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Advertisements.

These are the annoying interruptions that interfere with our enjoyment of whatever programme we happen to be watching.  Most are the inane concoctions of people of questionable mental stability, hoping that we are malleable enough for them to convince us to rush out and buy whatever product they are trying to sell.  They belong in the sixth level of hell with Lawyers and Carphone Warehouse sales representatives!  Not that I have anything against Carphone Warehouse, per se, but they always managed to talk me into buying a really crap phone.  That means that they are exceptional sales-people or I am a gullible fool.  Ok, don’t even think about commenting on that!!

Back to these advertisements, then.

I will admit that there are a few that are subtle, intelligent and thought provoking, however, they are the few.  The rest appear to be aimed at gerbils or people with the same IQ as gerbils!  In fact, the gerbils are probably annoyed with them too!  And the hamsters!  And any other small, furry creatures that have the misfortune to be caged in front of the television!  I digress.  The fact is, if the advert treats us like idiots then those that produced it must think we are idiots.  I, personally, don’t like the inference.  I like to think that I am fairly well educated (I also like to think I am an astronaut, too, boldly going where no man has….) and as such, like to be treated like an educated man.

The adverts I am about to refer to are from the UK, so I apologise to any international readers.

One of the adverts that highlights this is the new one from Dettol.  In this masterpiece of idiocy, they show you that the top of a soap dispenser could be full of harmful germs.  Aren’t all germs harmful?  Anyway, if you buy their new dispenser that detects your hands it automatically dispenses some soap without you having to touch the filthy top.  Fantastic idea – NOT.  Dettol protects – fact.  Dettol ad is stupid – another fact!  The main reason being, you tend to use soap when your hands are already dirty, so adding a few more germs just before you wash them all off isn’t really going to bother you.  Or is it?  Are there people out there that use rubber gloves to use the soap dispenser and then removed them to wash their hands?  Hmm, that wouldn’t work, either.  One hand would have to be gloveless.  Maybe there are a load of single rubber gloves lying around somewhere?

Another perfect example of these simpletons assuming that we have the same limited intelligence as they obviously haven’t is the Credit Expert advert.  This is one advert that makes my blood boil, not only because it assumes you’re a cretin, it makes matters worse by including half-baked information in it’s rhetoric!  Now I have no problem with a little exaggeration, my hundreds of years of experience and my PhD in English will attest to that, but complete falsehoods are just ridiculous!

There they are, two obviously effeminate men, in an obvious sadomasochistic relationship; all they were missing were the gimp masks and the whips!  One is touting complete tosh about a service no one needs (and, by the way, is totally untrue) and the other one is spouting complete bollocks about ice being brought from the moon!  So, not only are they treating us as morons but they are also trying to make us dumber!  Or maybe the script-writer actually thinks there is ice on the moon?  The space shuttle must obviously be making detours via the lunar ice caps, the ones that don’t exist in this universe, so they must be warping off to a different dimension!

I did state at the start that not all advertisements treat us as if we just crawled out from the primordial ooze.  Lloyds Bank, for instance, has a fetish for deformed children, albeit cute in their actions.  I just find these adverts distressing, massively transmogrified humans and their freaky children walking around without a care in the world, although that makes a change, they are usually stuck on that train that seems to go everywhere!  The new one with the little girl being a ballerina just makes me cringe.  How on earth does she walk let alone pirouette is beyond me!

Then there are the really creepy ads.  The new Birdseye ads are as disturbing as they come.  I’m not sure about you, but if I opened my freezer and saw a talking, stuffed toy telling me that he’s ‘watching me’, I would probably have a cardiac!  That aside, how the hell did they get in there?  I mean, they are short little buggers and the freezer is on the top shelf!  Ok, here I am assuming that stuffed toys have the ability to move and then fathom out how to enclose themselves in an airtight freezer, waiting for you to open it before they pounce!  Scary!  But animated cuddly toys?  Maybe God has decided that the human race needs protectors and brought all those toys to life?  To top off the scary category; what about those tough sounding toys that apparently make sure you get a good nights sleep?  They way they sound, it would probably involve concrete boots and sleeping with the fishes!  I don’t have children, but I would love to prop them up in front of the TV and watch their reactions when they see the ads!  Ok, I’m sick and probably a good job I don’t have kids, but if anyone wants me to babysit for them……

Certain advertisements have been ongoing since the birth of TV ads.  PG tips has always used chimpanzees.  In recent years, probably because of some left wing, tree hugging animal rights activists (I would love for them to ‘animal rights’ in the large plains of India with some Bengal Tigers!) they have stopped using the Chimps that used to make us laugh.  Those of us old enough to shave should remember them, always enjoying a nice brew of PG.  Now, they no longer use the live chimps, but keep the brand alive by still using a monkey and a stuffed toy!  (Sorry, Johnny, I think you’re great, honestly! (as if he is gonna read this!!)).

