Monday, 30 March 2009

The Nothing Box

I bought myself a coffee this morning while waiting for my train. I was thinking about life, the universe, everything and in particular, the nothing box.

"What are you thinking about?" asked my wife yesterday.

"Nothing," I replied.

"You can't be thinking about nothing," she said.

Truth is I was and I do. This state is known as 'the nothing box'. It is where men go when we are zonked and are literally not thinking about anything. Having thought about the nothing box I then got into the nothing box and wandered down to my train. At least, I assume I wandered down to my train as I found myself on the train, but I don't remember the wandering bit.

The train pulled away from the station. I blinked for a moment. Something was missing. I had paid for my coffee but left it at the booth. £1.60 down the drain.

Damn that nothing box.

Friday, 27 March 2009

The Robin Bastard

Today's story is not that funny, but it really tickles me so I'll tell it anyway. If you've been coming here a while you'll know I try to keep my posts clean, but today there is a profanity which is a key part of the story so I'm going to leave it in.

Not long ago my friend's dad went on holiday to Turkey for a few weeks. His name is Robin.

Each day he ate his lunch at a little cafe close to his hotel. It was a local-yocal little joint, always busy and populated by the same regulars. The cafe was run by a large jovial man named Irfan.

Irfan well and truly ran the show. He was a great bearded beast of a man with a booming voice and roaring laugh, a prolific anecdotalist captivating his audience with stories and gags.

On the final day of his holiday Robin went to the cafe for the last time. Having finished his lunch he said his goodbyes to Irfan. Realising they had never been properly introduced, Irfan asked Robin his name.

"Robin," he replied.

"HA!" exclaimed Irfan, "you're a Robin Basssssstarrrrrrrrd!"

Thursday, 26 March 2009

When the Revolution Comes...

The carriage was empty. It was divided into groups of six seats, four seats and two seats. I made my way to a group of six and sat by the window, stretching out my legs and emitting a deep relaxing sigh.

A man got on and made a beeline for the seat opposite me, completely ignoring the millions of vacant seating areas, plonking himself down with the air of a gimp grandchild who has no understanding of personal space.

I shifted to the next seat along and glared at him. He squirmed uncomfortably.

A few more people came into the carriage. Another man joined our area, pulled a little laptop out of his bag and proceeded to type away. My adversary watched him intently, studying his laptop, apparently examining everything he typed.

The man looked up from his laptop, clearly irritated, and glared back. Our adversary squirmed once again and looked away.

I took out my book and began to read. This incognizant hooligan sat there scrutinising the cover of my book. I put my book down impatiently and glared at him. He squirmed like a worm and looked out the window. I took out my phone to check for blog posts. He studied it intently. Once again I glared at him. He noticeably quailed.

We reached my stop. I stood up, gave him a killer of a glare and left. I didn't feel the need to say anything, my glare was an open book, written against him and his kind. The man with the laptop caught my eye as I walked past, we shared a moment of collective frustration.

Where do these people come from? Protocol Violators I call them. I once saw a Protocol Violator watching a fellow passenger do a Sudoku puzzle, it was the most heinous violation of intellectual privacy I have ever witnessed.

When the revolution comes the Protocol Violators will be the first up against the wall.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

The Modern Man and the Glass Eye

The bar was staffed by an elderly lady who looked exactly like I imagine Miss Marple. She was wearing a whopping great monster of a ring, a silver behemoth with a glass eye instead of a stone. I had a feeling the glass eye was watching me.

"Two pints of Sussex Best," I said.

"Sorry, what did you say?" she asked.

"Two pints of Sussex Best," I repeated.

She only filled one pint.

"Excuse me, I asked for two pints," I clarified.

"Sorry, what did you say?" she asked.

It was tempting to suggest she should have worn a ring with an ear, not an eye, but I refrained. I eventually walked away with two pints.

My wife and her mother were out shopping, leaving Steve and I to look after Bubba Stoneskin. That suited us fine, we'd rather look after the baby than be dragged round the shops for hours upon hours. We took Bubba down the airfield to drink beer and watch the planes. Steve and I that is, not the Bubba, she doesn't like beer and isn't interested in planes.

We hadn't been there long before Bubba needed her nappy changing. I was tempted to change her out on the windswept airfield took her indoors. I asked Miss Marple if there was a changing mat in the gents' toilet.

