Snow…

It never fails to surprise me when I hear somebody say they hate snow – they might as well say they don’t like Kinder Surprise eggs or baby hedgehogs, it all registers at the same level on the Incredulity Scale as far as I’m concerned.  I love snow.  I look forward to it every year, it jostles with sock puppets, tiny dinosaurs made out of marzipan and ‘Knock-knock’ jokes involving the word ‘Poo’ for top spot in my list of favourite childish pleasures.

Do you know what the crucial factor to enjoying snow is? It’s the way you discover it; snow, much like a good lover, needs to take you unawares, to fall softly upon you when you least expect it, making you gasp and smile with joy and excitement.  If you’re in an office with no windows and some inconsiderate, whimsy-challenged cretin come stomping in, with the words ‘URGH! It’s snowing out there!’ frozen to their chapped, soulless lips like a freeze-dried cold sore, there is simply no way you are going to enjoy the snow. Their peevish cynicism will creep right off of them and latch on to you, like a… creepy, latchy thing, and from that point on you are doomed.  Such a scenario is guaranteed to remove all the magic from a good snow shower faster than Nadine Dorries could remove the magic from an Ann Summers party.

This year, I discovered the snow in the best way possible.

It had been cold all day, I mean really cold, colder than a poorly endowed penguin’s perineum, so style had been politely folded up and put away in a chest of drawers in favour of a comfy, cosy, slightly disreputable pair of fleecy jogging bottoms, a hoodie and a pair of woolly socks that even Dobby the House Elf would prefer an eternity of servitude to being caught dead in.  The nice TV weatherman had told me this morning that it was likely to snow, but my Nan had always told me to never trust a weatherman… or was it men with mono-brows? I always get those confused. Anyway, when it comes to weather forecasts I tend to go by the ‘I’ll believe it when I see it’ maxim, having been caught in far too many torrential downpours whilst wearing flip-flops not to.

The afternoon was pleasantly spent curled up with the Xbox, a good book and the cat for company, only occasionally venturing out to the kitchen for heartening cups of tea and to gather assorted snacks, peering hopefully out of the window each time to see whether any of the promised white goods had been delivered, only to be disappointed each time.  By 3:30pm I was becoming decidedly dubious about the whole thing.  Donning my warmest coat and boots I ventured out to the back garden, grumpily muttering about ineffective weathermen and their mothers, to put some food out for the birds.  It was bitterly cold and the sky looked like an explosion in a Tipp-Ex factory; reassured, with hopes raised, I took a big, bracing breath of snow-scented air and grinned in happy anticipation.

Inevitably, the day drifted on and I drifted off to sleep; I woke up just before 6pm with a stiff neck, hair that looked like it had just been vacated by a family of untidy weasels, and a small pair of very cold feet, despite the socks from hell.  Still a little dazed, I tottered over to the window to draw the curtains against the dark night and the chill draft that persistently crept through the old frames.  I had completely forgotten about the…

SNOW!

SNOOOOOOOW!

And not just a little bit, not just those first wispy smatterings that look like a clumsy giant with no regard for superstition spilled salt all over the world – it was a proper blanket of snow, pristine, already a couple of inches deep, and still falling steadily.  I beamed at the flakes falling past the window and watched them settle.  The way I felt in those first few minutes was comparable to unexpectedly finding a £10 note in your purse when you thought you were totally broke, or opening a box of Cherry Bakewells and finding one of them has two cherries on top – nothing earth-shattering or life-changing, just little things, all the more lovely for being such random rarities.

I think that’s why I love snow, because it makes me think of so many small, inconsequential things that bring me little bursts of unlooked for pleasure: Narnia, Christmas cake, the moment when the giant Stay-Puft man explodes in Ghostbusters, polar bears, Snoopy’s happy dance, toastie duvets with fresh bedding, musical snow globes, Fargo, the first clean page of a new notebook, fairy tales and Gnossienne No. 3 by Erik Satie.  Nothing provides more nostalgia and comfort than a blanket of snow, or is more likely to make me go all Von Trappy; to quote the Austrian, curtain-clad warblers: ‘I simply remember my favourite things and then I don’t feel so bad.’ – a bit of a twee cliché perhaps, but fact, nonetheless. Things haven’t been great – I needed this snow.

By 8:30pm I could resist it no longer; I left the house, a walking pile of wool, fleece and – whatever the hell it is my winter coat is made out of, no longer distinguishable as a human, let alone female, and sallied forth into the wonderland that is currently Norfolk. It was so cold, despite all my layers, the wind and snow causing my cheeks, the only two small patches of skin left exposed to the elements, to sting and my eyes and nose to start running, sniffing every couple of minutes in a way that, had she been there, would have had my mother tutting and reaching for a hankie in seconds.

The streets were deserted, peaceful and as yet unspoilt by either feet or tyres.  I stood for a couple of minutes and enjoyed the scent of the snow and that muffled effect it has, the one that makes you wonder whether you are the only living creature in the world and makes you wish, somewhat forlornly, that you could befriend a woolly mammoth with a dry sense of humour or a cute little sabre-toothed squirrel with a good supply of acorns.  Thankfully, a small but forceful gust of wind nudged me forward, out of my melancholy pondering, and there was that delicious first crunch as boot met virgin snow.  A laugh found its way out of my belly and, more impressively, out of the layers of hoodie, scarf and coat and floated away down the quiet, empty road. I looked at all the whiteness before me, almost reluctant to spoil its perfection, but if I didn’t then somebody else would. And so I did. I managed 20 carefree minutes before I began to suspect my nose of gross insubordination and fourth degree frostbite.  I headed home, which suddenly seemed a lot more cosier and welcoming than it has done of late.  That’s another good thing about snow, no matter how dissatisfied you feel about your life it makes you feel that, at least for now, you are exactly where you’re meant to be and that there’s no place like home.

