Friday, 31 July 2009

Feedback Friday :: Shit Floats


bicycle rides :: 5
hours of Wii Fit :: 6
new writing regimes :: 1
days remaining till return to London :: 30


I've been reading a lot about writing recently, with a view to finding out how to make a living out of it. The answer seems to be this: write a bestseller, or better still, a series of bestsellers, like, for example, Stephenie Meyer, the Mormon lady who writes about abstinence disguised as teen vampire lust, and currently occupies seven out of the first 25 places on the Amazon bestseller list. This is particularly impressive as she’s only written five books. She gets around that by cleverly publishing her books twice, once with ordinary white pages, once with red ink along the edges. Some would say that this is a sickening and cynical money-grubbing piece of marketing chicanery, but some people are just jealous. Anyway, the little girls, they love it.

Or of course like Jeffrey Archer, the thief, who can’t write for shit yet still manages to churn out bestsellers like a sump pump in a word-sewer.

I’m sorry for going on about Jeffrey Archer, but having finally read one of his books, I’m just staggered that his is the kind of writing that millions and millions of people seem to adore. I know they’re fucking idiots, but... actually, I don’t. That’s what worries me. Maybe these people who eulogise over the super-resilient sociopathic plagiarist are actually right. Maybe he is brilliant. And maybe I’m wrong. Am I wrong? You’d tell me, wouldn’t you? OK, let’s do a little experiment.

While I was reading Shall We Tell the President? - which in the end I did find to be absolutely the worst novel I can ever remember having finished - I turned the corner of the page every time I flushed with embarrassment or cringed into my coccyx. Now I’d like to share the worst bits with you, and I want you to tell me, honestly now, if they really are as poor as I think they are or if, on the other hand, I am blinded by bitterness and envy and a deeply rooted but massively disguised desire to actually be Jeffrey Archer.

Some of these extracts bug me because I feel that they contain one of the following: unrealistic or embarrassing dialogue, horrible clichés, clunking collocation, senseless imagery or merely the inability to use the right word. Oh, and the thing about ‘cocaine smoke’ - I’m guessing he must mean crack, but even if that is the case, it just doesn’t sit right. Does it?























Just in case you haven't figured it out by the way, Simon, in the last extract, is black. We know he's black because a) he talks jive, and b) just about every time he appears, the fact that he's black is mentioned somewhere in the description.

If I am wrong by the way, and the above extracts say nothing to you except that Jeffrey Archer is a good, solid, no-frills thriller writer, then you might enjoy watching this very revealing talk-cum-Q&A, in which the lying lord is self-importance personified and mentions in passing that he's brilliant and amazing and better than Graham Greene and Somerset Maugham and so on and so forth and puke puke puke puke puke puke murder.

OK, OK, enough. Now I have to stop being a jive-ass bastard, put my money where my mouth is and see if I can actually do better. Right. Here I go.

Have a super weekend by the way. Doing anything nice?



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Tuesday, 28 July 2009

What’s the Worst Book You’ve Ever Read?

I’ve always despised Jeffrey Archer, probably for exactly the same reasons that other people who despise him despise him: because he’s an odious smug liar and thuggish whore-mongering thief who parades his character flaws as if they’re virtues. Wonderfully vocal Archer-hater Ian Hislop once described him as having ‘a supreme vanity that meant he believed he should take centre stage in the country, and he wouldn’t be put off by the fact that he had no talent, ability or moral character’. I’m not sure it’s entirely reasonable to suggest that he has no ability, considering the amount of times he’s crawled out of the gutter of his own turpitude and slithered his way into a position of considerable influence, but still – an awful, repugnant human being all the same.

Perhaps unsurprisingly then, I’ve never read any of his books. Until now. I’m currently about 30 pages into Shall We Tell the President? and I must say, it is absolutely bloody awful. I’m reading it because I’m looking for tips on how to write thrillers, and because someone whose opinion I respect (I won’t embarrass him by naming names) mentioned this book to me, and said that he’d enjoyed it as a teenager. Plus, I thought, one can’t really go through life slagging off someone’s writing (as I have done) without having actually read one of their books. So I intend to finish it, even though it’s some of the most leaden, inauthentic tosh I’ve ever had the displeasure to tolerate.

