Marriage…solution or problem?

There was a comment on an internet forum the other day that suggested that people who got married had “lost the plot”. I responded with a polite “I haven’t lost the plot thank you very much!” and was met with an essay that basically said I was a misogynist old git who just wanted a bit of paper.

I could not let that slide! I started a huge fourteen page rant, complete with references, but as is often the case, repartee is normally after departee…. “this thread is now closed for further comments.” Damn!

So I will defend the indefensible. Marriage is often seen as an old-fashioned institution. Who the heck wants to live in an institution anyway? Marriage means different things to different people and it is very easy to deride those whose point of view is that a trip up the aisle results in a wonderful life.

I am married. I know that the roses around the door need to be trimmed. I also know that the argument normally starts about who should actually get around to trimming the roses, why were they not done properly and who wanted the blasted things in the first place. that’s part of any relationship, sorting out who is wrong most of the time. ( Wife has just corrected me, the last bit should read “Who is wrong all of the time”).

There are loads of statistics on the internet, so they must all be true, that point out that children of married couples have a better start in life than those whose parents co-habit. As with all statistics, I reckon about 45% are made up. I do however, think that kids thrive in a loving relationship , and it matters not If parents are married or co-habiting.

The actual physical side of getting married is fairly simple. You go to the pub, chat up a bird and then decide that you want to share your life with them. So far so good. You waltz up the aisle, a bloke in a dress says “I now pronounce you man and wife” and people chuck bits of paper at you. Off you go to married blitz…

The actual difficult bit comes after the honeymoon. That is the bit where the month has lasted longer than your money, the car has made a horrible noise and the toilet seat has been left up just once too often…
Being in a long-term relationship means that these problems have to be overcome as a couple. For once it is not a question of “what should I do?” and becomes a question of “What should we do?”. Life becomes more involved and loses the point at which you go to your mum and ask for help. Of course these things happen to a couple who live together, but the main difference between wed and unwed is of course those lovely, kind and generous people we know as solicitors. I cannot afford to leave Wife and she is unwilling to pay the fees that are required to end my life of Riley, so she grimaces gently and smiles all the time searching on the internet for a cheap hitman. It focuses the attention on the relationship thinking that I would have to dig deep into her purse for the cash to become young, free and single again. Of course, since I am dragging 50 rather than pushing it, young would involve a hair transplant, free would involve court fees and single would mean waking up to a whole bed rather than the 20% I am used to now.

Since just walking out of the door is not an option, I am forced to think about how to solve a problem in our relationship. I solve it by spending her money on beer and she solves it by cutting my beer money. The end result is that we have a wonderful happy marriage, during which neither of us has lost the plot or even got grumpy about the toilet seat.

Because getting married and getting divorced cost a few bob, there are many reasons not to wander up the aisle. My argument has always been that since getting wed takes a bit of commitment, why would you marry the first person to take your fancy? “Marry in haste, repent at your leisure” means just that, take your time, make sure there is a sound relationship sorted before you decide to move in together and find out that the way that your partner breathes wants to make you smash a flower vase over their heads and that the “tap-tap-tappity-tappity-tap ” that they do on the coffee cup in the morning really wants to make you remove their spleen via a totally inappropriate orifice.

Will getting married solve all of society`s problems and solve global warming? Well no, really it won`t. But just pausing before setting up a home with someone by having to organise a dress, a church and more importantly a bar there is a point that you look at your intended and think, “Naaah, they aren’t worth it!”

49 years and 11 months and three weeks and 7 days.

