Sunday, 30 December 2007

Auld Lang Syne and all that

The more observant among you may have noticed the dearth of blog entries over the past week or so. I had a little Christmas holiday - how cheeky of me! I'm almost back into the blogging spirit now, but I think you'll have to wait until 2008 for a proper new post. Roll on the New Year! Can't say I'm sad to see the back of 2007; not exactly a vintage year for Giraffe-a-licious. But it did witness the birth of Ponderings and Ruminations; and for that I'm sure you are all most grateful!

Friday, 21 December 2007

Tory-graph thieves!

The cheek of it! I open up my newspaper today and what do I find? An article telling me all about the 'there weren't three kings' issue. The Daily Telegraph have evidently been reading my blog! They claim it is written in response to the Archbishop of Canterbury's comments on the subject, so maybe it's Dr Williams who is a Giraffe-a-licious fan! I'll have to see about getting myself invited to the Lambeth conference this year. I'll sort them all out!

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Ponderings on power

I've been prompted to ponder lately just what type of person it is that wants to run the country. Surely it is one of the most thankless tasks around? Yet huge amounts of money and effort are poured into electoral and party leadership campaigns as the various candidates clamour for media coverage. I'm not saying that I don't understand why one might want to enter into politics. No doubt the majority of MPs get into the game with the belief that they can make changes for the good to help both their constituents and the wider population.

I'd like to use my local MP as an example; Philip Hollobone is a Conservative MP. He doesn't hold a cabinet position or have any particular prominence in the House of Commons. He is truly a representative of his constituency. He has all of the advantages and disadvantages of being a member of the opposition; he can argue with the government and give them a piece of his mind without having to worry about upsetting his boss, but most likely struggles to implement much real change due to the lack of influence suffered by most opposition members. This year he received some national publicity having been revealed as the least expensive MP in the house. Efficiency is unusual in politics! I've never plumped for Tory so far in all my 5 years of voting. In the next election, I will stick to that. I won't be voting Tory, I'll be voting Philip!

My point is that I can get on board with these type of politicians. They make sense to me. It's the guys with the huge ambitions that confuse me. Some of them don't seem completely power hungry, so maybe they're just delusional.

Can you imagine being in charge of such a bureaucracy riddled government and civil service? A system where a mistake can be made a million miles away from you and yet you're the one who gets the blame? Where if you actually have a good idea it will take an age for it to get through and actually help people? At least if you're England football manager the fans cheer when you win (the money's a bit better too!). When was the last time the British government had a 'win'? It's a constant stream of losses punctuated by the odd draw.

Of course I'm glad that someone wants to do it. We'd be pretty stuffed if no-one aspired to the job. I'm just amazed at the sheer quantity that do.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

We three k.. now let me just stop you there.

I’m sure we all know the carol: “We three kings of orient are…” Although of course your level of maturity will determine whether this is followed by the words “…bearing gifts we travel afar…” or “one in a taxi, one in a car…” Steady yourselves because I’m about to blow a Christmas myth wide open!


I can feel the shock-waves rippling away from me! I should be on QI! Only the gospel of Matthew mentions the Magi (wise men, not kings) and nowhere does it say that there were three of them. Matthew chapter 2 says:

1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men [1] from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose [2] and have come to worship him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

6 “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” 9 After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

[1] 2:1 Greek magi; also verses 7, 16 [2] 2:2 Or in the east; also verse 9

Wise men? Check. Three gifts? Check. Three wise men? Er….no. That was quite an assumption someone made there wasn’t it?! Anyway my point is, that for me at least, the most exciting part is not the Magi themselves but the gifts that they brought. Although please note that I do still maintain that Christmas is not about the presents! Gold, frankincense and myrrh eh? You might find some gold in your average Marks and Spencer catalogue but I think you’d be hard pushed to find either of the other two. The great thing about these gifts is that they were given to Jesus Christ specifically to point to what his life on earth was going to be about.

Gold – a gift for a king. The King. Not Elvis… ahem. Jesus. The King of the Jews. The Messiah, whom God promised to his people generations ago.

Frankincense – an ingredient in the production of incense. In the Old Testament incense was burnt as a sacrifice to God. It was holy and used when God was to come into the presence of the Israelites. Jesus was both God and man, truly and clearly in the presence of his people.

Myrrh – a fragrant material used not only in incense, but also as an embalming ointment. The gift of myrrh pointed to Christ’s ultimate reason for being born – to die.

Man, that’s just so cool! Well obviously not the fact that he had to die. But the fact that he did. And that these weird presents were saying just that!

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Dictionary corner

It disturbs me that the only things I can think of writing this morning are X-Factor or Strictly Come Dancing related. I refuse to dwell any longer on these things and I have a cunning plan to help me overcome this patch of writers' block. My secret weapon is the dictionary. Well it may not be quite so secret now, but you get my drift.

I hold within my hands a 2001 edition of the Oxford Concise English Dictionary. Momentarily I shall open it at random, with my eyes shut and pick a word using the age old art of pointing. I shall then hold forth with my knowledge of and feelings towards this word. It's a dangerous game (in the past some have likened it to Russian roulette) but I feel it is my only choice.

Here we go...

...and the word is: dirt bike (noun) - a motorcycle designed for use on rough terrain, especially in scrambling.

Fascinating I'm sure you'll agree. Dirt bikes eh? The type of sport that you only ever see on British Eurosport or late night Channel 5. It is strange how so many of us are happy to watch cars go round and round a flat, tarmaced surface but don't take any notice of the crazy loons on dirt-bikes; leaping, jumping and achieving feats which seem to defy gravity. If I was going to go and watch some sort of dirt bike activity I guess it would be the indoor trials that I've caught on TV a couple of times. It's kind of difficult to describe but it's akin to an obstacle course for bikes. Very springy and flexible bikes, but motorbikes none the less. The riders have to maneouvre these machines, not to mention themselves, around tyres, balance bars, huge piles of dirt - kind of like show-jumping but less pretty. Goodness knows how they do it. It must be frustrating when you have an incredible talent for something that no-one knows about! If they were footballers with the equivalent skills they'd be earning mountains of money and have supermodel (or at least popstar) girlfriends. Ah the dirt bike life is a tough one.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Calzaghe, my car and one very cold Giraffe-a-licious.

Well darn my socks and call me Graham! The British public got it right for once. Joe Calzaghe victorious as BBC Sports Personality of the Year. Great a Lewis Hamilton fan as I am, it was a spot on decision for him to come second to Calzaghe. What's next I ask you? A deserving winner for Strictly Come Dancing in a couple of weeks? Perish the thought. I tell you, if that Eastenders kid wins I'm going to have some serious words to say on the subject.

Good grief it was cold today. All three (yes, three, count them) of our bird baths in the back garden were frozen over. Not that the birds were bothered. They were all in hiding, save one hardy blackbird. They made the right decision in staying out of sight today and not just because of the cold. Having got my car out of the garage this morning I noticed a delightful bit of bird graffiti. Sadly they don't have access to multi-coloured spray paints and so use what is readily available to them. I did contemplate giving the Tate Modern a call purporting to be an artist with a groundbreaking piece of work for them, but ultimately I decided that I didn't want to part with my beloved Skoda. I went at the bonnet with a sponge, scrubbing brush and ready supply of hot water. Honestly, someone should be selling this stuff as glue. I was an exhausted shell of a Giraffe-a-licous by the time I'd finished. We're a bird loving family in this house, but if I ever catch the varmint that made its own personal mark on my little Fabia I can't be held responsible for my actions.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Giraffe-a-licious's Guide to the BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2007

It's that time of year again. The point at which we sport loving Brits have to decide which of our sportsmen and women will be awarded that much coveted silver camera trophy thingy. The Beeb announced its shortlist of 10 potential winners a little over a week ago.

So in order to help all of you sporting ignoramuses out there with the difficult choice that faces you, behold Giraffe-a-licious's Guide to the BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2007.

Contestant number one....come on down!

1.) Joe Calzaghe - boxing. Undisputed super-middleweight champion of the world. Welsh, but I'll try not to hold that against him. If his success had come in a sport more widely recognised in Britain then he'd be a shoe-in. Guaranteed to make top 3 but I'll be surprised if he wins.

2.) Lewis Hamilton - Formula One motosport. I love this guy. Runner-up in his first F1 season. Could have won it. Personally, I'd rather he didn't win the BBC award this year. Yes, he had an amazing rookie season but I don't like to see a nearly-man beat a true champion like Calzaghe. Hamilton will have plenty more opportunities to win it, no doubt once he is a world champion.

3.) Ricky Hatton - boxing. If Hatton beats Floyd Mayweather in the early hours of Sunday morning then there is no doubt that he will also be crowned Sports Personality of the Year. It feels as though the whole nation is behind him at the moment, even those of us who aren't really boxing fans. But if the arrogant, trash-talking Mayweather beats him then he'll be out of the running. All or nothing for Hatton.

4.) Andy Murray - tennis. Murray has done brilliantly this year to finish the season at 11th in world, having missed 3 months (including 2 grand slams) of competition with a wrist injury. In the same situation as Hamilton - a winner of the future.

