Monday, 21 December 2009
Monday, 14 December 2009
Monday, 7 December 2009
Monday, 30 November 2009
Tuesday, 24 November 2009
Monday, 16 November 2009
How to steal an old man's glasses (don't try this at home or you could end up with a squirrel in yoru cider)
The old man sat on the top desk of the bus. He was staring straight ahead, a pair of thick-lensed black-rimmed glasses clung to his face. For the record I don't condone the stealing of old men's glasses. Seriously, why go through all that effort when they are unlikely to fetch you anything on eBay? Besides, old men cause enough trouble in the world when they can see clearly. The last thing any of us need is millions of pensioners stumbling around without their glasses. The world would descend rapidly into bedlam. Pensioners would be seen dragging squirrels about on leads, stuffing cats into letterboxes and waiting outside the pub on Thursday mornings while moaning that the "post office" isn't open. Come to think about it, stuffing some cats into Rubbish's letter box would be pretty damn funny. Or putting a squirrel in his cider.
Take the following situation. In our new street rubbish collection takes place on a Friday. During the week our bins stay in the garden to the rear of the house. The garden is surrounded by a high two-metre fence and accessible either from our back door or from the garden gate, which is also two-metres high and double-locked from the inside. One of the locks is half-way down the gate, i.e. only reachable if you are one of those astronomically tall men from China that occasionally make the news and use their long arms to reach down the throats of dolphins. Last Friday morning my wife asked me to take the bins out. I went into the garden and to my surprise the bins were not there. I went round to the front and there they were, sitting smugly on the pavement, chatting amongst themselves no doubt. The only plausible explanation is that at the crack of dawn an elderly neighbour had broken in and dragged them out front.
Now there are two possibilities here. Either this (uncharacteristically athletic) pensioner vaulted the two-metre fence or they managed to unlock the garden gate using a fishhook on a piece of string. Can you imagine the mayhem if this pensioner was without their glasses? I'd probably be woken at 5am as I am dragged outside with a fishhook through my nose. (This Friday I'm going to get up crazily early and find out how they get in). But anyway...
Danny pressed the buzzer, got up from his seat and started to walk up the aisle. It was cold and wet outside, the bus was packed. He moved slowly, his steps small and determined, carefully keeping his balance as the bus lurched about in a deliberate attempt to send him into the lap of an unsuspecting granny. With each step he grasped the handrails on back of the seats each side of him, he would not be defeated and no grannies would be squashed. Nothing could have prepared him for what happened next.
The middle finger of his right hand hooked under the bridge of an old man's glasses. In a single movement he gracefully lifted the glasses off the old man's face and launched them into the air. They sailed over the next five seats, all of which were occupied, their path a beautiful parabolic spectacle (haha, two weeks absent and my wit is still as sharp as a blunt razor). They cleared the passengers and clattered down the stairwell. The speed and trajectory - unimaginably perfect in every way - would have made the Roman army's lead trebuchet operative sick with jealousy.
The old man whipped his hands up to his eyes. "Someone's stolen my glasses," he howled. One moment he had been quietly looking forward to Coronation Street, the next moment his glasses had been whipped from his face.
Funniest moment of his life, Danny tells me. I may have to try this next time I'm on a bus. With a bit of luck I could make a few quid on eBay.
Monday, 2 November 2009
Fantasy revealed after five years of marriage (and why I'm MIA just in case you have been missing me)
Monday, 26 October 2009
Sitting beside me was a famous wine columnist. I won't name-drop, but only because I cannot remember her name. You would expect that we were having an intelligent, cultured and mind-numbingly boring conversation about wine, journalism and Chateau Magdelaine. Truth is we were distracted by the Jacob's Creek boys to our right.
One thin, the other fat, proportionally identical to Laurel and Hardy, two strangers who had met at the station. They each had a bottle of wine, in front of them an array of discarded Fosters cans. Hardy seemed a pleasant chap, sitting there quietly, quiet and sleepy. Laurel was wired and extremely rowdy, one of those types who, when inebriated, will badger anyone and everyone around them in a relentless attempt to be the most irritating donkey on the planet. He looked very similar to the freaky guy in Something About Mary, the one with hives.
With Hardy falling asleep, Laurel turned to the seat behind him where a spectacled gentleman was sleeping peacefully. He shook the gentleman and woke him up, "where are you going?" he asked. "York? I get off after that," he said and then in delicious irony, "don't worry, if you're still asleep when we get to York I'll wake you up."
"I get this train every few weeks," I heard him say, "drink my arse off every time." Could have fooled me. A lady came by selling tickets. "This whole service is great and you, my dear, are a darling." A passenger squeezed past on their way to the toilet. "He just wanted to rub past you," said Laurel, "the perv," before waxing philosophical in drunken optimism.
"The worst things in life are train fares. The best things in life are everything else." To be fair, there is a lot of truth in that statement, although it is incorrect. The worst things in life are public toilets.
As the ticket ladies moved up the carriage he turned back to Spectacles behind him, waking him rudely. "What do you do for a living?" he asked, before launching into a monologue. Did I say monologue? Soliloquy would be more accurate. Laurel spoke at great length, uninterrupted except for when he interrupted himself, speaking vaguely in Spectacles' direction, but certainly not to him. Spectacles sat there nodding gently, the colour draining from his face. My companion turned to me, "he needs nothing more than a good slap," she said. So I got up and...
Laurel's language got progressively worse (for which I apologise) as he ranted against bankers, doctors and pretty much anyone who earned more than him, "so far up their fucking arseholes," he raved. It wouldn't have been a good time for my companion to let on that she spends her time travelling across Europe, visiting the odd château and drinking expensive wine.
We arrived at York and Spectacles escaped with an exhausted expression draped over his face. The poor chap looked like a man whose soul had slowly been sucked out through a straw. "Listen mate, " said Laurel, placing his hand on the poor chap's shoulder, "Ah fuckin' hope all goes well for ya fella." If Spectacles hoped for anything it was that Laurel slipped on the kitchen floor when he got home and died in a freak teaspoon incident.
And that's when he suggested playing kiss chase. I thought for a moment that Laurel could in actual fact be Rubbish, but then remembered that Rubbish only drinks apple juice. From miniature kiddie cartons I suspect.
"Why don't we have a game of kiss chase? There are plenty of girls around," he said, bubbling with enthusiasm. He winked at a blond further up the carriage. "She's alright," he said, "and her, and her, but that one's asleep so she can't play," and as if to explain the sleeping beauty's exclusion from the game, "it wouldn't be fair" he said kindly.
Monday, 19 October 2009
Casanova needed to find out the hard way when he got home and admired his flabby physique in front of the mirror
An ageing swinger, 60s I'd guess, dressed like only an ageing swinger would. Dressed like no ageing swinger should. Casanova, to give him a name, was notably overweight. A blue frilly shirt was taut over his tub and tucked into smart tight jeans with a huge-buckled belt. The buckle sat there silently in iridescent glory, glinting wickedly, aggressively pursuing world domination. I feared for my life. Suede jacket and oh-so-pointy brown leather shoes completed the look.
Lingering, lounging, languishing I mean, he scoured the carriage, scoping I suspect, eyeing up potential conquests, a man who thought he was eternally young. I noticed he was flying low, low and wide I might add, his flies a redoubtable gaping hole. Did I indicate this to him?
Don't be silly, of course I didn't.
Monday, 12 October 2009
...all alone on the upper deck. Outside it was raining heavily, the bus was damp and bitterly cold. Did I say damp? I mean it was wet, very wet. Puddles formed and vanished with the motion of the bus. Drips on my head, drips on my book. I could barely make out the world outside. The windows were misty with droplets running down. Buildings loomed with dark, eerie windows. Eerie, the whole thing was eerie. It was a bit like a scene from a zombie movie but with a noticeable absence of any zombies.
Had I seen him before? Nope. Did he look dodgy? A bit. Was I doing anything other than minding my own business? Not at all. Yet here we were in torrential rain, facing each other like a couple of cowboys. I wasn't scared or even feeling uneasy. I just walked towards him while looking him in the eye. Such a surreal moment in comparison to the lonely and peaceful setting just moments ago...
