So that's it. The decorations are not even down and I'm back in to the daily grind. Christmas is over, as is 2013 despite the fact that I have mistakenly typed or written that date on my work for the 47th time today. It's all over. And what have you done? As someone famous once asked.
Not much. In fact I am dismayed to find that I penned only 34 articles in 2013, an average of only just more than one a fortnight. I tidy my desk at work more often than that. No I don't. That's just silly. Who does that? Nevertheless, what there has been has been by turns gloriously silly, unnecessarily dramatic and spirit-thrashingly depressing. So sit back with me and, in the absence of genuine new material, relive part one of the year that was 2013. With possibly a few bits thrown in that might not have made these pages first time around.....
2013 starts on a sad note as I learn of the death of my old friend, coach and team-mate Neil Ross.
Such was the high regard I held Neil in travelling down to Milton Keynes for the funeral was a must. Even the blow out I suffered on the way back up north did not make me regret that decision. I had to call my dad out to help me because I supposed I was near enough to home for him to get to me before the RAC would have. But I wouldn't have missed Neil's funeral for anything. Even if I had known beforehand that a former Bolton team-mate of ours would fail to recognise me, and that I would lose the people I was following to the wake and end up giving up. I trundled back north in the snow towards my unforeseen tyre problems. The following day I lost my shoe in the car park at work, buried in the thick snow that had fallen for two straight days.
The month ended with a comically inept attempt to acquire a new wheelchair. As I write this 12 months on I still have the same wheelchair I had five years ago. It turns out that, on the advice of Jeff from wheelchair services, all that is available is an ugly, box-like contraption reminiscent of Ironside in his pomp. I have seen other people in these things since and reasoned that actually it doesn't look as bad as I first thought. I am reconsidering it again, but at the time you would have had more luck trying to get me to don a ball gown;
"There's no polite way of saying this. It's ugly. Seriously, it's cumbersome and square and awkward looking. It looks like something out of the 1960's." was my fence-straddling, non-committal verdict at the time;
"Let's not forget that the wheelchair is pretty much the only thing that some people see in any case." I moaned, lest anyone be left wondering where this sudden regard for how I look might come from.
In Other News.....
Food chain illiterate vegans get the last laugh when it transpires that the rest of us poor saps have been mistakenly eating horse meat. Traces of the line-up from the 2.45 at Chepstow are found in burgers sold at supermarkets including Tesco and Iceland. All of which sparks much debate about how it happened and whether or not it is safe to actually fulfil the classic pledge of the hungry and 'eat a horse'. Either way, most people nod knowingly at the notion that if they are going to make burgers from horse meat instead of the traditional cow, we should probably be told about it first.
Sporting outings dominate my blogging exploits in February. I visit the National Football Museum in Manchester for the first time, running into PFA Chief Executive Gordon Taylor on about four separate occasions. Every time a door opened Gordon would be walking through it in the opposite direction in his not-so-stylish winter coat. Also in attendance was World Freesytle Football (keepy-uppy) Champion John Farnworth. You're the voice try and understand it...No, hang on, that's John Farnham. Anyway, all those of you who thought that the keepy-uppy champion was Spike Vaughton from down the road think again. It's John Farnworth, and he must be good because he can balance a ball on the back of his neck at will. Exactly what the spineless England midfield needs in this summer's World Cup. Amusingly, I only mean to watch John for a minute or two, but I get trapped in by the museum staff who rope off the entire area for the duration of his performance. It's around 15 minutes but feels closer to 50.
The National Football Museum is pretty vast and it proved quite easy to for my mum and I to lose both my nephew and my cousin's son for a while. To lose a male child in the National Football Museum simply take them up to the interactive zone where they can take penalties and kick balls aplenty, and then tell them you will text or phone them later. They are guaranteed to nod in agreement and then neglect to tell you that they have planted their mobile phone in your bag because it is low on battery, and that the number they had three days ago isn't right anyway now because things move on and oh my god you're so embarrassing. Thankfully we are all re-united in the end, long enough for my nephew to mistake Kevin Keegan for Bryan Robson anyway.
