There are many things I won’t do like stick my fingers in the electric socket, swim with radioactive sharks, walk down Granby Street naked or jump off a bridge with nothing but knicker elastic around my ankle. Indeed, there are many foolish things I have done that I won’t ever do again like fall off a waterfall in Wales , ignore a chest pain or abseil down a concrete wall in Port Erin at the age of 10.
Of course, I will look on with admiration as other braver folks than I do things that I wouldn’t. And this is what I did on this day in 2008 when Mrs Gnomepants V2.0 abseiled down Arundel Castle for shits and giggles.
If you get a magnifying glass you can probably make her out on the tower there.
Not all of my photos have exact dates of when they were taken. In the old days, only really fancy cameras recorded the date when the photo was taken. Not only that, a lot of photos I have are of people I still know and I don’t really want to be posting them online without permission in case they have a privacy issue. I am a considerate blogger these days.
So to fill the days where I don’t have photos I can post on the day they were taken I thought I’d post pictures that don’t have exact dates or people I don’t know anymore.
Today we have three chaps I met when I was a student in the then newly formed Sheffield Hallam University back in 1992-3. I was there “studying” HND Chemistry, still unwise with the world and very broke. As a way to meet new people and on the advice of the student guides I had read, I had joined the Sheffield Hallam Amateur Dramatics Society. It was a fun thing to do, lots of drinking and lots of mucking about.
Todays photo shows three of the funniest guys I met there. The name of the bald guy at the back I have no idea, but the guy dressed as a Mexican in the middle went by the name of Paul Brewster-Davis and the guy in the tartan was a chap called Gareth Tucker. I have tried to track them down in the past but have not been successful and I doubt they would even remember me now.
Gareth and I got on really well and we would often talk about common interests like Viv Stanshall, weird 1960s sci-fi films and obscure comedians. We also both dressed in black shirts one night with white dog collars and went round student bars pretending to be priests. What a laugh! It was sad to lose touch with him.
Then there was this one time when we went to the annual medieaval fayre thing they have at Tewkesbury and we were wandering about looking at the various stalls and things. Then Zoe cries “Aww look at the ferrets” so we went to the ferret stall where Zoe paid to go and handle the ferrets.
It was so cute. I took photos and a film.
But then typically we were photobombed by flouncy flowery ponce interior designer Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen. The ferret is the one in Zoe’s hands, the flamboyant Jason King impressionist behind her is Bowen.
When we were allowed outside, at this time of the year county shows and festivals would be popping up all over the UK ,indeed, some of these fairs have been going for many years others, like Hollowell, relatively less. Prior to my visit the the Honley show in 2007 I had only really been to the St Helens Show, the Liverpool Show and the Woolton Show all of which kind of died out in the eighties and nineties having become more trade and commercially orientated than their beginnings.
Back then, being a social media content maker and wandering round filming with your phone out wasn’t as common place as it is now and, of course, back then there were fewer platforms to publish your output. Mine was (and to some extent still is) Livejournal. However, these limitations didnt stop me and so, I walked around the show taking all manner of pictures including this one, which became the main header image for a project I worked on at University some time later.
I also noted how few of the stall owners seemed to have websites to promote their wares. Being a big local food enthusiast I was keen to try and help promote the businesses through my Muckybadger website and dreamed about publishing my own local food enthusiast magazine, tv and radio show and website. Then life and mortgages got in the way and other people got there before me…..
Thirteen years later, many of the businesses I saw at the Honely Show have gone, though some, including Crusy Pies are still going (indeed I saw them at Hollowell last year!). It also brings home how many small businesses rely on shows and festivals for their income and I am concerned about how many will survive this years’ blanket show ban. However, it is refreshing to see that, virus quarantine aside, county and country shows are still popular and hopefully, when we are allowed outside once more, many of the annual shows will return.
