Goodbye, 2010

This is a quick send-off to 2010 with a butchers at my resolutions as laid down in last year's New Year post.

  1. Lose the Christmas weightI managed this one! Woo! I dread to think how much I've put on during this year's festive season, though.
  2. Lose 2 more stones
    Nah, didn't manage this one... I think I lost about a stone and a half, then put the half back on again. Since making the resolution I have gone down a trouser size and maintained being able to squeeze my backside into it. I'm fitter than I can remember ever being in the past, so it's all gone in the right direction. Just not far enough.
  3. Get back into playing in a band
    I've managed this one, just! No Verdict have reformed for a New Year's Eve gig at The Warren in Kettering. We also did two 'practise runs' at the same venue a few weeks ago, and there's talk of carrying on into the new year. Watch this space...
  4. Develop some kind of social life
    I've been fairly successful with this, having developed a small but very well formed group of friends out of my work colleagues. At the other end of the scale, I've been away for a weekend or two with old friends and had a bloody good time doing it. Playing in the band also provides opportunities for talking to people who are actually real, and I've become a bit more involved in my own small corner of twitter. That last may not count much to many, but surely you can make friends without having to have them in the same room as you?
  5. Care less about what other people say, do and think about me
    I'm much better at this one, now. I occasionally have relapses, but on the whole I'm happy for people to take me as they see me. I don't often try to be something I'm not, which has allowed me to actually be me more of the time. The people who I spend the most time with are those people who choose to be around me, rather than the people I should be choosing to be around, and my happiness and comfortableness in social situations has skyrocketed as a result.
As Meatloaf may have sung had Jim Steinman written a song for him to sing about new year's resolutions, four out of five ain't bad.

What about your resolutions? Did you make any last year? Did you manage to keep to any / all of them? Please comment below, or feel free to post a link to your own post about resolutions!

Christmas Songs Countdown: #0

Yes, folks, the countdown ended yesterday, but I thought why not bung in something as a surprise for Christmas day (though, in truth, most of you probably won't read this until at least Boxing Day...)

We've had the popular Christmas songs, so how about a couple of novelty ones? O.k, so the line between 'serious' and 'novelty' is particularly blurry at this time of year, but here are a few that I think reside on the far side of that divide...

First up it's Billy Mack (played by the inimitable Bill Nighy) with Christmas Is All Around from 2003's movie Love Actually. I am annually ashamed to remember that I think this film is nothing short of brilliant. Coming from someone who hates romantic comedies, that's saying something. The song is a rip-off of the Troggs' 1968 hit Love Is All Around.

Next, here's Monty Python's Christmas in Heaven from their 1983 musical comedy, The Meaning of Life. There's not a lot to say about it except it's probably not suitable for some young'uns.

Finally, this is a little-known beaut from comedian Jasper Carrott. Recorded in (I think) 1978, this is Carrott's take on the Twelve Days of Christmas carol in which each days' traditional gift is replaced with an alcoholic beverage, and his singing style becomes increasingly drunker and raucous as the song progresses. Great fun!

To anyone who reads this:

I hope you have/ are having/ have had a brilliant Christmas, regardless of your personal beliefs, ideals, customs or tradition, and that you've used the holiday season to good advantage, catching up with friends and family, relaxing and generally having fun!

Thanks for reading, and here's to a awesome upcoming 2011!

Christmas Songs Countdown: #1

It's Christmas Eve, babe, and as this is my blog I can do whatever the chuffing heck I feel like doing. So for #1 on my Christmas countdown I'm chucking in a double-bill of Christmas songs!

First up it's Fairytale of New York by The Pogues, featuring Kirsty MacColl, from the album If I Should Fall With Grace from God. It reached number 2 in the 1987 Christmas UK charts (but hit number 1 in Ireland, naturally). It's a gorgeously grumpy-yet-cheerful Irish folk/rock ballad, with MacColl's meliodious tones contrasting perfectly with Shane MacGowan's harsher, drunker, and considerably more toothless vocals.

Here's a live version of the song from St Patrick's Day 1988. Enjoy!

Christmas just wouldn't - no: couldn't - be Christmas without my next #1. The sixth number 1 single for Slade, Merry Xmas Everybody beat Wizzard's I Wish it Could be Christmas Every Day to the Christmas number 1 slot in 1973, stayed there for five weeks, and didn't leave the charts until well into the February of 1974. Noddy Holder, Slade's frontman, says that he wrote the song overnight at his mum's house as an antidote to the financial issues and various workers strikes affecting the country at the time.

It charted every year in the first half of the 1980s, 1998 and 2006. It has also appeared in two of the new Doctor Who series Christmas specials: 2005's The Christmas Invasion and 2006's The Runaway Bride.

Here's a vid from their 1983 Top Of The Pops appearance:

Christmas Songs Countdown: #2

1973's Christmas number 4 was Wizzard's I Wish it Could be Christmas Everyday. It was beaten famously by Slade's Merry Xmas Everybody but remains a popular favourite, making chart appearances (albeit lower down) with re-releases in 1981, 1984 and a number of years since 2007 (when downloads started to be included in chart calculations). As with many of these Christmas singles, it's been covered by a fair few artists, but not many that I've heard of.

The song was actually recorded in August and in order to set an appropriate scene, engineer Steve Brown decked the halls of the studio and set the air conditioning as low as it would go. Roy Wood's hat in the video was apparently obtained from the studio's Lost Property office.

And because that's such an awesome song, here's a travesty:

Surely you don't celebrate Christmas?

I'm an atheist. Most people who know me know that fact if they know little else, and at about this time of year I am invariably asked the somewhat rhetorical and, I assume, half humorous question "surely you don't celebrate Christmas?"*
By Me haridas (Own work) [GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

Well... why not? I want to make two points:

1. It's not just yours, folks, and never was
Midwinter celebrations have been part of various cultures and traditions for hundreds of years. There is evidence to suggest that there were certain midwinter Christian celebrations and feasts as early as the first and second century ACE, however it wasn't until the 4th century that the Roman Catholic church chose December 25th as their 'official' Christ-Mass day. There is evidence to suggest that they did this to fall in line with one of the Pagan midwinter celebrations, the solstice feast of Mithras (the Roman god of light), in one of their greatest recruitment campaigns: the idea was that Pagans could convert to Catholicism without losing the biggest of their holidays and traditions.

