Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Bear Aware

In case anyone was worried that I'd forgotten about the bear, have no fear. The bear and I have another adventure lined up. We're going to Italy next month. Specifically Tuscany. Expect a picture of the bear in a humourous position with Pisa's Tower.

First-Born is over tonight. She and I watched a SpongeBob Squarepants Episode (in French - apparently its funnier in French. The eponymous yellow block is certainly more intelligible.) First-Born turned to me and asked what the hamburgers in the show were made out of.

"Cows or pigs" I said
"Don't be silly," she replied, "You don't get animals like that under the sea. They'd drown"

A slightly camp, talking sponge is clearly perfectly normal.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Sports Day Redux

How quickly a year passes. Remember this?

Yup. That time of year again. First Born is a year older, a year wiser, and a year even worse at anything approaching physical activity. Again, she came an impressive last in all the races bar one. The thoughtful teaching staff placed her as the last baton carrier in a relay race. The other team members were the best runners in the school, and if the intention was to slow them down then I can safely say that the mission was a complete success. A comfortable first when First-Born picked up the baton. A close third when she finally made it to the finish line. I shrieked myself hoarse regardless.

Again, the child herself was supremely uninterested. She was, instead, looking forward to awards evening the following week where she would be presented with the English prize for a poem she wrote.

Thats my girl. I won the English prize too. However, I was 18 and ran off with the new English teacher (which caused many friends to speculate on what the prize was actually for) - hopefully First Born won't make the same mistake.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Back To The Playground

"Its the eternal dilemma" the boss said, with a thoughtful look on his face.

I waited for some clue as to the nature of the problem. How to fire someone without making them cry? How to avert one's gaze when the attractive receptionist is wearing a tight, black t-shirt with the word "Look" emblazoned in sequins over her chest? What?

He paused a little longer before asking the question:

"How do you tell someone they smell of piss?"

It is indeed a dilemma. I knew the chap to who he was referring and considered him a friend. And yet even I had thus far wussed out on bringing up the subject, hoping that my act of opening the windows in the car would be sufficient.

He: "Why are you opening the windows? Is the air-conditioning broken?"
Me: "No... I just felt that the car could use some fresh air, you know?"
He: "But its hot enough to fry an egg on the pavement out there!"
Me: "Yeah... I know..."

Didn't work.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Sorry To Father's Day

Dear Dad,
About 25 years ago, I think, I tried to make your Father's day special. You remember, don't you?

I made early morning coffee for you and Mum. That wasn't special in itself. No. The special thing was how I made the coffee. You see, I knew how you liked that funny frothy coffee they served in Italian restaurants and some of the trendier cafes. So I wanted to make some for you instead of the instant coffee you normally have.

The problem, of course, was the bubbles. How to make the bubbles?

The first thing I tried was to put about 10 large spoonfuls of instant coffee into the boiling water. This seemed to do the trick at first, but then the coffee went black again. Very, very black.

I struggled to think of another way of doing it. I thought and thought until, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a bottle of washing up liquid. Of course! That must be where the bubbles come from! So I squirted a goodly amount into the black liquid and stirred. Bubbles! Lots of bubbles!

Feeling everso proud, I took you my creation. I woke you up. I presented you with a handmade card and gave you your surprise. I then sat with delight beaming all over my face until you'd drained every last drop of your treat.

I'm confessing this because:

a) As I've got older, I've felt progressively guiltier about this and
b) Today, First-Born presented me with her gift to me. 10 Mars bars which she'd thoughtfully unwrapped and left in the back of the car. In 40 degrees centrigade heat. As I chewed manfully through the fluff and thought of what I was going to have to do to the back seat to get it clean while First-Born sat smiling at the cleverness of her gift, I wondered if you felt a disturbance in the paternal force and started laughing your arse off...

Your loving son,

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Faces Of Death

My grandmother has suddenly begun to look very old. She's 83.

Its frequently made joke in the family that she was 25 when she had my father, my father was 25 when I put in an appearance and I was 25 when First-Born turned up a week early. Possibly the only time the young lady has ever been early for anything. And I'm aware of the fact that if my family find this amusing, then it really needs to start looking for a list.

Anyhow. I paid a conscience visit (because I was a total bastard in my teenage years and still feel guilty now) with First-Born this weekend. Incidentally, she lives in a town called Newark, which is an anagram of the word I mentioned in the last post. Somewhat appropriate, considering the locals.

