Monthly Archives: November 2010

Measure for Measure II

What I would say to yer man (that’s my polite term for the PM) is this: why don’t you visit a drive-through McDonalds and talk to the talking post there; measure the post’s wellbeing. Then you can go to the first window where the person takes your money. They can’t actually interact with you when they are conducting the financial transaction because they are the disembodied voice in the post and they are now “talking” to the person behind you. They won’t really be able to look at you and you won’t really look at them. So you have one person, employed, hopefully healthy and with friends and family who might go home and volunteer and care and read Kafka for all I know (ticking yer boxes Dave), but in this role they talk to you through a post, and avoid all eye-contact. How is impersonating a talking post and not acknowledging each other’s humanity a measure of happiness?

Is it quicker for me to talk to the post and then hand over my money silently through the window as the employee talks to the car behind? No, it is not. There is not less talk or speedier talk, in fact, if anything, it is slower because I am deaf and can’t lip read the frickin post. What it does do is dehumanises us all. Just like the self-service checkouts at supermarkets, the petrol station cashiers who have to ask me every day if I want random doughnuts or coffee with that? I don’t, I never do, I never will. Caffeine is just so never an impulse buy when I am in here nearly every day of the week and live one minute away. Just like the banks that don’t want to talk to you or help you, or the teachers that are forced to invest as much time in the paperwork as their learners. Just like the parents that have to leave their children with low-paid childcare workers for 10 hours every day just to not afford a holiday and hardly ever see their children.

Measure the effects of all that Mr Cameron and you will know why modern society is an unhealthy and unhappy place for many people to live in. But those people who really aren’t very “happy” probably won’t ever answer your damn survey and so you’ll never know. So wouldn’t it be far better to spend your rabbit out of hat £2 million on finding ways to reduce the mental unwellbeing in the UK? We are, according to Oliver James, twice as likely to have a mental illness as our European neighbours, a statistic he puts down to “our materialistic values, heavily stimulated by the fact that for 50 years, we have spent twice as much on advertising to our population.”

Twice as much advertising = twice as much mental illness? Well it’s possible and looking at that would be a much better activity than asking the fucking obvious.

That is so obviously the last word isn’t it? But by way of a postscript I will share the parting shot of the ONS consultation questionnaire. It’s this gem:

Which of the following ways would be best to give a picture of national well-being?

Please choose one option only.
Economic measures
Single measure of overall life satisfaction/happiness
Small selection of indicators
Large set of indicators
Single index of national well-being (lot of information combined into a single number)

Fishy Feet

I am breaking into my rantette about the National Wellbeing Index otherwise know as Happiness (not as you know it folks) to provide a public information service.

Did you know that, all over the country from Basildon to Barnsely, Dr Spa Fish is opening gaffs where you can pay a tenner so fish can *nibble your feet for fifteen minutes? Apparently it’s a cross between a beauty treatment and an all round healthy thing to do.

Here’s a testimonial from their website:

Twenty-nine of my friends have now had an enjoyable experience at Norwich and have found it beneficial to the Psoriasis on their feet and will be incorporating into their treatment regime.

Can you imagine a) having twenty-nine friends? b) all of them having psoriasis on their feet…

There’s another testimonial that praises the staff for being so quiet. Do they mean the fish? If they do, I’d like to say that’s quite normal for fish.

*Having researched thoroughly for a full three minutes I would like readers to note that the fish in question have no teeth so, technically, there is no nibbling. The fish “lick and suck” your feet. Nice.

It has, of course occured to me to save myself a tenner and the petrol money to Bas Vegas and plonk my feet in my own tank forthwith…

Measure for Measure

I’ve had a few things I was flipping about in my brain so I have decided to try and link them together under the mantle of David Cameron’s proposed happiness index. This is the development of measures to ascertain our deepest joy generally, as well as under our new dear Condem government surely. The cost of developing these questions none of us are going to answer is approximately £2 million. I can say from the off, I am not overly happy about that for obvious reasons. Have you noticed how the government say we can’t afford most of this, but at the drop of a hat we can afford that.

