Friday, December 15, 2006

Taking the Fan Thing a Little Too Far

This happened a while ago, but Ive only just stopped laughing enough to write it down.

The other day, two ladies of my acquaintance were out in the car. I suppose it does no harm to reveal that they are in fact my mother in-law and sister in-law (both absolutely delightful people). They drove past a house which was evidently undergoing a good deal of building work, and outside of which was situated a 'portaloo'.

"Oh" says Mum, "those people must really like Doctor Who! Look, they've got a Tardis in their garden!"

I do hope she never has occasion to use one of the few remaining police telephone boxes to be found in our green and pleasant land.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Political Correctness and the Oxtail English Dictionary

I love languages; all of them. Even ones I have no hope in understanding. And let's face it a series of sentences directed at me in Cantonese might be the shopping list for my local take-away, or a declaration of undying love, I have no way of knowing (though probabilities would help me out), but it doesn't matter. Words just sound great.

Obviously, I have a particular affinity for the English language, whether it be the 'Ossome' Californian version, the 18th century 'authentic version' spoken in the Boston area, or my native (London-ish) vocabulary, well spiced and flavoured with Indian and French additives. (Moi perznal fayvrit be what spoken boi a Cornishmaan with ate pints o zoider in 'im.)

So it saddens me on my drive to work in the morning when I am verbally assaulted by a paragon of political correctness who wishes to remove a word from usage because it (allegedly) offends a section of society. This morning, it was the turn of a lady professor to complain about the fact that the extremely unfortunate victims of an apparent serial killer who is targeting prostitutes in Suffolk are being referred to as, well, prostitutes.

According to this person, all prostitutes are women first and foremost (which may badly surprise a small but significant number of rent-boys plying their trade in King's Cross, not to mention their clients) and there is no reason, therefore, to refer to them as prostitutes. This seems to fly in the face of common sense given that the Suffolk Strangler, as I have now heard the killer referred to in a shining example of alliterative inspiration, appears to be specifically targeting this particular working minority, and it's surely best to warn them of the fact.

When asked by a newspaper editor on the same interview as to what he should call these Working Girls, the lady responded with 'female workers in the sex service industry' - a slightly wider group of individuals, perhaps, but one which undoubtedly includes prostitutes. The man made a comment which I think was pointing out the unlikelihood of that phrase fitting into a headline, but I was narrowly avoiding being trashed by 38 tonnes of articulated Belgian at the time so I missed a bit.

Anyway, I shan't harp on, or indeed use the word again in what remains of this passage (or alleyway, or back of the car in a dark lane) except to say that I was wondering, as were the radio presenters, what the "Pretty Woman's" nearest equivalent to a trades union /civil rights group would have to say on the matter. Should anyone wish to ask them, they can be found under the name of "The English Collective of Prostitutes". I wish them the best of luck and the swift apprehension of the evildoer.

So, given that a valiant attempt has been made to remove a word from my dictionary, I shall have to counter by adding a new one, as revealed to me by my colleague Lew in the US. Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce you to exasturbation, which is defined as the act of making a situation much worse than it was, all by one's self. An activity which regular readers will already know is one of my own particular talents.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

What's it all about then?


I've been playing at blogging for a while, sort of in secret. Not in total secret, of course, as that would seem to kind of defeat the object of putting my blathering on an accessible server in the first place. But to an invited audience, shall we say.

They tell me that some of what I've written in the past is amusing, but please feel free to comment (really, I'd like the feedback), if you read any further and you find that it isn't.

There are some pictures on this site, but no noises. If noises are 'your thing' then I can heartily recommend that your point your browser (a new window, of course) at or indeed at . Both of these places will deliver some excellent sounds, and my old amigo at PCPodcast is almost as good at grumbling as I am. I don't know the Cool Man of Suffolk well enough (or indeed at all) to cast nasturtiums in his direction (although, between you and I, I bet he's pretty good at grumbling if he sets his mind to it).

In future, there may be posts from invited guests here, but in the meantime, everything from here down is my own grumbling.

No animals were hurt in the writing of this blog, although I did have to blow a spider off of the keyboard earlier this morning.

Don't Let Him in, I Can't Find the Harpic!

I recently took the opportunity to drop in on a friend on my way to a 'food fair' some distance from where I live. As is customary on these occasions, while he and I had arranged this visit a good week in advance, he had neglected to tell his wife until I was a scant ten minutes away. On my arrival, I was slightly surprised that the good lady was, initially, no-where to be seen, but it emerged that she was frantically engaged in 'tidying up and cleaning'. This raises two points:

  • As a 'bloke' I am genetically incapable of recognizing mess, so whilst flattering, this activity is completely unnecessary.
  • This must be a bit how the Queen feels - apparently everywhere her Majesty goes is redecorated just before she gets there (in my case, its usually just after I've left), and therefore the queen believes that the entire world is spotless, and that fresh air actually smells like gloss paint.

