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.