So the Christmas that we celebrate today has more in common with the three main Pagan winter festivals than it does with the original Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus:
  • Saturnalia, celebrated on the 17th December was the feast in the name of the Roman god Saturn, god of agriculture and plenty, and is thought to be where the modern day tradition of having fun, exchanging gifts and eating and drinking far too much originated.
  • The feast of Mithras on December 25th originally marked the renewal of hope in the Pagan calendar, and is the closest of the three to the 'traditional' Christian celebrations of the birth of Jesus.
  • New Year's Eve, traditionally dedicated to the two-faced Roman god Janus, gave us the modern day traditions of decorating our houses with greenery including holly, ivy, misteltoe and even Christmas trees.
For many hundreds of years the festival that we in the West usually refer to as 'Christmas' has been a largely Christian one, but things change. Christmas is not a one-size-fits-all celebration and it means many different things to many different people, with overlaps here, there and everywhere. Nowadays, it seems to me that Christmas is more of a secular celebration than a religious one, with having fun, exchanging gifts and spending time with the people that matter to you taking over from overt religious observance. Just as Christmas was changed with the absorption of Pagan traditions, so it is evolving once more.

2. Even if you could argue that it was 'your' festival, why take offence?
Some people see non-religious people, or those of other religions, taking the opportunities provided by Christmas to indulge in such activities as love, friendship, socialising, happiness and generally being nice to each other, and seem to be offended by it. There's something wrong somewhere in that thought process, in my opinion.

Now, I'm not in any way religious, and this may well affect my thoughts on the matter, but if I had a special day that I used for celebrating something or other and I saw other people who thought what I was celebrating was basically nonsense but nevertheless using that special day for making their own gestures of friendship in their own way, I'd be pretty happy about that.

I've known people of various faiths (and none at all) to swap presents, have a meal and a drink and spend time together on December 25th, regardless of their thoughts and opinions regarding the Christian faith.

And why the hell not?

* The person who prompted this post this year (he was not the first of my friends to make a similar comment) regularly tries to wind me up about things and has views on many subjects which are orthogonal to my own, but that, in my opinion, is part of what makes an acquaintanceship interesting and I'm sure he won't be offended by me responding in this way.

Christmas Songs Countdown: #3

In 2003 a band fell to Earth that would provide much needed refreshment in the UK charts for anybody who was desperate for some good old fashioned rock music. Like me. They called themselves The Darkness and, after some considerable success with their debut album Permission To Land, launched an offensive which was designed to snag them the Christmas number 1 slot for that year. It failed, losing out to Gary Jules' version of Tears for Fears classic Mad World. Christmas Time (Don't Let The Bells End) peaked at number 2 in one of the closest run Christmas chart races for a number of years.

It lost out to this track, which isn't really Christmassy at all. It's a good song all the same, though I prefer the original.

Christmas Songs Countdown: #4

Mud's second number 1 single (after Tiger Feet) held the top spot for four weeks from December 1974 to January 1975. The single's writers took much of their inspiration from the slower love songs from the latter end of Elvis Presley's career. Consequently, this song is often incorrectly attributed to Elvis- even by self-proclaimed hardcore Elvis fans. Here's the promo vid:

And because I'm feeling festive, here's KT Tunstall's cover of the song from 2007. It's quite a different take on the original, but I like that in a cover. What's the point in covering a song if you're not going to change it? May as well just put the CD on.

Christmas Songs Countdown: #5

In 1984 Midge Ure (famous for being in Ultravox) and Bob Geldof (famous for being Bob Geldof) wrote a charity single that would blast all previous single sales out of the water and keep hold of the record until Lady Diana sold lots of copies of Candle in the Wind for Elton John in 1997. That single was Do They Know It's Christmas, released on 29th November, selling a million copies in the first week and then staying in the number 1 for four more.

The single sees forty-four British and Irish artists of varying popularity singing their hearts out to raise money to help out sufferers of the Ethiopian famine. The video was a simply mixed shots of the artists recording their pieces- if you look about three and a half minutes in you'll see Paul Young singing what looks like "eat the world".

1989 saw another Ethiopian famine and another recording of Do They Know It's Christmas with different artists (Bananarama's Sarah Dallin and Karen Woodward are the only artists to have sung in both versions, though they have a much more prominent role in the second) under the name of Band Aid II. In my opinion, Cliff should wear those headphones more often.

Presumably Band Aids 3 to 19 inclusive didn't quite make it into the public arena for some reason, but a new bunch of artists were joined by Bono (the only member of the original Band Aid to sing in 2004's version as well) to form Band Aid 20. This version benefited from a bit more of a guitar driven sound, but also included Dizzee Rascal in a special, new, pointless, cringeworthy rap segment which spoils the song and makes sure that the original is unarguably the best.

Christmas Songs Countdown: #6

Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without George and Andrew gracing our screens in dodgy knitted pullovers looking wistfully back at last year's skiiing holiday.

Double A-siding with Everything She Wants, Last Christmas was released in 1984 and reached a peak position of number 2 when the season's favourites Wham! and Frankie Goes To Hollywood were pipped at the post by Band Aid's charity single Do They Know It's Christmas. Wham!'s first year of royalties from the Last Christmas/ Everything She Wants single proved a considerable top-up to the money raised by Band Aid for the Ethopian Famine appeal when an out-of-court settlement was reached regarding a dispute based on perceived differences between Wham!'s Christmas single and Barry Manilow's Can't Smile Without You.

Personally, this song would be higher on the list if it wasn't for my annually renewed annoyance at George insisting upon singing "gev" instead of "gave." Drives me spare.

Here's the vid: Check out the jumpers, the skisuits and the hair!

Last Christmas has been covered by a scary number of artists, including but not limited to Whigfield, Cascada, Florence & the Machine, Atomic Kitten, the Arctic Monkeys and, not least, Rose from Doctor Who*:

* To evade messing up spacetime, Rose recorded this single under the moniker "Billie". Yes, I know it's awful, but it provided me an opening to shoehorn some Who in, and that's never a bad thing.

Christmas Songs Countdown: #7

Welsh singer-songwriter Shakin' Stevens' festive classic first hit the charts in 1985, reaching number 1 after having its release postponed by a year in order to avoid a clash with Band Aid's charity single Do They Know It's Christmas. Merry Christmas Everyone has entered the UK charts at Christmas time every year since downloads started to be counted towards them in 2007, reaching a highest position of number 22 in that first year.

