Friday, 31 October 2008

Wozzagate : Appreciate The Drama and Irony

Television and newspapers have been getting boring of late, with everyone pandering on about financial woes and Amy Winehouse's slush puppy machine, so it's nice to have a bit of drama for a change.

I'm flicking through London's papers on the way home from work. It's nice to see the Jonathan Ross/Russel Brand saga unfolds in such spectacular fashion. Nice? What kind of person am I, getting pleasure out of this? Some real drama for a change, no-one cares about the credit crunch any more. Or about Gorden Brown. Or about McCain, Obama or Sarah Palin. A scandal is what we all like.

I sit back and appreciate the carnage. The phone calls to Fawlty Towers actor Andrew Sachs were pretty pathetic. I concede that. The whole thing was prerecorded, and was (as Ross put it) extremely "juvenile".

So, as a result of their phone call, Russel Brand has resigned from his Radio 2 show, and Jonathan Ross has been given a three month unpaid suspension. Given his £6 million quid a year deal, he can clearly afford it. The Metro put it beautifully in a cartoon,

"Jonathan Ross sentenced to three months off over Christmas".

For anyone who has somehow missed what happened, either because they slept through the last few weeks or because they live on their own little island, these two comedians played on air a prerecorded series of phone calls made to actor Andrew Sachs, which included lewd comments about his granddaughter, Georgina Baillie.

As the drama unfolds, we now discover from the papers that Miss Baillie, who had publicly slammed the comedians for their "lewd" comments, is allegedly a "£110-an-hour dominatrix" or a "Mistress Voluptua" as one "alleged client" put it. Now that's a gorgeous piece of irony for you. Of course, this "alleged client" could just be playing the tabloids for cash.

Her spokesman, the mighty and ubiquitous Max Clifford, is quoted as saying "It sounds as though she's been a very naughty girl."

Apparently over 35,000 people have complained to the BBC. The irony here is that the rentals of Brand's stand up DVDs have risen by 133 per cent, and Faulty Towers back catalogue by over 26 per cent. Brand's "apology" video with picture of Stalin in the background reveals his own attitude to the whole thing.

They will both almost certainly gain from the controversy and their renewed notoriety. However with fresh attacks on Mock The Week's Frankie Boyle, and on Graham Norton for an incident involving Ricky Gervais, I'm not sure how British comedy will fare from all this. Time will tell.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Smoke? You won't be allowed to foster children

One of London's councils is planning to implement some new rules on fostering. Redbridge council will be voting on a new smoking policy next week, the intention is to ban smokers from fostering children. The goal, it is said, is to limit children's exposure to passive second-hand smoke. The director of tobacco studies at Cancer Research, Professor Robert West, has condoned the ban.

Given my recent predilection for spoof news articles, I just need to clarify - this is not a spoof article.

Before I continue, let me at least state that I think smoking in enclosed areas (i.e. your house) around children is inherently selfish, and worthy of anger, finger pointing, maybe even a little name-calling and (dare I say it) eyebrow-raising. But for crying out loud, what will it be next?

My issue with this proposal is this. Sure, it is commonly accepted that second-hand exposure to smoke has a detrimental effect on health. But they are being bizarrely narrow minded here, in a way that is pretty much barefaced discrimination, and certainly inconsistent. If they are going through with this, they need to be consistent.

In case the council are short of ideas, I'll provide them with a few.

People who eat fast food, ready meals, processed meat, frozen vegetables, bagged salad, juice "from concentrate", sweets, or anything that isn't given a flippin' five star health rating should also be banned from fostering. Clearly these scumbags will adversely affect the health of their children in the long run. Just as second-hand smoke can adversely affect children's health, so will a bad diet. In fact, a bad diet in the home could arguably be worse, as it could set in stone bad dietary habits that could last a lifetime.

What else is linked to cancer? Diet drinks, anti-perspirant, too much sunshine, smoked fish, EastEnders, all sorts. Surely anyone who encourages the use or enjoyment of these should also be banned?

What about people who drink (and would allow foster children to drink) Diet Coke, surely they should be banned, as the children will be more likely to also drink Diet Coke, and therefore be t a higher risk of cancer, or obesity for that matter, which can also lead to heart problems.

What about carpets? They can be terribly unhealthy if they are not cleaned, with a build up of dust, germs and dead skin, and have sometimes been linked (or so I have read) with asthma. So why not ban people from fostering if they have carpets in their home, just to be sure?

I'm just going to indulge in a bit of flippant drivel here. Health is not the only issue. The council shouldn't just be concerned with physical health, but also emotional and mental development. Right?

People who watch EastEnders, Big Brother, Hole In The Wall or any other bottom-of-the-barrel television should also be banned from fostering. Clearly these uncouth philistines should be kept as far away from children as possible. I mean, we can't have any children turning into uncultured, crass little uncivilised brats can we?

People who don't have respectable literary interests should certainly not be allowed to foster youngsters. If their reading material includes celebrity trash, football magazines, or rock star biographies then they should be immediately ruled out. We need to make sure that all fostered children will develop literary skills that the nation is proud of.

I could continue on and on, but seriously now, I'll get back on track. The article says that smoking rights groups have labelled the council "health fascists". I think fascist is too nice, it leaves room for the possibility of the accused embracing their ideology with intelligence or common sense, which this council clearly haven't. If there is one thing this breathtaking display of ineptitude has taught us, it is that Redbridge council are misguided and displaying the brainpower of amoebas.