Really it is. Here’s a little example. This is the passage on which I assume the rest of the book hinges, a passage in which a corrupt Senator and a gaggle of would-be assassins discuss their plans to murder the president, in a restaurant kitchen, in earshot of a Greek waiter. Unbelievable enough in itself, obviously, but what’s really infuriating is the inconsistency in the Greek's speech patterns, the way in which his knowledge of English grammar comes and goes, like a tide of bullshit...



Ugh. It's like the writing of a retarded child. Could Jeffrey Archer really be one of the most popular writers on the planet? How can that be? Stephen King summed it up in this interview here when he said, 'There'll always be a market for shit, of course. Just look at Jeffrey Archer! He writes like old people fuck, doesn't he?'

I think it’s fair to say that this is the worst book I’ve read since I forced my way through The Difficult Second Book by Chris Moyles earlier this year.

Actually, I’m not sure I can think of any book I’ve actually finished which is worse than Moyles. I’ve started a few which would have given it a run for its money, including Learning to Fly by Victoria P Spice, but I couldn’t finish them.

Speaking of bad books written by WAGs, this five-star Amazon review of Welcome To My World by Coleen McLoughlin is perhaps my favourite ever review…


‘I really really liked this book. You get to know Coleen so well. There is a chapter on all the things that she may or may not have for breakfast and sometimes the writing is done in real handwriting instead of boring typing. Also, my favourite colour is pink which is good because I have never seen so much pink in one book. I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in someone who is married to a celebrity.’


Ahh, Jim Nixon, the doyen of toothbrush reviews.

Speaking of bad writers, I was reminded of my hatred of Carla Lane on Saturday by an appalling television programme about appalling television programmes, and I came across her website, which features a selection of her poetry. Here is an example. It is called Thoughts


Think of the plight of the fox in flight,
The beasts in the slaughter house.
Hear their call as the hunted fall,
And the cry of the scientist's mouse.


The scientist's mouse! Squeeeeeak! I wish Carla had written a book. Oh, wait - she has! Great title too.

Anyway, I seem to have meandered. My thrust is this: Jeffrey Archer may be about to replace Chris Moyles as the writer of the worst book I've ever read. So. What’s the worst book you’ve ever read?



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Friday, 24 July 2009

Feedback Friday :: Sometimes There’s No Poison Like A Dream


bicycle rides :: 4
punctures :: 1
bicycles ruined in effort to fix puncture :: 1
days remaining till return to London :: 37


Yesterday I went to London and spent an hour and a half in the belly of the behemoth. It’s still not sure whether they’ll let me do the job, but I do hope so. It’s a one-off thing, making some tiny films for a giant accountant. It seems easy to me, but just because something seems easy doesn’t mean you can do it. It’s about getting the tone right. Fingers crossed anyway.

On the train on the way back up North last night, I realised I was sitting painfully close to a girl wearing a face mask…



I don’t honestly know if she had Swine Flu or if she was trying to protect against Swine Flu or if she merely had SARS in her eyes. I do not know, and I didn’t wait to find out. Rather, I took the advice of the Daily Mail and fled to the other end of train, screaming, ‘Black Death! Black Death! The Day of Judgement is upon us!’

Speaking of Swine Flu, when my bike broke the other morning roughly seven miles from home and I walked back through sporadically pissing rain and filthy temper, my ire was soothed – or at least temporarily cloaked – by listening again to Under Milk Wood in my ears. In one scene, Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard dreams that she is lying in bed with each of her dead husbands – Mr Ogmore, and Mr Pritchard – and she addresses them thus:


MRS OGMORE-PRITCHARD

Soon it will be time to get up.

Tell me your tasks, in order.

MR OGMORE

I must put my pyjamas in the drawer marked pyjamas.

MR PRITCHARD

I must take my cold bath which is good for me.

MR OGMORE

I must wear my flannel band to ward off sciatica.

MR PRITCHARD

I must dress behind the curtain and put on my apron.

MR OGMORE

I must blow my nose.

MRS OGMORE-PRITCHARD

In the garden, if you please.

MR OGMORE

In a piece of tissue-paper which I afterwards burn.

