27 Dec 2012

Fuggy heads, Xmas gaucheness

Well, we all entered the new Mayan era unscathed, Jupiter's still there, and then we got through Xmas Day and we all survived! Woop-de-woo or summat. I've been quaffing the Glenfiddich and if this makes less sense than usual then so be it.

Right, this might make ya smile. It's a good job Suzi has a sense of humour, that's all I can say. Some months ago she wanted me to get her a compiliation of chill-out pop music called Keep Calm And Relax. The album cover is the logo on a plain background in the style of the wartime slogan "Keep Calm And Carry On". This particular compilation was available on Amazon so being a lazy sod that's where I went to get Suzi's Xmas Prezzy rather than brave hoardes of dribbling fools in HMV.

You know when you look at something on Amazon it lists similar items you might be interested in? Well, the cover pic for this particular CD is identical in layout to two other CDs of almost the same name. Let's just say I ordered one of the three. The CD arrived, I wrapped it up, gave it to my friend and forgot about it.

I suppose you can see what's coming? On Xmas day I get a text from Suzi saying "I hope you've kept the receipt". I didn't twig, so I called her. She said she had unwrapped it, put it on the CD player, and, rather than the calming tones of Just The Way You Are by Bruno Mars caressing her ears, she gets the nerve-jangling wail of an air-raid siren followed by White Cliffs Of Dover or similar. I had bought her "Keep Calm And Carry On" containing "Over two hours of favourite wartime music".

We both laughed a lot. B laughed a lot. I am an idiot.. :)
...

Was Dr Who good? You see, I've no idea, as that programme has become the next best thing to a dull football match guaranteed to put me to sleep. I reckon I watched about 10 minutes of the Xmas day episode before succumbing to the land of nod. Merlin, that's far better in my book; give me sword'n'sorcery nonsense over kiddies cod sci-fi bollocks any day of the week.

Does anyone out there find Miranda funny? If so, please explain. Strikes me she's a reincarnation of Norman Wisdom who I found about as funny as flu. She's probably big in Albania
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Right, back to the whiskey...hangover booked for tomorrow as I've got to brave going back to the office at some point. wish me luck, and have a grrreat NYE!

7 Dec 2012

Ice Ice Baby

It's going to be a wee bit chilly next week, with Shoesville's maximum temperature in the limited daylight for the entire week expected to be a mere 1C, with predicted night time minimums on a progressive downward scale to a snot-freezing -10C by a week on Sunday. Don't you just love winter?

Then of course, on the following Friday the 21st, the world ends. What I want to know is does it end at the beginning or end of that day? It would be a bit annoying if it was the former as I have a birthday meal booked on the evening of the 21st at the best restaurant in town, the Thai Nam Tip. Oi, Itzamná, let me have my fave scrumptious beef yellow curry before you blast us into the netherworld, ya bastid...

Speaking of restaurants it was good to see that the best (only?) true Indian restaurant in the county was back on form last week, when Team Squonk spent most of its quiz winnings on a damn good nosh at Pooja's in Wellingborough. Phill and I nearly always have the same starter, sharing a Chili Paneer and a plate of Mogo Chips (luvvly chips made from cassava roots), and I have to say that last week's was probably the best I've ever experienced. And the service was unusually quick too. In fact the whole thing was a complete contrast to the utter nightmare of the previous visit, which was so bad it put B and I off the place for months; suffice to say, all is forgiven.

Having spent the last two weeks away from the Vic in a semi-successful attempt at boosting the coffers, next Tuesday we will return and conquer...or more likely come 3rd.
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Judging by the news in this country it seems that Kate Middleton is the only woman ever to become pregnant, and therefore the also first to suffer anaemia. Bloody 'ell they don't half lay it on thick when a Royal gets up the duff, do they not? Earlier this week while watching BBC Breakfast having suffered over half the previous half an hour on the bloody subject of the posh foetus, we return from the local news to Susannah Reid (gawd she's no fun that woman - bring back Sian!) kicking off with "Let's talk babies". "No Susannah, let's not talk effin babies" shouts me at the telly reaching for the off button. She redeems herself slightly before I get to push the button by saying "Will it be a boy, a girl, or both?" Yes, that's what we want, the first hermaphrodite Royal!
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Politicians are all slime, well mostly, but Gideon takes the biscuit...well, actually he snatches it from the grasp of the defenceless with one hand while picking their pockets with the other. All in it together? Well, him and his mates are, yes, giving themselves tax breaks they don't need while slashing at the subsistence existence of those who rely on the State for support. Not to mention keeping all his share dividends in megacorps healthy by continuing to let the likes of Amazon ship their profits to Luxembourg. It's bloody embarrassing when we rely the pressure groups like 38 Degrees to shame Starbucks into paying £20m in Corporation Tax over 3 years (mmmm, go a long way that will, doncha think?) while our rulers lie through their teeth about how everyone makes a contribution to cutting the deficit.

We're all going to die, possibly on my birthday! Yippee!

19 Nov 2012

Angels with angles

Some of you may have seen my Monday morning grump on Farcebook about those dreadful homilies tinged with emotional blackmail that do the rounds on the site. You know the sort of thing...

"Re-post this to your status if...the Devil stole your soul and you'd like it back/the angels are blessing you with good fortune as you found a pound coin in the same fold of surplus flesh that you lost the TV remote in last week/your pet iguana is a heroin addict and you need a sign from God. No Parking would be nice/your Auntie Mabel got her left tit caught in a mangle and she'd appreciate being freed (delete as appropriate). If you do not "like" and re-post this, the Bug Eyed Beans From Venus will kidnap you, rip out your septum and use it as a back-scratcher, you evil waster."

...or, in a more craftily subtle version...


"We all know someone who has died a slow bouncy death while bungee jumping off The Shard, don't we? Well if we all sit down and think very hard in the direction of our chosen deity (gurning a bit might help too) then we can alleviate the suffering of those fools who might consider repeating the feat in the future. Pass this on and the message from our thoughts will be amplified and have more chance of getting through. Like this status to enhance thought-power - most of you won't, but a life of bounteous plenty awaits those who do...or maybe you'll find 10p down the back of the sofa."

Firstly, the people who post this trash are either trolls who deserve or a good kicking, or if they actually believe this crap then they have less sense than a Tory cabinet, and secondly the people who do actually re-post it should be tested for evidence of imbecility, and then probably shot. Harrumph.
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This made me laugh..



Well, he would if he ate that, wouldn't he? If anyone can actually explain the purpose of this advert I'd be delighted to be enlightened!

Fangyewandgudnite....

16 Nov 2012

When people were shorter and lived by the water...


All will be revealed...


Eh?...Whose cologne?...Oh, Michael Owen! Now I understand...

You see, I've always been a bit mutton. I used to blame it on Motorhead, who we saw four times in as many weeks on the Bomber tour back in 1980 or whenever it was. Always down the front, heads bangin' against either Fast Eddie's or Lemmy's monitor, it sure can't have helped the lack of vibrations in the air that make it past my ossicles, down the auditory canal and into my noggin.

But, like I say, I've always been a bit mutton, the first classic case of "Half past three" syndrome I can recall occurring when I was back in seminary school...oh, hang on, that was Jim Morrison. No, I was back in Victoria Infants, Wellingborough to be precise, and as a fresh-faced 7 or 8 year old I was queueing with the other sprogs for my daily helping of what was euphemistically called "dinner" in the school canteen. This usually consisted of some bland tasteless reconstituted "meat" concoction with synthetic mashed potato, a couple of sorry looking peas and/or carrots, all drowned in thick brown gravy-tarmac. Luvvly! This was inevitably followed by a bowl of sweet lumpy gloop topped off with strawberry jam as "afters".

Even after a few weeks of suffering this colon-clogging slopfest I wasn't a fan. Then one day I entered the Dining Hall and I sauntered up to the massive sweaty woman with the ladle, she plonked something onto my plate with the subtlety of a cow vacating its bowels. "What's that?" I asked innocently, and she told me a name I didn't recognise from my then short experience of world cuisine. It smelled foul and tasted worse, a bitter taste bud experience that I can remember chewing on for what seemed like at least half an hour before spitting it out and leaving the dining hall feeling really quite ill.

When I got home that afternoon (Yes, we walked the 3/4 mile all on our own. Weren't we brave?) I marched in to the kitchen and Mum took one look at me with my scowling screwed up face still reliving the vile-tasting trauma of "dinner", and asked "What's wrong with you?" "We had summat 'orrid for dinner" sez me "What was that then?" sez Mum. "It were called Blivver" says I. It made Mum laugh did that!

Well, I couldn't blame that on Lemmy & Co could I? From that day on and for the rest of my school days I took the sarnies my Mum gave me for lunch and ate them in the reprobates' room with the scallies on detention and the poor kids who couldn't afford school dinners. They didn't know how lucky they were! Unsurprisingly I could not stand the very thought of liver for years, and never touched the stuff again until I met B. Ironically we are having Blivver and bacon for tea tonight!
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While we're on early schooldays, probably my most humiliating experience in the halls of academia happened a couple of years or so later. Now attending Croyland Juniors, one day I went to school feeling a tad under the weather. It was winter, bloody cold as I remember, and I had a big jumper on. The longer the day went on, and when you're a nipper school days seemed to go on forever, the worse I felt, until somewhere around lunchtime I emptied the contents of my stomach down the jumper and all over my English text book.