In fact, the only thing this council have done is commit intellectual suicide and waste taxpayers' money. Oh, and insult the human race. Nearly forgot that one. Why isn't insulting the human race through brainless initiatives seen as a crime against humanity?

What they should really do is produce a thirty-seven page check-list with all sorts of arbitrary, thoughtless, pointless criteria. If any aspiring foster parent fails any one of the criteria they should not be allowed to foster.

Forget cancer and heart disease, they are relatively rare, whereas stunted emotional, intellectual development caused my lax parenting, such as watching a little bit too much TV, or failing to encourage the reading of Charles Dickens is far more widespread.

I mean, what they really need to do is ban anyone who has any failing of any sort, as this could quite possibly affect the fostered child in an adverse way. Makes total sense.

Watch an unbalanced amount of TV? Banned. Eat bagged salad? Banned. Interested in celebrity culture? Banned. Don't look after your teeth properly? Banned. Wear low-cut tops? Banned. Socks with sandals? Banned. Crack open the occasional beer after work? Banned. Dirty nails? Banned. Listen to pop music? Banned. Appreciate Amy Winehouse's music? Banned. Bad dress sense? Banned. Support a crappy football club like Norwich? Banned. Read The Sun? Banned.

Hell, why stop here? We want children to grow up with a passionate care for the environment, so if you don't recycle to an acceptable level, leave your TV on standby instead of turning it off, or waste water by over-filling the kettle, then you should not be allowed to foster children.

You know what really sucks about all this? While all this is going on, London is over two thousand carers short. So as Redbridge council scratch around picking fleas of each others' backs, over two thousand children in need of foster care are sitting around waiting. I don't know what they do while they "wait", but I imagine they would be rather be fostered than wait to be fostered. Or am I being dumb here?

I sincerely hope the council see sense and vote down the proposal. I hope I see human rights groups speaking out this week. I hope the Guardian speaks out in all its liberal glory. If they push through the proposal, it will only be downhill.

Or am I the only one bothered by all this? If so then I'll shut up. But let me finish with a short sketch. Mr and Mrs Jones are finding out if they will be able to foster a child.

"Well, Mr and Mrs Jones. Your test results are back, and you have passed them with flying colours. You are a nice, cultured couple who own a lovely home that would be perfect for fostering one of our children.

You are well-rounded individuals in your tastes, interests and style, striking that perfect balance between enjoying a little bit of television, but not too much, and indulging in cultured reading and cross-wording.

This would nurture the fostered child's intelligence and interests in just the way we like.

You eat the perfect healthy, organic, environment-preserving diet. Meaning the fostered child would develop health dietary habits, and lower their chances of diet-related health problems later on in life.

Nothing in your household is remotely carcinogenic, and your appearance is immaculate. Your clothes are ironed, your hair combed, your temperament is calm and endearing.

Your floors are laminate, dust free and beautifully cleaned. Your home is painted in lovely neutral colours, a perfect gentle environment for children.


I'm afraid to say that we are going to have to turn you down.

Firstly, Mrs Jones, I can see the tiniest bit of skank, what is it?, muesli perhaps?, stuck in your teeth. Lax dental care can lead to fillings, Mrs Jones. If you fail to care for your teeth, then anyone in your care could also enter into similar negligence, resulting in fillings and toothache. We can't tolerate this possibility.

Secondly, Mr Jones, the Thought Police told me that you contemplated a MacDonald's on the way home yesterday. This will not do at all. Merely considering a fast food burger means that we cannot trust you with one of our children. If you indulge, then they may develop an insatiable appetite for fast food, leading to health problems and a lower quality of life.

And finally, Mr Jones, we've been told that you enjoy a quiet solitary cigar every Christmas on the veranda. And that cannot, and will not, be tolerated by myself, or any of my colleagues, or the Thought Police.

Goodbye Mr and Mrs Jones."

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Supermarket Hell

Going to the supermarket is always a mistake. This time I was forced into it. I had to pick up some medicine, and Tesco's pharmacy was the only one open on a Sunday. I never expected it to be a pleasant experience, but my mistake was to expect it to be a manageable trip. I made other mistakes too, like thinking that I would remain calm, rather than stomping around like a furious Larry David.

I make that mistake every single time, somehow convincing myself that it won't be THAT bad. That I will "manage" the trip by drawing on my limitless patience with the human race. I do have limitless patience with the human race - you do know that, right? If I know in advance that the supermarket will be most peoples' idea of Hell on a bad hair day, then I can prepare myself. Right?

That little voice at the back of my consciousness was whispering its usual lies. No-one will be there midday on a Sunday, it said. They'll be home preparing for lunch, it said. It'll be easy to find a parking space, it said. There'll be no queue at the pharmacy, it said. There'll be no kids running round screaming, racing trolleys and knocking old ladies over while their parents do nothing, it said. The "basket only" queue will be under five people long and moving quickly, it said. You'll even enjoy the outing, it said.

I'm going to have to kick that little voice right where it hurts.

If I had known it was Incompetents' Day Out in the car park I would would not have gone. I would have spent hours driving around to find another pharmacy, or even resorted to brewing the drugs myself on our balcony.

