Healing a town with shoe-shop chat

An issue that for some time neatly divides a community directly down the middle, cleaving them into two camps that seems intent on destroying all common ground between them. A debate that very rarely gets deep into facts before the ad hominem attacks, insults and threats. A political class that knows divide and conquer is a low but effective technique. A seemingly irreparable division that toxifies all it touches…

Nah, we don’t do Brexit on these pages, we’re talking about the tram. It’s hard to remember how divided things were then. We stuck down an editorial line of not being pro or anti as we could see how divisive it was, but still were accused from both sides of being a propaganda tool for the others. It was a pretty nasty time and was best summed up by the NET Tram Ranting Room on Facebook, an area of much heat and little light. Here, the loudest voices were amplified further over the quiet voices of reason, and dissent was not welcome. It was a hateful, horrible place serving to make the situation increasingly febrile. So well done to unassuming local guys, Jon Speed and Steve Orton who decided to do something about it. They set up a new group and called it ‘Beeston Updated’.

Originally the ‘NET Phase 2 Discussion Room’, its initial idea seemed to be a refuge for disaffected Rant Room defectors who wanted something less substantial than the usual ‘WHY OH WHY OH WHY fodder’. As it started to attract members, a local woman, Kirstie, was invited on board, and then I was hauled in. ‘We’ll probably plateau at around 750 members’ I predicted, maintaining my prognostic aptitude finely – I’m the anti-Nottstradamus, it seems.

As the tramlines came close to completion and the raison d’etre of the group looked set to diminish, we decided to refocus. I’d early done much work in tandem with the Beeston and District Civil Society and Sir/ Professor Martyn Poliakoff, and others, in trying to imagine what the next phase of the Square development should look like. We had run a process of asking a bunch of the finest, freshest minds in urban development together by setting it as a University of Nottingham project, with staggeringly imaginative results, fully costed and studied, presented openly for the public. Not a single councillor bothered visiting the display, and years on the Square is only just getting built on by the dullest set of buildings imaginable.

What would happen if we discussed, en masse, the future of Beeston development? Have a forum to find out what people really want, rather than the useless and skewed public consultations put out by councils? Beeston Updated took a step into the future.

And what a future it has been. Membership began to rocket and to ensure that it was well-served rules put in to allow everyone to talk in an open, positive fashion rather than the usual fate of forums: The Gobshite Takeover. Balancing this with freedom of expression is a developing, complex issue, yet I think it works, despite the aforementioned gobshites misunderstanding that ‘freedom of speech’ is the same as ‘freedom to be listened to’.

Themes, private jokes – the non-existence of shoe shops / public toilets is a perennial favourite, and memes have grown over time, as has a very welcome effect: despite the board’s occasional frivolity and trivialities, it sometimes serves an important purpose.

When the 12-year-old Rylander Owen Jenkins drowned in the Trent attempting to rescue two girls, the news first broke on BU, and the response was overwhelming. People were desperate to be able to offer help, even if it was just in the form of condolence. Owen’s family were inundated with offers of help, and as the tragedy settled into the town’s consciousness ideas were brought forth: Owen’s favourite colour was purple, so the town mobilised to display the colour all over, to show solidarity to Owen’s family. By the time his funeral happened, the streets from Rylands to Wollaton Road were lined with those wishing to pay respect. Out of tragedy, beauty.

There have been numerous such tales since, though few tinged with such tragedy. The deaths of notable local John ‘Fastlane’ Ciutiskis and busker Percy Brown saw the town come together on the group to ensure that they both received dignified send-offs. Pets have been reunited, friends bought back together, many, many small acts of communal goodness enacted. Oxjam, Street Art, and Beeston Carnival are all enhanced by the existence of the group.

It’s not perfect – what community is? It has, at time of writing, 20,394 members, which represents a vast majority of on-line Beestonians. While some of these admittedly are ex-residents of the town and confused Leeds residents perplexed at there being more than one Beeston, I’m delighted my original prediction was out by 2600%. While time and familiarity have been the greatest healers of the social wounds caused by the tram debacle, I am sure Beeston Updated has been a help in getting to understand who we are as a community, and bringing us a little closer.

And for the record, there are SEVEN places where men’s shoes can be purchased within Beeston, for christ sake.

MT

They’re not ageing, they’re transitioning!

As this issue is about community, I want to tell you about two of my favourite communities, both of whom have a spiritual affinity with one another.