5.) Christine Ohuruogu - athletics. World Champion at 400m. What a year for this gal. An absolutely awesome performance in Osaka. The controversy surrounding her missed drugs tests will prevent her from taking the BBC trophy home. However in my opinion she has proved her innocence and it would be great to see her back next year with an Olympic gold medal around her neck.

6.) Paula Radcliffe - athletics. Winner of the New York marathon just 10 months after giving birth to her first child. Great achievement but didn't compete enough this year to justify giving her the title. Previous winner in 2002.

7.) Jason Robinson - rugby union. This guy deserves a lifetime achievement award rather than just this year's gong. Inspirational for England during the World Cup but ultimately they didn't win the final. Now retired - could make it into the top 3 by way of 'thank you' votes.

8.) Justin Rose - golf. European Order of Merit winner. A great season for the 27 year old but for a golfer to make any headway in this competition he must have won a major. Stick him in the same box as Hamilton and Murray.

9.) James Toseland - motorsport, superbikes. World Champion for the second time this year and graduating to MotoGP next season. Sadly his sport is just too obscure for the average punter to recognise.

10.) Jonny Wilkinson - rugby. I get the feeling that Mr W would be highly embarrassed were he to win again (he previously won in 2003). Talismanic for England at the World Cup, he will always remain one of our most loved sportsmen. But he would be the first to admit that many on this shortlist have outshone him this year.

So there you go. No arguments please. "This is my word. And as such is beyond contestation." <-------- name the film! Not you Kate.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007


Exciting news. In case you haven't noticed the nice little image over there on the side bar - I'm blogging for Ouch! Ouch is the BBC's disability website and it's all very shiny and exciting. Have a look for yourself at

Practically it means that I'll probably be a little less frequent with my blogging here for a few weeks. However all my Ouch blogs will be disability related, so when I feel the need to sound off on something in the way of sport, film or Strictly Come Dancing then I'll be back to my lovely Ponderings and Ruminations. I shall not abandon her!

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Give me a W! Give me an I! Give me an S! Give me a P! Give me an A!

Do you have any idea how difficult it is to get your hands on a Wispa at the moment? Well, obviously not as difficult as it was a few months ago before Cadbury's relaunched them, but they're selling like hot-cakes. Hmmm... do hot cakes genuinely sell more quickly than cold or room temperature cakes? I'm sure there's some sort of research study going on into it at the moment and in a few months time all will be revealed. No-one researches important things these days. It's always, 'which kind of biscuit gives optimum tea dunkage?' or 'if you put a wendy house in a field of cows, will they move into it?'

Anyway, Wispas. Oh how I adore them. To be honest up until a month or so ago I hadn't even realised that I missed them. Yet now that I know that they are out there just waiting to fulfil their Wispa destiny of melting wondrously in my mouth, I find it hard to think of anything else. That's the true reason for my lack of blogging recently. I've been roaming the towns of Britain hunting down the chocolatey goodness. I heard a couple of weeks ago that Woolworths were selling 3 for £1. But woe to me! I was too late in hearing the news. Other Wispa addicts had got their first. I've searched high and low in the supermarkets, but to no avail. The local shops don't have them. My mecca these last few weeks has been Blockbusters. Perhaps because of their ridiculous price tag of 55p each, they are the only shop I have found to have no problem with their Wispa stock. Although it does feel a little silly walking into a DVD rental shop and approaching the counter with just a couple of chocolate bars. But it is an embarrassment I can live with if it means I can hold the precious, life-sustaining, ecstasy-inducing Wispa in my unworthy hand.

All I require now is for Cadbury's to bring the Wispa Gold back. Now that was a real chocolate bar...

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Beam me up Scotty

Attention scientists!

Any chance of an update on the teleporting situation? I was under the impression that it would only be a matter of weeks until you would be able to report an astonishing breakthrough in the field of 'getting a person to somewhere else in the world without using a vehicle'.

It is not only I awaiting this great invention. My beloved sister is also hanging her hopes on it, although her desired destination is somewhat farther afield than my own. She wants to travel 4000 miles to Ohio. I just want to go into town without having to parallel park.

I experienced a rather frustrating morning a couple of days ago. I decided to drive into town knowing that I had a few errands to run, all of which were in roughly the same place. The shop I needed to visit is not well placed for parking but there is usually a space just outside (albeit double yellow-lined - no problem with a blue badge!). However on this particular day a van had decided to deposit itself there. I'm 99.99% sure that said van was not displaying a blue badge. But not to worry, I carried on down the road and spotted a disabled space. My delight was short lived as the car in front of me nabbed it. Grrr. Fine, I shall go to the library and then return to a host of spaces. Not so much a case of wishful thinking as a delusional episode. Following my trip to the library the van was still there, a disabled space was once again available and once again filled by the car just in front of me. Adding insult to injury there was then a space available but only to someone who can parallel park. I haven't done that successfully since my test over a year ago and instinctively knew that that wasn't likely to change without practice. So I headed home with only a couple of library books to show for my effort.

Do you now understand the need for a speedy solution? Teleporting is the answer. I've said it before and I'll say it again. There will be no need to hand out the ability right, left and centre. I propose that blue badge holders be automatically awarded teleport licenses and that other members of the population be able to apply for limited teleport status in specific circumstances. Gordon Brown has had a rough time of it lately. I really think that if he were to announce a well-funded research and development programme into teleportation, it would turn public opinion back in his favour!

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Exodus, my foot

I'm a bit slow off the mark with this particular blog. Last Tuesday Channel 4 showed a one-off drama called Exodus. It was an attempt to retell the biblical story of Moses and the Israelites escape from Egypt in a modern setting. I think it would be fair to say that few Christians would expect such a drama to be a stirring, accurate and interesting account of a vital part of the bible. But even given those caveats, Exodus was one of the most frustrating pieces of television I have witnessed.

The concept itself of moving the action into a contemporary setting was both sound and intriguing. So we had a dictator style politician (cunningly named Pharaoh) carrying out a sort of ethnic and class cleansing act, sending all the undesirables to live in Dreamland, an old run down ex-theme park type of place. The baby Moses was seen left on the beach for Pharaoh's wife to find, as his mother attempted to flee the military police. But once the concept was in place and the story began, the production ran into trouble.

Crucially the makers couldn't decide whether to either eschew the religious aspects completely or to keep the (let's face it, pretty vital) role of God in their drama. The result was a sort of airy-fairy spirituality, usually involving Moses hearing a lot of whispering. Rather than a burning bush, on fire yet not consumed, there was a bizarre man-made (and man-burned) giant wooden statue, strangely reminiscent of The Wicker Man! Instead of God and Moses having an amazing conversation in which God reveals his true name and character (Exodus Ch 3), there were simply a few whispered words which it seemed that a dead man was communicating rather than the Living God.

In this case, approaching Pharaoh and asking for the freedom of his people was really Moses's plan. He embarked on some sort of idealistic crusade which turned into sheer vigilantism. In the Bible all of the events are divinely inspired. God is in control at all times. It is he who commands, judges and redeems with perfect justice.

Horrifically in this new adaptation, the people created their own plagues! They launched computer viruses, genetically engineered a plague and put algae in the water to make it red and undrinkable. This is just terrorism. Worst of all, the Passover became a midwife bombing a baby clinic. That just made me feel sick.

The wonder of the Exodus story is in the amazing way that God keeps his promises and foretells the coming of Jesus, the ultimate Passover lamb. God was only mentioned by name 2 hours into the film. In trying to justify the atrocities committed Moses claims, "God told me to do it!" Has he been watching the same thing as I've been watching? Having spent so much for the running time hedging their bets on the God stuff, the makers then have the audacity to blame him for these completely human acts.

Come the end all pretence of remaining true to the Biblical story was abandoned. In a utterly baffling turn of events following Pharaoh's allowing the people to leave, firstly a civil war broke out amongst the 'Israelites' and the 'Egyptians' (in the Bible, the Egyptians give the Israelites all sorts of valuable items for them to take to the Promised Land), Moses briefly became a superhero (he jumped from a multi storey building to the ground without a scratch on him), he alone parted the sea and was then drowned! Utterly absurd. In truth, God led his people out of Egypt (literally, as a pillar of cloud and fire), through the Red Sea (drowning the chasing Pharaoh in judgment) and eventually to Mount Sinai where Moses received God's law.

I haven't even come close to describing the brilliance of the exodus; God so clearly at work and in control, protecting his people and redeeming them from slavery. The makers of Exodus should be ashamed of themselves. Not only was their programme insulting to millions of Bible believing Christians, but it was just bad TV.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

We're on the ball...

It's an unusual thing for me to be too busy too blog. Hmmm... that almost sounds as though I'm a pregnant, upper-class, too posh to push woman. Almost but not. Which is good. Because I am neither pregnant or upper-class.

Having said that I was busy, I am currently refining my elastic band flicking technique. Encouragingly I seem to be making good progress. At the very least my sister is starting to look a little nervous whenever I line up a shot at her.

