Polling Station

Vote. Choose your party. Just please don’t announce it

“Opinions are like arseholes. Everyone’s got one”.

As with the right to vote, everybody has a right to an opinion though at times it is best not to air it in public. Especially not an allegiance, especially not on social media.

Before I was even allowed to vote I knew what a responsible duty it is. That I should do my best to ignore smear campaigns and never waver in my choice. I still base my decision on issues that matter to me making my vote so intimate I become passionately secretive over it, like many others. It says a lot about my own personal preferences and as such I want to keep it to myself. Everyone has the right to vote for the party that they believe best represents them yet please do not try to persuade others to follow suit.

Do not get me wrong, there is a distinct difference in persuading people to go out and vote (OK) than persuading people to vote a certain way (NOT OK). There is also a difference in sparking political debate (OK) and sparking arguments against people who are not voting the same way (NOT OK).

After convincing myself for weeks of how I would vote I still found myself staring at the voting slip. For each of us it is one of the most important decisions you can make yet we still make a compromise. No party’s policies will ever perfectly align with what we, as individuals, want to see set in place. So voting for a specific party does not mean you should be guilt tripped because someone else disagrees with a certain policy. “Oh, you’re voting FGDFSDFS. Have you seen their stance on RGSDFSDFSDF!?” STOP IT.

In an ‘Age of Disclosure’ I already know what you had for dinner and which Instagram filter you used to make it look magnificent. I already know if you’re engaged/expecting as I’ve seen the ring/ultrasound on Facebook. I already know where you’ve been on holiday, I’ve seen your Foursquare check-ins. Knowing which party you have voted for is just another detail I’d prefer you kept to yourself.


‘Knowledge is Power’. Cursing the Game of Thrones leak

“Knowledge is Power”. When he published the maxim in his book, ‘Meditationes Sacrae and Human Philosophy’ in 1597 I doubt Sir Francis Bacon had considered plot lines to be of such vaunted importance. The world was a simpler place back then with the only form of hacking coming from a blade on flesh.

At the weekend, the first four episodes of season 5 of the phenomenally successful HBO TV series leaked online. For a show that revels in scandal this seems slightly poignant. If only punishments were as severe as they are depicted on the show as there is a special place in Hell reserved for anyone who decides to ruin the surprise. Anyone with an internet connection, and even the most basic knowledge of torrent files, could quickly get their fix. They also had a choice not to.

For those who could not wait long enough they could unwrap their torrent files then have to wait a month sitting on plot lines and twists until the rest of us catch up. Or they could be an utter bastard and slyly, smugly inform their mates that they knew what was coming, then tell them. Call me old school but some things are worth the wait and a week between episodes keeps the tension building. The scheduling also means that fans of the show have something to get them through Monday. Cheers, Sky Atlantic.

Anyone that can keep a secret is to be venerated as even the slightest hint of a spoiler can now be dissected instantly. We have all been teased by trailers yet each of those is carefully constructed to get you into position for the main course. Dropping a spoiler onto a Facebook status leaves that appetiser of a show or a film cold and desecrated yet we all know an utter bastard only too keen to ruin it for everyone else. “LOLZ. Just you wait til halfway through episode 3 🙂 🙂 :)”. Piss off.

Curse you Twitter. That episode of The Likely Lads seems from a different age altogether where they only had to avoid a newspaper headline. Match of the Day can now be ruined by a cursory glance on the BBC Sport handle while waiting for the bus. What has been seen cannot be unseen and what is glanced upon cannot be forgotten.

Everyone wants to be the first to know then the first to come up with the viral meme. Some events are just too big to avoid, no matter how hard you try. Christ, I knew about the Red Wedding before I had sat down to watch a single episode. Then again, those who have binged on the leaked episodes are still behind the real knowledge keepers, those who have taken the time to read the books. Sir Francis Bacon might even approve of that.


“Got, got, NEED” – My Panini World Cup Stickers Obsession

The strange thing is, no-one quite knows why Panini stickers have suddenly become so popular. Is it due to the huge interest of a World Cup returning to its spiritual home? Could it be that my generation, that spent lunchtime after lunchtime at school trading Premier League stickers through the mid-90s, has finally come of age? Has that generation ever grown up?

For over a month now I have been steadily completing my FIFA World Cup Brasil 2014 Panini sticker album. That means buying a couple of packs every couple of days. Managing my doubles in their own Tupperware box and only buying extra packs when I need to. So far, so sensible. However, the management side of things is basically the only aspect of this that is remotely grown up.

When I began collecting the stickers I genuinely worried about my state of mind. Walking into a newsagent I’d grab three packs, hand over £1.50 with my head down and sheepishly exit. Woe betide actually asking a shop attendant, “Can I have three packs of the Panini World Cup stickers please”. This isn’t pocket money any more, I am 30 years of age.