"Sorry, what did you say?" she asked, sunlight glinting off the glass eye.

"Is there a changing mat in the gents' toilet?" I asked.

She shook her head forlornly and suggested I used the disabled toilet.

"More space in there," she suggested helpfully, pointing in the general direction of the disabled loo. I swear the glass eye winked at me. I wandered off with the crying Bubba, the glass eye's steely gaze piecing me from behind.

The disabled toilet was occupied, but standing in the doorway of the ladies' was another old dear.

"You can use the changing mat in here," she said. "I'll stay here and make sure you don't get into trouble." This seemed an excellent idea at the time. I had an audience - her daughter and granddaughter were inside. I didn't mind. It was a chance to demonstrate that I, the culmination of the evolution of the modern man, could change a nappy quicker than you could say "Sausage and Egg McMuffin".

The problem was the alignment of the changing mat. Instead of allowing me to stand at her feet I had to stand at her side. Changing the nappy wasn't an issue, but from that angle getting her little baby tights back on was surprisingly tricky. Meanwhile my audience was growing. Ladies were coming in but no-one was leaving, they were all captured by the spectacle. Bubba cooed, grinned and giggled. I sweated like a Turkish wrestler. After what seemed like years I was finished, I carried Bubba out with my tail hanging low. Mad Dog had been defeated. Bubba looked like she had been dressed by a monkey.

You could have said "Sausage and Egg McMuffin" twelve million times. I blame the glass eye.

Monday, 23 March 2009

The Escape Of The Stripy Sock

Contrary to popular belief I actually quite enjoy travelling by train, as long as I have a seat and it runs on time. I found my seat with plenty of time before departure, set my coffee down on the little drop-down table and unpacked my bag.

The contents of my bag are always the same. A couple of books, the latest copy of The Spectator, enough old receipts to make a papier-mâché fortress and my trusty notepad. I carry that notepad everywhere, scribbling in it frantically the moment blogging material presents itself.

The train rapidly filled up and by the time it left London it was packed. My gaze wandered lazily round the carriage, taking in my fellow passengers. Ah yes, the usual black fedora. There is ALWAYS a dubious chap in a black fedora. In every pub, at every bus stop, in every train. Does he think he's in Capone's Chicago? I'm getting paranoid, he's probably following me.

Something caught my attention. A stripy orange sock lay in the aisle halfway down the carriage. Solitary, lonely and very, very orange. You have to be a real twit to lose a sock. A total klutz. Especially a sock like that, a sock that offends the fashion conscious, a sock that no sane person would ever own, the type of sock that only a complete loser would wear. Only an absolute giraffe would go outside wearing something like that. Conceivably it could have been dropped by a mole. But what would a mole be doing on the 18:30 from London Euston?

And then it dawned on me. It was MY sock. One half of my favourite pair. It must have been travelling in my trouser leg, waiting for the perfect moment to drop out.

A stronger, prouder man would have let it go, sacrificed the sock in order to save face. I couldn't do that, I HAD to retrieve it. I hatched a plan so cunning that, had they heard about it, all the foxes and weasels in the world would have worshiped me as the god of cunning.

I walked down the aisle past the sock and "went to the toilet". I stood in the toilet cubicle for what I deemed to be an appropriate length of time, during which I untied my shoe, then strolled nonchalantly back up the carriage.

Reaching the sock I stooped down to tie my shoe, scooping up the sock and hiding it in my hand with the subtlest of movements. The god of cunning was at work. I rose and headed back to my seat, the master of the known universe, the most brilliant strategist since Alexander The Great. I had got away with it.

As I walked up the carriage a lady caught my eye. "Nice sock," she said.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Falsely Accused : I DO NOT wear slippers in bed

I sauntered into the bedroom with the air of a man whose belly was full of venison, beer and wine. A startling coincidence as that was exactly what was in my belly. I was not pickled to the tonsils, far from it, but a fly on the wall would have noted a certain insouciance about me. It was bedtime and I was as happy as Larry.

My wife was already asleep. As I came in she lifted her sleepy head and made an outrageous demand of me.

"Darling before you get into bed please take off your slippers."

I laughed out loud. I have never gone to bed in my slippers. In fact I have never gone to bed wearing socks either. I prefer to sleep in my birthday suit with my feet unrestricted.

