Tuesday, December 06, 2005

In Borneo

Great excitement amongst wildlife enthusiasts this week as they've discovered a new species of carnivore in (on?)Borneo. (The in / on thing's been concerning me since the news reports this morning. Presumably on the basis that Borneo's an island the reporter said "on Borneo", but it's a pretty damn big island, so I'm more comfortable with "in Borneo". After all, you don't say "on Australia".)

Anyway, they have a couple of photos of this thing, which is described as being slightly larger than a domestic cat, red in colour, with long back legs and a long fuzzy tail. Sounds completely terrifying to me, but then as you know I'm even unsettled by chipmunks. And the word "carnivore" covers a multitude of sins. If this thing eats slugs and a few mice then I'm comfortable with it, but what if it has a deep-seated urge to feast on human flesh?

And suppose it stows away on a cargo boat bound for old Blighty? I could be happily making my way round the supermarket and the next thing I know some sabre-toothed ginger wallaby has leapt out of the organic bananas and ripped my throat out. These things happen.

Apparently this is the first discovery of its kind since the famous ferret-badger of 1895. They didn't describe the ferret-badger, which I was pleased about because I was upset enough already. Bet the fucker ain't pretty, though.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Thanks Suzie

Thanks to the firm-bodied young accountant's almost complete lack of workload, which gives her ample time to investigate the mysteries of Blogger, I now have some permanent links to other blogs, and will add more soon.

"Morialekafa" is a real find - a retired anthropology professor who has a fine writing style and a reassuring hatred for Bush, Cheney, and all the other faulty human beings we'd like to see loaded into a siege catapult and fired a mile out to sea.

Mmmmm, ample.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Not So Bright

I would dearly love to have permanent links to other blogs, like Libertybob, Tif and others, but I'm too stupid to work out how to set them up in my template. If any of you other Blogger users can give me simple instructions I'll be grateful. As well as better informed.

I'd also like to draw your attention to Suzie Creamcheese's blog. She's a fine big healthy girl, and her heart, like her breasts, is definitely in the right place. Ahem.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Hard Currency

Sooz and I are going to Dorset for the weekend, to visit our friends Dave and Diana who moved to a village called Winterborne Stickland a couple of years ago(thatched cottages, local inn full of colourful rustic types, slight but all-pervading smell of cow-shit, that sort of thing.)

Dave is a cartoon animator by profession, and at the height of his success he worked on Yellow Submarine and Watership Down , amongst other things. He is small, Scottish and a fully paid-up manic-depressive, and as he plays tenor saxophone he has acquired the nickname "Toots", which he bears with dignity and grace. In common with many people who have decided to move to the country, Dave now makes a living doing just about anything he can, including painting cutesy-wootsie murals in kids' bedrooms, teaching saxophone, building work and so on. As he says, "Everyone has their price and at the moment mine is two bob and a pickled egg*."

Diana is bright, sparky, and looks a lot like a Disney fairy godmother (in fact for a while I thought that Dave might have drawn and animated her rather than go out and get a real girlfriend.) She has a tendency to sing Frank Zappa numbers after a few drinks and works as an Anti-Social Behaviour Officer, which means her job is to try and help dissaffected youth(s) to moderate their behaviour before they end up dead or in jail. It's the sort of job that most of us could probably stick at for about fifteen seconds before punching someone in the mouth, so in my book she's as fine a person as Mother Teresa, and a lot more cuddly.

The other reason that I'm going to Dorset is that my guitar-player son Matt has a couple of gigs there, and I've volunteered to drive him. Sooz and I have booked a room at the inn Matt's playing at tonight, so this evening we can have dinner, watch a young white boy playing the blues like an old black man, have a few drinks and crawl straight up to bed. I'm taking my bass with me, so at tomorrow night's gig, after Matt's finished his acoustic blues and ragtime set, Dave and I, plus a few local musicians, will join him for what is likely to turn into a lengthy and drunken jam session.

It promises to be a a good weekend.

* For the benefit of overseas visitors and young people, this is an archaic expression which refers to pre-decimal U.K. currency. Any attempt to explain pre-1971 British currency to a foreigner or even to a Brit born after about 1965 will lead to an embarrassing amount of ribaldry and disbelief, but here goes...

Before we had a system with one pound being equal to one hundred pence, British currency was made up of pounds, shillings and pence, which was naturally abbreviated to "L.S.D." Huh? I know, I know. It gets worse...

There were twenty shillings in a pound and twelve pennies in a shilling and therefore two hundred and forty pence in a pound. In addition there were coins worth a quarter of a penny (known as "farthings"), half a penny (pronounced "haypenny", don't ask me why), three pence (called a "thruppenny bit"), six pence, twelve pence (a shilling), two shillings (called a "florin"), and a coin which was worth two shillings and six pence and called a "half-crown". The "crown" coin, worth five shillings (or a quarter of a pound) was no longer in general circulation even when I was a child, although special occasions sometimes warranted commemorative issues. Paper money started at the ten shilling note which represented serious spending power when I was five years old.