Next port of call was the boxing ring. Though fairly inseparable in our youth my cousin Alex and I don't get to see a lot of each other these days. In fact I see Halley's Comet more often. I haven't even got a telescope. So it was good to get along to the David Price Fight at the Echo Arena at the end of February. I actually wrote the piece in March but that has rather more to do with writer apathy than it does with when the fight actually took place. We are there then the night Price turns from heavyweight contender into just another also-ran, so promoting the painfully loud Tyson Fury's prospects in the process. Price is knocked out in the second round by a 41-year-old American called Tony Thompson, who beats him again just for good measure in July. We do not attend that one. I'm in Portugal by then and we had seen enough that first night back in February. Especially of the fight's parasite promoter, Frank Maloney;
"Down below us we can see Frank Maloney strolling around full of his own self importance." I write;
"There's a secluded area behind a curtain where we can see tables and chairs laid out. Someone is entertaining. A succession of fancily dressed (as opposed to fancy dress) people are turned away by security staff as they try to pass through. Not Frank. One security man tries to stop him but he brushes him aside with a 'do you know who I am' hand gesture."
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In Other News.......
Bad news for creationists as Pope Benedict the something or other sensationally quits his post. Or was he sacked? Or did he leave by 'mutual consent' so as not to tarnish his reputation too much? Either way, Catholics are left reeling at his sudden exit, and from the revelation that fairies do not live at the bottom of their garden and Santa Claus is just a fictional character we tell children about to get them to behave themselves in December.
The centrepiece of Memoirs Of A Fire Hazard in March is unquestionably the tale of how I leave my wheels at home when travelling to work one morning. I have to drive all the way home having not realised the mistake until I had parked the car in the car park outside the office. In my rather miffed haste and in the spirit of compounding my error, I reverse into a set of wheelie bins left lazily hanging around in the car park, thankfully retrrieving the offending items which have somehow found their way up the ramp outside my house and are leaning against my front door. I have some very helpful neighbours. I describe the mood between Emma and I on the journey home like this;
"There's just a stunned silence and probably a mutual acceptance that any futher discussion of the situation is superfluous."
In Other News........
As Francis becomes the new Pope everyone breathes a huge sigh of relief and gets back to what they are good at, watching telly. Dominating our viewing is Broadchurch, a whodunnit starring former Dr Who David Tennant and that woman from Hot Fuzz and the chubby one from Birds Of A Feather. For weeks and weeks we agonise over who killed young Danny Latimer before finding out in a sensational climax that there will be another series in 2014.
An innocent thing like a visit to the cinema provokes my uber-sarcastic wrath as we go into April. I'm not even a fan of super-hero films. They're just bloody stupid. So what am I doing at Iron Man 3 anyway? Passing the time no doubt. In the end it's not all bad except for a belief-sapping scenario involving an actor willingly pretending to be a terrorist, but the way I am treated by the staff at Reel Cinemas in Widnes beforehand is a good deal worse. The girl selling the tickets asks me to leave my wheelchair outside the theatre. Disbelief consumes me;
"She wants me to leave my chair outside." I fume.
"The one thing without which I shall be spending the (entire) night in the theatre, she wants me to leave outside by the side of the popcorn kiosk. As if it couldn't possibly go missing from there. People don't steal wheelchairs in the way that dogs don't bite."
I take to the road in disgust. In my continued self-imposed exile from wheelchair basketball I reason that I have to do something about my lard-arse. I actually call it a 'Homer-shaped ball of biffiness' in my piece entitled 'The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Biff'. So I download the runkeeper app and go wheeling around the streets of St.Helens for a spell. I regret it pretty swiftly;
"This quickly turned into the worst decision since Bowie's latest comeback." I comment, adding;
"It was a poor decision because between my house and Prescot is Scholes Lane, and Scholes Lane is long, uphill and incredibly steep. It seems to go on forever, and you cannot imagine how soul destroying it is to reach the top, haul yourself over the road to The Grapes and find that you have managed a quite apologetic 1.7 miles."
In Other News......
Britain unashamedly swings into party mood following the death of former Prime Minister and Fuckwitch From Hell Margaret Thatcher. There's a brief debate about the rights and wrongs of celebrating the death of a human being before those against realise that they did it with Hitler and Saddam Hussein and those in favour realise that actually it's all a bit sad that she didn't go in about 1978. So what's to celebrate? Nevertheless there is enough anti-Thatch fervour to send Wizard Of Oz classic 'Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead' soaring to the top of the charts. Even if the bumlickers at the BBC decide not to play it.
