Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Poundland Indeed…

There was a disappointing story about the state of the Wiltshire juvenile criminal fraternity in the local paper this week.

Under cover of darkness, a gang of youths broke into the local Poundland, followed by Julian Graves a few doors down. I’m not sure how successful they anticipated their less-than-daring raids to be, but surely there’s only so many poorly-crafted ornaments and Bombay Mix you can cram in your pockets. The doors probably weren’t even locked.

If their intention was obtaining money rather than stock, again they were thwarted, making off with the safe from the latter establishment which contained the princely sum of around two pounds in loose change (they’d probably get more than that by flogging the safe on Ebay).

In these lean times, I can’t help but feel that these trainee criminals should consider their retail establishments more thoughtfully in order not to waste valuable time which could be spent terrorising elderly people or imitating black people (why is it that any be-hooded individual between the ages of 13 and 18 sounds like a Tim Westwood acolyte?), unless they’re black, whereupon maybe they could imitate white people.

Our young criminals were once the best in the world. What’s happened? Come on boys and girls of Britain! Shame on you – put some effort into it…

Friday, December 05, 2008

Beastly Criminals

So Shannon Matthews’ pikey mum and oddball unc have been banged to rights over her “kidnap”, and quite right too. The details of the case make for disturbing reading, though one of the things that I find most strange is that, Michael Donovan, the chap who held her in his flat while everyone looked for her outside, changed his name from Paul Drake to Michael Donovan in tribute to a character from reptilian alien telly sci-fi 80’s drama V. This brings back echoes of Barry George changing his name to Barry Bulsara (after Freddie Mercury’s real surname of Bulsara) of whom he was quite a fan, before popping a cap in poor Jill Dando. Although he didn’t.

Maybe all the authorities need to do to find future transgressors is to search for anyone who sounds like they were famous in the 80s (the incarceration of people like Paul Daniels, Rick Astley and other real celebrities sporting similar names is just a cross society will have to bear).

As I recall, the same actor who played the character of Mike Donovan – Marc Singer – also played the title character in a film around the same time called The Beastmaster which was a sub-Conan fantasy effort about a muscular, luxuriantly-coiffured nomad whose best friend was a ferret. I’m not mocking the severity of Shannon’s plight, but I can’t help but think how much more entertaining events would have been had Paul Drake changed his name to the eponymous hero’s name from this film instead.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Spore Of The Devil

Around the same time that the switch was finally flicked on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) buried underneath Switzerland in order to recreate the moments directly after the big bang (thereby allowing a hitherto impossible insight into the building blocks of matter and tantalising clues as to why the universe, which includes us, is here at all), so a Christian group has set up a website to rally the faithful against the release of computer game Spore.

Whereas a metre-long stream of protons travels the 11 mile super-cooled magnetic circuit at speeds approaching that of light, the synapses of the individuals who set up this site are more than a little sluggish.

The game allows the player (and I think the key word here good Christian folk) is “player” to create and nurture a species from single-celled organism, through to multi-celled organism capable of cognitive thought, fostering its biological and social development through generations in order to arrive, ultimately, at a state of civilisation. I dunno, maybe there’s even an opportunity to fart, invent cappuccino machines and crucify a deluded member claiming to be some kind of earthly deity.

Their beef is with that most dangerous of concepts (though for those who aren’t chunky-jumpered simpletons, read “dangerous” as “irrefutable” and “concepts” as “facts”), namely evolution. They claim the game promotes the ghastly notion that we aren’t all descended from two little people in a magical garden who cheerfully pootled around munching fruit until a talking snake convinced them to eat something untoward, thereby fucking it up for everyone.

I propose the building of a Large Christian Collider (or LCC) buried under rural Wiltshire in which fervent believers can be smashed together in order to try and knock some sense into them.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Wired For Sound

Continuing the motoring theme from the last entry, tootling into work the past couple of days has been twenty minutes of comparative luxury due to the fact that I have a new car. At 9am I swished noiselessly into a parking space with a notable absence of the toots, parps and puffs of smoke which had hitherto announced my arrival (with doors which threatened to fall off in theatrical style and a nearby colleague on standby to empty a bucket of glittery paper over my head).

The new one is navy blue and shiny and sports such features as (it’s best if this is read in Generation Game “conveyor belt” style)…

- a radiator which doesn’t require filling up before the start of each journey
- a rear view mirror
- windows that go both up and down
- an engine which doesn’t sound like a plane coming in to land
- the ability to reverse
- a full set of windscreen wipers
- a heating system which doesn’t blast arctic air in your face, irrespective of the temperature dial

…all of which were lacking in its predecesor.

Perhaps the most noticeable thing though is the stereo which, in the car it replaced, wasn’t actually a stereo as only the left channel worked. Occasionally, it proved quite enlightening as the isolation of the various instruments and vocals which make up songs forced you to regard them in a whole new light, though for the most part it was lacking in substance. From now on, however, Simon will be accompanied by Garfunkel, Kool, will be able to boast a full complement of Gang members, and Bruce Horsnby (if I ever let him in my car via the medium of magical medium of muzak) will be backed up by his entire Range.

My only gripe is that there’s nowhere to position the wobbly-head Mr T who has been a perennial passenger on many a workward journey. Maybe he can live in the glove compartment from now on – even that’s cosy.

In the meantime, for anybody wishing to buy a clapped-out Fiat Punto, it’s on Ebay. Thirty quid and it’s yours (“T” not included).

Monday, December 01, 2008

Keep On Trucking

We recently moved house and, rather than pay a local removal company over £500 (five hundred squids!) to cart our stuff around the corner, we opted to hire a couple of Luton vans and shift it ourselves.

There’s a feeling of motoring superiority that comes with being eight foot up in the air at the helm of a “rig”. It wasn’t quite Convoy, (there were no bull horns on the front of the cab and we were pootling through a Wiltshire village rather than speeding across the Badlands, saluting fellow truckers with a celebratory parp) but a Yorkie bar did seem mandatory and I got more respect at roundabouts than I usually get in my Fiat Punto.

