Sunday 26 April 2015

I’ve been decidedly undecided about where I felt I was politically in recent times. I resigned my membership of the Labour Party last year. A lot of that was down to my feelings for the leader of the party. Recently, however, he has started to feel like someone who could win an election. This has been helped by David Cameron increasingly feel like someone who can’t win an election  – though that doesn’t stop him being Prime Minister, am I right?

With Miliband I feel like I am falling for hustings? Is Milliband playing someone with a backbone? Am I seeing what I want to see?

He is definitely one from the leaders I want to be Prime Minister. But the others are David Cameron and Nigel Farage and Nick Clegg. Ah, Phil – there’s one of those that has no chance of being Prime Minister. Yes, you’re right Nigel Farage will not be PM (Haha! You thought I was doing a joke didn’t you? Well in your face.)

Though he won’t be moving into number ten Downing Road he is undoubtedly someone who has created a stir. People are surprised by other people voting for UKIP/Nigel Farage. Are you kidding me? Did you see people? I wouldn’t be surprised if a hairclip was doing well in the polls. A racist hairclip that claimed immigrants were to blame for everything. If had the ability to clip hair which should surely rank it one use above a middle aged xenophobe laughing at bars for photographers.

This morning on Radio 4 there was a SEVENTEEN-YEAR-OLD voting for UKIP. Surely all their voters are 40+ and wishing for racism of the 1970s into which they were born? She was from Hull mind. And cited UKIP’s loyalty to a Christian Britain as the main reason for her vote. Because of their almost constant quoting of Christian values? Love thy neighbour etc. Also when did the other parties not have Christian values as something they said?

I mean here I do have a slight  issue: I don’t really feel like any of them represent what I want a government to be. That’s pretty fundamentally NOT one wants from the aspiring political parties in a general election.

Despite feeling like this I also – hypocritically* – think that it’s a bit reductive to complain about them all being the same. I mean: one of them is red and the other one is blue. Also one of the right-wing ones seems like an ignorable idiot who will go away if everyone stops pointing their fucking cameras and microphones at him. And the other one is Nigel Farage. #political (see I did the earlier not bluff, making this bluff an even bigger and better great joke – of that there is no doubt.

I’ve said it before – and I’ll say it again: the partisan nature of electioneering does nothing to help me think party politics is something nurturing society. It’s obsessed with looking at the shortcomings and failures of opponents. It’s also very backward-looking. I have a good idea; Well what about that unrelated good idea from 10 years ago? Is it like that one? I don’t think it worked out too well; Oh you mean like your idea about something from a similarly pointless time period ago? Because I am not sure I liked how that one turned out. Etc.

It would be quite nice if one of them just said, “our policy on Education is the same as their policy, mainly as it’s really good and we just want the best thing for the country – it would seem counterintuitive to come up with something inferior just to differentiate ourselves. That said their ideas on tax are wank – like their ones from 1956, know what I mean?”

They’re not going to. They are going to carry on being obsessed with each other and not being obsessed with the future of the country. Maybe it would be better if there was one big coalition incorporating elements of governance for which each party had a strength. Happily, this would mean there would be no place for Nigel and his real ale.

I’m not sure why I bother thinking about it. There is something depressingly predictable about voting for Labour. I think a lot of people are like that, they vote like they support a football team: blindly and without accepting challenge from outside – but constantly complaining about their allegiance to those who share it.

I also don’t see the point in constantly pointing out the shortcomings of something I am fundamentally different – if not opposed – to. Again, I find something depressing about telling people who think like me something that will elicit their agreement.

A ridiculous amount of my social media timelines are taken up by people talking about how odious Nigel Farage is or how evil that cunt woman is, the one who is somehow a celebrity to say vile things. Other than us all knowing we hate them, so not needing to convince anyone of that – they, certainly her, exist solely to make people angry and make people click on the link to the latest bile her hate-gland has seeped into society’s outrage pit. And now I am even writing about her in a blog about voting – admittedly while supposing some air of superiority by not using her name.

Fuck it. Vote for someone, anything**.

*if you can’t be a hypocrite when talking about politicians when can you? Right kids?
**apart from Conservative or UKIP. Or the nasty race one.

