I'm not a grumpy old man, just an out of synch hippy

Monday, 31 December 2012

Easy Resolutions

New Year used to make me sweat. It wasn’t just my hangover or waistline (both thicker than normal).  It was the knowledge that all my vows to become a better person over the next twelve months would, by the middle of February, be toast. No, not toast. A slab of full fat cheese on top of a bacon buttie washed down by a quart of whisky.

At last I’ve found the answer. For 2013 I’m making resolutions which I have 100% chance of keeping. I’m going to:

·        Give up drinking beer in thimbles. Although it’s great for your brain/hand co-ordination, it involves a lot of spilt liquid and stained settees. Besides, my wife’s continually complaining about her bleeding fingers.

·        Give up making advances to strange women. It’s a bad habit. No more striking up inappropriate conversations with women who knot harpoons into their hair or end every sentence with a word in Sanskrit. I wasn’t getting very far with those types anyway.

·        Give up the Triathlon. OK, I’ve never actually done the Triathlon, but for a day during this year’s Olympics, I had fantasies of emerging dripping from the water like Colin Firth in “Pride & Prejudice”, clambering onto a bike and punching the air as I ride through rows of adoring punters. It’s terribly bad for the health.

On the positive side, I’m going to take up:

·        Power walking. My aims are realistic:  I’m going to do my power walks solely between the coffee maker and the fridge when I’m hunting for milk. I lose my guilt, I lose my flab, I keep my caffeine rush. Win win.

·        Community activism. No man is an island. From now on, I’m helping my neighbours out. I can see some teenagers lobbing beer cans into the hedge. No holding back. I’m going out to help them.

Happy New Year.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

A Baby Boomer Christmas Carol

“Bah humbug!” muttered the grumpy old baby boomer. He’d spent Christmas Eve in his shed successfully avoiding the Jingle Bells muzac and the drunks in Santa hats. But right now, as he tried to reenter his house, next door’s 6’ high flashing sleigh lights threatened him with an epileptic fit. Inside he slipped on a Christmas Card from an estate agent who wanted to buy up the street. He turned on the TV: “Christmas With the Kranks” “Humbug!!” he growled.

That night an apparition came to his room. “I am the Ghost of Christmas Past,” it said. “I want to show you your Christmases weren’t always miserable.”

The Grumpy Old Baby Boomer saw his 8 year old self on Christmas Day blissfully spraying his sister with his ray gun water pistol and knocking the gravy off the table with his Roy Rogers lasso.

Another wraith appeared. “Two ghosts!” exclaimed the Grumpy Old Baby Boomer, “This is a matter for Pest Control!” “I am the Ghost of Christmas Present,” said the wraith, “See how you’re destroying the spirit of Christmas.” It showed images of himself groaning at Slade’s “Merry Christmas”,  sneering at the “Downton Abbey” Christmas Special and hissing at all the holly-decked people lining up to sell him things he didn’t want.

When the Ghost of Christmas Future showed up, the Grumpy Old Baby Boomer had had it.  “I’m not doing a tour of my lonely grave! Not even if it’s free.” “Relax,” chuckled the ghost, “you’re going to see how Christmas could be.”

The GOB was shown a room with a smell of roasting bird drifting in. A bottle of Chilean Merlot stood on the table. His sparkling-eyed wife proffered him a cracker and a hug.

It looked good.

 “Unfortunately,” said the Ghost, “According to a survey, Christmas dinner raises cholesterol unacceptably high. Red wine has been shown to cause cancer and increase incidence of whooping cough. A government report finds that human warmth is economically unproductive. So they’ve banned Christmas.”

“They’re banning Christmas?” shouted the Baby boomer. “It’s humbug!”

The Ghost uncrossed its fingers.  “That’s the spirit” it said.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

The Deafening Sound of Silence
It goes in one......

I developed tinnitus about 5 years ago. I caught it from Jimi Hendrix in 1969. At least, I hope it was him rather than the overloud discos at whose margins I fretted at the time. Getting a bad hangover from stale beer is twice as annoying.

I became very tense, couldn’t sleep for two months, and drove my wife crazy as I tossed, turned and groaned. I finally got a tinnitus relief programme from a doctor in LA. I normally avoid programmes - they sound like something you have to do in prison. I followed the exercises religiously. “Exercises” isn’t the word: they were easy (like relaxing your jaw ten times) and no-one could see me doing them, the lack of both attributes being the reason I don’t jog.

