Sunday, 18 March 2018

There is no lonelier place than the sea; an analogy.

The world is an ocean, the mind a ship, the will the hand on the wheel.

For many the voyage is steady. Though the ocean may switch from calm to rage, from doldrums to maelstrom from gale to breeze, the vessel persists and meets each challenge of the sea smartly. For those of us who struggle the ship is faulty. Sometimes the hardest correction on the wheel has no effect on the rudder. Sometimes the slightest twitch will put us broadside to a wave. The tempest towers above us and the ship wallows in the troughs between walls of pewter grey, helpless to steer. Other times the controls respond and we can steam headlong into the choppiest of waters. Viewed from some far horizon we are making headway, but for us there is no such thing as plain sailing. Every groan of the decks, ever tiny leak presages doom and we are convinced from second to second that we are about to be lost. Sometimes, even when the going is good, without warning the cargo may shift and, thus unbalanced, we can capsize on a millpond.

None of us have instruments to predict when the sea will change. Some of us have the confidence to predict that when a storm comes we will be able to handle the helm. Some of us plough on not knowing from one moment to the next whether the ship will confound us, or for how long its mischief will last, and sometimes, when the sea demands the most attention from us, you can find us below decks, blind drunk in the cable tier in the dark with the rats.

Do not assume that the quality of the ship is to blame. The same calamity can afflict every vessel from the grandest liner, through the fastest frigate to the lowliest tug. The abyss is only ever as far away as the thickness of the hull.

Whatever you sail and through whatever waters, have a care; for if the wheel spins loose in your hands and you see the tidal wave approaching, you will hope, as we all hope, that another ship passing by will come to your aid. All we ask is that you listen for the distress calls and be ready to offer assistance.

All of our voyages end at the same destination and none of us have the luxury of turning back. We may as well sail together.

Monday, 20 February 2012

"Chisora & Haye Vs Boxing" Or "Why the bad boys make the news".

This weekend's somewhat theatrical spat between boxers Dereck Chisora and David Haye has left me disappointed, not because two heavyweights have brought a sport I love into further disrepute but because the pair of them are so unrepresentative of boxing in Britain. Their fight was an undisciplined brawl driven by malice and arrogance, two characteristics thankfully absent from much of the sport.

The point was brought home to boxing fans who watched Channel 5's coverage of two very different fights on Saturday night. In the first Sheffield's Kid Galahad took on Jason Booth, in the second Chris Eubank Jnr took on Jason Ball. Both fights were the epitome of sportsmanship. All four athletes congratulated each other at the conclusion. Jason Booth's post-fight interview was an effusive tribute to his younger opponent's skill and potential. As they sat beside each other at the ringside each complimented the other on their performances, admitted their own failings and pointed out each others' strengths.

The same point would not have been brought home to non boxing fans. It was entirely absent from the general news. The Sheffield Star ran about 500 words on it.

The Haye/Chisora spat, however, has had a little bit more coverage.

Beginning as it did with an unsportsmanlike jibe about a broken toe and ending in the kind of scene which makes anyone who loves the sport groan at the impending barrage of abuse they'll get from people who like to portray boxing as the preserve of the brutish Neanderthal.

I have some sympathy for Haye, having fractured both big toes in the past. Those who assume that boxing is simply a case of standing in a ring and hitting someone tend to ignore (Wilfully or otherwise) the skill required to deliver a punch and get out of the way of the inevitable retaliation.

Those who have never boxed or watched boxing may not be aware that an effective punch is the product, not just of the arms but of the whole body. You turn in your toe, lift your heel, twist from the waist and extend the arm. 36 minutes of that on a broken toe is going to reduce your performance somewhat. Critics of Haye may say ballet dancers regularly perform on worse, to which I would counter that whilst their tortured feet are engaged in the precision exercise of an enchanting pirouette they are not generally doing so in the anticipation of a punch in the face by 15 stone of sweat and adrenaline soaked athlete.

