Tuesday, 27 September 2011

3 and Me.

3 Things about me...

Three names I go by:
1. Steve
2. Daddy
3. Dear debtor

Three jobs I have had in my life.
1. Bank clerk
2. Bricklayer
3. Hard-core pornographer - via my website www.adultextreme.co.uk (sadly closed you pervs)

Three Places I have lived
1.Far Cotton, Northampton
2.East and West Hunsbury, Northampton
3.Kingsthorpe, Northampton - though I fail to see a pattern.

Three Favorite drinks
1. ANY real ale that is brewed more with love than with chemicals
2. Stella Artois - which is just chemicals.
3. Water - to counteract the two choices above - which is hardly any chemicals.

Three TV shows that I watch
1. The Wire (though anything by David Simon)
2. The I.T.Crowd (though anything by Graham Linehan)
3. The Inbetweeners - for the word "clunge"

Three Places I Have Been
1. Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga, Tennessee - USA.
2. Some neolithic rock city in Menorca - name escapes me - it was so quiet it was magical.
3. Paradise - but I've never been to me.

Three people who e-mail/Facebook me regularly
1. Fletch
2. Mother Plowman
3. Some Facebook bot that is always asking if I want to send people a hug or a kiss or some cheesecake or whatever.

Three of my favorite restaurants
1. McDonalds, Disney Village, Disneyland Paris - you've saved me 100's of euros over the years.
2. The Turnpike, Northampton - where Andrea and I had our first date
3. The Jade Pavillion, Northampton - where Andrea and I briefly escape our kid-dom.

Three friends I think will respond
1. Fletch - in iambic pentameter, of course
2. Plowman - via some zombie blog, of course
3. Gerry Burt - via the club, decidedly off course.

Three things I'm looking forward to
1. South Africa 2010
2. London 2012 - the only sports Andrea and I will watch together
3. The next football game either of my two sons are playing in.

Three Records I Couldn't Be Without
1) Sleep of the just - Elvis Costello
2) Lost in the flood- Springsteen...but once I've worked out the lyrics it'll change.
3) Delapre Middle School 1500m champion - 1979

Three Films I Always Watch
1) Apocalypse Now
2) A Matter of Life and Death
3) The Raw Wank Redemption.

Three Places I Want To Visit
1) Ireland (yeah, I know its not far away)
2) China
3) Brisbane, The Gold Coast, Australi

25 Things About Me

(originally written 2nd February 2009)

1) My eldest son was 10 today, 2nd February, Groundhog Day - I felt old today, I felt old yesterday and I'll feel old tomorrow. He shares his birthday with James Joyce and Data from Star Trek.

2) I've never read Ulysses - how far can one man travel in a day, anyway?

3) I've seen all the episodes of Star Trek, The Next Generation - how far can one man travel in a day!!

4) Our two boys went back to school today after having last week off due to heating problems in their 100 year old primary school and I let out a sigh of relief that could have been heard from space.

5) The school phoned today at 1pm asking that we collect the kids as the boiler had broken down again and they would be off until at least Wednesday - in space, no one can hear you scream!

6) The last word I ever remember miss-spelling was liaison. I missed out one of the I's. Oh, the shame.

7) My eldest son and my father are both better footballers than me.

8) My father is 62!

9) I have a genuine affection for the novel "To Serve Them All My Days" by R.F.Delderfield and often wonder if the transformation of the main character really does mirror the inter war years in Great Britain or whether I have an underlying interest in public school buggery.

10) I have noticed as the years have progressed that, whilst I have less tolerance for people in general, my reaction to their perceived idiosyncrasies lessens as the years roll by. The fight or flight response has never seen such mismatched synchronicity.

11) I waffle sometimes.

12) I am shy. This outwardly manifests itself in many ways. I am loud, open and gregarious in equal measures. Not immediately indicative of a shy guy, I'm sure you'll agree, but they're a helluva cloak.

13) I waffle often.

14) I would cut off my right hand if it meant Liverpool Football Club were to win the league this year. I would not have done this 25 years ago as Liverpool were winning everything in sight and my right hand and I had an understanding.

15) I am left-handed yet right-footed.

16) I could still "do a job" as centre- half for any team stupid enough to pick me.

17) If I don't apply some sort of wax/cream/gel to my hair after washing it I look like a 6ft dandelion.

18) My daughter, Poppy, is the most beautiful little girl in the world.

19) Anybody who has a baby thinks that their child is the most beautiful in the world. Between the last two statements I'm sure is a blueprint to end all war. Only send fathers to fight who have small children...oh no, we do that already!

20) I am turning into an apolitical animal as I get older. My fear and loathing of ALL politicians knows no boundary.