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Friday 24 April 2015

Why does he have an old phone? Why does it say 0900 as the time?

He’s perhaps a terrorist. That’s a rational thought. It’s what I’m thinking as I look over the right shoulder of the man sat nearest me on the tube.

THE PHONE IS A BOMB? THE PHONE IS THE DETONATOR? Probably the latter, the bomb is clearly the empty looking messenger bag on his lap.

He’s fiddling with his phone. That proves it. No-one messes with an OLD phone unless they are a terrorist.

How will my son react? Will he notice that I don’t come home. His mum will cry a lot. He will notice that. Maybe she won’t cry that much around him. I’d like to think she would. It’s pretty damning that she’s hypothetically not devastated by my hypothetical death. He’s too young to understand, Woody – not the terrorist.

I briefly wonder about this terrorist’s motivation. He’s white so it’s beyond me why he would do it: wrong decade for the IR eh? What’s he thinking in these, his last, minutes? Is he looking at the people on the train and having a change of heart? There are no kids. Fuck.

I consider asking him the time. WHY DOES HIS PHONE SAY 0900??? The terrorists aren’t very clever if they can’t make a bomb/detonator look like a phone. Shit, he’s taking the back off his phone and fiddling with the battery. This is definitely s a thing, this is definitely part of a bomb thing. Oh, it say’s 0901 now.

Shall I ask him the time? Bring up my child? Maybe he will wait until after my stop to blow the train up.

It’s not even like it’s a set amount of time in front or behind the time. At least I could understand that. I should get off at the next stop just in case. Now, in my head,  I’m somehow dying from something, lay in a bed having my last seconds. Woody is lay on me and I go and he’s lying on me waiting for me to react. But I can’t because I’m dead.

Shit – this short journey across London got really dark. I feel terrible. I can’t cope with the thought of not seeing him grow up. I don’t know what to do.

I look at a one of the two Polish lads across the aisle. He is watching whatever a girl is watching on her iPad. They’re not together. She has earphone on and is watching it.  He is watching it from the bottom corner of the eye nearest her. He seems like the kind of person comfortable at a party: a goodtime guy.

That was a better few seconds psychologically speaking.

The terrorist has put his detonator/bomb away. I think he might have decided against the attack. Maybe he’s not a terrorist.  SO WHY DOESN’T HE GET A MODERN PHONE OR AT LEAST SET THE RIGHT TIME, THEN? Does he know what I’ve been through the last few minutes?

I am now almost completely sure that all this was silly paranoia in my head. I get off a stop early just in case.

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Monday 13 April 2015

So this started off as a blog about ideas for things that I am not going to do. Some of that has had to be cut to stop this becoming longer than a list of reasons why most serial killers are probably better people than Nigel Farage. Don’t worry, though, I will get back to some of my amazing ideas for Apps. Maybe even soon.

But the kernel, for what this turned into, was the idea that I would love to – but never would – do a podcast. And the thing that I would do a podcast about was Upstairs Downstairs, the 1970s ITV drama about the ongoings of the upper class residents and servants of a 1910-1930 house in London.

The podcast would need to be about something some people would be interested in – and wouldn’t be about something too popular. I’m hardly likely to set the world alight with my thoughts on football or The Simpsons.

Mainly it would have to be a podcast with me (and maybe others) talking about something we knew about. Podcasts, or radio shows, should not be about the listeners. Unless the listeners are interesting, just being about the audience per se, as is very popular, is dull as shit.

For example, the latest Kermode and Mayo film podcast had TWO emails read out by people (adult people) who’d had relationships end and were thanking the podcast for getting them through the last few months (in one case – the time elapsed since the other relationship had ended was not disclosed). I’m not interested in this. Are you interested in this?

I am not very interested in other people. But are people? Do people care? Sure, I can understand applying emotions to people who you share space with. Hell, I even do it myself sometimes. Caring about someone on the radio who you’ve never met AND is someone who emails a national radio show when they’re heartbroken. Aside: the English language is a wonderful thing, I love it, but it can lack the nuances of other languages: there is no single word that means ‘the public sharing of private sadness to gain attention’.

Upstairs Downstairs on the other hand….if only to shout into an electronic recording device how completely and utterly Downton Abbey ripped it off and got away with it – not only got away with it, but beat the 2009 revival of Upstairs Downstairs so heavily in the ratings that it got cancelled.

