Thursday, March 25, 2004

Pedantic Word-Cartoon

Picture the scene. A row of ten captured, trussed-up. Roman soldiers. One lies dead on the ground in a pool of blood. One of the nine still standing turns to another survivor. He says "You know, this "decimation" thing isn't as bad as people make out."

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

All Other Passengers

Last Sunday, it being Mothers' Day I travelled to Belfast to see my mum, and I checked in late. Now I hate it when my boarding card number is over 100. On Easyjet, a "no-frills" airline, "now look, you can either have lemon-scented hand towels or you can have basic maintenance, you can't have both" you're not allocated a seat number, so you take your chances. So you sit there beside Gate Eleven...

"Passengers holding boarding cards numbered from one to thirty please come to the Departure Gate now." One-to-thirtys stand up, flick back their hair, scan the departure lounge languidly, and sashay towards the gate. There's a strange thing going on here. In terms of coolness and status the only thing lower down the cool travel food chain than flying with Easyjet is crossing the Irish Sea as a "foot passenger" on a car ferry, which I might talk about some other time, but there's a pecking order developing here. Way down here, where we're all losers. If this airline didn't offer flights at £4.99 we'd all still be home in bed, but hey, I'm a One-to-Thirty. The Thirty-One-to-Sixtys look at their boarding cards for the tenth time, hoping that the number will somehow have changed. Those standing shuffle restlessly. Those sitting down stand up. I'm still sitting reading my book, because I'm "All Other Passengers"

"Passengers holding boarding cards numbered up to sixty please come to the Departure Gate now." They cheer up immediately, those Thirty-One-to-Sixtys. They may not be on the plane, but they're Not Last. They try to avoid our eyes, because they're nice people, and they've already had to step over a man sleeping in a cardboard box on the way to the airport. The "All Other Passengers" pretend we don't care. We're all reading our books. We Don't Care so hard you can hear it. We don't want to get on the plane at all. We're not interested in the mundane. Let them stress and struggle, we have our books and newspapers.

"All other passengers..." Some crack immediately, and hate themselves. They stand up, stuff newspapers into backpacks and scurry to the gate, shooting little apologetic glances around the lounge at the other AOPs. It does no good. We despise them. We will not flinch. We have been there, standing against the wall in the gym, being last to be chosen when teams are picked. Being the only one who didn't get laid at Chrissie's party. We have Learnt Strategies. We barely react, and when we do it's slo-mo. We glance at our watches, yawn, take a swig of Coke. The more confident start phone conversations. We form our features into a look that says "Whe-e-e-en I'm good and fucking ready, I might just get on your plane." A complex little slow-bicycle-race starts up - now we all want to be the last guy to the gate who actually gets on the plane. We shuffle papers, finish phonecalls, scratch, yawn. Then, weirdly, we all end up at the gate at exactly the same time, and are ashamed, and can't make eye-contact. There's no solidarity amongst All Other Passengers, for we do not love ourselves.

On the way back, my boarding card was number fourteen.

Friday, March 19, 2004

"Couldn't be arsed" Syndrome

Well, I've been busy at work, and the weather's been bad, and there are roadworks on my stretch of the M25, and I've been getting home late, and my evenings consist of eating, watching T.V. and going to sleep, and my divorce still hasn't come through and I'm still paying huge sums of money to my future-ex-wife and I should be planning my wedding (August - you're invited, Libertybob, because it looks like Iowan opticians are under-represented on the guest list so far, though there might be a rush later), and the dog has to be locked in the kitchen at night because otherwise it barks at squirrels or mutilates itself trying to kill hedgehogs, and then it pees on the kitchen floor, and I'm too old and/or stupid to figure out how to work my digital 8-track recorder and now I've become phobic about it and will end up selling it on eBay for a hundred quid less than I paid for it and my joints ache in the morning and the country's run by morons and criminals (some of them both) and half the people in this town are mutants and the other half are here by mistake and and I gave up cigarettes so now I'm fat.

So I haven't posted anything recently.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

True Story (1)

During the Napoleonic Wars a French warship ran aground on the English coast in a storm, near the town of Hartlepool. One of the survivors was a monkey, which was immediately captured by the townspeople, accused of being a French spy, convicted and executed. Which story, it could be argued:
- Says a lot about the intelligence of the English.
- Says a lot about the appearance of the French.
- Will not change other nations' opinion of the English or the French one iota*.

In the defence of the English, however, the following points need to be born in mind:
- In those days most English people had never seen a Frenchman. Or a monkey.
- Even these days, for those who have seen both, the distinction is not always easy to make
- The monkey was probably wearing a beret and carrying a string of onions.
- The strong smell, constant gibbering and frequent unashamed public masturbation (The monkey, I'm still talking about the monkey) only helped to add weight to the prosecution case.
- Have you been to Hartlepool? Some days you can get so depressed that it seems nothing will cheer you up. Then someone says "I know, let's hang a monkey!"

