Thursday, 7 August 2014

Bi Curious?

I'm sure there are a few of you out there that didn't know I used to be a Slimming World consultant. As you may imagined being the best part of 20 stone in weight, I wasn't what you'd call the most orthodox consultant they'd ever had (although remember that at my lightest I was 16 1/2 stone and at my heaviest I was over 26 stone, so I did have some idea of what I was doing!) Quite often I'd bumble around, I'd forget things, I'd fluff my lines. Generally I would appear to be something of a fool. The thing is, I wasn't. Over time people realised while I was quite happy to play the absent-minded professor, I was actually extremely conscientious. I'd even go so far as to say I was "quite good" at what I did. Mrs Spong obviously had a grip on me behind the scenes (steady!) but if people wanted to lose weight they'd have been hard pushed to find anyone more committed to their cause than me. My manager did an assessment on me as a consultant and the one comment that I keep going back to is "theatrical". For me, it's not just about the end result - it's also about how we get there. Losing weight isn't exciting. It can be a very lonely journey. If I could get people to where they wanted to be then that was great, but I didn't want them to get there hating every step of the way.

So that's nice. But why am I telling you this? Well as with all of my blog posts (there are others, they just don't come along that often) I usually need something to set the scene, and this is no different from the others. Mainly because for once I'm genuinely scared about what I'm about to reveal.

My mental health issues are well chronicled. Since the age of 22, I've suffered from depression. I've had periods where I've been really good, but equally I've had periods where I've been really bad. There have been times where I've been dangerously out of control, but there have also been incidents such as me sat on the floor in Malaga airport rocking backwards and forwards. The good news is that a combination of a great GP, a top wife (you can stop twisting my arm up my back now, dearest) a good understanding of how I'm feeling and working bloody hard to not let things get me down mean that I am extremely stable. I emphasise that last bit in case anybody I work for is reading this. I'm perfectly safe, honest!

But I do still get periods of being down. Last week I was on holiday and although I was staying with family and friends, I found it mentally very tough. For every waking hour of every day, I had to be alert, be sociable and be on the ball. Normally I'd find it no problem but I got home on Sunday night and I was absolutely shattered. Still wired from the week away, I was awake until 5am on Monday morning. I tried to get some sleep through the day but my mind wouldn't let go. No reason for it. I was at home with nothing to do but chill, I simply couldn't relax. I slept on Monday night more out of exhaustion than anything but on Tuesday I was no better. I was wound up tight, I was feeling angsty. I rang my GP and told him what was going on and despite not having surgery, he told me to go in.

We talked. I have always had a good relationship with my GP and we discussed my moods, and what makes me tick. One thing we've never talked about though is the other end of the spectrum. About how high my moods can become. About how excitable I can get. About how invincible I can feel.

It was then that the penny dropped. I'm not your common or garden depressive.

I'm bipolar.

I'm not sure how I feel about this to be honest. I've suspected it for a while but in absence of any concrete medical opinion, I'd not considered it that deeply. It was only a chance conversation that cleared the fog. These past couple of days I've read a lot about being bipolar. I've read about signs and symptoms, I've read about management, I've read all sorts of things. It would appear that if there was a textbook case of being bipolar (which because it's a mental condition, there isn't), I would appear to be it.

I've been prescribed lithium. It sounds olde worlde and from a time of leeches and shock therapy, but lithium is still one of the best mood stabilisers there is. It means weekly blood tests for the foreseeable so that it doesn't poison me, and the list of side effects is as long as a builder's tea break but 2 days in and the only thing I've had was a hot flush after the sun came out. If that's as tough as it gets, then I'll take it.

I don't know what happens next, but you know what my biggest worry is? That the lithium will work TOO well. That as well as flattening out the troughs in my mood, it will flatten out my peaks and that my undoubted genius (that was a joke) will be blunted, leaving me as something of a monomood dullard. That really would be pants. Big ones with skid marks in the back.