Yesterday I hit a milestone. It felt like a millstone but apparently it was a milestone. A half century. 49 years and 12 months old. five decades. Anything but that fi… no I cannot even force myself to see that number in print. I am no longer young. I am no longer youthful. I am in fact getting to the point where middle-aged is something I look back on.
How do I feel? well like many people I feel the same as the day before. I ache when I get out of bed, my knees crack and snap like old twigs and I start far too many conversations with the phrase “When I was their age..”. Getting old is something no-one can do about, even our best scientists are only able to theorise about time travel and until theory becomes practice I will have to accept that the chap with the scythe is starting to contemplate paying me a visit.
I can see the bright side to getting old. I read the papers and can remember the stories that start with “Thirty years ago today the ZX Spectrum was launched!”. Things that become collectible I now own and are in the attic. Of course, how valuable 8 tracks and betamax video recorders are is anybody`s guess.
I still say the dreadful thing that us oldies say, “The music was better in our day!” I still listen to the music I listened to when I was a spotty long-haired youth, Motorhead, AC/DC, Black Sabbath and The Scorpions. In the last three years I have seen all these bands performing on stage and can be found recanting to a rapidly diminishing crowd “Well yes but you really should have seen them in the “ace up your sleeve” tour of 1980″. At this point it will be pointed out that non of the people I am talking to were born then. Wife tends to lead me away as I start to sob at this point.

Of course the main consolation to arthritis, failing eyes, memory loss and….well I forget the other stuff, is that I am actually financially slightly solvent. I get Wife`s money from a cash machine and seldom check the balance. The mortgage is a mere slap on the bottom compared to the knee in the groin that it once was. We have actually traded in the last few cars as opposed to normally having them towed to a scrap yard. Going out for a meal is a pleasant experience now that we no longer have to sweat just in case service charge is added to the bill.

I suppose the main thing is that I am comfortable with my age. I am a happy chappy, provided I can grumble when I feel like it, and can hobble to the pub without too much whinging.When a pretty young lady smiles, approaches me and offers me her seat I think I will be rapidly looking over my shoulder for a sign of the Grim Reaper!

My hero, Scrooge!

Well xmas is over. I hate xmas with a passion. I never use it`s old spelling because the modern-day celebration of consumerism has very little to do with any religion. The vague idea of presents for all and sundry follows on from the wise men ( or three kings) who popped into a barn two thousand years ago and dropped off gold, frankincense and myrrh. Nowadays the idea of xmas is to buy children violent computer games and for adults to gorge down as much food and drink as they can.

The original Yuletide celebrations go back to the dim and distant past. Many strange rituals have morphed over the years into todays winter celebrations. It all goes back to the winter solstice, the point at which the days start their long journey back until that wonderful three days of warmth and fun that us brits call “summer.”
In days of yore and before the discovery channel, people did not realise that the world spun around a giant nuclear reactor. In fact some thought the sun was hauled across the skies in a chariot. Winter was a time of suffering, endless repeats on the TV and cold frosty mornings with no food available. As the winter got harsher ( or if you are English, greyer and a yuck) the fear was that the sun would one day not show up at all. To this end most primative civilisations erected stone circles and temples, mostly with the benefit of being a timekeeper. Of course this being the olden days they had no fancy phones with a calendar and a clock app, so they needed to haul lumps of stone about the place.
At some point the sun would show at a low point, and the next day it would be a bit higher. Hurrah! It is not going to get darker, it`s going to get lighter! With the thought of three days of summer approaching, what would primitive man do? Eat and get drunk seems the most sensible option apparently! So was born the yuletide celebration.
Centuries later the yuletide was incorporated into the christian calender and moved until three days after the equinox, but pinched some of the ideas of mistletoe, logs and feasting. Come the modern-day and this festival has been nicked and turned into a massive gift-buying session, followed rather rapidly by the worship at the altar of the new year sales.
I often wonder if a few years from now, whilst I am sleeping contentedly in a box a few foot beneath the earth, that people will forget xmas and just celebrate the sales.Perhaps as they queue to buy stuff there will be a wrinkly old man grumbling about how when he was a lad they knew that the true meaning of xmas was,
hangovers and indigestion….

Conspiracy theories….

I spend a lot of time surfing the internet to educate myself and discover fascinating facts about the world I live in. Wife does not see it this way and says I actually stare blindly at the computer screen and then watch videos of drunk people falling over whilst spending her hard-earned dosh on beer and crisps. One thing I have discovered is that the moon landings were faked, the twin towers attack was an inside job and Elvis serves behind the meat counter at Tesco`s.
Of course, being a bit of a cynical old chap, I tend to take these claims with a rather large helping of sodium chloride. It is rather fun to hunt out conspiracy theories and then watch them get debunked. Those who put forward these theories tend to ignore any evidence to contradict their theories and stick blindly to their belief.

