Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Last Post

Although possessed by a melancholy end-of-year world-weariness I thought I'd better post something, particularly as this is my penultimate day in the office in 2006 and my broadband connection at home, thanks to what my ISP laughingly described as an "upgrade",has been rendered somewhat erratic.

Thirteen posts in a year falls squarely between "feeble" and "pathetic" on the enthusometer, especially compared with 2004, when I began blogging - why, bless me, the posts are too numerous to count!

I think what's happened is the my day-job has become steady, rather than insanely busy one minute and slack the next. I preferred the latter state of affairs; adrenalin tends to help you over the peaks and the troughs are good for buying guitars on eBay, checking out the occasional piece of genuine amateur girl-on-girl action (as I believe it's called) and, of course, writing.

The other more worrying possibility is that now I've decided to take writing seriously I won't be able to do it. Earlier in the year I decided that as my job was driving me insane I would retire early (at age 55) and to that end I would have to create a body of work of a high enough standard to submit for publication. Since then I've hardly managed to write a thing, good or bad, although on the plus side the need for displacement activity has meant that my bass playing has improved. Perhaps I should decide to become a professional bass player in the hope that I'd begin to write again.

Anyway, I've had a bit of a shock recently. I'm not sure who was responsible, as nobody will own up, but a book called "The Know" by Martina Cole appeared in the house recently. I'd never read anything by Cole and was only vaguely aware of the name, but apparently she's a best-selling author who's sold millions of books. Her plots are, as I understand it, usually about drug addicts, prostitutes, criminals and other assorted low-lifes ("The Know" is about hookers, pimps and paedophiles).

The subject matter's not an issue for me, although it's not the knd of stuff that really interests me, but what completely stunned me was Cole's total inability to write. I raised the subject with Suzie Creamcheese, who, despite being justifiably feted for her magnificent breasts, is a surprisingly erudite and well-read young lady. When I got there she was busy, but, because of my obvious agitation, agreed to see me.

"You have no idea!" I squealed. "Martina Cole is the worst writer I've ever come across."
" Worse than Dan Brown?" she murmured, letting the lifeless form of the tiny jockey who'd been pleasuring her drop from between her moist thighs.

"Martina Cole makes Dan Brown read like John fucking Steinbeck." I cried, stepping over the crumpled dwarf and permitting myself a sly glance at her steaming genitalia. "I'm confused! I always thought there were people who were clever and read books and then there were other people who were stupid and watched crap television shows instead! But there must be stupid people who read books as well as watch crap television shows! What does it mean?"

Suzie opened the drawer of a filing cabinet and took out another jockey, still shrink-wrapped. "It means", she pouted, "that, when their T.V.'s been repossessed, some stupid people get so bored that they try reading. And when they try reading they feel more comfortable if the book's such an unadulterated piece of shit that they could have written it themselves."

She began to peel the tiny equestrian. "You'll have to excuse me. I bought a six-pack of these little chaps yesterday and they'll have gone off by tomorrow. Now where did I put those AA batteries?"

As I left I heard a shriek of triumph, a buzzing and, after a pause, the faintest of moans, uttered by whom and whether of pleasure or despair it was impossible to tell.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Today at Stormont

Interesting times in Northern Ireland today, where the two main political parties were supposed to nominate their representatives for the posts of "First Minister" and "Deputy First Minister" in the stalled devolved governmental assembly. The nominees were expected to be the Reverend Ian Paisley, leader of the DUP and Martin McGuinness, leader of Sinn Fein.

Paisley has loomed like a malevolent ogre over Northern Irish politics since I was a child. A fundamentalist Christian, he has risen to power supported by those who see negativity and intransigence as a virtue in a country where compromise is essential. His bigotry is the stuff of legend (he once put forward the view that The Pope was the antichrist). The thought that this demented cleric could rise to power says much about the lunacy of the Northern Ireland Protestant electorate and proves that they would vote for a monkey as long as it was wearing an Orange sash. Ian Paisley is determined that Northern Ireland should remain part of the United Kingdom.

