Silliness, even in the roughest of times, the worst of days, is never unimportant. Indeed, as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate silliness as one of the best, the most superlative, things about humanity.

And after yet another week when the only sensible reaction to the news is to answer Twitter’s ‘What’s happening?‘ with a groan, a shrug, and a wince, here’s some much needed silliness.

 

Let’s start this week, with the glory that is What’s Opera, Doc? If you haven’t seen this, you’re in for a treat. If you have, then you know what a treat it is. Enjoy.

 
 
Have some Stewart Francis being daft, just because why not…?

 
 
And here’s some Milton Jones, at the same veune

 
 
Ever ordered a large round of drinks? Yeah, me as well. Ronnie Barker shows us how it’s done.

 
 
Sir Humphrey explains to his minister The Five Standard Excuses in Yes, Minsitsr

 
 
Mitch Benn lays out the rules about celebrating Christmas before December.

 
 
But it is December now…

 
 
See you tomorrow, with something else.,

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve done a Ten Things, and it’s been a very weird week, for lots of reasons, so here’s a Ten Things.

And again, same caveat as always: I’m not sayin these are the best ever musicals. They’re not even necessarily my favourote ever musicals all the time, just ten that immediately sprang to mind when starting this post. They’re just ten musicals I enjoy seeing on stage, and watching and rewatching

Oh, and I can guarantee you’ll disagree. There are a couple of musicals you’ll ask yourselves ‘how the hell could he not include this one, or that one?’

Answer’s simple: either I don’t enjoy it, or I didn’t think of it.

But, for example, no West Side Story. That’s not in the list because I don’t like the musical. Nor’s Grease, though I quite like it. But I’ve seen it so many times, yeah, quite happy not to see it again for a very long time. And no Iesus Christ, Superstar, even though I like the musical a lot. I was in the show at school, and yes I was that bad. But it just didnt make the cut

Oh, and as always, no particular order.

And there’s one at the end you’d be astonished if it wasn’t there… thing is, I’ve never considered it a ‘musical’ as such. But I couldn’t leave it out. Apart from anything else, Mitch Benn would never forgive me.


OK, time to start.

Fiddler On The Roof
OK, a small lie to start with. This was obviously always going to be first. It’s the first one I think of whenever I think of a musical I enjoy. Lord knows how many times I’ve seen this on stage or watched the movie. And there’s an additional reason why it’s special to me.

When Laura and I were married, on a Sunday, we didn’t actually fly off on honeymoon until the Tuesday, so on the Monday, we took our parents to see Fiddler On The Roof at the London Palladium. Topol was Tevye, and it was fun, and funny, and wonderful, as you’d expect, but after the show, I’d arranged for our parents to meet him. And I’ve never seen my mum or Laura’s so completely star struck. So, yeah.

But apart from that, it’s a fantastic musical strong story, great acting in the movie, wonderfully catchy songs, and yeah, the subject material may be a bit rough at times, but yeah, love the show and I’ve rarely seen a bad version of it.

(The stories the musical was based on also reminds me of the only time my father ever warned me off a book. ‘You’re too young’, he warned me when I, as a teenager, wanted to read it. I ignored him and read some English translations since the originals were written in Yiddish. I couldn’t understand why everyone enjoyed them. Where was the fun? The cleverness. The sly observations of everyday life? A few decades later I reread them and then I understood. I had been too young, too immature, to appreciate the writings. Now, I enjoyed them, now I had a bit of life experience.)

 


 
Oliver!
I’m sure there’s someone British over the age of 30 who hasn’t seen this, but I struggle to understand how. For years, it was a staple of the Christmas and Easter tv schedule. And it’s a great muscial; classic tale, amended more than a bit from the original novel. What? You thought Ron Moody’s Fagin was a clever rogue in the book? Boy, have you got a surprise coming. But spot perfect casting, glorious songs, and the enthusiasm of the performances always make this worth a viewing.


 


 
Guys and Dolls
Years ago, I finally managed to get ahold of the Damon Runyon tales that the musical is based on. And they’re fantastic. But you have to work at them, to understand the dialects and characters. The stage musical and movie of Guys and Dolls goes out of its way to make the story and the characters more accessible but somehow doesn’t lose the zest, the excitement and the fact that these are not, for the most part, very nice people. But they are people of their time, and the muscial captures that time and place beautifully. And, as with other songs on the list, they’re catchy, smart, with wonderfully clever lyrics. If you can get past Brando’s ‘singing’, the movie’s ok. My personal favourite cast however was the 1980s London cast: Bob Hoskins, Julie Covington, Julia MacKenzie and Ian Charleson as a superb Sky Masterson.

It’s a tale of gamblers in New York in the 1950s, the women they love, and who love them.


 


 
Singin’ In The Rain
You know, if I hadn’t watched this really recently, I’m not sure I’d have remembered how much I enjoy this musical. Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds, accompanied by the wonderful, the sheer delight that is Jean Hagan turn this fault light tale of Hollywood moving from silent movies to talkies into a gem with extraordinary set pieces.