Apart from when Mrs Gnomepants V1.0 and I visited in the early noughties, and when Mrs Gnomepants v2.0 and I went swimming there in 2016, the last time I was in Alton Towers was when I was 14. So what poetry it was to take my 14 year old niece there as an Uncley Treat.
Of course, when I was 14, my fun Aunt had passed away a couple of years previously and my remaining grandparents were too frail to attempt the trip, let alone the standing around waiting for young me to get off the rides. Instead I had to wait for the school to take me which, tradition dictated, they did with all the other boys as an end of academic year treat right through secondary school, although during following years they offered other trips such as climbing mountains or some such.
So it seemed right that I took my niece to the Earl of Staffordshire’s pile where upon I took great delight at having her walk well over 9 miles in a day without actually realising. Hah! Alton Towers, for those not in the know, is the UK’s premier rollercoaster theme park. Or at least that’s what it claims to be. Set in the gardens and grounds of the ruins of a former stately home, some enterprising cove set about building elaborate nests of twisted metal upon which people can sit and experience accelleration and exhileration at high speed with the associated pull and tug of gravity on their leathery chops.
One such ride is Oblivion which teeters on the brink of an iron precipice before plummeting its screaming riders into a pit of darkness. There was no way I was going on that.
Another such ride was Nemisis which Mrs Gnomepants V2.0 claimed was “Nice and smooth” which must be the alt-fact definition of “OMG I’m going to die” as I found out. As for Smiler, well I’m quite attached to my legs so I didn’t fancy going on that and I also didn’t fancy whiplash so I avoided Rita too. However, I did manage Hex, Thirteen and Grand Canyon Rapids so I think I got my £30’s worth. Especially as I was also tricked by Mrs Gnomepants V2.0 to go on Enterprise which by all accounts was just a tumble drier simulator.
Of course Alton Towers is not just death roulette machines, its acres and acres of picturesque landscaped gardens. Some of the ruins belay the once grand manse that was Alton Towers. Summer houses and decayed greenhouses now overgrown with vegetation while here and there are hidden speakers piping irritating music into area where irritating music shouldn’t be. The cable cars over the area do give you a better, plinky-plonky-less experience.
If you’ve ever played the PC classic Rollercoaster Tycoon or early nineties Bullfrog classic Theme Park then, like me, you’d probably have spent the day imagining people walking round with think bubbles saying things like “£2.75 is too expensive for a bottle of pop” or “I feel sick” while sporting green pukey smileys above their heads. Or looking skyward in the hope of spying a pair of pincers dropping in a new ride or even imagining that the popcorn tasted good because the themepark management AI decided that it could do with an equal mix of salt and sugar.
In all though it was a most enjoyable day out. I can’t wait to do it again when my nephew is a little taller/older, but probably by that time the rides will all be different again.
Gawping is rampant in the UK. It’s everywhere. It’s like a disease. Gawping is something that needs to be stamped out before it gets out of control.
What is gawping?
Gawping, or gopping, comes from the verb to gawp; a gopper or gawper is someone that gawps. In my experience you find goppers or gawpers in most places north of the Watford Gap especially at weekends when they are most prolific. They can be found in town centres, supermarkets, out-of-town shopping centres, on the road, tourist spots, and areas of outstanding natural beauty as well as places where people gather such as festivals, fayres and shows.
Gawpers can be compared to when you’re happily tootling along a twisty bendy uppy downy country lane and a tractor pulls out in front of you and the next overtaking spot is 5 miles down the road…On the other side of a hill…With a growing queue of traffic behind you.
You can usually spot a gopper by their gait as they tend to shuffle zombie like aimlessly about the place. Gawpers are social animals too, they tend to gravitate in packs especially in areas where people are either in a rush or have a better idea of their destination. Sometimes goppers will be armed with small children, pushchairs or trolleys and will frequently congregate in places where there is little room for overtaking.
Genera of gopper
Gawpers are a pest to society. They can cause delays on public transport, on the road and even in situations where expediency is crucial to preservation of life.
