Wednesday, 31 October 2012


You may not like this. Not unless you are a fan of my less than subtle Meldrewisms. There again, if you were not a fan of my less than subtle Meldrewisms you probably wouldn't be here.

We were going to the cinema tonight. The plan was to do something that would involve not being in the house on Halloween night. I hate Halloween night, you will not be surprised to learn. Put it on the list with Valentine's Day, Christmas, Easter and all of the other card manufacturers' wet dreams which mean absolutely nothing to me. Forced fun is abhorrent. If I want to get crazily arse-faced and disgrace myself then I do not need to be put up to it by the owner of Clintons. I'll do it cos it is Wednesday, thanks, and doing it on 'special occasions' is the preserve of people who feel guilty about it and therefore need to justify it.

But anyway we didn't make it to the cinema, despite leaving work a full 70 minutes before the scheduled start time of the film. The drive home was apt for the date on the calendar, the sort of journey normally reserved for soon to be forgotten extras in an outrageous horror flick. Except there is nothing too atmospheric or tense about Edge Lane Drive even in the pitch dark and the driving rain. It doesn't help that Emma's MP3 player has a spooky insistence on playing the same three or four songs in a woefully undersized loop. She says it's the car and not the MP3 player but while we are at it how did we get to the point where Emma's MP3 player is the musical choice in my car? It's another spooky, unsolvable mystery. I suspect she has kidnapped Joss Stone.

Tired and frustrated by the time we arrive home I have never moved so quickly to get back into the house. The rain isn't helping but the real reason I am so keen to get off the street is decidedly more sinister. Trick or treaters. Little bastards with their crap fancy dress and their unshaking, unstinting belief that you should give them something for nothing because it is October 31. Yes I know they are only children, but is it really necessary to validate begging in our culture? One friend reported on his Facebook tonight that some demon child stood at his door shouting through the letterbox that he knew he was at home because he could see the light on and hear the television. As if being at home somehow obligates a person to answer the door in the first place, and in the second place part with their change. I don't answer my door at the best of times, but certainly not if there is a chance it might be some shabbily dressed little wretch with a sense of entitlement harrassing me in the name of tradition. Emma has the same view, as witnessed earlier when some kids knocked on our door when she was in the kitchen.

"Ey!" one of them shouted, seeing her through the kitchen window.

"Ey! Open your door!"

"No." she said brilliantly. This is one of the reasons why I love Emma.

"She said no!" reported the startled child, affronted at her sheer temerity. How dare she refuse to let gobby delinquents see inside our home.

I try to think back and remember if I was ever a trick or treater. To my horror I was, of a fashion. My friends and I had no tricks. We were not hardcore. We wouldn't throw a firework or a box of faeces through your letterbox if you refused to open the door and give us your money, but the fact that we even went as far as to stick a candle in a pumpkin (probably a turnip actually, if memory serves) and ask the question is something which troubles me deeply. What were our parents thinking allowing us to carry on in this fashion? Did they? Or did we just think ourselves rebellious? It's hard to remember.

The parents among my readership will most likely be thinking that my disdain for Halloween and other trumped up festivals of it's kind owes much to the fact that Emma and I don't have any children. You'd probably imagine that if I had children I would not be writing this column now, but would in fact have both hands tied behind my back trying to fish apples out of a dirty bowl with my mouth. You'd be wrong. Today is Wednesday and Emma and I do that on Thursdays. The point here is that I appreciate that there is pressure on parents to play along with the whole Halloween thing, and shouldn't I just lighten up and not take it so seriously anyway? Well no. The fact that other people's children boil my blood in this and a multitude of other spectacular and inventive ways is exactly the reason why I don't have any of my own. Really, don't feel bad for me. I'm not missing out.

I just wish I had made it to the cinema on time.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Strictly Sober

Once again I haven't thought this through. It's Monday night. There is nothing on the telly. Without the feintest clue what I am going to ramble on about I have nevertheless deemed it necessary to once again stain the pages of MOAFH with the first things that come to mind.

Acronyms are shit, by the way, especially when, as in the case of MOAFH, they aren't actually words. For those of you struggling to keep up it stands for Memoirs Of A Fire Hazard, the piece you are wasting your valuable life force reading right now. I mean really. MOAFH? Where did that come from? Why did I do that? I'm just glad I don't work in St Helens Information Technology.

So what can I tell you? I have been sober for nine days. I can hear the woos. It is easy to stay sober, relatively speaking. What is difficult is staying in, and therefore having to endure Saturday night television. In our house this means Strictly Come Dancing as opposed to X-Factor. Both would be too much to bear for either of us. We'd be finding brain cells down the back of the sofa as they literally shrivel up into a sticky liquid and pour out of our ears. MOAFH is all about the imagery. So anyway Strictly. Fourteen (now eleven) celebrities of varying relevance trying to learn how to dance with the help of bronzed, shudderingly perfect professionals. Each week one is voted off but unfathomably Bruce Forsyth makes it through to the very end.

Staggeringly it is the 10th series this year, despite the fact that the formula barely changes from year to year. You get a couple of doddering oldies who usually get the boot early, several flat-footed and awkward buffoons whose role is to provide comedy and who are routinely saved from the exit on that basis, and it's all blended together with a few beautiful people who generally have some experience of dancing of sorts or at least stage performance. All of which gives them an unfair advantage but it is not about the competition. It's about laughing at the z-listers and them not caring because they are getting paid sacks of cash and they won't be getting up on Monday morning to talk to students about their bursary and it's possible whereabouts.