Anyway, I digress... My colleague reports:

She did go on to say she was surprised you hadn't used the toilet (hence the frantic cleaning when you arrived). She went on to say that if it was I that had travelled for an hour in the car, then proceeded to have a cup of coffee, go round a food fair, have a sarnie, beer and more coffee, then there would be a very high probability that I would pay a lengthy visit to the bathroom, along with associated skid marks, drips and unpleasant smell.

My response to this, as an open letter:

I have to admit that once I got 3 miles down the road, I was disappointed thatI hadn't used the toilet. Still, not wetting myself gave me something to concentrate on on the way home.

I shall indeed warn my wife that we will need to line the Kharzi with anti-skid material, should you visit. Pondland [name changed for legal purposes] actually do something which is intended for lining the bottom of ovens which would probably do the job quite nicely. They often have reader's tips too, detailing unexpected uses for their products. I shall write to them:

Dear Pondland,

Thank you for your marvelous oven liner. Its great, and can be used in all sorts of places.

My wife recently obtained a rare phoenixx from a 'Harry Potter' convention, to replace our beloved parrot, Enoch, which recently passed away from a nasty case of 'rivers of blood'. We've called him 'Crazy Arthur Brown' and he's lovely, but he was getting through three cages a week. The poor lad's droppings simply burn through the bottom of his cage, and the traditional sandpaper just isn't up to the task.

Now I use sheets of your magic oven liner, and the droppings just slide off. I'm even making money as Ive been selling them to a nice man who used to work for the KGB, but I have no idea what he does with them.

Also, I am finally able to invite my good friend 'Skidmark Pete' round to my house for a coffee - my wife wouldn'tt allow it before, as cleaning the loo after his visits was such a chore. A little circle of oven liner with a target mapped out with 'tipp-ex' provides Pete with a smashing drop-zone and now we're all happy. Just thought your other customers might like to know of these alternate uses for your marvelous product!

Major Q. Tipp (retired)

This Week's Recipe is Sliced, Deep Fried Polonium, with Stuffed Olives.

This week I should have been at a secret location, watching a bunch of luminaries (or might that be loonies?) give a whole load of presentations about the particular slice of business in which we are all involved. While there is the occasional gem, all too often one can be subjected to death by powerpoint (reminds me of an old joke where a savage chief offers three captives a choice between 'death or bobo'). I wonder what the collective term is for 'presentations' - yawn, perhaps? Or maybe itch, fidget or slumber...

In fact, I should have been giving my own presentation "Knitting Hamsters for Beginners", but the fates have conspired to keep me safe and sound[1] at home instead of sending me off in a metal tube, 30,000 ft in the air, with three hundred other people and, if the UK gutter press is to be believed, a couple of microgrammes of Polonium 210. (Polonium[2] is a type of fermented sausage popular in Eastern Europe, and 210 refers to its length, in millimeters. It is one of the most poisonous substances known. Two microgrammes of this stuff is enough to kill the entire audience at a matinee performance of the Mousetrap, or would be, if they weren't already dead anyway.)

These days, a powerpoint presentation is probably the closest today's busy executive comes to sitting down and watching some good, old fashioned amateur (see last week's post) dramatics. That might be a shame, but for the fact that some of the worst ones are unintentionally funny. The correct way to show 'appreciation' of such a production in times past would have been to pelt the perpetrators (I beg your pardon, I meant, of course, performers) with a selection of rotten fruit and vegetables. That's no easy these days since most produce is genetically engineered, irradiated, vacuum packed or in some other way buggered about with so that it doesn't go rotten, even on a boat journey from Papua, New Guinea, to Guildford. (Watching a container ship try to dock at Guildford is a pleasantly futile way to spend an afternoon, by the way.)

Lets not forget that fruit and vegetables in their natural state are most certainly too 'earthy' for today's executive to soil his hands with, so the projectile of choice will have moved on. I offer, for your consideration, a selection of modern and upmarket projectiles and delivery systems suitable for livening up these very occasions.