Fortunately, I didn’t feel the urge to eat three fried breakfasts or murder any hitchikers, but then we only rented the vans for the day which is probably just as well. God knows what would have happened by the end of the week.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Ronseal Telly

There seems to be a trend amongst TV producers at the moment for up-front, honest, unambiguous programme names. Recent examples are The Whale that Blew up in the Street (regarding a sperm whale that, as you might expect, exploded in a Tokyo city street) and The largest Penis in the World (not about a sperm whale that exploded but there are tenuous parallels should you choose to draw them).

I was undecided as to whether these are examples of clear and truthful promotion which cut through the usual clever-clever pun-laden marketing labeling, or whether they were sensationalist appeals to the lowest common denominator of viewer. The fact that most of these programmes appear to be on Channel 5, however, leads me to the latter.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"HELLO. I SAID 'HELLO'. YES…"

According to a new directive from the Nursing and Midwifery Council, health workers are to be dissuaded from calling older patients “dearie” and “love” as this has been deemed to be offensive to senior citizens.

Nurses have instead been encouraged to speak “courteously and respectfully” towards patients, using their preferred names, like “wrinkly” or “coffin-dodger”. No doubt spoken in a very loud voice.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Year Of Cheese

An annual tradition in our household is the purchase, around this time of year, of a Daniel O’Donnell calendar. It started about four years ago where it was bought in jest, and it’s been a family tradition ever since.

Every family needs a calendar to log the various birthdays, anniversaries and miscellany of other appointments which pepper domestic life. And what better way to diarise these events than with an accompanying snap of a lemon-yellow jumpered cheese-merchant, horribly-posed, and sporting a smile to make any octogenarian go weak at her proboscine knees?

The pictures, year-on-year, rarely fail to disappoint. My favourite this year, is October which shows our Daniel in his study, looking scholarly and vaguely heroic.

This year, our sense of irony cost us £7.99. I’d have gladly paid double.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

More Reasons To Like Nordic Comedy

"Daddy! Look at the funny man!” exclaimed our four-year-old the other day while out shopping in our local branch of Morrisons (there are “more reasons” to shop at “Morrisons” after all – a pun of questionable quality which went undetected in our house for some time, despite the best efforts of Nick Hancock, Alan Hansen, Denise Van Outen, Lulu and, err… Barry George, probably…)

Anyway, looking directly to where his tiny digits were pointing, I spotted an average-looking chap going about his business filling his basket with bread, canned food and other sundry items.
“Why is he a funny man?” I tentatively asked.
“He’s got orange hair!” he replied.

Surely enough, the chap was a “ginger”, though I was baffled as to why would this render him instantly amusing to a four-year-old mind (which you have to assume is largely untarnished by notions of social ostracism of our carrot-topped brethren). On pondering this, it occurred to me that the comedic properties of gingers may be an inherited trait passed down through the generations. Is there an evolutionary reason why gingers are amusing?

Perhaps the “ginger jesters” that walk among us were necessary light relief to our ancestors as some kind of Neanderthal entertainers, while in the modern world is it coincidence that so many clowns have red hair? Historically, has the expansion of the human skull to accommodate the increased brain capacity necessitated a requirement for light relief, and have the ginger genes been allowed to pass down ancestrally in order to fill this void?

Everyone knows that red hair is indicative of the presence of Viking genes. Logic states, therefore, that Scandinavia must be the most amusing place on the planet. I’ve never witnessed any Swedish comedy, but I bet it’s brilliant.

Bias? What Bias?

Excellent example of entirely biased news reporting on the Beeb today regarding comments made by Jeremy Clarkson about lorry drivers and hookers. The article is entirely factual, though the order of these reported facts completely discredits the view of the 500 people referred to in the opening line.

Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson has prompted more than 500 people to complain to the BBC about a joke he made on Sunday's motoring show.

Clarkson, 48, was taking part in a lorry-driving task, when he joked about lorry drivers killing sex workers.

"Change gear, change gear, check mirror, murder a prostitute, change gear, change gear, murder. That's a lot of effort in a day," he said.

The BBC said the joke had made "ridiculous an unfair urban myth".

Forklift truck driver Steve Wright was jailed in February for killing five prostitutes in Ipswich.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

America Now Able To Talk To Morrissey

"In America, The Land of the Free, they said,
And of opportunity, in a just and a truthful way,
But where the president is never black, female or gay,
And until that day you've got nothing to say to me."

Morrissey - America Is Not The World (2004)

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

2012 – Spectacularly Unspectacular?

Tch! Typical British luck. Just when we manage to bag the biggest sporting show on earth and set about creating an extravaganza to rival the Chinese, the world’s money markets implode in spectacular fashion and tumps of private funding is withdrawn. The upshot is, that there now exists the very real possibility that our Olympic games might be a bit shit.

Downsizing the Games when the world’s collective gaze is upon us shouldn’t really be an option. However, spinning it on its head for a second, it could be a prime opportunity to embrace our own Britishness and show the world what we’re all about by holding an event akin to a school sports day.

Instead of hammer throwing and hurdles, we could hold three-legged or egg and spoon races, with the athletes’ mums and dads cheering embarrassingly from the sidelines. The marathon could be replaced with a freezing cold cross country run (the more overweight competitors would be lagging behind while their swifter counterparts jeer and throw mud), and if no kit was available due to diminished resources, our proud athletes could be forced to do it in their pants and vest.

As far as opening and closing ceremonies go, I happen to know it’s two-for-one on a twenty quid box of fireworks in Tesco at the moment, so that’s both those covered.

Rule Brittania…

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Beans

I consider myself a reasonably intelligent chap, but there’s something that baffles me. It’s a puzzlement over my recently-diagnosed lactose intolerant wife’s purchase of a carton of Alpro Soya Milk: how on earth do they make milk out of beans? Look at the picture, they’re beans. And they make milk out of them… What’s that all about?

God Lives In Mysterious Ways

Bit of a strange story on the Beeb the other day about a US judge throwing out a court case brought against God on the basis that the defendant doesn’t have an address (and therefore legal papers can’t be served). Perhaps a better reason would be because the defendant doesn’t actually exist, but there you go.

