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Has Our Food Obsession Gone Too Far?

I am what you might refer to as a foodie. I love cooking, I love eating out and I watch cookery shows and own a pile of cookery books. I have eaten at a couple of Michelin starred joints and, while they weren’t the highlight of my entire life, I certainly enjoyed every mouthful. So I should love that this stuff is all over my telly box and newspapers 24/7 right? Wrong.

This week brought a couple of illustrations that we have finally gone too far. Firstly Will Self penned this attack on Jamie Oliver in the New Statesman. Most people who’ve read it have taken it as a nasty and thinly veiled personal attack on a loveable TV chef. That’s because it’s a thinly veiled and nasty personal attack. Yet I wouldn’t go as far as the loveable bit. There are plenty of things about Oliver that stick in my craw too.

Firstly there’s this trumpeting about sourcing local and organic ingredients. I know it’s supposed to be good (but Jay Rayner of all people has written about the fact that local ingredients may not always be the best or even the most environmentally friendly) but do we have to bang on about it endlessly? My grandmother sourced all her ingredients locally and ate organic produce from my grandfather’s allotment but I don’t remember her lecturing her friends regarding it over lattes. Like it or not there is a very large section of the population who simply can’t afford to shop at butchers shops and farmers markets in either time or money. We’re reaching the point where we’re sneering at them.

And if you’re going to give your children slightly strange names and then just call them ‘guys’ anyway that’s fine in your own time but I’d rather not watch it on my television.

But take the other much more personal stuff out of Self’s article and look for a minute at the small bits of it that are restaurant review and philosophical comment and you can see he has a bit of a point. For he’s reviewing a pop up burger joint. Rarely could anything sum up the food conceit of the 2010s like a pop up burger joint. It’s the antithesis of everything I want when I eat out. Something not very good for you in a temporary venue that you could make at home. Serving things on boards and little zinc buckets (never mind that Jason Atherton and Tom Kerridge have been doing this for years as a little bit of a food joke). When I go out to eat I want a good local restaurant where I can have a nice meal and good conversation over food served on a plate. If I come back again I want to be recognised. To gradually work myself up to the status of regular and the good table and off-menu special access that come with it. Meanwhile gangs of bearded hipsters are roaming Hoxton looking for the latest high end temporary fried chicken joint. If you want fried chicken and stuff in a bucket just go to KFC ffs.

Then there is the philosophy angle. We have become so obsessed with food we have forgotten that it does a basic job of refuelling us and keeping us alive and healthy. Or at least that section of us that can afford cookery books have. I doubt it’s something you forget when you have £10 to your name and are clutching the energy bill that’s just risen by 10% in one hand and a hungry toddler in the other. But while they struggle to get by the rest of us seem to be intent on a competition to see who can make the most awful cookery programme.

There’s Nigella. Yes, she’s easy on the eye for some of us but the programme is hysterical. Oh look, Alan Yentob’s popping round for a surprise lunch. I’d better just whip up this spare Kobe Beef using equipment that isn’t even available to people on £50k a year. And just two letters off and just as bad here’s Nigel and his “leftovers” which always seem to include entire packs of mushrooms and prawns. Let’s see how you do with one banana, some dusty Digestives and the can of salmon your Nan gave you because it would come in handy.

Then there’s the aforementioned Kerridge. He makes the sort of food that turns me in to a slavering, dribbling wreck. I’d probably sell a gadget or two to eat at the Hand and Flowers just once. But as much as I love the man I can’t justify watching him do a six hour cook that will turn out as “proper lush” and that I can “chillaxo relaxo” during as highbrow television. I actually cringed typing that.

But I think we finally hit the nadir on this week’s Saturday Kitchen when Paul Assignac cooked tulips. Yes tulips. FFS again. This CANNOT be teaching us how to cook. “What would you like for pudding kids? Chocolate? Cake? Ice Cream? TULIPS?” And for that reason it’s not something I’d ever order in a restaurant. It’s a total waste of ten minutes and a recipe page. It’s the cookery equivalent of the unnecessary guitar solo or those paragraphs where Louis De Bernieres slips in to words you’ve never heard of. It’s wanking.