I watched it a few months back with the children of friends of mine who’d never seen it. And then I watched it again a month later just for the pleasure of doing so.

I recommend it without hesitation.

And how Donald O’Connor wasnt given a special one time Oscar for this scene alone is beyond me…


 


 
Les Miserables
Yeah, ok, some musicals should definitely stay on the stage because you’re always going to fuck up something when you film them. This is a prime example. I’ve never managed to make it through the movie all the way through. But the stage musical? My heavens it’s wonderful. And sweeps you away for a few hours. The lyrics are great, yeah, but it’s the music that completely grabs you, holds you, hugs you close and envelops you.

It’s glorious. How good an adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel it is, I don’t have a clue. Never read the book. But as a piece of theatre? Oh yes. Oh yes indeed.


 


 
My Fair Lady
My heavens, they hit paydirt with this one. Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn are magnificent as the leads, although Marnie Nixon does Hepburn’s singing. And then secondary leads are spectacular as well, particularly Wilfred Hyde-White and especially Stanley Holloway as Eliza’s father.

Have to say though, that I for a long time agrees with those who’ve said they ruined the ending when they filmed it, and should have left it with the same ending the play it’s based on – Pygmalion – used. I’m less sure of that now, and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate both endings.

Genuinely could have used any of half a dozen different songs for the video for this one, and in fact did swap in and our three or four before landing on this one for its cleverness and just how it’s shot.


 


Blood Brothers
Willy Russell’s only musical, and damn it’s a good one. It’s never been made into a movie, as far as I know, which is a pity because with the right cast, it’d be magnificent. But I’ve seen it several times on stage, and maybe I’ve just been lucky but I’ve never seen a bad cast do it.

The idea? Two children separated at birth have very different lives, meet up as school children, then again as teenagers, and as adults. It’s a story of sacrifice, what parents sacrifice for children, the story of the two children, and of the girl who loves them.

Not a laugh a minute – though there are laughs a plenty, and extraordinarily catchy tunes. And you’ll not be able to think of the name Marilyn Monroe or Miss Jones the same way again.


 


 
The Rocky Horror [Picture] Show
There aren’t that many musicals where watching the stage show is unquestionably a different experience, a qualitatively different experience, to watching the movie.

Now, yes, ok, I’ll acknowledge that sitting in a theatre for a live performance is always a qualitatively different experience to watching a movie. But that’s not what I mean. Rewatching Rocky Horror as a movie, you know exactly what’s going to happen. Second by second, line by line, beat by beat.

That’s never, as in not ever, the case when you see it live. Oh, the songs will be the same, the lines as well. But there’s something extra, something special about seeing it live.

And yes, there’s audience participation in the movie. There is. Trust me on that one. But even that is prepared. Most, if not all, of the audience knows what’s happening every step of the way, and have prepared for it.

Again, not the case when you’re seeing it live. Because you have no idea what the actors will get the audience to do. And you’ve no real idea what you’ll do, when carried away by the energy, the fun, the sheer joy in the room.

But the movie’s pretty great anyway. You should watch that. But go see Rocky Horror live if you ever get the opportunity.


 


OK, we’re up to eight.

Two more.

One that you’ve probably never heard of but is one of my all time favourite musicals.

The other, if you’ve not heard of it, you don’t know me.

So…

A Slice of Saturday Night
Yeah, this is the one you’ve probably never heard of. I discovered it almost by accident about thirty years ago and I absolutely love it.

Set in the 1960s, at a dance club, the cast are seven 17 years olds out for a Saturday night, and the club owner. That’s it.

What’s it about? Best way to sum it up is: it’s about falling in love on Saturday night… every Saturday night.

Almost all the songs are homages to classic 1960s hits; close enough so you know the song they’re homaging, far away enough from the original that the songs work in and of themselves.

It’s glorious. Clever lyrics, wonderful tunes, and with the right cast, it’s an evening of sheer joy.

Yeah, with the right cast.

A long time ago, while in a discussion about ‘end of life’, I was asked if I’d ever seen anyone die. My reply was “Yes, Dennis Waterman in A Slice of Saturday Night”. It wasn’t only his fault. The show needs to be in a small theatre. It’s an intimate piece. Seeing it with 800 others, the show lost its charm, and its cleverness.

But yes, if you ever get the chance to see A Slice Of Saturday Night in a small-ish theatre, go and have fun.

Been unable to find a decent video from the show, but here’s a song from the London cast that I saw… on Saturday chat….


 


 
OK, the one that Mitch would never forgive me if I left off, and I wouldnt recognise me had I done so.

Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version Of The War Of The Worlds
Oh, come on, not a surprise surely…?

It’s a musical that needs no introduction, so it’s not getting one. Just enjoy.

What?

Oh, ok, then…


 
See you for the usual tomorrow.

One guaranted reaction these days to someone tweeting or blogging, or even putting on Facebook, something they overheard is the inevitable
 

“it didnt happen!”

 
or
 

never happened!