  • Crystallised citrus fruit slices. Rock hard, and entirely cased in an abrasive sugar coating, these are the ninja stars of the confectionery world. The mental scars will outlast the physical grazing earned by unwary presenters who encounter a deftly flung slice of sugared lime.
  • Chocolate Brazil nuts. The shiny plastic-like coating of chocolate on these increasingly scarce nuts reduces their wind resistance to almost zero. It's a little reported fact that NASA is currently engaged in covering one of its space shuttles entirely in a mixture of Hershey's and carnauba wax in what I am sure will be a successful attempt to obsolete those pesky heat resistant tiles. The less well off executive may find that second hand (reload?) brazil nut ammunition may be cheaply obtained from old ladies, since the nuts tend to be too hard for the dentures, and the old dears spit them out after sucking off the chocolate. Fired from a slingshot, one of these babies will prematurely curtail the most tedious of presentations.
  • Finally, and most ominously, we have the blowpipe fired, hanabero stuffed olive. This is the hollowpoint bullet of the vegetable world. With sufficient velocity, the olive will, but virtue of its having been 'excavated', flatten on impact. Anyone who has previously consumed pieces of habanero chili will be well aware of the fact that there's a lot more damage done to the hole they come out of, than the one they went in through.

And yes, this is all sour grapes, and I am sore that I'm not there.

[1] As safe as it is possible to be when blessed with teenage daughters.
[2] Note for lawyers, this picture does not show a poisonous substance. Go sue someone else.

Religious Symbols

During my morning commute to the office to have my soul sucked out, energy bled away and youthful enthusiasm and optimism brutally suppressed by a bleak despair, I like to lighten my mood by listening to the Today Program on Radio 4. That's when I'm in the UK of course. In San Fransisco I listen to KFOG which is in no way similar, unless John Humphrys is prone to listening to Pink Floyd in the bits where he's not on air.

Anyway, while I was driving in today, a Vicar was expressing his displeasure at British Airways' recent decision to prevent a member of staff, a committed Christian, from wearning a cross outside of her clothing. He asked for all Christians to boycott the airline in protest. There was, of course, an entirely predictable debate involving Turbans, Burkhas and all manner of other religious symbols or attire, and their acceptability or otherwise in the workplace. I, as (perhaps regrettably) a godless heathen began to feel a touch 'left out', while at the same time having a certain amount of sympathy with the chattering clergyman.

Should I wish to proclaim my lack of faith to the world at large, what 'symbol', I wondered, would I share with my infidel brethren? A cursury search of the web (after all, I dont actually want to FIND one, that would spoil the point) has revealled the happy fact that while there is much discussion on this issue, there is no commonly agreed upon symbol. So, I'm free to make up my own then. Yippee.

Most religions, I figured, seem to have their holiest sites or most revered figures firmly located in extremely hot places. After all, Christians, Jews and Muslims all appear to have quite an interest in arid climes. And what is it that all of these places have in common? Sandals. So my first thought was a circle, containing a stylised pair of sandals, with a line through them at 45 degrees. Now that would look 'wicked' on one of those fine silver plated chains from the cheap shop - the ones that manage to turn your neck green after a week's wear. Not to be, I'm afraid...

Meaningless speculation and drivel (two of the pillars of my own existence) are helped along, I find, by pleasant company and conversation. You can speculate on your own, behind closed doors, but my mum always told me it would make me go blind (I think she said speculation). So, a couple of minutes after arriving at work, when it was time for my cigarette break, I collared a colleague and dragged him out into the rain with me. He doesnt smoke, but he does enjoy the cigarette breaks.

He told me that the Greek gods live on the top of Mt Olympus, where it's likely to be chilly, and that nobody had enquired of the Norse gods as to whether central heating was an essential feature of the average dwelling on Asgard, or whether they required air-conditioning instead. So, that's the sandals image done away with then.

This fellow pointed out that, from his point of view, one of the good things about having a religion was that it can sustain, even nourish, a person through times of adversity. He also pointed out that despite my tendency to liken my life to a vast and featureless desert without end (and therefore without a centre), there are in fact a few things around which my life does appear, to the outside observer, to revolve.

The first of these, of course, is a solid comittment on my part to the practice of 'taking the mickey' indiscriminately out of almost anything that anyone holds dear, whether or not I personally have sympathetic leanings, purely for effect. [I'd like to point out that I make fun of myself as well, I dont want everyone else to have all the attention.] Well, I cant argue with him, but its a bit ethereal really. Cant easily make a symbol out of that.

Then he struck a vein of pure gold. Food. If there's one thing about which I can endlessly enthuse and evangelise, its food. As the recipient of several blunt comments regarding the 'quality' of any chicken which might be obtained from a supermarket at two for a pound in comparison with the kind of free-range feathered aristocrat to which I am drawn myself, he knows he's on to a winner there.