The school nurse took me away and cleaned me up, but she said I might have to wear my coat all day as she couldn't find a spare jumper to lend me. Back in class I was feeling rough, and tried to hug the radiator without burning myself on its blistering surface - you remember those big old iron monstrosities don't you? Anyway, during the break, the girl I sat with, Hazel Smith was her name, asked me if I was ok (no chance of being sent home back then, oh no. You had to suffer, it was all part of growing up) and was I warm enough? "Not really" sez me through chattering teeth. "It's ok" sez Hazel "I've got a spare jumper you can borrow" and pulled a big fluffy pink thing out of her duffel bag. Let's just say my mates pointed and laughed a lot, but sod the embarrassment, it was warm.

Of course, nowadays I would have been sent home in an ambulance with a teacher fawning over me in case my parents had the "compo" thought, and even if I had stayed at school me and my pink hairy jumper would have been all over Farcebook or whatever.
...

In that same learning establishment I once swapped a mint copy of the 1964 single by The Beatles "Ain't She Sweet" for a bag of marbles and a magnet. It's a charming little ditty, doncha think? Written in 1927 would you believe! The b-side featured Tony Sheridan & The Beatles doing "If You Love Me Baby", as I'm sure you know ;). I was probably never going to rival Richard Branson in the entrepreneurial stakes was I?

O, for simpler times...:)

PS - Oddly, while Googling for the name of the song on the b-side, I came across a worn copy for sale on EBay for £45 (must mean it would be about £100 mint), being sold by a record shop not 5 miles from where I'm sat now. I wonder if it's the same copy?

27 Oct 2012

Cackle, snicker, scratch

Sixteen years, one month, twelve days. That's the amount of time we've lived in our current abode, and tomorrow we become the longest term residents at our end of the road when Mike ups for pasties new. Good luck Mike! It now falls to B & I to dispense the wisdom of elders to the small but friendly crew of neighbours we are lucky enough to be surrounded by.

Well, our elder statespersons' status isn't strictly true, for over the road and three doors down from Mike lives the quite strange Larry who moved in a week before us with his then wife. On the day we moved in Colin, who was helping us lunk boxes about, and I had a cup of tea over there, and that was the first and last time I've spoken to him. You see, it turned out that Mr & Mrs Larry were, and in Larry's case probably still is, quite barking mad. Both of them worked at a local mental hospital, and their working environment must have rubbed off, for they were forever rowing, culminating one night when Larry had locked himself in the bathroom to avoid being hacked to pieces by his banshee-wailing carving-knife wielding nutjob of a wife.

We know this because you could hear it all from our side of the road, and at 3am no less. Not for the first time the police were called. Eventually and inevitably Mr & Mrs Larry split up and she went back to the Isle of Man..."Today I are been mostly biting my lower lip and going "squeeee"..."

You might think Larry comes out of this ok, but his then neighbour made the mistake of asking him how he was and there followed endless visits at all hours, and incessant phone calls. This poor guy eventually split up with his Mrs and left the area. Probably nowt to do with Larry's harassment but it can't have helped!

Luckily for the rest of us for the last few years Larry has worked permanent night shifts so we rarely see him anyway and when we do there is a noticeable increase in walking speed!
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Any of you remember a quite awful AOR supergroup from the 80s called Asia? Well, they released 3 albums up to 1985, split up, reformed in 1992 and have been releasing forgettably bland albums ever since. This year sees the release of their twelfth album and 2012 is also their 30th anniversary. Anyone doing a Google search for it will have to type in the prosaic title they gave it, probably unwisely. You try typing "Asia XXX" into Google and see what you get! :)
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This weekend sees the first Merseyside derby of the season. For once we go into the game way ahead of "t'Shite", as they are known by the more intelligent footy fan, we have a better team, and they don't have a single player I'd have in our team ahead of one of ours. That is why we'll lose 2-0. I hate derbies. Still, at least we'll still finish ahead of them in the table come May next year.
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A bit brass monkey today, is it not?
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13 Oct 2012

Byte the pillow

I've bought a laptop, ostensibly for work but it will probably get far more use at home. I bought it from a guy on EBay for the princely sum of £151, and spec-wise it's not far behind my desktop so a bit of a bargain methinks. I'm typing this wibble on it to test out the keyboard to see how it copes with my Neanderthal typing skills. As you probably know, some laptop keyboards are pants - stand up HP - and the benchmark for workhorse keyboards in business use at any rate has always been IBM (now Lenovo) Thinkpads. A similar spec Lenovo laptop to this one from EBay would have been at least twice the price, and I'm a tight bastard at the best of times, even when I'm spending "work" money, which is essentially mine anyway. So far so good, the keyboard is a lot better than an HP for starters, and is as responsive as a Thinkpad although it doesn't have that "hit me baby, one more time" feel of the Lenovo beastie.

My new toy arrived two days ago and the first thing I did was a thorough virus check, nothing found; then a trawl through Windows Explorer to see what if anything the seller had inadvertently left behind. No donkey or any other porn I'm glad to say, but he did leave two work email accounts on Chrome with saved passwords! Unfortunately he's not in MI6 and neither is he Karen Gillan's bikini line waxer, only a mere golfing instructor. Judging by the subject titles of his work emails, which were largely unfathomable, I think he's also some kind of motivational coach. Anyway, the seller was told of his faux-pas and the email accounts duly got deleted along with the sundry videos of fat blokes and fat women taking practice swings on the golfing range. Oh, he's also into downloading movies from Torrent sites, a couple of those went too, along with a few episodes of Top Gear. A golfer into Top Gear? Whatever next? :)

I don't know about you, but I would have been a damn sight more careful if I was selling a computer on EBay!
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Sticking with the world of pooters, this toy came with MS Office 2010 installed, another saving. At work I still use the 2003 version as Office has become the victim of the "new improved" bug that affects everything these days, and is always a step back from what existed before. I was going to say "nearly always" but I can't think of a single thing that has actually been improved by being "improved", if you get my gist. I know one person who has gone into this subject several times and left a trail of dead longer than a queue to slap John Terry who would agree with me totally.

In MS Office 2003 everything you would ever need was along the top tool bar, but from the 2007 version onwards even simple things like spellchecker are on a completely different tab. If you want to do anything even slightly complicated, like pivot tables in Excel, you need a roadmap the size of Wales to find your way round the bloody thing. Virtually everything about the new version of Office sucks big ones.
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And now for something completely different. The once mighty Team Squonk have been going to pub quizzes for as long as I care to remember. As I've no memory, that may be two weeks or twenty years, but it must be ten years at least, which for me is the problem. Just lately I've become quizzed out; it's nothing to do with our recent downturn in fortune as these things tend to be cyclical; no it's just I've become a bit bored. Added to that is the distinctly down-at-heel Victoria Inn, a pub where they frequently run out of essentials and the state of the pipes is enough to give you a headache the following day after two pints. The only saving grace has been our current quiz master, who I can safely say is the one of the best we've had in all our years quizzing.

So, a break was called for. As this coincided with Mr Quiz's annual two-week foreign beano, we decided to frequent The Lamplighter, only a few hundred yards as the pigeon flies from the Vic as it happens. They have everything the other pub lacks, including toilet paper! Not sure about the quiz master who after we won our first outing there by several points did not appear to be too chuffed with our victory, so much so that calling him monosyllabic would be an overstatement. The turn out that first time was 22 people so we won £22, easily at that.

Slightly embarrassed at our trouncing of the opposition we thought we'd give it one more go for fear of outstaying our welcome. Well that was the opinion of B and moi at least, and how more wrong could we have been! The second outing last Wednesday saw the pub full to bursting including a couple of teams we recognised from past encounters, there being well over 50 people there. It was close between us and the two other teams, and going into the last (music) round we were 2 points in the lead. We got 7 and the second team got 13, which included a 5-point bonus question we couldn't answer, so we lost by 4 points. So much for our over-confidence! At least it makes it easier going back; oh and one more thing, they had Oakham Inferno on, one of the beers made by The Best Brewery In The World. Nice!

The good point was a £10 drinks voucher for next week for coming second, the slightly worrying point is that we've also decided to go to the Malt Shovel music quiz on Monday. We'll have to do better than our frankly disappointing effort at the music round at The Lamplighter is all I can say.

My quizzing appetite has been re-kindled by the change of venue, but I can't say I'm looking forward to returning to the Vic...we'll see how it goes.
...

Yes, I quite like this keyboard....

Finally...a goat goes into a Jobcentre and asks the desk-jockey in perfect English for some work. The stunned clerk suggests Billy applies to the local circus. "The circus?" sez Bill, "Why would the circus want a welder?" :)



24 Aug 2012

No Brain Count

Shoeville's town council has a very long history of being utter pants, dating right back to the time of the Industrial Revolution when the fat controllers were...ahem..."persuaded" by rich landowners surrounding the town that having a mainline train station in the town and thus train tracks across their land was a bad idea, thus isolating the place for years until sense was seen and a branch line installed. To this day, Shoesville, a county town with a population of almost 200000 and the third largest town in the country remains marginalised when it comes to rail travel.

We no longer have a daily local paper and local news in print is courtesy of the free papers we get through our letter boxes, if you're in an area where these are delivered. We only get them intermittently at home, but at work, which is much closer to town centre, we get them every week. Glancing at the front page of today's Herald & Post I espy the headline "Council's five day wait to reveal fountain bug."

