Failure to clean up is simply foul play

Regular readers know I often use this page to rant about my pet peeves – of which I have a long list!

What they don’t know is, I also have pet snakes, pet birds, pet goats and a pet crab.  Well, he used to be a pet, but for the last month he’s been hibernating in the freezer, waiting to be cooked.

While he was alive we had lots of fun, playing war games, recreating famous battles of World War Two – and d’you know what? Without fail, the little blighter always used to win.  He was a master of the pincer movement.

If he hadn’t annoyed me by winning all the time, he might still be chilling on my sofa watching back-to-back episodes of “Blue Planet” instead of chilling in my freezer.  This leads to the point I want to make – which is a peeve about pets.

Not mine.  Other peoples…

Last week I read an article about a South Wales rugby team who were unable to play on their home pitch in the first game of the New Year because, over the Christmas holidays, dozens of dog walkers had allowed their pets to do their business on the grass…then merrily walked away without clearing it up.
That is outrageous!

When I’m President, such irresponsible behaviour will be punished with 30 years hard labour!

The nasty stuff was spread right across the pitch, so the rugby players had to cancel the fixture and spend the day clearing up the mess.

There was so much, they filled 18 refuse sacks.  Forget hard labour. I’d make it a capital offence!  Who’s with me on that?

Okay, dog owners may occasionally forget to take a doggy-doo bag with them when they take their pet for a ‘walk’.  But this particular mess had accumulated over a couple of weeks on daily dog walks by lazy, thoughtless people who don’t realise pound shop doggy-doo bags are cheaper than paying a £50 fine for dog fouling.

President Phil would increase it to £5000.  Remember! If you own a dog, you own its log!  So clean it up!

Sorely tempted by bargain holiday offers to sunnier shores

Have they been after you yet?

Over the past week I’ve been bombarded with summer holiday offers and special deals at a rate of three a day.  This is no exaggeration.

My email inbox, Facebook account and Twitter feeds seem to be coming up with fascinating offers to tempt me, from both the big household names to some I’m sure have just been set up in someone’s front room, such as Gr8 Holidays 4 U and Flyjetsunbargains R Us.

In all fairness to them, they are putting their sales and marketing machines to good use and offering deals and destinations that are extremely tempting.  However, I do detect an element of desperation in their urgency at this time.  Either that, or I’m getting more cynical with age.

But as I write, the weather is cold and damp with more rain on the way and the thought of a walk along the beach in a warm and sunnier climate is quite appealing as I apply my Deep Heat to my aching joints.

I’m all for a bargain holiday, but do I wait and book closer to the date or book early and take the so-called offers now being presented?

What do you think?

Specialist’s dreary tone almost sent me to sleep

No lie. This actually happened before I sat down at my steam-punk, bellows-operated, Victorian word-o-puter  (bought on line for just £4.99… plus £300 p & p) to write this article.

Being the highbrow type – I have my highbrows done once a month and my nails manicured at the same time – I was listening to PM on Radio Four on what I assume was a quiet news day.  After a hurried round-up of all the days world events, the programme bizarrely segued into a random segment on sleeplessness.

Is there an extra ‘ness’ on the end of that word? ‘Sleeplessnessness’. Yep, sounds about right.

Calling it an ‘segment’ doesn’t do it justice, because it took up so much of the programme that when it ended I felt like I’d just listened to someone narrating 10 chapters of “War and Peace”. Ve-ry slow-ly. In the original Russian!

A sleep specialist was being interviewed by Evan Davis, a man who is living proof that those so-called and much-mocked conspiracy theorists who believe that aliens have been living amongst us for decades, may not be the loose cannon, fruit loop, nerdy-geeks they appear to be.

After Evan asked each brief question about the length of sleep we need to stay healthy etc, every one of the sleep specialist’s replies went on sooooo long you could have timed them with a calendar.

Not only did his replies ramble relentlessly, he delivered each one in such a dreary sonorous monotone, that after listening to him for five minutes a sudden fatigue came over me…my eyes started getting heavy…and I could easily have dropped off for a lovely little nap.

Not only would this have been embarrassing at five o’clock in the afternoon, I could also have crashed my car. That’s not true. I couldn’t. I was driving a friend’s car and could have crashed that.

The sleep specialist was obviously born to enter his particular profession because I recorded his interview and at bedtime I play it back and I’m asleep within minutes.