The first is a group called the “Men’s Shedders Association.” I recently did a charity fundraising gig for them, my dream is to be the ambassador, the comedy circuits very own Angelina Jolie. I might even adopt one of these stray men and bring them back home to live with me. In a house full of women it would be nice to finally have a wingman for when my wife and I have an argument.

There is a serious reason that this charity was set up. Men’s mental health is a big concern. The statistics on male suicide make for horrific reading. It remains the most common form of death for men aged 20-49 in the UK. Years of being told to “Man up” and the stigma surrounding mental health has made it hard for men to talk about their problems.

Thankfully things are changing and the “Shedders Association” is one initiative set up to help. Men of all ages, young and old can now gather together in sheds all across the country, it’s a bit like an open prison, except that the only vices they have are the ones holding the wood.

It seems like men find it easier to talk when we are these sort of environments. Sawdust are our smelling salts and a Black and Decker Workmate is just another one of the lads. If you have a BBQ you can see how hard men find it to converse. Women will be sat on the patio furniture with a glass of Pimms, the air is alive with their excitable chatter. The men will usually be stood around the flames with a can of lager in hand, just staring in silence. Occasionally one of the older ones will pluck up the courage to speak: “It looks like you need another bag of lava rock on there Keith.”

I have a shed and it’s changed my life. It’s the only room in the house the children haven’t conquered. I like my kids but I love my shed. It’s my place, my own private temple. It’s not hedonism its shedonism! It’s how men bond too. My mates never ask me about my kids, but they will always ask me about that shed. “How is she doing mate?” “Great!” “I’ve got some pictures on my phone” “Oh, she’s beautiful!” “I’m treating her this weekend” “Are you?” “Yeah, a bit of Cuprinol.”

My wife Jemma got me that shed as a surprise when I became a professional comedian. It was somewhere I could concentrate, a private place away from the chaos of family life. At first, I thought it was a lovely gesture, now I’ve realised it’s just a way for her to get me out of the house.

Some of the men in the shedders association are retired. Their wives send them in there, to keep them occupied and stop them from getting lonely. They spend hours making coffee tables, catapults, and tiny models of cathedrals out of matchsticks, whilst their own homes just fall apart. “John I don’t need another bloody spice rack, when are you going to decorate that back bedroom!”

Another community I am fascinated with are the monks. To the onlooker they seem to have the right idea, taking themselves off the grid, seeking something more spiritual and meaningful in a world of panic and fear.

I’ve met a monk. I know this sounds like the start of a joke, “a comedian and a monk walk down a hill”, but it’s true. I was out for a walk on my own one day, in a country park in Gloucestershire. In the grounds, there was this Monastery. As I walked past the entrance, this monk came out of the gate and fell into step with me. He was in white robes, but he’d stuck on a fleece, bobble hat, and walking boots, an undercover monk, a friar with a wire. Some people find god after a moment of despair, this guy looked like he’d found him halfway through plastering a fireplace. It looked like he was on a Duke of Edinburgh expedition and had taken the wrong bearing, for nearly four decades! He said, “are you walking my way?” I thought, my God, he’s trying to recruit me! He got the calling when he was 25, he’d been there 35 years. He’d left his whole family behind to serve god. I told him I’d just turned 40. He said that is the age we start to look for fulfilment within ourselves, we stop chasing and start reflecting. This could be the moment for you, he said. “Now I’m not saying I’d want to abandon my family, I love my wife and children more than anything else in the world, they are everything to me…however…. it’d be nice to be brother Scott just for a weekend.”

I think that’s what these monasteries are full of, tired dads who said they were going to put the bin out one day and just kept going. They didn’t stop until their heads hit the monastery door. The monks find them there in the morning, just laid out on the steps: “We’ve got some more brother Michael and this one is weeping!” “School holidays Brother John always a busy time!” “Five this week alone” They just prize the Ikea bags out of their hands and take them through to the vestry. I think this is a secret fantasy for most men. As they get older you can see their inner monk slowing starting to come out. They aren’t ageing, they’re transitioning! They get the bald head, the potbelly, start spending all day in their dressing gowns, mumbling to themselves, they take a vow of celibacy, often not their choice. They wake up one day and say to their wives, “Susan, I’m going to put my name down for an allotment!”

