Friday, April 29, 2005

Blanket Coverage

Another election comment.

Last night I was listening to the radio (Radio 4, naturally. Can't be doing with all the loudness on the other stations.) The reporter was looking at how other nations were covering the UK election. The Europeans were, unsurprisingly, relatively interested. After all, a change of government in Britain could result in changes in the European project.

Admittedly, these changes would probably consist of a bunch of men in grey suits lining up along the white cliffs of Dover, making faces and saying "Ya boo, sucks to you" to the continent across the water. Not a dramatic change then.

The reporter turned to the American press and remarked on the limited coverage (certainly compared to the wall-to-wall US election coverage that the British people were subjected to last year.) He sounded a little petulent about the whole thing and commented "Basically, we're interested in them much more than they are in us"

He said this like it was a bad thing.


America is like one of those bulls that the Spanish take such joy in tormenting. Its a huge creature; capable of inflicting immense damage on those that piss it off and blessed with a tiny brain. Of COURSE you want to know what its up to. And the last thing you want to do is attract its attention. So I'm good with the lack of coverage. It means George Bush hasn't noticed all that oil under the North Sea yet...

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Tone, Mike and Chuck

"Hello, is that Mr. Single?"
"Uh huh"
"Oh, hello there - this is , your Liberal Democrat candidate. I was just calling to find out how you're planning vote next week"
"With a pen and a ballot paper, the usual way"
"Oh - haha - very good, sir. Will you be voting for us?"
"Well, I was going to up until about 5 seconds ago"
"Oh why's that sir?"
"Because some idiot from your party cold-called me at home at 9 o'clock asking me to vote for them"
"Ah indeed. Goodbye."

Of course, I'd had calls or doorstepping from all the main parties. The faintly hunted "rabbit-in-the-headlights-of-a-truck" look of the Labour candidate was the most entertaining. The poor chap, in my part of England I gather there are plans to use such people in place of a fox since foxhunting has now been made illegal. I expect he wakes at night in a cold sweat shouting "The bugles! The bugles!"

I always find politicians faintly disturbing. I don't know why one would want to get involved in one of the major political parties to that level; always having to toe the party line would, I think, get tiring after a while. Perhaps thats why so many of them are so physically unappealing; all that hypocrisy gradually changing them from normal people into bizarre Golum-like mutants. I can imagine Tony Blair sitting alone in the cabinet office:

"But we like George Bush... he's our friend..."
"No he's not. He hates us! He makes us tell lies about the precioussss!"
"Oh the precious, we lovesss the precious, we know the precioussss is somewhere under the sand..."
"We only know that because George sold it to the nasty arab-man. George hates us, he does. The arab-man hatessss us. Everyone hates ussss!"
"But Rupert Murdoch and his pet fox likes ussss..."

...they really are the living embodiment of everything one's mother told us about pulling faces. In this case its "Keep telling lies, and one day the wind will change and you'll end up looking like Tony Blair"

Seriously though, if you've got the right to vote in the UK next week, please do so. Voting is like making love to a beautiful woman - if you don't do it enough, one day you won't be able to do it at all... although you'll probably feel a little dirty a few days afterwards, and downright suicidal 6 months later when the beautiful woman in question turns out to have once been called Kevin and worked as a welder in the shipyard before the Operation.

And having stretched that metaphor beyond its breaking point, I'll sign off. I have to buy a sofa.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

A Breach Of Etiquette

Judging by the sound of the bar, Arsenal were beating Tottenham thus depriving Chelsea of the trophy for which their billionaire Russian sponsor is thirsting.

I wasn't too interested. I was answering a call of nature while a beautiful girl sat in the bar, sipping her diet coke and guarding my beer with, if not her life, then at least her handbag.

As I stood, staring intently and silently at the wall in the way that guys do I became aware of another presence in the room. A chap was standing by the sink, trying to use his mobile phone (AS A PHONE - get your minds out of the gutter.) I was naturally shocked. This broke all the rules of bathroom etiquette.

But worse was to come...

The chap (who I recognised as the landlord of another pub in the town) was clearly a little inebriated and weaved to towards me.

He (waving a business card and slurring slightly): "Can you read this number?"
Me (with aplomb): "Sure - "
He: "Fuggit. Fucking phones. This isn't working. Tell you what. You dial, I'll hold... I'll hold..."

(I waited while he finished belching, terrified to imagine what it was he was planning to hold)

"...the business card."

And so it was that I found myself standing at a urinal, dialling a number on someone elses phone with one hand while they held a business card in front of my face and wondering when the Bathroom Inquisition would burst in on us.