So, next time you set eyes on an oversized individual proudly sporting a Potato (possibly engraved with a pair of sandals, I dont give up on an idea that easily) on a chain, know that it's there as a gesture of solidarity with those who like to advertise their own faith. And, of course, to sustain and nourish him through times of adversity; at which task it may, I respectfully suggest from a purely materialistic point of view, be (at least temporarily) more effective than an item of headgear or jewellery.

Amateur Time

As the festive season approaches at 160 Km/H (a hundred miles an hour in old money) we are faced with what an old friend of mine refers to as 'amateur time'. What on earth does he mean?

Well, its not the ticking off of passing seconds by someone who isnt paid to do so. Have no fear, Old father time is alve and well, and looking forward to the 31st December when he gets to go to parties and watch, as Big Ben strikes midnight, the assembled people search for the least physically unattractive person to kiss and shout 'happy new year' to, before turning into a newborn baby. Father Time, that is, not the kisser.

Nor is it the most dreadful Japanese import of modern times, Karaoke, where people who have deluded themselves into thinking they can sing stand up in front of their mates and murder songs like 'The Locomotion' (which should be murdered) and 'Wish You Were Here' (which should not be). Why is it that most people who do this cant carry a tune in a bucket?

Sliding down the scale of tastelessness for which I am so rightly known, the last thing it isnt. Its not those few pages to be found in 'gentlemens magazines' so often named after Ford cars (until they came out with the Mondeo which, if it were a magazine, sounds like it would be target at men who dont like girls). I'm referring to the pages where the 'mistress of the house' tries to live up to her title by allowing her hubby to send in a few pictures of her removing, piece by flimsy piece, her best dominatrix outfit in a seedy hotel bedroom in Walsall.

No, we were closest with Karaoke, its about pubs... At this time of year, folks who have stayed in all year watching soap operas and knitting their own hamsters decide to go out for a drink. Of course they deserve it, but these are the same people who have a bet on the horses only when the 'Grand National' is running. For my American readers, the Grand National is a bit like the Kentucky Derby, but without the fried chickens. Thus, the pubs dig out the bottles of sweet vermouth which havent seen the light of day since last year, and hang up a few sprigs of tired looking mistletoe. Conversations take place debating whether 'Cinzano' should be pronounced to rhyme with 'chin' or 'sin', and harrassed looking husbands in oversized, chunky-knit, olive green cardigans with big brown buttons find their senses overwhelmed by the beauty of the pneumatic young lady behind the bar and intoxicated by the merest sniff of her beer-splashed apron.

My curmudgeonly colleague claims that, as a seasoned and regular consumer of the fermented malt beverage, his enjoyment of the drinking establishment is adversely affected by these migratory visitors with their soundtrack of Slade, Wizzard, John Lennon and Yoko Ono and the Wombles. Personally, I think the miserable git should be forced to sit at the top of the christmas tree until his attitude improves.

Another Dubonnet and lemonade please, Sandra, and could I have another cherry please love, 'cos this one's gone a bit limp?

What I Didnt Expect to Miss...

A friend told me a joke the other day about a bloke who has a very strange medical condition. Apparently, ever time this fellow breaks wind, his posterior clearly announces the name of a Japanese car and motorycycle manufacturer. Which reminds me that I kind of promised my wife I wouldn't write this in the blog. So here it is...

Commitments to the corporate behemoth which currently holds the deeds to what might possibly be referred to as my 'soul' had resulted in me bouncing back to the 'City by the Bay' for a few weeks before I had even had time to unpack my bag from the last trip.

'Dont you miss your family?' people ask me, and well, yes - I do. But I can always speak to them on the phone, though the dog's not quite so communicative and he has to go last, otherwise whoever has the phone after him ends up getting their ear glued to it with puppy-drool. (Note, this stuff really deserves scientific investigation. Once, when raiding the fridge in the early hours of the morning, I stubbed my toe on half a 'Winalot' which had been effectively welded to the ceramic tiles in the kitchen by this self-same puppy-drool. In the morning, after I had applied a large number of band-aids to the vicious wound that was left by this freak accident, I actually had to chip the errant dog-biscuit off the floor with a cold chisel. I'm telling you, a couple of dabs of dog dribble on that space shuttle foam, and it aint coming off to hit no wing, no way.)

Anyway, that's all the free advice NASA is getting from me today, and back to the point. Smack bang in the middle of an entirely lovey-dovey conversation with the beloved Mrs the other day, there came down the phonelines a clearly audible 'ThhhRRRRRRRp' as I assume that last night's baked beans must have finally caught up with the good lady. Immediately thereafter came a shrill 'peep peep peep' noise, which went on for a very long time.

