Month: June 2013

What makes you laugh?

Not many modern television comedians make me laugh.  Some irritate me.  Some bore me stiff.  Some I positively hate.

I like the old masters of mirth: Laurel and Hardy, some of Charlie Chaplin’s films, Les Dawson and Ken Dodd, Tony Hancock, Sid James, Tommy Cooper, Eric Sykes, The Marx Brothers. Who else?  Who else who’s a reasonably new modern comedian?  Well there’s Charlie Brooker, Jack Dee, Peter Kay, Al Murray, Harry HillillHi.  And er … Well maybe there are comedians I’ve never seen who I would love, but in the 21st century, as far as I can see, there’s a pretty low comedy count. Either that or I’m losing my sense of humour.

I think what I enjoy most about Laurel and Hardy is the sheer anarchic destruction in many of their films.  I remember a piano that had to be winched up to the top of a tall block of flats.  It was dropped and smashed so many times that right at the top, at the destination apartment, the disappointed concert pianist was given a couple of keys and part of the broken lid.  Another time an entire house was destroyed by accident, the result of bungling DIY decoration attempts.

A lot of the joy in the TV series Men Behaving Badly depended on idiocy, namely the idiocy of the likeable male key characters, whose female counterparts were bright and long suffering.  I’ll never forget one conversation when the girlfriend of one of them was talking to her boyfriend’s best mate, and curiosity prompted her to ask what they talked about in their many long beer-fuelled discussions.  “Well,” said the cheery Tony, “all kinds of things. For instance the other night we discussed how they should close the Channel Tunnel at weekends so it could be used as a giant bowling alley.”  He looked hopefully at her.  “You should join our discussions, they’re really fun.” She politely declined.

Absurdity is nice in all its forms.  I didn’t like the early Blackadders, but I loved the First World War ones, where Hugh Laurie plays the genial upper class moron, and Stephen Fry the bumptious Colonel.  I remember years ago when Stephen Fry and Ben Elton were on a late night BBC2 programme, doing comedy improvisations, which was really good, I remember a ‘pretend pub’.  And The Thin Blue Line with Rowan Atkinson as the pompous policeman.  Very very funny.  Intelligent, inventive humour.  And, it seems, the best comics are often incredibly intelligent: Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie are acknowledged as geniuses, while Les Dawson was no academic slouch: he wrote long incredibly complicated novels. And I believe that Al Murray, the apparently moronic xenophobic ‘pub landlord’, has a glittering academic record (I think his discipline was history).

The modern view of Benny Hill is that he was sexist.  I don’t agree, I think his comedy was inspired and brilliant. Okay it had an element of saucy seaside postcards, but what’s wrong with that?  Each sketch was a full length story, silent for the most part, the comedy visual, and the sexist stuff that he’s condemned for was only a very small part, usually right at the end, a sort of innocent nudge nudge wink wink, never the downright crudity so common today.  The Plank was also a silent comedy and a gem of invention, with Eric Sykes, Tommy Cooper, Arthur Lowe and others following the fortunes of a long plank of wood being transported on a van’s roof, and coming off on the way, with predictably bizarre results.

To my mind the beginning of the death of plenty of good comedy started with the advent of ‘alternative comedy’. It heralded the arrival of hours of unfunny drudgery, when talentless nonentities who were ‘young’ mouthed obscenities, jumped around awkwardly and tried to be original, succeeding in being about as entertaining as a limp lettuce.  I remember one episode of Hale and Pace on television, when the main jokes were people having their faces repeatedly pressed into cow dung, throwing geriatric people in wheelchairs into a dustcart, jibes about how they hated the Isle of Wight, and pretending to put a kitten in a microwave oven.  Of course the joke was convoluted, obviously they didn’t fry the kitten, but to even raise the prospect of it, to me, can never ever be considered funny.  There was cold heartless viciousness about their humour that cut like a knife.  Has alternative comedy finally found the forgotten windswept grave it deserves?  I very much hope so.

