U is for Uncommon Courtesy

No Rude People Allowed Photo by Wayne kelly
No Rude People Allowed
Photo by Wayne Kelly

Common courtesy. What is it? Well, for one thing, it certainly isn’t as common as it used to be (I now realise that statement makes me sound about a hundred years old, and you may now be picturing me smoking a pipe, squinting into the middle distance and chuntering about ‘the good old days’).

In reality, I’m a mere 36 but I don’t think that precludes me from bemoaning the moral decline of manners and decency towards others. I was brought up to be polite and show consideration to others – a fairly standard part of being a human being – or so I thought. I was obviously mistaken.

Just a few examples of my gripes:

1) Smiling and saying hello to someone, only to be ignored, rebuffed with a sullen grunt or to receive a menacing stare.

Two words: Miserable. Sods.

2) Holding a door open for the person behind you, for them to sail past without acknowledgement or gratitude.

Oh, I’m sorry, I forgot I’m invisible. I must remember to wrap myself in bandages next time I want to be seen.

3) Following an individual in to a building only to have the door closed in your face.

Remove your head from the dark place in which it currently resides and notice the similar-looking organisms that surround you – they’re called people, you self-absorbed imbecile.

4) Using your phone to listen to music in a public place – particularly on the bus – without the use of headphones.

Firstly, the kind of person likely to do this usually has awful taste in music. Secondly, music played through a tiny phone speaker sounds terrible anyway. Thirdly, headphones were invented a LONG time ago. Use them, you inconsiderate troglodyte.

And, at the risk of once more donning my ‘Old Man Withers’ pipe and slippers, it only seems to be getting worse. What next – someone using my shirt sleeve to wipe their nose? It’s coming . . . mark my words.

What are your pet hates when it comes to lack of etiquette and civility? Or perhaps you regularly indulge in some of the behaviour I have outlined and think I’m being a little over-zealous? Let me know your thoughts below.

This was my 21st post for the A-Z Blog Challenge. Follow the blog during April for more writing tips, inspirational life posts, short fiction, film-inspired articles and more songs with audio recordings. Next post – V for Vinyl. Why I love to put The Needle on The Black (with song and lyrics)

P is for Pigeon-Hole! Stop trying to put me in a box!

So many genres, so little time by Wayne Kelly
So many genres, so little time by Wayne Kelly

I think we would all agree that the Internet has brought with it a plethora of benefits for both the consumer and the producer of products, music, books and art.

As a musician, I can record a song in my garage and 5 minutes later I can have it online ready to be enjoyed by my masses of adoring fans (ahem. Well maybe just my mum and some weird bloke called Gideon, that refuses to leave me alone and says he knows where I live). The point is, there is potentially a massive audience that I can now sell or promote to directly.

The same can be said of books – never has it been easier to self-publish your work and release it to the public, eager to consume your literary genius.

However, we all know you can’t just throw it out there, willy-nilly. No. First it needs to be categorised, labelled and put in to one of the now countless genres and sub genres that have sprung up to worship the god of Marketing. It used to be Romance, Adventure, Sci-Fi, Horror, Comedy, Crime and maybe Literary. Now, one look down the genre list of Amazon is enough to make you wince. And that’s before you get in to all of the cross-over and sub genres.

Don’t even get me started on music!

Being Typecast . . .

Don’t get me wrong – I love that there is such a diverse range of material to choose from – what I object to is having to get everything I produce to fit, very neatly, in to one of these little boxes. And once I shoehorn it in there . . . that’s it – I’m now typecast as the Horror Writer, the YA Author or the Indie Musician.

I’ve had some personal experience of this with songs I have written . . . being criticised for being too eclectic! We wouldn’t know how to market that, mate, they say. Shouldn’t variety in our output be a good thing? This is why many popular artists and albums of recent times stick very rigidly to one genre, one style, one sound to ensure continued success. Apart from some notable exceptions (David Bowie, Stephen King et al), our mastery of Marketing has been to the detriment of making interesting art.

From The Beatles to The BFG

Have a listen to Revolver by The Beatles, or take a look at the range of books by Roald Dahl – no two songs or novels are the same. They didn’t bother to hang around trying to categorise what they were doing – they just wanted to produce work that interested and inspired them and that’s why their music and stories still resonate today and will continue to do so for a very long time.

