Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Challenge TV - Knightmare & Takeshi’s Castle

My numerous posts on the general crappyness of television and the cult of the celebrity having influenced this are sufficient enough not to add to the existing collection. However, over the past week a couple of television programs have caught my attention that I have not seen for a while. When I think that both of these started out in the eighties, the fact that we haven’t seen anything to rival these over the past decade shows quite how luddite and backwards television commissioning and programming has become.

Firstly, the fantastically innovative (and now cult-esque) Knightmare – the children’s program from the late eighties to early nineties that used cutting edge CGI (at the time) to create a dungeons and dragons style castle challenge for groups of four children to combat. It overcame huge IT and budget challenges to deliver what was an awesome show that was essential viewing during the time.

Secondly, the Japanese assault course themed Takeshi’s Castle – the bizarre adult challenge game where contestants would have to brave odd (and often quite dangerous) physical obstacle courses, sometimes individually, sometimes in large groups in order to reach the castle and complete the challenge (which they never seemed to do). 

Both innovative, both ambitious and very challenging and both fantastic viewing. When you consider budgets and technical limitations, how have we found ourselves two decades on with nothing like these shows in the current offering? Instead we simply have an abundance of celebrity-based reality shows, or the man with five noses. I think the most creative program to have hit our screens in recent times is Deal or No Deal.

Where is the innovation?

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

A Fear of Flying

Aeroplanes. Flying. The elephant in the room. The unavoidable factor that has progressively burdened my poor mind space these past few years; occasionally  hiding away in a dark corner as if it never existed like some ungainly house spider, before inevitable manifesting itself once again like the malevolent spirit it is and always has been.

And yet it hasn't always been like this. My first flight was a trans-Atlantic trip to the Caribbean as a blissfully unaware infant. The next batch were as a child and I have almost no recollection of the experience. The first flight I actively recall acknowledging the potential perils at stake was a school trip to Italy during which the rugged terrain of the Swiss Alps presented themselves to me below with sneering distant. "We're going to be in a bit of trouble if we have to crash land now" I recall thinking. Still not active fear though.

Then a pause of a few years during which time my mortality seemed to grow as a tangible entity. During my time at university I had the experience of super-long haul to South America, followed by an 8 hour return to Antigua before embarking upon a round the world trip spanning over three months to South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand. 

Now, you would think that such an intense succession of flights would appease my apprehension, add steel to my veins, turn my sinew to grit and whatever other bulldog-spirit cliche you wish to add in. But no, far from it. Each one became exponentially worse; almost a battle for survival, with a continual intake of whiskey becoming the only weapon I possessed to combat the growing unease by numbing my senses.

The final journey was from Los Angeles to London and it was at this point that my resolve was truly put to the test. The morning of our departure, I reached inside my bag for a small Buddha figurine that I had obtained in Thailand. This object had been purchased on recommendation from one of our guides in Bangkok, who had reliably (it seemed) informed me that to rub its belly prior to travelling would bring the owner luck. Having done this routinely for every subsequent flight since, you can imagine my look of horror when I plucked the item from my bag only to find that it's head had fallen off. I must admit, I can't now accurately recall if, having been left with a headless torso, I still bothered with the token rub or whether I simply tossed it back into the bag, but on arriving at LAX later that day the omen seemed to take stock. Our flight had been delayed for several hours, causing untold administrative problems too dull to draw upon here. When (finally) the time came to board the plane, the explanation came through that our plane had suffered a broken windscreen and another one had had to be flown in from San Francisco as an emergency.
"So we're sorry for that ladies and gentlemen," the pilot explained as we approached take off, in his warm and reassuring tone. "But I am assured that the windscreen has now been adequately fixed on and should be safe enough for us to take flight. We are, as you are aware, delayed by eight hours... This flight was due to take ten hours but I feel confident that I can reduce that down to around six or seven if we get a good start." 

