Why doesn’t it feel right when some girls high-five/low-five?

No ordinary high-five! Check the enthusiasm…the energy and the downright passion of it all…check the extension of these guys’ legs!

You’d never know it, but I spent a good twenty minutes changing the title of this blog post. It began life as “why can’t girls high five/low-five?” But then I realised that this was sexism at its best — or worst — and would no doubt lead to me having to explain myself to numerous girls, for very good reason. I then changed it to “are girls capable of high-fiving/low-fiving as well as men?” and quickly decided against that as well, because clearly they are. After a hard week’s freelance writing about how to survive a hurricane, not to mention the best kind of thrush treatment — yes, it’s varied — did I really need a gaggle of emails arguing the case for great women high-fivers? No, I did not; but if anyone wants to put me right on great women high-fivers then please, be my guest. (And don’t read anything into my usage of gaggle. I am not saying female high-fivers resemble geese in any way.) Finally, I settled on what you see now, but even that doesn’t feel quite right; who knows, there may well be a ladies high-five/low-five club out there entirely devoted to this excellent ritual.

I’d be lying if I said I could recall when I started high and low-fiving, or how my first attempts felt. My first experience with the fives may have been at the same time as Saved By The Bell and Sweet Valley High were regular fixtures in my high-octane hormonal life, or it may have been later, when I decided on switching from mountain bikes — if you can call the poor excuse of a bike I rode a mountain bike — to BMX. A session spent riding BMX was never without a damn good high/low-five. And for good reason: we frequently got freakishly radical. To the point that sometimes, if you did a trick too well, you feared what would happen if you put your hand out and let someone slap it.

Now, let’s look at this a bit more closely: what makes up a good high-five/low-five? And what makes for a sub-standard one which should have those involved feeling utterly ashamed to have hands at all? This list is by far not definitive — I think all high-five/low-five lovers will agree that it’d take weeks to completely cover every important aspect — but I’d say it is accurate and a good generalisation nonetheless.

Yes girls. Now that’s what I’m talking about!

1) A good approach: a quality high or low-five begins well before the physical act itself. Like most things, it’s all about the preparation. Both the fives are almost always second to a good joke or laugh, and everyone knows a high or low-five only takes place when…

2) …something of significance has been achieved, or two people are greeting for the first time in a while. There is no law I am aware of over how significant the thing achieved must be, but back in my BMX days it was a trick supremely well-done or something which someone did that you didn’t expect. Equally, I’m not aware of any strict criteria regarding how long a time must exist between two people seeing one another and high or low-fiving again being OK. It’s a crazy world. I have seen two men low-five after only seeing each other the day before.

3) A good high or low-five MUST be accompanied by a loud slapping sound. In a stellar lo-five, this sound is created by the downward hand making full contact — the entire surface area of the hands meeting perfectly at the same time, kind of like a sonic-boom (note: it’s nothing to do with a sonic-boom. Without googling it, I couldn’t even tell you what one is, but I did think it sounded good).

4) As stated previously, a sub-standard high-five/low-five will almost always be the result of poor preparation. But like all things, there are many more factors which I don’t have time to go into here, such as in a low-five: a) speed of downward hand, b) lack of concentration, c) the person receiving the low-five bottling out and dropping their hand away as the other hand slaps down and d) the culmination of two people low-fiving while distracted and not putting 100% effort in. Shameful.

5) In the case of the high-five, to complete the cycle properly, once you have done someone, they must do you.

After reading all that, it might seem, now, that I consider myself the law of the urban jungle when it comes to all this. What right do I have, some might say, perhaps likening this blog post to the writings of a high-five-low-five-obsessed-dictator, to tell the entire world how it should be done? Well, the answer is I have done many, many high-fives, and a good deal of sensational low-fives too. And like anyone who has done much of something — be it parenting children, making cakes or cooking the best in crispy bacon — I feel the need to say these things, so as to try and do my bit to make the world go round a bit better. If that makes me a dangerous force in the world of high-five/low-five politics, then so be it.

And now we move onto the subject of girls and their place in all this, and why, sometimes, it just doesn’t feel right when you witness them performing these prestigious moves. Here are the conclusions I have come to, and I wish to let it be known right here and right now that I certainly don’t believe women can’t high-five well. It’s just that I have seen a few girls who have really ruined this beloved art. That’s all there is to it.