It receives airplay on radio and video music channels every year, has some pretty distinctive Christmas knitwear being modelled by Shaky in the promotional video, and is @Squiggle7's favourite Christmas song. Here it is:

Christmas Songs Countdown: #8

Bobby Helms first released Jingle Bell Rock in 1957 and is arguably one of the most famous Christmas-themed popular music songs of all time. It is certainly one of the most covered, with versions having been recorded by acts as diverse as Bill Haley, Ashley Tisdale, the Chipmunks, Girls Aloud, Neil Diamond, Kylie Minogue and even Billy Idol!

To modern audiences the 'rock' aspect of the song can sound more country & western as it follows a style popular in the 50s that merges the two called 'rockabilly'. The single has been included on a number of Bobby's own albums, the most recent (and final) in 1983, and one in 1970 on an album itself titled Jingle Bell Rock.

I've already mentioned the many different cover versions of this song, but to those of us of around my age (28 at the time of typing), arguably the most well-known is the original largely due to its inclusion on the soundtrack of 1990's Christmas movie Home Alone.

Here's a vid:

And because it's Christmas and I'm feeling generous, here's Billy Idol's version, complete with promo-vid. Worth it for the facial expressions, I feel:

How to: Cook Beans on Toast

Beans on toast. The toast is blackened to taste
I'm often tempted to write about food, not least because I am often set a-droolin' by @NoLoveSincerer*, but the thing is... I'm rubbish at it. Or, rather, I'm lazy at it, which makes me rubbish. But, I suddenly realised, surely there's an opening for blogging about lazy food? There are loads of blogs about posh food, whether that's making it, eating it or taking photos of it, but not a lot about lazy, bog standard, fill-yer-guts grub.

And what could be lazier or boggier standard than the baked bean? For those who have either lived under a rock or hail from across the pond**, baked beans are pre-cooked haricot beans mixed with a tomato sauce. They are packed in tins and are a staple student food due to their cheapness and the ease with which they can be prepared.

Cooking the beans
This is the really easy bit. The other bits range from 'easy' to 'a bit less easy' depending on what you have to hand, personal preferences and how much you dislike washing up.
There are three main ways you can cook beans, but any method is great so long as you end up with them in an edible state afterwards.

1. Microwave them.
This is probably the preferred method for most, being the quickest and easiest. Simply empty the tin into a microwavable bowl (don't microwave them in the tin because it's metal and whilst microwaving metal things can be dangerously pretty, it's also pretty dangerous and more than a bit stupid), pop into the microwave and nuke 'em for a couple of minutes, checking and stirring a couple of times on the way. A recommended option here is to cover the bowl as beans have a non-porous skin and therefore a habit of exploding when microwaved.

2. Saucepan them.
Open the can, pour into a saucepan and cook for a few minutes until hot. The pros of this method in comparison to microwaving them are that the beans are cooked more gently and seem to taste a bit nicer for it, and you can simmer for a bit to thicken up the sauce if you think that you would like that. The cons include a slower cooking time and more washing up.

3. Don't cook them.
O.k, so not cooking them is not technically cooking them, but it's an option to explore. Baked beans are perfectly edible cold although a fair number of people don't seem to like them that way. The advantages of this method of preparation are that it's super quick and the sum total of your generated washing up is a fork as you can just eat them out of the can.

There are, of course, other methods of making things go all hot, but these venture quite quickly into the realms of the difficult, time consuming or downright dangerous.

Serving the beans
Baked beans are almost infinitely adaptable and go with many, many other foods. The best idea would be to experiment. Here are a few options I have tried successfully, just to start you off:

As an accompaniment to a more complicated meal
Beans are a vegetable and count as one of your 'five-a-day', and go well with everything from burger and chips through sausage and chips to chicken kiev and chips. The sauce is great for dipping chips in, too. Unfortunately this idea involves preparing a whole 'nother meal to go with the beans and is therefore not great for those in a hurry or those who are simply just too lazy to cook.

With toast
Baked beans are most at home when served with a couple of slices of toast. Traditionally, the toast is prepared in the usual manner and served under the beans (this is where the popular name for the configuration comes from: 'beans on toast'), but the toast may be served wherever your personal preferences suggest: underneath, on top, to the side or on a different plate entirely. It's fine to butter the toast, but jam is seen by many as a step too far. For those following the 'don't cook it' route, you may like to try 'beans on bread' as a variation of this.

With another ingredient mixed in
As I've already stated, baked beans go with almost any other food, so you could try mixing in a favourite ingredient. Some of my favourite examples include:

  • a teaspoon of curry powder
  • grated cheese (or for the truly lazy or those devoid of grater, diced cheese)
  • a (small) tin of tuna
  • copious quantities of Worcestershire sauce
Any, some, all or more of the above ideas and ingredients can be mixed together for some really gourmet*** baked bean concoctions. The only things in your way are your imagination, fear and irritable bowel syndrome.

Baked beans top tips
  • Lick the plate afterwards. Chances are that your plate will sit on the side in the kitchen for some time, and baked bean juice is a bugger to get off after a week or so.
  • If there are posh people, your girlfriend's mother or friends with sensitive stomachs nearby when you have finished your meal, a slice of bread can be used to clean up the bean juice in place of your tongue. This is, however, less efficient and not great for the calorie-conscious.
  • A whole tin of beans can be a bit much for some people, but these people are weird. You can buy half-tins but these have little going for them: they are nowhere near enough bean for any normal hom-sap, they're less economical and they're just as girly as a half-pint glass.
  • Baked beans are actually not as bad for you as their ease of use and tastiness might imply. As already mentioned, they can count as one of your five-a-day, but this doesn't mean you can eat five cans a day and remain healthy. Or keep your friends.

* Not by @NoLoveSincerer herself; I'm talking about her blog No Love Sincerer. Not that she's not drool-worthy herself, of course. Oh God, I'm backing myself into a hole again, aren't I?
** As I understand it American baked beans differ from British ones in certain respects.
*** Or sometimes gruesome

Christmas Songs Countdown: #9

Step Into Christmas was released as a non-album single over the Christmas of 1973 with the b-side Ho! Ho! Ho! (Who'd be a Turkey at Christmas), and peaked at number 23 in the UK charts. It was originally recorded during 'quickie' sessions at London's Morgan studios and (allegedly) intended as an homage to past Christmas songs produced by Phil Spector.

Although originally album-free, it has since been included on a number of Elton John's compilation albums and box sets as well as a 1995 reissue of Caribou.

