2011: the Year of the Haircut

As a couple of you may be aware, the year changed from 2010 to 2011 a few weeks ago. Like most people, I celebrated with an adequate degree of raucousness, though my inhibitions – displaying typical lordship over the rest of my body – did not permit me to demean myself by, ahem, dancing, to the pre-midnight floorfiller (of sorts) ‘Come on Eileen’. Owing my intrinsic unadventurous streak, and due also in part to a total misjudgement of time, I spent the official pub countdown (which I maintain was four minutes early) at the bar, waiting in vain to be served while everyone else enthusiastically kissed and hugged one another. The altruist in me likes to think I was merely taking one for the team by removing myself from the immediate vicinity of other revellers. Doing so prevented me from inflicting myself on anyone and thus ensured everyone had the best opening to 2011 they possibly could. The rest of me just thought: ‘moron’.

The fact it’s now 2011 means I’m beginning my 20th year on the planet and further sets back my faint hope of turning out to be immortal. I’m growing old, and for someone as afraid of change as me, no longer being young is a fairly major inconvenience. I still haven’t got my head round the – to other people – fairly rudimentary notion that things change from time to time. For instance, I even fail to recognise my own hair’s ability to grow, which, you’re probably thinking, explains a lot.  I also tend to dismiss any growth as being insignificant and not worth a trip to the hairdressers, which usually turns out to be a surprisingly harrowing experience (most hairdressers seem to be labouring under the delusion that the word ‘haircut’ is interchangeable with ‘Spanish inquisition’).

I’m not at all a fan of the New Year’s resolution, in fact, I would go as far as to suggest they’re usually nothing more than an attention-seeking ploy. I liken them to being sponsored to do something silly for charity. Except, of course, it’s not for charity and you’re not being sponsored. In short, it’s just doing something silly, which is utterly pointless. Why give up chocolate if you really like it and you don’t fall into category of ‘obese’?

But at the start of 2011, I decided to form a pact with myself. The aim of said agreement (I refuse to use the term resolution) is for me to be more embracing of change and of taking action. I recently read a novel called ‘Eleven’ by Mark Watson. It’s about a man who decided, effectively, not to involve himself with other people at all, purely because he was afraid of the potentially wide-reaching consequences of his actions. But he soon came to realise it’s the things we don’t do that we come to regret more than the things we do: if we choose not to act, we develop a rueful feeling of ‘what might’ve been’. As humans, we seem to like certainty, even if it’s a case of: ‘I’m CERTAINLY not doing that again.’

So, I’ve decided not only to embrace change, but also to facilitate it. To take the plunge, as it were. So far I’ve booked a driving test, which happens in a couple of weeks; it’s highly likely that I’ll fail, but there’s a remote chance I might fluke it. I’ve also decided to bite the bullet and go to the hairdressers in the hope that the experience won’t be as terrifying as I remember it being. Normally, regardless of which hairdressers I go to, the place seems to be full of old people, prompting me to question whether my choice of establishment was the right one. But I’ve thought it through and arrived at the unusually (for me) optimistic conclusion that old people aren’t all that intimidating, and nor are the hairdressers themselves; is it really so wrong to have an unnatural interest in arbitrary details such as where the customer is going on holiday in the summer?

Another fear I hope to conquer this year is my irrational phobia of ringing people on the phone. Don’t be surprised if you get an unnecessary phone-call from a stammering, blustering me, but please be patient; you’ll be helping me out.

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A belated Christmas message masquerading as a review of 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen, I hope you all had a suitably wonderful Christmas – the intended theme of this blog post.

Despite the surprisingly creditable suggestions of Miss Worsick, I opted not to go along the tedious and unoriginal road of ranting passionately about the excessive commercialism of Christmas, purely because I’m far too excited about having received my espresso machine to utter so much as a single bad word about the wonderful, if heavily Coca-Colarised Father Christmas.

Instead, I decided I was going to talk about the Queen. I rather like the Queen; she’s an Arsenal fan and manages to make an excellent job of infuriating Prince Charles merely by being alive. But her Christmas message, I was going to write, tends to be remarkably similar year after year. This was going to be the theme behind this week’s tirade but, typically, she went for a completely different and rather brilliant angle this year.

She talked about the importance of sports within the context of our communities, which I decided to take as a subtle but significant dig at the Tories and their plans to scrap school sports partnership schemes. And then I remembered that Michael Gove last week announced that he had ‘found’ £112 million to continue the majority of these partnerships, though I’m not entirely sure how he happened to stumble upon said money. I like to imagine he simply wore a coat he hadn’t put on since the previous winter and, happily for the kids, dipped into the pocket to find (as we all do from time to time) an unexpected £112 million lying dormant inside its tweedy (he’s a Conservative) depths. And that, folks, was a stocking-filler-sized chunk of half-baked satire.

Understandably, this U-turn left me completely bereft of inspirational material: a definite problem. I even briefly considered describing in depth the technical specifications of my espresso machine but, fortunately for you, thought better of it. Instead, I have decided to sidestep Christmas itself and audaciously attempt to encapsulate 2010 with a few short paragraphs.

