Thursday, 29 January 2009

There probably is no God

Back in my favourite ale house, a full year since my last visit and several years since I last witnessed The Son of an Irish Prince working his magic. Sadly he's not here today. Scribbling in my pad, I sip Victorian Ruby Mild, a strong darkish ale that is simply perfect, and thank God for it, these little pleasures are His gift, His provision.

There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.

The above is the product of the Athiest Bus Campaign. You what? What pertinacious old poodle dreamt that poster up? If I am not careful it will spoil my pint. On the other hand, Lord Kitchener is staring at me from the front of the Sussex Drinker, a fine distraction from my thoughts. I need you, he says.

We used to see The Son of an Irish Prince every time we were here. The first time was with my mate Dan. Released by our respective ladies for a few hours we were catching up over a couple of pints. Suddenly the shadow of a largish oldish man loomed over us. James Duncan Lynch, he said. Son of an Irish Prince, he said, thrusting out his hand, and joining us at our table. Mr Lynch never showed any regard for pub etiquette.

Why does the poster bug me? I think it is the implication that believing in God, or at least suspecting his existence, results in abstemious old blighters stomping about moaning about the weather. It also implies the reverse, that atheists fly through life with all the abandon of an elastic band pinged across the classroom by a snotty schoolboy.

In my experience, those of my friends and acquaintances that are self-professed atheists are by far the most miserable. I'd rather be masticated by a ravenous nipple hamster than attend an atheist convention. And hey, if you're an atheist I'm not having a go at you, or saying that you're unhappy. Unless you're the one behind that poster.

We had a debate on religion with Mr Lynch once. There were five us sitting round a table when Mr Lynch arrived at our table uninvited, and invited himself. He introduced himself to the others.

James Duncan Lynch, Son of a...

Mr Lynch dragged the conversation over to religion, and then got himself all worked up.

Why are you so cross?, Pete asked.

I'm not cross, he said, smashing his chubby fists down on the table. We never found out what was angering him, but we found out an awful lot about Greek myths and poetry, which he spouted at every opportunity.

The statement itself is nonsensical, you can't really speak of the probability of God, I mean he either is or he isn't. It is not as if we have ten instances to compare (note, I cannot define "instance" without rupturing my cerebellum, so I'm not going to attempt to), four of which contain a God and a universe, and six of which just contain a universe. If that was the case then sure, you can say there probably isn't a God. But blah blah drone drone I'm not really getting anywhere this and besides, Lord Kitchener is freakin' me out.

No sign of the impious Irish Prince, or his son for that matter, and my pint is getting low - I'll probably finish it within the next few minutes. Time to go home to my lovely wife, and my beautiful, beautiful little baby daughter, who grins at me as I leave the flat each morning, bringing such joy to my soul, an indefinable joy and a wonderful blessing. I thank God for them every day.

Oh, and I've thought of a new bus poster.

The atheists are whinging again, ignore them or it will spoil your day.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Nice Nipples

A man across the carriage from me is wearing the tightest white shirt I have ever seen. The material is pulled taught round every button and the man is clearly uncomfortable, in exquisite discomfort even, writhing with enough intensity to put Uriah Heep to shame. The shirt is so small that Frodo Baggins would have given it to Oxfam and Tom Thumb would have lost sleep worrying about nipple exposure.

Opposite me is my Nemesis, a man whose daily goal is to invade my space with his huge greatcoat and massive laptop. Every day without fail he seeks me out, plonks himself in front of me, or next to me, and tries to read my paper. I fight back by holding my paper at an impossible angle, which doesn't stop him but hopefully gives him a cricked neck and eyestrain. If he wants to read a paper he should buy one.

Across the aisle is the bike freak, a man who (every day) taps away on his laptop until we reach Gatwick, before getting up to unfold his travel bike. He unfolds it using a tape measure to achieve an exactitude that would put da Vinci to shame. In fact, it does put da Vinci to shame.

Note to self, send some boos and hisses da Vinci's way.

Further up the carriage is one of the two eccentrics. I've mentioned these before in another article, but they are so brilliant they deserve to feature again. Every day they wait together at exactly the same point on the platform. One of them always carries a giant golf umbrella, no matter what the weather, which has always irritated me. I'd rather get wet a couple of times a year than lug that monstrosity around 365 days a year. He reminds me of my wife's gran, who once spent several months refusing to go outside in case she got hit by a meteor.