The obvious question is why have I acquired this untold fear of flying at all? I wasn't born with it, nor did I acknowledge it during childhood. The increasing frequency with which I boarded flights should if anything have made it easy to deal with the concept of being on a plane, not made it worse. My personal thoughts are that the graphic images of 9/11 were probably the catalyst as that was the first time that something so appalling had taken place in such a transparent and almost casual (in broadcasting terms) manner. It didn't stop there of course - in the decade that followed a succession of "deep dive" documentaries spotlighting the macabre and terrible experiences of the passengers and victims of that terrorist atrocity caused the mental stimulation of all viewers to go overboard. Once these sorts of thoughts are in your head, they unfurl, they take shape, they grow. Most of my fears are based upon the possibility of an engine failure or other such non-deliberate act and yet the key contribution from that event was simply to place the imagery of carnage into my head and let it do its damage. Perhaps my one inherent belief is that fundamentally we don't really belong up there in the sky, otherwise we'd have wings instead of arms. Anything that has subsequently added fuel to that sentiment has simply opened the door further to that doubt.

And to the present day. In the past ten years, I have got away with about three or four flights - with gaps of several years in between a couple. In metaphorical terms I have simply kicked the can down the road until such point as the road stopped and an enormous wall loomed with a sign stating "board a plane you cowardly wretch or else." My job now dictates that I must travel part of the time and the nature of the role together with the global organisation structure means that this will enviably at times involve flying. Just the other day in fact I had a short flight to take within Europe and managed to cope adequately. But the thing is, for as much as I can  arrange my music, prepare e-books on my iPad, talk to those around me and indulge in whatever other distractions are on offer, I am not in control of a plane as I am with, say, a car. And perhaps that, above all other things, is where I struggle with flying.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Back Pain Management

Ever since I can remember, I've struggled to sit comfortably. I've fidgeted, shifted and twitched in chairs.  I cant settle in bed. I can't ever find a position in which I'm able to remain for more than a few minutes. The problem got worse at university and was exacerbated in the uncomfortable lecture hall seats. Around this time I had a holiday job that involved long commutes in a van and very often at the end of the journey I would almost collapse in agony on leaving the vehicle as my lower back seemed to lock up and it felt that the nerves and bone had to crack back into place before I could move properly again. 

It all came to a head in 2008 when I had to cancel my gym membership as this occasional pain became constant and prevented me from doing any form of physical activity, not to mention crushing my sprits with a frequent need for painkillers. My doctor recommended that I see an acupuncturist which I dully did. Having pins stuck in my back was far from ideal but it seemed to ease the problem for a few months until the pain came back worse than ever. I was then sent for an MRI scan which indicated two reputed disks at the base of my spine. The explanation for this was speculative... It was likely that the vertebrae in my lumbar region were fairly tight which meant that I would feel any disk protrusion more than most. Perhaps years of sport, heavy lifting and incorrect posture had led to this issue, made worse by unusually tight hamstrings (leading to an inability to stretch properly placing additional strain on my back) and weak core muscles. I was told that if I had been a professional athlete they would have operated but that the two surgery options (Disk replacement or disk removal) were an unnecessary risk. 

Further experimentation with acupuncture needles saw off the issue for another couple of years until the imminent arrival of our daughter in 2010 when it flared up once more. This time I decided to go for a more robust approach and so managed to get referred to a local chiropractor through BUPA. He was fantastic and had a very positive attitude towards the situation. Working through manipulating my back, I eventually started to develop some core strengthening exercises and began to jog once more. Coupled with modifications to my diet and a stretching routine, the problem (though never far away and likely never to be cured) is far more manageable and less of a stress than it used to be. So, in the spirit of sharing and for those of you who have encountered debilitating back pain, here is my top 10 survival tips for overcoming/dealing with the issue:

1. Get referred to a chiropractor by your doctor
2. Start a program of daily stretches - concentrating on you back and hamstrings. Try and extend your height in high stretches.
3. Check if your bed mattress is firm enough - if not then replace (it is worth the expense - you are on it for a third of your life)
4. Check your seats and chairs at home and at work - if not then replace
5. Go for a walk every day
6. Improve you diet - less heavy meats and fat
7. Drink lots of water
8. Drink green tea
9. Cut down on your alcohol consumption.
10. Work on your core abdominal muscles and lower back muscles. Use your core to take the strain on all lifting - including your arms.

