Daniel Craig and me

What do Daniel Craig, Tom Hiddleston and Simon Gravatt have in common?

I imagine you’re thinking physique. You probably pictured that scene of Daniel Craig as James Bond emerging from the sea in his blue swimming costume. But while physique is a good answer, it’s not what I have in mind. What we have in common is that all three of us wear the same brand of sock.

The guys at The London Sock Company are experts in the male foot; there’s nothing they don’t know about how to comfortably and stylishly dress it. They also have a cool logo that features a penny farthing (quite what that has to do with socks I’m not sure, but it looks good) and they come in a range of colours, of which pink is my favourite (enabling my feminine side to peep out from under my trousers).

Three years ago my wife gave me gave me a box of 15 various coloured pairs of London Sock Company socks, each with its own compartment. What more could a man with OCD tendencies want? It was my favourite present.

Last year Ros gave me another London Sock Company present: 3 pairs of boxer shorts. A sock company branching out into boxer shorts? Could experts in the male foot really also know the male penis? The first thing I noticed was that they were targeting a different demographic. Whereas their socks are made for sophisticated men about town like Daniel Craig and, dare I say it, myself, they clearly had a younger customer in mind for their boxer shorts. Designed for well-hung 25 year olds, they look ridiculous on a saggy, shrivelled sixty-one year body. Or rather, I look ridiculous in them. But this is why my wife is such a genius. I have learnt not to question her judgment: She is always right. I found myself thinking that if she believes I look good in them, then I must have retained more of my Adonis-like body than I had thought. I began to think more like a 25 year-old and less like the grumpy old man that I had thought was my duty to live up to. Rather than scold me for being a miserable sod, my wife had successfully reprogrammed me to be a more positive person simply by buying me some boxer shorts. 

December 2023

Simon 2.0: The upgrade

There’s one other person who’s responsible for my new-found happiness: Dr Robert Iorga, one of the top neurosurgeons at St George’s Hospital, or, for that matter, in the world. I first began to realise I had a problem when watching England play China in the Women’s World Cup. Not only could I not see the ball, but I couldn’t see any of the Chinese team as their red strip merged with the green grass. All I could see was the English team in their white kit. It made for a bizarre viewing experience.

My eyesight deteriorated over the summer to about 30% normal vision. The problem was identified as a large tumour in my head that had been there for years, growing slowly until it had reached my optic nerves. On October 18th Dr Iorga cut open my head and then spent to next 7 hours meticulously removing the tumour. 

Onl once it had gone did I realise how it had affected me, certainly for all of this year and probably a year or two before that. Previously I was apathetic and completely lacking in motivation. I’ve done nothing this year; these are the first words I written.  Simon 2.0. the tumourless version, is literally a new man, energised and positive. My eyesight will still take weeks, if not months, to recover and so I’ll continue to struggle with certain aspects of life. Last week I thought it strange that there were no urinals in the cinema toilet. I wondered if I had gone into the Ladies by mistake. I went out to double-check the sign on the door. As far as I could tell, it looked like a gents sign so I went back in. Someone else came in. She was at the sinks when I came out the loo. I thought I was going to get arrested!

But once these minor technical issues are ironed out, I’m confident that Simon 2.0 will prove to be a substantial improvement on the original.

December 2023

Plonker

Turning sixty felt like as good time as any to cast an eye back over my life; to review my successes and failures (sorry, learning experiences), my triumphs and defeats and take stock of where I am and how I got here. Such reflection quickly led to one stark and unavoidable conclusion: namely, that I am, and always have been, a bit of a plonker.

Such a revelation will come as no surprise to you, of course. What might shock you, though, is that, until now, I didn’t realise it. “What? He didn’t know he was a plonker? What a plonker.”

My saving grace, I think, has been my semi-posh accent. It means that people tend to think I’m clever, when, in fact, I’m not. Whenever my intelligence has been put to the test I’ve been shown to be as thick as a brick.