Sometimes I would even forgo the bus home on a rainy afternoon and spend the fare on a couple of packets. That was worrying. Slowly I began to realise I was becoming obsessed. Getting home I would excitedly open my bag, feverishly open the packets and pray for the face of Lionel Messi or Wayne Rooney staring back at me. Occasionally my eyes would glean on a ‘shiney’ yet their charm has waned compared to the superstars that’ll now light up the World Cup.



Right now I’m learning the names of hitherto unknown Russian defenders, for instance Roman Shirokov has been sat in my doubles box for as long as I’ve had it. I’m also starting to believe that there is a conspiratorial reason why there are so few of Luis Suarez on offer, possibly as a punishment for his antics in the quarter final against Ghana four years ago, the evil rat.

Thankfully I am not alone. While I would fret at empty boxes of stickers in WHSmith, sticker collecting is far more of an obsession in Brasil. On 25th April a heist in Rio de Janeiro resulted in 300,000 stolen stickers, maybe someone DESPERATELY wanted Neymar Jr? In any case, Panini had to deliver a statement indicating that the city was well stocked.

Neymar Jr

Neymar Jr

There is some psychology explaining this phenomenon. Carol Mavor, a professor in visual arts at Manchester University, likens sticker collecting to the nostalgia of childhood. “Stickers are very tactile and old-fashioned. The humanity of touch is also very powerful. That’s why people love wooden toys, for example, because they have a unique feel, smell and are real.”

For me, it takes me back to my high school days shouting ‘Got, got, NEED’ at a friend as they whizzed through their doubles. Put simply, I don’t want to let go of my childhood. Mavor agrees: “It seems, without being overly morbid, to be so far away from death, work and the other obligations of adulthood. As adults, we think of ourselves as different people from our childhood selves – the whole world was open to us and it was a free and more creative life.”

Felix Economakis, a chartered psychologist, puts it down to sentimental attachment, maybe those schoolchums I haven’t kept in touch with. “Little objects from childhood are imbued with meaning because they remind us of people who may no longer be with us – it’s an association with the past through rose-tinted spectacles.”

With each pack of five stickers costing 50p each it would cost £63 to complete the set but then there is so much fun to be had checking each pack and filling the gaps.  To give this addiction some perspective, eight million packets are sold worldwide every day. Eight. Million. That’s a helluva lot of stickers yet the problem is that with such a huge production many of the squads were guessed in January. That means that you could get Ashley Cole on your England page even though he wasn’t picked in the final squad. Kevin Strootman is in my album even though in real-life he’s recovering from an horrific knee injury sustained in March. To be fair, that issue only seems to give some players a sense of added worth.

Whether it is Strootman or Sturridge, the gaps have to be filled and for those ardent collectors there are ‘sticker swaps’ popping up across the country. No longer are the swaps restricted to the playground, they are now being co-ordinated online through Facebook and Twitter. Yet I do manage to keep a personal touch and regularly meet up with a bunch of friends to sit in a pub with our albums and sets of doubles to carry out swaps (we must look like right saddos). I have also branched out and sent over lists of numbers for my doubles and needs to friends so we can do a ‘postal swap’. There is even a website (stickerswapping.com) to list your doubles so others can match theirs and get in touch. While in South America counterfeit stickers and pirated albums are in circulation.

My first completed team, Argentina

My first completed team, Argentina

This week I have completed my first team, Argentina. At the weekend I took advantage of Morrison’s offer of 3 packets for a £1 and it’s merely a case of filling in the few remaining gaps now. Part of me is looking forward to meeting with friends and knowing that this is going to get cumulatively more difficult when the reward of a fully completed album is so close. There is a page at the back of the album where you can order each individual sticker for 14p each but that’s cheating as far as I’m concerned. As long as I can still fit my doubles into their Tupperware container I know this is an obsession I can manage.

This is my list of needs, so if you have these to swap, take your pick from my doubles, feel free to get in touch in the comments section and we’ll do a swap.

7, 15, 21, 32, 33, 42, 43, 45, 59, 68, 70, 71, 72, 85, 98

103, 107, 109, 112, 117, 120, 129, 132, 138, 141, 142, 145, 149, 152, 157, 159, 164, 168, 176

223, 260, 276, 287, 288, 291, 297,

303,  309, 325, 336, 338, 341, 344,  348, 351, 362, 369, 372, 394, 396, 398,

402, 404, 407, 439, 446, 447, 459, 465, 468, 469, 470, 471, 474, 476, 482, 489, 495,

505, 525, 530, 546, 565, 568, 569, 570, 573, 576, 580, 581, 583, 586, 591, 596,

606, 614, 617, 618, 619, 620, 621, 628, 639


Doubles –

28, 30 50,  58, 65, 73, 74, 80, 82, 84

104, 139, 170, 188

211, 216, 221, 226, 232, 233, 236, 240, 245, 246, 282

321, 322, 326, 331, 339, 363, 366, 376, 384, 387, 390, 391

411, 424, 427×2, 456, 467, 479, 497

502, 516, 517, 520, 527, 532×2, 537×3, 540×2,  542, 544, 564, 571, 574, 578, 584

601, 611