Friday, August 29, 2014

The voices made me do it...

Some time ago I wrote a little piece about NOT owning a horse.  Its proven popular amongst those who do, and their 'significant others'.  You'd be forgiven for assuming that I'd never own a horse, but you'd be mistaken.

There has been much water over the bridge since I wrote that. In fact, there's been much water down the drive, all over the damned fields, and in next door's basement too, but that's just because George Bush messed up the weather a few years ago, curse his little monkey face.  Now that we live in Castle Grumbler, and have our own stable yard on site I have been exposing myself to horses much more frequently than I did before. Stop that now! What FILTHY minds you have.

Anyway, I rediscovered how much I actually like these animals and, on a lovely trip to see a foal which is destined to join our herd as Mrs Grumbler's new "special boy" (more on him another day) I sort of fell in love with his cousin. For the technically minded, he's an Azteca. In this particular case, thats 50% Andalusian, 50% American Quarter Horse and 50% teddybear.  Yes, I know that's 150%, but he's a LOT of horse, OK?  After much deliberation (this is, after all, quite a commitment) I chatted with Karen, his breeder, (who carefully examined my credentials) and we reached a most amicable arrangement whereby I gave the good lady a stack of pictures of Her Majesty and, in exchange, she gave me 'Tino. Yes, that's ONE apostrophe, and it's important. OK? He's on the left in the picture, with his mum.

I've made much, in the past, of the unexpected costs of horse ownership.  Quite how unexpected was brought home to me only hours later when, just south of the Dartford crossing on our way home, the front tyre of the horse lorry decided to explode. To her credit, Mrs Grumbler (for she was driving) didn't flinch, and got us safely over to the hard-shoulder.  I should point out that she and I have an 'arrangement' regarding said vehicle. She lets me pay when it needs work doing and, in return, I'm not allowed to drive it. This would work well if I could convince her that it's the best vehicle for any trip to the pub, but apparently she's not that stupid. Predictably, it took four hours for the guy to come and change the wheel, and eventually I had to buy TWO new tyres.

Once we got home It was decreed that having been cooped up in the lorry for longer than we'd expected (though he travelled very well) I should give the lad a walk round the field.  Proudly, a wandered up and down the field with my new best friend at the other end of the lead rope.  Every now and then I stopped and gazed, to reassure myself that yes, this is MY horse. Whether 'Tino was proudly thinking "Yes. this is my owner" I'm not sure. (I have since learned to read his mind.  How can anyone spend that much time thinking about hay?) But I do know that he felt the needed to have a little jump about and, I'm sure it was an accident, he managed to kick me on the right thigh with both rear hooves at the same time.  I forgave him almost as soon as I could stand up again. Do you know, if I'd been two inches to the right, he'd have missed BOTH my legs. I may not have been allowed to display that impressive swelling in the office...

Well, we got him stabled and settled in for the night.  Since he's a yearling, it'll be two years at least before I can ride him. That's OK, it gives me two years to learn how to.  I suspect there may be more related posts as both he and I gain impressive new skills.

My education has begun: The girls have been keen to inculcate me with some of the more arcane mysteries of horsemanship, one of which they tell me is critically important, and is called "poo picking".  This involves regularly scouring the fields in which the horses graze, and picking up their, er, "apples"; depositing them in a pile in the corner of the field.  Apparently, in the winter, this pile of poo will be distributed back over the field from whence it came.  This feat amazes me, and I cant wait to see how it goes. Faced with a request such as "empty the dishwasher" or "take the bins out", the standard response from the girls after non-compliance is "I forgot". If their memories are that bad, how the hell are they going to remember which turd is supposed to go where?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Final Last Words...

As those who know the Grumbler will be aware, my dad passed away fairly recently.

Of course, this hasn't been the happiest event in recent history from my perspective. I vividly remember the last words he whispered to me and while I know why he said them, and even agreed with him, they still made me feel sad. Until today.

It's important to note that it hasn't been without its own, sometimes grim, sometimes ironic, humour. I don't think dad'd be too upset if I shared the funnier bits and, frankly, even if he would be, he's not here to tell me so.

For example, Mrs Grumbler surprised and delighted me last Christmas morning by presenting me with a pair of tickets for the forthcoming (and now past) Monty Python Live shows.  I told dad about this, but he wasn't overly moved, having intensely disliked the Flying Circus. As if to underscore the point, he passed away on the day I was due to actually go and see them.  So, of course, I didnt.

The old chap was looked after, in his last days in intensive care by two very nice doctors; one of whom was not a gynaecologist, and the other of whom was not an oncologist. This is not at all funny until you know that the lady and gentleman are respectively known as Dr Feeley and Dr Touma.  Say it out loud if that helps.

I've been both lauded and lambasted in the past for talking and writing a "load of bollocks". Despite its funeral overtones, this post will be no different - if anything, more so. Dad was most definitely a
hoarder and, as number one (and only) son, it has been my task to sort and clear out his lifetime accumulation of "stuff". Ive encountered both expected and unexpected items - and I was delighted to reacquaint myself with these two fellows on the left.  That right, they are indeed perspex prosthetic testicles.  Now, before you jump to a horrible conclusion, let me just say dad once worked for a company that made them, and considered these two (rejects, of curse) to be a chuckle-worthy curio for displaying down at the pub.

As I laboured in the summer heat, filling black bag after bag with rubbish, and plastic crates full of stuff that I haven't decided is rubbish yet, I started to feel guilty.  Here I was, chucking away stuff that dad thought was worth keeping. It's, well, it's disloyal, isn't it? I began to worry what he'd be thinking if he was watching me and , as I continued, I felt quite certain that he WAS watching me. Odd, because I knew dad hadn't been in that room for over a year.  I think my
face even went red. Sure enough, I came across a little 'ring box' and opened it up...  Eye've a fair idea where that came from too.

Eventually, I reached the point where I'd almost finished one room. I realised there was one thing I'd been moving from place to place without making any decision as to whether it was trash, or a keeper. I couldn't really put the moment off much longer, so I picked it up, and stared at it. What was it for? Why on earth did he have it?

Here it, or should I say he, is. on the left. Imposing gentleman, isn't he?  I reckon he's a butler.

Closer inspection revealed a small switch under the base. With a childlike sense of wonder, I slid it to on.

I dropped him faster than I would if he'd turned red hot in my hands as, with a mellow strength and vibrancy I haven't heard in at least two years my dad's voice boomed out of a little speaker. Whatever I did must have erased the thing, because there's no way I could make it d it again.

"You haven't got a fat arse!" he boomed. Just the once, but once was enough.

I'll take a booming "You haven't got a fat arse" over a whispered "switch it off" as last words. Every day of the week.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Introducing the Frypo

If, like the grumbler, you greatly enjoy the practice of social intercourse - by which I'm not referring to any form of group sex, that'd be a different post - you will have undoubtedly heard if not actually committed one or two freudian slips.

These happen when your subconscious intrudes on an otherwise public exchange, and typically people refer to them when the end result is sexual innuendo.  My favourite kind, obviously.

And, if you get as many emails as I do, you'll see a few in print.  I've decided a spot of neologism is in order, and thus coined the word "Frypo" - a freudian typo. What makes these even more fun is the permanent and pervasive nature of an email, combined with the speed at which we all like to knock one out (See what I mean?).

Sometimes, these errors result in a word which is arguably even more appropriate than the intended one.  Consider the following, sent by a most excellent friend of mine to a large group of people today in response to a situation which might possible be described colloquially as "a fuck-up".

>>   XXX is manually copulating a number of failures...

I laughed out loud.  It didn't get any better when I visualised the lady concerned biting her knuckles when she realised what she'd sent, and when I re-read it and focussed on the preceding "manually" I dissolved again.  And I had to dedicate a little of my lunch break to writing this...

Now I realise that I may be increasing her embarrassment by writing about it, but I'm not going to out her by naming names here. That would (in another classic example of the frypo from another friend of mine) only exasturbate[1] the situation.

And I also realise that "making fun" of this might lower me (if thats possible) in some folks opinions but, as I once pointed out - to my mixed horror and amusement - to a group of senior managers, there's no accunting for taste...

[1]  To make something worse, on one's own...

Friday, March 01, 2013

Rent boy

I find myself in sunny California.

Or at least it was sunny until I got here, whereupon it started to rain.  Apparently its stopped chucking it down at home, leading the sainted Mrs Grumbler to assert that I am indeed a Weather God and should therefore stay away from home, at least long enough for the fields at Grumbler's farm to dry out a bit. Thus, here I am, rent[1] from the bosom of my family, and forbade to return for the time being.

On the downside I am condemned to an indefinite suitcase existence, but on the upside, 'er indoors obviously thinks I'm a God, even after twelve years of marriage. I have to be careful here, though.  As a confirmed atheist (is that an oxymoron?) and a God, I may suddenly cease to believe in myself and disappear in a puff of self contradiction.

