5 June 2009

Watch it...

Two televisual delights...

1 - Fiona Phillips was on Question Time. More hideous than you can ever imagine. I'd rather chew off an arm. It's probably on the I-Player, but only watch it if you are not already contemplating suicide. Heaven forfend what F-C made of it. I look forward to his blog update every day, but even more so today.

2 - Big Brother 10. Yes, that's ten. One Zero. Double figures. Christ on a bike. I thought about watching it, but 16 people is just too many and I've got to the stage where I can't be arsed learning about them any more. However, I'm not precious about these things, as my reviews of BB4 and BB7 here will show. They were great fun to write and those two BBs were great fun to watch.

Sorry, did I say delights? Slip of the keyboard. Honest.

4 June 2009

'X' marks the spot

I've just been out to vote in the European elections. Anyone who knows me reasonably well will immediately know which party I've voted for - and, of course, in the Europeans, it is a party, not a candidate, that gets your 'X'.

I did have a good look through the parties on my form though. Aside from the three majors and the known fringe parties, there were also the English Democrats, the Christian Socialists, something called No2EU and, most intriguingly, the Jury Team.

I'd never heard of these, but a quick trip to Google upon returning home shows that they are a coalition party whose platform essentially consists of wanting to clean up the parliamentary systems on the continent and at home. They are, as they claim, a party of independent candidates. Now, surely this is a contradiction in terms? Independent candidates tend to exist because they have a one-issue agenda, or because they genuinely have not enough political principles to align themselves with an existing party, or because they've been kicked out of such a party and are thus standing directly against them in revenge. They have to be individual. It's what independence means, as a definition and as a political viewpoint. The six Jury Team candidates next to the party logo on my ballot sheet might all want to clean up parliament, but they may hold six vastly differing views on education, tax laws, speed cameras, capital punishment et al. That risk is surely too great to convince the public that they are as one?

UKIP was on my ballot sheet, of course. Now, it makes no sense to me that these rabid anti-EU political egos seem so anxious to join the very gravy train that they allegedly despise. Surely their principles should dictate that they stay well away? Irrespective of whether they take the full salary, exploit the allowances and enjoy the other benefits of a seat in the Brussels chamber or not, they really shouldn't be there at all. Maybe it isn't hypocrisy as such, but it's certainly easy to be confused by it. No UKIP or Jury Team person has rat-a-tatted on my door in the last few weeks (nor has any other political candidate, come to think of it) but if they did, I'd have wanted to ask why they wanted to be in a place towards which they were so definitively hostile.

The BNP were there too. Twats. A black friend of mine Twittered this morning that if the BNP really wanted to give him ten grand to go back to his birthplace, he'd be tempted to take it - as he was born in Huddersfield. He only lives 60 miles from there now. Anyone who votes for the BNP is voting for cowardice, prejudice and hate. Those considering a vote their way as a protest against the dishonest shits currently making up our political class should remember the French protest slogan at their presidential elections in 2002: "Vote for the crook, not the fascist." I'd have 646 crooks ahead of one fascist in any parliament that represents me, any day.

I always have the same beef with elections whenever they come round, and irrespective of whether I'm electing my MP, my council or my faceless European representative. To wit, it is branded as a secret ballot but is simply not so. You may take your piece of paper to a three-sided booth and mark your 'X' in fierce privacy, but when you hand your card in, they write the ballot paper number next to your name on the electoral roll, so in theory, they could look at the paper number next to your name and then empty the black box and sift through the papers until yours is found. I find it astonishing that so few people ever bring this up.

3 June 2009

While the cat's away, the owner will pay

If you decided to go into business, what would you do? I have much admiration for the self-employed. The revenue people claim I am self-employed because I tout my minimal skills around organisations for work, but the real self-employed are the ones who own businesses within bricks and mortar, have overheads, employ staff etc.

The only type of business I've ever been attracted to is a cattery. I think it'd be a fantastic way to make a living. There are a few in our circle of villages in the East Riding and I find myself checking each time I happen to drive past one whether it is for sale.

Cattery owners will shoot me down in flames, probably, but I'm guessing that it's a quite straightforward sort of place to run. All you need is a stack of luxury cat boxes with beds and toys and scratching posts and an endless supply of Whiskas, Pro-Plan and wooden chippings. Our five cats have never been to a cattery - we have good neighbours who'll feed them while we're away on the promise of a decent crate of French wine upon our return - but I'm guessing that you probably have to sign something which dictates that the cattery owner will not be liable for any emergency medical expenses while your moggy is in their care. There is that understanding with dog kennels, and the Bassets do go to our local canine campsite, but then again dogs are far more likely to come to harm than cats due to their very nature. Much as I adore dogs, running kennels seems too much like hard work. The only bit of it that would interest me would be the walking.