It worked. I slowly learned to live with the ringing. I turned the sonic threat into a neutral or even welcome sound. Surf was up in my sandy Thai beach. Friendly aliens had picked me as their human contact before bringing peace on earth, not before ray-gunning everyone on “Celebrity Big Brother” as a special thanks to me. An oven was warming up for a chicken roast (Honey Chicken: lightly brush the bird with Soy Sauce, baste in butter then spoon over honey 15 minutes before removing. It’s delicious.)

That chicken saved my marriage.

A few nights ago our upstairs neighbours were away. We knew because their teenage daughter held a party. It sounded like a street that was being dug up and simultaneously being subjected to an air raid. Chikachakachikachakakkkkkkkkkchika. And that was just the conversation.

I tried relaxing my jaw and doing the chicken trick. It didn’t work. Those kids had no appreciation of my brilliant recipe. I doubt if they’d tone it down for canard a l’orange and tarte tatin.  I tossed and turned and groaned. Luckily so did my wife.

I’m going to contact Dr M. We’re going to work on a programme which cuts out the real outside noise. I’ll be able to muffle the police sirens by flaring my nostrils. And win the Good Neighbour award.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Help! I hate Hobbits

The picture of a Hobbit has been removed. This is a family website which is accessible to adults.


DR. PROD:     I’ve diagnosed your condition, Mr Kirwood. It’s Brevicuspauriculaphobia - the fear of small pointy-eared people. Specifically, Hobbits.


PROD:            Tell me your symptoms.

TK:                  Excruciating ennui and disgust. You must help me. They’ve infested my flat. I hear them sniggering under my kitchen sink. They get into my fridge. They leave their droppings everywhere. They jump out at me!

PROD:            (CALMLY) Of course, they don’t in reality.

TK:                 Yes they do. They’re in 3-D!

PROD:            Now you must ask yourself, how can a Hobb -


PROD:            - er, one of these proportionally different people actually hurt you?

TK:                  If I see one of them, I know I’ll be trapped in a dark room and subjected to endless CGI battles….

PROD:            Ah! You find the battles scary?

TK:                  I wish I did! And then there’s three hours of stilted dialogue, cardboard characters, overloaded visuals, nausea….

PROD:            We’ll try Exposure Therapy. It’ll acclimatise you with a steady and constant exposure to Hobbits.  

TK:                 That’s what’s happening already!

PROD:            Then using hypnotherapy, we’ll send you to sleep over 9 hours of the Lord of the Rings trilogy…..

TK:                  I don’t like the sound of this.

PROD:            We’ll strap you in and brainwash you with electric shocks. Ha! Fool, you didn’t realise that Dr Prod is a mere disguise. My true identity is…..


PROD:            …. PETER JACKSON!!!!!




Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Notes From Beyond the Veil
Alas Poor Hamlet

I’m dead. This is not paranoia, nor some kind of acidhead hippy fantasy. It’s a clinically proveable fact.

How do I know this? Science, of course. First, I live in Lewisham. A survey says that male residents of this impoverished (in patches) area of London have a statistical chance of dying at 70.8 years. I regularly see men walking about who are over 70.8, but I address them bluntly: “What makes you so special? Think you’re cleverer than the doctors who’ve spent years studying this stuff?”

Another survey says that people who sit down for longer than 3 hours a day lose 2 years off their life. I’m a writer. I also love watching Scandinavian detective drama, sitcoms and the Toyota “Mob Guy” advert. None of this stuff is improved by doing it while sweating over an exercise bike. 3 hours seated? I did more than that when I had piles.

Yet another survey warns that every cigarette cuts 11 minutes off your life. I only smoked for 10 years of my reckless youth, but 25 cigarettes a day adds up to 91,250, which by my reckoning is 1.90 years deducted off my account.

Lewisham’s rated highly on the pollution scale. Our contribution to the world carbon monoxide count is pretty impressive. An EU survey says living in areas like this cuts up to 8 months off your life.

I’m 65.25 years old. I think you can see where this is heading.

My cholesterol is on the low end of the highish spectrum, although I reduce it by thinking of Chris Moyles whenever I pass a cheese counter. Totting up an average of cholesterol survey results, by my calculation a whole year’s gone ping.

So, if you have the adding up skills of the average 15 year old - change that – of the average bank clerk – you’ll see that there can be no arguing. 70.80 – 5.62 = 65.18. Statistically, I’m no longer alive.

