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.

COLUMN: March 23, 2011

I WISH people would stop changing things and making them worse. I appreciate that this is not the most profound statement and it would be difficult to imagine somebody taking the opposite view, but it does need saying.

As an example, I would like film studios to stop making 3D films and television manufacturers to stop making 3D televisions.

I wear glasses for a reason, namely that I have a lazy right eye. Lazy doesn’t actually begin to cover it. If my eye were a human being, it would never take out the rubbish and would watch QVC all day because it couldn’t be bothered to find the remote control, which would actually be just under the cushion the human-eye would be sitting on. It wouldn’t make toast, it would just put bread on the radiator to dry out.

Consequently, it is arguable that I do not have 3D vision in real life. It would certainly explain the lack of spatial and speed awareness which makes me such a liability on a football pitch or at a revolving door.

So why would I like to pay over the odds to see a simulation of somebody waving a bladder on a stick in my face, when I can’t even appreciate the effect of the simulation? I know that I can go to see the 2D version instead, but the content of these movies is geared up for 3D, so the bladder waving still goes on. 

This means not even a reduction in the ticket price for people who demonstrate an inability to see the 3D effect – in the same way as blind people get a rebate on their TV licences – would be enough to placate me.

Another example: on Saturday mornings, I take a youngster of my acquaintance to football training. He is understandably embarrassed to have me around, so I generally disappear off for an hour to the nearby university library, where I am an alumnus, and write this column, among other things. It is nice and quiet and there are no students around, it being a Saturday morning and students being students.

But I won’t be doing it any more. This week, when I entered the library I was told I now had to have a library card to use the facilities.

Fair enough, I thought. I’m quite shifty-looking. I could quite easily be a terrorist or small-scale book thief. Then I was told the library card would cost me £30 a year. I felt as if I’d walked into a clip joint. I was expecting a burly bouncer to sidle up behind me menacingly.

I know it’s only 30 quid, but it’s not the money, it’s the principle. And the money. An institution which I had previously subsidised, and continue to subsidise through my taxes, is now forced to make a few extra bob by fleecing honest members of the public who just want somewhere to sit down while already shelling out on football and parking fees which already go to the institution in question.

Also, I take a terrible passport photo and I don’t have any more room in my wallet for membership cards. I don’t want to have to remove the card which informs close relatives, in the event of my tragic and untimely death, that I do NOT want a tribute page to be set up in my name on Facebook.

I blame the current government, and the previous government, partly, but mostly the current government, which cannot see an institution acting for the public good without giving it a kicking and making it worse.

An incredible amount of damage is being done in the name of cutting the deficit. The state is being gleefully rolled back by an unholy alliance of Thatcherite vandals and right-wing Lib-Dems, while they tell us there is no alternative. And what we lose now in the public realm – the libraries, the swimming pools, the Sure Start centres – we will never get back, even in times of prosperity, because it is much easier to destroy than to build.

I can see that, even with my lazy eye.

COLUMN: March 16, 2011

I DON’T know if there is a word for that feeling of being almost certain that one is going to get away with something. It is not quite relief, but more a euphoric anticipation of relief. I think we will call it “prelief.”

The worst prelief comedown is the one on offer in family restaurants. When I enter one of these chain establishments en famille – and, really, in what other circumstances would one enter them? – my eyes dart about looking for balloons. Usually there are plenty of balloons and I just sit down, resigned to the fact of their existence.

But sometimes they hide them away and lull me into a false sense of prelief. And it is only near the end of the meal that the waitress, who up to that point was going to get a decent tip, brings across a bundle of helium-filled bags and asks the children which colour they would like. 

Nobody ever warns you that the worst thing about being a parent is having to deal with balloons.

If you allow me to take you through the stages of balloon ownership, perhaps you will understand…

Stage 1: Acceptance
The waitress brings the balloons to the table. If there are three children, there are three balloons. Each of the balloons is a different colour. Two of the children have the same favourite colour. There is only one balloon of that colour.

Stage 2: Negotiation
The balloons are distributed in accordance with the Iron Rule of Who Got Blue Last Time.

Stage 3: Docking
The balloons have been brought NEAR the end of the meal, not AT the end of the meal. Therefore, there is still some meal to be eaten. The balloons are taken away from the children and affixed to cruets, glasses, etc, but not too tightly, enabling later decoupling.