And yet I watch. I watch them all in case I can pick up a hint, a tip or a recipe that will make my kids lives better when all they really want is fish fingers or sausages chips and beans. Jamie Oliver’s not blameless in that either. He all but started the craze.

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Free School Meals and Phonics

So every child in Reception, Year One and Year Two will get free school meals from next year. An announcement made by Nick Clegg to no doubt try and put a positive spin on a car crash of a Lib Dem conference where scenery has crashed on television and spin doctors accidentally emailed strategy directly to hostile journalists by mistake,

Still it’s been largely received in a positive manner with people such as CBeebies Dr Ranj tweeting support. But I have to say I’m far from convinced. Why?

Firstly the current system works fine. Children are not going hungry at lunchtime if they are disadvantaged because they already qualify for a free school meal. Those on the margins either side may have a problem in that some under may be too proud to claim and those just over may struggle to meet the cost. The thing is this will still be the case when they’re eight. A means test has been replaced with an age.

And people really shouldn’t be too proud to claim. In fact what they should do is register for the free meal even if they have no intention of using it. Why? Because this allows the school to claim extra funding (free meals being used as a measure of the poverty level of the school’s attendees) and boy is that funding needed. Especially when you consider the nonsense a lot of funding is going on of which more later.

So could the money be better spent? Undoubtedly yes. Firstly the principle is that a hot school lunch is more nutritious than a packed lunch. Well it only is if the school meal really is nutritious and the packed lunch junk. When I tweeted about this I got a reply with an example that someone had sent their child in with a kebab as a packed lunch. But this policy shift is only putting off the junk food lunch till they’re eight. Instead of educating parents on what makes a tasty AND nutritious packed lunch the responsibility is being passed from the parents to the schools. At the same time tax payers are now providing free food for little Tarquin and Matilda. Another £400 a year for mother to pour petrol in to the BMW X1 that she parks on the yellow zig zags when she drops them off.

The assumption that school meals are nutritious also only holds if they are tasty. Up to last year Boy’s school did not have it’s own kitchen. It was reheating meals (prepared on a very tight budget) from another school. This was not Jamie Oliver revolution. This was reheated food prepared on a shoe string budget. The result? Mostly he didn’t eat it and wanted a snack when he got in.

So if the middle classes don’t need free food (and they really don’t) how can we spend on children’s nutrition positively? By increasing breakfast clubs for the most at need. This excellent piece by Jay Rayner highlights why breakfast clubs are needed far better than I could and yet they are continuing to disappear due to funding cuts. So if my taxes have to go on schools taking responsibility instead of parents then how about we support organisations like Magic Breakfast instead of tut-tutting at the chocolate bars in the packed lunch boxes of kids who can afford to be fed by their parents?

In fact I think the idea is a load of vap. Who really puts snemp in their kid’s lunchbox these days?

No I haven’t gone mental. These are actual words used in phonics tests according to this government document. So they must be real words? Right? Wrong.

While Education policy is now proposing re-routing funds to feed kids from rich families it is also spending money on teaching your kids to read nonsense words.

At the end of last year the Boy had his phonics test. Boy reads very well. In fact he’s registered gifted and talented for it and ploughs through chapter books before using the words he’s picked up to create stories. Yet he did less well than many of his classmates in this test. Had the test been using mixed methods to read actual words I can’t help thinking he and many others would have done a lot better.

But why are we testing 6 year olds anyway. I say 6 year olds – I mean Year One so some could still be 5. And there’s another point. At this stage the development of a 6 year old may be very different to that of a 5 year old. Yet the school is marked solely on the ability for very different children to be prepared for a uniform test.

