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Smoketober October 8, 2012

Posted by normanmonkey in Consumer PR, In the news, Uncategorized.
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The writer Michael Pollan, in his polemic against the hijacking of nutrition by food marketers, advises readers to avoid all foods which are sold with health claims. (Sugar and corn syrup loaded products sold to the gullible as an essential part of you five a day). We can now add months to that as well.

I’ve smoked now for 20 years and I was on the verge of giving up. Leaflets have been seized and stored in kitchen drawers, hypnotists Googled and I even know that Raynes Park is the location of nearest Alan Carr quit group. The latter, I hasten to add is named after the ex-smoker who developed the one-day programme, not a lobby to get the comedian Alan Carr into retirement although I concede I’d eagerly sign-up to that for a fortnight and give up smoking to make it happen.

I was on the cusp, the verge, teetering so close to the edge of giving up smoking that any further I’d be in free fall. I don’t want to be a smoker all my life. It’s bad for you and I’ve ridden my luck. This will be for the good of my health. Yet, there are other causes worth sacrificing for and that is the state of the nation and respect for the English language.

If there is anything more likely to send me sprinting to the grey screen kiosk that passes for a tobacco stand gasping for air, it is being asked if I am planning to give up smoking for Stoptober. The first time of asking I hadn’t the vaguest what they were talking about and had to have the concept explained to me. Give up? For what? They’ve changed the name of October to Stopober so I will stop smoking? Not a fucking chance. I will spark up, light pyres of Marlboro Lights atop Ben Nevis and the Brecon Beacons and do whatever it takes to avoid yet another absurd soundbite movement with a creative developed by some slice in Shoreditch straight off his crack pipe.

The malignant assault on the senses started some time ago. First there was TV advertisement featuring a giant swollen red inflatable that looks like a sort of benign alcoholic’s nose with STOP written on the side of it. The STOP inflatable was rolled around a field, hugged, squeezed, photographed by some youths on their smart phones in a shopping centre, fingered by a fishmonger, cropped up in a call centre and then inexplicably appeared on a boat going out to sea, where, in any ideal world it would be punctured and sent to the sea bed with lead weights. Such wishful thinking.

This morning it wasn’t possible to listen to three John Cooper Clarke tracks in a row on Spotify without being ironically interrupted by an ad featuring a cheery array of folk with raised regional dialects (it’s the one nation coming together) talking about how much they were looking forward to giving up. They were giving up for their partner or their kids.

Well, I just surveyed my current surroundings and all I can see is Aggy, my Polish cleaner and a QPR season ticket. Hardly the call to action I was hoping for. Profound as she is with the marigolds, I don’t see a future with Aggy and  the latter is nothing but a further cause of self-harm. Believe me, if that STOP bubble had appeared outside the ground after the opening day 5-0 defeat against Swansea, people wouldn’t have been hugging it. Mind you, it could’ve done a job for us in goal.

The Department of Health marketing team clearly hadn’t factored in those of us who live alone, use South West Trains and support a team without a win all season and now facing a two-week international break prior to the next 90 minute shambles. But what we also have to face is people asking us if we have given up for Stoptober even with evidence to the contrary – a hangdog expression with a fag hanging out of one’s mouth – to suggest that no, I have not.

If all goes to plan Stoptober will be a fixture every year with increasing momentum, additional prods and prompts and little chance of escape. Put your house on the Military Wives Choir getting to number 1 with an awareness raising Stoptober cover of Smoke On The Water this time next year. Don’t forget we are less than 25 days away from the start of Movember! The possiblity that we’ll be invited the chance to do nothing to save the Gregorian calendar is ebbing with every bright spark with a marketing budget. By the end of the decade we’ll have to do something every month for something else: grow our toenails to fight piles, sing for a cyst or braid our pubic hair to replenish cod stocks.  We may be a healthier nation for such causes, but we become more irritating company for it during the cocktail hour.

So giving up smoking will have to wait for at least another month. Probably November and, for that one month, I can assure you, I shall be shaving every day.


100 Minutes of Solitude October 7, 2011

Posted by normanmonkey in Uncategorized.
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I really better do something before the girlfriend comes round later this afternoon. There’s a plate in the kitchen table next to the laptop that would make Tracey Emin think twice. It’s the accumulation of a man left to his own lazy devices: some aged rice, three empty soy sauce packets, a piece of chewing gum and five dog ends. The plate itself rest on a letter from Life Line screening informing me I’m now of the age where I could have a stroke. Charming.

Charles Saatchi may pay a fortune for this, but otherwise it marks me down as someone who really should know better . the fact of the matter is that even on a day off the last thing I want to do is confront it. Instead plate and I have been having a stare out now for several evenings and the heap has merely been added to when an ashtray has proven to be out of reach.