It's another story that's seldom told. It's complicated you see, and requires you to see something you've already made your mind up about in a different light.

That having been said I have no sympathy for either Haye or Chisora over this affair. I would be more than happy to see both stripped of their licenses with immediate effect. The coverage of their scandalous behaviour and lamentable loss of self control should serve as a warning to others that being a prat in public has consequences. Young boxers, of whom I know a few, would be less likely to repeat the same posturing and theatrics as a result.

The problem is (and I should know), the media has an appetite for scandal because the public has an appetite for scandal. We love something novel and tire of the humdrum easily. The Haye Vs Chisora spat was a godsend on a quiet Sunday. The other big card of the weekend between Booth and Gallahad was similarly exemplary but not nearly so likely to make headlines. For the same reason you never heard the headlines "Lembit Opik in excellent constituency MP shocker" or "John Prescott effectively negotiates trade dispute resolution" or "William Hague's effective diplomacy in Somalia revealed". All three stories are true. Sadly we too easily mistake criticism for scrutiny and praise for partisanship.

What you see on the news is there precisely because it is exceptional. This week a thirteen year old girl was stabbed to death in a park in Doncaster. The headline was not "50th stabbing of a teenager in Doncaster this week", nor even the second. Those headlines were never written because neither is true. The story is terribly sad and I feel for her parents. It was however an appalling but isolated incident. That, sadly, will not stop the armchair pundits from using Casey-Lyanne Kearney's death as evidence that it's not safe to walk the streets. I'm sure an article has already been written concerning the evidence her death presents of a growing knife crime culture amongst teenagers, despite the fact her alleged attacker is 26. Had the tragic circumstances that lead to her death not unfolded as they did, I suspect the national media would not be running "13 year old girl walks home alone safely".

All of this leads to a plea on my part: Before you assume the world is going to hell in a hand-basket, that one example implies an epidemic or that all boxers and boxing fans are thugs, consider why events make the news. It is usually those things which depart from the norm.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Other on-line booksellers are available...

My attempts to resolve sign-up issues with a certain on-line bookseller have so far proved futile. I suspect the following e-mail sent today will bring me no closer to the hallowed status of "Vendor";

Dear Sir/Madam/Robot,

I realise I'm howling in to the wind here and really don't expect a reply but it'll be good to get it off my chest.

You didn't reply to my last e-mail to your "Help" desk either and I certainly felt better after I sent that.

I've got a huge pile of books I'd like to sell. Probably well over a couple of thousand pounds worth. I'd like to sell them through you because (On the face of it) your system looks terribly easy and clever.

Sadly your registration requires a 'Credit Card'. It's a shame you will only deal with the sort of people happy to pay 19% APR for cash, as I am not one of them.

As a result of only being the sort of undesirable who has a bank account with money in it, and a Paypal account, and a host of other online payment security methods at my disposal, I find I can't use your service. This, despite the fact I've been buying and selling on-line with other sites for years.

Might I suggest instead of letting me go half-way through the registration process to a page I can't safely log out of and making me enter my full card details before you decide my card isn't good enough, you just put "You must be paying a punitive rate of interest to a faceless corporation before you can sell with us now bugger off." in big red letters across your homepage.

Oddly enough your competitors Ebay have no such batty rules so I'll go there instead.

As I say I don't really expect a reply as your customer service offer has the reputation of Hermann Goering's tailor (Who'd put a man that size in powder blue?) but I thought it was worth a try. The fact I had to go through 3 drop down lists of increasingly stupid and esoteric possible reasons for why I should have the temerity to want to actually contact you suggests to me you don't really want to hear what I have to say.

On attempting to find the "Contact us" e-mail form I was reminded of the quote from Douglas Adams' "Hitchhiker's Guide" in that, metaphorically speaking of course, "It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying "Beware of The Leopard".