Football tonight. I have mixed emotions. Whilst I am obviously keen for our lads to get the necessary result, I can't help but think that it might give a helpful kick up the backside to the national game if we failed to qualify. I'm not a great football fan at the best of times but it is patently obvious to me that the game has lately become distorted and damaged. I was rather cultured last night and watched a portion of the Alan Yentob BBC programme Imagine. One of the overriding themes of the film was the negligible relationship between the quality of art and the money it sells for. Well it appears to me that football has a similar problem. These days, at the top end of competition, the amount of money changing hands between clubs and players, fans, managers and shareholders has little to do with the actual value of a club's commodities. No footballer is worth over £100,000 a week. In fact in my opinion no footballer is worth more than £5,000 a week. Supporters shouldn't have to pay such extortionate ticket prices merely to line the already already heavy pockets of the players and club owners. Football needs to get back to football. There is only so much superficiality and glamour a sport can take before it ceases to be a sport. Rugby has the right balance at the moment but I shudder to think of a day when the current problems of football in this country are shared by rugby union. Football needs to stop the rot now. But it never will. Money is the only currency these days (please forgive the pun) and it'd be a foolish man to bet on that changing any time soon.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Shall we dance? Cha-cha-cha.

I feel an urgent need to do something highbrow and cultured. I must purge myself of the tackiness I indulged in last night. What's more worrying is that it was the second Saturday in a row in which I partook of this particular brand of low brand entertainment.

I speak of the hours between 5:50pm and 9:30pm yesterday when I wallowed in a TV diet of Strictly Come Dancing and The X-Factor. What has happened to me? I have wandered into the realms of middle-aged women and teenage girls respectively. I ate my dinner in front of the box in order to watch John Barnes tango.

However, I shall not be coerced by Brucie or Dermott into picking up the phone and spending 25p on a pointless call. Never have I voted in these programmes and never shall I. Eurovision aside of course! This was the case even before all the phone-in scandals started to rear their ugly heads. I'm getting more than a little fed up with constantly hearing about fakery in the world of broadcasting.

Firstly, I accept that it is appalling that people are casting votes and entering competitions but not being included in the final result. Secondly, the BBC were indeed way out of line in manipulating footage of the Queen in order to create a buzz and an exciting trailer.

Despite these incidents, I am still fed up with the seemingly never-ending array of revelations concerning programmes such as Born Survivor and The F Word. Both Bear Grylls and Gordon Ramsey have come under attack for a lack of realism in their shows. Is it only me that has no problem with these so called cons? These are entertainment programmes! As long as the changes made aren't of the sort to hurt someone's reputation or character, then what's the fuss about?

It is just another symptom of political correctness and you really don't want to get me started on the whole, "Baa baa rainbow sheep," debacle.

Friday, 16 November 2007

M.E., NICE and me.

Anyone remember this?

The 'yuppie flu' tag has raised its head once again in today's papers.

Let's get one thing straight. I haven't seen these NICE (National Institute of Clinical Excellence, my foot) guidelines. I'm only going on what I've heard and read. Back in August, when I wrote the Dear Sir blog, it seemed that they were a positive thing. The media reported that NICE were demanding that M.E. be treated more seriously by the medical profession. A step forward I'm sure you'll agree. However, today it has emerged that their definition of treatment is the use of largely psychological therapies. It should be noted that I have no issue with the graded exercise also recommended, provided that it is carried out by well-informed, caring practitioners and that it does not become a license to bully sufferers.

The main reason for this information coming to light now appears to be that the One Click Group (a pressure group, although I'm not exactly sure what that is!) are taking NICE to court in an attempt to get the policy rewritten. They argue that NICE's guidelines imply that M.E. is all in the mind. If that is indeed the case then they are right to challenge the institute. M.E. has psychological elements tied up in it, all long-term illnesses do. It's hardly surprising for a patient with 10 years of misery behind them to experience some sort of depression. The important distinction to make is that the psychological treatments are for the depression, not the M.E. Psychological therapies have their place but are not a valid treatment of the very real, physical side of M.E.

The most grating thing about this whole debacle from my point of view is the use, once again, of the term 'yuppie flu'. It should be banned. It is referring to a group of people in a derogatory manner. You wouldn't get away with it if the group were defined by their religion, race, gender or sexuality. There is no reason that the media should be permitted to be so openly insulting to people united in the suffering of a serious illness.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

F is for Frustration

I'm aware that I have a rather skewed view of things on this subject, but I truly believe that there are few illnesses more frustrating than M.E. More serious? Yes. More debilitating? Of course. But pound for pound I warrant that M.E. takes the top prize in the frustration stakes.

I had a severe relapse in March of this year and symptoms wise ended up back where I was about 7 or 8 years ago. That was heartbreaking and I'm still coming to terms with the profound difference in the quality of life I experienced in 2006 compared to that of the past 8 months. Frustration doesn't even begin to describe the emotions.

But over the last few months things have started to improve. The pain has gradually lessened and I've been blessed with more energy. I've been able to get out of the house more, get back to a bit of volunteering, attend church regularly and go out with friends for a meal. I really thought that I'd turned a corner. Talk about counting your chickens.

The last few days have been horrible. The severe pain has returned, my extra strong painkillers take the edge off but I'm also incredibly tired. I'm still in some sort of denial stage. I know that I should be resting regularly and pacing myself more sensibly, but something inside me just wants to keep pushing, convinced that despite all evidence and experience to the contrary I can just fight my way through it. Unfortunately the only effective way to fight M.E. is to do the exact opposite. I have to accept the situation and act accordingly. Hence the frustration.

I'm not usually one to moan. My blog is probably indicative of this. I'm more likely to make a joke and laugh through the crisis than sit around feeling sorry for myself. The problem is that the illness leaves me with few other options. I'm pretty much restricted to sitting around at the moment and moping comes very easily in that situation.

I'm trying to think of something uplifting to end on but nothing's coming to me. Perhaps a silly, unrelated picture? That sounds good.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

WANTED: Wood Pigeon

I'm being haunted by a dead pigeon. I kid ye not. A recently deceased pigeon is stalking my dreams.

A couple of days ago I was quietly minding my own business when a huge thud of a noise reached my ears. On entering the kitchen I observed the unmistakable splatted shape of a pigeon against the window. There's not anything particularly unusual about that to be honest. Wood pigeons are the dumbest of the dumb and have an unnerving habit of flying head long into our windows. They usually wander around afterwards looking a little dazed and then head off on their merry way unhurt. Not this pigeon. He really must have been flying at quite a speed. He was sat a foot or so away from the window looking totally out of it. Being the kind, bird-loving, daughter of an RSPB employee, I thought I'd better take a closer look to see if he was hurt and if there was anything I could do about it. Things were looking pretty good to start with. As I approached the stunned, winged creature it jumped up and ran off down the garden. "Hurrah," I thought, " 'tis unharmed." I followed it with the intention of grabbing some seed from the feeders and taking it to the needy bird. I did so and scattered some of the feed around my new feathered acquaintance. Unfortunately the pigeon seemed not to share my feelings of friendship and promptly attempted to fly away. Attempted being the operative word. The darn thing couldn't fly. It must have hurt its wing in the crash and no matter how many times it endeavoured to hurl itself out of the garden, it couldn't make it. So I elected to leave him to it. At least without me around it wouldn't feel the need to make a forlorn break for freedom every other second.

A couple of hours later, mum got home and I related to her the tale of woe. She went out to the garden to see how P.I. Geon was getting on and couldn't find him! The garden was eerily quiet and there was not a pigeon to be found. We therefore came to the happy conclusion that it must have been a temporary wing related injury. The good old bird must have found himself a bit of that magic spray that physios use on rugby players, and upped and flown away. Woohoo!

Woohoo indeed. Except that for the last couple of nights the blinkin' bird has found its way into my dreams. It rebukes me for not helping it. I am to blame for its demise. It has conveniently forgotten the stupidity that led it to slam into a window in the first place. I can hear it pecking at my window. It's threatening to attack my arm and leave me for dead. So I call upon you, my dear blog readers, to help me in the tracking down of this ungrateful animal. Once found it shall be made to listen to and accept my side of the story and cease forthwith its hate campaign against me. If not, it shall face the consequences. I'm getting plans drawn up for a fully glass residence as I write.

An artist's impression of the guilty party

Thursday, 8 November 2007

It's only words...

SKY NEWS: Teenage girls around the world are celebrating following the news that Boyzone are getting back together...will reunite to perform a medley of hits on the Children In Need telethon later this month. Ronan Keating, 30, said: "After all the speculation, we are getting back together and we are very excited. "We have been talking about it for a while now and decided to go out there on our own and have a go at it."

No, no, no, no. A thousand times no. Ronan, Stephen, Shane, Keith, Mikey - this is a terrible idea. It can only end badly.

I was a huge Boyzone fan between the ages of eleven and fourteen. I was madly in love with Ronan. I barely listened to any other type of music (save the odd misguided foray into 911) and wouldn't hear a word said against them. Ah, the folly of youth.

Boyzone were a product of the time. Clean-cut and non-threatening, with nice songs that appealed to teenage girls and their mums alike; accomplished performers in the field of miming but with just about enough talent to pull off a live performance every so often. It's a different world these days. Looking pretty and singing nicely just isn't enough. Pop bands need to play their own instruments, write their own songs or at the very least have a bit of personality.

