Friday, April 30, 2004


Willie Nelson's seventy-one today. Which is surprising, because I thought he was at least ninety already. Let's face it, he looks like Ingrid Pitt at the end of "Countess Dracula", when she's run out of virgins.

However, I reckon that when I'm seventy-one I'll look like John Gielgud, about which I''m not altogether happy.

And hey, we forgot Saddam! Sixty-seven on Wednesday; I'll wager when he was my age he didn't expect to spend his sixty-seventh birthday eating cake laced with the C.I.A.'s finest mind-controlling drugs.

Tell you what, though; he's in better shape than Willie.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

When A Plan Comes Together

A spokesman for Surrey Police today stoutly defended the arrest of a Reigate man on suspicion of involvement in terrorist activity. Detective Inspector Bill Filth, interviewed on this programme, denied that the authorities had "over-reacted" in arresting the man, who is believed to be of Arab origin, but cannot be named for legal reasons.

Acting on a tip-off, police carried out a raid at three a.m. yesterday morning, taking the man into custody and seizing what they described as "incriminating video evidence" and "bomb-making equipment". Detective Inspector Filth told us "The videos are really quite alarming. There are 94 of them, and they show how to make lethal weapons out of simple household items. The cocoa-tin, inner-tube and bread-bin grenade-launcher could devastate Central London, once the Coke-cans filled with exploding stuff made from weird things at the back of the fridge were ready. As for the bomb-making equipment, well, you tell me what else a battery, an alarm clock and a pair of pliers could be used for."

D.I. Filth described the claims made by the man's family that he merely had an unhealthy obsession with the 1980s T.V. show "The A-Team" as "ridiculous". He remarked "I've been in the policing game for twenty years, and I've yet to meet an Arab with any interest in that T.V. programme. They all think it's shit."

A White House spokesman described the arrest as "an encouraging development in the War against Terror", and promised that "a really nice present" was on the way to Mr. Blair.


How can they do this without mentioning the Tap?

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Saturday 24/04/04 Part Two

We arrive at The Royal Seven Stars hotel. When I worked in Devon I had an apartment in a village a few miles from Totnes, and I used to walk past this hotel at least a couple of times a week. I never went in. All I can say is that it looked okay on the website. If all you care about is old, then you'd be happy. Reception is a little window with a grumpy old lady behind it.

We check in, get our keys and find our room. The room's just about the right side of okay, in that it has a large window, a double bed and a television set. In one corner they've built the smallest hotel bathroom I've ever been in, so small that there's no room for the basin, which is on the bedroom wall. (No, no, inside.) If my feet were one size bigger I wouldn't be able to turn round without taking my shoes off. There's a sign stuck to the toilet cistern warning against putting "undigested products" down it, (no really), together with the information that if you fuck up their toilet they'll add £200 to your bill.

We look around. "Decor by Stevie Wonder", perhaps? Well, no, because he would at least have heard the complaints and used a different colour sheme. We decide on "Decor by Helen Keller Interiors Ltd." I know I'm being unfair: some people find bright red carpet relaxing. And if you keep your eyes closed the textures are really quite nice.

Shrek the Sheep

I listened to an item about this this morning. Apparently the fugitive doesn't realise that he's a sheep and doesn't know that he can eat grass. The interviewer failed to ask the obvious question, so we still don't know what he did eat for six years. My own view is that Shrek turned cannibal, and all those dogs that were shot for attacking sheep were totally blameless.

Saturday 24/04/04 Part One

M25, M3, A303, then first stop Stonehenge. Major accident blackspot on the A303 here. You come over the brow of a hill, the road goes from four lanes to two, and hey, look everybody, there's Stonehenge over there on the right. Bang. Not this time, though.

Four quid each to get close to the stones, which we're too tight to pay, having been here before. In any case, the eight quid only entitles you to get within about forty feet of the circle. Unless you're a fully-paid-up card-carrying druid, of course; then they let you in a couple of times a year to skip around doing druiding and stuff. I realise that it's impossible for me to look at Stonehenge without thinking of Spinal Tap, in the same way that I can't hear the William Tell Overture without thinking of the Lone Ranger. For some reason I find this slightly annoying. Sooz takes some photos through the fence and we get back on the road.

