Fox (n): carnivore of genus vulpes; crafty person; scavenger; (vb) to confuse; -ed (adj): to be drunk.

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Please. Just. Stop.

IT'S only the end of January and already we are awash with candidates for the newly-minted Shut Up And Go Away Award.

This prestigious accolade has just been invented by me as way of justifying the list I have started to keep of people who are not simply annoying but also actively lower the human race's average IQ every time they open their mouths. Largely because a list is more acceptable than sticking my fingers in my ears and saying 'LA LA LA LA LA LA' every time I turn on the telly or open a newspaper.

While social media gives us the ability - and thank heaven for it - to block, ignore, defriend, report or otherwise get rid of those who irritate us with their constant baby updates, idiotic chirrups or world-class unpleasantness, evolution has so far failed to provide the universal 'dislike' button on people's foreheads which would improve all of our lives no end.

It would cut the murder rate, end the need for ASBOs, and mean none of us have to hear from the former Duchess of York ever again.

But while we wait for our genes to catch up with modern social mores the next best thing is what I am going to call the Shugway, which sounds a lot like what I tell ex-boyfriends when they start lurking nearby at closing time.

The current list of nominees for January is:

* Denise Welch. For everything.

* Keira Knightley. For promoting a film of a love affair that never happened by pretending it's all about the art, while pictured in her knickers, when people are only interested in her being spanked. This one may also be nominated in the Get Over Yourself category.

* The entire House of Commons. For resolutely failing to do anything useful.

* Frankie Cocozza. For the hair.

* Robert Peston. For not being able to communicate properly.

* Lara Pulver. For going naked in Sherlock Holmes when the role didn't demand it while claiming it was "empowering".

* Mark Wright. For being a vortex of pointlessness.

Frankly if I never saw hide nor hair of any of these people again my life and general outlook would be massively improved. I don't want anything awful to happen to any of them, I just want them to shut up, and go away.

So who are your nominees? Am I being unreasonable? Cast your votes.

Yes it's a slow news day. What of it?

Monday, 30 January 2012

Hope springs.

THERE are days when you wonder why humanity bothers.

When a man in charge of a bank is expected to act like a vicar; when prices go up and quantity goes down; when a man arguing for his nation's independence says he wants to keep the Queen as head of state; when a woman is criticised for wondering if she can do a better job than the current ham-fisted leader of her political party; when a gap-toothed Denise Welch flashes her bra at photographers (not included here because I'm eating my lunch).

Quite often though there is a story which, due to the fact stupid people always get more notice, attracts less attention but ought to be shouted about from the rooftops.

Two years ago Laura Dekker, then aged 14, announced that she wanted to circumnavigate the globe. She had wanted to do so since she was eight and her dad, quite reasonably, told her not to be so daft. Eventually she wore him down and he agreed to support her. She had spent her whole life on boats anyway and he trained her in a few extra things, she sought and got sponsorship for herself and between them they fitted up a vessel for her.

When she told her school she wouldn't be back next term because she was sailing around the world, social services were called and a big court battle ensued. Laura's mother was understandably terrified for her, the authorities insisted it was certain death, and at one point Laura was so upset she cut herself and was taken to hospital. Another time she ran away to St Maarten in the Caribbean.

Eventually the court decided that, if psychologists and sailing experts said Laura was up to the challenge, the decision to let her go was her parents' and not that of the state. The parents agreed, Laura took courses on how to suture her own wounds and promised to keep in regular radio contact, and off she sailed.

This girl covered 27,000 miles. She fixed her own rudder when it broke, did her homework, survived on 20-minute catnaps in busy waters and had to overcome waves in the Southern Ocean bigger than the average house. She survived extreme conditions, on her own, and apart from blogging it largely to keep sponsors and family happy has totally shunned the celebrity and attention her achievement has thrown her way.

She circumnavigated the globe. On her tod. Sir Francis Drake would sit there with his mouth open if he knew.

You can look at this in one of two ways: either she has taken the teenage strop to new and impressive levels, or she's virtually a mermaid. In either case she's utterly, completely, inspiringly brilliant.

She has conquered difficulties most of us can't imagine and is still only 16. SIXTEEN. When I was her age I looked like Cousin It and spoke in grunts.

She doesn't know what she wants to do next, apart from her school exams. But whatever it is, I'll bet my brush it's going to be something absolutely amazing.

Hats off to a spotty kid who's going to be an awesome woman.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Food for finking.

THERE is nothing more pernicious, nasty, illogical and wrong than someone insisting they know best.

The worst is when they think some food is good for you and some is bad, and that if you don't follow some very narrow, arbitrary rules that bear no relation to scientific fact you will die a gruesome early death.

Like the insistence that calories make you fat, cholesterol will give you heart disease and YOU MUST EAT BEANS.

Well, that's bollocks.

Someone who eats nothing but kiwi fruit has a diet just as bad as that of someone who eats nothing but chicken nuggets. One kiwi fruit has about the same number of calories as half a bag of Maltesers, whereas chicken nuggets are an excellent source of protein. A slice of chicken breast has more calories than a Mars bar, but no-one would argue it's bad for you.