...where I pumped out the tunes through my mammoth headphones, I had the whole top deck to myself and it was lovely. Sure it was wet, cold, miserable, damn miserable, miserable as the little sodden leaf that clung to the window beside me, but the solitude was strangely refreshing. Lights outside flickered through the droplets on the window. Brake lights, traffic lights, street lights, police lights. Watching them made me dream, thoughts that no one could understand. Hooded and tightly wrapped in my coat I felt comforted. Nothing compares to the comfort of a good coat. (Apart from perhaps a good clean poo).
I stepped off the bus and headed home. I love listening to music while walking in the rain. In the distance I could make out the shape of a man. He walked slowly so I gained on him quickly. He was lugging a huge shoulder bag, wearing a baseball cap and one of those bomber jackets that were slightly cool fifteen years ago. I was five metres behind him when he swung round.
It was the bizarrest thing that has ever happened to me. He was standing the other side of a massive puddle. That's when he grinned, snarled, grimaced or whatever. I knew exactly what he was going to do. The bastard. He, a total stranger, was going to drench me from a puddle using the schoolboy method, i.e. cause an airborne tsunami with a slow, swinging kick through the puddle.
He pulled his leg back slowly as if he was teasing. I picked up the pace and charged morosely at him. I was too wet to care and besides, any retaliation would require puddle-side positioning. He got the timing all wrong and soaked himself. The idiot. As I closed in on the puddle he scampered away into the night.
It's like I've always said. You can never trust anyone in a bomber jacket.
P.S. Libby if you stop by again - you missed an absolute riot at Kings Cross on Friday and I even had to confront a total prat on the way home...
Monday, 5 October 2009
He gently relieved himself of his plastic bags, carefully arranging them along the aisle. He rummaged through them, we sighed collectively, a bitter and despairing sigh. Even the chubby kid looked up angrily from his maths homework. The bus route had already been wrecked by the spectacular incompetence of a leading gas supplier. At every stop dizzy college girls delay us as they fumble for the change that they failed to get ready WHILE THEY WERE WAITING. Imbecilic drivers do their best to ruin our day. I don't let these things get to me. And now this? I'd have more fun being pooped on by a flock of deranged pigeons. Guess I picked the wrong day to give up sarcasm.
Stooping, drooping, his shaking hands fumbling, he searched for something as we looked on in horror. The bus was now five minutes late and it had not even started the journey. For several minutes he rummaged, (chubby kid went back to his maths) eventually pulling out a leather-bound book. He slowly unwound the binding cord. Round and round, round and round, a bit like the wheels on the bus, apart from the fact we WERE STILL STATIONARY. Good job I've been working on managing my anger. My patience is legendary. He flicked slowly through the book, finally removing his bus pass.
"Sorry love," said the bus driver, "you can't use that pass before 9."
What followed was the most painful exit I have ever seen. Rummaging, fumbling, dithering, mumbling. He slowly gathered his bags, chatting to the bus driver all the while. He chatted about this, about that, discussed that one and the other one. "About what?" you ask. I have no idea. The bus driver begged him to get off. We were running late, she pointed out. He commented on the weather, mumbled about the other one again, and something else, and this and that. The infernal wagging of his beard infuriated all of us (apart from the chubby kid apparently).
After much coaxing he stepped off the bus, bags and all. We emitted a collective sigh of relief, there was still a possibility of not being too late. Of course if the gas supplier and college girls had their way we would still grow old on the bus. He turned and stepped back inside. We shuddered collectively, anticipating a vicious loop of death whereby we all died trapped in the bus as this old codger shuffled on and off for eternity (watched by a deranged flock of pigeons no doubt).
"Cheerio," he said merrily, gave the bus driver a wave and shuffled away.
Monday, 28 September 2009
By "Polish" I mean definitely Eastern European and probably Polish (alternative title: Blathering on about the mundane)
I lasted in there for no more than ten seconds, fifteen at most. Uncomfortably feminine, cheap and tacky, it felt entirely dubious. There were two hairdressers, both in action. One a humongous mama, the other a depressive maniac. Or so it seemed. The mama terrified me and let's face it, would you really submit yourself to a depressive armed to the teeth with scissors and clippers?
To be fair, her long, miserable face was nothing compared to that of a mosquito I saw the other night. The poor bugger was splatted on the tiles above a urinal. Talk about depression, could there be a more depressing fate than that? The little bloodsucker had been lurking in the Marquis waiting for the perfect inebriated target. He spotted an ideally stinky rogue, followed him into the gents, found himself in a dimly-lit under-ventilated wee-splattered hell-hole and was promptly swatted against the porcelain. A lowly death and one to be depressed about.
Supercuts yeah right, I took to my heels and scurried down the street. A few shops further on a ginger painter was lounging about taking a fag break. "Are there any barbers round here?" I asked. He took a long drag, lost in thought for a few seconds. "Couple down East Street," he said, "nothing special," he added, "should cost you a tenner."
"What a nice chap" I thought, my opinions of the human race lifted a notch. I wandered down East Street and sure enough there they were, practically side by side. The first looked preferable with a blue steel style, slick and classy. In truth it was a bit too slick and classy and in reality not classy at all. A Polish girl stood outside smoking. By "Polish" I mean definitely Eastern European and probably Polish. Tattooed to the hilt, long nails, very alternative, slightly off-putting. I entered anyway, never expecting she would be the one to cut my hair.
Snipping and clipping she chewed gum noisily, producing a nauseating cigarette-Spearmint stench. As always I had to take off my glasses meaning I couldn't see a thing. Why didn't I wear contact lenses? she asked. I used to, I explained, but my eyes decided they had had enough. She was worried about being allergic to contact lenses, she had all sorts of allergies, she could only wear silver or gold jewellery. I didn't know what to say, did she mean as opposed to plastic or copper?
It was a riveting conversation, simply riveting. The above passage was carefully formed to illustrate what a skilled conversationalist I am.
A bloke in a black vest wandered in, a total gimp if you ask me. Not Polish (nor Eastern European), just a plain old English yob. He was trying to sell aftershave. Counterfeit aftershave most likely. The Polish owner sent him packing, the vested gimp caused a bit of a fuss. By "Polish" of course I mean definitely Eastern European and probably Polish. By "fuss" I mean he cursed like a miner and spat like a Chav.
I strolled home infinitely pleased. Pleased with the haircut, pleased it only cost a tenner, pleased I hadn't gone to Supercuts. Passing the Marquis I thought of the poor mosquito. An old man stumbled on a paving slab, turned round and glared at it menacingly. If a trip to the barber is this much fun I'll have to go more often.
Monday, 21 September 2009
To celebrate our daughter's first birthday we treated her to a "petting" farm visit. Aside from the usual collection of sheep, hens, cows, disappointed-looking horses and melancholic donkeys, twice a day the farm runs a piglet race.
The race was set in a field where two winding fences formed the racetrack. A simple track with nothing even remotely close to a chicane, but I decided to let them off. The crowd was heaving, the excitement immeasurable. I myself was sceptical, expecting nothing more than a desultory pack of small pigs to amble round the track, skirmish occasionally and perhaps snort a little.
The piglets were held in a small wooden shed at the start of the track. We could hear them squealing, but there seemed to be a delay in starting the race. The crowd quietened, a tad impatient I think. Suddenly a horrific screeching sound echoed across the venue. A female donkey galloped past in the neighbouring field, screeching wildly as she was chased by a male. He cornered her, mounted her, and the two of them staggered about like a gruesome two-headed donkey goblin from hell. The crowd moved away from the racetrack to watch. "Are they playing?" I heard one small boy ask his father.
The farm staff sprang into action. You could sense their frustration, all the effort they go through to organise a piglet race and they lose their crowd to a couple of horny donkeys. One girl attempted to whip the crowd into a frenzy with a megaphone, another moved amongst us carrying a board displaying piglet names. "Who would you bet on?" she asked. I was torn between Frankie De Snorter and Curly Sue. "Curly Sue", I said firmly.