I know using genres and labeling your work is a necessary evil and now impossible to avoid – but don’t let it dictate what you produce for the rest of your career.

What are your thoughts on the rise of classification and the complexity of genre? Is it good for your audience and good for you? Am I whinging without good reason? I would love to hear your comments below.

This was my 16th post for the A-Z Blog Challenge. Follow the blog during April for more writing tips, inspirational life posts, short fiction, film-inspired articles and more songs with audio recordings. Next post – Q – It’s always the Quiet Ones who are Writers.

I is for Imitation – the sincerest form of flattery. Honest!

I really am a very sensible, mature individual. Honest.
I really am a very sensible, mature individual. Honest.

I have a problem. It has been with me for as long as I can remember and over the years it has been the cause of both embarrassment and harassment. Many people would (and have) argued that it only requires some self-control and discipline to prevent it occurring, but I genuinely do feel powerless to stop it from happening.

The condition to which I refer is variously described as FAS (Foreign Accent Syndrome), Extreme Social Empathy or Childish Mockery. It’s usually the latter term that my friends and relatives like to use, but I can only assume that this is because they are insensitive bounders, ignorant to my plight.

You see, to put it bluntly, when I find myself in the company of people with foreign or regional dialects for any amount of time, I feel compelled to mimic their accents and speech patterns. I have “why aye’d” to Geordies, “Have a nice day’d” Americans and even said “How-you-say” to an English-speaking Frenchman. This is usually met with bewilderment, derision, embarrassment and – on at least one occasion – aggression.

Playing to stereotype, the threats of violence were the result of ordering “a wee bit of haggis” from a Scottish chip shop.

However, now I have a powerful ally in my claim to innocence: Science. Several studies have now shown that it is simply human nature to adopt the accents, etiquette or dietary preferences (ok, I lied about the last one) of those around you. The theory is that as a social species, humans have developed the ability to empathise with different types of people, just as we adapt to different environments and surroundings. It’s really nothing more than an evolutionary survival instinct.

So, in some ways, I’m actually a very highly developed example of the human race. Or just an immature man that likes to do silly voices. You decide.

Am I alone in my affliction? What embarrassing social ineptitude are you guilty of?

This was my 9th post for the A-Z Blog Challenge. Follow the blog during April for more writing tips, inspirational life posts, short fiction, film-inspired articles and even some songs with audio recordings. Next post – J is for Jokes. Being funny is no laughing matter.

H is for History – Don’t forget the ‘STORY’ part!

1940's themed day at great central railway, quorn, leicestershire
The Baldwin Family, 1940’s Theme Day at Great Central Railway, Leicestershire by Wayne Kelly. It’s people and their story that can bring History to life.

Why is History often taught so badly? Firstly I must say that this is not a statement designed to alienate any teachers that may be reading this post – merely an observation based on my experiences as a child. I should also say that I have heard tell of some inspirational History teachers, who have a flair and a talent for bringing to life the past. I just haven’t met any myself. Our History lessons went something like this:

TEACHER: Battle of Hastings!

PUPIL: 1066, sir!

TEACHER: How many wives did Henry VIII have?

PUPIL: 6, sir?

TEACHER: Who led the NAZI’s in World War II?

PUPIL: Errr . . . were they the bad guys, sir?

TEACHER: Come on, come on! Here’s a clue . . . he had a little moustache.

PUPIL: Oh . . .Charlie Chaplin, sir?

TEACHER: Get out, boy.

When I was a lad (he said, as if harkening back to some golden age – but was actually during the 80’s and 90’s) I enjoyed most of my time at school. Like everyone else, I had the subjects I was more drawn to (English and Design) and the others that I often felt were lurking there, directly after lunch, ready to sap the life out of me. One of the latter group was, unfortunately, anything to do with History.

In fact, during my school days, there wasn’t even a subject devoted to History as it was covered by the bland management-speak title of Humanities. In practice Humanities covered Sociology, History and anything else that found itself orphaned by the fickle father known as The National Curriculum. As such it really wasn’t given any kind of focus, and when we did spend a few weeks learning about ‘The Tudors’ or ‘The Industrial Revolution’ it seemed to be taught with the sole purpose of embedding a handful of important names and dates in to our tiny developing minds – like teaching a chimp to play a tune on a piano in reward for a nice ripe banana. Or, in our case, a possible C grade in our GCSE exams.

