It Looks Like Ant and Dec are Well and Truly Over

Following Ant MacPartlins drink driving charge, and his admission into rehab, AGAIN, they have been snubbed by The Royal Television Society.

They initially were drawn up to be in the running for two awards, Saturday Night Takeaway, and I’m a Celeb, however, they have been pipped to the post this year after seeming snub from the POWERS THAT BE.

Following Ants bad behaviour recently, the professional and personal relationship the two enjoyed is increasingly under more and more strain, while Ant’s marriage has collapsed, he has embarked on a hedonistic downward spiral which seems will only get worse.

Following the incident, in which Ant crashed the Mini he was driving while under the influence of drink, and injuring a three year old girl, with his mother in the car too, it’s no wonder people are concerned for Ant’s mental health.

This isn’t the first time drink has been the demon for ant, and he’s already spent stints in rehab before to try to clean his act up.

There is also a further blow to the duo, as Dec is also seemingly being punished for his sidekicks bad decision with Saturday Night Takeaway being taken off the air until producers decide what the way forward is going to be.

ITV have made quite a few gaffs in the last few weeks, one of which was playing ‘All about the bass’ over a video tribute to Stephen Hawking. Then there were the usual mess ups on This Morning, slips of the tongue and the like. Though this is the most serious event to hit the broadcaster for a long time.

So the question is, can Dec do it on his own? It seems unfair for both to be punished when only one committed the crime in the first place.

The new doesn’t come as a surprise to many, after all, Ant has always liked a tipple and a quick google search of his name will reveal plenty of blurry eyed images.

It seems however, his marital woes have taken a greater toll on him than he let on, and he’s gradually gone it to downward spiral of depression. He needs professional help, but if he doesn’t want to help himself, no one will be able to help him. It’s a vicious cycle that is very difficult to break.

His mother is said to be devastated, while friends of the pair are also very concerned that his drinking may escalate further if its not nipped in the bud now.

As for the sentence, he should have his licence revoked, he injured someone because he got behind the wheel drunk. Something that you simply do not do under any circumstances. More fool Ant I say. He knew the consequences, and he knew the risk he was taking, and he should thank his lucky stars that he didn’t kill someone.

As for Dec, the only voice of reason he seems to have, he needs to have some firm words.

Do Online Casinos Need to Offer More Player Protection?

If you have been keeping track of gambling related news stories recently, then you will be aware that there are going to be some reductions regarding the stakes that UK players can play FOBT machines for.

The UK Gambling Commission have decided that giving players the ability of playing fixed odds betting terminals, that offers lots of different casino games in betting shops across Great Britain for high stake amounts, is putting to many people at risk of additional and overspending.

As such they have decided to propose to the government the maximum stakes are lowered by less than a third of what the stakes are currently, and therefore hope players will not spend as much or will not get as addicted to playing them as they once did.

Whether or not that is going to result in players not spending as much on those gaming machines does of course remain to be seen, and the government of the UK have not yet decided to act on those proposals or not.

However, I do get the feeling that if the maximum stake levels are reduced on those FOBT’s then it is only going to be a matter of time before the UK Gambling Commission is forced to turn their attention to online casinos.

It is possible for players based in the UK to gamble huge amounts of cash from the comfort of their own homes with no restrictions in place regarding the maximum stakes they can play for, and it common sense that online casinos offer more risks than gambling machines in betting shops and betting offices.

There have been a lot of changes regarding the way that UK licensed and regulated casino sites are run and operated, for a start all such casino sites and casino apps must allow players of having the option of selecting some gambling limits when they log into their accounts, so there is the option for players to set their own gambling limits.

However, if a player decides not to make use of those gambling limits they can then deposit huge amounts of cash and can gamble for enormous stake amounts, and that will be of concern to all gambling problem related charities and organisations.

It is however probably going to be at the moment in time when the UK government does decide to change the laws surrounding the maximum stake amounts on FOBT machines that they will then turn their attention to doing the same with online casinos, I will of course keep you fully updated if they do so.


Bookmakers Given a Lifeline with FOBT Stake Suggestions

There is no getting away from the fact that fixed odds betting terminals make all bookmakers a lot of money, and over the last few months the UK Gambling Commission have bene busy determining if there should be a reduction regarding the £100 maximum stake limit imposed on players of those types of gaming machines.

Well, it has been announced that they have decided to propose a reduction to £30 as the maximum stake limit, and it is now going to be up to the UK Government whether they should act on those suggestions and reduce the stake levels accordingly.

