Month: December 2014

Merry Christmas!

I’m sure you kind people wouldn’t begrudge me a week off, would you? I thought not.

I hope you had a cool yule, and enjoy a safe New Year.

I’ll see you all on the flipside!

Oh… I’ll probably be tweeting over the coming week, so join me over there if you fancy it: @snarkytuesday

Be good.

Paul

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Yuletime Memories

This week’s rhubarb becomes very self-indulgent and very soppy… very quickly! It’s certainly not in-keeping with the usual crap I write. So think of it as a lighter side to a usually Snarky Tuesday. You have been warned.

Christmas Stocking Snarky Tuesday Paul Millard

So, here we go again!

It’s that most wonderful time of the year. We all get a chance to take a break and unwind for a few days. In the company of good friends, bad family members and various dead animals – all cooked and stuffed with sage. Barracked into your sofa with a healthy supply of booze, snacks and broken stuff from China, it’s a time that is embraced by many, tolerated by a few, and sneered at by those too miserable to just go with the flow!

I’m a lover of Christmas, and make no excuses for it. Decorations are up the first week of December, experimentation with mulled cider begins in earnest around the same time, and jars of seasonal mincemeat have already been aging for a good few weeks before that.

It’s a strange juxtaposition towards the misanthropic shit-bag I usually am for the rest of the year, and the happy-go-lucky, spend-thrift that Ebenezer Scrooge becomes by the fifth chapter (yes, it’s actually a book, not a fucking Disney cartoon!).

I guess I have my Mother to thank for my “keeping of the season”. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a household that went all out for Christmas. Every room shone with gollups of tinsel and twinkle lights of all colours.

The ceilings were home to highly flammable paper-chains and slow-leaking balloons. And every mantelpiece and window sill was flourished with some kind of festive ornament or seasonal depiction.

Mum always kept the excitement building throughout the month. Secret shopping trips, and rumours of parcels hidden around the house, were common. Any chance I had to sweep the place, for a hint of what was to come, was taken. Think CSI Miami, minus the pretentious twattery and sunglasses!

A few days before the “big show”, and bowls of sweets would appear like little diabetic time-bombs of joy! Nuts, crisps, and the obligatory tray of dates, would all be laid out in readiness for any passing mouths.

The kitchen was in a constant flux of being used for some kind of preparation. Boiling ham, trays of mince pies, that glorious smell of a tea towel on fire, all was available throughout the day – and usually long into the night.

Christmas Eve, and the pace built to new levels of bat-shit insanity!

Relatives would come – some with the intention of staying for the entire duration.

Armed with suitcases and mysterious black bin liners, my grandparents would usually arrive on the 23rd December, and leave sometime after Easter! Nan and my great aunt would immediately slip into the guise of soux chefs, and my grandfather into the guise of a talking armchair.

At various points throughout the day, people would pop-in for a drink and a moan about how much they have to do. Sweet wrappers would be hidden, Christmas movies would be watched, and presents slowly started to appear under the tree – courtesy of said bin liners.

My sisters were unmatched in their skills at unpeeling selotape, and finding gaps just big enough to discover what lies beneath the bows and ribbons. For this reason, my parents became too shrewd to leave gifts under the tree anytime before Christmas Eve. As a result, the great Christmas present delivery all added to the tradition of the time, and excitement of the occasion.

A sleepless night later, and all hell was breaking loose by 6am!

My father marshalled the reams of torn wrapping paper, my mother contemplated the first Baileys of the day, and my Nan and Auntie looked on with a knowing smile, and words of encouragement… and for the record, my Grandfather had still not moved from the armchair!

It was glorious!

It was also a time before the arrival of affordable video cameras, and smart phones with HD recording. Sadly, only a few photos now remain of those moments. As a family, we often reminisce about Christmases past. It’s a conversation I’m always happy to start. I guess it’s an attempt to ensure the memories don’t fade completely.

Now I’m a father, and in the throes of making new Christmas memories. I can only hope to achieve the same levels of excitement and wonder for my own son!