The essence of laughing at, or with somebody, seems to me to be that you want to be ‘let in’ to their life, for which reason you have to like them on some level, or at least like something about them.  It’s surely impossible not to like a genial character such as David Walliams, and that’s one reason why you’ll make that extra effort to enjoy his humour, because you like him, you want to be inside his little comedy world.  I find that the cold hard inscrutable face of Jimmy Carr smacks of a mystified undertaker and to me there’s something satanic about the sex-obsessed Keith Lemon; neither of those two men can ever cut the comedy magic for me.  And Jim Davidson can certainly be funny, but his sinister side anaesthetises some of the laughs, as if his comedy engine gets an occasional starvation of petrol.

I remember some Monty Python sketches that were fairly funny, but not that many of them.  The cartoons that were supposed to be so inspirational were downright boring.  And I thought The Life of Brian was irritating, tedious, blasphemous and completely lacking in any kind of merit.  Maybe I missed the point of it, but if I did then I’m glad.

In most kinds of comedy there’s a strange, almost mystical, balancing point that the masters of comedy know by instinct.  One side of a fence it is funny, the other side is insanity.  Some people straddle the line and occasionally come down on the wrong side.  The Young Ones I found infinitely revolting with the one with the staring eyes talking about vomit, and others looking just plain deranged.  John Cleese in Fawlty Towers was generally extremely funny.  And yet.  Some of the scenes where he yells at and beats Manuel (The Spanish waiter) verge right on the edge of that fence of good taste, and almost fall across it.

Sometimes, when people bend their gender for laughs, again, it can seem as if that elusive line has been well and truly crossed.  Matt Lucas is a fine comedian, but his  women always struck me as too convincingly real to be funny. And I think Peter Kay is one of the funniest and most likeable men I’ve ever seen, but his large, monstrous Northern Ireland woman character he used to do appeared almost macabre in her androgynousness.  Mrs Brown’s Boys, the new BBC comedy, is hilarious in the main part.  But when the lead woman, played brilliantly by a man, settles down to talk about with her (his) woman co-star, and seems to enjoy wallowing in explicit details about female sexuality, something jars and clicks on the distaste button for me.

Women comediennes?  I think Ronnie Ancona is captivatingly brilliant in her portrayals and imitations, and very very funny.  Catherine Tate is also lovely, and a gifted comic in many of her comic parts.  But her ‘nasty old lady’ character?  Or when she plays a bald gay man?  Maybe I’ve just not capable of appreciating her talents but those two, frankly terrify me.  And Jo Brand yes, she is really funny.

Talking of Brands, how about Russell Brand?  I never even knew he even purported to be a comedian until recently and I’m surprised anyone can envisage him as such.

Here’s some black humour for you.  When I was a small boy I helped a dear old carpenter do some work, and he chatted away about his grandfather, who used to let him work with him, and told me about the coffins the grandfather would make, and how if someone died of dropsy they had to nail the lid down quick or else the body would swell up and they’d be unable to get the lid on at all.

And here’s something downright sinister. A well known comedian (I won’t give his name) was doing his stand-up act on television.  He referred to the recent rape and murder of a woman that had been currently in the news, and he said with a smirk, how the reference had turned him on sexually.  There was a momentary lapse of laughter from the audience, a shocked pause, but he hardly noticed and carried on.  I couldn’t believe what I’d heard. Ever afterwards whenever I’ve seen this ‘comedian’ I remembered that and I felt chilled and horrified, and the sight of him repelled me, as if he was the personification of evil.

Another odd thing about laughter.  It can cover nerves.  At the time of the 2011 London riots, the trouble came quite close to where I live and I was talking to someone about the prospect of the riot coming our way.  He said yes, he’d spoken to someone in town and the violence might be coming in our direction.  And he laughed.  He was scared and he laughed.  It had to be a nervous reaction.  And the same afternoon exactly the same  thing happened with someone else, he laughed too.  I never understood it.

