The World According To Fred is my blog, although no, my name is not Fred - but don't worry, that's a common misconception... My posts are a compilation of all the things that pass through my mind - a running commentary of my view of the world. Please feel free to comment and please say if there are any subjects you would like Fred to take a view on - I really do want to know!!!! In the meanwhile enjoy:
The World According To Fred

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Result is Coming: A Summer of Waiting

Amongst many clichéd witticisms, I failed to find any famous or literary quote that perfectly excused the silence of a blog and lack of post for over a year. The onslaught of A-level work and self-imposed additional responsibilities go someway to explain it. Lethargy covers the rest. That and it becomes like a text message you forgot about and after a certain period of time it’s too awkward to try and reply. But that’s the apology. Moving on.

The summer for many is a period of waiting – for the next school year, for the next big step. A great number of people my age wait for the results in August to determine their place in University, or other form of higher education. Until then, plans are essentially un-makeable. Which, if you’re anything like me, is a terrifying prospect. Therefore the time must be filled with endless distracting activities – after all, nearly four months of a summer holiday may start fun but ends up quite daunting when you don’t have anything to do, even on the days where you don’t make it out of bed until the afternoon. Or when that something to do ends up being the first two seasons of Game of Thrones in as many days (and by the old gods and the new I hate Joffrey. I swear that there has never been such an insufferable character in anything before. Ever.) And when you’ve only got the first five seasons of One Tree Hill and you’re still munching your way through the remnants of Easter chocolate (it’s alright, I can’t believe it either) endless days of TV quickly becomes dull, sickly and fattening.

Some would say that the time should be used for fun or education – though somehow I don’t think learning a dozen different plaits and planning to use your little sister as a human doll counts with that. Fun’s a lot easier to have, however, when you have the funds to do it. Having quit my two-year job at the much-adored bookstore Waterstones, in order to concentrate on my exams, I now inexplicably have the time to spend with the people I want to and yet a dwindling supply of finances with which I can do things. An unfair paradigm, I think. Add to that the mixture of holidays that people enjoy and the seeming endless summer is radically reduced to a number of short days in which to spend time with people who in a few months will be scattered across the nation. Ah, first world problems.

Volunteering or work experience opportunities are another option (though to my disappointment, I learned you have to get in quite early for the local ones you want. Bristol is just a little too far away for a placement.) Indeed, helping out at the library for the Summer Reading Challenge is a great time-filler, as well as a great use for my obscure knowledge of children’s books and OCD for alphabetical and numerical order. Even if it does feel like just doing my job without the pay check and staff perks. Not exactly like they’re needed though – at last check (another product of boredom) I have over 50 books unread on my shelf. Hmm. I would, however, not recommend this if you aren’t a fan of children; you’ve got to be prepared for the small ones running at you during an art and crafts session and end up returning home covered in more glitter and sequins than those of a notorious dancing profession – need I say more?

The summer may also be one of new experiences for many – a holiday with friends, a new talent, a new job. Or in my case, donating blood for the first time, something I would encourage of others too. This being said, I haven’t done it yet – I may retract this encouragement if I end up freaking out and passing out or rolling round crying in a complete overreaction to any amount of pain there may be. Following that, I’ve signed up to the charity annual Colour Run (ie Colour Walk) at the end of the summer. Not entirely sure why my efforts to help seem to wind up in my pain and degradation, but there we go. Wish me luck guys.

To everyone else waiting on the results and the end of the summer, I borrow a quote a friend of mine used at the beginning of the school year: “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” So enjoy the summer – for now there is nothing that can be done. In the words of Blink-182 (or Blink-183 depending on who of my friends you talk to - may I mention that I get to see one of my favourite bands in less than two weeks…?) it’s time for “a summer that they could call, memory that’s full of fun.” Enjoy. 

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Dragons and Magick and Scares - Oh My! The Power of What's Written

It is a rare occasion when I can find a book worth reviewing. This may sound strange, especially considering the fact that my job as a bookseller at Waterstones unavoidably entails me writing reviews, both in store and online; and for those who know me, you know it’s a rare occasion when someone can get me to shut up about books. However, it is seldom that I find a book so engrossing, so incredible that I find it necessary to write a proper review (i.e. here, on my blog), in order to share it with as many people as possible; yet, such was the case with Ben Galley’s The Written.

I first came across these books (indeed, The Written is only the first of the Emaneska series) when Ben Galley came into my Waterstones for a signing event – a self-published author with an apparent passion for the fantastical. Admittedly, he’s a relatively unknown writer (though not to our store – one of my colleagues used to talk of him and recommend his books on such a regular basis, Ben Galley’s name is as well known as the Queen of England) but that has never stopped him or his books from brimming with talent. Plus, he brought badges, and that just seals the deal on him being a great guy.