The race itself was the most incredible thing I have ever seen. Sure, there were skirmishes, and the little critters squealed rather than snorted, but what could be better than watching six squealing piglets sprint round a field to the ecstatic chanting of small children? Boy did they go fast, you would think they were being chased by a butcher, a baker and a sandwich-maker.
The baby wasn't bothered, scrambling about on the grass, the perfect example of self-immersed indifference. No Sweetheart, that's a cigarette butt, cigarette butts are not for babies. No Sweetheart, that's a discarded pistachio shell, pistachio shells are not for babies.
Of course, Frankie De Snorter won the race and as we left the donkeys were still romping in the field. The whole piglet business got me thinking. In an ideal world we would replace the measurement of horsepower with pigletpower. A Formula One engine, for example, might be said to have 50000 Pp - the power of 50000 piglets.
Monday, 14 September 2009
"Ugh, Libs your neck just clicked," he said, and then began to massage her neck.
After spending six years commuting by train to London, for the next two months I'll be getting the bus. The transition is like crossing the Rubicon of sanity. The train, though not without its fair share of freaks, weirdos and gimp-grandchildren, provides a relatively normal experience in comparison to the mad house known as the bus.
An Indian man sat to their right. He was speaking on the phone very loudly, very fast. Libs shot him an irritated glance. She wore thick-lensed glasses, the lenses so thick her eyes appeared as tiny specks.
Rick was another one of those army fruitcakes, an overweight balding man clad entirely in camouflage gear. Frank Skinner once said that anyone wearing more than two badges is a nutter. Rick had more badges than a festival junkie.
"Leave me alone Rick," said Libs, "you're hurting me." "Yak, yak, yak," said the Indian man. "I'm not gonna hurt you Libs," assured Rick, with a touch of genuine disappointment in his voice. He reminded me of a disgruntled gorilla, not that I've ever seen one or for that matter would want to see one.
An old man got on the bus, we had to wait for a thousand years as he climbed slowly up the stairs. Two stops later he pressed the button, millennia flew by as the bus waited for him. He climbed down the stairs backwards. Slowly, painfully, his joints creaking (I imagine). The madness of it all, the effort he went through for a couple of minutes on the top deck.
Rick and Libs' shopping fell down the stairs as the bus turned a sharp corner. I was that close to bursting into wild, hearty laughter. Rick went after it, the moment was pure comedy. He could be heard scrambling about downstairs like a pig let loose in a grocery store. The rustling of plastic bags, the sound of tins rolling with the motion of the bus, the muffled curses as he stumbled about. When he finally returned all seemed forgotten, once again his hands found themselves on Libs' neck.
"How's this?" he asked. "Leave me alone, " she whined, her needles still clicking away.
I was fascinated by this mundane scene. Where were they going? A council estate? A working men's club? Down the newsagent to buy some lottery tickets? On route to buy a 300 inch plasma TV that they cannot afford? Who knows? I'm not one for stereotyping. They got off the bus and walked straight into a Conservative Club, of all places. If those guys are Tory we're all in trouble. The Indian chap watched this intently, he looked as surprised as I was. The world is a strange place.
I descended the stairs prepared for carnage, fully expecting to see broccoli scattered about, a dented tin of beans perhaps, or a puddle of milk by the priority seats. Nothing, just a suspicious-looking group of pensioners and a couple of schoolchildren. Rick, to his credit, had cleaned the whole lot up.
Wednesday, 9 September 2009
Monday, 7 September 2009
The motion of the traffic soothed my soul, a soul in tatters after missing the bus. It was all rather picturesque really, traffic dancing along to the dreary tunes on Starbuck's play-list. I sat there nursing my damaged sensibilities, sipping a coffee and scoffing a so-called “breakfast panini”. A skanky breakfast panini, and it cost me three quid too, which in the grand scheme of things was a kick in the teeth. But I was hungry enough to pay. Besides, I had half an hour to kill.
The door swung open. Not violently, not gently either, but firm, forceful, purposeful. A soldier strolled in. I say soldier, what I mean is some bloke in full camouflage gear who may or may not be a soldier. Army boots, bulky hiking rucksack, one of those army caps that made his head look like a tin can.
Cool, I thought, there are only two of us in the café and one of us is a soldier, a real man. Or was he? It dawned on me that he was a tad old to be a soldier. Home Guard, perhaps, but he was blatantly over 50, probably pushing 60. A colonel, possibly, but he had no stripes, no sign of rank. He did, however, have an incredible moustache, one which would have driven Lord Kitchener mad with jealousy.
He had a swagger abut him, not an aggressive “I could thrash you using only my pinky” sort of a swagger, but rather a careless nonchalance. His age and nonchalance gave me doubts. He was either a nutter or a colonel without his stripes. (I use the term “nutter” lightly, not for one minute forgetting the phenomenal toll taken on our troops.)
He ordered his coffee, and as he stood there James Blunt came on. The tiresome, ubiquitous James Blunt, the man whose dreary whining haunts us everywhere we go. The soldier starts to tap his feet, gently creasing one knee as he croons along, on his face an expression of intense ecstasy.
Tell you what, he can't have been a soldier. No soldier worth his salt would tap feet to James Blunt.
Monday, 31 August 2009
This was a lie. Probably in his late 60s, by his appearance it was clear he was a perpetual adolescent. Tracksuit bottoms, rugby top stretched over his belly, a JD sports bag - the sign of the Chav. Shoulder-length grey hair held back with a pair of shades. In front of him sat a pack of B&H and a pint of Carling.
He winked, pulled out a cigarette, and used it to point across the room at a rowdy bunch of low-lives. "It's not me you should be worrying about, it's that bunch over there." He started for the door, then turned back. He wasn't finished. "I own the barber shop next door, know everyone in this town. I HATE this town. People always bothering me. 'Can I have a fag?', 'Could you lend me a quid?', and worst of all are the charity collectors. Every damn Thursday they plague the streets."
I agreed with him. The town where I work is without a doubt the most miserable place in England. Surrounded by estates, filled to the brim with drunks, chavs and charity collectors. I glanced out of the window. One of the local fruitcakes walked by. An old man wearing red trousers, a long fur coat and a black fedora with a yellow ribbon. A Gandalf-like staff completed the look. I have seen him before, always wearing a hat of some form. Sometimes a bandanna, sometimes a fedora, once in forester's hat with a large red feather. The barber rolled his eyes. "Don't get me started," he said.
Turns out the barber (like me) supported Spurs. Best start to the season since '61. We had plenty to talk about. Football unites like nothing else. We couldn't remember all of last week's goal-scorers. "Oi Phil!" yelled the barber, "who scored Spurs' goals last week?" Phil only drinks Newcastle Brown Ale, a cheap and pikey drink if there ever was one. Phil only wears one shirt, blue-checked. A man of routine. This town may be a dive but it certainly has character. He grabbed a copy of The Mirror and gave it to the barber. "It's all in there," he said.
The barber was looking out the window. He whistled softly. Two girls walked past. Short skirts, tanned legs, high heels. Three Harleys whizzed by. Three Harleys, three horns sounded. If there had been three girls the scene would have been perfect. I took my leave, already late back to the office.
On my way back a drunk approached me. "Do ya have a spare fag?""
Monday, 24 August 2009
We also use it to describe a pairing of beauty and simplicity, often relating to movement or execution. A mathematical solution can be elegant, or a dancer, or the parabolic path of a teabag flung across the kitchen, landing perfectly in a mug. I'll tell you what, if teabag flinging was an Olympic sport I would hold all the records. 100m, 200m, 1600m.
But what is the opposite of elegant? A clumsy camel? A complicated rat? A working-class gorilla?
Bang and crash, clang and clatter. The man stumbled onto the train with less stability than a newborn giraffe, struggling with a heavy laptop and clutching his coat. (The man that is, a newborn giraffe is unlikely to use a laptop, or wear a coat). Wonky tie, shirt engulfed in huge sweat patches, huffing and puffing, his heavy breathing could have blown my house down. He pulled an apple out of his pocket, took a large bite and proceeded to chew with his mouth wide open, spitting, crunching and splattering, glistening pieces were splaying out like tiny shooting stars. Elegance, and its opposite, are entirely experiential.