I’m not entirely sure I agree with Judge Marlon Polk’s reasoning though, as technically therefore, any homeless person is free to commit crime without fear of retribution. Additionally, as any good Christian will testify, God is omnipotent and is thereby surely a resident of every domicile worldwide, from the lowliest straw hut to the most opulent mansion. You could pick an address at random out of the phone book and he’s bound to be living there, no doubt helping himself to tea and biscuits in front of The Antiques Roadshow when everyone’s out.

I’m not sure where God lives in my house cos I’ve never seen him, but I suspect he’s under the stairs where we hang our coats and kick off our shoes. On the other hand, maybe he doesn’t exist at all and we haven’t got an imaginary lodger capable of raining down fire and brimstone upon our heads when his godly duties are interrupted, which is just as well given the amount of pairs of wellies or leather brogues constantly belting him in the face.

The Usurping of Butch Gok

It was while watching Alan Carr’s Celebrity Ding Dong the other night that the following conversation took place twixt my wondrous other half and I:

“I wish he was my best friend,” she wistfully proclaimed.
“I thought you wanted Gok Wan to be your best friend?” I replied.
“Nah, he’s not camp enough.”

It seems that Gok, despite registering a respectable 8.2 on the Campometer, has been out-gayed by a toothier rival. They should be forced to fight it out.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Premiershit

There’s an ad that’s been on telly for a little while now, though I remain confused (and more than a little disturbed).

Premier Travel Inn’s Lenny Henry-endorsed campaign is difficult viewing enough – watching him sell his soul to the god of celebrity endorsements in a piss-poor set-to that reeks of the finest Stilton – but, unsettlingly, his companion is a small toy duck who he bathes with and takes to dinner (even going so far as to order him/her/it bread).

What happens after dinner is anyone’s guess, though the image of Lenny Henry nobbing a small plastic waterfowl in a motorway service station hotel isn’t one that encourages me to spend a night there, even given the promise of a “small time” bill.

I suppose after seeing Dawn French in the buff, I suppose anything’s going to look good.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Barry’s Heavenly Pickles

Celebrity endorsement shifts shitloads of product – fact. Paul Newman and George Foreman spring immediately to mind as figureheads for salad cream and grilling machines, but now there’s another odd member of this peculiar club. Rankling among the Lloyd Grossman cooking sauces and Jamie Oliver god-knows-whats in my local Tesco the other day, I encountered a jar of Barry Norman pickled onions.

Agent: Finally got you something Barry, food endorsement, how does your own range sound?
Barry: Sounds good. Maybe something film-related like popcorn or nachos?
Agent: It’s pickled onions.
Barry: Right.
[beat]
Agent: You haven’t worked for quite a while now Barry.
Barry: I know, I know…

Despite the linkless celeb/product concept, http://www.pickleodeon.co.uk/ is almost a good enough pun to redress the strange connection. The site is quick to state that it’s Barry Norman’s Pickled Onions Official Website, which is useful to know as there are undoubtedly a plethora of unofficial sites out there jumping on the bag-eyed movie mogul’s pickling bandwagon.

Unlike Newman and Foreman though, it seems that pickles are no trivial thing for Baz; the site reveals him to be quite an enthusiast. “I never buy pickled onions,” he writes, “No need to - I make my own. Crisp, luscious, sweet and spicy, pickled onions fit for the gods.”

That’s an impressive claim. If deities themselves would be inclined to pop some of them on their little paper buffet plates then I feel I’m in good company indeed.

Incidentally, where have his bags gone? Barry Norman’s eye-bags, which resembled pockets of loose change, were almost trademarked, being as identifiable as Elton’s roadkill hairpiece or Beadle’s strange little hand. In recent pictures, however, they appear to have mysteriously vanished. Maybe it’s airbrushing, maybe it’s surgery, or maybe he’s struck a deal with him upstairs to remove them in exchange for a jar of “Hot & Spicy” shallots. He could be onto something big…

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Hanging's Too Good For Him

Men and ladies of this sceptred isle, please join me in lifting a mighty chorus to heaven proclaiming, with vim and vigour and intestinal fortitude, lest there be any doubt, that David Blaine is a cock.

As if swimming in a fish bowl, encasing himself in ice, living in a glass box and standing on top of a big pillar wasn’t enough, he’s now dangling upside-down above an ice rink. Please tell me I’m not the only one who finds watching a man suspended from a crane devoid of entertainment value. If he was simultaneously singing a repertoire of Abba songs, or making balloon animals, then I might just concede his antics could be appealing to slower-witted observers; but as it stands (or indeed hangs), it’s impossible to acknowledge his efforts as remotely entertaining.

The media keep referring to his escapades as “stunts”. I disagree. A stunt is Evil Knievel belting over a bunch of buses and landing like a lump of strawberry jam on the other side, shattering all 206 of his bones and rendering the resulting shards indistinguishable from the twisted metal that was once his bike in the process. What Blaine does isn’t “stunty” at all.

It’s notable that only one of his exploits was undertaken in the UK (the one where he starved himself in a glass box above the Thames). He hasn’t ventured across the pond since, possibly because us Brits aren’t terribly impressed with this sort of egotistical tomfoolery. As I recall, people threw kebabs and drove golf balls at him (there’s your entertainment value).

Wiping a red, white and blue tear from my eye like a advertiser’s drop of multi-hued Macleans, these actions make me proud to be Briitish. We don’t put up with such self-aggrandising shenanigans and see it for what it really is: an unsavoury hybrid of the “look what I can do!” school of exhibitionism usually displayed by small children and the cheesy air of mystique that was the trademark of Vegas-dwelling magicians sometime in the ‘80s.

In these lean financial times where travel plans are scuppered by the demise of holiday firms and rising oil prices puts air travel beyond the grasp of many, perhaps Dickie Branson can be encouraged to lay on a Boeing or two to New York full of jingoistic revellers singing God Save The Queen, kebabs in hand ready to pelt David Blaine en masse. It’s what this country needs to remind us who we are.