In other words your kids are being taught nonsense words so the school can be rated by OFSTED and a mini housing bubble can be created around the good ones. Which is even more good news for BMW X1 drivers. Frankly it takes the steck.

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An Open Letter to Mike Weatherley – Tory MP for Hove and Portslade

Dear Sir

I know you signed yourself “Mike” but that’s probably a bit familiar for now. I might get more comfortable with it later on in this letter but for now I think I ought to use your full title of Conservative Representative for Hove and Portslade. Just so everyone knows who you are.

Thank you so much for writing to me for my opinion, not once, but three times! It’s nice to know that in these times of necessary austerity there’s still a bit of spare cash around for headed House of Commons paper with your photo on. Do you get a prize if you use it all up?

Since you are so persistent I thought I’d do you the honour of a reply though I find the questions asked rather simple. In fact, as you are about to find out, I have more comments than could even be fitted overleaf from your simple questions. Perhaps I should have used the overleaf of all three letters I received?

So firstly. It’s nice to know you are in favour of an in / out referendum on the EU in 2017. I fear, however, you may be jumping the gun a bit, a point to which I’ll return later. I do wonder, however, given the proposed date how the good people of Portslade are supposed to make up their minds how they’d vote in it? We are, after all, talking about a totally hypothetical referendum in four years time. Crystal ball? Tea leaves? Perhaps Jeremy Hunt could shake some water in a mysterious way and we could all drink it and get super hero powers that allowed us to see in to the future?

Even if the referendum was tomorrow though there is nowhere near enough information supplied for me, or anyone else who isn’t an MP with a party whip to stick to, to decide. Perhaps you thought it was better to send a simple letter three times than an informative one once. Or perhaps – cynical I know but bear with me – the letter sent gives you the very best chance to receive or even spin the statistics you crave.

Before I could decide such a thing I’d need to seek out a lot more information. What would be the affect be on trade agreements? Would all parties explain copiously that the European Court of Human Rights was bound by the Council of Europe and not the EU? Would I need a visa to see my dad in France? How would the farce that is port and airport immigration deal with even slower lines of people they suddenly have to check more thoroughly? Should I believe UKIP when they say there will be 29 million Bulgarians and Romanians heading here to steal my job, live on benefits and be generally smelly? And is there any chance you could explain why it is that, when discussing Europe, the right reverts to protectionism and the left to defending trade?

I fear that you will actually receive very few replies. Portslade being a working class area – but more working than shirking – most of its residents will be far too busy trying to make ends meet under your austerity regime or struggling with the shortage of Junior School places and the frankly appalling local secondary school to answer hypothetical questions about something no-one understands properly. And any who suddenly find themselves living on one of Portslade’s many estates with an extra bedroom are probably saving all three of your letters to burn for heat when the winter comes round.

But, Mike (see, I said I’d get there), I think the real point is this. Democracy in this country is driven by general elections rather than referenda. As you rightly point out you don’t have a majority. It is my unending hope that come 2015, you, your hopeless Chancellor and your frankly backwards Education Secretary, not to mention Call Me Dave, will be voted back to the obscurity you enjoyed in the thirteen years leading up to 2010.

Hope this helps!

Yours sincerely

Slightlysuburbandad*

*real name used on printed copy to be posted this morning.

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A Rant About Weight Loss and Having Cheeky Kids Round For Tea

Yesterday, Boy had a friend round for tea after school.

As a working parent I normally miss these sorts of events. I’m normally busy fiddling with a spreadsheet or on a conference call about toothbrushes or trying to find out where Darren the Office Junior* has hidden my collection of highlighter pens. Or else I am sitting on a stationary train outside a Surrey Council Estate next to the world’s fattest commuter watching them play Solitaire on their fucking i-Pad (why is it whenever we invent some new and brilliant technology the only thing anyone ever does with it is play Solitaire which they could do with an actual pack of cards for fucks sake). So I never quite see how these things pan out. However yesterday I was working from home which meant I came downstairs right in the middle of the tea date.