Take That were the first British boyband (I know that Boyzone are Irish but their primary market was the UK) and as such have a place in the heart of the country that Boyzone just do not have. Take That sang and danced. Boyzone sang and sat on stools. Take That's successful regeneration was down to their touring during last year. They were able to demonstrate such enthusiasm and energy that they gained enough momentum to carry themselves towards a new album. Boyzone have no chance of following suit. Nostalgic as it might be to watch them croon their way through the old hits, I highly doubt that it will create an appetite for new music amongst the general population.

It's a nice idea for them to reform for Children in Need. I have no qualms with that. But guys please leave it there. Take That's comeback has succeeded against the odds. What are the chances of that happening a second time?

P.S. Note to the Spice Girls - I'm not even going to begin listing my grievances against you and your second roll of the dice. Give it up and go home.

Monday, 5 November 2007

I'm gonna rock this country

It hasn't stopped. My sister is back and yet I am still heading ever faster down the road to middle age. Soon I shall be indistinguishable from my mother. This is becoming something of a crisis. The most recent sign occurred last night. I watched, completely alone and of my own volition, a TOTP2 Country Music special. I shall pause here in order to allow you, my dear reader, to make the requisite shocked face.

Country music? What is happening to me? I think it must be Steve Wright's fault. His dulcet tones lulled me into submission. His voice-over appeared to be saying, "It's OK Giraffe-a-licious, if I am involved in this show then it can't be that bad." Why I listened to him I have no idea. He's a Radio 2 DJ for heavens sake! What epitomises the onset of middle age more than the transference of listener loyalty from Radio 1 to Radio 2?

Whatever the cause, the upshot is that I spent a full hour in the company of Kenny Rogers, The Dixie Chicks, Lonestar, Patsy Cline, Keith Urban, Shania Twain and co. Perhaps the only credible moment came from The Eagles' new song and video. I had a permanent hold on the remote in case someone should walk in and find me in such a compromising situation. "I was channel flicking! Honest."

Is there anyway back from this? I fear not. I imagine myself to have reached the edge of a dangerous precipice. Last night I found myself distracted by a Nashville cowboy and fell head first down the cliff. I just hope that there are enough undamaged pieces at the bottom for me to be able to put myself together again. It's not looking good...

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Can you hear the drums, Fernando?

It has finally been announced that former F1 world champion Fernando Alonso is to leave McLaren. Hardly surprising given the season just gone. I'm a hugely disillusioned former Alonso supporter. His rise to greatness and double world championship glory with Renault in 2005 and 2006 won him many fans. He seemed focused but fun, competitive but grounded. How wrong we were. His petulant behaviour this year, when confronted with such unexpectedly stiff competition from newcomer Lewis Hamilton, has been disappointing in the extreme. Great champions hate to lose, but lose they must at times and the measure of the man is in how he does so. Alonso chose to throw all his toys out of the pram. Instead of using the competition to motivate himself and prove himself a worthy champion, he resorted to mud-slinging and taking cheap shots at his team. Having been such a pro-Alonso viewer at the start of the season, it was a shock to find myself desiring a Raikkonen victory more than an Alonso win, when the racing climaxed in Brazil a couple of weeks ago. Little Lewis should have won it really. It was his to lose - 12 points ahead with 2 races left - he should have had it in the bag. But lest we forget, this was his first year in F1. His first drive at a number of the circuits. Yet he made an incredible impact. Surely it won't be many years before he makes that final step up.

I was much aggrieved to read of Max Moseley's comments in relation to Hamilton this week. In an interview with the BBC he claimed that the young man could have a negative effect on the sport. Negative? Excuse me? What on earth is he talking about? He said, "If he does the same thing next season as he's done this season, it will certainly have a big effect. It will start to be negative because we'll get the Schumacher effect where people start writing to me saying can't you do something to slow him down." The same as he's done this season? The tightest and most exciting year of F1 in eons? Where going into the final race there were three potential world champions? Hamilton didn't even win it! Moseley is the president of the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile) and along with Bernie Ecclestone, to all intents and purposes the owner of F1, has a huge amount of influence over and control of the sport. It is irresponsible for him to speak out in this way. He is showing favouritism to other teams in doing so, and damaging the reputation of the sport he claims to be protecting. Two men should not have such almost monopolistic control over a world sport.

Lewis Hamilton has provided the dose of smelling salts that F1 needed. He and other young drivers such as Nico Rosberg and Robert Kubica are the future of this sport, not cronies like Moseley and Ecclestone.

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Remember, remember...

It's a strange time of year; Halloween tonight and Firework Night on Monday. As a Christian I'm not a fan of Halloween. Despite the fact that these days it is mostly just kids dressing up and asking for sweets, I'm still uneasy about the message it sends. No doubt most of them will turn out fine but it worries me that introducing children to the idea of spirits, witches and other dark stuff at such a young age, sets a dangerous precedent. I worry that once some of these kids reach their teenage years, they'll be so desensitised about this sort of thing that it will only be a small step to ouija boards and other dodgy stuff. Besides who needs two holidays in such close proximity to each other? Firework night is much more fun.

Although when one thinks about it more deeply, Firework night is pretty darn weird itself. If a terrorist plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament was thwarted today, can you imagine the country holding a festival to celebrate it 400 years later? Circumstances today are not so very far removed from back then. The terrorism in 1605 was a direct result of clashes between religions. Even so, I'm pretty sure there would just be a collective "Phew, that was close," and then we'd get on with life as normal. Would we be burning effigies of Osama Bin Laden on bonfires on the same day every year? I expect (and hope) not.

Incidentally do you think Robert Catesby would be a bit put out to know that Guy Fawkes got all the publicity? Catesby was the mastermind of the Gunpowder Plot but rarely gets a mention, save in history lessons at primary school. Fawkes was the man charged with setting the gunpowder alight so he got the spotlight. Even when it came to their executions Fawkes made the headlines. All were to be hung, drawn and quartered but Mr F managed to avoid the worst and most painful parts of the execution. Before being hung he jumped from the platform and broke his neck. Nice eh?

So I suppose what I'm saying is that we Brits are pretty weird with our celebrations. We really should come up with something to replace Halloween and Guy Fawkes Night. Suggestions on a postcard please. Anything involving cake will be very favourably looked upon.

Monday, 29 October 2007


Hi. My name's Giraffe-a-licious and I'm a listaholic.

Thank you for making me feel so welcome at this, my first Listaholic's Anonymous meeting. I can't quite pinpoint when my problem began. Perhaps it is genetic. My mum has a list problem too but has never confronted it. Not that I'm trying to shift the blame. I know this list-making is of my own doing and I am responsible for resolving it. It's a daily fight for me against bullet-points and the urge to alphabetise. There is something so satisfying about ticking off the items on a list. But once you've ticked one, you need to tick another and another until you realise that you can never find true fulfilment at the bottom of a list.

I write lists. I think lists. I actively search for other peoples' lists. It's taking over my life. The BBC released a list a few years ago of the Nation's Top 100 books. I have made it my goal to read all 100. I'm at 56 right now. I spend my days wading through Bleak House, convinced that Dickens wrote it merely to torture me and yet I must go on. I must complete the list.

Have you ever thought about the word 'listless'? The OCED defines it as "lacking energy or enthusiasm". That is me in a life without lists! A life without lists, be they shopping lists or to-do lists, is a life half lived. Brothers and sisters, join me in my joyous list-making! We can all live in a more organised, efficient world - what bliss!

So... will anyone be my sponsor?

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Christmas, Cotton Traders and Charity Shops

I'm concerned for my sanity. I think I've aged 20 years in the 3 months that my sister has been away on the other side of the pond. She may be picking up the accent but I've picked up some more disturbing habits.

It started quite innocently. I merely accompanied the parents on a visit to a bird reserve whilst on holiday. The next thing I knew I had an article in Birds magazine. I had started down a road that could only end in pain. Yesterday I found myself doing my Christmas shopping. In Marks & Spencer. I'm voluntarily listening to Radio 2. And last night I reached my lowest ebb. I found myself browsing through the Cotton Traders brochure. Great is my woe! I have betrayed my youth and embraced middle-age two decades too early. Only the return of my younger sister can save me now. Thursday cannot come too soon.

I apologise for bringing Christmas into these blog pages before the end of October. It is not by choice. A couple of days ago I heard Fairytale of New York on the radio and today I turned on the TV only to be confronted with Mistletoe and Wine on a music channel. I started my shopping out of necessity. I've found that a wheelchair and Christmas shopping make unhappy bedfellows. Crowds greatly increase the already not inconsiderable stress of navigating department stores. So as the organised world starts its shopping in November, I have to get started in October.

On a more satisfying note I discovered the world of charity shops yesterday. The perfect place to pick up books and films. Traditionally I'm a library girl when it comes to books but lately I have been very disappointed in their stock. Not only that but when I asked to reserve a title I was informed that it would cost me £1 whether or not they managed to locate the book! You don't go into a cafe and let the proprietor charge you £1 for a cup of tea, whether or not he can find the teabags! Anyway, as a result of visiting 3 charity shops yesterday I came away with 5 books and 3 films for under £10. What's more, that £10 is going to charidee, not to the local council that fund ridiculous art installations. Win-win. Read, view, take them back to the shops and they get sold again. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

School daze - that's an overused pun isn't it?