I think I’m up to the challenge, and I’m sure that in years to come, my son will be able to write a very similar depiction to the one I have provided above.

Let’s be honest, I have a pretty good template to work from!

Thanks Mum. Merry Christmas.

Paul Millard 2014

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A Black Friday

I was compelled to write this week’s twaddle based on my mistakenly watching a 79-second YouTube clip. Yep, I really am that desperate for ideas! In fact, it’s going to take you a damn sight longer to read this nonsense, than it is to just watch the clip in question and come to your own scathing opinion on it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1YuOIfqr_8

If you bothered to click the link, you would have seen a glorious little piece of footage showing our polite, fair-playing, English reserve for what it truly is – a circus of despair, fed upon by that atavistic desire to survive at any cost, and fuck over your fellow human in the process.

And what did it take to expose this raw nerve of scum-bag arseholery?

Yep, you guessed it… the promise of a cheap TV.

Black Friday – the latest import from the county that gave us high definition war footage, pop twat Justin Beiber and Real Housewives that bear absolutely no relation to any real housewife I know – but then again, I’ve never been to Bognor (which I’m told is quite similar to Beverley Hills!).

Anyway. Black Friday. When did we Brits start engaging in Black Friday? Did I miss a meeting? I know our American cousins enjoy this annual plunge into horrific credit card debt, but I didn’t think we English folk were quite so keen.

In fact, I always thought the Boxing Day sales was more our style of shopping-assisted suicide.

By 5am you can usually find a nice queue forming outside the local Next, Primark or whatever place has been spamming our television sets with relentless adverts for the past 72 hours. An organised gaggle of neurotic, sleep deprived bargain hunters lay in wait. Every one of them clutching a fistful of gift vouchers, and keeping a beady eye on the poor fucker stood behind the shop door. Some 17 year-old kid who not only has the pleasure of working for minimum wage on a public bank holiday, but also opening the store before sunrise, so he can be stampeded by a gollup of wide-eyed insomniacs, with shopping lists longer than a Peter Jackson movie!

If I’m honest, I was staggered by the above clip. The savagery and greed on display was a bit sickening. It smacked of a vermin-like “Chav Olympics” – a plague of highly competitive rats, all fighting over a cheap kettle as if it were a mouldy carrot stick in a pub urinal.

I thought the chav culture had been eradicated by our impressionable children, who now aspire to be rich people from Essex, rather than hoodies from Benefits Street. Seems like I was wrong, and not only are they still breeding and keeping Burberry in business, they also love to shop.

Looking again, it also feels a bit fictional, like a deleted scene from The Purge. Picture, if you will, the entire green room from The Jeremy Kyle Show getting inside one of these massive superstores. Upon the claxon sounding, they proceed to kick the scratchcards out of each other in order to buy a stainless steel toaster with 20% off the tag price!

Now tell me that isn’t worthy of a trip to Asda? I’d go. If only so I could feel the world get lighter, as each “contestant” is eliminated, chopped up, packed into microwavable containers, and sold as discount cat food.

Also… take another look at the clip. Can you see the crap they are fighting over?

Since when did a Polaroid TV become a thing of worship and untameable desire? I didn’t even know Polaroid made TV’s. It’s like finding out that Pedigree Chum also makes spy satellites! Weird, and probably bullshit made up by that bloke down the pub who claims to be controlled by super-intelligent space ants.

In short, we are watching a bunch of mouth-breathers fighting over the chance to purchase a shit TV that will be sold for the same price a month from now in the January sales.

A throng of rocket scientists (just back from doing their community service), humiliating themselves in order to buy utter rubbish for a cheap price, and validating it because it’s the Friday after Thanksgiving… a holiday we don’t sodding celebrate to begin with. Brilliant!

Now whilst I may consider myself to be a reasonably competent, semi-functioning writer, I gotta tell ya, folks – even I couldn’t make this shit up! Not even if John Grisham asked me as a personal favour (not that I know John Grisham, or would do him any kind of favour without first discussing financial terms and movie rights).

In fact, the more I think about it, the less I have to add. Just watch the above clip, and think about how much worse it will be next November – when all these poor bastards squabble over the latest smartphone from Heinz!

