Tuesday 24 July 2012

Don't be afraid of me

I was brought up in a household with good grammar, and so choosing the right word usually comes naturally to me. The problem is that I read and listen much more than I write and speak, so having good grammar is a disadvantage, it just makes it confusing listening to other people.

Recently I have noticed a steep rise in the number of people, particularly politicians, using "myself" when they mean "me" or "I". It's not a matter of style or expressiveness, it's simply wrong. I'm given to understand that there is some reluctance to use "me" because it sounds informal. Picking "myself" as an alternative is like going to Buckingham Palace and not being sure whether to say "Your Highness" or "Your Majesty" and picking "Liz" instead.

The word "myself" only has two uses in the whole of the English language and one of them is obscure. You use it when you're the person doing something, and you're the person that you're doing it to. "I saw myself in the mirror." "I was shaving myself." etc. I'm sure we can all think of a dirty example of something that you do to yourself by yourself. In that case too "myself" would be right.

The only other time that you ever use "myself" is when you want to emphasise "I". "I myself witnessed a murder." "I painted them myself." If you're using "myself" like that, you can take it out of the sentence and it makes no difference to the meaning, only the feel.

Does it matter? No not usually, everybody will understand what you mean, but there are a couple of cases when it might. If you're writing something formal to someone with good grammar you not only look like an idiot, but you look like you're trying too hard. If you're writing something casual to someone with good grammar, they will find it impossible to read quickly, they will stumble over the "myself" and then check the whole sentence again to make sure that you aren't already in it, and then curse their outdated usage of the language before carrying on.

Richard "me myself and I" B

Monday 16 July 2012


A group of people can develop their own system of names for things surprisingly quickly. When somebody coins an apposite and funny name for something it often sticks. At the weekend I did a little bit of gardening for my mum, I trimmed The Willy-cat Memorial Bay Tree. Anybody but my family would probably just call it "the bay tree", but it was planted next to the grave of our dear and long serving cat.

My home life is perfectly moral, but when you stand at the top my stairs the doors open into what my friends would call the Bathroom, my Bedroom, the Porn Cupboard (which contains no pornography), and the Sex Room (which to the best of my knowledge nobody has had sex in for many years).

I bought my house when it was just a muddy plot on a building site, and I had to read the plans to see what I was getting. The two bedrooms were shown separated by a large cupboard that opens onto the landing. I asked my friend what he thought it was for, other than acoustic isolation, and he joking said that if I kept pornography in it, then houseguests could borrow it without the embarrassment of having to rifle through my wardrobe. That joke was over 14 years ago, and the place where I keep my hoover and ironing board still resolutely refuses to be called anything other than the Porn Cupboard.

I live alone in a house with a double and a single bedroom. I moved into the single room when I split up with a girlfriend, and stayed there when she moved out. There was a lot of discussion about what I should do with the double bedroom that was lying fallow. I said that I would leave it as a bedroom for guests, and use it myself in the unlikely event that I should bring a woman home. From then on it has been called the Sex Room. As I have so seldom used it for that purpose, it's more and more being called the Theoretical Sex Room, and once, during a bout of bad pronunciation the Theatrical Sex Room. I actually store sound equipment and laundry in there.

Richard "nomenclature" B

Tuesday 10 July 2012


This year I had two birthdays, the first one was rubbish. On Thursday I worked late, then my motorbike threw it's chain off and I spent most of the rest of the day getting home and then fixing it. I also got a CD that I have no interest in listening to and a personalised birthday card that calls me a cunt (I was delighted with the CD and card).

On Friday I was taken out for lunch, I had a luxurious restful afternoon, and then we went to the pub. It was just like old times, except that:

  • In the old days going to the pub on Friday was the default schedule rather than a special treat.
  • Going out drinking wasn't very expensive.
  • Every pub on Mutley Plane would have been full.
  • we'd have arranged where and when to meet well in advance, nobody would have had a hand held radio telephone with which to confirm or modify the arrangements.
  • The pubs would have had that wonderful tobacco and stale beer smell.
  • Had we been laughing about someone with an upper class accent ordering a pint of Australian lager, and then desperately trying to remember what E. M. Forster wrote, nobody could have googled it. Moreover google wasn't a word we knew, specially not as a verb.
  • The jukebox could never have had THAT many songs on it.
The unquenchable thirst, the drunken story telling, and the music over-appreciation however seem to be timeless.

Richard "Reminiscence isn't what it used to be" B

Tuesday 3 July 2012

Don't Start a Band

Lots of people aspire to play in a band, I already do and I know exactly what it's like. There are several elements of it that I was never expecting and that I hate:

  • The lifting and carrying. I take about 200kg of gear to every show that we play, it has to be carried into the van, from the van to the stage, from the stage back to the van and from the van back to the house.
  • The sweat. I usually come off stage running with sweat. In the early days I used to wear nice clothes to make a good impression. Now I wear clothes that I don't mind getting ruined.
  • The practice. Playing the guitar at home is now just another chore like washing up and ironing. If I've got time to sit down with a guitar, then I'll either do exercises to keep the speed and strength in my fingers, or I'll play songs that I have to learn or practice. I never sit down and play for the pleasure of it.
  • The adrenaline. Imagine that you get home by 1.00 in the morning (which is a nice early night), after all the excitement and exercise you don't stand a chance of getting to sleep for at least another hour or two (I watch documentaries on BBC4 and drink).
  • The risk. Yes playing to a dancefloor full of people enjoying themselves is a wonderful experience. Getting up and playing badly, playing to an empty room, or playing to people who don't want to listen is horrific, and you have to keep smiling and playing for a couple of hours.
  • The drunken cocks in the crowd. There's usually someone who want to grab a mic, or an instrument, or who thinks it will somehow improve the show if they get on stage. Invariably they're wrong.
  • The "experts". Very often you'll be accosted by someone after the show who will tell you in great detail how much better he could have played/sung/engineered/lit the evening. They almost always start with the words "I'm in a band" and the best reply at that point, to take the wind out of their sails is "Where were you playing tonight?"
  • The money. Yes I get paid more than I spend on diesel and guitar strings. But when you take into account all the gear that we've all had to buy, we're losing money hand over fist.
  • The complete lack of glamour and luxury. Even if it looks great from the front, everywhere I've ever played has been a shithole.
That's not to mention the time spent on logistics, hawking for gigs, and negotiating with venues; or how badly most of the venues and clients treat working musicians. It's just really really hard work.

It's also the most fun I've ever had, it's the best thing in my life, and I love it. Not just the music and the excitement, but the camaraderie, friendship, support and esprit-de-corps.

Richard "that which we obtain too cheaply we esteem too lightly" B