In a day or two the snow will probably be gone, or worse – turned into black ice, just another threat to my general safety or – more likely – my street cred and pride; reducing me to walking around like an 80-year-old and ending up flat on my insufficiently padded arse anyway – probably in front of a group of hot blokes – while other women elegantly sashay past my poor broken body in 3 inch heels, looking more confident on ice than Torville & fucking Dean.

And when it gets to that stage… that’s when I know I’m done with snow for another year.  But until then… I LOVE THE SNOW!

CM x     

Christmas Songs & How To Categorise Them…

I think you’ll disagree, one of the good things about the festive season is the music. Christmas songs ROCK! Well, they do during the first 25 days of December, or when you’re really, REALLY drunk – the rest of the time they’re a fetid pile of reindeer cack. But let’s ignore that fact for now as it doesn’t suit the purpose of this blog post.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a self-proclaimed connoisseur of fine tunes or an Olly Murs fan, because on December 1 all your usual tastes, good or bad, will go flying merrily out the window, to be replaced with a manic obsession for anything containing the lyrics ‘merry’ or ‘snow’ or that is accompanied by an endless cacophony of sleigh bells and choirs of tone-deaf Northern children. And quite rightly so! Christmas is a time for madness, for guzzling eggnog til it squirts out your eyeballs, for exchanging old tat and becoming estranged from family members. There is no place for music snobbery at Yuletide. I don’t care whether it’s some obscure punk band from the 70s or Michael Bublé singing, the fact remains that they are both singing songs about figgy pudding, leaping lords and cranberry sauce and using words like ‘Ding’ and ‘Dong’.  If you honestly can’t see and enjoy the sublime lunacy in that you might as well go roger yourself with a partridge, in a pear tree. Wake up and smell the Prozac – those aren’t sleigh bells you can hear – THAT is the sound of brain cells going jingly jangly up the metaphorical chimney, along with your letters to Santa and Jim’ll Fixit. Don’t fight it! Drop the pretension, drink up, embrace your inner elf, and before you know it you’ll have forgotten the majestic splendour of the Goldberg Variations or the heartbreaking vocals of  Jeff Buckley, and find yourself doing the robot dance to Mel & Kim’s ‘Rocking Around the Christmas Tree’ or beat-boxing your way through a chorus of Gracie Field’s version of ‘Little Donkey’, just like the rest of us.

Christmas music is shallow by design, it requires no deep analysis, in fact, it is ruined if you do. Think of some of the things people do at Christmas – would basting yourself in mince meat and Babycham and then trying not to vomit whilst playing Twister with elderly, flatulent relatives be the same if you were listening to Sigur Rós instead of Shakin’ Stevens? Would you be able to muster even the tiniest glimmer of festive spirit when you’re sat down to Christmas dinner, reading jokes out of a cracker that are so bad even Keith Chegwin wouldn’t steal them, and trying to get the dog to eat your sprouts on the sly when your mum’s not looking, if Radiohead were playing instead of Boney M? Of course not. A good Christmas requires bad music. When it comes to approving a festive tune there are only two simple questions you need to ask yourself:

1.      Is this song by Cliff Richard or Chris de Burgh?

If the answer is ‘yes’ then – well, I think it’s fairly obvious what you need to do. Everything has its limits, Christmas included. Some people things are more irritating than a piece of tinsel wrapped tightly round a big, sweaty pair of moolies, and no matter how much cheap sherry you throw down your throat, NOTHING is going to wipe away the greasy smugness of these songs and make them bearable.

2.      Would a herd of cows enjoy me singing this to them, first thing in the morning? 

You look a bit scared confused… let me explain:

If you live in a predominantly rural area, as I do, you’ll be sharing your environment with various livestock, which you are likely to encounter when you least expect it. Unspoken countryside etiquette dictates that it is only polite to greet your fellow dwellers in an agreeable manner. If you are on foot this might take the form of doffing your cap and bidding them a good morning. If you’re ME it involves opening the car window and shouting ‘HULLO, COWS!’ and then launching into a chorus of ‘Good Morning Starshine’. The cows love this! Once it gets to yuletide, it is only a fitting and a gesture of goodwill to offer them a selection of festive tunes to start their ruminative day. After all, there were cows in that stable in Bethlehem – Christmas is not just for humans. So, if you start to sing ‘Little Saint Nick’ by the Beach Boys and it falls flat (which it always will, because it sounds like it’s being sung in HAWAII, not Lapland, and is the least Christmassy song EVER!) then you know you can class it as ‘Eggnoxious’ or ‘Amehzing’ and need never sully a cows ears with such rubbish again.  If, on the other hand, you decide to give them a blast of ‘Everything’s Gonna Be Cool This Christmas’ by Eels and they look like they’re chewing in time with you and don’t do any big, steamy cow pats – then you know it’s a winner! Add it to your iPod and ‘Crimbolicious <3’ playlist on Spotify IMMEDIATELY.

