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Send in the troops

There comes a moment in every national emergency/crisis/brouhaha/mild inconvenience/storm in a teacup that someone, somewhere in the offices of a national newspaper will float that idea that it's time for the Army to be sent in to sort out the floods/pandemic/lack of toilet roll/desperate shortage of Peanut Butter Kitkats. The idea is generally most loudly trumpeted/suggested/threatened by the sorts of papers that still haven't quite got over the fact that WW2 is no, longer happening, viz. most of them, and is often enthusiastically taken up by the sort of junior minister who has ambition which, shall we say, over-matches their actual ability. Send in the troops, that'll sort out whatever this  is. And so, with crushing inevitability, there are calls for the army to plug the gap left by the shortage of HGV drivers, because there is no policy failure which can't be instantly solved by the arrival of the boys in camouflage gear. I've never understood this. Requiring t
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Sacred Cows

I had a little innocent fun on twitter last night, inspired by a tweet from a writer who said he was going to dunk on some literary sacred cows for traction and clout. The idea amused me, after all, social media can sometimes seem like no more than wilful controversy for clicks (how else to explain some of the more outre positions taken by Daily Mail columnists? Outrage sells, baby). I enjoyed the implied suggestion that he didn't believe a word he was saying, and in that spirit suggested he rip into Thomas Pynchon, not because I think Pynchon's a bad writer, I don't, I love his stuff, but more because I thought he'd be the most likely to have an easily riled portion of his fanbase. He was thinking of going for Alice Munro, a bold choice; she's difficult to lay a glove on, being to my mind, a fairly supreme prose stylist, not showy, maybe you could make some jokes about only ever writing about Canada. After all, if you want to invent a beef, there's always an ex

Cancelling Cancel Culture

There is no such thing as cancel culture. This is bad news for columnists, who need to find new things to be angry at on a weekly basis to justify their pay, but it's good news for the rest of us, who'd quite like to get through to the weekend without anybody else shouting at us, thanks very much. There's been a lot of earnest debate in the last few years devoted to the subject; long story short someone says or does somethingn problematic, or is found to have done so inn the past, and "The Internet" (whoever they are) deem them to be "cancelled" that is to say, no longer a thing, don't watch / read /buy /enjoy their stuff, they are persona non grata. The only problem is, it doesn't actually happen. Take, for example, Cristiano Ronaldo, a man who has essentially admitted that he's a rapist. Back at Utd with nary a mumur, watched approvingly by domestic abuse enthusiast, Ryan Giggs. No cancelling there. Likewise JK Rowling's sales have bare

The freedom of mediocrity

I don't remember precisely when I worked that I was a mediocrity. I think the realisation slowly crept up on me over the course of a few years, much in the same way as one turns round at forty and wonders where the body of the twenty eight year old went. Christ it was a relief, though As I've probably mentioned countless tedious times, I was fairly high-achieving at school in some areas, mostly English, and spent a lot of time being told how brilliant I was (I wasn't, I was good at seeming brilliant), when all I really wanted was to be good at football so girls would like me (I wasn't, they didn't). Still, due to my sporting ineptitude, I eventually learned to be proud of the fact that writing-wise, I was quite The Thing, the solipsism of youth meaning I lacked the perspective that this was a pretty small sample size at my tiny Cornish comp (we punched above our weight though, a good smattering of high achievers among my contemporaries, maybe it was something in the

Poster Culture

As one fat bloke enters, another one leaves. It's like Thunderdome, but with ham. In among the various crises and strife which make up the hellscape that is the current news cycle, you've got to find your jollies where you can, and I''ve been deriving some gentle amusement from two entirely unrelated stories this morning. The repeated entrances of Jarvo, and the very final exit of Andrew Neil, two stories which, while they bear no relation to each other on the surface have the same, slightly sclerotic, struggling heartbeat. Unless you're a cricket fan, the Further adventures of Jarvo will probably not have crossed your radar. In a nutshell, he's a serial pitch invader. He first did it a couple of matches ago and it was....mildly amusing. The sight of a rotund white bloke pretending to be an Indian player, pointing to the badge on his shirt was absurd enough to raise half a smile. If he'd left it there, that would have been fine, but he's repeated the tri

Llamadramadingdong

Odd how life seems to occasionally throw up these strange synchronicities. I wrote, somewhat intemperately and grumpily  last week about the animal based hoo-hah surrounding yer man Pen Farthing and his collection of waifs and strays. Well, not about them so much, more about the Great British Public's somewhat mystifying preference for saving animals over actual people. And blow me down with a feather if I'm not about about to make a highly similar argument this week. For this is the week which has seen everyone's favourite  Alpaca, Geronimo  dragged somewhat dramatically off the farm where it had been blamelessly pottering about these past few years and put down by Government vets to avoid the spread of bovine tuberculosis, with which the poor little sod was riddled, apparently. Now, I'm not going to deny that the sight of Geronimo, clearly not down with what was about to happen, getting dragged away was pretty distressing. And I'm also not actually going to defen

Wilful controversy

 I'm going to stick my neck out a bit here and venture an opinion which, given that this is the internet, some may consider controversial. The opinion is this, I, personally, don't give two shits about the Pen Farthing story and regard it more as an annoying side-note than anything else. If you're unaware of the latest farrago exercising the finest minds of Twitter, count yourself lucky, stop reading now (it already counts as a view, so it makes no odds to me), and go and have a nice time elsewher;e knock yourself out, go and have a nice cup of tea and a sit down instead. There's an incredibly annoying interview with Sally Rooney in the Guardian, try that, or maybe watch match of the day and howl like a drain at the enduring performance piece of absurdist art that is Arsenal football club. Whatever. If, however, you  are  aware, then indulge me for a moment while I explain that, while the whole thing is undoubtedly absurd, it's probably not worth spending your day s