Orange juice has SEVEN TIMES as many calories as a cup of coffee, a strawberry yoghurt has nearly as many grams of fat as a hamburger, and an avocado has the same amount of fat as a quarter pounder with cheese. Alcohol is ram-packed with calories, but I've lost count of the number of times someone's told me they're on a diet while sipping a large glass of wine.

There is more vitamin C in a bag of chips than in an orange. Jaffa cakes contain less fat than a bowl of cornflakes. There is more vitamin A in liver than in an apple. Cocoa beans are packed with fat, but if you eat chocolate with a high cocoa content it helps protect your heart.

There's nothing wrong with calories - without them you couldn't move. There's nothing wrong with cholesterol - it is a vital constituent of every single cell in your body. There is nothing wrong with fat - we are evolved to digest, store and burn it. It's having too much of those things and not doing anything to work them off which causes trouble, and that alone.

What we are not evolved to deal with is man-made rubbish. So it's the trans-fats in processed food and takeaways which stay lodged in our bodies, undigested, and get packed around our cells because our livers cannot get rid of them quickly. It's preservatives, emulsifiers and chemicals which do not exist in nature, the wrong kind of fat, which causes us problems.

If you put a tub of butter outside on a summer day, it will be surrounded by insects pretty quickly. It's a natural source of energy and animals will lap it up. If you put a tub of margarine next to it the insects will leave it untouched, because margarine was invented by man as a nasty paste to fatten up turkeys and even ants disdain it.

Take this example. A doctor put two trays of processed food on her surgery counter in 2010 and 2011 respectively. Neither has decreased in size, grown mould, or decayed in any way. What makes you think that your liver and kidneys want to take it on?

A study of half a million people over eight years found those who ate lots of fruit and vegetables had exactly the same incidence of breast, prostate, bowel, lung and other cancers as those who didn't. Cancer is caused by genetic and environmental factors, as well as chemicals in the diet. You can eat all the fruit you like but if you smoke or live downwind of a paint factory it's won't help much.

There are 13 vitamins and according to biochemists the three that come in fruit - A, C, K1 - can be absorbed by the human body only if they are accompanied by fat molecules. So strawberries will do you more good if you have cream with them. All the other vitamins, by the way, have better sources in other food groups, not least of which is red meat.

Too much sugar, calories and fat is obviously bad for you. But a little bit of everything, whether it's strawberries, scones, steak, kiwi fruit or Victoria sponge, is absolutely fine, in fact it's the healthiest kind of diet to have. And better still if it's as natural as possible and the ingredients on the label don't include a long-named chemical compound which is a total mystery to you.

Butter doesn't kill people - stupidity does. And if you needed any proof you need only to look at the picture below. One woman is 52 and eats butter, red meat and cream. The other is 53 and eats mainly mung beans and man-made tofu. I know one has a spinal condition and isn't wearing make-up, but personally I think they look like there's 40 years between them.

You will also notice that only one of them is smiling.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Britain at war, 2012.

BRITAIN today threatened to end Iran's nuclear posturing by sending troops to the Middle East.

Defence Secretary Phil 'Big Dick' Hammond said that despite sacking 7,100 service personnel in the past year the UK could still be in charge of the whole planet.

Mr Hammond said the nation had a "contingent capability" to provide more troops, with staff working around the clock.

He said: "The Chief of Defence Staff has folded up some paper and cut some shapes in it so when you unfold it there's loads of men. Our top Admiral is making some boats out of The Wellygraph and the Air Vice Marshal is going to be colouring it all in. We have the best-trained military in the world!"

On Sunday one of the Royal Navy's few remaining warships, HMS Argyll, sailed through the Strait of Hormuz with all crew ordered to frown heavily in the direction of Tehran. It will continue to sail up and down the vital waterway in the shadow of a MAHOOSIVE American aircraft carrier which doesn't even know it's there for as long as reporters are interested.

Other warships are in the area on operations and can be ordered to join Argyll if the situation escalates, said Mr Hammond, who was speaking via the rubber ducky in his bath.

He said: "We firmly believe in strong measures to illustrate how peeved we are that Iran might be developing a nuclear QUACK bomb. Just because we lost £5bn of military equipment in Afghanistan, including 4,100 radios and a £50,000 set of helicopter blades, does not mean that we are QUACK incompetent idiots. We do not need actual real personnel or actual real equipment, because we are QUACK British and it is well-known this makes us victorious at everyQUACKthing."

Foreign Secretary William Ehhhhhhh Hague struck a more cautious note, urging hardline Iranian President Irma Dinnerjacket to comply with EU oil sanctions, keep the Strait of Hormuz open and respond to concerns of the International Atomic Energy Authority.

He said: "This is not a set of actions designed to lead to any conflict but to lead us away from conflict, because if we had a fight we'd be absolutely battered, like we'd had 14 pints or something. I once had 14 pints. Happy days. We could send an aircraft carrier, or some Harrier jets, and really put the wind up Mr Dinnerjacket, but we haven't got any so instead we'd like him just to turn it down a notch and think of the neighbours."