Then there is the knotty problem of how to measure such a transient thing as happiness at all. Apparently Tony Blair had a little go at it when he was in charge, but gave up as it was too ephemeral to capture. Not to say expensive I’d guess. Notwithstanding that minor glitch, Dave has set the Office of National Statistics the task of consulting with you and me to find out what criteria we think happiness should be measured on.

What they’ve come up with is not very imaginative I can tell you (here if you care). Have you got a job, have you got cash, have you got an education, do you have any friends, are you healthy, do you recycle and how long do you think that might all carry on? It doesn’t take a genius to work out that what Dave is trying to measure is not actually happiness, but 21st century consumer satisfaction with life. He may as well come round and ask me how much I like my breakfast cereal (I don’t).

Your actual personal satisfaction gets lumped in with: (volunteering, caring). Their brackets not mine. That mean one category also includes anything that could be accused of being spiritually or personally enriching as it mentions art and kulcha. Whoah. Could it really be that in measuring our prosperity you can arrive at a measure of our happiness as if they were always intrinsically linked? Of course being poor does not guarantee happiness, but having loadsamoney doesn’t either.

Mr Cameron may have confused the purpose of our lives (which is, incidentally, to be happy according to the Dalai Lama and that’s good enough for me) with a money-making and production line existence. Fortunately for him, most people meekly morph into conformist consumers that the capitalist societies depend on; those who believe that if they get what they want they will be happy. Actually, I think a fulfilled life is a little more about getting what you need.

to be continued… otherwise it would not be a blog post, more a rant, and my mother is not keen on those!

I don’t speak the lingo mate

Of course all the sporting websites were raving on about a fantastic England comeback in the Ashes that had happened on or at the Gabba overnight. I don’t watch cricket and having tried to catch up on the action by reading a BBC website offering (which I have drawn on for the purposes of this post), I realise that I don’t actually understand what the hell they are talking about anyway.

I am advised by my good friend that there is nothing better than a trip to the Oval or Lords on a summer’s day, but she was certain to emphasise that it was the champagne and picnic that was the real attraction. I think you can chat too when they are playing, as it all goes on at such a soporific pace. It doesn’t sound like a sport to me.

Check these baffling phrases out…

Australia hampered by the flat wicket
– in racing this would mean that there was was a horse called Flat Wicket. Maybe there should be.

Spilling catches – suspect this is a dropped ball, a fumble they might say in American Football. To be honest, I’m not sure.

Pessimists looked to the thick cloud cover overhead that promised some lateral movement for the bowlers. – is this a poem? If so, the imagery is mighty puzzling.

With the only danger for the batsmen being the cracks in the pitch which, if Australia’s bowlers could locate them, might cause the odd ball to misbehave – frankly disturbing imagery here.

Edging Siddle wide of third slip, and then playing an ambitious slog sweep at Xavier Doherty – a slog sweep sounds awful. I have no idea what it looks like.

Both men were positive, confident enough to hit a series of cut shots and off-drives as Australia looked to locate their outside edges.

The next two balls were more problematic for the England captain, an inside edge evading leg stump by millimetres and earning him a fortuitous 10th boundary before a nasty bouncer spat up and hit him on the glove.

This reportage has now descended into utter gobbledygook. Could there ever be a more pointless game in the entire universe?

It's hopeless isn't it?

Secretariat: The Movie

Look, you name your film after the US Triple Crown winner whose heart, on dissection, (estimated at around 22lbs) appeared to be three times the size of a normal racehorse’s heart; then you got my attention.

Then you throw in Walt Disney, a helmet-haired American actress, an actor I last saw in Babe the talking pig and you got me worried. Even the added attraction of John Malkovich in plaid doesn’t reassure me: I am *officially suspicious*.

It’s not going to be right is it?

Bagdad Cafe

It’s a funny old film that I had forgotten I had seen. I have never forgotten this song, Calling You, from it though. It’s haunting.