 
There are twitter accounts devoted to claims that this thing being reported, or that anecdote, didn’t happen, never happened, that it was being tweeted for the retweets, or to get notoriety, or just to get some exposure.

Now I’m sure that some of them didn’t happen. Let’s get that out there.

I mean, whenever I see someone report something that, purely by coincidence I’m sure was entirely a justification for, or an example of, a previously expressed political view, I’m… sceptical, I’ll acknowledge.

Say… someone who loves the idea of Brexit, and has frequently complained that it’s taking too long…. says they overheard someone complaining that ‘they just won’t let it happen, the politicians should just get on with it! It’s taking too long’?

Yeah, I’m not wholly and immediately convinced that the report is strictly accurate.

Or, say, someone who loathes the current benefits system excitedly tweeting that they “heard people on the train saying how horrible it is…

Again, not necessarily true. Could be. Might be. Might not be.

Or, say, something even less… heartwarming.

Say someone thinks all the reports of antisemitism inside Labour are smears, reporting they heard people at a coffee shop saying exactly the same thing. Or someone who thinks it doesn’t matter that Boris Johnson lies as easy as he breathes, saying that in the street they hear loads of people saying exactly the same.

Somehow, I’m able to withhold my immediate and complete acceptance that they’re repeating nothing but the unfettered truth.

Someone exaggerating on Twitter? Perish the very thought.

But all of these types of reportage are trying to suggest, are extrapolating to propose, that ‘the public’ think the same as they do. That the conversation they overheard was representative of a vast swell of public opinion.

That’s not what I want to write about today. Hell, that’s not what I want to write about any day.

No, what bugs me is the pissing all over the other type of ‘overheard…’

The silly. The funny. The odd. The bizarre.

Because what I don’t understand is people claiming ‘it didn’t happen’ when it’s not political, it’s just… odd, or funny. Or silly.

Because people, individually and in small groups, are odd and funny and silly.

And if you spend a lot of time in coffee shops, as I have, you do overhear people, as they tend to forget that others in the place can hear them.

And occasionally I, like others, will tweet an overheard bit that’s weird, silly, or just funny out of context. Not a whole conversation; a line or two. Because it’s fun. Not identifying the people in any way, not livetweeting an entire conversation, or the break up of couple. The odd line.

Taking a quick look through my blogs and tweets, here are some of my favourites.

I’ll put it in the diary
Just popped down to the car and overheard the following from two people walking past:
Person 1: You’re not serious?
Person 2: What? I’m just saying if Jesus was born on Christmas Day and died at Easter, then Christmas should come at the start of the year and Easter should come at the end…


 
Yes, that’ll work
On the Picadilly Line
“OK, but if anyone asks what you’re doing with a body, tell them you’re making a movie…”


 
Wait, what?
A selection of comments overheard from a group of what I presumed were either PR people or party organisers, sorting out a new Year’s Eve Party for a client.

“OK, well New Year’s Eve, we’ve got the fetish party thing. Who’s arranging for the cleaning afterwards?”

“Well, if we kill the project, do we have to kill the project originator as well?”

“Yes, I know sex sells, but who’d buy her?”

“Do we have to use green jelly? Can’t we use red for a change?”

“What do they mean when they say they weren’t happy with the ‘yuk factor’? Do they want more or less?”

And my favourite from that session:

“Well, tell her to go fuck herself. Oh, no you can’t, can you? She’s your mother…”


 
Mothers
Two weeks later; same coffee shop. Sitting on the next table to me were three people: a grandmother, mother and daughter, given the frequent exasperated mutters of “mother!” coming from the three of them, anyway.

Then the youngest fairly shouts out “I don’t believe it! I swear, it’s like living in a bloody soap opera being related to you two! I need a cigarette…”

And she walks towards the door very huffily.

And the two older women look very sheepish before the presumed mother says to her mother, “You just had to tell her, didn’t you?” only to get a ‘hard stare’ in return…


 
Einsteinian
Overheard on bus:
Person 1: …and that’s why time is relative.
Person 2: Yeah but the bus was late.


 
Always tell the truth
At the next table outside a coffee shop, young mum with small children.
Small boy: you’re lying!
Small girl: No, I’m not!
Boy: You’re lying!
Mum: Don’t accuse your sister of lying…
Girl: There was a dinosaur in the road


 
Coffee!
Again, outside a coffee shop, young mum with young child
Child: You can have coffee, why can’t I? Why? Why?
Parent: Yes, because right now, I need you more excitable.
Child. Yes! You do!


 
But this, this is probably my all time favourite:

Two women sitting on the table next to me:
Woman 1: I’m really sorry about last night.
Woman 2: That’s ok.
Woman 1: I just didn’t realise how late it was.
Woman 2: I told you, it’s ok.
Woman 1: But if I’d have known you were in bed with him, I wouldn’t have phoned.
Woman 2: Seriously, we didn’t mind.
Woman 1: Are you sure?
Woman 2: Yes. If anyone can call him late at night, it’s you. I mean, he is your husband…

erm, yes.

