Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Asking the Question

I was in a hotel, I was tired and I wanted to make a phone-call. I was passing reception which was completely empty except for the receptionist. "Do you have to dial a '9' to get an outside line from my room?" I asked.

And with that question the grey mid-forties man, name-tagged 'Lloyd' slowly tapped his favourite chin and decided on giving me an answer more useless than saying "I have no idea"; more rude than saying "Why don't you just F*** off"; and more irritating than Carol Vorderman crying over Richard Whitely dying.
"Let me answer your question, with a question?"

Why? I thought to myself, have I jumped too far ahead in the whole concept of telecommunications? Do we need to discuss something else more fundamental first before getting on to the fun bits? But from the smug grin on this man's face, it was apparent that some cutting and unnecessary remark was about to pop its ugly head out of his ugly head.

"What button would you normally press to get an external-line in a hotel?"

I can only identify the following as possible reasons for him asking this question:

a) He didn't know how to access an outside line.

b) He was genuinely interested in the different ways people access outside lines in hotels around
the world and was researching for his website he had set-up for the subject.

c) He had misheard my question, "Do I have to dial a '9' to get an outside line from my room?" as "Can you ask me a pub-quiz style question on Hotel facilities?"

d) He was a being a sarcastic cock.
After no thought on the subject, I found myself drawn to option 'd'.

"Nine" I said, almost apologetically.

"Correct" he replied and turned away happy that he'd taught me the valuable lesson that it is unreasonable to ask questions at hotel receptions.

I slowly started to amble off, a beaten and tired person. But with one last ounce of energy I turned and faced the receptionist again, staring straight into his cold self-satisfied eyes.

"So do I have to dial a '9' to get an outside line my hotel room?"

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Hello, The scone has moved. Here of all places. Below are my previous postings from the other place. Cold there.
"Well you only live once." was the final argument put to me. But what does it really have to do with buying an overpriced car? I had all but claimed victory in an argument with someone about a car they bought that they really couldn't afford. My argument incidentally was that they really couldn't afford it and just as I had beaten them into submission they threw this last five word punch. My brain told me that this was indeed a valid statement and as such I felt I had lost the argument.
But by this logic it would only be a problem buying something out of your financial means if you believed in reincarnation, that you had multiple lives. And of course you couldn’t buy an overpriced car if you were a cat, who would have been stuck with the financial burden throughout all of its nine lives. How many other arguments have I lost by someone throwing in "you only live once", which with further analysis I would have realised was irrelevant to the argument?
There's plenty of other irrelevant clich├ęs people throw into arguments like the slightly shorter "might as well." Not quite as strong as "Well you only live once", but it can be used for those easier to win arguments that you just want to kill off or to soften your opponent before bringing out the big guns.
There was poor old George W, dead against the war. Then Rumsfeld comes along with his lethal word combinations.
George W : Do you really think we should be invading countries?
Rumsfeld : Might as well.
George W: Yeah, but, it's really gonna stir up shit. I don't know if I can be bothered.
Rumsfeld : I know, but, at the end of the day, when it comes down to it, you only live once.
George W: f*** it, let's have Ireland.
Rumsfeld : Iraq Mr President Iraq.
George W : Yes Iraq. (PICKS UP PHONE) Hey Tony, do you British folks wanna come along with us and invade Poland?
Rumsfeld : Iraq!
George W : Iraq.
Tony B : Nahhhhh, they wont like it.
George W: Come on…
Tony B : I don’t know…it could be trouble.
Rumsfeld : Say to him “You know yer wanna.”
George W : Mr Prime minister Tony. You know yer wanna.
Tony B : Go on then…
05 January
Listening to Movie Stars
“It’s so much bigger than all of us” said some actor off some film on , talking about this some film on the radio on my way home from work. The some film was called “Brokeback Mountain” and it’s about Gay Cowboys. Which is ground-breaking apparently, as there’s never been a film about Gay Cowboys before. But there’s probably never been a film about gay toothpaste factory operatives or gay goat murderers, but noones crying into their Cornflakes.
I shouldn’t really joke about it. I mean obviously Movie-stars are the most intelligent people in the known universe. Who else can make millions of dollars out of pretending to be angry.
In fact thank god this actor made that statement about the film, or my brain would have just been constantly running over the possibilities of exactly how big the film was. “I wonder if this film is smaller than me or bigger than me,” it would have been contemplating, ” or it might actually be bigger than a large amount of people, even all of the people in the world? In fact maybe it is of such a size it could be described as being sooooo much bigger than all of us?" I would never have known.
Movie Stars are here to guide us. Not all listen though. Last year, the silly and I would say irresponsible Brooke Shields was taking anti-depressants and receiving therapy because of her post-natal depression. How stupid was she? Did her doctor ask Tom Cruise if this was a good idea before he/she decided to prescribe this course of action? No obviously they didn’t, because Tom, who was speaking well within his area of competency quite rightly took his opportunity in an interview about the film 'War of the Worlds'( which was all most definitely also “bigger than all of us”) to discuss Brooke Shields condition, stating “I know that-- psychiatry is-- is a pseudo science.” and on anti-depressants “it masks the problem. That's what it does. That's all it does. // There is no such thing as a chemical imbalance.”
There’s some arrogant fully trained Doctor running rough-shot over medical advice of Tom ‘Top-Gun’ Cruise.
I only hope Brooke heard Tom’s warning before it was too late, and that medical professionals in this country do a little less studying medicine and a little more listening to Movie Stars.
22 December
"I've got some very exciting projects in the pipeline... hopefully, please!"
The newspapers, and those people that read them nodding their head( often named Geoff ), are always saying that there are too many celebrities around today (and that they get headaches when they read). Apparently Former Big Brother contestants will go along to the opening of an envelope. Not even interesting envelopes, just boring normal brown envelopes that contain bank statements or letters written in blood.

