Friday, December 31, 2004

Adventures of the new year...

...what am I up to?

Its here... things will turn ugly...

A Thought On New Years Eve

I go now to do myself serious injury - the conditions are looking good today and the sky is clear. Hopefully that'll mean the helicopter will have no problems finding my prone form in the snow.

I have no idea what is going to happen tonight; the options range from nothing at all to serious abuse of my body in one way or another. So this could be the last post of the year.

The whole Canada/US thing is a puzzle to me. The people are generally pretty similar to an outsider - generous, friendly and all-round nice. And yet one country has a liberal, outward-looking stance while the other seems to be descending into introverted paranoia. The border seems to be a mirror for both sides. Its an enigma that I shall think about while waiting for the ambulance.

Time to face snowy destiny.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Ski Idol

So, I survived. Admittedly, I won't know for sure (or fer-sher, as my new Canadian friends keep saying) until tomorrow, but for now all seems well.

Heck, my ego has also had a bit of a stroking. I signed up for ski-school (my previous education consisting of my first - and best - boss, Stef, wheeling me to the top of a mountain and pushing me off. I miss Stef.)

Anyhow, I signed myself up for the novice class (the one where they assume you know how to put on skis, do the erotically charged manoeveur known as the "snowplough" and fall over.) After a few slides down the slope, the instructor informed me that I was really in the wrong group and should move up a notch. My preening was negated somewhat by the knowledge that 'level 3' was going to involve the much feared blue runs.



The Bear visits a snow sculpture

Tired after skiing, and realising that I hadn't eaten or drunk anything in the last 36 hours I determined to try a recommended bar; the Amsterdam Cafe. Two beers with a crowd of drunken pre-pubescent snowboarders convinced me that this was a bad idea (although the barmaid was very cute.) I was hungry too, and didn't feel like eating tacos from the distressingly sticky bar. So I stepped outside, closed my eyes and span around in a circle. WHen I opened my eyes again I found myself facing the Araxi.



The Bear and the impressively camp waiters at Araxi

This was one of those restaurants that don't have the menu by the door. This means one of two things; either if you have to ask then you can't afford it, or its actually a McDonalds. Hoping it was the former, I strode in. I requested a table for one (the hostess heard it as a table for four - my crazy accent, I guess.) And although I was somewhat underdressed, I enjoyed an excellent meal, a bottle of native wine and some horrific liquer that was equally native.

The meal was somewhat spoiled by my neighbours, who appeared to be a table of chartered accountants. One had a joke he told time and time again "What does the Japanese economy have in common with opera? Die Fledermaus!" (meaning - deflationary) - after I heard it for the second time I wanted to take my knife and either open one of my veins or one of his.

But I felt a little uncomfortable in the plush surroundings. Not because I was dressed in jeans, t-shirt and boots. But because I was acutely aware of being alone. It had hit me on the slopes too, but I'd latched onto an unfortunate Australian called Adele and dragged her along on my chair-lift adventures. Adventures are great. But sometimes I have a yearnng for someone to share them with. Does that make sense?

The Bear and a distressingly fake black bear

The Fear

(This is a bit of a whiny post - there're some funnier ones further down the page)

You must excuse me. At the moment I appear to have The Fear. It began as I was buying a ski pass and gazed at the slopes.

I've skiied in the past, and it is my second favourite physical activity. False modesty aside, I was pretty good. This was because I was utterly fearless and would throw myself off the mountain without thought of injury. Friends far more professional than I were impressed and urged me to 'take it to the next level' - whatever that means.

But now, for the first time, I have The Fear. What if the naysayers are right, and I am about to do something permanently bad to my fragile back? I'm not sure I can do that pain thing again. Suddenly a solo ski trip seems a really bad idea. But I'm committed. In 30 minutes I'll know one way or the other.

Wish me luck.

And Another Thing

Before the Bear and I head out to get our bearings (or, more accurately, work out where to go for a beer tonight that doesn't involve a country and western theme) there's one more observation I want to make about Vancouver.

I don't usually have much call to purchase groceries while on holiday (I tend to seek out dingy bars and make use of the sandwiches available therein - either for consumption or to patch a hole in my shoe) - but I was in need of some toothpaste and mouthwash (my own products having exploded while in the tender care of the baggage handlers. Still, at least my underwear is now minty-fresh.) While perusing the shelves of Safeway I was struck by the hugeness of the bottles of Listerine. I mean, is it something to do with all the Sushi that's sold in Vancouver that such enormous bottles of breath freshener are needed?

I guess thats why we Brits are notorious for our bad teeth... small bottles of Listerine. Nothing to do with the British Government making it nearasdammit to find a NHS dentist with space on his list. (That was a political comment for those who are interested.)

Big Day In The North



I awoke this morning to the sound of a truck reversing into my room. At least, thats how it sounded to me. For a moment I thought I was in the Spanish resort of my youth. Then I realised; Whistler is one big building site at the moment.

They don't mention that in the guides. Even the maps delicately skip over the fact that large areas are populated by yellow vehicles and men showing the compulsory 3 inches of arse-crack demanded by building unions. Must be chilly.

I peered out of the window at the scaffolding that was glowing eerily in darkness of pre-dawn and tried to remember how I'd got here.

Finding the SnowBus was simple enough. The 'host', Dave, was present and extended a hand: "Hey man, Newly isn't it?"
"Er, yes. It is. How did you know?"
"Oh ya. They said there was an English dude on the manifest"

Is it really that obvious? *Sigh*

Kudos to Dave for trying to inject some enthusiasm into the 4 passengers. He offered us a selection of films. We gave a collective shrug. The last passenger climbed aboard and was given the same list.

"Which one is the voter's favourite?" the newcomer asked.
"Apathy" I volunteered
Dave looked confused, "Nah dude, I don't think we've got that one..."
"I mean, nobody cares" I explained
"Oh ya. Fer-sher" said Dave, brightening. What in blue blazes does "fer-sher" actually mean?

So we watched Starsky and Hutch. I'd seen it before. I have to say, it doesn't improve on a second viewing.

The driver said those 7 words you never want to hear a bus driver say: "I'm just getting off for a beer" before returning and setting off. He wore a pair of wrap-around sunglasses in defiance of the fog and and rain.

Whistler Village (from where I'm writing this, connected to another unsecure wireless LAN thoughtfully provided by the inhabitants) is a little inappropriately named. The same way that the US has a habit of naming anything with more than one store and a gas-station "city", "village" seems a litte inaccurate. Its quite a substantial place. And it was snowing. Yippee! Bear in mind that I've not seen proper snow for years, so this was terrifically exciting. The Bear has never seen snow - hence the photo above.

It took a good half hour to work out where the Timberline Lodge was and once there I found myself in a room with more floorspace than my home. At some point today I'm going to work out how the communal hot-tub on the roof works. Sadly, I entirely failed to acquire skis or ski-pass - it was dark and I have a suspicion that stoned residents have re-pointed some of the signs in order to confuse the hated tourists.