But if the price of tranquillity is to give up everything you love, I don’t want it. I couldn’t handle the guilt, it would be unbearable. Maybe they aren’t holy these guys, maybe they’re just really selfish. We can’t all abandon our responsibilities just to save ourselves. It can’t be that good in there either. If it was, then why are they all drinking booze?! Not only that, but they are also making it themselves, it’s like Breaking Bad in there, I bought some of their Trappist Ale, its 9%, that’s stronger than special brew!

When you see them doing those chants in their robes, they aren’t praying, they’re hungover, what are they trying to forget! In this world of pressure and chaos, a garden shed is more than just an outbuilding, it’s a place of sanctuary. All you need is the Pope to pop by and bless it then and you’ve got your own Monastery. You can be your own monk by not even leaving your own home!

Speaking of which, I’ll see you all later, I’m off to rub down some plywood.

@scottbcomedyuk | scottbennettcomedy.co.uk Find The Scott Bennett Podcast on SoundCloud and iTunes

SB

Libtard nonsense

The theme this issue is ‘community’ they said, and that sounded great, until I began wondering exactly what the word means. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the actual definition, my voclab… er… vocable… list of words I know… is pretty good. But what is the Beeston community? Is there one?

Yes, obviously. But is there just one? No, just as obviously.

As I walk down Wollaton Road taking my daughter to school of a morning I see a huge number of people I don’t ever really interact with or know about – people who have different lifestyles, opinions, politics and even languages to mine.

I have my own routines, my circle of friends, people I work with or share hobbies with but how much interaction do I have with these strangers, what do we share?

“We live in the same town, are all affected by some of the same events…”

And yet we do share something, even with people we don’t know. We live in the same town, are all affected by some of the same events (as I type the increase in cases of coronavirus is headline news, who knows what it will be like by the time this is published). But tramworks, roadworks, shop closures, cinema building as well as those perennial favourites of shoe shops and public loos probably affect the majority of us in some way or another.

And you, dear reader – I may not know you personally but I imagine there’s a distinct ‘Beestonian’ community too, people who are interested, involved and have a real passion and pride in our town. You may not all agree on the same things of course – as I’ve mentioned previously our street art certainly divides people as does the number of student residences for instance, but I’m quite sure most readers could happily share a conversation and thoughts on our experiences and lives here.

And I like that – a lot. As a middle-aged bloke who’s lived in Beeston almost all of my life (I’ve had brief periods living in Nottingham itself, London and – for a short time – a castle in Cheshire) I love being part of something bigger than just my experience or limited worldview. The people who make up Beeston now come from the town itself and sometimes much further afield, including our annual influx of students too. We have a wide variety of restaurants – Persian, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Chinese, Italian, Indian – pretty much global – run by people who know and have a passion for their own cultures and cuisines but a desire to share that with others to add to the diversity, choice, interest and variety on our doorsteps.

And yet there are also those who don’t have as wide a choice as the majority; it would be a particularly inattentive person who hadn’t noticed the increase in the number of people sleeping rough or at least living on the streets in Beeston. There has been some robust discussion on the Beeston Updated Facebook group about the reasons and causes of this – as I mentioned, politics sometimes differ – but from the incredibly expensive houses of Beeston Fields Drive to sleeping bags on the High Road it can certainly be said almost all human life is here.

As a man who plays at being the country’s most famous outlaw, famed for a rather proactive redistribution of wealth, I’m not advocating anything as radical but I hope we can all realise we’re part of something bigger, to see outside our own narrow frame of reference and help each other – even those we don’t know – to live and thrive in our great town, one I truly believe is one of the best and most welcoming in the country.

TP

Everybody panic!

As a nation, we seem to be teetering on the verge of a very middle-class apocalypse, one which is holding eye contact while unflinchingly increasing the price of hand sanitiser between each worried looking person in line at the chemist. An end-of-days parade of wide-eyed, polite folk roaming loose around supermarkets, trying to look nonchalant in their quest to find the last bottle of pineapple scented hand gel. People who wouldn’t WANT to fight, but…

Our daughter’s school has issued warnings and advice, we are singing the prescribed two verses of Happy Birthday while slowly washing our hands, staring forlornly into the bathroom mirror like the ghosts of sad Victorian orphans. My hands are looking like something from Cocoon. We are too British to panic, but we shall tut and huff and encourage our kids to avoid playing with Sneezy Joe at school, all while being grateful that it seems to be happening to other people for now. But, and I don’t say this lightly, kids are filthy. If the end times come soon they shall be heralded not by four horsemen, but by 4 snotty year 2s playing the shared class recorders.