Consisting of both genders, all ethnicities and cultures, it has been reported in recent times that gawpers come in two distinct types, the gormless and the attitude. The gormless gopper is a harmless irritant. They will eventually become aware of their goppishness and correct their behaviour, and, in some cases, often apologising.
However in poorer areas of the UK and in parts of the UK where people tend to think of themselves as better than everyone else (typically Conservative heartlands), a new species has been spotted. Often accompanied by small children or tattooed gorillas, this type of gopper can become aggressive when approached. The aggressive gopper will often have a swagger about itself and can be heard growling the words “Wanker” or any similar vulgar term. They tend to have an air of self-importance and may express opinion about their “right to be there”.
This behaviour should be monitored and reported to authorities immediately as, if left unchecked, their type might become rife and spoil society for the rest of us. Wild Goppers have, in some instances, been identified with far right political movements that use skewed ideals of British values to further their foolishness and they often fail to understand or refuse to accept that polite gentlemanly or ladylike behaviour and courtesy is tantamount to British behaviour.
This is a moot topic. Some believe gawping has something to do with a decrease in self-awareness brought on by isolation and the rise of social media affecting how humans interact with each other. Others believe that it is a virus or some divine punishment while some learned professionals debate whether the rise in gawping has risen due to the proliferation of hand held electronic devices such as smart phones and tablet computers.
Indeed, a vast majority of gawpers (or goppers) have been sighted equipped with smart phones often leading to the discussion that the word “Smartphone” itself is actually a misnomer.
Moreover, pre-handheld technology era sightings of the gawper regularly occurred in bookshops and magazine stalls where the male could be found blocking the aisles whilst thumbing through the pages of a magazine. Of course, nobody is entirely sure. Some even argue that gawping is solely a male thing yet there are examples of female gawpers frequently reported.
Professor Knobsock, head of Gawping Studies at Madeup University said: “Studies have been conducted with gawping and attractive vistas for example. One might expect that gawping levels increase in the presence of something attractive or beautiful be it scenery, art or personage but this is not always the case. Frequently it has been shown that gawpers are an entirely separate genus of homo sapiens sapiens and that can only mean that it is a result of government experiments or that simply there is no hope left for humanity.
I see gawpers what should I do?
If you see a gopper (or gawper), you should take care to note which genus the gopper is. Harmless or common gawpers can be asked to move or gently nudged out of the way with a shopping trolley in the back of the heels. Wild and vulgar gawpers should be hastily overtaken at the earliest opportunity, preferably with as wide a berth as possible.
Being rude or impatient with gawpers can result in altercations, and it should be noted that being rude or impatient is unBritish. UnBritish behaviour around the Wild Gopper can result in the attraction of unwanted behaviour or result in even more unBritish behaviour from the Wild Gopper.
If your local area becomes overpopulated with gawpers then it is suggested that you relocate or try to establish some sort of educational programme in your local community. Failure to address the issue of gopping (or gawping) in your community may result in infection or thermos-nuclear eradication by authorities.
I am a gopper what should I do?
Be more considerate to your fellow pedestrians. Step aside. If someone wants to pass, don’t snarl or look gormless, politely say “I’m sorry”, step aside and wait until those behind you have gone. Then reflect on why you’re such an inconsiderate useless waste of space. Preferably somewhere out of the way of others. Then, when you have reflected upon this, realise your best place is at home, on the sofa in front of the TV or Facebook where your gopping behaviour has a lesser effect on society.
At the weekend the wife, an out-of-town friend and I nipped out to the lovely town of Royal Leamington Spa for a mooch around the Peace Festival.
The Leamington Spa Peace Festival, for those who don’t know, is an annual rain causing event held in the Pump Room Gardens and features all manner of new age nonsense such as yogurt weaving, kaftan liberation, tofu swallowing and vagina floating.
The food sold there is mostly vegetarian to vegan on the omnivore spectrum. Free range falafel chocolate bars, organic gravel soaps, crunchy compost on a stick and fair trade mong bean ice creams abound. That kind of thing.