I was watching Grosse Pointe Blank the other night. For those not in the know it's a 90s rom-com, but of a slightly more twisted variety than most. John Cusack plays a hitman returning to his home town for a high school reunion and meeting up again with his long lost love played by Minnie Driver. It got my thinking about school reunions. Being a mere stripling of 23 I haven't had to face that potential nightmare as yet and I'm desperately hoping that I never have to.

There are only two reasons to attend a school reunion. Curiosity and vanity. Curiosity to see how people have turned out and vanity because you are convinced that your life is better than theirs. What a sad waste of an evening. If you're rich and successful then you've not really gained anything from going. You're still rich and successful when you leave and have probably only succeeded in making a few people feel like failures. If you're struggling through life then you'll still be struggling when you leave and will have merely found a few more people to hate in life. People with kids will start wishing they didn't have them. People without kids will start to wish they did. It's a no-win situation. The grass is always greener and all that. Someone else's life may sound wonderful for those few hours but we never see the reality of it. School reunions are all about a facade. As soon as you step over the threshold you're suddenly and inexplicably enthusiastic about your life, career, children and everything else that you've been moaning about for the past 10 years.

Personally a school reunion is my worst nightmare because it is the place in the universe where you are most likely to be asked the, "So, what do you do?" question. Gah. Save me. The next time someone asks me that I think I'll take a leaf out of John Cusack's book - "I'm a professional killer." Cool. I'm pretty sure that at least 80% of the population are unhappy in their work so it's a nasty irony that we are constantly being defined by what we do rather than who we are. Sure, I've got my spiel - "Well not a lot actually. I've been ill with M.E. for 10 years which is quite rubbish but I do bits of voluntary work here and there." I'm as guilty as the next person though because I always seem to follow it up with, "and what about you?"

What is boils down to is that anyone that you really care about from your school days you'll still be in touch with. Death to school reunions! Pointless, miserable and fake.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Confessions of a Ridiculous Mind

Whilst watching Michael Palin drive a steam train around Poland yesterday my mum uttered the immortal words, "Do you use a steering wheel to drive a train?" Ah mum. How I love her. This is also the woman who confused Bruce Willis with Bruce Lee. No mum, Bruce Willis isn't a dead martial arts expert and that isn't Bruce Lee running around Nakatomi Plaza out-witting Alan Rickman.

Sadly this tendancy of revealing a lack of understanding on certain matters (it's actually a rather sweet combination of naivety, innocence and ignorance) appears to be genetic. For years I thought that there were A LOT of Wombles in Wimbledon. I still maintain that error was the fault of whomsoever was hired to sing the theme tune. Think back will you? #...the Wombles of Wimbledon (singer takes breath), Common are we...# You see my problem? Either there are a vast number of them or they all speak Estuary English.

My biggest clanger came during a game of Absolute Balderdash. Evidently I had left my brain at the door that day because when tasked with inventing a feasible plot line for a film of which I had only the title, I somehow stumbled onto the brilliant idea of astronauts going to the moon and diving in the Sea of Tranquility. I was very proud of myself and certain I was destined to get a few points out of my clever story. That is until it was pointed out that the Sea of Tranquility is not exactly a sea and to the hilarity of many present I was left sadly trying to defend my theory of water on the moon. Not my finest hour.

I do a great line in misheard lyrics too. But perhaps that had best wait for another day. I can only take so much embarrassment at a time.

Friday, 19 October 2007

To whom it may concern

Dear Kettering Borough Council

What the heck is wrong with you? A couple of days ago it was announced that you are commissioning a £48,000 piece of artwork for the town. Now I'm as much of an art fan as the next person (not too big a fan then obviously) but £48,000 worth of tax-payers' money going to create pieces of sculpture that would be called eye-sores if they weren't art, is absurd.

You have made a great deal of the fact that you're asking the members of the general public to vote and decide which of three designs we would most like to see. If you're going to that trouble could you not also have a 'no artwork' option? An opportunity for those of us who would like to see the money spent on maintaining roads, improving libraries or providing better school bus services, to make our feelings known.

Apparently artists were asked to design pieces that would 'create a link between three green spaces so visitors to Kettering could appreciate how the town fits together'. What utter claptrap. Firstly, visitors to Kettering? You're having a laugh right? I suppose it's conceivable that someone could get lost on the way to Cambridge or Birmingham and find themselves wandering the streets. Even if that were the case I'm not convinced that they are likely to be overcome with delight at the way that these three oddball sculptures reflect Kettering's togetherness.

It's not the first time that the council has done something like this. Back in 2005 you paid £10,000 for a monstrosity of a clock in the town centre. At least in this instance it was erected for a specific purpose - to celebrate 100 years of the Rotary Club - although how many of our town's residents actually know that is another matter.

I am fed up with local government complaining that it doesn't have enough money for vital services, upping the council tax and then spending out on such frivolous and pointless projects.

Yours grumpily

Words fail to describe just how horrific this clock is.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Nobody needs good Neighbours

It's not often that I'm proud of myself but today I hold my head high. I haven't seen an episode of Neighbours for four months. I deserve a chip to carry around with me like in AA! Although to be fair I do have an inkling that it's probably a wee bit easier to stay clean of an Australian soap opera than the demon drink.

I can't remember when I first started watching Neighbours. My mum watched it so I probably first got hooked on a sick day off school. I've never watched any other soap and yet Neighbours sucked me in. Maybe it was the sunshine (although Home & Away had that too) or maybe the fact that it was more light-hearted than most other TV dramas? I don't know, but somehow it got its claws into me and hung on there for 10-15 years.

When I became ill with M.E. the addiction grew, worryingly but understandably fast. I was able to do so little that the TV took on a rather sad significance in my life. This is excusable. What is not, is the fact that even once I started to feel better and get out more, my day continued to revolve around Ramsey Street's residents. Of course it's only a 25 minute programme, that shouldn't cause too many problems. But the BBC are a canny bunch of schedulers when they want to be. Neighbours led to Doctors, Doctors to Murder She Wrote, then it was off to Channel 4 for Countdown and before I knew it two and a half hours had disappeared into the ether.

But I shall not dwell on these dark days for now I am cured! And it's all thanks to Wimbledon. They take Neighbours off the air for those two glorious weeks of tennis in the summer. This year, once I got to the end of the fortnight I realised that I didn't miss those Aussies one jot. I decided to see how I got on without dipping into the lives of Susan, Karl and co every day. That they had just killed off Stingray also helped in my decision making process - a clanger of an error in my mind! Well what do you know? I survived. In fact I felt far better. I read or wrote or rested or just watched the world go by out of my window - all of it more productive than those hours in front of the gogglebox. Because by doing away with Neighbours, I also got rid of Doctors and in turn Murder, She Wrote. I have had the odd foray into the world of Jessica Fletcher since then I'll admit, but you can't beat a bit of Angela Lansbury detective work!

So dear readers, I am free. Those strangely bronzed Aussies hold no sway over me now. So they can move it to Channel 5 for all I care. I just hope that the rest of the soaps follow shortly.

Monday, 15 October 2007

Old before my time

They say you’re as young as you feel. Well, that puts me at about 80 then. I get the feeling that there’s a spritely granny in Weston-super-Mare or some such seaside town running around with my youth. Not only do I creak when I bend down (or up if I get that far) but I have recently developed some other, distinctly pensioner like tendencies.

I hold forth on the state of society and bemoan the lack of respect present in young people today. I am constantly expressing my surprise at the youth of the weathermen. I lament the demise of the English language, its grammar and punctuation. I can’t understand why half the female population of Britain are content to show such quantities of flesh in summer, or these days even in winter! I despair at the amounts of money spent on weddings. I bewail the modern society’s reliance on technology and it’s idolisation of beauty and fashion. I hate the fact that it is no longer safe for children to play outside without constant supervision. I long for the days when you could ring your bank and speak to a real, living, breathing person from your local branch. I’m constantly frustrated by this generation’s ignorance of British history and the men and women who fought for our freedom. I fail to comprehend the appeal of so-called ‘celebrities’ and the national interest in every aspect of their lives.

And what’s more, I have this overwhelming desire to share my opinions with anyone unlucky enough to cross my path. Sorry.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Swing Lo, Sweet Chariot

Is it possible to get a hangover without alcohol? That seems to be the case for me this morning. I blame the England rugby team. Did they not read my post on adrenaline? They're cruel men, putting me through the wringer like that. Funnily enough I don't exactly have my blogging head on at this very moment. However, having had a quick skim read of the sports pages this morning, I felt I had to share a few words with those of you who aren't fortunate enough to read the Daily Telegraph.

Paul Ackford's column reports on England's preparation for yesterday's match and contains a number of jokes apparently doing the rounds in the form of texts, in the wake of the quarter-final results last weekend.

What's the difference between the All Blacks and a teabag?
The teabag stays in the cup longer.

What's the difference between an Aussie and a 747?
The 747 stops whining when it lands.

Which video has Wales's caretaker coach been watching lately?
Free Willy. It's the last time whales got out of their pool.


