Archive for May, 2010

Originally in my Wiltshire Blog

What promise fills us with as much anticipation as The Great British Summer?

For the past few days, a prelude to The Great British Summer has been playing in our country’s towns and villages.

Like every year, the prelude threatens to be greater than the main piece it introduces. It comes upon us suddenly, unabashedly making its presence felt.

For some, this sudden burst of summer is the equivalent of a near-death experience. Suddenly everything is alive; the earth, the sky, the plants. Everything swells with existence.

After all that waiting, after the long winter and the hit and miss spring, summer has finally arrived.

There are few places in the world that feel such great anticipation. In more southerly climes the people are guaranteed a hot summer. It comes without fail and is as much an annoyance as a blessing.

For our islands however, summer is synonymous with hope. We hope for a good summer like a drought-stricken region hopes for rain. For us, it is as necessary for survival as the water that falls from the sky.

Summer is a time for living out the dreams that spring provides us. It is a time for living spontaneously, for seizing the moment of sunshine while it lasts.

Perhaps the reason why many of us think about summer in such romantic terms is because we continue to see summer through the eyes of our childhood.

There is no other period in our lives when summer is filled with such mythical greatness.

Think back to your school days, sitting in a hot and sticky classroom waiting for the term to end and the holiday to begin.

More can be learned in six weeks of summer than in a whole year at school. If resourceful, children can learn how to amuse themselves. If cowardly, they can learn how to be brave. If bored, they can learn how to be adventurous. And so on.

Whether we actually do this in our childhood is questionable. I’m sure many of us spent half of our summer playing Nintendo indoors; I know I did. Few of us are brave enough as kids to be like Huck Finn and live summer to its fullest, even at risk of death.

But that doesn’t really matter, in the end. It’s never too late to enjoy summer.

Relive your childhood memories this year, even if they never happened. Build a raft and paddle it to Bristol, sell lemonade and buy a raft that doesn’t leak.

Light out for the Territory, while the sun is still hot in the sky.

Market Misery

Posted: May 11, 2010 in Politics

Originally in my Wiltshire Magazine Blog

In the past month we’ve had volcano misery, election misery and now market misery. We certainly are a miserable lot!

Five days into a hung parliament and the media has been quick to assess the situation. “Election misery” has afflicted our undecided nation like a blight.

So acute has this ‘misery’ been that a hundred school children spontaneously burst into tears during an assembly in Cornwall yesterday. “If only they’d think of the economy,” one five year old said, before blowing his nose on Miss Morgan’s skirt.

The volcano in Iceland, jealous of all the attention which the hung parliament is getting, decided to cause another round of “travel misery” by spewing even more ash into the air. “You don’t know the meaning of the word,” the volcano said, when asked why it delighted in creating misery.

An alien observing from space would conclude that we are a miserable lot, us humans. We complain about everything, and our worries are without end.

The most vocal worrier of late however, is a section of society known as ‘the markets’. They are at their wits end over this election business! Most of us don’t take news like this so seriously. We’re even grateful for events like this, as it provides much needed conversation when a dinner party goes quiet.

The markets however, are well and truly upset. If the markets were to become human, I’m certain they would have Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Johnnie Market – let us call him – would spend half his time in the loo, he worries so much.

Johnnie Market’s the sort of person who loves predictable endings. His favourite sitcom is Friends, and he only ever watched a tennis final if Tim Henman was playing.

Until recently he was a massive Manchester United supporter, before suddenly switching to Chelsea. He prefers the term pragmatist to ‘glory hunter’.

He hates spontaneity. He gets grumpy if his friends give him a surprise birthday party and starts shedding value all over the place.

Despite his IBS, he abhors weakness. He despises men who cry – even out of joy – and rarely visits Italy because of this.

Above all, he hates indecision. All of this hung parliament nonsense is really making him mad. But why do we care what he thinks?

We already know that Johnnie Market is a bore, and the last person we’d consider a friend. Sure he’ll throw a strop, like most immature people when they fail to get their way. But it will be good for him in the long run.

Let us teach him a lesson in patience. As Jeremy Hardy said on The News Quiz, “The markets are entirely discredited anyway, if we can’t make our minds up, we can’t make our minds up and you’ll have to WAIT.”

Election Loving

Posted: May 4, 2010 in Politics

Originally in my Wiltshire Magazine Blog

The upside of a living in a Tory safe seat and why the General Election is a lot like internet dating.

The only good thing about living in a Tory safe seat is that there’s almost no chance of bumping into a politician during the run up to an election – or at any other time for that matter.

In more contested seats, hopeful MPs walk for miles around towns and villages in an effort to win votes. I’m told they do more walking in one day than the average parking attendant does in a week!

As if that wasn’t hard enough, they have to shake hands with people too. Imagine that, shaking hands with strangers all day. You can bet David Cameron washes his hands with bleach after a hard day campaigning.

And then all the smiling and general enthusiasm. If you met anybody else who was that happy to meet you and that interested in what you had to say, you’d think they were trying to steal your wallet.

Or worse still, trying to ask you out on a date!

Now I think about it, trying to woo voters is very much like dating. What happened to Gordon Brown in Rochdale for example, could have happened to anyone on a first date.

At first he and Gillian Duffy were getting on well. They chatted about things they both enjoy, like walks in the park or movies about superheroes. Brown was feeling confident; perhaps he wouldn’t need the car ride home after all.

But then they started talking about politics! Before she knew it Brown was out the door. “I might be desperate, but not that bloody desperate,” he probably thought. Of course we’ll never know because the spin kids wisely chose not to shove a microphone into his brain.

What we did hear was his analysis of how the date went, and he was less than flattering.

I’m sure we’ve all done it though. “God, that went badly,” we think, and then call a friend to describe in detail why we definitely won’t be seeing that person again. Most of us probably don’t wait until the end of the date, but send a sneaky text midway through.

In case anyone gets the wrong idea, I’m not defending Brown’s actions. It was a very stupid thing to do, and I’m sure if they did succeed in planting a microphone in his brain – to show how honest and open he is – we would only be able to hear static.

But then I imagine that would be the case for the other party leaders too. The only exception would be David Cameron, whose brain waves would sound a lot like this.