In fact, I am saved from delusions of divinity having been brought solidly back to earth via the good auspices of the Hertz Car Rental company.  Occasionally, on one of my many visits here, Hertz have come up trumps by surprising me with an interesting vehicle upgrade. Sometimes I've been let loose in a soft-top, and once or twice I've made my getaway in a brutish muscle-car.  This trip is not one of those occasions, my vehicular needs being fulfilled by a Dodge Chalfont[2]; so named because it truly is a pain in the arse.

Driving the Chalfont can make you cross eyed; going in a straight line (which you do a lot of round here) the steering wheel is pointing firmly at about two o-clock.  How on earth can that be achieved without actually taking it off and putting it back on bent? This directional eccentricity might prove troublesome were it not for the fact that the car itself is as strangled and gutless as Francis Dereham during the later stages of his execution after having played "hide the sausage" with Henry the Eighth's fifth wife.

Even though its unlikely to do anything surprising, the Chalfont has a strange habit of beeping, whistling or clicking at bizarre and unfathomable moments.  Its impossible to tell whether these are warnings or, as I am beginning to suspect, R2D2 is trapped under the acres of plastic which form the dash and is screaming to be let out for a wee.

Fortunately it's nearly time to fly home, leaving Dodge's piles behind for the grumblers' ancestral pile in Blighty. R2, where'd you stash my lightsaber?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The News

If you've sought out the grumbler deliberately, you're not after a dry, learned discourse. This posting is as close as it gets to that in these parts, though.  But stick with me, the tasteless and barely acceptable vulgarity you love so dearly is in here, somewhere...

For the past few weeks the news in the UK has been dominated by the campaigning, antics, badmouthing and general shenanigans associated with the election of the president of the world.  Well, given the coverage, you'd think this was the world presidency we're talking about, except, of course, you only get a vote if you're a citizen of the USofA. In some ways I'm surprised its not actually billed as the World Presidency - after all the fact that not many people outside the USA take part in it hasn't prevented baseball's biggest competition being called the World Series, has it? Precedent is clearly set.

Mind you, it's not so long ago that the majority of the population was disenfranchised even here, in the United Kingdom;  a country which might not be the cradle of democracy, but was probably one of it's first "big boy" beds...  A mere couple of centuries ago if you wanted to vote here you needed to own land and, more importantly, a willy. Perhaps I should say "be physically attached to a willy" since Mrs Grumbler seems to think, by virtue of a marriage licence, that she "owns" one.

So, given the awesome global power wielded by POTUS, as I've seen the office called, I suppose this slight lack of empowerment I'm feeling would be familiar to any Victorian woman - though much stronger in their case.  It's perhaps fitting, then, that ladies were apparently instrumental in returning Mr Obama to the Oval Office, preferring him over an alternative who's been painted in some instances as a misogynist.

Anyway, its done and dusted now and barring the occasional aftershock the news in the UK is returning to the subject that preoccupied it beforehand - the unpleasant business of Jimmy Saville's alleged abuses and the disastrous handling of the same by the BBC.  First they 'buried' the story - and endured a great deal of criticism for that, and now they've apparently overcompensated with the result that an ex-senior politician, and a very rich one at that, is mightily pissed off with them and threatening to take them to the cleaners.

Clearly, someone ought to be answerable for such shabby reporting, but I'm not sure that the target of their revelations should be "entitled" (oh how I despise that word) to much more than a very public, very grovelling and very protracted apology in a best attempt to wash away the stain on his character.  When you fling shit at someone, some of it sticks - even if they are completely innocent of any accusation. This fellow, though, is richer than creosote.  Which, according to the UK's superbly un-egalitarian defamation laws means that he can afford to sue their arses off.

That's right.  To win a libel case in the UK you've got to be rich - or hugely dedicated and prepared to lose everything in pursuit of justice.  The same is true of defending yourself against a suit when an unscrupulous party takes umbrage at statements you make that fail to paint them in the best light.  (Take a look at Simon Singh vs the Chiropractors for a good example)

Back to the unfairly fingered politician. I'm sorely conflicted about whether or not this guy (note, I'm not using his name, just in case) ought to sue or not.

On the pro-side, no one should have to stand by while an uninformed, stupid or malicious twat throws any kind of unfounded allegation at them. The originators of such life damaging lies ought to be ritually disembowelled with a spoon.  A wooden one. With splinters in.  Failing that, they should be made to pay - a very great deal.

On the anti-side, this guy doesn't need any more money.  And who loses if the BBC is forced to pay damages?  Anyone with a TV in the United Kingdom, is the answer to that, since the BBC is a publicly funded organisation which receives most of its money from the TV Licence - a concept many American friends might find really quite strange. Maybe there might be even more losers - after all, the BBC's output is watched or listened to in many countries across the world.

On balance, I think a grovelling apology and complete retraction of any accusations ought to do.

To bring this rant to a close in the manner that you would expect of me, I'll state that the BBC needs to be a bit more careful about what things it says, and how it says those things.  Consider this week's "Any Questions" on BBC radio 4, where the business of the maligned politician was discussed at length.  All of the folk on the panel repeated the phrase "We are determined to get to the bottom of this."  Think about it guys.  It was this alleged determination to get to things' bottoms which started the abuse saga in the first place.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Relativistic Time Dilation for Donkey Wallopers

Ever the optimist (yeah, right, that why I haven't posted anything for over a year, isn't it?) I decided today to try to explain the concept of relativistic time dilation and the "Twins Paradox" to the Grumblettes who are, well, twins. So there's a connection there, right?  Personally, I blame James May, who has been burbling blokeishly about Einstein on the TV here at Grumbler Towers.

So how does one get such an abstract theory across to a pair of youngsters with a terminal horse obsession, and as much interest in science as I have in dressage (clue, when dressage is on our telly, I stare at the wall it's mounted on in the desperate hope that the paint thereon hasn't finished drying yet).


"Kirsty, Katy, you're both on horses in a field at 11:30 in the morning. It must be at least ten minutes since you have last eaten.

Kirsty, you ride your horse around the edge of the field at a significant fraction of the speed of light.  Since its a big field (lets call it, I don't know, yes, thats it! Yorkshire!) it takes you about a minute, even at such a grand speed. When you get back, it's just a minute later according to your watch (which is in a drawer in your bedroom as we've never got round to having the strap shortened so it doesn't fall off) and the first words out of your mouth (after "Gamble's faster than Charlie") are, "I'm hungry, whats for lunch?"

To which Katy will reply "I got fed up with waiting for you to come back, and I had mine an hour ago.".

That's relativistic time dilation, that is."

By Jove, I do believe they got it!

Fortunately for me, as far as I know, none of the ladies' mounts are that feisty, so time dilation doesn't enter into it. But that doesn't quite explain the many Sunday evenings I've sat in the kitchen in the accumulating gloom, accompanied by a slowly congealing roast dinner wondering about the difference between their "home for seven-thirty" and my "having dinner ready for eight".

Could it, might it, possibly be, that they are better acquainted with old Albert than I am?


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Eh? Storm in Eh? Teacup

Canadians Kathy Witterick and David Stocker are causing a great deal of consternation.

But then confusion ought to be the default state in Canada - consider:

  • It's about the same size as the US, but has the population of Morocco, meaning that there are three and a half people per square kilometre - compared to the two hundred and fifty in the UK. So, it can get a bit lonely.
  • Half the populace speaks nearly English, while the other practices a disdainful French dialect which would shame a Parisian. (Not often a problem, given the population density you're lucky if you have someone to talk to anyway)
  • It's situated on the North American Continent, yet it's not a part of the United States and its inhabitants will bristle if you refer to them as Americans (can't say I blame them; I come out in hives if someone calls me a European).
  • It worked very hard to gain independence from Britain, yet retains the Monarch as its head of state.
  • Many Canadians put a great deal of effort into pretending to come from somewhere else.  For example, James Doohan, famed as "Scotty" in Star Trek, was, in fact, Canadian despite the tartan accent.

So, given the background level of WTF, how have this couple achieved their not inconsiderable feat?  Simple. They are refusing to disclose the gender of their latest child - who they have named "Storm". Their objective in fostering this ambiguity is to allow Storm to be whatever it (I'm sorry, but I don't see that I have a choice there, under the circumstances) wants to be, unfettered by the social norms associated with males and females.

Storm's two older brothers are only slightly less unconventional, being given complete freedom over how they dress and behave. Apparently, both have wardrobes which would have induced huge pangs of jealousy in the young Eddie Izzard and, with their braided hair, are almost always assumed to be girls. Of course, this cross dressing won't be too out of place in Canada since a recent survey conducted exclusively for and by the Grumbler has revealed that 72.3% of Canadians are lumberjacks. Those of us who have been enlightened by Monty Python will immediately recall the propensity of said tree-fellers towards flower pressing, dressing in womens' clothing and hanging around in bars.  So. transvesticism is a national sport in Canada (the home country achieved all three podium finishes in the drag queen event at the Montreal olympics) and these kids have a head start - doubly so for Storm if it turns out to be a girl.