In the old days, it was easy to tell who a Celebrity was, they appeared on Wogan. Wogan grinned at them entranced as they wheeled off tedious details of their latest film ( normally filmed on location but set in LA) or a book about their life (which they‘d written themselves with a tiny bit of help from someone who bothered to learn reading and writing skills and wasn‘t addicted to pain killers), with a few shite anecdotes tagged on about when they tripped over a cat at Bruce Willis’s house.
But today? Well, I have come to the conclusion that even I am a celebrity. Not for any particular tangible reason, but looking at those in 'I'm a Celebrity, Get me out of Here', I think by those standards I must qualify. I did once appear in Dixons.
So I am going to the premiere of tonight’s episode of ITV’s' The Bill' . Yes it'll be held in my house, and no I don't have a red carpet. But I’ve found an orange rug and gone to the trouble of decorating the flat with 'Police Incident' tape I nicked from some kind of ‘Serious Incident’ along Gloucester Road.
I’ve got to go and face the press now. They’ll probably ask me if I’d go to the opening of an envelope. I probably will while I‘ve got the chance. I know how quickly fame can fade away.

Happy Christmas!
20 December
Christmas Classical Music Shopping
Walk into Virgin Megastore and it's just crammed with DVD Boxsets of Doctor Who and Desperate Housewives. Oasis are snarling loudly from invisible speakers, and the place is full of middle-aged men that shop only once a year. One of them goes to walk out, his plastic Virgin bag swinging back and forth with very over-confident stride. But as he passes the detectors, the sort of high pitched, sort of low-pitched alarm decides it needs to express itself. Teri Hatcher and Billie Piper look up from there respective Box Sets tutting. The man stops and returns their stares. A thick irritated grin punctuates his smug face as he waits for some kid in a 'Virgin Megastore' T-Shirt to give him the wave of ‘I don’t think you’re a thief’.
I make my way over towards the far corner of the store, in search of some 'Classical Music' for Christmas present buying purposes. It has its own separate room. I open the door and enter, letting it slowly close behind me.
Silence. Eddie Izzard sits behind the till and nods at me as he strokes his long newly grown white beard. He looks back down at his turkey, poking it with his index finger. I pick up a candle and begin my search for 'The Best of Classical Music 2006' CD, whose title, to me, sounds just a little premature.
I cross hard stony ground for a good couple of hours. Tiring I stop to catch my breath and look around to get my bearings. "Me and Pincess Di used to come here a lot" says a voice from behind me. I turn and see a short man in his fifties wearing a big pink bola hat. He slowly lifts off his sunglasses. "You be careful here. It's not safe here." He continues, unnecessarily using the word 'here' twice in just two sentences.
"Do you know where I can find 'The Best of Classical Music 2006?" I ask hopefully.
"You don't need to know who I am." He repiles.
"I didn't ask who you.."
"I'm Elton John." And with that a single violin can be heard, slowly crying the tune of 'Candle in the Wind' round the echoey damp cavern. Elton slides his sunglasses back on. "Ahh there you are Trevor."
"Finally" comes a deeper voice, and Sir Trevor McDonald walks around wearing a Green bola to stand next to Elton. "Well that's about it for now". Elton nods then gestures me away and starts singing as I leave, Trevor shouts at Elton furiously trying to make him stop but to no avail.
"The candle burned out long ago", the last words I hear as they go out of earshot, and my tired source of light and warmth flickers for the final time. The ’Virgin Classical Music Department’ sky is totally black and I’m left in a sinister darkness. A faint white light appears on the horizon and wearily I head in its direction. Getting closer I can see it's an old Victorian looking building, a public house, Its sign blows around violently, even though I can feel only a breeze. 'The End Inn'.
I open the heavy oak door and walk in. The lighting all comes from little yellow candles and it’s so bright I have to squint to see where I going. I stumble clumsily towards the bar and manage to slide onto a stool. The music is loud; a harsh mixture of Violins and shotguns, crashing symbols and piercing strings. My eyes adjust gradually and I see that the pub is packed with solemn faces all wearing orange bolas. Playing with beer glasses full of what looks like milk, none of them speak, but sway gently to the thunderous score.
A barman sees me and walks over "Can I help you?"
"I don't know."
"Are you sure your meant to be here? I don‘t think you‘re supposed to be here yet."
"I was looking for 'The Best of Classical Music 2006'?"
I'm handed a CD. “Go quickly.”
"This says 'The Best of Classical Music 2012'??."
"Give it here." He scrambles for another CD, "There, now go. "
I turn to walk out. But patrons block my way. I turn around looking for another way out but notice everyone is now standing up, all of them holding the candles above their heads. "I told you" the barman covers his eyes as he speaks. "I can't do anything for you now".
The figure in front of me, who looks exactly like Tim Henman's Tennis career, screams "Time at the bar!" and with that they pick up their pints of milk and pour them over the candles. The room quickly fades to black and I'm left with the sound of cows milk dripping on the slate floor.
"What about the extended Licensing laws?" I shout, but a fist makes contact with my skull and I fall helplessly to the floor.
"This is a residential area" comes a voice that sounds very much like the future career of Shane Ritchie when he leaves Eastenders. "It's time for you to join us."
I hear new music, "I predict a Riot" by Kaisers invading the classical roar. I see a oblong of light as the pub door is opened. Billie Piper and Teri Hatcher are waving at me, “Quick over here!“, shouts Billie, I look up and see Donna Air holding a Vauxhall Corsa above my head. I just manage to roll out of the way as she brings it tumbling down. I push myself to my feet and run towards the light. I don't look round, just keep my eyes fixed on freedom. I make it to the doorway and trip crashing straight into World Music. The door closes loudly behind me.
I stand up, holding 'The Best of Classical Music 2006' above my head. "You might want to pay for it in there”, says an assistant pointing back behind me, “there’s a huge queue out here'
“I don't mind queuing." I reply glancing over my shoulder. That‘s classical music shopping over for another year.
05 December
Sorry
That’s the trouble with catching trains in this country. ‘What is?’ you might ask, irritated by the fact I started off this entry as if I had already told you. Well the fact they’re fucking useless, is at the very least mildly irritating.
And when whichever one you’re waiting for is inevitably late (because if it was on time it would only confuse people), you get a nice women saying “I’m sorry, but the 18:22 to London Paddington is delayed by seventeen minutes.” Except the nice women is a recording controlled by a computer.
In fact she always seems slightly amused by the whole situation. Maybe someone had told her a knob joke just before the recording, and much as she knew her voice would become a symbol of commuter misery, was unable to hide her amusement and indifference.
They could have recorded it again, given it one last shot at conveying a single ounce of regret. But they didn’t have enough time as she had to record her “I’m very sorry” version of the message for those trains over twenty minutes late and the “I am personally devastated” version for those cancelled at birth.
But she pays for it now. Every statement she makes is believed insincere. “I’ve heard it all before.”, they would say to her. “They’re just empty words, you don’t mean it.”
And so she sits alone, in an empty, dirty flat, with only a bottle for company, wishing that on that day in the recording studio, she’d cared just a little bit more.
Being Smug on a Bus