There were the usual klutzes driving the wrong way round the car park in order to nab spaces. There were entire extended families capering about on the through ways. There were small yappy dogs scrapping, biting and molesting shoppers. All that was missing from the chaos was a troop of pre-schoolers playing Frère Jacques on tin whistles.

I had been presented with no choice, so I just went to Tesco. But the rest of the universe (and beyond) had chosen to go to Tesco right then. Why? mean seriously, why oh why head down Tesco at lunchtime on a Sunday?

The place was packed with the usual suspects. Grannies spilling change, small children running riot, and (I kid you not) elephantine families wheeling round fleets of overloaded shopping trolleys full of Fanta and biscuits. Not that that is wrong, I hasten to add before a brigade of Guardian readers and Liberal Democrats come beating down my door, lambasting me for thought crimes and for being inconsiderate. But it is funny.

Seriously, those Fanta kids must be so WIRED. You can imagine them coming down the stairs at night, a 2-litre bottle of Fanta in one hand, a packet of biscuits in the other, eyes as wide as Texas, half-crazed on a sugar high. "Mummy, Daddy, I can't sleep and I've got a splitting headache."

Of the one million under-fives present at Tesco, fifty percent were wearing Heelys. In case you've been blessed with blissful ignorance (in which case I envy you), Heelys are those trainers that are equipped with wheels in the heel. Heelys are the worst thing man has ever created. Just when we thought our race had run out of dumb, dangerous and despicable things to event some idiot created the Heely.

To be fair on him or her, it was a genius money-making move. I should have bought shares. However they have a lot to answer for. They deserve to be strapped to a giant Heely and rolled slowly down Oxford Street on Christmas Eve, pelted with tomatoes by the angry masses, to the joyful sound of Frère Jacques played on tin whistles by a troop of pre-schoolers. This the same fate deserved by the 70s city planners. And no, this isn't my soapbox. I've lost my soapbox.

There is nothing worse than a busy supermarket seething with little kids screaming round on Heelys. Actually, an episode of chronic diarrhea in a crowded, broken-down lift would be worse, but I won't dwell on that...

...for long, but there was that time when I was watching daytime TV with my good friend Ray. An advert came on from an anti-constipation drug. A sexy smiling blond was sitting on the arm of a leather sofa, short skirt, high heels and grinning inanely. "The last thing you want on a busy day is to be constipated," she said, smiling ecstatically, crossing and re-crossing her legs (why the advertisers thought that anti-constipation drugs should be sexed-up beats me).

Ray turned to me. "No Jon," he said. "The last thing YOU want on a busy day is to be hit by a sudden bout of explosive chronic diarrhea, while stuck in a crowded lift and surrounded by small yapping dogs and small children blowing tin whistles."

Pause for thought. Did the parents simply say, "What a great idea, why don't you wear your Heelys to the supermarket", or did they get the idea from "How To Turn a Supermarket into a Hellhole in Five Easy Steps"?

Entering the supermarket my expression of weary anticipation was transformed into the sorrowful expression of a child that was expecting socks for Christmas and received a lump of earwax instead. The noise was terrifying. The aural equivalent of having your ear drum cleaned with an electric toothbrush to Slip Knot played backwards through a tinny mobile phone speaker. It was Hell.

As I narrowly avoided death-by-healy for the seventh time I decided the safest route to the pharmacy was through the clothes section. Biggest mistake I ever made. The clothes section was filled with a desultory group of shoppers with trolleys piled high, crashing into each other like a fleet of supertankers stuck in a duck pond. Displaying my limitless patience, and demonstrating our race's incredible capacity for survival, I stumbled my way through to the pharmacy. I heard one supertanker collide with another one behind me.

The queue at the pharmacy was, of course, monstrous. The pharmacy was, of course, manned by a single Trainee. Writhing like a Chinese New Year procession and full of the usual queue-jumpers, the queue was as bad as the one at the Ukrainian embassy. But that's another story. In case you're wondering, the word "queue" in Ukrainian translates roughly to "fight".

In the grand scheme of things, a busy supermarket on a Sunday lunchtime is as close to Hell on earth as you can possibly get.

But the day wasn't all bad. On the way home I saw a car flashed by a speed camera. That made my day. The sucker. As ol' Clint would say (note the politically correct "people" that I've sensitively substituted here), there are two kinds of people in this world. Those that see speed cameras as yet another tax tool, and those that relish them as vengeance on the wicked. I'm a stickler for rules and fall in the latter camp.

A stickler for rules with the exception for Digital Rights Management (DRM). Are you telling me that I can legally purchase music from amazingtunes or itunes and "can't" play them on my Squeezebox or mp3 player? Jeeze. I can and I will.

Dagnammit, I think I've found my soapbox.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Banks Ostracise Smokers and the Obese

With the Labour government gaining significant shareholdings in our major banks, there was always a fear that they would abuse this position, as all serious lefty governments should. However none of us expected them to act so soon, or so swiftly.

In a move that is likely to cause unprecedented controversy, a Banking Reform Bill has been put forward for immediate consideration. It seems that the government is willing to abuse its new influence, attacking what it sees as poor lifestyle choices, and using the banking system as a lever.

Labour MP James James James, author of the bill, spoke to the press about his proposals.