These germ delivery drivers are IN OUR HOUSES and it’s impolite to throw them out when they can’t legally look for alternative accommodation because they are still ‘only 5 mummy, please’.

Short of quarantining them all at Hogwarts or Eton or anywhere else which produces smug magical beings while us muggles work our fingers to the bone while they swim in vaults full of gold, we need to take drastic measures. We have to start hosing them down when they get home with the enthusiasm of a gap-year student at an elephant sanctuary.

Spray anti-bac directly into little Jimmy’s eyes, sheep dip the neighbours’ kids in last summer’s paddling pool before they can come inside. Put marigolds on the end of mops and greet them with a long-distance hug when they get home from school. Make them live in a tent in the garden and call it camping, kids love that stuff. Send them on a play date and leave the country while they are out.

Use your heads people, don’t let the kids win.

DL

University of Beestonia: Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015 the United Nations released a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and improve the lives of all. This ambitious blueprint outlined 17 Goals and a 15-year timeframe in which to achieve them.

Sustainability is a challenging concept but is broadly defined in this context as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs”. The focus on the SDGs and sustainability in general has opened a wealth of opportunities for scientists. One of the biggest shifts in the UK has been in the nature of the funding landscape, with the introduction of the “Global Challenges Research Fund” in 2015 – a £1.5bn UK Government funding initiative. This has in turn seen many Universities and Research Institutes align their research strategies with the SDGs – for example, the British Geological Survey’s “Geoscience for Sustainable Futures” programme, or the University of Nottingham’s Global Research Theme “Developing Sustainable Societies” and Future Food Beacon of Excellence, which have been discussed previously in this column.

Geoscience, our focus at the BGS, as well as other (and arguably all) science disciplines have a crucial role in underpinning and delivering applied solutions to improve economic and social welfare both at home and overseas. Perhaps the key to achieving the goals is tied up in Goal 17 –Partnerships for the Goals. We can no longer be scientists that sail our own ships, the need for crossdisciplinary working has never been stronger. We also need to work effectively and appropriately with overseas partners – be these academics, government bodies, or local communities – working together to co-design research, and co-produce knowledge to positively impact economic, environmental, and social development at local to global scales.

Achieving the UN-SDGs by 2030 might seem like an insurmountable task, and will be challenging, but does represent an exciting opportunity for scientists both in the UK and overseas to contribute to making positive change at a global scale.

Thanks to Dr. Keely Mills from the British Geological Survey (BGS) for contributing to the column this issue.

Beeston Safari

It occurred to me, sometime last Christmas, that to enter one of the Top Ten Eco Destinations in the World (according to BBC Wildlife Magazine) I didn’t have to do much more than walk a few steps from my house, cross a railway track and push a swing gate open.

I don’t live on the edge of a rainforest in Borneo. I don’t live on the fringe of the Red Desert in Namibia. As you may expect from someone who runs a magazine based in Beeston, my digs aren’t quite so exotic. I live, as many of you reading this will also do, right close to Attenborough Nature Reserve.

It also occurred to me that I didn’t know a great deal about what was within that reserve, or my own back garden for that matter, which felt an awful waste. Sure, I knew my swans from my geese, my starling from my sparrow; and I’d coaxed a few robins to feed from my outstretched palm on occasion. But what else was there? Finding a trap-cam and a bird-book in my Christmas stocking, I decided to put them to use. I would start a safari in Beeston, with the Nature Reserve, the Trent and my own rather overgrown back garden as my focus.

 

The challenge was simple: every day I would find and photograph a new species of life, research exactly what it was and what it did, and put it up on Instagram and Facebook. On the first day, while the outside world tussled with New Year hangovers, I checked my trapcams at dawn and found only curious cats. No matter. I stuck my camera out of the front window and onto the bird feeder, where a grey squirrel performed tail-based acrobatics and thus became my first subject. Next day, collared dove. Third day, the first creature I had no previous idea of, only identifying through a microscope: a planarium flatworm, making its way through the soil. A shiny glass snail – I’d until then assumed there was just two types of snails, garden and pond – with an aphid, coal tit and a common centipede rounding off the first week.

“Nature is an incredible array of stories, histories, etymologies and often bizarre facts.”

With each new species came a desire to not just photograph it, not just know its name, but know why it is unique. Why is a mute swan mute (it’s not)? Why do hoverflies look like wasps? Who the hell was responsible for naming fungus, and were they getting a bit too fond of the more psychedelic versions while at work that day? Nature is an incredible array of stories, histories, etymologies and often bizarre facts. I became addicted to it.