Now the good lady swears that both sounds were the result of the tumble dryer announcing the completion of its allotted task, but I'm fairly certain that in reality she'd farted and set the smoke alarm off.

I cried with laughter. Honest. Oh yeah, the bloke with the complaint I started with had an abcess. Apparently, Abcess makes the fart go Honda.

Speechcless in San Francisco

Set the scene: A chap who works for a large corporation enters a meeting room for a regular discussion with his peers, in which the very tricky business of bringing their company's product to market on time, and with exceedingly high quality is discussed.

He sits down, and places his notebook, mobile phone, and packet of cigarettes on the table.

Next to him is a gentleman of Eastern European stock, but well 'acclimated' to the Californian way of life he gave up smoking a long time ago. Overcome by desire, he reaches for the alluring packet of Rothmans King Size and says "Do you mind if I sniff your box?"

Happily, when all was delicately explained, he found it funnier than the rest of us.

Stimulating Mail

An acquaintance recounted the following anecdote in a drinking establishment recently...

Being a broadminded fellow, this gentleman responded to an email just before last Christmas and purchased his partner a six-month subscription to a slightly racy ladies magazine ("delivered in plain packaging") as a little extra Christmas gift. What you might call a 'stocking filler' (possibly in the hope of encountering more stockings, who knows?).

It being the month of June, the subscription has expired, and he received a letter in the morning post (at half past three in the afternoon - this is the UK, you understand) inviting him to extend the subscription. All good and proper. While it shows a slight lack of etiquette, he could forgive, he says, the fact that the salutation greeting him on liberating the contents of the letter is 'Dear Scarlet Woman'.

However, what still has him convulsed with a combination of laughter and what we can only call 'chagrin' is the fact that renewing said subscription will result in a free gift being sent to his good lady. To whit: a device known, we understand, as a 'Rampant Rabbit'. A photograph of what we might refer to the 'business end' of which is clearly visible through the little clear 'address window' in the envelope.

He has kindly provided us with a scan of the offending envelope, cunningly altered to disguise his location. We wonder what the postman thought...

Biscuits and Gravy

A note to a good Friend of mine, on 'the other side of the pond'.

You are, and will always be, a sincerely, deeply valued friend and greatly respected by me. However, there exists here some confusion which, for the sake of peace and harmony between our two great nations, must be resolved as quickly as possible...

There is no other kind of gravy than brown.

This is why most English people will spontaneously lose their breakfasts when they hear the phrase 'Biscuits and Gravy'.

It is, I think, easy to understand why the concept of pouring one over the other is utterly repulsive.

Now, I was presented with 'Biscuits and Gravy' during a visit to a 'southern fried chicken' establishment in 'Knotts Berry Farm' - an LA theme park. The anticipation of this event inspired in me a horror I dare not, even years later, dwell upon. However, the actual experience was (though terrifying in its own right) not quite as bad. What was actually placed in front of me was a plate containing what appeared to be a form of savoury scone (recognised as a legitimate food item in British culinary circles, but nonetheless despised in mine own household) generously anointed in some kind of lumpy cream-like substance. Clearly a sauce, but in no stretch of the imagination a gravy.

The phrase 'biscuts and gravy' (and indeed, just 'gravy') is therefore in my prime English<->American translation dictionary along with Bum, Fag, Fanny, Boot, Bonnet and president[1].

[1] A type of cheese, from France.

Unusual Dog Breeds

Today, while shopping, as I walked past a fairly young lad chatting to his friend, I heard the comment "We've got a new dog. Its a Perineum Mounting dog."

And I thought I had problems stopping my retriever from trying to make love to visitors legs!


I want you to know something about flying - although, if you are a seasoned traveler (like me) you may already know.

Its really boring.

Still, when you've missed the start of the movies for the 4th time, you do get time for 'musing'. This can be dangerous.

The airline I patronise (and I use the term deliberately) has in its first class cabin an in flight beauty therapist and masseuse. Of course, on this occasion I was in the cheap seats, so no luck for me, but I have availed myself of her services in the past and its very nice too...

I was on my way to Las Vegas where, apparently, anything goes. And, according to the slogan, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Applying this principle to the aforementioned in flight therapy, I was given to wonder whether there might, in these days of tarnished morality, be a business opening for, shall we say, a more 'full service' airline.

I reckon there would. But what might we call it?

Well, how about Aerofrot?

More musings from sin city soon, ttfn...

At least I'm not naked, eh?

From the sublime: in a Las Vegas casino...