Yes, the number worked. Yes, I have never washed my hands so thoroughly.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Paul And The Giant Pea

I can be a real bastard sometimes. Two examples spring to mind:

I used to work with a chap. Lets call him Paul. Paul was a slight fellow, the remains of hair that was probably lustrous in his youth clung to his skull in the stubble of acceptance seen on the head of many a sensible balding man. Unlike those who attempt to comb their ear-hair over their shiny scalps in order to fight the inevitabilty of time. Elton John, of course, is in a league of his own in this regard. Lord knows where the thing perched on his head has come from.

And of course, there is the whole Mark Knopfler thing; a guitarist who singlehanded rescued a generation from regarding headbands as a fashion accessory by using one to hold the wispy bit of fluff masquerading as hair over his dome (so amusing did my schoolfriends and I find this, that we constructed an entire comic strip in the manner of Viz entitled: "The Adventures Of Baldie Knopfler")

But I digress.

Paul - short skinny guy with no hair - also wore glasses. And then, one day, he changed to contacts. He sat proudly at his computer, peering at his screen through the soft plastic of contact lenses rather than the thick glass of his spectacles. I happened to be passing and commented: "Paul, there's something different about you... No glasses!"

Paul visibly puffed himself up in pride.

I continued thoughtfully: "Hmmm... you know - your head looks just like a pea" - my brain idling while my mouth raced on.

Even now, nearly ten years on, I still feel the guilt. Particularly since I gather he never wore contacts again.

Why am I confessing this? Because I'm really worried First-Born might have inherited the Bastard Gene. We were walking through town and she noticed a truck with a notice on the back warning drivers of a 'wide load' (I've never understood this - if you're close enough to read the sign, presumably you can also guage the dimensions of the cargo yourself) - she muttered "If Mum keeps eating my easter eggs, she's going to need one of those for her bottom" before collapsing into giggles at the use of the word 'bottom'

(and the other example? An observation about a friend's girlfriend who'd come to a party: "Its so nice that x felt able to bring his mother along..." - but thats a whole other story of guilt)

Friday, April 22, 2005

Oh Yes I Did

"You're lying"
"I'm not"
"Yes you are. You never told me that."
"I did"

("He did" said First-Born, looking up from her homework which she had left until the last minute as usual. Thats my girl.)

I leaned forward, and said in a voice too low for the flapping ears of the child: "I really don't think we want to have a discussion about your track record regarding honesty in front of First-Born, do you?"

And the arguement? Over whether I'd told The Ex that First-Born wasn't coming to my cousin's wedding. It had escalated into a full-on adolescent "DID/DID NOT" finger pointing session; sometimes the veneer of amicability tends to fracture a little.

However, all this is useful material. A good friend, P, gave me a book last night of unfinished situation comedies. I began to read through it while I waited for the pint of water and aspirin to show progress in the battle again excessive alcohol and Belgian beer. Its a book that promises fame, fortune, or at least a bit of a challenge. And the comedy of my situation should certainly be good for a few pages of wibble.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Surprise Surprise

There's an election coming up in the UK soon. I don't think anyone reading this journal is going to be surprised to see how I'm likely to vote:

Who Should You Vote For?

Who should I vote for?

Your expected outcome:

Liberal Democrat

Your actual outcome:

Labour 4
Conservative -39
Liberal Democrat 50
UK Independence Party -1
Green 34

You should vote: Liberal Democrat

The LibDems take a strong stand against tax cuts and a strong one in favour of public services: they would make long-term residential care for the elderly free across the UK, and scrap university tuition fees. They are in favour of a ban on smoking in public places, but would relax laws on cannabis. They propose to change vehicle taxation to be based on usage rather than ownership.

Take the test at Who Should You Vote For

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Nobody Expects The...

It was with some amusement that I heard that the head of the Inquisition has become the Pope. Doubtless he threatened his fellow cardinals with the terror of the comfy chair (apologies to Monty Python) until they, er, received divine guidance and gave him the job.

The scene: the office of a volunteer AIDS worker in Africa. The volunteer is delicately asking about the sexual history of a patient.

Worker: "So, do you know if you might have been put at risk?"
Patient: "Crikey, I wasn't expecting the Spanish Inquisition..."

The door flies open, and in bursts Cardinals Fang, Biggles and Ratzinger, accompanied by the sound made when an organist dies on the keyboard.

Ratzinger: "AHA! Nobody expects the Vatican Inquisition! Our chief weapons are surprise, terror and electing a really old Pope since dead Popes make for great media coverage!" (aside) "Who said the church was out of touch, eh?"