I am not called Dr Cure for nothing (in fact I'm not a doctor at all - so please consider this when acting on my advice...)

Friday, 12 April 2013

Monastic life: the path to hermitude

I have just come back from a short break in south west Wales, Penally to be precise. And very nice it was too before you ask. Here is a picture of the beach from Tenby, looking south towards Penally as the sun sets...

To the left of the shot (or east if we are to be nautical) lies the tiny island of Caldey, an unimposing, yet far from unremarkable piece of land that is home to an old Celtic monastery that attracts scores of visitors every summer. I must confess that I had not even heard of the island until I visited Tenby for the first time last Easter and it was only when browsing a small shop dedicated to selling the monk's wares on the mainland that I discovered a little of the history. Unfortunately, owing the fact that I am the parent of a toddler (that isn't unfortunate, more the consequence of responsibility), I have not yet had the opportunity to visit the island but I do hope to get round to it one day. In the meantime I have satisfied myself with the occasional wistful gaze out to sea, musing upon the distant rocks upon the ancient question that has perplexed mankind since the dawn of philosophical consideration:

What drives a man to become a monk?

Actually, I've got that wrong, it's quite an easy question to answer, for the list is long. Infinite peace and solitude, no women, no taxes to pay, no traffic, the chance to indulge in craft and living off the land. The correct question is:

How to you even get to become a monk?

I ask as it's far from a given that the audition queues are long enough to sustain their monastic ecosystem...consider that on reflection the gig isn't quite as attractive as first you might think. Infinite boredom, no women, no technology or mod-cons... it's enough to put you off. However, even if the daunting list of denial failed to dissuade would-be hermits then the task of applying might. Boats only sail across to Caldey in the spring and summer and only then to ferry visitors across to the islands. Are prospective applicants to pay a visitors fee and simply post their application on the front door? Or should they come with a secret change of cowl and slip casually into the herb garden to do some sowing whilst none of the other friars are looking?

It isn't as if the current occupants are in the business of actively sustaining their population... a monk will die a monk and will never have children to succeed him so one would have thought that they would seek to entice newcomers to their way of life. Maybe they do and I have it all wrong, but if and when I do get to visit Caldey I will be fascinated to find out who the youngest monk is and when and how the most recent addition to the flock made their arrival. 

There is another slant to all this; consider that a monastery might just be a cheaper, more wholesome and far more enjoyable retirement home than the default option currently available to us once we become old and too cantankerous for our families to cope with. Just a thought. 

Friday, 8 March 2013

Who are we, what do we do and where are we going?

Would someone like to answer this question please? I’m not sure I can.
In recessions gone by, we at least had a national identity to fight for that was, loosely speaking,. Split down the middle and fought over by the political elite, one side proclaiming the voice of the state and of tax and spend, one side proclaiming freedom of trade and privatisation. Leaving the merits of those arguments aside, they were at least contributing to a valid debate based around the notion of the United Kingdom, its assets, its people, its culture, its aspirations and its truisms.

However, this time around, it’s all disappeared down the drain. We don’t have any assets that are worth mentioning, our people are all either retired, emigrated, unemployed or fed up, our culture has lost its…well culture, our aspirations have become watered down into Saturday night television and nothing that once was true still is true.

A house used to be a solid investment – but due to the disproportional increase in prices relative to income, prices are fixed at a ceiling which the growing demand refuses to acknowledge, causing stalemate throughout the land. Nobody can afford to buy or sell as they once did.

People used to have a strong sense of community and friendship, but thanks to the decline of industry, the increase in university places and the rise in Facebook, that has collapsed.