This is this morning's task. And then, at lunch, I shall endeavour to injure myself.

I'm actually genuinely a little worried about that. What happens if I pop that naughty disk in my back again? Its as times like this that the solitary existance isn't so fun. Although the ability to eat garlic and pickles whenever I like offsets it somewhat...

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Singin' In The Rain



I stared in disbelief at the sight before me. A dental surgery with the treatment rooms in large bay windows through which passers-by could admire the Chair and the implements of destruction surrounding it. Once a victim was esconced in the chair, blinds could be drawn during the treatment process. I was put in mind of a certain district in Amsterdam where ladies of negotiable morality showed their wares in a window and would then close the curtains, having enticed a punter in for a 50 Euro S&F (I'll explain that acronym by email to any who really want to know.)

Weird.

And then there was the optician's shop with the dummy outside, replete with a zebra's head. What was that all about?

I was heading for the SnowBus. Passing cafes and bars; many featuring the peculiarly North American trait of having subtitles such as "The Best Burger In BC" or "Our World Famous Sushi Is The Best In Vancouver" and so on. Judging by the amount of custom these places were getting, I'd have to say that the fine inhabitants of Vancouver didn't agree.

It may have been raining, but it couldn't dampen my spirit. In a few short hours there would be snow and potential for serious injuy. I couldn't wait.

But Dahlings... Is It Art?



Bereft of human company, the Bear and I took Sundae's recommendation and visited The Elbow Room for breakfast. "Abuse" is allegedly their game, but sadly it appears that the Canadian people just don't have an abusive bone in their bodies (unless it comes to talking about their neighbours to the south, and then goodness me - all that repressed rudeness comes to the fore.)

The waitress (pictured above with Bear) ought to spend some time in the Wong Kei in London to learn how to be truly rude to customers. Excellent food though (which is more than can be said for the Wong Kei)

That said, she was unintentionally potentially explosively unpleasant to my Scottish dining companion by suggesting he was English. Fortunately he came from nearer Edinburgh than Glasgow, otherwise she might have found herself on the receiving end of a 'Glasgee Handshake'

I'd struck up conversation with my dining companion and learned that he had just come from Whistler. "Good time?" I enquired. He held up his arm, which had a neat covering of plaster and gauze. "Oh" I said. He then regaled me with tales of even worse injuries sustained by friends ("His bones were sticking out and everything"). "Oh" I said again, in a small voice. "Och, but dinna mind me. Ye'll be fine" he said cheerfully, and then attempted to slice into his bacon with only one hand.

With full stomach, comedy ceramic bear and map of the city I decided to do some Culture. Vancouver has a public gallery, so that became my target. They also had an Emily Carr exhibition, whose pictures I'd seen in books but never in the flesh, so to speak.

The first two floors appeared to be full of the contents of a landfill (design throughout the 20th century) and thought provoking words on the wall. In big, clear print for the hard of thinking. No, I wasn't impressed.

The third floor was more contemporary art. Some good. Some not so good. I'm slightly embarrassed to admit that I spent a good five minutes looking at an device on the wall, thinking it was some sort of installation until I realise it was measuring the humidity in the room. The sad thing is that it was more interesting than some of the other bits and pieces. Chutzpah award must go to the artist who'd got a room in which sound effects from a movie were played while script sections (some with witty annotations) appeared on a wall opposite. Funny, yes. But dahlings, is it art?

Of course it is.

The fourth floor was worth the entrance fee of $15 alone. I'd enjoyed the third floor, but the Carr exhibition was just great. If you're in the area, I recommend it.

And then it was time to get the bus to Whistler...

...I'm going to find me a beer and I'll be back.

On The Road Again

Mission objectives for today:

Recover from hangover (the Bear is a bad influence)
Breakfast in cafe recommended by Ms. Sundae
Find SnowBus pick-up point
Find Whistler hotel while cursing the amount of luggage skiing entails
Acquire skis and ski pass
Find a bar

Its a tough schedule, but I have the Bear. The Bear will see me through.

Some random thoughts as I prepare to leave Vancouver:

It has a fabulous sea-view and snow-capped mountains behind. So why did the city planners feel the need to build some really ugly apartment blocks in between?
It is infested with joggers. A well aimed trip could cause a pile-up of motorway proportions.
The food is good.
The drink is better (cocktail-wise. The beer is better than that of the US, but pretty much any liquid is better than the fizzy liquid that masquerades as beer in the US)
Meeting Ms. Sundae was fun.
The people are friendly - aside from the chap to whom I said a cheery 'Hello!' in a bar yesterday. He grabbed his bag, pressed it to his chest and backed away nervously. The Bear can have that effect on the uninitiated.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Giant Bear Terrorises Vancouver



The bear and I went walking. The bear wanted to go to a bar. I wanted to do my usual metropolis thing of picking a direction and then walking in it until I either came across something interesting or my legs began to protest. Whichever came first.

Since the bear is only 6 inches tall, my will prevailed this time. Although a bar was visited in the end; the sort of bar that should really feature tumbleweed and creaking saloon doors blowing in a chill wind. Instead there was a barman failing to operate the cash register. I toyed with idea of getting him to pose with the bear, but since the entire place was deserted, I felt that the bear would feel the ambience to be incompatible with her fun-loving lifestyle.

Yes, I talk to inanimate objects. I am clearly in need of a life.

On the other hand, I'm starting to understand a friend's comment of a few years back when I was envying her 'please yourself' lifestyle. "Its fun and all," she said, "But you've still got this awful responsibility..."

At the time I thought she was talking nonsense and said so. Now, however, I'm starting to understand what she meant: I *can* please myself. I have virtually no commitments or ties to anything except First-Born. So there are no excuses, no reasons other than its my own fault if I feel down or unfulfilled. The responsibility is to myself.

This general angst may be connected to the fact I've not managed to talk to First Born since she left on Boxing Day. The solution is obvious. Find a bar and drink enough so I forget about it. The Bear is truly wise...

Day 2 - Part The Second

Ticket to Whistler. Check.
Breakfast. Check.

Wandered about in Vancouver this morning, waiting for the fog to burn off. Looked at Stanley Park (couldn't find Stanley - probably away doing unprintable things to the ducks.) Ate breakfast in a wonderfully down-at-heel establishment called Teresa's Cafe on Denman Street. Made a half-hearted attempt to find the shopping district, ended up sitting on the waterside, reading about Che Guevera's trip around South America on a motorcycle. I wonder if he had problems finding the shops too?

Vancouver also appears to be the land of the unsecured wireless accesspoint. Last night I made use of the tiresomely dull 'linksys' and 'netgear' accesspoints. This comes to you thanks to the generosity of the more naughty sounding 'randyport'

I've also been using my solitary time for replaying the christmas events. Aside from christmas morning, its pretty good; I had First-Born on christmas day from lunch onwards and all day boxing day. What I can't work out is why The Ex didn't want her around on either of those days. And while FB was with The Ex on christmas morning, I gather Santa did not come. No stocking of presents. Which is surely the whole point of christmas morning with a kid, isn't it? Odd. Very odd.

