Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Up The Wooden Hill

I wish I didn’t have to sleep, it’s such a waste of time. Sadly, millennia of evolution and human biology means a nightly trip to slumberland (the abstract location for unconscious thoughts, not the bed shop) is nothing short of mandatory in order to remain a useful and fully functioning member of society.


Popular stats tell us that “normal” people spend around a third of their life asleep (“abnormal” people such as students spend even more, while Mrs Thatcher famously needed only four hours a night). This seems to be such a nonsensical frittering away of the piddly amount of time we spend on the planet, which at best is only around 100 years (and during the latter years it’s arguable whether we contribute much at all except shouting, extra laundry and strange musty odours).

If you were always awake, just think of all the things you could do. You could spend more time with loved ones, read all the books you could, go all the places you’ve ever wanted to go, or alternatively find a cure for cancer or create a literary masterpiece etc. You’d have more time, and we live in an era in which time is in fairly short supply. Plus you wouldn’t have any more disturbing dreams about being naked in a supermarket (or maybe that’s just me).

There are downsides though. Far from producing literary masterpieces, people like John Grisham would produce more crap books (though steadily administering sleeping pills could prevent him from picking up a pen). People would also be much shorter as physical growth speeds up while asleep. Plus there’d be no more amusing programmes about sleep disorders in which footage showing people twatting themselves over the head with vases and beating up duvets is shown for public entertainment.

On balance though, I think I’d like more time in a state of consciousness.

Monday, July 30, 2007

"Braahn" Bread

The bill at the Celestial Palladium has a new variety act in the shape of t’riffic super-toothed cockney wanker Mike Reid. Hope sprang eternal, on hearing the news of his demise, that it was in fact speccy be-mulleted ‘80s DJ Mike Reid that threw a seven, but alas it wasn’t and he’s still very much with us.

He’s the second of the old school comedians to have recently shuffled off this mortal coil as Bernard Manning also wheezed his last no more than few weeks ago. However, while Mike is now no doubt having a cracking “Runaraahnd” in heaven and regaling God with ‘stenders anecdotes, Manning is probably downstairs in his own private hell in a roomful of homosexual Pakistani alternative comedians.

Frank Carson was understandably distressed by the news (which you can be sure he didn’t think was 'a cracker'), saying it was “absolutely devastating”. You can’t help but think his alarm was heightened by the very real realisation that he’s a member of a dying breed. Things happen in threes Frank…

Brucie’s safe as he sold his soul to Bealzebub back in 1962 in return for eternal sprightliness, though Tarbuck, Lynch, Bowen and Carson are probably looking more than a little nervous this morning and not tucking into their fry-ups with quite as much gusto.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Shaky Relationships

It’s never an entirely comfortable feeling finding out that your other half has, in the past, been affectionate towards another. However, it’s important to face the fact that he/she has had a history pre-you and that this history, which necessarily involves romantic involvement with somebody else, is directly responsible for producing the three-dimensional and multi-faceted creature who today forms your perfect other half.

I say this because of a recent incident in which a missive of affection, written by my wonderwife, was found in one of her old school books, dredged from a dusty box which had been long since forgotten. In the spirit of honesty, I’ve reproduced it, word for word, below.

Dear Shaky,

I am a great fan of yours and will always be. My name is [my wife]. My birthday is September 15th. I was born in 1975. I am 10 years old. I watch every programme you are on. I adore your song Merry Christmas everyone because I no every single word.

I like men who are handsome and I think your great.

Some of my friend say you’re nice but I didn’t I said you’re gorgeous.

Yours sincerely

[my wife]

I’m happy to note though, that Shaky didn’t get a closing “X”, which I get as standard in my texts and emails. So, in your face Shaky! In your face! Who’s the winner! Me, that’s who. Yes, very much so. Eat my dust...

Friday, July 20, 2007

My Singalonga Car

The car I drive to work in is not particularly old, but it has been around the block and consequently has a few loose bits on it. Lately I’ve discovered that, if you crank the music up (which I often do in the mornings) it causes each of these loose bits to resonate, sometimes fairly loudly, at certain bass frequencies.

For example, the rattly bit in the driver’s door has particular issues with bottom E, while the wobbly bit in the glove compartment vibrates somewhere around F# and whatever’s slack under the passenger seat buzzes when it hears B.

Therefore if I play any song in the key of E or C#min (like She Said by Longpigs or And I Love Her by The Beatles), it sounds like I’m sharing my journey with a swarm of angry bees.