Not Tivoli
Those of you who know Shoesville will be aware of the magnificent plumes of water that rise to all of five feet out of the pavement at the bottom end of the Market Square. Magnificent, doncha think? The council paid almost £100000 for it too, dolts that they are, in an age where painful cuts are being made to essential services,

Anyway, the story under that headline relates to the council waiting five days before it told anyone that the reason they turned the fountain off on Tuesday 14th August was not, as they originally claimed, due to "strong winds", but actually because the results of tests on the water the previous day had revealed higher than normal traces of legionella and e-coli in the water! I can quite believe that there was no evil intent in this cock-up, as blundering idiocy is ingrained into our local leaders (no matter what their political persuasion, I hasten to add) like comedy is ingrained into Liverpool FC.

I was in town on the rather warm Monday when the tests were carried out and walked past the "fountain", where kids were messing about in the water as kids do, and I do recall walking directly through the fountain mist. So far I've not gone down with flu-like symptoms thank Thor, but God knows what the parents of those kids are going through!
...

13 Aug 2012

29-17-19

Well, the fat lady in the guise of Roger Daltrey sang, and it's all over. After overcoming my initial scepticism (it took until about Day 5) I found the thing a delight, and any killjoys who moan about money being better spent on shelter and succour for the fat or somesuch need a severe slapping. A nation deserves to let its hair down now and again, and to Hell with the consequences. I found myself watching sports I never had time for before, like eventing and even gymnastics. I draw the line at synchronised swimming which is simply plain daft, and at rhythmic gymnastics which seems to be ballet with hoops and ribbons; in fact Olympic ballet - why not?. The footy season is almost upon us but I've barely glanced at the transfer news, and only this morning found out we've sold Rodwell to Citeh, but frankly my dear, I don't give a damn...well at least for a week or so anyway.

It has to be said that the high points of the whole shebang outweighed a few minor low points by some distance, and even the low points were quite amusing, some of the time.

THE high point was that it made a nation suffering under the jackboots of Tory oppression forget their troubles for a fortnight and proud to be British in a non-jingoistic way, a rare occurrence indeed. Even the Sydney Morning Herald were moved to congratulate us "magnificent Pommey bastards" in their own inimitable style.

The French accusing our cyclists of having "magic wheels" was quite funny too, given that our wheels and those of a number of other teams were supplied by a French company. One of the cycling fraternity responded by saying the secret of our success in the velodrome was down to our wheels being "rounder" than theirs...:)

Denise Lewis destroying furniture as she screamed encouragement at Mo Farah was quite a sight...I think I'm in love.

Bloody irritating was the creeping use of the nouns medal, podium and legacy as verbs. Kill on sight with tooth and claw!

A tad squirm-inducing was watching Anglophile and true gent Michael Johnson look increasingly uncomfortable as national pride got the better of Denise Lewis, but more so Colin Jackson, who came out with some right bollocks at times. In a similar vein was a commentator telling the nation that Mo Farah (a lovely bloke) had just "shown the Africans how it's done" in the 10000 metres. Go figure!

Moving from being irritating to "so bad he's funny" was Trevor Nelson, who gave us all quote of the closing ceremony having spotted Gary Barlow and his mates on stage. I give you "Take That, the nation's favourite man-boy band"! Hirsute and only three foot six, the lot of 'em.

Which brings us neatly to the closing ceremony. Does anyone apart from viewers in the home nation actually watch these things? I know it was my first and probably last go at this never ending mish-mash spectacle of pop culture. What anyone but a Brit would make of an overweight figure dressed as Batman, and his mate dressed as Robin emerging from a bright yellow "car" that appeared to have only three wheels, which then promptly disintegrated is anyone's guess.

The 'Oo (or perhaps they should now rename themselves The Two) ended the thing with My Generation which felt a bit odd coming as it did from two blokes in their late 60s singing to a crowd of athletes whose average age was less than half theirs. Another old geezer on show was Ray Davies proving that unlike Macca he can still hit the high notes and stay in tune. Worryingly though Ray seems to be sharing Paul's bottle of industrial strength hairdye. Preceding The Two were the Kaiser Chiefs doing a fair imitation of the modfathers on Pinball Wizard, the singer starting off standing on the back of the lead scooter moving at a pace at the head of a mod formation. Fair play to him, must've taken some nerve.

And Muse, what are they for? There they were with the backing of a full choir and a bleedin' orchestra, and you'd still be hard pushed to identify anything resembling a tune. Matt Bellamy (aka Frank Lampard Jr Jr) threw a lot of shapes and posed with his guitar, which was practically inaudible. When they appeared on the screen B says to me "Who are they?" and the only description I could come up with was "They're kinda like Queen but without the tunes or the sense of humour." And who should be next up but Freddie leading the crowd in a call and response from beyond the grave...ok, it was a video screen, but goose-bump inducing nonetheless. Soon, Mr Anita Dobson in his coat of many colours makes an appearance striding along doing his trademark Queen shredding (that's how you do it, Matt) that inevitably leads into We Will Rock You, vocal duties belted out with gusto by Jessie J, the best young 'un of the evening in my 'umble opinion, although Emeli Sandé gave her a close run for her money. I quite liked Tiny Tempah too...no, really! You can't beat a cheerful chirpy cockernee at a knees-up, after all!

Elbow did One Day Like This, and it was magnificent of course. What else? Oh yeah, the Spice Girls reformed for hopefully one night only. They made an awful pointless racket as they did first time round. I doubt Mrs Beckham has worked so hard in years. Please don't carry on. And Ed Sheeran sang a passable take of Wish You Were Here, backed by Nick Mason on drums and Mike "He's as much to blame for destroying Genesis as Collins" Rutherford on one note lead acoustic, and a bloke I didn't recognise on bass. At least Sheeran actually sang, unlike Annie Lennox who did some terrible miming to one of her forgettable ditties while pretending to be one those carvings on the prow of a nineteenth century warship. And I've forgotten Eric Idle (predictable but fun), and George Michael (why?), and some R'nB type called Santa Cruz or summat, who joined Tiny Tempah and Jesse J, the latter taking the lead vocal on a rug-cutting You Should Be Dancing, which gave Trevor Nelson another chance to shine, describing the 70s club-styled lighting during The Brothers Gibb's dancy-tune as being "a bit like a disco". He doesn't miss much, our Trev.

Oh yeah, there was One Direction, whose combined ages still fall five years short of Ray Davies'.

I've little time for the terribly overrated and unfunny Russell Brand, but compared to what was to follow, Brand's amateurish lip-synching to I Am The Walrus was a moment of inspired genius. OK, it didn't follow Brand exactly, but lowpoint of the evening had to be Liam Gallagher's whiny miserable monotone moaning that passed for singing on his group Beady Eye's rendering of that sub-sub-Beatles pastiche and nonsensical load of utter bollocks Wonderwall. Why millions upon millions bought Oasis' dreary uninspiring shite by the shedload has always mystified me, for I would rather lacerate my own eyeballs with a rancid tramp's freshly bitten fingernail and use old piss as a balm than have to put up with their dull and unimaginative outpourings ever again. Gawd, they even make Status Quo sound interesting.

Almost as if the producers were saying to the Manc moaner "this is how you do it" in a fashion similar to Queen following Muse, next up was a dance routine to ELO's Mr Blue Sky. Now, ELO, that's a proper career-long Beatles pastiche if ever I heard one!

After seventeen hours and forty three minutes it all ended with some catherine wheels, a few bangers, and a couple of sparklers, and we had been spared Coldplay in both the opening and closing ceremonies. One has to grateful for small mercies. And so to bed....

31 Jul 2012

Not The Six (or Ten) O'Clock News

Both of you may be wondering how long it would take before I had a proper moan about the Ollyimpics. Well, it's now Day 4 so I reckon I've lasted quite well. Actually I quite like the idea that the world, and no doubt a fair few of the wives too, is watching GB for once. The opening ceremony, bizarre and slightly surreal as it was filled us all with pride in our nation...well, until Macca came on anyway, and luckily the rest of the world could not hear Trevor Nelson. And being a sports fan I can appreciate all the weird and wonderful pastimes we are now being subjected to; it's probably no surprise that Russia won the Freestyle Shaving gold.

So, what's getting my goat you may well ask? It's the BBC, that's wot. OK, it's great that the thing is here but do we really need 715-odd hours of coverage every effin day across three channels (five if you count the two under the red button)? Not content with their completely OTT coverage which has turned BBC 1 into a sports-only channel for the duration, the bloody thing has infiltrated BBC "News" to the extent that any proper current affairs reporting is relegated to the last ten minutes, which at this time of year is usually reserved for tales of cats returning home after seventeen years away on a world tour, or tales of potatoes that look like Boris Johnson. I mean, what is the point of telling the nation as a news headline that Tom Daley and Peter Waterfield (bet you had both already forgetten him!) came fourth in the synchronised water bombing when we had already been subjected to it endlessly for the last two hours on BBC Sprot...sorry, 1? This is then followed by further endless reports from the Ollyimpic Park and elsewhere of "news" we already knew about. How is it that a non-story on empty seats at venues takes precedence over the Syrian war or the Eurozone crisis? Looks like I'll be heading to Channel 4, Britain's most arid news channel or TV's equivalent of The Independent for my daily fix of real news then; as ITN, which used to present a good programme, is now little more than our very own version of Fox News, and Channel 5 News is just some bird with pert tits reading the headlines for 5 seconds. Sky News? No chance, matey!