"This government cannot simply do nothing about individuals in this country who continue to make lifestyle choices that we do not approve of. Our sudden position of influence over the nation's banks has given us a remarkable opportunity to attack anti-social and detrimental behaviour, and to pressure individuals into changing their lifestyles.

We intend to force banks to give low savings interest rates, and high mortgage interest rates to anyone who is engaging in anti-social behaviour, embracing lifestyle choices that are detrimental to their health or others' health, or simply embracing arbitrary lifestyle choices that we do not approve of.

Ultimately, we intend to use the banking system to reform individuals. Our focus will initially be to target smokers, the obese, anyone who drives a vehicle of over 30MPG, people who live in a home without double glazing, middle-class couples who share a bottle of wine on a Friday night, owners of small yappy dogs, and any parent who has given their children silly names."

Mr James James James has denied accusations that he has a personal stake in the bill.

As we spoke to various individuals about this bill, it has become clear the public are furious. Sweetshop owner Tony, of "Tony's Tucker", made his opinions very clear.

"This is outrageous. I'm not even clinically obese, yet I face under-inflation savings rates, and massive mortgage interest rates, just for being slightly tubby. Hell, I'm only 13 stone. Statistically, one in four of us in Britain are categorised as obese. What will this mean for us all?"

Award-winning celebrity magazine "Bottom-Of-The-Barrel Celebrity Trash" has also spoken out in this week's issue.

"We're terribly worried about high-profile A-list smokers such as Lindsay Lohan, Amy Winehouse and Simon Cowell. Unless they are extremely shrewed they could lose vast amounts of their savings simply because they smoke. And what would that mean for the X Factor or American Idol? This isn't just an attack on lifestyle, this is an attack on quality television."

Dorothy Tailor, 95, was protesting outside number 10 Downing Street today. Propped up against her zimmer frame, and panting like crazy, she let herself go. "I cannot believe this. I've paid my taxes, fought in the war, and now they will be stealing my savings because I don't have double glazing. It's a council house for goodness sake. They were the ones that built it!"

Phil and Amy, early thirties, a middle-class couple from a middle-class suburb living typical middle-class lives, spoke out in defence of all middle-class couples that share a bottle of wine on a Friday night.

"It's ridiculous", said Phil, "we don't drink during the week, and on a Friday we will go through a bottle of red, but that's over the course of the whole evening, dinner, film, everything. We're entitled to do that, as are all middle-class couples."

"It's not as if we're giraffing around like Amy Winehouse or Pete Doherty", said Amy, a little flustered, "I don't know why they keep targeting us middle-class couples and moaning about this single bottle of wine."

Steve Jones, 75, voiced his concerns over the targeting of car owners. "30 MPG is flipping brilliant, if everyone drove a 30 MPG car we would probably beat Kyoto hands down, and yet they strike 90 percent of the nation in one foul eco-swoop. It's bizarre, why not continue to target the so-called "Chelsea Tractors", 4x4s and the stupid little scooters that chavs drive instead? Do they expect us all to ride bicycles round the M25?"

Former investment banker, Andrew Higgins, gave his views from the perspective of a jobless banker. "I just don't understand why they are doing this now, in this current financial crisis. As if the credit crunch wasn't bad enough. On the other hand, hitting owners of yappy dogs with bad savings rates is a great idea."

The Sensible Politics Alliance expressed its fury in the form of a live television interview. Unfortunately the interviewee had to be restrained and the content of his barrage cannot be published here. We can reveal that the phrases "intellectual suicide" and "incontinent twerp" were used, though not in the same sentence.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Taxi Drivers Are All Crazy

As we got into the taxi the driver was already speaking. "Phil and Babs were down this weekend for the BBQ, we had a lovely time", he said. He had a glint in his eye, as if expecting us to relish that juicy tit-bit of information. "Riiiight", I said in my favourite sarcastic tone, wearing my favourite "feigned interest" expression, and rolling my eyes in a way that would have made Jerry Seinfeld proud.

Phil and Babs, whoever they are, had been down for the BBQ. Apparently they brought their own crate of Carling, and Phil refused to take any money for it, which was remarkably nice and hospitable and much to the delight of our taxi driver.

"Most people just come and take take take", he said, "but Phil is a decent bloke". Without leaving us room to reply, or even to think, he continued with his irrelevant drivel for the entire journey. All we could do was grit our teeth and hope that we survived.

There is the other extreme, the type of silent, cold, emotionless taxi driver that scares the hell out of you. The type that makes you speculate that he is a serial killer in his day job. We got a taxi home from a wedding recently and the driver was one of these. The whole journey was an awkward silence. He was clearly not in the mood for talking, so we kept quiet. Every couple of minutes he would make a rhetorical comment, always in a cold emotionless voice. "Lovely day", he would say, before disappearing back into the void.

I experienced another taxi driver that was completely silent for the journey, with the exception of a few seconds during a song played on the radio. It was that terrible song Beautiful Girl by Sean Kingston with the refrain "suicidal, suicidal". This chap hadn't uttered a word, and then when the chorus played he sang along "suicidal, suicidal", before shutting up for the rest of the journey.

And then there was the door slamming incident. After getting into a taxi's passenger seat and shutting the door, the driver got out the car in a huff. He stormed round, opened my door and then slammed it shut. When I got out at my destination I made sure to slam the door shut. I certainly didn't want a repeat of the earlier incident.

