Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Where's my shotgun...?

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while now (you strange people, you) may recall a post I wrote last summer whilst drinking one too many San Miguel's at my mother's house in Spain. A strange new creature was emerging Gremlin-like from the chrysalis of my lovely innocent daughter; as if in some Faustian nightmare, my little girl's soul was being moulded by a demon's gnarly hands and foul extrusions were beginning to manifest themselves upon a world aghast.

To whit: the teenager. Puberty. Adolescence. Kevin.

Oddly, however, it all came to an abrupt halt shortly thereafter. The physical changes that we were sure would soon accompany the surliness and the antagonism simply didn't materialise. La Child continued to communicate by growls, of course, and she continued to grow. Her face became longer and her gait more assured, but all that knobbly unpleasant pubescent stuff...? No. She remains flat and childlike, and that's just fine, thank you very much.

Apart from one, minor, totally inconsequential little thing. 

Boys. She likes boys. She likes them so much that she has adopted one as her pet. She has a boyfriend. What, precisely, does this mean? "Well," she explains, "a boyfriend is someone who doesn't mind being kissed, who loves you and who when you're both a bit older will go on a date with you." Right. And what makes this particular boy your boyfriend? "He stopped running and let me kiss him." There you have it lads: exhaustion equals commitment, and don't you ever forget it.

This Valentine's Day she and her boyfriend exchanged gifts. She to him, a soft toy bear carrying a heart, her own homemade Valentines biscuits, a card 'to my boyfriend' in which she expressed her never ending heartfelt love and devotion; undelivered (she couldn't find a box big enough to send them with and he lives a long way away: shame). He to her, several heart shaped biscuits; undelivered (he sent her a photograph of them, and then ate them). One can see that the commitment levels here may not be perfectly in balance.
 
It's all very innocent really. But this weekend, under my roof, something slightly less innocent took place. She had some friends over to stay, including a boy we shall, for convenience, call 'The Boy'. La Child had the bed, The Boy had a mattress on the floor. One evening, amazed at the fact that it had all gone a bit quiet, I went up to check on them. At first, all was quiet, all was dark and all seemed normal. Then, like some startled rabbit in the headlights of a swiftly-approaching, toxic-waste-carrying articulated truck, a head popped up from La Child's bed. But it wasn't La Child's head. Oh no. Oh no, no, no. It was The Boy's head, a look of (entirely appropriate) horror on his face. And it was shortly followed by La Child's head, a look of (entirely inappropriate) resigned frustration on hers.

Yes, dear reader, the two of them had been caught in flagrante. Words were said. Measures were taken. Displeasure was felt. The two of them had been 'snuggling', La Child later explained. Slowly falling asleep, entwined in each other's arms. "And what," asked the 8 year old child, "is wrong with that?" Let me count the ways, Child dearest, whilst installing a perimeter of barbed wire around your bed and installing trenches, wire entanglements and other fortifications.

Oh, I know there was nothing remotely sexual about all this. For years now La Child has been jealous of the fact that Lady Branza and I get to keep each other company in bed every night while she is forced to share her bed with cuddly toys and a library. This is about companionship, comfort, feeling warm and loved, I get that. But it is just one more stepping stone on the increasingly swift passage to Grown Up Land. La Child is on a ballistic trajectory to adulthood and it scares me a little. What with an increasing devotion to boy bands, a seeming need to preface everything with the word 'like' and a wardrobe that out of nowhere suddenly includes crop tops and figure hugging leggings ("I'm sorry, in what parallel universe did you think I was going to let you wear that?") I can physically see her childhood floating away on a passing air current.

Regret and sadness I feel, and yes they're mixed with hope and expectation... and a little pride. Pride that she's so confident and content a person, pride that the result of our angst and confusion as parents is a young lady who is independent, and determined, and capable. But it's mostly regret and sadness. My little girl's growing up, and I'm not sure I like it.

Friday, 21 February 2014

The delight of indecisiveness

So.
 
Yes.
 
Maybe. Not sure. Perhaps, with a positive attitude and a following wind. Maybe, all things being equal and the ducks lining up nicely in a row.
 
I’m trying to decide whether to resurrect an old business endeavour. On the one hand it resulted in a little bit of extra cash (which was of course ploughed immediately back into the business with not a single penny taken out, Scout’s honour, learned gentlemen from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) but on the much larger other hand it took up every spare hour of every day and night and resulted in exhaustion, angst and a resigned disillusionment in the sometimes unpleasant antics of my fellow man.
 