Last night in a sustained tirade on Iranian state TV Mr Dinnerjacket was seen rolling about on the floor and holding his sides laughing for a solid twenty minutes before wiping his eyes and addressing his people.

He said: "Ha ha, you crazy infidels. You make me giggle. You lose all your money and no-one listens to you and you still think we should be frightened of you. Even our dogs disdain you! You are rubbish at everything except making helicopter blades, these ones I have here are great and very shiny, but man these radios are shit. I keep getting something called The Archers, which is vile Western running-dog Zionist propaganda about the oppression of the Grundys. I am wise to this. You also very good at making nuclear bombs, which you stupidly put on internet. We have built bomb with Google and there is NOTHING you can do. Sail your little ships around if you like, even your stiffy lips can't save you now!"

"I point warheads at Ambridge. That show Brian."

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Scrutinise this.

LET me explain something to you about humans.

This is that if you don't keep an eye on them, they will do whatever they can get away with.

I mean they're generally pretty great - humans by and large are well-intentioned and reasonably-behaved. They will offer help or a kind word to strangers. But they're also programmed to steal, cheat, lie, whatever it takes to win the race they think they're in.

What starts off as a minor transgression, a cheeky way of just getting a little ahead of the next guy, will be repeated time and again as humans tell themselves it's not a big deal right up to the point where someone catches them in the middle of a major crime spree.

So a till which can be easily emptied without anyone noticing will attract one or two people who take a fiver for a laugh. A fiver becomes a tenner, word spreads, a few more people dip in and before you know it many of the public servants in the Houses of Parliament find a reporter knocking on their door asking why they've paid off three mortgages with taxpayer-funded expenses.

It seemed perfectly reasonable to every human being who was personally benefiting from it, and less so to the humans who were paying for it.

In exactly the same way billionaires like Robert Maxwell have nicked hundreds of millions of pounds from their companies while thinking there's nothing wrong in it, but it's not much different to what plenty of other business people do every day in slightly-more-legal ways.

By the same token if you dabble in Middle Eastern politics over many decades, playing one unreasonable side off against another while taking little note of what the same sides are doing at home, one you may suddenly find more than one party has developed or is on the road to getting nuclear weaponry, by which point the international community finds itself looking at a hand which involves only Def Con I, Def Con II, and an almighty mess.

And inevitably, if you're a policeman who knows journalists broke the law to listen to the voicemails of a missing schoolgirl and don't point out the wrongness of their behaviour, arrest them or at the very least have a long chat with their boss, they're going to think not only 'it's not that wrong' but also that they can carry on doing it.

Of course it's all wrong to start with - it's wrong to take someone else's money, fiddle around with plutonium, or listen to other people's phone messages. Of course everyone should not do it to start with. But humans do, because they tell themselves it is justified and keep saying it until someone puts them straight.

If you see a red light, and you're in a hurry, you might put your toe down just to sneak through. What does it matter? Each time you do it you're risking your life and health, as well as that of a handful of strangers, yet you do it anyway.

Imagine that the traffic light in question was outside a police station. No-one stops you, so you keep right on doing it. Then one day you smash into another car, and need to be cut out by the fire brigade. A copper comes and sees you in hospital and asks you what you were playing at.

And you say: "But no-one said I shouldn't."

Which is why we all need to be scrutinised, regularly. People who complain about being watched are generally trying to get away with something, in my experience. That's why a free Press is an invaluable thing, why cuts to the police force are a really bad idea, and why the United Nations needs to grow a pair, quicksmart.

Even democracy needs to be checked. We have an elected House of Commons which should, by dint of being elected, get to say what happens. But sometimes they get carried away, and the current lot found themselves there not because we liked them but because we couldn't decide which of them was the least bad.

Two-thirds formed themselves into a Coalition and came up with a financial plan which some like and some don't, but which has yet to improve things. Part of it involves putting a cap on the benefits people can claim when they're on their uppers, a move no-one much could argue with and which has been bolstered by regular leaks about immigrant-mums-of-six living in million-pound houses.

Outrageous! Take their dole away.

Except the dole is all of £60 a week, and the reason immigrant-mums-of-six are in stinking big houses are because we sold off our social housing stock more than 20 years ago. Councils are still legally-bound to provide homes and so are forced to make use of the private rental market, where your average human landlord charges whatever they can get away with, leading inevitably to a workless family being allotted £1,000 a week which goes straight into that landlord's pocket (this is why wages are better).

A cap on how much we spend on that sort of thing must be good - but we're capping what the family can be allotted, rather than what the landlord can earn out of local authorities. Because this seems impractical, unfair and more expensive in the long run when the plan got passed by our elected representatives and went to the House of Lords to be rubber-stamped, they forced an amendment to raise the cap.

This has caused a stink, because the Lords are unelected and the MPs think they should be able to do what they like. But the task of the second house has always been to scrutinise the first, and when they nalls up - as they often do - to be a check on their immense power.

The Lords consist of many people, from bishops to career politicians, charlatans to great worthies, people who were born to a title and those who only turn up when they feel like claiming the allowance. It can be an out-of-date waste of money, and at the same time a repository of great experience and careful thought by people who try to get it right rather than just make a name for themselves.