Worker: "Wha? Who are you?"
Ratzinger: "We are the Vatican Inquisition! We are here because of this!"

(grabs a pamphlet advocating safe sexual practices from the table and waves it around. Biggles and Fang say "Oooo", camply.)

Ratzinger: "And these!"

(grabs a packet of condoms and holds it in the air triumphantly. Biggles and Fang say "Aaaah" even more camply. Biggles surreptiously slips a packet into his robe.)

Ratzinger: "These are an afront to the Church! Confess your guilt! Confess! Confess!"
Worker: "I don't know what the heck you're talking about. Get out of my office, I have a patient here!"
Ratzinger: "Won't confess, eh? Well, we in the Inquisition know how to extract the truth! Cardinal Biggles! Bring forth the Marigolds Of Divine Justice!"
Biggles (looking at his feet and shuffling nervously): "Forgot 'em. Left 'em in the sink with the washing up"
Ratzinger (eyes rolling): "Ok, then hand me... The Fluffy Slippers Of Theological Intervention!"

(Fang lifts his robe and removes his slippers. They are pink, and have smiley rabbit faces on the toes. Ratzinger proceeds to smite the worker with them.)

Worker: "Ow! Stoppit! Those things stink!"
Ratzinger: "Oh for Gods sake. This isn't working." (aside) "In the old days we'd at least have had a rack or something. Things'll change when I'm Pope, you know. Things'll change..." (back to worker) "I hope you've learnt your lesson!"

(with a flourish, he and his Cardinals leave the room. A minute later Fang returns to collect the slippers. He waves one at the worker in a vaguely threatening manner before departing, tripping up on his robe as he does so)

Tuesday, April 19, 2005


"You're walking funny - good weekend, eh?" leered S from behind a computer monitor.

S, you see, is about to sample the joys of fatherhood. He's got about 3 weeks until his current life is over. As such he is starting to live life vicariously through me (though I doubt he'd admit such a thing.)

As it happened, I had had an extremely good weekend. A companion and I had headed off to Paris (France, not Texas) on the spur of the moment and enjoyed an very agreeable couple of days in the sunshine, strolling around the boulevards and indulging in the occasional display of public affection.

I could have given S the lascivious details. I could have winked and explained that I'd joined a group more exclusive than the mile-high club; the mile-under club (courtesy of the train passing under the English channel.) I could have remarked that the limp was most likely the result of excessive use of the hotel room. I could have commented that the unopened 'pack of 18' I took with me was empty by the time I returned.

All these things I could have said, thus earning untold Bloke-points. Inexplicably I didn't. I simply smiled, said "ran up the steps to Montmarte" and headed for the coke machine.

For some reason I didn't want to tell the lads in the office all about it.

So I've told the internet instead. Oh well...

Monday, April 18, 2005

Under Sleeping Beauty's Castle...

It seems The Ex has found herself a new role at EuroDisney, doubtless having scared too many children in her previous incarnation...

Le Language De Obtuse

There are some that say that EuroDisney is an attempted Americanisation of the French culture.

Ok, its mainly the French that say this. The rest of us couldn't give two figs for the culture of France and wish they would stop going on about it.

There are some half-hearted nods towards the French language throughout the park (Tigger talks French, while Winnie The Pooh speaks English. This makes for a slightly surreal show) but, on the whole, you could easily be in Florida.

Except for the staff.

The staff don't want to be there. And they really don't want you to be there. They'd rather you went to a proper French theme-park like Asterix-world, just up the road.

And so you get the language of the obtuse.

My french is just about enough with which to get by. We call it 'Schoolboy French' (which is not something with which Michael Jackson has been charged) and I can use it to order food and the like.

I was trying to order butter, but could I remember the word? Could I heck. The waitress's brow furrowed as I first tried the English word 'butter' and then went through an elaborate charade with a knife and a slice of bread. More staff assembled and proceeded to do a Mexican wave consisting of a gallic shrug that passed from person to person.

"Bwerr?" I volunteered. "Berre?" No joy. I was saved by First-Born, who'd been thumbing through the French dictionary. "Beurre" she said, and the waitress smiled in beatification as realisation dawned.

I was then presented with a square that had the word 'Butter' emblazoned on it in large, friendly letters.

Friday, April 15, 2005

When Videos Attack

What the heck is it about people with camcorders? Why do they feel the need to record every little thing?

Do they take the damn things into the bathroom with them?

Example - while watching the Disney Parade, there was a forest of hands holding little silvery devices above the heads of fellow spectators. Why? Seriously, does anyone really and truly plan to go home and say "Hey, would you like to watch a badly filmed rendition of a bunch of glum French people pretending to be American? The sound's pretty crap too."