As well as hearing local folk bands and pan pipes, it’s also a good opportunity to see the latest trends of the anathematic capitalist hippies are pushing onto today’s youth. For example, stove pipe hats seem to be entering a renaissance, gong showering is breaking into the wavy world of healing and knotted dyed rags are this year’s rad hair fashion (again).
With hipsters now denying their own existence in a Schrodingeresque fashion (you’re either a cool cat in a box or not, depending on who is observing you), goths morphing into the less threatening emo collective and neo-nerd-geeks becoming vogue thanks to Big Bang Theory the time is right for a new collective. One that is so trendy and beyond cool that it is off the spectrum entirely, but one whose emergence will be unobserved until it has spread to a point where it becomes commonplace.
Of course it’s not just teenagers and infantilised twenteenies trying to be trendy. While beards may no longer be the fashion and half-mast trousers and arse showing waistlines have gone the back into the wardrobe for several years, the smart Sunday shirt wearing, middle class middle age organic free range grass eating daddies of the world appear to be taking their midlife crisis to the high street. Quitting their well-paid, high stress jobs and opening cafés using the stylistic ideals of designer hipsters to influence their décor.
At least, that’s how it appears from my visit to the overly trendy café, Bread and Butter on Regent Street in Leamington Spa. In what appears to be a former butcher’s shop a couple of doors down from the fishmongers, Bread and Butter just oozes huge blobs of “I’ve been to that London and seen how the well to do spend their leisure time”. I was reluctant to go in but guests take precedence and so began an experience I am about to recount.
Stepping through the door, it is difficult to see what’s going on due to the low level lighting. Windows provide free light and white tiled walls help reflect it around the important areas mostly to the till area which is sat on a thick wooden counter.
Garden furniture, the crap type that rotund people will find difficult to sit on comfortably or safely, are the choice of the day, enhanced only by artistically and purposefully strewn autumnal leaves on the floor. These, it has been debated, appear to be swept up of an evening, sieved to remove dust and detritus before being replaced after the floor has been mopped, cleaned and dried. Wankery.
Menus come in the form of a sheet of A4, minimalistic in choice, as per instructions from Blumenthal and Ramsay, but in a way that is limiting to the consumer. Old favourites ruined by the addition of wankery. A bacon club sandwich with wanky bread and avocado. Wanky salad, served with wank. Poncey toasties with cheese and a selection of teas that would ordinarily cost you about 30p to make yourself in a mug sold at the exorbitant price of £2 for a mingy scale model cup.
I had the “slow roasted” pork bap which came garnished with stale musty tasting crackling. This was obviously a new definition of “slow roasted” as to me, slow roasting means that the meat is succulent and melt in the mouth. I’ve chewed shoes less tough. Supposedly reasonably priced at £6.70.
During my years of eating out and writing about my experiences in the food world I’ve always said that you can’t make a restaurant or café trendy and popular by charging a lot of money for a small portion of food. Sure, you’ll get some tossers who think “Hey! This is so trendy and cool I’m going to come here every day because £6 for a stale pork butty is the lifestyle I want to lead”. But these people, like the hipsters they gave birth to, are dying out.
Although a greasy spoon café has its place, I’m not calling for that, I’m calling for some balance. Wankery has had its day back in the noughties when we found it ironic and amusing. Wankery today is just a road to disaster and mockery. Just as sticking the words “Organic” and “Free range” before every item on your menu is passé so is bringing the outside in, tiny portions and over pricing. The people you think you’re appealing to have grown out of this kind of approach and, much in the same way as faux-Victoriana and retro tea rooms have faded from popularity, so will wankery in décor. If it isn’t naturally worthy of brown leaves being tastefully placed on the floor, then don’t do it.