On returning to my room, having parted with a great deal of money for what actually amounts to a protracted lesson in basic addition at a green baize covered table, I get that sinking feeling that suggests I don't actually have the means of gaining entry to it. I perform the pathetic yet time honoured mime of finding the object of one's desire - a sort of Marcel Marceau homage to the gods of lost things. A subsequent search of the pockets reveals a driving licence, three hundred and sixteen dollars and forty-seven cents, and what appears to be a bus ticket.

This latter item is a mystery to me, since I do not willingly avail myself of this particular form of hoi-polloi transport - especially having sat, horrified and transfixed, through a collague's description of his morning journey amongst the likes of Cough-lady, Twitcher, Munter and Headphone-bloke. Perhaps someone else has been borrowing my trousers for illicit midnight charabanc shenanigans. Eurgh!

I haul my not inconsiderable ass (hotel food, y'know) unwillingly to reception and join a fetid queue of potential gamblers, moist with the anticipation of checking in to this temple of money-loss. Bleak depression settles on me - I must rise above this...

Finally, its my turn. I approach the besuited individual resplendent behind his crumbling Formica fronted counter, and announce in my best "English upper class twit" accent (a cross between Terry Thomas, John Cleese and Hugh Grant, if you simply must know) "Helleaux my good fellow. I find myself embarrassed to inform you that I appear to have denied myself access to my temporary abode by the simple expedient of leaving my Key-card within its confines prior to exiting. Do you think you might provide me with a replacement, or other means of entry therein?"

Randy, as his name badge proclaims him to be, regards me with a drooping visage that would not only be the envy of that paragon of enthusiasm Sir Clement Freud, but would probably stir feelings of jealousy in the breast of "Henry", the minced-morsel loving hound with whom he made several television advertisements. "Do you have any identification?" he asks me?

I ruthlessly suppress an overwhelming desire to prove myself "Saint Michael" by flashing Randy the name sewn into my underpants. Partially because I know there to be no person of that name checked into the Casino, and partially because we are on day three of the "chuddie stock rotation plan". Still, that does mean that the label is at the front, on the outside. Instead, I present my driving licence. Wordlessly, I am handed a replacement room key. Almost weeping with gratitude, still I can't resist: "Thank you, splendid fellow. I must profess myself both grateful and embarrassed, but at least I'm not naked, ha ha. What?".

The eyes swivel my way, creaking in their sockets, as Randy declares "Oh my. You would not believe how often THAT happens". It is more than likely that Douglas Adams met this man while dreaming up the character of Marvin the Paranoid Android.

To the ridiculous: in a San Francisco Airport Hotel

"Good morning Sir, how may I help you?" Tilly says to me through a smile framed by several thousand watts of pristine Californian dentistry.

"Ah, yes, good morning! My room card isn't letting me out of the parking garage, do you think that you could, um..."

"Yes, of course Sir!" Tilly throws away my card with a flourish, and runs a new one through the machine marked Parking, presenting it to me with another smile which threatens to burn my retinae.

"Er, thank you. And, that will get me in to my room too will it?" I ask rhetorically...

"Well no Sir, I didn't know you wanted room access too." ("Well, not simultaneously" I think to myself) "which room are you in?"

"Fifteen thirty-six, please" - knowing the drill here, I prepare the underwear for identification.
"Excellent." (swipe, swipe) "Thank you, your Royal Majesty Prince Bacon of Gerbrovia, you have a lovely day now." Yet another smile, and a proffered key-card.

"Oh, gosh, I'm terribly sorry. I meant fifteen sixty-three - I'm not actually Prince wossname, My name is Jockey-Thong XL (one of a three part set)".

(swipe, swipe, thrust) "Tsk. Here." The smile is replaced by a glare, though the candle power is, if anything, even higher.

Chastened, I have already snatched up the card and scuttled off to put out the flames in what remains of my hair after the scorching disdain has set fire to my precious golden locks before it occurs to me that security wise, Old Randy wasn't such a bad bloke...

What not to say in Las Vegas

Recently, I had to visit Las Vegas for a conference, at which I was presenting. The conference lasted for three days, was entirely based in a Casino, and I had precicely 45 minutes to stand up in front of at least 5 people and say my piece. Sometimes, life is just too hard.

On arrival in Las Vegas my travelling companions and I checked into out hotel, and arranged to meet later in a bar to generally eat, drink and be merry.

At the appointed hour I ambled in to the chosen establishment and concluded (mistakenly, as it happens) after a quick peep around the rather dim interior, that I was the first one there. Naturally, I took a seat at the bar and ordered a beer.