But. But, but, but. I did used to enjoy it, I have to admit, and I don’t much like what I do now, and despite the occasional awfulness of a handful of clients the vast majority of them were quite pleasant to deal with, said the occasional thank you and quite liked what I did.
 
I speak, in case you haven’t yet wandered off bored, of photography. To wit, I used to go to peoples’ houses, take photos of them, and sell them the prints. Some, if asked, might say I was quite good at it (I couldn’t possibly comment), and there was a slight dribble of mild public fuss when I announced I was going to stop, so I suspect I could pick it up again, particularly as I singularly failed to sell any of my equipment after I did stop, much to the fragrant Mrs Branza's frustration. It’s not the ‘will anyone want me to take photographs of them?’ question that vexes me, or ‘will I have the wherewithal to do it?’ but ‘do I really want to be bothered with it all again?’.
 
This all stems, of course, from me wanting to tell The Annoying One where to stick it. But freedom is difficult to come by because I’ve no idea what else to do. There are some things I’d like to do, but either I’m coming to it too late (commercial flying would be lovely, but I’m resigned to the fact that I’m simply too old to go down that route now), or it would be too expensive (I refer you to my previous example), or it simply wouldn’t pay enough (novelist? wonderful; the next JK Rowling? unlikely), or it’s plain pie in the sky (form a band, win the Mercury Prize, fame, fortune, cool dad status assured). So, after months of trying to come up with a suitable single alternative I’m slowly coming around to the idea that perhaps it’s the rural community model that I should be adopting here.
 
A few years ago we went off for a long and drunken weekend to the Whisky Festival on Islay. As communities go, that’s about as rural as it gets. Amongst the drammies, mirror like waters and winding hikes around road hogging sheep to the next distillery, we'd often come across the same people again and again, but in slightly different roles. A chap we first met in the morning as our taxi driver would crop up again as a chef at dinner. We’d say good morning to the lady who ran our hotel and then walk past her later as she led a party of schoolchildren along the road. Being such a small knit community, everyone had to pitch in and often would have at least two jobs, if not more. There was no such thing as a career out there. People would have their little business – say, running boat tours – while at the same time helping out in a shop or a farm or a restaurant.
 
I quite like that idea. I’m chronically indecisive anyway, so the prospect of not having to stick to one thing but rather do several is quite appealing. Take the occasional photograph? OK. Write the odd article or blog? Righto. Write a book? Will do. Do a few hours in the local off licence? Marvellous. All adds up, all stops me getting so bored that I want to murder people with spoons.
 
We’re an odd species. We have this odd view that about the ‘correct’ way to live. To misquote Mr Welsh, choose a job, choose a career, choose a family, choose a fucking big television, choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electric tin openers. We’re conditioned to expect that because everyone else does it a particular way, we should all do it that way. But popularity doesn’t make idiocy any less idiotic; you only have to spend five minutes in front of the X Factor to know that. Just because we generally all expect a career to be the pinnacle of success doesn’t make it so.
 
I came across another Alan Watts gem the other day, a discourse on success. Life, he said, is like music. There is no ‘meaning of life’ or ‘purpose of life’. Life is meant to be enjoyed. Our obsession with school, university, work, the unalterable rise up the greasy pole with the single clear purpose of achieving success is a little like only attending a concert to hear the very last note. It’s not about the climax, it’s about enjoying the entire performance.
 

 
It’s all happening a little slower than I was hoping, but I think I’m still on course to start enjoying the performance. I think I will start taking those photographs again.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

I am vexed

It's nearly Christmas. In 10 days' time, if I haven't murdered my immediate family over a disagreement about how best to cook roast potatoes or beaten my inlaws to death with the remote control, I will enter 2014 full of optimism, ready for a brand new and exciting year.

Maybe. 

In anticipation of leaving 2013 behind, here are some things that continue to vex me:

1. Enough with the class shit already. Middle this, toff that, as if it actually means anything. People are people. Move on.

2. Politics. It is a truth universally acknowledged that those who seek power will, once they have it, seek to retain it, and politics seems to me to have become nothing but the attempt to remain in government for the sake of remaining in government. Say nothing that can be misconstrued, offend no one, avoid promising anything. 

3. Decisions are no longer taken. See (2). Views are canvassed, polls questioned, focus groups formed. Government no longer governs, it follows, but those who it follows have neither the information nor abilities necessary to know how to make an effective decision. Result? Bad decisions by timid politicians taking note of an ignorant public. 