Time to take Bondage Bear (henceforth to be called 'BiBi') to a really seedy looking bar. She likes those.

Day 2 - Part The First

How about that? I'm already ahead of schedule; with the assistance Ms.Sundae I acquired the ski stuff. Plastic trousers and a jacket. All dark, principally to conceal the blood and to show up against the snow when I'm lying spead-eagled on the slope shouting "MEDIC!"

"Its very slimming" commented the woman charged with stopping undesirables from fornicating in the changing rooms. I looked at her: "The only way anything would look slimming on me is if I was looking in a fairground mirror..."

I was also distressed to discover an attempted recreation of an English pub at the airport, complete with red phone box. I suspect that the star of the English nation may have fallen somewhat in the eyes of Sundae when I explained that the traditional red telephone box was now a rare sight due to people using them as toilets...

Mission today: work out transportation to Whistler. Find breakfast. Buy watch. Show Vancouver to Bondage Bear. Send postcard to First-Born.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Day 1



The love affair between the elderly Lufthansa Airbus and the Frankfurt runway showed no signs of abating as the aircraft shuddered its way toward the end of the runway. I looked at the steward and stewardess, smug in their three-point harnesses beside the exits. I looked at the frayed lap belt that stood between me and an impact with the cracked plastic ceiling and wondered how it could be that I'd misjudged the German people so.

As I write, we're two hours into the second leg of the journey. Leg 1 was the jaunt from London to Frankfurt in another geriatric Airbus. I have a feeling that Lufthansa must pick-up the cast offs from third world airlines like Ethiopia-Air or something. What I'd hoped would be an empty flight is packed to capacity. The anticipated Germanic efficiency has also failed to materialise as the transfer at Frankfurt became a free-for-all. I can only hope that my luggage and Bondage Bear survive their inevitable trip to the Ukraine (did I mention that after collating email and comment votes, the girl beat the boy hands down. In more ways than one, judging by her outfit)

(time passes)

One more observation about the aircraft; I've never been in an aeroplane that leaked. Maybe it was weeping at my somewhat harsh critique (above) or maybe the pressure seals are as elderly as I suspect. Either way, water was running down the emergency exit door and around my window. This cannot be normal. I may have to invest in a different airline for my return.

Vancouver has a very attractive airport. 'Arrivals' featured water features, open spaces, cheerful staff and a Da Vinci-esque aircraft suspended from the ceiling that looked a good deal more airworthy than my last transport.

As usual I was searched. I clearly look suspicious.

"Are these your boots?"
"Yes"
"Are these your pants?"
"Yes"
"Is this you.... what the heck is this?"
"I call her 'Bondage Bear'..."

The search ended there. Nice airport. Nice people. THe US immigration service could learn a lot from their northern neighbours on how to treat foreign nationals from 'friendly' nations.

The perfectly lovely Ms.Sundae was on hand to ferry me from bar to restaurant to bar (and to berate me for forgetting Bondage Bear's photo opportunities.) I would (and will) write more, but after a substantial number of cocktails, a reggae-themed meal, nearly 48 hours without sleep and an arguement with a drunken German over which button on the lift gets to the second floor (hint - the one marked 2) this boy needs his bed.

Objective tomorrow - book bus to Whistler.

(Photo is Bondage Bear peering out of my hotel window)

Sunday, December 26, 2004

What Are You Looking At?



Her Royal First-Born-ness and her loyal subject (me) would like to wish all readers a happy and successful 2005.

I love you guys. Seriously, I do. The generosity of spirit shown by total strangers (you know who you are) is something thats been a welcome surprise in an otherwise total arse of a year.

I'll be funny again tomorrow, I promise. At least as funny as one can be after being crammed into an economy seat in a flight run with ruthless German efficiency.

Next stop, Vancouver.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

With Apologies To Animal Lovers

I've been clearing out anything likely to decompose during my upcoming absence. This meant bidding a fond farewell to the last batch of 'special' chocolate brownies donated by a thoughtful friend. With luck, I'll injure myself again next week and can request some more.

I tipped them into the dustbin along with sundry items of fruit and vegetables. The contents of the dustbin were then placed into a sturdy sack, which was placed into a few more sacks and then left outside.

It would appear that the neighbourhood cats have a taste for such things. In the morning I found that they'd got into the bin, got through 4 layers of plastic and extracted my therapeutic treats. And left the fruit and veg alone. It probably explains why there wasn't the usual wailing and fornication that the little bastards do outside my window evey night. I was waiting for a knock on the door, and to find a cat on the step saying: "Dude, got any chocolate on you? Or maybe some chips. Got a chronic dose of munchies, man..."

And yes, today was a tough day. It hadn't hit me properly that this year would be the first christmas morning without First-Born. My subconscious let me in on the secret last night. I then spent the rest of the evening trying to avoid going to bed so that I wouldn't wake up to a quiet house this morning. I failed, of course. And this morning was... just a normal Saturday. On the plus side, I made a start on the christmas cards for next year.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Scheduled Chaos

So, my little pommes-de-terre, this is the plan for the next two weeks. Doubtless there'll be some updates between now and Jan 8th, but with Canada being the nation it is, these updates might be a tad sporadic. I have a laptop, but does Canada have internet access or does it make do with a couple of tin cans strung between Toronto and New York? Will I care? Naaah...

Monday 27th Dec
Depart my house 0600
Plead with check-in staff for an upgrade (0700) and fail
Depart Heathrow 0910, Arrive Frankfurt 1140
Leap gracefully from plane to plane
Depart Frankfurt 1225, Arrive Vancouver 1345
Realise that luggage has been sent to Thailand
Check-in to hotel

Tuesday 28th Dec
Immerse self in cultural splendour of Vancouver
Buy stuff (particularly ski outfit)

Wednesday 29th Dec
Check-out of hotel
Get to Whistler
Get lost in Whistler
Check-in to Whistler hotel
Realise EStays.com were not entirely truthful about room size
Find ski hire place
Get ski pass
Find bar

Saturday 1st Jan
Stand on mountain with glass of Champagne
Suffer heart failure jumping into frozen lake

Wednesday 5th Jan
Check-out of Whistler hotel
Get back to Vancouver
Get lost in Vancouver
Check-in to Vancouver hotel
Find bar

Thursday 6th Jan
Ignore further Vancouver cultural splendour and hit the mall
Find bar

Friday 7th Jan
Flip a coin to decide if I want to go back to England
Heads: Depart Vancouver 1545

Saturday 8th Jan
Arrive Frankfurt 1030
Depart Frankfurt 1220, Arrive Heathrow 1300
Whinge about jetlag to brother
Arrive home 1530

Saturday 15th Jan
Luggage arrives in Vancouver

Yes, there will be a post tomorrow and the day after. But I hope all those reading this have more of a life than I and are doing seasonal stuff.