As spring broke through the frozen ground, I became spoiled for choice. Hedgehogs and badgers would regularly visit the trap cam, and the wealth of species that appeared in the nature reserves was heady: I became fascinated by beetles, amazed at the habits of butterflies, enthralled by the impossible flash of a hawker dragonfly in full flight. Rather than have nature as an auxiliary support, there to dip into when needed, I began to become immersed and wilfully lost in it. I could happily spend hours piling through scratching brambles all just to get a grainy shot of a blackcap. Windows were left open and lights left on during the night to lure in fascinating moths. My photography skills vastly improved. My own backyard became my own Serengeti, a joy taken in the minutiae.

It started to get noticed: numerous appearances on Notts TV talking about the safari ensued, and people would send me their own pictures, seemingly inspired by my efforts. The ultimate accolade came in late May, when a hero of mine who radically changed how nature is written about, Robert Macfarlane, crossed paths with me due to a work event. We went for dinner together at Cafe Roya, where he told me he enjoyed my daily pictures. I probably resembled a smug Elephant Hawk Moth right then, as my head swelled
accordingly.

Something more important happened too. I fell back in love with nature, and I once again understood what a balm it is. Immersion into nature takes you somewhere far from the daily stresses, the petty internal debates. By reducing you to just another temporal organism amongst many billions, a transcendence can begin. Understanding more about the creatures we share this patch with lends a greater respect, a deeper empathy and a greater need to look after what we have. To quote Robert Macfarlane “We find it hard to love what we cannot give a name to. And what we do not love we will not save.” And right now, we need to bridge that gap between nature and humanity, for it’s sake, for our sake.

This year, I’ve restarted the safari: as I write I’m watching a charm of goldfinch on a feeder, while a cautious female blackbird pecks at an apple left on the floor. Keep up with the safari over on my Instagram: @beestonia.

MT

 

 

Eco Friendly Parenting

The phrase ‘eco-friendly parenting’ summons up images of forest schools and vegan lentil puree and sharing circles where mums hang out in wafty kaftans while beardy dads whittle musical pipes to sell at local craft markets, but I have a very vivid and judgemental imagination. As someone with less free time than Prince Andrew in 1999, I know how hard it can be to actively do my bit for the environment as well as sort out childcare, work full time and remember which charity your kid needs a pound for at school.

There are, however, a few bits of fairly sensible advice I’ve picked up over the years from people who are far more qualified to bring up a child than I am, so I’m going to shamelessly pass these off as my own and gain your immense admiration and respect.

Buy books. Books hold their value for far longer than the latest LOL doll or surprise bag, and can be passed on to your local charity shop or a mate with a younger child when yours gets bigger. They make great personal gifts, you can get them in the pound shop, and they don’t take up too much space in small bedrooms. Buy reusable water bottles and avoid snacks in single-use plastic containers. Baby-Bels are fun but a block of cheese is cheaper and produces less waste. Same with fruit and biscuits. Buy bulk and cheap where you can, and ignore the tiny protestations of the 3-year-old who wants Transformers yoghurt pots. You are bigger than they are. Be strong. Sit on them if necessary.

“Scour charity shops for stocking fillers and remember that it’s fine to buy second hand.”

Shop local; find smaller gift items on your high street from independent retailers and avoid those big chains who avoid their taxes. You’ll be supporting local individuals rather than billionaires. Check out the website Etsy for some brilliant one-off gifts which are more personal than a Frozen 2 lip balm set. Scour charity shops for stocking fillers and remember that it’s fine to buy second hand.

Above all remind your kids about the great outdoors. Parks are free, and if they grow up loving the outdoors they will grow up to want to protect it. That’s really the best thing you can do, and it costs nothing. Chuck on something narrated by David Attenborough and remind them that we share the world, that it’s not ours. (Skip the bit where the baby seals get eaten alive though, our kid hasn’t slept for 7 weeks and we’re all very tired.)

DL

Bow Selector: A look back on 2019…

As I write this I’m dressed in a silly costume, representing a world-famous character who is renowned for doing the right thing and being very generous – although this time I’m not Robin Hood, today I’m being Santa at a sold-out Nottingham Albert Hall for two performances of their annual Kidsophonic Christmas Concerts which combine festive music played by a brilliant orchestra with games, poems, songs and carols and of course a visit at the end from the portly philanthropist.