And another thing....because BBC 1 is wall-to-wall Ollyimpics their evening big ratings programmes are starting to appear on BBC 2. Settling down to be utterly bamboozled by the esoteric and marvy University Challenge last night I was instead confronted with the godawful vision of cockernee dystopia that is East Bleedin' Enders fer chrissakes.

So, yes, I'm already fed up with the BBC but not necessarily the Ollyimpics themselves. From a purely sporting perspective I wonder what odds you could get on Team GB not winning a single gold medal? We have had a bit of an underwhelming start after all the hype about how we were going to eclipse our hitherto unheard of medals tally (modern era) in Beijing. We will no doubt win a few glittering prizes at bicycling and we have some good rowists who will probably add to the tally, and "Blimey, she's big" Rebecca Adlington or Jessica Ennis may yet bring it on home so the odds should be pretty long...just asking!
...

Ollyimpic Footnote - would it not be more entertaining if the Beeb let Trevor Nelson do all the commentating? I can hear it now "...and here comes Usain Bolt in a nice green and yellow top...I had a top once, when I was a kid...a spinning top... it wasn't green...or yellow...oh, he's won."

Or perhaps all commentators should be required to drop a few tabs before picking up the microphone: And now, over to Claire Balding at the Horsing About  ".....Aaaargggh, they're all riding seahorses...whip me daddy-o..."

...

If you take a Viagra and it gets stuck in your throat, do you get a stiff neck for the next 12 hours?
...

Finally, finally....All I can say in my defence is it was night time, it was covered in a thick layer of green slime that in the dark looked like more lawn. If this confuses you, read the ante-penultimate paragraph of Phill's blog, or the whole lot if you want a really grim tale!

28 Jul 2012

Vacuuming Completely Nude In Stratford

Having sat through all seven years of last night's opening ceremony bash, there were two mildly cringeworthy moments - the first being the use of a German car as an example of British engineering, and Macca.

Just when you thought you'd got through a Brit spectacular without sight of either of those two Establishment pop musos of choice, Sirs Elton & Paul, up pops Macca and his ridiculous hair. I mean, come on, the guy is 70 and while I can just about believe he still has a full head of his own hair (my gramps was the same) the fact that there's not a grey one in sight is frankly undignified. And as for his voice, Christ on a bike, someone tell him to retire, please.

The best musical act was The Arctic Monkeys, a band I've never had a lot of time for, but I have to say they were actually rather good, and carried off their slot with no nerves at all, and gave us a fine cover of Come Together. I also enjoyed Danny Boyle's trawl through Brit pop music. Knowing he is an old punk at heart, it was rather fun seeing the longest snippets given not to The Beatles, but to the Sex Pistols' Pretty Vacant, and The Prodigy's Firestarter. Even better, Coldplay didn't get a look in - marvellous!

I wonder what Liz made of it? Perhaps it explained her stern fizzog that at times resembled a bulldog's slapped arse.

Today hindsight kicks in, and although celebrating the great British institution that is the NHS was a undoubtedly a good thing to do, it seemed a bit hypocritical what with our posh boy PM and his missus in the (very) expensive seats watching this while all the time his government are selling the NHS down the Swanee.

Right, I'm off to watch Russia win the Olympic Shaving competition...

14 Jul 2012

"A haaaandbaaaag?"

Perambulatory musing # 748

I carry all kinds of stuff with me on the way to work: wallet, phone, bunch of keys, lunch box, Uzi machine pistol...so  I have recently been considering getting one of those "male handbag" things with a shoulder strap to prevent my bulging pockets making me look like I have some kind of bizarre medical condition affecting the groinal region.

Today I saw a bloke of about my age, expanding waistline and similar office garb with one of these manbags or whatever they are called slung over his shoulder. He looked bleedin' ridiculous. I won't be going there.
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This advert fails...

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It's Saturday lunchtime...and it's raining. Whoop-de-do! Watching the local news we are told that a car driver near Cambridge got stuck in three feet of water; that's the kind of Earth-shattering events we have round here after all. When asked how he came to be stuck, the motorist offered this as an explanation: "I was following my SatNav". I laughed.

Following this revelation we are transferred to the national weather forecast hosted by some over-cheerful bird with a double-barrelled name. She informs us while smiling inanely that so far July has been "quite wet". FFS, you don't say!

I really want to see a forecaster with a face as gloomy as our weather this miserable "summer" tell it like it is...

"Well folks, I wouldn't bother going out this weekend as it is going to piss down for the duration, much as it has since the end of May. We can see no let up in this fucking awful summer, so you might as well put the BBQ back in storage until next March, as it will then probably be unfeasibly warm for the time of year"

Oh, that reminds me, we're having a Monsoon BBQ pardy next Saturday, fools that we are...
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8 Jul 2012

Disappointment & Denial

Disappointment

We have been going to Pooja in Wellingborough, the only authentic Indian restaurant in Northamptonshire, for seven years or thereabouts; Phill will know as he can recall every meal everyone has ever had in any restaurant anywhere for the entire passage of time! In that time we have come to expect somewhat haphazard service, but as the food eventually produced is absolutely bonza, a few disruptions in the service continuum are no problem.

Last night we went over there to spend some of Team Squonk's quiz winnings, and, for the first time ever, I had to leave part of my main course as it was inedible. The service was also of probably the worst standard we have experienced too. The starters came out ok, roughly at the same time, but the first thing I noticed was the over the top fiery heat of Phill and I's trusted starter, the good old Chili Paneer. This wasn't too much of a problem as that dish can be a bit variable depending on the chef; it was ok is about all I can say.

Then our orders for the main courses were taken, and we waited. And we waited. And we waited. In the meantime a family who had come in after us had already been served, not good.

Forty minutes later the mains started to arrive, well partly. Mrs P and Colin had no rice to go with their orders, Phill and I had only one of the two noodle dishes we were going to share, but B did at least get her dhosa. As the food that had arrived was lukewarm at best, obviously having sat in the kitchen waiting to be taken out for some time, we all decided to start eating it rather than wait for the rest. The first noodle dish Phill and I shared was ok, if a tad greasy. After about ten minutes, the rice and our second noodle dish arrived. On taking the first mouthful I was definitely not expecting crunchy noodles! The bloody things had either dried out and been reheated or not cooked; judging by their appearance I'd guess the former.

Added to all this according to B the loos were in a dreadful state. I refused to pay for the second noodle dish, and in hindsight, if B and I had not been with Phill and his missus who are (were?) big fans of the place I probably would have kicked off more and refused to pay the bill at all. As B said, if that had been a first time experience for any of us we would not be going back there again.

This slip in standards seems to have coincided with the departure of manager Majood back to his native country. Come back  Majood, we may not ever have understood a word we were saying to one another, but you sure knew how to do your job!
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Denial

It's Sunday, so let's have a religious rant!

I come from a religious family, my parents and grandparents were all non-conformist Protestants of one kind or another, ranging from Methodists to Baptists to Congregationalists. My sole surviving aunt from my mum's side of the family is a Quaker, and a more lovely right-on person you could not hope to meet. In her eighties, she stayed with the anti-capitalist protestors outside St Pauls for a day last year, good on her! If had I still been persuaded by any form of organised Christian religion, this is the branch I would naturally have gravitated to. For those who do not know anything about Quakerism, suffice to say that since their formation in the mid 17th century they have come across as puritan inclined proto-hippies!

When I turned 14 my dad, obviously sensing my growing detachment from the family church, and the usual grunting teenage resentment at being dragged off to church and Sunday school every week told me that I was old enough to make up my own mind, and if I didn't want to come along any more, then fine. Huzzah for good old British lower middle class liberalism! So I stayed home, playing my obscure prog records on Sunday morning, and the rest as they say, is history.

This preamble is to illustrate that I do actually know what I'm talking about when it comes to Protestant Christian religion, and I would draw your attention to the debate raging at the National Trust's bizarre decision to include Creationist theory in their exhibits at the museum attached to the 60 million year old Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland. This archaeological wonder is proven to be 60 million years old, that is an indisputable FACT.

Wallace Thompson, Chairman of the National Trust has this to say: "We fully accept the Trust's commitment to its position on how the Causeway was formed, but this new centre both respects and acknowledges an alternative viewpoint and the continuing debate, and that means it will be a welcoming and enriching experience for all who visit." Why must they acknowledge an alternative viewpoint for an established fact, if not about how it was formed, then certainly about its age, the main crux of loony Creationist argument? If we let the NT get away with this woolly-headed political correctness-gone-mad thinking, then there will be calls for Creationist Theory to be taught in schools, God forbid! (I'm an agnostic, so I've every right to say God forbid...heheheh).

I'm sure if my parents were alive today they would have absolutely no truck with this movement of fuckwitted stupendous and downright dangerous ignorance; the latest unwanted import to our bedraggled Isle from across the pond.

The fact that this has is happening in Northern Ireland, a place where loony right wing Protestant extremism still exists only just under the surface of the now perceived normality of the place is no surprise.