Storms dad maintains that "If you really want to get to know someone, you don't ask what's between their legs."  Bollocks!  (And that was an exclamation, not an answer.)  Several people asked me last month, and the answer was "It's a Triumph Tiger mate".  Of course, this assertion falls down where Mrs Grumbler is concerned.  If you were brave enough to ask the good lady that particular question, half the time she'd give you a funny look and say "Its called a horse, you fuckwit."

So, all things considered, it's clear that most Canadians must exist in a permanent state of puzzlement.  Which actually explains one thing that's perplexed me for ages - which is why Canadians seem to end every sentence with a question.

I mean, if you lived there, you would, eh?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

How Not to be Deluged by Lobsters

Have you ever wondered why you never notice that something’s become a habit until someone points it out?  Think about it for a minute - you spend years practicing something completely harmless, like saying the word “Burp” while belching, for example, only to absent mindedly perform in the middle of the office one day and cause your colleagues to look at you “in that way”…  It’s perhaps fortunate (for me and any potential witnesses) that I have never become unconsciously competent at aping Le P├ętomane’s rendition of La Marseillaise.

My pal Pete "Codger" Cogle (from PC Podcast) and I were in “The Sussex” when we discovered the latest ‘thing’ that we do regularly enough for it to be called a habit is to attend the Great Escape festival in Brighton. And yes, it was pointed out to us in startling fashion when the barmaid greeted us with “you were here last year, weren’t you?”  How on earth does she remember two blokes who turn up once a year and get mildly sloshed?  Please don’t tell me that this might be the only place I’ve ever successfully farted the French National anthem, because I really hope I could remember something like that!

Anyway, to the unusually serious point of this post.  It's more than likely that you're reading this in the interwebby thing, and so its a fair bet that you're Facebooked, a member of the Twitterati and no stranger to the world of internet commerce.  Do you know what Clickjacking is?  Put simply, its one of the latest ways of having your information stolen, or your computer/account hijacked to do something you didn't intend.  This might have consequences as simple as you posting on all your friends' Facebook walls something like "OMG, my ex-keeps checking out my profile!" or a little more complicated, like sending your bank account passwords to a bunch of intergalactic hackers from the planet Zog.  Its hard to explain, so I'm not going to bother; see wikipedia.

I did try to explain to Codger in the pub, though; "It's like pressing the Espresso button on the coffee machine at work, and instead of being served a lukewarm cup of something that's nearly coffee, you actually get hit by a deluge of lobsters". We obviously weren't the only folk to find the lure of the beer in there to be impossible to resist because just then we were approached by a fellow #tge'er, doubtless attracted by our dayglo writsbands, and most definitely feeling no pain. "Were you guys planning who to see tonight?"  Well, we had been planning to, before I got sidetracked into the murky world of internet toeraggery, and "Deluged by Lobsters" would be SUCH a good name for a band.  I'm afraid I did tell a few little while lies before we supped up and parted ways...

So it only remains for me to apply to stage my own brand new concept show (a flatulent execution, in every sense of the word, of the greatest hits of Abba) at next year’s event, and to apologise to the poor fella who trundled beerily away from Codger and me late on that afternoon of the first day determined to see the superb New Zealand based “Deluged By Lobsters” perform tracks from their Psychedelic album “Drenched in Reverb” at a secret street gig…

And if you want a little more about The Great Escape, can I recommend Pete's Podcast, Episode #350?

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Being horsey

As anyone who's lived with a horse owner will be able to tell you, it can sometimes seem that they play second fiddle to the horse(s).  It's certainly true that the good ladies of Grumbler Towers spend an inordinate amount of time dealing with their own animals and, as a grumpy old man, I've occasionally wondered what it takes to get some attention.

Well, on the one hand, you can try to be a little more horselike. Presumably one could undertake a certain amount of cosmetic surgery to attach a tail and it must be possible to apply for a licence to crap in the street from HM Government (these appear to be two of the primary attributes of the target animal).  However, I'm not really up for a diet of grass and sugar beet, and there are only a limited number of circumstances in which I am prepared to let Mrs Grumbler anywhere near me while wearing shiny boots and carrying a riding crop. And I'm not sharing those with you lot.

There's also the old dictum "If you cant beat them, join them". Actually, I've tried that, having owned a rather nice horse called Max for a few months. As it happens, I didn't have the time or dedication needed, I just wasn't cut out for it. Now, I'm sure you're wondering "how hard can it possibly be?"

Well, for you, dear reader, here's how you can discover that for yourself, without actually having to buy a horse....

The Grumbler's guide to pretending to own a horse...

Dressing the part isn't essential, but if you want to be authentic you will need an anorak and a pair of skintight stretchy trousers which are at least a size too small and have holes where they shouldn't. Note that this is the inexpensive part of horse ownership; you need only one of each, since neither will be washed more than twice a year. You should be militantly indifferent to your appearance, because the horse doesn't actually care what you look like, and therefore neither should anyone else. Footwear, however, is important. You do need a pair of boots, which you should soak in cold urine every night. so that they quickly attain that 'Je ne sais quoi...' (That's French for 'pervasive smell of wee-wee').

Your pretend horse is going to require a certain amount of looking after - physically and financially. Be prepared to spend up to two hours before and after work each day in the middle of a field, shovelling wet twenty-pound notes into a shredder (note that shredded paper from companies who really do print money is sometimes used as horse bedding, the analogy isn't that far fetched) while a crazed accomplice pelts you with dung. Obviously, that should be horse dung, but since you don't actually have a horse yet, cowshit will do.  One cautionary note - if you are using cowshit, make sure its fresh - those dried out "frisbee" shaped cowpats can have your eye out in skilled hands.

You have now successfully recreated the authentic mucking-out experience, while at the same time getting used to feed, accommodation and vet bills.  You see how easy I'm making this for you?

You might be thinking this is a dirty, smelly job - and there's a grain of truth in there. But look on the bright side - it's not necessary that you be indifferent to how badly you reek because you wont actually notice it. That part of the experience is for other people, such as your loved ones (remember those boots?  They should be about right by now...)

While I think about it, you must occasionally have someone knock you down, drive over your foot, smack you in the shin/stomach/groin/head with a hammer, or trap part of your anatomy in a door. Your accomplice must do this when you least expect, and when it will cause the maximum amount of inconvenience; it will acquaint you with being barged, stood on, kicked or bitten. Remember, though, that this is only happening because your 'horse' loves you, so the only thing you should do to your accomplice is offer a nice rosy apple or juicy carrot as a reward.

At weekends, you will have time to 'ride' - this is, after all, why you're pretending to have a horse. After the first field based money shredding experience of the day (yes, that happens at weekends too), obtain a bicycle, by borrowing or stealing if necessary (by now, you are unlikely to be able to afford your own).

Spend at least an hour cleaning the bike before letting all of the air out of the tyres and, if you are planning to go on a public road, loosening the nut which holds the handlebars straight. Its finally time for your reward for all of that hard work - ride that bike backwards and forwards across a field which has been freshly ploughed.

Once you are exhausted and have cracked at least two vertebrae, you may go out onto the highway, but only if there is traffic. Every time you hear a car, it's important to move a little further into the road and slow down. You must wobble alarmingly (this is why you've undone your steering) and, if at all possible, you must cycle sideways like a drunken crab, while pulling a series of spectacular "wheelies". This is all just to remind the driver that he needs to slow down and stay far, far away, since should he end up with a hoof (wheel) through his windscreen it will be his fault under UK law, whatever the circumstances.

By the time you arrive back at your 'stables, you should be almost too exhausted to move. Now you must clean the bicycle again, and finally remove the saddle and hang it in a shed. If you're very lucky, the saddle will still be there in the morning, unless you've been visited by a collection of thieving Pikey bastards (triple tautology) overnight. Now, cover the bicycle with a blanket, go back into the field and shred another wheelbarrow full of cash.

If you still want a horse after all that, then I heartily encourage you to contact a livery stable and learn how to do it properly, since you're clearly a nutcase with a bad case of obsession which I'll never begin to understand.  Anyway, hope that's helped. I cant sit around here all day writing to you folk, I've got several motorbikes to clean and polish....

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

They Made Me an Offer I Couldn't Refuse

In the weeks following my altercation with Reader’s Digest (and yes, Lady from a Small Village, I know the positioning of the apostrophe indicates they only have one reader, that’s wishful thinking on my part) I have been suffering from a nagging feeling that I’m missing out on something.

The thing is, this is an itch I don’t want to scratch - I am not going to play any of their silly games, I know that they lead only to disappointment.  So I’ve been wracking my brains for an alternative and I finally had a great idea.  I wouldn’t respond to them, but I would take advantage of every other hand-delivered leaflet/offer pushed through my letterbox in the course of a working week!

