BOGOF? Just bog off

My email is choc-a-bloc with companies informing me that they have a sale on. When do they not have a sale on, these days?

Guitar shops are wafting bargains under my eager eyes hoping I will take the bait and add to my not inconsiderable collection of axes – I should be getting rid of guitars not coveting my next purchase.

Then there’s Holland & Barrett; foolishly I signed up for one of their loyalty cards and they are trying to tempt me in with ‘buy one get another for a penny’ sale. If you want to give me a bargain, can’t I get one for just a penny?

Boots are trying to soothe away my anxieties with unctions and ointments and 50% off when I spend more than £30. You’ll be lucky if I break into a tenner in there.

Then there’s my Nectar Card. I now have enough points to take my family to Legoland. I dont want to go to Legoland. I don’t have a family. You’d think with all this targetting and consumer insight they would know I’m a curmudgeonly git who would rather spend a relaxing afternoon in a pub than tromping around a place made of plastic bricks.

Buy one get one free is another poor effort to get me to consume. I walk up to the till with my shopping and I am informed that I can have two packs of pears for the price of one.

“I don’t want two packs of pears.”

“But one’s free.”

“So?”

And then there’s Black Friday. The day after Thanksgiving where people thank God for what they have, then go out and buy some more.

What’s worse is that this American tradition, like all others has immigrated to England. It’s supposed to get people buying more on the run-up to Christmas.

But then we have the Boxing Day sales swiftly followed January Sales. Next it will be Valentines, Then Easter. There will be a time when every month will have some big event where we are tempted to splurge vast amounts of cash on shit we don’t need.

There are loyalty cards spilling out of our wallets and posters in windows informing us in letters 3 feet high that ‘surprise surprise’ there’s another sale on.

Here’s an idea, rather than bombard us with offers to get us into your shops now and again, how about pricing things lower so we walk in all year round?

Surely a constant stream of income looks better on the books? Or am I talking insanity?

 

 

 

 

Step into my office

That’s not an office. It’s a table. In a coffee shop. 

Very observant, there’s no getting anything past you, is there? This is where I’m working, so it’s my office.

Ok, but why a coffee shop? 

Why not a coffee shop? They have t’internet, good coffee and toilets. What else do I need?

How do you get any work done? It’s so noisy.

I know it’s great isn’t it! A completely different atmosphere. Energetic. Spontaneous. Spoiled children moaning and really bad music playing. You wouldn’t get that in any modern day creative department, would you?

Oh I see, you’re explaining a metaphor aren’t you? And using me as a foil to make your point. 

Exactly. Well-spotted you literary device. Now, are there any other questions you wish me to answer in an entirely fabricated manner.

Well yes, do you always work in a coffee shop? 

Heavens to Murgatroyd, no. I work anywhere and everywhere these days. I can whip it out and start bashing away – even in a shopping centre.

I guess, you’re talking about your laptop.

I am talking about my laptop.

And you are just as productive say as if you were working in an office environment?

More so, I find. When you haven’t got people checking how much time you spend on a project, or even where you are, or interrupting you every five minutes to ask you if you’re busy, you’d be amazed how much you can get done.

But doesn’t the lack of an official ‘work environment’ mean that you can’t separate play time from work time?

I find the only place I can’t work, is at home. Too many distractions, too many guitars and the rubbish always needs taking out. Anywhere else is fair game. Even on the tube. One of my strange ideas is to go and sit on the Circle line and go back and forth all day.

So how long do you stay in these places?

As long as I want to. If I need a change of scenery, I’ll go out and find somewhere else. Last weekend I even went and booked a couple of nights in a hotel.

And that was…?

Fucking great. In the old days, if an agency had a particularly big problem to solve they would send a creative team to a hotel for a fortnight. Give them a change of scenery. Now they’re lucky if they can wander down to a pub for a glass of inspiration.

Times change.

And the ideas are worse off for it.

I agree with you.

You have to, you’re a figment of my imagination.

 

 

 

 

 

The death of Leonard Cohen made me miserable

I’d like to say that Leonard Cohen brought joy to my life. But he didn’t. His cynical and beautiful words inspired many periods of reflection and let me see the world through his eyes.

They say the reason why we read is so that we don’t feel alone. We connect with the thoughts of the characters in the books and say ‘There is someone out there just like me’. For me, it was the same with Leonard Cohen’s music.

Rather than drag me from the doldrums, or exhilerate me with ‘pop’ songs and upbeat lyrics, he put up a mirror where I could see my own dark thoughts.

For years I resisted his melancholy. I wanted to get away from these strange and pessimistic mental meanderings. I would ‘plaster on a fake smile and laugh in the right places’. But Leonard knew me better.

