Friday Shoe Things

I HAVEN’T done a #fridaythings on Twitter for a while. I asked for suggestions and eventually ended up with #fridayshoes. And then @QcattQ said I should have #fridayfootwear because she was wearing slippers. So I thought that was fair enough and announced the rules for #fridayfootwear (basically no Hootsuite, no bare feet).

And then #fridayfootwear started trending, and I felt a bit sick, but it turned out there was a parallel #fridayfootwear thing going on at the same time in which people with an expressive and inventive approach to spelling and punctuation said which shoes they might be wearing later that day.

So I changed it to #fridayshoethings. It seemed only right.

Anyway, after looking at the pictures, I see that quite a lot of people like to put their feet on cats. I am not sure what this means; I am just making an observation. Also, I remembered why I don’t do this every week.

Here are the pictures:


Thank you for entering to:

@__mice, @AlexaCollinsDes, @anfo_, @Badger5000, @BertSwattermain, @Blythc, @CatHam75, @DebsFurness, @DinosharkVsDom, @donna_gallers, @eatcakebehappy, @elizadolally, @ElliottClarkson, @emmyl00, @frizzychick, @GypsumFantastic, @habarosen, @iamamro, @JimTheSG, @JinjaMcGarrity, @jmcloughlin, @josie_reynolds_, @karenjeynes, @KateBielby, @Kel2708, @Ketherbound, @la_formosa, @LauraSparling, @liese2711, @lola_spankcheek, @MarianneLevy, @MikeHoffman1, @MrJAMarshall, @MrMoth, @MrSquirrel_, @muddy_b, @OneEyedYoda, @Ooopsydaisy, @ozgirlnc, @PaulaFleetwood2, @philthD, @QcattQ, @QuintinForbes, @ricardopresto, @richhale, @RuthB1, @serialfrenchies, @Shequeen, @Sigyn, @SiobhanONeill, @stephjl, @stickofrhubarb, @SuQ10, @TheCatsDaughter, @theglorymill, @titianred, @Trancendance, @Trudski2012, @WeeChrissieB, and @yorkshire2510.

However, there can only be one winner. And it is not @QcattQ, because she made me look through the tweets of illiterates and dunderheads.

No, it is @jmcloughlin, who laced his shoes like this and still posted the picture…


Clark Kent’s glasses

THERE now follows a big spoiler for The Muppets. By that, I mean it is a plot spoiler for people going to see the film The Muppets, not that I am giving away motor parts to stupid cockneys.

In the film, Walter, the muppet fan of The Muppets who brings the Muppets back together, is invited to perform in the fund raising show, but he doesn’t know what he is going to do. And then, with seconds to spare, he strides onto the stage, and whistles like some sort of whistling virtuoso, accompanied by the orchestra of Muppets. It is all very heartwarming, but after the film it made me pause.

How on earth, with seconds to spare, was he able to tip off the orchestra as to what he was doing, and how could the orchestra be prepared? It is impossible. A huge logical gap in the plot.

I have to say that this was in the context of a film where puppets exist as autonomous beings and people stop in the street to sing big musical numbers. How is it that I can accept all that, but I can’t accept that an orchestra can play a piece perfectly without rehearsal?

It reminded of me of when I watched the first episode of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman in company. We all witnessed Clark Kent fire lasers from his eyes, stop a runaway bus with his bare hands, and fly, soaring into the air like a man on wires in front of a green screen.

But when Clark introduces himself to Lois Lane as Superman, one of my companions said, “Oh, how can she not recognise him? That’s just stupid.” That was the sticking point. She could believe that a man could defy the laws of physics, but not that he could disguise himself with a pair of glasses.

So I henceforth will refer to all minor logical gaps in the context of massive suspension of disbelief as “Clark Kent’s glasses.”

So, what are your examples of “Clark Kent’s glasses?” Tweet me with #CKglasses, or use the comments below.

PS: The Muppets is great. Go and see it. Had a tear in my eye when Kermit started singing Rainbow Connection.