I promise you, this method is fail-proof. You can even do it all year round, with every day music, although personally I don’t, because cows aren’t the boss of me. If you’re a city dweller you could find the lack of cows a bit of a stumbling block. I don’t really know what to suggest… squirrels, maybe? If you’re serious about Christmas music you should probably think about moving to the countryside.

Actually, there is one last way of categorising Christmas songs, but it’s very basic and not half as much fun as serenading cows in a frost-bitten field. All you need to do is sing the song in question out loud, three times. If you get bored by the second time around then it is not a good Christmas song. If it didn’t fill your heart with joy or make you dream of snowflakes on Schnitzel and mittens on kittens, or something, then let it go, it’s not the Christmas song for you. If it made you physically vomit in your mouth and/or want to maim everyone within a 10 mile radius with a turkey drumstick – please could you send it to Sir Cliff’s record label. Thanks.

CM x

Christmas adverts…

As any elderly person will tell you from the middle of August onwards… it’ll soon be Christmas; having reached mid November I think it’s fair to say they are now right. Indeed, the evidence of this fact is everywhere. Supermarkets and shops are full to bursting with overpriced, glitter-laden old tat; dropping temperatures and Danish detectives mean dodgy knitwear can be seen on any high street and not just on Giles Brandreth’s washing line; and men and women across the land are once more locked in the epic power struggle for control over the central heating settings.

If that’s not a big enough clue that the festive season is nearly upon us, the embarrassing neighbours are always happy to drop a hint or two – you know, the ones who can’t afford to get the rusty Capri without any wheels, or the sofa that has every dubious stain known to mankind on it, removed from their front garden, but who can afford to pinion a 6 foot inflatable Santa with a bare arse to their rooftop.  And if you’re still not sure… well, you’re not the pointiest pine needle on the Christmas tree, are you. Just switch on the television and you will be left in no doubt whatsoever that ‘Crimbo’, despair and mince-pie poisoning are just around the corner.

Depending on your mindset, Christmas telly can be a thing of wrist-slitting tedium and rage or a thing of cheese-hugging comfort and joy.  Personally, I fall into the latter category, but I can appreciate that large doses of cartoons, Muppets, Julie Andrews and Noddy Holder screaming ‘IT’S CHRIIIIIIIIIIIISSSSSTTTMAAAAAAAAAAS!’ isn’t to everyone’s taste. The only thing I don’t like about Christmas television is the adverts. In fact, I’d go so far as to say they push my latent homicidal tendencies to near-ninja proportions. Which isn’t very festive, is it? The only Christmas advert I like is that old Toys ‘R’ Us one, and I only like that because it amuses me to annoy my friends by breaking into song, loudly proclaiming ‘THERE’S MILLIONS SAYS GEOFFREY, ALL UNDER ONE ROOF… IT’S CALLED TOYS ‘R’ US, TOYS ‘R’ US, TOYS ‘R’ US, TOYS ‘R’ US, TOYS ‘R’ US, TOYS ‘R’ US (x infinity)’ at inappropriate moments – which, in their opinion, is pretty much any given moment .

Every year I brace myself for the onslaught of cynical, sugar-coated tweeness, and every year I am horrified anew by the sickly depths some advertisers will sink to in order to sell things that nobody, other than maybe the OXO mum and Su Pollard, would look twice at the rest of the year.

It’s always the same offenders too; the global soft drinks giant, who seems to labour under the impression that nothing says ‘Christmas’ like an articulated lorry and a man with overly rosy cheeks who may or may not be on some kind of register. The frozen food chain that sponsor a jungle-based reality show where contestants have to eat kangaroo bum holes which, no matter how crusty and chewy they might be, would still be preferable to eating one of said company’s Party Platters. Or the non-specific retail chain where middle-aged people who can’t afford to shop in Marks & Spencers go to buy fireproof nightwear, whose sole marketing gimmick consists of replacing the lyrics of a well-loathed song with brand names they’ve failed to push on their recession-hit clientele,such as ‘Rolex’, ‘Porsche’ and ‘Fabergé’ and then get as many over-enthusiastic stage school brats as they can afford on a budget of fifty quid, to sing, ‘rap’ and act like ‘normal-but-cute’ kids. *shudder* The result is something that would most definitely make the baby Jesus cry – which isn’t at all Christmassy.

Oh, but this year, we have a new winner. Watch this…

Well? Did you cry? DID YOU? If you didn’t, then watch it again. You must be watching it wrong. Because, according to a vast number of ladies on Twitter and Facebook, it is an eminently tear-worthy happening. How much this has to do with said ladies’ need to affirm their femininity by declaring their ability to weep a shed load of tears in time to their pulsating uteri, I couldn’t say. All I know is that it didn’t make me cry, and I once cried at a K-Swiss advert, so I’m no stranger to deep, emotional anguish. I just don’t get what there is to cry about? If the advert showed an itemised bill from John Lewis set to The Smiths singing ‘Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now’, then I’m sure I could accurately re-enact an average day at Niagara Falls. But not for this advert.

Don’t get me wrong, it is cute and the message behind it, if you squint a bit so that you can’t see the blatant commercialism, is a noble one. It’s beautifully shot and it captures all those little bits of the season that make advent such fun. Which makes it all the more disappointing that they then made some very basic misjudgments that, ultimately, spoil the whole thing:

The child: OK, say this is X Factor. And say I am Louis Walsh, judging the scowly, wee moppet on… well, whatever, that part doesn’t matter… I would almost definitely say, with a fake grin and a mischievous twinkle in my eye ‘You know, you remind me of a young Adolf Hitler…’.  I get that it is crucial to the storyline that he appear impatient and discontented, but I think they over-egg it; by the time it gets to the big reveal I already think he’s the most sulky, miserable little bleeder since Grace van Cutsem (whom I adore by the way), and no manner of good intentions is going to atone for weeks of anti-social behaviour and poor table manners, young man.