4. The X Factor. Fuck off, Cowell, and take 1 Direction with you.

5. Corporate life. Apparently I work in a "service industry" where my clients expect me to be "available". This, I now understand, requires me to respond instantly to emails received while on holiday. "This request was received at 9.30 this morning," I was told the other day by The Annoying One. "It's now 11.30 and the client has called me to complain about your slow response time." I'm on holiday, I replied, and it's only two hours. "Unacceptable!" Oh, fuck off, do.

6. One trick twitter ponies. Hate animal cruelty? So do I. Dislike the Tories? Hey, join the club, there's lots of us about. Talk incessantly about nothing else? Yes you do. #getafuckinglife

7. Tinsel. I don't care how much it costs, I don't care how carefully you drape it over your expensive mantelpiece, and no, the fact that it's Christmas makes absolutely no difference - it looks shit. 

8. It's "Christmas". Not "xmas". "Christmas". I am not remotely religious, I am not in a fervour of any description. This is a grammar ting. Get it right, you lazy feckers.

9. In a similar vein, 140 characters is plenty. Stop mangling the English language.

10. Lists. 

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Wall to Wall

Dear Wall to Wall Productions


Thank you for your letter. La Child is delighted to read of your interest, and is flattered that you would like to talk to her about appearing in the next series of Child Genius on Channel 4. 
 
After some careful consideration, she has asked me to respond thus: 

Fuck. Right. Off.

I appreciate that this may be a slightly disappointing response, almost Lyssan in its directness, so allow me, on her behalf, to explain. Being gifted - a genius, as you would have it; intellectual; clever; of high ability; whatever label you feel might be appropriate to burden her with - is not a character trait to be laughed at, or an ailment to be pitied. Children who are gifted are not freaks to be gathered together in a tent for the amusement of the paying public. Pointing and laughing, as a sport, died out a couple of monarchs ago, along with workhouses and cholera.

I say this in the full knowledge that of course Channel 4's general output might lead you to an altogether different conclusion. Made in Chelsea, Extreme Celebrity Detox, Big Brother, not exactly shows renowned for their in depth view of anything, other than the general nastiness of one's fellow man. As @giftedphoenix put it at the time:
 
 
Now, I know, I know that you've said that the intention is to produce a series that will delve deep into the difficulties of parenting a gifted child. That it's a documentary, not a gameshow. A sensitive look at the issues faced by children who just happen to have been born with an ability to do things that others their age cannot. You've been at pains to point out that children in the past series really enjoyed the experience, that they loved being able to show off what they could do.
 
Such a shame, then, that the last series was so woefully misunderstood by everyone else:
 
 
 
 
 

 
What next? Surely Katie Hopkins wouldn't....?
 
 
You see, as much as we’d like to believe that there might be someone out there with entirely noble intentions, someone with an actual understanding of what it’s like both for the children themselves and for their parents, someone who appreciates the difficulties these children face, someone who wants to produce something that gets those difficulties across to the world at large in a way that will start to turn people away from the tired old stereotypes that the media loves to encourage, I’m afraid it just doesn’t look like that someone is you, Wall to Wall. Sorry.
 
 
Yes, that’s precisely what I want for my daughter...
 
Yours not bleedin' likely
Marcos Branza

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Energy to go

La Child and I are out having lunch. "I wish," I say, "that I had just a bit of your energy." 

"You can," she says.

"Can I?"

"Yes." She looks around furtively. Turns back, satisfied no one is listening. "Yes, you can."

I ask her how. "Well, my friend and her mum told me all about it today. Do you know how to get to Australia?"

Australia? "Erm..."

"I mean, which direction would you go in order to get there?"

"Doesn't really matter," I say, "it's on the other side of the planet. Any direction will do." 

"But I need to know a direction so I can, er, direct you when you get there."

"I see," I say, even though I'm not sure I do. "Just pick one."

"Would you go North?"

"North works," I say, "North will do."

"OK," she says, "so head North, and when you get to Australia find North Lane."

"North Lane?"

"North Lane."

"And where in Australia is North Lane?"

"It's by the coast. Well, no, not by the coast. It's about half a mile, actually EXACTLY half a mile from the coast."

"Right."

"And when you get to North Lane you have to find the house. It looks like an abandoned house, but it's not really."

"Just a moment," I say, "I'd still like to clarify: precisely where in Australia is this North Lane? Australia is a very big place."

She sighs. I'm clearly not very bright. "Look," she says, and pulls a small plate towards her. "If this is Australia..."