We were given facts and figures and taught to regurgitate them to pass a test. For me, the result of this was to turn me off to the fascinating and important events of the past. It was only as I got older and was introduced to History in different ways that I realised just how much stuff I had missed out on. Initially it was watching films like The Killing Fields and Schindler’s List, which made me want to actively search out more information from documentaries and books.

More recently, my dad suggested I read Conn Iggulden’s series of novels based on the life of Genghis Khan. I have to admit, I wasn’t entirely convinced that I would even make it through the first chapter, as Historical fiction has never been appealing to me. To my astonishment and delight, I was hooked after the first paragraph and devoured the entire series in a matter of weeks.

What did all of these examples have in common? They all centred around a great story and engaging characters. That those stories and characters were based on real events only served to give them more impact.

Thankfully, in recent times, things have improved somewhat. The Horrible Histories series of books and television programme have managed to attract many more youngsters to a subject that children often thought to be dry and boring. Morpurgo’s brilliant ‘War Horse’ novel, and subsequent play and film, is another excellent example of what can be achieved by focusing on what really matters – telling the story. In the hands of a skilled story-teller – a film-maker, a novelist, a teacher – History can and should be compulsive, addictive and able to engage even the most hardened cynic.

If I can learn to love History – anyone can.

What are your experiences of being taught History? What engages you?

This was my 8th post for the A-Z Blog Challenge. Follow the blog during April for more writing tips, inspirational life posts, short fiction, film-inspired articles and even some songs with audio recordings. Next post I is for Imitation, the sincerest form of flattery – honest!

Stop Moaning and Make It Happen! Change Your Life.

Find a job you love.

I have spent the last 3 years working as a Soundman/Producer/Editor for a video production company. Much to the annoyance of some of my friends, I actually love my job.

There are probably even some of you reading this now who will also find that statement a little smug. It really isn’t meant to be. I’m just stating a fact. It hasn’t always been the case, either, which is why I feel I’ve earned the right to say it. It took me over a decade to get my life sorted out and to find my way in to something that was right for me. It seemed like a very long time coming, involved lots of hard work and more than a little good luck.

My employment journey has lead me down the winding country road of lowly paid customer service jobs, across the bridge of retail management and into what was ultimately the cul-de-sac of a career in banking.

An interesting voyage which also lead to me having a bag of frozen peas exploded in my face and an illegal immigrant lady squirting breast milk at me. I’ll explain that later.

But now I’m happy. Here’s how it happened and why I think anyone can change the direction of their life if they really want to.

So you didn’t get a degree? Big deal!

I won’t dwell on the details but 3 years after completing my A Levels and having returned for a failed one year stint at University (Multimedia Computing?! What was I thinking?) I decided I would have a go at something I enjoyed. So I spent about 18 months touring around the country singing and performing with a cover band, whilst keeping a few hours going at the supermarket I had been working at since college.

It was great fun while it lasted, we even played on a cruise ship for a while – ok, ok it was a booze cruiser that went between Portsmouth and St Malo in France and we only lasted 10 days – but that really is another story for another day. I wanted to get my own place and that meant settling down to a ‘real’ job for a while.

Frozen Food Attacks & Breast Milk – my career in Retail.

It was time to ditch my Rock n Roll credentials (ha!) and turn to the dark side of Retail Management. So I became a checkout manager and also had responsibility for the then new initiative of Home Shopping. Let’s be clear, I tried very hard but it wasn’t really my bag. You try being 22 and attempting to get a menopausal woman with anger management issues to calm down after you’ve told her she has to wait for another ten minutes until her tea break.

That wasn’t how I ended up with Birdseye vegetables rolling down my face though. That happened as a result of asking some lovely late night shoppers to make their way to the till as we were about to close. I asked nicely and they returned the favour by bursting a bag of frozen peas over my head.

The breast milk incident came as a result of helping to apprehend a shop-lifting Eastern European lady. A few security guards and myself went haring after the highly trained master thieves (3 women, with a push chair and a baby). When we caught up with them, one of them immediately started taking her clothes off until she was naked. The 2 security guards quickly released their grip on her from embarrassment and she ran off before being arrested a few minutes later by the local police (it was her bad luck that she ran past Starbucks where the officers were enjoying a Frappucino and a donut).