It’s a lovely event and for my five-year-old daughter Scarlett (six on Boxing Day) it’ll be her fourth time of attending – and each year I wonder if this is the year she’ll spot her favourite Santa (who mysteriously knows so much about her) is in fact me! Maybe this year will be the one, I don’t know…

But whilst Christmas is a time for tradition, the New Year, also rushing towards us apace, is a time for reflection and change. This year has been one of huge change for all of us and I don’t expect 2020 will be any less tumultuous. Obviously things have been ‘interesting’ this year for any number of reasons – national and international politics for a start – but don’t worry, I’m certainly not going to dredge all that up again. One of the other hats I wear (aside from Robin Hood and Santa hats) is that of an admin for the wonderful ‘Beeston Updated’ Facebook group and it’s been fun (I think that’s the word) trying to keep the place as apolitical or neutral as possible whilst a storm of divisiveness crashes around us all.

But things have changed here in Beeston too this year – some of it sad, with some businesses closing their doors for the final time. Personally, I was gutted to see the wonderful games, comic store and social hub Chimera disappear from the Broadgate end of the High Road and of course, The White Lion also shut.

There are good news stories too though, farewell Table 8, hello Yak and Yeti for instance. And Andy and Heather from Chimera are keeping the legacy of their store and community alive by running ‘pop up’ gaming sessions in other local venues like our splendid micropub the Pottle (near Sainsbury’s) which keeps the social and retail aspect alive and fresh without the worrying cost of keeping a physical shop going; it’s a great way to utilise and promote other local venues too. The White Lion looks to have a new team coming in soon and there are even vague rumours that the redevelopment of the dead land by the tram station might actually come to something!

“The enthusiasm I see from the people of Beeston is incredibly heartening…”

The downside of that is that the Beeston Beach may not reappear again – much to Scarlett’s dismay as she loves it – and sadly the splendid mural of Robin Hood will have to be demolished (but I’m happy to stand in its place for hours on end for a very reasonable fee, I promise). The vibrant art scene in Beeston is another wonderful and unique ongoing point of interest – again on Beeston Updated there were a number of views expressed including some folks who thought (and presumably still think) that such public art does nothing for the town; I must admit I side with those who think it’s beautiful and enhances the place.

I know we’re all still waiting for the arrival of a shoe-megastore and some proper public toilets but the enthusiasm I see from the people of Beeston is incredibly heartening and gives me some real hope for 2020.

And now I’ve written all of this I can reveal that there was another change this year – at the end of the concert, just as she’d had her photo taken with Santa in his sleigh Scarlett turned round, hugged me and whispered in my ear “I love you Daddy.”

It’s the end of an era – but also the start of another.

Happy New Year!

TP

Call me captain planet

It’s nearly midnight and I’ve just come back in from taking out the recycling, something that I always do in the dark, mainly because I don’t want the neighbours to see how much alcohol I drink. There is only so many times you can have a Christmas party before someone suggests you have a problem, especially when it’s May.

The environment is becoming a huge political hot potato, albeit one which was heated in a solar-powered oven made from mud. We are constantly being bombarded with messages of how little time we’ve got left and how we are on the cusp of Armageddon.

The straws

Don’t worry though everyone, it’s all going to be okay because we’ve banned the plastic straws.

These cardboard ones aren’t the answer though. Of all the materials that are suitable for being submerged underwater, cardboard would be way down that list. I’d like to say that these new straws sucked, but they don’t even do that. Ten seconds in a diet coke and it just gives up, it’s like trying to smoke a roll-up in the shower.

I don’t know what the answer is. Maybe we just have to put up with it, or I suppose we could drink directly from the glass, you know, like grown up’s do.

We need to have bigger changes than this, otherwise, we’ll be sat there on top of a skyscraper in fifty years’ time, tidal waves lapping at our feet, watching cattle float by like driftwood, sipping that same milkshake thinking, “Well I just don’t understand why we changed the straws?”

Extinction Rebellion

We have recently seen the rise of the protest group Extinction Rebellion.

The group were formed after founder members met at a Psychedelic Drugs retreat. That’s quite impressive. Most people who spend most of the day off their face can’t even organise a trip to the all-night garage, never mind a political movement.