With all this ridiculing (like you would be reading it if I wasn’t!), I have to say, for the record, that there are a few advertisements that are thought provoking, intelligently thought out and filmed with perspective.  These are rare and unfortunately, becoming rarer as the children, made dumb from the existing ads, grow up and work in the advertising industry thereby making the ads dumber.  It’s a vicious circle and we are caught inside this maelstrom of ignorance heading to the oblivious depths of idiocy.

Mind you, the only other option is the BBC!

Dawn

I know that this may be hard to believe, but there are two four o’clocks in a day!  The first time I discovered this was while I was in the army.  Trust me, it was a terrible introduction!  I still remember it clearly; stood in a trench with a fellow recruit, dead tired as we had been run ragged throughout the night by our sadistic instructors, we watched the dawn creep slowly over the hills and trees.  It wasn’t a spectacular dawn as described in books and paintings, but a dreary one, promising rain.  It was, to be perfectly honest with you, a totally miserable experience.  The shock of being awake at such a ridiculous time mixed in with the fact that we were going to be wet and miserable for the rest of the very long day was enough to make a grown man cry.  We didn’t, of course.  Mainly because we could barely classify ourselves as grown men and the fact that our tear ducts were too tired anyway!

But that was a long time ago now.  I have been up countless times since, and the experiences have been mixed.  I do remember one outstanding dawn, in Saudi Arabia, just before we were going to teach a bloke called Saddam that he really shouldn’t have occupied a nearby country.  I was stood on the roof of a building we had ‘borrowed’ and was having a well deserved cup of tea and a smoke, when I noticed the sun rising over the desert.  Now that was the sunrise as described in books; the darkness turning from a deep, dark blue to an orange, then red and finally yellow and blue as the sun crested the dunes.  It happened so quickly that you could barely believe it.  I would like to have classed it as the perfect sunrise, but our situation seriously dampened any poetic or romantic notions!  It was very pretty and I have yet to experience another like it.

And here I am, again, at dawn, experiencing another four o’clock.  This time, however, I am at home, listening to the noise of birds chirping (does anyone else find that annoying?) and wondering why the hell I am awake!  Even the dog is snoring quietly in his bed, having looked up earlier and watched me make a cup of tea.  I wonder if he thought I was a complete idiot being up this early?

For me, though, being up at this time is due to circumstances beyond my control.  Some poor souls have to do it every day through necessity.  I really feel for the men and women that have to be up at this time of the day because of their jobs.  Having never been a ‘morning’ person, I imagine their misery at having to do whatever they are doing at this time of the day and, all the time, wishing that they were back in their warm beds, sleeping and dreaming dreams of Easter bunnies or whatever their subconsciousness conjure up!

There are, however, weird bunches of people who actually like being up early.  To me, that’s about as natural as me eating grass and producing orange juice!  I can understand wild animals being awake – they have to be for a variety of reasons; from getting something to eat to just ensuring that they aren’t the something to eat for another animal!  But people?  For me, the call of a lovely warm, comfortable bed and being in a deep, blissful sleep is by far the best way to not experience a dawn.  But not these people, they are up, making tea or coffee and doing stuff.  How wrong is that!

These ‘morning’ people are probably aliens, sent to spy on us while we are all asleep.  Ok, probably not, but they may as well be.  What on earth can you do this early in the morning?  Nothing is open, TV is rubbish and even the postman is only just waking up!  But there they are, walking the dog (who is probably very annoyed about being dragged out at this ridiculous hour – my dog would probably look at me as if I was completely insane, bite me, then go back to his bed.  And who could blame him!) and probably making their way down to the news agent to get a paper (the news agent is probably not a morning person but is one of those poor souls that have to get up early).  And then what do they do?  They go back home, sit down with their paper and a cup of tea, waiting for the rest of the world to wake up!

I am not one that would judge a person on how and why they do things; ok, maybe I am.  I am sure that I have some foibles that people would consider strange (like writing about people being up early in the morning) and, no doubt, people may think that I am slightly weird (but in a good way, naturally!).  But as dawn turns into day, I sit here wishing I was asleep without a worry in the world, while the real weirdo’s walk their cats and greet each other with happy smiles and waves.  And to top if all off, it isn’t even a nice dawn.  It’s cold, it’s damp and I’m awake!