A303, M5, A38, next stop the Dartington Cider Press craft centre. When I lived in Devon ten years ago this place was just a toyshop, a pottery and a bunch of disused farm buildings by the side of the river. Now there's a whole business development with about ten different shops or galleries, a tearoom, and a large car park. Some of the stuff is fabulous - the wood-turning gallery has beautiful things errm, turned out of errm, wood. Expensive, but as each fruit bowl probably represents a day's work £150 is pretty realistic. However, Sooz and I belong to the school of thought that believes that money spent on anything but alcohol is pretty much money wasted, so we don't buy anything. Hang on, I forgot guitars. Money spent on guitars isn't wasted either. We don't agree on that one, though.

Some of the shops aren't selling handmade products; they're full of Global Hippy Tat; you know, all those drums and dreamcatchers and scented candles that are churned out in some huge factory, probably owned by Richard Branson. By the way: hands up all of you who bought albums from Virgin Records back in the 70s were stupid enough to think that Branson was a hippy and were astonished to find that he was in reality a venture capitalist with long hair and a beard. Yup, me too.

Next stop Totnes.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Shakin' Strategy

A couple of months ago at a dinner party, a man I hardly know did the old Alpha-male-death-grip-handshake-squeeze thing on me, and it hurt. Now frankly, being a permanently irritable but physically quite gentle man, I can't begin to understand why people do this, but anyway, I was pissed off for a number of reasons.

Firstly, I'd met this wankstain before, and he'd done it to me then, too, but I'd forgotten. Secondly, he's a taxidermist, and on basic principles I'm not entirely sure I want to shake hands with someone who makes a living sticking his hands inside dead things. Thirdly, the first time he did it I promised myself that if it happened again I'd get even in some way, and because of the social pressure to behave in a polite manner, I didn't.

Now, this bloke's a sort of a friend of a friend, and there's a possibility that I'll meet him again, and be expected to shake hands. I've been considering the options:

1) Shake hands and immediately headbutt him full in the face, smashing his nose into a pre-op Michael Jackson size and shape, saying "Oh, I'm so sorry, but I just have this sort of reflex thing. That happens whenever anyone squeezes my hand very hard."

2) Shake hands and immediately knee him in the bollocks, using the explanation above.

3) Shake hands and use a technique I learnt in my martial arts days to snap both his wrist bones like sticks of barley-sugar. Say "Oh I'm so sorry, but when I'm in a lot of pain my old S.A.S. training just kicks right in. It's permanently embedded in the hippocampus, you know."

(All of the above are perhaps a little extreme.)

4) Shake hands and lean forward to kiss him full on the lips, with tongues if possible. Murmur "Oh, you big strong thing, you..." (Need to be ready to block his left hook with this one.)

5) Shake hands and scream as loudly as possible "What the fuck are you doing, you horrid taxidermist? That really hurts. What's your problem?"

6) Pretend I'm going to shake hands and then raise my hand to chest height and give him the finger.

7) Say "I'm not going to shake hands because the last time I did it you caused me a lot of pain by crushing my hand. Fuck knows why you feel you have to do it. If you have a small dick save up and buy a Ferrari."

8) Pretend not to notice that he wants to shake hands.

Now, it's a sad thing, but we all know that, much as I'd like to employ tactics 1 - 7 (particularly number 3), it's going to be number 8. Alternative strategies from any or all of you would be welcomed. With a warm and friendly handshake.

Which way to the Circus Skills Workshop?

Tomorrow morning Sooz and I are driving a couple of hundred miles to the town of Totnes in Devon for a few days' holiday. Let me tell you a few things about Totnes. It's made up of a quirky, pretty mixture of buildings, many of them Elizabethan in origin. At the top of the High Street it turns into a lane called The Narrows, where the houses and shops look the way Americans think all English houses look.

It's the lowest point at which you can cross the River Dart by bridge (further down you have to use the ferry.) Still further down, at the river mouth, is a town called Dartmouth. They were obviously a literal-minded bunch, those old Devonians, so why Totnes isn't called Dartbridge is a mystery to me.