No doubt you have an admirable record for the very small number of complaint e-mails you get. I suggest this may not be because your customers have very little cause for complaint, but rather because they have collectively dissolved into sobbing heaps in frustration whilst trying to negotiate the trap-ridden labyrinth that is your contact procedure. I would be surprised if adding "Utter rage" as a possible reason for emailing you didn't increase your 'customer service' mail traffic considerably.

Thanks for not listening, I look forward to never hearing from you.

Yours (or at least I would be if you'd let me join),

Wesley Mallin

Monday, 20 June 2011

On the occasion of the summer solstice - An atheist's diary.

Well, happy new year all. Before I'm deafened by the collective "What?" allow me to explain.

For lot of years I've taken today, the summer solstice, to be my own little new year. To me it makes a bit more sense than doing it on 31st December.

There's something nice about greeting the dawn alone on the longest day (And before some pedant points out that dawn and sunrise are different things, I'm generally up during dawn in readiness for the event and anyway dawn's a prettier word and it's my bloody celebration).

This morning I greeted the sun with fire and spirit, or more specifically, I stuck my head out of the attic sky-light, downed the last of my birthday port and lit a cigarette. I had a few minutes quiet reflection on how appalling the last twelve months have generally been and made the sort of resolutions I can stick to viz: Do a bit more, make the most of the opportunities which present themselves and get started on that novel. Then I went and made a cup of tea and had a cuddle with the cat.

Some people like to go to stone circles and get together with like minded individuals at summer solstice but previous bitter experience informs me that half four in the morning is not the best time for me to be humouring vegans.

I do like to think of Stonehenge at this time of year. I have this little picture in my head of half a dozen shivering blokes out on the heath in Wiltshire five thousand years ago with some sticks and a rope getting ready to put the markers down for the heel, slaughter and altar stones. I like to think the conversation went like this; "Look Terry, the missus has got this grand plan for a rockery and if we don't set it up in the next half an hour it'll be another year of moaning. You stand over there with Eric and when the sun comes up I'll tell you where to put the sticks in the ground. Then we can all bugger of back to bed. And well done for not bringing that bloody dog of yours. Last year was a farce."

And there's the problem. Nothing much is sacred for me. When I was about eight I told my parents I didn't believe in god because it didn't make any sense and could I not go to church any more please? Being the awesome parents they are they said that was fine. I've been a more or less evangelical atheist ever since. I still envy those with faith, but I just could never understand how chucking a disembodied third party in to the mix simplified things.

The solstice has the benefit of being a measurable instant in time and space. By one reading a dull and mathematical coincidence resulting from the predictable orbits of two roughly spherical bodies under the influence of gravity and some other stuff. On the the other hand the maths doesn't do justice to the scale of the dance we're unwitting partners in. This day each year I look at the ground I'm standing on, and the sun over there and think "Aren't we tiny?". It's refreshingly humbling and about as close to spiritual as I get.

There's also a deeply pragmatic reason for doing new year now. There's more to look forward to in the immediate future than the other new year. There's sunshine for a start. We're a couple of months from those lovely late summer evenings when it gets dark early but you can still feel the last of the sun's heat off the pavers and the sky's clear enough to see the stars. Much better than the depths of December when all there is to look forward to is trying to get the tree back in its box, realising for the umpteenth year in a row that Blu-Tack and wallpaper don't mix and waiting for the post-Christmas credit card bill.

And best of all I didn't end up in the embrace of some sweaty drunken stranger trying to sing a song neither of us either know or understand the words to.

Happy new year!

Saturday, 18 June 2011

An open letter to all those who "Don't give a fuck" today.

So, you've decided that today you won't give a fuck eh? Well good for you. I assume of course that this means for the other 364 days of the year you will actually start giving a fuck. That's the idea right?

Today you'll have a rest and then tomorrow you'll start campaigning for change?

Bitter experience leads me to suspect not.