Stage 4: Retrieval
One of the balloons slips its not-too-tight mooring and races to the ceiling. The ribbon is not long enough. A grown man in his late thirties has to stand on a chair in full view of other diners and reach up, exposing his midriff. Several diners push their plates away in disgust.

Stage 5: Exodus 1
The balloons are attached to the pushchair as the family leave the restaurant. They are trapped inside the restaurant as the door closes.

Stage 6: Exodus 2
The balloons are reattached to the pushchair at face height. As the grown man in his late thirties pushes the chair through crowded shops, he is constantly smacked in the face and has his vision impaired.

Stage 7: Reunion
At the car, the balloons are handed back to the children. They are told to keep the balloons down so that a grown man in his late thirties can see out of the rear windscreen.

Stage 8: Crisis 
The balloons are not kept down. The grown man warns the children that the balloons will be popped if they don’t bloody keep them down. The balloons are not kept down. The grown man takes the balloons from the children. This puts the cry into crisis.

Stage 9: Prelief 
The grown man puts the balloons in the boot, carefully ensuring they do not fly away or there will be blue murder. Calm, he sits back in the driving seat and drives home. He puts all thoughts of balloons out of his mind.

Stage 10: Prelief Comedown 
The car arrives home. The grown man, all thoughts of balloons out of his mind, retrieves the shopping from the boot. The three balloons sail past his head and pathetically flailing hands. The youngest child notices. There is a reckoning.

If you are going to open a family restaurant and you have a sign in your window of a balloon inside a red circle with a red line through it, I will be your customer forever.

COLUMN: March 9, 2011

ARE you familiar with the film Finding Nemo? Let’s assume you are not, otherwise this column will be very short and I will have to fill up the space at the bottom with a cartoon.

It is about a pair of clown fish, father and son. The latter, Nemo, is captured by a collector of tropical fish. The rest of the film depicts his father’s attempts to find him – I believe this is the very action to which the title refers – and Nemo’s attempts to escape from the tank in which his captor, a Sydney dentist, has placed him.

This second thread amusingly uses the tropes of the prison movie to express the isolation and sense of imprisonment of the fish trapped in the aquarium. If the film has any sort of message, it is this: “Basically, fish don’t like being in tanks. It’s not nice for them. Stop it.”

So, I was surprised, when visiting a pet shop at the weekend, to discover that it sold an official Disney-licensed Finding Nemo fish tank, complete with a cheerful plastic Nemo figure. I know it is aimed at children, but the gap between the intent of the movie and the purpose of the licensed product is so wide James Corden and John Prescott could tandem parachute jump through it.

It’s not the first time I’ve experienced this disconnect. A much-missed auntie loved the music of John Lennon and wanted Imagine to be played at her Catholic funeral. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the resigned look on the face of the priest as the words “Imagine there’s no heaven . . . No hell below us. Above us only sky” rang around his church.

And, even in more recent times, our own dear Prime Minister, Dave “Dave” Cameron, has expressed appreciation of The Jam classic, Eton Rifles, presumably on the grounds that he is an Old Etonian and likes game shooting. “Sup up your beer and collect your fags” would have a different resonance, I suspect, to a man steeped in Slough Grammar mores.

Nevertheless, I wonder how this licence was given the green light. And here I am, wondering . . . 


What’s next, Ted?

You’ll have a good laugh at this one, VP. Right, listen. It’s a fish tank, yeah, and they want to license Finding Nemo! Ha, ha, ha!

Yes, that’s absolutely fine. Next?

Hang on, VP. The whole film is saying fish tanks are bad. It’s saying fish would rather take their chances with barracuda than div about in a glass box with a tiny scuba diver and treasure chest.

But they’re going to pay us a shedload of money?

Jeez, VP. We are so thorough we actually specify the size and shape of Mickey Mouse’s ears when companies license his image, but we’re going to let this one through?

Well, it’s not like they’re real fish.

They ARE real fish!

What, Nemo’s a real fish?

No! Hell’s teeth. This is just like the time they tried to slip that Toy Story 3 Melty-Toys Kiddie Furnace past us.

I still don’t see what was wrong with that, people will always need to incinerate toys. Anyway, the fish tank is approved. What’s next?

The Snow White Poison-Your-Apple Kit . . . Never mind, I’ll just rubber-stamp it.

I imagine that is exactly how it happened, unless Disney’s lawyers are reading, in which case I imagine that is not how it happened and that it was all perfectly sensible and above board.