Recently an anti-terror chief said that they should be treated as a terrorist organisation. Really? I’d like to see them try and radicalise some unsuspecting arts student:

“Oh yes, we started to notice his behaviour change. He would often wander around the house switching off lights and turning down the thermostat. He’d spend all day in his room, watching Greta Thunberg Speeches and just silently recycling. Then, two weeks later he totally flipped and tried to hijack that oil tanker with a gluten-free breadstick.”

Shamed into action

Like most things with the environment I think we need to be shamed into doing something, it’s the only way. That’s why a teenager like Greta is having such an impact. We feel embarrassed when our own kids make us look like morons, never mind someone else’s.

When I have a dental appointment, the day before I suddenly start caring about my teeth. I brush till my gums bleed, floss, gargle mouthwash; all so I don’t get told off by my dentist. Cleaning the house is the same. Some days I arrange for people to come and visit me, just so I have no choice but to get off my arse and do the hoovering. This is what we need to do for the environment.

“Right I’m going now, but I’ll be back on Friday to look at your environment, don’t let me down.”

We’d have it sorted in record time.

Our children

We are worried for the next generation. They are pumped full of guilt and fear, and so they should be, it’s partly their fault. Having a kid is terrible for the environment. For the first few years, all they do is consume food, energy, and resources. The amount of arts and crafts they churn out is an environmental disaster that could rival any oil spill.

Every day my three-year-old comes home with more things she’s made at playgroup. It’s a nightmare. I can’t throw it away because she’ll know it’s gone and I can’t recycle it because it’s just a congealed mess of glue, lollipop sticks, paper and glitter. My fridge door is straining at the hinges with the weight of this poorly executed emotional landfill. They are using up more resources than the US at the height of the industrial revolution.

“Look, Daddy, I’ve made you another picture of a sheep in dried pasta.”

It’s no wonder free school meals are in crisis. Stop sticking the stuff on paper and cook it!

I swear the things they make are getting bigger. It’s a conspiracy to stop you from throwing it all away. They started as A4 cards, then a painted plate. The week after it was a wooden spatula, by the end of term they’ll be sending them out the door with a sequin-covered surfboard.

My eldest daughter Olivia, is a vegetarian, at nine years old. She’s doing it both for ethical and environmental reasons. These dietary requirements are something my parents never had to deal with. At her birthday party this year it was a nightmare. We had two vegetarians, a vegan, someone who was wheat intolerant and a celiac. I don’t know where we’re having her party next year, probably Holland and Barret. It’ll just be sixteen bored kids, sitting there playing pass the parsley for three hours.

Disposable society

We live in a disposable society where we just endlessly consume and things cost more to repair than replace and that’s fundamentally wrong.

Our Tumble dryer broke recently, so I got in touch with the company:

“Don’t worry Mr Bennett for £15.99, a month, we can repair your tumble dryer and that will also cover you for all future problems.”

My life insurance is £8.99 a month. I told my wife Jemma, “Can you believe it darling, to repair this tumble dryer it’s going to be twice the price of my life insurance.” She looked at me and said, “Yeah, but the thing is, we couldn’t live without that tumble dryer.”

I wanted to repair it myself, I’m fairly practical, but it was impossible. The manufacturers don’t want you to. I couldn’t even get into the thing!

There are many screws that the designers could have used, ones that fit, say a conventional screwdriver. But no, my tumble dryer has a screw with a head on it that can only be turned by the toenail of a Komodo dragon! Not a flat-head, not a crosshead, this one is like a weird triangle. Who built this thing? The Illuminati?

Before we start trying to tackle bigger issues facing our planet, we need to have a change in our behaviour as a society not just as individuals. It needs to be a huge global effort in collective thinking; rather than being led by these huge companies who consistently look to put their profits ahead of the planet.

SB

Scotty’s Soap Box: Halloween Special

Now is the time of year our streets will be teaming with youngsters, all wearing costumes and face paint, marauding through the local community, angrily making their demands. No, I’m not talking about the next protest from Extinction Rebellion; I’m referring, of course, to Halloween.

I’m baffled as to why it seems to be such a big deal these days? I think it’s the closest us Brits get to having an affinity with the Americans, apart from our growing obesity problem and embarrassment with our political leaders. It’s a major feature on the calendar now. The kids get excited like it’s Christmas and it nearly rivals Easter when it comes to the calorie count.