My wife has come out with similar nighttime chestnuts before. One time she was trying to get out of bed to go the toilet and found her foot tangled in the bed sheet. She woke me with a slap round the face . I kid you not. "That's NOT very nice," she scolded. I remember feeling very indignant. Being falsely accused of such a juvenile prank is bad enough, but nothing riles me more than being woken at 3am by a hamster gnawing at my nipples slap round the face.

In response to the demand to remove my slippers I decided to humour her.

"For you, my dear, I'll take off my slippers. But just this once."

Many thanks to Diane for giving me this lovely award. I'm going to give it to my most faithful commentor, Kylie from Slightly Cracked. I love her blog, every post is beautifully crafted and always makes me smile.

P.S. If you have plenty of time on your hands and/or you love me then please check out an old post of mine featured as a guest post here.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

The Writhing Paper Snatcher

The man across the aisle was trying to read my paper. This is a heinous violation of train protocol and I was having none of it. I did what any sane person would have done, holding the paper in all sorts of exiting positions to make it impossible for him to read.

He squirmed, he leaned, he craned, he writhed. Uriah Heep would have been hard pressed to writhe with such intensity and vigour*. It was a genuine feast for the eye and I was grudgingly pleased. At this rate my antagonist would go home with a cricked neck, severe eyestrain and a pounding migraine.

In order to preempt any accusations of being a polyktonous misanthrope let me say this. If he had politely asked if he could have the paper when I was finished I would have handed it over with the geniality of a true gentleman.

His furtive squirming was driving me mad. It would have been nice to rely on Natural Justice showing itself, as demonstrated in my last post, but Natural Justice is an unreliable beast. Sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands. In such moments it is important to stay calm, which is exactly what I did. I breathed slowly and deeply, then demonstrated unparalleled cold-as-lager brain work.

For a split second my antagonist was looking out the window in the opposite direction. With a subtlest of movements I slid the paper onto the table to my right (i.e. as far away from him as possible). What followed was priceless.

"Can I have it?", he blurted out, then scrambled over legs and bags to the table, snatched the paper and then stumbled back to his seat. The train was crowded, his outburst was in full public view.

I shared a precious moment of smug and tasty camaraderie with the other five commuters in my seating area. Justice may not have been actually served, but the entertainment value was tremendous.

* I have made reference to Uriah Heep in an earlier post (i.e. if you are moaning about repeated analogies then I apologise), and also touched on this incident another time, but I can't remember when that was and I wanted to do it justice.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

The Stupid Moose

I swung round and grabbed the cyclist by the scruff of his neck. "Listen to me you stupid moose," I said judiciously, "this is a FOOTbridge and if you don't get off your bike and walk I will pluck you from the saddle by your ear and chuck you in the river."

[The only reason I go to the gym is so that I can deal effortlessly with scoundrels like these.]

Truth be told this is just what happened in my head. I was too tired to be bothered and it was clear the cyclist had been drinking, so I moved over and let him past.

I am actually an irritable lunatic who is at his happiest when lambasting an innocent civilian for a harmless and trivial offence a pleasant easy-going sort of chap. I love my footbridge. The water, the boats, the planes overhead, all of these are a wonderful calming influence. But there is an ongoing problem with cyclists.

Basically the footbridge is too narrow to accommodate cyclists. There is simply not enough room for cyclists to safely pass pedestrians. Signs ask cyclists to dismount and even threaten fines if they do not. And this isn't even just the pedantic actions of a health-and-safety-obsessed council. There have been numerous accidents where cyclists have collided with pedestrians, including elderly folk and mothers with prams. However these incalculably selfish and brainless cyclists continue to plough over the footbridge.

When we first moved here we would politely step aside and let the buffoons past, but over time we became more and more frustrated. These days Mrs Stoneskin and I will stop and attack the cyclist in a collective screaming fit of uncontrolled rage ask them to dismount.

On this particular occasion I let the inebriated cyclist past. He reached the other side, took a sharp right, lost his balance and fell over the wall into the river. I stood above him pointing and laughing, letting him know that his misfortune was deserved and I would do nothing to help saw another pedestrian helping him out the river, so proceeded on my way, radiating satisfaction and fraternizing with the delightful joy that can be found where natural justice finds its course.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Goths and Cucumber Sandwiches

The wedding took place in a beautiful Norman church deep in the heart of Norfolk. Deep in the Norfolk countryside. The mud on the path to the church was pretty deep too. The heels of the stilettos sank deep in the mud. Deepness all round really. The guests staggered, slid and stumbled their way to the church.

