Monday, 31 October 2011

Link bonanza

Hello loyal readers and inexplicably loyal readers alike. You've probably noticed that I've been rather LAX in updates and blog posts here lately. I'm a bit busy enjoying life to really write about how much I'd like to be enjoying life at present, which is something I'm not going to apologise for. So in the meantime, I thought I'd have one of my posts where I point you in the direction of somewhere else, that you might be able to find something new and exciting to look at.

And you will, you will.


Well just looky here. My friend has started to do a blog about her work in counselling and let's face it, if you're reading my blog you're bound to have some problems that you'll need to work through. She also contributes to my SECOND recommendation:


One of my very favourite blogs of all. It's by turns serious, uplifting, sad, funny, silly and thought-provoking. In the words of Bernard Black, "You'll laugh, you'll cry, it'll change your life", only it actually will. If you don't already read it, you should.


Finally, another shout for my friend 5olly's blog, in which he manfully attempts to watch Channel 4's Top 100 War Films in a single calendar year without losing his mind or his overall muscle control. Next year he's suggested he's going to do porn films, although it remains to be seen if he means he's going to be blogging about it or just watching them.

Right, go, read. Expand your mind while I sit here and think about monkeys.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

On regrets

Hello. Today's post is going to be a serious introspective look at regret. However, it is going to be so unavoidably laden with clichés that I'm seriously contemplating awarding a spotter's badge to anyone who gets to the end of the bloody thing. However, the reason that things become cliché in the first place is usually because they are true, which if you've got your I-Spy Book of Clichés out is your first one, well done.

About four or five months ago I was completely wretched and I said so here. I'm not going to find the link. I am too lazy for one thing, but also I don't even want to face it. That me is such a malign influence that just to connect with him again would be tempting complete disaster. Nevertheless, I'm glad I did it. In fact, every single thing that I've done since then I'm glad about. Every single decision I have made in the last few months has been the correct one for me. Pleasingly, it's also been baby steps, realistic stuff. Even more pleasingly it's made me sufficiently happy that I can't even bring myself to stare back into that abyss for fear it sucks me back in.

Was it because of that blog post? Did having it there subconsciously give me the kick up the backside that I needed? Well, no. Although it can't be completely written off: nothing exists in a vacuum after all. All I know is that for much of 2011 I've been doing positive things with a previously unseen confidence which has come from somewhere or other. And of course, such things tend to snowball, confidence begets more confidence. Let's hope it continues to do so, not least because I'm starting to enjoy it.

Why didn't I do all of this sooner? Well, that's the obvious question. And it's an ideal backslide sort of question. Anyone starting to just get a grip on things can always be brought back down by contemplating that bad boy. It soon leads to "you idiot", "wasted your life", "pissed away your best years", "too late now" and "rabies".

Wise people will always tell you that it's wrong to have regrets. But as I always said, I've got millions of them. Or I used to. In the last few weeks I've started to realise why wise people are wise people and I am a fucking idiot.

Because this is it. There's no going back. What's done is done. The likelihood is, if you're saying "why didn't I do this sooner?", it means you've now done it, initiated it and are reaping its rewards. Anything with that kind of fecundity is too good a thing to produce any negative emotions or personal crisis. Because there you are, or here you are, with this particular moment. All the previous moments have led you here and there you are with a smile on your face. So piss off with your "why didn't I do this sooner?". How about "I'm glad I did that"?

My brain is wired towards such pessimism, I suppose. But at least the self-defeating pessimism seems to have finally been beaten out of it. Or, just as likely, the responsible brain cells have now died off as my body slowly shuts down to its inevitable, senile, incontinent and unglamorous demise. Either way, don't care.

I am a better person today than I was 12 months ago. Or 12 weeks ago. Or 12 hours ago. And the person who I was 12 years ago doesn't even get a look-in. Even the person I was when I started to write this blog post was a hapless cunt. But without any of them I couldn't be here now.

Personally I blame Choose Your Own Adventure books. Those bloody things gave generations of children unrealistically lofty goals. It's enough to just be you.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

On Europe

Today a look at a painting I have done of Europe. I have included the original rough sketch I made for it as well so you can see what sort of things I got up to.

Although I marked the sketch out with a grid pattern, incidentally, I never used it on the finished version. The seagull also got forgotten along the way, although it at least made it as far as a pencil sketch stage. You may notice a faint note in the margins saying "crow", a thing which didn't make the final cut but didn't even get scribbled.