McGuinness is no better. A convicted terrorist, he is consistently sulky and self-righteous, steadfastly refusing to acknowledge that republicans can ever be in the wrong. He is an enthusiastic embracer of The Holocaust Excuse (which states that any behaviour, however evil, can be justified by referring to wicked acts carried out against the perpetrators in the past.) Interrogated on the concept of "terrorism" following the September 11th attacks, he stated that the I.R.A. were not terrorists, but rather "patriots who made some mistakes", which no doubt came as great comfort to the burned, blinded, faceless, legless and bereaved. Martin McGuinness is determined that Northern Ireland will become part of the Republic of Ireland.

That these two buffoons can prosper in Northern Ireland is proof if proof were needed that the Northern Irish are entirely unfit to govern themselves, and why they're allowed to vote is a mystery to me. The only light relief in today's sorry proceedings was when lovable old Michael Stone strolled into into the government building at Stormont with a knife, a gun, a bomb and a specially trained genetically-engineered carnivorous giraffe off its tits on crystal meth and thirsting for Catholic blood. I'm not completely sure about the giraffe, to tell you the truth.

How Stone, who was jailed in 1988 for the cold-blooded murder of three Catholics at an I.R.A. funeral but released as part of the Good Friday Agreement, and clearly ought to be not only heavily sedated but permanently manacled to a large and immovable object in a padded cell, was able to get into a building full of prominent politicians beggars belief, bearing mind that in the rest of the U.K. the police apparently have carte blanche to shoot people dead for just being brown.

Anyway, to paraphrase a politician who's name for the moment escapes me, overheard settling, exhausted, into his aeroplane seat after his first visit to Belfast. "What a bloody awful place. I need a drink."

Monday, August 21, 2006

Literary Form And Stuff

I joined an online writers' forum a few weeks ago. It's called The Write Idea. Yes, I know, but then it could have been called Write Oh, Write On, Write Up Your Alley, or even, conceivably, Waiting For Mr. Write. Which isn't such a bad idea, actually. I'm sure people on the forum do get off with each other occasionally, and on the basis that a poem about fellatio has had 370 views and 63 replies so far, they're obviously a pretty frisky bunch.

One of the regular topics in the forum is to do with poetic form. Every fortnight one of the members comes up with a type of poem which has a particular meter, rhyme scheme or both, and other menbers have a go at writing a poem in that form. Some of the results are pretty good, actually, but I find myself inexplicably irritated by the whole idea.

It may just be that I'm intensely lazy, which I undoubtedly am, but I think that it's because, not being a poet myself, I feel that they should more properly be putting their energies into quaffing tumblers of absinthe while deflowering milkmaids or shepherd boys (according to gender and / or orientation) and other poet type stuff rather than having to worry about sets of instructions. For example:

"Capital letters denote identical lines.
Lower case letters denote rhyming lines.
(A and A’ are non-identical lines that rhyme with each other).


That's a terzanelle, by the way. Is it really? Well I never.

I mentioned this to my son, who despite being a professional musician is also of a literary bent. "This has nothing to do with writing!" I whined. "It has as much to do with poetry as doing a crossword! Or Scrabble!"

"I had a go at the ottava rima a while ago." he said. "I got into the rhythm of it after a while. I quite enjoyed it. And if you're planning to write this up try not to piss people off too much."

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Road Trip

Unlike most Irishmen, who in my experience tend to come with a dangerously large helping of recklessness built-in, I've never been a natural risk-taker. I've always tried pretty hard to fend off spontaneity but sometimes it just creeps up from behind and starts humping your leg. As a result of carelessly lowering my guard in the Tourism Center in Dublin a couple of months ago, Sooz and I will soon be spending five days touring Ireland, Dublin to Dingle and back, crammed into a Landrover with two drivers and half a dozen total strangers.