I think Charlie Brooker is a great young comedian.  He’s cynical and self deprecating and has a gloomy outlook on life, and he sees through the puff and bluster of everyday things and debunks them.  Good for him, he’s a genuinely funny man.  Jack Dee, too.  He never smiles, he looks downright miserable, but there’s something about him you can like, he can connect.

The best humour is observation, and seeing the world at a funny angle.  I was chatting to a neighbour who had just witnessed my cat torturing a mouse, before I’d managed to stop him, and now , mercifully the mouse was dead.  I said how awful it was to witness the mouse’s torture.  “Ah well,” said my acquaintance.  “You don’t know.  That mouse might have been a child molester and deserved it.”  The same man, when I was discussing my theory that in years to come each person might have a clone of him/herself growing in a laboratory, so that when the time comes there’ll be a full set of lungs, heart, liver etc ready to transplant with no rejection issues, he said yes, certainly good idea.  “Why else do you think I had kids?  When my boy gets to be 16 I’m having his kidneys!”

I loved the excellent American comedy series, Cheers.  The characters were the comedy: remember the handsome-but-shallow Ted Danson, who never quite won the heart of the beautiful and brilliant Diana, or the classic bore postman, and barman Woody who had nothing between his ears except good natured innocence, not forgetting rude waitress Carla who snarled at all the customers?   Frazier, the boffin who was clearly intellectually their superior, lacked common sense and cut a fond figure of pompous absurdity with his deadpan funereal-faced wife Lilith.

Absurdity, pomposity, meanness, vanity.  Comedy lies in the puncturing of someone’s delusion about themselves, or perhaps, at its heart in itself it’s a kind of strange delicious teasing cruelty.  The humour lies, I think, in balancing and adjusting that cruelty so that you hardly notice it’s there.  It’s a delicate art and it’s a difficult balance.  Deliberately ‘funny’ writing can sometimes fall flat, yet when someone delivers something straight and an odd edge of absurdity creeps in there can be nothing funnier.

So what is humour?  A joy in shared cruelty?  A wallowing in pricking pomposity?  A kind of psychic mental hug?  A release from misery in escapism? An exercise in absurdity?  Maybe it’s a combination of all these.  Or maybe it’s something so elusive and delicate that when you try to define it, it disappears.

The biggest aspect of comedy is that it is as personal as musical taste and it’s certain that what I love you will probably hate and vice versa.

So what makes you laugh?  I’d really like to know.

Feedback on what makes you angry

There was a huge list of grouses and moans, proving that the British really are an angry race, railing at the vicissitudes of life, knowing there’s nothing we can do about it, but we all love a jolly good old rant.  I’ve made a new twitter friend who appears to be almost as much of a misanthrope as I am – she knows who she is, and I certainly like her.  No American people made any comments, so perhaps this proves they are nicer, kinder, calmer more tolerant people than us grumpy Brits.

Here are the (anonymous) personal hatreds, ‘in no particular order’ (another irritating TV reality show phrase):

The extent of smoking bans being misunderstood.

Smokers being treated like lepers.

Public opinion being manipulated by the media.

Aspirant ‘artists, writers or musicians’ who just witter on about it and never actually produce any work.

Silly meaningless words, such as mediapreneur, webinar, and internet acronyms (lmao, lol) .

Racism, homophobia.

Parents shouting at their children in public, using profanities.

Dog walkers who refuse to pick up their pooch poo.

People who talk in a cinema.

Those who allow small children to rampage around a coffee shop or café.

Those who impinge on your privacy on a plane.

Tradesman who don’t arrive when they say they will.

BBC news people who introduce the local news saying ‘here is the news where you are’. [They’re not in my living room!]

The phrases ‘I can’t wait for’. [What are they going to do in the interim, go into hibernation?]

Reality show contestants who claim to have ‘been on a journey’.

Those who strip off to vest and shorts on a hot day then run their shaggy-coated dog around the block.

Parents who ignore the 48-hour quarantine rule and bring their sick children to school when they’ve been throwing up all night.

