Unfortunately, you miss the full horror of this flyer by not seeing it in the flesh. In addition to the reverse featuring a cartoon to which 'Andrew, IT specialist' almost certainly does not own copyright, and as well as chewed, roughly scissored edges, one of the most terrifying things about it is the appalling print quality. The print heads are out of alignment, and it seems to be printed at 360dpi on a six year-old Epson.
Physician, heal thyself.
How excited am I? I've just bought myself this rather spiffy new Raleigh with the express purpose of switching from a bus commute to a cycle commute. The bike itself is really quite swank, with lots of lovely detailing round the tyre rims, little push-button gear changes, and spectacularly comfortable seat and handle grips which demonstrate above all else how much bike design has moved on since the 5-speed racer of which I was inordinately proud as a child. I dare say I won't hold this view when I've ridden the infernal machine for any length of time, mind you.
Of course all the sundries were purchased, too. A frighteningly light helmet, little flashing LED lights, a lock and mudguards have all been ordered; I pick it up on Tuesday after work. I think I'll add pannier racks to the back to make carrying stuff into work easier, but I'll leave that for next month. Similarly, once the nights really start drawing in, I'll invest in some high-visibility gear, too.
My plan is to don some old shorts and cycle into work, there to shower and change into my work clothes.
Click on the image to visit the Halfords page for the bike.
Dear Christopher Phin,
I am a big fan of your contributions to the magazine.
You keep mentioning Palnackie, which is where my grandmother lived. Did you live in the School House there? That was my mum's old school.
For a while I thought you were a teacher who once taught at my school, CD High. However, having seen your photo in a recent volume I realise you are far too young to be him, but are you his son?
Is your mum Maggie Middleton? She taught me French at CD and I was completely in love with her. However she hated me and kept giving me the belt for talking to Sandra Brown and probably for ogling her, your mother's, chest (sorry to be so indiscrete about your mother). She almost certainly has no recollection of me, but I have very fond
adolescent-type memories of her. I also remember Mr Phin popping in to see Maggie, long before they got married!
I spoke to my mum, who did indeed remember the man. She was happy to provide a reply, and, god and production departments willing, the following will be printed alongside his letter:
Margaret Phin, nee Middleton replies: Yes I remember you well, and I remember the ogling. I didn't hate you, and if you think you got belted more than anyone else, it's probably because you talked too much. Specifically, I seem to recall an occasion when I was standing in front of you and a wee voice came from behind me saying "Miss Middleton, I can see your bra!"
Take yesterday, for example. Having spent the bus journey home listening to some tin-pot intellectual (who later turned out to be a columnist for the Daily Mail; go figure) mincing on about being a 'global warming sceptic' and making some of the most repulsive discriminatory statements, I began to wonder about the nature of discrimination.
One of the things that has fascinated me from an early age is the thought that us humans are animals. I try to figure out if we are special animals - look! Beethoven's 9th! The Beach Boys! Global warfare! Bakewell tarts! - or if I'm just incapable of making an objective decision being as I am a member of the human race; maybe dogs' dependance on smell makes them think they are the dominant species - I don't know, I can't smell what they do - or perhaps its the Spanish Flu which thinks it holds sway since it's capable of bringing whole human civilisations to its knees.
(We'll get back to discrimination in a paragraph or two; hang in there)
It was the notion that so much of what attracts us to one another is based on smell that first made me think that we were much closer to what we regard as more base animals than we'd like to believe. I'm interested in the extent to which those things that we regard as being higher brain functions are in fact mere impulses triggered by such elemental forces such as smell.
I like the idea - one which I'm proud to say I formulated for myself at a young age - that anything that we regard as evil is basically something which harms society. This concept is codified in law and religious dogma, but it driven by basic, Darwinian ideals of evolution. The thing that drives us, we're told, is the need to procreate. Anything which arrests the development of human society or the evolution of the species is viewed as Bad.
So what does this all have to do with a Daily Mail columnist? The thought that occurred to me was, what if discrimination has a good, evolutionary reason to exist? Society tells us that to make generalisations is wrong, that we should avoid using our experiences of the few to make judgements about the many. I've never found good reason to argue with this.
Before mankind became civilised (and I use that term without apology or sarcasm, hoping that you will know what I mean) if an individual ate a red mushroom which subsequently made him ill, he would be justified then in viewing all red mushrooms as suspect; he could die otherwise. (An aside: the first mushroom I could name as a child was "Fly Agaric", that terrifying white spotted red mushroom which, while not fatal, shouldn't be included in your next mushroom omelette) I've chosen to discriminate by colour deliberately, since this is the type of discrimination that quite rightly excites the most controversy today.
This doesn't license us to hate or damn Jews, gays, blacks, Tories, women, men, Chelsea supporters or any other group of people you care to name - let's face it, the Daily Mail wasn't there telling all the other homo erectus that red mushrooms were comin' over here, takin' all the white mushrooms' jobs - but rather it should give us cause not to be slaves to evolutionary instinct. We do seem to have special skills as humans, and one of them is the capacity to inform our instincts with something approaching rational thought. Let's do that.