Enjoy the holidays.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Mr Shakespeare!

"To ski, or not to ski: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in mind to suffer
The crashes and tumbles of poorly planned turns,
Or to take arms against a sea of snow-boarders..."

Damn, I knew that English Degree would come in useful one day. Although I never actually studied Hamlet. I saw it once (not counting the Reduced Shakespeare interpretation) performed by the Welsh National Opera. It went on for 4... long... hours. And, intriguingly, as Hamlet's insanity took hold, his speech got progressively more Welsh until his final lines went:

"So tell him, boyo, with th' occurrents, more and less,
Which have solicited - the rest is silence.
Now there's lovely for you, eh?" Dies

But I digress. If all goes to plan, this time next week there's a good chance I'll be strapping on my boots, attaching thinly disguised planks of wood to the soles, and flinging myself off a mountain. Both the physio and osteo have given enthusiastic 'go for it's - but I'm concerned. Is this a really good idea? Should I sit in a hot-tub, sipping an alcoholic beverage and enjoy the atmosphere rather than risk twanging my back again?

Of course, there is the whole "skiing down a slope, with a glass of champagne" thing mentioned when this all kicked off... so I guess thats the decision made for me.

Oh, and I lied about the English Degree. It has frequently come in useful. Much of my career has been involved in writing computer software (as dull as it sounds) and interestingly, my computing degree proved to be utterly useless. My ability to write long, wordy essays has shown itself to have far more currency. I think there's a moral there, but I'm not sure what it is. Answers on a postcard to the usual place.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

The Bear Truth



So here we have it. Two ceramic bears, one (presumably female) dressed up in red PVC with a whip coyly held behind her back. The other (presumably male) all in black rubber with some peculiar purple rubber gloves and a mask. Oh, and a set of very, er, *professional* handcuffs. Metal, not plastic. With keys.

An intriguing choice for a secret Santa gift, don't you think? Its been suggested I may have a secret admirer (to complement the increasingly disturbing stalker.) I hope not; aside from one woman who swears it wasn't her, the only candidates are my male coworkers.

On the plus side, I've decided to take one of the bears on my adventures (starting with Canada next week.) The bear will be photographed in a variety of places around the world.

The question is which one? If I could work out how voting applets worked, I'd use one of those. Instead, feel free to leave a comment (anonymous or otherwise) with your choice of bear to see the world. Vote Boy or Girl. Think of it as a kind of 'Bondage Bear Idol'

Goodnight...

Thanks. I Think.

We operate a 'Secret Santa' thing at work. I don't usually participate; part of the curse of Senior Management (aside from not being able to do the things that you were really good at before you got promoted) is that participating in such things are frowned upon.

In keeping with my current "I don't give a damn" attitude adopted since The Ex ran off with her boss, this year I took part.

The gift Secret Santa gave me was... faintly disturbing. Freud would have had a field day.

Photo to follow later on tonight...

The Buttock Clencher Waltz

On the whole I've begun to enjoy not having a car. I can kid myself that I'm doing the environment a favour. Whenever the question of who is going to have to drive to the pub comes up, my hand stays firmly on the table. And I also get to make use of England's integrated transport system (its like a lottery - will today be the day I make it to my destination?)

It does, however, mean that I put my life into the hands of my colleagues on a daily basis. This, combined with the habit English local government has of waiting until the roads actually freeze before doing anything about it is making for, er, entertaining drives into work.

P was bowling down the country road to the office. "Gosh," he said, "The roads are a bit slippery" and blipped the throttle to prove his point. I heard the wheels struggling to maintain grip. I instinctively hit the invisible brake pedal that all car manufacturers thoughtfully provide for passengers.

Actually, "Gosh" wasn't the word he used, but I've almost used up my quota of cursing for the year and need to save some for when I throw myself off a mountain next week.

As if to prove P's point, the car in front of us performed a delicate 180 degree slide across the road. It ended up on the other side, pointing the wrong way. P's ABS brakes fought a losing battle against the ice and we slid past, mere millimetres from the unfortunate driver, who was still gripping his steering wheel and doubtless wondering if he'd died.

We didn't speak for the rest of the journey. "Lucky the seat covers are black" P observed as we pulled into the office car park.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Oh The Irony Of It All

...and another thing - the most popular department store in Barcelona is apparently El Corte Ingl├ęs

The inhabitants of Barcelona are perhaps one of the most stylish people on earth. And they name their number one department store "English Style" ? A swift Google for the word 'chav' would help them see the error of their ways in no time...

Thought for the evening. Things in your life may not be so good at the moment. Perhaps someone has let you down. Cheer yourself that you can't be half as disappointed as the individual from Pakistan who found himself on this site while searching for 'young teen girls with beautiful breasts and sexy buttocks naked'

Its All So... Ethnic



"I don't believe you"

I was enjoying the surreality of sitting in a sunny pavement cafe, enjoying a glass of chilled cava and feeling the warmth of the sun on my face. Why surreal? Not 4 hours previously, I'd dragged myself and my suitcase into the cold pre-dawn of England, across the frozen pavement outside my house and into the waiting taxi. I don't think I'll ever get used to air-travel.

The flight with a well-known UK budget airline left my soul tarnished and my bowels weakened. It had been a little bouncy flying over the mountains (the stewardess had stood in the aisle, gripping two headrests with whitened knuckles while she trotted out comforting words through gritted teeth.) I'd disgraced myself already; as the plane suddenly dropped a few hundred feet and the passengers shrieked, my "FUCK!" drowned out the whimperings of those near me. I couldn't tell if the stewardess went as pale as the rest of us while the Airbus bucked; her fake tan covered a multitude of sins. I was impressed by her loyalty to the airline - whatever product she was using had left her skin tinted a similar colour to that of the company colours of the carrier. Orange.

On the positive side, it was sunrise when I flew out and sunset when I returned. If I ever get bored of looking at those phenomenons of nature I'll know its time to take the euthanasia pill.

Which brings me back to the above incredulous statement.

"They put *what* into the nativity scene?"
"Its true," my companion insisted, "Look, I'll show you"

Now, a nativity scene in my mind involves a badly made model of a stable, bits of straw scattered liberally around and small figures of a man, a woman, and an alleged newly born baby placed in a matchbox masquerading as a manger with a miniature frisbee stuck to its head. Higher class versions might also include shepherds, sheep, kings and the odd angel or two. The Catalan people of Barcelona have an additional twist on the theme. As well as the figures already mentioned they also insert a figurine of a man squatting, his trousers around his ankles and the results of a particularly hearty meal the night before emerging from between his buttocks.

What the heck is *that* about?