"Oi!", he exclaimed, cursing violently, "Don't slam my door."

Crazy I tell you, they're all crazy.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

The Gov' : Ali-G eat your heart out

I spent a moment deliberating whether to go for lager or beer. The pub was warm and cosy, and after a hard day I needed the comfort of an ale. I ordered a pint of Old Speckled Hen. I found myself a table, and settled down to watch the football.

As my beer settled, I watched it lovingly with anticipation. Then I took my first sip. My gosh. The beer was off. It tasted rancid, bitter like vinegar and very, very off. I took it back to the bar, which was a pretty bold move for someone who spends most of his waking hours tiptoeing around trying not to upset anyone.

"I don't like to cause a fuss", I said apologetically, "but this beer is off."

The barman took a sip, and without the slightest inkling of a flinch said "That's Hen alright. It's not Stella y'know."

I did know. I was torn between employing sarcasm or smugness. Sarcasm is, as we all know, the highest form of wit and the language of royalty. Smugness, on the other hand, is incredibly satisfying, especially when it successfully portrays an attitude of "I don't care one bit you idiot". I opted for some light sarcasm.

"Isn't it?", I asked, eyebrows raised to the ceiling.

"If you're not happy with it, take it to the Gov'", he said, pointing across the room. Reclining at a table in the corner, surrounded by women, was the Gov', resplendent in all his glory. The Gov' was a giant of a man, clad in a huge white tracksuit, and wearing more bling than Ali-G on a Saturday night. He reminded me of a cross between Henry VIII and Ali-G.

As I embarked on the long, lonely journey across the room I was conscious of being watched. Conversations were put on hold, heads were turned, and the jukebox stopped playing (or did I imagine that?).

"You alright?", the Gov' asked.

"My beer's off", I said, "the barman told me to bring it to you if I wasn't happy with it."

The Gov' smiled, reached for my pint and took a huge gulp. What followed was priceless. His formally smiling face was contorted beyond recognition. The Gov' slowly cricked his neck to one side, just like the policeman in Dumb & Dumber after drinking pee from a beer bottle.

"I'll go get the barrel changed for you", he said, lifting his huge frame off the chair. I went back to the bar. "I'll have a Stella instead."

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Best-before and Use-by Dates scrapped in favour of more comprehensive system

For years there have been rumours of a revision of the food expiry dating system, but now it is finally happening. Experts have long complained that dating concepts such as sell-by, use-by and best-before are useless.

Dr Henry Geoffreys, of the respected Institute for Politically Incorrect Culinary Studies, spoke to our correspondent.

"It is about time the dating system was revised. Everyone knows that some people chuck food out when the best-before date is reached, others chuck it out when they think it smells bad, and some people from, um, lower income backgrounds, eat it until it really really smells bad. And some people eat it when, um, it has already been thrown out and buried at the bottom of the bin for a few days.

We've devised a comprehensive indexing system so that the, um, different 'groups' of people can know exactly when the food has 'expired', in their own terms of course."

The liberal press were initially furious, but have been appeased by their own inclusion on the new indexing system.

The new system is simple. The old best-before and use-by dates are still included - as anchor points if you like - but these are padded out with a full range of dates for categories or groups of people, celebrities, politicians and occupations. The dates printed here are arbitrary, for illustrative purposes only.

Russian Oligarch : 01/01/2009
Banker (pre credit crunch) : 05/01/2009
The Beckhams : 08/01/2009
High-income Family : 10/01/2009
Premiership Footballer : 11/01/2009
Tory MP : 12/01/2009

Best-before : 13/01/2009

Middle-income Family : 14/01/2009
Working Professional : 15/01/2009
Labour MP : 16/01/2009

Use-by : 17/01/2009

University Student : 19/01/2009
Liberal Democrat : 20/01/2009
Lower-income Family : 21/01/2009
Freelance Journalist/AC Content Producer : 22/01/2009
Banker (post credit crunch) : 23/01/2009
Liberal Journalist/George Monbiot/Polly Toynbee : 25/01/2009
Bohemian : 29/01/2009
Amy Winehouse/Pete Doherty : 05/02/2009
Scavenger : 28/02/2009

With the index itself agreed on, all that remains is to figure out to fit the damn thing on anything smaller than a can of beans.

Monday, 13 October 2008

The Granny Disruption Conspiracy : An Exposé

As news stories break out covering the so-called "Granny Disruption Conspiracy", we bring you the first exclusive on this dark, dingy and dangerous organisation of pensioners. This sinister organisation has been causing public disruption in banks, post offices and supermarkets at an increasing rate.

Scotland Yard have been closing in on the organisation, known internally as the GDC, for the last two years. The net finally closed with yesterday's sting operation, catching the conspirators off-guard in a derelict warehouse in Wimbledon. A leaked report reveals that among the captured equipment were GPS devices, jamming equipment and two B-2 stealth bombers.

The GDC was started in 1967 by the Pilchard sisters, Dot and Maude. While they passed away many years ago, these gifted old ladies wrote much of the GDC's literature, which was released into the public domain just a few hours ago. The following exerts shed some light on their motivation.

"The idea for the GDC was born during a scrabble game in the Littlehampton Scrabble Club. Frankly, we were bored. Bored of scrabble, bored of sitting around all day watching television, bored of tea and cake. Ignored by the public, abandoned by our children, and fed up of seeing daytime television deteriorate before our very eyes."

