Life drawing


By Neil Smith

Life drawing is great – you go to your local church hall and look at a naked lady for 2 hours – no guilt, and no quid in the beer glass. However, if you’re thinking of taking up life drawing, it’s worth noting that a strict, but unspoken, code of conduct is observed: It’s ok to talk to your model once she’s naked, but only to ask her to move an arm, or if she’d like the fan heater turned up. It’s not ok to compliment her breasts or comment on how short her legs are. Any kind of laughing is also a no no. Whilst a naked life model is surprisingly un-sexy, once they put their robe back on you may find yourself inadvertently peeking at a partially exposed knee. This is bad etiquette, and should be done discreetly. With my dodgy eyes it’s often tempting to move in for a closer look at the posing model. This will see you labelled as a ‘perv’ and thrown off the course. And finally, at the end of each session it’s is also important to compliment other students’ drawings with positive comments like: ‘er, the left knee is really nice’, or ‘ that looks like a Picasso’.





The French have rules for kissing. I wish we did. They give two to their family, three to their friends and a french one to somebody they’d like to sleep with: or something like that, I think. The English don’t have kissing rules, apart from not kissing your dad if you’re male and over five year’s old. I’ve recently started kissing my mum again after a 35 year gap – but only ‘goodbye’ – never ‘hello’. I have good friends who expect to be kissed and good friends who would lamp me if I tried. I also have occasional acquaintances who expect at least two and, most worryingly, clients who move in for a quick ‘mwah’ in meetings. This never used to be a problem: after the age of five or six I never expected another kiss, unless it involved tongues and a bicycle shed, but since we’ve gone European I walk a daily minefield: one kiss or two? Start on the left or right? Physical contact or ‘air’ kiss? Moist kissy-noise or silent? Somebody send me the rules please.

Lots of love,
Neil xxx


What is it about dads and Rovers? Especially the ‘lovely’ 75 with cream leather upholstery, contrasting piping and burr walnut fascia. My dad (and Sharon’s) has always aspired to own a Rover, and continues to do so despite Rover having gone bust for failing to produce good enough cars. There is still a (dwindling) generation who associate Rovers with quality British craftsmanship and achievable luxury (Jags and Mercedes were out of range, and for the professional, established middle class only). The Rover lover yearns for the days when British was best and foreign cars were unreliable rust-buckets built by untrustworthy foreigners. Hopefully there are enough discounted and used Rovers around to see our Dads through to the end of their driving days. We’d hate to see them go ‘foreign’.

It’s pants time

By Neil Smith

You know it’s pants time when you’re standing in front of the osteopath in underpants that started life as a sensible cotton/lycra mix ‘short’ but now look like they were retrieved from the bag of rags you keep under the sink. Pants time (which often coincides with sock time) involves a visit to Marks and Spencer to check out the latest developments in underpant technology and an attempt to find a pair as comfortable as the ones you bought in 1995. Last ‘pants time’ I bought a couple of pairs featuring ‘Seamless-Microfibre-Technology-For-Extra-Comfort-And-Support’ which were neither comfortable nor supportive and created a requirement for frequent ‘adjustment’. This year’s pant breakthrough at Marks and Spencer is the curious ‘Keyhole fly’ which doesn’t seem to hold much appeal to the average (or larger than average) man. As far as I’m concerned pant technology reached its apex in 1999 with Marks and Spencer’s ‘Active’ range of lycra/polyamide mix ‘trunks’. There’s only so far pant technology can go, and I think it went there 15 years ago.

Hot men

By Sharon Clampin

What is it with men and temperature?