1) Girls, women, females, and some men too, the worst high-five/low-five offenders all have one specific thing in common: straight after doing a high-five which should never have been let out in the open — limp-wristed, without the merest hint of a slapping sound, and with the speed all wrong on both parts — they follow it up with a girly hug. And the horror does not end there, there is usually also giggling, too, which really tips me over the edge. To my mind, this kind of behaviour is as inappropriate as two men getting into a brutal bar fight and then telling one another “ah, but I love you really.”

2) It isn’t really the girls’  fault: in many cases they came to high-fiving much later than men did, and so it’s bound to show in their general lack of technique and less than serious attitude.

3) By its very nature, some might say — and I think I would have Nietzsche on my side here, if he’d been born later, and hadn’t succumbed to Syphilis and died well before our time — it’s a very male pursuit. The act of slapping one another’s hands is, on the surface, daft, yet I and millions more men believe that it holds a great existential significance which cannot be underestimated. The fact that we are clueless to what that is is irrelevant.

4) Girls don’t always follow up a high-five with the other person instigating a return high-five, or low-five. This is a bit like asking someone how their day has been, only for them to turn around and moon you after having not properly wiped their bottom (and they had diarrhea…). No, there are no strict rules which say a high-five must be returned, but if you don’t, as far as I’m concerned, you’re doing it all wrong.

5) Because the women in question haven’t been high-fiving as long as men, they lack the ability to know when they should high-five, which leads them to talking about it. “Should we high-five?” I have heard one particularly awful offending pair of women say. I have never seen two men ask each other if they should high-five. The men simply know through intuition that it is the right time, and with that it is done.

Ah, high-fiving: such a beautiful phenomenon. The best extreme high-fivers out there take it to the next level, combining power, sound and style with mesmerizing results. Boy or girl, man or woman, I tell you what: I do salute you.

NOTE: I seriously don’t know more than about three girls who can do a killer high/low-five. If you are one and want to speak out and put us men in our place, here is your chance!

All. Over. The. World

Up until recently, I had very little idea of who was reading my blog and where they were located in the world; the stats only showed basic site visits, and sometimes, if the figures were low, it was hard to imagine that anyone other than a few close friends were bothering. Then, just the other day, WordPress unveiled a fascinating, brand-new feature on their WordPress.com site — one which all bloggers using the system could take advatage of. That system was Views by Country, and from where I’m sitting, it’s been an amazing success and a piece of ingenious thinking.

I should say that I would continue to post my musings here even if nobody visited this blog — visitors isn’t necessarily what it’s about (although I’d be lying if I said I didn’t care about people dropping by. It does feel good to know that people take interest in the work, and find something here that’s worth spending precious time on).

And here’s what my Views by Country stats reveal: according to the figures, aside from my UK visitors, people in Indonesia, Macedonia, Algeria and the United States like to see what’s here (or accidentally stumble by — but to be honest, either way I win). Equally, those in India, Norway, Sweden, Philippines, Australia, Pakistan, and the Czech Republic come by frequently. Oh, and not to forget the UAE and those in Ghana, too.

Which just makes me nervous, actually, because now, instead of just worrying about offending people in the UK, I have to concern myself with not offending people in many other countries as well…

But anyway, thank you, dear international and european readers. Good of you to show your support. Thank you The World; thank you WordPress!


Two days ago, my uncle passed away — natural causes: his time had come, and I believe he was at peace when the moment came, as it had to, as he had anticipated, as was inevitable. I could say how much I miss him now he has gone; how his passing has affected me. The truth is a tangle of contradictions, though, and much less simple to interpret, let alone explain. I hadn’t seen him in 6, maybe 7 years. If time was the only measure of emotion then you might think that I am so far removed from those last memories now so as not to feel a single thing. But that isn’t true — far from it. When I start thinking about my uncle and standing in his kitchen as a 10 year old — being the same height as him briefly, before passing him in the time it took to visit once more — I miss him tremendously. I want all that time back and for things to stay that way forever. What was dull and far away suddenly seems so close I can touch it. It reminds me that every moment lived today was unique. A mundane day spent at work, but a special combination of tiny events all the same, played out in a way that is now lost forever: un-retrievable. Don’t ever think that every day is the same, because they can’t be, can they? At the risk of talking down to you, the reader, treasure the mistakes and embrace the moments when you feel so free and easy — or so bored, so totally without purpose or reason or desire — that you need something right now to fix it all; something better that somebody else has. One day there will be less time, less possibilities, less desire to experience new things; too much history behind you and not enough new things ahead of you. It’s your time, isn’t it? Smile, make things happen.