Here’s a couple more I was inspired to think of myself:

Anyone who spits on the pavement.

Anyone who talks in a very loud voice in a public place.

Stand-up comedians – most of them should sit down.  The foul-mouthed ones who use four-letter words and talk about sexy stuff are the worst, they should have their mouths welded shut.

Anyone who holds two fingers from each hand either side of their head to imitate inverted commas – what pretentious twats.

Doctors who say ‘We’re not out of the woods yet’.  [Sounds like an exploration into Borneo, not a hospital ward in Croydon]

Eco warriors who ram the imminent end of the earth and global warming down my throat.  I’m happy using petrol, I don’t care if the timber I buy is from a sustained source and the polar ice caps can take care of themselves.

So let’s shine a light on all this and distil it down.  These angers seem to fall into different groups:

People who feel persecuted, fighting back (smokers, those who feel to be the target of racism, childless adults who are ignored as irrelevant by those with hosts of children who think they should be treated as gods, etc etc).

Misuse of the language, silly words that irritate, meaningless phrases, convoluted logic.

Selfishness and lack of consideration in others (un-arriving tradesmen, inconsiderate parents, unimaginative pet owners, talkers in a cinema).

Anyone who intrudes on our own privacy (in a plane, coffee shop, making a noise that disturbs you).

Well I can truly say with this blog I’ve been on a journey and I can’t wait for your views on my next post which is bound to make me lol.  Maybe I will become a mediapreneur and do lots of lmao ing (whatever it means) and take up smoking so I can blow fumes into the faces of rabid anti-smokers.  Oh and I’ve decided to be a musician, it’s okay because I did take piano lessons when I was five and one day I’ll buy a guitar.

By the way, what surprises you?  I’m compiling a little list of my own. . .

Guest blog – Maria Savva

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Today I have asked my friend Maria Savva to guest blog, and she’s talking about her new collection of short stories, which I have read and can wholeheartedly recommend.

 So here is Maria talking about her new book:

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Twelve stories of betrayal, greed, revenge, deception, dreams, and courage.

We all struggle to find our way. What you see isn’t necessarily all there is. This collection takes you into the grey area, because the world is never just black and white.

Life is all about perspective. One person’s delusion is another person’s dream.

Includes five bonus stories.

Author Bio:

Maria Savva lives and works in London. She studied Law at Middlesex University and The College of Law. She is a lawyer, although not currently practising law. She writes novels and short stories in different genres, including drama, psychological thriller, and family saga. Many of her books and stories are inspired by her years working as a lawyer, although she has not written a courtroom drama to date. Her most recent novel is Haunted, a crime fiction/psychological thriller.

Author links:

Website:  HYPERLINK “http://www.mariasavva.comhttp://www.mariasavva.com

blog:  HYPERLINK “http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1418272.Maria_Savva/bloghttp://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1418272.Maria_Savva/blog

Facebook Page:  HYPERLINK “https://www.facebook.com/pages/Author-Maria-Savva/171466979781https://www.facebook.com/pages/Author-Maria-Savva/171466979781

Twitter:  HYPERLINK “http://Twitter.com/Maria_Savvahttp://Twitter.com/Maria_Savva

 

Buy links for Delusion and Dreams:

Amazon.com:  HYPERLINK “http://www.amazon.com/Delusion-and-Dreams-ebook/dp/B00D0EHJHA/http://www.amazon.com/Delusion-and-Dreams-ebook/dp/B00D0EHJHA/

Amazon UK:  HYPERLINK “http://www.amazon.co.uk/Delusion-and-Dreams-ebook/dp/B00D0EHJHA/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1369585340&sr=8-6&keywords=delusion+and+dreamshttp://www.amazon.co.uk/Delusion-and-Dreams-ebook/dp/B00D0EHJHA/

My other short story collections:

Delusion and Dreams is my fourth collection of short stories, so today I will give you a brief history of my earlier collections.

Pieces of a Rainbow:

Although this was my first published book of short stories, some of the short stories that appear in my later collections were written before the stories in Pieces of a Rainbow.