Meanwhile, my suspect tried a different tactic: exposing her lactating breasts and attempting to squirt milk at me. We somehow managed to bundle her into the security room at the store where she then proceeded to lift her dress and repeat the phrase:

“Me give you baby.”

No thanks.

I changed career shortly afterwards.

The Bank Job whilst I planned my Great Escape.

I decided to take a complete change of direction whilst I thought about where I really wanted to go with my life. That’s the best explanation I can give for deciding to train as a bank manager. Despite the bad press that they are currently receiving, my experience in retail banking wasn’t all bad. I met some great people and still keep in touch with some of them – usually when they get my number mixed up with that of The Samaritans. They’re having a tough time at the moment (I’m not talking about the multi-millionaire fatcats here, I mean ordinary folk just doing their job).

It wasn’t long after I started a career in Finance that I really started to think about pursuing a career in video. I have always had an interest in writing, editing and music and I had a close friend that had worked in video since leaving University, so I began probing him (with questions, gutter-mind).

Obviously, without experience or qualifications it was going to be an uphill struggle and for a long time I found it hard to maintain the faith in myself that I would be able to make it. I even met with a friend of my friend (now my good friend and colleague, Matt) with a view to helping him set up a new company, but at that time I had just become a Dad, and in truth I really wasn’t sure what I could add to his venture. That was the first lesson I learned: If you let doubts creep in, you will just give up and fail. Which at that time is exactly what happened.

Focus on doing what you love.

With each week that passed at the bank I knew that I was in the wrong job and that I would have to start making big changes if I was to turn things around. So I began to research, read and watch everything I could possibly find to do with Video Production. I knew that I had to turn theory in to practice so decided I would build a website and offer to produce music videos for local bands. I pushed against all of the nagging doubts and just went out and did it.

I began to learn how to edit and put shots together and I was starting to have a great time doing it. I suddenly found I had loads more energy and passion. It was about this time that fortune smiled upon me in that my working hours were changed and I had to work on Saturdays. On the face of it, this was bad news, but in reality it meant that I would gain a day off in the week. And how did I spend my day off? Relaxing and watching TV? No.

The guy that I had been unable to work with a couple of years before (Matt) offered me the chance to use that day working for him. This was an amazing opportunity that I grabbed with both hands. Here was a chance to get experience working for a video production company – to see how interviews were cut together, to learn professional software packages, to organise shoots and learn how to record sound with an SQN mixer.

Work hard – but on the right things.

However, don’t go thinking that this didn’t involve working hard. It did. I was working 6 days a week, as well as fitting in extra editing or accompanying Matt on shoots whenever I got the chance. I even went on shoots when I was on holiday from my main job. I worked hard, but it felt great because I was actually doing something, whereas before I just moped and hoped that something would just happen.

When I made a conscious decision to make changes and get off my backside and just go and do stuff, things did start to happen. Eventually my persistence and blind faith paid off. Matt reached a point in the business where he could offer me a full time job. It worked great for both of us: he had a trained member of staff and someone he knew could trust and I’d been able to learn the trade from the ground up whilst keeping a roof over my family.

I know I have been incredibly fortunate and I recognise that to a certain extent my ‘boat came in’ – however I still had to row out to meet it. Somebody took a big chance on me, but only because I had shown that I was willing to take a big chance on myself.

Well go on then – get on with it!

Whether you want to be a hair dresser or a trapeze artist, it won’t happen just by wondering about it. I hate to state the obvious, but you need to actually do things. Don’t look too far in to the future, trying to find potential barriers to your progress. Just take each day at a time and keep moving forward.

Stop moaning and make it happen. It’s never too late to change your life.

PS – Does anyone want to buy a Soap Box? Going cheap. I’ll even throw in a few overused cliches with it.

As always, I would love to hear your feedback. Please feel free to subscribe,  follow me on Twitter or just get in touch for a chat.

Suze Muze has written a great post on 10 Signs That You Have Found Your True Passion

Check out where I work – www.mglmedia.tv

TV to die for. If ‘Boredom’ was a disease.

BAD TV. We’ve all been there . . .

Ok, you’ve just watched the first segment of a TV programme about ‘Dave’ – a man with an irrational fear of pastry who has just returned to his job at the local cake factory after a 3 year break. He is traumatised, but takes his first real step to recovery when he handles a box of jam tarts. The big question is: How will he cope when he is asked to put the filling in to the short crust apple pies? Join us after the break to find out – when we’ll also see how Dave takes his wife’s ultimatum (cut to shot of Dave’s wife):

“You either eat my steak and kidney pie or we’re finished, Dave!”