The ‘didn’t happen’ lot lead very anodyne lives, ignorant of silliness. And that’s very, very sad.
 
 
Anyway, something else tomorrow.

Of course, that title should continue “…a Londoner.” And, in a post I wrote in June, it did end that way. Kind of.

Short entry today; just some thoughts on London. Noodling, as James Burke calls it.

Because I’m not one, not a native Londoner, I mean. I wasn’t born in London.

I was born in Luton, Bedfordshire. Born in the Luton & Dunstable Hospital, so I’m told. But as you’d expect, I don’t remember much about the experience. Luton, as they say, might be a great pace to come from, but my experience is that it’s a lousy place to go back to.

Both parents were Londoners, though; my mum was born in Stoke Newington, and my father was a cockney. A proper one, ‘born within the the sound of Bow Bells’, and all that.

And yes there were some phrases my old man used that were straight out of a ‘how to talk like a cockney‘ handbook.

I grew up hearing something that wasn’t quite the done thing described as ‘bang out of order’ and hearing a suit described as a ‘whistle’¹, and feet as ‘plates’².

¹ whistle and flute = suit
² plates of meat = feet

That wasn’t the language and dialect my parents used when they didn’t want us kids to know what they were saying, by the way. My parents and grandparents – my mum’s parents anyway; never knew my father’s – used Yiddish. Not a lot, but enough so we didn’t know what they were talking about.

And, before they realised I could spell, they spelled out words. A family story is that at one point, they wanted me to go to bed before a specific television programme was on. And my mother spelled it out… only for me to vigorously protest because I wanted to watch that programme.

After that, though, it was Yiddish all the way when they didn’t want one of us kids knowing…

But I’ve lived in London since I was 21; in Barnet for most of it, in Richmond – well, Ham, really – for four years, and, for the past almost three years, in Abbey Road.

I like the Abbey Road area. It’s close enough to.… well, pretty much everything I want. Fifteen minutes from central london by bus, half an hour if I walk. And, despite the foot, I do often walk. Similarly, ten minutes from Kilburn by bus, half an hour from Golders Green, or Brent Cross; a bit longer to North Finchley, where I usually meet up with my ex-wife for a coffee and catchup.

But as I’ve mentioned before, central London is a place I really like walking around. Every street has ghosts, both the impersonal – events that happened at this place or not, in a long and not always distinguished history – and the personal; places I worked, places I met people, places that remind me of people I loved, and people I cared for, and people I disliked intensely.

And places at which I spent evenings drinking with all three of them.

I walk past coffee shops at which I spent what seems now an incredible amount of time; one shop was my regular ‘have a coffee before work’ for the best part of 12 years. Another was the coffee shop that everyone knew and so we met there for a coffee.

Yet another was down a little alleyway around the corner from work, and no one from work knew about it so if I wanted to guarantee I’d never see anyone I knew…

Nowadays, I have different coffee shops I go to; it’s not the same. I’ve changed, the times of the day I visit are different, and there’s nowhere I go frequently enough where I could ask ‘the usual, please’

London’s a great place to get lost in. And I don’t mean geographically, Well, not solely, anyway.

I read something a while back about the difference between being alone and being lonely. I’ve rarely read anything on the difference with which I agreed. (Notable exception for Stephen’s Fry’s masterly piece on the difference.) But this one stressedthe differences, and I agreed with them.

Because I’m both, on occasion, but prefer the former to the latter.

I live alone, and I spend most of my time alone, in my own company. It’s rare that I like spending time in others’ company, or subjecting others to my company, and even rarer for me for actively welcome it for more than a couple of hours at a time.

But then I realise, as I realised long ago: it’s not other people who are the issue, but other people who I know. Lots of other people who I don’t know? That’s different. and with vanishingly small exceptions, that’s what I find preferable.

And other than perhaps at 4 in the morning, when you might be the only person, or only one or two, in the all night place, in London, with its coffee shops, cafes, anywhere… you’re not going to be alone. Not quite.

You’ll be, or at least I will be, surrounded by people, none of who give the faintest toss about me, my problems, my company. And it’s reciprocated; trust me, it is.

I saw, online a couple of weeks ago, a suggestion to approach people sitting alone, and strike up a conversation. I’m not sure what it says that I greeted the idea, the very concept with unremitting and unending horror.

London’s a great place to get lost. It’s equally good as somewhere where you can lose yourself, if you want to.
 
 
Something else, tomorrow.

You’re well used to reading stories created in response to challenges issued as part of The Fast Fiction Challenge.

For a few years, I did something at Christmas entitled Twelve Days of Fast Fiction. Friends – writers, actors, comedians – issued challenges, from which stories resulted. I haven’t done it for a couple of years, and I don’t know whether I’ll restart it this year. (Probably not.)

But, for the remainder of December, I’m going to put some of those Christmas tales in this slot.


A decade and a half ago, I threw out a challenge. and then repeated it thereafter whenever I felt like it. The challenge was the same in each case:

Give me a title of up to four words in length, together with a single word you want me to include in the tale, and I will write a story of exactly 200 words.

