So, it’s the New Year, and the media is on our backs to get off our arses and do something about the filthy disgusting slobs we’ve turned ourselves into over Christmas. The papers and mags are full of diets. “Drop a Jean Size In Two Weeks.” “The Ten-Day Detox Diet.” The All-Sprout and Lentil Fart Yourself Thin Plan. Carol Vorderman’s “Totally Realistic Eat Yourself Slim, Go Up A Bra Size And Shag Brad Pitt In A Week Diet.” Lot of swiss chard in that one. My personal favourite, the McDonald’s “Buy One Big Mac Get One Free Fuck Dieting Diet.”

And of course the anti-smoking lobby gets into full swing, rubbing in that New Years Resolution guilt trip. And yes, smoking is foul and disgusting and of course giving up is a good thing to do. But you’re at your weakest when you’re fighting an addiction, and you can be damn sure there’ll be some evil bastard ready to take advantage of your need for a crutch.

Take the nicotine gum people. They’re easy! They’re convenient! They come in vaguely palatable fruit-like flavours! They’ll give you the power to beat the crap out of the six-foot tall cigarettes that you’re now hallucinating in your weakened state!

But you read the small print and you get a different story. At the bottom of every pack, on every poster, at the end of every advert, there are the two magic words. “Requires Willpower.”

Hang on a minute. You need willpower to give up smoking, chewy or no chewy. All the gum’s doing is giving you the nicotine you’re craving at a slightly reduced dose to ease you away from the fags. Nicotine’s the last thing you need. Nicotine’s the problem in the first place! You’re telling me that I’m going to be spending as much on chewing gum as I was on the old coffin nails, and I’m still going to be gnawing my fingernails down to the knuckle to fight off the need for just one more lungful of that sweet sweet smoke? As far as I’m concerned, if you’re on the gum or the see-through plasters, you’re still smoking! You’re just making it more difficult to justify the fag breaks!

That’s a thing no-one talks about. You’re not just giving up the bad stuff about smoking. You’re giving up the good stuff as well. You’re giving up your fag break buddies. You’re giving up that excuse to slope off from your desk for fifteen minutes every oh, half-hour or so. There you are one day, puffing away with that skinny bloke from accounts with the twitch and the bad teeth, and that receptionist you wouldn’t get the time of day from if you weren’t puffing Lambert and Butler at her. Next thing they know, you’re missing in action.

“What happened to Rob?” “He’s no longer with us.” “You mean…?” “I’m afraid so. Patches.” “Why? Why is it always the pretty ones? Why did I not tell him I loved him when I had the chance?”

I think what smokers need isn’t gum with nicotine. I think smokers need gum with willpower in it. Pop a couple of those babies and you’d be able to face down a crack jones with a jaunty shrug. “I have a craving!” Poink. “No. I. Don’t. Graaaaaaahhhh! Eye of the tiger!”

Fantastic stuff! You wouldn’t just have to use it for addictions. You could use it for any tough decision. That problem with the boss. “I can’t stand that self-absorbed arsemonkey a nanosecond longer! Don’t hold me back! I’m marching into that fucking corner office right this minute, tear his head off and spit down the hollow end!” “Wow! How’d Rob get so assertive?” “Willpower gum.” “Oooohhh…”

Break-ups? “No, you can’t have the Barry Manilow records! I bought them, I’m keeping them!” An altercation at the checkout? “I said there’s 5p off this can of beans! Grraaaaahhhh! Eye of the Tiger!” It’s self-confidence in a blisterpak!

Only problem is, you could overshoot the mark a little, of course. “Yeah, I’m smoking. It’s hard and the blonde on reception likes it when I blow smoke at her. Wanna make something of it?”

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I was never a great believer in astrology (in fact I view it as pseudo-science of the worst kind), but I was none the less amused to find that I am not (a member of?) the star sign I thought I was.

Apparently there are thirteen signs to the zodiac, not twelve. I am not the Sagittarian I beieved myself to be, but Ophiuchan.

How cool is that? I can ignore the horoscopes even more thoroughly now!

We had our first carol singer last night. A little lad, about 15, I guess. He nervously quavered his way through a couple of standards (not ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’, thank Bob, although it wouldn’t surprise me if the street urchin population are trying it, claiming all proceeds are going to Live Aid, as opposed to the local Co-Ops cheap lager department), I gave him a couple of quid, full marks for nerve, all v. festive, cheers and lovely.

Half-an-hour later, he tries again. And it takes a full ten seconds of quzzical eyebrow raising from TLC before he realises and ‘Silent Night’ wavers to a halt. Christmas clearly does funny things to the head…

I turned 38 at the weekend. Much drink and food intake, a visit to the local flea pit (for The Incredibles, of course. How good is this film? TLC, who don’t got a geeky bone in her body, dug it almost as much as me. THAT’S how good.) Gifties? Money mostly, and a bottle of Glenlivet. Yummy. Oh, and one of these.

However, I’ve done something odd to my back now, and am hobbling around like an old man, feeling the weight of the world on my scrawny shoulders. Fate playing payback? Who said age ain’t nothing but a number?

Call it an early onset of mid-life crisis, but I’ve made the decision that my birthday/Crimbo present this year will be a proper, honest to goodness electric guitar. Probly one of these bad boys. I’m bored with my acoustic, it’s just stopped being fun to play.

Anyway, as part of the research procedure, I’ve started buying guitar mags again, which took me back to when I was young and stupid and used to buy them on a regualr basis, to drool over custom axes that I could never (and still can’t) afford. Imagine my amusement to see that some of the shredders who used to clog up the tutorial sections of these magazines are still there, teaching kids who should know better about two-hand tapping and sweep arpeggios. Imagine my surprise to read about this cowboy from hell and his untimely demise.

Metal just got itself a martyr. Rest easy, Dimebag.

A little Christmas weirdness…



Just settling down to dinner with my beloved, The Lovely Clare (hitherto known as TLC cos that’s what I get from her, oh bless, you may vomit now if you wish) when we hear Christmas music outside, blaring out at boy racer volume. We poke our heads out, to see an honest to goodness Santa sleigh on a carnival float, lit up like (ahem) a Christmas tree, chugging slowly down the road. Santa’s there, waving away, although there’s no-one really around to see him, much less lunge at his lap demanding a Robosapien.

That’s not the wierd bit though. We never see the float coming back up the road. And we don’t just live in a cul-de-sac. The end of our road is a literal dead end. Reading Cemetary sits at the bottom of it.

So, where did Santa go? And who was he delivering presents to?