But an Upstairs Downstairs podcast could be so much more than that. Each episode is good enough to justify some conversations – apart from a couple that are a bit shit. And then there’s the cast, normally a guest star knocking about – such as Keith Baron being an Australian. The dodgy camera work is worth a nod. And…well, more than anything I WANTED A PODCAST ABOUT UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS to listen to as I watched it.

There was an episode in series five where the butler, Hudson, fell in love with the maid. He is about 90 and she is about 20. And all through the series he has been so prim and proper. He is fervent about the position of servants – it makes him physically ill to imagine he is equal to the upstairs people. Unless they are not noble but become noble through marriage – then he definitely believes they are not better than him (until they do something vile like have someone executed because the wrong combination of wine and cheese was served at an informal lunch).

And out of nowhere you find out Hudson has been going out on dates with this simple young girl. Though she doesn’t really think they are dates, she just wants company and then feels obliged to carry on going on clandestine outings with him. Brilliantly there is both (a) more sympathy towards her than him from the characters in the show and (b) a scene where she tells him what a weird old man he is who she has no desire towards at all, in fact she gets quite cruel about how old and attractive he is.

Hudson has been a fucking arsehole throughout the series. It’s not simply malice on my part. The way he behaved to some of the other staff during the war was appalling. We were meant to feel sorry for him because it was shown that he wanted to enlist and stab the hun through the face with cake slice. But he couldn’t because he is about 105 years old and his eyes don’t work.

And in a later episode he thinks that two visiting miners, union men visiting as part of the general strike, are scum for thinking to challenge the decision of their betters.

So forgive me for taking some mild pleasure in watching a timid woman, who was on the verge of marrying a man older than her great-grandfather because she felt obliged to repay a trip to sit on a bench in a park, shout abuse at said man.

And it made me cry.

I have no idea where I am emotionally when I am crying because a fictional character has committed suicide. I managed to contain a sob – but felt like doing one – as the character’s dad read out his suicide note. The note stated that James, the son of the family and master of the house since series 2*, had done it at a hotel so as not to mess up the room at the house. Then I felt myself questioning whether or not the character meant that or whether he felt that sorry for himself, and let’s face it he was about to kill himself, that he was illustrating his nobility with that information.

Yes, I spent some time thinking about this. 40 years after the TV show and 80 years after the FICTIONAL events, I thought about this. While it would be easy to use this information to question what I am doing with my life, I would also suggest that it must be quite a good – and doesn’t mean I am an emotional asthmatic.

And that there should be a podcast. So, if anyone wants to kickstart me £20,000 I will do one.

*His mum died on The Titanic don’t you know – yes Downton ripped off that as well; his wife died at the end of the first World War – she was the only real casualty the entire household suffered, men went away to fight and came back but the mistress of the house got flu and died.

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Thursday 12 March 2015

Got a bit messed about by Boots today. One of those ‘we’ve fucked up and we admit but what are you gonna do?’ type moments. Delivered with a lovely bit of warmth by the member of staff speaking to me. At times like this I can become terribly English: “Don’t worry about it; not your fault; would it help if I hung myself?”

I’d ordered some photo-type-stuff. I’d specifically chased their ‘one hour service’. Because I wanted it quickly and with no fuss. I wanted to pick up in Ashton because I was on the way to see my mum. And I ordered it five hours before the one hour the service offered.

But it wasn’t there. “It’s not in the system, I just can’t find it!”. But I’ve got order references!! ORDER REFERENCES!! Oh, and paid for it. Ah well, not your fault.

To be fair: she took my details and rang me half an hour later to tell me that, no – there would be no pictures etc. And that I could go home and do the order again. But how would I know this one had worked? Email confirmations and ORDER REFERENCES and paying seemed like little things that didn’t mean much. Should I get a job at Boots and do the printing myself? Was this the way to make sure?

Then we went for lunch somewhere beyond the reach of my Three signal (i.e. outside a fairly small radius surrounding a city centre). When we returned to the domain of England’s least satisfying mobile provider I had a voicemail. It was the person from Boots. “We’ve got your order,” she said, “you can come and get it in half-an-hour.”

