Sunday, April 29, 2007


Cricket is a funny sport; it's played all day, sometimes all week, usually at a time that nobody can watch because they're at work. It is obsessed with nuances of changeable weather and is structured to ensure that you can take both lunch and tea without disturbance.

To a non-believer like me, the first week of the World Cup was quite interesting. Players were thumping sixes all over the place, village players from the Netherlands and Scotland were playing superstars from South Africa and Australia, working ridiculously hard for every run and bowling like five years old on a beach. 19 stone lumps from Bermuda were taking flying catches from the slips. The boozy Irish tied with Zimbabwe then beat Pakistan. Then the Pakistan coach got murdered and there's a myriad of conjecture about match fixing and snake venom poisoning. Brilliant. And all at a convenient time; games started at 2pm meaning you didn't have to watch the dull bit at the start; you could watch the interesting bits after you've finished your tea.

The cricket purists' view of this: rubbish.

Then we get to the 'Super Eights' - which weren't the slightest bit interesting. Only Australia were in any way good. The top 4 teams predictably beat the bottom 4 teams, in empty stadiums. The games seemed to all finish by about 4.30pm. Then the final is delayed by rain; they start late, then play through torrential rain, then come off, recalculate the scores to accomodate, come back on, play in the dark, come off, come back on again even though it's obvious who's won to finish the game. Even the presentation of the cup takes 45 minutes because long speeches were needed and the everyone including the groundsman needed to be given a medal.

The sort of sport that can only have been invented in England.

Friday, April 27, 2007

That joke isn't funny anymore

Bad week in the Ruffles' house. Millie's been struck by a double blow of baby bug and uber-teething, which has made her very unhappy indeed. I had always assumed that when children were ill and they had to be off school or nursery that there was some sort of magic solution that is only revealed once you are with child.

There's not, it's very simple, when baby is ill you guiltily scratch around friends and relatives for help or leave work to tend to her using up holiday time and then, of course, you feel guilty for leaving work, even though you know that some things are more important than your monthly report.

Of course, Millie's illness means she's a 'poor little mite' but when I was struck down with it on Thursday, the instant accusation was that I was suffering from manfluenza.

If the bug that I caught off Millie remained Millie sized then it would barely have registered, but bugs don't work like that. They expand to the size of body they choose to occupy. I had the same illness as her, proportionally sized, yet I wasn't allowed to crawl around crying and filling my nappy because I was A Man.

I object to this simplifying of gender roles. I've had one day off work and school in at least 18 years. I've been ill on other occasions, but I've managed to get to work or I was on holiday in the first place. I don't really see why I should be tarnished with whatever convenient brush people choose to use. If I'm feeling crap, I don't need anyone else to tell me I'm not.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

What's in a name?

You have absolute control when naming a baby; the moment you settle on a name you put them on a trajectory that will dictate huge portions of their life. You have no idea what you're letting your offspring in for.

Some naming issues are fairly minor; both Emma and I have younger sisters whose names are products of apparently dyslexic parents - my sister - Annia should have been Anya, whereas Sara is pronounced as in Sarah. Still, at least it's not quite as bad as Kirsty, who had she been born a boy would have been called Devron.

When we told people that we were thinking of Amelia for a girl and Hamish for a boy most people responded with "Oh, Amelia's lovely". One out of two isn't bad. The reason we chose Amelia was because she could be Millie with her friends and Amelia when she's a QC. And it was a classic name that had a certain timelessness about it.

Not all names share this quality; not so long ago we had a temp working with us called Kylie; every time she opened her mouth - which was a lot - my mind harked back to Angry Anderson. No doubt a few Britneys will turn up at work in the next five years or so.

Emma had a girl called Holly-Blue in her class - named after a butterfly. It's a nice enough name, but it presents a challenging naming strategy. The Dobscrubs went with India for their first, which in itself is a very beautiful name - but you can't call your second Bangladesh, nor can you go to the other end of the spectrum and plump for Dave. They went with Elliot, which seems to fit perfectly.

Even middle names are tricky; Millie's is Winifred - after Emma's maternal grandmother - which means she'll have to avoid any of Brian Mawhinney's family when it comes to marriage. Could she live with Millie Winnie Mawhinney?

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing; especially in baby naming. Someone I know has just had a daughter, Mia, which is a very pretty name in itself. The middle name they've chosen is Amora; which they say is Italian for love. Except it's not, it's amore. Even if it was Amora, Mia is Italian for 'Mine' which would make her name "Mine Love" - as in "Is that my cup of tea, dear?", "No, it's mine, love". But it's OK, because Amora isn't Italian for love; it's a sex academy in London - whatever a sex academy is and its dictionary definition is... 'a group of rabbis'.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Gun doh!