Think of the biggest secret you have ever kept from your other half. The time you were not actually working late but down the pub? The dress you bought in the sale that was actually full price? The fact that your mother-in-law phoned and you told her it was the wrong number? ( I have never ever done any of the above….well apart from the dress but that is another blog and another time…!)
Now imagine that you involve hundreds of different people in your deceit, and finally offer one hundred pounds for the first to blab. Realistically how long would your dark secret be kept?
The people who insist the lunar landings never happened are a case in point. Can you imagine the amount of people who would have been involved to try to cover up the fakery? Only one with a Kodak instamatic would be required to take a quick snap of Neil Armstrong propping up the bar with his mates while he was supposed to be bouncing all over the moon and the whole charade would have been blown wide open. How much money could you have made from a photo of a faked lunar landscape? Yet not one person has come forward to claim enough money and fame to ensure a regular supply of beer and supermodels. The TV program Mythbusters did a fairly good effort at disproving the myths about the moon landings, including the flag waving and the lack of stars. The response from those who stick to their theories is the usual Mandy Rice-Davies defence of “well he would say that wouldn’t he!”
No matter how many times the weird and wonderful theories are exposed as being tow plus two equals five million, the same old stories circulate of government cover-ups and collusion.

The easiest one to dispense with is the twin towers attack. Despite lots of people seeing two hijacked jets crashed into skyscrapers, there are still those who say that it was all faked. If a government can go to such elaborate details to set up a “false flag” attack, why the heck would they be bothered about the lives of a few people who post stuff who post on the internet? A quick accident and there is one less conspiracy theorist left. No government who could cover such a huge thing up would leave a little detail alive and posting to exist.
The moon landings are another case in point. At the time that Neil Armstrong landed on the moon there was a huge propaganda war between the Russians and the USA. If there had been any evidence at all, do you think that the Russians would have failed to use it? They had secret agents, spies and lots of hi-tech gadgetry, yet they failed to spot that the whole charade was filmed in the back lot of a Hollywood sound set?

Conspiracy theories rely on people`s natural distrust of their governments. Of course since those governments have been involved with drug-running, regime change and aid being used to bolster tyrants, perhaps the tin-foil hat wearers do have a point!

Married, happy,oxymoron…

Wife puts up with a lot. A stressful job and a life in a different country. Possibly the toughest challenge she faces is putting up with me. She copes well with being married to me. To this end and to help everybody survive marriage, I have decided to give you my ten rules for a long marriage. ( I said long, not happy…..)

1) Listen to your wife. Well, actually we are men so we do not listen. You must learn to fake it.

2) Women like romance and stuff like that. You must rid them of this idea as soon as you can. Carry your new bride over the threshold, look her in the eyes and tell her to go and get you a sandwich. When she returns with a plateful of food ignore her and watch the football on the TV. Do not let your wife think she is more important than the TV.

3) Be prepared. A well stocked first-aid kit is very useful for when you are caught faking listening and regarding the TV as more important than your wife.

4) Your wife will like to shop for shoes and handbags. You must learn to stand for seven or eight hours outside a changing room and say things like “That looks nice dear”and “I prefer the other one”. Of course using the latter is a really good idea. Brownie points and credits are issued at this point. Heavens above you may even be permitted to visit the pub!
Of course if you are feigning interest you will be interrogated like a prisoner at Guantanamo bay and if you are suspected of faking a reply… well at least the first aid kit is well prepared.

5) You should find a woman who can cook, a woman who can earn beer money,a woman who looks like a million dollars and a woman who is your best drinking buddy. The secret is then to make sure these women never meet each other…

6) Your wife should be your best friend. Forget all the romantic rubbish, you need a wife who wants to stay up untill three AM to watch the Grand Prix and actually knows who Lewis Hamilton is.