MR PRITCHARD

I must take my salts which are nature's friend.

MR OGMORE

I must boil the drinking water because of germs.

MR PRITCHARD

I must make my herb tea which is free from tannin.

MR OGMORE

And have a charcoal biscuit which is good for me.

MR PRITCHARD

I may smoke one pipe of asthma mixture.

MRS OGMORE-PRITCHARD


In the woodshed, if you please.

MR PRITCHARD

And dust the parlour and spray the canary.

MR OGMORE

I must put on rubber gloves and search the peke for fleas.

MR PRITCHARD

I must dust the blinds and then I must raise them.

MRS OGMORE-PRITCHARD

And before you let the sun in, mind it wipes its shoes.



Put me in mind of it, you see.

Dylan Thomas had just turned 39 when he died.

Christ, I feel miserable today.

It could be the panic of poverty building up. In 39 days I’ll be back in London, and living in London is not as easy as living with your grandmother, wallet-wise. And she’s going to miss me, and I feel bad about that. Or it could be because I’m going to the hospital this afternoon to get the pain in my stomach checked out again and what really worries me is that yet again they won’t fucking find anything and that in less than eighteen months I will die of gastric cancer. I know thinking about this stuff probably doesn’t help... but I can’t stop myself.

Whenever someone dies at an early age, people say, ‘Oh, it was tragic – he never achieved his potential’ – but what if I die in my early 30s and I did achieve my potential?! Eh? What about that?

Alright, alright, no more whining, no more thinking about death.

Erm….

Doing anything nice this weekend?

I’m not.



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Monday, 20 July 2009

Swine Flu Unmasked :: It’s War

This weekend Home Secretary Alan Johnson admitted that Swine Flu is now a more substantial threat to this country than terrorism. Ministers are discussing the emergency implementation of 24-hour crematoria and inflatable mortuaries. They’re even talking about stopping people going to see football matches. It’s official – the UK is now a matter of minutes away from a Swine Flu Panic Pandemic. Currently, 19 of every 1000 newspaper and internet articles are in some way flu-panic-related. When this figure reaches 20 – any second now – we will officially have a Pandemic Panic Epidemic on our hands. Phase 11. And are we prepared? Well, despite what Alan Johnson says, no we are not. But is this heightened state of panic really justified? Or do we have another Bird Flu on our hands? All screeching pundits and no mass graves.

Well, let’s look at the facts. OK. Face-masks on…

* What are the symptoms of Swine Flu?

The primary symptoms are as follows:

- sudden fever
- sudden cough
- sudden sneeze
- aches and pains
- sore throat
- fatigue
- nausea
- dismay
- vomiting
- diarrhoea
- bad credit
- watery eyes
- loss of appetite
- sense of moral unease and general foreboding
- prickling sensation in the coccyx (heralding appearance of short curly tail)

If you have, or develop, or suspect you might be about to develop any or all of the above, you probably already have Swine Flu.

* What can I do to avoid catching Swine Flu?

If it’s not already too late, nothing. But if futile gestures are your thing, stay home, wash your hands every fifteen minutes and rinse all fruit and vegetables thoroughly (soak for more impressive gesture).

* How is Swine Flu contracted?

Swine Flu is highly contagious and is spread through coughs, sneezes and any kind of physical contact with any infected surface. Infected surfaces may include door handles, toilet seats, computer keyboards and the very surface of the air.

* Can I catch it from kissing?

Yes.



* Are there any age groups particularly at risk?

Yes, high-risk groups are the under-5s, the over-65s and anyone in the 6-64 age bracket. Of those, 25-45-year-olds are actually most at risk. This last fact is especially worrying as it is reminiscent of the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 which also favoured that demographic, and went on to kill up to a hundred million people. Did you hear that? A HUNDRED MILLION.

* I heard the other day that it’s dangerous to conceive at the moment. But then the government said that was just scaremongering. I’m confused. And scared. May I conceive? I am ovulating.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that conceiving at this point would be tantamount to infanticide. Pregnant women are easy prey to Swine Flu as they are too busy nurturing their unborn progeny to adequately defend against the virus. Do not get pregnant. Whatever you do.

* I’m pregnant! Should I be panicking?