Following the massacre by the crazy Korean in Virginia, questions about gun control are back on the agenda. Us bleeding heart Brits with our admirably low gun crime statistics are on the game. This morning GMTV were interviewing a tubby pro-gun chappy with a bow tie live from Seattle.

Andrew Castle suggested that it was time to review gun laws in the US. The tubby man agreed, which seemed to be a breakthrough. The problem, he said, was that some college campuses are gun free zones. Your heart sinks when this is described as a problem.

If, he said, everyone was allowed to have guns on campus basically everyone would be armed and therefore able to defend themselves. Ultimate game-theory; if everyone is armed to the teeth, then nobody is going to attack anyone else for fear that they, themselves, will be shot. Stability will be maintained through fear.

I may be wrong, but I’m guessing that Cho Seung-hui probably didn’t have much interest in whether others were armed or not. Once the voices in his head got going, he would probably have blown people to kingdom-come whether it resulted in a shoot-out or not. He was clearly a troubled man; which is one of the key issues – what makes young people want to kill others in US schools. The more simple issue to solve is the fact he could legitimately buy a gun with his daily Starbucks Frappichococino. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to try and restrict the people who want to kill from accessing things that kill people?

This pro-gun logic is so ludicrous; you almost want to agree with it to see what else they come up with.

Friday, April 13, 2007

A good slippering

The sensible people from the Internet reassure me that I'm not middle aged; I know I'm not. I'm comfortable with this. Then, I get home tonight to find that the corporates have hit back; a letter from Tesco saying 'thank you for using Tesco loans (18 months ago), as your circumstances change...'. Grrr.

On a not unrelated note; I suffer from cold feet due to bad circulation, which may be a sign of oncoming middle-age. Thing is, I can't remember a time when I didn't suffer. During the cold months it's particularly uncomfortable. Emma has a solution; buy slippers, which seems obvious. But I have an aversion to slippers. In fact, some limited market research reveals that I'm not alone. Men don't like slippers, and I know why.

Take away generations of the nurturing of the human race; of social programming, strip away the roles we have been given by society and the empowerment that recent generations have been given to kick against these roles. If you get back to the very essence of existence, you're left with two principle facts. Woman need to reproduce, if they don't the human race will stop, in order to do that, men need to hunt for food.

So, deep inside every man is a requirement to hunt sabre tooth tigers for tea and you don't do that in soft indoor slip-on shoes. To wear slippers emasculates you of all those hunting instincts; it says 'I'm at home, with my tea on my knees'. This does not make you a primed killing machine. The men I know who do wear slippers seem far more balanced with life in general; more in line with the rhythm of modern living. They seem to have suppressed the instinct to hunt sabre tooth tigers. I envy them, because if I was able to do the same, I would be wearing slippers and wouldn't have cold feet.

Think I'm wrong about this? Tell me for what purpose would you actually need a pair of 'active sports slippers'? Are slippers the quintessential non-active, non-sport footwear? The slipper companies are trying to dupe all us sabre tooth tiger hunting men into buying slippers (it doesn't work; they've been reduced by £2)

My research tells me that woman are much more comfortable with the concept of wearing slippers. This isn't a surprise, by definition slippers bind you to the home; the best place to reproduce. What's more, slippers are viewed as attractive on women, sexy even. This is because men need woman to want to reproduce because they can't and a penchant for slippers communicates a homely willingness to do so.

So, I've got cold feet because I'm waiting to go out and hunt sabre tooth tigers, yet Tesco Direct means you can, in a very modern sense, actually go hunting in your slippers. I think it might be time to put away my loin cloth.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Age ain't nothing but a number

I got a letter from the bank today, hand written blank envelope, business card stapled at a jaunty angle. A personal letter to me, lovingly prepared by my own financial adviser. I have a financial adviser? Who knew? He's invited me to make an appointment for a free financial health check; a bit of 'advice' to sell me a financial product that funds Guatemalan whorehouses or an East African guerilla army.

The letter included the line "as you enter a new stage in life, you need a different financial strategy". What friggin' stage of life am I entering? Family life? Middle age? I'll be 35 in August and I have a daughter; these facts alone appear to have triggered something deep inside their marketing machine.

On Saturday we had a party (a dinner party, naturally) with ten of our closest friends. There was a screech from the other end of the table. I didn't quite get the gist of the conversation but someone said "we're not middle aged!". From what I can gather, someone had resigned themselves to middle age because they were married with children, whilst others (also married with children) consider themselves to be anything but.