But aside from getting a few claw marks from the more uppity type of homesick puss, I reckon that I'd cope handsomely with looking after cats as a livelihood. I suspect cats in catteries do what they tend to do in the comfort of their own homes - sleep rather a lot, get up, eat something, go back to sleep again, get up, kick a toy mouse around, take a dump, and then go back to sleep again.

And while we're watching this happen, we're being paid. Ace. Is there one for sale near here?

1 June 2009

It's time to get up, and get on your way...

I have a week off - at least, so far I have - and the prospect of catching up on a spot of shuteye is a most attractive one. Yet when the next batch of dawn calls comes along, I'll relish it.

For the last three weeks the latest I have dragged my sorry arse out of bed on a weekday is 4.10am. The earliest is 3am. This is because of some breakfast show cover on Pure 107.8FM in Stockport and then 102.4 Wish FM in Wigan. The latter involved the 3am starts as Wigan is a bit further away from me than Stockport and the show starts at 6am, an hour earlier.

An alarm clock at 3am doesn't really wake you up. The six minute snooze to which I treat myself prior to the second alarm acts as the slow waking process - you are conscious but still beyond drowsy. After many years of doing inhuman shifts, my body now has an involuntary way of maintaining my consciousness levels until the second alarm sounds, and that involves a frenetic, unceasing waggle of my toes.

Once out of bed, I'm fine. I'm not a rush job at that time, I want to allow myself time to shower, shave, make myself some breakfast and give myself time to eat it. Some people on earlier-than-thou shifts are out of the house within literally two minutes of throwing aside the quilt. I can't do that. They must stink. And they must be hungry. And they won't have even begun to wake up.

Although it's a weekday alarm, I'm also aware that at 3am, as I'm tiptoeing round the house getting ready, that people elsewhere are still considering the prospect of going to bed. That does feel strange, especially when Saturday night comes round and I'm doing the nightclub gig, as I finish at 3am on Sunday and as I crawl, dog tired, under the sheets at the bed and breakfast ten minutes later, I'm aware that on five of the six previous days I was just getting up at precisely the same time.

Driving on a motorway between the hours of 3.30am and 5.30am is also a strange experience. At this time of year it's practically daylight by setting off time and, having tucked myself in no later than 9pm the night before, it's daylight then too. This means that early risers in a British summer see no proper darkness at all for five days of the week.

Being on a motorway, in daylight, when it's conspicuous by its emptiness, is good for someone in my job. As I'm freelance, I can't afford to be complacent. Long though it is, the drive is uneventful thanks to the sheer lack of traffic and it allows me to concentrate my mind, psyche up the performer within and by the time I get to the studio - no less than half an hour before I'm due on air - I'm ready. I'm wide awake, raring to go, aware that my upbeat persona, should it be such, is key to making sure that knackered people forcing themselves from their pits from 6am onwards feel cheery and happy as they begin their daily routines.

Sometimes, usually midway through a week of these hours, you hit the wall. Driving back home after coming off air at 10am can occasionally build the wall before you but if it does turn up, it's usually in the afternoon. 3pm for me in early mode is the equivalent of 8pm for a conventional career person, and at 8pm a lot of people are snoozing in front of the telly after a hard day's graft and with a bellyful of dinner. That's 3pm to me. Sometimes the wall is unavoidable, but on most occasions to have to clamber over it, as even an hour's kip can make you feel totally wretched afterwards.

Last week I was in bed by 9pm and up by 3.06am, each weekday. This was my routine when I worked full time on breakfasts and you do get used to it. You get used to the sound of the birds waking up and of milk floats humming along. In my case, a light would go on in the house opposite as regularly as clockwork while I was abluting as the bloke who lives there is on 24-hour medication and has to wake himself up before cockcrow to take a tablet. You notice stuff like that. You notice every over-sensitive security light down your street - the ones that ignite when a car has the temerity to drive past, or a cat starts a fight in the garden next door. As I leave my house at 3.35am, three lights down the street come on.

I love my sleep and I'll enjoy my good lie-in this week, but there is something special, if not necessarily attractive to those not in the know, about being out and about at that hour, beginning your day when most of the nation is comatose. It's the tranquillity of it, the knowledge that you are doing your job in order to help them get in the correct frame of mind to do theirs. Being able to leave work before midday earns you jealous looks from colleagues and envious catty comments from friends. People ask me, when I do breakfast shifts, how on earth I cope with the early starts. My answer is rather straightforward and surprises them - it's the easiest thing in the world. The nature of my job, the excitement that goes with it, the glamour that it exudes to the rest of the world (not that it truly exists, but you let them believe it) makes a 3.06am final warning from my alarm clock the most bearable of things. When I think of the jobs I could be doing following such an anti-social alarm, I'm grateful...