A Visitor

Today I met someone new.

Ok, not an earth-shattering statement but for someone who rarely ventures outside, meeting someone new is quite an occurrence.  In fact, it’s such a significant event that I am writing about it on my blog!  How’s that for special!!

What makes it more interesting is that my visitor was a priest.  In fact, he probably still is a priest, but as he is no longer here, I can’t guarantee that.  Maybe after visiting me he has given up on being a man of the cloth and has turned to alcohol!!  Joking aside, a priest in my house is a special occasion.  I thought it might be for my last rites, but he just wanted to chat and get to know me.  It was a very enjoyable visit.

So what, you may say.  Big deal.

Maybe you are right, but for me it was a big deal and quite significant.

Today has not been a particularly good day for me.  I wont bore you with the details, needless to say, I wasn’t dancing any jigs or doing cartwheels.  When my priestly visitor arrived, I was nearly catatonic and less than enthusiastic.  I did wonder if he would be trying to convert me or maybe even recruiting me into the priesthood as I retire from the Army in fifteen days.  I was wrong on all counts.  This man, this priest, who had never met me before, just wanted to give me some company; to chat if I wanted to or just sit in silence if I wanted that.

It was an hour or so that ended too soon.

A person I had never met before and knew nothing about me, sat and chatted with me.  We chatted, we had a laugh and I even had a cry.  I wasn’t uncomfortable in this man’s company, I didn’t feel any pressure or feel that I had to be something that I wasn’t.  Our conversation covered a myriad of topics and we discovered that we had several things in common.  Before anyone suggests that this is the beginning of some sort of Bromance, let me reassure you it is nothing of the sort.  I am not his type and he is married, anyway!

Everyone has their own view of the world, the people and the societies that inhabit it.  I have never really believed in man being selfless and caring but recently I have experienced numerous events that disprove my views.  I have read about the experiences of an extraordinary woman, seen the selfless generosity of a people beset by austerity and met people who have taken the time and effort in order to make me feel a little better.  All my preconceptions have been turned upside down and my opinion of the human race has improved.

It’s enlightening to know that there are countless, selfless people out there that endeavour to make life a little better for others.  It can be the smallest of gestures or just giving time to help.  It doesn’t really matter what it is, the point is that they do it without asking for any reward.  It’s just a shame that these people are scarce and outnumbered by those that only care for themselves.  If only we all could give a little time or effort to help others then the world would be a much happier place; a safer place.  If only one generation of man learnt to be a little more selfless then our children would learn from us.

Ooops, I just started wandering off and being philosophical and stuff.  Sorry.

Anyway, back to my visitor.  He, probably intentionally (you just don’t know with those priest types!), made me feel a little better and thereby made me kick myself out of my stupor.  I’m still not going to be able to do a jig or anything as dynamic as that, but I’ll imagine that I am doing one – it’s the best I can do at the moment!  I am going to read his blog (apparently they don’t just preach but can write as well!).  I’ve added a link so if any of you are interested, you can have a quick read too.

I am looking forward to his next visit and next time I am going to be more lucid so I can have a theological discussion on Darwinism or something.  Or, I could just offer him a coffee and chat about the weather.  Or maybe puppies.  Who knows!

Laughter is the best medicine

Ever had a day where everything has gone against you? Car trouble, boss trouble, wife trouble, in fact any trouble. You are miserable, you want to get drunk and punch the nearest wall and then someone tells you something funny and all those miserable feelings just evaporate! Gone as if they never existed in the first place. You laugh until tears start pouring out of your eyes and your sides begin to hurt.  Laughter is like that.

I have no idea who came up with the adage that ‘Laughter is the best medicine’ but research suggests that it was the Bible and then Readers Digest.  Quite ironic that the book that caused so much suffering was so insightful when it came to laughter!

We all like to laugh. Even the miserable ones out there secretly enjoy it! Some of us enjoy watching comedies, others go to comedy gigs and others just live with comedic people. Whatever your poison, subconsciously we all want a good laugh. Apparently laughing makes you lose weight, stay younger and makes you more attractive. Ok, I made all that up, but laughing can be good for you. Well, most of the time, anyway!

I remember that Readers Digest had a section on Laughter being the best medicine and I have to agree.  Research into laughter has revealed conflicting results.  It does conclude that laughter is a social mechanism and we are all affected by it, in some way or another.  One study suggests that it is like speaking tongues, in that the ‘ha ha ha’ or the ‘hee hee hee’ somehow communicates something to our neural pathways that encourage us to reciprocate.