The only space left on the bus was on the back seat next to Vicky Pollard’s ugly sister who was busy on her phone to someone who obviously liked being shouted at. I went to sit down and was told “My boyfriend’s sitting there!” I looked around to see evidence of someone ugly enough, but noone looked likely so I sat down. “He’s getting on at the next stop.” she mumbled.
“Oh” I said smugly and loudly, “So, My boyfriend SHALL be sitting there.” I leaned back, happy with my semantic correctional performance. And everyone looked at me laughing, clearly also enjoying my….Oh..
29 November
Walkabout
Southampton were playing at 12:30pm, which is far too early for pub-visiting, but what with the new 24 hour licenses, it is our responsibility as British citizens to now drink in pubs at inappropriate times, because we can. Anyway, I could have just drunk coke.
Arriving at the ‘Walkabout’ pub slightly past 12:30, the game had already started. I walked in still wearing my woolie hat that I had just bought, enjoying the feeling of having hair. I don't mean my hat felt or looked like hair. It’s just that to the outside world, whilst I wear the hat, people are unable to identify me as a de-haired person, thus, I allows me to enjoy brief moments as a person of hair.
I walked to the bar to order my beer or coke, I forget now. The screen above the bar was showing the football, but it meant I had to slightly arch back from the bar to see what was going on. As there was a rather competitive queue, each arch back to catch the exciting action lost me valuable 'It's my turn to order' authority.
I decided to place more priority on the bar and take the risk missing vital football action. I didn't want to waste too much time so I leant right forward on the bar. The bloke next to me, who looked like a cross between Noel Edmonds and H from Steps, also leaned forward in a somewhat aggressive manner, unmistakably signalling his intention to take me on in a ‘Serve-Off!’
I rotate my head quickly to the barmaid and smile and nod in an appreciative praising way with regard to her pint pouring (Should have taken off my hat)
Noel Edmounds does that glance at watch and look like he’s been waiting for years move. (Aggressive opening play. A serious competitor)
Under pressure I place my elbow on the bar with my hand pointing up in a my-turn manner. (Simple, elegant)
Noel mirrors my move but has a fiver in his up stretched hand. (Showing currency at this stage could really pay off for Noel.)
Noel’s elbow slips on the bar slightly and moves back, I edge towards him, thus slightly blocking his return. This gives him 18% less leaning forward range. (A knock out punch?)
The barmaid looks up, but my last move has really taken it out of me. Noel reacts first and shouts ‘I’m next’. (Desperate, no dignity, but ultimately effective in this contest, His pint is poured).

