Looks civilised

It’s barbecue weather. Or so it seems.

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.

Barbecue Barbies
This never happens

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.

Not fun.

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.

This is what usually happens

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.

Curiously I don’t get invites to them either….

People on the bus – Making the world a better place – Part two

So I’m driving home from work and I’m listening to the wireless and the Home service Radio 4.

People on the bus
Nobody talking

The programme being broadcast was about a newspaper editor from Zimbabwe and how he is adapting to life as an asylum seeker in the UK. One of the main differences, he pointed out, between Harare and the UK was how people didn’t seem to talk to each other on public transport.

Now surprisingly, this guy lives in Leeds which is a good deal away from London where I believe such practices as ignoring ones fellow passengers is common place. It kind of shocked me and my Northern mind set because I’d always thought of the south as being a bit….well you know….”insular” when it comes to talking to complete strangers. Indeed, I’m quite happy to sit there with my earphones in (sometimes without anything attached at the other end) to avoid the weirdo on the bus or being assailed by some elderly person wanting to tell me about their gout.

And that got me thinking.

Sometimes I don’t mind talking to complete strangers on the bus or in the pub or where ever. Sometimes it’s nice to get chatting about things. Why don’t we do it more often? What stops us? Fear of a stabbing? Fear of being converted into some mind numbed zombie from a Nigel Kneale story? Wasps?

I think the main reason for our inherent phobia of talking to people on public transport is fear of extreme views. Nobody likes to be trapped by someone spouting vitriolic hate or outlandish views. A case in point could be the time when Jim and I went to the Brewery Tap at the Cains Brewery in Liverpool.

We  got chatting to a seemingly jovial chap at the bar. He seemed ok, typical of the populace of the city. Friendly banter, John Lennon anecdotes, Billy Butleresque memories. However, the chat swiftly switched from idle scouse chit chatty banter to a strong antisemitic nationalist rant where one would have expected the gentleman to start waving his arm about a la Hitler at the Nuremberg Rally.

Then another case in point is the guy who once cornered me on the 78 and started talking about how the government controls the populace through the covert use of prescription medication.


So yeah, I can understand that people don’t really want to talk to each other on the bus for those reasons in illustration. But surely not everyone is like that. It seems people’s first reaction to someone talking to them on the bus or train or in the pub is one of suspicion and distrust.

This is my bus
This is my bus

Who is this weird person? How dare they talk to me? Are they going to knife me? Might they not try to  bum me? Or maybe stick me in a dark cellar where I will be forced to eat marmite and parsnips until the day I die?

I know I’m not likely to force anyone into eating parsnips or marmite. I don’t even have a cellar. I suppose that coupled with the fear of being attacked by marmite wielding weirdos comes the fear that they themselves would be labelled a weirdo. Fear, as they say in Dune, is the mind killer.

Then I thought, what is needed is a kind of badge system. Like say a green badge for “I’m happy to talk to anyone” and a red badge for “Fuck off weirdo”. So those with green badges can sit and yatter away to their hearts content and the red badge wearers can scowl and frown and listen to their music or whatever without interruption. It could even be a registered thing so that should you like talking to someone then you take down the number on the badge and look them up on the internet when you get home or what ever.

There could also be a voting system like say badge wearer #473083 is very interesting and like prawns so people who like to talk about prawns (there are a lot of people that do) can look out for #473083 on their travels. Furthermore, one might get talking to #23932 and find out they are one of those religious zealot types that want to turn everything into some discussion about Jesus or whatever. You know, like :-

Person #48909823 – “So do you like tea?”
Person #23932 – “I do. In fact in the book of Ba’at chapter 30 it says ‘And the lord didst partake in tea and verily there was much rejoicing’. I like tea almost as much as I like Jesus. Jesus can be your friend. Oh yes he can. Do you know Jesus? He is your friend. He is you know.”

So the person #48909823 could go and say person #23932 likes to turn everything you talk about into something about Jesus and then people who prefer to talk about Jesus all the time can talk happily to #23932 while those that don’t can talk to whoever else.

What do you think?

Of course such a scheme would require some more thinking out. But I reckon it would work well. Especially with the technology of the day.