Friday, 12 October 2007

More Gore

So I've just heard that Al Gore has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. What the dickens? Kudos to him for his environmental work but the peace prize? His work has probably created more confrontations (albeit important ones) between scientists, politicians and the like. It's a weird world.

An Inconvenient Possibility?

This week saw Al Gore’s controversial, Oscar-winning documentary ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ making headlines once more. This time it was all to do with a High Court Ruling on the use of the film in British schools. A school governor had brought the case to court amid concerns that the film was being distributed and viewed without explanatory material necessary to give a balanced view on the issue of climate change.

The film was described as an ‘alarmist shockumentary’. The judge, who ruled that the film may continue to be shown in schools providing that the required guidance notes, noted a number of alleged exaggerations and errors in Gore’s film mostly with regard to the wording and time scales used and the presentation of hypothesis as scientific fact.

Now an admission; I’m one of those people who has an opinion without having seen the film. I do have a copy in the house. It is one of a number of ‘should-see’ films on a shelf gathering unhealthy amounts of dust. I should also probably mention that I am pretty much the first person to get annoyed when others start ranting away on their pet-subjects without having all their facts straight. But nevertheless I have decided that this being my blog, I am perfectly entitled to hold double standards within its pages! And so…

It’s pretty clear to me that there is a decent amount of truth and scientific proof in most of Mr. Gore’s arguments. There has been concern over CO2 levels for years and the effects it could be having on the environment. Yes, the film was probably a little one sided but surely that was the point? Numerous scientific documentaries have been made on the subject with few results. A ‘shockumentary’ is just what the world needed; a kick up the backside to get both governments and consumers to make changes to their policies and lifestyles. Whether or not Gore is correct and greenhouse gases are fully to blame for global warming is irrelevant. There is enough evidence that they are part of the problem. Ever heard of Pascal’s wager? Summarised, it reads as follows: "If God does not exist, the Atheist loses little by believing in him and gains little by not believing. If God does exist, the Atheist gains eternal life by believing and loses an infinite good by not believing." Now I’m not going to get into the philosophical and religious implications of this statement. I merely want to apply the theory to An Inconvenient Truth.

If Gore is wrong, the world loses little by both listening to him and making changes accordingly, and by not listening to him. If Gore is right, the world gains a huge amount by listening to him and loses greatly by ignoring him. Weighing these two options up, the obvious conclusion is surely that it is a great deal safer to listen to and act on Gore’s (and much of the scientific community’s) words than to ignore it.

Even if you don’t hold with that, take pity on the poor chap. There aren’t many men in the world to win the popular vote in an election but ultimately lose out to a monkey in a suit.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Lies and power

The political landscape in Britain has got a little more interesting over the past couple of weeks. Following on from David Cameron's address at the Tory conference the Conservatives seem to have staged a mini-revival. Or at least gained enough momentum to make Gordon Brown think again about holding a snap election.

As a former Economics A-level student I watched with interest yesterday (well that may be exaggerating a little, but I expect I watched with more interest than your average Briton) as Alistair Darling laid out his tax and spending plans for the future in his Pre-Budget Report and Spending Review. No yawning at the back there please. It had its entertaining moments but no matter how amusing it was to see the Chancellor and George Osbourne go at each other after the statement, my main issue with politics and politicians in general still remains and in my opinion taints and makes the void the point of having debate such as this in the House of Commons. Politicians lie. Not a new revelation I know but the bulk of my frustration comes from the way that they not only lie but avoid answering straight questions with straight answers. I've lost count of the number of times I have seen or heard interviews with MPs where to all intents and purposes the interviewer need not be there. The answers given bear no relation to the questions asked and it drives me loopy.

Politicians are the drug-taking athletes of the governmental world. How many times have we heard disgraced sportsmen protesting that they had no choice but to take whatever illegal substance they have chosen to imbibe if they wanted to be in with a chance of winning? They claim that almost all athletes are taking these performance enhancing substances and that they are merely trying to make it a level playing field. Well in the political arena I've no doubt that the same claims are made, albeit non-verbally, when attempting to justify the lies and question dodging. Let's say that a truly honest politician appears on the scene and is attempting to compete with the Browns and Camerons of this world in a general election. Elections and government in general is ultimately all about promises; what can they promise and who do the population believe will help us the most? A government has limited resources and so must decide which areas of society need the most funding and help. The honest man knows that and so will lay out his plans truthfully, identifying the areas he feels are most in need and admitting that other matters will have to be put on the back burner for the moment. The average politician does not do that. He/she will promise almost everything to everyone despite knowing that such plans are completely untenable. What's the result? The liar gets into power because he has promised more and the honest man heads home with nothing but his integrity. Thus the cycle of lying politicians continues.

Some may say I'm too cynical. Perhaps they're right. If I feel like this at 23, how bitter and twisted will I be by the time I'm 70? But as Catchphrase always taught me, I say what I see. What we need is two truthful politicians to enable honest debates and straightforward promises. What's that I see on the horizon? Oh it's a squadron of flying pigs...

Monday, 8 October 2007

TV Traitor

I like to think that I'm fairly patriotic and do my bit in waving the flag for British goods and services. There's no better chocolate than Cadbury's and no-one does News like the British media. But news is just one part of the media and sadly when it comes to TV quality in general, Britain has been in freefall lately, slipping down the international rankings further with each new unoriginal reality show and soap. Every successful show is instantly copied by its rival channels, perhaps with a few added extras to give the illusion of innovation. These look-a-likes then clog up the schedules for months, if not years, to come. Daytime staples Bargain Hunt; Cash in the Attic; Flog It; Car Booty - is there really any difference between them all? Then there are the likes of Move to the Country; A Place in the Sun; Location, Location, Location; To Buy or Not to Buy; Homes Under The Hammer - save me from this housing-related avalanche of drivel. The majority of British so-called-drama are soaps in disguise. Either that or murder mysteries and police procedurals. Is it not surprising that many TV viewers are now rejecting British programmes in favour of the American imports?

Sad to say, I'm one of them. Unlike others however, I am not under the illusion that all American TV is good TV. I have no doubt that their schedules are just as, if not more heavy laden with cheap and tacky shows as our own. But the difference is that when something is good over there, it's very good. I would love it if British TV could produce shows with the quality of Heroes, Prison Break, The West Wing, Alias, Without A Trace, ER and 24 but it just hasn't happened yet. The nearest we've got is probably BBC's Spooks - genuinely gripping television and yet it still lacks something. I'm never all that bothered if I miss an episode of Spooks and yet when some of the aforementioned American shows are on I never fail to set my video recorder. I don't know what the solution is. If I did then I'd probably be lobbying to become the Director General of the BBC. What I am sure of is that the answer is not more commercial channels. ITV's content is downright awful at the moment. Unless there's a sporting event of particular interest to me, I never watch it. Channel 4 seem to rely too much on the American imports (until Rupert Murdoch nicks them and takes them off to Sky One). They and Channel 5 are also culpable when it comes to making documentaries with overly sensationalised titles. No matter how moving a programme may be it's difficult to take something seriously when you're constantly reminded that the title is something along the lines of 'The Boy With Two Heads'. And don't get me started on the dross that fills the schedules of most digital and cable channels.

I wonder whether in the future we'll see a society increasingly returning to books for entertainment. It would be no bad thing and I've no doubt there is more amusement and interest to found within the pages of a Jane Austen novel than a hundred episodes of Deal or No Deal.

Friday, 5 October 2007

Ignorance vs. Stupidity

I'm used to a fair bit of ignorance. Although awareness of M.E. is now increasingly wide-spread I've no doubt that I'll still spend a great deal of my life readying to answer the "Isn't M.E. just about being tired?" question. I can deal with a bit of ignorance. More frustrating is ignorance combined with an inability to listen to a simple reply and take on board the information. But that's a topic for another day. Ignorance is acceptable up to a point. Today however I encountered a human being of such ignorance, arrogance, stupidity and thoughtlessness that I was rendered mute.

On leaving our holiday cottage today and giving our thanks to the owner, my parents and I had the misfortune to meet a photographer, at the cottages to take some professional photographs for advertising etc. My mum had been chatting quite happily to both the owner and picture-snapper and we were about to get in the car and on our merry way. It happened to be mentioned in passing that it was likely I would be accompanying my parents on holidays for a good few years to come. The man in question burbled something about getting rid of his kids as soon as possible etc. Fair enough. He doesn't know the circumstances. My mum chips in to explain that things are a bit different for us due to my illness. The moronic photographer responds with, "Oh, they all have illnesses these days!". Mum clarifies that I've had this illness for over 10 years. She may as well have not spoken for all the notice he took. "Independence is the best thing for them. Get them living out on their own." Good grief man. For a start, before mum had explained the 10 years part it was most unclear what sort of illness I had. For all he knew I could have had cancer or some sort of degenerative M.S. like disease. How awful, if that had been the case, would it have been to hear someone say "Oh, they all have illnesses..." With regard to his opinions on independence, did he think that I would be on holiday with my parents at the age of 23 out of choice? If so he must be living in some sort of skewed reality. I would like nothing better than to have my independence. My enforced reliance on others is one of the most upsetting aspects of this illness.