The image of him, suspended upside-down and covered from 'toe to head' in kebab meat and bits of salad, chilli sauce dripping from his upended cranium, makes me proud to be British. Alternatively, I’m all for a UK version whereby Paul Daniels could be forcibly suspended from a crane above Hyde Park, perhaps with an adjacent driving range in order to thwack dimpled missiles at him. People would be queueing up.

Teed Off

Drawing on recent holiday experiences, as well as assessing the facilities around my immediate locale, I must confess to being more than a little disappointed with the current state of Britain’s crazy golf courses. The condition of many is poor with most exhibiting an entirely inadequate level of craziness, and can perhaps be most accurately described as Mildly Unhinged Golf.

Therein lies the problem: “crazy” is ill-defined term, which opens the sport to the provision of facilities of a poor nature. Add to this the fact that there are no recognised guidelines and no governing body in order to determine those courses deserving of the moniker (something the Olympic Committee might want to address ahead of the games in 2012), and it’s anarchy.

Being an enthusiast, I therefore propose the following mandatory requirements for any course purporting to be “crazy”. Any course falling short of these would be forced to refer to itself as Miniature, Fun or Family Golf to alleviate confusion. Each course must have, within its 18 holes, the following:

- At least one windmill, with rotating blades and a small doorway
- Water features with the very real danger that to ball will be irretrievably lost
- A small bridge, the exit ramp of which is far too fast for the hole
- Tunnels
- A cooling-off area, for irate children (and competitive dads)
- A rotating clown’s head with opening/closing mouth
- At least two holes where which require the player to twat the ball with gusto in a “death or glory” attempt at a result

It’s my hope that one day a green-blazered Tiger Woods might parade his skills in the superior game.

Friday, September 05, 2008

"Wooooargh! Ooo-aar! Wye-aye!"

It was during Richard Dawkins’ excellent programme on Darwin on Channel 4 recently that he perfectly illustrated just how closely related all living beings are. He envisioned that, if your average person stood side by side with his mother, and she stood next to her mother, and so on etc. and chimps did the same, after only 300 miles the two would converge to arrive at a common ancestor that could develop into either species, though would essentially be a creature not quite ape, and not quite human.

He went on to surmise that man’s genetic proximity to chimpanzees is such that it’s not biologically inconceivable that the two would be able to mate, in the same way that horses and donkeys, while distinct species, are able to produce sterile offspring.

Taking London as the centre of UK civilization, a 300 mile radius might just clip the edge of Cornwall and extend almost as far north as Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.

It’s probably just coincidence, that’s all I’m saying.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Dr Doctor Needed?

In the mid-80s - around the time when men were wearing pink for the first time and “bum” was in the process of becoming both a verb and a noun - Mr Mister were dubiously encouraging one particular individual to “Take these broken wings and learn to fly again, learn to fly so free”.

Surely if the welfare of this person was of true concern, then pushing them to take to the air on wings which are broken is both foolhardy and hazardous. Perhaps a more accurate reflection of intent might have been “Take these repaired wings…” or “Take this wing repair kit and learn to fly again…”

The danger of flying on malfunctioning avian limbs is further exacerbated by the fact that they were subsequently urged to “learn” to fly again, thereby indicating that flight was an activity they were perhaps a little out of practice with – a dangerous enough predicament, without being persuaded to do so with faulty apparatus.

In these modern times where litigation is brought against individuals at the drop of the proverbial headgear, perhaps Mr Mister ought to think twice about their lyrics, and would be wise to adopt either of the suggestions above for their inevitable ‘80s revival tour. I charge no fee; just a small mention in the sleeve notes.

Home From Home

[Being back from holibobs today, I’ve finally got around to putting a post together about our excursion earlier in the year. I’ll probably get around to writing about the one we recently returned from sometime around Christmas…]

The OED defines the word haven as being “a place of shelter and safety; refuge”; Collins doubtless has a similar view, though having recently holidayed in a Haven Holiday Park I’d seriously question this.

It’s true that it rained every day, which didn’t help matters, though any spirits which weren’t dampened by drizzle were swiftly extinguished by the misery of the staff whose ability to raise a smile was on a par with my body’s ability to undergo childbirth.

The Britishness of the weather aside, the place resembled Auschwitz-on-Sea with not dissimilar facilities. The soft play area smelled of damp (maybe the ‘softness’ was attributable to the furry mould and exotic fungi), the outdoor activities were boarded shut, and what was optimistically referred to as a “beach” consisted of a series of irregular rocks waiting to lacerate the cold white feet of anyone with the foolish courage to venture seawards. No doubt some brave souls made a break for the surf in the past, though were probably thwarted when the bloody stumps of what remained of their legs could no longer support their weight and they fell earthwards in slo-mo in a manner akin to Willem Dafoe’s death scene in Platoon, only to be swept out by the merciless tide as if the tragedy had never occurred.

Looking at the clientele, I felt quite underdressed without a football shirt, a cranial tattoo, and accompanying baseball-capped kids and an enormous wife. We gathered in the entertainment complex nightly for an evening of what could loosely be termed “entertainment”, consisting primarily of bingo, bingo, and more bingo during which conversation of any sort was seriously frowned upon. Woe betide the person who dared to utter a word as he/she was likely to be pounced upon by a gaggle of Neanderthal ladies wielding those special blunt pens (I think they’re called dabbers – the pens, not the ladies), their bingo wings propelling them across the room like pikey pterodactyls. Maybe it’s best that they don’t let them use sharp implements. But I shouldn’t mock; it’s serious stuff as failing to stab a little number on your sheet may have led to missing out on such “prizes” as colouring-in pencils or a lucky gonk.

Attached to the entertainment hall was a cafĂ© which served up a selection of inedible (and instantly refundable) meals. Tuesday’s ‘Curry Night’ seemed to be no more than an excuse to throw the previous week’s collective leftovers into a pot, along with a few spices to mask the flavour of rancid offerings, and serve it up en masse to people whose taste buds had been mashed by lager the night before.