That’s it. The stories that resulted always included the word, they always fitted the title, but usually in ways the challenger hadn’t anticipated. And they were always exactly 200 words in length.

Two stories written for friends from the first Twelve Days of Fast Fiction.

It’s hard writing a story for a writer. It’s hard writing stories for friends. Imagine how much harder it was for me to write stories for Neil Gaiman and Mitch Benn. Both writers. Both friends.

Here are the results.
 


 
Neil Gaiman is… well, he’s Neil Gaiman. And I’m very grateful for that, as well as his for friendship for coming up to twenty years now. Everything you hear about Neil being incredibly supportive and being there when you need someone to be there… it’s all true enough, but throughout our friendship, he’s always offered advice when I wanted it, help when I needed it, and when necessary, a kick up the backside when I’ve not wanted it, but have so very desperately needed it. I’m incredibly grateful for every moment of it.

It’s a little known fact that “Neil Gaiman” means “storyteller” in seventeen archaic languages.
 
 
Title: Why Can’t Reindeer Fly?
Word: apothecary
Challenger: Neil Gaiman
Length: 200 words exactly

 
Elf-blood is purple, which often surprises those witnessing a battle for the first time. That it is pale, runny and rapidly absorbed by snow is less astonishing. Were the stains longer lasting, the white carpet around Santa’s workshop would instead be permanently amethyst.

The war had lasted too many centuries to count, only interrupted by the regularly scheduled twenty-four hour ceasefire, commencing at the close of 24th December. No-one could any longer recall how the war had commenced; some believed that an elf had grossly insulted a reindeer, some the reverse. Still others even blamed Santa himself, but only quietly, and among trusted company when they could be certain that none present would report the conversation.

However, all were agreed that any attempts at peace between elf and reindeer had been fiascos; the name of the last apothecary to try, sickened as he was by the cruelty and violence, had been struck from the guild’s records in shame.

Each side had their regrets. The elves were bitterly disappointed that the size differential between the foes favoured their enemies; and the reindeer, seeing the copious levels of excrement produced by their troops, looked to the skies and wished fervently for flight.
 
 

© Lee Barnett, 2012
 


 
Mitch Benn is an incredibly talented author, comedian and comedy-songwriter, and one of my closest friends, for which I never cease to be grateful. I’ve been a fan of his comedy for almost twenty years, and it’s always a surprise to me that we’ve only been friends for a decade or so. He’s also one of the smartest people I know, and it’s incredibly rare that we chat when I don’t come away having learned something important about comedy, politics or any one of the fairly large number of interests we share.

Few people know that Mitch plays a guitar made of wood from Yggdrasil.
 
 
Title: The Impossible Box
Word: saturnalia
Challenger: Mitch Benn
Length: 200 words exactly

 
The sun had set on Christmas Day hours ago, but she had merely noted it as a sign that her time was running out. Later, her brain had filled with plans, schemes and plots. And an hour after that, they’d all evaporated into the what might have been.

She’d been walking for hours, consciously blocking out the sounds of revelry from every house she’d passed, each one a veritable saturnalia of festivities and laughter.

At midnight, she opened the door to her apartment, and poured two stiff drinks, set out a mince pie. He liked traditions.

And then he was there, holding out The Box to her.

She hesitated for a moment before taking it, but then she always did.

Once it had been too difficult for her. Once she’d had no support, no relief.

And then he’d offered: one day a year without it. One day a year of freedom. His Christmas present to someone who once had been a very naughty girl. “Professional courtesy,” he’d called it.

Now, with a tender kiss on her cheek, he was gone.

Pandora lifted The Box, determined not to cry.

And she didn’t. Not straight away. She didn’t start weeping until February.
 
 
© Lee Barnett, 2012
 


 
Some more Christmas fast fictions next week.
 
 
Meanwhile, something else, tomorrow…

As I’ve mentioned before, on occasion, I kind of like that I used to do do these things every so often.

Now, I’ve no illusions that me doing them will restart the trend of others doing them, nor that anyone will find them actively interesting,.

I’m just more than aware that I find it easier to reveal stuff about me when I’m answering questions than by just writing about personal stuff, although I’ve done that a couple of times in this run already. But I’m genuinely fascinated by how I’d answer the questions now, compared to the last time I did it, whether that was a month ago, or ten years ago.

Besides, who knows, you might learn something about me you didn’t before. (I mean, let’s be honest, probably not, but you might.)

So, here’s another set of questions, and answers. All the answers are honest ones; some are less than serious, however. And I’ll try to answer some with more than a single word or line.

OK, so…

Is there someone in your life you know you’d be better off without?
Up until fairly recently, I’d have probably replied “Not that I can think of”. That’s changed, thanks to the past few years in British politis, and especially during #ThisFuckingElection, as I’ve taken to referring to it on Twitter.

So, yes, there are people in my life who not only would I be better off without, but I’m actively doing something about it. There have been plenty where I’ve been saddened by the termination of the friendship, but not one I’ve regretted. I suspect they’d say the same about the latter, while I’ve not the slightest clue about the former.