Oh, the excitement.

I’m tired and it’s a slow TV night, so for some reason that currently escapes me, I make myself a cup of tea and return to await the fate of Dave and his pastry paranoia.
Cue irritating musical sting, followed by a patronising voiceover

“Before the break we met Dave, a self confessed scaredy-cat when it comes to pastry based products. He’s been fighting his phobia for over 3 years now, following his horrific industrial accident involving a giant mixing bowl. The incident left him with terrible mental scars and quite a nasty flour intolerance.”

We see a montage of shots that we just watched less than 10 minutes ago. Voiceover lady continues, unaware of my growing annoyance:

“We saw how the phobia had changed his home life with his wife Mandy and how he is now bravely fighting back by returning to his job at the local cake factory. Dave managed to successfully pack a box of jam tarts, but how will he cope with his next challenge?”

The logical part of my brain tells me that this recap is predominantly for those people who missed the first segment of the programme. It gives the late comers a chance to catch-up and hopefully increase the viewing figures.

However, another part of my brain says ‘Oh, you missed the beginning of the show? Tough! Get over it. Catch the repeat if you’re that perturbed or, better still, use your mind and intellect to work out what’s happened and fill in the gaps yourself’!

The ‘Infinity Re-cap

As if this wasn’t bad enough, we get exactly the same sequence of events at the beginning of the next segment, and the one after that until the end of the show. Only each ‘recap’ is longer than the previous update as the producers seem to feel the need to recap everything that has gone before. So in the end you have a programme that is scheduled for an hour. Of that hour there are approximately 15 minutes worth of commercials, taking the content down to 45 minutes. Then you have to factor in at least 25 minutes of recap footage, for those of us with early onset of dementia. Making the content of a supposedly 1 hour show, a mere 20 minutes. And this is when looking at UK TV – I wouldn’t even want to do the math for a US show.

Kitchen Nightmares USA

Speaking of US shows, I have now had to give up on ‘Kitchen Nightmares USA’. I was a big fan of the UK version of Ramsay’s culinary swear fest, but the US version is so dumbed down, I’d get more mental stimulus watching my underwear go round in the washing machine for an hour. Not only does it suffer from the ‘recap to infinity’ syndrome, it also has a bad case of ‘over dramatisation-itis’.

“There is full scale panic in the kitchen as Chef Ramsay discovers that one of the chefs has over seasoned the pork,” growls Hollywood Voiceover man.

“Hmm, there’s a bit too much salt in this mate,” Ramsay calmly states.

“Oh. Ok.” replies the chef.

My God, the drama, the tension. It’s almost unbearable. Hollywood Voiceover man then precedes to give a brief outline of the above conversation (that we have watched literally seconds before). We are also treated to a slow motion replay of the salt being poured into a saucepan and Ramsay tasting the dish. After a few minutes of this, I almost long for the post commercial recaps we get on some trashy UK programmes.

BBC & HBO – The Good Guys

This always happens to me when I decide to stray away from the tried and trusted providers of HBO and The BBC. Thankfully both of these are still making great TV. From HBO’s The Wire (only just being shown on British terrestrial TV this week) to The BBC’s Rome (actually BBC/HBO co-production) and dozens of others in between, they really are miles ahead of the competition. In fact, I will be writing a future post going in to more detail about what makes their programming stand out.

But for now I will try to wipe my mind of the ‘infinity recap’ and the mind numbingly banal subjects of most of our TV schedules these days, by digging out an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. 40 minutes of unpredictable BS-free comedy.

Just to recap . . . at the beginning of the blog we discovered how the author was annoyed with inane, repetitive recaps of events he’d only just witnessed. We then went on to look at . . . . . ok, let me just file that joke away in the file marked ‘Labouring A Point’.

As usual, I would love to hear your feedback, along with suggestions for future rants and musings. Please Retweet, follow and recommend to your heart’s content.

Will The Real St Patrick Please Stand Up!

B’Jesus, b’gorrah, and top o’ the mornin’ to ye.

Yes, horrible isn’t it? It’s also a perfect example of the lazy stereotyping that drinks manufacturers now resort to when marketing ‘St Paddy’s Day’.