Luckily the caravan was comfy, which was useful as it’s where we spent much of our time; particularly the toilet which we became very familiar with after the aforementioned Tuesday.

All in all, the best thing about Donniford Bay Haven Holiday Park (for the purposes of search engines, that’s Donniford – yes, “Donniford” Bay Haven Holiday Park) was the road out of there. “Look daddy, the sea’s all brown.” observed our four-year-old as we were leaving via the cliff-top road. And brown it indeed was – coincidentally the colour of the curry, both on its way in, and its way out. Maybe there’s a more sinister reason for the correlation.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Mark Of A Man

In a recent conversation with Dan, we established that the true sign of masculinity was twofold: namely, shed ownership and the ability to bear children. Being in possession of two of each, I can therefore only assume that testosterone courses around my veins like Usain Bolt after a couple of coffees.

A Cure For Society's Ills

A debate has broken out in work lately regarding the treatment of criminals.

During the lunchtime collective surfing of the BBC Newspages (which invariably contain a daily glut of stories about society’s transgressors), much head-shaking and grumbling is visible from the other side of my desk.

The head shaker’s solution involves a zero-tolerance approach to criminality, advocating the state-sanctioned termination of perpetrators irrespective of misdemeanour, from paedophilia to thievery to, err… scrumping, and to this end a number of inventive methods of snuffing-out have been suggested. These range from the use of large vats of acid, to quarries and lots of concrete, to gassing (though as I recall, a little chap with a cheeky moustache had a not dissimilar idea some sixty-odd years ago, much to the world’s chagrin).

These right wing solutions don’t sit quite right with me, and my woolly-hearted liberalism believes that using criminals as landfill can never be justified. Indeed, killing anybody, on a basic human level, is more than a little morally dubious, no matter how creative or amusing their dispatch.

By way of compromise, I’ll concede that maybe they could be given a fighting chance, with,perhaps, the new Wembley Stadium converted into some sort of gladiatorial arena where terrified rat boys can scamper round in rags in an effort to save themselves from a tooled-up Tony “Maximus” Martin wielding a blunderbuss to pepper them with buckshot.

To go down the route of social cleansing is foolish though. If there were no criminal fraternity in society, what would pensioners find to tut about? Or Daily Mail readers twitch their curtains at?

That’s not to say, however, that I’m not in favour of the systematic culling of the following individuals: Caroline Quentin (see posts passim), Cher, Chico, all weathermen, Matthew Davenport from Form 4G. I think the world would be a much better place without them. Well, my world anyway…

Friday, August 15, 2008

Maybe He Just Skips Breakfast?

As I tootle to work in the morning in my little blue car, I see some familiar faces in the cars around me, as they’re also tootling towards their respective workplaces at exactly the same time. One such face belongs to a be-suited chap with an aggressive sea-faring beard, who drives a much larger, greener car. Green would seem to be an appropriate colour as I often encounter him in my rear-view mirror, typically at the lights, and watch with fascination as he busies himself scooping out and gorging on the contents of his nose.

With a furrowed brow he examines his fingers like he’s choosing the appropriate blade of a Swiss Army knife, before plunging the appropriate digit into each nostril in turn and emerging triumphantly with his mucous prize. He then pops these valuable comestibles into his waiting mouth.

I’m not sure what it is about being in a car (and I’m sure he’s not the only one), where there’s an erroneously-perceived distance between you and the outside world. A car is an extension of your home, and being as you are, surrounded by personal effects and the comfortable knowledge that the space in which you sit is owned (or at least partially-owned) by you, there’s a tendency to relax in your automotive kingdom.

For those who regularly scoff bogeys during lengthy drives - you’re surrounded by glass. We can still see you, you know.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Freeman Freeway

71-year-old Morgan Freeman's in a bad way after he totalled his car by rolling it over a couple of times and landing in a ditch. It just goes to show that it's always the ones you least expect to be road hogs that are burning up the tarmac like teenagers. Driving Miss Daisy my arse. I bet he installed those blue flashing lights under Jessica Tandy's Bentley and put a 1000 megawatt amplifier in the boot. The man's a menace...

On-Board Entertainment

A particularly unsavoury story in the news on Friday concerned a man who stabbed and beheaded a fellow passenger on a Greyhound bus as it trundled across the Canadian prairies.

Having traversed Australia in the same way I know just how boring long Greyhound journeys can be, and have previously in this blog, documented a succession of journeys during which my lovely wife and I were forced to watch My Big Fat Greek Wedding seven times on the on-board telly.

By the fifth viewing I was losing the will to live; by the sixth, the red murderous mist was starting to descend, and by the seventh, the sweet release of death itself would have been welcome reprieve to the constant jaunty bouzouki music and cross-cultural gaggery.

Out Of This World Looky-Likey

My lovely other half proffered a bizarre lookalike while walking around Morrison’s the other day. On viewing one of the larger plastic bottles of milk (the one that weighs as much as a cow’s udder and is impossible to pour into a cup of coffee without dumping a sixth of its content, thereby rendering any hot beverage undrinkable) she confessed to being reminded of the alien’s head (from Alien).


Can’t see it myself, but I wonder just how terrified Ripley would be, scurrying towards the escape hatch, with six pints of semi-skimmed sloshing around behind her.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

“Helping criminals commit suicide since 1852…”

When prisoners on suicide watch in prison have their shoelaces removed for fear they may hang themselves, I can’t be alone in being impressed at the robustness of their choice in footwear fastenings. I’m not sure of the breaking point of the average shoelace, but I’d hypothesise that it would be less than the weight of the average person.

Fred West, arguably the most well-known of shoelace related suicides, wasn’t a small man (exacerbated by a sizeable bouffant and Mungo Jerry sideburns), but successfully bought the farm via this self-inflicted route. Conversely, my shoelaces snap on a fairly regular basis when I’m merely popping shoes on my feet, so either I’m tying them in a heavy-handed and unsustainable fashion, or I’m buying crap laces. It seems that the crims and perps of unstable mind that populate our prisons either have a predilection towards good quality laces (maybe there’s something subliminal in their psyche that, possibly, they may have to swing from a door frame with them one day), or, err… have hollow bones. Like birds.

