I swear it’s all out of proportion

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On Saturday, I went to my second live football match. This, for anyone who knows me, is an astounding revelation and one that should be rightly yelled from the rooftops – or at least here on However, there has been a piece of news that over the past few days has astounded me so much that instead I’m doing a little story splicing – and show why I think the world and its media are edging toward insanity.
So, the match. I’d never been to a football ground before, mainly because I have always had a passionate dislike of the over-promoted, money-leeching game. However, after four years of a football-loving girlfriend, I felt that it was about time I tried to understand it. Oli, the boyfriend of Michelle’s sister, managed to get us tickets for Queen’s Park Rangers, and off we all trotted up to White City yesterday afternoon to watch them play Nottingham Forest.
White City was the home of the QPR stadium – and my first impressions allowed me to put another area of London on my “Never Willingly Visit” list. The area is named after the neverending Prisoner-Cell-Block-H-style housing estate that stretches for miles. It is also the home of the BBC, and as I emerged from the tube station, as I was approached by a number of leafleters. “Want to protest against the Jerry Springer opera?” they asked. “No”, I muttered, thinking that they must be individual nutcases, intent on being the David to the BBC’s Goliath. I hurried past.
After visiting a local pub, we entered the ground, settling into our seats half an hour before the game began. The match was enjoyable – despite QPR being the wrong side of the 3-0 scoreline – but it is in the crowd’s reaction that my main thrust lies. For throughout the ninety minutes, abuse was hurled at any player who didn’t perform perfectly every time, and further abuse was dealt to those in the crowd who didn’t agree totally with the abusers point of view. Kids the age of 5 and 6 were at the ground, swearing their heads off because they thought it was the thing to do. Players were booed by the opposing supporters for anything they did and any player who dared to venture into a corner was attacked from both sides by the crowd. I can almost understand why footballers are paid so much. At least they can afford counselling.
However, it was an enjoyable day, full of tension, despair, fun with friends and a temperature that successfully kicked off round two of my neverending cold.
While yesterday’s match was in progress, the BBC was being hauled over the public coals for broadcasting an opera based on the Jerry Springer Show. A clever operatic idea, i thought – combine televisual guff with high-minded opera and cross a wide spectrum of viewers. Plus, the schedulers can wallow in being “edgy”. But the media and religious groups have been up in arms about the swearing and blasphemy – and true, there was substantial numbers of both, as I noticed when I watched the thing last night to see what all the fuss was about. It was, in reality, a clever spoof on the whole genre of chat shows, and remarkably funny in some parts. I also watched news coverage of the protests on ITV News just as it was being screened. A female protester was detailing how appalling the opera was, how no one should see it. And then the reporter asked if the protester had already seen it. The protester paused – and then said that she hadn’t. I’ll wager the majority of the protesters hadn’t seen even a second of it.
The media weren’t to be abated though and focused on the swear words, while the religious groups thrust their intimidating vective on the blasphemy. The Sun, of all people, managed to convey their disgust – this from a paper that dismisses the topless Page 3 girls as a “bit of harmless fun“. Which, of course, they are. Protests outside BBC studios ensued, BBC employees addresses and phone numbers were published on websites, causing them to go into hiding (“would these religious fanatics consider that Godly behaviour?” I wondered sarcastically) and the papers were all over the story like a rash.
So, how many swear words are we talking here? The Daily Mail announces, in an increasingly self-righteous tone, that it “has 8000 swear words”. That, firstly, is utter tosh. The number was miraculously reached, says the Mail, by “multiplying the number of profanities by the amount of people singing them”. In reality, and ignoring the fact that there’s a load of backing singers, the Mail on Sunday admits today that the real number is “under 300”.
And that’s considerably fewer than the number I and many seven year old children heard in just one of the football stands yesterday afternoon. And this happens up and down the country, every weekend. Not that I condemn it, of course – all that’s needed is a little perspective from those blinkered protesters.
So, if you want to stop your children swearing, as at least four protesters contended in their interviews yesterday, don’t protest in the freezing cold against a late night, once-shown programme. Just leave your kids at home when you next go to a football match.
UPDATE: Bloggerheads has some comments here, here and here. You go, Tim!

Another Day, Another Birthday

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“There is still no cure for the common birthday.”
John Glenn
Nick’s girlfriend Sarah was next to be ticked off the March birthday list. It was decided that a bout of bowling might be a good start, something Michelle and I have never really got the hang of. The night was going as expected – my score was rock bottom of the leader board. Noting the Miles Per Hour gauge on each bowling lane, and factoring in my incredibly poor skittle aiming, I hit on pure comedy gold. “The player with the fastest bowl wins!” I bellowed, and with that battle commenced. Competitive cries of “slowcoach” and “loser” bandied about, and somehow I still managed to lose. Stomachs rumbling, we bundled out for a meal, on the way remembering to give the “electric shock” machine a go. We eventually left crying with laughter, re-enacting Nick’s contorted face of pain as he held on to the electric conductors. Poor fool.
And on we went to the Yellow River Caf?. An hour later, and full to our brims, all of us waddled back to Sarah’s house to settle down with drinks, song and revelry. I was tremendously excited, and spent the rest of the night constructing devilish cocktails.
Finally, the hazy but highly enjoyable Saturday night came to an end. Night had fallen, and so had I, many times over imaginary objects. Sensing it was time to go, Michelle and I called a taxi. It only occurred to us after we’d actually set off for home that we had no money to offer the poor man. We ordered him to stop at the first available cash machine. “Sorry – out of order”, announced the infernal thing, rapidly flashing the message as if boasting at its lack of forethought.
So, it was back into the taxi, and on to the next hole in the wall. I approached it, confident that this one would allow me into its financial bowels and relieve it of ?20. “This cash machine is unable to dispense cash at this time.” I’m ashamed to say I kicked the bloody thing in sheer frustation. The taxi meter was clicking away louder than ever when I returned to the car.
Eventually, 15 minutes after we set off on a 3 minute journey, we were dropped off at a working cash machine. Not wishing to push our luck, we bade the driver goodnight and stumbled homeward.

RealPlayer alternative

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Tired of Realplayer hogging your computer with spyware and adverts? There is another way. Uninstall it, and read the following (originally from here):
“The BBC made a unique deal with Real Networks which disposes of their spyware tactics. Basically, if a user clicks on a link (this one) to download Real Player from a BBC website, the referrer script sends them to a page where they can download an expiry-free, spyware-free and nuisance-free version of the player. It’s because the BBC have such a stringent public service remit, that it was offensive to charge people a license fee for BBC content, then make them pay all over again for the facility to view/listen to it.”

Car Bill

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I should have known when the car mechanic who had just phoned took a sharp intake of breath. “Well,” he said, “you basically need new brakeshoes and retaining spring, new front brake discs and pads, a new handbrake cable,” (christ) “new exhaust, new plugleads,” (good god) “new camcover gasket and oil seal, and of course the 80,000 service. ?900, all in, plus VAT, needless to say.” (Jesus).
I swore frequently during his long list, and started feeling a little light headed, swaying to and fro in the breeze.
Picking myself off the floor, I began to assess my options. It was a right humdinger for a Wednesday afternoon – Either I pay ?900 + VAT for a service on a car which in reality had 100,000 miles on the clock, and will probably find another way to lighten my wallet fairly soon, or I buy a new car. Hmmm.

I pick up my spanking new car on Wednesday. A Peugeot 306, still but a new dark green 2 litre XSI version with alloy wheel, air conditioning and a cd player. Oh JOY! Now, just the ?300 to get the old car mobile to part exchange it, and the ?200 a month for the new one…