The book really is beautifully done. It took me a little while to get into it (though really I’m like this with all books, especially with a new writer), but despite this and the chunkiness, I sped through it. It had that pull of a book that meant I just couldn’t put it down, a pull that I haven’t felt for a long time. My love for Harry Potter isn’t exactly a hidden thing, but when it comes to fantasy books, I’m really picky – they have to be different, have to bring
a new twist to an area of literature that has been done a million times for every age – and a lot of the time, it’s the same story over and over again. But that’s not at all the case. I guess what really drew me in was that it was so fresh, so unlike anything I had ever read before. What I loved about the novel was the great wealth of history and background that exists behind the main plot line – Galley has created an entire world, not just one story, in a way that is distinctly reminiscent of Rowling and Tolkien. It’s not dumped on you at once either – admittedly at some points this can feel like you’re missing out on something you need to know, but it’s all revealed in due time, when it won’t detract from the main events or become too confusing.

Writing a review is always difficult, especially if you’re trying to avoid spoilers. One thing I will say, however, is nothing is as it seems - oh, and you don’t want to realise this in a public area. Should you feel that some revelation is coming, I suggest you remove yourself to a private, preferably sound proof area, or else risk finding yourself slamming fists upon the table and repeatedly yelling “NO!” inviting many shocked stares from those sitting silently around you. Still, such is the nature of my relationship with good books…

And they really are incredible. I think it stands testament to them that, having finished The Written, I moved straight onto the sequel, Pale Kings 
and this is considering that Dan Brown’s new book, Inferno, has just come out. Honestly, I didn’t even break a sweat in entirely ignoring the hardback, so engrossing is the tale that Galley has woven. Most of the time I will continue with a series from a sense of duty to finish it but I will readily put it on hold, in the event of a new book that I am desperate to read. Here, however, not only did I not want to leave, but I literally couldn’t, as if the magic that permeates the lives of the characters had reached out of the pages and bound me to them. That and the fact that I love showing off gorgeous books, and these cover designs are simply brilliant. I know, I know - you can’t judge a book by its cover, but if every cover were to reflect the story inside – well, actually, I think these illustrations do it justice.

Galley’s finale to the trilogy comes in two parts Dead Stars: Part One and Part Two at the end of the month. Whilst part of me is disappointed with myself for having waited so long to delve into the world of Emaneska, a very large part of me is grateful – at least this way I won’t have to wait too long for its conclusion!  Equally exciting is Galley’s project to turn The Written into a graphic novel; admittedly, it’s not normally my cup of tea, but I know this will just have to be an exception to my rule. For now however, I must return to Pale Kings – and send you all to find these books immediately!

 Check out Ben Galley’s website here:

And order your copy of The Written from Waterstones (of course) today!

Friday, 12 April 2013

Bus Off

One often wonders, amongst many things (such as why one has started using the pro-noun “one” and whether as a result one would be accepted into the royal family), why it is that buses have been allowed to continue to exist, and have not yet been replaced by a more efficient, appropriate and – frankly – friendlier substitute. I know that I have before written about the problems surrounding public transport (An Ode To A Cherry Bakewell), but that was more centred around the issue of trains, and it seemed due time to turn my attention to their four-wheeled friends.

I have never been a fan of buses – largely in part to the time I was unable to locate the right bus stop and time to get home for twenty minutes before realising I was looking at entirely the wrong route and it was a bank holiday Monday, and buses were not running. However, when one’s school and work place lies on a bus route and one has neither finished learning to drive nor can afford a car anyway thanks to extortionate insurance prices, one quickly becomes familiar with the local bus service. Not that this is an enviable acquaintance, particularly when one must join the masses on the bus home after school when one is unlucky enough to have no free period last thing. Rude, smelly and horrible children, who shove and poke you, swear at you without an ounce of respect for anyone. It’s like I’ve walked into some futuristic thriller, where the inmates of a juvenile prison have been let loose and allowed to rule the streets. Admittedly, I know I am only five or so years their senior, and my height immediately puts me at a disadvantage where most of them probably assume I’m  the same age as them. But what has happened? When I was their age, one look from a sixth form student had me running in terror for fear of what they might do, and that applied to even the toughest guys  in my year. Still, another rant for another time - the point being here that such arrogant, selfish, icky little toe rags serve only to enhance the already delightful experience.