But, just between us, Evan Davis is from ‘somewhere up there’ isn’t he?

Goals are so hard to stick to – despite good intentions

So, the Christmas decorations are all down and safely stored away. When you think about it, Christmas is just a cardboard box in the attic now!

By the end of this week, it is most likely that I would have broken at least three of my New Year resolutions – and probably four of the Ten Commandments.

Why is it we head into January full of good intentions, yet find it so hard to stick to our goals?

On the 31st December I filled the fridge with salad and ironed my running vest.  By the 2nd January, I’m sitting in a well known coffee franchise, writing this column while sampling their freshly-baked goodies and cream topped hot chocolate.  At least I lasted one more day than last year.

For many, January is the time of year when we feel in ‘limbo’.  The fun and excitement is over and the harsh reality of paying for an elaborate Christmas hits home.

There’s one question I always ask myself during the Christmas period:  Whatever happened to soap on a rope?

This is not a case of snobbery!

We’re constantly told to use our cars less and public transport more to improve our health and help un-clog our busy road networks and avoid apocalyptic gridlock*.

But cars are so convenient for travelling to work every day…the supermarket once a week…and George & Amal Clooney’s Berkshire mansion several times a year.  Oh, is that just me?

Buying a car and paying for Road Tax, insurance, fuel, maintenance etc, is expensive, so understandably motorists are reluctant to spend more money on public transport.

Besides, due to severe cuts in bus services, while we might travel to work by bus every morning, if we ever work overtime we might not necessarily be able to come home on one in the evening.  And think of shift workers and people who live in rural areas.

However, the true reason motorists avoid using the bus is because they don’t like travelling with other people!  This isn’t snobbery.

On buses, you have no idea who your travelling companions will be and not everyone is as considerate or well-mannered as you and me.

A friend of mine told me about a recent ‘bus ride he took to attend a Christmas ‘do’… “I caught the 7.30 pm into town, which, due to council cuts, was the last bus of the evening!  The only spare seat was next to a ‘big-boned’ young woman who took up so much space there was only just enough room left for me to rest one bum-cheek.  She slowly and noisily munched her way through a large bag of crisps, listened to music on her iPhone and stared ahead in a cheese and onion induced trance.  Behind me, a man constantly sniffed so loudly I wanted to hand him a tissue.  Two seats ahead, a couple of lads were using language which was more suitable for a rugby club locker room.  My journey was so excruciating, when I got off in town, I knew exactly what my response would be next time someone suggested I take the bus…  On your bike!”

*Try saying Apocalyptic Gridlock while you’re eating a packet of cheese and onion crisps!

Importance of the little black book

Creativity can be such a blessing and even a curse at times.  For as long as I can remember, I have always carried around a little black book, solely for the purpose of writing things down.  Well, what else would you use it for?

Things that pop in my head from time to time such as shopping list reminders, ideas that need to be worked on, funny things I see whilst out and about and often things that I overhear in conversation.

Often if I don’t write them down, they are forgotten and disappear into the ether, to be lost forever. Which has happened on many occasions, therefore the little black book is so important.

Throughout the house I probably have no fewer than 60 such books.  I even have one on the bedside table as good ideas have a habit of popping into my head just before I fall off to sleep.

The only thing is – I wish I had better handwriting, as often I write so fast it’s not always easy to work out what I have written and that causes a great deal of frustration.

This exercise can be a great source of pleasure and entertainment in years to come as looking back will often churn up colourful memories.

But then – nostalgia is not what it used to be is it?

I’ll resolve to ditch making resolutions

Many years ago, someone much older and wiser than me gave me this advice…

“Phil, there’s no point in looking back at the past. It can’t be altered. Never dwell on what was. Look forward to what might be!” …. Which I always thought was a strange thing for a history teacher to say.

However, I’ve never forgotten those words of his, which always pop back into my thoughts around this time of the year when TV, radio and the press indulge in analysing the most significant events of the previous 12 months.

I know I’m not alone when I say there have been years that I’ve been glad to see the back of for any number of reasons.

When you’ve been on this planet for a few decades, it’s inevitable that some years will bring more good things to your front door than others.

Though I would quickly add that my local pizza delivery shop has never failed to bring good things to my front door…very often with extra free garlic bread.

