The Meaning of Life on Mars

At some stage between Laura Robson‘s silver medal and the heats of the men’s Kayak at Eton, the human race landed another in a series of robots on Mars to seek the answer to a question we have all asked at some time or other: “How the Buzz Aldrin can we justify spending all that money on space exploration looking for a drop of water and an interesting pebble to take home ?”

The robot is called Curiosity, though I was disappointed that my suggestion to call it “Vulgar Extravagance” was rejected by NASA, a point thumped into me one afternoon by two men sporting sunglasses and military haircuts who turned up at my doorstep to explain things.

Let’s get it all in perspective, can we ?

Get Bach

As busy as I am, I did have the odd week the other day to do a bit of browsing on the internet. This list of bogus album titles must be 35 years old and was originally seen on the outside of Monty Python’s Instant Record Collection. Some of the jokes are dated, many of their victims are now dead. Still bleedin’ funny though.

Sheffield United Sing Noel Coward
The Luton Gynaecologists Choir
Bright Lights, Soft Music, Live Goats: Ramon & Ted
Bernard Delfont Live At The Bank Next To The London Palladium
More Songs From The Goole And District Catholic River Wideners Club
I Left My Pacemaker In San Francisco – Dr De Bakery
Scottish Airs – The Hamish Mcfart Singers
John, Paul, George And Ringo – The Davenport Brothers

It’s All Over My Friend – Earl K Vomit And The Meatabolic Processes
My Way Or Else – Frank Sinatra
It’s The Fuzz Again – P.C. Ron Spendloff
Young, Gifted, Black And Furry: Ramon & Ted
Party Time, Princess “Piano” Margaret
The Horrid Brothers Kill Anyone In Sight
Beethoven’s Punk Symphony, In B Flat – “The Stinking Bastard” (Bandages Supplied)
The Wonderful Sound Of Hip Injuries
More Hip Injuries (Painfully Yours)
The Best Of Reggae Maudling – (Rastatory Label)
The Dave Clark Five’s War Speeches
Raw Power Punk Kill Blast Throttle Destroy! – Clodagh Rotten
A Man Who Once Sold Paul Mccartney A Newspaper – Live!
Give Me The Moonlight And The Goats – Ramon And Ted
A Night In Casablanca – The Everly Sisters
An Evening With Martin Bormann (And The Trio Los Paraguayos)

The Best Of The Osmonds Teeth – Vol Xi
My Brain Hurts And Other National Front Marching Songs
Hitting Ourselves With The Little Curved Bit On The End Of The Shaving Brush – Eric And The Loonies
Monty Python’s Best Sketches Beginning With ‘R’
The Best Bits Of Rolf Harris
Teach Yourself Power
Norma Shearer Whistles Duane Eddie
Nixon’s Solid Gold Denials
When The Chickens Are Asleep – Ramon And Ted
Friday Night Is Bath Night, J.P. Gumby
When We’re Apart – The Legs
The Milkman Whistles Stockhausen – ‘A’ Milkman
My Brain Hurts – The Moron Tabernacle Choir
Together Again – Frank And Ifield
Ron Simon And Geoff Garfunkel: Live From The Tennis Club Purley
Eternally Yours – The Massed Windscale Marching Scientists
Rock And Roll Is Here To Stay Again!
Me, Myself, I, Personally, Again Vol 2 – Anthony Newley
Bang Goes Boing!
Bong Bangy Bing!
Boeing Boeing (Cast Album)

I Do It My Way – Ned Sherrin
Monty Python Tries It On Again!
Pet Smells – The Beach Boys
For Love And Goats And Chickens: Ramon And Ted
The Pick Of The Best Of Some Recently Repeated Python Hits Again
Get Bach – The Best Of The Welsh Beatles
You And The Night And The Music And The Chicken: Ramon And Ted
Tom Jones Hits Frank Sinatra While Vic Damone And Mel Torme Grab Engelbert Humperdinck, At Last
Bing Is Back
Back Is Bing!
Michael Dennison & Dulcie Gray Cycle To Land’s End
Ruling Songs And Ballads – H.M. The Queen And The Jordanaires
Accountants Work Songs
I’ve Got A Beer Glass Sticking In My Head And Other Rugby Songs
Takeover Ballads: Slater-Nazi Ltd
Rastaman – Sir Kenneth Joseph (Deleted)
Every Picture Tells A Story – Britt Eckland
Atlantic Crossing – Britt Eckland
An Old Raincoat Won’t Ever Let You Down – Britt Eckland
Never A Dull Moment – Britt Eckland
Gasoline Alley – Britt Eckland
Smiler – Britt Eckland
A Night On The Town – Britt Eckland
Footloose And Fancy Free – Britt Eckland
The Beatles Chauffers Live! Running Songs And Surrendering Ballads: The Massed Bands Of The Queen’s Own Cowards (Or Some Of Them)
Frank Sinatra Live At The Senate Hearings

Course of Life

To paraphrase Baldrick, I don’t have a cunning plan.

As wonderful as June was, as much football and cricket I watched, as much time I spent in the garden, burning me ol’ bald ‘ead and finally laying to rest the myth that ‘all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’, the time has come to tout myself. All play and no work makes Mike a fat, poor boy. The answer is simple. I need to throw myself at the mercy of the few remaining employers out there and ask for a job. Due to current fiscal restraints, this doesn’t mean I’ll start taking journos and editors out for long liquid lunches, crossing their palms with lager in the hope they’ll drunkenly offer me work, as much as that approach appeals to me. No, I’ll be doing what everyone else ends up having to do: tickling-up the old CV and getting it out there.