"Yes..."

"...then this," she points to a random spot on the plate, about a centimetre in from the edge, "is North Lane."

"I see," I say again, once again not seeing at all, "but..."

She's exasperated. "It's the bit on the coast of Australia that's closest to England," she says. "This bit, see?"

"Ah," I say, "yes, I see. Thank you."

"Good," she says. "Now, when you find the house -"

"At the end of North Lane?"

"Yes, at the end of North Lane. When you find the house, climb up the drainpipe to the first floor and then climb in through the window on your right."

"The drainpipe?"

"The drainpipe."

"Why the drainpipe?"

"Because it's meant to be abandoned! You can't very well go in the front door, can you?"

"Clearly not," I say. "Please go on."

"When you've climbed in through the window, walk down the corridor and then there'll be a door, this time on your left. Go in there."

"Right."

"And he'll be waiting for you."

"Who will?"

"The man who'll give you the energy."

"Oh, right," I say. 

"But wait," she says, "you have to remember to take me." 

"Do I?" I say, " But I'm there now. Do I have to come all the way back? It's very expensive to get to Australia."

"No, silly, you have to remember to take me with you before you go. I have to come with."

"Why's that?" I say.

"Because I have to be there to give you my energy. It's very clever how he does it."

"The man?"

"Yes, the man. He has a machine. Very complicated, very clever. You're not scared of injections, are you?"

"No," I say, "I'm fine with injections."

"Good," she says, "because that's how he does it. By giving you an injection of my energy."

"I thought he used the machine?" I say.

Another sigh. "Yes, but it uses injections."

"What does energy look like?" I ask, suddenly intrigued. I imagine blue electricity fizzing and sparkling like electrons around a Faraday Cage.

"It's green," she says. "Just green."

"Oh," I say, and immediately she senses my disappointment.

"But it also crackles a bit," she says. 

"Tell me about the man," I say, "what does he charge for this?" I rub thumb and forefinger together. "How much mullah?"

"Oh, it's free," she says, "he doesn't make you pay."

"Really," I say, "that's very generous. Why not?"

She looks around again. Glances over my shoulder at the waitress behind. Lowers her voice. "He's a ghost," she says. 

"A ghost?"

"A ghost."

"I see."

"He learned how to give people energy in Ghostland, and now he does it because he's good."

"A good ghost?"

"Yes."

"What," I say, "did he die of? What was it that did the poor fellow in?"

"Just old age, I think," she says, "that's all."

"How old was he?"

"Oh," she says, "80 or 90 or so. Died in the 1800s, I think. No. No, not the 1800s, 1952."

"That's very specific," I say. 

"Yes," she says, "his wife died first. He didn't mind, though. She wasn't very nice. She was nasty. She just went in the ground."

"How unfortunate. What did she do?"

"I don't know. But she didn't go to Ghostland like he did. He was there a while before he came to the house. About thirty years."

"That's a long time," I say.

"Yes," she says, "but it takes a long time to get used to Ghostland."

"Clearly," I say. "What's it like?"

"What?"

"Ghostland."

She fixes me with a stare. I am an idiot. "I don't know, I'm not a ghost." 

I am chastened. Dinner arrives. We eat.

Monday, 29 July 2013

I think I'm offended by that

Humour is a funny thing. What's one man's roll on the floor, hilarity ensued, stop stop I can't breathe is another's puzzlement and disgust, offence and head shaking. Some people get it, some people don't. Some people like it, others don't. Some humour relies on you having to think about what's being said, the context, the intention, the target, some just needs you to laugh at someone slipping on a banana skin. Point is, it's all subjective, innit?

 

The reason I raise this is because subjectivity isn’t something that social media does very well. Figuring out the subtext in a tweet isn’t always easy. Sometimes, when the person who's talking isn't standing in front of you but is instead just writing stuff down, you have to think a little harder about things. The usual clues aren’t there: the body language, the tone, the reaction of others. So you need to fill in the blanks yourself. Sometimes you read things which in isolation appear to be terrible, but when read in context aren’t. Sometimes, you have to think about it. 