Considering all of the above, the indigenous population of the British isles got along okay with the complexities of the currency, although arithmetic lessons sometimes got a bit tricky, as I recall. We didn't have so many tourists back then and we hated the ones we did have, so the fact that our money system rendered foreigners confused and tearful was regarded as a bonus. The old advertising trick of showing something costing £10 as £9.99 came out in those days as £9 19s 11d. There was also an imaginary unit (no notes or coins)called a "guinea", which was worth one pound and one shilling and was somehow considered to be slightly more upper-class than mere pounds, and used by expensive tailors and the like.

As well as all the above, there were slang words for some of the coins. A sixpence was a "tanner", and (getting perilously close to the point of all this), a shilling was known as a "bob". Like the "quid" for some reason it was always singular, as in "Can you lend me ten bob?" (Poking fun at Americans who say "It cost me fifty quids" remains one of the few pleasures left to the British, so don't tell your friends any of this.)

So...bearing all of the above in mind you will realise that Dave (remember Dave?) is suggesting that he is prepared to work for a very small amount of money indeed. And a pickled egg, of course, which is always worth having.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Singing Mice And Stuff

Scientists have discovered that mice have a much wider vocabulary than previously suspected. Not that they could take a philosophy class or anything, but apparently when you record their squeaking (the mice, not the scientists) using microphones sensitive to very high frequencies and then play the noises back four octaves lower, you get a series of sounds not unlike birdsong. (Why do people say "not unlike", instead of "like"? Is "not unlike" as like "like" as "quite like"? I heard someone say "not unfond" recently, and almost managed to stuff him into a sack with a dozen ravening weasels, but, alas he was oily and wriggled free.

I was surprised that the fact that mice can sing is considered to be newsworthy; after all, they did a perfectly workmanlike job in Disney movies back in the fifties and sixties. I know they had a tendency to pronounce "Cinderella" as "Cinderelly", but I have to say that's really just nitpicking considering that they probably worked for cheese, and being able to persuade your cast and crew to work for dairy products instead of hard cash has always been key to bringing a movie in under budget.

Oh, and the other item of news this week is that David Blunkett has resigned from Tony's Cabinet. Blunkett might be considered to be unfortunate because he's blind, but for the same reason he probably doesn't know how terrifyingly fucking ugly he is, so it balances out.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The News

One of the things that's noticeable when you go to the U.S.A. for the first time, apart from the fact that everything seems familiar because you've already seen it in films and on television, is that your home country ceases to exist as far as news broadcasts are concerned. When I spent a few weeks in upstate New York I quite enjoyed the U.K. news blackout, but I know people who are enraged by Americans' apparent ignorance of and lack of interest in anything outside the U.S. To tell you the truth I'm quite happy for Americans to remain blissfully ignorant about the rest of the world, because when they do decide sit up and take an interest it seems to end in tears. Or carpet-bombing. Or both.

Anyway, despite being innately grumpy I'm a reasonably fair-minded man, and I don't think the average Brit is much more interested in or better informed about the outside world than the average Yank. We don't even really care what happens in France and it's only thirty miles away, and despite paying lip service to all that European Union stuff, the rest of Europe is still, well, just too foreign.

Other Europeans aren't like us, though. We had a German couple (guests at a friend's wedding) staying with us at the weekend; her English was very good. His English was better than mine. They were highly intelligent, well informed about just about everything, and confounded national stereotyping by having a passably decent sense of humour. I don't speak any German, and all I know about the Germans is that they came second in World War Two and in the 1966 World Cup Final and that they've just elected as Chancellor a lady called Angela Merkel. (The "g" is hard, as in "angle".) I've been to Frankfurt once, but it was a business trip, meaning that rather than seeing any of the city I just saw the inside of an airport, a hotel and an office, interspersed with cab rides. All I remember is that Frankfurt airport is a dull place in which to be delayed for four hours and that the cable channel in the hotel had the most disturbingly gynaecological porn movie I've ever seen, which was about as sexually arousing as watching a cow give birth to a two-headed calf. (And if that's your favourite thing please don't tell me.)

Anyhow, back to the news. In case anyone's interested, the U.K. news items on the radio this morning included the following:

- The Government has announced plans to introduce a partial ban on cigarette smoking in public places but has chickened out of a total ban, despite its success in the Republic of Ireland, where tobacco sales have fallen by almost ten percent as a result. In England smoking will not be permitted in pubs which serve food, but will be allowed in premises which don't serve food and in private clubs, so in all likelihood tobacco consumption will not actually reduce but just move from one place to another. Parliamentary opponents of a complete ban have unexpectedly found themselves possessed of a fierce desire to protect the rights and freedoms of the individual. And an equally heart-felt and noble reluctance to place in jeopardy the £8 billion a year the Government collects in tax on cigarettes.

- Ex-Manchester United footballer George Best, famed for his phenomenal talent on the pitch (and enthusiam for alcohol, partying and long-legged blonde ladies off it) is in hospital and at death's door. George had a liver transplant a few years back but due to an oversight was fitted with only one new liver rather than the four or five connected in parallel which he needed to cope adequately with his prodigious consumption of hard liquor.

