The Phrase ‘no worries’

I first came across this teeth grating phrase when I went ‘travelling’ as a youth.  I use the inverted commas because although it’s called travelling it’s really a massive pub crawl up the east coast of Australia with a stop over in Thailand undertaken by late teen kids who want to get away from mum and dad but don’t fancy entering the world of work just yet.

So you save up some money working in a gastro pub and you go travelling.  And you spend 6-12 months living almost exclusively amongst fellow brits and the odd Dutch person (who you tolerate because they always have drugs on them for some reason and are the only other nationality that gets british humour) in backpacker hotels that sell Marmite and Boddingtons to make you feel at home whilst you reverse charge call your Dad every week to see if he can wire you more money to do white water rafting.  Then you come home and proudly declare you’ve been travelling and your mind is broadened and your granny thinks you’re great.  She has visions of you as a sort of Benedict Allen figure trudging up the skeleton coast in 60 degree heat surrounded by dead bedouins.  Incidentally, apparently Benedict Allen was faced with hunger and near death in the Amazon and took out his machete and killed his loyal dog that had chosen (unwisely) to follow him on his trip and then ate him.  Now thats bloody travelling.  Not going to some pubs in Queensland and shagging a girl from Gerards Cross.

Anyway, went on this island and asked to borrow some mosquito stuff from this hippy guy.  Who says ‘no worries’ in that sort of stoned hippy speak that people who went to Public School and go to Queensland to find themselves and grow their hair long seem to adopt. To which i said ‘er, is that yes?’  he said : yes man, squirt away.

Anyway, *no worries* then spread like wildfire through the backpacker population whilst back home Neighbours had become the number one soap which meant a whole generation of students picked up the phrase and then started talking with that really annoying Australian habit of making your speech inflection go up at the end of every sentence.  And then suddenly in the early 90’s every bastard was saying No Worries. And each No Worry was like nails down a blackboard but i learnt to live with it.  Like Tony Blair.

But it seems so wildly innapropriate for a late noughties frame of mind.  I mean there are worries.  There’s loads of fucking worries.  The recession.  Our leadersbeing a bunch of lying cheating bastards (if you’ve ever had a VAT inspection you’ll know that as a member of the public you don’t get to, er, forget that you ran through £5,000 worth of moat expenses or, er, change your desingated house 3 times a year….by accident), or Prince Charles, or global warming, or the sinister death of most of the bee population, or Gordon Brown, David Cameron, The rise of the BNP, 3 million people on incapacity benefit, 8 traffic wardens for every copper (who are all indoors filling out gender complians forms), car tax, tax, tescos, school fees, gas bills, dropping your iphone down the toilet, etc etc ad finitum.

so you see the phrase should be ‘Worries’.  Hi can I borrow a your mosquito stuff : worries.

there are no longer no worries.

Things that aren’t as good as we remember them #1

The time had come for me to introduce the boy to Scalextric, the first rung on the step ladder of manhood. For this milestone I found a Mini Cooper set on eBay for twenty five quid plus postage and it arrives in just a couple of days, great transaction, five stars.

NOT as much fun as it looks

NOT as much fun as it looks

Expectation is etched on the boy’s face as I set about construction. The troublesome overlapped plastic fixings don’t seem to fit quite right and make my soft, work-in-an-office and never-done-a-hard-day’s-real-graft hands a bit sore, but who cares though. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, is what I say and Scalextric rocks. We all know that the fiddly track is the price you pay for hours of fun, right?

The figure of eight takes shape, little sturdy grey risers to keep the track elevated where they cross at the centre, crash barriers on the corners, a few flags peppered hither and yon and the classic chequered tarmac starting grid. You can almost smell the atmosphere: the high octane fuel, pert hot-panted pit girls, Bernie Ecclestone strutting around looking cross, the sheer throbbing testosterone of it all. I find myself rubbing my hands together which I generally don’t do because it makes me look like Fagin.

So the Scalextric is plugged in and I flick on the wall switch, signifying that the preparations are over and extreme mirth is imminent. Now the test. I turn over the Mini Cooper revealing the underside and take the familiar little woven wire wool connectors in my fingertips and squeeze and plump them out, raising them a few millimetres from the bottom of the car to ensure maximum energy transference from the electric rail. I last did this thirty years ago but I know it instinctively.

I turn the car back over and make connection with the track, gunning the engine with a quick burst on the trigger. The little Cooper, held firmly in my hand with rear wheels just above the track, bursts into life with the small electric motor screaming to be set free and the small boy’s eyes nearly pop out of his head at the thrill of it all. Forty-year-old man and five-year-old boy are united, functioning briefly for a snapshot in time on the same plane. We’re racing drivers.

The red and yellow cars are lined up side by side now. The boy counts down: three, two, one, GO. A surging arc of power launches the small cars forwards where they simultaneously reach top speed in an instant before meeting the first bend and leaving the track, both spiralling dramatically into the skirting. We do this six times, neither of us completing an unaided lap.

This is rubbish, Daddy, can we play Mario Karts?”

And the sentence brings me to a halt with the realisation of a blinding singular truth. The boy is right: Scalextric is crap. It doesn’t work unless you go round really slowly. That’s how you play. The winner is the most careful, the one who keeps his forefinger light, the one who represses every desire to rip the track to pieces in an orgy of speed. The maverick living for the second, hanging his ass over the raggedy edge flips out every time. What kind of fucked up message is this to give a little boy? Life needs seizing by the bollocks. Driving slowly with caution and care is what Grandma does.