I have a few concerns. At least one of our fellow-travellers could well turn out to be, if not exactly clinically insane, then at the very least the sort of bloke who drinks pints of Old Stoats' Scrotum and spends weekends with a group of chums re-enacting the Battle of Naseby. Other more likely other options for fellow-travellers, however, are Iowans in search of their roots, couples in matching cagoules who call each other "poppet", and of course, people who have decided that they quite like the idea of a road trip but also realise that their days of piloting the VW Microbus to Katmandu are over. People a bit like us, in fact.

Anyway, in an attempt to get slightly more grown-up about my writing, and spurred on by sporadic nagging from both Sooz (in person) and Toad (who sends me emails saying encouraging things like "write something, you arse") I've decided to keep a travel log and try to turn the trip into some kind of article - at the moment I'm trying to interest some magazines and newspapers in the idea, but haven't exactly been swamped with offers so far.

And, looking on the bright side, if the others on the trip are annoying enough I might even get a murder mystery out of it.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Return Of The Man Who Never Came Back

It's been over three months since I wrote anything on here. It would be nice to be able to report that it's because I've been finishing my novel (which will probably happen sometime after I start it, I suppose), or at the very least that I'm unable to get to the computer not only because I'm quite drunk but also because Susan Sarandon's sitting on my face. Alas, no.

No, it's all been down to a combination of Work and Beer, I'm afraid. Work which stresses me out and gnaws away at what passes for my immortal soul, and Beer, which seems to help with the stress but saps my will to do anything except hit the sofa and watch terrible TV. I've even taken to watching Big Brother. "Why?" you might ask. "Fucked if I know." I would respond, because I still truly hate the programme, and if I walked into a bar and the inhabitants of the Big Brother house were there, then I'd leave. Immediately. Even if I'd already ordered a drink. And I'm not someone who leaves an unfinished pint of Stella without good reason. So why, then, am I suddenly prepared to let the sight and sound of these attention-seeking sub-normal fuckers into my living room? Who can say?

Anyway, I've decided that as this blog is the only even mildly creative outlet I have at the moment I can't let it shrivel up and die, even if the only visitors are my chum Gareth, one or two assorted Yanks and of course Toad. (I'd be hard-pressed to explain what Toad is.)

So there you go. I'm back. Sort of.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Gently, Bentley

On the way to work today I overtook a little blue van driven by a little teeny weeny old lady. On the side of the van was written the following: "HOT ROCK THERAPY" and "EAR CANDLES".

I had no idea what that meant so when I got into the office I looked up ear candles on Google. I know I have my moments and a bit of a thing about Dr. Gillian, but fuck me gently, Bentley, there are some weird people out there.

And one of them drives a little blue van.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Charlemagne's Dad

Yesterday I worked (or rather "worked", as it consisted mainly of jelly-nailing) at my company's office in Harlow, Essex, which is a ghastly place. The county of Essex is a desolate windswept wasteland dotted with towns and villages so horrific in appearance that the word "eyesore" was invented specially to describe them and even so almost entirely fails to adequately convey their awfulness. Essex people are without exception ugly, stupid and inclined towards violence to strangers, so that if for some reason you have to travel through the county it's advisable to drive very fast and make sure you've locked the car doors, otherwise they will drag you out and burn you, alerted to your foreign-ness by your opposable thumbs and the lack of dribble on your chin and shirt-front.

Anyway, in my eagerness to get out of the place last night I packed up hurriedly and put everything in my laptop case. Apart from my laptop, of course. I managed to forget that, and left it plugged into the docking station I was using. This morning, still unaware that I had no computer, I drove the forty-six miles from home to my usual office in Maidenhead, where I discovered my error. Exclaiming "My goodness! How foolish of me! Would you believe it!", or words to that effect, I got back in the car and drove another sixty-six miles to Harlow

As a result I found myself in the car and listening to the radio at a time when I'm usually either at my desk (during the week), or still in bed (at weekends), so I got to listen to a discussion programme hosted by pretentious but loveable old Melvyn Bragg and featuring three academics who were so clever that they could barely string a sentence together, so specialised and focussed were their great big brains. One of them had recently discovered the phrase "can of worms", and used it several times during the programme, possibly in the in the belief that it sounded hip and modern.

