Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Oh Crap

I'm off work with tonsillitis.

It's poo, it goes on for days, and I could have sworn only small children were supposed to get it. Anyway it's left me a little paranoid as I ended up in hospital last time I had it, on a drip that single-handedly destroyed The Illness in just a few hours.

So I mumble as I type, sounding a little like a mousier Shane McGowan would, if he were sucking on Strepsils, which isn't much good when your job entails a certain soupcon of semi-assertive can-I-have-everybody's-attention-please.

I move away from the keyboard, to spit.

Actually I sound so slurredly drunk (and clearly appear slovenly ragged) that the nice ladies at the Co-Op Pharmacy took one look and simply assumed that my mega-consignment of penicillin would be a nothing-to-pay jobby.

So, I tell myself, I'm lucky to have very supportive colleagues and yes, I'm glad this didn't happen when I was doing freelance work. And then while I was counting my blessings and thinking of something cheerful to do (see, I'm determined to find the positives), this.

At least the spittal glass is more than half full. Anyone got any old wives' remedies to share?

Friday, 20 February 2009


Once in a while, I venture round the corner from my home to watch the Vale.

This evening, I hadn't even realised there was a match on. But when the sky bleaches with floodlit aquamarine out the back of our house, then inner child makes for the door.

Thus I took my place beside some Norwegian groundhoppers. They were taking great pride in doing as the Romans do. Given the sedateness of the lawn bowls, this consisted mainly of lively appreciation of Boomer. Especially the bit where he rubs their various Eliteserien scarves around his family-friendly anatomy.

Ten minutes before the final whistle, the groundhoppers departed in (mock?) disgust, one of their number (dressed by Norwich City) turning briefly to scream, "SHATE, VILE!"

That rather sums it up - except that when you support a different team, as I do, it's better than counselling.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Rage Against the Mewchine

Ventilation of spleen.

I'm generally happy to let live when it comes to cats. Sam likes to coo at them, and I have little beef with them - except when I amble out into the back yard following the wet weather and count no less than twenty-nine little heaps in a space little bigger than a small garage.

Within seconds, I've exceeded my yearly quota of expletives and I'm suddenly overcome by loathing for the little... fuckers! A couple of months ago, the council put a card through our door about 'dog fouling' - did we know whose canine was responsible etc.

I'm not sure there's much they can do about our feline friends.

When you present this image of cats to cat owners, they tend to shrug their shoulders and smile in a smug sort of fashion. "You should just get a cat," they say, in a tone of voice that would accommodate "a job," "some qualifications", or "a life" with equal condescension.

It's a curious twist on a world of haves and have-nots - like a cuter, paw-printed version backyard Thatcherism. Grrr.

Saturday, 14 February 2009


Message received from Meanwhile's economic advisor...

Hey Meanwhile,

Did you watch Newsnight on Friday? I highly recommend Paul Mason's 'Road to Wigan Pier' piece. He spends most of it in Stoke listening to locals. The basic message seems to be:
  • Stoke is screwed - but actually they're used to that so relatively it's not so bad.
  • The rest of the country might look like Stoke soon and is in for a big shock
  • Stoke-on-Trent is the future. Whooda thought it?

This is a judiciously-edited and sober piece of the provinces. Mason's Road to Wigan Pier - via Hanley - begins fourteen minutes in. The taxi driver's contribution is excellent.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009


Once in a while, I feel compelled to spend money on an item whose only recommendation is its dire packaging: Lucky Beer.

Monday, 9 February 2009



I could have been gadding importantly around very inspiring youth participation projects in Manchester's most enviable museums and galleries. Sam was exceptionally chirpy too, despite the soufflé and custard around the eyes.

It's one of the those pesky ailments. Even toddlers aren't bothered - this one doesn't mind gunk, just bits and bumps - but there's still a 10-mile biohazard exclusion zone around any form of childcare.

Crap weather.

And so too much time, frankly, has been spent contriving little inukshuks from the piles of damp cotton wool that rise inexorably from the arms of the sofa. We went planned to see the nurse (but she despatched us, fully prescribed, with a telephonic turn-of-phrase), we popped to Morrisons, we played trains, we read, we drew, we bartered and bantered.

We wiped again and again, outwards and gently.

About halfway through the afternoon I was prodding a lapsang souchong in the kitchen, and thinking too little of it (maybe). Sam, cheek to the floor, chuffed and clattered a chain of tiny cabooses to their familiar, fluffy fates beneath the armchair.

Semi-rhythmically, I was mumbling and remumbling some of my favourite lines as I do, rarely. The gooey-eyed guv'nor leapt to his feet and proclaimed joyfully at the top of his voice:

"You were being a train or a river!"

Thus compelled, we immediately stomped about to a tinny version of The Night Mail and then progressed - with ritual success - to Where the Wild Things Are.

A marvellous afternoon. A total balalaika show, in fact!

Thursday, 5 February 2009


While perusing Shane's musings upon life's essentials, I recalled that I had idly snapped this bedside scene a couple of days back.

I was thinking that it represented (very allusively and essentially, probably ambiguously) most, or even all of the things that, for me, coincide with happiness.

Answers on a postcard, please - preferably one of a windswept coastal resort...

And with that I'll be off to the very scene. In the dark I'll listen to some premium World Service stuff while my toes freeze.

Meanwhile, the other half will nod off.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Go analogue

I guess I won't be going to Valley Parade tonight, then - though I'd already returned from work early, what with those pesky Londoners and their "adverse weather conditions" screwing up the West Coast.

The journey is great - if late - in such climes. The Cloud hangs vague and distant in the snow, and ice formations cling to the morning trains like tatters. I've spent a lot of time on the permanent way in the past few days, which is agreeable; it's given me an opportunity to re-read JK Galbraith's The Great Crash, 1929, and to regret (slightly) not bothering more with economic history, now that my studious phase belongs to days gone by.

Or so it feels. Dangers of anachronism and all that, but there are some scary parallels to be had in that book. Anyway, as I was saying... oh, Milos is particularly good on that sort of stuff. Now where was I?


This week we finally get the keys to a new allotment garden, which will no doubt feature here on occasion. If anyone has any insights, comment away - I'm especially interested in social gardening anecdotes from far-off lands like Canada and even Longton.

The great thing is that the plot has only recently been vacated, so is workable. Here is the initial to-do list:

1. Cover most of plot to make things easier and enable gradual approach with occasional, unscheduled half-heartedness, and anticipate 'losing battles' with weeds.
2. Repair greenhouse roof and paint shed.
3. Weed strawberry patch.
4. Create dedicated toddler area, easily accessible with miniature wheelbarrow.
5. Plant some potatoes when the time comes.

Then scratch head &c, &c. All of which may be handy when we have to get frugal again later this year, children being as good an incentive as any...

Are you sitting comfortably?

At the weekend I gave a group a short chataround of the place I work. They come from all over the world, largely having been displaced from distant news-ticker territories of the world: Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Angola, Senegal, Sudan, Senegal.

Their previous experiences of 'my industry' seemed to suggest that their expectations had been shaped by one or more threads of colonial claptrap or by the witterings of sycophantic parrots back home (we have them too).

Thoughtless cliches abound about diversity and multiculturalism, and some of them ring hollower than others when you hear them every day. However, it's genuinely touching when an unlikely stateless someone grasps a point of connection in an unlikely, homely something.

Traditional building methods, pots, herbs, the hanging and drying of meat, the place of fire as a focus for the household and family, textile production techniques - one woman sat back and told me, smiling and shaking her head, "you know, I just can't believe how much is the same in my country."

Which seems like a good place to begin, if you ask me.