About free gifts – Part 2: Absolute tat

As promised, here’s part 2 of my guide to the best and worst free gifts. This part is about the shonkiest, crappiest free gifts. In no particular order, here goes:

HORRIBLE LITTLE MASKS: At around the same time as I was swooning over the free NME poster of gorgeous Neds bassist Mat, my late grandmother was ordering some real junk from the kind of catalogues that used to have quarter-page adverts in Woman’s Realm – such as 5000 hideous birthday cards that all had the same verse inside. With one item of crap that my grandmother ordered, she unexpectedly received a free set of horrible miniature pierrot masks. My mother apparently said “Rachel will love those” so my grandmother showed me the horrid little masks. I did not love these grotesque little things at all so I declined them. A few years later my late grandmother also tried to fob a Westlife CD she’d received free with something onto me.

RINGLESS KEY RING: The magazine Just Seventeen – which I stopped reading when I was about 15 – once gave away a free key ring which didn’t have an actual ring attached (well, mine didn’t, anyway).

NICE LOLLIPOP, SHAME ABOUT THE CONTAINER: At school when I was 5 – in 1979 – one afternoon as a Friday treat my class were all given red lollipops. The lollipop was nice but the jar they were in wasn’t – they were It’s A Knockout lollipops with caricatures of Stuart Hall and his co-presenters all over the jar.

One notoriously rubbish free gift that I didn’t get on principle:

EPIC FAIL: When Prince’s 3121 CD was initially released in the UK, for one day only it came with a free Daily Fail (or Fail on Sunday). Sadly the wee man in purple is no longer with us but the Daily Fail is still published every day – and I see today’s “Legsit” front page is particularly puerile. Some of my neighbours have tried to encourage me to read the Daily Fail, and my aforementioned late grandmother was a Fail reader – I doubt the Daily Fail fuelled my grandmother’s bizarre belief that Tony Blair was a radical socialist, as I don’t think even the Fail believe Thatcher fanboy Blair has ever been left-wing.

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About free gifts – Part 1: The best things in life are (sometimes) free

As Luther Vandross and Janet Jackson almost sang in 1992, the best things in life are sometimes free. In a two-part guide, I’ll go through the best and worst free gifts – beginning with the best. (As everyone who knows me well knows, I’m not a blingy person so some of the stuff that’s reputedly in Oscars goody bags doesn’t interest me.) In no particular order, here goes:

POSTER OF DISHIEST MAN EVER: In late spring 1991, I was delighted when the NME gave away a free poster of Ned’s Atomic Dustbin bassist Mat with his cute freckled nose pointing skywards. It was a double-sided poster and I can’t remember what was on the other side of the poster (but it was probably someone less interesting than handsome Mat).

“K-VOX” TAPE: I actually still have this free gift, but I haven’t listened to it for ages because I don’t currently possess a machine that plays cassettes (I very much doubt that cassettes are ever going to make a comeback like vinyl records have, due to the whole “chewing up” issue). The “K-VOX” tape came free with Vox magazine in 1994 and contains tracks by Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Parliament, Therapy? and the Beastie Boys, plus that Magic Carpet Ride song from Reservoir Dogs. (Another free Vox tape – which unfortunately I no longer have – has The Wonder Stuff’s version of Will The Circle Be Unbroken?, which I’ve always said I want played at my funeral when I die, on it.)

LOVELY HEALTHY GREEN TEA: In my experience, green tea is often complimentary. Anyone who’s ever eaten at Wagamama will know that you are always offered complimentary green tea, and a few years ago I won a competition and when my prize arrived there were some green tea bags thrown in.