Now I’ve been around the block a few times and realise continuous good health, success and happiness isn’t guaranteed to everyone, I no longer tempt fate by saying on January 1st- “I’m glad last year’s over. This year can’t be anywhere near as bad!”

Oh yes it can! That mischievous little devil ‘Fate’ has caught me out more than once after I’ve said those words.

Apart from getting stink-o on cheap sherry on New Year’s Eve while watching Jools Holland’s Hootenanny and regretting it the following day (not drinking cheap sherry – watching Jools Holland!) there are several other traditions associated with the turn of the year.

They include vastly improving your mindfulness and wellbeing by never again watching “Eastenders”; taking out a gym membership you’ll cancel in May; and making New Year’s Resolutions.

I only make one each year – which is… “Never make a New Year’s Resolution”.

Oops! I just realised that means I do make a New Year’s Resolution!
I shouldn’t have opened that bottle of cheap sherry!

Evidence points to our love of having pets

I’ve gone soft, I think. Well that’s what I’ve been told.  Strange as it may seem, but I have a confession to make.  Our cocker spaniel was on my Christmas present list.

I know I’m not alone as millions of people include their pets in the Christmas festivities as pets have now been elevated to family member status.  Now when did this all happen?

To be honest with you, I’m convinced that the reason for this is that they are more appreciative, less argumentative, more loyal, less moody, love unconditionally and don’t pout for weeks on end like their human counterparts.

Pet lovers are all around us and the sale of pet toys and goodies have rocketed in the past five years.  So, clearly, the evidence is out there.

Personally, I draw the line at pet jumpers and diamanté studded collars.  But yes, people are buying such items.

My spaniel, however, prefers a onesie.  Who’d have thought?

If phones cause that much trouble – why are they ‘smart’?

This time of year, restaurants and pubs are full of families, friends and work colleagues happily quaffing foaming ale and feasting on turkey dinners with all the trimmings – whatever they are.

However, amongst each group of diners there’s often someone ‘quaffing’ soft drinks rather than foaming ale – the designated driver.

When vegan organisations go out for Christmas lunch, do 99% of the members munch on salad while one of their group tucks into meat, potatoes, Yorkshire pudding and roast potatoes – the designated diner?

This year I’ve noticed more people than ever in restaurants and cafes constantly checking their smart phones instead of chatting with whoever’s sat opposite them.  This unsociable activity has now spread to Christmas lunch.

Groups of people out for a festive meal spend little time laughing and groaning at Christmas cracker jokes and avoid potentially interesting conversations that distract them from looking down at their phone, placed next to the knife, fork and soup spoon like a glowing item of cutlery.

Just what amazingly important messages are these people expecting?
Next week’s winning lottery numbers?

My thought that this obsession is a type of addiction was confirmed in a new study by Kings College, London which revealed that one quarterof young people are so dependent on their smart phone that when denied access to it they become panicky and upset – similar behaviour to addicts deprived of alcohol or drugs.

The study also said that these youngsters are unable to control the number of hours spent on their phones and this could be linked with other problems such as stress, lack of sleep, a depressed mood and falling behind in their education.

There’s been a lot of really helpful media coverage regarding young people’s mental health problems, many of which are rooted in the same deep anxieties experienced by generations of teenagers. Exam stress; self-consciousness; needing to be accepted within our peer group, etc.

If a communication device causes additional anxiety when they’re denied access to it and causes them to be depressed when they have access to it, can it truly be called a ‘smart’phone?

The reality of Christmas shopping is a world away from adverts

Why don’t Christmas shoppers really look like they do in the adverts on TV?

Smiling families, matching jumpers and scarves, calmly strolling around the shops, snow gently falling around the town (they never seem to carry ANY bags though, have you noticed?)

Now, here is the reality . . .

The city centre is packed, people all walking in different directions (always the opposite way to me), there are men being dragged around shops they obviously don’t want to be in, children are screaming . . . all surrounded by the same jolly Christmas music in every shop.

Then we have department stores doubling up as saunas.
It’s freezing outside so you have to wrap up, but as soon as you walk into a shop it hits you like one of the other half’s midlife flushes!

Oh yes – you can relate to this, can’t you?

It’s the children I feel most sorry for, strapped firmly into their pushchairs with only a Jenkins pastie for company (other pastie providers are available), so many shopping bags hanging on the back of the pushchair, both child and pastie are in danger of tipping backwards and being catapulted across Debenhams.

Happy shopping, my friends!