Whilst all bookmakers have of course been expecting a reduction in the stake limits, that proposal is not as low as some people and commentators have been suggesting, for many gambling related charities and organisations had been calling for a reduction down to as low as just 2.00.

As such, if the UK Government does act on those proposals, and they are probably going to, I doubt whether there are going to be any serious reductions in the profitability of FOBT’s, for it is very true to say that most players of such machine do not play for stake levels as high as 30 per game, never mind the maximum current £100 per game.

I do know that many betting site operators in the United Kingdom had been very worried about the impact of reducing the stakes on FOBT’s down to a maximum of £2 per game played, for that would have made their gaming machines unprofitable or at the very least reduce the income generated by them massively.

At the end of the day though it shouldn’t be the Government that decides such matter it is a third-party organisation that should decide, for they are less likely to be swayed by people and companies who do make donations to their political party.

Whether you like it or not, the stakes of FOBT machines are going to be reduced, which does seem a pointless exercise when you consider the fact that anyone in Great Britain can fire up their computer or laptop and then play at online casino sites very easily.

Many of the companies that do own online casinos are based in tax havens and away from the scrutiny and regulation of the UK Gambling Commission, and as such the tax revenue that betting shops would be generating through he income made from their FOBT’s will be reduced and will be lost to offshore non-UK tax paying companies.

I will of course be monitoring this news story as and when the UK Government do decide whether or not to act on the suggestions of the UK Gambling Commission, but there is no doubt in my mind that they are not going to reduce the stakes to anything higher than the proposed £30 and there is still the chance that they may reduce it even lower, we will just have to wait and see.

UK Soap Opera Broaches a Very Taboo Male Topic.

I can only say this as a gay man, but it doesn’t matter, gay or straight, rape is wrong. It’s a demeaning and traumatic experience for anyone involved, and despite the myths that all gay men like to be promiscuous and have multiple partners in a week, the reality is, if you don’t want it, No means No.

The David Platt storyline is delving into the turmoil that follows male rape, something that is hugely under-reported to the police for fear of embarrassment, mocking and the idea that ‘men can’t be raped’ and ‘you must have liked it’.

Yes, it’s true, the male ‘G – Spot’ is in his rectum, but that doesn’t mean he wants it poking and prodding without his consent.

The same goes for women too. However, for men, the ordeal is a somewhat taboo subject that is very seldom broached.

When it comes down to it, the act itself isn’t the most damaging thing, it’s the degradation, humility and ultimately the loss of control that strikes men the most. Not being able to control their situation and being at the mercy of others, who for all intents and purposes have no intention of showing any form of mercy.

So for Corrie to actually delve into this very dark and sinister plot, one that has revolted many people, because of its nature, is a huge step forward to helping men know that #UsToo can be raped, sexually assaulted, abused and be the victim of Domestic Abuse. In fact, around ¼ of incidents happen to men, so we’re not alone. Nor should we be ashamed of the fact that some people are not nice and will do bad things to us.

It’s a horrible thing to say, but attacks like this are becoming more and more common, committed by men AND women, and the only way that we as guys can end it is to report it.

I’m not talking becoming a snowflake and complaining to the police because someone said you have a nice ass, or you have a cheeky smile, but serious complaints, like groping where not wanted, stalking, saying they can turn you (yes, I’ve had that one a few times), spiking, rape. We should be able to speak to the police and file a complaint without fear of being mocked.

Instead, we bottle everything up, bury our head in the sand and hope it will all go away. But it never does. It never goes away because it’s not been dealt with. With no absolution, no one can move on.

With absolution comes closure, and with closure comes a huge range of new opportunity. With opportunity comes success, and with success come satisfaction.

Something a lot of victims of sexual assault don’t get, all because speaking to the authorities is so daunting and painful. Not only the physical and internal examinations, but the mental side of it, and the fact that every time you see your counsellor, you have to relive it again.

Hairdressing, What an Industry!

As your hairdresser, I do much more than simply cut and blowdry.

As your hairdresser, Barnett chopper, wig wizard or anything else you want to endearingly call me, I actually have a harder job than you think. You see, we do more than just discuss weather, holidays and the kids exam results. We build up a relationship with you, become your confidant, therapist, agony aunt, and ultimately, a kind of friend.