There could well be a side benefit to this brilliant plan; I might get to write about the experience (oh, look what you’re reading)! Lets face it, that bloke who went around pushing Mickey D’s into his face, and the one who wrote the Dice Man, they made MONEY out of it, didn’t they? So here goes, “The Man Who Says Yes to Everything…”.

The rules are simple.  To be sure that I'm not "missing out" on anything, I must take advantage of every offer and, to be fair, give to every charity request, that gets pushed through the portcullis at Grumbler Castle, from Monday through to Friday for one week.


An outfit claiming to help old people pushes a plastic bag through the door and invites me to fill it with clothes. Stifling a temptation to stuff half of Mrs. Grumbler’s wardrobe in there, I oblige with a number of old pairs of jeans which, while serviceable, no longer successfully enclose the ever expanding Grumbler waistband.  I feel good and have more space in my wardrobe. What’s more, there’s some old duffer somewhere who’s teamed my cast off 501s with a sports jacket and is now zooming around the care home in his bath chair pretending to be Jeremy Clarkson.

A lady called Andrea who claims to be a native of Rio de Janiero (where the accent is very similar to that of the West Midlands, apparently) invites me to Latin Dance Classes for only a tenner a time and, after a quick phone call, I have something to do every night this week.


I have engaged a company called Mr Sparkly-Trash to steam clean and disinfect my wheelie bin on a monthly basis.  If only he’d take the bin to the end of the drive too he’d save me some pain, for I think I’ve slipped a disk at Samba class.

An agent acting on behalf of “the Ethiopians” and another one who looks after disadvantaged Old Etonians both dropped off plastic bags, inviting me to fill them with clothes. This takes care of all of the pullovers and sweatshirts which no longer fit.

I trundle off for my second session with Andrea ("call me Andy...") and its while I'm trying to work out whether that was a shadow, or does she really have an "Adam's Apple" that I trip and am convinced that I've dislocated my kneecap.  At least it takes my mind off my back.


I have saved over fourteen pounds by taking advantage of every cut-price item on the supermarket flyer which came my way this morning.  I do have quite a lot of unwanted pasta and feminine hygiene items but you can’t win them all. On the plus side, I got a great deal on half a hundredweight of Brazil nuts, which are left over from the Christmas festivities.

Two men with Eastern European accents have resurfaced my drive with Tarmacadam which was apparently surplus to council requirements for a bargain five hundred pounds.  D’you know, I had no idea it was as easy as spreading the hot mix over the existing gravel and flattening it with a garden roller!

A disabled-dog rescue centre leaves me a plastic bag and invites me to fill it with clothes.  I feel a little guilty in consigning a few unwanted Christmas presents to it, but at least they are going to do some good.  Though exactly what an accidentally tripedal pug is going to look like wearing a duck-egg blue XXL t-shirt with a picture of Garfield on the front is going to look like I shudder to think.

Andy teaches me ‘lifts’ tonight.  You know, she’s got quite big hands and she's really strong, but I don’t like heights much so we wont do that again.


Today, I go everywhere by Taxi.  It’s lucky I got the taxi special offer through the door, actually, because when I looked at the car this morning its up to its axles in my new tarmac drive and I cant move it.  I call the police and report the erstwhile drive layers for their shoddy workmanship.

A new shop advertising “nails 'n' waxing” has opened up in the local parade.  I’m a keen woodworker, and the car’s going to need a polish once I manage to get it off the drive.  Apparently they’re busy today, but I arrange to visit them tomorrow.

Two more plastic bags, both printed with information relating to a deserted wives refuge, have arrived. This is awkward.  I’ve no more old or unwanted clothes left.  I fill one with socks and underpants. I can go commando if I have to, no one will ever know.  The other is filled with shirts. It’s winter, after all, I’ll just keep my sweater on.

Tonight’s dance class is not a great success.  Andy tells me we are to practice the Paso Doble, but I’m tired and confused and manage to deliver a Double Entendre.   She’s calmed down by the time I leave, and the swelling in my eye is hardly noticeable now. Oddly, just before she hit me I noticed she had hairy knuckles.


Some rotten bastard has stolen my freshly sanitized wheelie bin.

Two more plastic bags have arrived.  I’ve given up even looking to see who’s sending them.  I have only jeans and sweaters left.  All the jeans go into one, and all the sweaters into the other.  Now I know it’s breaking the rules, but there’s one thing I can’t give up. Every man has an item of clothing that he’s emotionally attached to, usually to the exasperation of his other half. In my case it’s a baggy cable knit sweater which I have had for so long I’ve given it a name.  I’ve always said I wanted to be buried in it, and that looks inevitable. Reg is now the only item of clothing I own.  Its perhaps fortunate that its so stretched it reaches to my knees, but less so that the somewhat loosened cable knit has lent it a transparent quality more usually associated with crochet, rather than knitwear.

In the afternoon I walk to my appointment at “nails ‘n’ wax”.  I try to explain that we’ll have to forgo the latter, because I still cant move the car. However, this doesn’t seem to faze the rather large and very familiarly dressed Eastern European ladies who work there.   I’m soon to learn that this place has been set up by ladies who live at the local deserted wives refuge.  Apparently they had to move in after their husbands were arrested for stealing tarmac from the council. One of them is holding a pissed off looking three-legged pug in a t-shirt.

Now, I’ve always thought that ‘manicure’ and ‘pedicure’ were variants on some kind of alternative medicine, but I am seized and subjected to an ordeal which leaves my fingers and toes scarlet tipped and pointy. This is appalling. Assuming that I ever get the car out of the drive, the first time I hit a traffic jam (in which situation an unwritten but universally recognised law states that all drivers possessing a Y-chromosome must immediately begin a thorough nasal excavation) could prove very dangerous, if not fatal.

I’d rather not recount what happens next.  Suffice to say, I have developed a fearful aversion to all things Brazilian.  Andy can stuff the dancing, and they can keep their damned nuts. Between you and me, I feel quite lucky to have managed to hang on to my own.

I’m broke, sore, dressed in nothing more than a wooly mini-dress and its going to cost me a fortune to get my car dug out and drive fixed. Where on earth am I going to come up with that kind of money? Hang on, there’s a letter here from Reader’s Digest. It says I’ve almost certainly won a hundred thousand pounds…

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

A manual new year...

Well, we’ve finished all the mince pies and trundled in to the office armed with tins of sweets containing the last and least favourite sweets which even the kids wont touch (coffee toffees, spring surprise and anthrax ripple) to see what the new year has in store for us. Doubtless work will be just the same as it was before the break, but will there be anything new, beyond death and taxes?

In the UK, the latter promise is already fulfilled by the rise of VAT (for our American readers, think of it as a sort of cheese-eating surrender-monkey version of sales tax) from 17.5% to 20%. Coupled with increases in duty,  all of which is needed to repair the gaping holes in the UKs finances caused by greedy bankers wallpapering their houses with fifty-pound notes, it now costs over a million pounds to fill up a lawnmower with petrol.

We’re only half a week into 2011, and they’re dropping like flies - the year has already seen off some quality members of the acting and musical professions in the shape of Pete Postlethwaite and Gerry Rafferty. Slightly less well known, but also having run down the curtains and joined the choir invisible this week are author Dick King-Smith  who wrote “The Sheep-Pig” (but might have inspired a different kind of "Babe" if he hadn't had a double barrelled surname), and Mick Karn, who had been the bassist in 80’s band Japan. Just last month, Elizabeth Beresford “wombled” off, and Captain Beefheart joined the Magic Band in the sky. Even Nigel from the Archers fell off his roof yesterday!

Quite a few people, if they recognized Rafferty’s name, will have the tune of ‘Baker Street’ rattling round their heads. It’s a fine song about a heavy drinker who has plans to settle down, but never quite makes it. The Grumbler, a heavy drinker who has somehow never quite managed to settle down, prefers an earlier effort of Rafferty’s, as part of “Stealer’s Wheel”.   Picture the undercover cop Mr. Orange, tied to a chair by Mr Blonde - who’s about to slice his ear off and douse him in petrol - and I’ve no doubt that the sound of “Stuck in the Middle with You” will stay with you for quite a while.

The most recent film I’ve seen with Pete Postlethwaite in is Inception - in which he plays Maurice Fischer, a dying man. Also, quite recently, Postlethwaite appeared as the head of a puritan family whose last words, having been fatally injured, set the eponymous character Solomon Kane off on his mission. The first time I remember seeing him, though, was in “Brassed Off” - where he takes the part of Danny the Bandleader who is, er, dying. There’s a pattern here - every time I can remember seeing this guy on screen he pegs out. Steven Spielberg called Pete “The best actor in the world” after he played “Roland Tembo” (A Headless Tommy Gunner) in the 357th Jurassic Park sequel and I have to agree with him.  In fact, so convincingly have PP’s multiple demises been portrayed, That I suffered a repeated shock every time the fellow turned up in yet another film.