21) I vote at every election out of a sense of duty/guilt to all the people who have died defending our freedom. I eat greens as that was also drilled into me as a child.
If dead men dont talk, as the saying goes, then that's me sorted I suppose and Derek Acorah fucked !!

23) I love to write about feelings and experiences but the Far Cotton in me means I rarely speak of them.

24) I was born on Peter Cooks 30th birthday.

25) My favourite colour is 7.

Twilight Parazone

(Best Rod Serling impression) "Stephen Kerr was an ordinary man, doing an ordinary job...but nothing is ordinary...in The Twilight Zone"

Once I was in Letchworth Garden City (I didn’t know where it was either) on a mission to get a Mr Richard Wilson to sign up with Pickford's - for all his Careful Moving Needs.

I entered the slightly rundown garden of the above and knocked on the door, whilst making notes about parking/access etc. Very boring to read, even more boring as a job, believe me.

He didn’t answer first knock. With a second knock I turned my back to the door to cast my eyes over mini-Basra and said, "I don’t believe it!", under my breath. It's quite a good impression actually.

I then turned around to find that he had opened the door, second knock, and was standing there like the shopkeeper from Mr Benn, suddenly appeared , but looking like a fat Goth, for indeed that was what he was.

He ushered me into a house that had "character", shall we say. I was half expecting a Fagin or Miss Havisham to loom large. He apolgised for the truly extravagant amount of books that littered literally every room.

I replied that I loved a house crammed full of books and said, trying to engage him and find common ground,
"If I leave a house without books then I think the occupants are nothing but Pagans"

"We are Pagans, actually", he replied with all sincerity.

This was backed up by a very dodgy-looking pentangle thingy hanging from his wall and a broomstick resting in his hallway.

I'm ushered upstairs, being dragged there by a strange smell. I have smelt it before but I couldn't put my nose on it.

In the first bedroom was his wife, on a PC, suitably Gothed. I'm informed that the PC and table are going as part of the move but the cage of rats to her side was their responsibility.


About eight Rattus Rattus (or is that sixteen?) all coiled together like a huge King Rat.

Unperturbed, I carried on nonchalantly, as if a bedroom full of rats was an everyday occurrence.

The second bedroom bought more and more books, my eyes focusing on the Alan Moore tome, "From Hell."

I mentioned to Mr Wilson that Alan Moore was a famous Northamptonian, I was from Northampton, and my dad's cousin, Tom Hall, had him singing/talking on a couple of his early albums. It's all in the detail to secure the sale!

Hearing our conversation Mrs Wilson then seemed to float into the room. Apparently Alan Moore was on old family friend.

Did she remember my dad’s cousin? Tom Hall? The singer? Full, Falstaffian figure always recognised, when I was a kid, in a pair of red, white and blue dungarees?

Not only did she remember him but in the only hanging wardrobe in the house not to have books or rats falling off of them she pulled out a pair of dungarees. When she was younger, darker-skinned, and not wearing any colour as long as its black, Tom had given them to her to play dressing up games with.

(Best Rod Serling impression) - "What had started as an ordinary day in Letchworth Garden City would end as ordinarily too. But every so often, Stephen Kerr, and maybe you, enter The Twilight Parazone."

Cornish Nasty

You don't need an awful lot of rope to hang a man, really you don't.

A 6 foot man doesn't even need 6 feet of rope to be dispatched through the trapdoor.
What you do need, however, is a clinical understanding of the hanging process. Short drop, standard drop, long drop, knot placement, body weight etc. It all counts toward the perfect hanging.
Underestimate anything and you can seriously hurt somebody, which nobody wants. Who wants to be left hanging around?
Overestimate and the head just comes clean off. This, conversely, is deemed too brutal. Just a neck snap or slow strangulation is required.

I used to know a bearded brute of a scaffolder, a Cornishman called Mick. Years of drinking had filed away the sharpness from his features and his facial growth and pony-tailed hair was as wild as his ways. He looked your archetypal West Countryman though he was too large to fit into a Shrimper, a tin mine or indeed any other Cornish cliches. The open air and the boozing coupled with the times spent hanging from his scaffold with 13 foot tubing rubbing against him had sand-blasted the exposed skin left on his face to a burnished red that Schwarzkopf would've surely sold in a bottle for £15 a go. Cider Glow, or some similarly over-priced, multi-used name for red.

Like the many ships that had floundered on his native coast Mick was a wreck. He'd walked the planks on a daily basis with work and he had decided that enough was enough and it was time to drop.

Mick recounted the story to me over a tea break in the shell of a Co-Op building we were refurbishing on Newport Pagnell High Street. 30 feet up the scaffold that Mick had built we were eating sandwiches, smoking roll-ups, enjoying our rest and having a right laugh.