In 2010, a small percentage of the population will have learned a new word: bigot. There’s probably also a significant chunk of the Daily Mail readership who to this day don’t know what it means, but nevertheless saw it as their prerogative to be outraged at Gordon Brown because of that fateful faux pas. In the run-up to that farcical election, the British public witnessed a political X-factor in the shape of the televised leaders’ debates, with Nick Clegg playing the role of Wagner (which required incredible foresight given that, at this stage, Wagner was merely a retired PE teacher and karate enthusiast on incapacity benefits for his ‘frozen shoulder’). He was novel, seemed nice, charmed us for a few weeks and we all felt a bit sorry for him. But in the end the public voted for the same old rubbish they usually do.

A significant percentage of the population are probably now familiar with another new term, vuvuzela, though they undoubtedly wish they weren’t; not just because of the hideous noise they generate, but also because of bitter memories they recall.

We’ve also added a new infinitive phrase to our increasing vocabulary this year: ‘to do a Clegg’. You don’t need a university degree to decipher the meaning of this one, which will come as something of a relief to working class people reading this in a couple of years time (boom, more satire). But, just in case you missed it, something along the lines of ‘to go back on a massive promise that won you 40% of the national student vote at the general election’ will do nicely. For that reason, ladies and gentlemen, my synoptic quote of the year is a little pre-election gem (or April fool) from Mr. Clegg himself: ‘we will resist, vote against, campaign against any lifting of the tuition fees cap.’

Cheers mate. Happy New Year, folks.


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Driving – the bane of my existence

For the past two years, I have been trying to convince myself that there is absolutely no correlation between an innate ability to drive and intelligence. If there is such a link, I am one of the most stupid people on the planet.

Driving lessons have become something of a weekly torture of late, largely because I sit at the wheel, terrified, with an unwavering feeling I’m about to inflict death upon someone.

Not that I’ve ever killed, or indeed injured, anyone whilst driving, but there comes a point during every lesson where I’m convinced I’m about to plunge through the windscreen of my instructor’s 2009 Fiesta. When anything out of the ordinary happens (I consider such trifles as roundabouts to be out of the ordinary), I seem involuntarily to freeze and wait for the car to start operating itself. Sadly, I don’ think it works that way.

It’s frankly bizarre how two hours a week can dominate my life in such a malevolent way, but driving manages to pull it off with remarkable audacity. Immediately after each lesson, I spend a good hour quivering and frantically pacing the living room, rather like a cool down session following a period of strenuous exercise. Except, of course, there are very few exercises that make me fear for my future existence. I then spend the next week living in constant fear of my next lesson, pondering what is likely go wrong.

A strategy I’ve developed recently is getting myself hyped up on caffeine before the lesson, because everyone knows, as I keep reminding myself, that caffeine improves alertness and will therefore keep me alive, possibly, for the duration of the lesson. Unfortunately, the outcome of this otherwise wonderful ‘drug up ‘n’ drive’ philosophy is that I end up spending the lesson twitching and contracting my bladder for dear life; within about 10 minutes I usually find myself desperate for the toilet. If anything, this dilutes my concentration and I end up flirting with death with even more vivacity than I otherwise would.

It’s all very exasperating; perhaps I should accept that I’m simply cursed to a life of utilisation of public transport. In which case, it’s most unfortunate that I live in Britain, although I do rather like Virgin Pendolinos.


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Babbling Buffoonery – the Inane Wittering of Freddie Stewart

Owing to the overwhelming number of requests I’ve received (and by overwhelming numbers, I mean 2, perhaps 3, which are overwhelming in the sense that they are both more than 0), I have somewhat narcissistically decided to create a blog.

Essentially, this is the social networking equivalent of a state-owned enterprise undergoing privatisation; the state, of course, is Facebook. Facebook statuses are subject to government regulations and budgets – word limits – and everyone must, mandatorily, be involved in one way or another, whether by having the gross misfortune to read my inane ramblings, or by foolishly choosing to comment on them. Commenting on one of my statuses invariably results in one becoming the perplexed witness of a tirade of subsequent comments from members of my family that usually bare little-to-no relevance to the original post.

But by making the lucrative switch to private status, I hope to attract an abundance of foreign direct investment in the shape of avid and devoted readers who cling to my every release with zeal akin to that of Apple fans on iPad launch day.

Perhaps I’m being a little optimistic, but at least I’m giving people a choice about reading my babbling buffoonery.

Inane wittering is one thing that has a strong case for not being ‘state’ backed; university education, however, does not. Indeed, maybe it’s fitting that I should post this on the day that Nick Clegg officially declared his backbone missing. This is the most irksome thing about the coalition’s decision to raise tuition fees to a maximum of £9000 a year.

In truth, once commitments are made to cut state funding for universities by the eye-watering 80% the coalition has chosen to, an increase of some sort in tuition fees is probably justified morally and financially. But the 80% cut is simply ridiculous. Whilst it’s not a basic responsibility for a government to fund university education in the same way it does schools, it’s simply good business for them to; we need to be investing in a knowledge economy. Furthermore, giving universities the scope to charge what they like in tuition fees (up to £9000 annually) opens the doors for brazen elitism, where universities will inevitably charge on the basis of the quality of research they offer.

Bye, bye, social mobility.


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