You’re sitting in a room perfectly comfortable when a man crashes in huffing and puffing like a middle aged menopausal woman mid-flush, complaining about the unbearable heat in here. Failing to take into consideration the fact that he has raced some individual, or more likely vehicle, on his cycle ride in – the obvious cause of his beaded forehead – he immediately starts throwing open windows and turning on air conditioners and fans. This is done in the most dramatic fashion possible and culminates with him standing star shaped in front of an air conditioner positioned to blast up his shorts (never trousers!) and shirt. In case you’d not noticed, he’s HOT! If you dare to suggest that it’s not actually that hot, a look of total disbelief crosses his face. He walks up to the thermometer and announces the temperature – you must be confused and not know your own mind if you’re not HOT!

In the same situation, a woman will typically ask if anyone else thinks it’s hot in here and accepts the consensus, quietly turning things on or off as necessary.

Why the drama boys – or am I just being terribly naive about why you like us girls to sit in an icy cold room?


What is it about Dolphins that makes everyone want to swim with them? It’s on everyone’s bucket list, like terrifying yourself with a skydive or getting a bit of Chinese nonsense tattooed on your shoulder. Maybe it’s because Dolphins are supposedly extremely intelligent mammals, but then swimming a couple of lengths of Highgate Baths with Stephen Fry isn’t on many people’s bucket list. I think it’s more to do with the genetic quirk that has turned their mouth up at the corner into a cheeky little smile. If their mouths turned down into an evil scowl I bet swimming with Dolphins wouldn’t be so popular. Nobody wants to swim with Tuna, for instance. Maybe if they did we’d be eating Tuna-friendly Dolphin mayo sandwiches.


By Neil Smith

They’re over-rated. Don’t get me wrong – they come in handy for chewing poorly cooked meat and biting your way into bags of pork scratchings, but I don’t buy into this obsession with ‘perfect’ teeth. I’ve always been quite fond of my gappy fangs – and my boney growth, which has the dentists whistling with admiration. One dentist even offered to peel back my gums and file down the bone for me. Er, no thanks, I’d rather the unsightly lump. Teeth with personality didn’t hold back the careers of Shane McGowan or Freddie Mercury. And green teeth never stopped Sven Goren Eriksson dating beautiful women, although he’d struggle to land a part in the OC. So, for a smile with character: drink more Tizer and smoke more fags. A Hollywood smile – who needs one? My Auntie Peggy’s got one, and she keeps it in a glass by her bed.

Binge drinking

It’s great. You can’t argue with that. A few too many beers with your pals, a bit of a dance or some karaoke, then a cornish pasty on the last train home: what could be better? But binge drinkers are getting a lot of bad press at the moment. If you’re famous and creative, it’s ok to be a drunk: Oliver Reed, Jeffrey Barnard and Shane MacGowan are (were) all loveable drunks, the beer fuelling their creativity. But young, working class drunks are only doing what the English have famously been doing for centuries: getting hammered, vomiting in a shop doorway, then having a punch up. In fact, it’s said that the night before the battle of Hastings, while the Normans prayed, the English Troops got legless on light ale. So remember, next time you’re in the pub – you’re drinking for England.

Please drink responsibly.

Alpha male

By Neil Smith

When I was a boy my Dad said to me ‘Son, a firm handshake is a sign of strong character’. I don’t really do the big powerful handshake thing – I just kind of adjust the pressure ’til it more or less matches that of the ‘shakee’. I think it’s only polite. These days when I shake my Dad’s hand (at funerals or New Year’s Day) I do tend to turn up the pressure to ‘strong character’ to keep the old man happy. I find the big handshake moment in business meetings a bit tiresome (it’s always the little fellas that are the worse) with the eye contact thing and the palm-down death grip. They think they’re letting me know who’s boss – but I think it’s probably just a trick they learned in the ‘assertiveness’ module of their ‘marketing for short people’ course. They don’t scare me – unlike the Dutch graphic design student whose vice-like grip brought tears to my eyes and resulted in an operation to pin my 5th metacarpal. It turned out that I’d broken my hand a few weeks earlier in an inter design group football match brawl, but hadn’t noticed. Brawling in a friendly football match – now that’s the sign of a strong character.