Monday, 17 August 2009
"I don't know my star sign," I said, suffering briefly from an inferiority complex, " but how about I simply tell you my date of birth?"
"Sorry Sir, " she replied curtly, "but we are not allowed to ask that any more. For security reasons."
She, I imagine, titillated with reason. My reason, on the other hand, was shafted. I trembled, groping about blindly in the depths of my mind. No light, no handrail, just confusion. All I wanted to do was inform the credit card company of a change of address, and now I was answering a quiz on the Zodiac. (Perhaps I was going mad, mad as the fruitcake I saw in a pub recently. Having bought a carbonated bottle of cider he spent ten minutes pouring it repeatedly from one pint glass to another. I asked him why he was doing this. "To get rid of the bubbles," he said. Or as mad as his companion, an old man dressed entirely in denim. This nutter ordered "blackcurrent and soda" and spent the next half hour playing with the ring tones on his phone.)
"You can find out your star sign in a newspaper or magazine, " she added helpfully.
"Listen," I said, "I'm not an astronomer, or an astrologer." Or Mystic Meg. "I wouldn't be seen dead reading the charts. What possible reason do I have for knowing my star sign? How about I just tell you the month I was born in?" The only thing I care less about than star signs is netball, celebrity gossip or Madonna's adoption plans. Screw that, I care even less about Coleslaw. The last time someone (in jest) read me my horoscope it was completely wrong. Instead of having "my lucky day" I got stuck on a train for two hours that broke down on the one part of the line that had no mobile phone reception.
"Madness," I said, "this is supposedly a secure banking line and nobody but you can hear me." I glanced over my shoulder at the impatient queue of gormless droids behind me. They glared back. They could almost certainly hear me, the bank was laid out in typically incompetent fashion, but telling the truth would spoil my argument. "I've already told you my name, old address, new address and credit card number. If someone is listening in they already have enough information to bleed me dry. From what I remember there are twelve star signs, and twelve months, what's the difference? In this rational age how can you expect me to know my star sign?"
"Your star sign is Gemini," she said brusquely, "remember it for next time."
*I don't know if this security question appears outside of Britain, but it always appears as a default or example security question - for all sorts of services.
Monday, 10 August 2009
"So," she said, looking up from the bed. "How do computers work?" Find a man emersed in all things football and knock him off his perch. Not an easy question either. Mo, a software developer, was momentarily at a loss. What he needed was a cloak of anonymity.
My wife's lack of computing understanding has always amused me. Note, she's far smarter than me, far better at doing life, far more aware, far more eloquent. But she simply uses computers, to her the computer is one of life's great imponderables. As long as they work she is happy. I, on the other hand, am a computer geek. After working in my current job for close to six years, and five years of marriage, my wife confesses to know very little about what I do. (As an MI5 operative that suits me fine). He works in IT, she'll tell her friends, something to do with finance.
Roused from fantasy football bliss, I struggled impotently to answer the question, deciding to keep things simple. "Think of it in terms of layers," I said, "a bit like an onion. Putting it very simply, at the core is the hardware. The memory, which stores data and instructions, the processor, which executes the instructions and all the input and output devices. The operating system sits on top of all this, so you don't need to worry about ones, zeros, data and instructions. You just use it."
Suspecting that her interest was waning I cut to the chase, leading on to my own career. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to fill her in. "In the olden days coding was a cryptic kettle of fish, you had to understand nonsense like machine code that looks like someone was just having a laugh. These days writing code is very different."
I pulled my soap box out of my pocket, blew off the dust and climbed onto it. "Modern languages have evolved to be extremely clean and legible, shielding us from boring stuff like memory and whatnot. Integrated development environments make it a lot more fun. Clean code written to high standards and following best practices is actually very understandable. You could look at some of my code and know exactly what it is doing."
"Right," she said, "come and look at this house."
Monday, 3 August 2009
So I'm going to aim to post once a week, probably on a Monday, and keep Monday as my blogging day. This'll mean that I won't be visiting your lovely blogs with my usual regularity during the rest of the week, but at the start of the week I will be your man. In other words, I will continue to exercise the standard protocol of blogging reciprocity, but I won't be about so much. I just wanted to let you know - in case you are sitting in your armchair on a Thursday night, drinking some cheap Scandinavian lager and thinking "where the hell is Mo?". Anyway, I don't want to dwell on this so without further ado...
We went for a late breakfast at our favourite cafe. Favourite because of the food and atmosphere, not because of the layout, which is worse than my parents' living room. Imagine a tiny room stuffed with ten mismatching sofas. That aside, the food is divine and the mushrooms, well, the mushrooms are simply spectacular.
I had mushrooms on toast, my wife had a crayfish sandwich. Bubba trumped everyone with her organic
"roast dinner" purée. A young girl scampered in, closely followed by her mum and (presumably) grandma. They sat at the table next to ours. The mum was clad in what can only be described as a tiny black party frock. Very short, very revealing. She wore wedges so high they would have been beyond the wildest dreams of any ski-jumping Lego man.
Most remarkable of all was the colour of her skin. It was so orange that you would naturally assume her father was an Orangutan. Either that or she had fallen into a vat of fake tan cream. Oranges and lemons,
say the bells of St. Clement's.
She sat close to Bubba, emitting a powerful orange glow. While thoroughly enjoying her purée, Bubba was becoming increasingly interested in Mrs Satsuma, her little grubby hands swinging dangerously close. "You're hoping Bubba grabs that lady," observed my wife. "That would be ideal," I replied.
An elderly lady sat down at our table. Ignoring the countless unoccupied tables, she was merely exercising those rights that all old ladies believe they have - the right to invade the privacy of anyone with a baby, the right to touch any baby with grubby opal-ringed fingers, the right to act as a sort of "proxy grandma" to any baby encountered.
"She doesn't want to eat, she wants to socialise," said Bubba's new proxy grandma. "The only person wanting to socialise is you," I thought, tired of prying strange elderly hands off our baby and desperately hoping that Bubba would eat up quick.
As Lady Clementine got up to leave a small grubby hand swiped at her frock. She didn't notice and left the cafe, a delightful little orange hand print adorning her bum, the "roast dinner" purée perfectly matching the colour of her skin. It was ideal.
Wednesday, 29 July 2009
Monday, 27 July 2009
Some surfers walk past on their way back from the beach, a black Labrador trotting after them. The tide is in, a toddler paddles in the shallows with her father. A yacht sails out of the harbour, it symbolises something, something he understands, freedom perhaps, or escape. Two men sit in a dinghy fishing, all you can hear is the wind, the rattling of rigging and the cry of sea birds. He'll miss this place.
He pops into the shop to get some essentials. An elderly couple blockade the basket pile, preventing all access while they debate about who carries what. Emerging from the shop he nearly gets knocked down by some imbecilic pavement-cyclist. He gives the fool a piece of his mind. As he walks away he smiles ruefully, some things will never change.
Friday, 24 July 2009
20 Minutes. There's a lot of things I can do in 20 minutes. Burp a baby. Kill a mockingbird. Let the dogs out. Drink a pint. Tie my shoelace 40 times. Count to 1200 (one elephant, two elephant, three elephant...*). On this occasion I had a 20 minute wait at Gatwick Airport for my train. No prizes for guessing what I chose to do.
I had barely got to "ten elephant" when I decided to buy myself a healthy chocolate snack, so I stopped counting and headed off to WHSmith. The store is roughly one minute away from the platform, so that would still give me 18 minutes spare. With a bit of luck I would have time to point Percy at the porcelain on the way back, and maybe even drop off the kids.
To my dismay I was thwarted by the joint efforts of a lotto-junkie and a trainee cashier. A deadly combination. The two were locked in some sort of bitter dispute. The lotto-junkie seemed to be purchasing every scratchcard available. Titles included "Monkey Money" and "Money For Ewe".
The latter must be the lowest form of scratchcard available. "Money For Ewe" has a huge background image of a ewe, and each little scratch item is a ewe. Talk about bottom-of-the-barrel.