On Thursday, I was out with friends discussing how life is nowhere near as linear as it's made out to be. Without warning, having burnt off your twenties having fun and working hard you're confronted with a surprisingly small window of opportunity in which you're then expected to enter the conventions of 'settling down'. If you choose this path but haven't put in the ground work of meeting The One, getting married, being fertile, having babies (and of course, establishing the career trajectory to fund the whole thing) the window can wind shut leaving you with what looks like a blank scorecard.

It seemed to be a recurring theme; we're getting old, life is different to what we imagined and now time is slipping through our fingers like sand. Some of my friends have all the trinkets of settling down, some have none, some have some and some had them and lost them. The only common factor is that they're my friends and I enjoy spending time with them; I'm delighted with what they have, I don't judge them on what they don't. And, fuck it, we're all getting old all the time.

I tell you what though, although it's something about not worrying too much as long as you're happy, I am wrestling with trying to find the point of this post...

Friday, April 06, 2007

We don't do duvets

We went and bought a duvet today, and pillows and a bed sheet. We spent a lot of money on it. We're not frugal people, nor are we ostentatious, we buy good quality, but not very often.

The justification for spending the money was thus; we're not married so we've never had the opportunity to ask our friends and relatives to fork out £95 on pure Egyptian cotton sheets. We also have Millie; which means we get less sleep, so it might as well be the best sleep we can afford.

The duvet we were going to buy wasn't in stock; so we bought an even more expensive one. After a bit of hand-wringing we justified the expense as a long term investment.

"I can't even remember the last time we bought a duvet" said I.
"We never have" replied Emma "You don't want to know where ours came from"

It turns out that the duvet we use came from Emma's Grandma when she passed away many years ago. I swear, I'm sure I can now see a face in the mysterious brown stain that's been on it for years.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Where evil lurks

A friend of mine does a lot of work in China and Korea. One of the things he talks about is how difficult it is to understand the fundamental logic system adopted in these countries. About how much harder it is to work out how action a. lead to action b. His British schooling and logic system sometimes appears completely incompatible with that of South East Asia.

I saw him last night and he had more stories of derring-do in the region; when I got back I turned on the TV; there was a repeat of the Louis Theroux weird weekend "The most hated family in America". I saw the programme on Sunday, but found myself compelled to watch it again.

The Westboro Baptist Church believe, I think, that "God hates fags", "America loves fags", American troops represent America, they are therefore defending fags, therefore God tricked George Bush into invading Iraq so that he could pick off the troops with his wrath. Ergo; troop deaths are to be celebrated; so amongst other things, they picket troop funerals.

The logic is not nearly as simple as that, the whole belief system is encased in a shell which says; if you hate this logic, you're doomed to hell. Naturally, everyone hates the logic, therefore the Westboro Baptist Church are the only people who are going to heaven. In short America is doomed. Hate (or at least anger), which they receive in spades, makes them more righteous and good. Like a boa constrictor, the more you struggle the tighter the system is.

And then, on top of this, being friends with people is a slippery slope to hell. In part because you become tainted by the evil that America does. Also, friendship leads to fornication (if only, eh fellas?) The Pastor, Fred Phelps a confused old man who develops this amorphous philosophy, has sired thirteen children. None of which through fornication, one assumes.

Nor do they actually want to convert anyone to their way of thinking because everyone is doomed to hell already. Which, presumably makes the whole activity of picketing US troop funerals, Swedish vacuum cleaner factories and 'Jew' churches with signs that say 'God Hates Fags' and 'Fag Troops' completely pointless. They go out into the community to shout things without any reason or desired outcome.

At which point the logic unravels into a heap on the floor. It's not so much extremism, which, at least has a political logic to it. It just doesn't have a logic system; it doesn't want to grow, it doesn't want to change things, it doesn't want to explain anything. Theroux's other programmes attempt to get to the nucleus of the issue, an element which is causing the bizarre behaviour. But, partly due to the impenetrable belief system and partly because Phelps was barely articulate (at one point, Theroux sweetly wraps him up in knots with a question to which all Phelps can do is drop into his "I know all about you, you're evil and doomed to hell" rhetoric), he could only conclude that there was some kind of anger at the core of the whole thing. What kind of anger, he couldn't say. In which circumstances you have to just smile sweetly and move along. Which is what he did. Due to his 'fag' fixation, one may assume that Phelps himself has had a serious buggering at some point in his past. But that's mere speculation on my part.

Oh God, to compound it all; Ben Shepherd on GMTV (who's favourite band is Jesus and Mary Chain) has just introduced G4's last ever live performance. All this and G4 splitting up? What is the world coming to?

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