Yes!!! Pregnancy is hard enough at the best of times. Pregnancy in the middle of a panic pandemic is positively pandemonium. If you are pregnant, under no circumstances use public transport. If at all possible, don’t leave the house at all. Any babies you must have, have them at home. And home-school them.

* If I go on holiday, what is the risk I will catch it on the flight?

The risk is panic-teasingly high. Thankfully, many airlines have already initiated moves to monitor passengers and if they exhibit symptoms, to turn them away with cattle prods and Tasers.

If a Flu Carrier does manage to make it aboard the same plane as you, that’s pretty much it. The viral equivalent of September 11th. Swine Eleven. You’ll be coughing up blood before the sandwiches arrive. Switch your phone back on and say your last goodbyes.

* But I’m going to Xinjiang on Wednesday. It’s all booked and everything.

Cancel it. Swine Flu is global. If you contract it abroad, you may very well be quarantined and later transported to a Swine Flu colony or ‘trough’, and gassed.

* What can I do if I suspect my neighbour has Swine Flu?

If you suspect it, report it. If you think you have seen a person acting suspiciously or displaying any of the symptoms of Swine Flu, immediately move away and call 999. The government Rat on a Swine Action Hotline should be up and running any month now. In the meantime, be firm. Ostracise anyone you suspect and paint a large red cross on their front door in the night.

* I have bad hay fever and my neighbour suspects I have Swine Flu. I woke up in the night to find him painting a red cross on my front door. What should I do?

Take the consequences. Every war has casualties. If we let you under the radar, where do we draw the line? Before we know it, we’ll be letting in bronchitis, tuberculosis, emphysema, pneumonia, AIDS.

* I have Swine Flu. What hope is there for me?

No hope. Put your affairs in order, make your peace with those you will leave behind, paint a large red cross on your front door and wait for the end. You should not leave the house under any circumstances, but if for some reason you choose to, wear a white pillowcase with a red cross on it and ring a bell at all times. Be aware, you will be shot dead.

* Have any famous people died from Swine Flu yet?

So far, just one.



But it’s early days.

* Is there anywhere I can go for unbiased expert help on the subject?

No, there is not. You’re probably talking about a kind of national flu hotline, something like the one the government swore blind, in November 2007, would be ‘ready for instant implementation’ as soon as the WHO declared Pandemic Alert Phase 5, which happened in April this year. Since then, despite repeated promises and a steadily rising body count, FluLine has yet to materialise. And the rest is just a vast spluttering cacoughony of cynical, manipulative hogwash.

* Wait, wait. Is there a vaccine?

Pffft.

Really, the absolute best you can do is die in style with one of these humorous Japanese animal masks.

Cough.



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Saturday, 18 July 2009

Swine Flu :: From The Mouths Of Babes

This is the best photo I have seen for a very long time...


From here, via @mccandelish.



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Friday, 17 July 2009

Feedback Friday :: Busy Doing Nothing

Life is odd about now. It has no form. Here then, is a list…

- I set up a Flickr account, where I put pictures of thistles and suchlike. Like this one...



I wish the rain would stop so I could go out and find more things to photograph, but according to the forecasts, the rain will remain for at least the next four days, relentless and heavy and dark. At the moment it's horizontal.

- I have been fantasising and even dreaming about being kissed and having my face stroked. I have also been dreaming about kittens. This is a sure sign that if I do not find some physical affection very soon, then rather like that python that ate that alligator, I will explode. Poor thing. He was just after a little intimacy.

- I have been thinking about trying to blog about something ‘interesting’ more regularly. Despite the fact that no one read the piece about ugly manwash the other day (perhaps not helped by the fact that I auto-spammed my feed traffic by putting the e-word in the title), I enjoyed writing it. So I’ve decided I should do more things like that. In fact, what I should do is write myself a weekly column – see if I can do that. See if I have the right to slag off Barbara Ellen and Giles Hattersley quite so priggishly. I'll try for Wednesdays.

- I’ve been doing a fair bit of plinth-watching. I had my doubts at first but then I came to realise, it’s magnificent. The whole idea is just tremendous and I’m very excited about what might come next. My favourite participant so far was this guy, Velorose.