I waited patiently as these gibbonoids fought it out. I can't remember what they were fighting about, I was too busy working out how many years of mental gymnastics I would require before I bought a "Money For Ewe" scratchcard. It came to 16 million. The heated shop floor was making me sweat like a badger, and I started to panic as I realised that the chances of making my train were as narrow as a stick insect's waist.
I made my train, but only just, and I arrived perspiring like a mad horse and busting for a wee. 20 minutes. Time flies so fast when you're having fun. Next time I'll stick with the counting.
*In case Americans are not familiar with this, it is a technique taught to children for counting in seconds.
Wednesday, 22 July 2009
butcher's knife. I remember a nightmare and shudder, the football
season had started but I had forgotten to register my fantasy football
team. What could be worse? Lie there blinking, contemplating the
late train for an extra hour in bed. Should I stay or should I go?
Creep through to the kitchen, closing doors gently so as not to wake
the baby. Drain cafetiere while catching up on blogs. Wander onto
balcony, the morning sun makes the river so beautiful. In the
distance the rolling downs are a luscious green. A pack of squawking
gulls chase a fishing boat up the river. Tempted to join them, fish
for breakfast would be sublime. The morning tranquillity stills my
soul. Wash, dress, down a glass of juice, pack my bag. Creep back to
bedroom, give sleeping wife a goodbye kiss.
"Too bristly," she says, and turns away.
Monday, 20 July 2009
"I stink," I complained.
"Why don't you get changed?" replied my wife.
"Sure, I'll keep watch, you'll feel much better."
She was right. I would feel much better. Not that getting changed was straightforward. There were lanes of cars either side of ours, people were milling about, impatient with the delay. Small children running, smokers smoking, dogs yapping and elderly folk getting up to their usual mischief. To complicated things further I was wearing my swim shorts. You know, surf shorts with a sort of netted lining, the type you don't wear underwear with. I had worn them to make the drive more comfortable, not envisaging a scenario where I would be getting changed in the car.
"OK," I said, the thought of feeling fresh and clean spurred me on. My thoughtful wife had packed a change of clothes in our day bag, and after several hours engulfed in the stench of regurgitated milk I was ready for anything.
I unfolded my jeans and boxers, placed the boxers on top of the jeans and waited for my wife's signal.
"All clear," she said.
"Watch out," she warned, as an old man wandered by.
I grabbed my boxers and covered myself. When he had passed (and oh how slow he was walking) I battled with my boxers. It's surprisingly difficult to get them on quickly when you have a damn steering wheel in the way, a pair of shorts tangled round your feet and the fear of little Mo being seen by a dock attendant. As I muttered, cursed, and sweated like a badger, my wife got the giggles. You simply cannot trust women.
Someone got out of the neighbouring car. I grabbed the map and pretended to be studying it. The twit lingered for a moment, looking about aimlessly before finally lumbering off. With a final flurry of activity, muttering, scrambling and panicking, I got my jeans on.
Thirty minutes later we were in the "family room" on the ferry. Our just-crawling baby crawled up to me. I scooped her up, held her above me as she squealed with excitement, then lowered her down to give her a kiss and a cuddle. Just as I kissed her she puked, with all the force of an exploding hydrant. It went in my mouth, all over my t-shirt, and down my jeans.
On the plus side, I experienced irony on a new level.
Friday, 17 July 2009
So I'm sitting a fairly empty carriage, it's always a bit quieter on Friday mornings, the seat next to me is vacant, as are two whole seating areas, one four-seater and one six-seater. I'm sipping a coffee, reading my magazine and quietly revelling in the peace and quiet. Quietly revelling is always a bad idea. If you want to tempt fate, or at least welcome a scandalous protocol violator with open arms, just sit there quietly revelling.
This bloke wanders in, completely ignores the free seating areas and targets my seat like a homing missile. I'd like to say that I chucked out some chaff (newspaper, coffee cup lid, used tissue) or even fired some flares, but sadly I didn't think of that.
He sits next to me - breaking that fundamental rule that on public transport you should always aim to protect the most (collective) personal space - and then (the irony, oh the irony) proceeds to lower the armrest. Listen Mister, why the hell are you even bothering with the armrest? If you're going to invade my tranquil world when you could have taken a whole six-seater to yourself at least do it properly, squash yourself right in, read my magazine with me and help yourself to my coffee.
As if that wasn't bad enough he starts breathing heavily. Swine-flu outbreak on the way, I think. Of course, another fundamental rule is that you do not breathe heavily on public transport. Unless, for example, the carriage is empty and you're passing the time by doing star jumps (jumping jacks in American I believe). And then I can feel his breath on my arm. That was the moment I wanted the hand-sanitiser, or even a can of mace.
I leaned away from him as much as possible, coping by dreaming, focussing instead on a wonderful scene. I'm sitting under a tree by a river on the edge of a field, a beer in one hand, a book in the other. Birds are singing, butterflies are dancing in the sun, there's not a human soul in sight and all is right with the world. Beside me on the grass is a bottle of hand-sanitiser and a can of mace. Just in case.
Tuesday, 14 July 2009
Make up a silly evil scheme. Even better? Dream up an evil antagonist and write a story about the dreadful thing he plans to do.
I'm glad she chose this prompt. It was only yesterday that, having spent half an hour in the post office queue behind a desultory pack of pensioners, I popped in to see an old university pal of mine, a failed physics graduate affectionately known as "Fish". These days Fish lives in his parent's basement, dividing his time equally between watching Ren & Stimpy and messing about with particle physics. After listening to me rant about the post office queue he rummaged around in a cupboard, found what he was looking for and handed it to me.
"What you need, my long-suffering friend, is one of these".
"It's not a pen you fool, essentially it is a teleportation wand disguised as a pen. I was so fed up of those dithering halfwits you get at ATMs, you know, the time-wasting miscreants that faff about at the ATM for MINUTES, anything over twenty seconds is unacceptable, I had to do something about it. Basically, it is a particle accelerator. Of course, it is far more complex than that, but I won't bore you with the details. You identify your target a bit like the lassoo tool in Photoshop, all the while holding the clicker down. Then you point at the destination and release the clicker. Simple as that. Watch this."
He teleported an empty Fosters can into my groin. Aside from the exquisite discomfort I was in a state of awe, fear, and a desire to be truly evil came over me. "Shall we take this thing into town?" I asked. "Sure," said Fish, "but we can only use this for good." I nodded absent-mindedly, my mind was otherwise engaged, imagining entire post office queues sent to the White House, tailgaters finding themselves floundering in dirty ditches, wasps struck out of the air, yobs struck by a sodden bunch of duraniums..."
As we reached the post office a hideous queue snaked out the door. "Unacceptable," snapped Fish, and carefully circled the queue with his wand. I admired his skill, his effortless grace. He completed the selection with a pirouette, then slowly raised the wand and pointed at the sun. I came to my senses.
Monday, 13 July 2009
Who is in the wrong?
I say the woman, these are not reasons to ruin a man's sleep. Besides, it is my blanket, and she should have kept her eye out of the way of my finger.
Friday, 10 July 2009
The two men walked up to the café and stopped to look at the menu. I could immediately tell they were gay, the evidence speaks for itself. Both were tall, clean-shaven, well-dressed, extremely fashionable. Too fashionable. Both in matching jeans, brown leather belts, pointy leather shoes, open-collar shirts. The shirts were finely pressed, perfect fit, identical cut, one wore blue, the other pink. I looked down at my ripped jeans and baby-stained t-shirt in shame.
They sat down at a table and crossed their legs in total synchronisation (right over left). In two swift actions they placed their leather wallets side by side on the table, then placed their mobile phones on top of the wallets. Not that there is anything wrong with this, by the way, it was simply fascinating. Gay, fashionable, synchronised to an extreme and totally comfortable.
And then their girlfriends showed up, one with a baby. I must have been having an off day.
Wednesday, 8 July 2009
more than circling a chippy's lobby like a vulture before masticating
a battered fish. I love fish. In some ways I'd like to be a penguin,
especially when I'm sitting on a stuffy train with no elbow room, worn
out by the daily grind and listening to the rumblings of my ravenous
stomach. Oh to slide about on ice all day eating fish.