My companion tried to explain the scatalogical obsession of her adoptive people, "Its to do with nature. Its a natural function and so they celebrate it, and, er..." She trailed off as the expression on my face indicated that I wasn't buying it. "They call the figure the 'shitter'," she said brightly, "Thats a literal translation"

We walked through the market. Every stall seemed to be selling a variation on the theme of a crapping man as well as the rest of the products one expects to find at this time of year. One stall-holder had some interesting models of the next-in-line to the Spanish throne and his new bride. Both had the their pants around their ankles, had adopted a squatting pose and, er, well, you know the rest.

I also discovered that the Catalans (can't comment on the rest of the Spanish people) have a fascinating version of the Father Christmas figure. Theirs is a log, or a segment of a branch with a crudely drawn face on one end replete with a jolly christmas hat on top. The log is then struck with a stick, a happy song sung and presents are supposed to emerge from the other end. The log is known as "Uncle Shitter" (I think - the Cava was starting to affect the translation.) A huge version was present at the market and doubtful children were encouraged to thump it while singing the song in return for a gift.

A young woman thrust a clipboard at me and urged me to put my name to the petition calling for Catalan independance. I was enjoying their sunshine, architecture and alcohol and so signed up. I added a comment in the box provided: "No-one is going to take your country seriously until you lose the poo obsession."

This time next week I'll be heading off to spend my first new year away from family. In the snow.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

What I Did This Weekend. Part 1.

On Friday morning I made a small, but significant discovery. In 'starting again' I had to equip a house from nothing, and its the little things I keep forgetting. Beds, bookcases, pots and pans; no problem. Things like a bottle opener? Totally forgotten until I needed one (using the kitchen worksurface as a substitute works admirably.)

On Friday I realised that I don't have an umbrella. Its an unfortunate realisation to make when the rain is tipping out of the sky and its a mile walk to the train station.

In truth, I've owned many umbrellas in my years on the planet. Sadly, all have been donated to strangers out of altruism (or, if I'm entirely honest, drunken forgetfullness in bars) Its now on my list of Things To Buy.

I stood, dripping, on the deserted station and watched Network Rail's finest pull into the platform. The driver peered out of his window, a single wiper blade jerking arthritically accross the scratched glass. I waved cheerily, sending a sluice of water down my suit from where it had collected in the folds of the fabric. He scowled and pressed what I assumed was the button to open the doors and I was away.

Yes, I was wearing a suit. Its compulsory for these things. I'd bought it the previous weekend (having destroyed all my 'previous life' clothes earlier in the year.) I only wear a suit and tie on these occasions, funerals or weddings. The exception will be the wedding of The Ex in February to which I have an invitation; what I'll wear to that is still undecided.

This year I was remarkably well behaved and survived the day more or less intact. I don't even have to throw away my shirt (unlike last year, when I attempted an accidental crowd-dive during the group photograph and almost took out a 300 year old wall along with portraits of fearsome looking women (or men in drag; we are undecided on that.)

And yes, I managed to catch the plane to Barcelona. Check back later for more on that (which may feature an interesting scatalogical fact about christmas in Barcelona...)

Thursday, December 16, 2004

25 Bottles Of Port On The Wall, 25 Bottles Of Port...

The phrase "working from home" covers for a multitude of sins. Today, I have First-Born staying with me. I'm supposed to be working, but going shopping is just so much more fun. Today the last of the christmas shopping was done (the cheapskate option of giving elderly relatives framed versions of First-Born's latest school photo.)

Tomorrow, however, is considerably more exciting. Tomorrow is an annual family get-together. The 18 eldest males in the family meet up in a pub, dressed in our finest, and proceed to consume vast pools of expensive wine and good port. Its a tradition that has been going for the last 50 years. Same time, same place every year. A photo is taken. The Book is filled out the News from the family (I can track back to the page when my birth was announced and see a photo of grandparents and great-grandparents, all looking slightly worse for wear.)

Its also going to be odd tomorrow; I've slipped into the 'old heads' part of the session. There will be more people younger than me than older than me for the first time. I've also been given instructions not to allow my 18 year-old cousin to hit the port and wine too hard. I attempted to point out the hypocrisy of this (last year I got as far as stepping into the street after the evening session before the vomit alarm went off - you know the thing: "t-30 minutes to when you're going to throw up, and counting" which results in a mad dash to get home.)

The worst thing is that I have to get on a plane at 7am the following morning. Things could turn ugly...

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

And The Wooden Spoon Award Goes To...

Did I mention that I also managed to bend one of the needles in the spasm? Evidentally the 'surface musculature' of my lower body is impressive. I'd have tried to turn that into some sort of innuendo, but thankfully good sense prevailed - Austin Powers-style humour is never a good idea when someone is prodding sharpened silverware into one's skin. The physio offered the twisted pin as a souvenir. I declined.

Thankfully there were no ill effects today, aside from a general ache (which may be caused more by how much alcohol I consumed coupled with prescription medication to dull the pain of last night rather than badly aimed needles.)

The 'mutual friend' has struck again as well. As advised, I'd been avoiding this individual after their last little stirring of the pot. This time they bumped into me in the street. I toyed with the idea of sticking my fingers in my ears and saying "La la la I can't hear you" or simply feigning death, but curiousity got the better of me. Apparently either The Ex or The Boyfriend has decided to give up work.

What does this mean for me?

I'm told a letter from their lawyer is on its way demanding additional maintenance or suggesting they withold their 'end' of the bargain since their income has been halved. If true, then there'll be more legal unpleasantness (which I'll win, after providing my lawyer with a Porsche to go with the Ferrari he's already had out of this. Everyone needs a weekend car, don't you think?) But its just more aggravation.

On the plus side, the mutual friend is unlikely to speak to me again - I may have been a little, ah, terse and suggested they were not being entirely... helpful.

Maybe I should combine all of the career options discussed earlier and drive to Costa Rica in a VW Camper to open a bar and write a weekly column in The Guardian describing my exploits.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

And That Makes 3

(Advance warning - this post is not for the squeamish)

"FUCKFUCKFUCKTAKEITOUTTAKEITOUTTAKEITOUT!" echoed across the empty corridors of the hospital and doubtless leaked into the waiting room where those seated looked up from their magazines and felt the need to be elsewhere.

The howl was coming from me.

Tonight was physio night. This involved more acupuncture, since it had been doing marvellously. Up until just then, that is. The needles had been stuck into my leg as before, and now the lovely Kate was tackling my lower back. For some reason, it wasn't feeling good. It wasn't feeling good at all. "Last one," she said, and I felt the wipe of the surgical spirit and then... well... I can't really describe what happened next. Imagine someone makes a small incision in your back and then dribbles acid onto the bundle of nerves that run down your spine.

Which brings us back to the first line of this entry. "Oh dear," understated the physio, "I'll take it out. We've changed the manufacturer of the needles, and other patients have complained too..."

At least, thats what I think she said. I was focussing on the burning-acid sensation making its way down inside my back, thighs and ending in my calves. I made light conversation through clenched teeth as the rest of the needles were removed. Sadly, I'd gone into such a spasm that my muscles were gripping the pins to such an extent that the only way to remove them involved more needles around the affected site.