About eighteen minutes in he goes into The Age of Aquarius. It’s wonderful. People are ceaselessly fascinating. Even the painfully dull ones. (This man was so dull, he seems to have put his own stream to sleep.)

- Seeking cheap thrills, I bought some racy novels from second-hand book shops. Not racy, no. Thrillers. I’m trying to learn how to do that. I’d like to do that. I’m going to read some Jeffrey Archer too. You see if I don’t. At the moment I'm reading Christopher Brookmyre for the first time. He is very good.

- I’ve become obsessed by my stomach and the effect of cycling and 100 jack-knife sit-ups every day. (Wii Fit calls them jack-knifes. I don’t know if they’re right to do so.) Anyway, it’s working. My stomach is disappearing.

- My stomach pain, however, is not disappearing, but I have an appointment at the hospital next Friday. Unfortunately I’m not sure whether my appointment is for purposes of haematology, biochemistry or colorectal surgery. I have pieces of paper with all of these words written on them. I guess I’ll found out when I get there.

- I have just sold 109 CDs for £74.18, equalling an average of 68p per disc. That’s not very much, especially compared to what I paid for them. The good thing though, is that now they are gone, their goodness transferred to my increasingly irreplaceable and still not backed-up computer. Does anyone know anything about remote back-up? Who is good? Anyone?

- I’ve watched a bunch of films recently, and updated my film depository.

- I have no money.

- This week I went to London and spotted three whole celebs in one single day. I spotted Zandra Rhodes, Andy Hamilton and Denis Lawson. Just wandering about the place, they were, like ordinary people. Oh, and I also did a live interview for Canada AM, with a bag on my head. It all looked a bit Abu Ghraib at times...



The bag in question is a Primark bag, steamed apart over a hot kettle at three in the morning, stuck together backwards to avoid the branding, and with stoned eye-holes cut badly and into the wrong place. Has this whole thing got ridiculous enough yet? Or is there still a little wiggle room?

Now I’m going to brave the rain and go see Bruno. Is it awful?

Have a super weekend, you, whoever you are, whatever you're doing, and please, please do lots of things I wouldn’t do.

Enchanté.



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Tuesday, 14 July 2009

The Evolution of Ejaculation Strategies :: The Truth About Fowl and Charr and How It Probably Has Absolutely No Bearing on Human Relations

So, a few days ago, a new research paper on The Evolution of Ejaculation Strategies was tossed off, wiped clean and mailed to American Naturalist for publication in September. The paper has some very interesting observations to make about the ejaculatory habits of certain species of animals, specifically the domestic fowl and the Arctic charr (pictured below).



In a nutshell, when the more attractive males of each species mate, they do so often, and they apportion fewer sperm to each partner in order ‘to maximise their chances of producing offspring across a range of sexual partners’. Conversely, mating much less frequently, the less attractive males may choose to allocate more sperm to each union, thus increasing their chances of becoming a daddy.

And that, so far, is about as far as they’ve got. Sam Tazzyman is one of the authors of the paper and a member of CoMPLEX, which, standing as it does for the Centre for Mathematics and Physics in the Life Sciences and Experimental Biology, is one of the worst acronyms in the history of science. Tazzyman hopes to give over further study to trying to discover whether this in any way affects female behaviour. Deep down he knows it probably doesn’t, but a man’s got to make a living.

The problem with this study – if you’re an editor of a tabloid, for example – is that it has absolutely no application to human society. Tazzyman is quite clear about this: ‘How this work applies to humans and other primates is not yet known.’ But then again, if you are the editor of a tabloid, you’re also professionally obliged to never let the facts stand in the way of a story.



Aah, a textbook example of how to turn a fairly dull scientific finding into a slightly prurient human interest story. The article begins, ‘Uglier men with fewer notches on their belts are likely to be more productive between the sheets, it is claimed.’ Yes, claimed by you, you ignorant hack!