 

Context is all, but it counts for about 3/8ths of fuck all on Twitter, where it recently appears to have gone for an extended holiday. If you've managed to navigate your way through the Ninja Cat videos and the Daily Fail Sidebar of Shame to get to this blog then I suspect you're savvy enough to know all about the sexism/rape brouhaha on Twitter over the last few days. Caroline Criado-Perez campaigned successfully for Jane Austen’s picture to be on the face of the new £10 note. A good thing, and Caroline understandably used twitter to express her delight at her success. Then, as often happens, someone said something, someone else said something else, then others said other stuff and by the end of it you had what could comfortably be called a polarisation of opinion; rape threats on one side, feminist indignation on the other, shouts, brickbats, waggling of fingers, apoplexy. There was the odd slightly ineffectual call for freedom of speech, some leftist ‘hang on eine minute, bitte’ attempts to reintroduce some sense, but mostly just lots of shouting and gnashing of teeth.

 

Much of what was said was distinctly offensive, there’s no getting away from that. It was nasty, and it was unpleasant. And some of it seemed to be more than that; some people seemed to be making proper, bona fide threats, and if so it was illegal and deserving of prosecution, and one chap today has been arrested. That is good. But. There seems to have been a bit of a rush to conflate 'offensive' with 'illegal'. 

 

Anyone who’s either (a) ever studied Philosophy or (b) watched QI will know about syllogism. For the rest of you, a syllogism isn’t, as you might expect, a stupid sperm, but instead is a logical premise in three parts with a major premise, a minor premise and a conclusion. For example –

 

Major premise: all lawyers are humans.

Minor premise: all humans die.

Conclusion: yippee, all lawyers will end up at the bottom of the ocean, har har.

 

Syllogism is good. We like syllogism. Syllogism is logical, and we like logic. But some people, particularly those who in a fit of red-mist offence are in a rush to condemn, can occasionally be guilty of a syllogistic fallacy, or just 'not getting it quite right'. For example:

 

1. All men are humans.

2. Mary is a human.

3. Therefore, Mary is a man.

 

And this has what to do with twitter and the great sexism brouhaha? You may well ask. Well, sit back, relax, kick off your high heels, dear, unpin your hair, have a sip of tea and let me explain. A frighteningly large number of tweeters, all otherwise seemingly sensible people, appeared to be saying that:

 

1. All these tweets are offensive and unpleasant.

2. Some of these tweets contained threats.

3. Therefore all these tweets are bad and should be reported.

 

If you happen to agree with the premise that ‘being offended’ is the same as ‘fearing for my safety’, then yes, it’s a valid syllogism. Aristotle would be proud. Otherwise, you might in fact feel that we’re straying a little too far towards giving people a right not to be offended, and there is, of course, no such right. You can’t cry foul just because you don’t like something. If someone is actually threatening you then it’s an assault, it’s a crime, and would you believe it, there’s a law against that. But if there’s no threat, if you just happen to be ‘offended’, well… whoopee do. In the words of national treasure Mr Stephen Fry:

 

“It’s now very common to hear people say ‘I’m rather offended by that’, as if that gives them certain rights. It’s actually no more than a whine. ‘I find that offensive’. It has no meaning, it has no purpose, it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. ‘I’m offended by that’, well so fucking what?”

 

At this point I should say that free debate is a cornerstone of a pluralistic and democratic society, but I’d be stealing the fine words of whoever it is that writes the unfebuckinglievable blog over at http://unfebuckinglievable.wordpress.com, so instead I’ll say simply that there is nothing – nothing – that stifles discussion and debate more effectively than people taking offence. So please, don’t.

 

Lest I should be accused of somehow condoning something I don’t wish to (and it pains me no end to actually have to spell this out, as if it weren’t obvious already), I’d like to make two things completely clear:

 

1. actually threatening to rape someone is horrible, nasty, and criminal. If you do it then you can and should be arrested and prosecuted. A large number of the tweets sent to Caroline Criado-Perez must have been unpleasant in the extreme to receive and I confess it’s hard to see how they can have been intended to achieve anything other than intimidation. Frankly, if you actually threaten any sort of violence then you should be arrested and prosecuted. Any violence against anyone should be stamped on, and I say that without a hint of irony; and

 

2. sexism should be educated out of society. Any prejudice is wrong and, frankly, pointless, but it’s a huge issue and it needs more than the waggling of society’s finger at the odd mindless thug. The way toys are marketed to children, the way childhood is stereotyped, the way the media use sex to sell seemingly everything, the way journalists harp on incessantly about the female figure, all these are things that need to change, and it’s a slow and difficult process. We’re all guilty to some extent.


If you happen to have any views on what I’ve just said, positive, negative or just ‘meh’ then please comment. Tell me. Let’s talk about it. I’m always willing to be proved wrong, to be convinced of the opposite view, to have my horizons broadened.