They had been playing remarkably nicely together. His friend is a lovely child and we get on really well with the parents. They played the Wii together, didn’t argue and even let Whirlwind join in. I packed away my laptop and started to cook for everyone. Naturally I made Sausages Chips and Beans. At one point I didn’t think the sausages were browning quickly enough and turned up the heat a bit. When I turned them next the little black line showed me that I might have turned it up TOO high and I turned it down again, giving the rest of the sausages a nice even browning.

I called them in to eat. What I didn’t mention about his friend is that, though he is indeed lovely and they get on very well he is also cheeky. Very cheeky. He looked at his sausages. “What are these black bits?” he asked. “We don’t have black bits on the sausages at my house.”

I know he was just asking because they were different but in my mind’s eye I saw Gordon Ramsay losing it. “WHAT THE FUCK ARE THESE? OVERCOOKED SHIT! HOW THE FUCK AM I SUPPOSED TO SERVE THESE TO THE DINERS? YOU SEE MARY OVER THERE ON TABLE 12? IF SHE EATS EVEN A MICROGRAM OF BURNED STUFF SHE DIES! DO YOU WANT TO BRING ACTUAL FUCKING DEATH TO MY DINING ROOM? MAKE THEM AGAIN. MAKE THEM AGAIN RIGHT NOW AND DON’T MAKE THEM SHIT! HOW LONG?”

“About 10 minutes chef” I’d reply. Then I’d hang up my apron and cry.

The sausages, by the way, are probably the fattiest thing I have cooked for the whole of January. I am a few pounds over my ideal fighting weight. I’m over forty now! I thought this was allowed, that it was a sign of contented middle-age, but according to my wife it’s not. We are officially on a health kick. Lots of veg and poached things. Less booze. Almost no sausages at all. Also I am about to start cycling regularly for the first time since I was about 17. So steps are in hand to reduce the spare tyreage. Just as well.

After tea the boys were playing the Wii again when Boy’s friend suddenly came over to me. “You’ve got a big fat tummy” he said. Then he poked it to make sure it really was a tummy and I wasn’t smuggling a beach ball or giving birth to a small elephant. I know it was just a 5 year old boy being cheeky but in my minds eye I saw Daniel Callahan addressing someone who is one donut away from a gastric band.

“YOU DISGUSTING WASTE OF SPACE. HOW DARE YOU BREATHE THE SAME AIR AS NORMAL PEOPLE FATTY? I BET YOU HAVEN’T SEEN YOUR DICK IN MONTHS! DROP DOWN AND GIVE ME 5 PUSH UPS. NO? CAN YOU EVEN MANAGE ONE? YOU’RE FILTH! NOW WALK ROUND WEARING THIS SIZE 86 T-SHIRT THAT SAYS ‘I AM A DISGUSTING MESS’ ON IT BEFORE I ROLL YOU ON THE FLOOR LIKE A SMALL CHILD’S WEEBLE.”

The boys went back to playing the Wii revealing a wife who was nearly crying with laughter.

I realise now that she’s right about the weight losing.

I realise that despite being as hands on as possible there are many things about small children that I still have to learn and that she shields me from.

Most of all I realise how much fun it is sitting on a train stuck outside a Surrey Council Estate next to the world’s fattest commuter watching them play Solitaire on their fucking i-Pad.

*I don’t really sell toothbrushes or have an office junior called Darren but my real job isn’t even as exciting as that.

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I Hate Autumn

I woke the other day and left for work with the morning looking suddenly far more dark and feeling suddenly far more cold that it had been. This is normally a sign that autumn’s on it’s way. I know. I’m a genius. Just call me Michael feckin’ Fish.