There used to be an inherent culture that then segregated into north, south, east and west, deep-rooted in communities, sport, the arts and entertainment. It manifested itself in music, in deeds, stories, film and drama. Now all we have is the latest X Factor.

People used to aspire for tangible goals and ideals, be they born out class struggles, wealth, passions or interests. Now they just want to be rich and famous, without the journey.

The last time we entered a period of sustained economic gloom, the usual things that rang true in such times were applied by those who had the experience to rise above the challenge – but this time around it’s not so easy. We’re not in a recession, but a depression and the last time we had one of those, it took a world war to move on and I hardly think a clash of the extreme ideals of fascism and communism is the ideal solution to this mess.

Sound a tad depressing? Well, for what it is worth, I am about to give you my take on why this situation is so dire, but before I do, brace yourself, because this is going to sound out of character. It is going to sound like I am completing my transition to the dark side. In fact, it is such an unusual thing for me to come out with that I almost need to start the sentence with the words “I am not a socialist but…” which when applied to those who use a similar thread to comment on immigration, usually means “I am a socialist and…” so who knows what medicine I need to take this time around.

"Money, it's a gas
Grab that cash with both hands
And make a stash"

Anyway, here goes. In my view, the big problem is that the gap between rich and poor has grown far too wide. We are a country at the mercy of shareholders and investors and it has ground our economic fabric into the dust. If you take commodities such as food, raw materials and especially oil – the biggest contributors to price increases are speculators. If you take the main contributors to the credit crunch, it was overly-aggressive lenders taking risks that led to banks having to borrow funds from the government to remain afloat. And yet look at who are taking the biggest bonuses at present? State funded banks. Necessities such as homes, utilities and food are sky high and yet luxury items are relatively affordable…which means that people's consumer aspirations leads them to a cycle of poor spending decisions, fueling the chasing of materialism over stability. Whereas aspiration is supposed to be based around the longer term rewards for hard work and genuine effort, the short term "wins" of investors have led to a genuine, widespread surge of faith in the power and merits of greed. The majority of twenty year-olds now are completely unprepared to forgo foreign holidays and nights out in order to save for a house and, whilst it might seem a tenuous link, it it almost directly related to the way in which shareholders and investors trample down on our endeavors. The much publicised (and rightly criticised) incident where Ashley "cashly" Cole was shaking with rage after learning of his "miserly" offer of £50k a week (or a figure of that ilk) genuinely happens up and down the country every day, albeit on a much smaller scale. 

"I'm in the high-fidelity
First class travelling set
And I think I need a Lear jet"

Nothing is impressive, or sacred or good or decent or worthwhile or fought over or earned or cherished. Despite this, most people refuse to accept that they live outside the thresholds of their social demographic or economic group. They see no difference between their present means and that of their rich neighbours. They see no need to save, to work harder, to sacrifice or to plan. And so the cycle remains unbroken, only to continue to increase the momentum, widen the gap and force the schism. 

"Money, get back
I'm all right Jack
Keep your hands off my stack"

Conclusion: people are generally idiots irrespective of the merits of a free market economy. In the words of Karl Pilkington, "there's nowt you can do."

Solution: go for a power yomp up your local hills, chuntering about everything and everyone under your breath, have a pint of real ale at a pub with an open fire and then go home and watch Richard Burton machine gun Nazis in Where Eagles Dare. It works a treat each time

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Inheritance and Mansion taxes

A couple of items that have been hotly debated in the press of late are the modification of taxes on personal assets, most notably expensive houses. The liberal democrats have long been in favour of a mansion tax and their policy has been replicated for the good of his party by Ed Milliband, whilst debate still rages over the threshold levels of inheritance tax.

Let me tell you right now that I'm totally opposed to the mansion tax, for the simple reason that the ownership of a large and expensive property does not necessarily equate to the possession of wealth or liquid assets. Indeed, one only has to consider the forgotten many across the rural landscapes of England who have come into the possession of large farmhouses beset by debt, crumbling mansions plagued by damp and neglect and sprawling estates burdened by the long lost ghost of the family names. These people don't have cash, savings or investments. In fact, very often they don't even have any education or life skills on which to draw. And if a load of envious and bitter socialists (who have probably never set foot in the countryside) have their way, they won't even have a home to live in either. 