Finally I get my pint and find a suitable television to watch the game. There are about 30 Tvs in the pub and about three of them have the game on. A group of about fifteen of us gather around the best option and start watching the game.
The second half thunders on, but then the football disappears and on comes a picture of a bald ex-rugby player talking about the England V Western Somoa game that will start in about 30 minutes. With the sound turned off and Wonderwall playing on the stereo, his message is somewhat lost.
Bemused, the Fellowship of the Saints fans wander off to seek a new TV. Another one is found, but five minutes later the picture changes to the same bald ex-rugby player appears, (he really should consider wearing a woolly hat.)
21 November
Sommerfield Loving
You have to love Sommerfield Supermarkets, not because there's some kind of law enforcing your love for them, just because they ignore any innovations/standards of competitors and tread their own directionless path through the murky retail jungle.
Whilst the uninspired Tesco and her friends will try and place goods in some kind of logical order, allowing shoppers to get a picture in their mind of where the next object on their list might be, Sommerfield are much more artistic, randomly spreading goods into every nook and cranny with aisles that seem to have categories like "Yellow things" and "Stuff that's boring". For example, one day you may come across a jar of mustard. If you are a mustard fan, buy as many jars as will fit in your basket, because you'll probably never bump into them again unless you form some special mustard locating task-force. In fact fire a flare in the air to tell your fellow shoppers that mustard has been found and that you were the dude that found it.
On my last visit, I picked up my out of shape basket and noticed they had started placing corporate slogans on the insides. This one enthused the simplicity of Sommerfields shopping experience with the slogan, "Shop, Pay, Go!' Exactly what kind of revolution in shopping this is I am unsure? I suppose Sommerfield must see this as a simplification of their old system, and thus they must have rid themself of some bizarre fourth stage of supermarket shopping. Previously you may have had to 'Shop, Pay, Shake it like a Poloroid Picture and Go', Although alternatively it could be that the contempt they have for their customers means they have no confidence in their ability to complete the shopping process with out these instructions. Sommerfield may have mistakenly believed that thieves were just nice normal people, unaware of the second stage of supermarket shopping.
Then there's the till staff. It's unfair to say they are all bad, but you have at least a 50% chance of being served by someone who: A) Doesn't really like people. B) Will never truly get to grips with the whole bar code scanning process and must rotate each item 5 times to find it. Then after finding it and finding the bar-code reader, that wont, for some reason read this bar-code, they will give it a further forty attempts, before realising it's not going to happen. They'll let out a big painful sigh and give you a look as if to say 'I can't believe you've wasted my time and everybody else's in the queue, by not visually checking the bar code before you brought it to my altar! Go shop in Tesco you novice.'
I sound old and grumpy. I still love Sommerfield...
13 November
Kelly Clarkson Kelly Clarkson Kelly Clarkson
‘Everybody’s talking about Kelly Clarkson’ says the TV advert advertising an album by Kelly Clarkson, and I’m not actually sure who she is. But everybody’s talking about her. Look at me now, just another person on the all encompassing list of everyone talking about Kelly Clarkson. No work is being done, no papers delivered, no bread baked. Nobodies playing football or cleaning their teeth, arguing about sofas, videoing firework displays or driving Volvos. No one can eat because a mouth full of food would block the flow of Kelly Clarkson related words escaping from their gob. The two minutes Armistice Day silence, utterly ruined by constant Kelly chat. You’re not reading this now because YOU are unable to shut up about Kelly Clarkson. And because of this, there is no future for this planet or you or anybody. I hope you’re happy Kelly Clarkson.
08 November
Firework Displays
Fireworks exploding, children excitedly pointing to the skies open mouthed as sharp and fevered colours light up the sky. An old couple look on, smiles on their faces with the comfort of knowledge that some things don‘t need to change.
Then there’s a bloke in his mid-forties, with his Sports-Action fleece, eye firmly fixed on the view finder screen of his skywards pointed Sony Cam-Corder. His wife reaches into her bum-bag and brings her Oakley Sunglasses sliding them onto her overly tanned face.
Then suddenly silence. Four seconds of it as people turn their heads from the skies to each other, with a look that asks ‘Is it finished?’ It is, and everyone cheers then walk away happy with what they’ve seen. Except mid-forties guy, who replays a short excerpt of his recording, smiles, nods his head and flips the screen back into the camera. He smiles at his wife as if to say ‘A job well done’.
But when, will this video ever be used? How bad would television have to get before, your best choice would be to watch a video of the 2004 Fireworks on the Downs?
I’m sure as soon as he got home he carefully burned it onto a DVD. Then created an animated menu system, with Director’s Commentary and trailers for his other features such as “Decorating the Lounge” and “Assembling Ikea Furniture”.
He sits watching fireworks on a 60 inch television, never contemplating it would have been better in a million light-year sky.
31 October
The Jamie Oliver Point
I was in my German lesson with my two class-mates and the German teacher, and the conversation had somehow strayed onto Jamie Oliver. This was all well and good. Somebody described in German how they thought he must be very wealthy after appearing in the Sainsbury's advertising campaign and I replied with something like 'I like food'. Then the other piped up, 'Jamie Oliver gefallen mir nicht.', which means I don't like Jamie Oliver.
I wanted my response to be balanced. I didn’t feel like I wanted to say Jamie Oliver was the best TV Cook ever (Delia would break my eggs) , but then again I felt it was a bit harsh to dismiss him. But my lack of German Vocab meant I was unable to stand in the middle on this point and while I would have like to have said “Jamie Oliver's OK. Alright so he's a bit annoying sometimes with all that geezer pukka stuff, but basically he's seems like a reasonable person”, I had to go for 'Jamie Oliver is good.'. This was a sore point with my opponent, who, such was his anger at my viewpoint, abandoned German and stated that Jamie Oliver was a 'complete tosser.' in poetic English.
I failed to agree, saying that he seemed to have done a lot for school dinners, which I felt was a good thing.
"What's the point in them having healthy School dinners if their parents are going to take them to McDonalds afterwoods?" he snapped back.
"Ummm" I ummed, thinking for a suitable answer, slightly angered by the fact that I had to argue whether Jamie Oliver was a tosser because parents take their kids to fast-food outlets. "Maybe the parents have some responsibility?"
"There you go then." came the quick reply, his arm rising and outstretching in a victorious precise movement.
Had I just lost the argument? I was confused and dazed, unsure about what I was arguing about or what my name was. The German lesson continued, I looked out the window and watched people wishing they had something to do with their lunch break.
"But if they get a good meal at school at least that's something" the German teacher suddenly offered in support to my seemingly hopeless position.
"Oh right, and who's going to pay for these dinners? We are in our taxes. Who's going to pay for them, we are that's who." He was using the say they same thing twice with slightly different word order tactic. This was getting serious. I suppose at least this point had some kind of justification to not liking a Jamie Oliver as most people don‘t like paying more taxes.
"When I was at school", he continued throwing away any ground that he had just made up "we were given proper food, vegetables and proper meat, not Turkey Twizzlers and all that other processed crap."
"But that's what Jamie Oliver's saying isn't it?" I said turning my statement into a question. I think people do this to avoid sounding too confrontational. Adding 'isn't it?' to the end of a sentence is the equivalent of holding my hands in front of my face saying 'Don't hit me!'.
"Yeah but I bet Jamie Oliver sends his kids to a £20,000 pound a year private school"
That was it. I was beaten. I’d remembered my name again, but I knew I could never win this argument. Maybe Jamie Oliver did send his two year old kid to a twenty grand a year Private School and maybe he’s too old to ride a scooter. I shrugged my shoulders, he smiled the grin of victory and that was that.
And there’s no point to this story just like there was no point to me arguing with his argument, that at no time, really had any point. But just because there was no point to his argument, doesn’t mean he hadn’t gained a certain sense of happiness from telling himself he’d convinced me that his point of view was the correct one, even if he couldn‘t remember what that point of view was . And maybe in me learning this, there’s a point to it after all. But there wasn’t, it was bollocks.
25 October
Over Emotive Computer Error Messages
Was just browsing the Southampton Official Football Website and clicked on a link to the news story 'Redknapps Fuller Praise'. The screen went blank and then came up with "There has been a catastrophic error. Please stand by."

Terror got hold of me as my mind raced with possibilities of what this catastrophic error I had just invoked would cause. Would it end in the death of a loved one, or maybe the destruction of this planet as we know it?

I stood by and nothing happened.

I continued standing by.

