From Bing to the Black Death

I have various recollections of being genuinely scared by things when I was a child. After seeing Jaws on TV in 1981, I remember leaping from the bedroom door to the safety of my bed – pronking like a springbok – because in my seven-year-old mind, the blue carpet was ‘the sea’. (And Quint’s gruesome death has always stayed with me.)

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Is this who we really are?

I recently saw a video of a threadbare crowd gathering in Swindon town centre, awaiting the arrival of UKIP’s MEP candidate for the south-west of England: Carl Benjamin.

The Swindon Advertiser (circulation: 8,191) described Benjamin as “Rape tweet UKIP hopeful” (a wonderful ‘current position’ update for his LinkedIn profile) who made a “rock star-style entrance” to launch his campaign. In spite of the scene being eerily reminiscent of the time Robert Plant strutted into town carrying a folding patio chair, ahead of an electrifying performance in front of the Swindon branch of Vodafone, Benjamin’s “cheers of support” consisted of approximately 10-20 people chanting “Sargon! Sargon! Sargon!”, which was no louder than a group of imbeciles in a pub beer garden egging on a friend to gulp down a pint of his own piss.

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From Pickle to No Deal Brexit

In January 2011, as a lone security guard sat idly watching television in a small portakabin, a group of urban explorers known as the ‘London Consolidation Crew’ quietly slipped, undetected, into what was generally considered to be one of the most secure sites in the capital: The Shard.

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Essential viewing

Young boy standing in front of the TV watching Jason and the Argonauts

The other day, I watched Jason and the Argonauts with my four-year-old son. It was one of my favourite films to watch as a boy (on many a rainy Bank Holiday) so I thought he might appreciate the sword fights and variety of weird and wonderful mythological creatures. So we snuggled up on the sofa together and watched as Pelias brutally murdered one of King Aristo’s daughters, coldly running her through with his xiphos as she cowered beneath a statue of the goddess Hera.

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Number two

Before my second son was born, I experienced a genuine concern that I might not have enough love to lavish on another child. For some reason, I started to think that love was something quantifiable, something finite, that I could potentially run out of. To illustrate this point in a slightly stomach-churning David Cronenberg style, it felt like my shirt was concealing a pulsating, fleshy gauge, clumsily grafted onto my chest, which would show a crimson-coloured liquid at dangerously low levels. I already had a son that I adored and doted on, so I panicked that I would fall short for ‘Number Two’. Where would I find all that extra love?

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Fucking awful people

“A woodlouse munching on a fleck of shit on the floor of a toilet cubicle” may sound like a trigger phrase for an MK-Ultra assassin, but it’s something I witnessed once during a quiet trip to the loo at work. It was a truly depressing sight. A lone crustacean with possibly the most miserable existence on the planet, unknowingly providing me with an analogy for what every day on Twitter would feel like in the future: existing on a diet of shit but longing for someone to drop a fragment of Twirl.

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Paul Pogba in a bathtub

Whenever I watched A Question of Sport in the 1980s – with the mighty triumvirate of David Coleman, Emlyn Hughes and Bill Beaumont – my favourite bit was always the ‘mystery guest’ round. It was usually someone like Neville Southall disguised as James Herriot, where the sequence would include:

  • occasional flashes of an out-of-focus moustache
  • footage of arm length veterinary gloves being rolled on
  • a long-shot of Southall/Herriot plunging his arm, elbow deep, into a cow’s anus
  • close-up of the cow’s face; its default expression of masticating nonchalance replaced with wide-eyed alarm, as it’s left in no doubt as to how Southall’s paddle-sized hands were able to deflect Mark Falco’s close-range header when Everton played Spurs at White Hart Lane in 1985.

Who would’ve thought that this ‘tease and reveal’ approach would become the blueprint for how every modern day football transfer would play out. (In fact, Arsenal’s social media tease video for Alexandre Lacazette was lifted straight from the QS ‘mystery guest’ playbook.)

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They’re not scars, they’re medals

Children sliding down the 'Monster Drop' at Blackpool's Professor Peabody's.

I don’t have the exact figures to hand, but there are approximately one billion blog posts offering parents sage advice on how to “survive” soft play. It’s certainly something to be endured (soft play is a misnomer; it’s hard, gruelling even) but your survival is usually guaranteed. After all, I’ve never once entered a soft play zone to find a dad bleeding out on a crash mat, while a crazed toddler triumphantly pulls a bloodied trident from deep in his belly.

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A skeleton staff of knights

“What is a knight without a sword? This isn’t a riddle, by the way; this is a serious point. A knight without a sword is just a bloke clattering around a castle in cumbersome armour, sounding like a looped recording of a drunk trying to climb out of a builder’s skip full of venetian blinds. He may as well cart a plinth around the bailey all day, wowing children with a human statue routine, while occasionally retreating to the garderobe to daydream forlornly of battles he will never fight and quests he will never embark upon!”

At this point, a hand rests gently on my shoulder and I’m helped back into my seat. “We’re just doing a round of introductions first,” says the group leader, as everyone in the healing circle looks on sympathetically at my puce, irate face. I quietly apologise to the group and return a lady’s umbrella, which I’d rudely snatched and held aloft.

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