7) For a long marriage, your stock phrases should consist of “yes dear”, “No dear” and ” I`m sorry”.

8) Do not argue. It is a waste of time and it means you might not get any dinner.

9) It does not matter who`s fault it is, accept the blame and apologise. You might get dinner and beer.

10) Marry a woman with a sense of humour. It works for me. Wife comes home and asks what I have done today and she laughs when I tell her. She laughs when I tell her that I am the master of the house and she laughs when I tell her that she must obey me. I conclude that a humour is important in a long-term relationship.

Itchy, scratchy,horrible and nasty….

I have decided to show my support for Movember. This involves growing a bit of face-fungus on the upper lip. Yes, a moustache. Last time I decided to have a go with facial hair I grew a wild beard for several weeks. It went through the scruffy look straight to the Robinson Crusoe look without once pausing at looking slightly nice look. I was supposed to start cultivating on the first of November but unfortunately on the third I forgot and shaved it off! I started again and now have a “thing” under my nose that is both irritating and as attractive as uncontrolled wind. Wife smiles sadly at me in the morning and suggests that I come to work with her. “That way I don`t have to kiss you goodbye!”
I have shaved since I was fifteen, despite not actually having anything worth shaving until I reached nineteen. I would put bits of toilet paper on my face to try to impress girls with my “manliness”, a tactic which had as much success as my Ferrari badged bicycle clips. Shaving is a morning ritual that marks the start of my day. As I stare, bleary eyed, into the steamy mirror I wonder who crept in overnight and stole some of my hair and then dyed the rest grey. Of course Wife has more use of the bathroom in the morning as she berates me for “getting in the way”, “making me late” and of course “breathing”. I am normally hustled out of the way as she gets herself ready to go and earn my beer money.I try to keep out of the way as she rushes hither and thither and refrain from asking if she can do some overtime this week as my bar bill has crept up a bit this month.
Once peace has descended I return to the bathroom and whisk the five bladed turbo bionic XL super battery power nuclear energy razor across my face. Mind you last time I was in the supermarket there was a SIX bladed turbo bionic XL super battery power nuclear energy razor available, maybe I should have one of those next.
I do know one thing for certain. December is not Movember and this blasted moustache will not be seeing Santa!

home sweet second home.

I have returned to Hong Kong from a weeks visit home to be away from my home. Confused? I am. I have had a fantastic two-week visit to Blighty. I have seen some of my friends and all of my family. I have even managed to sneak off for a beer or three. But where is home? I spend a large proportion of my time in Hong Kong,yet I still am not sure if I can call Hong Kong home. My visits back to my homeland consists mostly of a mad dash around to try to fit as many people in as possible. Jet lag kills me. I took nearly a week to recover and I ended up apologising to so many people as I made my excuses and hopped into the car and scooted off to my house to fall asleep by eight o clock. Of course this being jet-lag I was wide awake and looking out of the window at four in the morning.
I love England. My home is a mad and crazy country where one inch of snow means travel chaos and it is perfectly acceptable to greet a good friend with a torrent of abuse that would give this blog an 18 certificate should I reproduce my greeting in print. I love the fact that we celebrate bad towns to such a degree that when a book came out celebrating awful places to live, the main complaint was not from the towns that were included but the towns who were excluded grumbled that they were not included! Near to my home in the UK there is a hotel that made the newspapers because of the awful xmas lunch that was presented to the punters. It was so bad that the manager was forced to lock himself in his office and call the police. So far so european. Then the english bit. The punters had such an awful time that they re-booked for the following year and the next year was in fact sold out!
I miss that illogical behaviour in Hong Kong. Here, a bad meal would result in complaints and recriminations. In England we sigh, shrug our shoulders and go again next week. Hong Kong is clean tidy and efficient. It is a joy to live here and I struggle to find a single reason why I would return to England. Then I remember they do not have a huge variety of beer, english pubs and of course Morris Dancers. They do have a nice climate and I will only consider returning to the UK once the weather has improved somewhat!

the long way back.