"I tried to kill myself once," Mick recounted with a gloomy air of finality that suggested he would've been more successful if he'd have been in this frame of mind at the time.

"Oh right," I replied, "how dya get on?" I knew I was being a cheeky young sod but loved the danger of poking the Grizzly Bear with a honeyed stick.

"Nah, didn't work out how I expected."

The Bear had licked the honey and disregarded the stick. I poked a little harder.

"What happened then, Mick? You have a change of heart, mate? Realise that life IS worth living?"

"Nah, the frigging scaffold I built in my front room brought the whole ceiling down when I jumped. The rope was too long and I hadn't tightened the base plates enough."

"Sounds a death trap, Mick."

Irony had yet to land in Launceston and Mick just nodded in agreement and munched on his cheese roll.

I knew irony had landed in Newport Pagnell, however.

I was suspended 30 feet in the air on scaffold built by a suicide risk who had proven to be no good at building scaffold.

You really wouldn't need any rope from this height.

No Place Like Home

Did the Earth move for you last night? If you were resident in my street I can assure you it did.

Hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes due to a huge explosion in a small garage located 8 doors up from us. We live in a relatively quiet Victorian terraced street and know a couple of neighbours by name, five or six to nod to. I’m sure your area is not much different in that respect.

Seeing so many people in their pyjamas, nightdresses and dressing gowns in the middle of the street at midnight made the whole event seem even more surreal. An Arthur Dent Fan Club reunion anyone? Too surreal? Please yourself.

Taken to the local church around the corner we swapped tea, coffee, gossip and got to know each other more in the seven hours that we were together than in the three and a half years that we had lived there. We now know 20 or so neighbours by name and an even greater number to nod to .

The children played as if they’d known each other forever. I lay claim to the chaviest kids in the church, however, as upon seeing the first of many police cars patrolling the area last night my 12 year old ran off shouting “Po! Po!” and my eight year old went the other way shouting, “5-0! 5-0!” I really must cut down on the American TV drama that they watch!

The fire service was , as usual, magnificent. We were allowed back home at about 6.30am. We bid farewell to our new friends and put our heads down.

Nobody died and nobody was injured. The garage and two houses either side of it were destroyed. Other houses and gardens down the hill, stopping just four doors from us, were also severely damaged.

Nobody could sleep, nobody went to work and the kids were kept off school.

Opening the door this morning I saw, rather than the normally empty street, neighbour talking to neighbour. They had gathered again by the remaining fire tender, just behind the cordon, watching the work still in progress in investigating the fire, possibly arson we were sadly told.

I know how Dorothy felt when she awoke from her journey to Oz and was back in the black and white world. Everybody seemed strangely familiar, though they weren’t wearing their costumes in the cold light of day and had dispensed with stripey PJ’s, ill-fitting slippers and fluffy dressing gowns.

There’s no place like home, unless there’s a raging inferno on your doorstep.

Then there’s no place like the church hall whilst wearing your dressing gown.

Photo Finish?

Take a look at the photograph published here.

It's taken on Coronation Day, 1953. The golden age of bunting. If you are under 50 then please Google, “bunting”. If you are over 50 then please ask someone under 50 what “Google” is. If you're 50 today and slap bang in the middle – Happy Birthday!

A street race for the women of Cambria Crescent, Northampton, following on from the Coronation celebration street party that day for all of the residents. Pretty unremarkable, I'm sure you will agree, in so much as thousands of events were taking place the length and breadth of Britain and the Empire simultaneously. All the pink parts of the world map having colourful street parties and street races and having them eternally set in black and white.

I've only recently discovered this photograph online and it has literally stopped me in my tracks, a bit like the women who are captured here forever in theirs.

My grandparents and mother lived in Cambria Crescent in 1953. In fact in other photographs discovered from the same day I have found my mother, dressed as the Queen of Hearts, celebrating with pirates, chimney sweeps, beggars and other fancily-dressed children.

The photograph I'm drawing your attention to shows my grandmother, right of the picture, looking slightly to her right with her right arm across her chest as she races all the other women of the street. She's the one in the black shoes if you still can't place her. I give this description for me as much as you because this is not the image of my “nan” that is in my minds eye. Although she is many years passed now she was always an old lady as I was growing up. Dispensing sound advice, quiet wisdom, hard-boiled sweets and soft cuddles. Your archetypal, matriarchal Grandmother. Just like yours, I'm sure, but here she is sprinting the length of the street, and without her fluffy slippers or furry ankle boots too.

And that's just the point.