Thanks to the programme I learnt a lot about Charlemagne, appointed Holy Roman Emperor on Christmas Day 800 A.D. and conqueror of pretty much the whole of Europe, or at least the fashionable bits. One of the things I learnt was that Charlemagne's dad was called "Pippin". Which I think is hilarious.

In the toilet at the Harlow office there are two signs on the wall. (Permanent signs, that is; somebody occasionally puts up a temporary one which reads "Caution! Wet Floor And Trailing Cables!" which has to be one of the least reassuring signs I've ever come across.) The first permanent sign reads "Please Do Not Stand On TheToilet Seats As They Will Break." I've never had that one satisfactorily explained to me, but it says a lot about Essex.

The other sign reads "Please Leave This Toilet As You Would Wish To Find It." As I'd what I'd really like to find in the toilet is Dr. Gillian McKeith swinging by the neck from a wire noose attached to the hook on the back of the cubicle door I find that particular sign just a little disappointing. Every time

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Take The Jelly In The Left Hand and The Hammer In The Right

It's a long time since I wrote anything on here; I've been "busy" at work for the last few weeks. Busy, as a reassuringly cynical colleague puts it, "nailing jelly to a plank". The phrase is supposed to convey the mind-numbing pointlessness of what I do, but what I do is much, much worse than that. I mean, even if the nailing part didn't go well you could always eat the jelly and then whittle the plank into an amusing shape. Or use it to beat Gillian McKeith to death. (For pity's sake leave me my dreams, else I have nothing.)

In the film Cool Hand Luke, Paul Newman is punished by being made to dig a deep hole in the ground, then fill it in. Then do it again. And again. You might think that Paul had it rough, but at least he was out in the fresh air building up a good set of pecs, whereas I spend my "working" day sitting in front of a computer listening to the sound of my arteries silting up against a backdrop of marketing wankers playing with their Blackberries and braying at each other. (Although of course on the plus side I'm not really at risk of being shot dead by a psychopathic prison guard in mirror shades or mauled by savage hounds, so every cloud has a silver etc., etc.)

What I appear to be doing all day is move numbers around on spreadsheets, but what I'm really doing is helping to maintain the illusion of control. There are millions of us, all over the world, whose sole purpose is to make senior managers feel that they may not know what to do, but by God they have the data to help them do it. It occurs to me regularly that, when asked yet again to spend three days of my life analysing the ins and outs of a cat's arse, I should ask for proof that the data I provide will actually be used to help make decisions that will help the business, otherwise I should respectfully decline the request. Still, it's a living, and I don't hate it that much, but I certainly don't want to have to describe it to people.

Even though I'm a resolutely misanthropic old twat I still unaccountably get asked to the occasional social gathering, and thus it was that I found myself at Jilly's birthday party, cornered by a Small Intense Woman who was determined, possibly out of a misguided sense of etiquette, to ask me about what I did for a living.

S.I.W.: "So, what do you do for a living? Exactly?"
Me : "I have the world's most boring job. Thank you for showing an interest, but I really don't want to talk about it."
S.I.W.:(Roguishly) "I'm sure it's not that bad."
Me: (Bleakly.)"It's so much worse than "that bad" that "that bad" doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of the "that badness" of it. Can we talk about something else? Tell you what, If what you do for a living is interesting, and please, let me be the judge of that, then tell me about your job. If it isn't, then we can talk about all those fat people programmes on T.V. If you like."
S.I.W.: "I'm an acountant. In spite of what people think, it can be really interesting."
Me: "Oh, look over there! An escaped leopard!" (I run off.)

Anyway, I have to go now. My boss is getting a little nervy and I have to give him a thirty-seven page Powerpoint chart pack to explain the financial impact of something on something else. It will get as far as his laptop case and stay there until he takes it out, turns it over and gives it to his two-year-old son to draw on.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Snake-oil And Nutrobabble

You might well think that with so much real trouble in the world it's a little superficial to worry unduly about T.V. programmes, but every so often the schedules take on a character so horrific that it pushes war, famine, pestilence and the destruction of the planet's ecosystem into the background.