As we left and made our way back to the car, I observed corduroy trouser, gingham shirt wearing, late thirty something middle class graphic designer dad with his stay at home on an allowance yummy mummy what lunches and writes crap fiction wife pushing their child-with-a-neo-trad-name-like-Edna in its free range organically padded for their own safety comfort five wheeler monster stroller making their way into the café. Exactly the kind of clientele the café is trying to attract.
During the winter, the air in Norton smells richly of burning coal, wood and melting plastic.
During the summer months, this is replaced with a heady miasma of charcoal, burnt meat and slurry, although recently this has been added to by the arrival of a fish and chip shop in the village and its associated pongs. The neighbours gather with their families and friends and burn meat to add a crunchy flavoursome crust. Then dine on said items accompanied by trendy salads and fine wines.
Meanwhile, in Gnomepants Cottage, the food remains cooked on the stove or in the oven as the once faithful barbecue was consigned to the council tip some time during the last great move.
Hosting garden parties and barbecues became a thing of the past once the realisation that standing over burning coals while sausages singed was no longer fun but a chore. The realisation that watching guests get tipsy and sated on cremated burgers and battling wasps while the chefs food got even more scorched and grew colder was no fun for the chef.
I was often the chef.
More often than not, the food would be cold, the guests would be leaving and I’d be left with a mountain of soggy salad even though I’d resolved not to make so much in the first place.
Resolution was that no further barbecues would be hosted and that they would solely be attended upon invitation.
This Sunday in Norton was a glorious day. Neighbours fired up their barbecues and began their annual ritual of eating calcined meat goods. The air became thick with smog but few invitations arrived. But no matter.
It was then that I realised, trend setter that I am, I had set an example amongst my friends. A fashion that no more would they hold barbecues and invite people while the hosts cooked and slaved over burning cinders only to dine themselves later on cold undercooked foodstuffs. This explains why we didn’t get any invites to barbecues from friends. That, and living out in the sticks, miles from friends and family.
So next time you’re enjoying the British summer, sitting in the garden inhaling burnt meat pollution, and have the urge to fire up the old barbecue, invite some chums and have a crap dinner while your friends enjoy the fruits of your labours, remember they didn’t invite you to theirs. Why? Because no fool wants to eat cold sausages and mountains of salad. They want their food cooked, hot and served to them by gracious hosts. They don’t have barbecues. Instead, they are sensible and have their dinner parties indoors.
It’s getting to that time again. That time where I extend my hand towards the local political persons hoping for my vote and offer them a gauntlet. That gauntlet being: Meet me in my local pub and tell me why I should vote for you.
Nothing more. Nothing less. A chat and a pint or two. Low key. No press. No song or dance. Just you, me, your minders if appropriate and whoever else is in the pub at the time. We chat politics. I ask you questions. You answer them. Honestly. Without the fear of your employers tutting at you.
So far I have made this offer for the past ten years at local, general and police and crime commissioner elections. So far nobody has accepted my challenge. It’s almost as if no politician wants to ask for my vote.
Facebook are enforcing their real names policy like jackbooted fascists. Pressurising members to use their real legal names rather than any assumed, stage or preferred nom-de-plume. Please see my previous post for their reasons why – Facebook Real Names Policy – Intro.
This is the second post of this series.
People ask why I use the name Stegzy Gnomepants. I usually say “Mind your own business”. Sometimes, however, I’m not so rude about it; the reason I use the name Stegzy Gnomepants is because people know me by that name.
I started using the internet in 1986, but back then the internet was bobbins and was more like Ceefax than the internet we know and love today. Back then I used the handle Stegzy and remained using that name until about a month later when my parents got their telephone bill and the internet was taken away from me.
Tardis yourself forward in time to 1998 when I bought my first PC. It was a Pentium 266. It cost me £1000 or there abouts. Top of the range. Fast modem (56kpbs). A whopping lump of RAM (something like 16Mb). A cavernous hard drive (approx 512Mb). I connected to the internet and restarted my online life as Stegzy.