In throwing the benefits bill back to the MPs they've not only pointed out its flaws and ensured, probably, a fairer piece of legislation but they've also seriously hacked off Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, which is no bad thing.

I know he thinks he's right, every time he opens his mouth I worry that the phrase 'work camps' is going to come out.

"You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? Well, I'm the only one here."

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

What do they do all day?

THERE are more people out of work than at any time in the past 17 years.

There are more people aged 16 - 24 without a job than at any point since records began.

Inevitably, this means there are more people claiming benefits in order to pay for food, heating, and housing.

There are more people working part-time, fewer taking early retirement, and fewer mums who can afford to stay at home to raise their children.

It doesn't really matter what your personal politics are, because left, right, or raving loony you should be able to see that these things do not add up to anything good.

In fact logic tells you that unless it improves fairly radically the cost to the state in terms of welfare, crime levels, poor health and social problems will be greater and have far more wide-reaching effects than bailing out the banks in the first place, which is what has led to our current plight.

Perhaps we should have let the banks fail; perhaps it was better to avoid that. Who can say?

There is one truth that is absolutely unavoidable and does not relate in the slightest to politics.

This is that 8.4 per cent of the people here are out of work:

And 100 per cent of the people in here are not:

MPs earn £65,738 a year, plus expenses, which works out to around £180 a day.

The maximum Jobseekers' allowance available to someone over 25 is £3,510 a year, which works out to around £9.61 a day.

I can't help thinking that if we switched the rates of pay around, the feckless, lazy scroungers who leech off the state might pull their bloody finger out and do some work.

And the ones without jobs might do better as well.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Don't read what they don't want you to know.

IMAGINE that you lived in a country where you could not speak freely.

Where, if you were gossipping with a friend in the pub and were overheard by someone, you could be legally bound from never repeating your conversation again under threat of losing your home, your job, and your liberty.

Imagine you lived in the kind of country where if you ran a small bookshop which happened to sell a biography critical of someone in the public eye, that person could knock you out of business using his financial might as easily as an extremist could lob a bomb through the window.

Consider what it must be like to know that the man adopting your grandchildren is a child abuser, but to have no right to be heard in the secret court which rubber stamps his application.

Imagine a nation where children are encouraged to act like miniature adults rather than children, where they can be forced into marriage under the guise of 'cultural reasons', where social workers have no right of access to their homes, where children are smuggled in and out with ease to be mistreated.

The kind of place where prostitution is almost the only growth industry, where women in the public eye are objectified and only those who make themselves sexually available are considered attractive or worth listening to.

This country is the sort of nation where they pretend they do not torture their prisoners, because they outsource it to someone else. It is a place where they demonise the poor and needy, where anyone in need of help is considered a leech, and where if you say any of these things is wrong you are simply laughed at.

Welcome to Britain in the 21st century.

Britain is the country where, if you had sex with someone famous and chatted to your mate about it afterwards, he could sue you out of existence on the basis you were telling the truth. If you tell a newspaper about it because there was some kind of public interest in an element of your union, he could in theory financially obliterate not only that newspaper and its holding company, but the editor, the reporter, the page designers, the printers, the distributors, the newsagents and you and your mate as well. Perhaps instead of sex you are chatting about the business interests of a billionaire - he could do the same, and considering the examples of Robert Maxwell and James Goldsmith, do so with considerably more viciousness.

Britain is a country which has secret courts all the time - for family issues, child criminals, injunctions, medical tribunals and for people who are considered mentally incapacitated. Some may be reasonable but we don't presume everything should be open, and judge which courts should be private on a case-by-case basis. We err on the side of secrecy.

Britain is a place where rich criminals in boardrooms get favourable treatment from the Crown Prosecution Service, police and court system. Poor ones, by comparison, are dismissed as a criminal underclass for whom there is no hope, even if they have committed the same crimes as their wealthier counterparts. A middle-class man who beats his wife very often gets a different sentence to an unemployed one. Prison reformer Elizabeth Fry proved in 1817 that rehabilitation was always more productive than punishment. Yet 195 years later our prisons are still bursting, and crime is on the rise.

Britain is a country where a public-service broadcaster in the shape of Channel 4 has reported children in the travelling community do not attend school until the age of 16 and often marry beneath the age of consent 'for cultural reasons', as though this justified child abuse and a lack of basic human rights.

And Britain is a country whose security services sit and watch while people accused of terror offences are terrorised themselves. As a journalist who has often been threatened with arrest under anti-terror legislation by idiot police officers, I tend to wonder if they might not be actual terrorists. And as a human being I tend to think that the whole point about the war on terror is that We are supposed to be better than Them, which means not terrorising others even if they are Them.

Last week it was only the unelected, anachronistic and out-of-touch House of Lords which drew attention to a welfare reform bill which will promote horrid discrimination against the sick and the dying, because our democratically-elected MPs had already nodded it through.

