Non-Smokers Do Less Work

I am a non-smoker.

That looks like I'm using this column as a dating profile but I mention my smoke-free status to declare a bias about this news story. A company boss in Swindon has given his non-smoking employees an extra four days of annual leave.

As a non-smoker, I like this. I realise that might make some smokers get angry with me but I think I can outrun them.

Don Bryden runs a training company and he said he noticed some smokers take five breaks a day at around ten minutes each. That's nearly an hour off a day. Just under five hours a week. 240 hours across a 48-week year. It's 30 days, so they're still 24 days up on the deal.

I have had this conversation with smoking colleagues (they were colleagues who smoked, I'm not saying they were sexy) and a lot have said it's an addiction and therefore not their fault.

Someone who can't give up the booze doesn't get to stand outside the front door getting their hip flask out for ten minutes. Gamblers don't have paid FOBT breaks. That argument is a little weak.

One smokers once said if I wanted to go and stand outside the office entrance for no reason I could and therefore it's my fault for not taking the option. No I couldn't. I'd look like a right oddball and besides, it smells of smoke out there.

One colleague said smoking made him more productive. If he had to sit there craving a cigarette he'd get less work done. Well, having an afternoon nap would make me more productive but I'm sure regular kips under my desk would be mentioned in my annual review.

It will be interesting to see how this story pans out. Will it be seen as a form of discrimination? Is it OK to give more days off to some members of staff because of their habits? Does that mean we can dock the pay of slow-walkers? (I would be in favour of that too.) Can we take holiday time away from people who spend ages in the toilets? (I'm against that. Don't ask.)

If your company brings in a rule that benefits the non-smokers you could always quit. The job or the habit, but we live in an age of flexible working where employers get in trouble for preferring staff members who have no distractions from work.

My biggest worry is that it will end with industrial action. If smokers form picket lines, standing outside their place of work instead of being inside doing their jobs, how will we tell the difference?

| 📕 READ (the new book)
| 🎧 LISTEN (to the latest podcast)
| 👀 SEE (Steve's live stand-up)



Flybe Or Not Flybe? That Is The Question

On a cold January day you look at the internet to see what news is happening and read that the airline Flybe has been given an extension on paying a bill so that it can keep operating.

As someone who is currently replacing all joy in life with working on my self-assessment form instead, I am utterly jealous.

I understand the difference. I am not important in keeping the UK connected. Flybe is, but it shouldn’t be. In a country this size it seems strange that we should need to fly left-to-right. We’re tiny. We’re only 300miles across at our widest.

The problem isn’t the airlines, it’s the trains and the roads. It shouldn’t be the case that someone prefers a form of travel that requires turning up two hours early and getting strip searched.

Not only are we a narrow country, we invented the train so we really should have it sorted. The Bullet Trains in Japan go at 199mph. If our trains could manage that we’d be across the UK in an hour and half and you’d get to keep you belt and shoes on all the way.

It’s not just the travel time issue, it is bizarre that you can often fly somewhere for less money than it costs to go by train. Think on that. You’re paying less to be in a machine that burns enough fuel to defy gravity than you’d pay to roll on wheels somewhere.

I saw one newspaper mention a woman who said she splits her time between Cornwall and London and if Flybe goes she won’t be able to. Well, maybe you shouldn’t be able to.

You know that nasty joke you get on text, the one about someone in a poverty stricken country who has to walk 20 miles to the nearest well? And the uncaring punchline is something about telling her to move nearer the well. Surely the same applies here. If you live in Cornwall and work in London you might think about moving one of them because that’s a long way.

Why do you fly that often? Sitting on that plane, reading your free newspaper about how we have had the hottest year on record and Australia is being used by Peter Jackson to film a blockbuster version of Dante's Inferno because it’ll save money on the special effects, do you wonder about getting a job nearer home?

So, is it a good thing that Flybe is still flying? I don’t know. It’s still up in the air.

| 📕READ (the new book) |
| 🎧LISTEN (to the latest podcast) |
| 👀SEE (Steve's live stand-up)|



Gwyneth Paltrow's Bits Smell Like a Candle

I always love a story about the kind of wares on sale via Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop website. Before Christmas we saw you could buy some restraints and tree house which is idea for any kidnappers with too much money.