Brilliant. But I didn’t go in half-an-hour. I was allowing my son to slightly upset my dad by crying whenever he looked at him. It was more like an hour later when I ambled back into the Boots store where I’d earlier wasted about 25 minutes of my day off. Oh, we had a laugh at how the order at just appeared about six hours late.

To make up for all the messing about they’d done me an extra bit of the order. Now, the order was mainly canvas prints. Does a person want several copies of a canvas print? Well Boots decided that was how they’d make up for messing me about.

But perhaps, they thought, that a duplicate £25 canvas print that I didn’t really want was a little too much for the inconvenience thus far. Because despite me being an extra thirty minutes after the time they’d said my things would be ready, they allowed me a further 30 minutes stood waiting while they finished off the work they’d clearly underestimated.

Even a badly written competition couldn’t rile me from my jovial acceptance of being bullied by Boots. What does this mean? Because if I enter the competition by writing about how special my mum is it seems like I am the competition winner and then I get a makeover? With my son or daughter?

I have just smiled to myself about the end bit, mind. They will take a picture and turn it into a canvas – good luck!! Quite, good fucking luck getting the canvas.


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Thursday 19 February 2015

He was six months old. Almost to the day. I took him out for a walk. Of course I was walking – he was not. Though he was just crawling, and that’s kind of the point of this – well some of it. We went, as we often did before we moved, to Hough End playing fields.

Saturday afternoons aren’t that busy on the playing fields, but there is amateur rugby and I’d regularly intended to go and watch some with the boy in tow. This day I did remember. Of course as I walked up to the pitch delighted at something to occupy half an hour the referee blew the whistle for the end of the game.

Ah well. There was another game on at the small stadium so we walked on. Of course that game would also finish within seconds of us getting there. But I digress (to the future of all places). We walked past the players of the game that had just finished. As is customary in some amateur sport (it used to happen in the football games I played on Sundays and it happened here) the captains of each team do three cheers for the opposition. Hip-hip hurrah etc.

Woodrow’s face lit up at this shouting and hurrahing. He really liked it. Later on after I’d bathed him and shouted his mum in with the towel I said, “Three cheers for tonight’s man of the bath: Woodrow Ainsworth Bridgehouse…hip-hip…” and his mother and I proceeded to hip-hip-hurrah him three times (in total). And he loved it.

Six months and about 180 baths later he is continuing to be decorated with this Man of The Bath honour every night. And he enjoys it every night with a big smile.

The other thing that happened that afternoon on Hough End was that I had one of my first experiences of watching my son experience joy. He’d been crawling for a few weeks. We lived in a flat, he’d come up against lots of barriers. Not like black people in the 50s on buses in Alabama, more literal barriers: walls etc.

But I took him out of his carrier and put him on the grass and just let him go. There was no-one around and he just got to carry on. He was a bit weirded out at first. “Aren’t you going to have to pick me up or something?” his lopsided head asked me. But I didn’t and it made him all giddy. And unsurprisingly this joy pushed me towards something teary.

It was one of my best days.

Today he was one year old.

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Thursday 05 February 2015

I was listening to a podcast and they were talking about required reading in schools. Though it was American the texts were similar to what you might expect someone to learn in an English school.

Rather than expect that I thought about what texts I studied. And whether they were good/relevant. First things first: I always think of a book called Looks and Smiles when I think about reading at school. And I generally think about how odd it is that we read this book amongst the Orwell/Dickens/Shakespeare. Mainly because I’ve never heard anyone mention that text outside of a my English lessons in a limited window in about 1992.

I remember the book having a very late 70s/early 80s picture. If you need a specific reference: it looked like a picture from the set of Tucker’s Luck (if you have to ask, you don’t deserve to know). At the time I thought it was just some rubbish book that the school had. Now I realise we were studying a book with some political comment. Admittedly commenting on a decade that wasn’t even contemporary then. And it was by Barry ‘Kes‘ Hines.

The other books we read were more traditional offerings. Lord of The Flies and Macbeth for GCSE. We also read A Christmas Carol and Animal Farm. I am pretty sure we didn’t do Animal Farm for GCSE anyway. Maybe we did. Perhaps we read Oliver Twist at some stage. I already liked Oliver Twist by secondary school because of the BBC versions that I’d watched with my dad.