The ‘big reveal’: Oh, come on! That would never happen! I once spent some time as a child (yes, yes, some would argue the past tense etc *pulls face*) and I was an absolute angel , but every Christmas morning was the same, starting at approximately 4.30am when I would leap out of bed and gallop down the stairs, shouting ‘SANTAAAAAAAAA!’ and ‘PRESEEEEEEENTSSSS!’, before launching myself at the numerous parcels waiting for me with all the fervour of a Tasmanian Devil on a sugar rush. I loved my mum and my grandparents dearly, but family before presents? Screw that.

And while we’re on the subject of improbable scenarios… I don’t believe the child has something from John Lewis in that box. No. I don’t. As spoilt as he clearly is (tailored wizard’s suit, anyone?), I still think it’s unlikely that he gets enough pocket-money to make a purchase in the hallowed halls of JL… unless he’s got a couple of their carrier bags in there, in which case he’s not only the worst Christmas shopper, but also the most ungrateful brat, in the history of pretend characters. There’s been a lot of speculation on Twitter and Facebook as to the contents of that – it has to be said, rather shoddily wrapped – box; Charlie Brooker has a theory that it’s the head of the family dog, another witty soul (sorry, I can’t remember who) suggested it was the babysitter’s head… which is all rather gruesome and boy-like, and could potentially take the ‘jolly’ out of the holiday.

I think the answer is something just as terrifying, albeit not quite so bloodthirsty… I think he’s MADE them something. Probably some shit he saw made on Blue Peter, maybe a miniature of Gadhafi’s bunker made out of macaroni, or an orbital sander. Who knows, but whatever it is, I’m willing to bet a large selection box that it’s totally not worth the weeks of sulking his parents have had to endure.

The music: I like the tuneful melancholia of The Smiths. I do not like warbling bints. They’ve taken a perfectly good dirge and turned it into something mawkish, and that makes me want to growl and gnash my teeth like a bear… a cute, non-threatening, dateable bear, obviously, but a bear nonetheless. Those soulless bastards have taken a song that I’ve always thought is rather beautiful in its wistfulness and made it into something that Janet will probably sing on the Christmas edition of X Factor, if she hasn’t been consumed by her own hair or been given a Chinese burn and locked in a cupboard by Miss Misha, that is. If that happens, if Janet sings that song whilst dressed as the Ghost of Unmanageable Hair Yet to Come, then BY GOD, John Lewis will feel the mighty force of my wrath! Probably in the form of a strongly worded email. Or something.

Having said all that, and looking on the bright side, at least it makes all those post-Crimbo sofa sale ads we get bombarded with slightly more appealing.

So there you have it, a small Christmassy rant, lovingly wrapped and tied with a bow, just for you, to get you in the festive mood.

Don’t say I never give you anything.

CM x

Why David Attenborough Can Never Be King of England…

David Attenborough’s brilliant, isn’t he? I mean proper superfriggincalivagifeckspialidocious-type fantastic. Everything about him is ‘cool’, from his cheerful  unconcern at having the type of hair that goes all floppy when he’s having a bit of a rumpus with a surly gorilla, to that voice of his – like partially melted Rolos that have been spiked with Temazepam and a really fine sherry.  For his services to animal kind he should be lauded, applauded and jolly well HUZZAH’ed across the land.

There should be a haircut named after him – it worked with the ‘Rachel’ so why not the ‘Dave’? Commemorative, gold-leafed, ‘Collector’s Edition’ plates, mugs and figurines should be flogged to the masses via Sunday supplements and statues should be erected in his honour. Why wait until he’s gone to the big Serengeti in the sky? Start carving them NOW I say! We could ditch poncey Eros in Piccadilly and instead have a majestic ‘Dave tickling a koala’. Why have Nelson looking all squinty and stand-offish on top of his column when we could have ‘Dave doing an impression of a meerkat’? And let’s convert The Angel of the North (which nobody really likes anyway, if their honest) into a giant Dave, arms outstretched in welcome, with Marcel from Friends and Kes sitting on his shoulders.

I like him so much that if I was asked to appoint someone as ruler of the world England – and frankly, I don’t know why nobody has thought to ask me to do that yet – then I would probably pick David Attenborough.

‘Only PROBABLY?’ I hear you gasp in shocked bewilderment.

*heartfelt sigh*

Yes, dear, fragrant reader, I’m afraid so. There are a couple of small-but-can’t-be-ignored ‘quibbles’ that make it impossible for me to make David Attenborough our undisputed overlord:

  • His brother. I’m fairly sure his sense of family duty would lead to him appointing The Lord Richard of Attenborough as High Grand Comptroller Wizard of Entertainment, or something. And whilst I’m reasonably fond of Richard Attenborough, it can’t be denied that he is a bit of a ‘luvvy’ type. Think about it. We’d end up with weather forecasts choreographed by Louis Spence and the news being delivered by overly dramatic news readers who choked on their own tears as they stared with haunted eyes into the camera lens. Also, there’s the whole ‘Little Dickie Attenborough’ thing… no, NO. We can’t have that.
  • And this is the real deal-breaker… I think he’d make it compulsory to watch natural history programmes. And I don’t like those.