If this dangerous chink in the armour of Brit common sense annoys you as much as it does me, join the FB group protesting against it.
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6 Jul 2012

Don't Drive My Piles

I've been on my tod this week as B has been away visiting friends oop Narth. Picture the scene last Sunday:

Arise from pit about 9:45am, breakfast fry-up....11am to about 2pm England vs Australia one day cricket international on the laptop, followed by a quick burst of e-flurrying. 2pm - 4pm Le Tour on the TV. Then dinner - a reheated portion of previously cooked crushed spangle curry (ask Phill) accompanied by very loud music of the "right bloody racket" variety. 7pm - 9:45pm the final of Euro 2012 with a beer or three, supplemented by crisps and Crunchies. Molly watched it all with me, or rather slept on me for the duration. After that lot the lounge had a nostalgic aura that transported me back to the 1980s. All that was missing was the prevalent aroma of jazz cigarettes. Marvellous!
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Apparently that British institution of musical mediocrity Status Quo, whose name simply could not be more appropriate, are to make an action movie! Francis Rossi reckons "The one thing Quo fans know is to expect the unexpected", which shows that either he of the vanishing hairline has an incredibly well developed sense of irony, or..........the "or" doesn't bear thinking about. Down down, deeper and down indeed!

Keeping in mind the Quo's timeless quest for musical adventure, methinks they should call the impending biopic "In Search Of The Thirteenth Bar".
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A friend and moi have been ruminating on a cunning plan to become rich beyond our imaginings (not beyond Diamond Bob's imaginings, but even Roman Ambramovich fails on that score) by jumping on the current prog nostalgia charabanc by forming a Genesis tribute band. Nothing new there, but the fortune cookie is that the usual Peter Gabriel clone will be replaced by two lesbian porn stars. We'll call it Labia Of The Pool, and it will be not leave a dry seat in the house, as 1500 lust-crazed upmarket car dealers go ape! Sounds just the ticket after a round of golf methinks. No ocelots were harmed during this burst of surreality.
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That king Del Boy amongst shysters, the cunningly named Bob Diamond, who by rights with a name like that should be a gameshow host, made his inevitably obfuscating appearance before a Parliamentary Committee earlier this week drawing the attention of these two satirists outside the venue...

Knobs impersonating wankers
The populist political group 38 Degrees put this pic up on their FB page with the caption "A couple of "bankers" making their point outside parliament as Bob Diamond arrives for questioning. The champagne is vintage Bollinger, naturally...." Note the inverted commas. Unfortunately well over 75% of the earlier commenters actually thought this was for real. Here are some of the more priceless:

I bet they love old Bonus Bob.............. 

Bankers? was that a deliberate typo? 

makes me want to puke

it should be legal to punch some people

Complete tossers, but unfortunately there are so many of them...

Even after over 150 comments, most of the latter part of which were screaming "IT'S SATIRE YOU FOOLS" or similar at the earlier posters there were still some idiots posting comments like "We love our Sugar Daddy!". There is no hope, we are all doomed...

Is it any wonder that those cunts (let not mince words, eh) who have plummeted the world into recession by stealing all the loot yet still expect us to pay for it, all the while continuing a lifestyle that makes that of yer average Premier League footballer look impoverished, are probably guffawing all the way to their tax haven villas when there are folk like these who are so fuckwitted they can't appreciate satire when they see it? How easy are they going to be to rip off some more? Some people deserve what they get...not the bankers obviously.

Those two noobs even got their grinning fizzogs on the 6 O'Clock News too. You just had to chuckle.
...



28 Jun 2012

Anthropological Dissonance

I take myself off to work and indeed bring myself back home again solely through the use of those bowed and gnarled twig-like devices of mine called legs. This means that, as I walk past an infants' school every day, I pass the same parents walking their kiddies to the school gates. For logistical reasons that are too dull to explain I walk on the opposite side of the road to most of these parents and kidz, but some do pass me on "my" side of the road.

When eyes meet and seeing as how we see each other every day I usually manage a smile and nod of the head, but I make it a rule to NEVER say "Good Morning". This is not because I am a misanthropic curmudgeon, well not completely anyway. No, it's because once you start giving verbal acknowledgements it becomes an expected daily ritualistic event until one day one of you will inevitably make the gauche mistake of forgetting the mumbled greeting, probably the day when one is under a hangover fug, or has had a row with the missus/hubby/dog. By saying nothing and merely nodding and smiling this faux pas can be avoided.

This morning one of my regulars smiled and said the dreaded "Good Morning" to me as we passed each other, me maneuvering round her three knee-high sproglites. I nodded and smiled, but said nowt in reply....
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A brief interlude of sprot...God, aren't Spain (the footy team not the country) boring with their oh-so-perfect "taki-chicken-tikka" or whatever their dull dull dull passing chess is called? It got to the point last night where after manfully fighting coma for 90 minutes I gave in to the veil of sleep. Even if Germany win tonight, I'll want them to beat the Spaniards in the final...did I really say that? FORZA AZZURRI !!!
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One of my friends was bigging up the latest waxing from Linkin Park on Farcebook the other day, and as I had her down as a lover of R&B (modern definition) and all that implies I was intrigued. I always thought Linkin Park were a sort of cartoon punky rock band. Listening, very briefly it has to be said, to the new album Living Things proved how very very wrong I am in my pre-conceived imaginings.of this band. I am vaguely right about my friend's tastes though.

...

And now for some grammar pedantry!

You will soon notice something about these paragraphs. The letters I write in my day job are prosaic affairs detailing clients' tax liabilities or appealing against draconian HMRC dictats and so have to be written in business speak. This is one step above the truly execrable management speak that I am sure we have all suffered in our working environments at some point and involves what boils down to an introduction an explanation and a conclusion.

These tablets of awesomeness are written with minimal punctuation as you may have already worked out from the preceding paragraph. When you read these things your noggin automatically punctuates for you as both Jack Kerouac and I have found, not that Kerouac ever wrote a letter to the IRS! As a result I sometimes find it difficult when spewing forth allegedly creative writing to punctuate fully, and this includes almost no use of semi-colons which, as has now been pointed out to me, can be quite useful. I remain convinced that use of semi colons is in fact addictive; a dash serves equal purpose. There you go - two related clauses that independently make sense....should I have used a colon instead of a dash back there?



23 Jun 2012

Sieve-like and fuckwitted

I've just read Phill's blog. Read the first part here. After reading that I thought "Phill you are a cock - what on Earth have you agreed to do with t'wife on the very night Ingurland get to win on penalties in the quarter final of Euro 2012 against the Eyetallians?"

I go get B, I say "Read this - what has the idiot gone and done? Now we won't be able to shout at the TV together". B reads it, looks at me and says "It's not the quiz, is it?" The penny didn't so much drop as become a thing with the weight and density of a neutron star as it plummeted through the Earth's crust with a grim and terminal velocity.

The only thing I can say in my defence is that although going to The Adelaide pub quiz on a Sunday was briefly discussed last week, and I do now recall saying I was up for it, actual dates were not mentioned and nothing was definitely decided. Mrs P obviously thinks otherwise! I will be in the doghouse when I tell them I'm not going...ho-hum.

Phill and me are idiots who have memories that are indeed sieve-like and fuckwitted. Who are you again?....
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Had a rather nice curry last night in the Imperial Raj on Kettering Road. A chicken thing with loads of fenugreek. This morning I discover that an excess of the pungent green herb does not particularly agree with me. Oh well, it was scrummy at the time.
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Perambulation exclamation #356:
Walking to work the other week it was really tipping it down, so I togged up for the occasion with waterproof jacket and umbrella. About ten yards in front of me were two young teen schoolgirls. Both had hoodies over their uniforms, and being hoodies as the name suggest, had hoods. Neither had their hoods up, both looked like they were an inch from drowning in the open air. I don't understand kids, someone please explain.

4 Jun 2012

Living Underwater

For the past six days my right ear has been completely blocked with wax the consistency and colour of year-old axle grease. This has led to a feeling of strange detachment, as if half of me is living underwater. It has also meant that I can't listen to music as one channel is "missing" and I've discovered that the hi-fi in the office does not possess a mono button. I find life without music bloody unbearable to be frank, and, to cap it all tonight I was supposed to be going to see Gavin Harrison & O5Ric with Stickmen. That will not mean much to some of you, but this curious amalgam of modern prog stalwarts feature many excursions into King Crimson territory in their sets, most having passed through the ranks of the prog behemoths at some point or other. Bugger.

A course of warm olive oil (not the cooking variety I hasten to add) dripped into the glutinous lughole twice daily, stoppered with cotton wool, until the wax plug shifts is what I have been advised into, and so far enough dark brown ooze has been expunged to fill a clown's pocket. That may be a slight exaggeration, but exactly what is the point of all this stuff, that's what I want to know? Despite this waning of the load I'm still 90% deaf in the offending head flap and still pissed off, socialising an impossibility unless everyone else is on my left hand side.
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Liz must have been freezing her tits off yesterday, and she and her 703 year-old hubby stood up for the entire four hours of the boat parade. Good on the old bird I say, and anyone who begrudges a bit of cheer in these stringent times must be made of wood.
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If you were living in the UK and the right age in 1976 or 1977 you'd also have to be hewn directly from a tree not to have been swept up by the zeitgeist of the time that was the coming of punk, as the splendid documentary Punk Britannia the other night proved. Death to ELP!
...

Roy Hodgson has successfully lowered expectations for Ingurland in the soon come Euro 2012 footy fest to such an extent that they are now well below the event horizon. Hodgson has done this by picking all the English players from the team that came 8th in the Premier League. A cunning plan indeed.

Saturday's yawn-inducing friendly against Belgium saw a completely anonymous Ingurland grind out a 1-0 win, thanks largely to the efforts of Alex Oktober-Fest or whatever his name is, the only player on the pitch who looked like he was actually proud to be playing for his country. So that nadir of imbecility Andy Townsend gives the Man of the Match to...Steven Gerrard.
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Eh, you'll have to speak up. AH SAID YOU'LL HAVE TO SPEAK UP...