Then I clicked 'Back' and reclicked the link and read the story.

If that was catastrophy, I think everything's gonna be alright.
24 October
The Last Ever Songs
I went into buy a CD in WH Smith and was struck by the fact that the only albums they sell are those that are in the album chart and a few compilation albums. This trend seems to be increasing and other shops seem to be moving the same way. Virgin Megastore has less music in it every time I go, with more and more shelf space being given to DVDs, computer games and performing seals.
If this trend continues, there will be increasing public apathy for sea mammal entertainment and practically every shop will just sell the Top 70 albums. Nothing will ever be able to enter or exit the chart ever again. Your Grandchildren's Grandchildren may very well be surrounded by dead seals, listening to James Blunt telling them they're beautiful.
The 'Now That's What I Call Music' series has already seemingly run into the problem of lack of songs. They have released "The Now Years", which is the best of the songs from all their previous Now albums; a compilation of songs from compilations. Then there’s a ‘Best of Jive Bunny’ CD. That's a compilation of songs that are compilations of compilations of songs.
11 October
Toasters
After the catastrophic problems I encountered in Toasting yesterday. I was up nice and early today, to allow myself the time for some laid-back high-level toast preparation. Yet results were disappointing. I set the toaster to a toasting level I have always considered the perfect toasting point, between 3 and 4. But when my slices jumped out, they were of a hugely disappointing nature. I'm therefore forced to admit, I have an inconsistent toaster.
I have to ask myself if it is newly inconsistent after two years of reliable consistent toasting, or whether my potential higher toasting standards have forced me into a position where I am unable to be satisfied by toasters in its class. It could be that I need to move up into the more luxury end of the toasting stratosphere.
I don't want to start throwing huge amounts of cash into the toaster market with out being sure that I get substantial toasting rewards out the end of it. How I can I be sure how well a toaster toasts just by looking at it in a shop. I can’t take a loaf of sliced bread along to Comet and throw a few slices in different models to check. That's just a fast-track method of getting busted by the crumb-police, and I've got my whole life ahead of me.
I just don't think I'm ready to buy a ticket in the Luxury Toaster Lottery. I could become a member of the bread-grilling community but frankly, that's not a level of precision based skill I can attain early on a weekday morning. No, I'm just going to have to live, like millions of others, with slices of toast of variable quality .
Someday Morning
I awake, it's six-thirty, got to get up. Why didn't my alarm go off? I push back the quilt in an overly-enthusiastic manner, watch it fly through the air, hit the alarm clock off the bedside table. Maybe there isn’t someone breaking into my flat every day and putting my clock-radio on the floor. And maybe there’s a very good reason why the alarm’s not going off.
Jump out of bed and walk to the shower. And then I realise. It‘s Sunday! Go back to bed and rest my head back down on the pillow I should never have left. Why should I care about making a stupid mistake, when I have quality hours of inactivity to enjoy.
I'm feeling remarkably well considering the amount of alcohol I consumed last night. I think I may have beaten the evil that is a post-Saturday night hangover. I lift the clock radio off the floor and turn the radio on. Nicky Campbell's voice asks some overly elaborate question to a politician, that if deciphered into normal English, would probably read "You're a wanker aren't you what makes you think you‘re clever enough to talk to me?"
I am a little confused. Campbell presents the Breakfast show Monday to Friday, it seems a little over keen that he should be confusing his interviewees and listeners on Sunday as well.
What with Campbell being on the radio, me not having a hangover, coupled with the fact that it was Sunday yesterday, it really doesn't feel like a Sunday morning at all. Shit!
I throw off the cover, and watch it narrowly miss the alarm clock. Have a shower, grab two slices of bread and throw them in the toaster. Two minutes pass, and a couple of really burnt slices of bread jump out off the toaster, which I quickly throw away, bung another two in adjust the settings and two minutes later two even more burnt pieces of toast jump out. This time I make sure I adjust the toaster anti-clockwise and throw in my final two pieces of bread. Time is running low so I clean my teeth, rush back, grab the perfectly toasted bread, spread on some butter, and eat a mouthful of Colgate flavoured toast and throw the rest away.
I walk outside and look for my car. I remember I picked it up yesterday after leaving it outside the pub on Saturday afternoon. Then I remember I didn't pick it up yesterday after leaving it outside the pub on Saturday afternoon. I start the long walk to a pub at half-seven on a Monday morning.
Driving off, flicking between radio channels, and everyone tells me it’s Monday. I know! I get it now.
Lee, Katie and the Yellow Sofa
I need a new sofa. Mine’s not good. It’s tried its best, but frankly, it’s about as comfortable as sitting in the same room as your Gran while there’s Rhino shagging on a wildlife documentary. So along I go to DFS to have a look around. Out of the corner of my eye I spot a huge splurge of yellow sofa. Like a moth to a yellow sofa, I was attracted over to its cushions. But as I arrived, a couple, who by their conversation I learned were called Katie and Lee, were already embroiled in mid raw sofa purchase war.
Lee felt that the sofa was too expensive. It was over a grand, and I think he probably felt that something costing that much probably shouldn’t be yellow. "I’d rather spend the money on a fridge" he said, as if a decision would have to be made between cooling food or sitting down.
"Ummm, but it’s more than just something to sit on, it’s soo…" Katie pondered, stretching out her left index finger and poking the sofa to check it was dead.
"I’ll tell you what, let’s come back to it if we don’t find anything else" a victorious looking Lee decided brushing his hand along the top of the sofa in what he hoped was a final goodbye.
A panicked Katie was forced into her last throw of the sofa purchasing dice. In action which would frankly mean the sofa was never the same again, she threw her ample ass smack down on the centre of the sofa. "Oh my God" she smiled in a crazed orgasmic manner as if the entire nature of sitting down had just been revolutionised, "it’s like sitting on a cloud."
Lee looked suspicious, was this the first time Katie had sat on a sofa after previously relying on clouds, or was this bright yellow lump of cushions really the fridge beating superstar that would change their lives? In an exasperated Graham Norton style mince, Lee walked around and sat down next to Katie. "What?" he said looking disappointed.
"Isn’t it great?"