We are also trained to understand and read body language, and to see if people are languishing after bereavement, depressed following divorce, or stressed. What you tell us, and how you sit in that chair tells us all sorts. We can also feel the stress being relieved at the backwash as we do scalp massages.

We know if you’re pregnant before you tell us, and we know when work is getting too much.

You see, there’s a lot of things your hair and scalp tells us, and one of the tell tale signs of depression and low self esteem, is when you don’t even comb your hair, and allow it to become matted. Not in a trendy way like dreads, but you’ve just given up.

Over time, as we gain your trust, you eventually open up to us, telling us about financial woes, marital problems, family that have done you over.   We know more about you than most of your friends, and it is duly noted. Under data protection, we don’t discuss our discussions with anyone, but, when we feel you need additional help, we have a duty of care to inform someone. Be that the 111 service, or if we know your GP’s surgery, we can speak to them of any concerns, just so it’s on file.

We aren’t qualified mental health nurses, nor are we psychotherapists, but we are very good at listening. Part of the job is giving out advice, and how we would deal with predicaments, be that a cheating husband, a bullying co-worker, mounting debt. You pay us for a haircut, but also get a therapist thrown in free!

We are there at your highest and lowest points, from being promoted, to widows who want to look their best for the funeral, for weddings, that special anniversary, divorce hearings. We’ve honestly seen it all. Actually, we’ve done hair for every occasion and every non occasion.

The thing with hair and beauty therapists, is that we have no choice but to try and help. We’re like flight attendants with scissors, nail files, brushes and blusher. That is our job, and it’s a bloody hard one too.

Not only do we have back to back appointments all day, but we also have to constantly be on the ball and listen carefully, because anything you say may make us start to think something is askew. This is not a detriment to you, but if we see a continuous pattern, or even decline in your emotional and mental well being, we want to help. Not just because you put food on our table, but we do actually care about you as a person.


Strong Women Often Overlooked in Business

The most Dangerous combination of all? A warm, approachable, motherly smile and good looks.

Gina Haspel is quite an unremarkable woman to look at. She looks the type you’d expect to see dropping the kids off at school on the school run, and then heading off to her job in the city as an executive in the finance industry.

She’s the type of woman your mum would encourage you to approach as a kid if you needed help or were lost.

But behind that perfectly coifed hairdo, immaculate manicure and warm, if slightly patronizing smile that doesn’t quite reach her eyes, is set to be the next head of the CIA.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think she’d harm someone who approached her for help in the supermarket, but I’d certainly be wary of her if I had done something wrong, and given her professional history, the nickname she’s acquired is quite apt.

She’s nicknamed ‘Bloody Gina’.

A woman so formidable, that although she held the power to stop interrogations, she never did, even when detainees soiled themselves, vomited and even passed out. She’s been known to even go so far, complete with pearls, as to offer the motherly ‘olive branch’ to squeeze just the smallest bit more information out of them. Or more commonly, she’s been known to goad detainees after they’ve been tortured to further break their mental state. It is said she’s even partaken in the interrogation of some.

Little is known of her past, or personal life, only that should she head the CIA, she will be the most powerful spy in the western world.

Now, let’s talk business.

The world is in danger, we’ve got ISIS fanatics in one hand, and Vladimir Putin threatening to annihilate the rest of the world in the other. Funnily enough, Russia is in the bad books for the (alleged) poisoning of one of their own double agents.

So, what do we want in the person that’s going to be in control of the CIA, a service that all of us use thanks to the close, if frosty relationship that the UK and USA have?

Well, she certainly has the credentials, and as she’s obviously able to suppress the desire to Sympathetically Vomit, or Vomit in general during the interrogations that’s a pretty good start. Then there is the fact that she’s a woman.

Women are far better than men at manipulation and can adjust nearly any situation to suit them. Be that by turning on the ‘motherly charm’, or by turning into something more fearsome than a T-Rex that’s not eaten for 3 days.

You can see by her current photograph, that there are great things going on behind those shiny eyes and wide smile, and that she’s working out her next move like a Chess Grandmaster. Another good quality.

Torture isn’t right, but, if it’s keeping the vast majority safe, it’s a means to an end, and I’m sure that she literally only uses torture as a last resort.


Words and Phrases that REALLY Make My Blood Boil

I love the English Language, its evolution, its heritage and its versatility. I also love the fact that nearly every curse word can be enhanced by shoving ‘upery’ and the end of it. There are some words that over the years have developed to mean different meanings, and the underground language Polari.