27 May 2012

Naked Decorating

...well, in this heat it's the only way to do it. Actually I slightly exaggerate, I wasn't completely stark, boxers were worn. There doesn't seem a lot of point in getter paint roller specks on your trouser sausage after all.
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Last night saw an expedition of blokes to Delapre Abbey Beer Festival which despite only having a third of the beer left by the time we got there still meant a choice of 90 or so real ales. I would tell you what I had but you don't expect me, Mr Memory, to recall such fine detail surely? Suffice to say the two pints of Oakham Ales Bishop's Farewell in The Malt Shovel on the way home were the two best pints of the evening, and upped the alcohol content to beyond the point where remembering what was consumed right now a bit of a problem. Something I can retrieve from my frazzled synapses were the astonishingly over-priced and over-cooked hot dogs at £4 a pop! It's amazing what mashed beer drinkers will pay to soak up the ale, me included.

My imbibing colleagues were the two Ds and Geoff, who has kindly posted the photographic evidence on Facebook. This is one of the less frightening examples:

Three Bellies & A Wippet
It was good to see you three miscreants who I'd not been a-drinking with for years. By the time this pic was taken we were all quite inebriated. Surprisingly my hangover today is only of the "mildly grumpy" variety.
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Right, it's time to strip off and get down to the matt vinyl emulsion...

15 May 2012

Rhetorical.1

Bloody weather. Why has March swapped places with May this year?
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Why do bands who peddle cliché-ridden self-aggrandising piffle of the lowest order have bigger audiences for their yawn-inducing drivel than bands who actually try to do something different?
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'kin Kenny is denying reports he's going to bottle it - again. Does this mean he will be gone by the time the owner comes back from Boston?
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Does Joey Barton have nice hair because his head is full of manure?
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Where are the other seven real ales? Did they ever exist?
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On the same subject as above, will I have a headache tomorrow morning?
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Will Rebekakakakah Brookes be found guilty?
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Would you rather be Greek than American?
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Bloody weather....did I say that already?
...........

Happy Birthday Brian Eno, 64 year-old genius that you are. You have delighted us with your esoteric and genuinely progressive music over the years, and long may it continue (see second rhetorical, above).

8 May 2012

I Am (no longer) Kurious Oranj

It's the last day of my two weeks off...boooo! We had a few days in Amsterdam with PW & CW and a jolly good time was had by all. One of the things Amsterdam is known for is bikes. If Katie Melua was right, and there are 9 million of the things in Beijing then there must be at least half that number in Amsterdam. Most of them appear to be permanently parked up...

Hmmm...I know it's here somewhere...
This is a multi-storey bike park just outside the main train station. We arrived at night so we thought that come morning rush hour they would all be gone, but not so, and they didn't seem to be touched in the four and a bit days we were there. This also seemed to be true for other mass bike dumps, but that's not to say there weren't thousands out on the streets where they have their own bike lanes, and are a law unto themselves. Out in the evening sitting outside a bar PW and I observed that although most bikes had lights a good 90% couldn't be bothered to switch them on, and all bike riders wear the darkest possible clothes. Not only that but only around 50% seem to observe red traffic lights, all this making walking around at night quite an experience. The other odd thing about Amsterdam traffic is that taxis give way to pedestrians! Who wouldathunkit??

Being a long time ex-pothead I was constantly aware of the all pervading scent of cannabis sativa, and on Sunday night when the Dutch were out in orange force celebrating the eve of Queens Day, the air was a mixture of alcohol and weed, a quite heady mix I can tell you. As the result of a culture were weed smoking is accepted as normal the atmosphere of the city, although vibrant, does not have the manic edge of London, which can only be a good thing. However the forces of conservatism are never far away, and I learnt on returning home that just prior to our departure the Dutch powers that be had passed a law banning tourists from smoking cafés, not that anyone seemed to be taking any notice!

We went to the Van Gogh Museum, which is a obviously a must and once I had seen the four paintings on my "to do" list, my low tolerance threshold where art museums are concerned kicked in. To be honest seeing the famous self-portraits of the Dutch master in actualité was a bit underwhelming, added to the fact that the place was heaving with tourists, ruining any atmosphere. Some folk were going round in a long snaking line at a pace a snail would be ashamed of spending ages at every painting. I'll admit to being a philistine heathen were high art is concerned, and I cannot fathom where they get their patience from. Now, if we were in a science or living museum (Ironbridge Gorge, the cradle of the Industrial Revolution being a fine example) spending ages looking at the inner workings of a Victorian smelting plant would be no problem!

While the others were keen to visit the Anne Frank Huis I did not fancy depressing myself by confirming the depths that human beings can sink to in pursuit of a cause. I know the story, that's enough for me, and look at the queue!

While my companions were there I went for a hike round the city, indulging in coffee and sticky buns at appropriate intervals.

Tulips, many many thousands of them form a riot of colour at Keukenhof Gardens which is another must see...


Our final evening coincided with the eve of Queen's Day were every Dutch man and woman wears something orange, heads into the city and carouses until the small hours. A great way to end a holiday!


Amsterdam is a great place and we would go again, the only difference being that B and I would fly as the train journey takes too long even without the one and half hour delay on Eurostar going out (!), and is far more expensive than a flight.
...

19 Apr 2012

On me 'ead....

This is not a dream, it actually happened today...

Perambulating homewards I espy two 10 year old(ish) lads playing football in the street, on the opposite pavement. One of them makes to leather the ball back to his mate, slices it, up it goes and coming down narrowly misses a passing car, bounces, its trajectory now heading directly to me. For some mad reason I'm 10 years old again, so as it comes down I half-volley it on my instep, and it travels in a straight line right back into the arms of the taller of the two lads on t'other side of the road. Jeez, it could have gone anywhere! What was I thinking?

"Wicked" sez tall lad..."You play football?" "Yeah, many many years ago" I lie, digging being cool wid da kidz. "Who you support?" he says, standing there in his Barca shirt. Oh gawd I think, I'll bet he follows Man Utd, or much much worse, t'Shite. I'm in for some ridicule now. "Everton" sez I. He grins, whoops and hollers and amazingly says "Wow, me too" AND he high fives me! His little mate says "I'm Millwall, you bought Tim off us." Amazing! Two kids who support real teams, not a glory hunter in sight, although technically supporting Liverpool can't be classed as that nowadays. Whodathunkit?!
....

Anyone who gets on their moral high horse and bemoans the fact that the likes of Barclays Bank and Vodafone and sundry other huge corporations get away with paying far too little tax, albeit legally, should think again next time they hit "Checkout" on Amazon.co.uk

Registered in Luxembourg, the UK branch of Amazon does not pay too little tax here. No siree, for it pays NO TAX AT ALL claiming that its operations here are merely distribution as all of its trade takes place in Luxembourg. HMRC are currently contesting this, eager to get their hands on millions if not billions of potential backdated tax.

Not only that but Amazon is directly responsible for the demise of independent book shops and CD shops. So next time you buy a CD or a book, pay a wee bit extra with a UK based seller. I'm as guilty as anyone, but it's time for a boycott methinks!
...

Mucho JHB tomorrow - woohoo!

15 Apr 2012

From the Slough of Despond

I have avoided the internet since returning home from Phill's yesterday afternoon with a coal-black cloud hanging over me following Everton's meek Wembley capitulation to probably the worst Liverpool team and manager since the Souness era. I have also not watched any TV news or MotD, so all of this is without meeja influence.

Since the start of the week when I was optimistic of our chances of overturning a hoodoo against Liverpool in cup semi finals and finals that stretches back to 1906 would you believe, I slowly but inexorably became more and more pessimistic, a mood change that often accompanies approaching derby games. Arriving at Phill's some ten or so minutes prior to kick off you could have powered the TV from from my nerve endings, such was my charged state. As the game kicked off and despite Liverpool's initial gung-ho attitude, it soon became apparent that the blue team were the only group of players on the pitch who seemed to know what "team" actually meant. Liverpool looked like they had only just met each other and we slowly but surely gained the upper hand with an unsettling ease - optimism does not sit well with us Toffees.

Then a classic "to me, to you" moment between Carragher (couldn't have happened to a nicer bloke) and Agger let in Cahill, and there was only going to be one outcome once he had passed it to Jelavic. Woohoo! We were 1-0 up, looking the better team, and had we upped our game and taken it to them we could and indeed should have all but sealed the game before half time, but it wasn't to be as we seemed strangely reticent even after going a goal up. This can only be a result of the manager's defensive temperament taking over, as you can't imagine any team 'Arry manges going into their shell after taking a lead, can you?

Come the second half you knew that Liverpool would come out all guns blazing and this is what happened and this is also where the psychological hold they have over us came into play. Our key players were all disappearing, Baines never getting forward, Fellaini wandering about looking lost and Cahill invisible. To cap it all our most consistent defender of the season then gifted that dreadful excuse for a human being that is Luis Suarez with the simplest of goals and it was 1-1. Despite Phill's assurances that we would still win, I knew that there was only one team winning this game and it wasn't us.

By now Andy Carroll, the £3.5 million player for whom Comolli mistakenly moved the decimal point before signing the cheque, had missed a couple of sitters, to much derision from Phill, although I kept fairly quiet as I knew what was coming, and it duly did. Taking on the role of Moses, where Distin and Heitinga were the Red Sea, The Lummox rose like an overweight ballet dancer to Bellamy's corner, and even he couldn't miss the target. 2-1, game over, I went home.