Pieces of a Rainbow is the only one of my collections that has a theme. I had an idea of writing seven stories, each one inspired by a different colour of the rainbow. I challenged myself to write the book in a week. As there were seven stories to be written, I set myself the task of writing one a day.

I did write a story a day for seven days, and five of those stories made it into the final version of Pieces of a Rainbow. The stories that I had written for yellow and green didn’t make it into the collection. The yellow story, I felt, at the time, needed something… but I wasn’t sure what. Interestingly, the yellow story; formerly known as ‘Yellow Chicken’ and now titled ‘Courage’ appears in Delusion and Dreams! So, there’s a lesson to writers out there: never chuck out your old stories because you can always rework them and make them better. I now really like the new version, which is basically the same story, but with much more action and a better ending, in my opinion. The even better ending came about when my cousin read the story and gave me some feedback. That inspired me to tie up a few loose ends in the story.

The original ‘green’ story is as yet unpublished. I was going to include it in Delusion and Dreams, but cut it out at the last minute. It’s still not quite right. I will continue to bash it into shape and it may appear in a later collection of stories.

For Pieces of a Rainbow, I thought of something that I would associate with each colour of the rainbow and built a story around it.

Love and Loyalty (and Other Tales)

My second collection of short stories contains lots of stories I wrote over the years. I literally collected them all together for the book. Some of them had been runner up stories in competitions, including ‘I’m Only Doing My Job’.

I decided to call the collection Love and Loyalty not only because there is a story called ‘Love and Loyalty’ in the book, but also because most, if not all, the stories could link in somehow with the theme of either love or loyalty.

Fusion

My third collection is titled Fusion because it’s a complete mix of stories of many different genres. There are love stories, ghost stories, crime inspired tales, and humorous ones.

Again, the stories were collected together and had been written over a number of years. I used to enter a lot of short story competitions when I first started writing. I would recommend that aspiring writers do that because it helps with not only developing your writing skills, but when you’re constantly having to use your imagination to think up stories relating to a set theme, it helps your creative side become more used to developing and formulating stories from ideas. Of all of my collections, I would say Fusion is probably the most similar to Delusion and Dreams.

There is a giveaway offer the prizes being a signed paperback and an e-book copy of Delusions and Dream, also e-books from Darcia Helle, J. Michael Radcliffe, Wendy Laharnar and Helle Gade.  6 prizes and 6 winners.  The link is  http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/8e3a003/

What makes you angry?

Lots of things make me angry. A group of men shouting with laughter in a quiet pub when you want peace and quiet, people walking backwards in an animated conversation with someone, not realising they’re going to bash into you. And it’s hard to beat my fury every time some twit on the radio says ‘to be honest’, that irritating senseless and overused phrase that’s about as nonsensical as ‘at the end of the day’ used to be years ago.  Come to think of it ‘back in the day’ sounds daft to me too, as does the American phrase ‘Go figure’.  Or when someone says ‘bless him’ when what they really mean is ‘fry his liver and roast his heart, I hate the very sight of him’.

Nowadays there are all kinds of reasons to be angry.  There’s the blazing justified fury if someone harms an animal, or a child, or indeed attacks someone weaker than themselves. The anger at injustice when someone is treated unfairly by the system.  And of course there are all the little niggling irritations, such as anger at TV programmes.  My own pet dislike is the vast army of male chefs on TV today.  Television producers have decided that sport presenters must be dizzy blond females, and that it’s macho for men to cook.  So there’s an endless procession of seven-foot tough guys delicately teasing out salad leaves, wittering on about presentation. And in cookery programmes producers try to inject ‘tension’, where there’s the ludicrous spectacle of several ostensibly intelligent aspirant cooks, sweating in a backroom because a gaggle of chortling buffoons seated at a table ten feet away are going to pass judgement on a jelly, or pronounce on their pork.

