Saturday, 29 January 2011

Any Other Business

I don't know if any of you are familiar with Saturday morning radio. Probably not. You're probably still perservering with that inane excuse for an entertainment show they call Soccer AM. The best part of 20 years on our screens and still doing the same lame joke. It's some achievement when you come to think about it, but I'm afraid I gave up on it some time ago.

That was when I found Fighting Talk on Five Live. It's advantages over Soccer AM include the fact that it has never been hosted by Tim Lovejoy, but that's not all. For the uninitiated it is a panel show (isn't everything these days if it doesn't consist of some celebrity gobshite cooking?) in which guests try to earn points for what they call 'punditry'. It's presented by the ubiquitous Colin Murray, who poses the questions to which the contestants have to come up with witty or interesting answers. Think QI without Alan Davies. And on a sporting theme. Utopia.

Yet this column is nothing if not furious and angry, and Fighting Talk is no different to anything else in that it wouldn't get a mention if it hadn't rubbed your writer up the wrong way. In the penultimate round the contestants are asked for 'Any Other Business', for which they are given half a minute or so to ramble on about anything (sport-related or not) that has caught their attention in the past week. And this is the point at which one Kevin Bridges wrote his name into the archives of Musings Of A Fire Hazard;

"I was watching Deal Or No Deal the other day." began the Scottish comedian. You know the one? The one whose Christmas DVD was advertised to death from around November 1 to twelfth night? And not only that, but it was the same clip, in which he oh so hilariously cracks a gag about naming his offspring after the places in which they were conceived;

"This is my son, the garage." he quips, bed-wettingly.

And so back to the plot;

"I was watching Deal Or No Deal the other day, and there was this guy in a wheelchair on."

Oh oh, stand by for excruciating patronisation;

"Anyway it was a real tear-jerker. It came down to the last two boxes and he was going to win something like £50 or £100,000, and he went for it and he won, and everyone was crying and even Noel Edmonds looked human for a moment. I shed a little tear there, though."

Excuse me, Kevin? I couldn't tell whether he was joking or not by this point but I would still like someone to explain to me why it is any more 'tear-jerking' or 'emotional' to watch a disabled person in this situation as opposed to anyone else? Because that is what he is saying by mentioning it on national radio. But anyone who has ever seen Deal Or No Deal will know that it's neurosis-suffering contestants cry on a regular basis. It would not surprise me if the questions on the application form read something like; Are you an overly emotional lunatic?. Can we rely on you to cry if someone who came on to the show with nothing leaves with nothing?. Better still would you cry with joy if someone you met 35 seconds ago won £250,000?'

All of which leaves little doubt that Bridges thought this particular bout of whailing and sniffling to be special. Somehow different. Justified. And if what he says is to be believed, Edmonds did too. I don't know the young man who won, but I do know some people who do due to my links with the wheelchair basketball fraternity. I don't know his personal circumstances and I'm delighted for him that he has been so fortunate. I don't begrudge him a penny. But it's a TV game show. It's not a matter of life and death. He, like the rest of us, is not a hero or a role model because he manages to get out of bed every day and get on with his life. The only difficulty in doing that is provided by the prejudices of an able-bodied community which tries to either patronise, ignore or discriminate us into submission.

Compared with that, meeting Noel Edmonds is a stroll in the park. And that concludes Any Other Business for today.

Thursday, 27 January 2011


Following my blatant but still unfortunate bout of sexism yesterday, I became the victim today.

Hard to believe I know, but once again I have something approaching whooping cough, enough phlegm in my throat most of the time to drown Lancashire, and some rather wiffy watery waste. Not a pleasant image, but it does explain why I had to take yet another trip to see my local doctor this morning.

Anyone who has read my piece entitled 'Dancing With The Doc' will know the outcome of the medical stuff. That part of the experience was no different than any other visit to the doctor in the last three years or so. A quick re-cap for those who missed that piece might look something like this. I see the doctor. I tell him or her about said symptoms, he or she prescribes a course of leeches before trying to persuade me to have a blood test. Something about protein levels. The difference here was in how we got there.