COLUMN: May 11, 2011

IF YOU asked me what I thought the worst thing in the world is, I would um and ah and size you up and give you the answer I think you would want to hear, because you wouldn’t accept my truthful answer.

For example, if you appeared earnest and had some sort of rubber band around your wrist, I would say, with a pained look, “Injustice,” and sigh. If you appeared shallow and a bit thick, I would pick a celebrity who had been popular last week and say his or, more likely, her name, and we would both chuckle and say, “Yes, she’s dreadful.”

But, if I were forced to tell the truth, perhaps by being encircled by Wonder Woman’s golden lasso of truth – and if that appears unlikely, I would suggest it would be no more unlikely than anybody wanting my opinion – I would say that I was conflicted.

I could not have decided between two terrible things. Until last week.

The first is women wearing curlers outdoors all day Saturday. I don’t know if this is just a quirk of living in Liverpool – I don’t get about much – but I find it offensive beyond reason.

I think it is the ostentatious nature of the display. “Look, everyone,” these young women are saying, “I am going out tonight on the razz and consorting with people who deserve to see me at the very peak of my beauty. You people, on the other hand, are pond scum and I show my contempt for you by wearing gigantic curlers. Now, point me at the footballers.”

Yet, if I left the house without my trousers and pants, signalling the fact that on Saturday night, I would be painting the town red and consequently wearing my very best trousers and pants, I would be the one arrested for a breach of the peace.

The second thing is wallpapering. I spent most of last week wallpapering, a task which should be straightforward if not incredibly easy. This is how wallpapering should be:

A Pull old wallpaper off wall.

B Put glue on back of new wallpaper.

C Put new wallpaper on wall.

D Have a nice cup of tea.

This is how wallpapering actually is:

A Peel back a bit of wallpaper.

B Give wallpaper a tug.

C Pull off a disproportionately small bit of wallpaper in relation to effort.

D Realise that only the vinyl covering has been removed.

E Have a nice cup of tea.

F Repeat step C – this time realising that only the vinyl is coming off – until all vinyl is off.

G Have a nice cup of tea.

H Go over the paper backing with a wet sponge and leave to soak.

I Have a nice cup of tea.

J Come back and realise the paper backing is now EXACTLY the same colour as the wall behind.

K Scrape the paper backing off the wall.

L Realise you cannot see which bits you have done because of paper backing/ wall colour similarity.

M Repeat steps I to L until fed up.

N Fill bucket with water and open packet of paste. Pour into bucket.

O Realise there’s nothing with which to stir paste. Borrow child’s sucker arrow. Hope he doesn’t notice.

P Carefully measure out strip of new wallpaper.

Q Paste back of wallpaper. Leave to soak, as directed.

R Attach to wall.

S Use brush to remove bubbles. Accidentally, but gently, scratch surface with wooden handle.

T Reflect on how easily paste-soaked wallpaper tears when accidentally, but gently, scratched with wooden handle.

U (First time) Use craft knife and ruler to trim paper to size. Realise that’s never going to work. (Subsequent times) Use scissors to trim paper.

V Repeat steps P-R.

W Slide strip to butt against previous strip. Reflect on how easily paste-soaked wallpaper tears when slid to butt against previous strip.

X Repeat from step P until all walls are covered.

Y Have a nice cup of tea. Notice air bubbles under first few strips.

Z Cry.

And that is why wallpapering is the worst thing in the world.

COLUMN: April 27, 2011

WHEN I was a child, I was less fleet of foot than other children. I wasn’t unfit, rather ungainly. It wasn’t so much that I had two left feet – it was more that my left foot was on the end of my right leg and vice versa.

Consequently, I was usually “It” in games of Tag – where I grew up, “It” was known as “Man” and Tag was known as Tick, but I will sacrifice accuracy for clarity for the purposes of this column – and I would lurch around the school playground while more nimble children would caper away, untagged.