As to whether anyone is reading this and thinking “actually, I’d be better without budgie in my life…”, well, if so, you know what to do about it, with my blessing.

Do you get criticized because of your body?
Not really, no – my appearance, yes, but not my body. Very few people have, the past few years, seen my body, and those who have haven’t been that repulsed by it. I think.

But my face? How I look, dress, etc. Yeah, I’ve been criticised, with some justification. I’ve never thought of myself as objectively ‘good looking’. I’m… ok, I guess. Nothing special, nothing particularly horrible.

Which is, admittedly, a step forward from thinking I’m a genuinely ugly bugger, which I honestly went through most of my teenage years and adult life thinking.

How much did you weigh when you were born?
7lb 7oz, so I’m told. I wasn’t paying a lot of attention at the time. In fact, given the circumstances, I’m kind of surprised my parents noticed.

Did you kiss the last person you called?
No – the last person I called was a hospital appointment booking line. So… no. It’s been a while since I’ve kissed anyone romantically, though.

When was the last time you danced?
A very long time ago. A very, very long time ago. I really, really didn’t like dancing even before I buggered up the foot. Actually, thinking about it, I genuinely can’t remember the last time I danced. Not really. Would have been more than a decade, probably, though

When was the last time you jumped on a trampoline?
Unless I had a go when Phil – my lad – was learning as a young kid, would have been almost 40 years ago, when I was at Manchester Poly. Again, since the foot became fucked, I doubt it would be a smart thing to try.

Do you keep in mind other people’s feelings?
I try to, but suspect I manage it less than I’d like or than is ideal. But, I’d observe, ‘keeping in mind’ doesn’t mean always being careful not to offend them. There are times that I’m very aware of others’ feelings, but what I have to say, or do, is more important to me than not offending them. I’d say that’s probably the same for most people.

Are any of your friends pregnant?
Not currently, or at least not that I know of. I’ve reached the age now, though.where the question should include the children of friends of mine as well. And the answer to that would be the same right now: not currently, or at least, none that I know of.

If you have a hang nail, do you pull it or clip it?
Pull it, usually. Occasionally, I’ll cut it with the scissors on my pen-knife.

Who or what do you want to forget?
Very little. I’m a huge advocate of the ‘everyone is the sum of their lived experiences’ view; take away my experiences, and I’d no longer be… me. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, you understand, but at least I – and everyone else – is used to who I am… for good or ill.

Changing that runs the risk of me being someone awful. Or at least someone more awful.

Who was the last person to send you a letter?
Leaving aside the obvious answers like “the bank”, etc., I genuinely can’t remember the last time I received a personal letter. Last time I sent a personal was to a friend who’d specifically asked me to write to her. and the biggest problem I found was… I didn’t know when to end it, how long a personal letter should be. Three pages? Seemed too short? A dozen? Seemed too long.

How much money is in your wallet?
Fifteen pounds.

How far have you gotten with the book you are reading?
Almost finished the book I’m currently reading; have a new book ready to read when I’m done.

Who did you last tell to shut up?
Seriously, as in I meant it? No idea. Not seriously? Probably within the past week.

What’s your favourite book at the moment?
Robin Ince’s I’m A Joke And So Are You. I’ve read it and reread it several times. However, my favourite book of all time remains a novel: The Man, by Irving Wallace.

What’s your favourite cereal?
Winter: Shredded Wheat; any other time: Frosties.

How do you feel when people lead you on, but they don’t even like you?
Furious; I’ve fallen out permanently with people, including friends who’ve made nothing of it, over it. Dishonesty is horrible, yeah, but the calculated dishonesty in this is unforgivable, to me.

Could you live without sunlight?
I could, but I don’t suspect I’d like it very much. Or like me very much.

What’s something you know is bad, but you want to do it anyway?
Define ‘bad’. Criminal? Nothing springs to mind.

Morally? Whose morals?

Do something ‘bad’ to someone? Only if they deserve it, but fuck me, some people deserve it.

What was the last thing you lied about?
When I was nice to someone in person recently just for an easy life, to back out of a conversation that would have turned very nasty for all concerned.

Do you regret anything you’ve done in the past week?
The last week? Oh fuck, yes. The last day? Ditto.

Do you have a common outfit for when you go ‘out’?
I started dressing all in black about 15 years ago; I did it a couple of times and people, friends, were foolish enough to say it suited me. And pure laziness kept me doing it. I feel comfortable in it, and it means I never have to even mildly concern myself with what I’m going to wear.

What is a sport you would like to play?
What would I like to do? Oh, surfing, and basketball; I can, unfortunately, do neither of these either because of physical limitations. Other than that, and they’re easy answers, excuses… I don’t like sport.

At all.

Not only do I not like sport, I’m wholly and genuinely puzzled by people who do, especially those who support a team through thick and thin. I’m mystified by how anyone can claim their team is [always] “the best” when, objectively, they’ve very much… not.

The tribal nature of supporting a team is beyond me.