I have flown rather a lot in the last few years. All long haul and all a boring chore. The first person to invent a practical teleporter will get my vote of thanks and if there is any justice a knighthood to boot. I tolerate flying in the same way that I tolerate a pub with no beer. Badly. I am not worried about plunging to the ground in a ball of flame or getting hijacked and spending the next six weeks in the corner of an airport somewhere. These things I can tolerate. Just please do not let me sit next to a bore who wishes to tell me his life story. My two seven hour flights are a necessary evil to return me to my homeland, but I could cheerfully open the door and jump out over the sea if I suffer the kick-kick-kick on the back of my seat.
I have never managed to sleep on a flight and am insanely jealous of those people whose eyes close before the flight has taken off and only open as the aircraft trundles up to terminal. I do get so very tempted to wake them up. It`s not fair that even though my eyes feel like I am blinking sand I cannot nod off. The monotonous roar of te engine seems to some like the sweetest lullaby, yet all I hear is a chorus of “wake up wake up wake up wake up”.
Still, I can console myself with the thought that I will be in my own bed in the sleepy midlands village at home. Thats great. At three in the morning it is so quiet that I still cannot sleep and the silence is deafening. Normally at this point I get out and fire the boiler up on my venerable computer. “This should help me sleep!”, I think to myself, “I could re-read my blogs, that will send me to the land of nod!”
Of course since the ancient machine has been sleeping for a few months it takes a little bit of waking up. Updates hurtle down the wires and I click frantically as the computer panics and shivers as it realises the anti-virus is out of date and insists on updating and re-starting. Five times normally. By the time the poor old thing has settled down and decided to do a bit of work the sun is shining through the windows and I have to start pondering the timetable of family visits to make. Jet-lagged and weary I will probably head to see Mother and Father. The first question they ask, as with all other friends and family, is “When are you going back?”. I would love to say it will be when that bloke has invented a teleport machine, but until then it will be “Two weeks” and please can I have a seat by myself?

Two years and two stone…

 It is now just over two years since I arrived in Hong Kong. Jet lagged and bewildered by planes, people and signs I was clipped around the ear by Wife and instructed to “Keep up!” as we headed to the taxi rank. Wife is one of those people who no longer need to look for signs and just know in which direction to head. Me? I am like a five year old, distracted by shiny things and flashing lights. We jumped into a taxi and waved a bit of paper with the address of the hotel under the drivers nose and he nodded and set off. My jet lag disappeared as I felt the urge to stick my head out of the window as the skyscrapers and buildings of the New Territories came into view.

 Since then I have become accustomed my new life in Hong Kong. I no longer tut disapprovingly as a door is left to slam in my face and the idea of a bus with no timetable or route no longer leaves me bewildered.  Time to do a list! The things I miss from England..

 1)  Pubs. If you have read any of my previous random ramblings, you may have got just an inkling of the fact I like to go to the pub. As I write this I am sat at a bar in the centre of Hong Kong drinking a very fine real ale.It is a very good bar. The staff are both friendly and attentive. The food is excellent and the atmosphere is welcoming. It is not, however,a pub. There is no open fire to toast ones buttocks and the floor is not covered in sleeping hounds.There is no grumpy old men moaning about the state of the country ( apart from me) and the staff bring you beer rather than having to elbow the bar-flies out of the way to get served.

 2)  Beer. The beer in the Globe is fantastic. One real ale and a huge selection of beers from around the world. It is not the same as wandering to the local and finding ten pumps to choose from. The thrill of surveying the pump clips and wondering which is the first one Wife will buy you.I do have to say I would be extremely churlish to moan about the lack of English beer when I am six thousand miles from home!

 3) The weather. I am English so the weather is an important topic of conversation. In a strange way I actually miss the cold weather. The temperature has hovered around thirty degrees for the last few months and I feel a strange longing for a frosty morning and wrapping up well to trudge of to the pub. I have to say that a few mornings of scraping the car and slip-sliding along an icy footpath would soon have me moaning and wishing for the heat of Hong Kong.