Eventually, I realised something would have to change, and rather than dashing ineffectually around the knee-skinning asphalt, I would stand still, like a flypaper, trusting that eventually one of my dimmer classmates would wander stupidly into my sticky grasp. I was not mistaken. I would pounce. And before they knew what had happened I would yell the magic word “Barley!”

Barley was the game-changer in Tag. One who was in the state of Barley (and by that I mean had uttered the word, not a drunkard) was immune from capture. It was a ludicrous rule, one rendering the game unplayable, and which is probably responsible for Tag never troubling the International Olympic Commission. This is unfortunate because I would be a gold medallist.

I often thought it was a shame that the principle of Barley is not carried over into adult life. I imagine being pulled over by the rozzers.

Yes, officer?

Is this your car?

Sure is. Two tons of Austin Ambassador. She’s a beauty, isn’t she?

Have you any idea how fast you were going?

Not really. I was texting my mate. Blimey, I could barely read the phone screen after four pints.

Right. Out of the car. You’re nicked, sunshine.

Oh, no, no, no, officer. I think you’ll find I’m Barley.

The closest equivalent I have found in adult life has been the concept of “browsing”. I have seen off many sales people with a well-timed “Just browsing”. Sometimes I stop them before they can even ask “Can I help you?”

Of course, browsing is not an excuse one can use anywhere. If anything, it is looked down upon in such establishments as restaurants, funeral parlours and ladies’ lavatories. But it was the best we could do. Until now . . . 

Up to now, our dear Prime Minister has been able to distance himself from some of the more unpalatable decisions of the Government by using the magic word “Inherited.”

“Of course, I regret having to abolish the concept of love, but we have inherited this mess from the last Labour government.”

If Coalition ministers were forced to drop a quid into a box at the Treasury every time they used the words “inheritance” or “inherited,” we would have cleared the deficit by last Tuesday, and right now we’d be tucking into free Government cream buns and toffee apples made of gold.

But now Cameron is leading the campaign against the Alternative Vote, despite promising Nick Clegg he would have a limited role in the process.

Clegg is absolutely fuming about the broken promise, according to an interview he gave in the Sunday papers, a state of affairs of great interest to keen students of irony.

Presumably, Cameron has explained to his deputy that, yes, he did say he wouldn’t actively campaign against AV, but he was crossing his fingers behind his back at the time.

“Ah, yes,” Clegg will no doubt say, as he trudges into Cabinet, after the Lib-Dems’ miserable referendum and local government defeat later this week.

“You were quite clearly Barley.”

COLUMN: April 6, 2011

SO THERE I was, Friday night, in a swanky bar, at an after-show party, in possibly the most glamorous circumstances of a life in which, admittedly, the glamorous circumstances bar has been set disappointingly low.

Next to me was one of my oldest friends, a man who left Liverpool over 20 years ago for a glittering career in showbiz. Just beyond him was his improbably beautiful wife, an actress who has starred in some of the most celebrated TV comedies of the past 15 years. It felt like a dream.

But I knew it couldn’t be a dream. Because, in a dream, people wouldn’t have been looking at “the man with the plastic carrier bag” and thinking “Who brings an M&S carrier bag to an after-show party?”

It was my own fault, of course. If I had been able to read a simple calendar, I would have realised I wasn’t double-booked. So I would have obtained a ticket to the Conversation with Peter Serafinowicz at St George’s Hall earlier than on the day of the event. And I would have bought the Mothers’ Day cards and chocolates the day before, meaning I wouldn’t have had to lug them around.

But it could have been worse. After the die had been cast and it was decided I was going to see Peter’s show, I rushed out to town to buy the cards and chocolates I’d planned to pick up on the way home.

I dashed into the card shop. It was busy. To express the busyness accurately would take up the space of this article. The first three words of that article would be “The shop was”, the last word would be “busy”, and the other 671 words would just be the word “very” 671 times.