It makes you wonder who’s next - will Billy Connolly die in bed, exhausted by Pamela Stevenson’s newly minted energy courtesy of her successes in Strictly Come Dancing (and if he did, could he wish for a better exit)?  Will Cliff Richard turn up at the Pearly Gates to find that they aren’t there after all and think to himself “Bugger, think of all those cocaine addled groupies I could have enjoyed”, or will God himself gaze down on Richard Dawkins and utter a rather satisfied “Sorry, you cant come to heaven, I simply don’t believe in you.”? Will Charlie the big-eared plant-conversing ecomentalist finally ascend what’s left of the throne? Who knows…

Anyway, what’s the point of all this uncharacteristic melancholy then?  Well, my favourite window on the world, the BBC website, recently ran an article “Is working with your hands better than just with your head” which examines whether a shift to a more manual job might bring joy to the masses returning to office drudgery in the new year. It’s inconclusive, really, but I suspect there’s a lot to be said for it.

Which leads me to an inescapable conclusion.   If you’re bored with your existence, quick, go and get a hand job - before its too late…

Saturday, January 01, 2011

I hope something silly happens to you...

Soul-searching can be fruitless when you're a heathen, but a recent bout has reminded me why I started blogging, long ago. It was primarily to have some fun, and hopefully to make some other people laugh in the process.

Looking back on 2010 it seems that, while it had its moments, it was generally short on fun and laughs. Not just for me, but for family, friends and a bunch of people I'd never have heard of if I hadn't read of their various misfortunes on the interweb. Maybe that's why I only posted twelve times, or maybe I could have had more fun if I had posted more often. There's an idea worth exploring...

I think I've also been quite cautious (you may find that hard to believe) about what I post. I don't want to accidentally upset anyone (deliberately upsetting someone is another matter) and there's been much made in the news recently that whatever you put into the public domain these days will hang around to haunt you till the day you die.  Maybe so, but it will be more fun making a couple of mistakes than worrying so much that nothing ever gets written about.

Now, I'm hoping that there will be considerably more enjoyment and hilarity in 2011 than there was last year, but its no use me just moping around and waiting for it to happen. I've got to make it happen, and then blog about it. And if I cant make something happen, I'm going to lie and say that I did anyway.

Oddly, when I've re-read some of the posts which I know I pretty much spun around what might have been a grain of truth, or was more likely a speck of dirt, I can almost remember the events as if they actually occurred. I think that's weird psychology, though maybe a reader who knows better might tell me it isn't. That's going to be unlikely, though, because I suspect the only person that reads this is Floyd and, since he's a dog, he only bothers to read it when there's no decent action on the Animal Planet channel which as previously mentioned in these pages, he regards as pet-porn.

So, here are some rules for the blog in 2011.

  • I'm going to post more. This isn't a new years resolution, because I only make those to experience the fierce joy of breaking them in the first week of  January. (As an example, I firmly resolved last night to give up drinking for a month, and am consequently looking forward to opening a bottle of wine in an hour or two.
  • I'm not going to plagiarise, but I may allow myself to be heavily influenced by the likes of Catweazle, Reginald Perrin, Father Jack Hackett, Rowley Birkin, alcohol and excessive cheese consumption immediately prior to bedtime.
  • I refuse to be constrained by fact. In the past year I've literally fallen over and hurt myself on evidence that facts have no place in government policy, the justice system, the Daily Mail or business process engineering, so I'll be damned if I'm going to spend time checking for accuracy and veracity. So, if I need a statistic, I'm going to invent one, just as 98.7% of statisticians already do on a daily basis.
  • The opinions expressed by the Grumbler (who doesn't exist, and therefore cant be negatively affected by them) are not necessarily shared by his alter ego (who, to his enduring disgust, is required to earn a living). In fact, they probably aren't actually genuine opinions at all, being largely expounded for little more than cheap comic effect. I may contradict myself - consistency is for wimps.
  • I hope you're not offended by what you might read here. (Unless you're the twelve year-old big-eared, smelly, stupid and fat pizza-faced copper who tried to nick me for speeding the other day, in which case I fervently hope that the fleas of a thousand camels infest your underclothing. Frankly, I doubt you could count to eighty-five, let alone measure it, but I digress.)  Oh damn it,  actually, I don't really care if you are offended, as long as you are reading. There's a comment button. Use it.
In summary, then, I hope we all have a happy, prosperous and preposterous 2011.  If you're having one, mail me and tell me.  If you aren't, then mail me and lets make one up.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Lights, tinsel and chocolate what??

A few of my acquaintances have suggested that, as a heathen, I have no place celebrating Christmas and, probably because its expected of me, I usually ramble on about how the intrusion of religion into a long established orgy of consumption and consumerism does indeed threaten to water down its magic.

Be that as it may, we like Christmas round here and we always put decorations up. We're almost always late with this, and so a week or so before the big day I'll be dispatched to the attic with a flaming torch and a ball of string to ensure I can find my way back to collect the series of mouldering cardboard boxes in which we have stored a motley collection of tinsel and baubles collected over a period of a number of years. I'll also bring down the lights, and the tree. Its an artificial tree, by the way, we don't actually have pine plantation in the loft, though I have found ivy forcing its way inside in the past. Shame it wasn't holly really.

Those lights... oh how glad I am that LEDs have taken the place of those malicious little filament bulbs we used to have.  It was inevitable, wasn't it, that the first time I plugged in the string of 52,000 bulbs each year I'd be rewarded with... nothing.  One of the evil little buggers would have blown during the eleven and a half months during which they had absolutely nothing to do but sit there. Then I'd spend two hours searching for your spares - which always turned out to be at the back of a cutlery drawer which I'd already searched three times, lacerating myself badly in the process.  Finally, I'd spend what felt like a lifetime swapping each bulb in the string for a new one until I found the culprit before, with bleeding fingers and terminal cramp, I could move on to erecting the tree itself.

Our tree has a 'base' which despite its innocuous appearance, has clearly been constructed from a parts left over after an explosion in a garden shears and spring factory.  It has also, at some point, been gifted with a vicious personality, presumably by a disgruntled voodoo practitioner. One wrong move, one lapse in concentration, and I'm off to casualty with a bag full of fingers.

Finally, the tree's up, and the lights are on.  Now for the tinsel. Which would, in times past, be on the dog. Our tree is 5 feet tall and, unsurprisingly perhaps, green. Our dog is three feet tall, near enough, and yellow.  How the kids could mistake the one for the other, without fail, every year, is beyond me. But they managed. The thing is, the dog seemed to like being decorated and would quite strenuously resist any efforts to untangle him from his shiny accessories.

Finally, it would be bauble time.  Again, there is much to be thankful for now that these are made of plastic. Until recently these would be little balls of blown glass, one of which would invariably escape only to be trodden on almost immediately with predictable and painful consequences.

So there I'd sit, utterly exhausted, sadly trying to pick tiny shards of broken ornamental glass from the sole of my foot with my teeth - because my right hand would be a mass of bandages under which the fingers had been superglued back on by a nurse, and my left had swollen to twice it's size having been bitten by a disgruntled golden retriever.

Eventually, it'd all be done, and be time for my reward - a dip into the brightly coloured tin of chocolates that I brought home from the supermarket not two hours previously.  This is where I'd discover that the kids, immediately after their adventures in canine tinsel festoonery, had eaten every last bloody chocolate in the house, and the exciting rattle in the tin would be explained by the fact that they'd thrown all of the wrappers back in, along with a solitary half eaten coffee/butterscotch surprise, which would have been weighed, measured, licked and found wanting.

But this is all in the past.  The LED lights don't go out, except as a feature of the exciting electronic sequence they're programmed with. Age and familiarity has tamed the tree base to the point where I'm lucky to get it to grip the tree itself, and we have three dogs - too much trouble for the kids to decorate them, so they don't bother.  They still eat all of the sweets, though.

Except I think we may have found a solution to that last problem in the shape of one miraculous box of choccies given to Mrs Grumbler by her sister.  That's right - a collection of tasty soft centres; dark, milk and white chocolate, all lovingly filled with creamy ganache by a lady called Ann Summers, and totally impervious to the kids. The simple fact is that each of these delicate little treats is shaped like a little "meat and two veg". Yup, confectioners "wedding tackle". The embodiment of the "wife's best friend" in, er, "the wife's best friend".

So, I can guarantee the availability of chocolate at all times next Christmas by the simple expedient of buying a box or two of chocolate Willies. They join Brussels Sprouts on the very small list of things my kids wont eat..

Thing is, though, neither will I...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Reader's bloody digest...

Reader’s Digest
PO Box 5,
Isle of Man,

Dear Reader’s Digest,

OK, I surrender.  I’m sorry, truly I am, but I just can’t take any more.