Not that it is ever helped by supposedly grown adults – and that includes the bus drivers themselves. Now I’m not applying this to all bus drivers. Some of them, such as my regular “Sunday Bus Driver” as he shall be known here (mainly in part to the fact that I don’t actually know his name), are truly lovely and helpful. However others choose to be irrationally rude, such as driving off from the bus stop five minutes early, despite the fact you are clearly running to catch it, and refusing to accept £10 notes, when it’s all the cash machine gives out, you are disinclined to waste money on something just to get change and there is a large sign on the bus itself stating that they only have a problem with £20 notes or over. As a fellow worker of the public sector (retail counts, right?), I know that the general public can often be stressful and frustrating – but that doesn’t mean you have to be downright rude, especially when the customer has in no way done anything wrong.

My experience yesterday only served to emphasise my detestation for this mode of public transport. Having arranged to meet someone, I specifically woke up and left early in order to catch a bus - a task that anyone else on their Easter break knows is arduous enough. And yet I was rewarded for my good-natured efforts by having to wait an hour for one bus (by which time, there should’ve been three of them) in the freezing cold with a woman who insisted on standing upwind from everyone else waiting and smoking, forcing everyone out of the bus shelter (which incidentally, I’m pretty sure is illegal – the law prevents anyone from smoking in areas covered by three walls – if one counts the fence that met the bus shelter roof (which I do), that’s three walls and therefore illegal). If it weren’t for that fact that she looked a bit crazy and I feared for my safety, I would have said something; still I was forced to make do with muttering loudly, to much approval from those around me. Still the icing on the freezing cold, smoky cake was the bus driver’s response to me politely asking whether there was traffic on the roads this morning – a caveman like grunt, which only served to entirely concrete my opinion that buses are the metal hounds of hell.

And yet, surrounding us are encouragements to use said public transport! I am forced to contest the government’s reasoning for this: they are barely cheaper, and things such as passes and week tickets and inconsistent and hard to come by and I doubt that the huge, fuel guzzling monsters are better for the environment, especially with the development of green technology for private transportation. And, to a great extent, they are a complete waste of money. In some areas, buses run every twenty minutes, entirely empty. The fact is, they are completely unattractive to anyone trying to travel. They are entirely unreliable, unpleasant and unclean – and let’s not even start on the driving that has now caused me permanent whiplash. Those who hopefully put faith in them or, like me, are faced with no other option but their use are thought of as excellent examples to use in statistics, but realistically, we are just warnings to other potential users of the dangers of public transport.

Realistically if the government want the public to use the buses en masse, they will have to do an entire overhaul of the service. Personally, I suggest some futuristic tram system in the air – anything that is not subject to overly frequent break downs, operators that belong in solitary confinement and the horrors of morning traffic. Until then we are faced with the travesty that is the bus service; but to all transport ministers who are encouraging us to use them and yet have never placed one shiny polished shoe aboard a bus in their life – bus off.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Cramming Speed

Ah, revision! That hatred beast that seems entirely pointless once you sit down in an exam and all possible knowledge required leaves your head. It seems to drain energy from you and from the day, so that no amount of flashcards, notes or extremely elaborate spider diagrams will ever stick in your brain. Indeed, in my experience, revision has only provided me with some highly irregular results – at GCSE, I revised hardest for my History exam and came out with a grade lower that initially predicted, and at my Government and Politics exam in January of this year, my revision became less of looking at new stuff and more of learning brand new things that hadn't been covered.

Still, revision seems to bring out in all of us a certain knack for the art of procrastination. From a quick game on the Xbox that mysteriously turns into an all day marathon to discovering a sudden urge to clean one’s room, a chore long put off; or even to writing a long silent blog. Facebook especially seems to become a black hole of trivial nonsense which suddenly seems to become incredibly interesting and time consuming (oh Harry Potter memes, how fast you can make the hours go!). Whichever which way, it seems that revision is the one thing everyone wishes to avoid. But is it about to get worse? Should government proposals go ahead, it certainly will be, at least for those taking A Levels. Having already removed the possibility of January exams, cutting off the chance of modular tests, education ministers are now considering reducing the two separate years – AS and A2 – to one whole course.

Of course it means it’s harder (and means twice as much revising *groan*) but it also means a much better test of knowledge. With the exception of very few subjects, the whistle-stop one year courses mean that many can get away with last minute cramming and remembering a few facts that you will never think of again, just for the sake of the exam. In contrast, a two year course will much more test the depth of your knowledge than the depth of your memory bank – and although it may seem like a lot more work, it will be so much more beneficial in the long run. As a taker of four essay based subjects (seriously, nobody tried to stop me? Why?!), I can easily say that a two year course would be much better. Though knowledge is, of course, key, it is the application of it that really counts and that kind of skill can only be truly honed over a two year basis. Admittedly, I won’t look forward to the state of my hand at the end of the exam (likely to be twice as long) which already currently looks and feels like it’s been put in the washing machine with several sharp knives at the end of a two and a half hour English paper. The same cannot necessarily be said for subjects such as the maths and sciences, where it is nearly all facts and knowledge – and certainly not the same guarantee of crippling agony (though admittedly they do have the unenviable position of being the last exams on the timetable, so that they are confined to revision whilst others are free to enjoy the non-existent sunshine). However I know that I would rather have two years to practice my equations as opposed to just one – I would certainly find it much easier to f(x)! (To all maths students and others who understood that, I apologise for my sense of humour…)