Soon afterwards, I was joined by one of the ladies in our party (who we shall call Jane, to protect the innocent), who proceded to order 'a beer that isnt Budweiser'. No doubt feeling that we had somehow slighted one of America's national treasures, the girl behind the bar handed over a bottle of Chimay Trappist beer and bravely managed to look only slightly disappointed when my companion professed its strong dark-brown contents to be most enjoyable.

With much to discuss, including the work week ahead, the recent journey, and not least of all the speculation as to where the rest of our people might possibly have got to (turns out they were hiding at a table that cant be seen from the bar entrance) it was rather annoying to be persistantly tapped on the shoulder by the straglly bearded individual who had chosen to sit next to us.

Having assured him that we:

  • agreed with this gentleman's opinions on the bar we were in
  • had also been to Birmingham,but did not in fact know the fellow called Jim that he met in a pub there
  • sympathised with the plight of the natives of Northern Wisconsin (of which he is one) who are accused by their southern cousins of being Canadian

my legendary patience was wearing thin so, when he tapped me on the shoulder again and askes "So buddy, what do you do?" I regret that I answered "I'm a pimp.". "She's very nice," he said, "how much for the evening?"

Which is how it came to be, when our colleagues rescued us, that Jane complained that I had tried to sell her to a pseudo Canadian. I really didnt have the heart to point out that had it been a deliberate attempt on my part, the transaction would have been rental rather than sale.

    Doggie Treats

    I have grave concerns regarding the moral wellbeing of my dog.

    Generally speaking, he's a normal, happy, healthy five year-old golden retriever with a tendency to spend too much time noisily licking his own nether regions (because, of course, he can); evidently enjoying this distressingly inexcusable social faux-pas more than absolutely necessary. And before you ask, I'm not making a big deal out of it out of jealousy, or anything, OK? I know where he's been.

    He's also a total coward, barking assertively at the postman from the safety of the hallway, only to scuttle upstairs like a rat up an aqueduct and shiver on the landing as the day's collection of bills and direct mailshots pushing the latest in amusingly named small Korean cars for our house's previous occupant tumble through the letterbox to the floor.

    Neither of these habits give me pause to worry overmuch, although why the man we bought the house from would want to drive a Matsukihatsu Dungbeetle Supreme escapes me.

    However, I noticed the other day that he (the dog, not the previous occupant) sometimes seems curiously attentive in front of the television here at the Acres. He's been eschewing his usual habits of sycophantically shadowing the cat for hours on end or, rather horrifyingly, licking the wife's feet (something else I don't envy him) with every outward sign of rapt contentment, to stare fixedly at the screen. Its taken some time to establish the kind of program that holds' his interest.

    David Tennant's Dr Who doesn't seem to do it for him in the same way that the scary Northern bloke did. His ears prick up when Samantha Carter graces the screen in Stargate SG1 (but so do mine, so that's just learned behaviour). He seemed almost bereaved after the final episode of Star Trek Enterprise. But I finally cracked it. To my great consternation, it's the Animal Planet channel that's been ringing his bell.

    He's got a thing for horses. Dolphins, monkeys, bats, earwigs and mice can all hold his gaze. But when the Andrex puppy toddles on and whimpers on about tuggable, huggable softness, his tongue actually hangs out. And the other day, he got so excited during a program about the mating habits of the Basenji that he was too tired to eat his Winalot at bedtime.

    My dog has come to regard the Animal Planet tv channel as pornography.

    I suggest that those of you with pets consider this: Animal Planet is available to the most basic of digital TV subscribers. There's no 'watershed' after which these programs are shown for you to make sure that Fido is all tucked up for the night and, crucially, there is no 'pet-owner control'. There's all manner of features available for parents to ensure that their children don't access unsuitable material, but absolutely nothing whatsoever to prevent your Shi Tzu ogling the girls down at the poodle parlour. And its not just dogs, either. There is 'specialist material' on here for lots of pets. Quite what Tibbles is going to make of 'Big Cat Diary' I really don't know.

    You may scoff, but when you come home from the pub one evening having neglected to shut your dog out of the lounge, don't blame me if he's stretched out on the sofa with a cigarette, watching "K9 Boot Camp" with a satisfied expression on his face.

    Post script: And keep him off the computer too, otherwise you'll find a subscription to "Reader's Bitches" on your credit card statement. Dont say you werent warned.

    Saturday, December 09, 2006

    "Evil the Cat"

    An early attempt, on my part, to describe my dissatisfaction with an uninvited nocturnal feline guest.... Jazzed up just a little...