Emily’s Flushing Gluteus Maximus

I’m quite a fan of Simon and Garfunkel as it ‘appens, and am particularly fond of the beautiful “For Emily, Wherever I May Find Her”, which contains the ever-so-slightly-pretentious line “…and when ran to me, your cheeks flushed with the night, we danced on frosted fields of juniper and lamplight…” Hmm.

Four years ago, my wonderwife, in a throwaway comedy remark, suggested that “cheeks” referred to those of the arsular, rather than facial, variety, which I’m pretty sure isn’t what Paul Simon meant, but the interpretation conjures up a peculiar and entertaining mental image which is arguably worth the obliteration of the song’s sentiment.

The End For Harry P

After a two year wait, the final installment in the Harry Potter canon is finally out tomorrow. Personally, I’m a big fan. The literature’s not half bad, though I’m particularly grateful for the notions it’s actively promoted over the course of ten years that it’s cool to wear glasses and that ginger people can have friends too (all I need is for the little fella to go prematurely bald and I’ll instantly be Mr Cool).

Cheery-faced laughmeister J K Rowling should be applauded for encouraging an entire generation of kids (and their parents) to pick up books, which in these days of distractions such as violent computer games, t’internet chat rooms and 2,000 channels of shite on telly, can’t be underestimated.

Apparently, as a result of penning the escapades of the boy wizard over the last decade, she’s now worth £350 million, which isn’t bad for an idea that just popped into her head while she was sitting around the kitchen table.

We haven’t got a kitchen table. (This I believe to be the root cause of why we don’t also have £350 million.) Though now the Harry saga has concluded and there’s a bit of a void to fill, I think it might be a good time to get one. In fact, even without the benefit of a kitchen table, I’ve already had a germ of an idea – it’s about this 34-year-old wizard called Steve who goes to this mystical office five days a week in a non-flying car etc.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Caught By The Fuzz

Caught a bit of Police Camera Action the other night. A scolding, pointy-lipped Alasdair Stewart tut-tutted his way through half an hour of footage of wispy-moustached baseball-capped delinquents and their gormless mates stealing high-powered something or others, careering down country lanes and bouncing off trees and cyclists, before spinning off at a roundabout or disappearing into a ditch.

The offenders are always collared by the constabulary and the long arm of the law is again promoted as an inescapable outcome of such misdemeanours. The message is that if you engage in such behaviour, it’s an inevitable conclusion that you’ll be apprehended, but they only show those that get caught. I wonder how many hours of VT researchers have to sit through before they have a programme’s worth.

However, the sentences are so light, and driving bans so often ignored that it’s probably the same individuals re-offending week-after-week. It’s almost as if the police have a vested interest in re-offending as they, in turn, are able to gather more footage to flog to the network in order to make them look as if they’re doing a smashing job. Hence the filth get their PR, the delinquents get to nick more cars, the public get entertained and Alistair Stewart gets a bit of pocket money for those slow weeks when he’s not reading the news. Everyone’s a winner!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Village Bike

There’s nothing quite like zipping downhill on a bike when you’re a kid, gleefully pulling wheelies with the wind whipping through your hair. These days, any attempt at a wheelie would be likely to end in both disaster and broken limbs, while the only hair the wind will be whipping through is likely to be that which protrudes from my ears.

My wonderwife recently bought me a bike. Not a motorbike as I’m not due that for at least another decade or two when my mid-life crisis is scheduled to take place, but a glorious pushbike with spangly gears and those little nobbly bits you get on brand-new tyres and everything. After tightening up the nuts and bolts and adjusting the seat to a height where it wouldn’t bisect my scrotum, I jumped on and started pedalling.

However. during my first embarrassingly slow and wobbly ride around the village, in which I seemed to be overtaken by both elderly pedestrians and a variety of molluscs, I started to seriously question my fitness as the effort required to achieve any degree of momentum was nothing short of Herculean.

Eventually, and with enormous relief, I arrived back home where I dismounted onto trembly legs, only to discover that the reason it had been so exhausting was that a spring had pinged off, causing the rear pads to clamp the wheel like miniature limpets and I’d been I’d been riding with brakes on the whole way round.

I fear the Tour de France will have to wait.

Homer And His Giant Neighbour

Noteworthy publicity stunt by the promoters of the new Simpsons film in the news today, where a huge image of Homer holding aloft a giant doughnut has been painted onto the hill alongside the Cerne Abbas Giant. This is much to the chagrin of local pagans who’ve been chanting gripes, getting their pentangles in a twist and flinging up their cassocked arms in protest.

Ann Bryn-Evans, joint Wessex district manager for The Pagan Federation, said: "We'll be doing some rain magic to bring the rain and wash it away." Righto then Ann, good luck with that.