The groom's family were a cucumber-sandwich-eating, Earl-Grey-drinking, doilies-throughout-the-house contingent from Hertfordshire, representing English polite society in its purest form. Think tweed suits, broad fancy hats, court shoes, pince-nez.

The bride's family were a skull-ring-wearing, alternative-lifestyle, couldn't-give-a-monkey's group of Goths from Norfolk. Think clumpy boots, long coats, skull rings, dressed all in black. Every male Goth had long below-the-nipples black or red hair. They made Ozzy Osborne look like a Take That fan.

You have to admit it, this congregation had a certain élan. The Hertfordshire family sat on the right, the Goths on the left. You could feel the divide. Prim old ladies sitting nervously, sneaking glances across the aisle at the skull rings. Prim old ladies do not like skull rings. They prefer giant opal rings of the size that could crush a man's skull with single strike. One of my biggest fears is being knocked off my bike by an old lady's giant clunking opal-ringed fist.

The groom was waiting nervously at the front. He received a phone call to inform him that his ailing mother was on the way, she was being brought by ambulance. Shortly after this a whisper makes its way to the front. "She's here," was the hushed message.

The music started, congregation stood and turned round, the groom's mother was making her way down the aisle in a wheelchair with a drip in tow. The organ was rapidly hushed, the congregation returned to their seats, it was a tragic moment. By no means am I mocking the groom's ailing mother, but it was a tragically comic scene. Five minutes later the bride arrived, her bridesmaids clad in mustard yellow medieval gowns. The organ started again, the congregation stood up...

The reception took place at a roadside cafe, but there was no roadside cafe food. Instead a cheap and scant buffet was laid out, consisting primarily of pork pies, cocktail sausages and quiche. There was a stampede to the buffet resulting in a number of scuffles. I understand this completely. Cocktail sausages should always be the cause of unalloyed jubilation. I do worry about the cocktail sticks though, in the wrong hands these could be extremely dangerous. If an adolescent hamster got hold of one he could use it as a javelin. My hamster is incalculably selfish and puerile and I wouldn't trust him with a cocktail stick for a moment.

The bride and groom's first dance was to Black Sabbath. The prim old ladies did not join in. The goths were in their element.

The drama at the buffet was eclipsed by the events as the evening drew to a close. The bride's sister lap danced her boyfriend of two-weeks in front of her just-divorced ex-husband, who responded by slapping the her, who in turn attacked him with her stiletto.

It was, without a doubt, the most bizarre wedding.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Please Do Not Feed The Birds

The sky is blue, the air is crisp, the sun is falling but the day is bright. My senses feel as sharp as nails, as if they've gained acuteness lost. To the North lies the Gothic chapel, magnificent and eery. To the East a derelict factory, beautiful in its own right, proud but carrying an air of sadness. Beyond that the rolling Downs, green slopes, a white chalk ridge.

A bi-plane fuels from a bright yellow truck. A sleek red and white jet taxis in front of me. To my right a fleet of motionless Cessnas, their stillness compels my adoration. One of England's oldest airfields, it makes me feel so very alive.

A sign adorns the fence I'm leaning on.

Please Do Not Feed The Birds

Stupid idiots, I thought, these are planes, not birds.

Friday, 13 March 2009

St. Cuthman's Red Wheelbarrow

If you've come here expecting my usual mindless drivel witty observational humour I'm afraid you will be disappointed. Last night I went to the opening night of the Sussex Beer Festival with two friends, Uncle Flicko and Erik the Viking.

I was hoping that the night would provide plenty of blogging material, but at the end of the day it was just Mad Dog, Uncle Flicko and Erik the Viking tasting exciting beers.

So instead, and I'm sure I'll regret this, I'm just going to tell you a nonsense story using the names of some of the beer names that we encountered. It is one hundred percent mindless drivel and I don't give a monkey's am truly sorry.


