Tuesday, 25 May 2010

British Politics Explained

Well, actually, no it isn't
British politics has got a bit strange. First of all, who on earth is Nick Clegg? Here's who:

Nick Clegg, of the Lib Dem persuasion
Has ambitions to rule the whole nation
But he's out of the race
Unless we embrace
Proportional representation

But lucky Nick gets to lord it over the big bruising Tory and Labour parties, since whoever he pals up with gets to form a government. Let's sum it up with a natty rhyme:

Nick Clegg, amongst pigs just a piglet
Points the finger of power! Watch him wiggle it
Tory or Labour?
What a moment to savour!
Draw straws? Or perhaps just a Twiglet

So he went with the Tories, as they have a nicer office, and we now have a coalition. What does this mean? Here goes:

Nick Clegg, now assistant PM
Is brimming with vigour and phlegm
The Lords out of steam!
A new voting regime!
Incidentally, favouring Lib Dem

Here comes that posh David Cameron!
At Downing Street's door he comes hammerin'
With his wife, cat and dog,
The kids, the pet frog
At this rate he won't get his grandma in

And as for the previous lot:

Gordon Brown, that old one-eyed campaigner,
Makes room for a fresher chicaner1
But soon, post-vacation
He'll deliver oration
If you pay him a handsome retainer

1 - Well, if chicanery is a word, then the person who does it must be a chicaner. Right?

Friday, 7 May 2010

Nun Of The Above

Green, and proud of it
So - Britain has a hung parliament, and my goodness, it's well hung. Does this mean we can string 'em all up? No; it means even more dither, dishonesty, doom and disaster than usual. Herewith, a cautionary tale.

Sister Euphorbia gingerly descended from the bus outside the polling station, propelled by a sense of duty, but restrained by the butterflies filling her stomach. Sister Euphorbia had never voted before, but the stream of politicians arriving at the door of the convent to solicit the votes of the sisters, and the never-ending television, radio and newspaper messages had finally convinced her that this 2010 British General Election was important; and terribly terribly close.

The convent sat prettily in the village of Upper Woppingham, square in the middle of the sleepy Dorset seat of Bunchester. And this had the unwelcome distinction of being the closest-fought seat in the country. Pubs and hotels were full of newspaper hacks and political hangers-on, and Bunchester wasn't liking it much.

Thirty years ago it had been a safe Conservative seat, but after the long-term incumbent was photographed by a tabloid newspaper, indulging one of his unfortunate habits in his greenhouse, the capricious voters turned in their droves to the Liberal Democrats. Slowly they were coming back, particularly since the age of consent was lowered, and people seemed more relaxed about that sort of thing anyway. Now the race was neck-and-neck, a close battle in a nationwide contest too close to call.

So Sister E, traditionally aloof from the sordid intrigues of politicians, felt the hand of destiny on her shoulder, and breaking the habit of a lifetime1 she took herself out to vote.

Sister E was no shrinking violet, having honed her battle skills teaching reluctant fourth formers French, and rugby. So why, she asked herself, was she so nervous? Could it be that her vote, her one vote, would be the one that made all the difference? Or could it be, that even after all the leaflets and broadcasts and insincere handshakes, she had not the faintest clue where to cast her vote?

Yes. That was it. As she neared the council hall where the polling station was set up, she found herself asking for divine inspiration; a sign. Any sign. But there were no signs; and she queued up to collect her ballot paper, and she signed herself off on the electoral roll, and she headed to the little booths, with a feeling of responsibility to which she was unequal. She hadn't felt like this since the convent had installed Sky TV and put her in charge of the remote control.

Finally at the booth, she opened the folded ballot paper with shaking fingers. In this, the closest-run constituency in England, there were no fewer than twelve candidates; and she began to scan the list of names. But there, right at the top, was the name of Ron Tibbles, standing for the Green Party. It was a sign! Tibbles - her beloved cat! Relieved and thankful, Sister E marked her X for Ron, whoever he was, and headed back to the convent, relieved and thankful.

But Sister E had made a mistake. Further down the list came the name of Einstein Phinbarr Humpty-Dumpty, the Monster Raving Loony candidate. Einstein; her goldfish. Humpty-Dumpty; her hamster. And Phinbarr, who delivered the groceries on a bike on Wednesdays.

So it came to pass that the Green Party, with their one seat, won by one vote, and were able to hold a casting vote in the Mother of Parliaments, because the other parties were exactly tied. And Britain began a new age of eco-socialism, where everyone walked or cycled to work, and the motorways were dug up for flowerbeds, and compost collectives sprang up everywhere, and everyone had to be in bed by nine o'clock to save electricity, leading to the biggest baby boom in human history, followed shortly by the biggest economic collapse in human history.

But most ironically of all for Sister E, the Greens quickly carried out their manifesto pledge of closing all convents and monasteries to make room for wind farms, rehousing the nuns and monks in old nuclear submarines. Come the next election, she intended to go and vote the bastards right out again; but the bus by then was pedal-powered, and alas, she just couldn't be bothered.

And of course, none of this is even remotely true, but I liked the title, and it fitted. Who did you vote for?

1 - And that's the last habit joke. This is serious stuff

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

A Chap's Guide To Childbirth

Here comes the bride - and before you know it...
I am delighted to announce I'm an uncle for the 22nd time (!); and Mrs. G's little bro, ChrisProles, is even more delighted to be a Dad for a second time.

Having been through the childbirth thing three times myself, I had intended to equip him with the benefit of my vast experience. Well, better late than never. Here's some top tips.

1. Stay at the top end

Childbirth is a pretty messy and unfeasibly stretchy process, and if you want to continue thinking of your missus in a romantic way in the future, better stay away from the ghastly business end of things. That's what nurses and midwifes are for. Your job is to mop her fevered brow, and stare lovingly into her eyes, while she swears at you and tells you it's all your fault.

2. Wear waterproof shoes1

When number one son was born Don Johnson was quite trendy, and I wore white canvas shoes. Big mistake. I'll spare you the details.

3. Childbirth is really painful

At number one son's birth, Mrs G decided to relieve her own discomfort by grabbing my hair and banging my head repeatedly against the wall. For number two daughter, the most comfortable birthing position required me to bend over for three hours while she used me as a human crutch. For number three son, she kicked a midwife clean across the room, although I emerged unscathed, having procured a crash helmet and a kevlar vest, and the wise habit of keeping my distance.

4. Keep your advice to yourself

'Push!' I said. 'I'll give you ****ing push', she answered, 'you ****wit ****er, **** off and don't come back.' And that was just the midwife. Mrs. G was even worse. She didn't mean it, of course, it was just the epidural speaking, but I learnt to limit my encouragement to smiles and gestures after that.

5. Newborn babies are unbelievably ugly

Lulled into a false sense of security by Hollywood births, where the smiling infant emerges with beautiful curls and a full set of teeth, I was pretty shocked when I saw our first newborn. Mrs G thought he was the most beautiful thing she'd ever seen; but to me he looked like a mini Conehead after a brutal deathmatch mud-wrestle. 'What's wrong with him?' I asked in great concern. 'Ah,' said the happy midwife, apparently not hearing me, 'he's got his Dad's looks.'

6. Get your chequebook out, and keep it out

You may have thought that rushing out to buy the babyseat, carrycot, nappies, creams, advice books, rattles, dummies, sterilisers, stair gates, safety latches, nipple shields, cutesy shoes and celebration wine/Twiglets was expensive. Ha! Just wait until they get to university. You ain't seen nothing yet.

1 - Or waders if you have them