This much I know...

It's traditional for the elderly to impart some of their experience, insight and wisdom. At the age of 36, this probably shows quite how far I have to go... :)

In the arts, it's much easier to be nasty than to be nice.

Just because I can write, it doesn't make me a writer.

There's usually time for another drink.

The only one of my top five movies I can name with unshakeable certainty is Mary Poppins. Does this mean it's my favourite film?

Exercise rarely feels as bad as you feared it would.

Maureen Lipman was wrong. Sometimes you should just shut up.

Pop is not just business, it's art.

It might have sounded profound, but you were probably just drunk at the time.

There's nothing quite like the stage.

Most people say they care about the environment far more than they're actually prepared to do enough about it. Me included.

Saying yes can be scary. I still haven't worked out how to get it right.

I far prefer female vocalists to male ones.

I'm a romantic at heart - which could be why I'm so reluctant to risk it.

It's difficult not to let people down. But try not to make a habit of it.

Smiles make you feel better, especially if they're your own.

You never truly know how loved you are. There's always that little bit more hiding down the back of the sofa.

Yellow cars are surprisingly few and far between. Appreciate them when you can. Sometimes they come with two legs rather than four wheels.

Stressful situations exist for sure, but how you react to them is up to you.

Life without the familiar can be more frightening than death.

What's the point of having money if you can't share it around? A lesson for individuals and governments alike.

If Jed Bartlett had really been President, we'd still be in this mess.

Fiction is more likely to make me cry than real life. Should this be cause for concern?

Politics is broken. But was it ever really working?

Whatever you think you know today, in five years you'll realise just how naive you were. This never changes.

I'm quite happy to be proved wrong.


Return of the Badger

I made no secret of the fact that Sam Allardyce's appointment didn't have me turning cartwheels. The style of play he encouraged in Bolton and his fondness for thuggish, borderline sociopaths (Mr El-Hadji Diouf to name but one) was not something I wished to see reproduced at my beloved St James' Park.

That said, I was willing to see what he could do at a club with greater resources than Wanderers; give him time to work. Which is more than the new owner was prepared to do.

So once again the Magpies foolishly found themselves without a manager just a matter of months into the season.

Hopes for some big international name were bandied about, along with just about anyone who's ever coached in the Premiership, as well as some who haven't. The arguments against Shearer taking over are well-worn. Let's just say I worship the man as a centre-forward, but we both know he's not ready for the job.

For a while it looked like we 'ad 'Arry Redknapp - a man I regard as the Deep Blue Sea to Big Sam's Devil, perfectly good at what he does, no disrespect, but more attuned to a club the size of Portsmouth - but I was able to breathe a sigh of relief when that turned out to be another crock of Red Top.

Which was exactly what the rumours of a Kevin Keegan Komeback smelt of - until, at just before five this afternoon, the club announced that was exactly what was happening.

I've no idea whether or not bringing back the guy who made us exciting nearly-men is a good idea (although it does save us from the prospect of hiring Mark Hughes or Steve Bruce, at least for the time being) and goodness knows I'll find plenty to say about it in weeks to come, especially now I have reliable internet access at home for the first time in months.

But for now, I'm speechless.


Shades of grey

It's a funny experience looking inside one's own head, especially knowing that not so long ago it looked considerably different. But there it was, on the registrar's computer screen, in all its greyscale glory.

He'd made a big show of asking me how I was doing, whether I was back at work, reviewing the notes, showing me the scans. So far, so predictable.

And then he dropped the bombshell.

"As you can see, it all looks really good," he said in his heavily Anglicised Arabic accent, beaming, and prodding at my brain. "So I think all I can say is get on with your life. I'll discharge you from the surgical clinic."

I hadn't really been expecting this today, so the news took a few moments to sink in.

"So I don't need to come back and see you at all?"

"No. No more appointments. Of course, you'll continue to see the neurologist, but apart from that..."

"No more scans?"

"Well, maybe one in a couple of years just to check, but we'll let Dr Farmer take care of that."

And that, rather anti-climactically, was that. Not even a chance to say goodbye to the woman who saved my life. While her number two, her Metatron, was delivering the good news, Joan was attending to people still in need. My gratitude would have to conveyed be in third person.