The Legless Rambler was off rambling. He wasn't feeling well, a Skullsplitter of a headache and an encounter with Blarney Bear and a Mudpuppy had left him in a foul mood, grumbling that there was a Common Conspiracy to destroy his walk. "I don't feel well," he thought, "if only Dr. Hexter's Healer" was here. To make matters worse the shrill clucking of pheasants was driving him Hopping Mad. "I can't stand these Plucking Pheasants," he growled, "and this Blessed Thistle is so prickly". Out of the blue a Pontus Hebdanus suffering from March Madness stole his clothes. "Damn I have a Chilly Willy!" he exclaimed. A Wolf Whistle sounded out, and as he turned round he saw the Chocolate Rabbit standing there. "Yule be Sorry," he muttered. And then he died, crushed by St. Cuthman's Red Wheelbarrow.

The End.


P.S. St Cuthman's Red Wheelbarrow is a dark red 10% beer, you may have seen it in my Twitter updates and it made this morning feel very early.

P.P.S. Many thanks to Minka and Pseudonymous High School Teacher who both kindly gave me a "When Life Hands You Lemons" award, I'm really grateful and will try and do the appropriate followup over the weekend.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Supermarket Hell (2)

Today I'm going to post a very old post. This is for several reasons. 1) It was written before I knew all you lovely bloggers and therefore I thought I'd hand it to you now. 2) I've seen a number of re-posts over the last few days, all of which I've loved and I have appreciated them being re-posted. 3) The reference to the lift ties in wonderfully with Vodka Mom's recent posts.

If you are a purist who sees re-posting as a sinister evil, an affront to common decency and a painful reminded of how lazy and self-indulgent other bloggers are then why don't you just go and have a cold shower...


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.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

The Tale of the Man Who Winked at a Girl

A couple of nights ago I went down the pub to watch the football. The place was packed. Armed with a pint I went in search of a seat. Two guys were sitting at a table right by the plasma screen. One of them was wearing shades. You'll know the type, very FBI, Jack Bauer wears them, so does every American cop in the movies, and so does David Beckham.

Don't get me started on those David Beckham shades. Times were bad enough with climate change threatening polar bears, Gorden Brown ruining our economy and two pints of milk costing over a quid. Now we have every yuppie in the country prancing about in David Beckham shades. It's the worst epidemic to hit Britain since The Plague.

The only free seat was at their table. I asked if I could join them.

"Help yourself," said Shades (a cheap and witless sobriquet, but I can live with that), "please excuse the shades." He removed them and I forgave him instantly. His eyes were bloodshot, the sockets were puffy and bruised black. The poor chap single-handedly redefined the term 'black eye'. Scratches covered his nose and forehead.

I didn't want to ask, but Shades told me. Late Saturday night he was filling up at the petrol station down the road. A white limousine pulled up. An attractive blond jumped out and went into the shop to buy some cigarettes. On his way in to pay she exited the shop. She flashed him a pretty smile and got back in the limousine.

"I smiled back but that was all,", said Shades, "I may have winked at her but it was nothing more than that."

When he exited the shop a huge black guy got out of the limousine. He was clad in a white tracksuit and was wearing a jewelry shop on each hand.

"He had SO much bling on," Shades said, wistfully, shaking his head, "he was apoplectic".

Jewelry Shop accused Shades of "eyein' up" his girl. Shades denied any wrongdoing. Jewelry Shop wanted to settle it there and then with a fight. Shades protested and pointed out the CCTV cameras. Jewelry Shop wanted to take the fight round the back. Shades refused. Jewelry Shop lunged at him. Shades knocked him down and ran towards his car.

"It was one helluva punch," he told me proudly.

Five thugs leaped out of the car, five heavily jeweled gorillas. They laid into him, beat the crap out of him, stamping, spitting, cussing, snorting, like a pack of fat bulldogs. Fat ugly bulldogs jeweled up to the hilt. They left him sprawled on the ground and headed back to the limousine.

Shades struggled to his feet and swayed giddily for a few seconds. "Is that the best you've got?" he yelled after them.

"It was the best moment of my entire life," he told me proudly, shaking his head dreamily, "it made it all worth it." On that note he got up, put his shades back on and left me to watch the football.

Monday, 9 March 2009

The Nudist Beach

A number of comments on the last post suggested that the teenagers probably captured my naked incident on video. They are probably uploading to YouTube right this minute. Fame could well be knocking on my door. It is just unfortunate that the pool was so cold...

All this talk of nudity reminds me of a scene at Brighton's nudist beach a couple of summers back. As a compulsive anecodotalist I can't help but tell the tale.