What? Well, I don’t!

Yes, I adore Dave, and yes, I love animals… I can see where your confusion comes from, but let me explain… What I DON’T like is David Attenborough and his theatre of animal death. Need further explanation? Just check out Twitter the next time Frozen Planet is on, I guarantee that you will see something very similar to the following, swamping your timeline:

‘Awwww!!!!! Penguins! PENGUINS ARE AMAZEBALLS!!!’

 

‘D’aw! Look at the cute way they walk!’

 

‘LOLZ! PENGUINS ARE HILARIOUS!!!!!!’

 

‘Look at their cute little fe… hang on…’

 

‘What is that ominous shadow looming behind that lone penguin who has inexplicably left the safety of the group and wandered dangerously close to the sea?’

 

‘WHY IS THAT KILLER WHALE LOOKING AT HIM FUNNY?’

 

‘Oh NO!’

 

‘Run, little penguin, RUN!!!’

 

‘Oh, I can’t look 😦

 

‘Somebody tell me when it’s over! 😦

 

‘NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO… Oh…’

 

‘PHEW!!!!!!!’

 

‘YAY! He made it!! :D’

 

‘I need a stiff drink’

 

‘Does anybody know what the symptoms of a myocardial infarction are?…’

 

‘Think I might go and have a lie down. If I never tweet again – can somebody tell my mother I love her? Thanks.’

 

Seriously, Sir David… do YOU call that entertainment? Because in MY book there’s nothing entertaining about serious emotional trauma.

Do you hear that, makers of Watership Down? There is NOTHING entertaining about serious, emotional trauma. Thanks to you I have NEVER watched Bambi, Old Yeller, National Velvet, Cujo or The Lion King… well OK, that last one is mostly because of the Elton John muzak, but you get the picture.

Which reminds me – don’t start bleating on about ‘Oh, it’s just the Circle of Life’ because you can stick that right up your bum. We’ve only got Elton John’s word on it, after all. Maybe life isn’t that simple from my perspective; maybe I prefer trapezoids to circles, or dodecahedrons. Maybe it’s the big, squiggly line of life – ever thought of that, huh?  I mean, I’m not that stupid, I know animals kill each other in order to survive. I also know that John Prescott does number twos – that doesn’t mean I want to see it happen. The toilet habits of fat Northern blokes, animal death and the contents of Frankie Cocozza’s pants are just a few of the things I prefer to remain blind to, thanks very much.

The truth of the matter is I am a big, soppy tart of a girl and I just can’t handle the emotions that come from witnessing an animal in peril or actually dying. I cry at foxes, for goodness sake! They don’t even have to be dead or operating heavy duty machinery without the appropriate safety equipment (that would have me gibbering in seconds), just normal, healthy, happy foxes basking in the sunshine… and I’m in floods. So can you appreciate what footage of a polar bear, floating forlornly on a rapidly melting ice flow would do to me? The beauty of animals breaks my heart; natural history programmes, with their sumptuous shots, fascinating insight and stirring soundtracks just throw in a whole bunch of guilt and anger into the bubbling stew pot that is my emotional state because they are a reminder of what arrogant, selfish shits we humans are for creating such carnage and environmental havoc on a planet that is not ours to fuck up. David Attenborough, with his gentle, wistful tones, might think he’s merely enlightening me on the migrational habits of the Semipalmated Sandpiper, but all I actually hear him saying is:

‘You! You and your heartless kind are killing the planet and all the lovely, ickle creatures that dwell here… and for what? For the sake of having BIG HAIR! You disgust me!’

I’m not saying natural history programmes shouldn’t be made, of course they should, they play an incredibly important part in bringing awareness of nature and the plight of the planet to people who would otherwise be oblivious to it. And I greatly admire the people who make wildlife films. I could never do it,  I’d want to interfere too much. It’s why I should never be allowed to time travel either; just like it would be my first mission to go back to the seventies and warn Elvis to cut down on the pies and the spangly catsuits whilst adding more karate moves to his live show performances (thus throwing the whole alignment of space and time out of whack and no doubt endangering my own existence in the process), my first instinct on witnessing a lion stalking a hapless impala through the arid grasslands of Africa would be to try to shoo it off with a ring binder or clipboard. I wouldn’t be able to help myself. I couldn’t passively sit and film the demise of a baby elephant that had wandered into a bog of quicksand in order to accurately capture the reality of the animal’s existence, I’d force the camera crew to form a human chain and then try to drag it to safety. And then I’d call it ‘Bob’ and take it home to meet the cat.

All I’m saying is I would prefer to watch nature programmes that will entertain and inform me without reducing my face to a puddle of salty snot. Let’s have some documentaries I can watch and enjoy – like Animal Magic! Johnny Morris managed to be consistently funny and heart-warming without ONCE resorting to mimicking what a marmoset might be saying as it disappeared down the throat of a vulture.  Let’s have some nature programmes with zero levels of death, suspense, or poignancy – just nice clips of happy animals, cute clips, funny clips – if YouTube can do it I’m pretty sure the Beeb can! Will Self could narrate in a mildly bored and sarcastic tone, and say things like:

“Here we see a bobcat doing nothing in particular.” *very long pause* “It looks a bit mangey to me.” *another lengthy pause* “Oh, it’s licking its arse now. That’s epiphenomenal, isn’t it”.

I don’t know about you, but I’d enjoy that.