- Chris Moyles, breakfast-time radio presenter and self-styled "saviour of Radio One" now "attracts" 6.5 million listeners every day. Moyles is a pointless potato-faced twat who, unpleasant even by disc jockey standards, has managed to confound critics by being even more irritating than his Breakfast Show predecessor Sara Cox, herself responsible for more radios being flung through more windows than any other presenter since the birth of public broadcasting. Moyles is famed for being rude to and about just about everyone and everything, and manages to achieve this without once displaying a single spark of empathy, humour, or humanity. It is of course a simple matter to turn off the radio to avoid Moyles; at the time of writing, universal access to a switch which would subject him to a series of excruciatingly painful and ultimately lethal electric shocks remains, disappointingly, just a dream.

- Five hundred years after becoming extinct in the U.K., European beavers are once again living wild in Gloucestershire. Six Bavarian beavers have been released on a five-hundred acre site in the hope that they will breed and establish a self-sufficient colony. Apparently the animals were originally hunted to extinction for their fur and also, to quote the BBC, "for the pain-relieving properties of their anal-gland secretions." I don't really want to speculate on who first discovered these properties or indeed under what circumstances, but if you happen to be walking in the Gloucestershire countryside and see someone with a beaver's arse clamped to his face, give me the benefit of the doubt and assume I've got toothache.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

For Tif

I haven't got much time to write just now, but I knew Tif would be keen to see a photo of the band...

Saturday, September 24, 2005


Thy say the Queen thinks the whole world smells of paint because every time she goes anywhere they redecorate a couple of days before the visit.

I think that the Queen always smells of wee, firstly because she's an old lady and secondly because nobody would ever have the nerve to tell her.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Organ Donors

There was an item on the radio last night concerning the shortage of organs available for transplant; apparently we're not keen on carrying donor cards ourselves and we're also a bit squeamish about the thought of our loved-ones' squidgy bits ending up inside some total stranger. There was a lot of discussion about how to change things, but no conclusion was reached. I have a suggestion.

In exchange for a signature on an organ donor card we give every seventeen-year-old boy in the country a motorbike and just enough tuition to make him over-confident.

"You need a liver? Come into the store-room with me, I'll pick you out a nice one."

Thursday, September 08, 2005


I hadn't been to Turre before, but Sooz had, and apparently it used to be a pleasant little town. Times change.

There's a lot of new building construction in Turre and as buildings going up look a lot like buildings coming down the first impression is that the town's been subjected to sporadic and inaccurate shellfire in the recent past. The air is hot and full of dust, and the skyline is ragged and unfinished and cross-hatched with cranes. Even half-finished, you can tell that the buildings aren't going to be pretty, although compared with most of the others along the Avenida de Almeria they don't have much to beat.

The supermarket shelves are stacked with HP sauce and Cup-a-Soup (although Sugar Puffs have been renamed "Globs", which is cheering for some reason I can't quite put my finger on.) Trolleys are being sulkily pushed round by grumpy fat blokes wearing Arsenal tops or by scrawny blondes with Croydon Facelifts*, big hoop earrings and those thong-height spinal tattoos which seem to be compulsory on stupid ugly loudmouthed women. One has a tattoo of a Smurf: classy. They communicate with each other by gobbling in a Sahf Lahndun dialect so untroubled by consonants that it could almost be Chinese, as in "I goh'ah noo tah'oo." They communicate with the checkout operators through a series of gestures and grunts. The Spaniards are poker-faced and surly, and who can blame them?

Some of these people are tourists, but most are expatriates who have sold up back home and have moved to Turre because property's cheap, it doesn't rain much and because there are so many other Brits you could spend the rest of your life without ever having to speak a single word of Spanish. Believe me, there is no other reason for wanting to live in Turre.

Our apartment is a couple of miles out of town and has a nice view of the Sierra Cabrera (on the far side of the inevitable golf course.) You can sit on the terrace with a beer and watch the moon come up over the hills, oblivious to the fact that Eastern European crooks have broken into an apartment at the other end of the block and are stripping it bare.

*For the benefit of my occasional Transatlantic visitors it is perhaps necessary to explain that a "Croydon Facelift" is the term used to describe the facial expression caused by wearing the hair in a dangerously tight ponytail, leading to the appearance of inexpertly performed cosmetic surgery and popularised by women in Croydon, a town in the South of England a visit to which is guaranteed to make you feel a surge of affection for your own town, no matter where you live. I would venture to suggest that a weekend in Croydon would even make Libertybob feel a measure of warmth towards Chicago.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Holiday Reading

I probably shouldn't confess to this, but on the basis that I may save someone from wasting time, I have to confess that last week, in a spirit of curiosity, I tried to read The Da Vinci Code. I'd already heard that it was poorly written, and while I'm nowhere near well enough educated to aspire to being a literary snob I have trouble with stuff that's clumsily put together. I'd also heard that it was worth persevering because of the "interesting" revelations and all that bollocks, so I thought I'd give it a go.

I was uneasy from the start, because any novel which introduces the character of a masochistic red-eyed albino assassin monk in the first chapter is unlikely to turn out to be Great Literature. By the time I got to the discussion of the multitude of significant hidden references to female spirituality in the work of Walt Disney my main regret was that the copy I was reading belonged to someone else so I couldn't throw it in the pool.

