Thursday, November 30, 2006

This is QACA

Are A-Levels getting easier? That’s been the question that literally everybody in the entire world has been asking. Just to put a picture in your mind of the widespreadnessness of people asking that question; A seven year old boy from Brazil, in the middle of a conversation with his mum regarding Comfort Cooling, suddenly and spontaneously directly asked “Mum, Are A-Levels getting easier? Mum? Are they? Mum? Mum? Mum? Are they?“

Well the answer to this question has been given by the QCA (Qualifications and Curriculm Authority), another organisation that feels that the word “and” isn’t important enough for their acronym. I would sincerely like these anti-conjunction-recogniser snobs to survive without this word. “Can I have Fish Chips please?” What you want chips made out of fish? Get out of my Fish And Chips Shop (FACS) you food mutating perverts! Anyway they’ve been working on the problem of A-levels, which are now officially recognised in their level of being easier as “Than when I was a child and we used to have to amuse ourselves”. Their solution is simple, they are going to make the questions more “stretching”!

More important than stretching questions, which I assume means either doubling the amount of words in the question, or maybe just using a wider font; they are going to smack the bare arse of the problem that too many people get A-Grades. And to my great relief they’ve chosen the classic nonsensical national method of rectifying the 'too-easiness' of qualifications: They're creating a new higher grade by adding a "*" to the end of the current highest one.

It’s Spinal Tap at the QCA. I assume the fictional character Nigel Tufnel must already be working there, swapping his amp that went up to eleven with deciding how to stretch A-Levels. So if Marty DiBergi did his documentary on the QCA and not a fictional rock band, the classic conversation would have gone like this:

Nigel Tufnel: The A-levels all go to A*. Look, right across the board, A*, A*, A* and..
Marty DiBergi: Oh, I see. And the old A-Levels went up to A?
Nigel Tufnel: Exactly.
Marty DiBergi: Does that mean it's a higher grade? Is it any better?
Nigel Tufnel: Well, it's one better, isn't it? It's not A. You see, most blokes, you know, will be getting an A. You're on A* here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you're on A* on your A-Level. Where can you go from there? Where?
Marty DiBergi: I don't know.
Nigel Tufnel: Nowhere. Exactly. What we do is, if they get that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do?
Marty DiBergi: Give them an A*?
Nigel Tufnel: A*. Exactly. One better.
Marty DiBergi: Why don't you just make A better and make A be the top mark and make that a little harder?
Nigel Tufnel: [pause] These go to A*.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Doors

'I'll close the door then', the bloke working on the platform said as I didn't close the door behind me whilst getting onto a train, because I don't work there. Don't get me wrong, I have no real objection to closing train doors and would happily do it just for the pure orgasmic enjoyment only closing train doors can bring a person. The trouble is the last time I closed the door behind me after thinking I was last on, I got the guard ripping the door open with a 'that's my job' look in his eye and an old woman who smelt of goat wobbled on moaning about the 21st century like it was nothing to do with her.I've had 30 years of influence on the world, she had probably had about 70. Statistically all the problems in society are more likely to be her fault than mine. She’s had longer to stir her wooden spoon of contempt in the dirty fat cake of earthly affairs. I hadn’t closed the door in her dumb-folded face deliberately, but I remember that look of pure dirty vindaloo strength disapproval with out a cooling naan and I didn’t want it again and that is why I didn’t close the door and upset the Mr “Not part of my job”.

I can’t pretend it didn’t spoil the journey. I knew I could have been the one to close that door. To seal the carriage from the outside world. But I didn’t because of one look from an old women all those years ago. That's why they invented the automatic sliding doors, so there was no blame, no hate. The richness of human community could be unspoilt by convention to complicated for most of us. Next time I meet the old fashioned doors, I’m going to have to stand outside the carriage until just before the train is ready to leave, then jump on quickly and close the door as it starts moving. Neither side can attack me for that. I will be without guilt, set free. I can watch the broken buildings and empty fields fly pass as we slide along the tracks.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Ashes are ours Australia

We’re gonna six you all over the place you Rolf loving sun stealers. Anyway I reckon Rolf wants England to win cause we let him make Animal Hospital? Did you heh? All those animals and did you give the bearded hummer a tele-program where he could unsquash cats? No…you’re too busy tying kangaroos down onto your barbeques and squashing full cans of Fosters with your bare dirty hands, spilling that shit everywhere so your whole country stinks of dull tasting lager. We’re gonna whack yer twenty nil you Ramsey Street peepers! Then you’ll come back to us crying, asking if you can use our queen again. Well you can’t - Lizzy don't like your accent and Phillip reckons your eyes look funny.