It’s my own fault, I know, for ever responding to the mail shot you sent me a little while ago, but since then the rain of completely incomprehensible tosh which you have poured through my letterbox has bean unceasing.

I mean, honestly, how many prize draws, which, if the implications in the glossy missives that arrive on a more than weekly basis are to be believed, I have almost certainly won, can you actually run?  There’s the immediate £5,000 draw; the immoderate £10,000 draw; the infeasible seven shillings and sixpence early bird bonus and the incontinent £120,000 draw.  OK, I may have made one of those up, but you know exactly what I mean and don’t you dare to pretend otherwise.

Furthermore, have you ever tried following your own instructions? Good grief, people!  Look, I’m no slouch at being able to cook up a process so complicated that a four digit IQ is required to stand a whelk’s chance in a supernova of successfully completing it. This will be attested to by, quite literally, legions at my place of employment who have been faced with the prospect of completing one of my fiendish puzzles or having their arms metaphorically ripped out and being beaten to death with the wet and bloody stumps.

I can even do a Sudoku puzzle in less than a week without getting my children to help me. But I am left bereft and gormless in the face of the convoluted directions in each and every letter you send me.  Stick the green sticker on your post-code at precisely four o’clock next Tuesday if you don’t want to buy a book full of red stickers every three weeks until hell freezes over, or alternatively put the gold sticker in your left ear while whistling the stars and stripes forever.


You make Ikea flat pack instructions look like a particularly instructive nursery rhyme. My irritation at being unable to follow your insane ramblings is only eclipsed by my grudging admission that you are clearly in a different league to me when it comes to forcing innocent people to perform mind-warpingly pointless menial activities.  I salute you, while simultaneously detesting you.

The funny thing is that, at first I didn’t mind, because we have an open fire and I heat my home almost entirely on pulped junk mail because, in Bracknell, there is no council waste collection service. Instead of this, every two weeks we are lined up in the street by machine gun toting fascists and forced to eat the contents of our dustbins (which is why I have taken to putting the dog’s turds in my neighbour, Bob’s, trash).  Oddly, perhaps, he’s looking well on it.

The thing is, yesterday was a bad day.  You sent me so many offers to burn that when I came home from work the dog had roasted in her basket and my wife had melted. On the plus side, I don’t have to buy a turkey this Christmas, and I’m not being nagged, but I was quite fond of the old girl. I didn’t mind the wife much either.

Anyway, the thing is, I’d like you to stop now, please.  No more. Unless you’re writing to acknowledge that you’ll stop, forthwith, or the next envelope from you contains a big fat cheque, I don’t want any more mail from you.

I fervently hope that this letter finds you well, and happy, and delighted to comply with my request to cease and desist all mail forthwith.

I remain your faithful and admiring (but preferably from a long way away) servant,

The Grumbler

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Contrary to generally received wisdom/folklore, the Grumbler was not created fully grown and irritable. In fact, I experienced a (relatively) normal childhood. Born. Grew. Learned to walk. Learned to talk. Went to School. Got a job. Learned how to use the bathroom. Not necessarily in that order.

The ramblings in this post hark back to those days when there were 12 pennies to the shilling, the Mini was the last word in excitement (whether it referred to cars or skirts) and no-one in the UK had ever seen an avocado. (Indeed, when they were first introduced later in the decade, they were marketed as 'Avocado Pears', and many people's first experiences was a singular disappointment as, after their evening repast, their keenly anticipated and really rather expensive dessert consisted of a bowl neatly segmented avocado pieces with a generous helping of evaporated milk.)

I'm not one of those folk who claim to be able to remember everything that's ever happened to me - you know the sort: "The first thing I can remember is that I fell out of this weird furry window, it was freezing cold, there was this bright light, and then someone smacked my arse..."  But I do have just a few very early memories which, having discussed with my parents, must date back to when I was about 18 months old.  I think I remember this particular experience because it was both frustrating, and utterly terrifying.

I can recall, more than once, waking in the dead of night. My room would be pitch black - because there were no streetlamps on our road, and in any case, British children born before 1975 simply weren't allowed to be afraid of the dark. Such children were simply left outside on the doorstep for the wolves to carry away. I say 'wolves' but they were probably badgers. But they were wolves to us, and that's what's important. Of course, progressive parents who might have been prepared to leave a light on for their fractious and nyctophobic offspring would have found themselves outwitted by the frequent power cuts caused by industrial action on the part of Britain's coal miners. Its a little known fact that the miner's strike was actually orchestrated by a team of badgers, pretending to be wolves, who had developed a taste for doorstep takeaway Late Baby Boomers and early Gen-X'ers. Why do you let me digress like this?

Anyway, having awoken, I would quite naturally try to get up, in order to toddle in to my parents room and wake them up with demands for avocados, a drink of water or suggestions that there was a monster under my bed. (It was a porcelain chamber pot, but to me it was a monster and I'd be just as scared if I found one there now!)  To my horror, I'd find that I could sit up in bed, but any attempt to get out of it would meet with solid resistance. I'd simply, physically, not be able to get my feet on the floor and walk away from the bed.  I don't remember what would happen next, but presumably I'd eventually give up and fall back to sleep.

Much later, I learned that when my parents first put me in a bed, rather than a cot, I developed a habit of turning round and burrowing to the very foot of the bed where I would be trapped by the tucked-in sheets and blankets and, unable to get out, would howl until rescued. I don't have any idea why I'd taken to doing this, possibly I was practicing to become a strike breaking coal miner or learning how to escape from a badger set. But the end result was that it drove Mum and Dad to distraction. Their solution to this was beautifully simple.  They had a set of 'baby-reins' which saw sterling service in preventing me from toddling off at high speed and running under trucks, jumping off cliffs, swimming with the ducks I was supposed to be feeding or any of the typical toddler pursuits of the day. They reasoned that these could see double duty by preventing the revolutionary nocturnal habits of their overactive offspring.  In short, they tied me to the damned bed.

So why am I telling you this, my faithful if infrequent reader? Well, don't worry - I'm not about to recount any bizarre latter day bedroom athletics involving the neckties I no can longer be bothered to wear to work. I suspect its got something to do with work, though. No, I'm not physically restrained here either, though I'm sure there are those who wish I was. But we're going through one of those hellish phases where you just cant seem to move without the bindings of some process or other snapping taught, and I think my twisted subconsciousness has just joined the dots.

Still, looking on the bright side, if the parallels hold true, then this is all a bad dream, and sooner or later someone's gonna wake me up and feed me sugar-puffs.  So that's ok...

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Out of Context

I was in the gym earlier today (yeah, I know it sounds unlikely, but unlike a lot of what I write, it's actually true) trudging dejectedly along on the treadmill and wishing that I had my iPod with me.  For some reason, I need an aural injection of vintage 1981 Killing Joke when I'm on a treadmill. Preferably 'Primitive' and 'SO36' although - given my current state of health - perhaps 'Requiem' might become more appropriate, if I'm not very careful.

Across the road from the Gym, there's a pretty good Indian restaurant. I fixed my gaze on that, and imagined I was striding purposefully toward a reward of a Tandoori mixed Grill, Peshawari Nan Bread, and a pint of ice cold Kingfisher.  So I didn't notice at first that the only other guy in the gym had wandered over to me and was peering at me, expectantly.  Now lets be clear about something - I wasn't deliberately ignoring the fellow (actually, he had on the LOUDEST t-shirt I've seen for a while, so it wasn't actually possible to ignore him, even if I wanted to)  but, well, you just don't talk to people you don't know in the gym, do you? So now he had my attention, he kicked off with "I can't remember your name."

Now, as a skilled ultimate charmer and mixer in polite company, I naturally and almost imperceptibly throttled the nascent reply of "That's because we've never seen each other before, you complete nutter" before it could do any damage.  Because now I looked at him, he was vaguely familiar.  "I can't remember your name, but you work at the same place I do, and you've got a blog called the grumbling dragon."  "Well, bugger me," I thought - but thats another thing you don't say in a gym, "could this be a fan?".

To cut a long story short, we do indeed work at the same company, and had actually spent a pleasant week on a course together with an assortment of other jolly decent folk in the far away wilds of Hertfordshire in a strangely crumbly gothic hotel which was frequently surrounded by psychotic peacocks. Once he'd pointed that out, of course I remembered him, how could I not?

My point is, that when you're used to seeing someone in a specific context like, for example, slaving away on a bunch of strangely futile tasks dreamed up by a remote sadist with a barely tangible grip on reality - then you aren't necessarily gonna recognise said individual when you meet them happily skipping along on an assortment of gym apparatus, dressed in a fashion which would probably cause the aforementioned psychotic peacocks to fall completely and rather dangerously in love with them.  So I'm sorry if I seemed bewildered, Ian, it really was nice to see you.

But it did get me thinking.  How many other people have I utterly failed to clock, simply because they weren't where I'd normally expect them to be?  It's actually the perfect disguise, isn't it?  No make-up or subterfuge required.