So for what it's worth, my opinion is pretty much as follows: clumsy prose, laughable one-dimensional characters, superficial research, complete lack of any wit or humour, predictable "revelations". On the plus side, uhhh, no, there isn't a plus side. To sum up in the words of the late Bill Hicks, "Piece of shit. Walk away."

I walked away. I didn't finish it. I neither know nor care What Happens At The End, nor do I want anyone to tell me the identity of The Teacher. Someone commented on a radio book programme that Dan Brown has "succeeded in lowering the bar when it comes to writing a novel", and that means that Suzie Creamcheese will probably now be encouraged to finish her book and find a publisher, and quite honestly a world where that can happen isn't one I want to live in.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Flight

As you probably know, these days the police in London are allowed to shoot you in the head for just looking a bit shifty, so when they made the usual announcement about turning off mobile phones before the flight I didn't argue, particularly as it's not that long since most terrorists had accents like mine, and also because a few minutes before, the X-ray machine had spotted that my step-daughter was trying to smuggle a weapon onto the plane, in the form of a corkscrew with a little knife-blade attachment. Fortunately she's young, white, blonde and posh, so the authorities felt it wasn't necessary to kill any of us.

I don't really understand the concern over mobiles; airlines are always reassuring us about safety, to the extent that I firmly believe that the systems are so sophisticated that pilots are only really there to tell jokes and flirt with the cabin crew. Navigation? Plane steers itself. Forget all that following railway lines stuff, type in "Almeria" and you can do the Guardian crossword and then doze off for a couple of hours. Landings in poor visibility? No problem, computers do all that. I'll bet if I had a tenner for every pilot who's "landed" a plane with a stewardess sitting on his face I'd be a wealthy man. Or at least I'd have several tenners.

Get a phone call from your mother, however, and within seconds you'll be plummeting towards the Pyrenees wishing that know-all friend of yours hadn't explained to you that the "brace" position is only used because it's easier to identify bodies that have still got their heads on.

Uneventful flight, though. No drunks, no screaming babies, no praying nuns. Being Easyjet of course there was also no legroom, no in-flight movie and no free meal. On balance, though, I'm happy to pay five Euros for a slightly sweaty chicken baguette as long as they spend the profits on basic maintenance.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

A Whole Month

It's been over a month since I wrote anything on here, partly because I've been on holiday in Spain for two weeks and partly because to take two weeks holiday requires me to work like a five-year-old in a Nike factory for two weeks before that.

But Spain was an interesting mixture of good, bad and ok and I'll tell you about it within the next couple of days.

Friday, July 29, 2005

The Deal

As an Northern Irishman myself I have always felt entitled to indulge in what I would describe as "forthright" comment on the behaviour of my lying, cruel, cowardly, secretive, self-pitying, ungrateful, whining, greedy, backward, whey-faced, morally bereft fellow-countrymen, but today, the day after the I.R.A.'s announcement that it has given up murdering people in cold blood, I can only wish them well.

I wonder what has led this bunch of roguish, rosy-cheeked, twinkly-eyed assassins to arrive at their momentous decision? I can't see that there's been any real progress in terms of Ulster politics, although as it's a place where "progress" translates as "not going backwards as fast as usual", I might be failing to pick up on some of the subtleties of the situation.

Many times over the last couple of years I've tried to work out Tony Blair's rationale for supporting Bush in Vietraq; Bush's agenda was crystal-clear - after the September 11th attacks Someone Had To Be Seen To Pay, and although nobody believed Saddam was involved he was unpopular, virtually unarmed and not quite white. I don't go for the Iraqi Oil conspiracy theory - it ascribes to the U.S. administration far more guile than I believe them capable of.

But what was in it for Blair? The decision to take the country to war made him deeply unpopular at home and in the rest of Europe. Surely he must have made A Deal?

So that's it, I reckon. "George, old chum, we'll back you up in Iraq if you stop funding the I.R.A. and if they step out of line you have to let us fuck 'em up. We might even have to give Dublin a bit of a seeing-to. A sort of slight carpet bombing kind of thingy. How's that sound? All right with you, that's great. And can you make sure they know we've made this deal? That'd be lovely. Thanks, mate."

Could be completely wrong, of course. Anyway, apparently the lads are going to "de-commission" their weapons (whatever that means) although apparently they won't allow the process to be filmed or photographed because that would be "humilating", and of course it would be.

Their spokesman declined to comment on whether it would be more or less humiliating than having to hire someone to wipe your arse for you because your hands have been blown off by an I.R.A. bomb.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

July 27th 2005

If my Dad hadn't had a dodgy ticker which dropped him in his tracks for good way back in 1986, he'd have been ninety years old today, probably still drinking too much whisky and wandering about singing "Minnie The Moocher". I'm absolutely sure that I was the only five-year-old in the village of Saintfield, County Down, Northern Ireland who'd heard of Cab Calloway, and much good it did me.