We tend to fix a person, long gone, with an historic stare that is almost entirely focused on the last part of their life. We discard or can't comprehend that our aged relatives once partied and raced the days away long before we came along and invented the same things for the very first time.

That's a dangerous thing to do because it won't be long before we are just photographs (coloured ones, admittedly, and probably JPEG's) being focused on by our distant offspring who can't quite believe that their dusty old grandparent, that spent most of their time asleep in the chair, did once really ride that banana boat off the coast of Ibiza wearing nothing more than a pair of sunglasses and a smile.

Same party, different time. Party on.

Freedom For Tooting

I am really unsure how to approach what can only be described as middle-age.

Whilst my body is showing all the early signs of mid-life decay it is far from the knackers yard. Grey hairs are respectfully staying to the sides of my head and a paunch has yet to fully explore the rest of my body. Reflexes are fairly sharp, teeth good and my non-smoking continues to roll on at an alarming rate of one year and rolling.Now exercise may be something that other people do to ward off the excesses of youth but I really don't have that much gym time in me. If I want to feel the burn then give me a steaming Madras or a an Ikea wardrobe to assemble.

As I get older I find myself become less tolerable with the world and its odd little ways versus my odd little ways. I'm sure the world couldn't give a flying fig but then that just serves to make me even angrier with it. So enough is enough.

If you are old enough to remember Wolfie Smith from the late 1970's BBC series Citizen Smith then not only will your body also be entering, journeying through or even exiting middle-age, you will be aware that he kept a little black book in which he wrote the names of all those that had offended him, chided him, goaded him, attacked him or even just rubbed him up the wrong way. Come the Glorious Day he was to line then all up against the wall and seek retribution, Pop! Pop! Pop! - revolutionary style.

This was, and still is, an excellent idea. Far too many people seem to almost form a disorderly queue these days to offend, abuse and generally hack me off. I'm not conceited enough to think that it's only me that they hack off but I am conceited enough to tell you all about it.

I have purchased a little black book and have been feverishly filling it up.

My list, is as follows, in no particular order, and up to now…

- People who buy bottled water - it falls from the sky, people, and isn't half as tasty as coke.

- People who are the victim of shark attacks – sharks live in the sea and eat in the sea. Important last part there. Have done for millions of years before we were even on Earth. Stop paddling in their larder!

- Lottery winners that carry on working – Karma gave you this great fortune for a reason - “My Name Is Earl” style. Don't squander a once in several lifetimes opportunity by continuing to clean toilets for minimum wage everyday, pausing only to holiday in Rhyl in the same caravan you've visited for the last 35 years, whilst accruing £2,000 per week in bank interest until the day you die surrounded by cats and tiny snow globes of Rhyl.

- T.V. companies that ask if you have been affected by the programme just broadcast – if an episode of Coronation Street, the one where Roy and transexual Hayley kiss, for instance, pushes you toward gender modification, then you were walking a well-trodden path prior to 7.30 on any Monday evening on ITV1.

- 3D TV – I've just spent £850 on a 42 inch HD TV with cinema surround sound – I was told it was the latest thing by a guy in a shop who hadn't told his tie, shoes or haircut the same thing.

It's not 3D TV, though.

Dear world, If I promise to buy a 3D TV will you put off Holographic TV projection for about 10 years or until at least I've paid for this TV?

Regards 2D Steve Kerr

- TV lesbians and TV makeovers – both look so much better on Channel 4 TV than they ever have in real life.

- Textspeak on Facebook. There really is no need for abbreviation when you are sat at a keyboard. I exonerate my teenage nieces for such speech as it's their Cockney rhyming slang to our inquisitive, prying eyes. The rest of you...WTF? Lmao. ;

- Packets of peanuts that warn on the rear of their packets that they contain nuts. Let the gene pool filter out such numbskulls who are allergic to peanuts yet still buy a packet of peanuts only to then read the warning on the back and slowly put the packet down and walk away – smug that they cheated death.

- People who have neither the imagination nor the inclination to finish their sentences. It probably is the

Repeat Prescription

“I’ll write a prescription, Mr Kerr. You can collect it from the out of hour’s service anytime you like. Your sons date of birth, please?”
“February 2nd. Groundhog Day.”
I struggled to inject an obscure fact to liven up the conversation with the doctor but truth be known, just like Groundhog Day, we had been here before. Every Bank Holiday Monday it seemed for the last few months. Callum’s inflamed tonsils had laid him low yet again in a Kamikaze attempt at drawing attention to themselves and speeding up the process of their eventual removal. For the time being we had to do with Penicillin and I had to fetch the prescription.

