Monday, 29 June 2009

Sauerkrauts Make The World Go Round (alternative title: Langoustine in a Beret)

I hope you've missed me. Come on, flatter my ego and tell me you did. I know that Braja, Pseudo, Hit40, Rubbish and G have been beside themselves. Two weeks away from the Blogosphere and I bet I only get a couple of comments, the rest of you will have moved on...

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 should be shot must do so immediately.

The restaurant was in Saumer

Friday, 12 June 2009

The Daily Wit

The Daily Wit set us a task to write a story using a (very bizarre) list of words. Time has been short and I wasn't going to attempt it, but over a lunchtime beer I had second thoughts. The required words are in bold. Oh, and I'm on holiday now, I will be MIA for two weeks, please come back and I'll be back on your blogs in two weeks' time.

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

If I told you what I do for a living I would have to kill you

I entered the hairdressers in a state of fear and trepidation. I hadn't been in years. Literally. The last 5 years have spent in a sinusoidal wave. Wife shaves my head with clippers. Hair grows for a few months until it becomes a health hazard. Wife despairs and shaves my head again. Hair grows to an obscene length where it could potentially trip people up as I walk down the street. Wife shaves my head again, and so on.

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

The Lady In The Green Gown

This is the re-post of an old, old, old post, life is crazy busy so I won't get a chance to write for a few days.

"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.

Dear Sir/Madam,

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.

Yours Sincerely,

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

Further Proof that Women Are Crazy

It is one of the fundamental rules of life. The moment you are gifted with some blissful solitude in barges some lunatic and pokes you in the eye. Metaphorically, I mean.

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 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 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

Dad, where does poo come from? (Rubbish this one is for you)

Best comment ever from Rubbish on this post. Read his comment and then let me tell you more about him.

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 (2)

Life is tiring, time is escaping me, I've cricked my neck and I can't even pop down to the complex's jacuzzi because some twit has urinated in it. So today I'm going to re-post what is probably the most "lock him up under the Mental Health Act" thing I have ever written. The C.B. Jones mentioned is the one and the same from Mindful Drivel. I warn you, it is quite a long post, long enough to even cause Mr London Street to perspire. It is also crazy. But it is my blog and I can do what I like...

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.

Monday, 1 June 2009

I Could Be A Porn Star

It was a horrible sticky evening at the end of a horrible sticky day. Some people love that kind of day. They see hot days as the bee's knees, the wasp's nipples* or even the hornet's eyebrows. I'm not so fond.

Don't get me wrong, I love the sun beating down on my face and nothing is as perfect as an ice-cold beer in the sun, except perhaps a good clean poo, but horrible sticky days make me feel horrible and sticky. Spending the day sweating like a Turkish wrestler is not my idea of fun.

I headed to our bedroom, persisting in the delusion that sleep would be possible if the window was open. How wrong I was. The room was stifling. I slipped into my birthday suit, slouched on the bed and opened my book. Minutes later my wife entered the room.

"A porn star would be jealous of that pose," she said.

It's nice to know that if developing financial software doesn't work out I have another career path available.

*Lifted from the great Douglas Adams.

P.S. I'd like to point you all to a fabulous article on tits written by an old friend of mine. Don't judge before you've read it...Pure brilliance!
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!