Fake television ‘tension’ is utterly annoying.  I used to write about building and DIY, and a while ago there was a programme about companies who sold architectural materials.  A friend in the trade told me that the producer had been told she had to inject ‘a time element’ and ‘tension’ into it, so there was the ludicrous spectacle of having to feel sorry and concerned for a well-heeled dealer in antique stone troughs who had only so many hours to transport a twelfth-century trough from France to England, because his client ‘had’ to have it by 3 o’clock.  Why did he have to have it so quickly?  For heaven sake it had been under six feet of manure in a Gallic barn for 700 years, what difference did a few hours make? But tension? Really?  Tension is when someone’s hanging onto life by a thread , or a bomb is about to go off.  I remember a series ‘Challenge Anneka’ which stretched credulity to the absolute limit, because some vast building project had to be completed within so many hours for the sake of some mawkish charity or other.  Why?  Concrete couldn’t set, paint wasn’t allowed to dry, and artisans hammered and sawed and twizzled their socks off all through the night under floodlight. When there was no earthly reason for this ridiculous haste, except to make people seem hurried and stressed.

And I get angry at ‘givers up before they start’.  We all know them.  The ones who tell you there’s no point in writing  a book because no one will publish it, there’s no point trying for a better job because you won’t get it. That everyone else has it easy and they have to work hard.  Whinge whinge whinge.  Yes whingers, they annoy me too.  And who annoys me more than whingers?  The ‘hate scroungers’ brigade who say that they’d be a traffic warden for 24 hours a day for 10p a week in the outer Hebrides rather than sign on the dole.

Obfuscation in sales strategies makes me angry too.  When a car is sold with £XXX off, when you’re not even told the original price, and adverts tell you you can get ‘up to’ £XX savings, or an insurance policy offer ‘2 months free’.  Patently utterly stupid, when they don’t tell you what 12 months costs in the first place, and ‘up to’ could be anything from 1p to £1000!   Or when you’re offered a silly fountain pen or a furry toy if you buy an insurance policy.  For goodness sake, if you want an insurance policy you will buy it, if you want a cuddly toy you’ll buy that, you won’t want to do both bloody things at the same time! Any more than you’ll want to buy a kiss-me-quick hat at the same time as choosing the coffin for Aunt Betsy’s funeral.

I get angry at the repetitions of things you have to say.  Why must you say ‘Happy Christmas’ to everyone?  It doesn’t mean anything, just a phrase, and you’ve got to say every year, time and time again.

I get angry about half heartedness.  For instance when I was young, men either had  a beard, moustache, or were clean shaven.  Nowadays, every single male actor on TV or man you meet in the street under 30 is obliged to have man-shadow that’s carefully twerked down to a black haze or froths around his gills like a moth-eaten bog brush.  Middle-aged men scurry around with a dithering sparse rash of silver stubble that exaggerates their turkey neck and transforms their face into a sad geriatric jelly.  Men can’t decide whether to wear long trousers or shorts so they wear something in between that jeers at their knees.  And many people voice a statement in ‘question’ mode, with that irritating upward lilt at the end, as if they’re terrified of saying anything decisive, so they have to pretend they haven’t really said it seriously.

And sport.  I personally have always heartily disliked sport.  When it’s the World Cup football, I hate the nauseating fixed grin on a TV presenter’s face, especially females, as they give beneficial results for England, and the oh-so-gloomy face of a whipped dog-with-diarrhoea if we lose.  Ever since school it has struck me as absurd that you should want to kick a ball, or run or jump faster, or hit a cricket ball better than anyone else.

Everyone went mad about the Olympic Games.  All the ridiculous hysteria about a few men running around in singlets made me angry. Remember the ‘Olympic bounce’?  Where is it?  It was a pathetic advertiser’s creation that we were meant to believe, a promise that aimed to repay all the businesses whose premises were forcibly removed simply to provide what’s passed as entertainment for a mere fourteen, extremely tedious, days when we were forcibly bored witless by a national obsession that everyone apart from me appeared to buy into.