I arrived at NeneDoc, so called presumably because of the River Nene on which Northampton stands and the out of hours doctors which worked within. How glad I was that Northampton didn’t stand on the other large river nearby. Ill or not I couldn’t imagine anybody wanting to visit an out of hours practice that conjured up images of leaking or badly dressed wounds - OuseDoc.

The waiting area was relatively quiet for this type of service and there was just a young lady and her daughter talking to the receptionist who was booking them in. In and out in 5 minutes. Lovely.
I couldn’t help but overhear the receptionists conversation with the young mother. What stuck in my mind wasn’t the (relatively) minor complaint she had brought to this overstretched service but the first name of her young child she was spelling out to the medical administrator,
“Igraine. I…G…R…A…I…N…E…”
It was said at such a speed that the receptionist seemed to struggle to write it down, followed by an equally obscure, and longer, double-barrelled surname, Poplar-Anderson. (surname changed ever so slightly for legal reasons and later comic effect).
My class radar normally switches on here and judgements bounce around my mind thick and fast. All I could think of though was where the hell did that name come from (King Arthur’s mother - struggling to inject an obscure fact to liven things up - I’ve since looked it up).

I felt sorry for the little girl. What would she have to look forward to? A lifetime of having to spell out her name to anybody who isn’t a major in early English mythology, extra long cheque books, over-size tags in her school clothes and eventually having it shortened by everyone else to Iggy Pop.

We were now all seated and waiting to be seen or given prescriptions. After a few minutes a doctor appeared from one of the side rooms glancing down at his clipboard. He was from the Indian sub-continent and I was sure that Igraine would’ve been as obscure a name to him as it was to me.
He coughed slightly and made an announcement,
“Could I see Ms Poplar-Anderson please with the baby, Migraine?”
I stifled a laugh as the woman shot a withering look toward the doc.
You really couldn’t blame the doctor, could you? 5 years at the Mumbai School of Medicine more than likely covered operating table procedures but certainly not the Round Table. She started to protest to the doctor about his mistake when the receptionist called me from my seat to hand me the newly-written prescription.
I had to leave it there but felt sure that it was a conversation both the mother and daughter would be having again and again with people for many years to come. Their own Groundhog Day.
It’s enough to get you to the docs with a migraine isn’t it?

The Crying Game

Webster's on-line dictionary defines the word obsession as,
“an unhealthy and compulsive preoccupation with someone or something.”
and, more worryingly,
“The worst and laziest way to begin a Facebook Note.”

I have held unhealthy and compulsive preoccupations with many subjects over the years. Hanging on to them for a while as though they were the very reasons the universe still expanded. Unlike the universe, however, these obsessions tended to be fleeting, passing notions that inevitably contracted and disappeared. Much like the end of the universe, really, if you have an unhealthy, preoccupied interest in its fate.

As a boy my obsessions seemed to be Stretch Armstrong, plastic toy soldiers and Liverpool Football Club, moving onto girls as I grew into a little man.

As a little man I ditched Stretch Armstrong for an Action Man, traded the plastic toy soldiers for a guitar, kept Liverpool Football Club and found girls even harder to move on as I grew into a big man with a guitar.

As a big man I find the only constant since the mid-70’s to still hold my interest is Liverpool Football Club, having cracked the girl and guitar thing some time back, and, by cracked, I mean I practiced a lot in my room alone.

Now, I’m not from Liverpool. Anyone who hears me talk will instantly acknowledge the Northampton twang that is recognised the world over. When I’m in London I’m asked what part of Birmingham I’m from. In Birmingham I’m labelled a Cockney. In Florida I was considered Australian and a mate and I were threatened with physical violence from Northampton Town fans whilst sitting in the Northampton Town home end for not sounding Northampton enough.
I digress and obsess. I realise that your time is precious and the universe will be contracting before we know it.

I’m not from Liverpool and as you can see from the above I hold no real affection for my home town team, its supporters or any other parts of the world really due to their indifference to me and mine to them. Other than Liverpool Football Club.
My great and lasting affection.

It was 1977. Cup Final day. My little mate James Legge and I were playing in my front room with the TV showing the showcase game, Liverpool v Manchester United. James was a Liverpool supporter but I wasn’t really watching the game, choosing instead to see if Stretch would live up to his name and traverse our cream leather sofa and music centre. Liverpool and I were about to meet.

The details of the game are irrelevant other than the result and what it did to James. Liverpool lost the game 2-1 and young Leggey burst into floods of tears right before me and Stretch Armstrong’s eyes. I’d never seen James cry before. At 10 he was a year older than me and nothing made him cry. Not when he fell in British Bulldog, when he was tackled by the tough girl from up the street, to when his favourite plastic toy soldier became wedged tight in my bike’s handlebars. James was the toughest 10 year old I knew but here he was blubbing like a baby because a football team had lost a match. I looked towards the TV. Hmmm, must be something in supporting this Liverpool team, I thought. If it can reduce James Legge to tears it must be more powerful than all the toy soldiers I owned. I had made a decision. From that day forth I would be a Liverpool supporter like James.