In my opinion, the BBC has made some of the greatest natural history programmes in the history of gogglevision; even the one minute trailers are breath-taking and leave you with a hankering for a sense of adventure and a box of Cadbury’s Chocolate Animals. And I think it’s fair to say that Attenborough can take a lot of the credit for that fact, it’s his understanding and compassion for nature that has driven and inspired so many of today’s wildlife film makers. He and his vast catalogue of work and achievements are some of the few things we Brits can be truly proud of. If Dave were to compete in the Natural History Film-Makers Olympics, there’s no doubt we would kick some serious ass and bring home the bling.

Sir David Attenborough’s films are justifiably world famous now, having been syndicated across the globe, bringing pleasure to millions. And just like the wildlife whose lives they document, I love knowing they’re out there.

I just can’t watch them.

And I just can’t make Dave the King of England, no matter how much I’d secretly like to. I’m sorry.

CM x

 

Ps: Here’s the trailer for Frozen Planet… even this chokes me up.

 

Pps: It’s a beautiful planet, isn’t it? And it’s not just ours… so please, be careful with it. x

Halloween (warning: not that scary – unless you’re scared by unfeasibly long blog posts – in which case, prepare to be terrified)…

I’ve spent the past few seconds days thinking about what I wanted to say in this post; it’s not easy, especially since there is already a glut of blog posts out there covering Halloween from every angle imaginable. But the majority of opinions seem fairly black and white, people either love it or loathe it, whereas for me it has always been a very grey area. There are plenty of things I enjoy about Halloween, but invariably these are the very same things that drive me mad and send my lip curling. (Interesting side fact: I’ve found the same to be true of men, in the past.)

Anyway, it seems to me that the best way for me to cover this topic is to make some good, old lists… ignore everything I said about list making in my previous post, I was clearly delirious on permanent marker fumes, or something… and then compare the findings. That sounds fun in an almost scientificky way, doesn’t it? You can even imagine me in a white lab coat, looking at you sternly over the top of my glasses if it helps. Or, since it is nearly* Halloween, I suppose it might be more fitting for you to imagine me as a mad professor in her creepy, be-cobwebbed lab with gross things, like snot, blood and Sunny Delight, bubbling away in flasks and test tubes, whilst cackling madly to myself. But I’ll leave that up to you to decide, whichever you prefer.

Things I Like About Halloween

1. Sweeties: You know who I don’t trust? People who say they don’t like sweets, that’s who. I mean, how messed up is that? If someone tells you they don’t ‘do’ sweets – run like hell! They’re either dead inside or a dentist, and both of those types should be avoided at all costs. Sweets are the fifth best thing that was ever invented (right after crisps, sex, cheese and Buffy the Vampire Slayer – the TV series, not the film, obvs.), and St Willy of Wonka is THE coolest patron of stuff to ever have been shot out of a cannon.

There are so many sweets to choose from too, whatever your tastes, be it chocolatey, fruity or minty, there is something for you! Well, OK, if your tastes happen to run to fecal matter then you might struggle a bit… although, I’d recommend that you give the coffee centred Revels or Dolly Mixtures a try as, unlike the rest of us, I think you might be pleasantly surprised. Anyway, every year around Halloween, the kind folk at the sweetie factories bring out a whole new range of goodies to tempt our taste buds and harden our arteries, all in a noble bid to unite mankind with their finely spun strands of sugar – how often does something wondrous and special like that happen? Hardly ever! Well, yes… other than at Valentines, Easter and Christmas, it hardly ever happens. But do you know what the best thing is about Halloween sweeties? They’re FREE! You don’t have to cash in your savings bonds in order to buy a packet of Munchies – just knock on a strangers’ door and they’ll give you stuff in order to make you go away! And if that’s not a whole bag full of awesome, I don’t know what is.

2.  Trick-or-treating: It warms the heart, doesn’t it? For one night, the people of this cold, harsh, economically unsound world throw open their hearts and doors to our children. And I truly believe that children are the future; in a few years they will be running the country and making all the big decisions about whether or not we get one scoop or two of grey, lumpy mash with our Meals on Wheels, or whether we’ll need to burn our own slippers in a vain attempt to make it through the winter. So it’s probably best to try to get on their good sides now with a little bit of bribery, right?

3.  Dressing up: Aw! I love seeing the little tykes in their Halloween costumes. It’s one of the few things that bring out my maternal instincts and, provided I don’t happen to see that advert for Disneyland in the meantime, makes me long for some tiny-people-that-I-can-dress-up of my own. I love the way the really small ones toddle along, clutching their mum or dad’s hand because they’re a bit freaked out by their own costume and because the thought of knocking on a stranger’s door, something they’ve always had drummed into them is incredibly dangerous and wrong, terrifies them. Nor is there anything funnier than watching a tiny ghost trip over its own bedsheet, or a miniature Frankenstein walk into a lamppost because their mask is three sizes too big and impedes all vision. And in case you’re thinking I’m a bit mean and callous – I will add that there is no more rewarding a sight than a shy little vampire beaming toothily up at you because you’ve just told him he has the best costume you’ve seen all night and have given him enough sugar to keep him hyperactive for the next ten years. That really is the best part of Halloween.

4.  Watching horror films: There are only two acceptable ways of spending your evening on Halloween; one is to throw or attend an amazing party and the other is to get a load of snacks and drink in, invite someone special over, and sit in the dark making out/having sex watching horror films (the second option ties in particularly well with pretending you’re not at home, if the whole Halloween/trick-or-treat thing isn’t for you).