Does anyone remember the Millennium Dome?  That was a gargantuan waste of time and money and, again, the cant and hypocrisy of the professionals who tried to sell the wretched experience made me angry, the pretence that it was a gigantically exciting bubble of fun, when it was a suppurating abscess on the withered forehead of a government fresh out of ideas.

I get angry about those who talk endlessly about writing, soul searching and pontificating about literary wiles and finding the muse instead of actually doing it.

I don’t smoke but I get angry with rabid anti-smoking crusaders who tell you that cigarettes contain 15 million different poisons including arsenic, plutonium, lead, strychnine, cyanide and microbes of the Black Death.  Do they seriously expect anyone to believe such patently ridiculous rubbish? Every mineral on earth probably contains microscopic amounts of poisons, whether it’s a doughnut or a dandelion!  Isn’t that obvious?  Or do the anti-smoking lobby think smokers’ brains have been so addled by the weed that they actually believe all this twaddle?  Okay, we all know smoking is bad for you, but it’s got to the point that they tell you that if you were a yard away from Mum while she had a fag for ten minutes when you were six your chances of lung disease are multiplied by 5000.

I remember a doctor on television saying that there was a strange causal link whereby people who smoked and drank alcohol were more prone to certain kinds of cancers, whereas if you only did one of those activities, the incidence wasn’t any higher than average.

“Well,” he said, trowelling on a patronising leer.  “Isn’t it obvious?  We all drink plenty of alcohol, so it’s safest to give up smoking, isn’t it, and carry on drinking.  Everybody drinks.  It’s natural.”

So everyone drinks alcohol to excess do they?  That’s natural? Rubbish.  I don’t.  And if smokers enjoy smoking as much as drinkers enjoy drinking why shouldn’t they puff away, as long as they’re aware of the health aspects?  Who is he to say which is worse?  Fatuous oaf.

Here’s my rough assessment of a few of the things that I think make other people angry.  Dropping litter – some are certain that this warrants instant decapitation.  For some reason people who disbelieve in ghosts often get furious when ghost believers go on about phantoms.  And rabid atheists sometimes like to get angry with people who believe, and have the urge to unseat their faith.  MPs’ expenses.  That one, I admit didn’t rile me one bit.  What else do you expect from 600 power-hungry gangsters?  And let’s face it, who is there who, if offered a legal monetary perk wouldn’t take it?  Especially if all their colleagues were doing the same thing. It was the luxury lifestyle that got under people’s skin. Would they have been so angry if a friend had had his flat’s broken window fixed for no charge by his firm, rather than a millionaire having his duck pond prettied up by the taxpayer?

So that’s what makes me angry.

And the strange point is, that anger is a part of life. It may be corrosive and pretty pointless, but it’s fun to rant and rave about a pet hate with friends over a cup of coffee.

And do you know what?

I like it.

A good ranting dollop of anger a day is really quite fun.

So over to you. What makes you angry?  I’d really like to know …

[If you liked this you might like to glance at my books: Rock’n’Roll Suicide

And Doppelganger  ]

What gets you excited?

Firstly, sorry but this is not a blog about erotic stories or sexy things – I admire writers of erotica, they’ve got a skill I don’t possess, and I leave it to the experts; besides I’d need a workshop manual before I had the requisite knowledge to even begin!

What I’m talking about are the things that kick up your heartbeat, make you feel alive, and which fire your imagination and help you to live your life just that little bit more to the full.