And that’s leaving aside that I actively dislike participating in sports. I dont think sport is an objective ‘good thing’, not when you’ve experienced the bullying and frankly horrific abuse you get when you’re ‘not good at sports’, like what I was.

When was the last time you felt like crying?
From emotion? No idea – can’t remember.

From frustration? Last week.

From pain? yesterday.

Have you ever wanted to kill someone?
In my life? Twice. Both as adult. I’d be flabbergasted if anyone knew who, however.

What was the last song you listened to that wasn’t sung in English?
A month or so ago, when I did the 30 Songs thing: 99 Luftballons

What did you last draw?
I sketched a Batman a couple of days ago, trying an app and iPad stylus.

What TV show would you like to be on?
“Did I mention Doctor Who?”

If you could choose a Pokemon, who would you pick?
I’d pick one named “KillMeNowPlease”. And then do so. Repeatedly.

What was the last video game you played?
Snooker, on the iPhone, yesterday.

Have you ever been in a musical?
Once, a very, very long time ago. Jesus Christ, Superstar. I was one of Caiaphas’ priests. Never again.

Do you follow your own style or everyone else’s?
Sorry, ‘style’? What is this thing of which you speak?

Do people use you a lot?
Define “a lot”. Am I used? Yeah, sometimes, but probably no more than I use others.

What are you doing two days from now?
Wednesday? Recovering from tomorrow’s Christmas Distraction Club, I’d imagine.

Were there any teachers at your school that disliked you?
I don’t think I went to a single school or college where there wasn’t at least one teacher with whom I fell out. Some didn’t like me because I was, well, me.

On two occasions, they were flat out antisemites, and made it obvious they didn’t like me or the other couple of Jewish kids.

And one sports teacher was a sadistic bastard who got pleasure from bullying physically weak kids. If you’re thinking my dislike of sport comes from this, you may not be wrong. Those memories last.

What turns you on?
Stuff. And more stuff. You don’t really want to know, though, do you? I mean, eugh.

Did you ever believe there were monsters in your closet?
It didn’t even occur to me.

Did you have an autograph book?
Yeah, pretty much every kid had one when I was young. Filled up with celebs I met, and school friends.

Would you adopt a child that had a mental illness?
I don’t intend to have/adopt/be responsible for any other children. It’d be unfair to them would be one reason. It’d be unfair to me is another.

Does thinking about death scare you?
Not at all, neither my own or anyone else’s… with the very, very rare exception. And even then, it’s not being ‘scared’ exactly.

If you died, would you go to Heaven or Hell?
Neither. No idea what happens when you die, and I’m quite ok with that.

Do you care what people say or think about you?
I wish I didn’t. But I stopped worrying about it when I realised that anything they say anything about me that’s ‘bad’, I’d probably agree with.

However, I don’t like being the subject of gossip. When my wife and I separated, it – and the suggested reasons for it – became the subject of some gossip among people I knew. And I hated that.

Have you ever had surgery?
Several times, last time to fix my foot. It didn’t. and I’m likely having a procedure in near future.

Have you ever been threatened?
Many times. But only two death threats that stand out, after one of which I involved the police.

Which side of your family do you get most of your qualities from?
My father, for good or bad. Very little I got from mum; very much I got from dad.

What was the last thing you drank?
Coffee.

Have you ever kept a relationship a secret?
Several, but as above, I’ve not been in a relationship for many years.

How much do you weigh?
Around 13 and a half stone, give or take a pound.

How much do you want to weigh?
Around 12 and a half stone, give or take a pound. But it’s too strong to say I ‘want’ to. It’d be nice, sure, but it doesn’t really bother me that I’m a stone heavier.

What street do you live on?
Not the street where you live.

What is a quote that you love?
“In his ninetieth year, he could afford to be agreeable to everybody, though he tried valiantly to resist the inclination.” — Alistair Cooke, on Frank Lloyd Wright

I genuinely hope someone says that about me one day.

Do you think of pure hate as human created?
Of course. Much as I do ‘pure love’.

When was the last time you wanted to scream?
Wanted to, but didn’t? Nothing springs to mind.

Did so, in pain? Yesterday.

Other than in genuine physical pain? From fury, and contempt? About a week ago.

What are your thoughts on discrimination?
Intolerance, bigotry, prejudice, discrimination? All things that make me think less of humanity as a species.

Would you give a million dollars to charity if you had two million?
No.

Do you see the world in black and white?
More often that I’d like to, or probably is wise.

Do you think cell phones can cause cancer?
Don’t know, don’t care.

Where does the rainbow end?
Midgard.

Do you believe in any religion?
I’m Jewish. My level of observance varies somewhat. I guess I’ve some few but unbreakables but they’re observances, traditions, rather than ‘believing’ per se.

I don’t know what the hell I actually ‘believe’.

What’s your definition of life?
The same as the Oxford English Dictionary’s. Seems to work for me.

Something you never want to do again is what?
Make a damn fool of myself in front of people I respect, or people I care about. The chances of me never doing this again, however, are minuscule.

When was the first time you realized the world was small?
As in “it’s a small world”? When I was very, very young.