Actually, now I think about it, I've been around people's houses when this has happened and found my self subjected to an excrutiating two hours of someone's wobbly footage of the Grand Canyon ("Yeah, it was a bit foggy, but look - you can just about make out the big hole in the ground")

God help us now that DVD authoring is becoming available to the masses.

If you're going to use a camcorder, use it to record the reaction of loved ones to the parade. I have footage (taken on the digital camera) of First-Born looking at the Small World ride with absolute wonder. Whenever I'm feeling a little jaded, playing it helps to strip away some of my world-weary cynicism. You can't help but smile at a small child trying to conduct the music of a thousand singing dolls.

The other use for a camcorder is amateur porn. Just for the comedy moment when you realise you lent the wrong video cassette to your great-aunt.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

O Canada


I like to think I keep abreast of world events. is my view on the world.

So have I missed an international incident?

On EuroDisney's Small-World ride, Canada is represented by a doll playing hockey in a somewhat ineffectual manner with a Mountie and his Moose peering down from a not-to-scale mountain.

On my 14th float through the ride, I noted that the hockey player was missing; just a metal pole in an empty rink to indicate he'd ever existed.

Judging by the amount of semi or non-functional dolls on the ride, I can't imagine the poor hockey player has been taken away for maintenance. He must have been removed for an altogether darker reason, leaving only the Moose looking on forlornly as Canada's sole representative.

I can only assume Canada must have done something to annoy the Disney Corporation or their US masters to merit such treatment. Either that, or the player has been poached by a team south of the border.

Will these people stop at nothing?

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Riding A Buffalo

A full update on the horrors of EuroDisney will follow tomorrow, when Blogger is marginally more stable than an elephant on a traffic cone and I'm not on a link so uptight that it blocks the Teletubby website because 'tubby' rhymes with 'chubby' and so sounds a bit rude.

But, for now, a preview.

First-born was traumatised today. A 'cast only' door had been left open, and she'd seen one of the characters with its head off, and the human inside reading a newspaper while smoking a cigarette. She obviously knows not to peer through doors marked 'Private' and that the furry monstrosities all contain people who lie to their friends about what they do for a living (in France at least - I mean, saying "I dress up as Mickey Mouse" is the verbal equivalent of tossing a hand grenade into a crowded room as far as the French are concerned) but to be confronted with the grim reality was a shock.

I can only assume that the adult equivalent would be catching the Queen indulging in an act of intamcy with a shetland pony. It would explain Princess Anne though, and I'll refrain from commenting on what Charles has been doing with a buffalo for the last 30 years.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Viva Geneva

I've lost track of time and space.

It began on Friday. At 4am I blearily greeted the taxi and was driven to the airport. I shuffled about the departure lounge in the manner of a lost soul and wondered why none of the concessionaries were open while I waited for the boarding gate to open. My sole recollections of the flight consist of making use of something called a 'Refreshing Wipe' following the compulsory sandwich British Airways insists on throwing at their passengers regardless of flight length and feeling as though someone had dragged my face through nettles. I know I'm a bit kinky and all, but I don't think even I would consider slapping my face with stinging nettles as refreshing.

The other recollection was the pilot landing so hard that I'm convinced he was aiming for Australia.

By 11am I was leaving Geneva on a train bound for a glacier. At 4pm I was in another train that climbed a mountain so high that the change of air pressure inflated a tube of hair gel which, when I opened it, exploded into the mirror in a manner that looked as though I'd sneezed over it. Or done something worse.

At 5pm I did a 25 minute presentation.

At 7am on Saturday I was on a train back to Geneva and then home again by 4pm.

At 6am on Sunday, First-Born and I set off for EuroDisney.

And right now I'm typing this in the EuroDisney New York hotel, a somewhat optimistic interpretation of the Big Apple, replete with an outdoor ice rink in (which, in true Euro-crapness, melted today because someone in the hotel turned it off by leaning on the switch and no-one realised until a guest pointed out that it resembled a paddling pool rather than an entertaining way of crippling oneself. I kid you not.)

Thursday, April 07, 2005

The Perils Of Cruise Control

So I'm driving home after another midnight shift at work. I'm aware that I'm really tired. I mean REALLY tired. I would like to go sleep.

The world takes on a slightly surreal tone. The car rumbles over one of the many pot-holes in the road - "FUCK! I've gone off a cliff!"; this in spite of the fact that the nearest cliff is Beachy Head, which is a good 70 miles in the other direction. Not even I could get *that* lost.