This is, of course a giant leap to make in a society which we need to make happier and better. I suppose we can make a start by chatting, at least once a day, to a complete stranger. Just be nice. Don’t say anything controversial or boring. Just something brief, engaging and relevant to your situation. Say it with a smile rather than a frown. Or perhaps just say “Hey, Do you know Stegzy Gnomepants? He writes on the intarwebz”

Next time I will tell you more about how we can make the world a better place.


Making the world a better place – Part one

Love you Jim xx
Bloody hippy!

Bloody hippies. Sitting there in their kaftans with their long hair and beards, weaving yogurts and floating vaginas. Why can’t they be pissed off and angry like everyone else.

Yes. Why not? I mean its such a lovely world isn’t it. People hating each other, blaming each other, being nasty to each other and complaining about anything to anybody who will listen and then complaining further when people don’t listen.

We have just had elections. Elections where every person who is angry with the current state of affairs in Europe and the UK took out their frustrations on the government by either not voting or by voting for far right loons. Great job! I’m sure we’ll laugh about it when jackbooted fucktards come a knocking to evict us from our homes for none compliance.


empty vessels
Some noisy things

Of course there is a saying. Empty vessels make the most noise. Indeed,  this saying when applied to the current political landscape seems to ring true. Furthermore, this saying applies across all aspects of society. Just look at any newspaper (or news website) and you’ll read about how bad things are. How people in power are horrid. How people who do things do things selfishly or for the rubbing of their own ego, gain and gratification.

But what’s the one thing you don’t read about?

Nice people.

People doing good things.

Years ago, and I think I’ve already written about this before, people with lots and lots of money would look about and say:

“Fuck me, I have so much money from building railways/transporting slaves/eating jam <delete as applicable> I don’t know what to do with it!”

Then, armed with wads of cash they would do good things like building churches, hospitals, libraries, club houses or starting mutual societies and cooperatives. Benevolence. Generosity. All for eternal recognition.


This was actually built in memory of some bloke who died during a fox hunt.
A monument

In the UK at least, one only has to take a trip into their nearest town and find monuments to people who have donated or sacrificed something for the benefit of others. Did people moan about that then I wonder? Did the newspapers of the time bemoan the fact that some great benefactor donated land for use as a municipal park? Did people tut and mutter about it? Surely that land would be better used as a factory? Maybe? Who knows? I can’t be arsed to do the research but I imagine it wasn’t like that.

These days, being nasty gets you fame. Being awful and frightful gets you instant celebrity status, or so it seems. To me it seems that being awful and frightful is de rigueur . Think about it, companies don’t have compliments departments do they? Why is this? It is because there is more benefit in providing a shit service and employing people who spend all their day depleting their self-worth levels by listening to people blame them personally for the lack of service or whatever. I know, I used to be one of those employees.

So how can we turn the world into a better place? How can I get people to be nicer to each other? How can I get recognition for good deeds done to humanity?


You’ll just have to come back later and read all about it.


When I was a little boy I was force fed religious dogma and idiom by my school. Of course, my grasp of the English language probably matched that of many of my peers and there were words I was unfamiliar with. One such word was “grace”.

I didn’t have a clue as to what it meant. Not being a shy type, I asked my learned friend Paul Midgley what grace was. He said he was unsure this, on reflection was probably because he was an Anglican. So, I thought about it. What could it mean? Well at school we said “Grace after meals” and usually after meals we had pudding. So perhaps that is what grace meant. Grace was a type of pudding. It seemed to figure because we also said something along the lines of “Hail Mary full of grace” and well, if Mary was like anybody normal she might have had too much grace after her meal so as to be full. This I suggested to Paul who agreed with my idea. He also agreed because it was just as plausible as my explanation of how when you died you went to a petrol station to lie under the petrol light (“May petrol light shine upon them” is what we said at school, at least that’s what I thought we said).

The grace theory also tallied when my Nan gave me some creamy Ambrosia rice pudding for my desserts one weekend. It was so yummy. What was this I asked? “Ambrosia!” she said. So, as any school boy would, I looked it up in a dictionary.

ambrosia [am-broh-zhuh] –noun
1. Classical Mythology. the food of the gods.
2. something especially delicious to taste or smell.
3. a fruit dessert made of oranges and shredded coconut and sometimes pineapple.