As mercilessly trashy as all this sounds it is frankly unmissable. There's something addictive about it. I don't know whether I just enjoying looking at Ola Jordan and fantasising about how many times I would need to punch her gobshite husband James Jordan in the face before his nose actually fell off. You thought I was going to write something else after the word 'fantasising' there didn't you? MOAFH is a clean-cut, family column. You twat. So anyway, James Jordan. The judges are supposed to be the villains on this show but we all know that the real baddie is James, with his crap John Terry haircut and his smug self-assuredness and his ability to do the splits. A friend of mine broke his leg doing the splits once. He couldn't feel it because he has Spina Bifida, but it is not to be advised. So think on, Jordan.

Less trashy but no less embarrassing is Boardwalk Empire, which follows the ballroom bonanza on what my dad used to call 'the other side'. It was ok to refer to tv channels as 'sides' back then because there were only four of them, like a square. Now, there is so much manure on my television, that many 'sides', that the geometrical permutations are frankly incalculable and distinctly whiffy. Boardwalk is great, in a slow-burning, build tension and keep everyone guessing sort of way, but is not something I recommend you watch with your mother. Hardly an episode goes by without some poor actress being required to simulate some scarecely believable sexual practice. This week's delight involved a man being choked with his belt whilst engaged in the act. One can only speculate as to how many Prohibition-era gangsters were actually involved in this type of thing. More likely there were none, and it is merely a device to wake you up during the bits when the plot slows down to somewhere near a total standstill.

Sod it! Next week I'm going to down 17 Jagerbombs while watching Merlin.

Saturday, 13 October 2012


It's late on a Saturday night. The Memoirs Of A Fire Hazard stats page informs me that I haven't written anything since August 31. As uninspired and useless as I feel tonight, I'm doing it. This is me forcing myself. It may show.

So what's new since the end of August? Well, I had another birthday last week. Last Monday I turned 37 years old. The day itself was notable only for the kind messages of over 60 of you on Facebook, for which I thank you profoundly, some garlic bread, peri-peri chicken and creamy mash at Nandos and a ridiculous Will Ferrell film called The Campaign.

At some point you will be able to read my thoughts on that in a little more detail on my film blog, but for tonight I'm going to ramble on about age again. I have just finished reading back through the blog I wrote on the day I turned 36. It's grim reading to be totally honest. In that respect not a whole lot has changed. I woke up this morning feeling like the world's worst person. A night out with my work colleagues was all it took for me to over-indulge, and leave myself with that old feeling of rabid paranoia and a general lack of self worth. I was selfish and stupid enough to point this out to the 300 or so Facebook friends that I have. I don't know why, I just felt compelled to tell everyone how I felt. All of which probably worried some people unnecessarily for which I profusely apologise. It was nice to know that you cared.

The trouble is that this is becoming a theme in my life. Shortly after my 36th birthday an almost comical set of circumstances sent me spiralling towards the basement mental health-wise. One month after that I showed my stunning flare for the childish hissy fit by shutting this blog down. I just couldn't physically write. It was all too negative. By February I was borderline depressive and so started to seek some help. I'm still getting that help and the good news is that it works. Until you get crazily blasted and your alcohol-flooded mind starts telling you that you are actually a useless tit. At that point you are heading back to square one and it might be time to knock the alcohol on the head again. From October to December last year I quit drinking alcohol altogether and it wasn't that difficult. I will do it again this year I'm sure. I just have one more birthday night out to overcome.

If I don't drink I will have more opportunity to drive. I have just got back on the road after an 11-year absence. A protracted and pointless spat with Motability which began in the summer of 2001 finally ended early this summer when they agreed to waive the debt on my last vehicle and allow me to lease a new one. That first day behind the wheel was nerve-wracking for a while. Who knew that driving through a McDonald's from St.Helens Ford and back home again would be so stressful? I was quite convinced I was going to cause a 42 car pile-up. Yet by the time I drove down to Sheffield for the wedding of Emma's cousin on the last weekend in September I was finding it all a lot more easy. Now it is second nature again, although hilariously I was unable to advise Emma yesterday on how to get the gear stick to move and had to push back to the car park from the pub near work to do it myself. Even then I couldn't work out why it wouldn't move until I actually got in the car and tried to reverse it. You have to hold the brake down to enable you to put it in gear. Turns out I only know this when I do it and can't describe it, like some kind of complex move on a video game.

The second and only other goal I have in mind in my 38th year is to write a novel. If this sounds like an oft told tale to those of you who who have known me long enough well yes, you're right. It is. But this time, unlike my other two fairly successful but utterly unpublished attempts, I am going to do it in a single month. November, aswell as being known for inspiring people to grow ludicrous moustaches in the name of charity, is also Nanowrimo. Nano-what now? National Novel Writing Month. I've read all the bumph and apparently it is not only plausible to do so but actually quite simple. Really. Right. I've already started my planning and researched some techniques.

I just need to find the time in between entries in Memoirs Of A Fire Hazard.