The latest item to hit the headlines is a candle. That doesn't seem too "out there" until you hear that the USP of this scented candle is that it is designed to small like vagina.

Why would you want that? In fact, I'd be more likely to get a scented candle out stop a room smelling like vagina.

If you're that desperate to make your room have the odour of ladyparts just leave some processed ham out of the fridge, it would do the same and cost you less than the £57 this Wankee Candle will set you back.

To be fair, it's not the smell of just any old growler. Your money gets you a candle entitled "This Smells Like My Vagina". It's parfum de Gwyneth. I don't think she should make things that smell like her actual bits. Some criminal could get it and use it to pretend to be her and sneak past her guard dogs when it's dark.

The Goop website describes the smell as, "funny, gorgeous, sexy, and beautifully unexpected". I'm not sure I'd want anyone to know if the smell of my bits could be described as "unexpected". You never want to hear a sniff followed by a surprised, Oh!"

If you'd like to get your hands on to buy Gwyneth fandle, you can't. They are currently sold out. But if ever there was something you could make at home for much, much cheaper…

And if you're interested in a candle that smells of arse I have some Edam cheese going spare.

⮱Read the source story

📕READ (the new book) | 🎧LISTEN (to the latest podcast) | 👀SEE (Steve's live stand-up)


Uri Geller Is A Weirdo For Cummings

Are you a weirdo? I think I can ask that now because it’s probably not an insult any more.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s top senior adviser, Dominic Cummings, posted a job advert online asking for “assorted weirdos” to apply to work at Number 10. One quick look at the kind of people they have in there and you feel like shouting, “Mission already accomplished!”

He wasn’t using the term as a pejorative, it was almost used as a compliment. It has the feel of an attempt to reclaim the word like so many groups have done with their insults. It might become known as the W-word. If that is the case it should be a word that only a weirdo could actually use.

*Looks at Dominic Cummings* *Realises that checks out so far*

So what could go wrong when you ask for assorted odd-bods to apply for a job? Well, one has. Uri Geller has said he has put himself forward for the position. You may remember Uri from several spoon attacks back in the 80s. He believes that mystical powers have gifted him with the ability to **** up your cutlery without even touching them.

He says he wants the job because no other candidate would possess his powers. True. Most civil servants would have to use their hands to ruin items in your kitchen.

He can’t need the money. He is in his 70s so would normally be retired. And the job is that of civil servant, so it’s a pen pusher. Unless he wants to try to push those pens simply using the power of his mind.

We have seen the covering letter that Uri sent. He wrote, “Dear Dom,” at the top, which is a nice touch on a job application if you are trying to make people think you’re weird. Clever.

“While many have doubted my abilities, my achievements cannot be dismissed as trickery or illusions,” said the famous TV illusionist.

He added: “In my intelligence work I assisted with Operation Desert Storm, helped to locate secret tunnels in North Korea, and used my skills to erase crucial diplomatic discs on their way to Moscow.”

He can erase computer files with his mind?! Now that is a power I’d like.

“What’s that, darling. You need to log onto my laptop? Sure, just let me stare at it till the vein comes up on my forehead... Done!”

Uri Geller recently said he had used his powers to help Boris Johnson win last year’s election by giving his aides a spoon enthused with positive energy. It clearly worked but we don’t know by how much. Who helped Boris win more? Uri? Dominic Cummings? Jeremy Corbyn?

He said he could help by using his powers during the Brexit negotiations. You can bend spoons, you should be using your powers to stop heroin users.

Before they sign him up they should remember that previously Uri said he would use his special abilities to stop Brexit happening. Remind us Uri, how did that work out for you?

⮱Read the source story

Further listening: Here’s a radio interview I did with Uri Geller about his plan to use his mind powers in politics.


After recording, I arrived home to find all of my spoons were melted into the shape of a hand giving a middle-finger. I am sure it is a coincidence.



Dry January Could Get You A Free Holiday

Now is the ideal time for you to think about doing Dry January.

Well, I say that. January 30th might be the best day to think about it if you want to set your target low.

But for many drinking less would be a good idea, and a team have done some maths to try to convince you to try. They have worked out how much money you could save by not drinking.

Before we get into the stats, the actual amount you could save depends on hos much you drink and where you live. If you are Pete Dougherty or you live in London these figures would be a lot higher. If Pete lived in London and he stopped, he'd kick Jeff Bezos off the richest man list.

