you can always employ the temp worker’s air of mystery by having to go “meet someone” or “see a man about a dog”. Then you can sod off to whichever dark and dusty boozer you choose til the heat is off and the lunch is over.

Office lunches, at whatever time of year, should be either spent standing at the bar with a few carefully selected chums or , at worst, at your desk munching on a Pret-a-Manger All Day Breakfast sarnie while catching up with emails or reading the sports pages.

Oh did I say ? Happy Christmas everyone.

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While Shepherds Watched the Doc by Night

Like many insomniacs, I switch on the early morning news on Christmas Day merely to check out which celebrity has snuffed it, or which natural disaster has wiped out which part of South East Asia this time. Is it weird that something notable always happens on the little baby Jesus’s birthday, or is it just that we remember them more because it’s Christmas? Horrid and strange things happen all year-round, but for some reason the holiday period ones always seem to focus the mind. He does, indeed move in mysterious ways.

He comes but once a year.

Or at least he has been this year. Take events over at the Vatican overnight. In what is gradually becoming an epidemic of Roman nutters (see previous posts), a woman leapt the worshiper-control barrier and lunged at the Pope who was on his way to give his Christmas message, pulling him to the ground and badly grazing his knee. Apparently the same woman attempted the same move last year, but fell at the last hurdle. A scuffle ensued as security guards, Il Papa’s aids and assorted devil-dodgers bundled this serial Pope-Wrestler to the floor in a scrummage of cassocks, arms and legs not seen in the St Peter’s Basilica since the swimwear section of the Vatican Choirboys beauty contest last spring.

No word has come from the attacker to say why she keeps lunging at the Holy Father, but promises she’ll be back next year when she hopes to at least draw blood. Well done the security services.

Elsewhere in God’s beautiful world, the Archbishop of Canterbury will announce this afternoon that children are being forced to grow up too quickly. The ABC will go on to highlight the exploitation of children in “the meaningless and savage civil wars in places like Congo and Sri Lanka – children who are abducted, brutalised, turned into killers, used as sex slaves”, which will come as great succour to all those children abused in orphanages, care homes and boys clubs looked after by priests and pederasts wherever the Catholic Church set up shop. But I’m sure all the other denominations are completely blameless. Definitely.

In a completely unrelated story, two Irish Bishops will resign in the wake of the sex scandal which has been ‘uncovered’ in Ireland. Thank The Lord that’s all over with. God is everywhere. All-seeing, all-knowing. He must have sent us padre paedophile for a good reason, mustn’t he? Many small boys would rather not wait for the second coming to find out why.

He's Everywhere!!!!!

Talking of Omnipotence, is there any way of escaping David Tennant this Yule Tide? He was in Buzzcocks, on QI, he’s on every BBC link between programs, and appears as Hamlet this weekend. Yesterday morning he was on again, albeit in cartoon form as The Time Lord, and or course he will be there in the flesh this evening,at prime time viewing, as the Doctor for the much over-hyped last time, apparently.

Does the BBC think everyone loves Dr Who? Do they? Well I don’t ( that surprised you, didn’t it), and I never have AND I resent the inference that we are all supposed to be swept up by this tsunami of pseudo-trekiness where we all gleefully get swept along with Dungeons and Daleks, writhing in orgasmic pleasure every time the jocular Jock raises that eyebrow at the camera. They’ve built him up to be some sort of overnight national treasure! HE AIN’T!! He’s the vaguely charming star of a children’s sci-fi series, let’s leave it at that please. He’ll be the face of the Test Card next (one for my older readers). In between BBCTennant we’re subjected to trailers Britain’s worst comedy duo in a sitcom about welsh people. Fuckin hell.

I’m off now to play my new PS3 game, FIFA Football (Doctor Who Edition). I could do with my own TARDIS to take me to January 2nd when it’ll be all over for another few weeks until the “hunt” starts for “the new Doctor” and Gavin and Stacey announce comeback series. As Bob Cratchit‘s TIny Tim might have said “God save us, every one. Just keep those filthy Father’s off me crutch.”

No new or funny jokes were used during the making of this program

Oh yes, Merry Christmas to you too.