At one stage there was also a dragon in the front right of the final painting but I painted it out (although I imagine that it would still be visible if held up to the light and viewed from behind). This was, unlike the seagull and the crow, the correct decision on my part. I don't know what I was bloody thinking there. The bee on the tulip replaced it. As is always the way with my sketches, the first one (bottom left hand corner, in pencil) is the perfect one and I was simply unable to recreate it or do it justice on the finished article, which bothers me.

Anyway, here you are. Europe.

(Click on the pictures for bigger versions)

I have recently added some new pictures for sale on my art site. Please check them out and tell your friends!

Saturday, 22 October 2011

On chasing Gainsbourg


Ah, greetings reader. Today I'm going to let you into a little part of my world, namely what happens when I try and draw a specific person. I'm not very good at drawing specific people, because specific people have a specific look and if I'm totally and brutally honest, I'm not a good enough artist to pull that trick off.

However, I am pretty good at capturing the vibe of someone, so that's what I focus on usually. Last night I was of a mind to try and draw Serge Gainsbourg.

I really am fascinated by Serge Gainsbourg. I think he's perhaps one of the most compelling artists of the 20th Century, largely because wherever you look in the annals of music or art, there's no-one who is quite his equivalent. A national treasure in the vein of Cliff Richard on one hand, whilst also being variously decried as a pornographer, smut-peddlar, sexual deviant and communist. He's the epitome of the French artist: mad, bad and dangerous to know, as well as the archetype dirty old French bastard AND sexy sex-on-legs French Frenchman.

These are the things I needed to work on capturing, then. Effort one was as much a blind silhouette as anything, drawn absent-mindedly whilst looking at Google image search. Consequently, it's dreadful. I mean, really really bad. In it are all the elements which I would later settle on but all packaged wrong.

Number 2 is better but still not right. He looks more like Yul Brynner in Westworld. But I was starting to get the idea. The nose has to dominate, whilst other important characteristics are his eyes - which were perennially like sheep's fannies - his fish lips complete with cigarette and his rather prominent ears. Beyond that was just filler.

In 3, then, I did away with more or less everything that wasn't one of those things. And ay caramba, it bloody worked. I was satisfied. Job done.

But then I had a drink and discussed pornography on Twitter and suddenly the spirit of Gainsbourg was reborn within me. This led to number 4, which is the best one of the lot. The key to drawing well, it seems, is to drink whisky.

The end.

Friday, 21 October 2011

The Lambeth Hop

It's Friday night and as good a time as any to celebrate our most maligned feathery friends, the pigeon. I've been to London twice in the last week, so I've been getting reacquainted with the old Columbidae being the top dog of the scavenging heap. The seagulls rather dominate the poor buggers around here. Also they tend to have less manky feet.

Incidentally, this picture is available to BUY if you follow my buy original artwork link, along with a whole heap of good other stuff at highly reasonable prices - more about that next week.

On kilt mechanics

There's a bit of a furore in my Twitter timeline this morning about graphic images of a dead Colonel Gaddafi being used on the front pages of national newspapers, and understandably so. To say that it's a fairly crass thing to do is an understatement, and that's before you even touch on the fact that even though Colonel Gaddafi was a Colonel Gaddafi he was also a fellow human being.

And besides, it's not even the biggest news story of the day. The real scandal and intrigue is something that I witnessed yesterday evening in the park by Buckingham Palace (that's where the Queen lives!). Now I'm not sure if it was one of those new trendy urban N-Dubz and iPhone 4S sort of things that young people do for leisure now when they've run out of crack and meow-meow and internet porn, or a rebirth of a newer, sexier, London Monster for the 21st Century. However, the Buck House Kilt Mechanic is a new London Scourge.

No pair of eyes (or pair of anything for that matter) are safe. Basically, what I saw was as follows. A young woman lying on her back in the grass with a man in a kilt stood over her, as she reached up to fettle whatever it could have been that she had encountered up there. Who knows what it could have been?

Many people would misinterpret this scene, that it was a scenario created and led by a rather perverse young man full of the bravado that only wearing your mum's skirt in public can provide. But that would be to miss the real truth. London is under attack by a young woman (aged about 18-25 - it was hard to tell, she had her head up a kilt). No-one wearing a kilt is safe. She'll slide under there on her back and see what's what.

And then after that she'll probably look at your knackers.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

On hair

As every male stand-up comedian will no doubt have informed you, men get hairier as they get older. It's unrelenting, unavoidable and completely without evolutionary justification. Unless one day in the future there comes a time when that one gossamer-thin hair which grows out from the middle of your earlobe's natural use becomes apparent.