The headline is "Stopping drinking for a year could get you a holiday in the Caribbean".

Wow, let's break it down.

If you do all of January and a little bit more, so five whole weeks off the booze you could save enough money for a two-night stay in Amsterdam.

OK, yes, two nights in Amsterdam might lead to activities that are worse for you than drinking, but the maths doesn't judge.

If you stayed dry for ten weeks they say you could save the equivalent of five nights in the Algarve. Ah, Portugal. Known for it's green wine, beers and… man-alive, you can't get away from the stuff. It's all very well saving up your beer money to spend on a holiday but it just concentrates the drinking while you're away. Technically this is making binge drinking worse.

That's what Dry January does any way, isn't it? People stop for a month and at the end they celebrate by going out for a session. Why? That's like doing a diet and celebrating by eating 4 trifles.

The top prize in this research – that's if you did Dry January and then stayed drive for the rest of the year – they say it would save you enough money to have a week-long all-inclusive stay in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

Again, what's the point in "all-inclusive" if you're drinking water? So the temptation is to drink on your holiday when your tolerance has dropped.

In a bid to cut binge drinking maybe the headline should be, "Giving up just one a holiday in the Caribbean could let you drink for a hole year!"

The new book by Steve N Allen is out now. Lasted Yet Another Year sums up the happenings of the last 12 months. It's available on Amazon Kindle, Kobo, Google Books and paperback.

While you're here, subscribe to the Steve N Allen podcast. It's free! Find it on BBC Sounds, iTunes or Spotify.

📕READ (the new book) | 🎧LISTEN (to the latest podcast) | 👀SEE (Steve's live stand-up)


Regifting Is The New Recycling

In the post-Christmas glow, as we sit with belts on a wider hole, I bring one final news story of the year to make you feel happy.

A new survey has found that around half of us say we will re-gift items we have been given. That is an important number. Not only because numbers that around around half, like 48% and 52% have had a big impact on our lives, but because this survey should make you feel better.

If someone gave you a gift that you don’t like, don’t worry. It’s not because you are ungrateful, half of us are thinking the same.

Give it to someone else. The new recipient might like it. At the very least it means someone gave you “the gift of not having to shop for someone in the future”. And isn’t that what Christmas is really about? No, it’s not, but you get my point.

And if you are worrying that your gift wasn’t appreciated, this survey tells us that half of all people loved their gifts. If you have bought something for at least two people rest safe in the knowledge that you have made someone happy.

I also think this survey should help us remove the shame from the act of re-gifting. It’s 2019, a year that feels like it was mainly filled with people talking about Greta and her angry boat trips. Re-gifting is the ultimate in recycling. You have cut your carbon footprint. It’s like you’re giving a Christmas present to the planet. If someone always buys you something you don’t like, don’t even take the wrapping off. You’ve just saved a bit of a tree.

All of which is a long way of me saying if I got you something that has an SA monogrammed on it, you know what happened.

The new book by Steve N Allen is out now. Lasted Yet Another Year sums up the happenings of the last 12 months. It's available on Amazon Kindle, Kobo, Google Books and paperback.

While you're here, subscribe to the Steve N Allen podcast. It's free! Find it on BBC Sounds, iTunes or Spotify.

📕READ (the new book) | 🎧LISTEN (to the latest podcast) | 👀SEE (Steve's live stand-up)


Kentucky F***ed Chicken

I always love a story where some worker accidentally swears at a customer by writing something that they don't think the customer will see. Normally it's on an order where they didn't know how to describe the customer so they put "Fat state with sh*t perm" or someone at a call centre leaves a note on someone's account saying "b*st*rd".

This is the reason we have account numbers. It's so you don't have to accurately describe the customer. And even though I have never worked in a call centre I presume more than one customer would fit the description of "b*st*rd" so it's a flawed system.

This time the news has told us of a KFC customer who was shocked to see that someone had put "f***ed at 18.03" on his gravy pot.

Let's break down what this could mean. Maybe the customer looked like he was totally shattered in the early evening and that could be a spot on way of explaining it.

Normally we would say someone more of a morning person, but "f***ed at 18.03" is another way of putting it.