I've been going to council meetings as a journalist for nigh on fifteen years and see the same thing every time; A public gallery entirely filled with the fresh air left behind by people who "Don't give a fuck". Every time I go to a meeting where public policy is being decided I think "Sitting at home are thousands of people who clearly don't give a fuck". Coincidentally, I suspect they're the same people who then infect my day with their impotent whining and ill-informed rants about perceived injustices they had every opportunity to influence but chose instead to do nothing about. "I don't give a fuck" is apparently cooler than "I'm an effective citizen of the world".

I suspect the majority of the people who've decided to latch on to "I don't give a fuck day" are exactly the kind of people who "don't give a fuck" the rest of the year. I suspect they're the kind of people who don't give a fuck about local democracy, don't give a fuck about voting, don't give a fuck about politics or third world debt or nuclear proliferation or any of those other things which apparently don't matter.

The seed corn of your apathy, watered from the well spring of your utter ignorance, will grow into a rich crop of negative bullshit which you'll no doubt insist on feeding to the world in bitter chunks of helpless, pathetic, miserly, intellectual poverty. Well done farmer. You made the world worse without any effort at all.

Don't congratulate yourself too soon though, because there are lots of people out there who get a great big kick out of you not giving a fuck. They're the people who run the show. They're the people making billions while your back is turned. They fill the airwaves with blandness and stifle anything creative because while you're not giving a fuck they're getting away with bloody murder.

So I'm sorry to all those friends and relatives who invited me to join "I don't give a fuck" day and who's requests I've ignored. You've probably wondered why. Here's why:

The whole project reeks of exactly the kind of mindless, pointless, tedious, shitty, nihilistic, adolescent posturing I hate.

Today you're all clever and smug because you don't give a fuck. Well done. Give the monkey a peanut.

In the meantime the minority of people who do give a fuck will continue to do it for you, until you grow a spine, get up and join us, because right now the people who do give a fuck are outnumbered, and we're losing the fight.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Silence for so long and when I do blog ... it's about Basildon.

Basildon council has erected a sign costing £90k which looks a bit like the one which looms over Hollywood.

"So what?" I hear you cry. As one commentator helpfully pointed out "It's not the angel of the north is it?". Well spotted Einstein.

What interests me about the story is the reaction, and what it says about our beleaguered democracy.

Bear with me, try not to yawn, I'll explain.

The story provoked the usual tooth-sucking tabloid furore with a healthy dose of predictable head shaking at a bonkers council out of touch with the public.

The Daily Mail, with it's usual rigour (or should that be rigor?) quoted the leader of the council. It was councillor type stuff, not really defending the spend or explaining where the cash came from. Now I'm a stickler for attribution when it comes to quotes so I went digging a bit. It is a quote but the dry bluster isn't a response to the Mail's precision questioning. It's from the council's press release. The Mail never spoke to him you see. It printed the quote as a response though and seems to have made it's mind up. You'd expect nothing less from The Mail. The slightly snide tone at the prospect of Basildon, of all places, doing a spot of re-branding. It's what makes The Mail the paper it is.

Have you ever been to a supermarket when you're a bit strapped for cash and bought the Bulgarian Merlot because it's £3.19? Ever felt slightly embarrassed because there's a guy standing a few feet away looking at the eye level shelf where the wine is all £10 a bottle and upwards. He is The Daily Mail. He'll look at you, judge you, and feel better about it.

If I can squeeze another analogy out of this already tortured metaphor then Basildon made the mistake of buying the Bulgarian Merlot and serving it to The Mail at a dinner party. (The Mail treated it like 'come dine with me' and had a conversation in the taxi on the way home about *those hideous curtains*. At some point he will have said 'gauche' without really knowing what it meant.)

The mail's not the only one sticking the boot in. Someone's started a Facebook page entitled "I LOL'd at Basildon's new sign". It is, as Facebook groups so often are, a crushing vortex of negativity and bad grammar.