On this occasion my wild, abandoned hopes of fatty bliss were kicked
in the groin. The shop was run by a group of contemptible
adolescents, sulkily going about their business with a clear disdain
for the customers. Not to worry, I thought, it doesn't necessarily
mean the food is bad. The girl took my order without making any eye
contact, her voice a bored monotonous drone. I suspect that even if a
penguin moonwalked in, chirped merrily and ordered cod and chips, her
reaction would be emotionless.
She had false nails, giant acrylic things that could easily poke out
an eye. I've always felt a bit queasy when served food by a French
manicure, imagining the telltale *crunch* as you bite down on a tasty
piece of Haddock.
And then I noticed she only had nine false nails. My appetite has
suffered permanent damage and I may never fully recover from the
trauma. Needless to say I will not be going there again.
Monday, 6 July 2009
A long long time ago
I found a blog written by Mo which made me smile
And I knew if I started one
I could make it lots of fun
And maybe they would laugh for a while
But June became really hard
Challenges coming thick and fast
Wayfaring through the blogs
Was jamming up my cogs
I can't remember if I spat
When I read underline optional rats
Who thinks of all this crap
My brains just turned to shat
So Mo Stoneskins gone to France
He took a train through the tunnel for some romance
Before his wife gives birth to a son called Lance
Singing this is his last chance, yeah this is his last chance
Did he write about token intake
I'm sure it must have been a mistake
I hope so for his sake
And is writing the new rock n roll
Can blogs save your mortal soul
And does economical produce just blow
All the American Moms are in love with Mo
Because he's a Brit and a wordsmith Ho
You all kick off your furs
And dig his funky words
And I was a lonely poker playing ass mug
With a shitty blog and a line in smug
But I knew I was due some luck
The day Mo went on holiday, I started writing
For ten days we'll be on our own
I might listen to some Rolling Stones
No will I fuck
The jester will be back really quick
Writing about hamsters and some such shit
Exclusion from his blog really sucks
But whilst the king was on vacation
Rubbish took his following nation
The blog world was stunned
Are all these Brits so fun
And whilst Nikki read Rubbish' rants
She felt a warmth in her pants
Rubbish she thought, insemination any chance
The day Mo went on holiday, I started writing
Helter skelter in a summer swelter
Mo holidayed in a fall out shelter
Eight miles high and falling fast
So I've been smoking some grass
Wondering if these words will pass
With his non imperiousness in France
And all the Moms put on their best perfume
Whilst Rubbish wrote the words to the tune
And Mo got up to dance
But he never got a chance
Because Mo came back to take his field
But Rubbish refused to yield
He'd nicked Mo's followers he revealed
The day Mo went on holiday, I started writing
And there we were all in one place
A generation raised in cyberspace
With no time for fucking anything
So Mo be nimble Mo be quick
Mo you're in the fucking shit
Because Rubbish has stolen all your friends
And has I read his words of wrath
I wanted to give the bitch a slap
Rubbish must be born in hell
Mo will break his spell
Approaching damnation this very night
Words written for a sacrificial rite
Mo would be laughing with delight
The day Mo went on holiday, I started writing
I've read a Moms blog about the blues
So I left a comment for some happy news
But she never answered me
So I searched for some more
Some of them left my head feeling sore
They just weren't that funny
And in the blogs the children scream
The husbands whinge and the women dream
Not a word was spoken
The keyboards were all broken
And the blogger I admire the most
Mo Mad dog Stoneskin cannot post
He's on vacation down by the coast
The day Mo went on holiday, I started writing
I'm not really trying to nick all Mo's followers, just the pretty ones. All the best.
Thursday, 2 July 2009
My wife was trying to turn on her bedside lamp and (apparently) failing miserably. I reached to find mine, sending books and cash to the floor and narrowly avoiding knocking over a glass of water. I took a sip to restore my equanimity and then focused my attention on the light. Damn that Côtes du Rhône, I thought, as my keys crashed down the back of the table.
A man of settled habits, this kind of nighttime scenario stresses me out no end. I ran my hand down the wire, fumbling in vain for the light switch. Must be one of those "slide-block" switches, I thought, finding the bulb and sliding my hand downwards. Nothing. Damn those modern light-makers.
My wife had given up and was now trying to calm Bubba down from across the room. I still couldn't see anything. A thought came to me, if only I could retrieve my phone from our bag it would provide enough light to find the light switch.
In a remarkable exhibition of slightly-wined brainwork I planned the operation. Walk slowly forward until reaching the door (main light switch not an option as it would further wake the baby). Shuffle to the left until reaching the wardrobe. Inch round the wardrobe until positioned directly in front of its centre. Take a few steps back until reaching our bags.
I was just in the process of inching round the wardrobe when the light came on. My wife had resumed her search and found the light switch.
"Thanks for helping," she snapped*, as I stood by the wardrobe stark-naked and blinking like a rabbit in headlights. I said nothing, rescued my keys and got back into bed. A man always knows when his efforts are unappreciated. Ultimately the problem with rural France is that there is no light pollution. On the upside, there is Côtes du Rhône.
* When I mentioned this in the morning after she didn't remember snapping at me. But if you read about the time she effectively accused me of wearing slippers in bed this will not surprise you!
Wednesday, 1 July 2009
Bubba Stoneskin has two new tricks. The first of these is to scramble off the changing mat and poo on the carpet. The second is to rip off her sun hat and chuck it out the pushchair when we are not looking. Having just spent an arduous step-retracing exercise to retrieve her sun hat we were now on our way home.
Cruising down a country lane we found ourselves fast approaching three little birds standing in the road. In over ten years of driving I have never hit a bird. Sure, there have been some close misses, but the little twits always get out of the way. I remember the Seinfeld episode where George is driving and a pigeon is sitting in the road. His (George's, not the pigeon's) female companion urges him to stop. "They'll get out of the way," says George, "they always do." The next thing you see is feathers everywhere. They'll get out of the way, I thought.
As we closed in the birds panicked. One flew left, one flew right and the third, in an unprecedented display of feathered stupidity, flew straight at us, hitting the car with a thud.
"Ha!" I laughed. There was a brief silence.
"I cannot believe you just laughed," said my wife.
Truth is I have no idea why I laughed. I attempted to defend the indefensible. Maybe it was the cartoon-like way the bird flew at the car. Maybe it was the comical little thud. But, I explained, I didn't actually find it funny, I was sorry we had hit the little fool, it's not like I'm rebelling against nature, slaughtering birds on the slightest whim. She wasn't buying it so we left the conversation there, discussing pleasanter topics such as the prettiness of the French villages, the joy of driving on French roads, the delights of French wine and the beauty of the French countryside. Anyway, you know when you dig yourself a hole, fall in it, scramble out, forget it is there and then fall in again? A few minutes later a butterfly splatted against the windscreen.
"Ha!" I laughed, "I just killed a butterfly."
There's something wrong with me, I should probably seek help.
Just for the record. I genuinely do not take pleasure from killing birds or butterflies.
Monday, 29 June 2009
The restaurant was as French as a langoustine in a beret. The chatter, the spotty-backed wooden chairs, the carafes and the fact that every damn diner was smoking like a chimney. The waitress swanned up to our table in a whirlwind of glamour, the perfect picture of French urbanity. She cooed at the baby and then took my wife's order.
"Je voudrais que le moulles marinair, les ailes de raie et une carafe de la Saumer Blanc," said my wife with all the comfort of a girl who paid attention in her French lessons.*
"Perfect!" exclaimed the waitress, flashing a smile and cooing at the baby. Then she turned to me. Now I don't want to overstate the case - heaven forbid - but nothing bothers the French more than a holidaying sauerkraut who has made no attempt whatsoever to learn their language.
"Hello," I said, and in unfaltering English "I would like the pâté, the steak (medium-rare) and a beer". I never paid attention at school but I felt my English was beyond criticism.
She definitely flinched. After the dizzying heights of my wife's French it is hardly surprising. For a moment I felt like a Victorian schoolboy braced for the paddle. There was no flashing smile and no cooing at the baby.