"Disgruntled with life in every way, we believed that it was our human right to claim back recognition, even by illegal means. All we wanted was love, conversation, respect and recognition. And we couldn't believe the BBC license fee had just gone up again while the quality of daytime shows had grown even more dismal."

"Over that influential scrabble game our plan was hatched. A conspiracy on a national scale. We would disrupt the younger generations with stealth, cunning and wickedness, interspersed with games of scrabble and, of course, lots of tea and cake."

With its "sinister and secret" ambitions, the GDC mimicked the Freemasons in various ways. They introduced a secret handshake, which had all sorts of convolutions to cater for walking sticks, zimmer frames and electric buggies.

The GDC based its hierarchy on the Freemason's thirty-three degree (or level) system, with Dot and Maude initially at the top. Between each degree was an initiation ceremony in the form of a scrabble game, with the member in question having to achieve a minimum of N triple-word-scores, where N increased from degree to degree.

One area that the GDC chose to differ from the Freemasons is regarding the religious aspects, as the Pichard sisters explain in their paper "The Founding of the GDC".

"We have chosen to omit all the bizarre religious aspects of the Freemasons. This is because most of us are nice, prim old ladies who are Church Of England, organise church fetes and vote Conservative. We've had to stick with the God of the Bible I'm afraid."

Since the GDC has been exposed Robin Stevenson, PR Officer for the United Grand Lodge of England, has denied all knowledge of, or involvement with, the GDC.

"The Freemasons vehemently deny any knowledge of, or involvement with, the GDC.", he stated.

Off the record, he expressed admiration for how they had developed the handshake, especially regarding zimmer frames. "It just goes to show what a bright bunch of old ladies they are!", he exclaimed.

The GDC has grown in size astronomically over the past ten years, and now has approximately two million members in the UK alone. With the organisation exposed, members have been willingly speaking to the press.

"I'm just glad it is all over", said Anne Goddard, 85, from Milton Keynes. "They kept us so busy, you know, a compulsory game of scrabble three times a day just keep our minds sharp."

We were curious as to why so many pensioners had joined the organisation. Polly Pike, 90, from Windermere, explained why she joined. "I had been thinking about it for a while, a lot of my friends from the scrabble club had joined, as well as from my knitting group and bowling club too. The peer pressure was enormous. But it was the BBC license fee that did it. When it passed the hundred pound mark I joined straight away."

Thirtieth-degree GDC member Jane Sidcombe, 97, explained the principal modes of operation.

"The organisation has always kept its targets simple. We've always focused on banks, post offices and supermarkets. The aim has always been to disrupt the general public at the most inconvenient moments - inconvenient for the public of course - we have all the time in the world!

Just like the Freemasons, we have lodges in cities, towns, and even in some villages. Each lodge is responsible for causing disruption in its own jurisdiction. This is achieved primarily by identifying a hot spot, usually a bank, post office or supermarket, and dispatching an elite troop of pensioners at the most disrupting time.

To dispatch a troop of pensioners swiftly and efficiently, the organisation has increasingly depended on military vehicles and equipment."

Former GDC treasurer Gertrude Jones, 103, explained where the funding comes from.

"The organisation has obtained funds both legally and illegally. We have legitimate fronts in Bingo, Knitting Groups, Scrabble and Bowling clubs. With over two million members in the UK, all playing Bingo three times a week, you can imagine we generate quite a significant income. When funds have been short, we have also embezzled pension funds, which are not proud about, seeing as all of our members are pensioners themselves, but this has been unavoidable.

Our final source of funds is Al-Qaeda, who see our disruptive actions as key to bringing down The West. This has not been without controversy. The majority of our members are nice, prim, Church-Of-England-going, church-fete-participating types, who did not want to be associated with Islam."

We spoke to the Chief of Operations, General Betty Davies, 78, to get a better idea of some typical operations.

"I'll explain how a typical operation unfolds.", said General Davies, as she sipped her tea from a china cup.

"The operating lodge will identify, say, a high street bank. Identification can be at random, or it can be strategic, if we are focusing on bringing prolonged disruption to the town, for example. If the latter, we may hit a post office on the Monday, and then a bank on the Tuesday, and so on.

An elite troop of pensioners is then dispatched. This can be any number between five and fifty. Our communications and surveillance team have tapped in to the national CCTV network, so are able to judge the best sized attack squad.

We quickly found that due to our general lack of mobility - our average age is 84 - the only way to swiftly deploy attack squads was using stealth bombers and mini-buses.

Even with our vast income from Bingo, we were only able to purchase two B-2 stealth bombers, so most of the time we just use mini-buses."

"You're kidding me, right?", our correspondent exclaimed. "A stealth mini-bus will pull up outside a bank, and offload a troop of pensioners, and shoot off again, without being noticed?"

General Davies smiled. "That is exactly what happens. Our troops are trained to disrupt using a variety of techniques. Some pretend to be lost. Some deliberately drop change everywhere. Some simply pad out queues."

And as if to prove the legitimacy of her claims, Betty asked some loaded questions.

"Ever wonder why every time you go to the bank in your lunch break it is completely full of pensioners? Or what about those times the post office is so insanely busy you wondered if there was a conspiracy? You probably wondered why they all chose to go to the post office at lunch time. To deliberately disrupt commuters on their lunch break? Now you know."