People also assume, because I speak proper, that I’m being ironic and self-deprecating. When I tell them, truthfully, that I’m intellectually challenged, for example, they laugh and think “how droll, what a clever chap”. It’s ingrained in our national psyche to assume someone with a public school voice means the opposite of what he or she is saying.

Even my wife, an undeniably intelligent woman, fell for my accent and decided it signified good enough stock to breed from.  This was a huge stroke of luck for me as I’ve been able to ride on the coat-tails of her success. 

You might ask why don’t I change. Sadly, like a leopard and his spots, I fear I’m stuck with my plonks. But you never know, self-awareness can be the first step and maybe, one day, I’ll surprise you all.

September 2022

Cycle lane

As a cyclist delighted with the recent improvement to cycling infrastructure in London, I don’t want to be churlish, but I have a few problems with this particular cycle lane. The non-cyclists among you may think it looks like an excellent cycle lane, but let me tell you, it’s not.

Firstly, it’s hidden away in a pedestrian area. You’d have to know it was there and then walk to it with your bike if you wanted to use it.

Secondly, it’s not very long. You would need to dismount no sooner had you started on it. Walking with your bike on such a short stretch would be quicker.

Thirdly, there’s a fucking lamp-post in the middle. If a road builder encountered a pylon in their way, they would go around it. They wouldn’t build a road with a pylon stuck in the middle.

What has clearly happened here is that Wandsworth Council has been told to provide a cycle lane. And they have. That it’s useless and not fit for purpose is neither here nor there.

They’ll do it again if you don’t stamp on things like this immediately.

Here’s another bicycle lane in Wandsworth.

It’s beginning to look like someone in County Hall (someone with a vendetta against cyclists) is taking the piss. 

July 2022

Twice the man

Turning sixty felt like as good time as any to cast an eye back over my life; to review my successes and failures (sorry, learning experiences), my triumphs and defeats and take stock of where I am and how I got here. Such reflection quickly led to one stark and unavoidable conclusion: namely, that I am, and always have been, a bit of a plonker.

Such a revelation will come as no surprise to you, of course. What might shock you, though, is that, until now, I didn’t realise it. “What? He didn’t know he was a plonker? What a plonker.”

My saving grace, I think, has been my semi-posh accent. It means that people tend to think I’m clever, when, in fact, I’m not. Whenever my intelligence has been put to the test I’ve been shown to be as thick as two short bricks.

People also assume, because I speak proper, that I’m being ironic and self-deprecating. When I tell them, truthfully, that I’m intellectually challenged, for example, they laugh and think “how droll, what a clever chap”. It’s ingrained in our national psyche to assume someone with a public school voice means the opposite of what he or she is saying.

Even my wife, an undeniably intelligent woman, fell for my accent and decided it signified good enough stock to breed from.  This was a huge stroke of luck for me as I’ve been able to ride on the coat-tails of her success. 

You might ask why don’t I change. Sadly, like a leopard and his spots, I fear I’m stuck with my plonks. But you never know, self-awareness can be the first step and maybe, one day, I’ll surprise you all.

June 2022

Identity crisis

‘I’m a novelist. I’m a novelist. I’m a novelist.’ I’m writing fifty lines of this each morning in an attempt to train myself to be able to answer the question “what do you do?” It doesn’t come naturally. I tend to get tongue-tied and struggle to respond. Sometimes I manage to say I’m a business owner and a writer, but that’s not how I want to position myself. I want to shed my old skin and present myself anew to the world.

Anyway, to say I’m a writer is like saying I’m an eater or a breather. Everyone writes. The truthful answer is that I doodle and slouch. I doodle in the morning and slouch in the afternoon. Maybe that’s my response – I’m a doodler and a sloucher. I’ve just looked up doodler, only to find the urban dictionary defines a doodler as someone who has an acute desire to draw penises. Scratch that: I am not a doodler. I do not – I want to be absolutely clear on this – have an acute desire to draw penises. I’m a novelist. I’m a novelist. I’m a novelist.