It's all our yesterdays on MOAFH in May as an incident in a canteen takes me back to my youth. Someone asks a clearly language-less baby what her name is, inspiring me to reminisce about the way in which people used to ask me questions like this through my mother until I was about 10 years old. As if somehow a wheelchair made me either mute, or just too brain-addled to form a cohorent verbal response;
"For some reason, some people seem to think that because certain parts of your anatomy don't work, then it therefore follows that English won't be your first language. If indeed you have a first language." I argue in my hopefully mock-outraged tone which nobody gets;
"If you use a wheelchair and someone starts a conversation with you with the phrase 'I don't mean to be funny but...' then start pushing away." I advise finally.
Next to feel the full force of my ire is the despicable Channel Four production 'Sex On Wheels'. Unsurprisingly my mock-outrage moves aside for the real deal in response to a programme I can't bring myself to actually watch but have no hesitation in roundly slaughtering for its sickening, patronising voyeurism aimed exclusively at maintaining the status quo that is denying human rights to the disabled. Unless they promise to stick to their own kind;
"Normally one does not have sex on wheels. No more than one sleeps on wheels or one takes a fucking bath on wheels." I observe angrily. But in the end I blame the people involved for allowing it to happen;
"Why the fuck would you want to put yourself through this level of humiliation?" I demand;
"To be on television? That's the kind of mentality that sub-humans like Jeremy Kyle make a living on."
But in the end it's the damning truth of the whole thing that gets to me, and makes me wish that it didn't have to be played out in public view in television's uniquely vile manner;
"When the male lions get old and weak the females bugger off and find a younger, stronger partner. So it is with us." I admit.
"It's not pretty and if you think about it too much there is only darkness, but that is our society."
In Other News;
Religious maniacs are dealt yet another devastating blow when same sex marriages turn out not to be the work of the devil and are duly legalised. And quite right too. If homosexuals want to tie themselves to an outdated and oppressive institution in the name of conformity then why shouldn't they be allowed to the same as anyone else?
Summer begins with a visit to Manchester to see Robbie Williams.....'10 years after it was 'cool' to do so.' So when was it 'cool' to see Olly Murs who is there in support of the master show-off? It's unclear. Nevertheless I have a far more exciting time than any jealous 30-something male would approve of. I'm unashamed in my decision to follow the crowd on this one, and withering in my contempt for those whose attempts to be different make them all the same;
"I worry about people who give up on their favourite things because they have become 'commercial'." I rant;
"You're taking something enjoyable out of your life because other people have cottoned on to its value. Like a child who doesn't want any sweets at all if he has to share them with the other children."
If that seems like ruining my own perfectly good mood it is nothing compared to the dark abyss that is 'A Mind Like Mine' shortly after. I take bleakness to new levels in the midst of one of my lows, observing that;
"I have spent the day being obnoxious towards other people on account of the fact that I don't like myself too much."
After that I get I get sick again, describing the symptoms thus;
"Basically you get a lot of bladder and groin pain, feel quite sick, and your water smells like you died four years ago."
So it's not something you want to try, nor is the oral thrush that results from the treating anti-biotics I am given. I end up driving home in agony all the way from Plymouth, before a completely pointless visit to the walk-in-centre results in an inexplicable failure to get the thrush medicine;
"It's not life threatening though, is it?" the nurse tells me. Sighs of relief all around, then.
In Other News........
Robin Thicke's 'Blurred Lines' begins its inexorable journey to the very top of the single sales chart for 2013, and it doesn't get there quietly. Basically, Thicke is a sleazy little douchebag and his song is very clearly about how women mean yes when they say no and whatever they say they are going to get it anyway. Which is ok if you happen to be a good looking sleazy little douchebag, but you try saying it to your average ten to 2 bird in Revolution on a Friday night if you're not so handsome. If you listen very carefully you can hear the beginnings of musicality in Thicke's voice, but his flagrant waste of talent is dwarfed by that of his accomplice on this tiresome track, Pharrell Williams. He could be a super-smooth soul star in the Marvin Gaye mould, instead he's a whimpering midget who wants to put his hand up your jumper.