And Britain is a country where just about the only check on all these horrible things is a Press which, thanks to the misbehaviour of a handful of idiots, is currently subject of a massive inquiry and so terrified of putting a foot out of place that these things are not being shouted about from the rooftops. In the current climate, every kind of story is thin on the ground - not just shagging stories but also corporate whistleblowers, political boat-rockers, and journalistic investigations which take time, money, and subterfuge as well as editorial daring.

What can we do about it? Not much, to be honest. The Press will be cowed - and rightly so, on some counts - for a good while yet, the Government's not about to change and our legal system, despite being rooted in medieval mores, seems immune to what the public wants.

But it would be good if at least a few of us knew these problems existed, because knowledge is the only thing which leads to progress. Which is a long-winded way of suggesting you read a new book by my comrade-in-arms Nick Cohen, who argues that rather than being free we are in fact censored and oppressed on an almost unprecedented scale.

You might agree or not, but unless you know the facts you can't make up your own mind. And more than anything else, this is the book bad people don't want you to read.

I have two copies, on principle.
(And also because I forgot I'd pre-ordered one.)

Click here to buy on Amazon.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Walking with my Nana.

WHEN I was eight years old we went to see my Nana.

She was my dad's mum and she was in a hospice because she wasn't very well. I didn't know what a hospice was but because it wasn't quite as long a word as hospital I decided it must be for people who were a bit sick but not very.

I remember holding mum's hand while we walked through corridors which smelled funny, and the tan-coloured boots she was wearing.

When we got to Nana's room she was in a bed facing the window, and she noticed us stood in the doorway. Nana held her arms out to me and said: "I'm so sorry."

I let go of mum's hand and ran to give Nana a cuddle, and she swept me up in her arms. My face was pressed against her neck and it felt funny, all cold and fleshy, and there seemed to be more of it than normal.

Anyway she let me go and the rest of the family came in. I don't remember much else except sitting on the window sill, watching my parents at the bed and reading my book.

A few weeks later I came down for breakfast and mum said Nana had died in her sleep. Dad was looking out at the garden, and mum gave me a hug while I cried. She said I could go to the funeral and I didn't have to go to school.

Afterwards mum and dad said I could pick one thing from Nana's house to remember her by. I chose a teddy bear which she kept on her green sofa in the living room. She used to have lots of bears, and told me since my Gramps died they looked after her when she was asleep. Over a year or so she gave them, one at a time, to me. On our last visit there was only one small bear left, and when I asked her how such a small bear was going to look after her she said he was all she needed. So after she died I asked for that bear, because although he hadn't looked after her very well he might be happier with all the other bears in my toy box.

The years passed. When I was 14 years old, over Sunday lunch one day, my parents for some reason were talking about Nana and I, for once, didn't have my head buried in a book. They said she died from breast cancer, and I said: "Did she?"

Mum said I was too young to know at the time, but Nana had a tumour under her arm which grew up her neck and went into her brain. She knew for a year before she died that there was nothing they could do, and in the last few months in that hospice she was in so much pain that the amount of morphine she needed made her do funny things. One day she packed a suitcase and tried to walk home in her nightie, and mum found her halfway down the road.

That night as I lay in bed I remembered how my Nana said sorry when she saw me in the hospice, her lumpy neck, and how she gave me all her teddy bears when she knew she was going to die. I didn't stop crying all night, or trying to remember everything I could about her.

She was an immigrant, came over here on a ship from Denmark at 13 years old to be a housemaid in a big house in a little village. She married the doctor's chauffeur, and he died very young, before my parents ever met. When I knew her she was old and walked with a stick, but in my wallet is a picture of her with jet black hair and a tea dress, smiling on a summer day with my Gramps who had those funny metal armbands on his shirtsleeves.

When we visited she always bought a Sara Lee cake just for me, and was the first person I ever knew to provide a special knife just for butter. Tea was always in the living room on a table with a white cotton cloth on it, and the cake on a special plate with a doily underneath. She had a parlour which we weren't allowed in, carpets that didn't reach the edge of the stairs and a big glass bottle filled with marbles. She was really good at drawing and newspaper puzzles, and had a thing for musicians because her first husband played the accordion and her second one played the cornet.

My dad says I remind him of his mum. I make huge dramas out of little things just like she did, and most of the boys I've been out with have been in a band. I love my Nana very much but because I was so young when she died the main impact she has had on my life is that I worry my boobs might kill me.

I had a mole removed from my ribcage when I was 18 even though there was nothing wrong with it, because I was terrified it would give me cancer. I've never had the least urge to smoke, because the memories of that hospice are so painful and besides, smokers smell. And I read research about the genetic links to cancer very carefully.

Why am I telling you this? Well, I want your money. When my Nana was diagnosed just half of breast cancer patients in England survived for 10 years - thanks to research and better treatment that figure's now over 70 per cent. It has to improve more though, because one in eight women will get breast cancer, and one in 1,000 men.

I can't do anything to help my Nana now, although I'd give anything to sit and eat a Sara Lee cake with her again. But when and if my turn comes I want to know I did all I could. I want to have had a healthy(ish) lifestyle that kept cancer at arm's length and to know that the doctors can fix me. That's why even though it makes your toenails fall off I am taking part in the Moonwalk this May, an overnight marathon to raise money and awareness for a grant-giving charity called Walk the Walk.