What cunning mind repressing tricks do those folk at Scalextric possess that makes me forget such a fundamental shortcoming, that the cars only stay on the track if you go slowly? How had I forgotten that you spend more time putting it together than playing on it because the fucking cars come off every time.

We leave the Scalextric on the floor, not even bothering to pack it away, instead choosing to play on the Wii. Mario Carts: Mario and Luigi teaming up together to nail that bitch Peach.

I’ve said it and there’s no taking it back. It’s out. I’m Sparticus. The confrontation of the Scalextric truth has now led to the scrutiny of everything from my past that I thought was great, an analysis of my own rose-tinted nostalgia. And you know what? A lot of it really isn’t what I thought it was.

On Cinema Rip Off

So i take the kids to the Saturday morning flicks to see Coraline, a brilliant animation that is one of those few films that comes out each decade which works for a 6 year old daughters and 39 year old dads in the same theatre.  Bloke Jr (aged 4) considered it mostly boring.  We left Mrs Bloke at home to have her legs done or something.

So I’m in the queue looking like a divorcee (why whenever I take my kids to a museum or cinema sans mother do I look like a single parent on their every other weekend access outing) and go and buy the tickets from the counter.

And it costs £26 for three tickets.

I say to the girl: ‘eh? are you sure, i mean don’t little people get discounts and stuff?’ pointing to the little people who are staring longingly at the vast vat of popcorn next to the ticket office.

‘that includes the discount.’ says the girl, deadpan, used to the look of defeat in parents eyes.  Little people are looking up at me all excitedly.  I can hardly go home and download the thing can I?  Besides, the cinema is all about theatre. Sitting there in my dim lit study crouched round my monitor aint gonna cut the mustard.  Besides, Coraline is in 3D and I’ve spent the car journey trying to explain 3D and failing.  They want to know what all this 3D malarkey is about.  I hand over the switch card to the 17 year old mugger.

But that’s not the end of the mugging because parked next to the ticket booth is the sweets, popcorn, hot dog and general bad-for-you-shit stand.  No broccoli here.  You have to then go to the chronically slow serving confectionery counter where they seem oblivious to my urgency given the film starts in 3 minutes.   We’ve been through the torturous episode of choosing sweets for the pick and mix bags.  A bag each because sharing doesn’t happen between 4 and 6 year olds.  They have different ideas on life.  And they know their rights.  They want to fill the bag with stuff that is designed to choke children in the dark.  Large gobstopper type things, huge pet sized sculptures made of jelly that is engineered to clog an epiglottis of a rhino. I’m trying to get them to eat small chocolate things that won’t require calling 999 on my mobile mid film.  I pick up a lemonade for them and a small bottle of Coke for me.  We queue again.  This time it’s £12.00.

I say to the youth: ‘are you sure mate, i mean you haven’t accidentally charged me for, say, all the sweets purchased this morning?  I mean is your till faulty?’

‘No, that’s right, do you want to put them back?’ says the deadpan lad serving on the bad-for-you-shit counter, knowing there is no chance of me putting them back.  I figure they’ve been trained to deal with parents suffering from fiscal injustice. A 5 step process:

Sigh [belittle them]

keep your voice deadpan [don’t get them angry]

avoid eye contact [be like a machine]

give them an option to back out [which they won’t]

take the money/card

Add £3 for the parking and misc £5 that you have to spend every time you leave the house with two kids and you’re in the hole for £ 46 for a morning at the flicks. That’s without Pizza Hut.

And then a thought occurred to me.  The common factor amongst all these money grabbing MP’s is they have kids.  It may not be cynical thievery or opportunism ,but actually a necessity to raise cash for their family.  They’ve been away all week in Parliament trying to make the world a better place and when they get back home, to their second home (or third or first home depending on how you look at it), they feel they should do something with the kids.

Mummy, mummy, lets go to the cinema?

Ok darlings, but let me think how i can claim for a new flat screen telly and some bath plugs to fund it.

on the Gurkha Hooha

Hard to know where to start with this Gurkha thing.  I think that most of us are of the opinion that if you were a lunatic jihadist who was wanted in 3 continents for terrorist crimes we’d invite you in and give you a five bedroom council house and lots of dosh for your family to get flat screen telly and a decent Sky package whilst you spend every working hour preaching about how we should all burn in the pits of hell for our hedonistic ways.  Yet you fight for our country and the immigration control people say, er, sorry chaps, no room because we’re full of jihadists at the moment.  But the U turns made by these spineless faceless morons who make up the rules whilst frustrating and embarrassing are not the real end to this story.  The Gurkhas are probably thinking that this is the land of milk and honey but we all know that’s crap.  They swear allegiance to a Royal Family that will be largely non existent after the Queen pops off [does anyone really want to be a subject of Charles?] and they fight for a country, for a dream that no longer exists.  Whilst they look up adoringly at Joanna Lumley, herself a product of the days of the Raj, they’re setting themselves up for one hell of a disappointment.

I’ve been to Nepal, it’s beautiful.  Dirt poor, yes. But the people are wonderful and kind and smile and put the family first.  The truth will be that these brave soldiers will not come to England and end up living in Rose Cottage and spending their hard won pension on cream teas and garden parties with Ms Lumley.  They’ll end up being shunted to some inner city low cost housing development surrounded by poverty.  Again.  Except this time the poverty will be accompanied by crime, inefficient bureaucracy, cold weather in a drizzling pissy country where honour and respect has been replaced by thieving and greed. And £60 a week doesn’t get you very far.

Their battle is almost won.  What exactly have they won.  I think someone should send them some tapes of East Enders before they get on the plane.