As someone who actually has some Irish heritage – my grandad is from Kilkenny (check the surname if you please) you’d think that I’d get all excited about St Patricks’s Day. Especially as Guinness is genuinely my alcoholic beverage of choice. Indeed, only a few years ago I did really look forward to going down to my nearest boozer, indulging in a bit of the old ‘diddly-dum’ music and finding an excuse to down a few more pints of the black stuff.

Admittedly, there’s always been a large contingent of ‘Plastic Paddy’s’ who stand at the bar spouting about ‘The Old Country’ when the nearest they’ve been to Ireland is watching the Irish Derby in the bookies. I’d be lying if I said my claim to being Irish was particularly convincing: I have an Irish grandparent which makes me a ‘quarter Irish’. Embarrassingly, in my youth I would regularly tell my friends this, as if I was somehow special.

“I’m not actually English, you know – I’m a quarter Irish.”

Unsurprisingly, I was a lonely child.

Anyway, the point is, I didn’t mind that. It was to be expected; we don’t need much of an excuse to go and get inebriated. However, with each passing year I’ve seen the hype get more ridiculous as the massive marketing machine of the drinks companies has gone in to overdrive. Which leads to my experience on this year’s ‘festivities’.

There is an Irish bar that myself and my colleague try and get to at least one lunchtime of a week (preferably Friday – makes us feel like we deserve it). We both love Guinness and this bar does the best pint for miles. We thought we’d pop down there at lunchtime on Tuesday to sample the ‘real Irish’ atmosphere – ‘It’s Your Paddy’s Day’ as one of the many banners hanging around the place pronounced.

Imagine our horror, as I try to describe the scene that we found on our arrival.

First of all, the place was heaving. That I can handle -the place needs all the custom it can get. I just took issue with the kind of people that were in there. These folks made the afore mentioned ‘Plastic Paddy’s’ look like the real thing. Grown adults dressed in complete Leprachaun costumes, complete with stick-on white sideburns. And that was just the women.

Then came the adhoc souvenir store that had been set-up next to the bar, selling the obligatory green hats, ‘I Do It For The Craic’ T-shirts and even plastic 4 leaf clover key rings. And there was a queue of people waiting to buy all that shite. People, I hasten to add, I have never seen in that pub before. They just saw the big green ‘St Paddy’ Bandwagon rolling in to town and thought ‘ooh that looks fun’. Fun? Since when did a big knees up down the pub become Theme Night In The Asylum?

Then, just to finish things off nicely, there was a selection of ‘Oirish’ music being played by a DJ that was actually pretending to mix the tracks. At one point he faded the next record up to early and it sounded like an Accordionist was falling down some stairs. Then came the penny whistle solo. A sound I love to hear live when I’m standing in a pub in Ireland, maybe with a nice acoustic guitar and a violin. What I’m not so keen on is when it’s played through a sound system that has all the sonic charm of a rusty gate. The treble was so offensive that at one point one of my ear drums actually left my body and went round the corner for a Starbucks.

Wincing, I took another look around the room to see dozens of be-hatted freaks pretending to enjoy their pints of Guinness, despite the fact it’s the first time they’ve ever tasted it, and saying things like:

“Mmmm, it’s really creamy isn’t it? I love a bit of stout, me”

Ok, ok, I know I’ve probably over-laboured the point here a bit and it may surprise you to find out that I definitely don’t want to get rid of St Patricks Day. Pubs are struggling, with as many as 6 closing every day, so promotions that can bring in this amount of business are a necessity. You would probably also say ‘well why don’t you just not go out on St paddy’s you miserable sod?’ And you’d be dead right.

Which is why my final suggestion is this: How about we have our own Real St Patrick’s Day to be held annually on March 18th? The pubs would be nice and quiet – at least all the ‘Plastic Paddy’s’ would be too hung over from the previous day’s exertions to bother us. We could get a nice acoustic combo in to supply the entertainment. All Leprechaun outfits and cheap souvenirs would be banned and there would be a test question on the door: What was it that Patrick actually did to become a saint? And the answer ‘something to do with snakes?’ would not suffice.

So put the date in your diary and I’ll see you all next year. 2010 really will be ‘Our St.Patrick’s Day’. The real one.

If you liked this or any of my other posts, feel free to comment, subscribe or just tell your friends. Your feedback and subscriptions are appreciated.