I have joined a team of around 30 people - writers, actors, presenters and others in the media - which last year raised £50,000 this way. We'd like to do better this time so if you can, please sponsor us by clicking here. You can donate to us as a team, or if you want to sponsor me personally you need to select 'Fleet Street Fox' on the donations page.

Every pound you can spare, every effort you make to spread the word about this event and our goals, will make it harder for my boobs to kill me or for yours to do the same to you. By happy coincidence, regular walking can also make them perter and less likely to get cancer, so we all ought to do that too.

Your tits will thank you for it and believe me, you don't want to piss them off. Now if you don't mind I have about four months of training and an awful lot of dramatic moaning and flouncing to do.

My Nana will be with me all the way.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Good work, girls.

HERE are some recent events.

A woman was on national TV this morning because she had two vaginas.

Three women are on an oxymoronic 'celebrity reality' show on the basis they are frequently pictured naked or in swimwear.

A fourth is on the show because she is nationally reviled for having an affair with a married footballer, a fifth is famous for having yo-yoing weight, and a sixth for being a bit of a harridan. There are no other women on the show.

Last week a female TV presenter with a new job gave an interview to a national newspaper (agreed with her agent) in which she discussed how her breasts were not as large as those of her predecessor.

The 11-year-old daughter of two celebrities has been pouting for a fashion photographer in pictures published by her own mother on Twitter.

An actress who caused a row by stripping naked to play a dominatrix in a pre-watershed Christmas drama - adapted from a book in which the strong female character was not a prostitute - says it was "really empowering".

A female politician who has had arguably the most publicity and attention of any woman in the House of Commons bemoaned the fact woman are trivialised in a glossy photo-shoot with a men's magazine.

A 30-year-old who is probably the best-liked female in the country, after her grandmother-in-law, never speaks.

Now, I am no hairy-arsed right-on We-Hate-Clarkson fully-paid-up member of the Wimmin's Brigade. My gender comes in all shapes and sizes, colours and types, and I'm fine with all the ones which aren't morbidly obese, who in my experience are generally lazy and should lay off the cake because they're sucking money out of our health and welfare system and, more importantly, are taking all the cake.

I accept there will always be -isms of many kinds, not least between the genders, but so long as they fire in both directions and don't do too much harm they do not bother me much. Such is life.

But I was raised on tales of strong women doing their best in difficult circumstances - before they had the right to vote, when they fended for themselves in the wars, as they struggled for equal rights in the workplace and their own homes. Despite the fact it's the 21st century I've had to do the same, on occasion. And considering the popularity of this anonymous blog the fact you don't know what I look like doesn't seem to stop you judging whether or not you like me and what I have to say.

I don't know about you but I can't help thinking what Emmeline Pankhurst or Elizabeth I or George Eliot - all of them unpleasant people in their way, intolerant and autocratic, not great to live with but without whose achievements my life would be the poorer - would think, if they spent twenty minutes in our world.

I expect the first 10 would be spent being religious and asking what happened to petticoats, but the last half would involve trying to work out how to get back to their own lives which, as brutal and horrid as they were, generally gave women a jot more credit and respect than we get today.

I don't have a solution for it apart from turning off or away, nor anyone in particular to blame beyond random finger-pointing. I'm just boiling with generalised outrage, because I bet that if you think of the one woman that you most admire in the whole world, she would not put up with any of this shit.

But for some reason we are.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Dear Diary, another quiet week...

ANOTHER day, another reason to bang your head against the wall and scream "WHAT THE HELL ARE THEY THINKING?"

Example number one: the Cabinet yesterday held its weekly meeting in the handball arena at the Olympics park. Let's leave aside for a moment the fact there is a perfectly serviceable Cabinet meeting room in Downing Street, and let's also ignore the local paper photocall of some men in shirt sleeves sitting around a table looking bored, which after many years of painful experience I can tell you looks more like a town council bypass planning sub-committee than a meeting of world statesmen.

Let's concentrate instead on what our beloved Prime Minister Dishface said afterwards. He urged people complaining about the Olympics to "stop grumbling" and added: "This summer’s Olympics will put the eyes of the world on Britain as we host not just an unparalleled sporting spectacle, but also a chance for companies from across the globe to interact and do business here in the UK. We expect these events to generate at least £1billion for British businesses and they are vital to our efforts to secure a long-term return to sustainable growth."

Sounds marvellous, doesn't it? The answer to all our problems.

But hang on, just one cotton-picking minute, sonny Jim. The Olympics are going to make us £1billion? One whole billion British pounds?

That is exactly the same amount we've made from people buying copies of Kate Middleton's frocks. And she hasn't cost us nearly as much as the Olympics so far.

Because the cost of the Olympics, while it repeatedly comes in "on-budget", keeps being ratcheted up like a 15-year-old's school skirt once she's left the house. It was originally £2bn, and today the "on-budget" cost is £9.3bn.