Another sure fire indicator of autumn is that the football season has begun and we have gone past ‘deadline day’. This farcical modern invention starts about a week before the actual time as football fans across England worry that either they won’t buy anyone or that they will sell their prized asset. The day itself makes me fume as team’s message boards are flooded with false rumours, the BBC site is flooded with comedy texts about seeing Lionel Messi on the M6 (who does these things?) and Jim White spends the night cutting away to gangs of prepubescents in Mackenzie sportswear who have nothing better to do than hang around their team’s training ground in the vague hope of getting on the telly. I could write about this particular sweet hell all day but I’d better get back on topic.

Autumn sucks big hairy infected rodent bollocks.

There are people, including friends of mine, who love autumn. Who long for a clear freezing morning admiring mist and reddy-brown leaves. Who like snuggling up in front of the fire with a bowl of stew when the first truly horrid rain storm comes in. Who ENJOY frost. I am not one of them. There are three reasons.

The first is that I commute by train and the very mist, frost, storms and reddy-brown leaves so beloved of others are the kind of thing to make the train service I use fuck up in the most inexplicable manner possible. It’s not a secret that autumn comes every year yet every year it is met with ever longer delays due to ‘adverse weather conditions’ and ‘poor rail conditions’. Every year the platform staff look more and more confused at what’s occurring and every year the commuters get wetter and colder and angrier. This year someone may spontaneously combust. It might be me.

Then there’s the fact that Boy is now at school and soon, one of his school mates will catch a cold. In a heated classroom full of 5 year olds with quite basic grasps of personal hygiene this means that his classmates will start getting the cold. One of the little buggers will give it to Boy, Boy will give it to me and I will be sick until April, going about my business breathing through half a nostril, coughing like Dave Allen and talking like Barry White. Fucking awesome. Yay me.

But worst of all, any day now, the Bastard Tree That Hates Me will start shedding its leaves on to my garden. Our garden backs on to a graveyard (sneer if you want but they’re bloody quiet neighbours and no-one’s suddenly going to build a tower block that overlooks our garden) and the tree is enormous and is the only thing that lives in the graveyard, save a couple of urban foxes. It’s sprawling branches provide much needed shade at the back of the garden in summer but in autumn they shed all over every bit of the lawn.

One tiny gust of wind can make the Bastard Tree That Hates Me cover every inch of the lawn in leaves to about the depth of the Olympic swimming pool. OK maybe not quite that deep but deep enough. Deeper than a deep pan pizza. Deeper than a Jethro Tull record. Deep. This will happen when I am away working and because the bastard trains will also have gone wrong and I will have man flu from hell I’ll arrive back wheezing in the pitch black and my wife will take pity and make me a drink and only half mention that THE ENITIRE LAWN IS THREE FEET DEEP IN FUCKING LEAVES AGAIN.

At the first weekend I will go out and rake them in to a pile. This is where I must thank my mother for buying Boy a boy sized rake as he comes out and “helps”, helping generally involving raking the leaves back on to the lawn that I had just piled up or jumping in to the pile. Want to know why Peppa Pig jumps in muddy puddles? Because Daddy Pig has told her that if she jumps in a freshly raked leaf pile he’ll turn her in to so many gammon joints. Eventually we have a pile but the fun is only just beginning. I now have to get them in bags and take them to the dump which has a three mile tailback emanating from it because every other male with a tree and garden is doing the same thing.

Eventually I will leave the dump and come home to find the Bastard Tree That Hates Me has newly covered the lawn in even more leaves. Reluctantly I will rake again but this time I will not be able to clear as the dump is now closed and so you will just pile. On Sunday I repeat the dump step. On Monday I go to work and the Bastard Tree That Hates Me will produce a 4 foot deep covering. Twice.

At this point you have lost the battle. By Saturday the garden resembles a brown crunchy mattress and I will chase the leaves hopelessly with the leaf blower I bought that has never quite worked. The pile I vaguely created will be left to bio-degrade. Next door’s children will be invited round for a leaf fight. I will down another Day Nurse and think about writing an angry letter to my M.P. before realising that would be totally insane and that I might as well eat stew and drink scotch and watch football till May and that the leaves are fine so long as they don’t actually get higher than the house.