The other downside is that I have to be careful how much I drink; lithium not only dehydrates you but also stops you feeling intoxicated. This might sound good, but it's easy to feel okay, keep drinking and then end up in a lithium/alcohol coma. Not so good!

So we're diagnosed. We're being treated. And I guess we'll see what the next chapter brings. Interesting times indeed. What's also interesting is that these last two days I've felt pretty good about myself. Could be relief, or talking to someone or a change in the weather. I don't know but I'm glad it's happened.

The other good piece of news is that I'm seeing the Open University on Saturday about enrolling on my teaching degree course. That's going to be something of a challenge for old Bipolar Spong here.

Keep smiling folks. It keeps everyone else guessing.

Until next time,


Thursday, 29 May 2014


Two blogs in a month, must be something of a miracle. I'll start this one with a question.

What were you doing a year ago today?

Can't remember? Probably a good thing. I've just trawled back and checked and there doesn't appear to have been anything particularly exciting happen on 29th May last year. Or probably May 30th as it was last year. In Nigeria they banned same-sex marriage on the 30th and on the 29th Shania Twain got divorced. Doubtful either of the above affected you unless you were Shania Twain's husband, you'd decided you were homosexual and you wanted to get married in Nigeria.

Me? I can remember it clearly. I was at my father-in-laws.

Now I don't remember that because it was a particularly momentous occasion. I've been to his house before and I will go to his house again of that I'm sure. The reason I remember it was because I was waiting on a particularly important phone call and I was somewhat nervous.

It was the day I was made redundant.

To many people that would be a day of dread and hate, but to me it was a fantastic day. It was a day I'd asked for at the beginning of the year and they had been unable to grant and then the Corporation hadn't made a squillion bucks in profit in the first quarter and so true to form they asked for people to put in for redundancy. As is often the case, the people that were any good (and I don't mean to be big headed, but I had several yearly appraisals to prove it) put in to leave, and those that weren't very good (not just those, a lot of good people chose to stay!) kept their heads down and hoped those of us that were good would make a large enough number that the powers-that-be wouldn't need to call on those with (on paper) a lesser track record and make compulsory redundancies.

I left on July 5th, and life has changed immeasurably since then. I promise I won't write a "One year on from July 5th blog" in little over a month.

Back then I was a desperately unhappy project manager type with "Large Corporation" as they will be known from this post onwards. The people I was working with were great and most of them I'm still in touch with to this day, but the job I hated and I was beginning to hate Large Corporation. Those of you that know me know that I am many things, but I am not a hateful person.

So I left.

What a difference a year makes. Want to see where I'm writing this blog from?

That's right. I'm in the pub. The laptop screen you can see is mine, the size 12 shoe you can see is mine, the pint of ale is indeed mine. I'm on holiday and I'm happy as a pig submerged in faecal matter. It's half term, school holidays, and I am on holiday.

Back in the old days, we'd take time off to avoid school holidays (except for Christmas, that one is kind of unavoidable) but this year things have changed. I've just done a 4 week term, I've got a week off and then a 6 week term beckons before those long school holidays that I thought I'd left behind in my youth.

I've gone from a reasonably well paid but grumpy project manager to a not as well paid but ridiculously happy Learning Support Assistant in a primary school.

And I couldn't be happier.

I won't pretend there aren't days when I think "what the shitting Christ have I done here?" and go home to a beer and a moan, but those days are few and far between. Up until July 5th of last year there were far more days when I'd go home (well downstairs, I worked from home) for a beer and thought "what the shitting Christ am I STILL doing here". I'd probably have more beers and more of a moan but still I'd go in and do my best, day after day.

I had a conversation with the effervescent Mrs Spong earlier this week. It was a short conversation and although it wasn't prompted by an offer to go and become a project manager for another Large Corporation this time, it was one I periodically raise. Here is the general gist of it:

"You know, our bank balance would look a lot healthier if I went and got a project management job working for a Large Corporation. Do you think I should?
"Are you taking the piss? You're happy and I'd rather you be happy than we be much better off."
"Okay then."