And just because I like you, here's that b-side I mentioned above, Ho! Ho! Ho! (Who'd be a Turkey at Christmas):

Christmas Songs Countdown: #10

It's a rare thing for me to put a Queen number so low down on any music based list, but at number 10 it must go.

Thank God It's Christmas is Queen's foray into the world of festive singles. It was released during the Christmas period of 1984 and spent six weeks in the UK charts, peaking at number 21. Personally, it doesn't feature high on either my favourite Christmas songs or favourite Queen songs lists, but it's not actually bad. I think my main issues with it are that it's a bit too serious for me. I like my Christmas songs (on the whole) to focus on the eating, drinking, being merry and and falling out with the family that are for me the defining features of a good Christmas. This song has a feeling of "Bleedin' 'eck, I'm knackered, thank Bob Christmas is here so I can have a lie down." I'm all for that, and I'll be having a very thorough and determined lie down next week, but it doesn't make for a popular seasonal party favourite.

It was written by Brian and Roger* and wasn't blessed with a promotional video which may go some way to explaining its lesser-known status. It wasn't included as an album track on any of the studio albums, but was released as a b-side to Made In Heaven's A Winter's Tale and later made it on to the Queen+ Greatest Hits III compilation.

O.k, go on; Here's A Winter's Tale too: The video's from Queen: The Films, a video of films commissioned by Queen and filmed in conjunction with the British Film Institute shortly after Freddie's death.

* I like to pretend we're on first-name terms.

Why I don't send Christmas cards

To say I hate Christmas cards would perhaps be a little strong. I certainly feel no offence at being given one, but I just don't see much of a point. Here are a few of the reasons why I don't particularly like Christmas cards in no more than a stream-of consciousness order:

 - I'll get the environmental issues out of the way first: They spend a few weeks sat on your mantelpiece, they are looked at once when you first open them, maybe again if they have a joke of some sort contained within, and then you throw them away. I haven't looked up the figures, but the number of cards I see flying in front of my face through the Christmas season is phenomenal, and for something that essentially has the sole purpose of being thrown away it must contribute to a significant fraction of unnecessary festive waste.

 - The financial ones next: Christmas cards are expensive. For the price of what I assume to be a 'decent' Christmas card, you could just as easily buy me a pint of beer or a bar of chocolate, both of which you would give me preferentially if you knew me well enough to warrant buying a card anyway.

 - There's phenomenal scope for causing offence when Christmas card season strikes. Missing the wrong person out can open up a whole can of nasty, stinking worms that fester for years to come, which has led to the writing and distributing of cards turning into something of a military operation that starts being planned some time during August and involves the bulk-buying of obscene numbers of folded bits of stiff paper and firing them off at everyone you have ever met or are ever likely to meet just so that you can avoid upsetting anyone.

 - It's just so false an enterprise. For many people, the annual Christmas card is all that lets them know that you're still on the planet. Some use this as an argument for sending cards. I don't: If they're not important enough to at least poke on Facebook during the rest of the year, then why bother them at Christmas?

 - Having said all that, home-made cards are fine: they take so much time and effort individually that you're telling me I'm worth it. Giving me one out of a box of 500 is telling me I'm not worth it, so why bother in the first place?

To anybody who is considering sending me a card:
Ask yourself whether you're sending it to me because you really, truly want me to know that you're thinking of me in some way at this time, or if you're just doing so out of some feeling of duty or habit.

If the answer's something along the lines of "yes, actually, I like you and want to share feelings of Christmassy goodness with you," then please consider one of the alternatives:

  • Say it to me in person, preferably over a pint or two. If, to you, I'm worth thinking of, then we should catch up, even if we last saw each other only yesterday.
  • If that's not possible or particularly difficult to achieve, send me a personal message via facebook, email, text, telephone or one of the other billion-and-one lines of communication that are open for use. It's free, and it's the thought that goes into it and the words you use that count- don't waste your money on pointless and repetitive mass-communication*.
If you really must spend a small amount of money on me, then the following would be better, depending on the portion of your Christmas card budget that is to be pointed in my direction:
  • Buy me a pint (there are always plenty of festively themed real ales around at this time of year!)
  • Buy me a bar of chocolate.
  • Drop the cash into a charity box (as long as it's not a religiously motivated charity because the chances are it'll be wasted).
If you're thinking of sending me a card out of habit, duty, or other such values, then:
  • Don't bother.

What do you think?
Feel free to agree or disagree with me as vehemently as you like by commenting below or mentioning me on twitter (I'm @TeaKayB!)

* I don't like e-cards either, if that's what you're thinking. If the words that I'm receiving aren't yours then it's a hollow gesture.

Weight loss: The Challenges

I think I've singularly failed in my quest to lose a stone by Christmas, as outlined in this post. I don't know by how much as I haven't been able to bring myself to get on the scales in the last few weeks. I don't think I've gone up (in comparison to my starting weight of 11st 8lb), so it's not too bad.

I've decided to have a think about the challenges that affect me, personally, in my goal to lose weight. They're naturally also things that have contributed to me being overweight in the first place. This post, then, will outline the main challenges as I see them. These may well be the same challenges that you're facing, or you may have others as well: please feel free to comment below with any challenges that you're facing (or have faced) in your own weight loss regime.

1. I really like food.
I mean really like it. And I don't just mean posh, unusual or seasonal food. Any food. I bought some basic, bog-standard bread today of a brand that I haven't tried before and I actually caught myself thinking semi-excitedly about the sandwiches I'd be eating during the week. Would they be nicer than other sandwiches I've had recently? What surprises would a different brand to usual have in store? Would I miss the nuttiness I liked so much in the last loaf, or would there be some different aspect to the bread that would sneak out and fill that particular space? And that first sandwich from a new loaf: soft, fresh bread with smell and texture which makes the filling almost redundant.

Yes; I can get excited about sandwiches. Just imagine the internal struggles of willpower I must be facing as we approach Christmas, traditionally the longest running and most lavishly food-laden of Western celebrations.

2. I really like beer.
I'm not an alcoholic, although the act of writing that has just made me think that that's the first thing I'd write if I was... But I'm not. I do genuinely like beer. Not lager, at least not the awful yak's piss lager favoured by many British weekend drinkers, but actual, real, proper beers and ales. Thinking further, I don't think I'm an alcoholic: put a pint of Carling in front of me and it's likely to remain a pint of Carling indefinitely. But plonk a pint of something darker, hoppier, tastier, locally brewed and possibly including a slight hint of toffee in front of me you're likely to lose your arm if you don't withdraw it quickly enough, and the pint will very quickly cease to be describable as such.