It was a new doctor. Doctor Sage. Doctor Sage is a young-ish and, yes, attractive-ish female. This would not ordinarily be an issue for me. Female doctors are every bit as adept at their profession as female assistant referees. More so, in many cases. They've never let me down yet, although it has to be said that diagnosing ANOTHER urinary tract infection in me is one of the easier tasks that medical people might have to undertake. This is not a mystery illness, baffling the entire NHS!

As is procedure in my regular quick-step with the quack, Dr Sage asked me to provide a sample of my aforementioned whiffy, watery waste. All fair so far. How else is she supposed to prove that my suspicions about my ailments are correct? It might be an easy and predictable diagnosis to make, but you still have to go through the motions of proving yourself right. Anything else would just be sloppy.

So she hands me the cup. A small cup distinctly lacking in anything resembling a lid. Normally you get a cup, with a lid, inside a bag, with a syringe-style plunger for collection. Hygiene is paramount. Unless you're Dr Sage who is obviously something of a maverick. She has her own rules.

I take the cup from her, a little taken aback but choosing to roll my eyes and get on with it rather than call in the Health Minister. And then she hits me with;

"Do you want to take that to the bathroom or do you want to do it here? I don't mind."

You what now?

I don't know what colour my face became but suddenly the room was awfully warm. Perversely, she became more attractive, when you might expect this suggestion to have repulsed me. Well that's deviants for you isn't it? Remembering myself, and with as much haste as I could muster I blurted out that I would be off to the bathroom at that point, and sped out of the door with the cup in hand;

"OK." she said;

"Just give us a knock again when you have finished."

Are you sure about that? Are you sure you don't want to hold it for me or something, doc?, I thought, but did not say.

I've got to tell you, it's a long time since anyone outside of my relationship has talked about the prospect of viewing my tackle so matter-of-factly. That she was young and getting more attractive by the second scared the bejesus out of me. I hadn't been this embarrassed since I last looked at my Facebook photographs!

As if visiting the doctor wasn't already traumatic enough for me, there is now the possibility of being sexually harrassed to consider. It might be a bittersweet prospect but I shouldn't have to put up with it.

It's sexist.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

I, Sexist

So there I was fighting the good fight.

It's the day following Andy Gray's sacking from Sky Sports for sexist comments made about referee's assistant Sian Massey and toward Sky Sports presenter Charlotte Jackson. I was just in the middle of explaining to a colleague of mine that football is not the impenetrable bastion of machoism that it would like itself to be, and that women are involved in far more important and more physically demanding pursuits, when the tide turned against me once more.

As regular readers will know, my path is strewn with cow-pats from the Devil's own herd. So it is unsurprising then to note that, when the conversation turned toward the possibility of a female actually playing, rather than officiating, in a professional men's football match, I turned out to be the sexist. You see I just wasn't having it. For all it's namby-pamby awful-ness, football remains a reasonably physical game. Whether we like it or not, the woman has not been born yet who is strong, fit (in the aerobic sense of the word) and fast enough to compete alongside men on a football field.

These issues are far less relevant when it comes to officiating, hence Sian Massey was able to do an excellent job during the Wolves v Liverpool match last weekend. Yet this part of the conversation becomes but a distant memory, a myth that old people might tell their grandchildren, because someone chose the inopportune moment just after that to walk into the office. This person happens to be a University academic and a regular reader of this column. I vaguely remember her hitting me over the head with something which, looking on the bright side and given the amount of information about our conversation that she had access to, could have been something a lot heavier.

I just feel wronged by all of this. I have colleagues who think that women should not even be allowed to go and watch football because they think that somehow they don't belong. That their poor little ears might bleed if they are exposed to a few thousand morons who fritter away their hard earned money screaming at millionaires they could never hope to connect with. If Massey had any fears about some cretin shouting 'gerrum out, love!' from a few yards behind then I am sure she would choose another career path. Football, the self-styled national obsession, is blinded by it's arrogance if it genuinely believes that women have no place in it.

And that's really all. Hardly an Earth-shattering return to form blog-wise but slowly, slowly. Or something. I have shamelessly used this column to set the record straight, the pity of that being that the real sexists in this office would no more read my blog than they would take their daughters to the match.