So our return on investment, as a nation, is going to be a loss of 89 per cent. Yes, I think we can all agree, this is an unparalleled spectacle. It's the kind of thing we can tell our grandchildren about in the years to come: "And then the people in charge decided money was unnecessary, largely because they'd pissed it all up the wall anyway, and we started using tears as currency instead."

On the very same day, this picture emerged of our former squadron of Harrier jump jets - one of the greatest British engineering feats of modern times, versatile, beloved, brilliant, and above all quite cheap to run - decommissioned, taped up and bought by the Americans to use as spares for their own Harriers, which they want to keep in service.

Now I'm no economist, but it occurs to me that a nation which gets a better return out of a human coat-hanger and scrap metal trading than regeneration and financial acumen is arguably on its arse.

And we wonder why Scotland wants to leave.

All aboard, and bagsy the whisky.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Dear Sarah Harding...

You don't know me, but I know a bit about you. You were in a reality show that created a pop group called Girls Aloud, whose songs I personally thought pretty awful but which were successful a few years ago. Since then you and your bandmates have DEFINITELY NOT SPLIT and there's constant talk of a reunion which never seems to happen, and you have mainly been pictured entering and leaving nightclubs.

You recently went into and then left rehab. During the past week or so those bits of the nation which care and quite a few which don't have been treated to a - if you'll pardon the bad-taste pun - blow-by-blow account of an argument in an Austrian hotel room with your boyfriend Theo De Vries. You have each said the other was violent, you have each reported the matter to the police, and you have each posed for pictures with your bruises. As human interest stories go it's grimy and depressing in the extreme.

I have had my fair share of arguments. I have gone tonto in the street and been arrested, I have smashed stuff up, the balance of my mind has gone off the scale a few times and I've been the victim of an addicted man who thought it was reasonable to bounce me off the walls of our home. It's none of my business what you get up to, but please take the following advice as coming from someone who knows their shizzle:

1) An affair with someone you meet in rehab is a fucking stupid idea.

2) Yesterday your PR was telling everyone you were sober and the victim of a terrible attack. Today you admit each of you was knocking back the booze, as though this doesn't matter. You are an alcoholic and so is he, so a fight like this was always on the cards. Don't blame your boyfriend for bringing you booze, because of 1).

3) You have the ability to say no. It's difficult and less fun than saying yes, but you can say no to a drink, no to stupid boyfriends, and while this may be a little off-piste I'd like you to say no to a reunion for the sake of my ears and your sanity. Spend some time on your own and get better.

4) You were a pop singer but now you are a 'troubled star'. Your career just jackknifed down the Sophie Anderton slope and that's not a nice place to be. You still have time to back-track but if you don't you're going to be a perma-tanned, scrawny, angry alchy with expensive tastes and no legitimate way of making money, and you're not going to make old bones.

5) You and Theo, as far as I can tell, are both telling the truth about each other and not about yourselves. You hit him and he hit you, and whoever did it first neither of you are in the right because that kind of violence is always wrong. When you fight back in a row all you do is up the ante, and the violence only ever gets worse. Look at yourself as hard as you are looking at him.

6) If your PR hasn't already resigned, get a new one. The decision to drag this nasty mess out publicly has kicked your career in the crotch.

7) See 1) again. And again, and again, and again.

None of this is to say that he's not in the wrong, or that you're not a victim. But when you are in a hole, the hole is all you can see; you don't get any perspective until you climb out of it. It strikes me that the main thing you're a victim of is your illness - you don't need to prove anything, you just need to make better decisions.

Get rid of the bastards, the blame complex, and the booze, otherwise this will keep on happening and it will happen harder and worse. If you choose to, you can rise above it. If you don't then it's going to swallow you.

And go back to rehab.

- Maya Angelou

Wednesday, 4 January 2012


PLASTIC surgery is a wonderful, life-enhancing thing.

Reconstructive work has been around for centuries but the ability to remove 'flaws' was perfected on burns victims in the Second World War. The work that was done then helped to ensure that people with disfiguring injuries can have them reduced - whether that means getting your face repaired, your breasts rebuilt after a mastectomy, or having your todger tacked back on.

Then there are people whose self-worth and psychological health are so low they need the same expertise. Those who develop a hatred for one of their limbs and will only be happy when it's cut off, or people who have been bullied over a perceived imperfection and can only get over it with a nose job.

Fair enough, I hope we'd all agree, on those counts.

But more often plastic surgery is used by people who think they need to be perfect. Women who think they need to have supermodel tits and a cute nose in order to be attractive, or men who get a facelift or a moob reduction.

Do you know what? I've never thought much of my boobs, mainly because they took a long time getting here and all the other girls had theirs first, which meant mine got zero attention from anyone when they finally pitched up. They're not perfect, I'm fairly certain one is a bit wonky, but no-one who's seen them close up has ever complained and when it comes down to it they're mine. They fit in with the rest of me, they do what I expect them to, and I don't feel inclined to have them augmented with sacks of chemicals.

Cutting your own body up and putting crap in it should be a last resort. What would the world be like if every woman had the same norks, or every man the same six-pack? Boring, that's what. There'd be no sense of fun in taking someone's clothes off, no pleasant surprises or quickly-masked disappointment, no sense of adventure, and certainly no stories to be told in the pub later about Gala Melons Girl or Nine Inch Nigel.