Drinking for me is not simply about the effects of taking on board alcohol. It's about the flavours, colours textures and overall experience of the process of drinking a really nice beer, so it takes an immense effort of will not to order one. I even find the action of the pump arm and seeing the beer flow into the glass and then settle an enjoyable part of the process. Again, the run up to Christmas is a part of the year that sees all those lovely new and different beers finding their way into bar pumps just begging to be sampled. By me.

3. I really don't like exercise.
I don't like sport: playing team sports annoys me, makes me uncomfortable and provides no enjoyment, and even watching them bores me to the point at which I start seriously contemplating chewing my own arms off just to see what happens. More solitary exercise opportunities, such as jogging, cycling, rowing and the rest also fail to interest me, especially as they require extended periods of repetitive actions to be effective. I also do not wish to be seen exercising in public and, even with my levels of cynicism, do not feel the general public should be subjected to my purple, sweaty and breathless form heaving its way through their lives any more than is absolutely necessary.

These are the three main challenges that affect my march towards a leaner, fitter me. I've avoided going into discussions about metabolism, genetics and big-bonedness as these are frequently used as excuses for staying overweight rather than challenges to overcome, and I don't want to stay overweight. Maybe some of these issues are making it more difficult for me to lose weight, but there's not a lot I can do about them so they can go and jump off something.

I'll update with a followup to this outlining what I've been doing to overcome these challenges. For now, though, I'd like some comments from you lot explaining what your weight loss challenges are.

How to fix Google Reader's "oops, an error occurred..." message

Blogging is a big thing at the moment, though many of us read far more than we write. Keeping track of them can be a bit of a nightmare, dotted as they are here and there across the internet. Reader is Google's solution to that: it keeps tabs on your favourite blogs so you don't have to, grabbing new posts from each one and putting them in the same place so you can read them in a similar way to reading your emails: they come to you.

But, like everything in life, there is the odd problem. One of them is this:

In certain versions of certain browsers (my school's version of Internet Explorer is one of them; not sure about others that this issue affects), whenever you try to do much at all (I discovered it when trying to unsubscribe from a blog, but it has happened when trying to mark individual posts as read or unread, and I'm sure there are other times it happens too) an error is displayed towards the top of the page which reads "Oops... an error occurred. Please try again in a few seconds." Waiting a few seconds and trying again doesn't help.

The fix
The fix, it turns out, is an easy one!

  1. Look in the address bar towards the top of your browser window
  2. Where it says "http://...", just click between the 'p' and the ':' and type an 's', so now it looks like "https://..."
  3. Hit return to reload the page.
Done. everything should work properly now. If it doesn't, try the steps outlined above again. If it still doesn't then I'm sorry, but you'll have to continue your search...

Good luck.

Scary Chocolate

I just opened door number 2 on this year's advent calendar and look what jumped out at me:

Chocolate's bad for you...

Not only are they making advent calendar chocolates smaller these days (you can't really tell in this pic, but it's minute), they're also making them scarier. Even now I'm seeing the evil, manic eyes and the bared teeth preferentially to the innocuous and classic children's toy of ages.

The Second Thing I'd Do With a Time Machine

The first thing I'd do with a time machine is, of course, obvious.

The second thing is this:

I'd skip forward in time and collect the next few months' worth of National Lottery* draw numbers, skip back to 'my' time and set about winning vast quantities of cash every week until people started to get suspicious. I would expect the media to start flinging accusations and making flagrant remarks and allegations about my private life after the third week**, and the authorities to get properly interested after around a month's worth of jackpot wins. Once the media had started to kick up a storm and the authorities come knocking, I'd simply disappear for a few months***.

I'd then play on the media's continuing interest and announce that I would prepare and announce a press conference in order to release my secret. I'd then disappear once more for a month or two, popping up only to announce a live, in-person press conference for a given date and time. Every English- speaking country in the world would be led to believe that the press conference was to be hosted by their capital city, and the date and time in question would be some weeks in the future to allow time for debate, argument, speculation and fisticuffs.

On the date and time in question I would arrive at every venue in question simultaneously and give the same pre-prepared speech outlining my 'system' for winning the lottery. The 'system' would, of course, be a complete lie, utterly useless to everybody, and immediately obvious as both. I would finish the conference, leave and move on to item number 3 on my List of Things to Do When I Get My Hands On A Time Machine.

* I refuse to call it 'Lotto'. Stupid name.
** This, of course, doesn't include the Daily Mail. They'd probably find a way of backdating their unfounded rumour-milling to a point before I'd even started winning.
*** Of your time, naturally. I'd just jump a few months into the future- for me it'd be no time at all.

Happy Freddie Day!

Today, as if any of you didn't know*, is the 19th anniversary of the death of Freddie Mercury from AIDS related bronchial pneumonia.

Given this, you might be wondering why I'm proclaiming 'happy' Freddie Day. Well, why not? Why not celebrate the life of a man who made a great contribution to popular music throughout the 70s and 80s and, arguably, beyond, rather than continuing to mourn his passing. He is one of those musicians, along with John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix and others, who have achieved near-immortality as a result of their talent and extravagances whilst alive and the untimely manner of their death.

I wanted to write a longer post this year, but the Ofsted bomb has dropped this week, and I'm typing this whilst taking a break from feverish marking. Oh well, there's always next year, and that's a round number and therefore more important anyway. Here's Freddie telling it in his own words (and you can scroll down further if you just want the ROCK!):

And because I'm good to you, here's something that you may not have seen if you're not a hardcore Queen fan. It's a medley of tracks from their third studio album, Sheer Heart Attack. Forget your 'Greatest Hits' collections, this is raw Queen at their greatest (the only thing I'll say against it is that the tape-to-digital transition hasn't gone well: you'll realise that this feels a bit slow, and if you know Queen you'll be able to hear that they're singing a little deeper than usual...)

From later in their career and showing their lighter side, here's their version of Tutti Fruitti from 1986 concert at Wembley Stadium. Awesome.

* What do you mean you're not all as freakily obsessive as me?