And that was the sum total of said conversation. I never say it because I really want out, but because I see Mrs Spong earning considerably more than me and think I should contribute more to the family pot. But we've sorted our finances out and can cope with the relative downturn in our finances.

I'm going to keep it short. But what I will say to you is this. When I write my blog posts, there is usually a moral to the story. When I started writing this one, I don't think I truly had one. But 3 pints of ale will see to that. The moral of this story is very simple.

Don't look at the paycheck. Look at what makes you happy.

Until next time,


Monday, 21 April 2014

Reasons to be Cheerful

Holy hand grenades, is this REALLY the first blog post of 2014? I know I'm slack, but even by my standards that is really rather poor. I thought I should write a blog post as things have changed immeasurably over the last 9 months and a lot of my newer friends are possibly a bit bemused by my current mental state. I think I owe some of you an explanation.

So just a quick recap. I'm a card carrying depressive. Have been for 20 years now. Some of the earlier posts go into things in a bit more detail, but basically this is me. I take pills and we deal with things as and when they happen. It's never been diagnosed but I would suggest I'm slightly bipolar - which is crazy because I've never been to the Arctic and I don't fancy blokes (I do a lot of this, make inappropriate humour attention from serious stuff. It's part of my "charm" apparently.)

At the moment I'm a bit mind fucked. I know it, and that's a good thing - I know it, I can accept it and I can move on from it. Might take a while but we'll get there. But what is going on that is causing it? Let's run a quick checklist and see.

Home. Is good. Mrs S remains pretty darned awesome. We're contented with our current living situation although if winds were blowing in a different direction we'd probably move (long story, will save that for another day.) All normal.

Job. Is more than good. Those of you that haven't checked in for a while (and there's been no reason to, let's be honest!) won't be aware that having jacked in my "career" last year, I'm now working in a school and love it. Not only that, but I've been offered a contract for next year. I can honestly say I work with a fantastic bunch of folks and I love going to work every day. All normal.

Business. Happy with this. The Slimming World business is solid, we're maintaining numbers nicely and it's going well. I've worked out if I can add roughly another 10 folks a week (although I've been away for the last 4, see below) then we'll be in a good place. I've never wanted the biggest group in the world, just a good sized number that we can bounce ideas around, have fun with and that I can support properly. I've got that. All normal.

Holiday. I can't really complain about this can I? Just got back from Australia and possibly the greatest 3 weeks I've ever had. Absolutely brilliant. I'm rested, got another week off before I go back and have a week in Scotland with the Commonwealth Games to look forward to as well. It's all good. All normal.

Health. Probably the only slight blot on the horizon. Currently as big as a house which is partly due to being in Australia for 3 weeks and partly because I'm struggling mentally at the moment - I devour huge amounts of food randomly when I'm depressed. That will fix itself and I've resorted to buying in lots of grapes to keep me from eating cereal or buying chocolate or cake. It's working the last 3 or 4 days and I'm probably more focused than I have been in ages. The other thing is my shoulder is a bit screwy... and by screwy I mean it's erm broke. Currently waiting to see a specialist because I've got suspected anterior shoulder ligament damage which means lifting anything heavy or trying to do anything too strenuous causes it to hurt like hell. I'm coping, but my shoulder aches constantly with the more than occasional bout of stabbing pain. Two types of painkiller for now and we'll see what happens. We'll call that "normal minus" for the sake of argument, but it's basically no more than a hindrance.

So actually there's nothing really causing me problems. And that, my friends, is the problem.

You see, when life is absolutely bonkers for me and I've got something to work for, to champion, to achieve, I feel fine. But when all of that is resolved and life goes back to being"normal", then I have problems adjusting and go into a mental slump. I work through it, I keep taking the tablets and we get there. It may take a couple of weeks, it may take a couple of months, but we will get there.