Anyway these chaps stand there chatting away like old friends until the train pulls up. One of them gets on the adjacent carriage and the other walks a few yards up the platform and gets on the next carriage. An unfathomable mystery. If they are such good friends why not sit together? If they want some space to read then why not just agree to read? They're mad I tell you. Sagacity, oh sweet Sagacity, where are you?

The train conductor thinks he is Clint Eastwood, swaggering up and down the aisle as if he bruised his coccyx tripping over a cat, making gruff announcements...

"There are two kinds of men in this world...sorry, Ladies and Gentlemen, got a bit carried away there, this is the 7:24 service to London Victoria, calling at..."

Marshaling my thoughts I attempt to get back to my paper, which has been woefully neglected, but they drift back to White Shirt. What WAS he thinking as he admired himself in the mirror this morning, flexing his pecks and winking at his reflection?

Is it cold in here? Nice nips?

Monday, 19 January 2009

Tempranillo (my Valentine)

Tempranillo, you make me sing
I drink you, because I am a king
I don't care what they say
Tempranillo helps you work, rest and play

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Indefinable Tranqulity

The squirrel sat on the bird table stuffing its face full of nuts. An obese wood pigeon waddled around below. Indefinable tranquility. Nature at its best, a thieving grey squirrel and an overweight pigeon.


Squirrel and pigeon flee for their lives chased by my wife's granddad, shuffling after them brandishing his air rifle.

Welcome to Yorkshire.

The long drive up was soul-destroying, although this was to be expected, with most of the trip spent on England's two worst roads, the M25 and the M1.

The M25 is the World's worst motorway, a playground for the World's worst drivers, gibbonoids who should never have been granted a license, gimpgrandchildren whose driving experience should have been halted when at the age of three they crashed their little plastic buggies into beds of stinging nettles, loathsome incompetents who inflict moral and intellectual damage on the rest of us.

The M25 is exhausting to drive on, you don't just have to be on your toes, you have to exercise the extreme levels of concentration required by a surgeon performing a triple-heart-bypass operation on a flea.

At least the flea would be anaesthetised, unlike the brainless oafs that appear out of nowhere and force you out of the fast lane with the imbecilic recklessness of a four-year-old on a sugar high.

And then there are the insouciant drivers who stubbornly stay in the middle lane, otherwise known as "road hogs" or "middle lane morons". The Highway Code is simple, keep left unless overtaking. Rather than suffering from a simple venial lapse, these canaries spend their lives cruising the middle lane, encouraging undertaking and needlessly forcing you to overtake in the fast lane. You overtake in the fast lane, only to be forced out seconds later by some gimp hitting 100 mph in a Merc.

Transit vans are the worst, pulling right up to your rear bumper in that contemptible way that only transits do, they then overtake, before cutting back across all lanes at the last moment. To be fair, it's not that surprising given that most transit drivers have the mental age of nine. To borrow from Wodehouse, if a transit van driver's brain was constructed of silk, "he would have been hard put to find sufficient material to make a canary a pair of cami-knickers.”

Fortunately I'm such a patient, graceful sort of chap, so none of this bothered me.


The phone rang. My wife's granddad wearily got up and shuffled over to the phone. "It'll be another bloody call abou' creditors", he moaned.

"Ah don' 've no creditors," he yelled down the phone. "Now bugger off!"

Like I said, welcome to Yorkshire.

Friday, 9 January 2009

The Empire Club (just a bit of mundane Sussex life)

Stumbling through the doors of The Empire Club with the dishevelled instability of a newborn giraffe, and finding myself in a foyer with two possible exists, I ploughed through the obvious one. Expecting the familiar smell of beer and the comforting sound of the Spurs thrashing Burnley, I was met instead by the foul stench and soul-destroying sound of the unfit, grunting and panting to trashy pop songs. It was probably an aerobics class, but I left too quickly too know for sure, it could have been anything, a Britney Spears mick-take group for example.

The other door took me to the bar.

The Empire Club is one of those random places for which there is no word to describe. A bit like a working man's club, but not quite, certainly nothing close to a pub, but can't be called a bar either. An anomaly.