It is starting to happen to me and it is a fascinating process. Some hairs I can cope with. I have one or two grey hairs around my temples and another couple on my chin. I don't anticipate that I'll necessarily go grey very quickly, for one thing neither of my parents have and for another I am quite fair-haired. So I approach greying with a serene equanimity.

I wish I could retain such calm for all of my hair woes. However, for as many places as there are on the body where a man can grow a rogue hair (I now believe this to be literally anywhere), there are an equal number of potential psychological reactions.

Allow me to offer an example. I have rather fair haired and thin eyebrows. But old lefty has, for about a decade now, been home to a pair of mad old man epic eyebrow hairs. They grow merrily to twice the length of their fellows and during windy weather poke me in the eye. But they are platinum blond in colour and consequently fairly invisible.

HOWEVER. Yesterday, in the same eyebrow, I noticed a similarly eccentric rogue hair but this one was dark brown. Dark brown! I immediately rended garments and howled at the moon. WHY ME, OH LORD?

I am not the hairiest man. It's something of a tradition in my family, we're not particularly hairy men. I'm probably a little bit hairier than my dad. My younger brother has much less facial hair than me but far better leg hair. He has proper man's leg hair. Fortunately, I do not have any strong desire to see either of these two immediate male relatives in the nip, so I can't speak for their other areas. And everybody carries their own burdens. But I mean honestly, do I really have to have such a hairy back of the neck? It defies belief so it does so it does.

Obviously, many people's curse is another person's dream and I am well aware that lots of people would clamber over hot coals to have as much hair as I do. I mean, I'm not having to shave my eyelids or fend off the amorous advances of Irish Wolf Hounds, I'm just a fairly standard man in their early 30s. With a man's courage.

And increasingly hairy nostrils.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

On The London Monster

Dark history, British crime and the unusual world of the Penny Dreadful have always fascinated, beguiled and, I'll be honest, terrified me in equal measure. The other day I found this magnificent thing whilst idly looking through Wikipedia, probably searching for evidence of the existence of the Loch Ness Monster. Or actually, I think it was on the back of the Mawnan Owlman (see last week's blog entries for the exciting details).

The story of The London Monster is so bizarre, unusual and, let's face it, amusing that I am rather surprised that I'd never heard it before. Still, there's no point dwelling on the past , or the wretched failings of the British education system. And so, now possessed of this vital knowledge I present an EDUCATIONAL CARTOON. Every fact in here is 100% accurate, even the ones I made up.

I hope you enjoy it. Failing that, I hope you won't complain to me.

(Click for bigger)

The original artwork for this picture along with many others is now available to buy here.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

On the new best thing


Yesterday I wrote about the best thing. I now realise I was a little hasty, I was not in full possession of all the facts. Because what is abundantly clear to me now is that the Mawnan Owlman is the best thing. Ever. No comebacks.

I love cryptozoology. I can't remember if I've ever written about that here before or not. I imagine I would have done. How could I not have? I am completely obsessed by it and the idea of unknown and undiscovered creatures living alongside us, mainly (it has to be said) subsisting exclusively on a diet which seems to be domesticated ovines.

However, not all cryptids are blood-sucking, sheep-worrying, hell demons with super powers. Some of them are rather more sedate and English. Like the Mawnan Owlman. The thing that really draws me to this is the picture made after the description of the teenage girl who saw it. Especially the shoes. It seems to me that Mr. Benn made himself some wings and an owl mask and went for a bit of a fly.

This is backed up by the fact that, unlike many cryptozoological phenomena - the majority of which will appear to countless generations over a period of several hundred years, presumably due to the longevity-increasing diet of sweet, sweet lamb - the Mawnan Owlman appeared For One Night Only. Like Sinatra. 17th April 1976. A key date in the study of Owlmen and Owlpeople everywhere.

Obviously, I look at cryptozoology through something of a sceptical prism. But I never want to be dismissive of it. It's these little unknown things which make life magical. And that is why it is DEFINITELY the best thing.

Monday, 10 October 2011

The best thing

Hello.

Today, I feel it is my duty to completely destroy all of my hard-won credibility as a man of culture and intelligence by telling you about the best thing.

My favourite thing in the world is the Israeli entry for the 2000 Eurovision Song Contest.