"And would you like a large or small beer?" she asked in crisp, Frenchified English. Her accent reminded me of the French aristocrats in Blackadder.** For a brief, sombre moment everything stopped. All you could hear was the flapping of parasols, a couple of Frenchies lighting up and the gentle frumpling sound of me chewing on my lip.
"Large," I replied, "a pint would be perfect."
* My own rendition of her French with the help of Google Translater probably does not do it justice.
** If for some godforsaken reason you have not watched Blackadder then you
Friday, 12 June 2009
The room was bare. Well, almost. The body had been removed, a chalk outline marked where it had lain. There was pool of blood on the floor. Beside the pool were a pair of toothpicks, their tips read with blood. On the mantelpiece was a solitary statue of Torquemada and an empty mug.
"What sort of sick low-life would do this?" said Inspector Smith, sniffing the mug.
"Do what?" replied Inspector Jones.
"Kill a man with a pair toothpicks before relaxing with a cup of Ugandan coffee."
Jones glanced out of the window. The bears were still trapped in glue. Bear-glue is a bit like mouse-glue, but stronger. Like its rodent counterpart, bear-glue is designed to hold the victim fast until death. Although clearly frustrated by the glue, which prevented them from moving and was irritating their tootsies, the bears were engaged in a furious debate about micro-lending. The credit-crunch is affecting everyone.
"Revenge?" suggested Jones, with a certain sardonic emphasis. He took a hip-flask out of his jacket pocket and knocked back some Jack Daniels, probably about a fifth.
Smith lit his pipe, assumed his favourite Sherlock pose and then cursed suddenly, a curse so deadly I'm reluctant to repeat it here.
"Neptune's Bathtub!" he swore, "it has to be so simple. I went on a 12 step program once, a course on detective work given by some twit dressed in a stupefying purple suit. He had horrible yellow skin, anyone would think he'd been eating radioactive isotopes or bitten by a tarantula or somethin'. He was a nut-case. One of my colleagues found him in a vacant lot blowing bubbles and pretending to play netball. Anyway it's all about reading between the lines."
"There are no bloody lines and I don't have a bloody clue."
Thursday, 11 June 2009
Why break the cycle? Well for starters my wife hates shaving my head. I tend to mess about - like all men do when their partners cut their hair. "Stop that," she'll say, "leave me alone." I also have the job of cleaning up the hair which riles me beyond belief. I'd rather head down the post office on pensions day and wait for hours sweltering in a queue of elderly folk.
The two hairdressers were overweight middle-aged men who thought they were hip and trendy. Basically when it comes down to fashion there are a number of categories.
1) The fashionable.
2) Those who don't give a monkey's. Myself for example.
3) White middle-aged men who think they are it.
The bloke that cut my hair was clad in a tight red t-shirt stretched over his belly, surf shorts and flip-flops. His hair was short on top, but he had a pleated mullet. I thought those were illegal. Dumbass will be furious that I didn't take a photo and Mr Condescending will probably shed a few tears but I didn't get an opportunity. He was a frivolous babbler. Not that I could hear much of what he said, they had some RnB channel playing on an unimaginably large plasma. It nearly made my ears bleed. I did pick up some stories though.
Apparently a guy came in last week, claimed to drive a Porsche Turbo. 269mph, he said. Right, they said. Cliff Richard borrows it from time to time, he said. Right, they said. The engine starts when you do this, he said, splaying out fingers in Star Trek style.
Another guy came in with a mangy old sheepdog. The hairdresser crouched down and petted its head. "Don't go near her," said the owner, "she's a trained killer." "Oh," he replied, and asked about the guy's occupation. "If I told you that I'd have to kill you," he responded with total seriousness.
I love the fact that even though these guys were clearly nutters - they was deadly serious - they still had the awareness to go for haircuts. I think I'll go back there, just for the stories.
Wednesday, 10 June 2009
"I'll have Earl Grey, please", said the lady in the green gown. "I did mention it in the email", she added. She glanced across at us with an eyebrow raised. I imagine that her email would have looked something like the following.
Following our recent booking I would like to confirm our particular dietary requirements. As members of the leisure classes, we drink only Earl Grey. Please ensure that this is available with our breakfast.
The Lady in the Green Gown
"Ooh, I think I fancy Earl Grey too", my wife said, and placed an order with the waitress. Green Gown looked across disapprovingly. How dare they. I'll bet they didn't request Earl Grey in an email.
Eyebrow still raised, she looked my pregnant wife up and down, and then said "Living dangerously, I see."
Erm, no, not really. Enjoying a "safe" weekend away six weeks before the baby is due, actually. The only person living dangerously is you. In danger of being mistaken for a goddess of the forest, and of being the most irritating person I've encountered on my holiday.
I didn't quite know what to say. "That's right", I muttered, and returned to my Full English breakfast.
Green Gown's husband was looking longingly at my fry-up. He had clearly only been allowed yogurt. His thoughts were easy to read. Sodding low-fat yogurt.
The Earl Grey arrived, accompanied by two pots of hot water. Intrigued, my wife said to me "How bizarre, I wonder why there is two pots". It was odd, because I already had my coffee. Green Gown turned our way, eyebrow raised of course. "One is for your friend", she said.
Friend? Did she think our wedding rings were a farce, or did she think we were having an affair? We ignored this strange women and enjoyed what was left of our breakfast.
Monday, 8 June 2009
I had a four-seat area to myself. Across the aisle slouched a traveller surrounded by bags. He looked weary and was slugging away on a can of Fosters. Three women clattered onto the train and sat in my area. It was one of those groups where one of them is the leader and the others just nod and smile. The leader spewed out a relentless stream of nonsense, the others just nodded and smiled. It was one of the most terrifying monologues I've ever heard, it reminded me of this mother of all mad mother-in-law monologues. I took a few notes. It wasn't the actual content of the monologue which was remarkable, it was the way she traversed the subjects of quiche, sailing, politics and garden parties without stopping to breathe and without any prompting from the others.
They had evidently been to some sort of Labour Party do (in case my international readers were unaware - we had local elections last week).
...we ate copious amounts of quiche, all bought from Cloughs of course, as you do...the BNP got 400 votes, everyone is hacked off, this man put a Labour vote in the BNP pile, I pointed it out of course, they'll catch it later on...blah blah...he'd had the seat for twelve years...blah blah...that pretty girl, very pretty indeed, we talked about the expenses scandal, I spoke to Ash Edwards, you know he's in the cabinet, I said can't we have a committee that feeds into the cabinet, he's very pleasant you know, I drove fifty-six miles around picking up people...
The other two women had not got a word in edgeways. Any attempt to do so would have been as futile as trying to get a suntan in Scotland. I caught the traveller's eye. A hunted look was in his eyes. He sighed wearily, half a sigh and half the sound of a man's soul being rung like a towel. In that moment we forged a silent partnership. We would survive.
...Anthea has a saying 'those who pay together win together', they're having a garden party if you're interested...I've been Labour all my life, it's something very deep within me...blah blah...Janice (who's a Lib. Dem.) likes to go walking 'like woman', you know, all the chit-chat beforehand, and we like our walks but most of us are not up to 'striding edge'...blah blah...one of the reasons I couldn't go skiing (aside from weddings, babies and things) was I had already used up twenty days of holiday...David said I am to stay and look after the kids, it is -I'm afraid to say - the new generation...the first time I took a Topper out I got in trouble for going too far, but I can sail, I can even windsurf, you don't want to hang around waiting...my French is fantastic of course...
Finally they got of the train.
"Oh the sweet, sweet relief," I said, stretching out my feet and breathing in the tranquillity. Heaven, I believe, will be a bit like capturing moments like these and prolonging them for eternity.
"Thank fuck for that," said the traveller, taking a swig of his Fosters. "It would have been alright if they had something decent to talk about."
Friday, 5 June 2009
Good clean poo. Reminds me of a conversation with my Daughter when she was about five.
Daughter - "Dad, where does poo come from?"
Me (being a clever twat), "well babes, food passes down the oesophagus by a process called peristalsis. It enters into the stomach where digestive enzymes induce a probiotic reaction in the alimentary canal. This extracts the protein before waste product enters the colon. Water is absorbed whereupon it then enters the rectum finally to emerge as poo".