It was a pure and happy coincidence that my decision to choose Liverpool Football Club as my drug of choice was exactly the same time that they embarked upon the most glorious and successful era in their history. Five FA cup victories would follow, seven League Cups, eight League Championships, one UEFA Cup and five European Cups. It was a great time for James to start to cry.

I’m no longer that 9 year old kid who had the incredibly long stretchy arms you could wrap around a tree until they snapped off through wear and tear (I’m talking about Stretch Armstrong). 33 years down the line and it’s a race between the universe and my waistline, both still expanding. Liverpool Football Club is still there. Nowhere near as successful as when I started supporting them, their last major championship over 20 years ago now. They still try and compete with richer, more successful teams.

My two eldest children both support Liverpool now, with no encouragement from yours truly. After all, I could hardly dangle a wealth of trophies won in their lifetime to tempt them, could I? They just seem to have picked up on the constant hope I place in Liverpool results year after year and I see their support of my team (their team now) as the ultimate act in the father-son bond . Even my two year old daughter proffers “Liddiepool” every time she sees a red shirt on the TV.

It’s strange, therefore, what leads us into a lifetimes obsession. If James had cried with tears of joy when Manchester United had won in 1977 how would that have changed me? Supporting Manchester United? More chance of becoming a ballerina. Much more preferable and let’s face it – not even an expanding universe and Leggey's tears would have turned me into a Manc!

Get High

Was it my fault for using a discount supermarket?

Where a shiny whole pound coin in the mechanism is power enough to stop the theft of large metal trolleys. Where large metal trolleys have anything but shiny whole pound coins shoved into their mechanism to enable their theft. The place where even good manners and vowels are on permanent reduction?

Yes. Yes it probably was.

But it was also CHRISSSTTTMMAAASSSSSS!!!!!!!!! as a young Noddy Holder would’ve written down before this supermarket permanently trapped him inside one of their tannoy’s. Where he was doomed to perform every December for eternity to a faceless audience of Ugg-booted, tracksuited, X Factor wanna-sees (other reality talent shows are available).

Now I’ve queued all over the world, or so it seems. In fact if I’ve learned anything from my fairly limited exploration of the worlds longest queues (Channel 4, Saturday 9pm) it is that they’re very much like an anal probe at the doctors, the more you wriggle and complain the longer it takes and the more painful it becomes. I was therefore lying back and thinking of England whilst standing in the queue of Netto’s this morning.

I am a regular visitor to this very convenient store, located ¼ mile from my home. You can smell the Parka Rabanne and hear the non-filtered expletives from my front door.

An old couple were being served in my line. A 20-something man and his mother, or possibly his MILF, were behind the old couple and directly in front of me. We were going nowhere fast yet this didn’t suit the 20-something man who managed, through great skill I thought, to time his tuts and f**ks with every beep of the till.
The old couple took their time packing their shopping back into the trolley which I was sure was filled with a real shiny whole pound coin. This irritated 20-something even more but not as much as when the old couple asked for a newspaper, then a packet of cigarettes, at the end of packing.

He erupted in a shower of swearing that soaked the old couple. In a packed supermarket everybody suddenly found something tremendously interesting that they’d never seen before located on the tips of their shoes. He continued, buoyed by everyone else’s shoe-gazing, taking it as a sign of obedience, acceptance or even a bow!

I don’t know why I interfered. God knows I don’t. He wasn’t harming me, I didn’t know the old couple and he wasn’t smaller than me or infirm! My shoes were crying out for attention but for some reason I failed to look down.

“Oi, dickhead”, I tried to snarl in best Northampton parlance, “Leave her alone, she’s a little old lady”.

I cannot write his response down as my heart had suddenly quadrupled in speed and all I could wonder was would my wife and children still be able to visit me on the ward on Christmas Day, do they liquefy Christmas dinner in hospital so you can suck it through a straw and please God don’t let Noel Edmonds still be doing the rounds!!

Suffice to say that some un-pleasantries were exchanged in the queue to the bafflement of the rest of the customers who could now tear theirselves away from their feet as somebody else had engaged the 20-something.

I was neither scared of his ranting nor sure of myself. In the films the wisecracks flow thick and fast - but I’m no Eddie Murphy. The only one I can recall was in response to his offer to “step outside” to which I replied I would have to as I didn’t live in the supermarket. This enraged what little sense and sensibilities he hadn’t worn away through thinking too hard.