Just don’t throw it all away.

Here’s another post which is similar, this time from signedviolet. Check it out, it’s a good and poignant read. Thanks for sharing my post on your blog, SV.

March the 10th, 2012: National Film Overload Day

Today may seem to be a day much like any other — unless you’re getting married today, or you’re having your first baby, in which case your motives for reading this blog on what is supposed to be the happiest day of your life, or the most painful but happiest, are questionable, if you don’t mind me saying — but it most definitely isn’t. In fact, today is National Film Overload Day.

Haven’t heard of it? That’s because I just made it up, and for good reason.

Cast your eyes down today’s film listings guide and you will notice just why I have taken it upon myself to give today’s date such an accolade. For today, my friends, is one of those rare occasions when doing anything else other than watching TV all evening could be considered almost criminal. Not convinced? Allow me to demonstrate the crazy state of affairs that today coincidentally is (or not. With every taste and variety of film being played today bar-none, it’s not unreasonable to think that dark — or light — forces are at work, conspiring to keep us inside while aliens skavenge about England, cutting the tops of peoples’ skulls off and replacing the insides with some kind of special covert-listening equipment, right?).

The madness began — if I can be so bold as to put a precise time to it — several hours ago at 4.50pm on ITV 2 with Batteries Not Included.

A film which is about slightly kinder aliens than I mentioned above; actually a lot kinder. It then takes a savage comedic twist, as child-freak McCauley Culkin — probably the wrong spelling — takes to the screen at 7pm on ITV 2 to be both somehow simultaneously witty and annoying (but aren;t all child actors? I dare you to name one who isn’t). And immediately you’ll have already found yourself running into a problem of some gravity, because also starting at 4.55pm on ITV 1 + 1 was Evan Almighty! The film all about God and Noah’s ark which manages to be mildly amusing in places — a feat which would have been impossible to achieve had Steve Carell (probably wrong spelling) not been cast as the lead.

On any normal day, all this film action would have been stretched over the whole night, more or less. But not on National Film Overload day, because at the hour of 7.40pm on 5* + 1, Hitch makes an appearance, with Will Smith playing the spectacularly irritating role of a man who is supposedly good at matching people up as life partners, but shocking when it comes to managing the same for himself.

But wait! There’s a problem! If you’re a man with a teenage girl inside him, just waiting to get out, you’ll notice that on Film 4 at 5.25pm was Freaky Friday — the quite ridiculous and silly, generic formula-fest which involves all kinds of daftness (none of which I have any first-hand knowledge of, but I do know it involves a woman becoming a girl and a girl becoming a woman, or something. And I mean instantly, of course. Everyone knows that girls become women — that’s common knowledge).

You’d think that it might all start to slow down after that, but alas, that is not the case! Straight after that sillyness is over, on we go with yet more straight-up, timeless, class A stupidity, this time in the form of Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd.

Then things just get turbo-boosted: Sylvester Stallone bursts onto Film 4 at 9pm, swiftly followed by The Black Windmill at 11.40pm (never heard of it but it looks not half bad). By this point, any usually mild-mannered and capable crap-to-average film lover might just be holding themselves together by the weakest of strands, until the horrific truth is learned: The Matrix Reloaded also starts at 9pm on Sky 1, and at 10.10pm Deep Impact only bloody well starts on BBC 3, at the same time as highly addictive thriller-let-down Daylight begins its mission to by turns please and disappoint us on ITV 2 (what is it with ITV 2? Do they own National Film Overload Day or something?!).

By this point, you’ll probably be in a right state. But things take a sinister twist when you notice that at 11.15pm, The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift is on ITV 1 plus 1…which wouldn’t be so bad…if you hadn’t also just noticed that bizarre thriller Orphan began at 10.30pm on Channel 4 and it’s actually quite good…

When 10pm has been and gone, you’ll be cursing yourself about a number of things. One will be your pathetic attempt to plan the evening, and the second will probably be how you never read all the way down the film guide, which inevitably screws you over completely just when you thought you were safe. Why? Because The Big Lebowski started at 9pm on Dave, and The Wedding date also started at 9pm on E4. Add to this the lunacy that was Reservoir Dogs starting at 10pm on 5USA — not to mention Robert Redford winner Indecent Proposal also starting at 10.05pm on More — and the colossal crushing embarassment is complete.