The Kingsbridge Inn serves up baked potatoes the size of rugby balls. In the Guildhall you can sit at a table where Oliver Cromwell signed something or other.

It's also the Old Hippy capital of Devon.

To back up this claim I'm going to use the following piece of evidence. It's circumstantial, but if I were on a jury I'd go for it, especially if they also showed me Exhibit A. (a picture of the flotation tank in the Arcturus Centre in High Street.)

A few years back the local newspaper ran a story about a Totnes man who wanted to publicise the fact that he was eager to be contacted by people who were interested in forming a unicycle hockey league. Let me run that by you again. He didn't want to buy a unicycle. He wasn't trying to find someone to teach him how to ride a unicycle. He didn't expect to find one other person who could ride a unicycle and would be his little chum. This man confidently expected that there were in the Totnes area people who not only could ride a unicycle, but were skilled enough to play hockey while riding one. And that there were enough of them to form not just a team, but a league.

I rest my case.

(I'm not a great fan of the Circus Skills thing, and I still can't walk past a street mime without having the urge to kick him in the nuts, but at least I've mellowed enough to know that I'm not actually going to do it. For those of you over-familiar with right-wing blogs, be advised that here in the U.K. the terms "socialist", "liberal" and "hippy" are not interchangeable. Lefties here are generally much more enthusiastic about punching people in the mouth than you might think.)

Anyway, despite all the above, tomorrow I will be wheezing my way up Fore Street (I don't know how they do it, but it definitely gets five degrees steeper every year), gagging on the smell of patchouli and didgeridoo wax, hand in hand with ma baybeh, happy as a pig in shit.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

I Feel Free

The whole liberation of Iraq thing seems to be going swimmingly. More here

"We suffered for years under Saddam Hussein, not being able to speak out," says Omar Fadhil, 24, a dentist. "Now, you can make your voice heard around the world."

I spoke with another Iraqi, also a former dentist, who asked to remain anonymous.

We met outside his makeshift dwelling, constructed mainly from cardboard and dried camel-shit. His five-bedroomed bungalow and dental surgery were destroyed by the off-target bunker-buster which also left a smoking crater where his swimming pool had been. Despite the dramatic change in his circumstances he is enthusiastic about the regime change.

"Obviously there are inconveniences, but they're pretty much outweighed by the benefits." he says cheerfully. "I can no longer make a living from dentistry, because no-one has any money to pay for treatment, and in any case when I lost my right arm in the bombing it pretty much put paid to my career." He laughs wryly. "But then if the war hadn't caused the complete collapse of our infrastructure then my daughter would still have been a Civil Servant earning two thousand dollars a month. In her new career as a prostitute she can make that in a couple of nights, and more on the days the troops get paid. And it's worked wonders for her language and drama skills - she can fake orgasm in seven different languages!"

With the money and energy the liberation forces are pumping into the Iraqi economy, for the one-armed ex-dentist and his family the future looks bright. " I used to hear so much on Baghdad Radio about the "land of opportunity" - I never thought it would land on my, errm, where my doorstep used to be."

He tries to shake hands, then remembers. We both laugh uproariously, and he punches me goodnaturedly on the arm with his stump. He slyly slides a couple of ten-dollar bills from his sleeping daughter's purse and heads in the direction of the nearest Cyber-Cafe, whistling a passable approximation of "The Star-Spangled Banner." (The Hendrix version.)


They played a song by The White Stripes on the radio yesterday. I walked into the kitchen. I said to Sooz "I'm thinking of forming an R.E.M. tribute band which I intend to call "The Shite Stipes." " As Sooz was unaware of the surname of the lead vocalist with R.E.M. the joke was pretty much wasted.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Thank you, Lord

In May of last year I come down with the worst cold I've ever had. I struggle through a week of it at work, and by the weekend my head throbs, my joints ache, my nose looks like a solvent abuser's (nose) and my chest hurts when I cough. I'm having a real good time. Get good and drunk at the weekend to see if that helps, and it does, but only temporarily.

By Monday I've had enough: I call in sick. (Incidentally, I've always wanted to call in well. "Hi, this is David. I feel great, so I'm not coming in.") I spend the day in bed, and on Tuesday, though I'm still coughing and running a temperature and generally feeling like shit, I'm more or less okay to do some spreadsheet-bashing, although at home rather than at the office. I have to dial in to an important conference call at three in the afternoon, but I think it'll be manageable.