I'm home now, and right now I feel as bad as I felt when this kicked off a couple of months ago. I'm told this is temporary. It had better be.

So, by my reckoning, this must be number 3. Evidentally the Fates don't feel that a divorce counts as a physical injury.

Purgatory



"This must be what Death will be like" were the words going through my head as the instructor continued his monotone drone on the importance of document matrices, electronic signatures and link tables.

I didn't take any notes. I just doodled. Thats the image above. The amateur psychologists among you can analyse this and speculate as to its meaning. Maybe its hinting at a deeper psychosis. Perhaps there are traces of my worries over First-Born. Possibly there's a clue to subconscious sexual deviancy.

Or maybe it just shows that I was really, really bored.

I know which I think it is.

I've got to find something else to do with my life. Don't get me wrong - the pay is good, my colleagues are all good blokes and I have a really great boss. But this is no way to spend the next 30 years. Alternatives I've come up with thus far:

Run a ski chalet
----------------
Pros: Well, duh - skiing of course
Cons: Having to deal with The Great Unwashed

Run a bar
---------
Pros: All the beer I can drink
Cons: All the beer I can drink

Enter politics
--------------
Pros: I get to take out my anger on the population by coming up with petty laws and invading small countries on the pretext that their leader's moustache 'looks a bit funny'
Cons: Having to meet other politicians and not punch them

Enter journalism
----------------
See 'Run a bar'

Buy a VW Camper and see how far I get
-------------------------------------
Pros: Get to see world
Cons: Probably have to go through Birmingham at some point

Become an astronaut
-------------------
Pros: "All the girls love an astronaut"
Cons: Three words: Faecal Containment System

Any more?

Monday, December 13, 2004

Miscellany

Someone remarked on the eroticism of music a while ago.

Doesn't do it for me (unless you count 'Rubber Ducky', but thats between me, Bert and Ernie, ok?) but I do have 'theme tunes' where I'll find myself humming a certain segment from a piece of music depending on the occasion.

Skiing generally calls for various James Bond-type 'chase' music from the Connery films. If I'm gloomy, I hum Bill Murray's tune from Stripes, or possibly the LM theme from Spider. And so it goes on.

Oh, and the stitches came out today. Took 2 doctors, 1 nurse, a magnifying glass, 1 HUGE hypodermic and 2 hours. Fun fun fun! I have photos if anyone's interested...

...and First-Born came round yesterday. She didn't want to go back with The Ex and wouldn't let go of me. Of course, she had to go. To allow oneself to be dictated to by a child is the start of a slippery slope. But it took an immense effort of will to extricate her and hand her over. And I feel like a bastard.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

I Am He

The doorbell rang.

I'd been in a happy little world of festive goodwill, wrapping up christmas presents and bounded upstairs to answer the door. The Ex was there, with First-Born (today, you see, is a First-Born day.)

With The Ex was a woman I didn't recognise.

"This is The Boyfriend's mother," said The Ex, "She wanted to meet you. Can we come in?"

Speechless, I stood back and they both came in and peered at the bomb-site that is the living area of my home. Sunday is Ironing day, and the room looked like an explosion in a clothes shop. A nice clothes shop, I might add.

After a few awkward minutes of stilted conversation I was left alone with First-Born and not an inconsiderable amount of confusion.

So what was that all about?

Saturday, December 11, 2004

I Told A Lie

I don't do lies. Those that know me know that its a flaw. I genuinely can't tell a direct lie. I stammer. I blush. I do all the body language things that scream "I AM LYING TO YOU" I can't lie.

This is a problem for me. You see, when I realised that my lying skills were so poor I gave up trying. Which has led to more than one awkward moment in that pre-going-out moment:

She: "So do you like my new outfit?"
Me: "Its certainly a new look"
She: "But do you like it?"
Me: "Its got a certain je ne sais pas about it"
She: (tersely) "A simple Yes or No will do..."
Me: ...

Me: "No"

Which, as every human male on the face of the planet knows, is always and without fail the WRONG answer.

I told a lie tonight. The trick this time is that I didn't know I was telling a lie until just now. Here's the conversation:

Concerned parent: "So you're still determined to go to Canada after christmas?"
Me: "Yes. Absolutely."
CP: "But what happens if something goes wrong? You'll be all alone out there."
Me: "Well, they speak English (I'm not going to Montreal), the health service is better than ours, and anyway - I'm meeting some people while I'm over there" (TRUE)
CP: "But what about the skiing? Think of your back..."
Me: "Ah well, I think I'll probably just enjoy the atmosphere. I'll leave the boots behind" (TRUE. At the time...)

Now, when I said that, I genuinely meant it. Then I looked at this with the sun shining over virgin snow and realised I'd told a lie the brazeness of which would make Dubya and little Tony Blair blush. Oh well.

Friday, December 10, 2004

The Binary Man

My transportation to work at the moment is that particularly masculine phenomonen - the binary car.

The binary car has two modes of movement:

Stop.
Screaming down the road with the needle bouncing off the rev limiter.

I love this. While my friend grips the steering wheel with an icy determination to destroy the engine (he resents the existance of this car since it replaced his beloved BMW) I hang onto the FuckMe handles saying "Weeeeee!" as corners are dispatched with a precision not in keeping with the humble family car origins of the vehicle.

(For those confused, FuckMe Handles are those handles placed above the door apperture on most cars these days. Their purpose is to allow a passenger to hang on, yelling "FUCK ME!!!!" (as an exclamation rather than an invitation) as the driver conducts a particularly foolhardy cornering or overtaking manoevure. I've also heard them referred to as "JesusChrist Handles", but that would be offensive to christians, while the F-word is offensive to all denominations. I'm nothing if not inclusive.)

I'm a little nervous of the binary car today. So far this morning there have been two fatalities on the country lane to my office, and some impressive crashes - lorries to the brickworks next door have dumped clay all over the tarmac thus making things a little slippery.

If there are no further posts to this journal, you'll know the reason why.

Have I Got News For You

As some may know, I'm a regular audience member in BBC recordings. I have guffawed through The News Quiz, chortled during The Now Show, giggled in I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue and declared Mark Lamarr to be a bit of an arse after Never Mind The Buzzcocks.

Last night I was in the audience for Have I Got News For You (the show is broadcast tonight - as the camera tracks back during the opening and closing credits you'll see the devilishly handsome back of my head on the left) and I recommend watching it in the hope that the clip of George Bush reacting to the news of the breakdown of the latest Anglo-Irish peace talks (today: how Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams will share power, tomorrow: how to nail blancmange to the ceiling) with the words "...gee, I gotta eat a burger" makes it into the final edit.

Although it is broadcast by the BBC, the show itself is made independantly. This results in a far less civilised experience for the audience. Usually, there is a bar in which the audience can lubricate the laughter muscles. Not here, oh no. Here, one is made to queue outside in the cold for an hour until being led into the studio and introduced to the painfully unfunny Australian warm-up act. A small plastic cup of mulled wine was the only sustenance for the next 3 hours.