Photography - Weddings and abstract

Two friends of mine, Steve and Rachel, got married this weekend. It was a lovely wedding- one of the nicest I've been to- dispensing entirely (as far as I could see) with the religious aspects often associated with such a union and focussing entirely on the relationship (past, present and future) of the happy couple. It was a charming and unique occasion (which is only fitting) and will, I am sure, be memorable to both the new Mr & Mrs and their guests.

But this post isn't about the wedding itself: I took my Nikon D60 along and took a few snaps that I'm pretty pleased with. I'm only including non-human subjects in the pictures below because I haven't asked the permission of any humans I've snapped, and they'll have better things to think about right now!

Anyway... on with the show:

I rearranged a few of the things on our table at the reception for this one, lit with the ambient light of the venue. The colour scheme for the wedding was a gorgeous vibrant erm... reddish colour. What? I'm not a Dulux paint chart.

This is the roof space at the wedding venue. I loved the angles, colour and texture of the wooden beams, and the positions of the lights caused some really nice shadows. Shame about the ceiling fan, though.


These are the newlyweds. Steve's likeness is disturbingly accurate.


This is a small display made up of the shiny silver plastic stars that often seem to turn up on the tables at wedding receptions. I took this using the D60's flash, which gave the image a washed-out, almost supernatural look that I kind of like.


Here's the same structure taken from different angles. The lighting source this time is my phone's LED flash light, wielded by my beautiful assistant, Nick. I should probably point out that Nick is also responsible for creating the mini palace-of-light in the first place.


And one more of our crystal castle. Well, I like it.

And then Abi did this.

Gone was our creation, so we went back to doing what you're supposed to do at wedding receptions: dance, drink, eat (boy, did we do a lot of eating), and take silly yet thematically linked photographs with the requisite disposable cameras dotted around the room. I may share one or two of those if they make their way into electronic form in the near future.

Oh yes: Emma made a snowman out of sparkly bits. I've upped the contrast on this one, and think it looks pretty nifty. That could just be me, though.

Looking back through this post it appears that the photos got progressively less sensible as the evening progressed. I wonder what could have caused that.

Answers on a postcard?

Why do they put peanuts on a bar?

In more up-market pubs you often see bowls of peanuts placed at regular intervals along the bar. Many people wrongly assume that these are for eating.

Accompany me, for a moment, as I drift off to a Chinese restaurant: at the end of the meal (and often at different points during the meal) a bowl of warm, slightly lemony water is brought to the table. cue much joking along the lines of "this soup's really watery" etc. Some ignorant or uninitiated diners do actually assume that it's another course, an accompaniment to something already on the table, or a palate cleanser such as the role sorbet occupies in high western cuisine.

Exactly the same thing happens with peanuts on a pub's bar, although the mistake of actually eating them is one that is made far more often. If you do take up a handful of peanuts from the bowl in front of you and throw them into your mouth you are actually committing a gross social faux pas, and if you look carefully you will see other, in-the-know patrons laughing at you from behind their pint glasses.

So what are they actually for?
It is well known that people in pubs, particularly men, perform only a cursory handwash after spending a penny in the smallest room, and properly drying the hands after this is almost unthinkable. The peanuts on any bar are salted, and salt is an excellent absorber of water. Dipping the fingers into a bowl of peanuts and having a bit of a rummage allows the salt on the peanuts to absorb excess water, reducing the lubricating effect it has on fingers, decreasing the likelihood of glass slippage and therefore droppage and spillage.

But why are the peanuts necessary?
If this was the case, I hear you think, surely a bowl of salt would be all that was necessary? Why the peanuts?

There are a few of reasons why the bowls include peanuts:

  1. Aesthetic reasons: In much the same way that a bowl of pot pourri is much more attractive than a bowl with deodorant sprayed in it, a bowl of peanuts usually compliments a pub's bar in terms of colour and texture much better than a pillar of salt would, especially when damp.
  2. Cost & efficiency:
    1. The peanuts are coated with the salt, which allows the bowl to be more full whilst actually including a minimum of salt.
    2. Usage time: The salt absorbs water from the fingers, but can only hold so much. A salted peanut allows water to be absorbed by the salt and then passed through to the encased peanut, which stores the water and dries out the salt. Salt by itself would quickly become saturated and need replacing. Also, the shape of the peanuts means that there is a certain amount of airflow through the mixture at all times, which allows excess moisture to evaporate from the surface as well as being stored inside the peanut.
  3. Disposal: The salt sticks to the peanuts. When a given bowl of the salt/peanut mixture has reached the end of its operational life, it is much easier to dispose of and then replace. A bowl of wet salt is far more fiddly to deal with. Also, if a spillage is to occur, salt that is attached to peanuts is far easier to clean up than a bowl full of salt all over the carpet.

A final point
You may have heard the assertion that studies have revealed traces of an average of twenty-seven different people's urine in a bowl of bar peanuts. This gives a reason beyond simply avoiding a display of social ignorance as to why you shouldn't eat the peanuts from a bowl in a pub.

Social poll: Fireworks displays

It's Friday the fifth of November, and time for fireworks, frolicking and fun with friends and family.

Enough of that... Here's a poll for you: How do you take your fireworks? As always, comments are welcome from whichever point of view you choose! free polls
Where will you be watching fireworks this year?
At a private venue, with just friends and (or) family;  At a public event;  Both!  Neither.    

Actually, come to think of it, it'd be nice to know why you're letting off fireworks (if, of course, you are): for Guy Fawkes, or for Diwali, or another reason altogether?

01000001 00100000 01100010 01101001 01101110 01100001 01110010 01111001 00100000 01100010 01101001 01110010 01110100 01101000 01100100 01100001 01111001

No, this post is not corrupt. It's in binary. Try googling "binary decoder"!
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A complaint to the BBC: The Papal visit to the UK, 2010

In case you didn't notice, between the 16th and 19th September 2010 the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI, visited the UK. This visit was, largely, at the expense of the UK taxpayer and included heartfelt and publicly broadcast insults and slurs against a large portion of these taxpayers. The British Broadcasting Company, a supposedly impartial media corporation, covered this event but paid almost no attention to the significant number of people who were upset by many aspects of this occasion, including the twenty thousand who marched in protest on the day of the Pope's visit to London.

