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.