Of course, this wasn’t item 3. The Ambrosia in this case was the brand name []. But it seemed to tally. “The food of the Gods”. Perhaps this was grace. It made sense. Grace after meals. Being full of grace. Amazing grace. Sweet grace. Mmmmm grace….seemed in my imagination that grace was a Delicious yummy milky yummy pudding. Yummy.

Once I asked the dinner lady if we could have some grace for pudding. I can’t remember her reaction or answer but I imagine she probably thought I was a bit weird.

And so spin forward 30 years and whenever I hear the word “Grace” I think of this delicious pudding. Of course I know now that this is complete nonsense, but as a child it was completely plausible. When I hear or see the word, my mouth still salivates and my mind fills with images of this glowing creamy goodness in a bowl.

Thought for the day

How times have changed. The last time 300000 people were trapped on the other side of the English Channel fishermen, boat owners and the like crossed the channel and helped ferry them back free of charge and without being asked. Thereafter they regaled young boys with tales of selfless daring do and adventure.

Granted this was in 1940’s Dunkirk and yes there were many more fishermen in those days…..but still…

Home deadly

Home baking is killing bakers
Home growing is killing supermarkets and farmers
Home brewing is killing pubs
Home shopping is killing checkout operators
Home decorating is killing painters and decorators
Home hair styling is killing hair dressers
Home cooking is killing restaurants and take-aways
Home cleaning is killing cleaners
Home sexual practices is killing prostitution
Home videos are killing professional video makers
Home website design is killing web designers
Home work is killing teachers
Home car maintenance is killing mechanics

Proof that doing stuff for yourself is actually damaging the economy.


Some how…I don’t exactly know how, but some how…I have managed to become one of those people that are frequently late for things. Those types of people really annoy me and so I am really annoyed with myself. I’m also annoyed with how, in my old age, time now seems to be working faster than it did in previous years. The only explanation for this is that the earth is spinning a lot faster than it was and seconds are shorter but no scientist has come forward to say that this is the case for fear of being laughed at.

Only 363 Shopping days until Christmas

It came. It went. It felt like any other day. Only with presents. And cake. And food.

As I’ve said on a previous post here on spotty-bum, Christmas is like waiting to go on a rollercoaster ride while standing in a really long queue. You wait for hours, sometimes longer, everyone around you seems full of anticipation. You step into the carriage. The safety harness comes down. It’s all very exciting.

But then the ride lasts about 30 seconds.

You get off and then, bewildered as you are, you wonder what the fuss was all about.

Then you see the queue and think “Hey! That looks like an exciting ride!” and join up again.


Exam was tough, went well for the most part I think but then I always go to pieces in exams. I never seem to remember anything.

Weekend was lovely. Nice walks in the May sunshine looking at the hawthorn in full bloom and the nice cooling breeze making what probably would have made the outdoors horridly hot and sweaty into a beautiful English spring day.

Seeing lots of big houses in the middle of nowhere strikes me with the same question it always does. What is it that the people that live in them actually do for a living? I mean Warwickshire is not exactly renown for its bustling cities (The nearest “big” city is Coventry and that is actually in the West Midlands county. There are few big employers locally and they can’t all be shop keepers and post mistresses.

It’s interesting looking at North Warwickshire as a whole. Agriculturally there are loads of farms but very few farm shops. The villages that have shops appear to be commuter dormitories with very little in the way of sustainable businesses. There are pubs in the middle of nowhere which seem to do a roaring trade in food but wet sales, I imagine, don’t amount to much. Even village shops seem to be in low supply, the people that live in these villages seem to prefer to travel the 20 mile round trip to their local supermarket than to shop local and post offices seem to also be in low supply. Is this what country life has become? Shops and pubs now converted into luxury country retreats for those with “specialist” jobs?

I think I might have the subject of the documentary for my third year here…….

In other news I some how appear to have volunteered myself to help the local Arts Centre here in Barnsley promote itself. My time though is at a premium so it is likely that such work will be brief. The clock is ticking. It doesn’t appear that people are racing. Now is the time not to become complacent. Time to be proactive. After getting my Warcraft characters up a level.

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