For example, no-one is ever going to believe that's the septuagenerian Catholic Bishop of Westminster chucking the keys of the freshly TWOC'ed popemobile into the ashtray at the Penge wifeswapper's monthly cheese biscuits 'n' bonking soiree, which means he can actually go to it with impunity.

Public-spirited and ultra-helpful plasticine genius-dog Grommit wouldn't be caught dead digging holes to bury plastic bones on the 18th green and crapping in the bunker on the Old Course at St Andrews, which is precisely why that's the ideal way for him to satiate those irresistible doggy tendencies. If he got lucky he might even manage to hump the leg of the groundsman on his way back to Wallace's place, and no-one would ever be the wiser.

There's no way that's Adolf Hitler driving that Gypsy Caravan float as the London Gay Pride carnival marches though Golder's Green,  that's not Jesus munching a bacon sandwich while having "Black Sabbath" tattooe'd across his back, and whatever else that might be, it's not a Dalek applying a fresh coat of dark blue paint to that old fashioned police telephone box.

And despite the fact that I promised you its true, no-one who know's me is ever going to believe that first paragraph of today's blog...

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

What the...?

There's something I don't understand.

Well, OK, technically speaking there are an infinite number of things I don't understand, but as a rule I tend to avoid drawing attention to them in case I manage to irrevocably tarnish the Grumbler's aura of intellectual invincibility, and the carefully nurtured belief that there is a bottomless well of things I know all about.

For example, "Why," Mrs Grumbler once asked me "do you always have to be right?" I suppose I should have recognised from the querulous tone that the question was intended to be rhetorical, but it's a husband's duty to lend his wife assistance if she asks, so I pondered for a minute. "I think," I ventured pompously, "it's something to do with the fact that I don't flap my mouth unless I'm pretty sure I know what I'm talking about.".  To this day, even after the last of the bruises has long faded, I cant help but think she, the Moon of my Delight, over reacted. Ah well, no day in which we learn something is ever completely wasted.

So back to my state of perplexity.  Regular visitors to this blog (there aren't many, its true) may have noticed that it doesn't get updated very often.  In their disappointment, they may chose to hit the 'next blog' link at the top of the screen, which has been thoughtfully provided by the folks at blogger to take the adventurous reader on to other folks scribblings of a presumably similar nature.  I've taken to hitting it myself, expecting to be transported off to the nefarious launchpads for the scribbly meanderings of other like-minded, beer drinking; politically incorrect and hopefully partially amusing observers of the human condition.

So why does blogger take the reader of the grumbler, invariably, to a daily diary of a god-fearing (and god bothering) Republican super-mom with an avowed ambition to adopt and church up any semi-sentient bipedal life-form under the age of eighteen unwise and unlucky enough to come within a mile of her presumably well-scrubbed doorstep?

Its just not on! I mean, what on earth have I written which makes the all-powerful servers at google decide that subscribers to the grumbler are going to enjoy reading the twisted burbling insanity of a middle aged bible literalist who truly believes that the long march to salvation is expedited by the act of locking teenage girls in their rooms with nothing to sustain them but bread, water and the word of God, with an occasion beating with a stick to enliven an otherwise boring day?  I dunno, but I swear that's where it took me. Not once, but thrice!

Why would someone who's just enjoyed a rant about the similarities between Marmite and Earwax being interested in the illustrated diary of someone who spends their evenings crocheting woollen cosies for rolls of toilet paper?

I mean, come on lads,  your own search engine returns this very blog as the number three hit for anyone typing the words "Elevator Facts" and hitting "go". And that little entry has less truth in it than the book of Mormon (Look, I had the facts delivered to me on huge tablets of stone, Ok, and I'd be happy to show them to you, but when I got up the next day they'd been stolen by an Angel).

Clearly I'm going to have to step up the contentious quotient round here if Im not to be trapped in some Wagnerian scale Ring-Cycle of Waltonesque niceness.

I dare say that even mentioning the kinds of blogs that people are being misdirected to is only likely to trick the servers into more of the same. So it'll be interesting to try it after this has been posted.

So, in the time-honoured interests of misdirection, be sure to come back next week when the Grumbler branches into investigative photo-journalism by gatecrashing the Penge and Norwood Naturist Star Trek Appreciation Societies' annual wife-swapping party, which this year play's host to the Dulwich Doggers' AGM, because the vicar needs the Church Hall that evening to set up for the following day's jumble sale.

PostScript.  I make most of this rubbish up - that much should be obvious. Sometimes, though, I enter terms into google just in case my fevered imagination has hit pay dirt.  I chose Dulwich Doggers because (a) Dulwich is near Penge (an area in south london which, to me, sounds more like a disease than a place) and (b) its nicely alliterative. Imagine my delight to discover  that the lane leading to Dulwich golf is apparently a well known spot for this particular branch of social intercourse.

Postscript 2.  Well, it didn't work.

Here's the 'profile' descriptions of the first two blogs that the 'next button took me to.

1) As you have probably noticed, I have been quite busy and unable to post much lately. The reason I have been busy is that I am participating in a Summer Chaplaincy program at a Hospital.

2) Wife of Jim, Mother of five, daughter of the King, I am saved by Grace, redeemed by the Blood of Christ, and being sanctified daily. Living in the world yet not being part of it is a battle to which I must rise for the sake of my family and the Glory of my Lord. Yet, it is Christ who works in me, Praise the Lord!

Why? I dunno, but Google works in mysterious ways. I pity any poor reader of those sites who ends up on mine. 

Sunday, June 13, 2010


A lady of the Grumbler's acquaintance (she cannot be named because she made me promise not to) recently had an accident and ended up with a scratched cornea - an exquisitely painful condition. Fortunately, it seems to be getting better now, though there have been a couple of flare-ups.

After the last day spent sitting in the dark with a cold cloth to try and get some respite from the pain, a return visit to the local barber-surgeon was in order. Of course, the National health service isn't much round here, and if the quack can't diagnose your ills by the taste of your piddle, or fix what's broken by sticking leeches to it, then he or she will be pretty much stumped and may refer you to a more qualified authority; such as a hedge-witch, for example.

So it was that when I was chatting to the good lady she informed me that, having donned a feathered head-dress and cast the bones (presumably they belonged to someone he'd failed previously failed to cure) our local shaman determined that the auspices were good, but if the eye got any worse she should visit an ornithologist.

Now you may, as I was tempted to, scoff at this quite obvious malapropism, but may I point out that the root of the word 'auspices' is 'auspex' - latin for "one who looks at birds".

Still, since this amazingly clever comment was followed up with "Apparently, you can get some kind of contract lens thingy to stop it from hurting" perhaps it was a mistake after all...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Electoral boredom

The newspapers and TV round these parts are increasingly full of barely credible election related stories. What puzzles me is if they’re going to the effort of making stuff up, why can’t it at least be vaguely interesting? It’s not that hard…

I was out in the garage on Sunday, cleaning one of the bikes. You know, time really flies when I’m doing that, and it’s immensely satisfying.  This is the kind of wholesome practice that separates the grumpy old pillar of the community from the younger generations. If you don’t believe me, consider that any activity which involves a teenage boy spending a couple of hours on his own, enjoying himself hugely and ending up surrounded by soiled tissues would probably not be focused entirely on a Triumph Bonneville.

In some ways, though, it’s a good thing that age tends to mellow our habits (or at least we get to replace one set of socially unacceptable behaviours with another, slightly more curmudgeonly one), because roughly half way through my buffing, I was rudely interrupted by a thin and rather dyspeptic looking gentleman resplendent in blue and claiming to represent the local Conservative party.  And let’s face it, one of the last things you’d want popping up behind you if you’d got yer trousers down is a prospective MP - they’re far to likely to try and take advantage of ANY situation they encounter…

He rattled on for a while about taxes, family values and fox hunting before going on to complain about immigration.  It wasn’t until he started waffling on about Slough being full of Martians that I realized what was bothering me. Normally it’s the rosette that’s blue, not the entire candidate.  OK, some of these guys hardly seem to pause for breath, but you don’t often see them change colour for lack of oxygen - not even in a hung parliament (there are some politicians for whom I believe asphyxiation to be too good but I digress and, if one were to be pedantic, that would be a hanged parliament).

Anyway, I just put his cyan hue down to him being an escaped Smurf or something (the Tories are quite desperate right now and will form a coalition with just about anyone - even a cult of little blue dudes who are led by a weird looking guy with a bowler hat and a ZZ-top beard) and got on with my bike cleaning.

Later on in the evening Mad Albert and I were on our way to the pub, bickering - as is our custom.  I was reclining in a shopping trolley that we’d found in the lake and Bert was pushing, because he won the toss (which meant I’d have to push on the way back).  We’d only gone a few hundred yards when there was this weird noise, sort of like someone farting in the bath, but higher pitched, and then four blue geezers appeared out of nowhere.  Bert actually saw them first, because I was facing the wrong way in the trolley. Before I could say anything he’d already told them to bugger off because he’s voting UKIP.