For now though, at least, the endless cramming must continue. Whilst I may extol the virtues of an extended course, I know I will never reap the benefits of it and must instead prepare for an eternity of boredom. One request I would make of examining bodies though – please move the exams further away from the Easter holidays, so that I do not feel the need to revise in the presence of a mountain of chocolate. Needless to say it is the most comforting of procrastination and will inevitably lead to me rolling into my exam hall rather than walking. As for now, I must return myself to the dreaded revising – I wish luck to everyone taking exams this summer, at whatever age, and to all essay writers: good luck to your hands!

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

The Casual Disappointment

Since the publication of the final Harry Potter book in 2007, I have eagerly awaited the release of a new book from the beloved JK, whatever it may be. And then, earlier this year, came the announcement that she had picked up the quill again: The Casual Vacancy, 27th September 2012. Oh the excitement! The overwhelming joy that accompanied the knowledge that I could once again delve into the world of her writing – I didn’t care that it wasn’t Harry, wasn’t Hogwarts, wasn’t magic. She was back and it was a whole new universe to be swept away in.

Yeah. What an astronomical letdown.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that it was a disappointment because it wasn’t Potter – a lot of people think that that’s the reason I feel like this, and it’s a fair enough assumption (except of course, that it’s entirely wrong). No, the truth is that The Casual Vacancy is a racist, demeaning and judgemental piece of crap – and that’s just the half of it. For those that don’t know (and a warning – spoiler alerts coming!) the book follows the town of Pagford and the events that occur after the death of a prominent figure of the town council, Barry Fairbrother (Barry? Inventive there JK…) and the attempts to fill his seat.

Now as a bookseller at Waterstones, I was well aware of the promotional restrictions put around the book; it was in no way to be affiliated with the Harry Potter series, and was to be advertised with extreme emphasis on the fact it was an adult novel. However, what we weren’t warned about was the fact that JK Rowling seems to have a limited knowledge as to what makes an adult novel – and that her version consists of “adult writing” consists of sporadic, frequent and often unnecessary bad language and scenes that, whilst admittedly were – in accordance with most of the rest of the book – badly written, verged on pornographic. OK, so let’s not think I’m a snobbish prude – yes people use bad language and it is generally quite often. But is it really quite necessary for “c**t” to be used within the first ten pages and repeatedly therein? No, is the simple answer. And as for the sex scenes – ok, so it was no Fifty Shades of Grey, but they were thrown in amongst relatively normal passages in a way that was clearly a desperate attempt to up the ante and make it adult material. They were simply uncomfortable to read. Not that I’m suggesting I like to snuggle up with a cup of tea and my latest copy of Fifty Shades for a nice bit of contented and light reading. No. I’m simply saying that JK’s risqué material was less sleazy and more queasy.

And then there’s the writing itself – oh it was painful. Long and archaic terms that, realistically, nobody but an English teacher uses (and even they don’t understand them) and only served to make the piece clumsy and awkward. The story made critical and damning accusations of those on the welfare system and racial slurs with barely acceptable reason behind it reasoning – “bullying”. JK failed to form any likeable character to get behind (by the end I wanted to climb in and slap everyone of them) and I am ashamed to say that it took me about four weeks to finish it; had it not been for my extreme aversion to starting and not finishing a book, I would’ve been perfectly happy to put it down and walk away unconcerned not knowing what happened. As it is, I don’t think I have ever reached the end of a book with as much relief that it was over.

So Ms Rowling – what’s going on? I think it must be one of two options. Firstly, she has realised that Potter can go no further – now that’s hard for me, as a hardcore Potterhead, to even find the words to admit it, but after the painful demise of the over-hyped Pottermore (having spent two hours getting to the sorting and being put in Hufflepuff, I refuse to go back on, and having gathered from my more fortunate friends that really I’m not missing out, it seems that those that remain on the site are dwindling in numbers…) it can be said that Potter can go no more. In coming to terms to this, JK has decided she must break away as far as possible from this world and create a new name for herself: thus the foul language, foul content and foul writing.

The other option is, indeed, far more disturbing: that this is actually what Rowling writes and thinks like, and the entire Harry Potter franchise was a façade behind which she could simply get published. If this is the case, then I have lost a valued idol, who always seemed to promote the good and right in a troubled and often desperate society, and the little girl who can owe her childhood and love for literature to one woman can now only turn her head in shame.