What I am hating though, is that not only is text speak (or txt spk) making its way into everyday tongue, it’s taking over in some cases.

For example, ‘OGMIKRLMAO #CRZY’ to you and me it’s ‘Oh my God, I know Right, Laughing my Ass Off’.

Then we have the other one. YOLO! For god’s sake, are you incapable of saying You Only Live Once?

IDK – I Don’t Know. Is there something seriously that wrong with standards of teaching that we’ve regressed to using acronyms, abbreviations and completely changing the structure of the English language to suit our lazy wants to make life easier.

We should be using the language to its fullest and adapting it to essentially be a load of random letters that could mean anything is ridiculous.

There are local terms of endearment, such as ‘ya right Cock’ or ‘Hey Chick’, but they’re regional, and are actually quite pleasant.

Then you have the Polari aspect, a lot of which is still used today, especially among gay men.

‘The chickens just got himself a bit of trade for the night’ ie: ‘The young man’s got himself some company for the night’. And an ‘Egg’ is someone that’s underage.

We use words that originally had hugely different meanings, like Gay, which meant Happy.

And then ironically started using words in the wrong context to get the point across or to use as sarcasm ‘That biophysics PhD exam was SO easy I barely had time to finish the last page’

See the language can be adopted for a variety of purposes, including scathing, withering put downs that would make some of J.K Rowling’s tweets look tame.

‘All you are is a bigoted, homophobic, racist, narcissistic, anti-Semitic, white supremacist irru**bo’.

See, you can even slip in a couple of other languages if you don’t want to swear. I don’t there is a language quite like the English language, as it’s a bit of a Heinz 57, in the fact it lends a lot from other languages, and then also uses the traditional language of each country. For example, saying ‘Hola’ instead of ‘Hello’. But everyone knows what you mean.

For our language to be under constant attack by people who think it’s ‘amazeballs’ is quite frankly the most infuriating thing I can think of. That and using the wrong words in the right places because you don’t know the correct meaning and usage of the word.

Just imagine if your doctor wrote on your notes;

‘X totes hs chst inftn. Scribed abtcs. 4xday 4 3wks. Amxcillin’ Instead of;

‘X has a serious chest infection. Prescribed antibiotics 4x daily for 3 weeks. Amoxicillin.’

And your next doctor can’t understand a bloody word of your notes? You’d not feel overly confident would you?

Shops Launching Quiet Hours!

The Entertainer, a large toy retailer has announced it will be doing quiet hours in all its stores to help parents and families of children with Special Needs.

It’s not an unusual concept, with ASDA, Toys’R’Us and other retailers rolling out similar schemes to help their customers who have additional needs. However, when toy shopping with kids, it can be a sensory overload, and overwhelming for Child and Adult.

The quiet hour isn’t only a ploy to get more people through its doors but is actually genuinely put in place to make those who struggle with overloads to have a calm environment.

During the Quiet Hour, music will be turned off, and loud demos will also be silenced, making the experience a more comfortable one for the kids and their parents. This quiet hour will also be a good time for parents to get their shopping in a much calmer and relaxed way, as opposed to it being like an obstacle course that even an SAS Soldier would struggle with.

Although there are plenty of stores offering Quiet Hours, there is one problem, and that is they are always the first hour of the day, meaning that you have to make a concerted effort to get there for it, and as a lot of people live quite far away from some stores, that means they have to get up a lot  earlier, and set off earlier, while holding a quiet hour for the last hour of trading would be a more appropriate time for all involved.

The thing with ASD, is no 2 cases are the same, and no 2 kids are the same and they’ll react very differently to different situations. The same with ADHD. While one kid could go into a meltdown at sensory overload, another could simply feel uncomfortable, but not have a meltdown.

Retailers, especially the supermarkets should all offer a couple of quiet hours a day. Not only for the sake of the staff who’ve had to listen to the same CD on repeat for the last 8 hours, but also for adult shoppers who have additional needs.

It’s bad enough shopping anyway, with all the different products, packaging, flashing lights and kids who think the fresh bread sticks are actually lightsabres, without having music blared out. It’s more a problem around Christmas, because there seems to only be one album of Christmas songs, and if I have to listen to ‘All I want for Christmas’ and Mariah Carey’s screaming a top A, I think I’ll have a meltdown too! I go shopping to buy groceries, not to walk into a rave.

There are plenty of things we can do to help those with additional needs. Some independent hair salons offer to not use hair driers on certain special days for such clients, and one I used to work in had a separate salon for anyone that needed a more solitary experience.