But I digress. She's always had this aura of industructability, but today she looked... old. Fiercely independant, she cooked lunch (the cooking process actually commenced during the previous month, judging by the consistancy of the vegetables) but let me clear up. A first.

On one hand, I'm worried about her. On the other hand, I may be able to offer to cook next time rather than endure another round of mystery meat and mush. My brother, of course, has no such qualms. "Of course I bring my own food. She's a crap cook."

Oh, and I'm really missing my DSL. 56k is so last century dahlings...

Friday, June 17, 2005

In Space, No-one Can Hear You Puke

I like the English language. I like the way words can have a variety of meanings. Take the word 'wanker'

This can mean 'one who masturbates' or 'a fool'. The latter meaning is generally the accepted one (although interestingly, the verb 'to wank' is only associated with masturbation.)

However, if a person is 'wankered' it means he is drunk or otherwise inebriated. It seems appropriate to connect a word relating to the influence of alcohol to one referring to idiocy.

Yes, I was totally wankered on Wednesday. Impressively so. The dire warnings of the doctor appear to be true - a few pints of beer and a bottle of wine and I was, quite literally, anybody's.

The following day I was equally impressively ill. I'd never thrown up blood before. Still, first time for everything, eh?

Naturally, I paid a visit to the doctor. I may be a wanker, but I'm not a stupid wanker. He sat, smugly.

"So you ignored my advice?"
"You're going to follow it this time?"

(I felt the same as I felt when I was 7 years old and called to meet the headmaster concerning a story I'd written about Father Christmas in which naughty words were used because he was too fat in the chimney.)

"Its probably just the start of an ulcer. Most likely stress-related." he said "I'll book you in for some really invasively unpleasant tests"

Ok, he didn't say the last part. He didn't need to. He then dispensed that piece of advice that Doctors always hand out:

"Exercise more and drink plenty of water."

What is it with Doctors and that sentence?

"Doctor - I'm feeling a bit ill"
"Exercise more and drink plenty of water."
"Doctor - I've broken my arm"
"Exercise more and drink plenty of water."
"But its hanging right off!"
"Exercise more and drink plenty of water."

They should send a Doctor to the Climate Change Conference.

"How can we cut emissions and slow down the runaway greenhouse effect without pissing off the US?"
"Exercise more and drink plenty of water."

Day 2 of healthy living. Its a bit dull.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Excessive Speed

The problem with The Black Golf Of Worthless Warranty is that it is just too easy to go fast in it. My previous modes of transport have been defined mainly by their age and the embarrassment caused to passengers (and I'm not talking about the British rail network.) Great swathes of friends simply refused to have anything to do with my succession of ancient Volvo 340s. My insistance that the fact that because they were the cheap 2-door versions and had rear wheel drive, they were actually the equivalent of a sports coupe seldom won anyone around.

So having a car that will cruise effortlessly at 3 figure speeds is a little odd.

Take the weekend. The speed just crept up until I was hurtling down deserted motorways at 130mph. At that point something odd happened to the car. The German computer under the bonnet decided that it must be back on the German Autobahns of its halcyon youth. The stereo began playing Wagner. The CDs in the auto-changer turned into a succession of David Hasselhof Greatest Hits albums. I'm sure someone was shouting "Ve vill crush ze ozzer traffik viz our fearsome German efficiency!" from the back seat.

I had to pull into a service station and be over-charged for some decidedly average food and buy extortionately priced petrol to convince the car that we really were in England.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Motorway Madness

A 600 mile road trip can do things to the mind.

Take the lovely B. As we barrelled down the M6 in the Black Golf Of Uncertain Doom she pointed and squeaked excitedly at a road sign:

"Look! Look! A sign for Clitheroe!"

It took me a while to work it out. Deary deary me...

The End

Apologies for the absence. It was triggered by a visit to the doctor where the bollocking to end all bollockings was administered. Remember that scene from Super Size Me, where the film-maker (a man skilled in stating the bleeding obvious) was warned that continuing on his month long crusade of McDonalds exclusivity would do lasting damage? Worse than that.

It was my own fault. The chap was reading from the results of a check-up and asked some casual questions about my lifestyle:

"Whenever I can"
"Do bedroom marathons count?"
"Oh, then no..."
"My friends call me 'Captain Carb'"

And so it was that the genial doctor who amiably prescribed viagra for a slightly upset stomach turned into a task master more suited to one of Oliver Stone's slightly skewed interpretations of the Vietnam war rather than a sympathetic family physician.