The next day they will get higher than the house. Roll on summer.

 

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My Rainbow Family and How Danny Boyle Portrayed Britain Perfectly

Last night I watched the Olympics opening ceremony. I thought it was very well done, light hearted fun that I enjoyed with a glass of whisky and the snarky laughs of my fellow twitterers. I wasn’t mad on the farm animals (I didn’t get it) or Mr Bean (for I hate visual comedy) but in general I enjoyed it greatly. All the tweets were about James Bond and if the Queen was asleep in her seat and how they’d fit everyone in. Nothing about politics at all. Which is odd because I awoke to find I’d been watching a cross between a multi-cultral takeover of the country and an organised North Korean rally. And those twin bastians of casual racism, The Mail Online and the Tory backbenches had come out and said so.

Aidan Burley MP has been widely castigated already for tweeting “Thank God the athletes have arrived! Now we can move on from leftie multi-cultural crap” and I won’t go in to that as it’s been done to death. However, soon after, there appeared on Mail Online an article by Rick Dewsbury that is so stunningly moronic I can only assume he’s going head to head with Samantha Brick and Jan Moir for the Mail’s lifetime troll achievement award.

I’m not linking to it and I don’t want you to click on it. This is, after all, how they make their money. Instead we’ll take a couple of points. Dewsbury starts with stating that the NHS shouldn’t have been celebrated because of the case of Kane Gorney who died because he wasn’t given water in an NHS hospital, as if deaths don’t occur in private hospitals which of course they do. But let’s move on to my own experiences. Not only have I just had the little operation I’ve been writing about (painless, on time, out in 30 minutes, on the NHS) but they also delivered both my children and let me put it on record that I would walk over hot coals for each and every member of staff involved in the safe delivery of both my children. Bounce on that fucking bed Rick.

But the most inane claim (and the one that confirms him as Brick’s weekend stunt double – or something that sounds like stunt) is this gem.

But it was the absurdly unrealistic scene – and indeed one that would spring from the kind of nonsensical targets and equality quotas we see in the NHS – showing a mixed-race middle-class family in a detached new-build suburban home, which was most symptomatic of the politically correct agenda in modern Britain.

This was supposed to be a representation of modern life in England but it is likely to be a challenge for the organisers to find an educated white middle-aged mother and black father living together with a happy family in such a set-up.

Well hang on there Rick. You happen to be describing my family. After my educated white mother divorced from my father she moved in with, and eventually married my step dad, a Londoner who happens to have black skin. They live part of the time in France and part of the time in a flat on the ground floor of a suburban house in Finchley. When we go round for get togethers and parties me and my brother and our families come and so do my Step-Dad’s daughters from his first marriage and their families. We drink, play music and indulge in conversation and games. We are all slightly different skin hues but no-one says anything because, to be honest we don’t notice it much. That scene could be us and it could have been my stepdad 35 years ago to boot.

They’re hardly unusual either. The fact is they don’t stand out and they don’t stand out because London is a multi-cultural city as the BBC were at pains to point out in the build up. And guess what? That’s where the games are being held. Not Hereford or Taunton or Wooton-on-the-Wold. You’d expect a nod to the city actually holding the games n’est pas?

Of course Rick probably thinks that Step Families should be deported to North Korea and the BBC are some sort of left-wing propaganda machine themselves (or at least he does when he pulls on the substitute’s shirt for Trolls United when it’s Brick’s turn to have a massage). I’ve honestly NEVER read anything so woeful. So please don’t look it up or click on it. It doesn’t deserve it.

Last night I was snarking about sheep and Mr Bean. Now I’m getting wound up by the idiocy of the right. Suggests Danny Boyle got it spot on all along.

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Driven To Distraction

The weekend just gone we made a last minute decision to drive to Oxfordshire and help out with some family shizzle that needed attending to. This meant driving on several of the South’s motorways. It was a decision that nearly wiped us out as a family.