For now though, expect irrational outpourings, feelings of worthlessness and extreme tiredness. It used to include dangerous amounts of uncontrolled aggression, but we seem to have cracked that one now which is a relief. I still have flashbacks to that set-to with the car park attendant in the NEC car park.... we'll save that one for another time if you don't already know the story. All you need to know is that I was right and I didn't hit him. I came close, but I didn't.

All I ask for now is that you bear (grrrr!) with me, and don't judge. It'll all come good. I just need to get used to life being stable again. Oh and don't give me something to crusade for in the hope that it fixes me - Mrs S understandably gets a bit pissy if I start saving everybody else's world.

Until next time,


Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Seasons Beatings

It's 6:30pm on Christmas Day and I'm writing a blog. And I'm beat. Bushed. Knackered. Jaded. Worn out. I've spent most of the afternoon asleep and could easily rinse and repeat until the morning and beyond. Today is probably the first day I've switched off in 6 months, and I've crashed.

I think I've worked harder in the last 4 months than I have in the previous 4 years - and I wouldn't have swapped any of it for the world. It started at the end of May with my request for redundancy being accepted. I'd spent most of the last 15 years working with people I loved (with one notable exception that I'd still like to punch repeatedly in the face) for a company that I was initially proud of but grew to become tired of the pettiness, bureaucracy and frustration. By the time I left in July I'd developed a dislike that nobody should ever feel about their workplace. I took some time off and then threw myself into working out just what it was I wanted to do when I grew up. It took me a while and some cajoling to get the information out of me, but we got there. I still haven't grown up and have no intention of every doing so, but I at least know what I want to do. I've set up a brand new Slimming World group and made some fantastic friends in a village I'd only been to a handful of times in my life. I've taken on my Slimming World group and kept it together and thanks to the support of some amazing people I start work in the new year at the school I've been volunteering at for the last month and a bit. Throw in the small matter of a 40th birthday for myself and Mrs S and 2013 has been a bit of a year.

But right now I'm tired. The great thing is that despite the odd wobble at the enormity of everything that's happened lately is that I'm mentally intact. I've gone through some of the largest changes of my life without a breakdown with just the company of my (relatively low level) antidepressants to get me by. So actually I'm happy. Very happy. I've decided that between now and Sunday the only thing that I'm going to be doing is kick back and relax. School starts back in January, all my leaflets are with goodly folks to deliver ahead of the first week in 2014 and I can spend the next 3 days with the effervescent Mrs Spong being the sort of company she wanted when we got married 13+ years ago. We need to put some posters up, but having done as many as we did back in September that really is going to be child's play.

I've rambled on for a couple of hundred words and I'm not sure there's a point to this post so I'll keep it short except to say thank you. Thank you to everyone from my dysfunctional Internet family who I'd not be without to the boys in the 'Hood and to my drinking chums (mainly) in the OG through to my amazing Slimming World colleagues and friends, to friends of the past some of whom are very much friends and colleagues of the present and future and to the wonderful people at the school who took this bumbling child-averse fool in and looked after him. But finally to Vic, without whom I really couldn't have done any of this. She's not bad you know. She can stay on another week.

I'll leave you with a quote from the great Lao Tzu. It took me nearly 40 years to find my place in the world, but it was only when I took his words on board that things really started moving.

"If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading."

You see, sometimes from Anarchy does come a little bit of Zen. Sometimes you just have to believe in yourself.

Have a very happy and safe Christmas and who knows, I might even find time to update this ramshackle collection of bunkum a bit more often in 2014.

Until next time,


Sunday, 15 September 2013

The Penny Drops

Why am I such a doofus?

Actually that's quite an aggressive introductory line when I've not been about for so long. Let's start again.

Greetings friends! It's been so long since I posted you must have thought I'd forgotten how to post. Apologies for all that. I trust you're all well.

Now why am I such a doofus?

Actually we'll come back to that in a minute. I think I need to bring you all up to speed on the last 4 months since I last posted. Things have changed somewhat in my life.