But I've not gone off a cliff. I'm still driving. Pretty soon I'm on the smooth dual-carriageway, heading back to my town. And thats when that treacherous voice starts to whisper in my ear...

..."Cruise control is great, isn't it?"
"You're pretty sleepy aren't you?"
"Uh huh..."
"Well, the road's going straight..."
"And right now the car's pointed straight..."
"Can't see what harm a few minutes shut eye could do?"


Like I said. The perils of cruise control.

Thankfully, tomorrow morning at 0400 someone else will be driving me to the airport.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005


Today I designed an icon. It is a small icon. The sort of thing you'd squint at on one of the tree-folder things so beloved of graphical computer applications, trying to work out if its supposed to represent a document or just where someone's sneezed on the screen.

This icon is supposed to represent the running of a simulation and so I've named it 'Go'. It has two sizes, and our process dictates I must have two icon files. One for each icon, and the file should be suffixed with '-small' and '-large'.

Thus I have created an icon called 'Go-large'. Such is my excitement with this name, that I've spent the last 30 minutes scooting about the office saying things "Ah'm goin' LARGE" or "Ah'm 'avin it LARGE" in a cockney accent that would make even Dick Van Dyke wince.

I know I've had exactly 9 hours sleep in the last 4 days, but thats really no excuse.

Somebody shoot me. Please.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Severe Weather Warning In Hell

Finally. Finally. The Ex has paid up. I've had a call from the bank regarding a 'suspicious transfer' into my account.

What to do with it? I could...

* Buy 50,000 pints of beer
* Book a ticket on Dickie Branson's spaceship
* Invest in 75,000 lottery tickets


* Get a place of my own in the UK and a small apartment in the French Pyrenees.

Yeah. I like the sound of that.

It was First-Born's birthday last weekend. Next weekend she and I are setting off to EuroDisney. I think we can certainly make it a trip to remember.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Teaching Granny To Suck Eggs

Today I was issued with my personal safety card, handed down by our well-meaning HR department (see posts passim for the reasons for this.)

To be honest, anybody who doesn't know this stuff already really needs to be removed from the gene pool as a matter of urgency.

"Telephone calls at work

DO NOT become involved in a conversation if the caller is an activist"

Well, duh...

"Travelling in the vicinity of a demonstration

DO keep your windows and doors locked

DO drive past the site if there are no Police present"

Again I say, duh...

Speaking of the whole egg sucking thing; in truth I've never had the courage to ask my grandmother if she knows how to suck eggs. I'm marginally terrified that the response might be a crooked toothless smile and the words "Well, your grandfather never had any complaints dear..."

A mental image I could do without.

...And You Should See How They Open Bottles

On Sunday I found myself in a deeply fashionable drinking establishment. I could tell it was trendy by the decor that put one in mind of a Turkish prison and the fact that the achingly hip beer was only served by the bottle. A glass wasn't an option.

I used to work in Aldershot, and the pubs there would frequently stop serving beer in glasses. But rather than as a means to achieve a write-up in Time-Out, it was usually because the Army had returned for the weekend, and the town had become a no-go zone for anyone not a member of the appropriate regiment.

Ah, Aldershot. I have many happy memories of peering out of the window of my office and looking down at the herds in the mist. Herds of prams being pushed along by despondant-looking young women. Such was the quantity of lone mothers with substantial broods of offspring that Aldershot had a store called "Pram-World". I kid you not.

But on Sunday I wasn't in Aldershot. I was in a night-spot frequented by The Beautiful People. And me. Fortunately I was accompanied by B, who is without doubt one of The Beautiful People. Later, she piloted us to even hipper bar. I knew this, because as well as serving bottles of beer without glasses, the music was so loud it made my ears bleed.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Reality Check

The Boyfriend was blustering on the phone. Yes, I'm still waiting for the money. It seems that the latest hold up is with the transfer of my half of the marital home.

Oddly enough, the mortgage company is a little unhappy about swapping a fit, healthy 33 year-old in a well-paid job for a blind, 54 year-old teacher, prone to bouts of taking sick leave for months at a time. In the cold light of day, I suspect The Ex feels the same way (in fact, I know The Ex feels the same way.)

For some inexplicable reason, The Boyfriend decided to unload:

"Yes, this whole thing is really driving a wedge between me and (insert name of The Ex here)"
"Uh huh?"
"Its awful, I'm trying to talk on the phone to the mortgage people and she's yelling at me because I won't shout at them"
"She gets so angry all the time. Its really wearing me down..."

Looks like the honeymoon is over. Allow me a quiet "heh" to myself.