    So there's this black cat right? Big. Black. Or a small panther, I'm not sure. Anyway, the neighbourhood witch (like a neighbourhood watch, but with more dancing naked in the woods) reports that its allegedly terrorising most of the local moggies. I have good reason to suspect that its been in my house, due to the occasional traumatised state of my own two little ones, and the black hairs round the cat flap. Not to mention the fact that I've seen the bugger.

    Now, I don't object to an occasional social visit, but that's not what's on Evil's mind. Nope. He's there to eat two plates of Whiska's Kitten (Meaty Chunks) and possibly frighten, if not have sex with, my two little innocents. Next thing he'll be round with his mates, wrecking the hi-fi, emptying my drinks cabinet and phoning up for cat-pizza. Up with this, I will not put.

    I discuss tactics with one who shall remain anonymous, but has experience of cats, bastard and otherwise. Over a few pints which are given no chance to warm up, he shares his decreasingly coherent views with me, pausing only to mock my recent failed attempts to play the stock market, and take the piss out of my car. He is my friend, as he will later prove by emailing me at 1am with a message to whit I am a Bastard for (a) getting him drunk, and (b) not making him a bacon sandwich. His advice, as I remember it, involves fixing the cat flap so things can come in, but not go out, and a bucket of water.

    Now, its the end of an industrious weekend, my washing is done, the front garden looks like Alan Titchmarsh has been labouring on it for a week (with that girl with the big, erm, T-shirt, yes.), and I have successfully 'kegged' five gallons of home made ale, which I shall probably call "Scruttock's Old Dirigible" because I almost always do. There is only one black cloud lurking with intent on the horizon. Evil the cat. So, I fix the cat flap es reccomended by my Cider fuelld acquaintance, firmly close the utility room door, and retire to my pit safe in the knowledge that my kittens will remain unviolated, their food will not be stolen, and I will catch the perpetrator.

    5am, Monday morning. I'm awake (relative term) earlier than normal. There's a noise like an express train full of paralytic, tone deaf violin players hurtling around my utility room. I begin to suspect that I may have trapped Evil, and wander downstairs in my night attire (Like Marilyn Monroe's, but without the Chanel Number 5). I'm awake enough to realise that blundering into a six by four enclosed space with an enraged tomcat whilst wearing a minimum of clothing would not be the brightest thing I've ever done.

    Minutes pass, and I return to the door, now dressed more appropriately in a Two Piece, Kevlar armoured leather bike suit, and sporting a pair of reinforced gloves guaranteed not to shred in a 90MPH bike crash. These may afford a little protection.

    So I'm in there. Evil hasn't taken kindly to this, and is doing a wall of death impersonation about five feet off the ground. My sluggish brain, which at this point is still going through the power-on-self-test comes up with the brilliant observation that Ill have to catch him. As I follow him round the room, and just before I keel over with dizziness, I spot a five gallon fermenting bucket. Perfect. One athletic lunge later I have him, trapped between a wall and the bucket.
    Now he's seriously pissed. The noise from the bucket tells me that my troubles are only just starting. What the bloody hell am I going to do now.

    The brain has finally finished its morning machinations and is now almost fully awake. Almost - I'm in that state where I can have ideas, but have no chance of discerning between a potential Nobel Prizewinner and a recommendation for the Darwin awards for stupidity.

    By dint of superhuman timing, and an agility I never new I possessed, I get the lid on the bucket without letting the cat out. As I rest on the floor, weight firmly on the disk of brown plastic that separates me from a pair of fangs Dracula would be proud of and four sets of razor sharp claws, the rest of my cat-expert's advice comes back to me. Bucket Of Water. Well, I've got a bucket. There's the tap and, oh joy, the hose I use for home brewing is sill attached. A little manoeuvring, delicate fumbling with bucket, lid and hose, a quick blast of cold water and suddenly everything goes quiet.

    So now I've got a five gallon bucket that contains one homicidally pissed off black cat, quietly biding his time and no doubt waiting for an opportunity to meet me on a dark night, and two pints of cold water. In the back of my mind, that little bit of music from Jaws that comes on just before people get eaten is playing over and over again. Carefully, I take the bucket outside, unsnap the lid all the way round the edge, and hide behind the back door. All this without ever removing my right hand from the lid.

    Its the moment of truth, the phantom soundtrack builds to a crescendo and then silence. As quick as I can, I flip the lid off of the bucket, and tip it onto its side, snaking my arm back inside and safely slamming the back door. All academic of course, since that's the exact time I remember that the cat flap is still set to allow Evil back in, but not out again.......
    Luckily for me, he decides he's had enough for now and shoots off over the side gate like his arse is on fire.

    I wonder if he'll be back....