Sorry to say that at the time, none of these thoughts were verbally expressed. I was simply shocked into silence at the absurdity of what he said! When I did get to thinking about it I was more incredulous than angry. I cannot believe that there are such people around these days. I am convinced that no matter what I had said to him in reply he wouldn't have taken in a jot of it. He blatantly had his opinion and would hear nothing of anyone else's. What a complete muppet. Ignorance is one thing, stupidity is quite another.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Oi! Where's my discount?

A bizarre incident took place today which at the time I thought nothing of. But the more I've thought on it, the more unimpressed I've become. I'm doing the family holiday thing at the moment. Just me and the parents on the East Coast and today, in honour of my Giraffe-a-licious tendencies, we went to visit my cloven-footed kindred at Africa Alive - a wildlife park just outside of Lowestoft. Prior to the trip we had taken a look at their website to assess the accessibility of the park (they score 0 when it comes to said information available on the site) and to find out their admission prices. We discovered that a wheelchair user receives a small discount and a carer a slightly larger one. Jolly good. So off we trotted.

We arrived safe and sound. I bundled myself into my wheelchair, Dad pushing, and we went to get our tickets. As we approached the desk we were greeted by a lady who quickly said "3 adults?" and rung up the charges. "Hang on a minute, is there not a discount for a wheelchair user and carer?" "Oh yes" says the lady, "only we don't give it unless you ask because some people don't like just having it handed out." What the blinking heck was that all about? At the time we just mumbled something about that being fine and that we understood, probably as a result of that innate British 'quality' of not wanting to offend anyone. But the more that my parents and I thought on it the more ridiculous and slightly disturbing it became.

Firstly, if a girl in a wheelchair being pushed by her father presents herself to such a ticket issuer it's pretty darn obvious that they are entitled to the discount that the park publicises on its website. You don't have to say out loud "1 adult, 1 disabled customer and 1 carer" and draw attention to the situation (evidently their main concern considering the explanation we were given). You just ring it up as such and ask for the total amount due. We shouldn't have to point it out to them!

Secondly, it seems to imply that being disabled is a terrible thing that no-one wants to talk about. Somehow it has become a taboo subject! How is it in anyway helpful to completely ignore the fact that someone is in a wheelchair? You don't have to waffle on about it but in this instance it needs to be recognised! Or are they worried that if they vocally confirm that I am in fact disabled and in a wheelchair that I'm going to throw a hissy fit and wheel around shouting that I'm not disabled? Bizarre indeed. This is either another symptom of political correctness gone mad or of a wildlife park trying to rip its disabled customers off and hiding it in a cloud of respectability. Either way it's just another example of the many absurdities that wheelchair users and the disabled in general have to deal with.

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Adrenaline Junkie

Merriam-Webster Online defines adrenaline as 'a colorless crystalline feebly basic sympathomimetic hormone C9H13NO3 that is the principal blood-pressure raising hormone secreted by the adrenal medulla'. Exciting eh?

For the record, I'm not an adrenaline junkie. Adrenaline is not my friend. One reason for that is probably genetics. My mum is actually allergic to adrenaline. So much so that when she visits the dentist she has to have a different type of injection to everyone else. But I think the main reason for my less than friendly relationship with this 'basic sympathomimetic hormone' lies within the whole 'fight or flight' scenario. Adrenaline is one of the hormones released when the body is under undue stress. The brain is programmed to release all this gubbins when it thinks we're in danger. Adrenaline and it's co-conspirators are designed to get you ready for fight or flight. That's all very well, but my M.E. saturated body is equipped for neither. No matter how much adrenaline is coursing through my veins, it's pretty improbably that I'm going to be much use in fighting a fly, let alone something that could genuinely do me harm. Instead I end up as not much more than a jittery mess! Physically dodgy, mentally useless and emotionally spent.

Now you may ask, "Surely Giraffe-a-licious with her M.E. and lack of energy does not often find adrenaline charging around her blood stream?" The answer to that my friends is that I acquire my adrenaline vicariously. Let me use last night as an example. England were playing Tonga in the Rugby World Cup and had to win in order to remain in the competition (albeit just to get squashed by the Australians next weekend). I love sport, I love rugby and I love England but I was nowhere near where the action was happening. There was no reason for my 'fight or flight' mechanism to go into overdrive. Yet it did. Apparently I was personally having my adrenaline handed to me by the England rugby team. It's often sport that causes me this problem. If you collected all the adrenaline produced by my body over the years, purely from watching Tim Henman matches then it would probably fill a swimming pool.

I've no doubt that I would be much better off not participating in the viewing of these events. But I think adrenaline production is also a sign of excitement and having fun. Some people get theirs from rollercoasters, I just watch British sportsmen.

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Stranger than Stranger than Fiction

The film Stranger than Fiction stars Will Ferrell as Harold Crick, a tax-man/auditor who begins to hear Emma Thompson narrating his life. Unfortunately whilst watching it last night I failed to note down any examples of this narration, thereby making this blog almost null and void. However I will attempt to convey the gist of it in my own inimitable style. Ferrell begins to hear almost every mundane aspect of his life narrated in his head as he goes about his daily business. Merely irritating to him at first, he soon becomes aware that something more disturbing is going on and that in fact his life is in danger. As Emma Thompson puts it: "Little did he know that this simple seemingly innocuous act would result in his imminent death." Thank you imdb. It's a jolly good film but I couldn't help but wonder how my own life would sound should an author decided to make me the subject of her next book. I expect it would go something like this:

Giraffe-a-licious awoke that Wednesday morning with the same disappointed feeling with which she awoke every morning. The world was still the same. She hadn't been magically transported to a parallel world of excitement and fun. At the age of 23 she was still living with her parents and experiencing the delights of suburban Britain. She extricated herself from the stack of pillows that had somehow made their way across the bed during the night and grimacing, levered herself into an upright position. She noticed the DVD player was still on. Whilst grabbing wildly in an attempt to locate her dressing gown she slowly began to piece together the events of the night before. She remember that she had forgotten to take her anti-depressants until gone 11:30pm - a good two hours late - and that she'd watched a number of West Wing episodes without getting to the point of sleep. Giraffe-a-licious was a closet Martin Sheen fan. In desperation at around about 1:30am she had reached for The Sound of Music. The last thing she remembered was Julie Andrews swinging her guitar and suitcase over-enthusiastically whilst belting out "I have confidence in sunshine.." Giraffe-a-licious did not have confidence in sunshine this morning. Or for that matter confidence in rain. She trudged to the door, down the stairs and into the kitchen. As she opened the cupboards robotically she noticed with great displeasure that someone had finished the last of the Crunchy Nut Cornflakes. She sighed. Little did she know just how bad her day was going to be.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Giraffe-a-licious vs. Kipple (coming to a cinema near you soon)

It was Philip K Dick who first coined the term 'kipple'. It appeared in his book 'Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?', later to become known as Blade Runner following Ridley Scott's 1982 film version. Dick writes:

"Kipple is useless objects, like junk mail or match folders after you use the last match or gum wrappers or yesterday's home page. When nobody's around, kipple reproduces itself. For instance, if you to go bed leaving any kipple around your apartment, when you wake up there is twice as much of it. It always gets more and more. No one can win against kipple, except temporarily and maybe in one spot."

I feel his pain. Kipple is my enemy. I fought a great battle yesterday against the forces of Kipple-dom and gained a draining but exhilarating short-term victory. Kipple holds a number of substantial advantages over me. Firstly, my lack of energy. To stand your ground in the face of kipple requires CONSTANT VIGILANCE! Forgive me the Harry Potter quote but it seems appropriate. Such watchfulness is tiring itself, let alone when you take into account the numerous calls to arms. I fear that my M.E. is in league with the kipple. They have joined forces to take over my room and with it my sanity. I am powerless to stop it. As I lie on my bed in the mid-afternoon, during the 2 hour nap necessary to get me through the rest of the day, I can hear it spreading. Bank statements, junk mail, hospital radio application forms, receipts, jiffy bags from Amazon, hair bobbles... they conspire against me and procreate to produce more and more kipple. This brings me to my second problem. This kipple reproduction has been going on for 17 and a half years in the same space! We moved to our current house in March 1990 and my room has been my room for that whole period of time. I haven't been out of it for more than 2 weeks at a time. I haven't been able to go to university or move out of home. I have 17 and a half years worth of kipple in that place! Not just kipple either. Kipple and M.E. have another cohort in their attack on my mental and emotional well-being. Odds and Ends. Brrrrr...makes you shiver doesn't it? All those silly, pointless, little ornaments that I've picked up along the way. I should just be able to merrily dispose of them into my only ally in the kipple war - the wheelie bin. But that's when Odds and Ends plays its trump card: sentimental value. I curse my memory! What would I give to not know precisely who bought me what and when. But alas, it cannot be and that is why I shall never win the war on kipple.

I mentioned a short-term victory earlier. Basically, I'm sticking a load of it in the loft! No doubt one day I'll have to face it again as it becomes too much for the attic and starts to burst out of the roof. Until that day however, I will keep fighting the good fight against the present kipple. As Mel Gibson once said, "They may take our lives, but they'll never take our freedom!"

Saturday, 22 September 2007

God Save The Queen? Bobbins!