One contributor posted;

"Local council obviously has too much spare cash floating around 90K is an extream (sic) when people are out of work and only get £64 a week !!! What a joke."

Now, I'll be generous and ignore the spelling mistake and multiple exclamations. There's another error which really worries me; She doesn't know the difference between central and local government. She hasn't a clue.

Local government don't do benefits. The leader of the council could paint his bum blue and jump off the public gallery of parliament and it wouldn't increase JSA payments by a penny. Neither Facebook nor the Daily Mail are going to tell her. They're not going to say, "don't worry love, it's not coming from your council tax". Neither are they going to tell her about the other £310 grand Basildon's got to improve street lighting and tidy up the main route in to the town.

She'll rumble on with her unfocused and terrifyingly arbitrary rage until next month (and here's the really worrying thing) when she gets to vote. Twice. Once for the council, and once for the government.

Her opinions will most likely be based on what she reads in the paper and what her friends say on Facebook, and neither of those are journalism.

Journalism is about truth (Stop sniggering at the back). It's about informing people about what's going on in the world. When I train journalists I tell them their job is to be the eyes and ears of people who are too busy living their lives. It's a sacred trust. It's what journalism does. I go to council meetings so you don't have to. That's the job of the press.

What we now have isn't a press though, it's a mangle, compressing everything down to a banal chant of "hell in a hand basket" where detail is irrelevant.

Life, the world, politics, economics are all freakishly complicated you see. For instance, the money that pays for the Basildon sign is central government tax money, so it comes from everyone with a job or who buys anything, theoretically more from people who earn and buy more, less from the rest. The Government gives the money to an agency to spend on stuff to achieve what the government wants, which is to see the south east get more business. Then a group makes up some targets for how to spend it and tells councils the cash is there. They then apply for it and a man in the agency, who's never met Gordon Brown or the leader of Basildon Council decides they can have it and gives them a cheque. No government minister ever said "Here's 9 billion quid ... see if you can tart up Basildon's welcome sign." but you'll never read that in the paper. Too complicated you see. Not punchy enough. Not what the punters want to read. You're also unlikely to read "Government earmarks 9 billion for south east regeneration". Not enough to lampoon there.

Here are two more nuggets of information our Facebook correspondent will never get to hear;

The money for the sign is coming from the Thames Gateway Fund, a pot of 9 billion pounds to boost business in the south east. That makes the £90k 0.000001 percent of the fund. The rest is going to build affordable housing and encourage investment to create new jobs. Not a penny came from the council tax in Basildon.

The Basildon cash is being paid to a local firm to make the sign. I don't know whether it's created any jobs because no-one bothered to speak to the company in any of the reports I read but I suspect the order was welcome.

So there you have it. My rant. About Basildon. You don't care about Basildon, I don't care about Basildon, neither of us care about the woman on Facebook. Neither does the Daily Mail. She's stupid, we're clever, she doesn't matter, it's all meaningless right?

Right. Go to bed, go to work, do what you do. It doesn't matter.

One more thing before I go though. In every general election since 1972 the party that won in Basildon was in Government the next day.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

30 things you can’t do with a broken hand.

It wasn’t until I broke my right hand in a “door related accident” that I realised 1) How much I use it, and 2) How utterly useless my left hand is. For the paltry 3 weeks the bulbous plaster and polyurethane 'gimp-fist' was on, I gradually compiled a list of things I simply could not do. I’d like to share a few of those with you.

1. Wash my left armpit:

I’m told you can’t lick your own elbow. As there is no earthly reason why you’d ever want to I suggest we replace this truism with the more potentially helpful “You can’t get shower gel and water into your left armpit without your right hand”. It would have saved me hours of trying.

2. Open ring-pull cans:

My mother suffers from arthritis in her hands and has always complained about these “new fangled” tins. I, being young and indestructible, always took such things with a pinch of salt. She’s still laughing at me.