Happy Thanksgiving… and God Save the Queen.

Paul Millard 2014

Snarky Tuesday Paul Millard Black Friday

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You Oughta Know!

There are certain things a man is just expected to know, or do, without question.

Being able to stand up whilst taking a pee is probably the most basic one we get a hand on (sorry) at a very early age, and creates an immediate separation between us and the ladies.

For the most part, this divide only lasts until around middle age – by which time most blokes have realised that sitting down whilst taking a wiz is far more forgiving towards lighter coloured trousers, allows for the use of both hands when playing on your phone, and negates the need to mop up a piss-covered floor afterwards!

Fixing stuff is another one. In particular, the simple household bits and bobs that one day stop working, and without your skilled hand, might pose a risk to family, neighbours or the World Health Organization.

I’m talking about the shelf I put up six months ago that now hangs from the four nails I later pounded into the wall as a “clever short-term solution”.

Or the kitchen cupboard door that became so dangerous I decided to ignore it until it fell from its hinges, hitting my kid (who happened to be passing at the time), and damaging the kitchen floor. Joking aside, this could have been a lot worse… without my son’s head taking most of the blow; the floor may have been truly fucked!

There is also a large amount of redecorating that I apparently need to sort. I’ve gone so far as to purchase the paints, wood strippers, bags of render and new light fixtures to hang. All of which was received by walking into the DIY centre and having a typical “manversation” with the store experts on hand (mostly customers that have nowhere better to be).

I’m now just waiting on my lazy-arsed wife to understand her matrimonial responsibilities and get started on the hallway!

But without question, the biggest one I seem to run into frequently, and feel the most inadequate and spiteful towards, is the complete lack of knowledge I have on basic car maintenance. In fact, just knowing what car I have is sometimes an embarrassing mystery that real men have caught me out on.

For the record, I only started to drive a few years ago, and perhaps more remarkably, passed my test within six months of instruction. I bought my first car based on colour and that it had heated wing mirrors. With the stereo carefully adjusted to avoid Radio One, I took to the road with all the confidence of a goldfish riding a unicorn.

A year went by, and with it came the need for the car’s MOT. As with most men of my intellect and motor vehicle erudition, I asked my wife to book it in. A few weeks later I took the car to said garage and braced myself for a manly conversation. Swaggering into the office, a greasy mechanic in overalls that were clearly off the peg asked,

  ‘You the bloke with the Toyota for an MOT?’

I nodded in a nonchalant manner, as if I had been through this process a thousand times (and could probably do his job for him). I replied in my best bloke voice,

  ‘Yeah, mate. I’ve got the Toyota. She’s outside, innit… moosh.’

It was clear that my new best friend behind the counter recognised a fellow wizard of the combustion engine and that I was not some hapless knave, but a man well-versed within the art of the oily rag.

In short, I gave the impression of a genuine diamond geezer who recognized his big end from his sparkle plugs. Looking down at the paperwork (whilst I twirled my car keys with a jaunty, devil-may-care aloofness), the mechanic looked up at me with a smirk, and said…

  ‘You own a Honda, mate. Not a Toyota.’

It’s quite amazing how a man’s testicles can just disappear into his body!

I readjusted my cocksure attitude with hast, and with an awkward shuffle of my feet (making me look like a six year-old who needed the toilet), I uttered with broken voice,

  ‘Yeah… I have a silver Honda. Can you look after me it, please?

Pathetic and heart-achingly inevitable, I don’t know why I try to be anything other than a totally deconstructed male when faced with such endeavours.  What’s the point? I’m only going to be found out anyway, and be a damn sight more embarrassed than if I had pranced through the doors like a London dandy, and asked the bloke to ‘service my throbbing engine’, in the best Kenneth Williams voice I could muster.

If it’s a dirty stereotype that women don’t understand “motah’s”, why is it so readily accepted that blokes should? This bloke doesn’t, not even vaguely!

I know I need to water it with unleaded petrol, that the driver side window should never be opened, and that on occasion you can hear a funny vibration on the passenger side – I’ve not bothered to get it checked as I’m sure it’s just a squirrel trapped in the glove compartment or something.