In May my employer decided that not content with making a squillion pounds every second decided to offer voluntary redundancy. At the age of 39 and having never been unemployed (well technically I was for a fortnight when I left college but the job centre was shut with a collapsing ceiling which was the only time I was meant to sign on) I decided that I'd got fed up of the corporate life and concentrating on not doing stuff to step out and do something positive. I'd had a career of sorts but aside from occasional glimpses of excitement, it hadn't made me happy so it would be a good time to reassess things.

So I took my pot of money and banked it. Then it occurred to me; my experience might be a bit specialist, I might struggle to find something and at 39 I still didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up.

Now one thing big corporate did for me is provide me with the services of an outplacement consultant. I have never experienced one of these things before but it's a bit like going to a job centre every couple of weeks but without the warmth. Actually that's harsh. My consultant is extremely good, but I think she doesn't suffer fools gladly... which obviously presents something of a problem when dealing with me. The first 2 or 3 sessions have been extremely bruising, but it has been useful. I've got a good idea of the sort of things I want to be doing and it appears that the last 20 years of my life have been less than ideal for me work wise. This may explain extended periods of unhappiness and depression. Certainly leaving big corporate has helped me mentally as I don't have to deal with piles of "we do this because we always do this" circular arguments and the pettiness and bureaucracy and politics. It should be noted at this point that my previous comments about "making a good vicar if I did religion" were proved to be correct - "religious worker" was mentioned near the top of the list of suggested job roles alongside counsellor, social worker, etc etc. IT Project Manager possibly couldn't have been further down the list. Benefits of hindsight and all that eh?

Anyway I'm sort of digressing and this post will all come together like a series of 24, although without the catchy ringtones and hours of wondering if the stupid daughter of the lead character is capable of functioning on a day-to-day basis without some incredible peril crossing her path.

So I'm armed with some money and the one thing I've considered for a while is becoming a consultant for a well known Slimming organisation, you know, the one that I've done fairly well at. I pass the interview, the credit checks, don't embarrass myself on the training, put in some effort on the advertising and opened 2 weeks ago to a massive room full of people. And while I thought I'd enjoy it, I didn't really think I'd enjoy it as much as I am. I know there will be dark times when things don't go well for people but it's great to be in such a positive environment. Nothing about this organisation is remotely negative and I'll be honest it's fantastic.

Right, back to this week. It's my regular visit to my outplacement consultant and we have a conversation about me enjoying Slimming World and how much I enjoy helping people but it won't pay all the bills and I need a day job as well. What follows is pretty much the way most of our conversations go:

"So what sort of job are you thinking of?"
"Well I don't know. I've done the preferred work style survey which suggests that I like helping and coaching people, and I love doing my Slimming World. What I want is a job that is maybe 9-3 for 4 days a week which means I can fit in SW and get all my admin done on a Friday leaving the weekends free for me and Mrs S."

I have to admit I was being slightly facetious at wanting a job with so few hours, but you can see where this is going can't you? There isn't going to be a Hitchcockian Twist here.

Now if you don't know what the word "belm" means, it might be worth looking it up and doing a Google image search. Back in the 1980s there was a chap who featured on Blue Peter called Joey Deacon. I'll not go into the whole story of Joey Deacon as it's quite nicely explained here but this is where the "belm" comes from, with kids up and down the country pushing their tongues under their bottom lips and making what can best be described as Deaconesque noises. Kids can be horrible.

Anyway I think if she could have done, she would have belmed at me at this point.

"What sort of organisation might offer 9-3 hours where you can coach and help people develop then?"
*slow nods*
"A school?"

I'll be honest, with her having had access to all my surveys and stuff, she had made the connection before I did. Which is embarrassing as 20-odd years ago when I was a young (never little) Spong I'd done some "what do you want to be when you grow up?" stuff and it had suggested very strongly that I go into teaching. At the time I was into IT so looked up IT teacher training only to find that it was still in its infancy and there weren't many course and those that were were fully subscribed. I went into corporate IT and have never looked back until now.

Schools then. Places full of learning and bright minds and where you can help and influence people. Who'd have thought it? Well clearly I should have.

