Thursday, December 22, 2005

Supermarket Rage

I don't get it. It happens every year at around this time. The supermarkets get mobbed.

Now, way back when I was knee-high to grass-hopper and spent my time staring at arses and groins (actually, some things haven't changed as I've gotten older) British stores generally shut down for the christmas break. You really could find yourself in the situation where after December 23 you wouldn't be able to buy much of anything until January 2.

Not so any more. The local store is open 24 hours a day right up until the end of Dec 24. In fact, the only days its closed are 25 December and 26 December and I'm pretty sure we can all go 2 days without needing to restock on turkey, beer or badly made christmas pudding.

So why was it mobbed today? Trolley-rage reigned supreme in the aisles as people replaced their festive spirit with a murderous desire to buy as many boxes of Paxo and tins of Quality Street as humanly possible. Old ladies were trampled and small children bounced from trolley to trolley like balls of wailing snot in a giant pinball machine.

Get the picture?

I'm pretty sure I only thought: "What the f**k are you people doing???" rather than yelling it at the writhing throng. I'm sure I only thought it. Really.

My own festive purchase was a box of washing powder and a can of something to stop my nasty old trainers running away by themselves. Very christmassy, yes?

In other news, top kudos to The Sun newspaper for the following headline celebrating the marriage of Elton John to his partner David Furnish: "Elton Takes David Up The Aisle". Attaboys.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

From the department of "Oh - My - God"

It seems there are some benefits of marriage to a blind man. The Ex continues to revel in the fact that the chap can't see anything. Unfortunately, sometimes she forgets that the rest of us can.

A couple of examples for you. One thats a bit "eww" and another that is even more so.

Example The First: "The Pebble-Dash"

The Ex: "May I use the bathroom?"
Me: "Sure"

The Ex was collecting First-Born. First-Born and I continued to play Snakes and Ladders; she cheating outrageously and me pretending not to notice. The Ex emerged and whisked First-Born off to wherever they go when they leave chez Newly.

As for the bathroom - it looked like The Ex had stood at the door and aimed. Obviously after a seriously hot curry the night before. Ew.

Example The Second: "Through The Keyhole"

The Ex: "May I use the bathroom?"
Me (warily): "Ok..."

First-Born was drawing a picture of herself and an impossibly thin stick-figure that I took to be me (she knows how to flatter, does that girl.) I remembered the events of the previous day and rushed from the lounge to shout "...and flush the toilet this time!" through the bathroom door... except that The Ex had failed to close the door. Ew. Ew. Ew. Ew.

First-Born glanced up from her work as I hurried back into the lounge making gagging noises. "Mummy left the door open again, huh?" she said, not looking up from her drawing.

Sometimes a bit of temporary blindness would work wonders.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Ice Ice Baby

"Navy SEAL? More like Navy Walrus..." was the comment from one of the chaps upon viewing Ice Cube's performance in the latest (and hopefully last) entry in the XXX film franchise.

Goodness me, the sight of a short, fat rapper kicking righteous bottom was something to warm the heart of all those with a slight weight problem. Although the decision to use stuntmen in considerably better physical shape than the star led to some slightly odd transitions: "Is that the same chap?"

Highlight of the film? Oh there were so many, but the tank chase in the bowels of an aircraft carrier is certainly top ten material. Especially when Ice (I hope he doesn't think thats too familiar of me) swung his tank around to dodge an oncoming shell. The boys could use some of those tanks in Iraq, you know.

Most signposted moment? As the star waddled through the corridors of the said aircraft carrier, he passed a door marked "Steam Catapult". Within half an hour he'd launched a tank across the deck of the carrier with the catapult in a kind of heavy-metal version of conkers.

Advice to the glittering stars of Hollywood: If Vin Diesel refuses to get involved in a film because someone read him the script and he thought it sounded a bit crap, its probably not the best vehicle on which to hitch your star.

Still, it was a gloriously bad film. Bad, but strangely hilarious. Unlike 'Doom', which was just bad. Really, really bad.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Going Underground

I sighed. Contrasting nicely with the general down-at-heel and overall griminess of the London Underground was a huge poster cheerfully advertising Canada's Whistler ski resort with the assistance of an impossibly attractive woman and man perched on a rock high up on a snowy mountain; a blameless blue sky sparkling behind them.

I did New Year at Whistler last year. This year my plan is to spend christmas somewhere snowy. I had hoped to get into the Ice Hotel for New Year, but it seems you need your parents to make a reservation for you some time before your conception if you want a New Year's eve for a cost at anything less than the price of a small French village.

And so it is that I shall be taking my erratic driving to a cottage in France, a mere hop, skip and a jump from a resort called Saint Lary Soulan. I don't know who Saint Lary is, but his name appeals.

But, in the meantime, I must spend my days on the London Underground. I wonder what the architects of the warren-like tunnels would make of the fact that in this age of air-travel and space-craft, we Brits still feel the need to cram ourselves like sardines into Victorian tin cans.

Probably with not a small amount of smugness.

Another week or so and I'll be back in the snow, terrorising snow-boarders with ski-poles that double as kebab sticks for anyone unfortunate to get in the way of my usual out-of-control weebling down the slope.


Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Trouble With S

My friend S has watched too many Kung-Fu movies. I know, I know - its hard to believe that such a thing is possible. I mean, when one is bored of Kung-Fu, one is surely bored of life. However, young S has reached the tipping point.

It happened just last week, as we were walking back from one of the many local curry houses to his car. Excessive beer consumption on my part meant that the Golf Of Doom wasn't an option. But I digress.

What happened was this: a group of kids (probably enjoying their first christmas of drinking) decided to give us some abuse. My approach in these matters is usually to laugh it off and walk on. S, on the other hand, took offence. The problem was that the kids were right - he does have a bit of a silly beard. One of those beards men grow to emphasise their jaw-lines. I, on the other hand, take great pride in my flab.

And thus it was that I found myself in the slightly comedy role of saying "Leave it, mate! They're not worth it!" as S balled his fists and adopted "the position."

All the way home, as we drove back, he muttered "I could have taken them all down. I'd have got 2 and the rest would have scattered. I didn't though - you looked a bit vulnerable and they might have gone for you. Next time though..."

Great. Thanks, mate. I prefer my "out-run the buggers" approach.

The Way Of The S indeed.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

I Hear Dead People

This isn't a funny post... if you came here for laughs today, I suggest you check back tomorrow...

My day job involves working with trials of medicines before Joe Public is allowed to get his undeserving hands on them. As chief purveyor of bad taste, I often joke (when confronted by people who might instinctively think: "Medical Research = Torturing fluffy, media-friendly bunnies" before voting Dubya in for another term) that I kill humans, not animals.

The joke came home to roost last month (which is one of the reasons why I've been so busy.) A programmer introduced an error that could have killed someone. While recovering from that, the next week I got a call from a panicked helpdesk member that a doctor was trying to get medication for a chap currently in surgery, and couldn't access the system.

Neither incident turned out to be as bad as they first appeared. No-one got hurt.

But now I have nightmares.

Since I'm on-call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week I sleep with my mobile phone by my bed. Now, at least once a night I have the following dream.

I'm sleeping, and the phone goes off. Blearily I reach out, pick it up and answer it. All I hear on the other end of the line is people screaming. Screaming and screaming. And it goes on and on until I wake up with a start with that awful sick sensation that comes with not being sure if it all was a dream or not.

Career change, anyone?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Fear Of Flying

From Copenhagen to Switzerland...

"There is no way you're getting me on that thing" I insisted.
"Oh come on, its not going to hurt. It'll be fine" wheedled the boss.
"No! Look at it! It practically came out of the ark! Its looks marginally more knackered than my old Volvo and only slightly more airworthy."

At work, my fear of flying has become legendary. Its compounded by my encyclopeadic knowledge of air disasters and their causes, which is why I like flying on certain aeroplanes and certain airlines.

A cut-price outfit called Cimber-air, flying out of Copenhagen to Basel on ratty looking Brazillian built plans did not meet either the "reputable carrier" or "reliable aircraft" requirements.

"Nonsense," insisted the boss, "Its fine. Look the cabin crew are getting on. It must be ok."

As we watched through the window of the bus (Copenhagen airport had wisely not let the corroding hulk anywhere near the terminal building) all the lights in the plane flickered and died. They flickered on and then died again.

I gave the boss a "well?" look. "Its fine," he said, a little less sure, "They're just testing the lights."

After a few more abortive attempts, the lights went out with a finality made clear by a popping noise that even we in the bus could hear. The cabin crew and pilots emerged from the door, coughing and blinking at the runway lights like moles waking from a seriously good hibernate. A thin vapour of smoke followed them out.

"A slight electrical problem" explained the chap at the terminal, "We'll have it fixed in no time."

We flew to Basel on a nice shiny new jet courtesy of SAS. One nil to Newly, I think.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Copenhagen Cabana

No, I'm not dead - but thanks for asking. Its been an... interesting month.

Yes, I survived the flight back from Florida. Sadly, the food served on the plane made it all a bit touch and go towards the end. Unfortunately, my employer demanded his pound of flesh for my two weeks off. Much travelling, tugging forelocks to clients (an action which can result in the severing of several important anatomical components in some parts of the world) and general aggravation later, you find The Bear and I in "Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen".

I've been to Denmark before, on an ill-advised "cruise" across the North Sea. The relentlessness of the scenery was offset somewhat by the cheap beer onboard the boat and the joy of not getting sea-sick while all around you are looking greyer than the skyline: "Bacon sandwiches anyone? No? Just me then?"

The Bear and I partook of some Turkish food and peered at a "Gentlemen's Club" opposite. Why does the woman responsible for booking my hotel always (a) Put me in a hotel in the red-light district, and (b) Make sure my room is next door to the Shagging Couple? Is she trying to tell me something?

We elected to return to our room - the Amsterdam Experience had ticked that particular box once and for all - and attempt to drown out the increasingly enthusiastic antics of the lucky girl and boy next door with something so unmusical it hurts. I'm sure one of these TV channels must have a Pop-Idol variant going. Hopefully in German.