Besides, if someone's taking your clothes off purely because of what they think is under them rather than what's on top of it all, it ain't going to last much past morning anyway.

And fiddling around with things that don't need it is always risky. Infection, pain, general anaesthetic, scarring; all stuff we'd rather live without.

I have plenty of sympathy with the people who paid thousands for new boobs only to find the substances used to create them were more poisonous and dangerous than the slightly-less poisonous and dangerous ones that are normal. I think it's shocking private clinics charged full price to patients for giving them cut-price versions which put their health at risk, and I rather think the clinics should fix their problems rather than the NHS.

But I can't help thinking the root problem of this story is not the French conman, or the cretinous doctors, who did that unfortunately human thing of turning a buck at someone else's expense.

The root problem is whatever caused tens of thousands of women, for no medical reason at all, to feel so unhappy with their own perfectly-lovely frames that they paid four figures to be sliced and diced in order to look like someone else. You can blame the media, advertising, Hollywood, newspapers, or our pre-programmed female insecurity. It's probably a bit of all of them, and there's only one possible way of fixing it.

Tell someone that they're looking beautiful. Go on, do it. Don't niggle a loved one, forget to flatter your partner, or make a joke at a colleague's expense. Just make the effort once a week or so to tell another human being they look great. And if no-one does it to you, look in the mirror and say it to yourself.

Because those, my dear, are the best tits you will ever own.

Well, that looks like fun. £4,000 you say?

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

World still stupid. Sorry.

A NEW year! Full of hope! Full of potential! Full of change!

And full of the same old crap as last year, too. Recession still on. Lockerbie bomber still alive. Simon Cowell still in charge of almost everything.

Oh, and offensive things are still happening while we're told they're good for us. Hence the Queen 'reaching out to her subjects' by letting the proles look at her  diamonds (ooh, thanks Yer Maj, would you like us to pay an entry fee too?), women believing chemical pouches in their boobs won't do them any harm (yes, ideal world and all that, but come on), and dry January which medically speaking is about as healthy as bulimia, but without the endorphin rush.

I know 2012 is young as yet but the outbreak of common sense we could all do with does not look likely any time soon. Instead wilful stupidity is infecting everything.

Take, for example, the continued trumpeting of High Court judge Sir Paul Coleridge. You'd think it would be impossible to be a judge while also being thick and obtuse, but somehow he's managed it.

Last year he said: "Obtaining a divorce is easier than getting a driving licence." This despite the fact a driving licence involves a few lessons and a test, while marriage requires neither and divorce, speaking personally, is the most testing thing I've ever done.

Now Sir Paul has set up a foundation - backed by various other law bods whose experience of humanity is from inside a courtroom rather than outside  - to do that ephemeral thing, 'promote marriage'. It will publish research and lobby the government to do what Sir Paul thinks is right.

He says that 3.8million children are "caught up in the family justice system" as a direct result of broken relationships, and that if marriage were harder to leave our children would all be better off.

I am sure there are plenty of youngsters who've gone off the rails because of a split, for many reasons from diverted parental attention to personal unhappiness; the way our ancient legal process turns husbands and wives into adversaries is responsible for a lot of that. But I am also sure that the vast majority of those children 'in the system' are the subject of custody disputes and are, despite that, still pretty much on the rails. I know of quite a few children who acted more reasonably than their parents during their divorce.

And as there are between 11m and 12m children in the UK I am also reasonably certain that a quarter of them are not yet recidivists.

Some marriages need to end. One in four women and one in six men suffer domestic violence, and those unions should cease to protect not only the partners but also their children. Most divorces are on the grounds of adultery and unreasonable behaviour, and in the 21st century no-one should have to put up with either if they don't want to.

The good judge has got things entirely arse-about-face, as usual. The marriage rate per thousand of the population is roughly twice that for divorce, which shows getting hitched is twice as popular and hardly in need of promotion. Twice as many women as men file for divorce, probably because of their ability to continue working and support themselves and their families. Would he rather they were meek little housewives?

And the single causative factor in every single one of those splits was getting married in the first place, which any old fool can do. You turn up at the register office, pay a basic fee of around £60, and that's it.

No lessons. No instructor, no test. The truth is it's harder and more expensive to get a driving licence than it is to get hitched, with the consequent result that lots of people do it because they're in love and they don't stop to think about what will happen when that passes.

To be fair he does say that stronger marriages come from people being more sensible in the first place, but there's quite a lot of people who have tried to encourage that and as the first three days of 2012 have shown we haven't got very far.

But as a serving judge who makes life-changing decisions in Britain's family courts every day, he didn't ought to be lobbying politicians or expressing personal opinions.

We should make getting married more difficult, and getting divorced a lot easier. And until 62-year-old Sir Paul, a married father-of-three who is descended from the same line as renowned opium addict and layabout Samuel Taylor Coleridge, either retires or seriously pisses off his wife, he should wind his neck in.

Silly arse.