The quiz itself was won by Paul Merton as usual. The true winners will, of course, be the lawyers who'll spend this morning expensively working out what can be broadcast in the 25 minute slot tonight out of the 2 hours of libel recorded last night.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Troubled Times

Last night was another First-Born night. It was a good evening. We did her math homework for the week together and wrote some christmas cards. We then ate cake on the sofa and watched Shrek before it was time for stories and bed.

I miss doing stuff like that.

So, all told, a good evening. Except...

...she said a few things that have left me troubled:

"Mummy cries all the time. Last week she cried because she'd drunk too much wine and couldn't see the road when she was driving us home. Then she cried last night because she couldn't change the light bulb in my room..." and so it went on.

The question I have to ask myself is this: how much of it is true and how much is exaggeration aimed at playing one parent off against the other? Since First-Born sees me 2 or 3 times a week, I believe that I represent a novelty while The Ex is a figure of day-to-day resentment (I gather from The Ex that everything is a battleground, from getting dressed to doing homework. Not so when she's staying with me. Apparently the last words she said to The Ex before I picked her up were "You upset me with everything you do")

Not for the first time I pondered sole custody. The legal system in England is a little stacked against the father in this regard (I understand the motives of the individuals who dress as Spiderman and scale Buckingham Palace in order to make a point, but their methods leave me somewhat incredulous) and so it needs careful thought.

And this, of course, is one of the reasons for this journal. I started it to document the divorce process, record adventures and track the actions of The Ex in the event I ever need to produce a list of dates and events. I didn't think I'd have to use it. Now I'm not so sure.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Falling Down Gently

Oh, and about the physio.

Last week's prodding with pins and needles appeared to be a success. I must admit to a certain scepticism regarding complimentary medicines - if I had a heart attack in the cinema, the last thing I'd want to hear is "Is there a herbalist in the house?" And it would probably end up being the last thing I heard - "I'm sorry, even with the essential oils we still lost the patient..."

But I digress. In spite of my scepticism, I felt pretty good in the days following treatment. So much so, that I ran for the train the night before last to ensure I could be present for the whole Brownie thing.

(note to all single parents not living with their kids - when you make a promise to a child that you'll be there for something, make sure you keep it)

This was a silly thing to do. The running, not the keeping of the promise. Yesterday morning I awoke with my leg feeling like I'd run a marathon. I fervently hoped that it was only the mile-long sprint to the station after over 2 months of inaction that was causing the pain, rather than anything more serious.

The physio poked, prodded and stuck in some more needles. She then gave me a clean bill of health.

"What about the skiing?" I asked. I have somewhat of a one-track mind.
"Oh, you'll be fine," she said, "Totally different motion. Don't do any more running though, ok?"
"Ok" (scientists have since used the period of thought it took me to agree to not running as a measurement for the smallest possible slice of time)
"One thing though - when you go skiing, don't fall down - ok?"

Ah. I think I'll keep that little nugget of advice to myself. Fortunately the physio is unaware of the unique blend of enthusiasm over talent that I use when I hit the slopes. And I'm using 'hit' in the most literal sense of the word.

The Bastard Files II

I went to see Kate The Physio last night. Twice a week I go, and twice a week she makes encouraging noises. Because I can't drive at the moment, I'm subject to the vageries of public transport and seeing the physio involves a train to the airport and then a short taxi ride.

And after what I did last night, I'm a bit concerned I'm turning into a bit of a bastard.

Let me explain.

There was a crowd of people hanging around the taxi-booking booth. Beyond it I could see that the taxi to passenger ratio was not in my favour, and a long wait in the cold was in prospect.

It was then that I saw salvation. A small item of hand luggage was resting against the wall. There was no obvious owner. I waited until an airport security guard appeared in the doorway to the taxi rank and sidled over to him.

I pointed out the unattended luggage and watched as the anti-terrorism machine swung into action. Within seconds, the immediate area (the taxi queue in front of the yellow vested guard) was cleared. Except for me. You see, I'd been standing next to the guard, and so took a swift step backwards and into a waiting taxi.

So, the question - do I commend myself for doing a public service, or do I condemn myself for some highly devious and positively un-English queue jumping?

Answers on a postcard to the usual place.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Cynicism 101

Last night First Born joined the Brownies. This entails making "The Brownie Promise" in front of her peers and her doting parents. Oh, and The Boyfriend.

The whole ritual took around 5 minutes in which First Born made all kinds of statements that were patently untrue ("I will do a good deed every day"... uh huh...) The most surreal rite was one where she had to promise a demonic one-eyed wooden owl that she would uphold the Brownie Law. It was all positively Masonic (I was waiting to see if there is a special Brownie handshake, but I guess that element of the ceremony is hidden from those of us not in The Craft.)

I also expect that a special circle of hell has been reserved for the adult leaders of these groups of little girls. Such relentless cheerfulness should not go unrewarded. And anyone who can sing a song about the clothing choices of their Aunt Emily that includes the line "Swinging Her Muff" replete with actions and still keep a straight face can't be completely human.

We were also pressganged into helping two of the Brownies achieve their "hostess" badges. I'm not going to go into the sexual politics of why little girls should strive for a badge to prove that they can serve tea, coffee and cakes while little boys get to do things involving machinery and stuff that goes bang, but the whole cuteness of it was faintly nauseating. I also threw them by asking for a glass of water (they stuck manfully to their script: "Would you like milk or sugar?" as they presented me with a glass of clear tepid fluid and a sponge cake that lived up to the word "sponge" by sucking the moisture out of my mouth like some sort of Star Trek special effect.)

Yes, I am a little negative about the whole thing. There's something faintly disturbing about getting a bunch of little children to pledge allegiance to God and The Queen when they don't really understand either concept. That said, First Born did look a little dubious when asked to sing the Brownie Anthem, which involved waving one's finger around and singing about not hiding one's candle under a bush. She whispered to me conspiratorially: "I think the finger is supposed to be a metaphor for a candle. I don't know why we can't use real candles."

"Metaphor". Tch. She's been sneaking a look at the dictionary again.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Gonna Be A Cold Christmas

I woke up this morning, checked for any unsightly pools of blood (none) and rolled onto the floor in my usual inelegant fashion. The trend for wooden floors is a bad one. This boy wants his wall-to-wall carpets, or at least a rug.

Not a floor so cold that your feet stick to it. Or is that just something to do with my feet?

I didn't realise that today was the day my christmas was going to get screwed.

I was actually looking forward to christmas - no putting up with the in-laws, good food and a general giggle with the family. Sadly, this appears not to be. I got a call from the aged grandmother during the course of this morning:

She (quavering in that way that only octagenarians can do): "Oh, hello there - I'm just calling to say how worried I am about your skiing trip..."
Me (uh oh): "Uh huh?"
She: "Yes, I've been talking to your father and he's worried sick too..."

