Thursday, 17 July 2014

Elephants and testicles

I think that it is now universally accepted that cancer can do one, so it's always good to see anyone stepping up to facilitate this process. The doing of one. CheckOneTwo are raising awareness of a cancer which predominantly strikes men. Women may well also be affected by testicular cancer but largely their own testicles remain unfettered.

Testicular cancer is the most likely cancer to afflict young adult men but it is also one of the most curable and survivable. The five year survival rate of sufferers in the UK is over 97%. As with all cancers, to give yourself the best chance it is best to catch it early. That's where CheckOneTwo's #FEELINGNUTS campaign comes in.

So, the next time your partner, spouse or mother tell you to stop playing with your goolies "because we're in the Harvester", stand up and be proud. For you are taking care of business and responsibility for your own health. For once, wrangling your knackers is the sensible, grown-up thing to do. As it ever was.

For more information on CheckOneTwo's #FEELINGNUTS campaign, you can visit their website, follow them on Twitter or Facebook, or watch their YouTube channel.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Rik Mayall 1958-2014

Other people have died before, of course. And unless we've been horribly lied to, they will again. I might, even. But I suppose I'll cross that bridge when I get to it. Rik Mayall crossed that bridge today, numbingly, crushingly, horribly early. It's perhaps the only thing he has ever done to the British public that has not made them laugh riotously and made them feel glad to be alive.

Because that's what Rik Mayall was. A lightning bolt of energy, a distillation of every good thing about this existence, a cocked thumb at all the shitty things that grind people down. Those shitty things are boring. Rik Mayall was never boring a day in his life.

I was too young to have been affected by The Young Ones but the general opinion - and it's not just an opinion that has been made as a snap judgement before today's tears have dried - is that it was comedy's equivalent of the atomic bomb. A programme that was cutting edge, thrilling, visceral, terrifying; a moment in time after which nothing could ever be the same, even if we decided we wanted it to.

Being too young for The Young Ones had its own benefits, mind you. Most of the people who were so altered by it would probably have been off at university or starting out in their working lives when I was watching Rik present Grim Tales, one of the most dazzling, anarchic and brilliant storytelling exercises ever committed to television, let alone children's television. There was never anyone better on children's television than Rik Mayall. He made all the new things seem scary and impossibly exciting all at once.

There was Bottom, too, of course. For the Oppenheimer of alternative comedy to make such an oddly broad, childish and knockabout exercise in smut and toilet humour should have seemed anachronistic. It never did, though. There's no point in trying to analyse why that was. It just was. Rik Mayall understood what was, understood the absurdity of what was, and made us all shit our pants laughing about it.

In the last part of his life, post quad-bike accident (but I refuse to refer to it as "in his later years", he was only 56 years old, for god's sake) his appearances on TV became more sporadic but no less effective or exceptional. The only difference was that they were an even bigger treat. Last year he played in Greg Davies' excellent Channel 4 sitcom Man Down, a programme which I have only just this last month caught up on. He stole the show, of course, without it ever being to the detriment of the overall piece. Like everything else, it seems inconceivable that he won't be back in the second series.

It seems inconceivable that he won't be back, full stop. Rik Mayall and comedy were indivisible in my mind. People have died before, of course, and we've always found some way to recover enough to laugh again. It feels different this time. Peculiar.

We will all laugh again, of course. Rik Mayall won't be there to hear it, but I like to think that there'll be a small part of every titter, chuckle or guffaw which is a tribute to him, his life and his work. Thank you, Rik.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

World Cup Red Card Cards

If I'm honest, I think I only watch the World Cup for the dismissals. International football's biggest tournament has a way of elevating everything it touches. There have been countless better goals than Diego Maradona's second against England, but the combination of place, time and significance means that it looks set to remain as THE goal. Likewise, there's no indisipline quite like World Cup indiscipline. People rightly argue that it is a shame that George Best or Ryan Giggs never got the opportunity to grace the World Cup stage, but I feel just as much of a sense of loss for Pat Van den Hauwe or Vinny Jones. Paul Scholes played at two World Cups, but I always got the impression that he never meant to be that bad at tackling. He was never a true artist in the same way as Julian Dicks or Vinny Samways.

To celebrate this finest of the fine football arts, in association with Twohundredpercent I have designed a range of 25 collectible World Cup Red Card Cards, available as greetings cards or postcards. Now other fans of ill-discipline can assemble their very own treasury of the most notable World Cup moments and relive their very favourite wild fouls and outrageous pieces of referee-deceiving fakery. It's sure to bring football into disrepute and the first batch off the shelf will be no doubt heading to FIFA headquarters and the office of Mr. J. Blatter.