When we lived in central Brighton one of our favourite walks as down to the seafront and along the promenade to the Marina, where we would stop for a drink (coffee in the winter, beer in the summer) before taking the cliff walk to Rottingdean, a village with an incredible fish and chip shop. Bellies full of fish and chips, we'd then stumble to the bus stop and get a ride home.

The promenade takes you past the nudist beach. The nudist beach is essentially a raised beach on the beach, a kind of three-sided fort of stones (the fourth side is the sea). I assume this is to protect the public's eyes, rather than to protect the nudists' privacy.

I mean let's face it, there's not really much point in protecting a nudist's privacy is there? They kind of signed that away when they took their clothes off...

Having said that I expect that if the nudists were not protected by a fort there would be a few hundred thugs lined up on the promenade, hurling eggs and tomatoes.

Anyway, the promenade is pretty high up, but all you can see is a mound of stones. Every few yards there are signs saying:

Nudist Beach

It would be funnier if it said:

Nekkid People Loafing About
No photos please

[If I was a bad man I would alter the signs to say exactly this]

It was a hot summer's day. Mrs Stoneskin and I were walking along the promenade past the nudist beach. Down below we could see a young family clambering up the stony slope onto the nudist beach. Mum, dad, and three little sprogs.

A better man would have tried to get their attention, tried to warn them. But a spectacle like this doesn't often present itself. What a fantastic opportunity to stay quiet and watch.

How long before they realise?, the missus asked.

Well it's peak season, I replied, there could be masses of them on the beach, butt-nekkid, a fleshy fest of nekkid glory. I'll give them 30 seconds.

The young family disappeared over the bank. Seconds later they emerged, running, literally pegging it, the panick-stricken stampede of a family that a minute ago were leisurely rambling up a bank of stones, and have now found themselves surrounded by a butt-nekkid army.

I looked at my watch.

That was 5 seconds, I said, 5 seconds flat.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Naked And Famous

I've heard that everybody wants to be naked and famous.* I don't. Neither nakedness nor fame have ever had any appeal to me. And after last night's experience they still don't.

It was a dark and stormy night. The wind ruffled my hair. I mean the wind would have ruffled my hair if my wife hadn't shaved me a week ago. I walked past the quay to the leisure complex. Sail boats clanged all around me.

I was wearing my swim shorts but as it was cold I was wearing a hoody, and over that was my dressing gown. Slippers completed the outfit. My hood was up. I had the appearance of a debonair gentleman hobo.

The sauna looked empty, I popped my head in to check the temperature. Oops. There was a guy in there. Crazy hobo he must have thought. I left the hoody, dressing gown and slippers on a bench, and went back to the sauna.

The guy was sitting there grunting. What a loser, I thought, the sauna is barely on. It's warmer in my living room. I pumped the heat up, there's no point in the sauna being at room temperature is there? The hotter it got, the more he grunted. Then he left.

Not long after this I headed to the pool. Grunt was splashing up and down, grunting with an alarming intensity. The air was filled with a pandemonium of splashing and grunting. I glared at him with supercilious superiority. He grunts away in a sauna that is barely on, and now look at him. It's a swimming pool, not a splashing pool.

I swam a dozen lengths or so, then got out to dry. Grunt was long gone. The events that followed are a blur, I simply don't know how it happened. My stuff was on a bench by the side of the pool. I never bother with the changing rooms, I normally just put my slippers and dressing gown on and head back to the flat.

The cream of my brain must have been given to Grunt, wishing that I'd had the place to myself and marvelling at how someone could be that unfit. I was clearly deep in thought. Suddenly I realised that I had dropped my shorts. I was stark naked.

A wolf whistle echoed across the pool, I pulled my towel round me and swung round. A group of teenagers were looking in from outside.

* Presidents of the USA

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Lead Zeppelin Bladder

I'm standing up in a cramped sardine tin of a train which is stationary outside Gatwick Airport due to "severe weather conditions". We've been here for half an hour. My knees hurt, I'm late for my routine second coffee, I'm absolutely busting for a wee and I really, really need to poo drop off the kids. I also have a toothpaste situation to sort out.

Of course by the time you read this I will no longer be on the train. I hope I will no longer be on the train.

When I arrived at the station this morning there was the stench of death, the delicately detached air of a hopeless situation. Desultory groups of commuters were moping about whinging. The 7:01 had been cancelled.