My Dad was an intelligent, kind and strikingly ugly man, who looked a lot like Quentin Blake's drawings of Roald Dahl's Big Friendly Giant, although he wasn't thirty feet tall, which was fortunate as it would have made his career as a teacher pretty much impossible. Before going into teaching he had served in the Middle East and Africa in the Pioneer Corps, which left him with admiration for the African tribes of Basutoland, a profound dislike of Egyptians and the ability to swear in Arabic, which came in handy when stray dogs got into the garden and crapped in the flowerbeds.

I'd only just grown out of thinking my Dad was a buffoon when he went and died, and I have a lot of regret that I know so little about his life as a child and as a young man. He was a teenager during the Depression of the thirties and the family moved from the North of England to London to try to find work. On the outbreak of war he joined the Army, reaching the rank of Captain and meeting Sergeant Sarah McMillan of the ATS, who ended up as my mother, was eighty-five years old last month, and is also, I know, thinking about him today.

Happy Birthday, Dad. We miss you.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Bent u zekere Greta bent geen travestiet?

You know I wouldn't lie to you, so I know you'll believe me when I tell you that I spent last weekend at the U.K.'s First International Boogie-Woogie Piano Festival. As it's a bit of a minority interest here, musicians and audience could be crammed into the village hall at Fontnell Magna, Dorset, later spilling over into the local pub, where much Woogie-ing and consumption of foaming ale continued into the early hours.

I've never had much time for the piano, believing that musical instruments should be things that you can pick up and cuddle; playing the piano has always seemed to me too much like sitting at a machine and pushing buttons. (The fact that it's a lot harder to play than the bass guitar might also have something to do with my inability to get to grips with it.) Were it not for the fact that my friend Matthew is a keyboard player and was keen to go to check out the opposition I'd probably have given the festival a miss.

Anyway, I can tell you that those Boogie-Woogie chaps are fiercely competitive and one of them was pretty damned funny for a German. They also show off almost as much as rock musicians, although playing the piano with your teeth or behind your head is not really an option. You could set it on fire, of course, but you'd need a lot of lighter-fluid to get a really satisfying blaze going.

Interestingly, apart from one Brit most of the performers were from the European mainland; two pianists from the Netherlands, one from Germany ("Now I vill tell you ze joke about ze muzzer of my vife, yes?"), and one from (I think) Belgium, plus a Dutch vocalist called Greta, who was so tall, so blonde, so pretty, with such big hair and such a sparkly frock that I assumed she was a transvestite until I got up close and took a good look at the hands and the adam's-apple. I'm fairly sure she was a girl.

After a couple of hours of Boogie-Woogie I had to suppress a desire to leap onto the stage and slam the piano lid down on the wrists of the musician, but by downing many pints of muscle relaxant and breathing deeply I was able to recover my sang-froid.

A little of that stuff goes a hell of a long way.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005


There were traffic delays last night on the way home, caused by three out of four lanes being blocked by a multiple pile-up involving a truck and at least five cars. The damage didn't look that bad; the cars appeared to have been shortened rather than wrecked, so I had the luxury of being able to get angry without having to feel really sorry for anyone.

As some of you already know, tailgating is one of my pet hates. It's worse than purely aggressive driving, somehow, although I'm not all that keen on that kind of stuff either. It's the sheer bloody stupidity of it that gets to me. Sometimes I watch cars in the next lane travelling twenty feet apart at ninety and my scrotum takes on the texture of corduroy.

How can they drive so close, so fast, and yet be so relaxed? What goes through their heads, I wonder? (Apart from the tailgate of the car in front, potentially.) I need Libertybob's Mindiacs to get behind the prominent eyebrow-ridges of those pointed little skulls and let me know how they think, but in the meantime I can only guess:

(1) "I'm driving a BMW M3, and not only have I been blessed with great teeth and fairly large genitalia, I also have reflexes on a par with a cross between a striking cobra and Ralph Schumacher. And my car has great brakes. And if I drop back any further then another car will cut in front and I'll have to drop back even more which means that I'll actually be going backwards. Probably.

(2) "I'm driving a Volvo, which as everyone knows is not constructed out of Coke cans flattened out like ordinary cars, but rather from the stuff they use to make flight recorders in aeroplanes, and therefore capable of withstanding an impact equivalent to hitting the ground at six hundred miles an hour, so rear-ending a Fiat Uno at eighty is no big deal. For me, at least."

(3) "I'm driving a Range Rover, which means that I'm an imbecilic thirty-year-old blonde with nice tits and the ability to suck the chrome off a trailer-hitch, which is why my husband has rewarded me with this huge vehicle. As it's twice as high and three times as heavy as anything I'm likely to hit I'll probably be safe. So far this year I've already been involved in four serious accidents all of which were my fault, but due to my husband's immense wealth I'm immune to prosecution."

Anyway, these people are obviously far too stupid to work out that they're driving dangerously without help. Obviously if I had my way then ideally I'd like to have them killed, because let's face it, nobody's going to miss them. However, I'm all too aware that, due to my childhood being spent in Belfast, many of my views are seen as inhumane, so I'd compromise and settle for a forward-facing speed-sensitive distance sensor which makes an irritating noise when you're driving too close for the speed you're doing. (Some people might argue that many cars are already equipped with such a device, but not everyone has a wife or girlfriend.)