Daughter - "Blimey, so where does Tigger come from"?
To be honest that comment is far too good for your blog and should be a post on my own but since your the only fucker that reads mine, so be it. Maybe you can have a best comment post and use this and then direct people to mine?
As for porn star, I'm guessing, Ron Jeremy?
Basically, my friend Rubbish is a genius. I don't really know why so few read his blog, I absolutely love it and it is one of my favourites. I love the raw, unedited prose, his adventures in gambling, tales of past nights out and the fact that he just writes. I don't just write enough, and his posts always inspire me to write more honestly.
Remember my Prompt Tuesday post with the Postman Pat ride? Rubbish also did one and it was the funniest damn thing I have ever read.
His comment on the Poltergeist piece made me laugh and I know he was probably telling the truth too:
Sounds like they have a portal from the afterlife probably coming in through the fridge. I've got a mate who can sort them out.
Rubbish, this is a little tribute to you.
Thursday, 4 June 2009
Hamsters Have Remarkable Potential: A Case Study
This is a short account of my hamster's personal journey. After reading C.B. Jones' article "Squeak: Help Your Hamster Reach It's Full Potential", I decided to put his guide into practice. What intrigued me most was a hamster's potential to advance mentally. What was that potential? I went straight down the local pet shop and bought myself a little black Siberian hamster. I called him Plato.
While I was eager to see my hamster tackle calculus, Fermat's Last Theorem, and even "The Seven Greatest Unsolved Mathematical Puzzles Of Our Time", I knew that pushing the little fella was not the right approach. The last thing I wanted was for him to have a nervous breakdown.
I longed to see little Plato develop musically, mastering a range of instruments from the flute, the violin to the grand piano. Oh to see him playing Rachmaninov on a Steinway, or playing lead violin for the Royal Philharmonic. But I knew I would have to wait. For starters, the little chap couldn't even speak English.
I found a great old book in a charity shop titled "Teaching your hamster the Queen's English", by Dr H. Furry - a pseudonym I presume. As we worked through the exercises, Plato made rapid progress. Dr Furry also provides excellent explanations as to why hamsters struggle with certain aspects of the English language. Due to their tight, circular jaw bones, hamsters tend to struggle with long vowel sounds. For example long "a" sounds tend to come out as long "o" sounds.
This caught me out a few times. "Where does my name come from?", Plato asked me. "Your Gnome? What Gnome?", I replied. I had thought about getting him a gnome, but had opted against it deciding that a huge gnome in his cage may have freaked him out.
In addition, due to their long front teeth hamsters tend to struggle with the "th". Statistically, hamsters that have "chew toys" are more likely to overcome this impediment. Dr Furry provided all sorts of graphs, charts and diagrams, but I won't bore you with those. I gave Plato some chew sticks but they didn't make much difference. For the rest of his short life he pronounced "the" as "twer", "thingumabob" as "twingumabob".
In Chapter 12, titled "Who needs angels?", Dr Furry introduced me to the relatively unknown world of hamster song. He explained that while hamsters tend to sing several octaves above soprano, the sound is actually very beautiful, angelic in fact. He warns about allowing your hamster to sing when dogs are nearby, as this has been known to drive the barmy. I got Plato singing "Jerusalem", which not only gave me a terrible headache - his shrill, squeaky voice was awfully piercing - but the sound made our neighbor's dog violently sick.
Plato developed a rapid mastery of English, and quickly moved on to the classical languages, koine Greek in particular. He started strong, but struggled with the notorious Third Declension. I think it was just too complex for his little hamster mind. He tried to explain this to me but, hell, what do I know about that?
I paid for him to have a few piano lessons but, much to my dismay, he gave up after several weeks. He started strong, and picked up some scales very quickly, but it was such effort for him to force down the ivories that he would tire very quickly. He persevered for a while, but it was Scot Joplin that finally did it. The fast ragtime beat meant he was charging up and down the piano like crazy, huffing, puffing, and getting extremely hot and bothered. That was the first time I heard him curse.
In the end I bought him a tiny accordion, and a little green felt hat with a red feather. This was pretty funny to start with, but after a few weeks of constant Gypsy Folk music played on a tiny accordion I was feeling exhausted. I'll tell you what, there is nothing worse than a small rodent playing shrill gypsy jigs on a tiny little accordion. Fortunately he quickly grew out of that.
I decided that newspapers would be helpful in introducing him to the human world. I gave him some tabloids to start with because their target mental age is about five years and I didn't want to chuck him in the deep end. He didn't like the Page 3 girls. "Why are twere naked girls?", he asked. "Um, it is, um, it is for the builders", I said, struggling to know how to explain all this to his little hamster mind. "They like that kind of thing." Builders? What was I on about?
"But twats immoral", he replied. I scolded him for using the word "twat", and then realised he was saying "that", and his goofy hamster teeth were in the way as usual. I changed the subject, and got him the Daily Mail instead. He liked the big, bold font, but said the "shock factor" really irritated him. I thought that was pretty observant for a young hamster.
As he matured he began to read more widely. I gave him a list of renown books and told him to get to work. He enjoyed the Bible, though he complained about all the genealogies. He appreciated the stories with animals in the most, but was a little disappointed that no hamsters were mentioned in Genesis.
He found "Das Kapital" very dull. It was "illuminating", he told me, but had made him vow never to join the communist party. Phew, I thought. I couldn't imagine much worse than a communist hamster. Incredibly, he read it in a week.
It was around this point that he began suffering from eye strain. He was reading an awful lot, and his close proximity to the text (he had to clamber onto the book to read it) was straining his eyes. I took him down to Spec savers to see if they could provide him with some glasses. We went away empty handed, the assistant mumbling something about it all being quite "non-standard". This is complete tosh. I know plenty of hamsters that wear glasses.
He was particularly interested in his namesake, so I got him a little copy of The Republic. He didn't like the class systems described, nor did he like the attitudes towards the "disabled". In fact, he moaned about a whole lot. The advocation of censorship. The twisted involvement of the state in family life. "Wasn't Hitler heavily influenced by Plato?", he asked. "Um, I don't know", I stammered. "And isn't Plato generally respected and revered as a great philosopher, despite his freaky totalitarian views?", he questioned. This was getting a bit deep for me so I changed the subject. Secretly though, I was pleased that he was using his little brain. Maybe he would develop a political career, even becoming Prime Minister one day.
And then he told me he wanted to be a "philosopher-king". In retrospect, I think this was roughly when his delusions of grandeur began. It was around about this point that he started acting strange. He had been drinking wine for a while, out of his plastic bottle of course, but then he asked for a silver goblet.
"You what?!", I exclaimed. "Where the hell am I going to get a miniature silver goblet from?!"
"EBay?", he asked. Smart answer. It took me a while to find what I wanted. A search for "tiny silver goblets" revealed nothing. Neither did "hamster quaffing". Then I had a brainwave. A quick search for "unusual doll's house accessories" and I had exactly what I wanted.
C.B. Jones warned about "delusions of grandeur", but I had no idea that achieving the right balance between encouragement and discipline would be so difficult.
For a few days he dabbled in cartography, drawing little charts and maps of his cage. They were remarkably accurate, and I was impressed that he knew which direction North was - I mean, he didn't have a direct view of any windows, so he must have been using a special hamster sense.
But then they became more detailed, adorned with globes, beasts, angels and crowns. Oh yeah, and hamster "philosopher-kings", with flowing robes and silver goblets.
In retrospect I should have acted earlier. I should have confiscated his William Blake book and his goblet. I should have rationed his wine. Instead, I fueled his literary cravings by providing literature on the ancient Greeks, the gods, King Arthur, and a copy of "Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines". I even let him out on the windowsill.
He would sit there for hours watching the birds. On that fatal day I arrived home to find him by the open window, standing next to an open tub of beeswax, a wax wing fixed to each of his four little limbs. On his head was a tiny golden crown.
He flew out the window and I never saw him again. I just hope that he didn't fly too close to the sun.