I was first drawn to Leonard by the song, ‘Then we’ll take Berlin’. A fricking terrorist song. How did he get away with it? The balls of the man. Then he let Jennifer Warnes sing it and I was amazed that such an inflammatory song could gain international recognition.

The cynical ‘Hallelujah’ was my next step. Although played to death these days by people singing it upbeat, I loved the cynicism dripping from every sentence.

While some friends at the time were drifting into the misery of the Smiths, I was held in the realism of Leonard Cohen. I felt safe there. He never lied to me or put on a happy, crappy face that said ‘everything will be fine’. Not it won’t be.

In his later years, financial troubles brought him out of retirement and I was pleased. It made him start recording again. The man’s voice was now old and gravelly. Rather than the young man talking soulfully about his observations in his place was a man whose voice was now better suited to the sombreness of his music.

He put out three new albums of original material before his death, produced with his son ‘Adam Cohen’. Lyrically he was as strong as ever although the song ‘Amen’ seemed a desperate attempt to capture the success of ‘Hallelujah’.

I’ve spent the last three weeks playing his old albums and his new ones. There have even been a few live concerts that I have downloaded just to watch the man in motion.

While some people say ‘it was music to slash your wrists to’, I find it quite the opposite. It made me feel like there was at least one person out there that saw the world as I did.

And now we’re left with Justin Bieber, One Direction, Kanye West, Beyonce, Sam Smith, Taylor Swift and Adele. Now that makes me feel really miserable.

 

 

Immortality tea. Expires 31/05/2017

When my ‘bag for life’ died last year, I had to laugh.

Now I have found another little irony that made me chortle. Attracting a few sideways glances from worried bystanders.

“He’s laughing again, should we be worried?” Concerned of Colliers Wood.

My new health-kick has had me searching around for a new beverage. I settled on green tea and red tea at first, shunning my calorie-rich lattes for something lighter, more nutritious and packed full of polyphenols.

Then I decided to see if there were anymore teas ‘out there’ that were healthy and tasty – green tea can be a bit bitter especially when you give up on sugar and articial sweeteners which are pure, metabolic poison.

My searches revealed something called gynostemma tea or jiaogulan. Some people call it the ‘immortality tea’ because it is so gosh-darned good for you.

Amongst its list of benefits, it is said to promote weight loss, reduce blood pressure, reduce blood sugar, clean out your toxins, soothe away modern day stresses and put your body back in balance.

The sceptic in me said ‘yeah right’. But ever the one to try something new, or old in this case, I gave it a bash.

The first night I drank a cup I wasn’t amazed. I wasn’t anything. I fell asleep within five minutes of my head hitting the pillow.

I awoke wondering what had happened. My usual bedtime self-analysis and mental self-critical routine had gone. I slept. Soundly.

I tried a cup of the stuff for breakfast and rather than my usual mad panic to get started I felt so much more relaxed.

Since then I’ve been drinking it for breakfast and before bed. I’ve even sent a batch up to my dad in Barnsley, if anyone needs to relax and get a bit of balance its the man who can barely stand on his own two feet anymore.

Same thing. He had a cup before bedtime and had the most restful night’s sleep in a long time. He even sounded human on the phone the next day. Anyone who knows my father knows what an achievement that is.

The only thing is that this immortality tea comes with an expiry date. I’m good until 31/05/2017 but after that, all bets are off.

 

 

“Can we talk about Jesus?”

I’m not really a religious person. You won’t find me in a church or any other place of worship, but I do believe in ‘good’, ‘charity’ and basically loving one another, if at all possible.

On the tube the other night, one of those people who try to interest everyone in God and Jesus was wandering around again trying to convert the masses. On the run-up to Christmas they start to pour out of the woodwork.

Good luck, he was preaching to a crowd of drunken people who could barely see the person opposite. There was no way any one of them could ‘see the light’.

“Can I interest you in the word of Jesus?” He asked politely and smiled. He wasn’t harming anyone, he was just shuffling through the train trying to share his insights and beliefs in the hope of making someone’s life better.

“No, thank you.” I replied and the fellow smiled and moved on.

I saw the polite young man ask the same question to a number of people who mostly ignored him or shook their heads until he came to an extremely drunk person in a suit and tie almost spreadeagled in his inebriation.

“Can I interest you in Jesus?” The polite young fellow asked the dribbling man.

“What? What the fuck? Can’t you cunts fuck off? I’m sick of you.” He said and began to stand and face the young man whose eyes widened in fear.

“I’m sorry, Sir. I didn’t mean to cause offence.” He apologised quietly.

“You lot need a good fucking kicking.” The sot replied and started to insult the man while poking him in the chest.

Everyone around immediately buried their heads in their newspapers, phones or boxes of Kentucky Fried Chicken. They didn’t want to get involved.