Monday, November 20, 2006

Middle-Aged Men

A middle-aged colleague paying 10p to get a drink out of the vending machine that isn’t standard tea or coffee. Standard tea and coffee is free. His selection is made but the drink fails to fire into the cup properly. He pulls out the plastic cup, a look of disgust on his face as he surveys the brown sludge lodged to the bottom. He strolls with indignity around the whole office showing all he encounters the inside of the cup. “And I paid 10p” he says repeatedly. “Not on.” some reply. “Go get the money back off the bastards” says the one who has never smiled. And with that, a man who got nothing for his 10p storms off to find “the bastards“. And we may never see him again.

The middle aged man who put petrol in his Diesel Car. A sudden letting go of the pump trigger and he stares down, eyes pushing as hard as they can out of inadequate sockets. “Shit!” And then two desperate looks around: The first to see if there’s anything he can do to rectify this terrible mistake. The second when he realises there isn’t, to locate anything around that he can immediately lay the blame on and kick. There isn’t, all he can do is sit on the step and thump his fat legs.

A middle aged man sitting against Tesco Metro eyes on the cracks in the pavement. Asks me for change as I walk past. I look away and mutter something to ease my guilt whilst not parting with a penny. ‘Anything’ he calls after me, ‘10p?’


Tom Cruise has married Katie Holmes. It was somewhere in Italy, which is a European country. Tom and Katie wrote their own vows as is probably not required in Scientology. Here’s a transcript…

Tom Cruise: I Tom Cruise from Top Gun, Mission Impossible and in a more emotionally complex performance “Born on the Fourth of July”, in the name of Sam from Quantum Leap, Spock and Mr Spoon, wanna say how enthusiastic I am about my love for you, the Seventh lesbian satellite of Kron - Katie Holmes and you were in that thing on Channel 4. Normal people can only express love. I as Tom Cruise wish to express something more than love. Love is not a strong enough emotion for me, as I am Tom Cruise. My love for you is a gushing spurting tide of pure thick and sticky devotion, that in physical form would resemble a come covered hamster. I cry when I look in the mirror and realise how many years Tom Cruise has been denied such a deep and spongy vibrant emotion. Come to me…

Katie Holmes: I love you Tom Cruise from Top Gun.

Tom Cruise: And?

Katie Holmes: …and I think “Born on the Fourth of July” showed you to be an extremely versatile actor.

Tom Cruise: Yeah.

5th Space Funky Juice Minister: Do you Katie Holmes take Tom Cruise to be your lawful wedded Galactic Spunk horse?

Katie Holmes: I do.

5th Space Funky Juice Minister: Do you Tom Cruise from Top Gun and in a masterclass of disabled war-veteran empathy,“Born on the Fourth of July”, take Katie Holmes to be your lawful wedded Dazed and bewildered wife?

Tom Cruise:

(20 Second pause whilst Tom Cruise bends down and punches the floor shaking his head due to
the overwhelming emotion of being Tom Cruise in such a situation.)

You bet I do.

5th Space Funky Juice Minister: You may now high-five the bride

Tom Cruise: YEAH!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Day After

There’s a creeping sense of foreboding in the road outside my flat. A road hidden in the heart of Bristol - remote from chatter and coffee . There’s rain - a superficial cliché of the sinister.

The ice-cream van came past as usual. But the strong dull wind skewed it’s tune into a painful chiming scream. It didn’t stop - Ice cream today would be crass and unnecessary.

The cars are parked further onto the pavement than normal. Whatever’s coming shall be encouraged to pass through as quickly as possible.

Now all we can do is turn off the lights and wait. Close the widest of eyes and push our faces hard into the mattress. Hope that when a tired and useless sleep expires, the hangover’s gone for good.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Sleepy and Hollow

Today was a day when it was foggy. I wasn’t sure what it was at first, the funny foggy stuff that was obscuring my view. But then as I reached the motorway, and the electronic matrix signs started flashing the word “fog“. It all became clear.

The man who owns the paper-shop never looks at the headlines. The woman in the Post Office who never sends anything through the post. They might play cards together on a Wednesday afternoon, glance out a dirty window, and try and wake up the day with a dirty smile. But they already realise that it’s never going to change.

Up come the motorway road-works. I realise they’re road-works because a sign tells me I’m only allowed to go at 50mph and there’s a couple of cones on the side of the road…but that’s it. Motorway road-works never have works on road. Who’d want to hold a Stop/Go sign on the hard-shoulder of the M4 unless they were tanked up on Stella and their name had one-syllable.

‘You have to keep the floors clean in this job…’ says the man in the off-license chewing the end of a biro he’s no reason to ever use, ‘…you look in the eyes of everyone who walks through that door and they always fall down.”

I can see a speed camera on the left. These don’t have film, they’ve got satellites. Pictures of BMWs being spunked out into the heavens. Slowdown speedup and then slowdown again. Accelerate hard away when you’re out of the camera’s range. A smug smile at beating the system; even though it’s in a chronically sad and irrelevant way.