"It’s a sofa!" Lee slapped his hands down on his legs. Katie didn’t reply and with that Lee had won the argument!
Then he called over the shop assistant, and bought a yellow sofa.
Alcohol Free
Being off alcohol for a month has been an unqualified success. One of the benefits has been a clear mind. This has allowed me to finally finish my novel. Here's the final chapter...Bianca picked up her pace, she didn't like walking in the dark and the sun was itching to leave the evening sky. The cold wind repeatedly played with her long ginger hair, rearranging it across her face. Her view sometimes obscured, her avoiding of people and objects was often last-minute and clumsy.
She clocked an old women sat on a wall ahead of her, face hidden by a red scarf worn around her head. Bianca focused past the figure and carried on.
"Bianca!", the voice came from behind.
She stopped and took a sharp intake of breath. Slowly she turned around and wiped the hair away from her eyes. "Ricky?" she froze, and stared as the old women stood up and removed the scarf and long coat.
"Yes Bianca, it's me"
"You should have told me you were a robot Ricky. I would have understood."
"I just didn't know how to tell you", said Ricky, bouncing up and down in agitation. Then relaxing he eased himself back down onto the wall. "I wanted to tell you In Tesco yesterday, but finding that celery made you so happy, I didn't have the heart to spoil your day. "
Bianca opened her handbag, her wavering voice caught the wind, "I'm only doing this because I love you Ricky." And slowly she pulled out a Type 4 phaser from the open bag. Her arm raised with a nervous purpose, the phaser aimed straight at Ricky's eyes.
"You destroyed my spaceship and now you want to kill me? You fire that thing and a little piece of you dies forever Bianca."
Tears began to show themselves on Bianca's eyes, her arm shaked violently as she jolted and pulled down on the trigger. The yellow beam missed Ricky's head by an inch and blew up a plate of scones left on top of an old cat. His sprung legs contracted then released projecting him quickly towards Bianca who fired again.
The metal body arched and turned a dark purple, eyes shooting out of his head with little parachutes bringing them gently to the ground. Bianca covered her face as his frame then shone a bright white, morphing slowly into a metallic gravestone. She walked over and read the epitaph, "Here Lies Ricky, he was a robot after all. Please Recycle". Carefully she lent down and picked up the eyes. "I'll always love you Ricky" she said, placing them in her mouth and starting to chew.
After another ten minutes walk she was there. With tired legs she walked into the smoky room she knew so well and up to the bar. "I'll have a J4O Mike", her eyes were adjusting to the dim smoke filled atmosphere,
"Not today" replied the rather heavily Side-burned barman, "I've just got this", he said throwing a tea towel to the floor, revealing a pump.
"Alcohol?" said Bianca startled, "But.how?"
"Pint of Stella, me lady?"
She thought back to her school days. To the history classes she'd had, learning about the Third World War. The bloody war started by Tony Blair allegedly knocking over Vladimir Putins pint at a UN Leaders Reception. The famous Blair speech "I did not knock over his pint but I will knock over Moscow – The Tosser." Putin's famous war-cry "He looked at me funny, let's get 'em". And after those long and bloody years, the taste for drinking was lost and nobody mentioned beer or 'England' again.
But that was a long time ago. Bianca looked down at the beer, then around at the sad, bored people sitting around. She nodded and a golden pint of Stalla was placed upon the bar. Smiling nervously she lifted the glass and sipped a mouthful off froth from the top of her cold golden lager. "Oh my God", she smiled and turned to face everyone. An audience intrigued to see this golden liquid.
"It's beer", she said addressing the patronage of 'The Sportsman' as the hairy barman beamed behind her, "It's got alcohol and it's beer. It's beery, look at it". She held it up above her head, the eyes of every patron following the Godly glass.
Mike the barman brought out a strange tattered flag, a red cross on white background "It's called the St George Cross" he shouted rolling it out to show all that looked on. In a bar now silent, he continued. "The last one in existence. What this girl holds in her hand, well?" his stare darted to the floor before looking back up and catching the eyes of all that sat before him,"…is what this flag stands for. "
Shock and fear covered the face of every man, women and android in the bar as the Jack took the flag and stuck it above the bar.
Ten long silent seconds passed till finally a man near the back of the pub rose slowly from his stool, his white face gradually recapturing colour, "I'll have one too, if you're buying" he smiled. "And me", another man rose from their stool, "and me" and another and another, and everyone started to clap, hesitantly at first, and then faster. The applause turned to cheering. There was laughter smiling and hugging. Tears of happiness rolling off cheeks of men and women of every size, creed and nationality.
The night went on, beer and wine and alcohol of all flavours were drunk by all. Once more laughs were laughed and vomit covered the porcelain toilets. Public-order broke down and people talked crap about things they had little or no knowledge of. "Universities" found that people wanted to be students again and as darkness came, people collapsed happy in the gutter. Everyone knew where they were and after 500 sober years, it was England again.
20 September
Volvos and Multi-Storeys
If you are behind a Volvo Estate as you are driving towards a Multi-storey and you have even the smallest of suspicions that he too is heading for it, you must get past him before you get there. Use any tactic available; shortcut, overtaking, shooting out his tires with a big gun, anything. If none of these work, abort the multi-storey, go home, have a cup of tea and try again next week.
This plan is all very well, but there is always the risk that you didn’t see the Volvo enter, and thus there’s a chance you could still inadvertently end up following a Volvo into a Multi-Storey. It is therefore foolish to be anything other than prepared for such an eventuality. Store canned food in the boot, along with plenty of fluids and a nice thick blanket. People have been known to have been stuck behind Volvos for many weeks. Last year alone, 17 people lost their lives due to dehydration and pneumonia bought on by slow parking.
Volvos will enter the Multi-Storey seemingly unaware it has multiple storeys. They crawl into the ground floor and stop to take it all in. Then they make the decision. This floor is where they will park. That there’s no spaces now, but Volvo knows that doesn’t mean there wont be in a couple of hours. The sad queue of cars behind the Volvo look forlornly at the level above with its open acres of empty spaces. A couple of days pass.
The Volvo hasn’t wasted his two days. He’s noticed there may be another place to go. Another world to explore. A place known simply as Level B. Volvo pushes down on the accelerator slowly, ready for lift-off to their new land. Everyone wakes up, throws off the blanket and starts their car. The Volvo is moving, it really is moving. One metre, two metres, three…BRAKE!