The science behind laughter is incomplete and, to be frank, pretty long winded.  I know.  I read most of it before even thinking of writing this article.  I don’t mind giving you my thoughts on puppies but when it comes to something as technical as laughter, I try and make sure I know what I am talking about; and that is a rarity unto itself – me knowing what I am on about!

One thing is clear, though.  When it comes to the dating game, women prefer men who make them laugh.  Laughter has a feel good factor to it.  Try to remember the last time you had a good laugh and then how you felt afterwards.  No doubt you were wiping away the remaining tears and still giggling as the incident that made you laugh is replayed in your mind.  Is it a design of nature that men try and make women laugh as part of the mating process?  Lets face it, when a woman is asked about her partner you will usually hear that he or she has a great sense of humour.

Laughing at work is also a favourite.  At the lower levels of the work hierarchy, laughter is more acceptable.  As you progress up the ladder, you tend to find that the executives laugh less as they are supposed to be leaders.  I find this a crock!  I was a manager of a lot of men and women and was always joining the banter.  My immediate superiors were not impressed and I was repeatedly told that I was above them and should not be so familiar with my subordinates!  I couldn’t believe they were serious.  It didn’t matter as I ignored them anyway and I continued as I had before.  What my superiors didn’t seem to realise is that when your subordinates see their boss interacting with them and not standing off, they work harder and aim to please.  They aren’t afraid to seek advice to problems be they professional or otherwise.  I had a great team working for me.  Obviously there was a line in the sand, I was, after all, their boss, but they rarely, if ever, crossed that line.

Laughter is contagious.  You must have been in a situation where someone broke out laughing and soon everyone gets the giggles, then laughs.  It can’t be helped.  Laughter is a social thing, people may have a quick giggle when they are alone, but they wont laugh out loud.  Even though people go to comedy clubs and watch comedy on TV, it’s actually the one to one interaction between individuals that propagates the most laughter.  The speaker may have ended a comment with a laugh which, in turn, caused others to laugh.  With the exception of comedians, it is usually the originator of the funny comment that laughs the most!

There is proof that laughter can help with people who are ill.  I remember a film with Robin Williams in which he played a doctor called Patch Adams.  It was a fascinating film and highlights what I have written above.  Patch didn’t take any notice of his superiors or how he was supposed to interact with his ill patients, but went out of his way to inject a little humour into their lives.  This had a dramatic affect in that his patients started to get better.

I don’t know if it is true or not but I know from experience that when hurt or injured, laughing can make you forget about the pain and the situation.

A true story.  I was called one night by the police.  Apparently one of my subordinates was thinking about committing suicide.  Immediately I gathered as much information as I could and raced to meet up with the police in order to see the person in question.  She was a married woman who’s husband was working abroad.  When we finally managed to get her to answer the door, she was in a mess.  I knew her well and had a laugh and a joke with her before, but this was not the time to be laughing.  After the police left the matter in my hands, I had two options.  I could either get her committed to a hospital for psychological evaluation and thereby ruin her career or I could see if I could stop her thinking about doing something silly and get through the problem.

At first, the conversation was very serious.  Suicide isn’t something you joke about to a young, vulnerable woman.  But, because she already knew me, I was her boss but one that had taken the time to know her and have a laugh with her, she trusted me.  And that was the key thing.  Trust.  After five hours of being with her, we were laughing at the most ridiculous things and she was feeling a lot better, both mentally and physically.  I asked her if she would see me the following morning and she agreed.  I took a risk and left her, hoping that she wouldn’t do something silly.  She didn’t.  She reported to me the following morning and all was okay.

I was very proud of what I had done.

Now my friends and family come and visit me and make me laugh.  They don’t come dressed as clowns or anything, but through conversation, “Do you remember that bloke that…..” and then the laughter as we recall whatever stupid incident it was.  Also, it’s weird how we laugh at other people’s misfortune (as long as it’s not serious).  That’s how all these ‘Ooops TV’ and ‘Jackass’ came to be.

Laughing is uncomfortable for me, but when I laugh I forget it for a few moments.  Laughing with my friends makes me forget all the troubles in the world and makes me feel comfortable and companionship.  Laughing is inherent in our culture and our society.  It is good for us and the world would be a much better place if we could all have a laugh when were realise that what we thought was serious was stupid instead!

Sorry, this is my longest post and I have digressed so much.  I know you understand and I hope that you all have a good laugh at least a few times a day.  Life is a serious business, I know, but laughing makes us get through it so much easier.  Try it and see.