It was a beautiful day (except in Holland, where a firework factory had caught fire with predictably disastrous results) and I was watching Eurovision on my own for the first time. I love Eurovision, which is a damning enough admission in itself. However, by 2000 I had reached the important conclusion that what the hell, I like it and that's what matters.

So, with such philosophical justifications filling me with righteous glee and in addition to my usual levels of excitement, I tuned in to be greeted by this as the opening song. It was an impact akin to being shot in the head by a cannon. My ears are still ringing, 11 years after the event. Everything about it is perfect as well as rubbish, and sums up all that is right with the world and Eurovision. It is bewildering, awful, really badly performed, tuneless and kitschy in the worst possible way. Who couldn't fall head over heels in love with it at once?

Later I found out about its rather difficult history. I'm going to surprise you all now by admitting that I am not a Hebrew speaker. As such, I missed a lot of the controversy which surrounded the lyrics - which refer to an Israeli girl working on a kibbutz falling for a Syrian man from Damascus and then doing all sorts. Including stuff with a cucumber. A cucumber, people.

I don't really boast a particularly in-depth understanding of Middle-Eastern politics (again, surprise!) but I know enough to fairly safely assume that even putting the cucumber to one side - or in a safe place - the whole Israel-Syria angle was likely to be divisive. And it was, as soon as Ping Pong (who entered the Song for Israel contest originally as a joke, who guessed?) started waving Israeli and Syrian flags at the end of their performances. Switchboards were jammed. So too were cucumbers. The Israeli Broadcasting Union disowned the act entirely.

The controversy continued onto the night itself. The flag waving remained and the group took the last minute decision to sing the song's title Sameach in English instead during the choruses. I think that this helps give the impression that it's a happy old song to the casual viewer, the European audience more likely to be English speakers than Hebrew speakers.

All of this tumult just adds extra layers for me, though. The fact that something so garish, shiny, awful and rubbish could also be a politically divisive issue elevates the whole thing to almost being a work of art. To achieve just one of those things was noteworthy. All of them at once just has to have been deliberate. Things like this just never stop giving, and work on so many levels. Its only possible failing, in fact, is as a song.

Be happy!

Sunday, 9 October 2011

On bereavement

So, bereavement then.

As a hard-hearted double-macho bastard (and, more importantly, so far a lucky one), I've not experienced much of it in my life. Curiously enough, I know a bit about it, though, as my dad runs a local church bereavement support scheme so I've sort of absorbed some of that knowledge down the years.


As regular readers will know, my cat had to be put to sleep on Friday and that made me very sad. But I'm worried I'm not being sad enough. Yes, I wept like a child as soon as I got back from being brave at the vet's. And yes, there's the standard things: was that noise him? Is that him there? I'd better not leave that out, he'll do that in it and so on. But, and it pains me to say it, at the moment every time I remember he's not about any more it's coming as a bit of a relief as much as anything else.

For the last year or so of his life he'd become a bit of an invalid, really. He'd done it in a cunningly gradual way, so as to trick us all into not seeing the obvious truth that his quality of life had gone. I don't, won't and haven't felt bad for making the decision I did, even for a single second. It was the right thing to do. However, I increasingly find myself in turmoil about whether or not I should feel sadder.

In many ways, Charlie had been a spent force for a long time. A bit of a burden, even. I can't begin to tell you how much I hate myself for thinking or writing all these things, but they ARE true. It didn't mean my feelings for the old bugger changed. I suppose that all of the pain and suffering (on both sides) in his final months makes his passing easier.

And yet this nagging bloody thought still won't leave me be. In a way, I'd like just once to walk into a room and miss him so much I just burst into tears. But I really don't think it's going to happen. I honestly don't know whether or not I'm willing to accept that.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

What's the time?

In the last week and a bit I've discovered my Achilles Heel. Subtracting the number eight from numbers no larger than 24.

The issue has been with time zones. As you are probably aware, the time where you are isn't necessarily the time where I am. Otherwise it would be dark during the day, like it is in Yorkshire. Over the past week for all sorts of exciting reasons, I've been talking via the wonder that is the internet to people on opposite coasts of America. (Incidentally America, I've not forgotten you, The America Project will continue soon). Whilst I find it eminently possible to figure out what the time must be on the east coast (time difference from UK: 5 hours), working it out for the west coast is completely beyond me. It's probably what gets all the rappers at each other's throats. No wonder they're angry. They don't know what time it is.