At least you thought it was…until it hits you right between the eyes: you’ve done the unthinkable! You’ve both forgotten to record or watch Big Fat Gypsy Weddings on Channel 4 + 1 at 9pm!

By the time you’ve picked yourself up of the floor, you won’t even care anymore that you missed Battle of Los Angeles on Syfy at 8pm, or that Dawn of the Dead (the original and still the best) followed it at 10pm. And when you notice that you’ve missed (500) Days of Summer at 9pm on Film 4, which was also followed by Carriers at 10.50pm, you really won’t give a shit anymore.

But still, if you can somehow survive all that then you might appreciate that Stepford Wives is on BBC 2 at midnight, or that Spider follows it at 1am…or that The Jacket is on ITV 2 (?????) at 12.50am…or that…

The Curse Of Wilbur

When times are good, Wilbur likes nothing more than to murder majestic beasts which are simply minding their own business. I don’t know about you, but I’d hate to see what might happen if his books ever stop selling…

In the eyes of certain members of my immediate family, now-elderly super-best-selling author Wilbur Smith has long reigned surpreme. The author of a great-great-GREAT number of books — many the thickness of a good-sized brick that could easily smash through double-glazing — there really isn’t much Wilbur doesn’t know about South Africa, elephants, and writing the kind of fiction that weaves between history, action, more bloody elephants and the timeless kind of traditional adventure that has fascinated all ages for as long as books have existed. Not that I know any of this from experience, I should say — I’ve never read a Wilbur Smith book, and until recently — when grandad gave me his copy of When The Lion Feeds, Wilbur’s debut novel — I had no intention of reading them. And I don’t mean that in a negative way; I’m sure they’re great books, and I’m certain Wilbur Smith deserves the accolades so often bestowed upon him by elephant fanatics…it’s just that my dad and grandad have read every book he’s ever written and told me about every single one at least several times (all subtly different versions of the same basic premise, as far as I can tell, nearly always involving poaching, elephants or South Africa). It’s a curse, you see: without even having read more than a page, I feel I know the work intimately already — I don’t of course, that’s ridiculous, but the illusion remains and illusions are strong. Besides that, alarm bills ring immediately whenever my dad advises me to read any fiction. We’ve always had different tastes, and while he’s a fan of John-Grisham-style thrillers, I prefer books with a humorous theme rather than ones which follow the same generic formula as so many others.

Try telling my dad or grandad that other books exist outside of the realm of Wilbur Smith, and you are instantly put in your place. “I’ll tell you something,” says grandad. “He’s the master of storytelling. The way he writes about South Africa is really very good, very descriptive.” What hope have I got of grandad reading my debut novel? It isn’t set in South Afirca, doesn’t contain any elephant-themed content, and is about as far away from serious in some places that it’s hard to believe I am not actually about twelve years old.

Naturally though, I don’t doubt Wilbur’s descriptive ability. After having written probably in the region of 100 books, the man damn well should be able to describe an elephant by now.

My point is, there are thousands of authors out there as well as Wilbur Smith. Hear that dad? How about you Grandad? (He actually would hear it, he has exceptional hearing for a man of his age, as well as killer Bryll-creme hair that would woo any older ladies on the dance-floor — sorry nana.) I’m not saying my dad or grandad has to give up their mission to read every single book three times cover to cover, I’m just suggesting that they see what else is out there. Surely that’s reasonable, isn’t it?

It’s a futile effort, of course — one which is now relegated to jokey digs from my side (I mean them) and what appear to be serious attempts to coerce me from the mens’ side (they definitely mean them. The mind boggles why they think these would ever have any kind of effect). These men have succumbed to the curse of Wilbur and the evidence suggests that nothing will be able to reverse it now or soon. Tragic? I think so, I genuinely do. If we only ever read the work of one author, the world is flat and words become a form of conditioning that excludes the hunger for anything else that’s different.

Also, I am sick of elephants!