3. Unscrew anything:

As a man I pride myself on the ability to open things. When adverts portray us as the brainless football watchers and sock sniffers in a female wonderworld of order and sense, I have remarked wryly that the fairer sex would at least be denied olives, jam and morello cherries were it not for us. Brothers, let me tell you now, the day you ask the fiancé to perform such a task for you is the day your masculinity dies.

4. Figure out what that revolting smell is:

I became convinced that the fiancé had gone on laundry strike because of my inability to do the other household chores usually reserved for me. Everywhere I went smelled of old socks. A chanced attempt to scratch my nose with the broken hand revealed that wrapping it in a nylon bandage, encasing it in plaster and not washing it for three weeks has the same effect as it would on a foot, only much, much closer to your face.

5. Wave convincingly:

You give it not a single thought. Simply lift your right hand and wave, but when it’s in plaster and permanently bent slightly at the wrist the effect is more the pawing of a needy puppy than the chirpy acknowledgement you had hoped.

6. Tear the tops off those little paper sachets of sugar:

I dislike paper sachets of sugar in restaurants. It smacks of penny pinching. Presumably the cost of having an employee actually fill a bowl and insert a spoon makes it worth giving your customers the impression they are not to be trusted to use a sensible amount if left to their own devices. If the customer has a broken hand however there is a real financial incentive. By the time they have opened enough sachets, the coffee is cold and they have to buy another.

7. Write:

Here's how it goes; I’m going to the shops ... I’ll write a list ... bugger. I’m watching TV ... must write down that website ... bugger. At a meeting ... I’ll put that in my diary ... bugger. Must get a lottery ticket ... now to fill in the little check box ... oh for goodness sake!

8. Sleep comfortably:

There is a very good reason no-one has ever made a teddy bear out of Gouda-scented plaster of Paris and polyurethane.

9. Sign my name:

My signature is, at best, a hieroglyph dredged from the “Other Side” where monsters lurk and envy our world. Once the hand used to execute this sigil is wrapped in an inch of plaster of Paris the hand tends to skid, stretching it to even greater lengths. My request for a book of those giant charity presentation cheques was met with a stony response from the bank.

10. Turn keys in stiff locks:

When it’s dark and wet and cold and the only sound above the rain is the rhythmic slamming of your forehead against the still-not-budging front door you’ll wish you’d fixed it before you broke your hand.

11. Get change from the pocket of tight Jeans:

How to make a queue. 1) Take one man with a broken right hand. 2) Put all his change in the right pocket of his jeans. 3) Place him in front of a parking meter in a busy city centre car park. 4) Allow to stand for fifteen minutes or until bludgeoned to death.

12. Shake hands:

Normally I shake men’s hands, women’s hands and dog’s paws as a matter of course. It’s part of my manners ritual. Holding up aforementioned gimp-fist and saying “I would … but…” really doesn’t provide a satisfactory alternative for either party, least of all the dog.

13. Swat flies:

The human male has one, conspicuous ability over his female counterpart; that of being able, in the presence of a wasp or bluebottle fly, to casually swat the offending insect without recourse to a dancing around like a cross between Michael Flatly and a southern Baptist speaking in tongues. When one forgets one’s hand is 18 ounces heavier, 2 inches wider and immeasurably harder, the result is either concussion or broken ornaments.

14. Execute the “Rimmer” salute:

*Twirl, twirl, twirl, flick, slap!* becomes *Twirl, twirl twirl, flick THUNK … “STRETCHER BEARER!”*

15. Learn from my mistakes:

Slapping your hand to your forehead when you’ve blundered is a mild self-administered punishment reminding you to not make the same mistake again. This effect is largely lost with a plaster cast on your hand as it renders you immediately unconscious.

16. Use gloves (Plural):

Two kinds of people wear just one glove; Micheal Jackson and Golfers. One is dead, the others might as well be. The broken handed get to wear one glove and a football sock. This is not an improvement.