Somehow, I obtained cards from the racks and joined the queue. And eventually I was served. I paid with my card and my mind wandered. “Your receipt’s in the bag,” said the assistant. “Next!” I stumbled out of the shop. “Receipt?” I thought.

It whirled around my head. Under which series of unlikely circumstances would one need to return cards to a card shop?

Perhaps . . . “I gave my mother this card and she said it was the worst card she had ever seen and that she was embarrassed to have me as a child. I’ve written on this one, is that all right?”

Maybe . . . “My mother was rude about my last column. I have decided against this purchase?”

And what of the tragic reasons? In those instances, I can hardly imagine somebody thinking, “This is the worst day of my life! Still, every cloud, eh? Refund!”

So I wasn’t paying attention in the confectioner’s, when I bought a box of chocolates, and the shop assistant placed it in a bag.

I rushed back to the office. And realised I was going either to leave the goods there, then come back through the badlands of after-hours drunken Liverpool late at night to pick them up, or take the bag with me to the concert.

It was only then I realised the bag was a Christmas bag. Not only would I look like the sort of person who takes a plastic bag to concerts, I would look like the sort of person who had had the same bag for four months. It was double jeopardy.

Luckily, a colleague spotted a spare M&S bag in the office and the worst of the embarrassment was avoided. I took the bag.

And when I got to St George’s Hall, I discovered the after-show party was in a bar a couple of minutes’ walk away from my office. So, late at night, I still had to walk back, through the badlands, etc, but now with a plastic carrier bag.

A group of young men noted my resemblance to the character Egon Spengler, from Ghostbusters. Then one spied my cargo. “Carrier bag!” he shouted. “Carrier bag!” His dunderwhelp friends joined in. They pointed.

But I was one up on them. Because I knew there was a Christmas bag inside the M&S bag. And if they’d known that, it would have been marginally worse. On such small outcrops do I plant my victory flag.

COLUMN: April 20, 2011

I AM not an aggressive and go-gettingly assertive person by nature. I am invisible to bar staff. I never look as if I’m in the queue in Tesco.

Occasionally, it is a cause of chagrin to me, but mostly I console myself with the fact that I am never, ever, going to be mistaken for one of the alpha gibbons from The Apprentice, even if I spend so long gelling my hair that I forget to shave.

I do, however, become angry and start throwing my weight around, under a specific circumstance. Namely this: if I am convinced that I have been grievously offended but am, in fact, incorrect. Essentially, I can only achieve monumental levels of strop when I am entirely in the wrong.

Consequently, I am much more inclined to establish the full details of any possible transgression in case I fly into a terrible rage and reveal myself as a mistakenly wrathful chump.

So, when I arrived with my ticket to the comedian Simon Evans’s show at the Salford Lowry on Sunday evening, and discovered that somebody was sitting in my seat, I decided I would have to be careful.

First off, I checked my ticket again. B8. This was definitely row B. Row C was behind, and I was a row back from the front. Even I can work those maths out.

There were 16 seats in the row, split by an aisle. I checked the backs of the seats. No numbers, dammit. I walked to the other end of the row. There it was: Row B, 1-8. And there was definitely a couple sitting in seats 7 and 8. The rest of the row was empty, as was, at this point, virtually the whole of the auditorium. This meant war.

And I had the two most powerful weapons in my arsenal to hand. Firstly I had the sure knowledge that, for once, I was in the right. I had a ticket to prove it.

The second weapon was my peerless passive-aggressive skills. I sat right next to them, in B6. And folded my arms!

The woman in B7 turned, aware of my presence. I chuckled. “Of course”, I said,” if it all kicks off, you know you’re going to have to move.” She looked at me with incomprehension, then turned back to her partner, The Man In My Seat.

Then it dawned on me. The rest of the row was empty. What if seat B8 was at the other end of the row? That would be typical.

I moved to the other end of the row. The couple looked at me quizzically, but I ignored them. Thank goodness I had avoided an unpleasant scene.

And, even if I were sitting in his seat, and he in mine, did it matter? If anything, the seat I was in now was a better seat. I had got extra change from the cashier of life and I wasn’t giving it back.