By two-forty-five I've taken a turn for the worse. My eyes are streaming. My chest hurts. I've had to open the window because it's humid and I'm pouring with sweat. My voice sounds like a cinder under a door. My head feels like it's full of cotton wool.

It's humid because there's a thunderstorm on the way. The conference call starts. I'm under pressure. I sweat more. The storm hits. The mute button on the phone won't work, and my colleagues are complaining about the noise of the thunder, so I have to close the window. I sweat more.

The dog's frightened by the thunder, runs into the room and starts to howl. I hurl it out onto the landing and close the door. The temperature rises. I croak down the telephone as the thunder crashes. The dog, still howling, is now scratching and chewing at the door. My colleagues are by this time hysterical with mirth. Bastards. At no time does it occur to me to drop off the call.

And some days aren't that good

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Hung like a Bewick?

The very first thing I posted on here celebrated the inoffensive nature of British wildlife. Well, was I wrong about that, or, errrm, what? Take a look at this and pause to consider the consequences of Lancashire skinny-dipping, particularly if your genitalia are swan-like in size and shape.

The Two-Headed Ghole

Driving to work this morning there was a radio report on a soccer match where the phrase "two headed goals" was used. When I got into the office this happened. I'm so afraid there may be more of it.

The two-headed ghole
Looks a bit like a mole
But with wings, and ears like a rabbit
It squeaks like a bat
In the key of B flat
(A most unacceptable habit.)

The two-headed ghole
Lives on petrol and coal
Which explains why it glows in the dark
When hunting the ghole
You must hide in a hole
And for pity's sake don't make a spark

The two-headed ghole
Climbed a telegraph pole
Struck a match and promptly exploded
A police spokesman sighed
"We suspect suicide,
Or else it forgot it was loaded"

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Davy? Chill...

On Friday I try to get hold of my future-ex-wife (telephonically that is, the death-grip days are over.) The idea is that I drive over to see the kids, and I want to make sure that they'd be in, because it's over an hour away. Anyway, I call the house phone - no reply. Her mobile - no reply. My daughter's mobile - no reply. My younger son's mobile - no reply. My older son's mobile - I bet you've guessed that one already. No? No reply.

Now in the years B.C. (Before Cellphones) I'd have thought "They must be out. I'll call later." But no, these days I'm used to talking to people when I want to talk to people. I get irritable. I try them all again. No reply. I fly into a rage. I phone them all again leaving increasingly frenzied messages. By the time I get to Matt's voicemail for the third time I'm shrieking "What's the fucking point of having a mobile phone, if you don't take it with you and keep it turned on, you stupid little bastard?! And I'm not your father. And we adopted you! From the leper colony! And you're a crap guitar player! AAAAARRGGH!"

And so on.

Then I calm down.

Then I start to worry. I know that my future-ex-father-in-law is staying with them at the moment, and I know he has heart trouble. The only scenario that makes sense to me by now is that he's had a heart attack and they're all down at Intensive Care with their phones turned off in case they interfere with the equipment. Either that or a plane has crashed on the house and my family's mobiles are ringing plaintively amidst the lifejackets, pieces of people and little tinfoil containers.

I decide to face down my demons and go over there. I'm ready for the worst. Then my phone rings. It's my F.E.W. She and my daughter were at the gym. My younger son's on the way back from Prague (I'd forgotten about that one.) My older son had a real good night out and is still asleep.

I decide I need to change my medication.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Reasons To Be Cheerful (2)

I do a lot of whining about being old and fat, but if I look at things objectively, I can fix the "fat" and as for the "old", well, recently I've started to become aware that there are some benefits.

The people I work for no longer have aspirations to turn me into a Corporate Warrior. As far as I'm concerned I've always been a bass player who has to work as a spreadsheet-jockey to pay the bills; I've spent years fighting off well-meaning buffoons who seemed determined to drag me, squealing piteously, out of my comfort-zone. But now, yay! They've stopped. I need never again fear being sent on those residential training courses where you have to form teams, build bridges across treacherous ravines, light fires by rubbing things together and then use the embers to bake a hedgehog for supper. My boss knows that my main ambitions are limited to getting to Friday night without getting fired and to retire at fifty-five still in possession of my immortal soul, my integrity and all my marbles. (Most of the hair and some of the teeth have gone already, but I can't blame that entirely on the company.)