Not even a week's worth of practice has done me any good. I'm still completely hopeless. The problem undeniably lies with the old a.m./p.m. shenanigans. But even that's ridiculous and easily circumvented by the ol' 24 hour clock. BUT EVEN THAT DOESN'T WORK FOR ME. I'm pretty glad I've finished school, or else I reckon I'd flunk my SATs with flying colours.

An example. Yesterday it was 8 p.m. So, what time is it in Los Angeles, 8 hours behind the UK? Well, any absolute madman can tell you: It's 12 p.m. noon. So, how - HOW - did I work out that it was 2 p.m.? Well, in truth, I did it by subtracting 8 from 20, using the clever 24 hour clock so beloved of military men. What happened then, however, is my brain interpreted the result (12, in case you were wondering, because I know I must be) as meaning 2 p.m.

Obviously, there's some crossed wire in there. Converting from 24 hour clock back to normal times like people who don't drive tanks and bayonet Zulus use is obviously where the problem arises. But for heaven's sake. I've been going on like this for a WEEK! And I'm pretty sure I'm not alone. Why else would newsrooms and stock exchanges everywhere have their trendy NEW YORK-LONDON-TOKYO clocks all over the walls? It's because counting in base 12 makes no sense, unless you are from (insert name of place here).

Normally I would suggest a deceptively simple and demonstrably stupid solution at this point, but I don't really have one. I'm just throwing this out there in the hope that someone will tell me I'm not alone in this peculiarity. A black hole of mathematics. Dazzling gormlessness.

I am finishing this post at 7.40 a.m., BST. (GMT +1) on Saturday 8th October. The time in Los Angeles is 11.40 p.m on Friday 7th October. In New York it is 2.40 a.m. on Saturday 8th October. And on the moon, a Clanger is pissing himself laughing at me.

Friday, 7 October 2011

A farewell to Chump

My cat Charlie was put to sleep this morning, aged 17. It's the hardest decision I've ever had to make. But it was the right one. He was crippled with arthritis and beginning to show signs of senile decay. His quality of life was gone. And he'd had a good life, so that could never do. Lesser mortals would have given in long before, but Charlie was an extraordinary fighter, brave to the point of complete madness. An unforgettable, if occasionally difficult, character.

He actually adopted our family, rather than the other way round. I first met him in 1995 and by 1997 he was a permanent fixture, having vacated our neighbour who lived in a small upstairs maisonette with several other cats and dogs. Charlie was not blessed with an "other cats and dogs" sort of temperament.

In his pomp, he ruled a large area, striking fear into anything on four legs and occasionally things on two. I once saw him have a swipe at a passing Alsatian, whose crime was walking past the gate. However, years of territorial disputes took their toll on his joints. Jumping became an activity best remembered towards the end of last year. This summer there were days when even walking was proving difficult. Really, I should probably have done this sooner than I did. But his fortitude was such that I never really even considered it until the last month or so. I'll never forget how much of a fighter he always was.

Yeah, he was only a cat. But I'm only a human and a human who doesn't see any high-and-mighty reason why it's not possible to learn lessons from any other sentient being who shares your life, or to be changed as a person.

I was 15 when I met Charlie and am now 31. I'd known him for over half my life. And today is pretty bloody hard, let me tell you. But it's just the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. I feel optimistic. Sad that Charlie won't be around to see it, but also thankful for a life which has had a genuine impact on the person who I am now.

Rest well, Chimpy.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

On holidays

I'm not one of nature's holiday takers. I don't really like to travel much, or be away - although I find I enjoy it more and more as I get older. Also, I like to have everything to hand at all times, which either means absurdly OCD packing or leg twitching and anxiously staring into space.

However, I think that the real reason that I am not a holiday fan is because of Hunstanton 1995.

I think that this holiday was three weeks of the most exquisite purgatory. I think, anyway. Because as far as I can recall, the whole break lasted a thousand years. There's a chance I'm still there now. I want to stress that no names have been changed or occurrence exaggerated in the following.

August 1995 was one of the hottest and driest British summers then on record. I was 15 and my brother was 12. My parents, who I tend to call mum and dad, were 39 and 41 respectively. Yeah, I know. I've got young parents. Get used to it. As we arrived at the alarmingly named LOOK OUT holiday park in Old Hunstanton (its the bit of Norfolk which faces the east, aka The Olden Days), and I'll never forget this, my mother said "OOH, we've got the detached chalet. Well that's a bit of luck".