Oh, hi Soozie. Ow.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Wah-ooo! Squirrels Of Surrey (2)

We have to give some thought to both positioning and timing. Lily The West Highland Terrier is a dog whose grip on reality is fragile at the best of times, as she demonstrates each time she tries to bite an aeroplane on its way into Gatwick, believing it to be Small, Slow and Near rather than Big, Fast and Far Away. If she's confronted with a helpless squirrel in a wire cage she'll have some sort of excitement-induced seizure, particularly if Soozie and I are both at work and unable to intervene. We decide that if we position the trap on the (flat) garage roof then Lily may not notice.

The other thing is that I don't like the thought of the squirrel being trapped in the cage from eight-thirty in the morning until six-thirty in the evening while we're away from the house, even if the little bastard almost killed my wife, so we agree that we won't set the trap until Monday morning, because I'm working at home then so I'll be able to give the captive rodent my immediate attention. (Note to self: check if squirrels are rodents. They're definitely not fish, insects, birds or lizards. And not marsupials either. After that it gets trickier.)

Seven a.m. on Monday morning I bait the trap with peanut butter and pistachio nuts and put it on the garage roof. I go up to my office and start working. After about half an hour Soozie comes in. "We've got one," she says. "and he's not happy."

I don't know what I expected, really. I suppose I thought that the animal would be sitting quietly looking sulky and waiting to be allowed a phone call to its lawyer or something, but what I see when I go down and look at the cage is this frantic ball of fury hurling itself against the wire mesh, and attacking it with its teeth. It's already covered with blood and getting more hysterical by the minute. I decide I have to let it go straight away, but I'm determined to get at least some value for the £15.99 I paid for the trap, so I put on a pair of gardening gloves in case the squirrel tries to maul me, and put the cage in the car.

I drive to Redhill Common and park. Parents and young children are walking past the car on their way to St. John's school, and I have to stand in front of the car boot so that they don't see that I have a blood-soaked animal in a trap. The sight of a burly bald bearded man with a guilty expression loitering near a school causes the parents to look at me with deep suspicion. When they've gone I hurriedly grab the trap and walk into to the edge of the woods, open the door and watch the squirrel streak off into the trees without a backward glance.

I get back to the house. Soozie's just about to leave for work. She looks at the empty trap which still has blood and pieces of squirrel-lip all over the wire. She looks at me. We can't use the trap again, can we?" she says. "No, Soozie," I reply, "we can't."

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Wah-ooo! Squirrels Of Surrey.

We've been having trouble with squirrels recently. Actually it's Soozie who's having the problem, as she's the real gardener in the relationship. I only like the kind of gardening that consists entirely of reclining on a sun-lounger with a beer, while Soozie embraces what I have come to call Full Contact Gardening, which involves a lot of heaving heavy sacks about, digging and nurturing things. She loves the little plants she raises and gets upset if they fail to flourish.

Anyway, due to some mysterious shift in the balance of nature in the Redhill area, this year we have lots more squirrels than usual and they have become emboldened to the point of insolence. At some point I fear they may begin to feast on human flesh, but so far the little bastards have merely developed a taste for running along our fence and flinging themselves onto the hanging baskets, where they wreak havoc.

(Interesting word, "wreak". It only gets used together with the word "havoc", and "havoc" only gets used with "wreak". You don't say "where they do havoc." The only other time we use "wreak" is in its past tense, as in "wrought-iron". But I digress.)

Back to the squirrels. I don't know why they like the baskets, but the end result is that they dig up all Soozie's baby petunias, exposing their little infant roots and killing them. In principle Soozie's kind to animals, but in practice if those squirrels were a fraction slower there'd be a pile of furry carcasses from one end of the garden to the other. We can't get them. Nobody I know owns a gun, and actually Im not sure I could do it - a clean kill would be all right, I suppose, but the thought of winging one and having to listen to its whimpering death-throes doesn't do a lot for me. In any case I have a strong Belfast accent and people who sound like me have ended up in a police cell with a black bag over their heads for a lot less than waving a shotgun about.

One morning a couple of weeks ago I was at work and Soozie phoned. "They've done it again." she squealed piteously. "And I had an idea and I thought that if I put chilli powder round the baskets it would make the squirrels sneeze and put them off so I sprinkled the powder but I was so upset about my dead petunias that I was crying and I rubbed my eyes and I had chilli powder on my hands and it went in my eyes and it really hurt and my eyes were watering on top of the tears and I had to drive to work and I couldn't see properly and I could have been killed." She paused to take a breath. "I COULD HAVE DIED BECAUSE OF A FUCKING SQUIRREL!"

So at the weekend we buy a "humane" squirrel trap. It's a wire mesh box with a spring-loaded door connected to a little plate inside where you put the bait, the idea being that the squirrel's weight trips the spring and the door shuts. Then you take the trapped squirrel for a long car ride and release it indignant but unharmed. This assumes that the average squirrel has a poor homing instinct and therefore will be unable to hitchhike back to your garden in a couple of days. Anyway, who'd stop their car for a squirrel? Nobody, that's who, not even if it was heavily pregnant.

to be continued...