The main problems with this giant leap from charr and fowl to modern man are as follows:

1) Sperm Allocation. Obviously, I can’t speak for the Arctic charr, but I can say with some degree of confidence that the controlled apportioning of semen is not something at which we human beings excel. Or am I assuming too much about my fellow man? Damn, maybe it’s just me that’s lacking in that department. Maybe other men are very well aware of how many sperm they loose with each eruption and maybe they apportion accordingly. ‘Ten million for the tissue, ten million for Tanya’s mimsy, forty million for her mouth.’ Nah. That’s ridiculous. I’m going to go out on a limb and state categorically that mankind has not developed an ejaculation strategy. Let’s face it, most men haven’t even worked out a decent strategy for getting up in the morning. Eh, girls?

2) Socks Appeal. Closely connected to the above is masturbation. I know some animals do it – other primates, elephants and even the occasional dolphin, but the Arctic charr does not. And neither does the humble cock. It’s something to do with them not having a neocortex apparently, the wanky part of the brain which is unique to mammals.

However, if journalists insist on tugging the implications of this study to snapping point and we are forced to assume that less attractive men have deeper wells of serviceable semen at their disposal, then masturbation must rear its ugly head. I, for example, have not had sexual intercourse in over six months, but I’m prepared to wager that in that period, I’ve produced and disseminated twice as much procreative milk as – let’s say – Zac Efron.



The fact that his is shared out amongst his thousand-strong teenage harem and mine merely graces a pair of old socks is irrelevant. The point is, just because you’re not attractive doesn’t mean you’re carrying quality baby batter. I reject this assumption. My sperm’s been like gruel dregs ever since I got broadband.

3) The Pertaining Sexual Culture. Although the domestic fowl mates with many different males, leaving the paternity of her offspring to the conquering swagger of the most dominant sperm, human females tend to go about procreation in a slightly more discerning way. Except of course in certain parts of Newcastle.

4) Self-Respect. Women, the article assumes, can become so desperate to get pregnant that they may be prepared to put aside all other considerations – looks, personality, intelligence, sense of humour, suitability as a parent, shoes – and whore their mimsy to the nearest gargoyle, just on the off-chance he shares the ejaculation strategy of the Arctic charr. It also seems to assume that any ugly man would be more than happy just to lay back and be milked by these semen-hungry harridans. But this is not the case. At least, not necessarily. If a woman wants to sleep with me, for example – and I’m sure I speak for any ugly man worth his salt – it is a fairly immutable prerequisite that I have at least to like her a little. You know? There has to be some feeling. And if she doesn’t like me, not in the least, and really, genuinely only wants me for my sperm, then – unless she’s Audrey Tautou – it’s just not going happen. The reason being that I – like most ugly men – do have a modicum of self-respect – and it may be merely a modicum but that’s actually enough for me to value myself slightly higher than an uncomely specimen jar. Probably.

The bottom line though, and I'm sure about this: women do not choose the men they want to impregnate them based on the fertility or otherwise of their sperm.

Do they? Sweet Jesus, what if I’m wrong about all this? I’m no scientist after all, and Wikipedia will never make it so.

Sod it, nothing ventured, nothing gained. I think it’s time to post my first classified ad:


‘Ugly man with litres of non-lethargic sperm, 31, WLTM baby-craving, raving lunatic with own teeth or passable falsies. GSOH very much a bonus.’


That ought to do it. But I probably won't mention the vasectomy.



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Thursday, 9 July 2009

FYI



Yesterday afternoon Alma and I watched Charley Says, a collection of public information films shown on British television from 1959 to 1983. Being 76, Alma remembered nearly all of them, albeit vaguely, but most of them were new to me.

It’s a fascinating watch. The films tend to vacillate between the mind-bogglingly obvious, the highly disturbing and the just plain weird.

The early ones seemed obsessed with road safety, as well as general road courtesy...



...and the country code, depicting posh or otherwise thoughtless people making farmers irate by dumping rubbish, picking wildflowers, starting fires or getting jiggy in the woods…



The best of the rest were the ones with amusing, well-drawn characters who appeared in different situations in a series of films. My own personal favourites are Joe and Petunia, a pair of common-as-muck Northern ninnies whose infuriating stupidity knows no bounds…