Parenting is Never Easy

So, my niece is getting older, and naturally she’ll make mistakes. This comes after a study revealed that women that have fewer than 3 children look younger.

Well, my sister has 3 kids, 7, 10 and 15, and I can tell you, there is an element of truth to what the study is saying.

From trashed lounges and bedrooms to eventful mealtimes, bills, rent and the usual daily problems that raising three energetic bundles of energy, she honestly does look her 35 years. Now, let’s get to some of the reasons for this.

We’ll start with the eldest:

She had a traumatic birth, born by emergency c-section. She was tiny, almost small enough to be in the special baby ward. Then the relationship with her father broke down, and she found herself homeless with a 6 month old baby and had to move back in with my parents until they found her a place.

Then we had all the usual kiddie problems. Sleepless nights, toilet training, sick days, chicken pocks and other illnesses. Also the terrible twos, including scribbling on the walls, covering the TV in nappy cream, nursery, school, bullies, the list goes on.

As she’s got older, she’s discovered smoking, and a penchant for mixed berry cider. I suppose there are worse things she could be doing than smoking the odd cigarette and drinking a can of cider (under mums close supervision) on a Saturday night. Still, these things are still a worry for the sister. Especially as soon enough, she’ll be going to college and uni.

The other 2 nieces have been pretty run of the mill. Both C Sections, one was born with jaundice. Pretty much standard babies. They cried a lot, pooped at every possible opportunity and regularly threw their food with surprising accuracy in every direction.

They’ve gone through the kiddie phases, we’ve been subjected to countless episodes of Peppa Pig, are currently in the midst of the Disney obsession, and they fight like cat and dog one minute, and are cuddling the next. Such is sisterly love.

We’ve got the school on my sisters back over everything from healthy school dinners to attending every parents evening, which is a nightmare because the pair of them have the same teachers, but they need to have separate appointments.

The problem with kids is, you can’t live with them, but you can’t be without them either, and they naturally know which buttons to press to get a rise out of you. It’s like they’re given a training manual in the womb!

So yes, there is some truth to the findings of the study, after all, it’s mothers who tend to bare the brunt of the responsibility, though, I do think had men been included in the study, they’d look older too!

Just because one of you is the bread winner, doesn’t mean the other has an easier life, especially when looking after 3, or more kids! Even super mum would be run ragged!


Dealing with Age and Getting Older

Sheila Hancock has recently come out and said that in her advancing years, she doesn’t want to be a burden on to others, and has already chosen her nursing home.

I am in 2 minds with this, firstly it takes great bravery to do this, and as there’s no such thing as a young again potion, aging is a privilege denied to many, but also inevitable. In fact,  it’s natural and we all have to do it.

There is an old riddle, In the morning I have 4 legs, in the afternoon I have 2 legs, and in the evening I have 3 legs. What am I?

The answer is Human, for during our life span, we crawl, then walk, and in the final part of our lives, we require additional support. A crutch so to speak, be that mentally, physically or emotionally.

The revelation isn’t surprising, my own mother-in-law has said that she herself would rather go into a home with specialist care should her health decline in her later years. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t ever want to see her family again. She doesn’t want to be a burden, because her children have lives, careers and children of their own, who in turn also have lives, careers and children of their own.

As we age, and our needs become increasingly more complex, we have the right to decide on what care we think is best for us.

In my parents case, I’d more than likely move back in with them, and do most of the heavy lifting myself, but employ help a few times a week, allowing them independence, but at the same time, ensuring that their needs were being met with dignity and discretion.

On the other hand however, I do also believe that although Sheila has been very selfless, she’s also been quite selfish. To make a decision like this without consulting her children, who essentially are able to see in from the outside, is a serious gamble. We all have seen the horror stories, the obscene bills and the neglect that some care homes are guilty of, and though I don’t doubt she’s weighed up all the pros and cons, care homes (or their bosses) do seem to have a proclivity for hiding things in the small print.

It must also come as a bit of a blow to Sheila’s children, as she has essentially said she doesn’t trust them with the duty of her care. So there are 2 sides to every decision, and in an ideal world, we’d never age, and forever be as spritely as we were in our 20’s. But unfortunately, mother nature didn’t have that in mind, and instead, we all age. But ultimately, while we still have all of our faculties in relatively good working order, we should have the option of choosing our care for when we reach later life.