I'm as English as they come. English to the point of boredom. As far as I'm aware there is not a trace of foreign blood within my family tree back to at least my great-grandparents. So I don't understand why I'm not all that patriotic. I classify myself as British, rather than English. You'd never catch a Celt making that mistake. Friends of mine with only the slightest bit of Welsh, Scottish or Irish heritage to speak of make a huge deal out of their roots. This despite the fact that most of them are still three-quarters English! We just don't seem to have the same sense of national identity. I suppose it's probably just a case of the majority vs the minority. The underdogs always have that extra passion that binds them together.

I ponder on this because despite all evidence to the contrary I am convinced that I must have a bit of Irish blood in me. Rugby was persuaded me as such. Ireland are second only to England in my level of enthusiastic support. And it's pretty much all due to, what up until today I thought was, their National Anthem. 'Ireland Calls' is the most rousing, brilliant piece of anthem writing to ever meet my ears. Check out these lyrics:

Come the day and come the hour
Come the power and the glory
We have come to answer
Our Country's call
From the four proud provinces of Ireland

Ireland, Ireland,
Together standing tall
Shoulder to shoulder
We'll answer Ireland's call

Isn't it just perfect for rugby? Amazing. At least I thought so until I was informed by Wikipedia that it was written in 1995 specifically as an anthem for the Irish team! I had obviously noticed that there are often two anthems sung by the Irish before the kick-off but my simple little brain had reasoned that one was for Northern Ireland and the other for Eire. It turns out that what I had thought was the Northern Irish anthem is in fact Amhrán na bhFiann - the original Irish anthem. However, Unionists don't like the militant and potentially anti-British feeling of the lyrics. So in '95 the Irish RFU commissioned the new song. It's all rather complicated isn't it? But not to worry. I love this song and it would be even better if I was Irish! There aren't many anthems where you get to belt out your country's name in such a fashion. Plus it has its piece de resistance - a key change! If you've never heard it have a listen at the link below.

Altogether now.....#Ireland, Ireland...#

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Is there a doctor in the house?

Call The Doctor! No, not a doctor. The Doctor. Capital T, capital D. I need a TARDIS. Although if he happened to show up in his David Tennant incarnation then I would consider that a rather nice bonus. I have lately realised that I do not belong in the 21st century. I'm an old-fashioned girl and the pace and stresses of this modern life are not suited to my delicate personage. I have therefore concluded that I belong in the 19th Century. Not just any old 19th Century mind, but Jane Austen's. Do you begin to see why I have need of a time machine?

Life was (at least according to Jane) so much simpler then. Yes, I suppose the pressures of marrying into money were huge but no doubt there were a few incurable romantics holding on until they found their perfect partner. There were dances and picnics and fancy clothes. The style of casual dress was flattering to nearly all women. (Again, I am taking my cue from modern TV and film adaptations but I'm sure they did the necessary research! Ahem.) Men were gentlemen and women were ladies (as long as one was mixing in the right circles). Granted, women didn't exactly have the career options available now but who needs a high-flying occupation when there's extensive reading and embroidery to be done. I'm not entirely sure how M.E. would have been regarded in the early 1800s. I expect that I would have been classified as having a weak constitution and sent to Bath to recuperate. Sadly that still seems to be the extent of treatment these days. Apart from the trip to Bath of course. I've never been to Bath. Hmmm. Well no matter, once I get my hands on this TARDIS the world shall be my oyster. Hark! I hear the drone of a police box with an engine...

Anyone for tennis?

Great Britain take on Croatia in The Davis Cup this weekend. In honour of this event Giraffe-a-licious brings you:

10 Things You Should Know About… The Davis Cup

For the bluffer:

1. The Davis Cup is an international men’s tennis tournament. Unusually for tennis, it is a team event. Players compete for their country within different divisions. The division in which each country competes, depends on their previous results.

2. The most prestigious division is known as The World Group. This consists of sixteen nations – eight of which are automatically included as a result of their progress in the World Group the previous year. The eight other places are decided by play-offs between the bottom teams from the last year’s World Group and the top teams from the lower divisions.

3. The Davis Cup is played in the form of ties between two countries. A tie consists of five matches or ‘rubbers’. One doubles and four singles matches are played over the space of three days and the team with the most victories wins the tie.

4. Great Britain’s tie against Croatia at the weekend is a World Group play-off. If Britain win they will be part of the elite group for the first time since 2003 when they lost 4-1 to Australia in the first round.

5. Tim Henman will be retiring from the sport after the tie with Croatia. His Davis Cup record stands at: Played 52 Won 38 Lost 14. He’s a legend and only the ill-informed say otherwise!

For the more knowledgeable fan:

1. Whilst Great Britain face Croatia, the Davis Cup semi-finals will also be taking place. Russia host Germany whilst Sweden have home advantage against the USA. Russia’s four team members all feature in the world Top 40, including world number 4 Nikolay Davydenko, and will be strong favourites to make the final. As will the Americans who are fortunate though to have the not inconsiderable talents of specialist doubles players, Bob and Mike Bryan – watch out for their Teletubby-esque celebrations.

2. The USA have won the trophy the greatest number of times; 31 and counting.

3. Great Britain are currently ranked 26th in the Davis Cup rankings, behind such tennis giants as Thailand, Japan and Peru.

4. The Davis Cup began life as the International Lawn Tennis challenge but was renamed the Davis Cup in 1945 following the death of one of its founders, Dwight Davis. The tournament was first held in 1900 and contested between only the United States and Great Britain, but by 1905 teams from Austria, France, Belgium and Australasia (a freakish hybrid of teams representing Australia and New Zealand) were competing.

5. The Davis Cup trophy is one of the largest in sport. It weighs in at 105kg (that’s almost two Justine Henins), stands at 110cm tall and is 107cm in diameter. Over the years it has been adapted and developed into its current ‘wedding cake’ style. The original trophy (a silver punch bowl) is engraved with the 1900-1919 winners and a tray bears the names of the countries that won from 1920-1932. This is followed by three tiers on which the winners from 1933 to the present are displayed.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Oi scientists - listen up!

False alarm everyone. No need to panic. I am not dead. Barn dancing merely led to a couple of days of inability to do anything but watch rugby. For all you nosey-parkers who want to know why on earth I was barn dancing in the first place; I was at a wedding. I told myself that under no circumstances were I to get on that dance floor but sadly my resolve was reduced to zero when I saw how much fun everyone else was having.

Saturday was truly a glorious day weather wise. It felt like the height of summer. Looking out of the window, today also looks wonderful but I fear that the skies are deceiving me. Bright blue and hardly a cloud to be seen and yet once you pop outside there is a definite feel of autumn in the air. Bah. That means winter's not far behind. If winter in Britain was beautifully snowy, crisp and sunny then I would have little problem with it. The cold and the increased pain brought with it would be offset by the scenery and snowmen! But we just don't get that in the UK. So instead I have to deal with the cold, the pain and the overcast dreary misery that hangs around outside my 4 walls. You wouldn't believe the number of times that I've considered moving to warmer climes. But the upheaval and stress of making new friends (quite probably in a new language) just isn't worth it. Don't get me wrong, I love Britain. I love tea, Cadbury's chocolate, the history of our country and the fact that our sporting triumphs are made all the greater by our sporting failures. I delight in our sense of humour, the numerous accents present within such a small space and the relative freedom of our press. I know that it's a cliche for the British to complain about the weather but honestly, instead of our scientists spending years creating cow-human hybrid embryos, could they not just spend the time working out how to make it a bit warmer?

Sunday, 16 September 2007


Can't blog. Dead. Killed by barn dancing.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Put your back into it

There are a lot of strange things in this world; green tomato ketchup; Americans playing rugby; Pete Doherty. But there's not a lot stranger than osteopathy.

Main Entry: os·te·op·a·thy
Pronunciation: "äs-tE-'ä-p&-thE
Function: noun
Etymology: New Latin osteopathia, from oste- + Latin -pathia -pathy
: a system of medical practice based on a theory that diseases are due chiefly to loss of structural integrity which can be restored by manipulation of the parts supplemented by therapeutic measures (as use of drugs or surgery)

Or to put it into my own words: The practice of making a patient strip off to their underwear, bend over in various directions, lying them down on a bench, twisting and leaning on them in various over-friendly positions, cracking their joints and in doing so causing an assortment of worrying sounds to be emitted from the patient's bones. Oh and charging you £35 for the pleasure.

I'd managed to escape this 'therapy' for over two years until today. Unfortunately the last 6 months of alternating between sitting and sleeping has had an effect on my poor M.E. ridden body. So having rummaged into the back of the chest of drawers to find some decent underwear, I headed off to the bone-cruncher's. Thankfully my osteopath is a woman. I don't think I'd ever be happy with a male manoeuvring me in such a way!

Ultimately the experience was fairly painless this time. Other than having to be separated from my £35. Although osteopathy has definitely helped me over the years (not necessarily with the M.E. but with some of the inevitable consequences of the illness) I'm still never entirely convinced that such 'skeletal manipulation' (ooh, get me with the jargon!) can be a good thing. But then again, I suppose that's what the Georgians thought about Alexander Fleming and his mould.