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Halloween Costume Ideas For Unenthusiastic Brits

I'll start off by being blunt. I don't like Halloween, it irritates me. It always has. For starters, the little trick-or-treaters always arrive at JUST the wrong time. That time of day when I'm just in from work, grumpy, sweaty, hungry, and just about ready to crack open a beer (or two). Or a lager (or two) if it is summer. Or one of my favourite German Weissbiers (or two), if I'm feeling particularly needy.

I guess the little whippersnappers have come home from school, been fed and dressed up, and then been sent out. I, on the other hand, am just about ready to wind down from a stressful day of failing to beat stupid deadlines. I've usually spent my lunch break fighting off charity collectors (just like in Airplane), and my commute despairing as eccentrics and protocol violators get my goat.

When I get home all I want is to crack open my brewski, whip out my guitar, and spend a happy 30 minutes playing some blues. The LAST thing I want is to repeatedly answer the door to these little monsters.

But hey, this is the same guy that can't stand Guy Fawkes' Night because fireworks distract him from his reading. I HATE fireworks with nearly as much passion as I hate pith, instant coffee (i.e. not freshly ground, carefully prepared, brewed by cafetiere for exactly four minutes), "chafage" and liberal newspapers.

But given the fact that most of my readers are American, and Americans LOVE Halloween more than Christmas and Thanksgiving and Yogurt (or am I wrong about that one?), I've decided to bury the hatchet and draw up a shortlist of Halloween costumes that I would consider wearing. Not being a particularly objective individual, I've focused on characters, things or concepts that scare me or "freak me out", rather than picking a more traditional costume such as a witch, skeleton or ghost.

I'd advice Americans to stop reading now, they just won't get this, especially as I'm feeling mindlessly flippant.

Ha, just kidding. Here's my shortlist, split into logical groups.

Scary Individuals

Let's face it, you wouldn't want any of these individuals turning up at your door.

1) George Bush, grinning like a monkey
2) Margaret Thatcher (let's face it, she was, and is, very scary)
3) OJ Simpson
4) George Michael
5) Michael Jackson
6) Amy Winehouse and Pete Doherty (both filthy and inebriated of course)
7) Any Liberal Democrat or Labour MP

Scary Concepts (relevent to the times)

I haven't quite figured out how to dress up as any these. I rang round the local costume shops and they were not at all helpful. In fact, it was a completely futile exercise.

1) Global Warming.
2) The Credit Crunch.
3) Interest Rates.

Freaky Things

1) A man with a mahooosive bull's head, sort of witchdoctor-like, those guys have always freaked me out.
2) A pile of meconium. Or just a pooped nappy (proper "newborn korma").
3) An umbilical cord. These things are pretty dang scary.
4) The inside of a melon with all the pips. Is it just me that has always been freaked out by these things?
5) An old man in tiny shorts and an open shirt.
6) A spider with one of those disgusting egg sacks.
7) Mouldy yogurt.

That's my shortlist. I'll let my readers decide which I should go for. What do you reckon?

Dear TKMaxx, I have some ideas for more jackets with concealed weapons

Dear TKMaxx,

Following the recent success of your jacket with a concealed 2.5" knife I have some more ideas for you. I understand you have now withdrawn the jacket from the shelves, claiming you had no idea that the jacket had a knife, but, let's face it, we all know this was an marketing ploy. And an excellent one at that. You must have some pretty damn smart guys in your marketing department.

Seriously, what a great way to overcome the effects of the credit crisis. I'll bet you'll look back in a year's time with a nice, warm, cosy feeling in your stomach. I'm talking about your collective retail stomach of course.

But look, no hard feelings, it's not as if our country is struggling with a knife crime epidemic. In actual fact, I have a few excellent ideas for more jackets, which I am happy for you to use free of charge.

1. The grenade belt jacket, containing an inner belt loaded with live grenades. I'm not sure what effect would be on your buildings insurance, so I'd advice just stocking the shelves and then claiming ignorance.

2. The samurai sword jacket, with a full scale samurai sword sheathed down the back. This is an exciting prospect because it is illegal to carry a blade of that length in this country. Just think of the publicity. Oh, and as an afterthought, you could advertise the jacket as a "posture" jacket, as the steel blade down the back would force a correct sitting and walking posture.

3. The fighter squadron jacket, with a miniature yet fully-functional fighter squadron concealed within. Instead of a 2.5" knife on a string, you would have a miniature communications centre.

4. The mustard gas jacket, which comes equipped with mustard gas canisters and a mask to protect the wearer.

I could go on, but I'm sure you can take some inspiration from these ideas and come up with your own. But as a final thought, what about dropping the whole "concealed weapon" concept, and just providing an assorted collection of military jackets.

I'll leave you with one final idea. How about an aircraft carrier jacket? This jacket would have a complete aircraft carrier on its back, allowing the wearer to quickly deploy the carrier into any body of water - canals, duck ponds, swimming pools, an enemy's bath, you name it. This would naturally be a miniature, as carrying an 11000 ton, 622 foot behemoth on your back would be infeasible. But hey, your smart guys in marketing can probably figure that one out.

Anyway, I hope these ideas are helpful. Keep up the good work.


Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Nipple Cream Sales Soar : Some Blame The Credit Crunch

Nipple cream has always been a niche product, with an unsurprising clientele of breast-feeding mothers. What most people don't know is that for years nipple cream has been used by professional rowers because, basically, it is the best stuff out there. It is also notoriously expensive, often costing ten pounds or more for a 30ml tube.

In recent months nipple cream sales have surged. There are various theories as to why this is. Some have speculated that the credit crunch has spurred the increase in sales, with punters seeing nipple cream as a safe investment.

Tom, former investment banker, explained that "Nipple cream is the new gold. There isn't much of it about, it has a high value, and the best thing of all is that it moisturises and softens your nipples, which in my opinion makes it better than gold. It is also easier to carry around than bullion. It comes in such great little tubes."

The venerable Doctor James Nip, head of Sociology at Mammilla University, has another theory, believing that it is metrosexual men who are driving the trend. The liberal press has thoroughly welcomed his research, with one acclaimed columnist writing "We've always believed that everyone has the right to soft, moist, nipples. The deliberate targeting of breast-feeding mothers is exactly the type of disgusting discrimination that we are trying to stamp out."

Astonishingly, part of the increase in sales is attributed to the pet shop world. Pet shop owner Harvey Jones gave us some surprising information. "In the pet world nipple cream has become a force to be reckoned with. We use it on Guinea Pigs' nipples, which is a more traditional use I guess. Contrary to popular belief, Guinea Pigs actually have very sensitive nipples, and when you have 6 babies suckling constantly there is a lot of wear 'n' tear on them. If anyone needs nipple cream it is Guinea Pigs.

We also use it on Parakeets' beaks to prevent dryness, and I've recently started massaging the stuff into the scalps of my hamsters - it prevents the dandruff that hamsters typically suffer from. We give all our hamsters a nipple cream head massage three times a day."

"Isn't this extremely costly?", our correspondent asked, noticing that the price of a baby hamster had risen from three quid to a full one hundred pounds. "I do it because they're worth it.", Harvey replied.

Since TKMax brought out their jacket with a concealed knife, some of the people we interviewed are hoping they will bring out a jacket with a concealed nipple cream dispenser. And this hope is not limited to breast-feeding mothers either. Kev from Essex is also after such a jacket.

"Me and my mates are all after that jacket. Nipple cream is not just for girls, we also like our nipples to be moist and soft. And why shouldnt we. What are you looking at bruv?"

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

The Mother Of All Mad Mother-In-Law Monologues

The lady in the bed next door was being visited by her mother-in-law. As our baby slept, and my wife attempted to sleep, this woman talked and talked. She nearly drove me mad. Sanity was preserved by cheekily taking some notes, and dreaming of the pint of Guinness that I would drink later.

(I'm not really a Guinness drinker, but I've been craving the stuff. With wife and baby recuperating in hospital I've been fending for myself. Being a health-conscious type, I've been gorging on burgers and muffins. The lack of greens has taken its toll, with the deficiencies driving a craving for stout.)

The last two evenings she has been there, roughly from six till nine. On both occasions the three hours consisted of a single monologue. And when I say monologue, I don't simply mean "extended, uninterrupted speech", as Wikipedia puts it. I mean extended, uninterrupted speech, contained within a single sentence. I say that because she didn't pause or, as far as I could tell, take a single breath.

I doubt any of the great orators would have come close to speaking that long without pause. Cicero? Nope. Churchill? Nope. I would be surprised if these relentless floods of unfinished sentences are ever matched.

What follows is a snippet of one of these monologues. It is more or less unadulterated, but then again, she spoke so fast it was hard to keep up.

" Helen is visiting from Cincinnati in November, but then again she's got this thing about flying, which is ridiculous, so I don't know what she's going to do...of course, Erik spent his life looking as though butter wouldn't melt...Alexander's mother was much tinier, and mind you, castor oil didn't work...blah blah blah...if you think about it, the baby pops out and suddenly there is all this brightness and it is, like, "where am I?", and I didn't bring it did I?, the photo of Andrew, he went for a ride in a helicopter...and babies go to sleep in one place, and wake up in another, how do they cope?... you see, when Andrew would fall he never put his hands out, of course he broke his wrist at school, and the other kids all loved him, always joking and fooling around and, of course, the after-school clubs wouldn't take him...but shall I unwrap the present?...British Homestores, so you can always exchange if you don't like them, they do such great little boys' clothes don't they?, when his father was a baby you couldn't get nice boys' shoes...and I had such problems, dry skin...and I've put my new CD holder up, that new Andrew Lloyd Webber collection is marvelous you know...Ralph's mother is all skin and bone, I'm sure she is anorexic...I don't understand what is going on in Winchester, what with the shop in the High Street but the warehouse down in Devon, it's ludicrous...Tamzin breast-fed of course...and he kept peeling back the dressing, right to the bone, I tried to cut back his nails when we came to England, and during all this Mike was creosoting the fence..."

The poor daughter-in-law didn't get a word in edgeways. Just before the mother-in-law left I heard her speaking to the baby. "We'll come and see you again tomorrow, and then we'll visit you at your house on Friday." My heart went out to the young mother and her baby. I hope their sanity survives.
As I have quite a few new readers since I became a "Jelly Biter" I've put this up here again. To understand the context you must read this post!