Here we go again. Last year, Christmas was a gloomy affair as we stumbled through the ninth month of the pandemic but with hope that the vaccination programme would see us through the darkness of winter into a sunlit summer of normality. And I suppose that’s what happened. What none of us realised was that this was going to be cyclical. That restrictions, fear of the unknown and weak leadership weren’t going to disappear but simply easy to ignore for a bit. Now, the news is unremittingly negative. Johnson’s staff had a Christmas party and laughed about breaking the restrictions they expected the rest of the country to follow. The omicron variant is causing widespread disquiet until its severity and resistance to vaccinations have been established. There are some quite horrible (non-Covid) viruses (colds) circulating. England have been bowled out for 147 on the first day of the first Ashes Test. How gloomy can things get?
When lockdown was first imposed in 2020, I went to the calendar on my phone and spent a long time cancelling all my plans. Holidays, sporting events, meeting friends and going into work were all wiped out. And now it’s “deja vu all over again”. Here’s what’s happened over the past month. Meeting up with Martin, Paddy, Arthur and Kevin in Cambridge: cancelled. Going to Porridge Radio with Paddy in Norwich: cancelled. Four dog walks with Peter: cancelled. Dog walk with Steph: cancelled. Inviting the new neighbours in for coffee: cancelled. An “A” level lesson with a friend’s son: cancelled. Here’s this week: Tuesday – Dog walk with Peter: cancelled. Tuesday – Beer, curry and cricket with Ben, Anne and Paul: cancelled. Wednesday – BHASVIC Department meal: cancelled. Thursday: Snooker with Pete: cancelled. Friday – Dog walk with Peter: likely to be cancelled. Sunday – Brighton v Tottenham: likely to be cancelled. Evening of Swing: cancelled. What? Hang on…..
Some of my friends have a sense of humour but most don’t. I know this because most of my friends don’t find Half Man Half Biscuit amusing. It’s slightly worrying because I love Half Man Half Biscuit for lots of reasons but mainly because Nigel Blackwell is a smart-arse and my aim in life is to be as funny, witty, poetic and creative as he is. Most of my friends care about those attributes but can’t bring themselves to obsess about the group named after a comment made by fellow Liverpool group, Instant Agony who made the comment “half man, half biscuit” when describing Prince Charles. It makes me wonder what my friends think of me and my sophisticated (?) sense of humour. Who couldn’t find “Outside the Gielgud, a neon sign read: “Equus On The Buses”, starring Mr Ed” funny? Or “And the christening party arsehole who hitherto had blurred my conception of man as nature’s final word was fleeing from the lava, his satnav pleading thus: ‘I’m not from round here mate, you should have got the bus’” These two extracts are from “Evening Of Swing (Has Been Cancelled)” which is a collection of non-sequiturs, mainly listing various things that annoy Nigel Blackwell. I guess he saw a handwritten notice on a village hall while walking in North Wales (he mentions Glyder Fach and Glyder Fawr in the opening line) and decided to use the content as the title of a song. Other things he complains about are flowers tied round speed limit signs, stretch limousines, Henman Hill, retail parks, Dan Brown, Multiplex cinemas, mazes in pleasure grounds and biblical prophets. And this is just in the opening song.
“Blue Badge Abuser” is about someone who uses his blue badge to park in a disabled spot when he’s perfectly fit and able. He has a “10 year old doctor’s note” in his pocket in case he’s challenged. When he arrives at a supermarket, it’s pouring with rain, the disabled spot is free so he parks in it and “sprints wilfully off to the shop“. (This explains why I’ve called myself “wilful sprinter” in this blog). He realises that he’s doomed but he considers it to be worthwhile to trade “a walk in hell for a walk-in bath“.
“Petty Sessions” is completely absurd. It’s another rant about hundreds of things that Nigel Blackwell hates, set to the tune of “Hokey Cokey”. Here is a list of all the things he rails against during the 70 second duration of the song: a sealed off car park, the spelling of Hawaiian in a take away pizza menu, Facebook, YouTube, sea bass and a man bag. He finishes the song by fantasising about stabbing members of the Barmy Army who dress up as Bart Simpson, Elvis Presley or a baby.
“National Shite Day” is over six minutes long and doesn’t attempt to have a melody. Instead, Nigel Blackwell talks (shouts?) about a terrible day in which the following things happen. An ice axe is embedded in his leg; the bus replacement service has broken down (he wonders whether it should be called a train replacement service); a giant screen is showing a film starring Stockard Channing; someone walks out of Boots without showing due care and attention; a fat child is eating a sausage roll; “a man with a mullet is going mad with a mallet in Millets“; Primark FM is blaring out of a speaker; a rainbow appears in black and white. That’s just the first verse.
Of course, listening to a poetic curmudgeon like Nigel Blackwell always lifts my mood. I’m quite grateful that my evening of swing has been cancelled. I don’t really like swing music – I’d rather dance to Half Man Half Biscuit.