Volvo’s seen a man in his mid-thirties walking slowly towards a BMW Convertible. What Volvo doesn't know is that this man is just another member of a growing craze that is sweeping the nation. He's a Multi-Faker. The hobby of multi-faking started in Wiltshire in the late-nineties and has since spread to almost every area of the United Kingdom. It involves waiting for a Volvo driver to approach before walking over to your pre-parked car with the aim of keeping the Volvo waiting for you to vacate the space for as long a time as possible before he gives up and drives off. Common tactics include placing and rearranging shopping bags in the boot and pressing random buttons on the dash board. The current non-naked world record was set by Thomas Green in the Basingstoke NCP, He managed a time of 72 minutes and 33 seconds. This included a textbook twelve minute rear view mirror adjustment.
Finally the Volvo finds the Golden Fleece, an empty space nestled between a Mondeo and a Coursa. He slowly edges into position ready to reverse into the space.
Volvo : Volvo is in position and waiting instruction Houston.
Houston : Volvo this is Houston Calling, we hear you loud and clear. Hold position and await instructions.
Volvo: Roger that Houston. Houston: Volvo you are clear to Dock. Remember you only have a seven hour window for this Volvo.
Volvo : Roger Houston…….Depressing accelerator with clutch fully down.
Houston : That’s good Volvo, we’re going to need another ten seconds of pointless engine revving.
Volvo: Roger that Houston. Revving like a twat.
Houston : OK Volvo you look beautiful from here. Release your handbrake in an overly slow and deliberate action. That’s it Volvo just like your unsure what the consequences of such an action would be..
Volvo: Roger that Houston hand-brake is released. Hand-brake is released. I am moving back wards.
Houston : Looking Good Volvo. You are looking good. Hold your line.
Volvo: Oh my God I can see the space. It’s sooooo beautiful
Houston : Just hold the line Volvo.
Volvo : I’ve never seen anything like it…. I can’t hold it Houston I can’t Hold it.
Houston : Oh shit we’re losing him. Volvo. Volvo abort parking. Abort parking.
Volvo : It’s too late, I’m…..
Houston : Volvo! Volvo, come in. Come in Volvo ……Volvo……
Politics and Video Recorders
"I wouldn’t have a clue how to program the video recorder, I let my kids do that" said some politician on the radio this morning. I wish I’d caught his name, but I didn’t. To him he probably thought he was saying that he was just like you, technology foxed him, so you could relate to and trust him. To me it sounded like he had the IQ of a sprout.
Personally I do not think that someone who admits to not being able to program a Video Recorder should be allowed in any kind of position of responsibility. Surely an MP should have a level of IQ that would allow him to undertake such a task?
Are the only tasks this man is able to undertake at a lower complexity than typing a number into a remote control. Is this man able to do up his shoe laces? Can he use door-handles or spell the word "cat"? Does he live his whole life locked in a special room, waited on hand and foot so that all he has to personally undertake is eating and crapping?
I want a politician that can program video recorders representing me. I think it should be a minimum requirement for anyone wanting to take political office. A simple practical exam should be given to any person wanting to stand for election: A Hitachi Nicam Video recorder and the task of recording tomorrow’s episode of Neighbours. After the target episode has aired, an independent public funded panel should sit and view the contents of the video tape and ensure that the entire episode is present. If any of Neighbours is missing(Aussie Slicer), then that will be an automatic fail. Similarly, if more than five minutes of either the preceding program "Newsround" or the succeeding program The Six’O’Clock News has been recorded(splodger), that will also constitute a fail.
Let’s get this simple exam installed so we can have a better Britain.
08 September
A Ghost at Dixons
A couple of weekends ago I saw a man standing outside Dixons. It wasn't a strange sight, I really don't want to put negative connotations on such actions. It shouldn’t really have drawn my attention, for although I cannot specifically remember an instance of seeing someone standing outside Dixons, I am almost certain I probably have. I just didn't feel it necessary to commit it to memory. In summary, I concede, people do on occasion stand outside Dixons.
But it was different with this haunted looking figure: A hot day, yet he wore a faded turquoise anorak, strands of his thin messy hair hooking it self around the arms of his thick dated glasses. Though you could say he was leaning against the window, he appeared too pushed into it to look like your normal leaner. His eyes were throwing themselves violently left to right and back again, tracking with suspicion the hundreds that walked past him. They never ventured further than a short perimeter from him, those more than a couple of metres away were invisible or ignored. In his right hand he clasped with unnecessary enthusiasm a Tesco's carrier bag.
I had two choices, either walk on to Debenhams or go up to him and ask him what he was doing. Even though he looked slightly agitated and uncomfortable, it appeared to me that he wasn't in what I would classify as a distressed state and therefore, I couldn't just go up with "Are you alright?" Without such a question in my armoury, I was ill-equipped to start an inquisition. Besides, I reasoned I should save up my Cold Conversation initiation strength for more important occasions, such as a chance encounter with Patsy Palmer.
As I labouredly sifted through piles of jeans in Menswear on a futile quest to find a pair that wasn't 'distressed', various scenarios of the man's motivation and circumstances played themselves out in my brain. Maybe he's never been outside before, locked in a box for forty years and let out for the first time to wander Bristol's shopping centre. Maybe he was part of the Dixons window, and by some nuclear experiment had been transformed into humanoid form and now was trying to push himself back into where he thought he belonged. But that bag what was in the bag?
I bought a shirt(boring shirt, the closer to 30, the less exciting shirts I purchase, bring on being 45 and having a mid-life loud shirt buying crisis) and walked slowly out of Debenhams. I walked out into the sun, I was tired by now, and slowly ambled back round. I stopped where I had stopped before and looked up again towards Dixons. He was nowhere to be seen, he'd vanished. OK so it was over half an hour since I'd first seen him, but I couldn't imagine him moving through physical space. Obviously I don’t know where he went, and I am certain
I will never know the truth about the real reasons for his time spent standing outside the Bristol branch of Britain’s favourite electrical retailer. I am almost certain though, that it was just the first chaptert of whatever plan he has for this world.
31 August