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Old Bass Players Never Die. Right?

After many long weeks I have a little spare time to write something. I feel under a little pressure to make it good, not having written anything on here for so long, but I'm not going to let it worry me too much.

It's about 6:40pm, and I'm in the office. I'm still here because I'm going to meet up with a friend for a beer at 8:00pm and I live too far from the office for it to be sensible to go home first. I could fill the intervening time with corporate warrior stuff, but bollocks to that, frankly.

I'm meeting Joe (the friend) at The Red Lion. Joe's an interesting person. He's a great guitar player. He plays left-handed, and for a reason. Joe used to play right-handed. Did everything right-handed I suppose, although I did't know him then. Then, when he was in his early twenties, Joe suffered a severe brain hemorrhage, severe enough to significantly affect the motor function on the left side of his body. He recovered, but the dexterity of his left hand was permanently impaired, and he could no longer play the guitar. Rather than decide to give up playing, Joe taught himself to play left-handed, which I think is interesting because it proves that the skill is not in your fingers, but in your head.

There's a band playing at The Red Lion tonight, the Grapevine Blues Band. A few years back, when I was between bands and they were looking for a bass player, Grapevine were quite keen for me to join them. It didn't get as far as the audition stage, so they might not have hired me anyway, but I told them I wasn't interested. The reason was that Grapevine are quite a successful outfit. They all have day-jobs, but they quite often do mini-tours, when they head off to Italy or Holland for a few days, playing in blues clubs.

The realisation that after years of wanting to do that kind of stuff I had reached a stage in my life where I found the very idea of it exhausting made me profoundly depressed, but then, as some of you know, I am of a melancholy disposition.

Hey ho.

Monday, May 23, 2005


Very soon. I'll write something very soon...

Thursday, April 21, 2005


The company I work for has two offices I visit from time to time. One is full of sales people, the other full of design engineers. They are, unsurprisingly, very different types of people, and I've summarised them as follows.

Design people:
- Sandals
- Facial hair
- Asperger's Syndrome
- Dungeons & Dragons

Sales people:
- Aftershave
- Cufflinks
- Overconfidence
- Snowboarding holidays

Feel free to add to this list should you wish.


Not dead, only sleeping.

Dormant, in fact. And that's started a whole train of thought as to whether a dormant is like a dormouse, but an ant.

Someone help me.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Things That Make Me Realise I Need To Get Out More

Thing Number One:
Someone told me that you should always cut up those plastic things that join four cans of beer together because otherwise when you throw out the plastic things that join four cans of beer together, wild animals can get their cute little paws and noses caught in the loops and die. With the amount of beer I drink I could unwittingly be responsible for wiping out the entire badger population of the Home Counties, so I religiously cut up the plastic things that join four cans of beer together before I put them in the bin.

That's not the worrying part. The worrying part is that I've become obsessed with cutting through all of the loops with one deft stroke of the scissors. There are up to nine loops to deal with; the four large rings which hold the beer cans plus four triangular holes and one sort of lozenge-shaped one in the middle. My technique is to twist the plastic thing that joins four cans of beer together into a strange and other-worldly shape and then cut. So far the best I've managed is two cuts. But I will prevail.

Thing Number Two

I've just been considering going onto Google and trying to find out the official name for plastic things that join four cans of beer together. There must be one, in a catalogue or somewhere. When salesmen gather at beer conventions it must come up in conversation all the time. Fortunes have no doubt been made and lost during the race to develop a lighter, cheaper and altogether sexier plastic thing that joins four cans of beer together. Beer magnates probably have different words for the variants in the way that Inuits have for snow or people who live in the country have for animal poo.

Thing Number Three
I find I'm sitting here in the house on my own sniggering to myself at the way "beer can" sounds like a Rastafarian saying "bacon".

I have to go now. Nurse says it's time for my nap.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Pillow Talk

In this week's local paper there's an article about a "Christian" group which has organised a petition to try to close down "Pillow Talk", a sex shop in my town. I've never been in the shop but it's not far from where I live and I drive past it quite often. I suppose it's just possible that inside the shop is the stuff of nightmare. There may be things on sale in there that would either make you chew off your own head in disgust or cause you to fall to the floor in a paroxysm of uncontrollable self-pleasuring, I have no way of knowing. I can say, though, that the window display is about as obscene as Marks and Spencer's underwear department. There are a couple of dummies wearing negligees (I admit the panties may well be split-crotch; it's a difficult thing to check out while driving at forty miles an hour, unless of course they're worn by your front-seat passenger. Ah, the memories.)

Anyway, it seems the axe the "church group" has to grind is that this shop window can be seen from the Y.M.C.A. across the road, and that "the presence of the store would cause distress to already vulnerable people living there." So, explain the "distress" thing to me, would you? I can see that if you're living in the Y.M.C.A. and not having sex with anyone except yourself the sight of a mannequin in a nightie might serve to remind you of your plight, but speaking from personal experience, if you've been unwillingly celibate for a while you don't actually need anything to remind you because you never think about anything else anyway. And if these people are worried that young people will be enflamed by the window display I would like to remind them that masturbation is unarguably unique amongst life's pleasures in that there is absolutely no downside so long as you've plenty of Kleenex; let's face it, if it was possible to wank yourself to death most of us wouldn't have made it past fifteen.