Funny thing, a CV. For starters curriculum vitae is one of the few latin phrases I use in everyday speech (along with ad nauseam, et tu, Brute ? and the ever-popular Ave Imperator, morituri te salutant – though I don’t use that one as much as I used to). Curriculum Vitae, as any schoolboy knows, is the Latin phrase for “2 Sides of bullshit written on A4”, or “Résumé ” in American. It’s the document that causes more stress and strife to bored office workers than any other, and one that more office PAs have to type up for their colleagues in return for a cup of coffee and a bun from Starbucks at lunchtime. Statistics prove that in any one working day, 20% of newspaper workers are working on their CV. The other 80% are fiddling their expenses (one for our older readers, there).

I’ve never been one for lying about myself (on a CV anyway). The way I look at it, if I go for a job in the Commandos and my CV says I’ve been a helicopter pilot, a Navy Seal and a Ghurka, I’m likely to get found out sooner rather than later, especially when on my first mission I start crying cos I’m afraid of flying, can’t swim and faint at the sight of blood (especially my own). No, I think the trick is to be completely honest in everything you write down, just leave out all the stuff you don’t want people to find out about.

For instance, I might put down that I picture-edited the definitive newspaper pull-out on the life of Diana, Princess of Wales on the morning after her death, but may leave out the day I stuck in a photo of a Harrow schoolboy for a story lauding the young men of Eton (oh how my Editor laughed when the Headmasters of both Eton and Harrow called up to complain). On the other hand I will mention with pride last year’s Beatles supplements for which I researched and picture edited for The Times. Using many rare or unseen images of Paul, George, Ringo and the other one, these books are real collectors items. They looked fantastic and I was very happy to have worked on them and boasted the same to anyone still awake in the pub. Then again, my contribution to the same publication’s 30 Best Summer Salads will go with me to my grave.

As you get older, you find the other problem is to judge how far back in time you go. Nowadays I don’t list my education or ‘qualifications gained’. I see no possible advantage in bringing up old wounds, or taking the blame at the age of 45 for what I didn’t do at 19. No, let us not dwell on such matters. However, my first real job was at a photographic studio and agency, who’s chief photographer regularly shot Page 3 Girls and Starbirds. Oh how I hated the days I studio-assisted for him. If you’re ever 19 again, offered a similar job in a photo studio, and where you’re in charge of light meters and ice-cubes, grab it with both hands (I know I did). It was often difficult to know where to look. The first words Samantha Fox ever said to me were “Oi ! Stop looking at my fanny!”. We were on a nude shoot for a German magaine. I was quite hurt. As I’d seen every other bit of her in the British press, but never seen her nude, what was I supposed to look at ?

But the question is, although this first flash and exposure to photography obviously aroused my interest (quiet at the back !) in photography, is it relevant to my next post ? Probably not, unless I get very lucky. I had to leave that job in the end as, apart from anything else, I was going a funny shape. The beginnings of the deterioration of my eyesight can be traced back to those three-and-a-half happy years with one hand on the light meter and the other on my ha’penny.

Apart from “Professional Experience”, there’s also the section at the end of a CV which comes with the heading “Outside Interests” . Over the years I’ve realised, having had hundreds of them submitted to me, this is the part of the CV which can reveal all about the candidate, the way of separating the ‘possibles’ from the ‘improbables’.
I once advertised a vacancy on a picture desk, I needed a junior researcher with a little bit of spark and nous. One applicant, having listed her places of work, qualifications gained (cow) and universities (plural) attended listed her ‘Hobbies and Interests’ as: “Taking and developing photographs; going to photo galleries; reading photographic books”.

NO !

I put it to you, that she was either a consummate bullshit artist, or the world’s dullest woman (and I’ve known a few). Possibly both. Why would you do that ? I don’t want to work in a photographic office where the only conversation is “Ooh did you see that documentary on Diane Arbus last night ?”
“No, I was at the Tate for the exhibition of contemporary Slovakian Romany black and white photography”
“Were you ? I wanted to see that, but my Rolleiflex is on the fritz and I had to get it repaired before the deadline to World Press Photo expires”
I tell you, it can get that exciting, I’ve heard them.

Wouldn’t you want to give the impression to your prospective employer that you’re a well-rounded, multi-faceted individual ? Someone who’ll bring a little bit of colour into the office ? Someone WHO HAS A LIFE ??? When I get to this part of the form I’m always tempted to copy Monty Python and list my interests as “golf, masturbation and strangling animals” just to see if anyone actually reads this far down. I know I do, and if I ever saw that sort of entry I would hire that person on the spot, but I suspect most just read the headlines at the top. I haven’t got the balls to test out this theory, of course. I shall probably be pretty vague and put down “Sport, movies and entertaining”. They don’t need to know what I really in my spare time, do they ?

So here I go. A day at my Mac, trying to remember what I did and when, avoiding professional disasters, bigging-up meself, as we like to say down these parts, and spreading the word that I’m back on the market, you lucky, lucky people. And hurry up with those job offers, I’m skint. Carpe Diem !

Now, here’s the job for me ! Who can I put down for a reference ?

Pity it’s in Wales.