The ability for such simple items to support the weight of a fully grown serial killer is impressive and perhaps something that the Shoelace Marketing Board should be actively shouting about, perhaps with an ad campaign along the lines of Araldite (the one where a man is suspended over a frothing sea of sharks, though is prevented from being torn limb-from-limb as he’s bonded to a board by his super-strong glue).

Ironically, had Fred sported shoes with Velcro fastenings, he could still have carried out his plan by sticking them onto his Dickensian mutton-chops before leaping off the chair. Not the most dignified way to go perhaps, though effective nonetheless. I bet when he was alive, you never saw him in slip-ons. Some people are just born to be serial killers.

Friday, July 18, 2008

“Dey do do dat don’t dey dough?”

While watching the semi-final of Masterchef last night, it occurred to me that three of the four contestants (Liz McLachan [the Atomic Kitten], Louis Emerick [“Migch” from Brookside] and Mark Morahan [from some soap or other]) were Liverpudlian.

It’s an observation I’m struggling with as there didn’t appear to be a box of McCain’s Micro Chips in sight.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

What’s It Called In Your House?

Nowadays, the prospect of hoiking one’s arse off the sofa and shuffling across the room to press a button on the telly seems unthinkable, though unbelievably, there was a day when this was the only way of changing the channel. This all changed when remote controls were first introduced in the early ‘80s and there ensued a wide variety of nicknames for them. “Remote” now seems to be pretty much the norm, though there are still a few hangovers from the old days.

Among examples I still hear today are “The Blip”, “The Zapper” (and rarely “The Frank” [Zapper]). My lovely wife’s name of choice is the beautifully explanatory “The Presser”, while it was always known in our house when I was growing up, as simply “The Sound Thing”. As I recall our original Sound Thing had six buttons (volume up/down, channel up/down, mute and standby), ran off a car battery and had to be held an inch from the telly, thereby negating the need for a “Sound Thing” at all.

These days, our front room is overrun with remote controls with buttons of every shape and description for devices that form part of the modern entertainment system. The capabilities of even the most simplistic of machines is now vast and hence the buttons have shrunk accordingly. Sadly, evolution has yet to catch up and human fingers have remained the same size; the result is that often buttons are pressed in error, but this is a minor gripe.

With the plethora of buttons at your fingertips, you either need the dexterity of Liberace or small child-like digits, which might go some way to explaining why our four-year old is so adept at pressing 7 and 4 to watch children’s channel CITV (to clarify, he’s a small child, not a flamboyant pianist). Jeremy Beadle, God rest his soul, was also probably quite tasty with a Sound Thing. On the other hand, maybe he was crap. Ho ho…

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

“I’ll have ‘War’ please Jim...”

Hands are being gleefully rubbed in the Ministry of Defence this week as it was confirmed that two spanking new aircraft carriers are to be built at enormous cost. Firms including Corus in Scunthorpe, and MacTaggart Scott & Co. in Mid Lothian (I defy anyone to think of a more Scottish sounding name) will bag over £91m to Airfix them together.

In order to convey the magnitude of such enormous and costly vessels, the BBC 6 O'clock News, using a topical comparison, showed their size in terms of tennis courts, illustrated by a natty graphic depicting aircraft carriers covered in prime Wimbledon turf complete with chalk markings. The correspondent helpfully informed the viewer that the deck surface of these immense warships is equivalent to 104 such courts.

While topical, this was slightly confusing. As my lovely wife pointed out, everyone knows that dimensions of large objects are measured in football pitches, not tennis courts, and as such, they would each be as big as four football pitches. It’s just as well the there was no major boxing bout over the weekend or they may have been illustrated in terms of 450 boxing rings. Alternatively, 753 snooker tables or even (using a little schoolboy geometry and the formula piR2 to determine surface area) 119,439 dartboards, though laid end-to-end, this amounts to no more than 93,700.

Come to think about it, a giant dartboard might be of benefit in helping planes to land, with points awarded for ‘Bullseye’ accuracy. Pilots could be encouraged to “listen to Tony” in the control tower, with prizes such as caravans and speedboats awarded for exemplary landings. Overshooting the runway, however, would result in them receiving nothing more than their PFH (plane fare home).

Monday, July 07, 2008

Muzak To My Ears

While out browsing/shopping the other day I became gently aware that the music being piped around the shop was a pan pipe version of If You Leave Me Now by Chicago.

Try as I might, I can’t think of a more bland and impassive example of tunesmithery; not unpleasant, but just empty and devoid of any emotion. It was like having melted mild cheddar dripped into my ears.

Irritating Irritating Irritating

A fresh crop of egotistical individuals have joined the Big Brother house, including the flamboyant and theatrical (and annoying) Belinda, who persisted in announcing her name to her fellow housemates as “Belinda Belinda Belinda!”, the rationale behind this repetition being “If you say it three times, no-one forgets it.”

It probably wouldn’t have been a good policy to adopt had her name been Kay. Her housemates might taken her to be some kind of white supremacist, and first impressions count in the highly volatile BB melting pot. Talk about getting off on the wrong foot with Mohamed.

Hopefully, Magnus Magnusson will never be persuaded to join Celebrity Big Brother, as he runs the risk of sounding like some sort of rabid dog.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Matured Longpig

“OAP Carvery £4.50” said a hastily-scrawled sign outside a pub the other day, advertising its traditional comestibles to passing trade.

Call me old-fashioned, but I think I’ll stick with beef, (I’ve always found pensioners far too tough).

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Geek Chic

Our eldest starts school in September and his new headmistress, Mrs O’Brien has stipulated (given the amount of unidentified clothing they harvest at the end of each term) that all parts of his uniform are labelled with his name in the traditional manner. This seems a bit of an undertaking, so we’re thinking of changing his name to George and buying all his clothes at ASDA to save us the hassle.