It’s one of those evenings that can be perfectly tailored to you and your guest’s tastes, so if it’s a girly night you could giggle and sigh as you sip cheap Chardonnay and watch Patrick Swayze help Demi Moore to sculpt a giant penis substitute in ‘Ghost’. If your guest is more of a love object in nature and it’s early days in your relationship, then you could invest in a nice Rioja and watch ‘Ring’ (original Japanese version) and pretend you’re a lot more scared than you actually are in order to spend most of the night attached to their face. If it’s a relationship of longer standing and/or more of a case of lust than love – maybe gimlets and a copy of ‘The Sexorcist’ might be more your thing. And finally, if it’s someone you don’t actually like that much but they were the only ones who didn’t have Halloween plans either, then I’d suggest Vimto and ‘The Human Centipede’ – there’s nothing like watching someone’s face get sewn onto another person’s bumhole, whilst drinking warm, flavourless sugar-water to make someone go home early.

5.  The sense of occasion:  He might have a big chin and poor taste in toupées, but Russ Abbott was spot on when he sang those immortal words “Oh what an atmosphere! I love a party with a happy atmosphere!” Because we all do, don’t we? Well, except for Gary Barlow, that is. Atmosphere is key to a bitching good time. And what better creates a ‘happy atmosphere’ than a couple of continents worth of sugar, some silly costumes and everything decorated with an occult theme? Forget students and Bullingdon Club members, it’s the undead who are the real party animals. And don’t you think Halloween has the best motifs? Forget your namby-pamby Christmas trees and jingly bells, or the sickly twee Valentine hearts… decorate ANYTHING in pumpkins, black cats and flesh-eating zombies and it immediately becomes ACE and desirable. If Awesome Sauce was an actual ‘thing’ you just know it would be coloured orange and black and kept in a bottle-shaped like a deformed serial killer.

6.  Parties: Of all the types of party that are thrown, Halloween ones are invariably the most laid-back and enjoyable; people tend to relax and let their hair down more whilst comfortably hiding behind a mask or a costume, there’s not so much of the posturing and trying to look cool that you get at other parties because everyone looks equally stupid and you’re all in it together.

Party food is always good, I could happily exist on an endless buffet of vol-au-vents, crisps, cheese and pineapple on sticks, mini quiches and pizza etc, but there is something unbeatably wonderful about food with a ghoulish theme; give me food that has been vaguely made to resemble guts, worms, brain matter and blood and I will turn pink with actual delight. Similarly, serve me a cocktail with what appears to be an eyeball speared on a cocktail stick and I will be your friend forever.

As for music, any host worth their salt will know that having a good soundtrack can make or break a party. Normally, the first strains of a cheesy song will have party-goers searching for their coats and the nearest bathroom window at the earliest opportunity, but not at a Halloween party! At Halloween parties it’s OBLIGATORY to play stupid songs and get everybody drunkenly stumbling through the steps of the Timewarp at least three times by the end of the night. What’s not to love?

Things I Hate About Halloween

1.  Tooth decay: You do realise that the rest of the free world, particularly the Americans, mock the British for having ‘bad teeth’, don’t you? Yes, it is a bit racist, isn’t it. Of course, they’ve all been brainwashed by the Osmonds, can’t spell basic words like ‘colour’ properly and are the most clinically obese country in the world – so it’s not like we take their opinion that seriously, but even so, I think we need to look after our nation’s teeth and Halloween doesn’t really help on that front, with all its sticky, gooey, delicious treats, does it? When it comes to teeth – dentists, toothpaste and dental floss are our friends. Have we learnt NOTHING from the Bee Gees?

2.  Trick-or-treating: Essentially, it’s begging. If your kids want to dress up and eat their own weight in sweets – throw them a party. Why should strangers feel obliged to spend money buying treats for kids they don’t even know? Kids who probably make their lives a misery for the rest of the year with the noise of their screaming tantrums and by dropping litter in their front gardens. And think of the elderly folk! They’re not miserable old buggers who have had all the joy systematically sucked out of their existence – they’re miserable old buggers who have had all the joy systematically sucked out of their existence who are entitled to remain undisturbed within the sanctuary of their own homes. Show some respect!

3.  Dressing up: Yes, yes, I know what I just said, and I stand by it. Sort of – I just think there should be a cut-off point. Somewhere between the ages of 8-10 I think people should start to actively discourage children from dressing up. Just tell them to “grow up!” and give them a leaflet about ‘How to open an ISA account’. As for adults, once in a while doesn’t hurt I suppose, but not every year. And can we please strive for a little originality and common sense? Especially the ladies; it is acceptable to dress up without making yourself look like a tart, you know. Wearing a sexy nurse or schoolgirl outfit and then dribbling a bit of fake blood on it doesn’t count, you still basically look like mutton dressed as a ho. Here’s a wacky notion… how about a costume that isn’t all about looking sexy? Try the psychotic liquorice all-sort look, or a courgette with an attitude problem – if you really want to look like a strumpet, fine, just save it for the bedroom or the ‘Readers’ Wives’ pages, where the rest of us don’t have to feel bad or embarrassed for you. I’ve only dressed up twice for Halloween, the first time as Lara Croft, a costume perfectly designed for hypothermia and having any and all conversation addressed to your rather blatant, frost-bitten nipples. The second time, having learnt my lesson the hard way, I went dressed as a killjoy. My duffel coat was greatly admired, not to mention toastie warm. Given the choice, I’d much rather feel my fingers and toes than feel sexy.