It could be a frank way of getting sell-by information across. "Best before" implies the item would be OK after that time but "f***ed at 18.03" tells you it's time to throw it away.

The worst possibility is that someone has gone round that branch of the chicken shop having sexual intercourse with the pots of gravy like a Northerner porn parody of the American Pie films.

If it's the last one we have identified another of the Colonel's secret ingredients.

It's bad enough that someone would make love to a sauce but what really turns my stomach is that they would keep a log of the time they did it. Trying to make sure they you don't sleep with the same pot of gravy twice doesn't make you a player. Tut, men.

There could be someone out there who enjoys having sex with things you pour on your food but only likes it if they haven't been made love to before. In which case we really should lock up our virgin olive oil.

The new book by Steve N Allen is out now. Lasted Yet Another Year sums up the happenings of the last 12 months. It's available on Amazon Kindle, Kobo, Google Books and paperback.

While you're here, subscribe to the Steve N Allen podcast. It's free! Find it on BBC Sounds, iTunes or Spotify.

📕READ (the new book) | 🎧LISTEN (to the latest podcast) | 👀SEE (Steve's live stand-up)



Deleting Twitter

Social media comes in for some stick. It's blamed for increasing hate in political debate, for making us feel ugly and ruining our sleep patters. And if we're not sleeping we probably don't look as good, which makes the second point worse.

There was a story recently that linked using social media to getting piles. No wonder people are so angry on there.

Many people rant about how evil social media and often they do it on social media, without spotting the irony. It's like sending a "Royal Mail is Sh*t!" postcard.

Twitter is cleaning up its act as it announced a cull. Sadly it's not a cull of the hatemongers and spreaders of fake news – they don't want to lose Donald Trump as a user – they have said they'll be getting rid of inactive accounts.

Why? The inactive people on Twitter aren't the ones issuing death threats to people they disagree with over Brexit and telling anyone on TV that they're crap. They don't fill your timeline with retweets from Russia Today (RT RT) and they're not posting conspiracies about the media.

The inactive users don't make the world worse and yet they still boost your follower figures. On social media, inactive users might just be my idea target demographic.

In the last few years we have had elections and referenda, footballing events and some terrible acts on Britain's Got Talent. If you have kept your opinions about those things to yourself we should send you a gift basket.

The reason behind the thinning out of the herd is all about the usernames. Some people signed up and got a great Twitter handle and if they're doing nothing with it you may feel annoyed.

If you wanted to open up a stationery shop called The Pen Is Good but were upset to find that @penisgood was taken by some adult actor, this could be good for you.

The cynics will say that this isn't anything to do with freeing up usernames, it's an easy trick to get more people to log in. It's like when Harvester threatened to stop serving peas. No one really cared about peas but the threat of losing something you assumed you'd always have made you want it more.

So log on, spread some fake news, row about Brexit for a while and follow @mrstevenallen.

The new book by Steve N Allen is out now. Lasted Yet Another Year sums up the happenings of the last 12 months. It's available on Amazon Kindle, Kobo and paperback.

While you're here, subscribe to the Steve N Allen podcast. It's free! Find it on BBC Sounds, iTunes or Spotify.

📕READ (the new book) | 🎧LISTEN (to the latest podcast) | 👀SEE (Steve's live stand-up)



Lasted Yet Another Year

Congratulations, you have made it through another year. Yes, we do that every year but take a second to rejoice.

As the memories of those great 12 months start to fade you can get the perfect summary of it all in the new eBook from comedian Steve N Allen.

A lovely compilation of the newspaper columns you can find across the UK along with some other writing, Steve looks at a selection of the year's events. From Brexit to an angry Neighbourhood Watch to probably Brexit again, take a look back through the year in this comic take on things.

"Lasted Yet Another Year" is available on Amazon Kindle. It's the follow up to Lasted Another Year that summed up 2018 nicely in ebook and paperback.

It's also now available on Kobo reader.



Read Even More About It

There's some more news about the news. The newspaper column by Steve N Allen has now expanded to include publication in the Swindon Advertiser.

A longer, more in-depth look at the news is published every Tuesday. It can be found on sale in news agents in Wiltshire.

This adds to the circulation that already includes London, Essex, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire.

The column takes a look at a news story from that week and finds the angles that may not have been considered to shed light on issues in a way that only humour can.