A reason I struggle with claiming the new identity I desire is that I don’t believe I deserve it. I’ve had one novel published, but that might be nothing more a flash in the pan. I wouldn’t describe myself as a footballer on the strength of kicking a ball in the park. I would only claim to be a footballer if I was paid to kick a ball. Having become familiar with the economics of writing I now realise I’m as likely to make money from my novels as I am from professional football. Perhaps this means I’m a hobbyist whose hobby happens to be writing? I don’t want to be a hobbyist. I want to be a novelist. 

April 2022

How much?

‘How much is it worth?’

‘It’s invaluable.’

The Post Office clerk frowned. ‘What’s its price?’

‘It’s priceless.’

The clerk looked unconvinced. He lifted the brown package from the scale. ‘What is it?’

‘A work of art.’

The clerk turned the package in his hands. ‘It feels like a book to me.’ 

‘It’s a masterpiece.’

‘Really?’ Conscious of the lengthening queue of increasingly impatient customers, the clerk tried a different line of questioning, ‘how much did it cost you?’

‘Three year’s hard endeavour, a lifetime of thwarted dreams, countless false starts and numerous rejections.’

‘Look Sir, I need a value for insurance purposes. The cost of the insurance is proportionate to the value of the item. If you want me to record it as invaluable, then it will cost you hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds to send.’

‘Ah, okay. £8.99.’

‘Thank you, Sir. If you don’t mind saying, that sounds like a bargain. For a work of art.’

‘I couldn’t have put it better myself.’

February 2022

Lesson learnt

I had a good learning experience last week. Good as in the learning, not the experience; the  experience was traumatic.

I learnt it’s inadvisable to go out on a bike in a major storm. I was travelling at some speed when a gust of wind blew me off the road. For a fleeting moment I was like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang before being smashed into a concrete bollard. If an Act of God, it was a pretty vengeful one.

I was battered and bruised; the bike even more so (£200+ repairs). To look on the bright side, the way I was lifted like a feather suggests my weight loss programme might be working.

February 2022

A pickle

I like to write self-deprecating essays based on personal experience. My wife, however, doesn’t want to feature in these pieces.

 ‘You shouldn’t have married a writer,’ I say. 

‘I didn’t,’ she replies, ‘I married a lowly advertising executive.’

‘Well, you’re married to one now.’ I puff my chest out.

My wife raises a sceptical eyebrow. Despite all my endeavours, my wife still thinks of me as the guy who puts out the rubbish on Wednesday mornings.

Those of you acquainted with my wife will know that it would be a brave man who goes against her wishes. But to acquiesce would hobble my creativity. To write her out of my life would be to present myself as a saddo recluse. She’s often the only person I interact with for days. I would have nothing to write about other than the dog, the cat and my inner thoughts. (And you wouldn’t want to be subjected to those.)

The solution, possibly, is for me to invent a fictional wife. But I could run into trouble with this too. Imagine, for example, if I wrote that my wife has taken on work as an actress in blue movies to help pay for our energy bills. My real wife would go ballistic and tell me I couldn’t possibly write such a thing. I’ll explain that I’m writing about my fictional wife, not my real wife. ‘No one will know that,’ she will say in the kind of tone that leaves no doubt that I am about to spend the evening on the naughty step. ‘They’ll think I’ve become a porn star.’ 

‘They won’t.’

‘What are you saying? That I couldn’t be a porn star?’ Whether or not my wife could make it as a porn star is a conversation to be avoided. It could only end badly.

So, as you can see, there’s no good option. If I go against my wife and write about her, there’ll be hell to pay. If I invent a fictional wife, there’ll also be hell to pay. If I don’t mention her, I’ll have nothing to write about. (And there’ll probably still be hell to pay for presenting myself as unmarried and available.)

Quite a pickle.

November 2021