FIFA, of course, are continually trying to clamp down on such foul play, potty mouth and various other monkeyshines. However, for the committed fan of the red card, these efforts are nothing but good news. Their chosen method to bring transgressors back into line is to encourage the referees to pop the cards out until they learn, as though they are misbehaving dogs. The only worry red card connoisseurs have is that one day they might, along similar lines, try to reverse the trend and instead reward players who toe the line. Referees taking to the field with a string of sausages or a pocket full of Haribo instead of a notebook and pencil remains my worst nightmare.

159 players have been dismissed in the nineteen World Cup Finals tournaments so far, to 157 different miscreants. Cameroon's Rigobert Song and France's kung-fu master Zinedine Zidane are the only repeat offenders, while Argentina's Leandro Cufré is the only player to be given his marching orders without having set foot on the field of play. 159 in 772 matches equates to a rather meek-looking 0.21 dismissals per match. However, it is a rather misleading statistic, because it is becoming far more prevalent. In the first nine World Cups, just 22 players were invited to leave the field early. In both 1950 and 1970, no-one was sent off at all. The latter of those tournaments was significant as it was also the first World Cup since yellow and red cards were introduced to international football and although the red card didn't make an appearance until four years later, it has since been shown 137 times.

This equates to a rate of 0.25 red cards per World Cup match, or one every four games. In the last three tournaments, this has risen to one every three. Since three games is the minimum number that any team who qualifies for the Finals can play, you are now statistically more likely to have a player sent off than not. If you go further than the group stage and still don't have any players dismissed, you're simply not trying. Days like 18th June 1998, where five players were sent off in a single round of group matches (Denmark v. South Africa and France v. Saudi Arabia) or 25th June 2006, the day of the second round match between the Netherlands and Portugal in which 16 players were booked and 4 sent off are starting to look less like aberrations and more like the norm.

All of which is great news for me, until you remember that whilst dismissals are trending unrelentingly upward, goals-per-game are falling fast. Just as fast as dismissals are rising, in fact, or moreso. At the current rate, by the 2142 World Cup at the very latest we can expect more red cards than goals in each and every World Cup game. I drew a graph and everything, so this is definitely going to happen.

I mentioned my rigorous researches on Twitter and Terry Duffelen, Fußball correspondent on Twohundredpercent and eminent football podcaster, remarked, "red card coefficients are the future of football", a thought which was the perfect combination of funny and bottom-clenchingly terrifying. Because if red cards are to become the game's new currency, we can expect teams going through elaborate simulation in order to prevent their opponents getting sent for an early bath. And while their own tackling would reach new heights of ferocious overkill, the players on the receiving end would react with such Gandhi-like equanimity and calmness that the referee won't know what to think. No-one would get sent off at all. Combine that with there being no goals either and every World Cup game would essentially be like watching Brighton and Hove Albion: you're slightly drunk, it's raining, nothing is happening on the pitch and you don't know where you're supposed to sit.

The only way to prevent this ludicrous situation from occurring is to send everybody off before the game has even started. This is something I'm sure we can all get behind.

It's not just Red Card Cards that are available via my Redbubble, there are loads of other cards, prints and items of clothing to be had. Or you can just go and look at the silly pictures: dotmund on Redbubble

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

My mates were on the telly

My mates were on the telly last night. This shouldn't be exciting any more. It's 2014, for a start. Nowadays, anyone can be famous if they want to be, and entirely on their own terms. Beauty and lifestyle vloggers from YouTube are now so pulsatingly popular that a public appearance has been known to bring Covent Garden to a standstill. Being on the telly shouldn't still be such a big deal.

My mates, who were on the telly last night

Another reason why my mates being on the telly shouldn't excite me any more is because it's 2014 and this means that I should be old enough to know better. The day before my mates were on the telly (which was last night) was my 34th birthday. I am old. And wizened. Bits of me hurt and other parts smell and I can never quite guarantee which bits are going to fall into which category. I am older now, in fact, than Pete was when I first met him. Pete is one of my mates (who were on the telly last night).

But guess what? Your mates being on the telly is still exciting. Thrillingly so.

We decamped to their local boozer in Hove for the hottest premiere that Sussex has seen since the Norman Invasion to watch. Any locals hoping to watch the Arsenal -West Ham Premier League match were squirrelled away in a room upstairs so as not to bother the people who were watching a televised gardening contest. But no matter, the atmosphere we all created was just as giddy as any communal pub football-watching experience of my life and far more good-natured. Opposing contestants were booed like pantomime villains, and when our heroes prevailed and won the preserves making test at the end, the roof came off. All told, having the gardening on instead of the football may appear to be a bold shift in conventional pub dynamics, but it was an unreservedly successful one. If nothing else, there was a buffet.

Next week my mates will be on the telly again. I'm not sure how I'll cope not watching it in a pub. For a start I won't know when to cheer. I'll probably have to make up all my own chants, too.