Ice on the line apparently. Apparently a train broke down on the fast London line because of icy conditions. Ice? It is possibly the mildest day of the year so far, a crisp, sunny, ice-less Spring morning. I would have worn shorts if I wasn't working.

Ah well, I won't complain, a break in the mundane commuting rigmarole is always welcome. Yeah right. Basically what they are saying is that a decrepit, fag-packet-of-a-train broke down because of a splash of cold water from a puddle, and the South East has ground to a halt.

I caught the following train, an old man sat opposite me. He had a huge beard and an even bigger laptop. One rule of thumb is that the bigger the beard, the bigger the laptop. Another rule of thumb is that the older the man, the bigger the laptop. It's a tenable theory anyway, old men LOVE huge laptops. I guess they have a warped sense of perception. To them, their huge laptops are actually tiny, ultra-portable devices. If you're gonna lug a laptop around of that size why not just drag a couple of IBM mainframes onto the train.

When I got off the train I marshaled my thoughts. No need to let this spoil my day. My thought stream ran something like this.

Gosh, I can't wait for another coffee, and what do I have for lunch? Oh yeah, bacon sandwiches, wow I'll bet they'll be gone by 10, and don't I look dapper today, crisp white lightly-striped shirt, finely ironed (thanks to lovely wife), dark pinstriped trousers, I love these trousers, wait, what the dickens is that? Toothpaste?

There's only one place on a man's dark trousers where, at all costs, he does not want to get toothpaste. I couldn't exactly clean myself there and then, I had to get another train. The train I'm on now. I shuffled onto the train embarrassed beyond belief, doing my best to subtly hold my coat and bag in a strategic position.

And here I am, standing in the packed vestibule area, busting for a wee with toothpaste on my crotch. The man next to me is attempting to use his laptop standing up, twisted over it like a crab, the cacophonous tapping is driving me mad. A lady nearby has a coffee which is making me CRAVE. No, don't think of coffee right now, with a bladder like a lead zeppelin that would be suicidal. The last thing I need is a bladder malfunction. Not on a crowded train.

If I ever make if off this train I will do the following, in this exact order:

1) Go to the toilet
2) Clean my trousers
3) Get myself a coffee

If I don't make it off the train I'll post this from my Blackberry device and you'll never hear from me again, I'll be wasting away in a stinky mess somewhere outside of London.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

The Shampoo Incident

I had only been in the bath for a few minutes before my wife came into the bathroom. Your hair looks lovely, I said. Thanks, she said, I'm trying out a new shampoo.

You can't use it
, she said, in a subtle yet firm manner. There was no hint of asperity, but a wiser man would have obeyed. You can keep using that one, she said, with a lipsticky urbanity, pointing at the industrial-strength unbranded tub sitting on the shelf. The kind of shampoo that would strip the hair right off a camel's back.

Yeah yeah, I found myself thinking. It wasn't a deliberate dismissal, more of a knee-jerk reaction from deep within my sub-conscious. I didn't even feel as though I was being disobedient. There may have been a tinge of guilt within my soul, but I felt strangely confident in my own savoir-faire. In retrospect this is worrying.

The moment she left the bathroom I reached for her shampoo. I spent a few minutes goggling at it, like an ostrich at a brass door knob*, or a penguin at a piece of cheesecake**, then I slapped it on my head (the shampoo, not the cheesecake).

I still don't know why I did it. I've always been fascinated by shampoo. A constant barrage of shampoo commercials has burned into my skull the misguided belief that somewhere, somehow, a duck is watching me*** the answer lies in shampoo.

I also love newness, like when you open a new bottle of shampoo or bar of soap, or try on a new pair of socks. I dare you to find me one person in this world who does not LOVE putting on new socks.

Later in the day I again commended my wife's hair. It's the new shampoo, she said. The one you're not allowed to use. Foolishly I confessed to her there and then. I don't imagine letting loose a wholehearted guffaw of youthful mischievousness helped the situation.

I can't believe you used my shampoo, she exclaimed. You have a grade 2****, you don't even need to use shampoo!

What could I say? I couldn't defend myself against her logic, so I just shuffled away and made myself a cup of tea.

* I stole this analogy from Wodehouse.
** I made this one up, funny isn't it?
*** I couldn't resist chucking this one in, comes from a Gary Larson panel.
**** I'm a shaven-headed thug.
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!