Internet fashions came and went. AOL IM, CompuServe, that weird virtual world that Demon Internet had for a few years, Usenet newsgroups – all using the name stegzy. The Gnomepants bit came shortly after, when, as more and more people began using the internet, names were getting quickly claimed by other users. Yes, another Stegzy started to appear. I had to distinguish. Someone I knew then affectionately used to call me Gnomepants, I adopted that name as my online personalities surname.
This was the early 2000s. Then came Freeserve chat. I used the name stegzy there as well as evilgnome. Sometimes, for anonymity, I would use the name gnomepants. It helped separate my real life from my online life. It kept people from my work, past and those I didn’t want to communicate with, out of my online adventures where, if they found out about my activities, they would have ruined it. Ripping me away from my special place. My escape. My hide away. Where I was safe from those that would interfere. A place I could be myself without fear of judgement or prejudice.
Next came Livejournal. You can find me there using the name Stegzy too and all entries from there have been preserved here on WordPress too. That is when the real Stegzy Gnomepants blossomed. 2004 came and went. Sometime during this period a bloke called Zuckerberg created a service called Facebook…you might have heard of it.
So lets look at this again….1986 I begin using the name Stegzy. Stegzy Gnomepants circa 1998. People I meet on line know me as Stegzy Gnomepants. I spend the majority of the period 1998-2004 online as….Stegzy Gnomepants. Then some bloke comes along and creates a website called Facebook which nobody had heard of.
Ok, let’s carry on…Myspace – Stegzy Gnomepants. Hotmail – stegzy gnomepants. Google! What name shall I use? Oh I know, I’ll use my real name…Nobody knows me…ok I’ll use my assumed name….Everyone knows me! Stegzy Gnomepants.
2006ish. Good online friend Dan4th (Hi Dan if you still read!) tells me about some website where American kids hang out. Fascist books or Fuctbook or something. Oh yes…Facebook…I’ll sign up. Stegzy Gnomepants.
Blogspot arose – Stegzy Gnomepants; WordPress – Stegzy Gnomepants; Hell, I’m Stegzy Gnomepants on the BBC, Ebay, everywhere. Search google. You’ll see me using that everywhere and I have been for a very very long time.
Once more lets step back and look –
Me – Known online as Stegzy Gnomepants since 1998
Zuckerberg – Known online as Facebook since 2004.
Think that makes me win.
2014. Facebook decide that I must use my real name. A name nobody on the internet knows me by.
I teach Social Media for Business during the day. In my lessons I advise that to be successful online you need to remain consistent across all platforms. Use the same username where possible. The same avatar. The same contact details. Thats how people know who you are.
Mr Zuckerberg, if I’m to change my name just for your silly little empire, then my influence will have no weight. Businesses will not use me as an influencer. I cannot be a potential brand ambassador for your clients. I am the celebrity. I am the authority. I am the connector, the expert, the agitator. I am the journalist and the activist. I am the personal brand personified. That means my identity is nothing to you.
Yes I know you say I can create a PAGE but with a page I cannot interact with people as a person. Like things as a person. Interact, engage and amplify as a person online. Especially with products, services or similar which anyone can see me liking, make a judgement on my character. My beliefs. My choices. People that judge. People who I have no wish to share my identity with.
Someone said about my last post on this matter “If you don’t want to adhere to the Facebook’s terms and conditions don’t use it”. Something I am considering. Very hard. Perhaps over to Google+, who realised a very long time ago, forcing your “product” to use something in a way they don’t want to leads to failure. Isn’t that right Google Wave?
So when the call comes I will depart from Facebook. I will leave it never to return. You can continue to read my exploits here on WordPress or follow me on Twitter (@stegzy). Facebook postings will decline. I’m sorry if you, like Zuckerberg, no longer want, care or give a stuff about what I say, like or want to share with you. I’m sorry if you no longer want to fuel our social media narcissism together. But if that’s the way you want to play, I’ll let you take your ball home by yourself. Just mind you don’t trip over those toys you claim I threw out of my pram.