Specifically, there's You Are What You Eat, hosted by "Dr." Gillian McKeith. It has been suggested that Gillian's doctorate is the kind you get by sending off a coupon from a Cinnamon Grahams box with a fat cheque, but I'm less bothered by her qualifications or lack thereof than the fact that she's a whining self-righteous rat-faced Scottish bitch with scruffy hair who makes a living stalking the airwaves peddling snake-oil to the stupid and gullible.

On the "Frequently Asked Questions" page on Gillian's website you can find the following exchange:
Q. The Fast Formula Horny Goat Weed Complex - do I take it as a course of medication? What's the recommended dosage?
A: Follow directions on the label. It may be taken regularly or when needed. It’s food from plants, and thus nourishing to the organs, energising, strengthening and totally safe.

Note the reassuringly scientific tone of "it's food from plants, and thus nourishing to the organs." And yes, the Fast Formula Horny Goat Weed Complex allegedly does what the name suggests - it helps you to get It up. There are probably other Complexes on the website to help you keep It down, stop It pointing off to the left, or make It whistle Camptown Races. Dr. McKeith may sell magic stuff that will make It a size, shape and colour so otherworldly that It looks like something dreamed up by H.P. Lovecraft. As I said earlier, Gillian peddles snake-oil.

Anyhow, back to You Are What You Eat. Every week Gillian visits a fat person who has an unhealthy diet, humiliates them, talks a lot about poo and gives them advice, most of which is blindingly obvious. The rest is just pseudo-scientific nutrobabble*. This week the subject of Dr. G's derision was a woman who, at eighteen stone, was around eight stone (or a complete small person's worth of lard) overweight due to a diet composed entirely of cakes and chips in enormous quantities.

"Stop eating cakes and chips!" cries Gillian. "Eat more healthy stuff!"

"Ohmigod!" squeals the fat person, weeping with gratitude. "Dr. Gillian has shown me that my fatness is caused by eating cakes and chips in enormous quantities, something I did not know already because of my immense stupidity. This will change my life. Or at least reduce the number of cakes and chips in it."

Before that, of course, we have to listen to the scrawny Scottish cow talking about bodily functions. "Do you fart a lot? Are they smelly?" The fat girl shamefacedly admits that, yes, she does, and yes, they are, and is then dragged off for colonic irrigation, which of course we get to watch. Transparent tubing. That's all I have to say.

Later the same evening there was a programme following the experiences of four heroin addicts as they went cold turkey. Live.

I didn't watch that one.

*pronounced "newtrobabble".

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Five-And-A-Half Bugbear Man

The trouble is there are just too many things to worry about, what with the streets of London being full of ugly blokes with beards wanting to cut our heads off, retired terrorists in Northern Ireland whining about not being allowed to form a government despite being blatantly unfit to do so, and all manner of terrifying apocalyptic stuff going around. It's depressing, but taking your mind off it's easy - just watch a T.V. programme about really fat people!

And not just any ordinary fat people. This wasn't some slightly plump mum from Basingstoke needing to lose ten pounds to restore her confidence. This was Patrick Deuel, the Half-Ton Man. When filming began Patrick weighed 78 stone, which translates on my calculator as 1092 pounds, or about five and a half of me. Patrick, unable to walk (or in fact stand up, or lie on his back without suffocating under his own lard) looked a lot like someone piloting his own hovercraft from a prone position. With a life-raft on his back.

Strangely, perhaps because of his helplessness and immobility, Patrick was less disgusting to look at than you'd expect, so you couldn't really begin to hate him properly until you got to know him. Then it became apparent that what we had here was Jabba the Hut, but uglier and without the charm. After being carted off to hospital Patrick lost a lot of weight (about three people's worth to be exact) but still remained convinced that his bulk was due to some sort of tragic genetic twist of fate rather than being down to the consumption of the fifteen thousand calories a day shovelled into him by his wife, who was not only a bit of a monster herself but also clearly completely insane.