I’m turning the tables on this whole thing. From now on, I fully expect all women to know how to fix my car, make kitchen doors less dangerous, re-plaster my carpets, and repair that tap in the downstairs toilet which seems haunted by Moaning Myrtle!

As for me – I’ll be on the sofa watching Downton Abbey and knitting a scarf. After all, that what you ladies do, isn’t it?

Paul Millard 2014

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Meanwhile… at the bookshop!

As an affront to all Kindles and tablets I decided to wander into a high street book shop yesterday. Yes, that’s right, an actual book shop made of bricks and wood and other stuff.

For those that might be a little confused, a bookshop is a place of business similar to an Apple store, only it sells books made from paper, and is staffed by people old enough to remember Kylie Minogue as a shitty car mechanic.

Nostalgia was rife as I pondered the rows of hardbacks, and islands of cardboard marketing stands promoting the latest bestseller about whatever. It was enjoyable and charming. I remembered the days of not needing an app for this kind of thing. Being able to touch before you buy, smell the ink of the manuscripts and dry-heave at the body odour wafted from the shop assistant.

Wandering past the current Top 20, I stopped to take a look at what the well-informed masses were buying. Perhaps I should pick up the new “must have” thriller so I can appear smart and relevant on the train ride into work. However, if what I saw was an indication of the reading habits of the educated and urbane, then I was happy to remain the village idiot of the 8.15 to London Waterloo.

Holy fuck! What an amazing display of obnoxious titillation and god-awful triviality. A veritable plague pit of celebrity biographies, celebrity cookbooks and companion pieces for crass TV shows. The selection appeared to be a wickedly insightful manifestation of what Jeremy Kyle’s audience like to read whilst taking a shit!

It’s strange. When flicking through the Kindle store, or surfing iBooks, you somehow miss the sense of awfulness you get when confronted by rows and rows of mediocrity, and unvarying dreck, in physical form. The enormity of just how much of this stuff is out there, and how much money is being paid to the celebrities selling their inner bullshit, is staggering.

Are we really that eager to read the life story of a 22 year-old winner of Big Brother, or stupid enough to hand over £25.00 to learn the backstage secrets of Britain’s Next Top Model? How about feeling inferior and worthless in light of what Jamie Oliver served up during his last narcissistic TV series?

All this shit seems to be fuelled by the celebrity worship that has become a fucking epidemic in recent times.  Honestly, how else can mediocre comedians, celebrity shag wits and obnoxious cooks sell so many copies of their fascinating life stories every year? How is that even plausible, much less possible, without a hungry and obedient audience of well-trained consumers?

In fact, the larger question of what is now deemed to be acceptable is nothing short of miraculous.

Consider the legions of 8 year-old girls inspired by the plastic people from The Only Way Is Essex, and encouraged by their parents to be just like them. It’s nothing short of a cultural ass fucking for anyone who can see past the light-hearted approach held towards these “role models”, and the lowering of standards that is being freely embraced by people that should know better!

My own parents affectionately laughed at a 23 year-old man not being able to tell the time during last year’s I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here! In days gone by this would have been a cautionary tale in order to get more homework done.

  ‘Practise your times tables, or you’ll end up like Joey Essex!’

However, in these enlightened times of incentivised stupidity, ending up like Joey Essex seems to result in an 8-figure book deal, and a few million quid in your Halifax Junior account!

Based on the breeding ground for the exceptionally average I witnessed in my local Waterstones, I seem to be in a minority with this opinion. My bafflement towards what passes for an entertaining read is destined to continue and grow with each seasonal autobiography, reality TV exposé, and middle-class cookery worship – all lovingly (ghost) written and endorsed by the latest, factory fresh, celebrity dip-shit.

And by the time my own son reaches the age of illumination, I’ll be looking in antique shops for anything written by someone who doesn’t have a series on Channel 4, or their own perfume range in Asda.

In short, that’s the last time I go to a fucking high street book shop!

Paul Millard 2014

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