I’m back – and it’s gear-grinding time again!

I’ve been very lax at writing over the last few months, the reasons for which are the subject of another post over the next few days, but regular readers will be familiar with my infrequent rants about the injustices of the world, and I’ve got a few to bring up now…

OK – first off, there’s a subtle erosion of human rights that is going on pretty much unheeded in our land. I’m not talking about rendition flights, I’m not talking about asylum seekers and medical tourists, nor am I going to launch into yet another tirade about the hypocrisy towards uncovering the truth shown by a certain Mr Julian Assange – though Lord knows that one’s way overdue.

No – I’m talking about something far more important, and far more damaging.

My two lovely daughters, and my wonderful wife, are afflicted with that curiously female ailment known as CSDCompulsive Shopping Disorder. So as the bloke / taxi driver / nominal ‘head’ of the household, I get dragged off to shopping centres on a reasonably regular basis.

I didn’t really mind this, as there’s generally a store or two that provides release, a quiet space free of shoes, make-up, and ‘accessories’, where I can browse to my heart’s content, spending a fortune in my mind and a smaller amount if I reckoned I could get away with it.

Soon, these places, these havens of male shopping solitude, will be a thing of the past. Places like HMV are disappearing fast, as is Blockbuster Video, and most every independent movie and record store you can imagine, to be replaced with charity shops, pound stores, coffee shops doubling as young mothers meeting rooms, and shops selling anything from carpets to mobile phone unlocking services (and it’s ALWAYS mobile phone unlocking services, for some reason). And when the last one goes, it will be a sad, sad day for blokes everywhere.

There’s something inherently bloke-ish about going into a store like HMV, and wandering up and down, looking at every DVD case and CD they have. I’m not sure why, maybe it’s the old hunter-gatherer instinct kicking in. Maybe it’s the possibility of surprise when, moving down a shelf, we suddenly come across a movie that we recognise as filling a gap on what I term ‘the Bucket Shelf’ of DVDS we feel we have to own before we die. Maybe it’s the one area of a man’s life when being ‘touchy-feely’ has its place, for certainly there’s a tactile element to picking up a movie, checking out the cover art, and reading the précis and list of extras.

I guess that with the advances in technology and the delivery of music and movies via the internet, the demise of these stores was inevitable, but it will still be the major contributor to a phenomenon I see growing over the coming years – the sad, despairing bloke hanging dolefully around shops whilst the women in his life decide on whether they can justify a seventeenth pair of shoes that week. Girls, get used to it, because we’ll be stood there looking at our watches. It’s not like we will have any say in the matter.

At least with a movie or CD, you can read the cover and know what’s inside. Unlike the majority of processed food, these days, it seems.

I’m not entirely sure what the key issue is with the various ‘scandals’ regarding the presence of horsemeat in the food chain. As a meat, it’s probably no less safe to consume as beef.

Is it simply a labelling issue on our food? Is it that we reckon we are being ripped off by people pushing cheaper meat onto our plates (although people that complain about that should try a Tesco Value Beef and Onion Pie, inside which they will struggle to find any meat whatsoever, so a bit of Dobbin there wouldn’t go amiss). Or is it something to do with our view of horses as ‘pets’ or ‘noble beasts’, most of whom have names – and we draw the line at eating something we referred to as ‘Tony the Pony’.

Somehow, as with many other recent revelations such as phone hacking or the banking crisis, ‘Horsegate’ stirs up the wrath of that social barometer – the school mum. Every time there’s any kind of newsworthy story these days that involves a gauge of public opinion, there’s no end of camera crews outside the school gates – and they always manage to find a mum willing to describe the latest situation as ‘disgusting’ or ‘intolerable’.

And that’s what will ultimately determine whether we eradicate horsemeat from our processed Spaghetti Bolognese, or whether we’ll just be told in advance that some cheaper frozen food will always be a bit pony – the views of some ill-informed and badly motivated women hanging round outside a council estate school. Because as we all know, any stupid opinion is validated, as long as it’s delivered  with the subtle caveat “think of the impact on my kids!”

I’ll be back soon, with more stuff that gets my gears grinding again!

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