As for inheritance tax, I'd rather burn all my assets and squander my cash rather than see the taxman get his grubby mits all over it.

The arguments in favour of these sorts of taxes tend to fall into two brackets. the first is that at such times of economic hardship, of cuts and squeezes, it is only fair that everyone shares the burden, especially those with wealth. The second argument is that any form of inheritance, be it a house or liquid assets, favours privilege over aspiration. To that end, we are quoted the many cases of omboxious Tarquins and Clarissa's who never have to work, never know any form of social hardship and who will simply waltz through life without ever having to face the challenges of life that to the majority of us are mandatory. 

So let me answer these two. As for the issue of taxing wealth, it is the generation of wealth that I believe should be taxed, not the aged relics of it. Taxing an old teapot that was made in the halcyon days of the Indian Empire might make readers of The Daily Mirror feel good, but it isn't a sustainable way of bringing in tax. It makes far more sense to raise the levels of top end income tax, VAT on super-luxury goods and especially stamp duty on the purchase if homes over the value of £2m than it does to rifle through the empty pockets of failed country estates. We are taxed the minute we are conceived, our every want and need drawing fresh opportunities for government benefit, right through to our adult life and beyond to retirement age and ultimately to our funeral. Life is one long succession of taxes, yet despite this I am advocating that if funds must be raised and corners must be cut then tax us some more whilst we earn it. But if we are taxed throughout life then for pities sake let's avoid taxing us in death.

As for the accusation of privilege, I think that the mistake that most people make is to see the right for a dying person to bequeath their their worldly goods and chattels to their chosen recipients as an unfair advantage for those that benefit. Surely it remains the right of that person to make that choice without the threat of it being pilfered by the taxman? Where I do share sympathy is in my hatred of the "oh yar" set who receive all the benefits without the effort. However, this is something that occurs in the normal course of the daily routine - private education, horse riding, lifetimes bonds, stocks, shares, a holiday home in the south of France, a Swiss Chalet, and a guaranteed apprenticeship with JPMorgan. So the promise of receiving the family jewels is not especially a deal-clincher in the whole aristocratic converter belt for Lord Snooty and his pals. So lets come up with ways to make their lives slightly less easy and reduce the dubious ways in which they can hide their stashes from the taxman before we invent evermore spiteful policies with which to make ourselves feel better.

Just remember, the aspiration of aspiration should be passed down as well as up.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

The Inadequacies of Cat Owners…

I would like to draw your attention to a matter that has risen in severity over the past couple of decades and is in rapid ascension in terms of its impact upon neighbourhoods the length and breadth of this country. Through stupidity, ignorance, selfishness and idiocy, the good people of England have allowed the situation to spiral out of all control, beyond reason, doubt or sanity. I am, of course, talking about the growing menace of roaming cats.

We have had a situation of late that has opened my eyes to the severity of the problem in this country and the apparent lack of legal and governmental support available to assist people against the misery and damage that these wretched creatures and their selfish, irresponsible owners cause. During the summer, we begun to notice a steady deposit of steaming cat turds on our front driveway by a large laurel bush that I had started to dig up. Once I had removed the bush, I cleared the area and put some clean stones down, thinking that it would solve the issue: it didn't. Conscious that there were a handful of cats in the vicinity, I began to look out for the offending animal (cats are territorial after all so it was likely that it was a single offender rather than a group of them using our property to empty their guts). After several weeks it became clear that it was specifically the black cat from next door - having seen it prior to the offence, during and immediately after; the three phases of guilt. Chasing it away and hissing at it did no good - it was a repeat offender and, moreover, I felt pretty justified that it was reasonable to feel aggrieved for another person’s animal using our front driveway as a public lavatory, especially when the disgusting task of removing the excrement fell to me.