I now return to the Harry Potter series with a desperate hope that this experiment will not impact future generations on their willingness to pick up this magical world, that for me, should’ve been the only one JK Rowling created. Let this be a plea to her to stay far from this new path, and remain with what she knows and is good at.

Twilight: A Bark Bigger Than Its Bite?

I recently went to see Eclipse, the latest film in the Twilight Saga. Having absolutely adored the book and then wound myself into a frenzy over the trailer, I anticipated a great success. Admittedly, the previous two hadn’t been great once I looked closer at them, but Eclipse was supposed to the best yet: it’s the most action packed; two extremely good looking characters (in the book) battling over the girl they both love and Bella’s heart-wrenching decision at the end. What could go wrong? Needless to say, it was crap.

Now, I am well aware that the entire female population of Britain, America and in fact the rest of the world will probably want to hunt me down, tear me apart and burn the pieces  after hearing what I have to say. But to me, Robert Pattinson and his troupe of talentless wannabes are as low down in my book as Justin Bieber, Jedward and that demented woman who put the cat in the bin. C’mon Hollywood. Is it really that hard to cast people that can actually act? Robert Pattinson is supposedly a God, and yet I find myself repulsed by the simple thought of his face, my lip curling at the sound of his hybrid accent in my head. It’s not difficult to cast an American in an American role, and even if they couldn’t achieve that, at least an Englishman who can put on a decent American accent. Where were Paul Wesley and Ian Somerhalder (aka Stefan Salvatore and Damon Salvatore from the ITV2 series Vampire Diaries) when Twilight was being cast?  Added to this catastrophe, they enrol Kristen Stewart as Bella: a flimsy excuse for an actor, who wouldn’t ever have one boy fighting for her, let alone two. Finally, you have Taylor Lautner - possibly the only peak in this vacuous boredom - with his enticing six-pack which, unfortunately, acts better than he does. The gorgeous Indian-American seems to have an interesting disability, limiting him to only one facial expression throughout the film.
So come on Hollywood. What’s going on? You’ve managed to turn a series of incredible books into a mess of bad acting and people constantly checking the time to see how much longer they have to sit and watch this contraption for. As it is, I now utterly detest the books: my vision of Edward Cullen is destroyed; Bella is no longer my strong feminist heroine and the word ‘vampire’ simply sets my teeth on edge rather than having the pulse racing, wide-eyed, dizzy effect it once did.

And yet somehow, I am alone in a craze of hormone ruled, overly obsessive, stalker mad fans. My traditionalist ideas are being trampled beneath the heavy feet of pathetic, moronic and narcissistic teenage girls, whilst we are watched by laughing producers who have just got the phone call to confirm that yes; they are now the equivalent to Bill Gates in the merchandise industry. Meanwhile, up and down the country, girls – in fact fully grown women who should know better enough to act their age – are flowing into shops to seize fistfuls of Volturi Make-up, Edward Cullen wristbands and T-Shirts emblazoned with TEAM EDWARD or TEAM JACOB and shoving them into the faces of shocked shop assistants. Well Ms. Meyer, I hope you are happy. Thousands may love the films for the moment – and trust me, that will fade by the time another equally trashy film makes the silver screen – but millions more hate the books for what they have become. A love and respect that could’ve lasted for centuries has been destroyed in an attempt to make a quick buck.
Surprisingly, the movie industry has not always been this corrupt. Only recently have film makers become more intent on making money that creating a most welcome adventure. Indeed, there used to be a time where one could read a book, then see an adaptation of it in the cinema and would immediately be transported back to that world. The book would not be disgraced, defiled ad destroyed by the film, but rather given a new lease of life by it. Lord of the Rings was phenomenal; it was exactly like the book and proved that magical imagination could be transcribed onto to screen with ease. The first few Harry Potter films were the same. But then they too turned their backs on the books in order to create elaborate and completely pointless story lines; JK Rowling is lucky that the fan base dedicated to her books is loyal enough to stick by them. Admittedly, Ms. Rowling was too in the early years, and yet the books have finally been deserted in favour of a large, flowing income. As much as I love the Harry Potter series, they missed out far too much of the important information in the most recent two in order to make them good.

Not all authors have betrayed their creations to the tune of twelve silver coins though. Meg Cabot’s Princess Diaries’ have been made into two highly inaccurate,  erroneous and obvious movies. However, Ms. Cabot cheerfully takes them to pieces through her character Mia Thermopolis, making for a welcome change.
I cannot amend what has already been made, no matter how much I may detest the inventions, yet I can at least hope to alter what may come. Hollywood needs to find a way to make better adaptations or else stop altogether before a fully fledged riot breaks out.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012


For my science class, as part of a rather more-heated-than-anticipated discussion.
Dedicated to the people I work with who put up with me and it turn allow me to do all the work.