In conclusion, I can only say that due to their performance in the second half and in particular the last 15 minutes, Liverpool deserved to win, and that is the fault of one person alone. We lost this match because David Moyes does not know how to attack a game when we've taken the lead, and this uncertainty translates itself to to the team. Although defending a 1-0 lead might work against West Brom and their ilk, it ain't going to work against a team like Liverpool, crap as they may be. He is also incapable of the psychological man-management that would get rid of a jinx that has gone on for far too long against our beloved neighbours.

About the only good thing you can say is that at least Liverpool cannot come up against a defence as generous as ours was in the final...ah...unless Spurs win this afternoon.

Right, I'm off to punch some walls.

6 Apr 2012

Bath full of offal

This week, mainly on Harriet's recommendation but partly to satisfy curiosity, Phill and I went to the Olde England pub for our traditional Thursday night beer. Highly praised by H and other friends this is a charming if somewhat strange hostelry. What used to be a Victorian house on a corner is now a pub serving up to ten real ales, loads of fruit wines and liqueurs and real ciders, the clincher being the legend "No lager sold here" on the door! Suits me, sir.

There are two floors both the size of a medium sized living room given over to large wooden tables and chairs. What may once have been a second bedroom upstairs has been partitioned into the loos which hold one person at a time only, although they have managed to have separate facilities for gents and ladies, and the bar which is basically a serving hatch, again with room for one person at a time. It didn't take long for queues to form.

As for the ambience, it's a great little place. With no jukebox or fruit machine, or TV, you have to...engage in conversation, remember that? As you are sat round a large table you'd have to be a complete misanthrope to not at least acknowledge the presence of the strangers you are sat near, and soon enough Phill and I were chatting to Emma & John from Leeds, who were playing Scrabble. If you know us two, you can imagine what happened next, and apologies to our new friends, but we kind of took over their game, Phill assisting Emma and me John, who kept telling me he felt completely out of his depth, heheh. After struggling to start with Team J&R triumphed by the end. Wahey! Checking later it seems Phill and I contributed a word each that...ahem....do not actually exist, even in the rarefied upper atmospheres of Scrabble Genius. What is it folk say about smartarses?

We'll certainly be going back there, that's for sure, maybe with a less cavalier attitude to the dictionary, oh, and the beer is amazingly cheap too!
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Farcebook, we all love it don't we? So far I have not been frogmarched into the virtual torture chamber that is Timeline, and so I still see the fun targeted advertising down the right side of my News Feed page. Today I have all the usual gubbins advertising everything from mobile phones (I've just got a new one), music festivals (well, obvious really), Internet browsers (more tallying to burgeoning nerd factor no doubt), to Daz Soap Club (what on earth is that, and how do they know I wash? And we prefer Persil in our house, so there). Stuck at the bottom of the list is one tagged "Boyfriends wanted" purportedly from a girls' dating agency that bravely chose to call itself "Plenty Of Fish". Oh dear....
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At work I occasionally like to have some background music and Wednesday's choice was Scheherazade by Rimsky-Korsakov. For those of you old enough, that's "Rrrrrimmmsssky Kkkoorrrrsakov" - ask your mum or your dad. Anyway here's the link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZKlFcjHBZY&feature=related

Obviously I don't watch the video but occasionally check a look to see how far in we are, and at around 22:30 minutes in I noticed the guy in the audience in the blue T-shirt appeared to be asleep. In fact if you fast forward to 23 minutes, he's well away. I'm sure we've all been guilty of similar behaviour, and my soma inducing environment of choice used to be the theatre, which I've not been to for years as it always saw me fighting with creeping unconsciousness, despite the too small and very uncomfortable seating that Shoesville's Art Deco theatre offered at the time. Now I'm 200 years older I just know I'd be out like a light probably even before the safety curtain has gone up.
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The idea of me taking exercise is about as unlikely as finding a chin in a Tory cabinet, but noticing my girth expanding slowly but surely and my weight going ever upwards I decided to download a pedometer app (ooh you trendy so-and-so) on to my new-fangled mobile telephonic and computing device that goes by the unfortunate name of "AccuPedo" - Sun readers could easily get confused. They probably used the same marketing guy who came up with "Plenty Of Fish". Anyways, the mythical target for those who "pedo" (ahem) is 10000 steps a day. Sounds a lot and it is, about 4¾ miles at my stride length. I walk to and from work every day, which it turns out is just over 5500 steps, leaving me 4500 steps to tread before the calories I burn up exceeds the amount I shovel in to any worthwhile extent.

In order to achieve this I have been taking ever more circuitous routes to work but I still have not hit the target. At this rate I'm going to have to get a bus to the next town and walk home.

Now, where's that Crunchie?
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31 Mar 2012

Cold Soup Band in Entreé Triumph

Some life-as-consumer stuff...

Some of you may be aware of the ongoing trauma that was (notice the use of the past tense - yippee!) the installation of our new bathroom here at Burwood Towers. To cut a long and quite dull but highly stressful story short, the original bath was discovered to have a minor flaw and so had to be changed, meaning a week without a bathroom for B and I. Thanks to Mike for the use of his facilities in the interim, the portaloo in the driveway was only called upon for emergencies.

The online company we bought the bath from go under the moniker of bathrooms365 and although I have to praise my point of contact Jill for doing all she could to help us, it has to be said that trying to contact them over a weekend be it by phone or email is a waste of time as there's nobody there. Methinks a name change to bathrooms261 may be appropriate. They eventually coughed up £40 by way of compensation which added to the extra delivery cost they had to pay probably wiped out their profit on the deal.

The upshot of having to change the bath meant that we are left with the original as the delivery driver was under instructions not to take it away, a fact I learned after the event. An EBay sale may not worth the hassle as a similar if slightly smaller bath from the same manufacturer with an almost identical if very slightly bigger flaw sold for a meh-inducing 98p!

If any of you fine people want a 1700mm x 800mm x 15mm (extra thickness to cope with my ever increasing weight at shower time) bath, RRP £310 plus, for a bargain price of £50 do get in touch. Please note that you'll have to arrange collection. If nobody is interested I'll chance my arm on EBay at £100 and failing that it's Freecycle.
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Insurance companies, doncha just love 'em? If like me you are a customer of Anglian Water then over the years you will have seen a fair few bits of flotsam and jetsam attempting to prise your wallet open to pay for a Homeserve (HS) insurance policy which covers things like wiring and underground pipework that are not necessarily covered by your normal house insurance.

A few years ago I took out one these pesky blighters only to realise it makes more sense to have it covered by British Gas (BG) as the boiler service is thrown in too. This means a duplication of cover, so I contacted HS in order to reduce the cover to the one remaining element not covered by BG. Weeks went by, no response, so I thought sod it, I'll cancel the bloody thing. Direct debit duly kicked into touch, and a letter sent to their customer service department explaining what I'd done and why I then get a letter from HS saying as my direct debit was no longer going through I owed them £x if I wanted my policy to continue. I ignore this of course, and a few weeks later get a letter from HS complaints department apologising for any delay, but that my complaint is being looked into.

Hmmm...odd, as I had not actually complained about anything. Interestingly this letter also contained a complaints procedure leaflet from the Insurance Ombudsman, so it appears the current fear and loathing instilled into banks etc by the PPI farce has spread to insurance companies. I thought nothing of this as surely they would work out that all I had done was cancel the policy once they read my letter and that would be the end of it. Not so, as yesterday I get a phone call from a very apologetic woman at HS who asked me if I would accept £50 in settlement of my complaint...err, yes please!
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The title of this wibble refers to Gazpacho, seen live in London by moi last week, a band that I highly recommend as it should appeal beyond the usual left-field racket that I tend to favour. Check out some tracks here.

Apparently Gary Numan has made a decent record, something about as likely as an orange narcissistic and annoying Scot getting elected to Parliament on the back of the Muslim vote in an ultra-safe Labour seat...oh, hang on a sec.. In fact if you type "George" into Google, the first one is Clooney, the second Michael and third is Bradford's newest MP! Life is indeed full of surprises.
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Last night saw the mighty Team Squonk spend some more of their accumulated pub quiz winnings in the the best curry house in Northants, Pooja in Wellingborough. By the way, I'm a carnivore and Pooja is 100% veggie, so it must be good for me to say that! We are nothing if not creatures of habit, and my main course nowadays at this fine if slightly surreal culinary establishment tends to alternate between two or three staples, but this time I tried something new. As veterans of this restaurant the cryptic menu descriptions of the food on offer now hold no fear, even a curry base described as "Mixed Gravy"! However, always curious as to what a Manchurian Dhosa might be, as it is described euphemistically as "A Dhosa (a flat pancake and a Southern Indian speciality - as if you need telling if you're still reading) filled with Manchurian" I took the chance on this comestible candidate, and taking a chance at Pooja has sometimes left me underwhelmed. This time I was not disappointed, as I was greeted with a filling of chilies, peppers, corn balls, and the still secret ingredients that make their curry sauces mouth-wateringly seductive. Damn, I just drooled on the keyboard..