With the number of deposits piling up alarmingly, I approached our next door neighbours and presented the problem, assuming that they would be mortified at what their pet had done. I thought wrong. Begrudgingly, he wandered over for a view, offered a muttered apology, speculated that their cat had probably thought the stones were a public litter tray, that he would fit an anti-cat sonar to the driveway wall and that they would keep the cat in their back garden anyway so it probably wouldn't happen again. There was no offer to collect the foul deposits, no embarrassed grovelling, no real sense of responsibility, though I at least hoped for some support. As the weeks passed, it became apparent that there would not be any action either. The turds continued to pile up, the cat continued to treat the driveway as its personal quarters, there was no sign of a helping hand, an apology, a cat sonar, or anything. Nothing at all

My mood turning from aggrieved to down-right irritation, I finally hit the wall when taking bags of cat shit through the house, nearly throwing up with the disgusting smell and then frantically stopping my two year old daughter from picking a piece up. Had she had done so and then put her hands in her eyes, that could be pretty serious medically so at that moment I decided that I'd had enough and that it was going back on their driveway - "return to sender." Around 5 or 6 of the deposits were dumped over the wall in that manner until I was finally approached on the subject on Boxing Day by his wife, who fell into a raging fit when I explained that I had decided to return her cats deposits seeing as she and her husband had failed to act on it. In an outburst in front of my wife and daughter, she denied that her cat had anything to do with it "there are four black cats in this road" (presumably she thinks we all live in Hogwarts as I thought there were only a couple), clutched at a variety of spurious straws before finally ranting that she shouldn't be forced to "kill her cat." At that point the argument was broken up and we went our separate ways...I would have probably received a more constructive response had I approached the cat itself and asked it to change its ways...

Now, it is often the case in these instances that tempers can impair even the best judgement and so I was quick to re-analyse the situation, reflect upon events and ask others for their opinion whilst sense-checking my own sanity. The collective opinion was unanimous: we live next door to a pair of extraordinarily selfish and irresponsible cat owners, who give more of a damn about their pet's reputation than our daughters health; who chose to buy an animal that they can't control; who won't accept any responsibility for their cat's crap on other people's driveway; who can't see past their own apparent “rights”. However, they are not alone and are quite representative of a growing demographic.

Being a digital kind of person, I have since spent some time online on various forums in an attempt to quantify the matter, assess the rights and responsibilities and weigh up the lie of the land. What I discovered was extraordinary: our country is overrun by cats, whose owners don't give a damn about their behaviour and who are not governed by any specific laws relating to their responsibilities. Not only that, but there are many thousands of people across the country like us who have been put in this situation by the actions of other people’s pets and who have all been rendered to frustration by the bizarre attitudes of those who have introduced the problem.

The destruction caused by cats
Aside from the tendency to frequent other people’s driveways, gardens, lawns, borders, trees and wall, cats will choose other people’s property to urinate and defecate at will. This will include ruining driveways, digging up borders, plants and gardens, destroying all in their wake and causing damage. Not only that, but once they appear, they are highly unlikely to disappear, given their territorial nature and reliance on habit. If you are a nature lover, forget creating a nice environment in your back garden as cats will kill birdlife and wildlife indiscriminately (not even for food – just because it is in their nature). We have had birds killed and even had to save a squirrel from being openly savaged by a neighbour’s cat in the back garden – not the kind of scene you want your children witnessing on your property. Improved fencing to the rear of the property has partially improved matters, but they can still climb and jump pretty impressively…

Moreover, cats will scratch and rip a whole range of materials for their own entertainment – I have had rain-proof bike covers shredded in the past, whilst an outdoor table protector we bought had to be dumped because they clawed it to pieces. At one point, during some work we were having done on our dining room a couple of years ago, we even ended up having one cat enter our house for a wander about whilst the carpenter had the patio doors open – god knows where in the house it would have ended up had we not have chased it out. There are numerous deterrents that are offered – ranging from orange peel to sprays, to sonar systems, but the bottom line is that I don’t see why I should have to spend time and money fortifying my property against someone else pet, especially when these tactics are unproven and inconsistent at best.