Of course it's not the absolute all clear, not as long as Queen Square has me on file, but when surgeons say there's nothing more they need to do, it's a pretty significant step in that direction.

Now for the hard part...


Look at what you could have won...

The editorial staff here at nota benny would like to apologise for the prolonged period of silence. In the month since the last post the schedule's just been so hectic and full of exciting things to blog about that there hasn't been any time for the words to make the leap from brain to byte.

Consequently, dear reader, you've missed pregnant ruminations on such wide and varied topics as: the BBC's credibility problems (we're waiting for the other shoe to drop when people twig that star appeal and journalistic aptitude don't necessarily go hand in glove, that Brian Conley will never entertain you, not even in the middle of the afternoon, and that the Tardis isn't actually bigger on the inside than out. And that it smells of wee.); the theory that the UK's summer weather is just one big publicity stunt for the release of Evan Almighty; an appraisal of the tea and cake served at Buckingham Palace; and the delicate nature of complimenting a father on his teenage daughter without sounding like a potential sex offender.

Any or none of these subjects may crop up in the near future.

But coming soon, an investigation showing why if visiting the woods it's Swedes not bears of whom you need to be wary.


Free at last

Oh happy day. After 114 days in captivity, Alan Johnston has been freed, safe and seemingly well.

What made Alan's time as a hostage so perverse and unjust was that he had spent three years in Gaza putting the case of the Palestinian people, as much as any objective journalist can, telling stories that may otherwise be untold to a Western audience.

Whatever the Army of Islam's motive for this deplorable act, it was only ever going to work against the Palestinian cause. Yet that should not prevent them from being congratulated for letting the episode reach its only desirable conclusion.

The bile and invective I instinctively prepared at the time of the bogus announcement of Alan's death can thankfully remain unpublished. I'm glad I held my tongue at that time, in spite of a great anger. Whatever one's view of the desperate situation in the Middle East, one can't deny that progress will not be made as long as so many bitter words are spoken.

Hopefully Alan will now get time to readjust to life outside his Gaza cell and to spend time with his family, who must have had the worst four months imaginable. The mood among colleagues also seems to have instantly lightened, people relieved to have truly good news to report for once.

And then when he finally gets back to work, hopefully in some nice, quiet posting - Baghdad, perhaps, or maybe Beirut? - mine will be one of many pockets only too happy to shed a few pounds to buy him a drink.


Mighty Mika

Just when I thought there was no one left to champion the cause of real journalism over celebrity tittle-tattle, along comes MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski.

Objecting to Paris Hilton's first interview following her release from jail being the designated lead story in her bulletin, she stages a very entertaining on-air coup. As befits the daughter of a former US National Security Adviser, Ms Brzezinski wants to lead on Iraq - but there's editorial pressure from above. The adamant anchor ends up destroying the paper copy of the script in a very public display of defiance.

You'd never see George Alagiah or Sian Williams having such a public editorial hissy fit - would that they should.

What's a little unsettling is how Mika's male colleagues react to her stance. First they say she's not a journalist any more as if a "real" journalist, rather than a presenter, would see the value in the Hollywood-based Hilton story over some crumby foreign thing. Then later, one says she's "such a journalist" as if that's something to be avoided in modern TV news. Cronkite and Dimbleby must be rolling in their graves.

Has Mika Brzezinski committed the journalistic faux pas of becoming the story? Arguably, yes.

And there is something in the Hilton story - preferential treatment for stars, say, maybe the overcrowding in LA's penal system, or even just as a matter of interest at the end of the summary - but I suspect Mika's reaction would not have been quite so intense had the item not been placed so high by her producer.

However, Brzezinski has struck a blow for sensible, adult news, for those of us who think that just because what's important in the world and what the masses want to hear about aren't necessarily the same thing, that doesn't mean we should let populism run the news agenda.


Tube tales

The Victoria line, midnight. A train pulls out of Oxford Circus, heading north.

Eye contact.


"Sean. Shane! I had a moment remembering your name..."


"Sorry, I had you confused with somebody else there. How are you?"

Identity established, conversation ensues.

A stranger smiles, happy with his new story.