What followed was 20 minutes of us looking about the Internet realising that if I can get in, I could become a pretty damned good teaching assistant. I don't have the qualifications to become a teacher and I'm certainly not going to pretend that I could find a way to fast track into it, so that's out certainly in the short term. But teaching assistant is something that I could do, and I could get qualifications in while working at it. It's also more of a career now with various levels of teaching assistant. Back when I was at school it appeared to be housewives coming in one afternoon a week to have kids read to them.

So I can now honestly answer what I want to be when I grow up. A teaching assistant and Slimming World consultant. I've put some feelers out and had some great information back from some friends "in the business" and I'm going to go for it. No idea if we can get there, but we're going to have a bloody good try. Will keep you posted.

Anyway as you were. I just thought you should know. Oh and to apologise to my outplacement consultant who probably has splinters in her forehead from banging it off the desk for the last few weeks.

Until next time,


Saturday, 11 May 2013

Bonehead on Board

Been a bit of a heavy week in Spong Towers this week what with previous revelations, so I thought I'd lighten up your weekend with a brief post about something (else) that gets my goat. I'll start with a video clip - you don't need to go the whole way through it (although you could, it's very good) but certainly you'll need to watch the first 3 and a 1/2 minutes. It's a stand-up routine featuring Irish comedian and Fungus the Bogeyman stunt double Dara O'Briain.

That's right, put the clip together with the post title and you can have a guess what I want to put in the metaphorical sack. People with stupid signs in the back of their cars.

Now from what I've read over the years, these things are there so that in the unfortunate event of a car accident, rescuers know that there's a child in the vehicle and can effect a rescue. Which is great, really it is - except for two, teeny weeny little problems with that.

1) They have been turned into a statement of the driver's individuality.
2) People don't take them out of the car when they DON'T have a child in the car.

Admittedly I've taken a bit of a flyer on 2), but given the number of cars I see with just a driver and nobody else in, I feel I'm on fairly safe ground here.

I'll give you a couple of examples I've seen recently.

Princess on Board
That's right, a massive pink sign stuck to the back windscreen that bounces up and down OBSCURING the vision of the driver leading to a greater likelihood of an accident. Get in the sack.

Mummy-to-Be on Board
Oh please. In the even of a crash, we need to mobilise the rescue parties to find the child that's already probably better protected than it's ever going to be at any point in the future. Get in the sack.

Grandparents on Board
Well that would explain why you're driving at 20mph on a dual carriageway clogging up the road and causing people to get angry and cause accidents trying to get round you. Get in the sack!

Appreciate I'm banging on a bit and that I'm already preaching to intelligent forward thinking people (hey, look at some of the company you keep - you MUST be alright) but is there anything more pointless than a sign designed to warn people to look out for something that 87%* of the time probably isn't even there?

I'll leave it at that for today because it's the weekend and it's a time for drinking beer and driving to places with signs advising people to look for things that aren't in our cars, but next time you see someone with one of these bobbing on their back windscreen, I'm sure you'll be looking for a sack and a big stick.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend,


* Figures provided by the Office of Made-Up Statistics (OMUS).

Thursday, 9 May 2013

How Do You Eat Yours?

Yesterday I wrote what I considered to be a deeply personal and very emotional blog concerning my battles with mental health. The response has been nothing short of staggering and for that I'd like to thank you all.

Having pondered some of life's deep and meaningfuls on my blog, I thought I'd turn attention today to something every bit as important and probably as controversial to a huge proportion of British people - what should be on the plate of your common or garden full cooked breakfast? I've used the word "cooked" as opposed to "English" so that a) we don't upset our Scottish, Irish and Welsh cousins who are all partial to similar delicacies, albeit with regional variations and b) we don't confuse anybody of European stock who believes that two pieces of melon and a sliced of boiled ham are classed as a petit dejeuner (as they say in Kent) fit for a queen (which indeed we have, and they don't).