I’m not noted for my shyness,  so I stood up and walked up behind the polite Jesus-freak and asked the abusive man to ‘sit down and be quiet’.

“Yeah, but these cunts are always fucking annoying everyone.” He slurred.

“All you have to say is ‘no’ and the gentleman will move on.” I said with as much politeness as I could manage.

The man sat down and grumbled to himself in his drunken haze. I returned to my seat and sat down. Keeping one eye on the slovenly fellow, just in case he decided to do something even more stupid.

The Bible-basher came over. “Thank you that was very kind of you to help me out.”

“It was nothing. Don’t worry about it.” I replied.

“No one else did anything to help. You were the only one who stood up. There is more of ‘God’ in you than you may think.”

“I don’t believe in God.” I said.

“I do even more now. God sent you to help me when I needed it most.”

I laughed a little uncomfortably.

“If more people were like you and stepped up in times of trouble, the world would be a better place.” He smiled again and left.

As I sat there I thought, ‘yes, the world would be a better place if we all stood up to face an injustice’. We don’t need God, we need ‘good’. We need to appreciate our fellow man not hide behind laptops, phones and devices that cut us off from our humanity.

We should stand up to corporate greed, politicians who have their own self-interests at heart, and the people who bury their head in the sand when injustice surrounds them.

And that’s when I realised I had missed my stop. Jesus could have given me a little ‘heads up’. The bastard.

Why am I wearing a poppy?

Yesterday, one of those angry young men asked me this question. His view was that it promoted war, although he did say the money went to a good cause.

Me being me, I had a difference of opinion: I know, usually I am so accepting and tolerant of other people’s viewpoints.

The first reason why I wear a poppy is because of all the people who refuse to wear one and verbally attack people who do wear them. We live in a free country and I have a right to express my beliefs as much as the person who doesn’t wear one. Verbally attack me about it and see where it gets you. Nowhere.

The second reason why I wear a poppy is not to promote war, as this young whippersnapper said, it is to remember the people who gave their lives. I’m not pro-war but I believe that the men and women who gave their lives in the service of this country should be remembered for their sacrifice.

And I’m not a religious person but I am quite happy to join in the hymns and the prayers as a homage to these people.

On the money the poppy appeal raises, I find myself torn. The government should be paying our ex-servicemen and women. After the wars they have had to fight and endure it is the least this country should do for them.

But as we know governments are quite happy to pay for soldiers on active duty but when they have outlived their usefulness,they are cast aside. Which is why we still hear about ex-soldiers living in poverty or suffering mental health issues and living on the streets.

Some of these people have fallen through the gaping chasms in the system and only the poppy appeal helps provide the money and care these ‘forgotten people’ desperately need.

Of course I didn’t say all this to the angry young man who questioned me.

When he asked “Why do you wear a poppy?” I replied “To annoy jumped-up little shits, like you.”

And that’s when the trouble started.

 

The lethal phone call

In the middle of my depression, a time I call my ‘blue period’, I phoned my brother. I had been out of touch with my family for a long time. I’d phoned but hadn’t travelled back up north for awhile.

As usual, me and big brother talked about music and my nieces and the latest exploits of dad’s battle with the neighbours – always a story or two that left me shocked and amazed.

Just as I was about to sign off I asked my brother if there was any other news. He thought for a while and came up with “Auntie Brenda died.”

I was mortified. I hadn’t been all that close with dad’s older brother but family is family. “Oh God, how is Uncle Harry taking it, is he all right?” I asked.

“Oh, he died six months ago.”  My brother said matter of factly.

“Oh my God? What about Philip? He must be distraught.” I was horrified.

“He committed suicide about a year ago.” My brother said calmly.

“What? You didn’t think to tell me?” I asked as calmly as my shocked system would allow.

“Well dad wasn’t talking to them.” He answered as if that made it alright.

“He’s definitely not talking to them now, is he?” I said perplexed by the whole situation.

I told my psychiatrist this story and he now uses it as an example of how families can drift apart, not communicate, and generally lose touch if they don’t make the effort to visit, talk, or in this case, not tell someone news because they think it might upset them – I was wandering round in a sort of fugue state for awhile.

I only mention this now because dad is not talking to Uncle Vince and Auntie Maureen, and because Auntie Irene has tried to get my father talking to his younger brother, he’s not talking to her either.

Dad has always been a funny old fish, but with age he has become more cantankerous, more judgemental, more racist, and more awkward.

And everyone says I take after my father.

I worry.

 

 

 

The people’s revolution continues.

America has elected a racist, sexist, homophobe to the most powerful office in the world. A throwback to times when bosses pinched their secretaries’ bottoms.