His mother/lover approached me through all of this and started jabbing her finger to my chest and explaining how I “knew nuffink” and should “leaf it art” and other such gilded prose. I ignored her completely – something to which I was sure she was used to.

The 20-something left the store like a pantomime villain with his pantomime dame, threatening violence towards me if I stepped outside and informing me I was like an exploding Coke machine – bang, out of order!

Step outside I did but he was nowhere to be seen. His mother/lover was too large to be hiding anywhere and his jewellery would’ve rattled if he was within 20 feet of me.
Then I heard it – like Santa’s sleigh bells as he emerged from a car right next to the exit gate, my only exit gate. Right I thought, this is stupid and I’m cold. It’s Get Carter and High Noon time. So with my head held high I marched purposefully toward the gate with a steely stare and a shopping bag full of Peek Frean Assortments and Mackesons.

It worked a treat as he fumbled with the door lock, desperately trying to open it as I passed him by. All I could hear was a mumbled , “mum, open the door, the door mum, open it”. Oh, well that and a host of triumphant bugles!

So the moral of the story is that if you stand up to a bully you too can be Gary Cooper in High Noon. Then again if you stand up to a bully then you too can also be Michael Caine in Get Carter. As it’s Christmas I think I’ll open my biscuits and stout and just Get High.

No Butts

August 30th 2009 is a date which will live in infamy. Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone. In fact, go and check that the clock hasn't struck thirteen.
Now I know that Sky didn't report it as breaking news and it wasn't in any national or regional newspaper reports but that is the day that I finally gave up smoking.

Just inhale the facts for a moment.

Every single day for, unbelievably, the last quarter of a century I have smoked. 20 cigarettes a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year, for 25 years. Whether at work, rest or play, in good or ill health, I've consumed over 182,500 cigarettes. At this point, armed with those facts, I would normally stop for a smoke and a ponder, but I no longer have a desire to add to the 11 miles or so of cigarettes that I have burnt into my life – nicotine, it seems, also dulls the compulsive/obsessive part of your brain. Bear with me as I become more irritable and boring in equal smoke-free measures, spouting random cigarette facts.
Fags, tabs, smerks and snout, roll-ups, dog-ends, butts and drags are all destined to fade from the memory like the smoke that is hacking its way loose from my lungs right now.

For the time being it is a purely economical decision to stop burning my money. £170 per month at the last count. Over £2000 per year. Have you any idea what that sort of money can buy? Well, a packet of cigarettes per day, more if I rolled my own. It seems my mind has not completely banished the memory even if I'm no longer physically dependent.

I've had help from the Local Friendly Pharmacist. You have to fill out form after form and blow into a carbon monoxide tester to be prescribed any anti-smoking measures nowadays. It's changed a bit from the last time I tried quitting many years ago.

I wonder where the budgie went.

The Local Friendly Pharmacist asked me what anti-smoking measure I would like to try. I said I'd opt for the “Carry on smoking loads and have a heart and lung transplant at 60,” choice. He did check his list for a micro-second before nervously informing me that it wasn't an option.
“Have you tried Champix?” the LFP asked.
“No, what's that?” I said, thinking it might be a posh health farm.
“It's a very good anti-smoking tablet that works in most cases”
“Most?” I queried
“Well there is a very small link to suicides in a very small number of cases…are you pre-disposed to depression at all?”
“Well I wasn't until I decided to give up cigarettes and you told me that”
We decided on an alternate course of treatment.
The carbon monoxide tester was brought out and the LFP asked me to blow into it “like you do in a breathalyser.” I had never been breathalysed but the LFP seemed to think I had and I'd seen enough episodes of The Bill to blag it. Once I'd blown into it he read it. A puzzled expression came over his face. That's not good I thought. Perhaps I've no air left in my lungs. Perhaps it's all carbon monoxide now. I've innards like central London on Monday morning. I'm doomed! He went away and came back with another tester. Unwrapping it I repeated the procedure. Same puzzled expression from the LFP.
“You smoke 20 cigarettes per day?”
“Yes, well, not from now, hopefully, what's wrong? Are my lungs like the ones on the back of the packets of cigarettes?”
“Not at all” said the LFP, “both carbon monoxide testers show you have the readings and lung capacity of a very light smoker, almost a non-smoker.”
Surprise and relief came over me. 25 years of smoking had done relatively little damage to two of my organs anyway. I just hoped that my liver was listening. Result.