I got through my mid-life crisis! On my way to work last week I watched the motor-cyclists weaving through the four lanes of stationary traffic that is the rush-hour M25 and realised with a strange mixture of emotions that I DON'T WANT A BIG BIKE ANY MORE! Too fast, too cold, too wet, too fucking scary. I think my hip-joints are too shot to let me get astride anything much anyway. And if I find I need black leather and restricting headgear in my life there's a shop in town that's promised to help me out. All through my forties I didn't buy one single 1950s jukebox, not one Porsche, no Harleys. No adventure holidays involving drinking competitions or parascending, no obsessive exercise regimes involving personal trainers, no weird fad diets based on unlikely combinations of incompatible foodstuffs. Admittedly there was a certain amount of ill-advised sexual activity, and the cost of my resulting divorce would have bought many Kawazakis, but I still reckon I got off lightly.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Captain Pieshop

I looked in the mirror this morning, and my Uncle John looked back at me. He looked better than when I last saw him, which is unsurprising, because when I last saw him he was dead, but he didn’t look that good.

Now it wasn’t that long ago that I could see my jaw-line, as opposed to finding it by pressing firmly with both hands. I gave up smoking a year ago. I’d only been smoking (again) for four years, having given up the last time way back in 1980. I can only think that I decided to restart something as monumentally stupid as sucking tar into me as a kind of death-wish. Having found that I already had high cholesterol and raised blood pressure I obviously concluded that drinking my self to death wasn’t working fast enough. “Hey, uhhh, what else can I do? I know…” It was in the death-throes of my marriage, and fortunately I wasn’t Doing Sex, except occasionally on my own, because it probably would have killed me.

I’m fortunate in that when I put on weight I don’t get a big belly or a massive arse. It’s more like a wet suit made of lard. I can get away with it for a while because I have long legs and very broad shoulders, so as long as I avoid tight-fitting clothing only Sooz and I know that I am in reality Captain Pie-shop.

Anyway, I’m getting married again in August, and the video guy’s already charging a fortune so I’m damned if I’m going to shell out more money for a body double. The head and crotch shots are costing enough. So it’s down to the gym, reducing the beer intake and Counting Those Calories for me. The countdown has begun. On the wildly optimistic scales in the bathroom, I’m 13 stone 7 pounds (189 pounds for the benefit of transatlantic visitors.) Target 160, even if I have to go somewhere I can catch dysentery.

I’ll keep you posted.

Saturday, April 03, 2004

The Great Brickyard Disaster

A new ballad by Matt and Paul Ord, to be sung to the tune of "The Green Fields of Canada"

O! Listen to me all you fine GAELIC paupers,
For this tale I relate, it were well you did heed,
I will sing of one dolorous day in December,
And the brickyard disaster of STEVENAGE town.

‘Twas in the black year of eighteen-forty-four,
When I last bid farewell to old Erin’s bright shore,
When I cried “Fare thee well dear old mother and father,
For it’s ne’er I’ll return to this land anymore!”

The great shame it is mine, who forsook my own nation,
To wander and ramble this wide world around,
Into HERTFORDSHIRE’S county the devil did lead me,
To mine the red clay that lies under the ground.

I was barely three years when I first took to rambling,
And my wee little brother but eighteen months grown,
But we shouldered like men all the bricks we could carry,
In the hellish brick-yards of that dark Saxon shore.

Oh! The men of the brick-yard were starving and dirty,
In their mouths were foul curses more often than meat,
And oft us poor wee-uns they’d try for to capture,
Between slices of bread for to make a scant meal.

In the pits of our oxters great rats made their dwelling,
The foul tempest soon pluck’d all the hair from our heads,
In the seat of our drawers the gray badger and hedgehog
Did nightly contend for our few scraps of bread.