FOOD: Yesterday I had a free coffee and veggie sausage sandwich. They were both outstanding. A few years ago I was passing through the centre of London and was dismayed to find that the eaterie where I was planning to go for breakfast – the Calabria in Buckingham Palace Road, which did a fabulous veggie breakfast – was no longer there. I was soon given a flyer which entitled me to a free coffee and cinnamon doughnuts (with toffee dipping sauce) if I presented it at a van which was near where the Victoria Street branch of Books Etc. used to be. And once I was in Sainsbury’s where at the deli counter they were giving away free bags of breadcrumbs (which I used as the topping for a pasta bake or a bean & potato pie).

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Because I’ve been partly deaf since birth (a hemi symptom) I watch television using subtitles. On Saturday evening – after Kris Doolan came even closer to achieving his milestone this season – the live subtitles on the BBC News Channel called Scotland’s oldest professional football club “Inverness Partick Thistle”.

Some people find errors in live subtitles annoying, but I find them funny – especially if they’re in an item about noxious politicians. About two or three years ago I was watching Channel 4 News when they were about to interview Tony Blair live. This appeared in the subtitles as “Tony Blair lies“.

One thing that does annoy me, however, is when subtitles suddenly disappear, as they did while I was watching the 1983 TOTP on BBC4 on Saturday night.

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I entered the Wolverhampton Literature Festival poetry competition with a poem about hemiplegia awareness. My poem addresses the issue of people, because of hemi symptoms , wrongly assuming I’m drunk / hungover / stoned – even though my GP and everybody who knows me well knows that I’m teetotal (and I’ve only taken illegal substances once in my entire life – at a reggae party when I was 17). It also addresses the fact that I often get people not wanting to sit next to me because of my hemi.

Last night I had a dream about this event that I’m hoping to go to at Wolves Lit Fest. http://www.expressandstar.com/entertainment/2017/01/19/neds-atomic-dustbin-frontman-jonn-penney-gears-up-to-tell-all/ It was the first Ned’s Atomic Dustbin-related dream I’d had for about 22 years and the first Neds-related dream I’d had that wasn’t all about dishy bassist Matthew Cheslin (second-left in top photo in the link). I really hope I go to Jonn & Martin’s talk and Miles’ book reading – and that my poem wins (which it probably won’t).


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My 43rd birthday

So 2016 is finally over. The positives from the screwed-up year: I discovered that my Game Boy and all my games for it are still working, Thistle Weir Ladies (Partick Thistle’s women’s team, for those not familiar with them) won promotion, Thatcher didn’t rise from the grave, Theresa May put three clowns in charge of Brexit (so it could still fall through, but I’m clutching at straws here), Planet Earth II and Still Game were fabulous and Prince left all these unheard songs in his vault which I’m looking forward to hopefully hearing eventually. I was also amused by the James Joyce Tribute Diving Pool  – snotgreen and scrotumtightening – at the Olympics (incidentally, I’m planning to read A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man – which I first read when I was 13 – again soon).

Sunday was, of course, my birthday. I got two books – Bill Bryson’s The Road To Little Dribbling and Stuart Maconie’s The Pie At Night – , a big bar of chocolate and £30.

Later this month I’m hoping to go to the Wolverhampton Literary Festival, to hear Miles Hunt read from his latest book (which is his diaries from the early ’90s, when The Wonder Stuff had a number one single). If the discussion between Ned’s Atomic Dustbin singer Jonn Penney and author Martin Roach (whose book The Eight Legged Atomic Dustbin Will Eat Itself – the 2006 edition of his 1991 book about Pop Will Eat Itself, The Wonder Stuff and Ned’s Atomic Dustbin – I read in July / August 2016) is still going ahead I’ll go to that too.

Happy 2017 x

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I’ve finally seen Frozen

Until Christmas Day, I was probably the only person on Earth who hadn’t seen Frozen. And now I love that film as much as everyone else does. I especially love Olaf.

As usual, I deliberately made too much bread sauce in order to eat leftovers of my favourite thing in the world. Present-wise I got a Bentley Rhythm Ace CD, Alexei Sayle’s latest volume of autobiography Thatcher Stole My Trousers, a big bar of chocolate and £30.

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Christmas greetings


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