Sung by Jevetta Steele on the soundtrack, I am more familiar with the jazz singer Ian Shaw’s interpretation. Having listened to them all again, I think I am favouring this acoustic version by Jeff Buckley tonight.

A coffee machine that needs some fixing

The Hennessy

I was asked if I fancied going to watch this today at Newbury. I gave it some thought. Then I remembered that as much as I like Newbury, I do not very much like the cold, or the jumps. I do like Denman and he goes for an historic treble today, but since he had a fall at Aintree and that heart procedure I’ve not been able to watch him. Putting all that into the basket and throwing in a round trip of about 300 miles in the Tin Can from Japan decided me against. If Denman does manage to win I’ll be the first to pour myself a treble of the damn stuff and toast him.

I haven’t got a view of the race to be truthful, although the thought that The Tank will have to lug a minimum of 1 stone and 4 pounds more than his nearest weighted rival makes me shudder (and it will be just 2 pounds shy of two stone to most of the field). Instead I can only repeat what most people may have heard already: there have been strong whispers coming into the race for the Irish horse Pandorama and that some good judges have mentioned that Madison du Berlais may be a rather generously priced 16/1. All home safe and not too knackered is all I ask for.

In the meantime I’d rather look at this fantastic picture of the flat racing darling Selkirk in the snow, which the delightful Clare Balding kindly allowed me to use. Selkirk was trained by her father Ian and raced for George Strawbridge in a career that enjoyed wins in the Lockinge Stakes at the selfsame Newbury, the Celebration Mile at Goodwood and the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot.

Selkirk stands at Lanwades Stud in Newmarket, the fee for his services in 2011 is £20,000. He has sired 81 Group/Stakes winners including 12 Group 1 winners. So if it’s a group-winning flashy chestnut with some white markings you’re after producing you could do an awful lot worse…

Selkirk courtesy of Clare Balding's Twitpics

Relax in the Kingdom of Leather…

There used to be this advert in the 90s that had a tagline about relaxing in the Kingdom of Leather and in my sister’s flat, when we’d had a few drinks, we used to nominate the person we’d most like to do that with on any given night. I can’t remember getting any more imaginative than Lenny Kravitz.

This was good, because he was, and still is to the best of my knowledge, a bit of a short arse and being recumbent wouldn’t be as troublesome as my towering over his dreadlocked stunted self.

This song is one of Lenny’s best.

Backronyms (or bacronyms)

These have been around formally since the 1980s and the definition is the re-interpretation of a word as an acronym, or the re-interpretation of word that is already an acronym (sometimes for humorous purposes).

An example of the first meaning would be Ford as in motor car, named after Mr Ford. The backronym might be Fix Or Repair Daily.

An example of the second would be FIAT which is an acronym for Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino, the backronym is more amusingly:
Fix It Again Tony.

I’d like to make up a few of my own, starting with Condem and moving onto NAP…

Tea out

We had tea with Laddie and his family last night. In 2005, as Faith’s Lad he started a 7/4 favourite in his heat for the 1st round of the William Hill Derby @ Wimbledon (biggest open greyhound race of the year) but sadly went out of the competition after missing the break, getting crowded on the 2nd bend and finishing last.

No matter, he is a very happy lad now and I love him. His family love him even more. He stands a good bit taller than Rudi, but is perhaps not quite as fast as he was back in the day. That’s allowed, it’s called the good life.

Laddie (racing name Faith's Lad)


Laddie lives in an extremely artistic environment. Yesterday’s delights included an original bill for hay from the 1730s: bushels and cart loads…

Creaking stools, chalkcloths, ink wells, empty clock cases, stick insects and an original Viking v Monks epic featuring a pair of ** for eyes on each corpse. Marvellous.

I managed to create my own impromptu installation with some decorated, yet drying (for the last week) slate fragments by getting four of them stuck in my hair at once.

From the back I must have looked like a Christmas tree.