What did I get from those books? Well I got a sense of how to take the joy out of a book about talking animals by learning about the allegorical layers. A horse was the peasants…or something. But it showed that communism didn’t work. Because you need an allegory. Lord of The Flies was about power and man’s inhumanity to man wasn’t it?

I’d love to say I hated these books, but I didn’t. I don’t like overanalysing texts. Maybe because I am not very good at it and miss even thin literary devices and signs. HE WAS CALLED NAPOLEON!!

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that Animal Farm isn’t a great work of literature. It’s just an allegory or whatever. I like real books. I like meaning being dripped on my face as I hold a book above my head. I don’t want to have to carefully grill a text at 14 degrees and then add sulphur to get some meaning, and then have to translate it from Greek.

And Lord of The Flies, I am pretty sure reading that book wasn’t the thing which made me realise that everyone is a fuck who ends up fucking people over to survive. It was SO DEPRESSING. It’s not what you want to read at 14: life is horrible; the bully will survive and win out and the two soft kids will both be murdered. Nice one. Oh but a fucking shell represents democracy…how brilliant, this book has suggested everything I think about bullies is probably true.

I would rather have read To Kill A Mockingbird*, as I like my meaning in my face and not buried in a third level of quasi-meaning/neo-symbolism. Or 1984, there’s some commentary on something complex and meaningful without having to call a fucking pig Trotski or something. [I’ve deliberately chosen books that are studied as part of matriculation rather than just books I like.]

Or do I enjoy these books because I discovered them myself and wasn’t told that I had to read them? Or is it because I am intellectually devoid of ‘clever’ reading of texts? Hardly, I think you’ll find I realised House was based on Sherlock Holmes without anyone telling me. So there.

I suppose what my conclusion is that a good story is more important than conveying some meaningful message through a literary device, though I concede that teaching students about the latter may come at the sacrifice of the former.

I am trying to read a novel at the moment. This is a break from my tendency to read a biography of Brian Clough every six months, which I really need to stop doing (but I did read a review of one I haven’t read and it sounded like a new twist and interesting). It’s by someone I like and I want to like their book. But it’s annoying me a bit. You’re meant to think the lead character is so cool and hip and rock ‘n’ roll. Only I don’t. I think it feels like a fictional character. And I get the point: she is one of these maverick free-spirits that float through works of fiction with a joie-de-vivre. Until they die. Or don’t change – but the main character does, realising that these people need to grow up and get some sensible shoes at some stage.

I will stick with it. It is better than Animal Farm – and (what are the odds?) it share’s lots of its title with Animal Farm. What a small world.

*That wasn’t topical when I started writing this about a week ago. So, zeitgeist your own face on that.

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Sunday 01 February 2015

Uncomfortable week of parenting.

It started with the return to work of my partner. Twelve months on maternity leave is not a period of time to be sniffed at. Felt like the blink of an eye. This first year has been so long and so short. And I am not even her.

Realising what a big thing it was, I thought I should remove the burden of going back to work AND leaving Woodrow at the childminder. Seemed like a lot to do on the same day for someone that. Plus, I would definitely be OK about leaving him with the childminder. Why wouldn’t that be hard?

Why would marking the end of a significant stage in his life be hard? Why would acknowledging a new stage in his life, a more independent stage be difficult? Certainly when I have been back to work a long time and, realistically, there would be no difference to me. It would be fine.

It’s about a 25-minute walk from our house to the childminders. I think I cried for about 18 minutes of it. Proper crying. I thought about going sitting in a park with him, hiding from reality. I am 36. I am supposed to be a responsible adult. I was seriously considering going hiding in a park on a freezing morning so I could stop crying at handing my son to a professional childminder, and very nice person.

I am pleased to say Woodrow wasn’t traumatised by the whole thing. Though the handing over wasn’t something on which I lingered. Having managed to stop sobbing for five minutes, the five minutes of the walk that isn’t down a busy road, I wasn’t going to risk it. I also thought I might not resist the urge to run off with him. I knew the smalltalk chit-chatter could happen later when I picked him up.  And it did and everything was fine.