I became aware of a presence next to me and looked up. There was a man in glasses looming over me. “Yes?” I asked. “We’ve booked seats 1-6,” he said. “You’re in our seat.”

“Ah,” I said. “I’ll just, er.” I wandered down the row. I stood before the couple. “I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to shift. These are all filling up now.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” said the man. “This is my seat.”

I think I heard a ping inside my head. The rage boiled up inside me and I was going to let it out, like the Incredible Hulk fighting a proper baddie instead of a policeman who’s just doing his job. I was drunk with the possibility of a row in which I was in the right.

“I don’t think so, matey,” I snapped, and I whipped out my ticket. “There you go, B8. Now if you want me to get the ush . . . ”

“This is BB8.”


He pointed at the floor. Row BB.

“Row B’s back there.” He pointed towards the back of the auditorium.

“Right,” I said. “Cheers!” I trudged up the aisle and sank into my proper seat, secure in the knowledge that I am a massive idiot.

COLUMN: March 30, 2011

A FEW years back, a policy decision was taken to remove the route numbers from the backs of buses.

The idea was to avoid accidents, specifically those caused by dozy people who are incapable of arriving at a bus stop in plenty of time and then run across roads, arms and legs flailing like Peter Snow demonstrating a swingometer on a bouncy castle, in an ultimately- doomed attempt to catch the bus. People like me, obviously.

Of course, it didn’t work. 

Because that sort of people (ie, people like me) did not think: “I say, it’s a bus! There is absolutely no way of knowing if it is my bus. Hmm, ah well, in that case, I shall continue walking in a sensible manner. Oh, look, a rhododendron bush.”

No. That sort of people thought: “Aarrgh! I’m going to be late! Is that my bus? It could be! Bumsocks! I’ll have to leg it and see what the number on the front is. Aarrgh!”

Consequently, there was an increase in the number of irresponsible leggings-it, because instead of that sort of people (ie, people like me) running for their own bus, they were now running for EVERY bus which arrived at their stop. I have a wealth of anecdotal evidence to back me up, and all of it originating with me.

I can’t help feeling that the increasing prevalence of puffin crossings, rather than pelican crossings, is going to take us down the same route.

For those who are unfamiliar with puffin crossings – the agoraphobic or the rich, for instance – allow me to explain. 

Puffin crossings are just like pelican crossings, except that the red man/green man signal is just above the button which one presses to cross and faces away from the road. They are called puffin crossings officially because it is short for “pedestrian user-friendly intelligent crossing.” 

Unofficially, of course, it is because somebody in marketing said: “We need another bird name.”

I am sure of this because there is also a toucan crossing, so named because both pedestrians and cyclists are able to cross, therefore “two can.”

If David Cameron is serious about reducing the deficit, he can start with cutting the department currently trying to come up with a tenuous justification for a penguin crossing.

“Right, lads, how about this? You can only cross if A) you are carrying a pen, or B) you are Drop The Dead Donkey star Haydn Gwynne.”

I digress. The point is, when you cross the road at a puffin crossing, you cannot see if the green man is still there, or if he has been replaced by the red man of doom. Because the signals face away from the road.

Ah-ha-ha, say the puffin boffins, but you do not need to see the green man. Our special sensors track you crossing the road and tell the computer inside the signalling system to keep the road lights red until you get to the other side.

And I say back to the puffin boffins, ah-ha-ha! I used to be a systems analyst. I work with computers every day of my life.

And I can tell you this, you can count on computers right up to just before the point at which you need them to work properly, and no further.

I need to be able to see the green man while I cross, not just before I cross. Crossing the road is stressful enough, I don’t want to have to work through my trust issues before I step off the kerb.

And if you say to me that I am inconsistent in my approach to road crossing – tearing across them in pursuit of a bus one minute, dithering at their side the next – then I say, yes. But awkward beggars like me are the price of living in a democracy.