The strangest thing about the programme was that nobody grabbed this imbecile of a woman by the ears, slammed her head against the wall and screamed "WHY DID YOU KEEP ON FEEDING HIM, YOU EVIL TWISTED FUCKING MORON!? After Patrick had been allowed to come home (still huge and pretty much unable to get around unaided), his wife had the task of monitoring his diet. It went like this:

Interviewer: "So have you got Patrick on a special diet?"
Wife: "No, not really. It's just a question of counting the calories."
Interviewer: "So how many calories are in that?"
Wife: (Staring blankly at a pan containing five poached eggs.) "I have no idea."

Good luck with the weight loss, Paddy, me boy.

Friday, January 06, 2006

The Next Piece Of Dross

The other night (Tuesday) I found myself slumped in my customary TV-viewing position on the sofa (head and pelvis at roughly the same height, beer within easy reach, you know how it goes). There had been a certain amount of negotiation required beforehand, because I wanted to watch what turned out to be a light-hearted and pretty dopy documentary based on Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men In a Boat at nine o'clock.

Now, my stepdaughters are highly intelligent girls, but you'd never know it from their choice of TV programme. Their preference for nine o'clock viewing was Teenage Tourette's Camp, but after a few minutes of blustering, whining and, eventually, sobbing, I got my own way. The downside, however, was that as a compromise at eight o'clock we all sat down to watch My Child Can't Stop Eating, which as a title gave a pretty good idea as to the subject-matter. I'd sneered at the programme title earlier, on the basis that the TV production companies churn out crap at such speed that they don't have time to think about what to call the next piece of dross. ("Oh, look, just call it People Having Accidents And Hurting Themselves A Bit But Not So Seriously That You Feel Bad About Laughing and leave it at that. What's the next one?")

Being a pompous middle-aged snob I'm not happy with the direction popular TV's taken over the last few years, in particular the "reality" stuff, which, call me old-fashioned, seems no more than giving viewers the opportunity to either laugh at or be smugly appalled by people whose houses, figures, lives, children, finances or personalities are more fucked-up than their own. Of course in my part of Surrey people probably see these shows as aspirational lifestyle guides. They won't get to laugh at anyone until Bankrupt Zombie Lepers hits the screen. But I digress.

Anyway, despite my stepdaughters not having any Weight Issues that I can see (although I grant you a jowly middle-aged 200-pound bloke is perhaps not the best judge of these matters), they seem to enjoy looking at fat people on TV, so we began to watch My Child Can't Stop Eating. I'd joked beforehand "I don't understand the problem. Why don't they take their food away? Or do they just start on the pets and the furniture?"

Well, actually, they do. Pet food, anyway. It turns out that they suffer from Prader-Willi syndrome, which not only leads to reduced IQ and severe learning difficulties, it also prevents the production of the chemical which stops you feeling hungry when you've eaten enough, and also, in a final fit of spite, slows the metabolism of the sufferer so that they can gain weight on nine hundred calories a day while wanting to consume about nine thousand. Not only has the condition a name you can snigger at, it has a nasty sense of humour too.

It's possible that the programme had an uplifting and life-affirming message in it somewhere, but it was just too depressing, so we turned it off. No respite from Terrible TV though, as the alternative choice turned out to be Gillian McKeith's New Year Detox, of which more later, perhaps.

What do you think Teenage Tourette's Camp was about?

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


Tif, poet and sometime visitor to this site, seems to have shut down her blog. I rarely commented on Tif's stuff because I could never think of anything intelligent to say about it, but it was apparent, even to me, that the girl had talent.

As Libertybob has pointed out, Tif's decision to shut the shop seems to have something to do with harassment from an ex-partner. A link to his blog suggests him to be a violent moron, and it angers me to think of all the bright sparky women in the world who have had their lives ruined by stupid, controlling men who, rather than celebrating them, feel somehow threatened.

I hope Tif is okay, and I also hope that she continues to write, if not for our benefit, at least for her own.

I also have to confess that I'm childish enough to want to go onto the moron's blog and call him names. I'm fighting the urge, but it's tough.