On the rain-befoul’d eve of that dreadful disaster,
In the prickly hedgerow we fitfully slept,
And Oh! What a nightmarish vision assailed me!
What a dire premonition was mine as I drempt!

For it seemed that the stacks of the brick-yard were fallen
On the workers and orphans, and covered them oe’r,
I heard wailing and moaning, and shrieks of vexation,
For the ground was strewn red; not with clay – but with gore!

When I woke with a start in that still early morning,
The skylark and magpie were still in their bed,
And I woke my wee brother with news of my vision;
In the hope of good tidings, to the brick-yard we sped.

How we trembled to look on that sad devastation,
The thing had occurred and was just as I’d drempt!
Almost all had been lost when the brick-yard was buried,
Only I and my brother from that same fate exempt.

So my brother and I, we decided that morning,
To depart from that country, and make no delay,
In the SOUTHAMPTON dock-yards a clipper we boarded,
To renew our lost fortune in AMERICAY.

Friday, April 02, 2004

More War...Good God Y'all

I'm slightly ashamed of myself. I found the website below early this morning before starting work, and slung out a quick post. Then I started thinking about how little I know about WW1. I mean, apart from the bloody awful poetry, it's all a bit of a blur - after all, it was a long time ago, and I was a very young man at the time. (As a matter of fact it's only one of many subjects, many of them much more life-threatening, about which I know fuck-all, but I don't like to think about those, and if I think one of them's going to happen I don't go out.)

Some lunchbreak surfing later, I know a few interesting things. Woodrow Wilson was pretty much elected on an anti-war ticket not long before entering the war, which might explain the "belligerent pacifists"...

When Wilson proposed his "Fourteen Points" on which the Armistice was based, there were objections from:

- the French, who wanted to screw more reparations out of Germany. Ah, the French, like them or loathe them, who can stand them? (Although I suppose when you've had four years of combatants from several different nations shelling your country your claim for money to pay for filling in the holes deserves to be treated sympathetically.)

- the British, who presumably believed that the tactic of having our soldiers walk very slowly towards German heavy machine-guns in broad daylight would pay off in the end. ("If only we'd been allowed to try our Very Secret secret strategy". "The Very Secret secret strategy where we go back to dressing our men in those bright red tunics with the brilliant white cross-webbing?" "Yes, that's the one. Damned shame we didn't have time to try that. And how did you know about it?")

that's all the war (dah dah!) (pause) (hyuh!)
(pause) (pause)
a lunchbreak gives you time for (dah dah!) (hyuh!)
Say it again...

April 2nd 1917

"All day Washington had been in the hands of belligerent pacifists, truculent in manner...a handful of them fell upon Senator Lodge and assaulted him. Others entered the Vice President's room and were so aggressive that they were put out."

They don't make pacifists the way they used to...

Anyway, even for a Brit, this is interesting reading.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Technofear turns to joy

I mentioned before that I was having a stupidy-stupidy-stupid thing with my digital 8-track. Well, I ask you...

"Like its predecessors, the MRS-1266 is a hard disk recorder and a fully integrated digital workstation. Its input and output stages feature 24-bit A/D and D/A converters, while the recording section samples at 44.1kHz (with no compression). Songs can be stored on the 20GB hard drive, or burned to CD-R/RW using the optional CD-R/RW drive."

To which I retort “Well, fuck you, buddy.”

So here’s what I do:

- Walk into music room
- Open guitar case.
- Take out Fender Jazz Deluxe (bright blueburst, pearl scratchplate, bit gay)
- Switch on 500 watt bass rig.
- Plug lead into guitar and amp.
- Turn up gain on amplifier to 8.
- Turn master volume to 8.
- On guitar, turn volume, bass, treble, middle to maximum.
- Play bassline from "(I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea" by Elvis Costello.
- Dog explodes.
- Feel a whole lot better.

I’ll clear it up later.


I'm hurling all my pudgy middle-aged energies into the horror of the divorce process at the moment and awoke a couple of days ago sure in the knowledge that I'd had a sense-of-humour bypass operation while I slept. No doubt I'll scrape together the funds for reconstructive surgery in due course, although I may have to sell one of my livers. Normal service will be resumed, etc., etc.

We apologise for any inconvenience.