Battery farms. Alongside the fur trade and animal testing farming is the biggest source of outrage for animal rights activists. It seems that rearing animals solely for slaughter has suddenly been deemed cruel - provided they are kept in confined spaces. Yes, it is their habitat that makes it immoral. Are they really that bad?

Now you mustn't think I'm some psycho animal hater who runs about museums at night slapping Capuchan monkeys (really, I'm surprised there weren't hordes of protesters outside The Night at the Museum studios screaming for blood; human blood, of course) - I simply think there has been far too much outcry against these farms and not enough of the other side of the story. I guess that makes me the Voice of Reason. Realistically, intensive farming is the clever man's meat. Cost, time and space effective, it is sparing with the things that the current economy is crying out for. As beautiful and famous our British countrysides may be, we are long past the era where they are needed. When there are thousands of people who live stacked on top of one another in minuscule flats where there isn't enough room to swing a cat (which incidentally is a real violation of animal rights), it is ludicrous to suggest that acres of land are better put to use for eight pigs to run around in mud. Expand people! Yes they are beautiful, but people would much rather stare at the image of them on their TV or computer screens, and people rarely walk in the countryside anymore unless they are forced to be crazed DofE enthusiasts. I do not advocate the post-apocalyptic scene of burning fields and polluted (well, more-than-it-already-is-polluted-) air, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Still, I digress.

My main fault with "organic farming" is the cost. With the current economic downturn, it is absurd to pay so much for something which - when cooked right and not in a half-hearted attempt to avoid being bias - tastes no different to that farmed in cages. You may say that you can't put a price on morals, but I believe you just did - and it's extortionate. And may I ask what the big uproar about morals is? They may not be running amok in a large field, but the animals in battery farms aren't exactly beaten, put in shackles and made to perform shows. They are well fed and kept healthy, juxtaposing the common image that is circulated. And anyway, bacon is bacon - it doesn't taste or look happy just because it died that way. And whichever way you go about it, it still ends up on someone's plate.

But when it comes down to it, it's really simple: if you don't like it, don't eat it. It's not exactly the attitude I'm normally comfortable with, and although I don't like people choking others with their views, I do think that if you see something wrong you should try to change it: even if that change is just raising awareness. Lazing around and watching things unfold is a cowardly way of life. But in this particular instance, I do break my rule. The removal of all battery farms is a wrong and, frankly, an inconsiderate move. If all that is left is organically reared meat, what happens to those who - through no fault of their own - cannot afford it? Are they condemned to a life of greenery so that a few chickens can flap about aimlessly for the duration of their short lives in an exceedingly large field? Our species may only be a pointless blip in the expanse of time, but for now we are reigning superior and we should reap the benefits that come with it, rather than ponder our dinner's feelings.

Organic farming is just the consolation for the failed vegetarian. You take the custard and I'll have the sausages, wherever they were made: now that's true Ambrosia.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

My Bloody Valentine

Another year, another annoying and grating February holiday. St. Valentine’s Day. If I had to live in a world where Valentines was hyped up an inch more than it already is, I would exile myself to a Castaway-like island and shun myself from this sad and obsessed land.

Oh how I despise it. It’s just another excuse for Clinton cards, Moonpig- and to make a fortune out of poor, conned fools. A piece of folded paper with some insincere and mass-produced words printed in a supposedly sophisticated slanty writing. Ooh, I’m feeling the love. Every programme on seems to spin their advert into some form of Valentines entertainment. I think the one that astounded me the most was the beginning of the Championship League, saying that you should watch it this February 14th. Seriously? If any guy tried that with me, they would be out the door faster than they could say football. And as for Tesco’s advert – chocolate, Häagen Dazs and alcohol sound like the perfect recipe for fattening a woman up to cook for Sunday dinner, not a romantic evening in. And they’re all at it – “eat my food, sweet couples, feel fat, bloated and fall asleep early in front of the TV. Happy Valentine’s suckers...” They seem to be calling more to the singles watching the television instead of the coupled. Ice-cream and chocolates lead only to an all you can eat buffet of self-pity, and a soppy chick flick marathon ending with Titanic, before curling up in the foetus position with a bottle of whatever is closest to hand wailing away to Jamie O’Neal’s All By Myself. Smother yourself with chocolate my friends: it will love you and treasure you like no human ever can! Amongst all these false and annoying moments through the day, I await the genius that should surely come from at least one chocolate brand that speaks directly to the single people - they would make enough money to rival Bill Gates.