Calvin Klein’s mum doubtless had the same problem, but she just went overboard and plastered his name over everything, even his pants. Weirdly, when I was in school, any kid whose pants showed above his beltline and whose trousers were in permanent danger of falling earthward was regarded as a bit of a spanner and was ostracized to eat his irregularly-cut sandwiches in a corner of the playground on his own. Nowadays, however, such kids are the epitome of cool.

It just goes to show that geeks are years ahead in the fashion stakes and are the trendsetters of tomorrow. Look out for Karl Lagerfeld’s new collection which includes nylon slacks worn fashionably two inches above the ankle, glasses so thick you could burn ants with them on a hot summer day and hand-me down graying shirts with substantial lapels, all sported by models whose teeth protrude at 90 degrees to the perpendicular.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Euthanasia On A Budget

There was a programme about euthanasia on TV recently in which the law was once again under fire (its adversary being reason) when approaching the question of whether the individual has the right to take his or her own life (or more contentiously, whether caring family members can ethically assist). Presently the only countries where assisted suicide is legal are Holland and Switzerland (though Switzerland seems to be the location of choice, possibly cos it’s prettier).

Such trips are expensive however and prevent this option being available to all. So for anyone who’s watching the pennies, why not just pop down to your local embassy, which of course, is not governed by the laws of land where it is situated but by the country it represents? You could tootle down with your elderly relative during a lunch hour, or even on your way home from work, send them on their metaphorical way, and arrive home while your dinner is still warm and just in time for the start of EastEnders.

Peace of mind I’m sure to the individual involved, who surely wouldn't wish to be a burden, living or dead.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Glint Eastwood

A discussion arose in our house the other day about the origins and usage of the word “glint” (also “glinter” – someone who glints, and “glinting” – the act of performing a glint).

After asking around and getting nothing more than blank expressions in response, it seems that it’s a word that my wife has made up, and its usage extends to us two, though I’m thinking of starting a campaign for it to be included in the OED.

For those who don’t know what it means (ie. everyone apart from us), a definition is thus: the unfortunate effect that the action of squinting, or otherwise raising one’s cheeks to limit the intake of sunshine (or wind, though typically sunshine) into your eyes has on raising the upper lip, thereby revealing the top teeth. It’s not quite a squint (as it’s not just a narrowing of the eyes), and it’s not quite a grimace (as it’s an emotionless by-product of squinting, rather than an expression of umbrage).

For an excellent example, see the picture on the left. To the casual observer, it almost looks like a smile, but look closer and there’s no joy behind it.

Australia, being a sunny, outdoorsy kind of place, was excellent glinting territory with a array of teeth bared at the elements. The UK is less so, though with the onset of the great British summer, it’s now coming into prime glinting season with some fantastic examples to be had on the Great British High Street.

While out shopping of a Saturday, we often rate glints on a scale of 1-10 (usually accompanied by the expression “Glinter!”), with variables which determine the glint quality being teeth size, height to which the upper lip is hauled and gormlessness of the expression. Look out for them…

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Starsky, Hutch and Huggy Bears

It was after listening to Silver Lady by David Soul in a restaurant the other day, that I was mulling over the names children (or more accurately in most cases, their parents) give to their favourite anthropomorphic toys.

Our eldest’s soft companion of choice was a small Kermit the Frog (known affectionately as Kermy or Mr K, depending on circumstance), complete with pointed ruff and dangly limbs. Our youngest, however, chooses to eschew all expensive soft toys in favour of a crappy little penguin which was given away with boxes of Persil when they were promoting the film Happy Feet. This bedtime cohort of choice is called – somewhat unimaginatively – Mr Penguin. Our nephew’s much beaten and eaten companion meanwhile, is called Gerry the Giraffe.

Some thirty-something years ago, my own little furry chum was called Jaffa – a small orange bear. My sister’s, bizarrely, was called David Soul, named after an affection for the lusciously-bouffanted actor from Starsky & Hutch.

Jaffa has sadly long since been lost, as has Kermy (documented elsewhere in this blog), and it’s possible that Mr Penguin and Gerry will one day follow, though strangely, David Soul still inhabits a place in my sister’s house as well as her heart. Now in his late thirties, he requires handling with the utmost care as his threadbare skin is excessively fragile and his foamy innards are in constant danger of spilling forth in an unsavoury manner.

Co-incidentally, the real David Soul is now equally decrepit, but to my knowledge doesn’t live in my sister’s house. Or does he? No-one’s seen him for years; he could be tucked away in the attic subsisting on bugs, dew and sporadic displays of regressive affection. Or perhaps he’s kept in a hutch of some sort? No, that would be too ironic.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Phonetic Tactics

I’m more-or-less familiar with the phonetic alphabet: “hotel, sierra, whiskey, tango, etc.”, though sadly only on those occasions where it’s not required. If put on the spot by someone on the phone, why is it that the correct words go out the window in favour of more atypical examples?

“My postcode? Yep, it’s Biscuit Acrobat thirteen, three Jam Quagga.”

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Six In A Row

Although a bit of a crap sequel and a poor follow-up to the Zucker Brothers' excellent original, Airplane II (which was on telly the other day) does contain the following puntastic gem of courtroom dialogue between a prosecutor and an Air Force pilot who flew with the protagonist during the "Macho Grande" campaign:

Witness: Striker was the squadron leader. He brought us in real low. But he couldn't handle it.
Prosecutor: Buddy couldn't handle it? Was Buddy one of your crew?
Witness: Right. Buddy was the bombardier. But it was Striker who couldn't handle it, and he went to pieces.
Prosecutor: Andy went to pieces?
Witness: No. Andy was the navigator. He was all right. Buddy went to pieces. It was awful how he came unglued.
Prosecutor: Howie came unglued?
Witness: Oh, no. Howie was a rock, the best tailgunner in the outfit. Buddy came unglued.
Prosecutor: And he bailed out?
Witness: No. Andy hung tough. Buddy bailed out. How he survived, it was a miracle.
Prosecutor: Then Howie survived?
Witness: No, 'fraid not. We lost Howie the next day.
Prosecutor: Over Macho Grande?
Witness: No. I don't think I'll ever get over Macho Grande.