It’s all a question of relativity. If Armageddon happened tomorrow and all civilisation was instantly destroyed, in thousands of years time, when silver-suited space archaeologists unearthed the twin images of Homer and his neighbour it would be entirely debateable which will appear the more ridiculous – the image of a portly man in underpants holding up an oversized doughnut, or a giant with his nob out brandishing a wobbly club .

And who’s to say the Cerne Abbas Giant itself wasn’t some grand centuries-old publicity stunt long since forgotten, advertising mead or medieval strippograms or, err… something?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Chuck Norris’s Unique Hidden Gusset

The world of celebrity-branded jeans is a competitive one. Sean “Puffy” Combs has his own line, as does pouting android fashionista Victoria Beckham.

And here’s a rather splendid example from hairy all-American martial arts maestro Chuck Norris, whose own trademark denims boast a solution to a perennial problem, containing, as they do “…a unique hidden gusset which allows greater movement without binding or ripping.”

Such features are no doubt perfect for scissoring through the air with a minimum of chafing, or administering deathly roundhouse kicks to hapless henchmen (a situation I often find myself in strolling round Tesco on a Saturday).

Chuck’s strides have a lifetime guarantee and are available in all sizes, though I believe an accompanying ginger ‘tache is mandatory (sold separately).

Fashion-Conscious Fat Birds

We’ve got loads of fat birds in our garden. They spend their mornings cheerfully yomping the contents of the string bags full of assorted seeds embedded in beef tallow that we suspend from a convenient hook, and when these run out they hop gaily round the place plucking worms out of the recently tilled ground. (For clarity, these “fat birds” are of the feathered variety, not the more rotund examples of the young ladyfolk of rural Wiltshire.)

They now seem to associate our house as the location for some kind of daily orgiastic seedy banquet, which is a bit worrying as we’re shortly to lay a lawn, (eschewing the jigsaw patterning of turf in favour of scattering boxes of grass seed cos it’s infinitely cheaper). As such, we’re understandably keen to prevent flocks of the little bastards from scromfing what we throw down before it’s had a chance to grow.

We’ve discussed the idea of erecting a scarecrow, dressed in a strategic selection of my old clothes to act as a sufficient deterrent (which wouldn’t be the first time my clothes have had that effect on birds):
“Eeurgh, there’s a bloke standing in the garden dressed in corduroy combat trousers and a pseudo-kids’-TV-presenter jumper [two of my wonderwife’s least favourite items and long since consigned to Wardrobe 101]. Let’s go next door and decimate his veg patch instead.”

Friday, July 13, 2007

Cereal Versatility

There’s a contentious topic I’ve avoided for some time, but I witnessed something on TV last night which has made me decide to break my silence and vent my spleen to all.

What on earth are the people at Weetabix thinking? Ice cream and chocolate sauce?! I completely appreciate the need to diversify and develop a product in order to appeal to as many new consumers as possible, while at the same time taking care not to alienate existing purchasers (hence the succession of grinning, uber-normal nuclear families in previous ads with each member a electing to pop a banana, “fruit compote” or even chocolate milkshake on top), but it’s not a dessert! It’s Weetabix – you pour milk on it (and optionally, sprinkle it with sugar) and hey presto! Keep it simple…

It seems Mr Weetabix has had a recent crisis of confidence regarding his flagship cereal and has briefed an ad agency to come up with a multitude of alternative ways to enjoy it. Judging by the bizarre concoctions promoted, I’d love to see the ideas they rejected – “why not smear half a tube of Macleans and administer a generous drizzle of HP Sauce on top?” Because it doesn’t go, that’s why. And neither does bloody ice cream.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Odds & Sods

I’m cheerfully stealing an idea from Dan’s blog today in which he ruminated on the bits of content that pop into his head, but never make it as far as his webpage.

He has a running document on his phone in which he logs snippets of ideas. I also have a document on my ‘puter (inspiringly entitled “Blog”) that I add to whenever something occurs to me. Currently it’s clogged up with a fragmented collection of oddments and miscellaneous deadwood gumph that it’s entirely likely I’ll never get round to writing up, so instead I’ve mashed them together below by way of a therapeutic purge:

"Best song on the album is the fourteen-minutes-long O’Malley’s Bar in which one member of the clientele embarks upon a killing spree, dispatching his fellow drinkers in a highly unsavoury manner. I don’t like Irish theme pubs either, but this seems extreme."