I'll begin by apologising to vegetarians in advance. I know you can get "not bacon" and "not sausage" but I am by no means an expert on non-carnivorous breakfasting. To that end, I am going to sidestep your particular choice of cooked morning meal and stick purely to those of us that like some mushed up lumps of Ermintrude the Cow and Babe the Sheep Pig when breaking our fast. Feel free to comment though and let me know how you enjoy a breakfasting blowout; I'd be interested to hear.

Now for me, cooked breakfast has a number of staple components with a number of bolt-on options. I'll indicate what I think SHOULD be on your plate if you're doing it properly, but I'll also include a couple of things you may not always consider.

For me there are 4 staples of a fry-up (I use the term "fry" generically and as a responsible Slimming Worlder should point out you can grill most things, and that you can also use low calorie sprays to achieve the desired results.) Those 4 things are sausages, bacon, eggs, and bread (look at him giving a hoot about an Oxford comma!)

My view is there should be 2 of these and they should be of decent quality. I usually grill mine to avoid the spitty fat thing off the frying pan and I buy all of mine from Gamble and Hollis in Syston because not only are they tasty, but they are also SW friendly (yes, really - people come from the other side of Leicester for a mouthful of Mr Gamble's pork.) What you don't want is those slightly pinky, slightly unpleasant, packed with eyelids and testicles sort that you can get for 49 pence from well-known tax-dodging hypermarkets.

I have heard anecdotes of people eating bacon to cure the lame (not lame pig, obviously) heal the sick and bring back sight to the blind. Actually that's a lie, but I have heard countless tales of vegetarians returning to omnivorousness (yes that really is a word) because of the delicious scent of bacon cooking. Now I'd not suggest any of you young and attractive ladies dab a bit of Danish fat behind your ears of an evening, but for me there is rarely a smell so fine as that of a gently cooking rasher of pork.

So, bacon then. I think your bacon needs to be thick enough that it can withstand a bit of heat and turn a bit crispy at the edges, but it shouldn't be so thin that it turns brittle. That's just not cricket. You should also stick to back bacon which has more meat and less fat and save your streaky for the Christmas turkey. I'm also going to sound the contentious comment klaxon early doors as well:

*your bacon should be smoked*

Yes that's right. For me it should be smoked so that you get a different sense of flavour in your to that of your sausage. That and also because I like smoked bacon. Number of rashers? Probably 2, but I fully understand that people like bacon, so anything in single figures is probably acceptable (I kid, I would never go above 3 under normal circumstances.)

How do you like your eggs love? Unfertilised! It's an old joke but trust me in this instance it helps. The problem with eggs is their sheer versatility, so what to do with them? Well I'll tell you.

You fry them. You fry them, but leave the yolks runny. Nothing else should be considered acceptable. I know a lot of people think "well yes, but scrambled is better for you" and to some extent it is, but if you're already eating large quantities of processed pork products, then frying your eggs isn't really that much of an issue; and let's be honest, who doesn't like an egg yolk exploding all over their plate? You don't get that with scrambled. Oh and "yolks" plural? Yes. There should always be two of them. One egg clearly isn't enough and more than two is what the French *call an oeuf-erload. *don't call ever

Anybody suggesting poached eggs will be taken outside and shot for crimes against proper breakfasts.

Bread in a fry-up is more tricky a subject than you think. I'm sure a lot of people are reading this and already thinking "toast”, but some people may like brown bread, some white bread, some granary bread. Our Celtic cousins may talk about the phenomenon that is the soda furl, and then there are those types that like bread and butter to mop up their runny egg with and some who like a nice fried slice. Allow me to set the record straight - you should have stopped at toast. Simple as that. None of your organically granary multiseeded batch loaf fried in oil pressed from the finest olives grown in the Italian hills. Good old-fashioned, toast. Preferably white (although I am partial to a nice granary loaf), definitely thick (none of your generic non-tax paying hypermarket thin sliced and tasteless here) and definitely painted with a generous helping of butter. Your airy-fairy sunflower spreads don't cut the mustard on this king of breakfasts, I can tell you. If you must have a fried slice then one professional tip from me is it HAS to be white bread. Brown or wholemeal bread when fried has a consistency and texture akin to parquet flooring.