Do you spend a lot of time contemplating life’s mysteries?
Hardly any at all. There are some questions I realised some time ago I’m just not smart enough to understand all the arguments, let alone the answers.

If you could create a new law, what would it be?
Any politician who gives out provably false information, knowingly or unknowingly (I truly don’t care if it’s unknowingly – it’s their bloody job to know), in a speech or policy statement is fired from any ministerial position, barred from ministerial office for a period of five years, and is additionally thrown out of their legislative chamber, having to run again in a by-election.

No ifs, no appeals, just… out.

Ever discuss your political beliefs with people?
Before the past few years? Not really. Since then… when asked. But there’s no political party I current agree with even a majority of their platform, and I disagree fundamentally with something in each of their policy manifestos.

Do you care about the environment?
Not as much as many of my friends.

Are you at all racist, sexist, ageist, or homophobic?
I hope to hell not; I try not to be. But I fear that like most people, I betray my prejudices every time I open my bloody mouth.

What’s your motto for life?
Regret, but never brood.

Is progress destroying the beauty of the world?
All of the natural world is temporary on the longer term. Doesn’t matter to me whether a particular view is there or not. Another view will be there instead, and if I don’t like it, so I find a view from a different place. In other words… no.

Do you believe there is life somewhere else in the universe?
Yes.

Sentient life? Still yes. However, I don’t think we’ll ever meet it. I’d say there’s more chance of time travel being invented that us meeting sentient aliens, or vice versa.

Would you like to rule a country?
Absolutely not. Gods, no. Never. Never. Never. I don’t want to even stand for local councillor.

Do you believe everything has a purpose?
Absolutely not.

Do you think animals have real feelings?
Define the term – animals feel pain, for example. If you mean, emotions, possibly. Do you mean emotions they understand? No. But I’m freely willing to accept I’m wrong or all of that; I’ve never owned a pet – though have lived with some – so do not have that experience.

Is war ever for the best?
No, but it may be the least worst solution.

Could you kill anyone?
Depends on the circumstances. To save Phil’s life? I’d kill someone and sleep well afterwards.

Do you believe global warming is really our fault?
Man made? Anthropogenic? Almost certainly.

Does love conquer all?
Not. A. Fucking. Chance.

Is euthanasia morally acceptable?
Voluntary euthanasia? Yes, though I have huge concerns as to the administration were it ever to be made legal.

Is world peace impossible?
Impossible to envision, let alone achieve.

Does prison work?
Depend on what you’re trying to achieve.

Do you trust the media?
Yes, to serve their own agenda, and increase ratings/sales.

Is pride a good or a bad thing?
Again, depends on the circumstances.

What is the purpose of life?
There isn’t one purpose. There might be many, but one? No. Unless you’re going along the ‘the purpose of life is to live’ route.

Do you believe in karma?
No. Not at all. Not in the least.
 
 
OK, something else tomorrow.

I really don’t want to write on the election. I mean, I will, next week, but I really don’t want to.

Because this election has, as I predicted a few months back, been horrible, been awful, been dreadful. And I’ll write about some of why next week.

Today, something less awful. Something on memory.

At some point in the past few years, I forgot who I was at school with. Oh, I can remember the odd name here and there; I can remember my close friends from school, and I can remember the names of the bullies. And I can remember my teachers.

But I used to remember the names of kids in my class. And kids I went to VI Form with, and young adults I went to uni with.

Now? No idea. The names just aren’t there. Seeing photos with names on the back… nope, I don’t remember them at all. I’ve got more pics of students with whom I studied at Manchester Poly. I can barely remember any of them. Some of them, obviously close friends from the photos, I have no memory of them at all.

I mean, take my senior – what’s now called secondary school. My school years between the ages of 12 and 16 were spent at Denbigh High School, in Luton. When I went there, there were 8 forms of roughly 30 children per form, over five years.

So 240 kids per year, roughly 1200 children in the school. I can go to virus sites and message boards and look at the names of people listed for my year, children I must have known – and liked or disliked – very well… Last time I checked, there were 177 listed, from the roughly 240 kids in my year. I recognised under 20. And I can picture maybe six of them.

I’d lay even money that ’20’ has shrunk to half a dozen now.

Now, ok, there’s not a one of them with whom I’m in regular contact.

Same applies to my time at Sixth Form College. Looking back at pics and online records of the time. Less than a dozen whose names I remember, and only a handful of mental pictures.

There are days I feel every bloody day of my fifty-five years…

As for uni… well, as I say above, I have more pictures. You’d think it’d make a difference. There’s someone who, from the photos, I was very close to, physically I mean. Nope, I have no idea of her name. There’s a photo of a fella named Paul who I kind of faintly remember being there, But his surname? What he was studying? Our relationship? Not a clue.

I wonder how many of them remember me.

I’m not sure what it says that I hope very few do.

(Of course, the schoolmates wouldn’t have a clue about ‘budgie’, while those at uni would only remember me as ‘budgie’…)

 
 
Something else, tomorrow.