*Why is it always "one iota"? Why can't you have "two iotas"? Or is it "iotae"? Or is "iota" plural, like "media" and "data"? Because then it should be "one iotum". Hang on a minute. Okay, "iota" is the ninth letter of the Greek alphabet. So forget all that Latin stuff earlier.
And according to the same page in the same dictionary Iowa “consists of rolling plains crossed by many rivers. There are few monkeys there, but the state capital has a suspiciously French-sounding name.” (I made some of that up.)

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Sad but true

There are lots of drummer jokes, but this is the only bass player joke I've ever heard:

Q: How many bass players does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: None - the keyboard player can do it with his left hand.

Friday, March 05, 2004

I Used To Be A Bass Player...

I don't play live much these days, because for some reason Saturday nights which involve:

- Soozie
- A sofa
- A log fire
- A TV
- A can or cans of beer
- Going to bed. Not tired. Soozie's not tired. Yay!

seem to have more appeal than Saturday nights which involve:

- Loading amplifiers and guitars into the car (in the rain, always in the rain...)
- Setting off at six pm, driving for an hour
- Getting lost
- Asking directions from someone who turns out to be the stupidest man in England
- Finding the bar we're playing in
- Being scared because it's full of tattooed women (and we're not talking about cute little butterflies here, we're talking about tattoos that cause you to say "I like your T-shirt" and then look foolish)
- Setting up the P.A.
- Soundchecking
- Playing the first set
- Being asked in the interval if you know any Robbie Williams numbers
- Venturing an opinion that if projectile vomiting ever becomes an Olympic event Robbie Williams will be an essential part of the training programme
- Getting called a wanker
- Drinking lemonade because you're going to have to drive home
- Playing the second set
- Trying to convince the guitar player that to justify an encore, at least one member of the audience needs to have shouted "More!" Failing.
- Playing "I've Got My Mojo Working" in a bad temper
- Packing up the P.A.
- Listening to a drunk give you helpful tips "You're a good band but you'd be better if..."
- Getting paid thirty-five quid (no, each, it's not that bad)
- Loading amplifers and guitars into the car, rain, etc, etc.
- Setting off at midnight, driving for an hour.
- Getting home, drinking one beer
- Going to bed. Tired. Soozie's asleep.

I don't play live much these days.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Handy Childcare Hints

I find to my dismay that I now have five children / stepchildren...

1) There's only a limited number of times you can tell your children that their dad belongs to "the first generation where the parents are cooler than the children" before they start making that thumb-and-forefinger "Loser" sign.

2) It's okay to let children have the last word, because you have a job, a house, money and a car while they have nothing. Ahhhh. Who's the loser now?

3) Practice telling children that they're talented, clever and beautiful. It's not always easy to be convincing, especially if they get school reports and your house has mirrors.

4) Make sure all your possessions are locked away and you have the only key. Tell your children that you will put anything of theirs left lying around into a large box, and that at the end of the week you will take the box to a charity shop and give it to the old ladies. Do it.

5) Compromise is for the weak. Adopt the "Northern Ireland Approach" to family discussion. "No" means "No". "Maybe" means "No". "Yes" means "No". No Surrender.

6) It's inevitable that their rooms will smell as if they're keeping a secret goat as a pet and be littered with unidentifiable stuff. If you manage to convey the concept of "pile" as opposed to "spread", it's a success story. If you can get them to turn lots of little piles into one big pile you can probably start thinking about writing a childcare manual.

7) No matter how sophisticated and valid their argument, children can always be defeated by making spiteful comments about their appearance. Never mind the newspaper "scare" stories about anorexia and teenage depression, don't be afraid to use this one.

8) Young children enjoy pet funerals much more than live pets. Check with your local petshop - you may be able to buy animals that are already dead at a reduced rate, and you'll save money on feeding and vets' bills. Good for the garden too!

The Bugbear Zone cannot be held responsible for any damage, physical or psychological, which may result from adherence to the preceding guidelines.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

At Winchelsea

Soozie and I were on the beach. I bent and picked up a stone, intending to throw it far out to sea, the way that men do. I tested the weight of it, imagined how it would feel to put the whole strength of my arm behind it, how I would watch it tumble, sending up a clattering, panicky clamour of gulls, then a white spray of foam. I would hear the small explosion as the plume of water rose, or the crack as it hit a just-hidden rock.

I thought then of how my arm would feel, the slight flare of bright pain from those unused muscles, the flex and stretch of my shoulder joint, the fizzing twang in my back where that sneaky almost-mended muscle lies in wait, ready for the day I forget I'm not young.

I held the stone for a moment more. I rubbed its surface with my thumb. I let it fall to the shingle.

"What's wrong?" Soozie asked.
"Nothing". I said.

Word for the Day

Catma n, a religious doctrine or system of doctrines proclaimed by ecclesiastical authority as true. Less subservient and more independent than "dogma"