06/02/10 – 07/02/10

I have three points on my driving licence.

I got done for speeding in May last year. I’d been driving home from Leeds and was absolutely knackered and I thought I’d already been flashed by a camera on the M6. I’d had one of those moments rare to Nissan Micra drivers in which I had unexpectedly found myself the fastest vehicle on the road.

Wey-hey, I thought to myself, look at all those cockamamie palookas going slow whilst I am king of the road. Then I saw the camera.

Bizarrely I never got a ticket for that offence but the expectation that I would clouded my mood and made me even more determined just to get the damn journey over with.

Now the A9 is a long, dull, frustrating piece of tarmac. I once had my sat nav on as I drove back from Glasgow and as we got out of Perth it said “Turn left in one hundred and eleven miles.” The scenery is beautiful but harsh. Come in, it says. Walk, climb, cycle through me and then I will kill you. It’s watchable, but not for the full three hours it can take to drive through.

I had nearly got home when I zoomed through a bit where the road turned from dual carriageway into single carriageway at 80 miles per hour. An appalling twenty mph faster than the speed limit. As soon as I twigged I was going way too fast I started to slow up but it was much too late. I rounded a bend and there were two cops with a big van and a radar gun.

I’ve never seen a laughing policeman before. I could sing you a song about one but I’d never seen one in real life and now here were two, blurry as I tore past them, but definitely recognisable as such.

They were in a good spot and I reckon I must have been their last bounty of the day and they were thus free to tootle back to the station for coffee and donuts or Tizer and stovies, or whatever Scottish cops have.

I was furious. Twenty years of driving and no offences. I’d been proud of my clean licence and hated the thought that it was now going to be a thing of the past.

Looking around the car for someone to blame it became quickly and depressingly apparent that the person at fault was me.

I experimented a little bit with blaming the road. Bloody coefficient of friction, bloody gravity. But that seemed a bit feeble to me even in my blame-thrower mood.

Then I had a shot at blaming the cops. How come they were there entrapping pleasant and benign drivers such as myself who just happened to be proceeding with a touch too much enthusiasm and dispatch? How come they weren’t still trying to trace the malefactors who nicked my bike two years previously?

No soap there either, really. The police were doing their job, which was bringing to justice people who were breaking the rules of the road.

Whichever way I sliced it the responsibility was mine, mine alone, solely mine and not anyone else’s. It doesn’t matter even if you want some of the blame. You can’t have it. It’s mine.

By the time I got the letter a few days later advising me to pay the fine and send my licence off to get it endorsed I was entirely at peace with the incident. If the little slip I had to send back had had a “Sorry” box to tick I’d have ticked it.

It’s been a nice development of recent years. This ability to sit back and admit that I’ve been a div when I’ve been a div. I’m sure I used to put a lot of effort into the evasion of responsibility. Life is easier now I can hold my hands up to my part in things. It also makes it easier not too worry too much when stuff goes wonky and it’s not my fault.

Que sera sera.

Evidently it’s song night tonight.

This is in my head because of my computer contretemps of Friday night/Saturday morning. As I have calmed down I have come to accept that computers just are what they are. If there was an oaf involved in the process then it was me.

A nice sleep and a few pleasant meals later I am back in the gentle land of Positivania. The music isn’t lost. The process of putting it all on to the Mac is going to be a longer term project than I had in mind, but it’s giving me the opportunity to fix a few of the cataloguing blemishes and inconsistencies in my iTunes library which is a pleasing prospect.

I’ve started already and am rediscovering music I haven’t listened to in years. I am typing this listening to some Sidney Bechet jazz clarinet music. It’s lovely. It makes me feel like I’m in a Woody Allen film. Or rather, it enhances the feeling I always have that I’m in a Woody Allen film.

The iMac is very satisfying to use, and now that I’m adjusting to the differences from Windows I am beginning to adopt that irritating and slightly disdainful Mac-user demeanour. It’s just all so clean and quick and (wish there was a less weary word for it) intuitive.