Building materials excite me.  I love timber, beautiful timber with a swirling grain, a splendid shiny waxed floor of maple or oak, or a lovely carved newel of a staircase.  Even the smell of sawdust and wood chips excites my imagination.  Old brass is exciting: to run your hand along the warm pinky-hued metal, and fine old cast iron to me, is just like an interesting but bad-tempered old man with a hewed, lived in face: craggy, chunky and solid, easy to snap, but full of life.  And to me there’s nothing more exciting than building work that is in progress, wet concrete that’s growing harder by the second and walls with ‘green’ (unset) mortar and brick or block work that’s becoming rock hard as you watch, or masses of soldered-together copper pipes.  And have you ever seen a roof being constructed?  The timber beams trimmed to amazing angles to fit snugly together, the metal fixings that grip the new sweet smelling yellow wood?  I also think bricks are remarkably beautiful, with their craggy surfaces and fine mellow colours and there’s a definite thrill about seeing old stone walls, even if they’re falling down.  I’m not so keen on engineering workshops or car factories (I worked in one once), but a blacksmith’s shop is an Aladdin’s cave, with all kinds of exciting pieces of metal, especially when steel is being heated to boiling redness and beaten into shape.

And in the supermarket car park the other day something else very exciting happened to me.  A 1960s Austin Cambridge estate car drove by – absolute magic!  The wonderful curved wings, the nice round headlights, the boxy squareness that takes me back to the days when cars were sedate and lovely rounded and squared, not streamlined and squashed, as they are today.  And the sight of a 1960s or 70s American Cadillac reminds me of a fine cruising ship, it’s so massive and marvellous to see.  Classic Car magazines are a delight when they take you through the joys of stripping down an old engine or rebuilding brakes or welding an ancient chassis up to perfection.

An old castle, most of its walls fallen away I find exciting in a different way, because you can imagine it as it once was – the idea of stepping back in time also excites me.

Sport, to me, is a blank area.  But to others when their football team wins there’s an obvious and palpable surge of excitement and delight that’s hard to replicate, same goes for cricket, tennis, indeed any competitive sport.  Extreme sports, yes I can categorically empathise with the thrills of racing driving, sailing, or flying an aeroplane, or white water rafting, not that I’ve done any of these.  What else?  Bungee jumping, mountaineering, BASE jumping.  It seems that the more dangerous an extreme sport is, the more thrilling, even to the extent that people are literally willing to risk their life.  But maybe risking their life is what makes it so exciting?

How about jobs?  A policeman or woman or a fire-fighter probably has to spend much of their working life waiting around, but what a thrill when a ‘shout’ goes out to rush to break up a fight or attend a catastrophe, how must it feel to tear around in a speeding vehicle and leap into action to save lives and use your wits and bravery to tackle a massive situation?  And a doctor I was seeing once arrived late for the appointment, breathless with excitement, still kitted out in a high viz yellow ‘doctor’ jacket.  “I’ve just saved a boy’s life,”  he said excitedly. “He’d gone into cardiac arrest and I happened to be in the right place at the right time and I got him back, he’ll be fine now – I saved his life, that’s why I always wanted to be a doctor – that’s what this job is really all about!”

Here’s another quickie: when you’re writing a story the moment when you work out how it’s going to go on, or a character you’ve created actually comes alive. Now that’s exciting too.

There are thousands of other things that thrill and excite people.  For instance I have a friend who absolutely adores buses, for some people it’s trains – trains can be a definite obsession.  And have you ever been at a party, where two men (it’s usually men) will wax lyrical about what route to take to get to some town, which road goes where, where you turn off, where you go left or right?  Bird watchers will wait for hours to spot a rare species.  And I would imagine there can be very little in the world that is more exciting than giving birth to a baby.  Or an actor taking a leading role, or a pop star taking to the stage in a massive auditorium.  The list goes on and on.

There are all kinds of mini excitements around too, and I’d like to end on one.  I was stuck in traffic and happened to notice two people seated on a pavement bench.  An old lady and a little girl of around 3 or 4.  And they had the same face.  Clearly, grandmother or great grandmother and her descendant, smiling and gazing into each other’s eyes with the same smile, indeed the exact same expression, illustrating the amazing continuity of life, the little girl perhaps not realising that she was seeing exactly what she would look like in 70 or 80 years time, still with the spark of liveliness and happiness undiminished.

So I’ve listed mine.  Can you add anything of yours?  I’d be prepared to bet that I haven’t even started to mention a tiny fraction of the things that get people excited all over the world – and that doesn’t even include sex.