What do song lyrics mean?

"Bohemian Rhapsody" makes very little sense. In fact probably no sense at all. But I failed to realise I didn't have a clue what it was about until someone said "That Bohemian Rhapsody, what's that all about?" to which I admitted I had no idea before politely requesting that I just pay for the petrol.

Maybe it’s because I didn’t even understand the title, that subconsciously my brain never
bothered to try and work out the story behind the song. Then again, it takes a lot of concentration for me to get my subconscious working. So I thought I’d try and work out the meaning a simpler song with non-subconscious conscious thinking.

The track "Life" by Des’ree is an ideal candidate for scrutiny. A straightforward title that would surely point the way to various musings on human existence that I could get stuck into. Here's the first verse…

"I'm afraid of the dark
Especially when I'm in the park
When there's no one else around
Oh I get the shivers
I don't wanna see a ghost.
It's the sight that I fear most.
I'd rather have a piece of toast
Watch the evening news"

"I'm afraid of the dark/ Especially when I'm in the park/ When there's no one else around" - If it's dark empty parks Des’ree fears, then I see little point in her ever going to one. The whole situation seems so avoidable, I feel it is somewhat out of place in a song that professes to deal with the whole concept of life.

"Oh I get shivers" – Which may be because she is scared, but hanging around cold parks in the early hours of the morning without suitable winter clothing could have a similar effect.

"I don't wanna see a ghost/ It's the sight I fear the most" - I agree that such a sighting would be scary, but as previously covered, there's no real need for her to be in a dark park on her own anyway. Going to a haunted one seems totally irresponsible.

"I'd rather have a piece of toast" - See a ghost (the sight she fears the most) in a dark deserted park or consume toasted bread. Even though toasted bread may not be Des’ree's favourite snack, it is logical that she rates the experience of its consumption ahead of the whole dark park thing. It seems an extremely random point to make, but her preference is one that most people would sympathise with.

"Watch the evening news" - Why? Are there going to be stories about ghost sightings in dark parks?"

No. what she’s saying is that she is compelled to watch the evening news every time she eats toast. This means Des’ree is unable to enjoy eating toast at breakfast with only GMTV available and must therefore chomp it down late in the evening. This is fattening and thus unsuitable for an image conscious pop-star. Therefore, it seems to me Des’ree has two choices:

A) Hang around dark, haunted, deserted parks.
B) Become fat on late night snacking.

No information is currently available as to which course of action she took.

The rest of the song goes on about ladders and ballooning.

Ideas and Television

30 August

Television

It’s easy to slag off television. You know the people that love to do it, the kind of people with an unreasonably large book about some tortured 60’s musician resting on the coffee table. The bookmark proudly sticking out two-thirds of the way in. They profess with a smug smile that they never watch television as they are to busy and anyway "it’s all rubbish these days".

Usually these people have a 50 inch widescreen surround-sound mother-funker with a stack of videos reaching up to the ceiling.

They will also drone on about how there are too many reality shows on. They will point out what dross Big Brother before going on to talk about Saskia’s breasts. You interrupt, deciding to annoy them by saying that you’ve read the book about the 60’s musician and make up an incident you think could have possibly occurred in such a book, too which they’ll nod intently saying that’s their favourite bit.

These people will be foaming all over their goatees when they hear the little treat ITV have got in store. A brand new reality show with the best name ever given to anything ever: "Celebrity Shark Bait".

Just how such a show was thought up I have no idea. I like to imagine three ITV execs sitting around a table, each writing a random word on piece of paper and then placing the pieces face down before revealing them in a random order. One of them always writes "Celebrity". He’s in charge. Then when they get the name they fit the show around it. Sharks swimming quickly at Soapstars in underwater metal cages.

So a permanent formula or new TV shows… Celebrity . With this, any number of new and exciting possibilities are available. "Celebrity Scone Fiddling" and "Celebrity Wednesday Crying" spring immediately to mind.
22 August
Making Birthday Cards
Decided it would be a good idea to make a birthday card for my mother's 60th Birthday. Bought some blank cards and also some soluble coloured pencils. Then had a complete blank on what the hell I would put on thie card.

The only real idea I could come up with was to put a flower rising up from the ground reaching up to the sky or a spaceship. The spaceship seemed unwise and the flower was frankly a little bit too flowery. I then came up with the idea of copying a local Weymouth landmark of the internet and then copying that onto the card. The only one of low enough complexity to be attempted was the wihite chalk horse.

I sketched out the horse and thought it looked crap so I threw the card away and sketched it out again. It still looked crap so once more I tried. In my opinion the third attempt was the worst of all but I was definately by this time suffering from chalk-horse-drawing fatigue so I decided to add colour to my third and surviving horse drawing. The trouble is I only had one shade of green as I only bought a set of 12 coloured pencils(A bigger pack with multiple greens would have set me back 26 pounds and I could have hired someone to carve a chalk horse for that.

I did my best with my single shade and ended up with a crap looking white horse on a unnaturally green hill. Looking at the picture from the internet it suddenly became evident to me that the white chalk horse cut into the hill is actually really craply drawn anyway and that my reproduction whilst crap was pretty accurate, so I felt a little better. But the creater of that craply drawn horse in the hill may have argued that drawing a horse on a big fuck-off hill is slightly more challenging than sketching one out on a piece of card. Also having an old horse on a 60th birthday card suddenly seemed wrong anyway.

So I started again, and came up with a card that said "'Happy 60th Birthday Mum". Horse free.
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