Going round on the Saturday wasn’t too bad as there were so many traffic jams any prang would have been at 10mph anyway. Some brainiak had decided to close the M4 in to London for the whole weekend. This meant the traffic round the M3 junction all the way to the M40 was very slow moving (bear with me, this is relevant later). But we got up there unscathed, saw the family, had a nice meal and saw the family again on the Sunday morning then we drove home.

The M25 was nearly as busy but not quite and this means variable speed limits. Essentially, again until past the, M3 we were doing anything between 0 and 40 and in general needing to stay in the same lane. But once we got past the trouble the motorway opened up, the traffic eased and restrictions went. Not in the mind of one elderly driver though who stayed at a resolute 55mph IN THE THIRD LANE OF FOUR. Essentially you could overtake in one lane legally or two illegally. I find this sort of driving exasperating but it was nowhere near as dangerous as what happened next. As we reached our turn off (a 2 lane one) a young girl suddenly realised that she was in the wrong lane for it and, rather than check her blind spot and find a suitable gap to turn in to she drove straight at us. While admiring the cigarette she was smoking. Yes, clearly looking “cool” in front of her mate and taking a nice big lungful of poison was far more important than CHECKING TO SEE IF SHE WAS ABOUT TO DRIVE STRAIGHT FUCKING IN TO A CAR WITH A YOUNG FAMILY IN IT. We escaped only because the lorry inside of us saw what was happening and braked allowing us to swerve and then settle in front of him. Cue some fairly industrial language than I hope neither child repeats and then some fairly rapid breathing.

Was that the end though? No. For Mr Cunt was taking his Porshe for a spin. Half the the A23 is being dug up and the 40 mph limit imposed starts about a mile before it. Did this matter to Mr Cunt? No. For He Had A Porshe And He Was Going To Use It. Down the outside lane he flew at about 100 before he too realised he needed to turn off. This he accomplished by cutting across the inside lanes and a fast speed and diagonal trajectory so that, had the rest of us NOT been doing 40 he would soon have been renamed Mr Dead Cunt. Presumably he used the extra 5 minutes this gave him at his destination to take out his tiny needle dick and knock one out in front of the mirror (utilising 4 minutes and 30 seconds of this time to clean up).

The odd thing is I wasn’t driving. I was the very willing passenger. I learned to drive late in life and my Mrs has far more motorway experience and so, on drives like that she takes the wheel. Thank Christ she does as well for if I’d have been driving either of the 2 incidents would have done for us.

I know what you’re thinking. The irony of a self-admitted shit driver ranting about other shit drivers. But it’s not just that. When we did the much longer drive in France recently we didn’t get any near misses despite being on the wrong side for the wheel so to speak. In France you drive on the inside lane only and you use the outside to overtake. You do NOT sit in it. Once you have overtaken you pull back in. The motorways are less crowded too. Partly because of the less dense population of course but partly because of tolls. Where one isn’t charged (like many of the terrifying Peripheriques) the same issues as on the M25 come up but, long stretches of French toll road are a pleasure. I know we have the M6 toll here but is it time to start introducing it here more widely? It’s a bit Un-British isn’t it but consider this.

If I had been a plane passenger landing at Heathrow this week from a non-EU country then here’s what my first experience of the UK would have been. Coming in to land I note that we get below the clouds just before the runway. Because it’s pissing with rain. We pass over what looks like a huge car park but is actually London’s ring road. After the 2 hour wait at immigration during which people are arrested for slow hand-clapping I finally jump in a car to be told that the main motorway in to London from Heathrow is closed all weekend. We will have to go in the long way. Using that big car park thingy you flew in over a few hours ago. We emerge in to the jam and an hour or so later we are wiped out in a multi car pile up caused by Mr Cunt and a girl who’s too busy smoking.

Welcome to Britain. Enjoy the Olympics.

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