4) Light nights. As we have moved a tad closer to the equator, the days and nights do not vary by much. It feels odd in the middle of summer to put the lights on in the flat. I miss the nights sat outside our house in England in the summer, drinking beer as the sun gradually faded away. Of course the reality is that we would sit outside for half an hour and then put a jumper,hat, scarf and coat on until we finally decided that even in June it is just too damn cold to sit outside!

 5)  Owning a car. The transport system in Hong Kong is fantastic. The MTR whisks you along efficiently and there are more buses than you can shake a stick at. I do miss grabbing the car keys and heading of without needing to look at either routes or timetables. The main thing I do not miss of course is filling the tank with petrol. The cost of a weeks worth of fuel will keep us transported here for over a month.

6)  Friends and family. Possibly the biggest drawback. It was very difficult to leave everybody behind although skype,facebook and email make it a lot easier, it is still the one thing that makes it hard to uproot and move to foreign climes

7)   Morris Dancing. Nope, still cannot escape the fact that possibly the most irritating thing on the planet is so quintessentially English that I miss it so much. The drunken geography teachers skipping, hopping and waving sticks and hankies about. It is so dreadful yet so English. It brings a tear to my eye thinking about it.

8)    Steam fairs. You pay to go to a field and watch old steam engines wheeze and puff around an arena. You have to pay extra to visit the craft tent. There will be stands selling cheap tools and boxes of rusty metal. There may also be a beer tent….It normally rains and several things that were supposed to happen will be cancelled. What better way for an Englishman to spend his day off?

9)    English people. I have been told that I say
“Please”,”thank you and “sorry”, far too much. An Englishman is the one you
bump into who apologises to you. You stamp on his foot and he says he is sorry
for not getting out of your way. If that is a definition of being English then
I am actually fine with that

10)   Fish and chips. I have eaten fish and chips in Hong Kong. It has been jolly good too. But if you really want fish and chips you need a chippy on the way home from the pub. Soggy chips covered in a gallon of vinegar and enough salt to send your blood pressure through the roof. Crunchy batter that shatters as you bite into it, spraying shrapnel over the occupants of a nearby bus shelter. Anything else is a poor imitation of a british classic!

 So, all those things I miss. Do I want to head back to the UK? Not on your nelly!

Saturn and me

I am getting old. I neither feel old or particularly act old, yet time is advancing. I no longer leap out of my chair and my hair takes less time to wash yet strangely enough my face takes a bit longer. My “snap,crackle and pop” is no longer my choice of cereal but the sounds my joints make as I haul my carcase out of bed to make Wife her morning cup of coffee. I find that getting up of the sofa involves making a grunting noise normally associated with female tennis stars. I pick things off the floor by bending over in stages and surprise myself when I actually see my toes. Old age is inevitable yet creeps up like brakes fading on a car. When did I turn into my father? I remember him as a grumpy,old-fashioned,opinionated and intolerant man. I look in the mirror or hear myself chuntering away as I read the news and the answer becomes apparent, it was when I became his age!
Some phrases are a signpost on the way to old age. “Back in the day”, “You have it so good today”, and “You treat this bloody house like a hotel”. Of course not having children I never use the last phrase. The killer, the one that attracts your presence to the grim reaper and is guaranteed to display your age comes to us all…

” When I was your age!”.

Those words had scarcely left my lips when a guy wearing black and carrying an old agricultural implement tapped me on the shoulder and said “Hello!” I panicked. I blustered. Too late. It was over! I was never going to be young again. My mid-life crises of a motorbike and a train set became mere distractions on a one way journey to creaky bones and bifocals.
Is old age all that bad? I have not reached my half-century yet and I still enjoy life. I have fun, I go to the pub and even enjoy rock festivals. I cannot, in all honesty, say that i wish to be a callow youth again. I enjoy the fact that I no longer care much for what other people think of me and would prefer to be my slightly rotund shape with cash than my poor but flat stomached younger version. I had a wonderful time as a teenager and my twenties and thirties were fun too, but now I know how to enjoy myself and my confidence to try new things enables me to have a fun life.

All that said, it is a rare man who would not like to be young again.The energy, the vigour, the hair…! But can I please do it with money next time? Please?