Your mates being on the telly is still exciting. However, it's not quite the same as it would have been in the past, because Tim Berners-Lee invented the internet and the internet has allowed the invention of Twitter. Twitter is an instant feedback sluice, a ceaselessly-flowing pipe of data and opinions, thoughts and feelings. Put another way, it's a shitfunnel, and this shitfunnel is going off in your face. Trepidatiously, I began to explore what other people were making of my mates being on the telly last night.

As I have mentioned before, I am now old. Old enough, at least, to not be surprised by people. And I've been on and around the internet for over a decade, so pretty much nothing shocks or offends me any more. So imagine my surprise when this was the very first tweet I saw on the subject:

hashtag: ponces

I wasn't surprised that people didn't like them per se, as we all know that not everyone is going to like you or like your friends. Also, television programmes are by their very nature never the whole picture. They are edited and re-ordered to fit a third party's view of what the narrative should be, with one eye always squarely on entertainment. Someone who doesn't like what they see of you on TV may be pleasantly surprised if they had to deal with you in real time.

I also wasn't surprised that someone who didn't like something had said so on Twitter. It is, after all, a shitfunnel and it's going off in your face. No, what surprised me is that I actually bristled. I bristled! How dare someone I don't know not like my mates (who were on the telly last night). He doesn't even know them! How can you dismiss someone without knowing all the facts?

Oh god, what was I doing?

Against my better judgement, I took another handful of blood pressure tablets and yomped in yet further. Predictably, there were just as many nice comments as nasty ones. Naturally, I found myself agreeing with these and growing increasingly convinced that the people tweeting them and I could grow to be firm friends.

This is, as far as I am concerned, the only rational response any human being could have had

Meanwhile, Lincoln WI approve. Summer Fetes in Spalding may have special guest jam judges this year

I think the positive comments very much outweighed the negatives in the end and so my researches were, on balance, a nice thing to do. My mates were on the telly last night but now they also represent many things to many people. They are everyman heroes, tweed-wearers of the year, nascent gay icons and the beards that just won't quit.

The only one of these things which started to niggle me, in fact, was the use of the word "hipster". "Hipster gardeners", "fashionably-bearded" and "hipster ponces" are all terms I have seen used. As I see it, "hipster" is just the fashionable term for people who try and be fashionable. Being fashionable is a reactive process, whereas Gary and Pete are proactive people. They don't look or dress like they do out of any notion of kowtowing to current trends. They are bringing sexy back on their own terms. Or, to put it another way, they're both too old to be hipsters. A hipster in their 40s would be a pathetic sight, and I think it's impossible to argue that either of our heroes is a pathetic individual. If nothing else, they kicked all your arses up and down that jam tent. Their bouquet was under-rated, too. Renaissance men. Upstanding men. Real men. There's no artifice or pretension there. So bloody shut up with the "hipster" thing, you idiots.


I mean, I might be biased. Next week I will probably be watching the show on my own with Twitter open and I can't guarantee that I won't wade in to any number of futile internet arguments. If this experience has taught me anything, it's that I've learnt nothing and can't be trusted to be rational when there are Feelings floating about. Now, disclaimers out of the way, I'm off to find some more proper, constructive appraisals of last night's show.

It's possible, but they'd only be their own bits that they'd severed by mistake

This is the sort of unnerved feeling you get just before you realise it is, in fact, lust

If you would like to know or see more (and by the way, you definitely do and should) then you can follow my mates (who were on telly last night) on Twitter here: @vegetablismuk, like their Facebook page here: Vegetablism or read their website here: You can also watch them being on TV thanks to the wise owls at the BBC who invented the iPlayer: The Big Allotment Challenge episode 1

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Spring clean 2014

Hello again. You are hopefully now aware of my Redbubble page, a growing online portfolio of my work that can also be bought as t-shirts, cards and prints. However, now is a good time to remind you about my Etsy store. Here you can buy original artwork and signed prints, for that much more unique and personal touch.

*touch touch*

However, my Etsy store has been a bit stagnant lately. What I really want to do is to clear out some of the old artworks to make room for some shiny new ones. So, here's the deal.

On February 18th 2014, the majority of the listings on my Etsy store will expire and I have decided that I will not be renewing them. Instead they will gradually be replaced by new original work for people to gawp at in wonder and, hopefully, buy. So this is the last opportunity to get your hands on the existing stuff! To sweeten the deal, I've created two coupon codes for readers of this blog to get discounts on any stuff they buy.

At checkout, simply enter SPRING14 for 15% off any orders between £10-£49.99, or SPRING1425 for 25% off any order of £50 or more.

Please have a look and pass this link around. Let's try and find some of these things a nice home. Remember, these are all originals, one-offs and once they're gone, they're gone.

Brighton seaside painting, £20

Extendable 2 canvas giraffe painting, £100

Rhinole painting, £20

Sussex seaside painting, £40

There are also two signed prints still for sale, 2 of each design:

Over-familiar tigers A3 print, £10

Slothbusters A3 print, £10


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