Quick as you like, three of these blokes had grabbed Bert, there was another weird noise, and they all disappeared - except for the fourth bloke who looked just like the one who’d interrupted my polishing earlier - he’d just, sort of, wobbled a bit when the others vanished. He looked a bit confused for a minute, then said, “Sod it, that keeps happening!” and pushed the trolley, with me still in it, into a ditch while saying “Nothing personal, I’ve got to get back to Slough. We come in peace, and mean you no harm.” Then he ran off and as he vanished from sight round the corner I could hear him shouting “Bloody Earthlings”…

As you can imagine, by the time I got myself out of the ditch I was a bit peeved, and quite worried about Bert - who had quite plainly been abducted by Martians. I was concerned enough, in fact, that I only managed about a dozen pints and three bags of pork scratchings once I finally did get to the pub.  Still, looking on the bright side, at least I didn’t have to push Bert all the way home in the trolley. 

It came as a bit of a surprise, I don’t mind telling you, when I heard a damp moaning noise coming from the ditch as I staggered home.  It was Bert, covered in wet leaves and trapped under the trolley! I dragged it off him, helped the silly old fool out up, and brushed him off - dislodging a snail from his lapel and what I originally thought was a small tortoise but actually turned out to be the near fossilized remains of half a Big Mac from his shoulder.

I was eager to hear about his encounter with the extra-terrestrials but, frankly, he was quite rude.  Claimed to know nothing about any alien abductions and reckoned I’d made him drink two pints of cider (that’s four times what it takes to get him drunk) and then rolled him into a ditch.  Anyway, he’s still not shut up about it, despite finding several “we come in peace” election pamphlets from the Smurfish Martian Conservative Party stuffed into his trouser pockets. It just goes to show you can’t trust the them. (Smurfs, not pockets, obviously, who ever heard of someone that didn’t trust his pockets?)

As far as the election’s concerned, I’m thinking of voting for the UK Independence Party. Like Mad Albert. Once I’ve been able to make certain that they’ll get Britain out of the Solar system, as well as the European Community.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Just Like a Viking (not for the faint of heart)

Sometimes, very funny things happen to me, or I hear of funny things happening to others.  It would be a waste to keep them to myself, especially if even just one other person will laugh.  To be kind, though, (and I’m not inherently unkind) it’s sometimes necessary, and always desirable, to embellish and tweak in the cause of obfuscation and entertainment. Both techniques are employed here in what will be presented to you as a story.  It’s entirely up to you to decide who’s who, and what’s true…

He was a callow youth - a fact to which many of his friends would attest - but also inclined to be gregarious.  He rather enjoyed the occasional pint too - as long as an occasion could be defined as something that happens at least eight times a day. It would be pleasantly reassuring to suppose that this combination of ill considered, alcohol fuelled sociability is a occurrence rarer than dodo sightings, but that would be a mistake since, unfortunately, it pretty much sums up most lads in the eighteen to twenty-two age bracket.

Our particular lad was also blessed with two left feet, extreme myopia, a callous disdain for sartorial elegance and a distressing tendency to behave tactlessly to people whom he considered less intelligent than himself - which was pretty much everyone.

I paint this somewhat less than flattering picture for you so that when I tell you, at the time our story unfolds, that the lad has a girlfriend you’ll appreciate that this is an infrequent occurrence and one he’s as keen as mustard to nurture.

Now, no-one’s all bad and our hero does have a few plus points - he’s a fair cook, and has reasonable taste in wine too.  This evening he’s had an opportunity to use both these skills in the pursuit of a greater aim (some might say the only aim of most lads of his age) as he and his girlfriend have her parents’ house to themselves while Mum and Dad are away for the weekend. Since he’s already been invited to stay over, he’s reasonably sure it’s going to be a lucky night. He’s prepared a chili con carne, fresh jalapenos and coriander mind you - none of your powdered or freeze-dried rubbish and procured a pretty decent bottle of St Emilion with which to wash it down.

An hour or so later the pair of them are having a “nice cuddle” on the sofa when our hero decides to try a little game of “Yellow Pages”[1]. At first, all seems to be going remarkably well - right up until the point where his little sweetheart emits a banshee shriek and runs to the bathroom as fast as its humanly possible to do with one’s best lingerie round one’s ankles. (I did say remarkably well, didn't I?)

Initially very concerned for the young lady’s welfare and puzzled by this extreme behaviour our boy is soon left in no doubt as to the cause of her ire as, to the accompanying hiss of a power-shower on full-cold, punctuated by a number of vile oaths worthy of the saltiest of sea-dogs she casts doubt upon his parentage, calls down on him a plague of misfortune and lets him know in no uncertain terms of the capsicum tainted error of his ways. She instructs him in tones that preclude any negociation to begone, permanently, from her sight by the time she leaves the bathroom if he knows what’s good for him.

I’m sure you, ladies and gentlemen of the world, can work the details out for yourselves without me having to stoop to further explanation.  But you might be wondering what this has to do with Vikings? 

Well, history has it that, just like our now rather chastened would-be lothario has just done, the Vikings ended many a loving relationship by setting fire to the man in the boat….

[1] Let your fingers do the walking.


Some time ago, the grumbler managed to link together far too much of his online life, with the result that this blog automatically gets loaded onto facebook. Well, no more! The grumbler, and the other entity on facebook are two completely different entities - and the one is clearly cramping the other's style...

Now, if this note fails to appear on facebook, then I'll know Ive got the setting right, and the grumbler can blog, without the facebook fella getting the credit...

Friday, March 26, 2010

Phew, that was close...

So, a few of us went for a meal last night at a brewpub not far from San Francisco international airport.  One of my favourites, actually, and has been since I first set foot in the place.

I digress, but it seems to be a week for reminding myself that I'm not precisely a spring chicken any more (more of a crispy duck) - I've been going there for 15 years, give or take. Worse than that, its just a week (to the hour) that I was watching a band I've loved for 33 years play my favourite song of all time.  The fact that they are still going (well, 75% of them) is proof enough to me that "No More Heroes" remains an inaccurate song title.

Anyway, back at the brewpub it was apparent from the off that it would be "one of those nights" as we marched in and - to the consternation of the waiting staff - demanded "a table for four and a half".  Still, we were soon accommodated after a short sojourn in the back bar/billiard room in which Andy and I managed to obtain two of the nastiest pints of beer we'd encountered in a long time (soon rectified by switching to the ever reliable "Broadway Blonde"). Packed into a booth, we decided that it would be Andy's birthday today, and we dutifully informed our server of the fact that he had just turned one hundred and seven. This turned out to be a smart move, since they gave him a free desert. Next time we're here, andy wants me to take him to a Chevvy dealer so that he can claim to be a hundred and sixty-three and see if the give him a free Corvette. I cant say that its much of a spectator sport watching Andy pack in a fudge brownie (ooo-errr, missus) but the conspicuous consumption prize for the evening went to Graham, who ate anything that wasn't actually nailed to the table.

Anyway, a few ales meant that it was entirely necessary for me to head off to what the Americans euphemistically term a "rest room". Personally, if I want a rest, I'm not likely to do it in a place where the decor features more white tiles and stainless steel than the average post-mortem suite and which smells, distressingly, of poo, but t takes all types I suppose. Noticing that there was already a fellow in the place, I immediately took myself to the comfort zone furthest from him.

Isn't it weird how most blokes can instantaneously process the incredibly complicated rules of bathroom etiquette while half drunk (or worse) and single-mindedly bursting for a pee, and yet so few can complete a relatively simple puzzle like Rubik's cube in total sobriety even if given  month of Sundays?

Anyway, I was irrevocably committed to the act of wringing out a kidney when a deep voice immediately behind me said "Hey Baby".  Well, I was so shocked and disturbed by this that if I hadn't been busy doing what blokes do when standing in bathrooms I'd probably have wet myself. As it was, I performed the incredibly convoluted manoeuvre required to twist round and prepare to defend my honour, without actually splashing my boots, in mere fractions of a second.

Anyway, directly behind me was a guy, mercifully facing away from me, belt undone and jeans wide open, with his pride and joy in one hand and his iPhone in the other or, since this is close to Silicon Valley, maybe he had his pride and joy in one hand and was holding his willy with the other. The bloke was actually phoning his girlfriend while taking a gipsy's kiss[1]. I mean, I can appreciate the art of multi tasking, but its not exactly romantic, is it? More to the point, he scared me half to death and came scarily close to experiencing a violent misunderstanding. I can talk the hind leg off a donkey, but even I'd have had a hard time explaining that to the local Peelers.

Clearly, the world is a weirder place that I give it credit for. Time to go home...

[1] Rhyming slang.  Work it out for yourself.