With this in mind, and in my role as a licence fee payer, I have complained to the BBC. My complaint is included below and I encourage anybody who pays a British television licence fee (this directly funds the BBC and is obligatory if you own a television set in the UK) and is also disappointed in the unequal weighting they routinely give to secular viewpoints to do the same. You can complain online using the form at this address and although it would obviously be better for you to voice your own opinions in your own style I have no problems with anybody using my complaint as a template:

The BBC's coverage of the Pope's visit to the UK between the 16th and 19th September was explicitly biased in favour of the country's Catholic community and was noticeably deficient with regards to atheist, secular, humanist and other non-religious issues, views and opinions.
There was a march during this period which included almost twenty thousand people protesting about the visit being funded by money raised from taxes (as well as other aspects of his visit). Pitifully few campaigners were interviewed in comparison to the plethora of Catholic leaders and supporters who were encouraged to voice their opinions over what is supposed to be an impartial news service.
This is not the only situation in which the BBC has shown ignorance of an increasingly large demographic: the non-religious. I am disgusted that my licence fee payments are funding an organisation with such a blatant disregard for the opinions of a significant portion of its customers.

Social poll: Are you religious?

Please take a couple of seconds to answer the question below. For the purposes of this poll you are religious if you believe in a god or other religious entity and follow at least in part their teachings and the moral code of that religion*.

In terms of religion, how would you describe yourself?
I follow a religion
I am agnostic
I am an atheist
Other (please comment) free polls

* It is, of course, possible for your personal moral values to fall in line with those of any particular religion without you actually following or believing in that religion**.
** Contrary to popular belief (in certain circles) it is entirely possible to have personal moral values without following any particular religion.

How to become a Saint

We all know, from Pope Benedict XVI*'s well-founded, superbly researched and not at all lie-ridden speech in Edinburgh the other day, that all the world's ills are caused by atheists. Ills such as wanton, unfounded prejudice and discrimination, child abuse (including rape), terrorism, mass murder and genocide. Or knowingly and deliberately doing something that will further the spread of a particularly nasty disease.

So now we know how to be bad people: simply put, just don't believe in a god**. But if we want to look at the other end of the scale, ultimate goodness and eternal recognition for it, then how on Earth does one become a Saint in the eyes of the Catholic church***?

Luckily for us there are just a few easy steps to attaining eternal religious superiority over our fellow human beings. They are as follows:

Step 1: Die.
In all honesty, the Catholic church doesn't 'make' someone a Saint, they simply officially recognise their Saintly status, but for someone to classsify they have to have been admitted into heaven. It's difficult to get into heaven without being dead first.

Once you're dead, the process really kicks off.

Step 2: Impress a local Bishop
Obviously, in order to be recognised as Saintly you have to have officially been awesome throughout your life. The Bishop of the area you lived in, once alerted to your feats of heroic virtue while alive, will research and document your life, work and writings in order to provide evidence for consideration by the relevant authorities.

Actually, thinking about it it's probably better to impress your Bishop before you die.

Step 3: Be submitted for consideration to the Congregation for the Cause of Saints
This is a bunch of Cardinals and theologians based at the Vatican who work together to evaluate your life. If the evidence is convincing enough, the Pope will proclaim you to be a role model for Catholics everywhere. You will then be given the title "venerable", which looks fantastic on any C.V. but doesn't come with a badge.

Step 4: Perform a miracle
Because there's no such thing, so you have to pick and choose from stuff that just happens.
This is where it gets difficult: not only do you have to perform a miracle and get it recognised as such by the Church: you also have to do it whilst being dead (see step 1). When you have performed this miracle and been recognised for it, you are then beatified, which allows you to be honoured by a geographical region or group of people and presumably involves a makeover of some sort.

The standard miracle is curing someone of a disease or affliction after they have prayed for you (specifically) to do so. Well-known helper of people**** Mother Teresa was beatified in 2002 after she posthumously cured an abdominal tumour of Monica Besra by emitting a beam of light from a picture of Teresa kept within a locket owned by Besra. The Pope has, as part of his 2010 tour of the United Kingdom, beatified 19th Century brummie clergyman Cardinal John Henry Newman who cured Deacon Jack Sullivan's spinal disorder after being prayed to. The Vatican concluded that these things couldn't just happen on their own, therefore the most likely explanation was that someone who was long dead did them by magic.

If you want to get a head start in proceedings you could always put an effort into making step 1 occur for reasons of a particularly religious nature. An in-service death for a Catholic, (martyrdom) is a fast-track route to beatification and trumps the performance of a miracle.

Step 5: Perform another miracle
One miracle is not enough, presumably because a single miracle can feasibly be faked, fabricated, invented or even made up completely. But two miracles is an entirely different matter.

Worry not, however, as miracles come in many forms, as can be seen by the Miracle of the Herrings in the player below:

Once your second miracle is discovered and verified by the Vatican, then you will be canonised. Congratulations! You are now a Saint!

Where to next?
Sainthood may seem like the top of the ladder, which may be a disappointment for the more ambitious good-doers amongst us, but fear not! There are yet further steps to take for the truly brilliant Catholic follower:

This is a kind of upper level of Sainthood; becoming a Saint Prefect, or a Saint of Saints, if you like. If your life and deeds have shown particularly outstanding commitment to the cause of spreading Catholicism you may be raised to this pedestal of pedestals and adored by thousands in the true sense of the word.

Certain groups, occasions and other things have their own special Saints known as Patrons. To become a Patron Saint is certainly the crowning glory for any Saint, and the great thing is that you can become a Patron Saint of just about anything: the Pope is currently looking for a Patron Saint of the internet and computer programmers, with Saint Isidore of Seville being the current front runner. There are Patron Saints of ugly people, fireworks, comedians, procrastinators, coffee pots, various phobias, mad dogs, dysentry and sexually transmitted diseases (which is hilariously ironic, considering the Catholic Church's dislike of condoms).

* Born Joseph Alois Ratzinger, or Palpatine to his mates.
* Or, rather, don't believe in Benny's God. The only way his comments make any kind of sense at all is if he is lumping followers of the thousands of alternative gods to his Catholic one in with those who follow no god at all. Which makes no sense anyway.
*** I'm looking at Catholicism because all other religious choices are false and therefore evil.
**** Unless, of course, they didn't want to convert to Catholicism, in which case she just let them die.

Weight loss: an update and a video

Oh, how I love thee...
I won't lie... this week hasn't gone wonderfully well regarding my weight loss target. After starting with the target of losing a stone by Christmas, I now have to lose a bit more than a stone before Christmas. I'm putting this down (mainly) to the delayed action of my 'last hurrah' weekend, which resulted in the addition of an entire 3lb to my body weight. I managed to get rid of most of that during the rest of the week, but last night saw an evening out in which the eating of curry and drinking of beer was necessary for fear of offending the birthday boy. So we'll see.