I left the pharmacy with enough nicotine gum to stick up a bank and enough nicotine cartridges to add considerably to my 11 mile record. What I didn't arrive home with for the first time since the mid 1980s was a packet of fags. I felt good, determined, yet strangely bereft. Aren't the smokers generally also the drinkers? The wheezy Bon Viveurs? Am I to be consigned to pressing my face up to the pub window whilst everyone else goes outside for a puff and a real natter, left on my own to do bizarre calculations regarding cigarette length and cost during the past three decades? It didn't sound like the rosy smoke-free future the adverts had promised. Sure, I wouldn't have carbon monoxide, at any levels, floating around the bloodstream. The risk of a heart attack will reduce significantly, to that of someone who has never smoked, apparently, by the time I'm 56, and even my skin should somehow regain some colour and lose some wrinkles. Being half-Scottish I've never been blessed with a healthy pallor, but I suppose if I stopped looking like I'd done a 20 stretch in Belmarsh solitary it can only be a good thing.

Now, over two weeks later, I have added not one cigarette to the 182,500 that have previously passed my lips. It stops at 11 miles.

Of course when I now go down my local drinking hole they all go outside for a real natter and a puff and I am left with my gum, cartridges and maths. And yes, I still think about cigarettes, but not all the time. Nobody has died from merely thinking about cigarettes have they? Yeah, it’s OK to window-smoke.

Who Says Eggheads Are Clever?

Ladies and gentlemen the results are in. Officially the worst parents in the world are Steve and Andrea Kerr.
Poppy has a bruised eye after toddling into a table at a Church toddlers club. All things bright and beautiful just about describes her face at the moment.
George is cast-free, having had it removed a fortnight ago. The broken arm occurred when he tripped in a neighbours garden. As he's only six I was explaining to the doctor what had happened. George had suddenly decided not to speak to the doctor after a six hour wait in casualty where he had spoken incessantly.
"Just tell him you fell, George, just tell him you fell" I blurted out in an attempt to convey what really happened. The doctor wrote something extra on his little doctor notepad after that. Probably a coded message to social services. The Kerr's are back!
And that brings us to Swingball, the Caravan Club's second favourite pastime after swinging itself.
The rackets are very light, very large and very thick. And that just about describes how Callum's head felt last night after one of them connected with it instead of the swinging ball.
Of course he howled like a wolf and cried like a river. He's allowed tired simile's as he's only ten and it hurt like hell. Is that another one?
I came running downstairs to find him seated in the kitchen holding a cold compress to his forehead. Howling Wolf dried up for a moment and asked the question that made me lie to him.
"Is it bad, Dad?"
He frowned as he said this but all lines stopped about 3 inches from the middle of his forehead as a free-range size lump appeared almost instantly. It had a life of its own, growing as I spoke to re-assure him and wondered who was going to re-assure me. I know who will. Casualty.
He didn't want to go as he knew his brother had spent hours down there - talking and suddenly not talking. He had football tournaments to play on Saturday and Sunday.
"What if I don't head the ball, Dad. Can I play then?"
I thought that if he turned up looking like he does now then his head just might be mistaken FOR the ball.
I didn't want to go as I knew the lady on reception just a little too well by now. She went to the same school as my children, albeit many decades ago, and she also seemed to write more and more every time we arrived with another childhood mishap. It didn't help that she was a bit deaf, she was behind nutter-proof glass and the speakers weren't working. Why employ a hard of hearing person at Accident and Emergency reception? Why hadn't I concentrated more on the hand signals waved to me as a child from Vision-On?
Well arrive we did expecting more a gestation period than a waiting time.
We played I-Spy to pass the time. Callum couldn't get what was beginning with 'B' even though it was staring down at him from his head like a Daleks probe.
To my astonishment we were seen very quickly in under an hour. Testament, surely, to the decline in binge drinking in Northampton. We had also arrived well before chucking out and chucking up time.
The doctor could not have been more thorough. Though I was concerned that although he was holding Callum's notes when we entered the examination room, and Callum's bump preceeded us by a good 10 seconds, he asked Callum what seemed to be the problem! My natural sarcasm screamed to be let out but I subdued it with a promise of fun with a call-centre operator the next day. It worked. I stayed silent and bit my lip.
Bandaged, bruised and on our way out of A&E we passed the waiting room. It was by now filling up with the binge drinking, chucker-uppers of Northampton. Testament surely to the rise in binge drinking in the town. It seems you can prove anything with A&E statistics.
We arrived back with a subdued Callum who was greeted by his younger brother as if I had pulled him from the beaches of Dunkirk. His concern was touching. Normally they argue, fight and make noise all the time, pausing only to eat, which frankly is still pretty noisy.
Sibling rivalry cast aside in the face of adversity.
"Will Callum be going to school tomorrow, Dad?" George asked touchingly.
"Don't worry, George, he's going to be just fine"
"No, Dad. If he does he's gonna look real stupid!!"