Then there’s the rest of the merchandise – how dare they sell teddy bears in the name of Valentine! No! It is an outrage! Teddy bears are the sole comfort for the lonely at night, someone to cuddle in the recesses of a dark night: it is not fair that they would take this and give it to those in a relationship. And as for the “luxury lingerie” that men give their partners – who are they really for? I mean really. That’s just a present for yourself now isn’t it? And 99% of Valentines jewellery are bought last minute from the local pound shop. These presents are given under false pretences and an increasing amount of pressure from society to conform to such insincerity.

I would like to point out at this point that this is not a rant spawned of bitter twistedness as many would assume; I am not stewing in a lonely pit of depression, surrounded by eighteen cats and bunnies in boiling pots – and although there are more chocolate wrappers around me than around a sane person, this is down to my addiction to Milka. Who knew Heaven could come from a cow? In truth, my hatred of this holiday is the same as that of Christmas. It is over-hyped, over-priced and has lost any valuable and earnest meaning. The holiday has become more about the flash of cash and material value than the actual show of love and caring. Plus the fact I have always thought that it is stupid that one day is singled out to tell someone how much you love them. Surely you should be made to feel special every day of the year – to make someone feel more loved once a year is nice, I’ll admit, but sucks to be around on February 15th when everything returns to normal. Seems more damaging than anything else – showing you how good things could get then returning to normal within 24 hours.

Still I can’t complain – at least it is over faster than Christmas. Though you are still burdened with the people around you. I find there are two type of couples around at this time of year – those that treat Valentines like another day and don’t go all out; and those that get together on the 13th and break up on the 15th and spend the rest of the month cramming their jewellery-from-a-cracker under your nose in a suffocatingly smug manner until you want to punch the smirk off their face. Honestly, shove it in my face one more time and it really will be a bloody Valentine.

Still, I wanted to impart only one message with this blog – that in truth there is only one Tuesday that matters this February. So keep calm, and wait for Pancake Day. 

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The Nightmare Months Before Christmas

Bah Humbug. I blame genetics for the fact that I am a giant green Grinch, but Christmas does not help itself. Or rather, every store across the country does not help Christmas.

I am a November child, and don’t appreciate my birthday being overshadowed by loud loathsome music, glaring garish lights and overly cheerful adverts. But this is not where it starts. Christmas now begins months before the occasion, to the point where I am bored of the 25th December at the beginning of September. It starts with the little baubles in the corners on the TV, or snow throughout an advertisement and then BAM full blown annoying kids in stupid costumes singing irritating songs about how their mother can miraculously buy every single thing in a catalogue whether relevant or not – yes Littlewoods, I’m talking to you. These children do not induce sympathy or make me want to buy from this store, but run. Run as far as possible as I can away from this store, for fear that if I do go there the children will follow me and torture me until my ears bleed from pain. Every single advert on TV is about Christmas. Stores bragging about the ridiculous amount of money you can spend on items that will end up in the trash after Boxing Day. I’m sorry but the only commercial allowed to signal the beginning of Christmas is the Coca Cola advert, which in being so honoured retains its glory until due time. But the misery does not end there, oh no.  It’s every channel displaying their Christmas specials: or basically, exactly the same shows just with all the characters wearing Christmas hats. Except in Friends, where Ross stars as the Holiday Armadillo instead. Another thing - I don’t get why The Wizard of Oz and Sound of Music are heralded as the great Christmas movies – what exactly do they have to do with the season at all? Nothing says happy Christmas like a collection of Nazis and people dressed in green. As of now, the only films that are acceptable at this time of year are The Nightmare Before Christmas, A Muppets’ Christmas Carol and Love Actually. End of story. Except of course you can watch “Christmas 24” – one channel dedicated entirely to Christmas movies and other unnecessarily chirpy trash. It’s enough to make me want to grab a stocking and stick it over my head until the holiday is over.

Yet the travesty extends further than the simple four walls of a TV screen. Each year Christmas grows, but only in the necessity for the need to buy presents. It's a poor excuse for picking a man's pocket every December the 25th, but I seem to be the only one who knows. Everyone spends an absurd amount of money on gifts that either have had no thought put into them or are absurdly hideous. I’m not going to be a hypocrite – I get as excited about opening presents as the next person (providing the next person is a six year old child), and most of the time my presents are perfect. But when the number of Impulse, So…? and Charlie fragrances I have outstrips the number of weeks in a year, I begin to think that the season of giving has gotten out of control. And let it be said for the final time – the horrendous Christmas jumpers are not wanted, welcome or winning. I try and restrict the number of people who I give presents to, but every year it seems to spiral out of control, costing me more than I ever wanted to spend on people who I probably won’t know in a few years except on Facebook. Logical.