A completely charming day on Sunday in Nairn, the seaside haunt of Charlie Chaplin, Tilda Swinton, and more pertinently the Highlands’ answer to The Incredibles: Jason, Sue and Ailsa. A bunch of us got together to celebrate Jason’s increasing obsolescence and inevitable acceleration towards decrepitude.

Happy Birthday Jimmy McWater, I say. Thank you for the very fine day.

We ate richly and then burped our way through this afternoon’s rugby match. Scotland lost to France sadly, but I’m sure at the end of the day that sport was the winner. I’m having to take a lot of this on trust because rugby is one of the many things in this world that I have no appreciation of. I have seen spontaneous Dundee street brawls that have more of the sporting spectacle to them than any rugby match I’ve seen. But, hey. That’s just me.

I feel like I haven’t seen a movie for ages, and I now have a book and DVD backlog so vast that it’s starting to look doubtful that I’ll be able to squeeze it all in before my tragic death in a massage accident with Gemma Arterton’s twin grand-daughters in fifty years time.

And people keep making new stuff! Bring on the global entertainment famine.

I wasted a bit of time yesterday with ITV’s rebarbative dating show Take Me Out. It’s a distillation of all that is superficial, appearance-orientated and dim in Britain today. Bloke after bloke is paraded before a panel of glittery boob-tube girls who dispense binary judgement by use of a light.

The show’s compere, Paddy McGuinness who used to be so funny with Peter Kay in Phoenix Nights and is now a haunted comedy wreck, uses the catchphrase “No lighty, no likee” quite a lot. It’s a phrase which arguably lacks poetry but it does at least neatly précis the show’s rules in a quick six syllables.

As the blokes reveal more about themselves more and more of the women turn their lights off (it’s an irreversible decision) until at the end of the process the bloke chooses one of the remaining ones to go on an excruciating date with, or he is left with no lit women at all and has to skulk off to the strains of “All By Myself”.

A couple of things bother me about this of which the first and most obvious is I wouldn’t stand a chance. Affable and easy-going I may be, but these women are after totty. It’s all about looks, and if you’ve got looks and a fireman’s uniform then so much the better.

One of last night’s ladies turned her light off the minute one guy started talking. When asked about it she said she couldn’t understand a word he said, ironically in a strangulated estuary voice which was all glottal stops and schwa vowels. All the poor guy had uttered at this stage was “Hi. I’m Gregor. I’m from Edinburgh.”

I didn’t catch the woman’s name. It may have been Lois Common-Denominator.

The second thing that bugged me was the thought that if you reversed the genders and had a couple of dozen men grading a woman on her looks it would be a strangely sinister spectacle.

The badinage is low of brow and the attitudes are of weapons-grade toxicity, but so what? This is a programme that is clearly not for me.

It has been heralded by some as one of the signs of the coming apocalypse, but I’m not sure it’s any worse than the imbecilic Blind Date that blighted the Saturday night TV schedules back in the eighties. I won’t be going back for more, but them as likes it are welcome to it.

There was an amazing contrast between the gender politics of Take Me Out and those on offer in Desert Island Discs on Radio 4 this morning whose pretend castaway was Gok Wan.

I used to think that Gok was a very attractive woman, but was eventually put right on that one. Apparently he’s a very attractive man. Welcome to the interesting epoch of the twenty-first century.

In the shop we used to sell books based on his Look Good Naked TV programme and I was always a little concerned that they might be a bit exploitative. It is, it turns out, quite easy to take money off the needy and vulnerable.

I was wrong in my assumptions about him anyway. He seems like a gentle and genuinely compassionate nurturer. Certainly what came across from his 45 minutes on the radio this morning was the idea that psychological or spiritual well-being is an internal matter of attitude rather than an external one of appearance, but one that can be enhanced with attention to presentational detail.

Probably I won’t ever see eye to eye with Gok over matters of couture as he has the refined taste of a modern dandy and I like to get dressed at random in the dark.

What I would agree with him on however is the idea that we are all beautiful, but that we don’t always see it ourselves.

By Feexby Posted in Diary

2 comments on “06/02/10 – 07/02/10

  1. You are one in a million – this is the funniest blog ever. The standard keeps getting better. Don’t know how you do it, John, but keep it up. I look forward to reading it every day.

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