When I was a kid back in the 1980s Halloween wasn’t even a thing. I can only remember going trick or treating a few times. The first time was when I was about three years of age, a mere amateur in the game. My parents took a photo of the occasion. I was there sporting a massive black bin bag, with skeleton bones crudely drawn on the front in Tippex. I looked like a walking ISIS flag. I was wearing my father’s wellingtons as they were black and presumably, my Fireman Sam ones didn’t have the required scare factor. I was sat in my Batman go-kart and my poor dad was pulling me around the streets with a rope. I think I was the only Trick or Treater to be chauffeur-driven.

The second time I was about 12, which in trick or treater years is approaching retirement. I was with a friend and went trick or treating around his estate. It was a strange night. The only people to answer the door were his parents, his grandma and one of his highly religious neighbours, who gave us a little note of some bible scripture, warning us against dabbling with the occult. My mate ate it as he thought it might be some sugar paper, it wasn’t but he’s now a fully qualified vicar so it was certainly laced with something.

They even have zombie walks through town centres now. Hundreds of people, walking with a vacant stare, moaning and groaning. I’ve seen it in Nottingham many times, although not exclusively on Halloween.

I often wonder if trick or treating is different in really posh areas. The kids would probably only be able to do two houses as it would take half an hour to walk up the driveways. They’d all be dressed in designer Halloween costumes, a little off the shoulder gothic number by Gucci, with a swan slung over each shoulder and they wouldn’t say trick or treat, it would be “Hoodwink or delicacy?”

Unless it’s Green and Blacks 80% organic fairtrade chocolate, they’d not accept it and the tricks would be a little different too, something more in-keeping with the area. “I say sir, haven’t you heard, house prices here are set to plummet by 5%!”

I have two children, nine and three, strange names but easy to remember. They both love Halloween. At my eldest daughters’ school last year for Halloween they were allowed to go in fancy dress, she said to me, “Daddy I want to go as something really scary.” So I had a think about it and sent her as an Ofsted inspector.

We don’t send them out on their own trick or treating, it’s a different world now. So, we have to accompany them like a pair of weird bouncers. Waiting at the bottom of the driveways and mouthing an embarrassed “sorry” as they storm into our neighbour’s hallways to mug them of all the Haribo they have.

The street I live on really embraces Halloween, because the demographic is mainly young families. It started out quite low-key, a couple of pumpkins, maybe a cobweb here and there. A morning at Costa and a WhatsApp group later and its now Grand Designs meets Friday the 13th. It’s a competition in one-upmanship. We’ve got gravestones in gardens, smoke machines and spooky music on Bluetooth speakers. Last year one resident had the idea of putting a life-size dummy of a killer clown in the front seat of their people carrier. It was a nice touch until one child had a panic attack. I think they are still in therapy now.

I don’t know where this madness is going to end. I wouldn’t be surprised if my wife tries to convince me to bury myself in the garden, with nothing but a paper straw to breathe through. She’d tell the children I was working away and then on Halloween night, as soon as the first bars of Michael Jacksons “Thriller” are blasted across the garden, I would emerge from the soil like one of the Living Dead.

Towards the end of the evening, we tend to get the stragglers coming, to pick off the last of the sweets. These are the kids who are too old for the trick or treating game. The ones who have worn the tread on the tyres, jaded old hacks who should know better. The cut-off point is when The One Show intro music starts, everyone knows that. Once the pumpkin is extinguished it’s over. Yet they still come, all charged up on E-numbers, mobile phones lighting their faces like low budget ETs and hammer the doorbell. I expect the reason they were late is because some of them are old enough to be working at Subway and they needed to finish their shifts first.

The carving of the pumpkin is something I try to involve the children in. It’s a calmer, more traditional taste of Halloween. The kids try and carve, but ultimately, they get bored. They start off with such big ideas, “I’m going to carve Harry Potter’s face into this one Daddy!”, “I’m going to do a full-scale picture of Hogwarts in mine Daddy!” this all fades away at record speed when they realise how difficult it is to cut into and all we end up with is two pumpkins with a glory hole in them.

This years Halloween will be very different. I won’t be able to celebrate it as I am performing my tour show “Leap Year” (tickets available at www.scottbennettcomedy.co.uk/tour.html yes this is a plug) in Amersham, Hertfordshire.

Let’s hope that it’s a treat for me and not a trick where no one turns up. Or worse than that, one person turns up, in fancy dress as the grim reaper.

@scottbcomedyuk | scottbennettcomedy.co.uk Find The Scott Bennett Podcast on SoundCloud and iTunes.