Keep an eye out in your local papers to see if the Steve N Allen column comes to you area in the coming months.


The Goop Christmas Gift Ideas Have Landed

Do you have someone in your life who is difficult to buy for? If so, Christmas can be a harrowing time. Sure, you have thought of dumping them before the big day but that way you don't get the things they have bought for you so that option is off the table.

What do you get the man who has everything? Antibiotics. But you probably got them that last Christmas, or the Christmas before. It's certainly such an old joke I am sure you have bought it by now.

Thankfully help is on hand from someone who understands how hard it can be to keep someone happy. Gwyneth Paltrow! I am assuming she knows how hard it is to keep someone happy judging by the number of Coldplay songs in a minor key.

Her website Goop has published some gift ideas. If your money to sense ratio can be expressed as a vulgar fraction this stuff might be for you.

For just $250,000 you can buy a Virgin Galactic space flight. If I were to spend that much money and do something as risky as go into space I might be tempted to go to the actual Virgin website. Sure, I'd try Expedia first to see if I could get it cheaper but I'm not sure I want Pepper Potts selling me a space flight.

It's one thing if you buy that for yourself but if you buy a ticket to space as a gift for someone it's a bit of a hint. "I got you this. Now there is a risk you'll die and, best case, you're not on this planet for a while. Bye."

Also on the website you could treat someone to a $100,000 tree house. Actually, if you could have them build it somewhere in Zone 1 London you'd make a profit.

It's not all big ticket items, you can get some stocking-fillers, which have to be small as I'd guess the kind of person who shops at Goop and only has macrobiotic snacks won't fill large stockings.

You can get a pot of caviar for $16,000. Jesus! These are motorway service station prices.

My favourite item on the site is the lovers' bondage restraints. They cost $1,350 but at least they are useful. You can tie up your partner before you explain that you wasted all your joint savings eating a pot of fish eggs in a tree house.


A Few More Podcasts with Steve N Allen

For the 17th year in a row we're told that podcasts are the next big thing. Let's hope so because recently I have been kept busy turning up on the odd podcast.

Should you suddenly be hit by the urge to listen to what I get up to in podcastland here are a few of them.

I was interviewed about comedy and radio by Ben Punter in his "What Have We Learnt" podcast. Fun fact: It was recorded in a pub, which I think should be the location for more of my work.
Hear here

I talked about my theories of how to have a good relationship on the Frank podcast. I'm no expert, and some days it feels like calling myself a "gifted amateur" would be a bit of a stretch, but I give my thoughts all the same.
Hear here

I had an in depth conversation about comedy on Rhodder's "Stand and Deliver" podcast in this episode.
Hear here

I was on a panel of comedians talking about comedy and its role in political discourse and news coverage in this episode of the RedBox podcast from The Times
Hear here

And if all of that isn't enough for you there's my podcast with the BBC, it's called "Steve N Allen’s Week", which you can…
Hear here.

If you'd like to have me on your podcast find a way to get in touch and I bet we can make it happen.



Christmas Election - Get Festive

I hope you wanted a General Election for Christmas because that's what we're getting.

For me, the news was like getting my Christmas wish early. That makes sense because Christmas gets earlier every year, why shouldn't the wishes? As soon as the August Bank Holiday is over shops start to peddle their red-themed tat, but that's a rant for another column.

It's been nearly a century since this country had a December vote. Those who think things were better back in the olden days should be happy.

Christmas is a time for traditions like wrapping up warm to stand in a queue outside a primary school in whatever weather we'll get that day.

Some may struggle to get out to vote. Do a postal vote. Dashing to the post box before to deadline is a Yuletide classic.

Christmastime post isn't known to be reliable but if your postal vote gets lost it will probably turn up again years from now. You'll have voted in the 2034 election, which could easily still be mainly run along Brexit lines.

Will this festive election sort this whole mess out? Maybe not. A General Election isn't the best way to sort out a single issue and due to the first-past-the-post system people living in safe seats will feel like they don't have a say. But this is what we have. Learn to be grateful for what you get at Christmas. It could have been a lump of coal.

The Christmas election comes down to this, which Santa will you want to visit you? Will it be the old man with a white beard who wants to give things away to people but doesn't talk about how much that costs? Or will it be the overweight, jolly man who has been in many bedrooms?

I can't wait to find out.

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