And then comes the music. The endless drones of pointless sentiments that clearly haven’t been thought through – nobody wishes it would be Christmas every day, unless we couldn’t remember the day before, otherwise we’d either be bankrupt faster than St. Nick can travel or opening the same presents for the next millennium yet never having time to enjoy them. Then there’s the whole dilemma as to whether people age if there is only one day each year – see? This whole can of worms that was clearly not considered when the song was written. And don’t even get me started on Jingle Bells. The only song I can stand is Fairytale of New York for the epic moment after an assembly in primary school when the song started playing and my Headteacher informed me that this was her favourite song and started to sing along, at the exact moment where Kirsty McColl sings “You scumbag, you maggot, You cheap lousy faggot, Happy Christmas your arse, I pray God it's our last” – well, some moments stick with you forever.

Nevertheless, my favourite part of Christmas is the flowing amounts of food. A magnificent opportunity to eat till you’re sick, put on a ton of weight and then break that easily formed new year’s resolution to lose the mass when you find the leftovers of your stocking. A true yuletide miracle!

Still I think it’s safe to say that there are many pre-Christmas Spirit Scrooges that would love for the Noel celebrations to be toned down a bit, so we’re no longer affronted by tinsel everywhere we look. This year, the anti-Christmas begins. Game on. 

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Just Can't Dance

Just Dance. The promise that with a small white remote in your hand and a miniature neon person on the screen in front of you, you can become an elite dancer. Yes, this sounds legit. Add to this already threatening mix a video camera, competitors who have already learnt the moves and the inability to realise which player you are and you have a dangerous recipe for humiliation. Namely mine.

The delicacies that are involved in the game are so much more complicated than those suggested by the name “Just Dance”. You do not “Just Dance”. You make wild movements that are not even remotely close to human moves and invariably end up punching someone in the face. Twice. I would even go as far as to suggest that all these games have been sold under false advertising. In no universe created does anyone step up to the Wii for the first time and perform perfectly these extra-terrestrial moves like the dancers on the TV adverts. Nor are we smiling. Unless we are mocking someone else’s failed attempts. To summarise, I am never smiling, but those who are watching me are. And of course, my friends’ inability to refrain from putting videos of my dancing onto Facebook means everyone can share in my degradation. Oh the joys of camera phones. And yet it doesn’t end there! If you have an Android or iPhone, you can install the "Autodance” app, film your friends doing ordinary actions and remix them to Duck Sauce’s Barbara Streisand, until they look like a high speed chicken on drugs, to be shared once again with Facebook but also YouTube. It is a rather false hope that this game will enable us to learn new dance moves which we can crack out at the next shindig to impress stacks of people with our newly discovered talents. No – do not be enticed by this gross exaggeration! This game does not create talent nor fun but pain, ridicule and a vague resemblance to a duck in the presence of a drunken fox, who – being drunk – tries to pet the duck before eating it and said duck - being unsure whether to run or stay still - as a consequential compromise tries to do both. When you can picture this happening, you know what most people look like partaking in “Just Dance”. Such blatant lies. I have been told that if I stopped singing and concentrated on the moves I would do better – but if anyone can listen to Outcast’s Hey Ya and not sing along, they are clearly not human.

Then again, it is better than some of the games out there. Though many say that computer games will improve communication skills and reaction times, I say that this is a simple disguise behind which hide unnecessarily enhanced violence and mild resemblance to the speech and social capabilities of and unevolved caveman. My English class is not filled with intelligent and deep conversations about the moral messages of Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird - it is filled with the crude comparison of how many kills they got last night: “Yeah I got this guy last night and now I’m on level 48, is well cool”. Yes, your grasp of the English language definitely grants you a spot in the top set. What gets me is that they get home from spending a whole day in the company of these people and then think that it’s a great idea to spend eight hours online with these same people. Do you hate your own company? Do you loathe yourself so much that the idea of just an hour alone is terrifying? This isn’t about having a social life, this is about having such a low self-esteem that it becomes a real life version of Don’t Let Me Get Me. And yet such a high price is put on these drainers of life! I guess I understand when the game costs £40 but spans 3 discs, like murder mystery game La Noire; but when you pay the same price for three hours of merciless killing it becomes senseless. “The most realistic war games to date” – yes because when you are killed you can always just restart at your last checkpoint. Seems like every guy – and a lot of girls – have one or even many of these games, encouraging bad language and the inability to compromise and discuss as opposed to shooting. I know I’ve said it before, but it’s ridiculous that grown men should be being beaten online by ten year olds; news flash - you pre-pubescents aren’t allowed near these discs for another eight years. When you stop sounding like your sister you can try again.