It took me a few moments to spot Paul and Steve, sitting in the far corner looking uncomfortable, looking like two lads sitting in an anomaly.

I can't remember why we chose to watch the game at The Empire Club, there was some sort of connection between the club and Steve's work. I had to be signed in by a bloke called Ray, and had to pay a quid for the night. How funny is that - a quid?! I asked Steve who Ray was. Dunno, maybe he owns the place, he said.

As we sat there we were closely watched by the regulars, a motley crew of grizzly old men who stared at us with small badger-like eyes, as if we were unruly ferrets invading their hole. Old men are terrible starers, and if there is one thing they hate more than anything else it is change. Who were these young whippersnappers, destroying their same-old-same-old by simply being there?

I always enjoy seeing these two. We reminisced about old times, like when they sneaked out of the Evening Star with one of the ale festival awards, only to return it a few weeks later (in equally sneaky fashion). And the time when they got their car stuck in the stones on Brighton beach after a night DJing.

Paul is leading a colourful life, one which I'm fascinated by, though not envious of. He is spending his time flitting between here and the USA where he does youth work for a charity. Now here's the interesting bit. His charity work is self-funded, so he spends a several months back home saving up for the next trip. He does a menial job two days a week, proving a small but stable income, but the majority of his earnings come from online poker tournaments. To maintain his prolific poker activities he subjects himself to a rigorous fitness regime and healthy diet - to keep his mind sharp and prepared, never gambling if he is tired or has had a few drinks.

I sipped my precious pint slowly - precious because I was driving and it could be my only one. Arundal Gold, a fine local beer. When I left the old men glared with intent, their badger-like eyes watching from behind their Fosters. Old men always drink Fosters, which I can't respect, and can find no explanation for.

I decided to give the aerobics class a miss on the way out.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

New Year's Resolutions of Indulgence

I was going to title this piece New Year's Non-Resolutions, but that little voice at the back of my head spoke up with remarkable awareness and incisive poignancy, pointing out that saying "I'm not going to give up coffee" is not a non-resolution, just a resolution. Thinking about it, it may have been that little voice at the tip of my left little toe, but these little voices all sound alike.

I suppose I could have provided a single non-resolution of "I don't know", or just "blah blah", and that would probably count as a non-resolution. But the aforementioned little voice would undoubtedly called me a coward, or worse, a ditherer, or even worse, a gimp-grandchild.

I did suggest to my wife that I could eat a Cadbury's Creme Egg every day until Easter, in celebration of Easter, but she vetoed the idea. So instead, these are my resolutions.

1) Don't give up coffee. Mind you, I don't intend to drink more coffee, or less coffee. This is just a reaction to the idea that I could give up coffee, which would be the sort of extreme asceticism that I am not prepared to be a part of, not even for Lent. Not that I partake of Lent, each year I give up Lent for Lent. I do intend to enjoy my coffee more fully, so in a way that is a sort of sub-resolution. I'm not, of course, speaking of that disgusting abomination known as instant coffee. I'm perpetually in a state of denial regarding instant coffee, preferring to pretend it doesn't exist rather than face such a gross insult to the real thing. I'm speaking of the real deal, freshly ground (yep, of course I grind my own beans) aromatic wonders of divine proportions, beautiful rooty experiences that blow your mind, reduce your risk of alzheimer's and blow your senses into a caffeinated oblivion.

2) Don't give up wine. Similarly, I don't intend to drink more wine, that would be irresponsible, and we all know that alcohol should be drunk responsibly. But I would like to drink more Rioja, and less scanky make-you-flinch Cabernet Sauvignons that I pick up because they are on offer. Some people don't like Rioja, professing a partiality to "old world" wines (by which they mean French or Italian) or "new world" wines (by which they mean powerful Australian Shirazes). Lunatics. Everyone knows that Rioja is the wine of kings.

3) Don't give up beer. As above, I think my beer intake is just about right, somewhere close to moderation. My issue with beer is that there is too much choice, and I like trying new beers so much that I often forfeit the chance to knock back an old love in favour if trying something new. But I could easily write you a list of my top 20 beers, all of which I love, cherish and have given a permanent place in my heart. So this year I would like to enjoy more of my top 20, and pay less attention to trying new beers.

Gosh, now I just have to see these resolutions through.
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!