17. Use pockets instead of gloves:

James Dean looked moody and rakish in Times Square with his hands thrust in his pockets. He may have had a broken hand, although I don’t recall Dennis Stock ever mentioning it. If he had there would also be an anecdote about the tragic star flailing around like a broken marionette trying to disengage the pot from the pocket.

18. Use oven gloves:

An ordinary hand fits in an oven glove, well, like a glove. A broken one does not. Figuring this out before the soufflé is ready is strongly advised.

19. Use the plaster instead of oven gloves:

Necessity, it turns out, isn’t the mother of invention. It’s the mother of second degree burns.

20. Do ... “Toilet things”:

Many people in the Middle East consider it almost an act of religious observance to use their left hand for the application of certain paper products to certain parts of the body for the removal of certain substances. They have thus had a lifetime’s practice. They spend less time in the smallest room than I do for this very reason.

21. Wear a suit:

A black suit, well fitted in chest and sleeve, is the mark of a man ready to do business. A black suit, torn at the armpit from the force of ramming an orthopaedic cast down a fitted sleeve is not. Add to the picture the crazy pattern of white plaster scuffs and it just looks like a cry for help from a man who asked for pinstripes from an epileptic tailor.

22. Fondle. Anything:

For centuries lovers, scholars and out of work physiotherapists have looked on the Kama Sutra with wonder and anticipation. Little did they know that the number of love making positions could be effectively doubled simply by disabling one of the combatant’s hands. While we’re at it (or not, as the case may be), a discussion of lovemaking in the context of metacarpal fractures would not be complete without mention of two words; Bra and Strap.

23. Use scissors:

“Cut Here” is not a simple instruction. It’s a cruel taunt used by apple juice cartons to mock you.

24. Put drawing pins in a wall:

Normal instructions: Place pin on wall. Press with thumb. Job done. Broken Hand Instructions: Place pin on wall. Press with right thumb. Scream. Attempt steps 1+2 with left hand. Retrieve pin from behind desk where it landed after skidding off wall and flying across room because of complete lack of coordination in left hand. Hold pin in place with left hand. Strike head of pin firmly with forehead.

25. Get my hand down the back of the sofa:

When you’re leaving the house in a rush … when there’s no time to stop at the shop and buy a Twix with a £20 pound note … and if no-one else can help … you need … sofa change. Fat chance with a hand the size of a boxing glove.

26. Accurately use a mouse:

Where “Click here for your chance to win X” used to be a simple and ignorable invitation to the gullible. It has now become an aspiration.

27. Play Pictionary:

In preparation for a night in with a few friends my fiancé suggests board games as a pass-time. “What did you have in mind?” says I. “Pictionary” says she. “You’re all heart” says I, holding up hand. “Ah” says she. I’m just glad we didn’t invite David Blunkett.

28. Play guitar:

I don’t play guitar. I didn’t before I broke my hand. In the corner of the office sits a guitar nevertheless. In three weeks I managed to convince myself that the only thing stopping me from learning to play the guitar was the damned plaster cast. This turned out to be untrue.

29. Do press-ups:

So far one of the very few benefits of the broken hand has been the release from the tyranny of the fitness Nazis. It’s like a golden sick-note. I’m considering having a fake cast made so that at dinner parties in future I can be exempted from the inevitable gym conversation with a wave of the pot and a shrug conveying the sentiment “I’d love to but…”.

30. Explain to anyone that I didn’t get the injury in a fight:

When you break the fifth metacarpal in your dominant hand, everyone over a certain age will tell you, in a knowing voice, tinged with disdain, that it is ‘a boxer’s injury’. It is more than mildly ironic, given I have never boxed, never particularly wished to box and currently cannot box, that the one time I really want to punch someone is for telling me I have ‘a boxer’s injury’. Next time when they ask what I did to break my hand I’ll say “I was talking to someone about having a broken hand and they said it was a boxer’s injury and I punched them so hard I broke my hand again”.