There was then a monologue on how I owed it to father/aunt/sundry other family members to cancel and stay home. The final flourish (after she offered to cover any uninsured expenses) was "...your poor mother would be terribly worried if she were here"

I confronted my father later on in the day and indeed, he had put the old dear up to it. In spite of the fact that every medico has said "Go for it" (the surgeon said "Live your life") the man will not be swayed. And paternal approval matters to me. A lot.

Which means christmas is going to be bad. Reproachful glances will be cast about. Aged grandmother will keep on at this like a dog gnawing a bone. I fly out on the 27th, you see. I may opt to stay home on the 25th.

There are two aspects to this that really annoy me. One is that I no longer feel able to ask my immediate family for anything for fear of the subsequent 'payment' and certainly have no intention of telling them anything about my plans for the future (I mean, if going to Canada is causing this much angst, what will they make of sailing around the world in 2007, or taking part in a 3 week rally from the top to the tip of South America in 2006?)

The other is that I really thought that with The Ex gone, I'd be free of this sort of emotional blackmail.

Bugger.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

New Boots For Rabbit



Retail therapy.

It beats any sort of painkiller and is a powerful and addictive drug. In my defence, I'd planned to buy some ski boots anyway - I generally waste the first day of a skiing holiday trying on various hired boots and contracting a case of athlete's foot in the process. So a custom fitted pair of my own, replete with a boot liner moulded to my foot seemed a good idea.

Oh, and the fact that the selected boots were shiny, black and had sparkly bits had no bearing on my purchasing decision...

I was also the question I've been asked at least a thousand times over the last couple of days: "Are you ok?"

Initially I responded with the expected "Fine, thanks" but after the first hour of questioning, my already fragile patience collapsed entirely:

"Oh, hi Newly. Hey, that looks nasty - are you ok?"
"NO! I'm not bloody OK! If I was OK, would I have a comedy bandage around my hand, and the same hand tied to my shoulder in a really uncomfortable sling? Does that look 'OK' to you? If so, you need your head examined..." (and so on, until the person in question retreats and warns his friends that I'm in a 'funny' mood)

Spelling error of the day. I saw a product at the ski shop designed to improve the performance of one's skis. One brand I've seen before is "Kunstpiste" ('Kunst' being the German for 'Art'.) Unfortunately it appeared that a minor typographical error had occurred, and a critical letter omitted. The product had been labelled "Kuntpiste", which my friend and I found to be funnier than a whole bucket of monkeys.

Friday, December 03, 2004

I Got This In 'Nam...

I have a scar on my thumb, acquired when I was 17.

For many years people used to ask me why I never touched spirits or anything stronger than draft beer. I would show them the scar and say "Thats why"

This would then lead on to the story of the time I was 17, and a big fan of neat vodka. One evening I managed to plough my way through 20 doubles to win a bet. At the end of it, I knew I'd done a very silly thing and attempted to make amends by drinking vast amounts of water. Sadly, while carrying three pint glasses from the bar, I dropped the lot. I bent down to collect the shards of glass, and managed to gash my hand.

Afterwards, its a bit fuzzy. I vaguely remember covering the bar's bathroom in blood, the worried barman saying "He *is* 18, isn't he?", being driven to A&E by a girl on whom I had a crush (not realising that my actions would have forever condemned me as a moron in her eyes. After all - getting drunk is big and clever... Isn't it?) and finally being threatened with a stomach pump by an angry nurse.

In the morning I awoke with almost no memory, a huge bandage and the words "Oops. Fucked up" on my lips.

It makes for a good morality tale on the evils of drink.

Unfortunately, that scar of 15 years ago is going to be eclipsed by the huge new one. And the story: "...and thats why I now only eat takeaway food. Washing dishes is dangerous" is not half as interesting.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

House Of Horror

I went to bed last night, 'tired and emotional' having raided the scary pills reserved for back pain, munched a muffin, and washed the whole lot down with a stiff drink. I wasn't planning on going into work tomorrow and so had no plans to wake up until the little hand on the clock was way past 12.

It seems an unknown Good Samaritan had other ideas.

At 6am I was woken by the doorbell, followed by an urgent banging on the door. Bleary eyed, I staggered upstairs and peered outside.

"Good morning sir," said one of two officers of the law, "May we come inside?"

I glanced back at the kitchen. The muffins had been put away.

"Just checking you're alright sir," said the first officer, "We've had a call from a member of public."

The second officer glanced at my hand. Then at the kitchen. Then at my hand again. He muttered something to his colleague.

It was then that I realised what had happened. The kitchen window looks out onto a communal walkway. The window was spattered with blood. The sink was full of crimson water. Blood was caked liberally on the surfaces. My father and I (well, him mainly and me supervising) had planned to clean it this morning, but right now it looked like a murder scene. A neighbour had walked past earlier and thoughtfully called the police.

I look forward to appearing in Crimewatch.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

What Did I Do Wrong?

Another day, another night in Accident And Emergency.

I've managed to slice my thumb right down to the bone. The how is so silly and ridiculous that I won't even bother going into it (ok, I will; I was washing up some kitchen knives...)

So, 2004. A red letter year in the life of Newly Single. Got dumped, broke back and now near-as-dammit cut an important digit off my right hand. What has fickle fate in store for me next, I wonder? A freak accident involving a combine harvester, an industrial sized tub of lime jelly and the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders?

I can but hope.

Oh, and medicine 101? What do you do if you've severed a vein and need to staunch the flow? 10 points to all those who had the word "tourniquet" in their answer. Did the hospital have such a thing? Of course not. Instead, they snipped the end off a rubber glove and used the cap of an old hypodermic to twist the thing tight. Good to see my tax pounds going where they're needed.

(I'd also add that the care was excellent. Thank you, Nurse Ros, for putting up with my ramblings and thank you Doctor unpronounceable, for your deft work with needle and thread.)

Tomorrow night was supposed to be a First-Born night. Ain't gonna happen. This weekend I was supposed to be going to Barcelona. Ain't going to happen.

Whats next? Suggestions, please...

24 Shopping Days To Go

And I'm nauseatingly organised. Seriously. I've almost finished writing christmas cards, and last night I did the last of the gift wrapping.

I have also decided to turn my flat into the most gaudy example of christmas consumerism there is. There will be tinsel. There will be glittery things. There will be fairy lights.

I shall, of course, justify this on the pretext of First-Born, but in reality it will all be for ME. I may even hum a happy christmas tune to myself (although not the ones I used last week to distract myself from being prodded in sensitive areas. Obviously.)

There is, as mentioned before, the gap where the advent calendar should be. I speculated what other religions do for an advent calendar. Do Muslims have something similar for Ramadan? Maybe a month of little empty envelopes and then one at the end containing a bloody big bar of chocolate? It could be recycled for when the Christians to the Lent thing prior to the great chocolate blow-out of Easter.

And yea, Religion shall speak unto Religion through the medium of chocolate.

I *like* the sound of that.