It would seem that the year of debauchery (slightly extended) is at an end. I have a sheet of goals to achieve and the warning "You'll take this seriously if you want to see your daughter graduate from University." I presume he meant I wouldn't be around, rather than any inside knowledge of First-Born's academic prowess he might possess.

I reacted in the same way as anyone. I went on a 4 day bender. With the completion of the leftover curry from last night I feel I'm ready.

Well, once that crate of Leffe is finished of course...

The weekend, however, was a great adventure. Photos to follow.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

I Am Warlord

In my profession I spend a lot of time justifying myself and the things that I do to crowds of auditors. It can sometimes be as much as twice a week that I find myself in a room with people seeking to find fault/make helpful suggestions about what I do.

I have various ways of dealing with these situations. My favourite (other than dancing on the table naked singing "I am the Walrus") is the 'play dumb' approach. Here, I volunteer no information and make my polite responses as monosyllabic as possible. This has served me well over the years.

The problem comes when one finds oneself accompanied by a Helpful. A Helpful will chatter away, spewing out potentially hard-to-explain facts like an incontinent hippo on a helter-skelter.

Today's Helpful had managed to keep quiet until the auditor complimented us on our documentation and got ready to leave. "Don't go!" burbled the Helpful, "Don't you want a demonstration of- erk!" He was cut off mid-sentence by an African tribal spear embedding itself between his shoulder blades with a satisfying 'thunk' and went face down onto the conference table, the spear at a jaunty angle with feathers attached to the end fluttering in the draft from the air-conditioning.

Fortunately it was only in my imagination.

Makes a change from thinking about sex, I guess.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Please. Stop. Hitting. Me.

"Bruv: 1982 - 2000"

I assumed the tattoo occupying much of the heavy-set man's back was intended as a tribute to his late brother. An internal, more cynical voice wondered about the true motive of the design; perhaps not so much a tribute, but more a 'look at me - see, I loved my brother so much that I was prepared to scar myself in his honour. Aren't I great?'

Uh huh. Shame he didn't care enough to actually name the unfortunate chap.

The cost of the tattoo might have been better spent on a higher quality gold chain rather than the one that was currently leaving a green mark on his sun-burnt neck as he stood in front of First-Born and I in the queue for the water slide.

Why do I mention this? Because FB called out in her usual piercing way: "Why did he have that done? Doesn't he know how to spell 'Brother'?"

I swear she's started doing this on purpose.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Things You Don't Want To Hear In A Swimming Pool

Part 233 in a continuing series.

The individual's voice was carried over the swimming pool hub-bub of screaming children and adults screeching back at them:

"Oooh, I don't know what they put in this water, but it does wonders for my athlete's foot."

I looked at First-Born. "Time to get out"

Friday, June 03, 2005

The Luck Of The Oirish

I sat in "Ye Olde Irish Wishing Chair" and tried to think of something for which to wish.

In the end I wished that the chair wasn't made out of Ye Olde Irish Concrete.

So. Welcome to Chessington World Of Adventures, or The Land Of Queues as I prefer to call it. Its an interesting place and would benefit from my patented entrance queuing technique; one queue for those who are going to simply pay, another queue for those with a variety of vouchers and a last queue for argumentative morons attempting to redeem a coupon for 35p off a loaf of bread against a ticket to the park.

Further gouging is evident in the application of something called 'FastTrack' where one is asked to pay extra in order to help the park better manage its queuing.

Time, I think, to buy myself a copy of Bollocks To Alton Towers

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Some Things Never Change

Where you have a theme park, you have queues. Where you have queues, you have bored and restless children. And First-Born with her nose in a book, demonstrating her patented queuing technique.

Legoland hasn't improved from last year. The sign is a bit rustier. The rides are a bit tackier. The queues are a bit longer. The ticket prices are a bit higher. I really can't see what FB sees in the place; it really is very poor. Possibly the fact that she's taller than most of the other children in attendance (mainly pre-schoolers). I can't work out what else it could be.

And yet she loves it. They give out 'attaboy' leaflets that you're supposed to hand over to a member of staff when they're marginally less sullen than usual (or 'done a GREAT job!' in Lego's corporate doublespeak). FB gave her's to me with a 'best Dad in the world' written on it in her spikey handwriting.

By the end of the day, FB was all funned out... so all together now...