If you're ever in Wellingborough (probably a bit of an unlikely proposition, I know) give Pooja a visit, you won't be disappointed. The menu only begins to hint at the cornucopia of salivating deelites on offer!
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6 Mar 2012

Triumph of the dense, and a gusset too far

You'll have no doubt seen various TV reporters, or heard Martin Lewis or read one of the other money gurus reporting on the PPI mis-selling shitstorm over the last week. Some of the people who were led down the garden path by sundry unscrupulous banks have already got their PPI refund claims in, or have already settled, and now banks and other institutions are being told to write to everyone they think may have been mis-sold one these policies, telling them they can claim it all back.

All fair enough I'm sure, but consider this:

A credit card customer - we'll call him/her Sam - is offered PPI when they take out a new card, but as Sam is actually in possession of some grey matter they actually bother to read the small print and work out all by themselves and without anyone around to wipe the drool off their chin that not only is the policy extortionately expensive, but also that it will not pay out for up to six months after a claim, if at all, as Sam is considering becoming a self-employed cross dresser. Sensibly Sam declines the offer.

Micky, a self employed ferret wrangler, and another new customer, does not read any of the small print, signs the agreement and is thereafter charged 10% of the total transactions on their new credit card every month as an insurance premium for the following six years, paying out thousands, until Sophie's odd choice of hubby informs them in his inimitable long winded fashion that they have been taken for a ride, and can claim back not only the premiums but also interest and compensation from Bastardcard plc.

So, Micky is rewarded with interest and compo for being a fuckwitted dunce while Sam pays for it through higher bank charges. We are all doomed and we are all going to die.
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I really struggle with proof reading this gubbins before I post it for you fine people (you know who you both are) to read, transposition errors a speciality. The epitome of my inability to read my own writing was pointed out by Phill t'other day, when he spotted that my link to my music scribblings on this blog read "MY ALL THINGS MUSIC REALTED BLOG". It's only been there for nigh on two years and I never noticed. How dumb is that? Mind you, my other reader didn't spot it so they must be as dumb as me...or kind...:) Needless to say, it has now been corretced.

PS - spellchecking this reveals that the word "blog" is not in Blogger's dictionary!!
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Sartorial Bravery Above And Beyond Award


Mr(s) Quiz!
This photograph has been published without permission. Arf!
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Sartorial Fail Award of the week goes to....a bloke I espied taking his young lad to school a couple of days ago. The temperature was about 2°C and this geezer was wearing a sweatshirt and gaudy thin cotton beach shorts, no socks and scruffy trainers. I wish I had taken a pic of him, I could barely stop myself from laughing.
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Next Saturday sees the commencement of the fitting of the new bathroom at Burwood Towers, and for three days or so there will be a portaloo parked in the driveway. Where this becomes awkward is in the event of a need for a nocturnal pee, not a problem for me as I rarely if ever get up in the night, and in any case a handy bucket will be the preferred option of bladder emptying for me and the missus. What worries me is if some pisshead on his way home from the pub at the top of the road spots the mobile facilities!
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And finally...."In Michigan, a woman’s hair belongs to her husband".

No, really, for this is, or rather hopefully was an actual law in the US state of Michigan, along with "It is against state law to tie a crocodile to a fire hydrant". Michigan  is obviously a fun place to live where crocs run free and men wear their wives' hair clippings as trophies. Taking the biscuit though has to be that in various New England states it was, and I truly hope I'm right in using the past tense here, written in law that "...a person could be fined up to $200 for denying the existence of God". What, just the once or continually? Did they keep on fining you until you either a) suddenly saw the Light, by Jaysus, or b) were bankrupt so that they could throw you into debtors prison?
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3 Mar 2012

Kick Out The Jams

I had to check my calendar....no it's not April 1st, this is a real living nightmare.

THIS IS AN UNBELIEVABLY FUCKING STUPID IDEA

Those libertarian self-serving greedy fuckers that call themselves the UK Government have come up with their most stupid, and indeed stupendously frightening idea yet. Whoever dreamt up privatising parts of the police service deserves a thorough kicking, metaphorically, literally, karmically, and in every other imaginable way.

Forget the ill thought out seismic upheavals they have planned for the NHS, this latest example of scary libertarian thinking, if I you will excuse the oxymoron, could, nay should be the thing that makes all those idiots who voted this latest lot of under-achieving undeserving chinless Eton-Oxbridge failures that are the Tory Party into office actually rise up from their self-centered view of the world and make Cameron stop this idiotic idea in its tracks.

Surely anyone with a quantum amount of common sense can see that this hare-brained scheme is a recipe for corruption. Just imagine Cops'R'Us shareholders' rights superceding those of victims, and it does not take much imagination to envisage the consequences. Perhaps News International will apply to look after the police horses? Fuck me this makes me angry!

As for those of us who were daft enough to be conned by Clegg's TV friendly fizzog into voting Lib-Dem, well I reckon it's time for another stroll along The Embankment, this time in millions.
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25 Feb 2012

No wrinkles on Philippe

Some TV watching...if you've not watched Inside Men and intend to, skip the first bit, for there be spoilers...

Inside Men
Stop tittering at the back...this was not a gay porno movie but actually a rather good crime drama, up to a point. I say up to a point, because there were one or two strange plot holes and the ending was the sort of thing writers come up with after some imbibing some marching powder and thinking they are handing down art when it is frustrating bollocks in actuality.

Our gang of insiders work in a cash clearing house that serves as a hub for moving vast quantities of cash around the country, from supermarkets to cash machines etc. Led by sociopathic warehouse boss John (the convincingly intense Steven Mackintosh) who stoops so low as to have his own wife and child held hostage in order to cover his tracks, one of the number, security guard Chris (Ashley Walters) decides he can't cope and goes to the police, informing them of the intended date of the heist. When, for reasons I won't go into, the planned robbery on that date doesn't happen, instead, as you would expect, the cops shadowing his every move they disappear from the picture entirely! As for the revealed bizarre reason for boss John carrying out the heist in the first place, well let's just say cod psychology doesn't do it justice. Whale psychology might be closer.

The ending is one of those "let's leave everything hanging in the air" things that for this kind of drama that cries out for a solid conclusion, is just pretentious and very annoying. In spite of all that it is rather good, if you don't mind shouting at the TV in frustration at the end.

Inspector Montalbano
B & my foray into Euro drama continues with this Italian cop drama, laced as it is with moments of high farce. A sort of Frost in the sun if you will. This levity combined with the gorgeous sun drenched Sicilian scenery meant it was somewhat of a culture shock after the grim (both in script and scenery) and serious Scandinavian dramas we've grown to love, but BBC 4 has possibly come up trumps again. The jury is out, but the two episodes we have seen so far show promise. Both were made in 2003 although they look older, having the look and feel of something filmed in the 80s. The graphics in particular are out of the Ark.

Inspector Salvo Montalbano is the top dog in a small town police station on Sicily, largely staffed by semi-competent leering 70s throwbacks with the exception of Fazio, Montalbano's overly serious deputy, and the lantern-jawed cretinous station sergeant Catarella who is practically an idiot savant. Master of the malapropism and blessed with a clown-like lack of grace, Catarella surprises all his colleagues by passing a computer course with distinction thereby showing them he does actually have a use apart from nearly falling over every time he opens the door to Montalbano's office. Unlike a lot of dull and formulaic British cop shows, Montalbano is not the dreaded maverick cop with a borderline personality disorder, just an ordinary bloke struggling with the absurdities of life, again a parallel to Frost.

Another great character is Salvo's long time girlfriend Livia with whom our hero has a largely long distance relationship over the phone. Their conversations usually end with Livia losing her dangerously explosive temper much to Salvo's stoical chagrin. When they meet occasionally they spend all their time shagging furiously. The sex is largely implied, although we are afforded glimpses of her fabulous upper register. Marvellous!
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And now, briefly, some balls...

A thankfully rarely tried defensive technique from certfied Scouse nutjob Joey Barton, currently resident at QPR...arf arf (thanks Pete)



Finally, may I just say....COME ON YOU BLUEBIRDS!!

18 Feb 2012

Tail chasing

Would you expect an automated phone call from your phone service provider to get you to confirm or reject an engineer's appointment you made in order to correct a "dead" phone line to be made to you on the very number you're having a problem with? Answers on a pigeon pointed at India, please.
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Some TV reviews:

Being Human - A series too far. Stop it, now.

Top Gear - An anachronism starring an actually intelligent man pretending to be an idiot, an actual idiot, and a decent bloke who knows which side his bread is buttered on. Stop it, now.

Family Guy - Thanks to Phill. I'm a late convert to this grossly offensive but often hilarious American rubbish. Seth MacFarlane is a comedy genius. The vomit scene is spectacular and rupture-inducingly funny in a really baaad way.

A tough rock
The Great British Countryside - I'm a sucker for this kind of thing, and was relieved to find out that I wouldn't have to put up with that ubiquitous over-hirsute Scot staring significantly into the middle distance from the top of a hill or a cliff for once.

Given that it is broadcast at 8 o'clock in the evening when kids who want to learn something should be watching, Hugh Dennis describing granite extrusions that survive the battering of the sea as "tough rocks", and the 21st C Anneka Rice that is Julia Bradbury describing our hinterland as "very old" is forgivable, just.

However, I'm not too sure about Bradbury asking a surfer what it is that attracts his kind to Newquay as huge breakers crashed on the beach in the near distance though. I might have to watch the next episode with the sound off.
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My friend Barry is the only person I've come across who openly admits to disliking National Treasure Stephen Fry, who he finds "condescending" "supercilious" "smug" and a few other choice adjectives. He reckons a few of his friends think the same way. Don't be too hard on him, he is a fan of the dwarf throwing game after all...;)