"Sub-Christmas-cracker humour in the ads around Corrie - “These are really EGG-cellent” and “I like to EGG-speriment”. There’s so much emphasis placed on the one-dimensional pun that even the slowest-witted of viewers (admittedly, many of whom are in the Coronation Street demographic so someone’s done their homework) can’t fail to get the gag. If indeed it can be called a gag. These exhibit all the comic sophistication of a blacked-up Jim Davidson calling himself “Chalky”. "

"His nickname of Jaffa was ultimately ironic, given that he was completely devoid of “smashing orangey bits”. "

"Magnolia paint, cheddar cheese, vanilla ice cream, John Grisham. Is it better to be bland or crap?"

"Bird’s Custard – the first ever convenience food, borne of Mr Bird’s labours to produce an alternative to the run-of-the-mill stuff his wife was allergic to (due to the eggs from which custard is traditionally made), but of which she was so fond."


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Prize Draw Fishermen And A Month's Worth Of Cheese

Strange couple of competitions in our local paper, The Wiltshire Times, the other day…

The first offered some lucky reader the fantastic prize of “a year’s worth of Fisherman’s Friends”. I assume they meant the unpleasant menthol lozenges rather than actual sea-faring individuals, as the prospect of having a succession of Sou’wester-clad nautical folk with ruddy cheeks and aggressive facial hair turning up at your front door every day for a year would be unlikely to appeal to many entrants.

The oddness of the giveaway aside (I don’t think there’s a person alive who could benefit from that many medicinal pastilles), it immediately reminded me of something that’s always puzzled me in competition rhetoric: the actual definition of “a year’s worth”. How many packets of Fisherman’s Friends can the lucky winner expect to receive, and who decides?

I like Fisherman’s Friends as much as the next man (ie. not an awful lot), and the thought of lorry-loads turning up at our front door is the stuff of nightmares. However, I suppose to a complete Fisherman’s Friends junkie (and no doubt proud owner of the clearest sinuses in all England) who crunched them morning, noon and night, it would be menthol manna from heaven. But if so, who’s to say that his notion of “a year’s worth” matches the competition people’s? In these days of legal exactness, it seems uncharacteristically vague.

Personally, I found the second competition far more appealing, offering as it did, the opportunity to “Win a month’s supply of cheese!” Now that’s more like it. Though with the quantity I’d be likely to eat if I won, I’d also need to win the first competition in order to subdue my rancid breath.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Olde-Worlde (and -Peopley) Pubs

Because of the smoking ban, many pubs are concentrating on offering high quality comestibles to entice customers into their gloriously smoke-free environments. Wetherspoons have just made their low-price grub even cheaper, though this appears to have had a curious effect on their mid-morning clientele.

My ladies (my wife and four month old daughter – the boy was in nursery) and I popped in for a cup of tea and a fry-up the other morning and found that, even adding our three ages together, we were collectively the youngest person there. Great herds of wrinklies seem to have eschewed their traditional haunts of greasy caffs to migrate across to a more pubular watering hole.

Nothing wrong with it of course, the atmosphere was charged with life and noise (though that could have been because they were all shouting due to their dodgy hearing), and an ironic glitterball effect could be seen with shards of light rebounding off fifty pairs of bifocals, but it felt odd to encounter so many in a town-centre pub.

The throng at the bar was resplendent in taupe and grey, topped off with either shiny liver-spotted chrome-domes or purple rinses. In some places it was three-deep (there were adequate staff to serve everyone, it’s just that they were probably all paying in pennies “Three pounds eighty you say? Let’s see now, there’s ten, twenty, twenty five, six , seven, ni…? No hang on, let me start again… my son Michael lives in Australia… half past three… yes… etc.”)

It was a like a day centre, or that bit in the Thriller video where hordes of mottled zombies halt their cheesy ‘80s dance moves and start stumbling around, walking into trees etc. except these living dead were holding hot cups of tea. Alternatively, it was like being caught in an episode of Last Of The Summer Wine, and ironically, there were two old fellas on the leather settee next to ours, though neither were sporting tweed jackets or were slowly rolling down a hill on it, accompanied by a jaunty noodling cor anglais melody and hilarious laughter from a canned audience.

Talking about Last of the Summer Wine, the stunts were always crap because the actors, given their age, were fairly fragile, and no doubt the production company didn’t want a hefty insurance claim for incapacitating a number of them. Now that Die Hard 4.0’s out and Bruce Willis is gettiing on a bit the producers should consider drafting him in as he always insists on doing his own stunts. He might even encourage the other chaps to follow suit:

“Right Mr Sallis, I’ll be abseiling down this burning cowshed in a string vest to blow two henchmen away with a harpoon. In the meantime, I want you to ride this rickety old bicycle into a wall at breakneck speed but in an amusing fashion.”
“Ooh, ‘eck Mr Willis! That’ll smart…”

I don’t think Brucie will be appearing in Wetherspoons anytime soon though, not if he sees the queue for the bar anyway.