So those are your four "must haves". What follows are all probably optional based on your personal preferences, but I do think you need to have at least a couple of them to make your breakfast "full".

Do you know about Boolean logic? AND and OR and NOT and NOR and NAND and all that? You don't? Well that's okay but it sort of explains a point I'm about to make on mushrooms. In my nearly 40 years of time on this planet, I have yet to encounter anyone who doesn't like mushrooms AND doesn't like sweetcorn. I've met people that like one. I've met people who like the other. I know an awful lot of people that like both. But not one single person have I encountered that doesn't like either of them. No idea what that says about people, but it probably says something really philosophically important. Or that sweetcorn and mushroom divide opinion.

Anyway, I LIKE mushrooms. Always have done, since I was a young (never small) kid. So mushrooms go on my plate as a matter of course. Lots of them, nicely fried, probably not in butter but maybe a touch of oil (although mushrooms have a better suck rate than most Dyson vacuums so you have to be a bit of careful) to stop them sticking and burning. Big ones, small ones, some as big as your head. I'll eat them all day long and still want more. As the advertising campaign once said "make room for the mushrooms". You know it makes sense.

Summat Moist
The definition of "Summat Moist" comes from a Peter Kay gag back from when he was funny; the premise was that someone went into a chip shop to find that they had no gravy or peas or beans or curry sauce, the punchline being "has tha nowt moist?"  I actually think Summat Moist in its generic form is an essential but it's the flexibility of moist that puts it down here for me. Summat Moist falls into 3 basic categories:

Baked Beans
Little orange orbs of awesome. Nothing further needs to be said.


Now your tomato is a tricky one because that comes in two basic forms, your grilled, or your tinned. For me a grilled tomato needs to be soft on the top, soft on the bottom, collapse when you cut it and molten in the middle. The problem is that unless you're cooking it yourself what you tend to get is raw on the bottom, black on the top and cold in the middle. Which is why a lot of people tend to prefer your tinned tomatoes. I always used to prefer tinned tomatoes, but over recent years I've felt more comfortable with the baked bean on my plate. No idea why, and I certainly don't have a problem with eating a tomato that looks like John Merrick of The Elephant Man, but I just prefer my beans. I'd happily have a well grilled tomato as well, but if I'm not cooking it then I'll opt for just beans because of the aforementioned problems cooking them. On a personal level I also try and avoid tinned tomatoes with beans because I don't want my tomato juice and tomato sauce to mix on my plate and resemble a toxic spill.

I'll touch on a fourth here as I have been subjected to spaghetti hoops for breakfast before now; needless to say that it should be some years (if ever) before they recover the body of said server of hoops.

Black Pudding
That's right. This one for me is an essential although I appreciate congealed pig's blood and lumps of fat isn't for everybody. There's something about a nicely cooked, slightly crumbly piece of black pudding that just lends itself to the cooked breakfast and provides a nice gateway between the solid texture of the toast and sausage to the not at all solid texture of the eggs and tomato innards. A lot of people are put off eating it because of what it is, but if you can suspend your judgement and actually eat some decent black pudding that has been properly prepared, you might just be surprised. There is of course also white pudding, but we'll save that whole discussion for another day.

Now you're being silly, but for completeness I'll include potato which invariably comes in the form of a hash brown. Potato scones are acceptable and I will eat a lot of those given the opportunity, but generally potatoes are what you should be having for your dinner, not your breakfast.

So there you have it, your ideal cooked breakfast should consist of:

2 sausages
2-3 bacon
2 eggs
Summat Moist

and for me:

black pudding
grilled tomato (if my Summat Moist is baked beans)

If you're considering putting anything else on your plate, stop for a minute and think these simple thoughts:

"What would Spong do?"

And that will set you back on the road to breakfasting salvation.

Until next time,