The revolution started by Brexit continues across the pond and we really shouldn’t be surprised.

People are sick of their governments it seems. The sensible, expected results aren’t the norm anymore. And in a way I like it. Chaos is good. Terrifying, I admit but the world can’t carry on the way it has.

Rather than take up torches and pitch forks the people are revolting by going against what the people in power want and expect.

Look at Brexit. The logical approach would have been to stay in Europe and try and work it out. But no, the people have had enough. Leave Europe and let’s work it out from there. Good riddance to bureaucracy and government’s wishes.

Now America faced with a ‘sensible’ politician and a raving loony have picked the man with a dead hamster on his head to give them back their dreams.

I don’t know whether Trump is a genius or a moron but he’s tapped into the mood of the majority and they’ve put their votes behind him.

He’s not saying he’s an angel. He doesn’t behave like a politician, he seems to admit his faults rather than say something more stupid like ‘I did not inhale’.

The people have expressed their wishes in both England and now America. Can we expect more countries turning away from the wishes of their governments?

The French Revolution did away with the pompous privilege of the aristocracy. Brexit did away with the wishy-washy David Cameron and the red tape of the European Union. America has just given the established order the finger.

I don’t know what is going to happen with all these global shake-ups but it really is going to be interesting to find out.

 

 

Debtember is on its way

I was reading some Facebook posts from my old friend Richard Nicholson and I  realised two things; Christmas is on its way and the economy is in the toilet.

But don’t we go through the same ritual every year under the same circumstances? Brexit may have exacerbated the situation but every year we say the same thing. And every year there will be stories of working people having to get hand-outs to feed their family.

The country is a broken mess at the moment and it’s up to the politicians to fix it. They have to start doing their jobs properly and make this country work.

(And not rewarding bankers with bonusses for the sub-prime situation and double-dip recession that put so many people on the breadline.)

Now the shambles of Brexit has already destroyed pensions, investments and our economy is on life-support.

Who will bear the brunt of it? Certainly not Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, I’m sure they will be having a merry old christmas surrounded by mince pies and quaffing brandy.

They’ll be unbuttoning their trousers at the dinner table while other people are queueing at the food banks.

I’m not pointing the finger at Brexiters and saying ‘this is all your fault’. It isn’t. The blame falls on David Cameron for trying to solve the Europe debate with an ill-conceived referendum.

Before the referendum they should have put together plans to address the potential fallout, whichever way the vote went. But they didn’t.

How long has there been talk of a referendum? Surely during that time some bright sparks could have prepared for the worst.

David Cameron’s government was flying by the seat of its pants and now we are all paying the price.

Personally I can’t wait for this year to be over. 2016 has been littered with tragedy and stupidity.

The government can’t do much about the tragedy but they could certainly learn from the stupidity of David Cameron and ask themselves ‘What would David Cameron do? Then do the complete opposite.

 

Flip the tranny

Years ago, me and Rod Broomfield were working on a job for Castrol. It was one of those disheartening ones where you knew you weren’t going to get any finished work out of it.

They wanted a ‘workbook of ideas’ which they could send to other countries and their respective agencies would photograph and work up the ideas for local markets. We did the ideas, other agencies around the world got the kudos.

One particular part of this was to ‘big up’ Castrol. We did our research and discovered that Castrol was used by the Wright Brothers at Kittyhawk.

It was also used to break the landspeed record, fastest lap by a formula one race car etc etc – a whole plethora of firsts. We produced an ad all about ‘Castrol coming first’ – I can’t remember the headline but it was big, it was bold and Castrol loved it.

Armed with all these amazing firsts we had to find images to support them – nobody reads words anymore, they like to stare at pretty pictures.

We found this fantastic grainy brown tranparency (tranny) of the Wright Brothers plane flying through a murky brown meadow and it looked amazing. Perfect for the job, I thought. But then Rod, being the perfectionist that he is, found a fault. The plane was flying off into the distance. All we had was the plane’s arse.

Rod explained that it would be better if we could find a transparency where we could see the front of the plane.

The account handler on the job – who shall remain nameless – looked at the picture of the plane flying off and said ‘But can’t we just flip the transparency so the plane is flying towards us.’

At first we didn’t understand what she was talking about. Even if you flipped the tranny the plane would still be flying away from us but instead of flying off to the left, it would be flying off to the right.

Rod, ever the considerate fellow, burst out laughing while the poor account handler looked on puzzled by our reaction.

When we could calm Rod down enough to form coherent sentences again. We explained that a plane flying away on a picture will always be a plane flying away.

Just when I thought Rod had stopped his endless laughing, he then asked the account handler ‘Did she look down the back of the television to see if there were little men inside?’

I don’t think we ever worked with that particular account handler, ever again.