The blindness of their owners to the problem
So if these animals are causing such a monumental set of problems for people wanting to create a nice place to live in, then why are cat owners (by and large) so blind to it?). You have to ask why they would want such a pet in the first place – and I can answer this with two words: Lifestyle…&…Anthropomorphism

We lead increasingly hectic lives, meaning that we have less time to achieve all the “tick box” things that we aspire towards. So if most people decide that they would like a pet, reality dictates that horses, goats, dogs and fish are all too much maintenance. They want something that cleans itself, takes care of itself and can pretty much fend for itself, short of putting some food and water in a bowl – enter the wretched cat. But why is a cat such a draw over anything else? Why did the creators of Shrek decide that a cat would make a “cute” characterture? Because there is a ridiculous preconception that a cat’s face is somehow a “sweet” thing and therefore makes it a more desirable and moreover a more worthy creature than most. 

This sort of warped logic by the “animal value” police gives rise to the ridiculous and quite arrogant notion that THEIR pets have more rights than YOU do on YOUR land. There are many people who I believe genuinely feel more empathy towards their cats than human beings and this is why I honestly think that cat owners must simply be spiritually inadequate people in the main. What credentials does a cat have that suddenly makes it sacred in the eyes of the community over, say, a squirrel, or a pigeon or a magpie? They are all pests – all vermin.

Just a quick glance at a number of forums on this issue demonstrates the extraordinary reaction that this kind of mindset generates. One anonymous woman, for instance, stated “I have four cats and they certainly don’t foul in MY garden – that’s what other people’s gardens are for. If anybody complains then I just tell them that my cats were here first.” If that doesn't reduce you a raging ball of fury then how about this: “The day I moved in I was greeted by my next-door neighbour who informed me that she would prefer it if I left my windows open so her cats could jump in easily if they so wished.” Extraordinary. Breathtaking arrogance.

The law
Without embarking on a full appraisal of the law, it seems that over the course of the last couple of decades, the steep rise in cat ownership has completely outgrown the lack of legislation governing it. Whereas the mandatory licence required for dog ownership was dropped at some point in the late 1980’s (I believe), there never seems to have been one in place for cat ownership. Surely, at the very least there should be a mandatory licence for pet ownership in general – perhaps say £100 which would at the outset set out a declaration that the owner took the responsibility seriously enough to be considered fit for the task. I would also suggest a more stringent form of governance for “roaming pets” – that is to say that if you do allow your animal out of sight then you take responsibility for its actions. Not too much to ask surely?

A plea and a promise
A few days after the row with my neighbour, we had a small note through the door from our other neighbours, who had apparently lost one of their cats (I know, the road is teeming with them). It stated that their son was distraught and could we look for the missing animal as it might be in a shed, garage, etc. Now, I’ll wave aside the issue of people having the temerity to allow their cats to wander all over the place then ask people to search their property when they go missing. Moreover, this illustrates what an inappropriate choice of pet a cat is – by purchasing one (or acquiring one), you only serve to become emotionally attached to something that is likely to sod off at the first opportunity. 

This blog piece is, I admit, going to act like written Marmite – depending on your pet ownership status you’ll either love it or hate it. But remember this – we are at the start of a new year and the criticism here is in retrospect…so here is your opportunity to make a change. If you are a fellow sufferer, then I offer you my comradeship and support. If you are thinking of cat ownership, then I implore you to re-consider for the good of your fellow man. Remember - nobody is forcing you into buying one. Dogs and rabbits also make great companions. At the very least, if you do feel the overwhelming need to buy one then at least keep it indoors. If you are already a cat owner then please have the good grace to consider your neighbours. And if you belong in government office, then hold tight as you’ll shortly be hearing from me in an official capacity – I want suitable legislation passed to tackle this growing problem and I want it done NOW!