There are four Joe and Petunia films on the DVD, one explaining that if you see a man drowning, you ought to phone the coastguard; one explaining that if you see a red flag on the beach, accompanied by a sign reading ‘DANGER – STRONG CURRENTS – DO NOT BATHE’, you really oughtn’t venture into the sea; one in which Joe and Petunia shit all over the countryside like the patriotic, ignorant, crass, boorish, self-centred, wilfully working class oiks they are, and are rightly castigated by a hopping mad rural type; and the final film, in which Joe and Petunia get their comeuppance, dying tragically in a car accident because Joe is simple-minded enough to drive around winding mountain roads with badly worn tyres, despite very large warning signs…









Up there with Joe and Petunia of course is the eponymous Charlie and his unnamed and slightly moronic boy-pal…



Lessons taught by Charlie and the ignorant boy include the following: do not play with matches (‘they can hurt you’); don’t jump headfirst into a river (‘Charley nearly drowned’); don’t go close to ‘stoves’ (‘hot things there can hurt you’); don’t pull the tablecloth off the table (‘the hot water from the tea-pot can hurt you very much’); don’t go anywhere without telling your mum where you’re going and, of course, ‘never go anywhere with men or ladies you don’t know’ – even if they do offer to show you some puppies…



Speaking of paedophilia, I was surprised by how commonly it cropped up. I didn’t really think it existed until the 90s. But it did. Look...





It was always very subtle of course, the overall message being do not, under any circumstances, talk to strangers. Oh, unless they look like this



Or this



Or – God forbid – this



Watching the whole collection makes you think that although people often complain today that we’re living in a Nanny State, we should really shut our mouths and think ourselves lucky we’re not still living in the seventies.

On the whole, these 157 short films give the very strong impression that everyone born before 1977 was a genuine, 100%, bona fide moron. Most of the information imparted can be boiled down to a simple list of staggeringly obvious dos and don’ts. Mostly don’ts. For example…

Don't lean over a pond with a big stick, especially when the Grim Reaper is standing behind you...



Don’t play near pylons.

Don’t play near railway lines.

Don’t go to A&E with a sore finger.

Don't let your child go out mugging people and vandalising public property...



Don’t get a fine - get a TV licence.

Don’t dazzle – dip.

Don’t get hit by a car if you can help it - you’ll be like a peach under a hammer.

Don’t burn coal when it's foggy or you'll turn the fog into smog, and smog kills...



Don’t get stuck in a hideous and meaningless job when you could do something more worthwhile simply by contacting the careers advisory service.

Don’t use paraffin heaters without adequate ventilation.

Don’t forget to tell someone if you decide to change your sailing plans, take a detour in your boat and spend the evening chatting up a fulsome bar wench in a distant tavern…



Don’t run in front of a speeding car whilst trying to catch a bus.

Don’t line your kitchen ceiling with polystyrene tiles and gloss paint, you dolt.

Don’t put your arm in an alligator’s mouth…



Don't piss around on frozen ponds.

Don’t mix cross-ply and radial tyres on the same axle.

Don’t leave fridges lying around because…



Don’t overload your caravan.

Don’t change lanes at traffic lights.

Don’t keep losing your birds (or in other words, learn to swim, young man. Learn to swim.)…



Don’t fuck about in the workplace (‘metal filings in the eye can very often blind a guy’).

Don’t get run over in front of ice cream vans.

Don’t let men in sheepskin coats make off with your vagina…



Oh, and don’t leave broken bottles on the beach. Christ, are people really that retarded?

Yes. They really are.

This has me flinching every time…



On the positive side, whatever you do, do make sure your house is frost-proof.

Do clean your teeth.

Do put the chain on before you open your front door, and also, do have a little panic that you might be about to be murdered by ‘a mad, mad axeman who is deep in sin’…



Do leave five cars’ space between you and the car in front – yeah, right.

Do keep an eye open for felons...



Do bend your legs when lifting heavy objects…



Do check your safety equipment when going out in a boat.

Do be seen at night...



Do give blood.

Do take precautions against malaria. Oh, and rabies…



Do unplug all electrical equipment every night…



Why? Just do it. Also, think before you drink before you drive, and when you are driving, clunk click every trip, think once, think twice, think bike. OK?

Oh, and obviously, in the event of nuclear war, if you happen to be outdoors, remember to ‘brush and shake off any fallout dust you may have picked up and get rid of it.’

Pffft.

We’ve come a long way.



Don’t have nightmares.



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