What she will mkake of it I don’t intend to find out. What women will never understand is that after working till late every night and managed to find only a modicum of time to pass out after a brief session on FIFA 12 that the first brief window of free time in a week simply cannot be spent scraping a plate. Surely it’s far better to have a Diet Coke, put on Sky Sports News and smoke a cigarette and write something about the predicament and hope that said plate will go away?

Mop kicks the bucket August 10, 2011

Posted by normanmonkey in Thirtynumbthing, Uncategorized.
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Settling down. Now there’s a phrase peculiar to women and parents to a son of a certain age. It always seems to be prefixed by ‘When are you?’ – a question that morphs into an accusation when you hit a certain age.

We live in times of uncertainty and the unexpected: the constant threat of recession, the collapse of the Eurozone, tsunamis, England suddenly becoming the best cricket team in the world and Joey Barton quoting 19th century German philosophers for good measure. To compound it all, I find myself in an unexpected relationship, meaning, tragically, she is now thrust into the foibles of trying to come to terms with being on the arm of a Thirtynumbthing.

From personal experience and constant reminder, we are generally a hesitant and tricky lot when it comes to ‘settling down’. We’ve come this far being dysfunctional and doing our own thing that it has almost become our natural course.

On the surface we may be all stacked bookshelves, macchiato drinking, gym going and designer kitchens, but it only takes a well-manicured nail scratching at the surface to unearth the clues that it’s not all refinement beneath. An almost barren fridge save for a few bottles of wine and a jar of pickle, a dance-proof Union Jack coffee table that lights up and the letters Q P R mown on the lawn are hardly the stuff of a Homes & Gardens centrefold and something that, perhaps, she should have been properly warned about in advance. Still, I wish her well, especially as the football season has yet to kick off and that’s when things can go seriously pear shaped on the psychological front.

If she and I try to make sense of it all, it appears this disruption of my normal continuum has also thrown the cleaner off kilter. Arriving home from work this evening it was as if there had been a death in the family. Pavlina greeted me mournfully at the door cradling a broken mop in her arms. My first moments home after a day sweltering in an office without air-conditioning (the developers euphemistically call it an eco-building, I call it cutting costs) were thus spent watching sympathetically as she tragically attempted to force the head back on the handle as I stood there helpless, awkwardly trying to muster the words that she already knew. No two ways about it, the mop was f*cked.

Despite reassurances that there were plenty of mops in the sea, it was hard to avert the sense of loss. Then again she’d become attached to that mop, quite literally. Together they had formed a formidable grime busting team, dealing with cigarette ash and spilled Malbec wherever they went. Aside from buying a new, top of the range mop with all mod cons, it seems the only way we can have closure is a mop funeral, and do it in style – sherry, a couple of hymns and a tasteful reading by its companion, the bucket.

After she departed and I threw the mop in the bin, I thought that was the last bit of drama we’d have to discuss that evening, but never underestimate the machinations and intuitive panic of a Bulgarian cleaner’s mindset. A minute later I received a text:

‘Now you are having a girlfriend now, please don’t hesitate to discuss issues about the cleaning. I am ready to offer a different price for the job, if there is one that might match your needs better. Thanks, Pavlina’.

Where does one begin? How on earth did she know I had female company this weekend? (I thought I’d covered all those particular tracks, so there’s a worry for starters). Secondly, does she assume that me having a girlfriend signifies her cleaning duties have instantly been taken over by someone else? And to the point she will take a pay cut in order to see off this threat? Finally, what are my ‘needs’ anyway?

The depressed mood was not all down to the mop. I’m assuming, very much hoping, the tell-tale sign which made her realise I’d had a woman in the house was the two dinner plates left in the dining room. Besides, I often cook for a friend if they visit and she’s never commented before (I ought to check what else has been left around the house). By that same measure, if I hadn’t cleaned up after a dinner party would she therefore assume I’d had a Pompeiian orgy?

It must be all very different in Bulgaria – one seafood linguini supper and before you know it they’ve donned a pinny, carved their name on your mop and are ready to take on all-comers with a blast of Mr Sheen. All of which makes me think if what happened earlier with the mop was not wear and tear or accident, but sabotage on the part of Pavlina: if there is to be another woman in your life then she may have you, but she will never take the mop. And by God, if ever a working mop and a happy operative is needed then it’s here.

Brandy on ice – a QPR promotion May 1, 2011

Posted by normanmonkey in QPR, Uncategorized.
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Did anyone remember to check the Norwich score then?'