If it was in a cartoon, this chalet would have been up a mountain, with a jagged path, bats and a storm cloud perennially hanging over the roof. It was even more of a portal to Hades than Dana Barrett's fridge. For one thing, Dana Barrett's fridge worked. The benefits of our detachment - additional privacy and ability to make more noise - were immediately negated by the fact that the toilet window opened directly onto the main path for park dog walkers and that within hours we'd all stopped talking to each other.

There wasn't particularly much to say. Once we'd established that if you opened the windows the chalet filled with flies and wasps, that if you shut them you would boil and die, that there was an anthill in one of the bedrooms and that the microwave had just exploded, most conversation topics had been exhausted.

The reason the chalet filled with flies and wasps as soon as the windows were opened was because it was really very hot and the entire park's bins were piled up just out the back. On the first evening there was at least some respite from the insect menace, when some rogue farmers piled up all their old tractor tyres and set fire to them in a field, shrouding the entire area in a dense, choking fog.

In many ways, there were several portents of doom. The carpet was completely covered in dog hair. The bins. The flies. The eye contact with elderly strangers when you were having a shit. The fact the glasses were all so cheap and flimsy that within a week my brother had managed to break three of them by no greater expedient seemingly than using them to hold fluids. One of them, I swear to god, met its end when an ice cube went through the side of it.

The laws of physics having been temporarily suspended around us, my brother took advantage by hitting a golf ball's sweet spot so true on the pitch and putt course that the resulting anti-gravity missile nearly killed our father. Who was, by this point, covered in beef curry after a pub mishap.

Everything that could have gone wrong did. For three whole weeks. At least twice we attempted a trip to Norwich only to abort out of sheer boredom, frustration or our increasingly strong desire to disband and join other families. The wretched misery of the whole thing, exacerbated by the oppressive and relentlessly cheerful hot weather, drained our will to live every bit as much as the painting awaiting our return to the chalet each evening, which depicted a crying child. After two weeks I snapped, drew a smiling face on a bit of paper and blu-tacked it on, in a brief respite from killing wasps. It didn't help. It only reminded me of the bloke who walked his dog, seemingly in sync with the movement of my bowels.

Come the end of the trip, the wordless car journey home was enlivened by my dad ploughing off the road. Had he died? Had he given up and decided it would be best for humanity if we all went out with him? No, he needed a wee, and an emergency lay-by pit stop was the only way. What was interesting was that although we've all spoken of the incident since, no-one batted an eyelid at the moment it actually happened. As if we all knew the coup de grâce was all that could save us.

The catharsis of telling my uncle and aunt about our woes that Christmas was so total, so explosive, that not one of us wasn't left weeping with laughter. It was the strongest indication to me yet that life in a sitcom isn't necessarily funny for the people involved. Terry and June were in fact enduring a desperate existential crisis which threatened to engulf their sense of self. Frank Spencer had probably become entwined in a Faustian pact.

There isn't even an overarching moral to this tale, that's the worst thing. None of us came away any wiser. Nor did the release of telling the story (which before we'd all agreed must never be uttered again) bring us closer together or help us to a greater realisation of the importance of family in our lives. None of us were made by it. None of us were broken, but it definitely didn't make anyone stronger for the experience, either. It was just a shit holiday. A really really shit holiday.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Crayola me

You know, I've recently written on here quite a bit about meeting people in real life who you first "met" online and how it's really no longer anything of a social stigma, or elaborate cover for a massive European paedo ring. This year I've met quite a number of new people via Twitter and they've all been a delight or better.

However, there may still be one problem. And that's the old "how will I know what you look like?". For some people it's easy. Their online lives encompass a lot of photography and video making and all sorts. You're pretty sure to be able to notice them. But then there's people like me. I generally keep pictures of me away from the internet because the servers couldn't take the strain. What we need is a system.

Of course, being a man who has ideas continually because I'm just incredibly clever, I have come up with it. Crayons.

I know of no better range of evocative colour descriptions than the ones in the Crayola crayon range, nor a more readily available array of shades. Yes, from now on everyone should be describing themselves along similar lines. Be as creative as Crayola are, and you never need miss your new Twitter friend or Flickr buddy in a crowded room again.

I would like to start the ball rolling for this brave new world. My hair is Intellectual Blond (thanks for that one go to Alice). Or Super Golden Lion. My skin tone I would describe as being Peach Half Floating In A Chalky Mud Puddle. My eyes are Boiled Sweet Green.

My head is melon. In terms of size, at least.

I defy anyone not to find me after that lot. Another problem for the world solved by the application of pure, crystalline, stupidity. You're welcome.

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