 

If you’re just offended, well... whoopee do.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Poke me, prod me

So, yes.

 

Been a lovely day, and I've spent it working from home. Or, as it is also known, sitting in the garden soaking up some rays, and I 'ave been mostly lying with my eyes skyward, watching the vapour trays cross cross above my head as aircraft do their thang. And so, a post about flying today: to wit, Sense and Insanity, or The Inherent Madness of Trying to Prove You’re Not Going to Cark it Mid-Flight.

 

If you want to learn to fly in the UK, at some point you’re going to have to go solo. At some stage during your training, after maybe 15 or 20 hours, and after a few take offs and landings on the day just to get you warmed up, your instructor will suddenly say something like ‘I need to pop to the loo, carry on without me,’ and then promptly walk off, leaving you entirely surprised and, more worryingly, in sole charge and possession of a marvellous flying machine.

 

At the risk of getting side tracked, there ain’t no feeling like it. These aren’t very large aircraft, or particularly complex ones. For the most part you learn to fly in a winged wheelbarrow to which someone’s attached a rather pathetic lawnmower engine, and they don’t weigh much. That first time rolling down the runway all on your toddle you’re so paranoid about getting something wrong, and you're concentrating so hard at flipping the right switches, carrying out the right checks, making the right radio calls, watching the right instruments, pulling back on the yoke at the right time and just flying that you don’t pause to think about what effect having only half the weight as usual inside the aircraft might have.

 

Until, of course, you take off. As the wheels leap from the ground (much earlier than you expected) you rocket into the air like a, well, rocket. You realise that what your instructor has been patiently telling you for the past 15 or 20 hours is true – the aircraft wants to fly. As you climb you run through everything you’ve been taught; gain speed, raise the flaps, attitude for 70 knots, trim, left turn at 800 feet, check your temperatures and pressures, left turn on to downwind at 1,200 feet, level off, find 85 knots, trim, call downwind… and look around. No one to your right. Nothing but an empty seat. You're entirely, completely, wonderfully, alone. You are officially flying the plane. You. Little old you. Licence or not, you’re a pilot now. Biggest. Brightest. Cheesiest. Grin. Ever.

 

But. Before your instructor is ever likely to allow you anywhere near an aircraft on your own, you need to get yourself a medical certificate. For private flying, it’s a class 2 certificate. Relatively simple to get, relatively cheap. A basic (ish) examination designed simply to ensure that you’re not going to keel over from a stroke the first time you’re let loose alone in an aircraft above a populated area. If you ever want to get a commercial pilot’s licence, however, it’s a coveted class 1 medical certificate that you need, and that one is not as cheap, nor quite so simple to get.

 

I may have mentioned before that I’ve been wanting to get myself a commercial licence for years, and so you won't be surprised that I'm no stranger to the class 1 medical exam. I’ve made the trek to Aviation House at Gatwick, a rather austere, modern office block where the CAA's special men in white coats live, twice now, and both times I've spent the best part of a day being poked, prodded and punctured for the greater good. I've had my blood taken, I've had my brain waves scanned, I've had monitors strapped to my chest to test my heart, I've filled a number of specimen pots ('what, from over here? Har har. Please put that needle down'), I've had my eyesight and hearing examined. And in both cases I've passed every test, leapt lightly over every hurdle, except one: I have a condition, see. An 'issue' with my eyesight. I have anisometropia, which is a very difficult word to say, and an even harder one to spell, but which simply means that the sight in one of my eyes is different to the sight in the other. I'm very slightly short sighted in my left eye (-1.25 diopters), and quite a bit more short sighted in the other (-3.75 diopters). The limit for anisometropia (the difference between the two eyes) for an initial class 1 medical certificate is 2.00 diopters. 


Oops. No class 1 certificate for me, then. I'm the proud, if somewhat disappointed, owner of a class 2 certificate instead. Well, a lapsed one. One that expired in 2006. 


Except that now things might - might - be about to change. The CAA's own guidance notes now suggest that a failure to satisfy this particular, if I may say slightly odd, requirement (particularly when you bear in mind that the limit leaps to 3.00 diopters on any renewal of the certificate) isn't necessarily the end of the road. Instead, the CAA can now refer you to an ophthalmologist who has the ability to say to the CAA "don't be so silly, he's fine." So on Monday I'm going to book an appointment with my friendly local CAA man-in-a-white-coat at Gatwick and pay an extortionate sum to submit myself to yet another round of poking, prodding and puncturing. Wish me luck.