What really enrages me is that this church group, like so many others, are hijacking Christianity for their own purposes. They may well all have accepted the Lord Jesus into their lives, but what defines and unites them is not that they are Christians, but that they are joyless bigots with little black piggy eyes and mouths like dogs' arseholes. They are unnerved by sexual activity (although I suspect they have a secret leaning towards sado-masochism) and they regard the sight of their ugly twitching socially inadequate children as proof that no good can come of sexual congress.

They cling to a strange logic all their own: it goes "I believe this thing to be wrong; I believe in Jesus Christ. Therefore Jesus Christ believes this thing to be wrong." To which I respond lightly "I believe I hate bigots. Fuck you. And I believe if Jesus returned to Earth tomorrow he'd say "Fuck you" too."

Thankfully I can tell you, based on experience, that there are Christians who are enthusiastic in embracing the knowledge that being a Christian is entirely compatible with rock 'n' roll music, occasional mild and non-violent drunkenness, saying "fuck" quite a lot and shagging like a demon. I can tell you this because I'm married to one, and while there are things that cause her moral outrage, the fact that shops selling amusingly-shaped things made out of flesh-coloured latex continue to trade unmolested is not one of them.

Praise the Lord.

Thursday, February 03, 2005


The last time I apologised on here I got a comment from someone (whose name escapes me, thankfully) berating me for not apologising for being European and also for not being grateful enough to the U.S. for protecting my:

sexual orientation
arse (see above)
children (real and step-)
freedom to vote in democratic elections and worship at the church of my choice
domestic animals
precious bodily fluids

So I apologise again with more than a little trepidation.

It's been weeks since I wrote anything on here, partly because I usually write most of my stuff at work, and considering that my job's about as meaningful and rewarding as nailing jelly to a plank, it's been strangely busy. The company I work for is going through a tough time, so the perceived wisdom is to run about squealing and doing lots of stuff. Any stuff. (To borrow the Titanic analogy, "Well, we tried rearranging the deckchairs but we're still sinking. Hey, let's paint the funnels a different colour, see if that helps.")

Also, most of my spare time has been spent trying to help my older son with his career in music, as he finishes at university this year and has belatedly realised that in June he'll be on the streets clutching a second-class degree in philosophy and staring a day-job in the face, so I'm doing a lot of mailing, CD-burning (copying, not fundamentalist protesting), going to gigs and so on.

Anyway, that's why the Zone's been quiet lately. Sorry.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Decisions, decisions...

There's so much good stuff in the news at the moment it's hard to know where to start.

We've got Disgusting Michael Howard, leader of Her Majesty's Opposition, shamelessly sucking up to crime-obsessed Daily Mail readers and campaigning for a change in the law so that it will be legal for righteous homeowners to overpower burglars and feed them into their blenders, or something.

We've got Prince Harry, the charmless half-witted younger son of Chuck and Dopey Di, dressing as a Nazi at a fancy-dress party and being pilloried in the press for his "insensitivity". (Good job his Bin Laden outfit was in the wash.)

We've got Tony Blair and his Chancellor Gordon Brown engaged in a weird little hissy whispering campaign against each other, which is, frankly, no way to win an election, even if your opponent is the aforementioned and thankfully unelectable Disgusting Michael Howard.

And we've had real weather for the last couple of days, with flooding and winds of up to 120 miles per hour, which makes for great television, especially as it's happening in places like Northern Ireland and Scotland which we Home Counties types don't really care about.

And it was with great satisfaction that I listened to the report about the luxury cruise liner Aurora which developed engine trouble a few miles out of Southampton, which meant that a bunch of rich people have spent forty thousand quid apiece to sit staring at the Isle of Wight for a week.


I shall expand on some or all of these in due course...

Monday, January 10, 2005


I don't know what to make of this, but it's all true...

If I wake up during the night and have to go downstairs to get a drink of water, the instant my foot hits the third stair from the bottom, what hair I have on the back of my neck stands up, and my skin crawls. It doesn't get any worse, and I don't see or hear anything spooky-wooky-wooky, but it happens every time, and now if I wake during the night I usually decide to stay thirsty. (Yes, I know I could bring a glass of water up with me when I go to bed, but that's not the point, and you know it.)

And there's more: I was working at my computer a couple of weeks ago. It was about five pm, so it was dark outside. I had headphones on, so I was a little isolated from the world, as it were, but out of the corner of my eye I saw my step-daughter Cassie come into the office. What was strange, though, was that she ducked down under the desk behind me (there are two desks in my home office.) I turned around, thinking that she was fooling around, and (you've probably guessed this one already) there was nobody there.


Maybe it's acid flashbacks from the 70s. And I thought I'd got away with it.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

David's medication had successfully reduced his cholestrol levels; however there were one or two side-effects the drug company had neglected to list on the box. Posted by Hello