4.  Twilight:  I know, it’s not strictly a ‘horror’ film, in fact I’ve seen episodes of Little House on the Prairie that were more hair-raising, but the fact remains that, broadly speaking, it falls into the horror/occult genre, and I am therefore allowed to mercilessly mock it in a Halloween post.

So let’s get right down to it; I only have three issues with the Twilight film franchise: the plot and the actors who play its two main characters.

WHY have they messed with the vampire legend? As legends go, vampires are right up there with The Curse of The Pharaohs, The Lost City of Gold and Dennis Wise vandalising the Blue Peter garden. You don’t mess with stuff like that! Vampires don’t go to High School! They are famously creatures of the NIGHT; if a vampire moves into the sunlight he doesn’t go all pretty and sparkly and become a walking shampoo ad, he goes up in a screaming ball of flame. Everybody knows that. Yes, it’s all fantasy and legend and therefore open to interpretation to a certain degree, it’s just a big fairytale for adults, but like they say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! For goodness sake, you might as well make a film about Big Foot and have a shaved midget play the lead.

And how come nobody notices that little Eddie Munster and his family are really, really pale and weird and not put two and two together? The father is a doctor, so they can’t even blame it on a nasty case of undiagnosed anaemia. And why have they made them all trendy looking except for poor Jasper, who looks like he wandered out of an 80’s music video by mistake and couldn’t find his way back?

Now then, let’s talk R-Patz… what the actual heck is all the girly adoration about? I honestly don’t understand it. Where did he get his bone structure from? The Missing Link? He seriously needs to get his monobrow waxed, and isn’t he a bit scrawny and pasty? He looks like the sort of guy who would invite you round to his place on a first date, where you’d discover that he still lives with his mother, has the bedroom of a 14-year-old and that his idea of a ‘fun night’ is playing World of Warcraft whilst eating Pot Noodle and drinking flat Tizer.

As for Kristen Stewart… does she even know how to smile? She has the sort of face my dear old Nan would have described as “like a smacked arse”, which is shame, because she’s a very pretty girl. Also, her acting leaves a bit to be desired. I find it horribly distracting, even when faced with a scene involving a twinkly vampire running up a hill, Wile E Coyote style, it’s her slack-jawed, permanantly-on-the-brink-of-hyperventilating delivery of lines that I find myself laughing at.

I like anything mythical or fantasy based, but at times Twilight not only asks you to suspend disbelief, but also to positively dangle it from the moon by cheese strings and call it Pinocchio. Honestly, all obvious silliness aside, would any girl pass up the buff, brooding Jacob for a spangley, tree hugging, deer muncher? Hell to the no! They’d be demented to do so. I know Jacob is probably almost young enough to be my son, not to mention a werewolf, but sheesh! Look how pretty he is! How nice and sparkle-free does he look with no shirt on? And I bet he hardly ever gets fleas or humps your leg at family gatherings. Wake up and smell the testosterone, Bella!

I do enjoy the films in a slightly brain-dead, pure escapism kind of way and no doubt I’ll watch any that follow in the saga. All I’m saying is that if the Wolfy Gang don’t make Chum out of Bella, if the wan and not-so-interesting vampire family don’t take Edward off to make pouty TV ads for hair gel or the Hitler Youth or something, and if the cool, if somewhat psychotic, red-haired, vamp chick doesn’t come and show young Jacob what a real woman’s made of, there could be trouble in this little corner of Norfolk.

5.  Cynical commercialism: The greatest trick the devil ever played was making us believe we needed a glow in the dark skull that doubles as an ashtray. You’d have to be pretty naive not to realise that Halloween, just like all the other publicly celebrated days, is driven by commercial companies manipulating us with our increasing obsession with possessing tacky shite we don’t need. As much as you might like to own a set of spoons shaped like a bone and decorated with bats and spider webs, try to remember that any kind of manipulation is bad for you – except for the chiropractic kind, which is good for you. If carried out by a registered and properly trained professional. Probably.

6.  America envy: Not so long ago, certainly when I was a kid, Halloween was no big deal at all. We were aware of it, but there was no celebrating it, no gaudy decorations, no pumpkins or sweets, there was definitely no trick-or-treating, that was just something those crazy Yanks did. If we’d suggested to our parents that it might be fun to dress up like a car crash victim and wander the streets, knocking on strangers’ doors and inviting them to give us edible goods we would have been told not to be so silly, soundly slapped round the knees and sent to our bedroom to ‘think about’ our behaviour. It’s all America’s fault that things have changed, it has dazzled our youth, generation by generation, with its pointless festivities, glossy television, and shallow pop music so that we are now a nation of wannabes. I hate that about us. Why can’t we just go back to being the joyless, prudes with perennially stiff upper lips that we used to be? *sigh*

Wow! Sorry, this turned out to be a bit of a long read, a horror in itself, if you will – well done if you made it this far without bleeding out of your eyes and/or losing consciousness. If it’s any consolation I think we’ve all learnt some valuable lessons here today, namely:

  1. Split personalities don’t necessarily have to be a bad thing.
  2. Halloween is a little bit country. But also a little bit rock ‘n’ roll.
  3. Sweeties are ace but so are toothbrushes.
  4. I’m rubbish at writing short blog posts.

Oh well. Whatever your thoughts or feelings are about Halloween… I hope you have an enjoyable one.

CM x

*Note that I said it is “nearly” Halloween, all you people who have been going on about it for WEEKS.

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