Fellow Geeks Unite! Are We Not Men?

Most of the time I feel like a fairly capable, intelligent person. And whilst I have all of the athletic prowess of a common garden snail and the physique of Benny Hill, for the most part I am assured of my masculinity and social standing.

Fair enough, I wasn’t educated at Oxford or Cambridge nor was I prop forward (don’t even know if that’s an actual Rugby position) for my school team but I did play a bit of footy and didn’t shy away from the odd rough tackle (no, that isn’t a euphemism).

So why is it that now, in my early 30’s, there are still 2 topics that make me feel like I do in that recurring dream that everyone has where you find yourself standing in your PE class wearing a girl’s gym slip? (What do you mean, you’ve never had that dream before?) And the dual causes for this sudden reduction in my masculinity and self belief? DIY and Football talk.

Just because I don’t follow a particular football club or have no interest in how to put up a set of shelves using self refracting monkey bolts, I immediately become a social pariah.

I once had a 15 minute conversation with a taxi driver about how badly the ‘Blues’ were playing that season. I managed to blag my way through a quarter of an hour by nodding my head sagely and saying “exactly,” and “yeah, good point,” etc, until eventually he asked me who my favourite ‘Blues’ player was (no, I didn’t say Muddy Waters or Howlin’ Wolf – he was reffering to a football team). I scrambled for a few seconds and then, with great relief, I managed to recall the one ‘Blues’ player that I knew at that time. There was a momentary pause as the driver processed this information.

“But he plays for Leicester City . . .” he said.
“Yes, I know” I confidently retorted.
“But we’ve been talking about Birmingham City for the entire journey!”

That was pretty much the end of the conversation and the final ten minutes of the journey were painfully silent, save for the gentle jingling of the driver’s Birmingham City mascot hanging from the rear view mirror.

As mentioned earlier, my other weakness comes in the form of DIY or anything that requires what ‘manual types’ refer to as ‘common sense’ or ‘being good with your hands’ – mind you, the latter was said about Bill Clinton and look how that ended. Because of my general lack of interest in this area and, it has to be said, my past ineptitude, I tend to avoid doing any home improvement activity that involves anything more complicated than changing a fuse or ‘turning it on and off again’.

However, it was a recent conversation I had with one of those very ‘manual types’ whilst waiting around at my daughter’s parents evening a couple of weeks ago that spurred me in to action. Once again my stupid bloody machismo has lead me in to a trap. He was a nice guy, and we got on to the subject of houses etc. He was explaining all of the jobs he still has yet to complete in his home. My fiancee cackled like The Wicked Witch of The West and then very kindly brought it to the guy’s attention that I was completely useless at DIY and that we always paid someone else to do stuff like that. Within those few seconds after the proclaimation of my fecklessness, all of his warmth and laughter died . His smile became a frown and he repeated the words as if searching for some hidden meaning.

“You. Don’t. Do. DIY? You CAN’T do DIY?”

In that moment of embarrassment and shame I became resolute: I CAN DO DIY. I WILL DO DIY. Goddammit! Am I Not A Man?!

Which leads us to my attempt, this morning, to reseal around our bath and replace the beading. It’s been leaking for a while. It’s a very straight forward job. Remove the old stuff. Clean it down, dry it off and get resealing. Simple. Easy. I can do that. So please, would you be so kind, as to explain to me why it took me over an hour to do it, and when I finally gave up – I mean, ‘finished’ – did it look like a small child had spilt a vat full of correction fluid around my bath? And just to compound and confirm my failure my daughter surveyed the damage, tilted her head to one side and with a patronising tone seldom heard from one so young said:

“Never mind, Dad. At least you tried really hard.”

Half an hour later the tube of sealant lay in the bin and the remnants of my tool kit was up for auction on Ebay. It’s time to accept what I am. I may not be a walking Football encyclopaedia or have a working knowledge of how to use the detachable Sparrowflange, but I’m still a man.

I’d like to see how one of those ‘manual types’ would cope if I asked them to edit a 2 minute interview from 2 hours worth of footage and then encode me a 2-pass MPEG2 file with a maximim bitrate of 7.2.

Yeah. I’d show them.

Let me know if you’ve had any similar ‘feeling like a geek/nerd/loser’ experiences.

Fellow geeks unite! After all, are we not men too?

Website Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