Having said that, life improves when you’re dead. For a start, I’m much less worried about my health. I read fewer surveys. I’m probably more fun to be around. Who knows, I’ll come across another survey which says that being dead increases your life expectancy by 5.62 years. And I’ll be back to where I was when I started. Except 1 ½ hours older.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The Beautiful Virus
Inner Space

I’m just getting over a rotten cold. It hasn’t been nice, but, as a Brit, I feel I’ve done my bit. Colds are one of the glories of our culture, along with Shakespeare and Blake, and you’re expected to participate. Immigrants from warmer countries should be offered classes in the social significance of being a bit congested.

In fact, we should all do them, Brits and non-Brits. It’s a matter of sharing our National Heritage.  Here are just a few of the deep-rooted Folk Customs of the Sniffling Season.

The Ceremony of the Spreading of the Germs.  This is held where large numbers of people are crushed together, mainly on commuter trains and the tube. The ceremony begins with a few people tentatively sniffing into their Kleenexes. Someone (maybe in olden times they would have worn stag’s horns), sneezes out loud. There is a ritual Giving the Disapproving Glare and Holding up the Newspaper. Then someone responds to the sneeze. By the time the train pulls in, nearly everyone will be joining in a Mass Snort. The effect is overpoweringly emotional.

The Respectful Concert Cough  When an orchestra plays, in between movements it’s customary to encourage the players with a low cough which goes round the Hall. When this fails to happen, conductors turn round and glare at the audience until someone starts to splutter.

The Water Cooler Moan Game  This involves delicate conversational skills which can take years to master. The opening gambit goes something like “I’ve got a real shocker. Had it for two weeks.”  The response is “It’s going round.” People with real finesse might come out with something like “Honey and lemon’s best”. Intimidated pre-initiates should not hover round the margins. By getting in close they’ll catch the cold and tomorrow have a bash at the opening gambit.

We should celebrate Cold Culture with an International Mucus Day. Your suggestions are welcome. For example, at midday everyone could participate in a Two Minute Sneeze (sponsored by the hanky industry). We could market it with the slogan “It’s like Red Nose Day, except you don’t need to buy the nose”.

When to have it? In the classic period for British colds, of course – the summer. 

Monday, 3 December 2012

Shopping With Babes and Mum
By 2050 they'll have taken over

He nearly crashes into me at the Cakes corner. He’s steaming round with his baby buggy from the Desserts, I’m heading from the Deli Fridge. “Do we really need more rice?” he asks.

I’m about to suggest he tries couscous, although he doesn’t look like a couscous kind of man, when the cord dangling from his ear tells me it’s not my opinion he’s canvassing.

“OK babes” he sighs, moving on as he stuffs another packet of Uncle Ben’s into the basket balanced by the child’s rack of toys, “Your mum….”

I examine my crumpled shopping list.  Milk Toothpaste Chilli Powder Pasta.   I feel like a relic of a simpler time, like a mastodon who’s made it into the Bronze Age. I check what we need, write it down, and get it.  In other aspects of my life I’m as chaotic as a teenager, but my shopping runs along rigid lines, thanks to that Pleistocene scrap of paper.

Hands-free guy has parked the buggy by the cheese. “Does it have to be Cheshire, babes?” he moans, spitting “Your mum!…. no, not three….” but he slips the packets into the basket anyway. As I pass I hold up my list to show him there’s another way which involves no arguments, no looming relatives, no payment plans. He’s too busy balancing the crammed basket on the top of the buggy to notice.

The milk has moved. I curse the chain stores and their way of shifting the shelves around hoping you’ll be tempted by all the crisp packets you pass as you search. But Tescos Inc have met their match with me and my list.

He’s now by the cereals, having a furious argument about Cocoa Pops. Mum doesn’t like Shreddies, and he’s outnumbered by her and babes. I cruise past, but they’ve moved the pasta as well so he just beats me to the till queue. Baby’s begining to moan. His basket is overflowing while mine contains the four items. “Chicken nuggets on two for one? Look, I’m… OK, OK….”

He pushes his way past me back into the shop to dig out the nuggets. I’m left alone with baby and pull a face at it.

I finally make it through the till. “Want our Loyalty Card?” asks the woman. 

I check my list.  Milk Toothpaste Chilli Powder Pasta.   “No” I say.