Puns are normally the arse-end of humour, reserved for the comedically-challenged and the under-10s, but this proves otherwise.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

“Pig, Horse or Cow?”

My wife has an excellent excremental nose. Driving through the beautiful English landscape the other day, which was bursting with summertime greenery and general countrysideness, our olfactory glands sporadically encountered the stench of slurry which had been recently strewn fieldwards by an army of Farmer Palmers. To me, shit smells largely like shit, but identifying its origin is mere piffle to my wonderful Wiltshire wife.

“That’s pig shit,” she’ll announce with conviction. Horse and cow are also readily classified, much to my surprise.

For the record, pig seems to have more of a vinegary stench about it.

Friday, May 23, 2008

My Green Surrogate Hair

Sporting a hairstyle which, from the front, mimics the swooping contours of the line on a tennis ball, and which from the top resembles one of those crop circles that so enthralled Reg Presley in the ‘90s, I can safely conclude that my halcyon days of grooming are unfortunately behind me. Much like the hair itself in fact – peppering the ground of yesteryear like loose grass cuttings (which is ironic, given that the effort I once put into combing my tresses has subliminally found output in the treatment of our lawn).

I take great delight in mowing the grass into neat rows, carefully strimming the edges and making it generally presentable. Such efforts (albeit on the much smaller scale of my head and using a variety of implements which didn’t include a Flymo 2000) were previously reserved for the follicular topiary atop my cranium, though the feeling is essentially the same on viewing the fruits of my labour.

In the back of my mind though, I’m all too aware that, come the winter, it too will wither and die. But even then, I know a springtime resurrection bursting with life and verdancy is only a season away. Sadly, the flowing locks that once crowned my strange-shaped head will forever remain but a distant memory.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Steve, Florence & Fred

“Let’s all go to Tesco’s, where [fill in name here] gets his best clothes! Dah daah dah da! Dah daah dah da!”

Sung to the tune of We’re All Going To Wembley, this was an oft-heard playground taunt when I was a kid. Ironically, as I approach my thirty-fifth year, I now find this to be true of myself.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Tell Me I’m Not The Only One

“Do you ever do that thing when you’re cooking,” I asked my lovely wife while we were in the kitchen preparing dinner together a few nights ago, “where you imagine you’re starring in your own cookery show [complete with running narrative of what you’re doing, with delivery for an imaginary camera]?”
‘”No, you weirdo.” She replied.
“Err, right. No, me neither.” I confirmed.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Dilemma Surrounding Self-Cannibalism

An interesting debate arose in the car recently which concerned a (with hindsight, almost certainly fictional) story I once read about an unfortunate individual trapped on a desert island, who was stranded and alone with nothing to eat. Being the only meat source on his island prison he was therefore forced to eat his own limbs in order to survive.

We couldn’t agree, however, on which would be the best limb to start munching on. For me, taking into account the variables of a) limb usefulness, b) food volume, c) loss of dexterity and d) ability to prevent signaling for help (should a ship pootle by on the horizon), I plumped for my left arm. My lovely lady wife however, opted for the left leg.

There is, of course, no right or wrong answer. Is it better to be able to run down the beach on two legs, gathering wood for a fire (though then be unable to gather wood at any useful rate), or to be able to gather wood at a rate of knots though have to hop around at a fraction of the speed while doing so?

Scoffing one’s self in order to stave off hunger in order to survive (but in doing so limiting your chances of survival by adversely affecting your bodily movements) is one of those catch-22s most (if not all) people will never find themselves in, so I don’t think it’s much cause for concern. That said, I intend to carry around a set of cutlery whenever I travel abroad from now on (although I will have to learn how to use my fork in my right hand).

Friday, May 09, 2008

Priorities for Armageddon

"We’ve only got four minutes to save the world!” urge Madonna and Justin from their lofty position at the top of this week’s hit parade. However, they then go on to waste around 80% of the time remaining before impending doom by singing a shit song about it.

And is it me, or has Madonna contracted a serious bout of Cher Syndrome in recent years, where the sufferer labours under the serious misapprehension that they remain a figure of desire and overt sexuality despite their advancing years (and where the increase in age is inversely proportional to the amount of clothes worn)? Out of the limelight for some years now, Cher is probably languishing in some nursing home dribbling soup down her chin and reminiscing about the times she used to straddle warship cannons clad only in a few ribbony strips of lycra. Urrgh. If they could turn back time indeed…

Monday, April 21, 2008

Youthful Evil

After twenty-odd years, Robert Mugabe is still refusing to respect the democratic process and remains in power in impoverished Zimbabwe. His legacy of economic meltdown and tyranny will ultimately leave the country in tatters with any hope of recovery decades and even generations away – a gargantuan task for whatever incoming party will eventually pick up the poisoned chalice of leadership.

Still, I can’t be the only one who thinks he looks bloody good for his age. He’s 82 (yes, eighty-two years old!) and with a spring in his step and a disproportionate lack of wrinkles, it seems that being a totalitarian despot is good for the complexion, though not the soul.

Maybe he found the fountain of eternal youth on one of the previously white-owned farms he ran into the ground.

Friday, April 11, 2008

I Robot

Sad news for sci-fi fans today as Kenny Baker, who played R2-D2 in the Star Wars films, was admitted to hospital after suffering long-running problems with asthma.

Family are attending the 73-year-old’s bedside, though his son was available for comment. “Brrrb-tik-tik weee!” said T2-D2, 45, “Woo-beeew chucka-chucka”.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Air Rage Incidents Set To Increase

Bad news for air travellers this week as Ofcom gave the nod for mobile phones to be used on planes, which was, up until now, the last bastion of public transport where passengers’ ears could remain unmolested by nobheads barking into their mobys. At least on a train, if glaring doesn’t work, you can switch carriages or alight at the next station, but being entrapped in a flying tube at 30,000 feet limits your options for escape.

Recipients of calls from aeroplanes will now, no doubt, be subjected to the hilarious “I can’t talk now, I’m on the plane!” (probably swiftly followed by “Aaaargh! Jesus! Not the face!” as the caller is beaten repeatedly around the head by his/her fellow passengers).