Only at QPR can supporters invade the pitch to celebrate being promoted to the Premier League before bothering to check whether the other game that affected our status had finished. It hadn’t. Yet no one had the foresight to patiently see if Norwich would finish with 2-2 draw. Norwich didn’t. They scored and won 3-2, rendering the chants of ‘The R’s are going up and now you’re gonna believe us’ premature.

I witnessed this from my seat just behind the Directors Box in full knowledge, unlike the club co-owner Lakshmi Mittal, the fourth richest man in the world, that our party had been shafted (it goes to show you that money can buy you anything, but not even 5 billion quid can give you the final score from Carrow Road before making a tit of yourself). The supporters were singing so loudly about being promoted that no one could hear the PA system trying to tell them we actually weren’t and asking them to go home. Eventually the message got through, the promotion celebration was brought to an abrupt halt (if it was a cartoon you’d hear the sound of a stylus being hoiked off the record player) and it was rather like turning up for a New Year’s Eve party where Big Ben only struck up to 11.

An old friend in Australia whom I haven’t heard from in 18 months even found time to email to say he’d spilled his Pinot Noir down his front laughing at the pitch invasion that had been on the news. Yes, our embarrassment and wretched anti-climax in a small corner of Shepherds Bush had gone global.

So after global derision, promotion and the Championship was secured with a majestic 2-0 at Watford yesterday, but, of course, it wasn’t. There’s the matter of an FA charge concerning the transfer of Alejandro Faurlin from Argentinian club Instituto in an alleged £3.5m brokered deal that appears to be part Gordon Gekko, part Gordon the Gopher. When Faurlin had his medical signing for QPR it is not known if physios found bruising from where he fell off the back of a lorry, but the FA are investigating how we happened upon the signing as his owners weren’t Instituto and there is a (possibly unfounded) speculation we may be docked points to deny QPR a return to the Premier League after a fifteen year absence that has taken in two relegations and no small amount of ignomy on the way.

This is typical QPR, certainly since I’ve been following them.  In 1986 we won away at Chelsea and knocked out the European Champions Liverpool in the semis to reach the League Cup final only to lose 3-0 to Oxford. Our last foray into Europe we managed to have a 6-2 home advantage over Partizan Belgrade overturned with a 4-0 away defeat. Since we’ve been out of the Premier League we’ve managed to spend an entire season in financial administration with fans collecting donations in buckets outside the ground; a court case involving a gun pulled on the Chairman at the ground by gangsters on a matchday (where the judge concluded the Chairman was an ‘unreliable witness’); a merger with Wimbledon; a possible move and certain death to Milton Keynes (Wimbledon copped that one) been knocked out of the FA Cup by a team that sounded more like a car dealership and whom no one knew existed (Vauxhall Motors) and actually not won a single FA Cup match in ten years. Think about that: ten years! There’s also been the matter of recent events where we managed to get through 12 managers in less than 3 years all with increasingly disastrous consequences until the appointment of Neil Warnock who may or may have not won us the Championship.

Frankly this FA inquiry is the sort of thing that keeps a man with a QPR season ticket and limited social horizons beyond the nearest bar awake at night (and disinclined to blog if you;ve noticed the lack of activity roughly coincides with the FA charge). Yesterday afternoon was still spent listening to BBC London hunched in the kitchen and then charging around in triumph, then pausing to wipe a tear, frantically texting and calling other emotionally unstable idiots with a similar orientation, but there was no champagne.  My publican friend Lee celebrated himself into a toxic stupor at his own real-ale festival, but after one false dawn the previous week I’ll save my celebrations until all bases are covered.

My Moet is being kept on ice until the FA verdict on Friday and I wholly expect to go berserk at the final home game on Saturday.  It’s not worth going into the details of the case safe to say the club say they’ve been transparent and are confident they will win (given our history, as soon as anyone associated with QPR says that concerning any contest I am immediately filled with dread). Considering the FA is in considerable debt, they’ve not exactly managed the case or publicity around it well and our owners comprise not one, but two self-made billionaires (who didn’t get to where they are today by taking no for an answer or with an ‘After you, Claude’ approach to business)  there’s doubt whether the FA have the stomach or can afford the lawyers for a very messy fight.

For fifteen years we’ve waited for a return to the top flight. It’s unprecedented a club can win the league with a game to spare and still be waiting for results to come in from else0hwere, in our case not from a football ground but a QC. And while we’ve waited since 1986 and that League Cup final to make another appearance at Wembley, at least the hearing is taking place there, but whether we’ll get a win reamins to be seen. Typical QPR, as we say. In the place of champagne a large brandy would be more appropriate. A final thought: Pete Doherty is a QPR fan, do you think he turned out the way he did by coincidence?