One thing I've successfully achieved is changing my choice of beverage at my bi-weekly after-school pub trip with colleagues. I'm loathe to give them up entirely as the layout, ethos and organisation of my school doesn't exactly lend itself to bumping into people outside of my department, and without my Tuesday and Friday wind-downs (and wind-ups...) it's perfectly conceivable that I could interact with nobody but maths teachers for weeks on end, and who knows what damage that could do to a mind.

Anyway... to the point: I've swapped my bi-weekly beer for a bi-weekly Diet Coke. I'm sure some people would suggest that a glass of diet water would be even better, but I'd feel somewhat uncomfortable about walking into a pub and sitting there for two hours and not paying for a drink. Buying drinks is, of course, what keeps pubs open.

A quick internet search* leads me to believe that a can of Diet Coke contains about 1.3 calories in comparison to the 142 on offer in a standard can of Fat Coke**. Compare this again to my usual tipple, a pint of beer (usually a Black Sheep, London Pride or Greene King IPA at this particular pub), which contains around 200 calories and you'll see I'm making an even bigger saving in terms of fatness. And, incidentally, financially.

The biggest issue with doing this is that I really like beer. And I feel like a bit of a girly ponce sitting with a Diet Coke in front of me. These issues are somewhat allayed by the fact that two of my drinking buddies are also trying to lose some weight and are happy to join me in a D.C. so we can possibly pretend we're in some kind of weird Diet Coke-drinking club and people won't judge us on our choice of drink***.

And then I found this...

... and everything is fine now.

* i.e. please correct me if you know better.
** Regular, non-diet Coca-Cola.
*** They'll be casting aspersions on our lifestyle choices instead, and for three people who are teachers and geeks, we're used to that.

Weight loss: a pledge

It's the start of a new (academic) year, so why not make a resolution?

I, TeaKayB, pledge to lose a stone in weight by Christmas.

This should take me down to being at the lower end of 'overweight' according to my BMI so, allowing for some seasonal weight gain, I should hopefully be in a position after Christmas to make a similar pledge and get myself down to reside comfortably within my 'ideal' BMI range by Easter ish.

How am I going to manage this? There are a few parts to my strategy which, with a hefty dollop of willpower, should work together to help me de-jaffer myself:

  1. Exercise:
     - At least one hour on my exercise bike every day.
     - At least 10,000 steps (to be judged by my ipod) every day.
  2. Diet:
    I won't be dieting, as such. I will be making an attempt to change my eating habits in the hope that I can maintain my weight without too much heartache once I've reached a level at which my scales stop pleading "one at a time, please" at least until I put my second foot on as well:
     - Smaller portions
     - A greater proportion of these portions will be fruit/veg based
     - No snacking at school (I'll eat what I take, and won't go to the shop).
  3. Tracking:
    I'll be tracking my weight and BMI ch-ch-changes using my Wii and Wii Fit board. I'll weight myself most days (but don't worry; I won't post about it as often!) Hopefully this will give me an incentive to keep it up and let me know how I'm doing.
I'm going to try to be extra-saintly with all of these so that the various birthdays between now and Christmas (including my own) can be celebrated without having to say things like "I'll have the salad."

Join in
Feel free to keep me up to date with your own goals and progress with regards to weight loss- it can help if you know there's someone else trying to achieve the same thing! You can comment on my blog posts or message me on twitter- I'm @TeaKayB!

So, without further a do... let the challenge commence!

Starting weight: 12st 8lb
This corresponds to a BMI of 27.68
Target weight: 11st 8lb
This corresponds to a BMI of 25.50

What's in your TARDIS?

I've been inspired by Matt Smith and Karen Gillan in the video below to think about what would be included in my dream TARDIS, were I lucky enough to have one bestowed upon me.

AMEF weekender 007
What's in your TARDIS? Tweet ideas with #inmyTARDIS
In case you're not sure, the TARDIS is the Doctor's* time machine. Externally, it looks like a classic blue police box from the 1960s, but on the inside it's something else entirely. For starters, it's bigger. Much bigger. No one really knows how much bigger, but some schools of thought believe that it's infinitely big on the inside. We already know that the Doctor's TARDIS has certain features beyond the console room that we see regularly on TV: living quarters, bathrooms, a medical bay, the cloister room, a greenhouse, a library (complete with swimming pool), an enormous multi-storey wardrobe and even a secondary console room, but with such enormous amounts of space to play with, there must be room for customisation.

Matt's initial suggestions are disappointingly normal (a music room and a football pitch), but at least he's thinking big. But why not bigger? You could have your own stadium! Karen's go a little further into the wacky and wonderful with her idea of going down a floor by slide only. But what would you have if you could specify rooms or other features to be included in your TARDIS?

Some examples? Well, to take Karen's sliding down to lower floors idea a little further, if you've got the tech to stuff the enormity of the TARDIS interior into a police box, you already know how to fold space in on itself, so why not add a nip and a tuck here and there so that you can slide up to higher floors as well?
But the first original idea that came into my head was this: an exercise room that you can only get into by travelling up an escalator that only works in the downwards direction.

I'm sure you can come up with better ones, so either comment here, or post them on twitter using the hashtag #inmyTARDIS.

* As in Doctor Who. If you're still not sure what I'm talking about, you might like to have a browse through some of the tags in the sidebar on the right of this post for something more 'you'.

Social poll: Do you read on the throne?

Do you sit on the toilet, loo, crapper or bog and open up a book or magazine for the duration? Or are you thoroughly offended by the very idea? Answer my poll below and we'll find out the consensus...

I realise the response section isn't all-encompassing, but assume that a 'yes' response covers everything from 'now and then' all the way up to 'I thought it was all part of the process', whereas 'no' includes 'it just hasn't occured to me to do so' through to 'you're a sick, sick individual for even thinking about suggesting it, and I can barely bring myself to take part in your poll for the convulsive wretching that's taking over my body at the mere thought of it.'

As always, your comments on the matter would be greatly appreciated!

Do you read whilst sitting on the crapper?
Yes (male)
Yes (female)
No (male)
No (female free polls
By the way, I was prompted to do this by Martin Lewis's latest post over at moneysavingexpert.

And if you'd be interested in taking part in more social polls, just click on the 'social polls' tag!

Do you like what you're reading?

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