As much as I want him to grow up and I am each day excited by the prospect of having a conversation with him, kicking a football, winding his mother up etc…as much as I want all this, I also want my little baby boy to stay at home and just hang around with me and his mum. Is this too much to ask?

The week would get easier as we went from this experience to the experience of his first vomits since he’s been eating properly. We have clearly done OK because this has been some four or five months now. Tuesday night, however, was scene to some serious vomit.

I knew there was something wrong when my partner shouted for me in a way suggesting she was worried and needed help.  I am the one who shouts things in a worried voice because they need help: we haven’t got the crisps I want, why not?; can you tell me what colour these clothes are please, do they match? Do you think this is cancer? Etc

His tea, in a slightly chewed remix, was coming out of his small mouth. And going all over his cot and my partner. Reasonably we shouted and panicked. Later he would be sick again and I would end up squatting in the bath with him lying facing down on my arm to ensure he didn’t choke. Later still I would remember there is something else that was stopping him choking anyway, the human throat.

He was clearly shocked at this new thing his body did. But he soon slept and was bouncing about in the morning.

The repercussions followed the day after when I was asked to come from work if I could as now my partner was being sick and felt terrible. Then later that night I was sick and feeling terrible. On Friday morning we were both feeling terrible and lacking in energy.

My partner’s first week back at work ended with her phoning in ill. And phoning in for me – as well as this bug I’ve also got a cold which had now robbed my voice in my weakened state. I was able to make occasional sounds but I was not able to predict when they happened and it was unlikely that they were all part of the same word.

It seems like quite a shitty few days looking back at it. I certainly did not enjoy heaving the contents of my stomach into our lavatory. Or crying in the street. Or cleaning vomit off the floor of Woody’s bedroom. But in between all these things, Woody would laugh and smile or take a few steps or briefly hug me, before remembering he doesn’t hug me, and it made it seem fine.

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Sunday 18 January 2015

This weekend I have made three discoveries.

I am pretty certain I knew one of them already, is it a discovery when it’s something remembered? (part of me wanted to write re-remembered then! Madness, this is definitely the first time I have remembered it).

One of them made me sad. One of them was quite surprising, or perhaps a surprise that I didn’t know it, given that it hardly proved to be a revelation.

So here are the three things:

  1. The woman who played the female version of Lister, in a parallel universe episode of Red Dwarf (series 2, cunningly titled Parallel Universe) was both married to Craig Charles and is the mother of his daughter. That’s still not the thing, the thing is that this is not true. Cathy Tyson, from Mona Lisa, is the former wife and child-maker of Charles.
  2. Mein Kampf is a relatively successful self-help type book in India.
  3. My son does not like bubble bath.

The third was a very traumatic discovery tonight. He had been a bit upset when bubble bath was tried previously. This was put down to other circumstances (an off Broadway musical he co-wrote got some terrible reviews). But it is definitely the bubble bath/foam.

I held a little bit up for him and his tiny and was shaking as he nearly touched it before crying. At this point I nearly burned the bubble bath container as an act of war. But I didn’t. It is most disconcerting. He is a big fan of the bath experience. I am a big fan of him liking it, due to my schedule his bath is the one thing I own. Thus, him not liking the baths makes me sad.

I would have put money on him liking bubble baths. Somewhat agreeing with the tinpot firm who denied us a mortgage based on my gambling activity. I might see if William Hill will still take the bet. How will they know I know? I could put £500 on him not liking bubble baths. Any takers?

He loves baths and likes everything and being happy. So, what’s this all about I ask you? I DEMAND ANSWERS

I don’t know where to go with this Mein Kampf thing. I guess it shows that context is really, really important. The documentary I listened to, and subsequent things I read, suggested world history is not so well taught in some parts of India. And that Hitler’s Germany were helping repel the British from India. So (are they saying) some people in India might see AH as this plucky underdog who went from being in prison to being in a war (but just being in a war – not being like the worst person out of all the wars, which is some statement) and then dying.

I guess it shows how important people knowing history is. You can be never sure of what’s really true on the internet but I read a couple of things from the last few years and they were about how Hitler is kind of a likeable reference/brand in India. There were pictures of shops called Hitler and everything. I am not making this up. I found it all very odd.

And the first one doesn’t really need an explanation does it? It was just a mistaken thought. Get over it.

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