Sunday, December 31, 2006

Butchery At Last!

Marian at the altarLast night saw the final episode in the first series of the BBC’s new Robin Hood dramatization. A good job really as I’ve now nicked just about every picture of Lucy Griffiths from the BBC Robin Hood web site that was available in order to illustrate my scintillating reviews of the show.

You know what? It wasn’t too bad an episode at all. Over recent weeks I’ve quite begun to warm to the show. God knows it still drives me batty with its historical and costume-based inaccuracies, its teeth-grindingly annoying too-modern colloquialisms, its flagrant disregard for the period’s limited technology and its sodding refusal to ever show Lucy Griffiths emerging totally naked from a frothing waterfall, sucking a Cadbury’s Flake with the strength of an industrial Dyson and cracking a jewel encrusted cat-o-nine-tails over a seraglio of Saracen love slaves.

I mean c’mon guys! That’s a killer show ready to go! What’s the matter with you?

Anyway, last night saw Marian unsurprisingly retrieved from out of death’s grubby claws by a miracle reaction to hemlock and then a little while later retrieved from out of the grubby claws of somebody who was even worse than death itself – Guy of Gisbourne - by a far grittier agency. Guy, still wearing a black leather trench coat like an extra from an ABC video and still talkin’ like a Catherine Cookson mill owner by ‘eck, had his troth well and truly unplighted by Marian giving him a right-hook in front of the altar. Poor Guy. 13 episodes mooning after Marian and all he got into her was the blade of his knife. He should have guessed that Marian was secretly pining for the impressive length of Robin’s longbow…

As it was even Robin could hardly be called the Dr Love of Loxley. 13 episodes pretending not to be mooning after Marian and only at the end does he finally have the brains to snog her to within an inch of her heaving virtue. Geez. At this rate it’ll be the end of the next series before he finally gets to bury his weighted tip into the depths of her quivering bullseye. Or some such other archery based euphemism.

At least he was quicker getting his act together regarding the ridiculous pacifism malarkey of the merry men. Last night saw them hacking, stabbing, shooting, and knifing to death as many of the Sheriff’s men as could be squashed into a medium sized people carrier with plenty of gung-ho left over to wipe out a small garrison of CND activists. Should there have been any around. At frigging last. Swash buckling. It’s the whole point of the Robin Hood legend after all.

I have to say that despite my initial dissatisfaction with the show I will miss it. Saturday nights just won’t be the same for a little while. What can I take the P out of now?

Friday, December 29, 2006

A Private Affair

Isn’t it amazing how even the most obsessive blog writer seems to be cured of the normally overwhelming desire to autobiographize every life event over the Christmas period? Surfing through the handful of blogs that I visit on a regular basis, I’ve felt like I’ve been wandering around the remains of a virtual Marie Celeste.

Everybody has gone to ground.

Which is understandable. Here am I, first blog entry after Christmas, and am I going to regale you with accounts of my wonderful Christmas? Make your mouth water with descriptions of the Christmas food that was consumed in vast quantities under my very roof, the army of presents that I received?

No. I am not.

Christmas with family is nigh on impossible to convert into interesting and entertaining literature. Not because it’s in any way boring but because it’s somehow universal and deeply personal at the same time. It’s both a shared and a private experience. I’m sure the vast majority of us all do the same sort of things so what’s the point in recounting in minute detail what everybody else already knows?

And apart from anything else I am simply too knackered after several days of chocolate/DVD/insert-pleasurable-object based hedonistic pleasure to be bothered to write it all down here.

The countdown to the dreaded Return To Work has already begun. I need to make the most of my freedom. The world can wait. I’ve got a homemade chocolate cake to eat… a "Shameless" DVD boxed-set to watch…

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Drama At Last!

Robin carries wounded MarianAnd so the BBC’s Robin Hood speedily whizzes on it’s way to a (no doubt foregone) conclusion like an arrow shot from Robin’s incomprehensibly Saracen bow…

Last night in the penultimate episode we were treated to an occurrence of something that has sadly only made the odd cameo appearance in recent episodes… drama.

Yes, Dame Drama herself deigned to make an appearance… and what an improving light she cast upon the mock-Tudor mock-medieval mis-en-scene that has continually tripped up what otherwise could have been a decent rendition of the Robin Hood legend.

Marian was stabbed in her womanly belly by the dastardly Guy Of Gisbourne!

Sadly we did not get to see her maidenly belly as Marian stayed firmly wrapped up in her leathers for the remainder of the show having been stabbed whilst carrying out a daring mission as her alter ego, The Night Watchman. Neither did we get to see her quivering Saxon belly when Djaq, the puzzling Saracen woman who has joined the Merry Men for no other reason than modern political expediency, decided to perform acts of Eastern surgery upon her in an attempt to save her life.

I’m very disappointed. I spent the entire episode on the edge of my seat waiting to catch a glimpse of Lucy Griffith’s belly.

Why?

I’m convinced that in keeping with the plethora of painful anachronisms that have plagued the show since episode one, an expose of Marian’s belly would have shown that not only has her belly been tattooed with the words "Maz for da Hood 4eva" but that her belly button has also been pierced with a little silver arrow to show her secret love for Robin Hood…

But alas as this didn’t actually happen we had to make do with some actually quite decent dialogue between Robin and Marian as they finally declared their love for each other. And then Marian died. Cue manly heroic sobs from Robin. Marian remained dead. Cue intense looks of revenge-laden hatred from Robin as the Sheriff’s gloating voice chirrups forth from the background: "Robin! Come out come out come out… wherever you are!" Ah they’ve caught the colloquialisms of the period to a tee.

Final episode next week. Should be a corker. I strongly suspect that Marian will make a full, miraculous recovery and that her gaping wound will need to be sewn up by the powerful needle of love that only Robin Hood himself can provide.

Yes that is an innuendo.

A very Merry Christmas to you all – have a good one.

;-)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Fray Bentos

Actually my previous blog posting has got me thinking up suitably down-at-heel, greasy-cafe, common-as-muck food based phrases that I would love to hear Dervla Kirwan utter with her gorgeously chocolatey Irish voice.

So far I’ve got:

1) "Fray Bentos..."
2) "Hot buttered mash stuffed with cheap, greasy pork sausages..."
3) "Reconstituted beef burger alternative slathered in out of date gherkins and rancid tomato sauce..."
4) "Snotty eggs fried in gristle laden fat with black bits floating on the top..."

and

5) "Bernard Matthews..."

Oooh... I’m shuddering all over!

Dervla Kirwan

Dervla Kirwan picThe current proliferation of Marks & Spencer adverts on UK TV have somehow seeped into my subconscious and I now find I have an urgent desire to have Dervla Kirwan as my personal menu reader whenever I go out for a meal. Just the thought of her lilting voice crooning “double egg and chips” or “Chicken Royale with extra fries” sends shivers down the spine of my wallet…

Monday, December 18, 2006

Sneaky Santa

Christmas seems to have snuck up on me this year like an absurdly dressed mugger. Not a bad analogy considering how much moolah I’ve been haemorrhaging over the past month. Every year I come up with this ridiculously hopeful budget that I have every intention of sticking to... and then blow it all in the first week. Even if I’d doubled my “Crimbo Budget” for this year I still would have ended up in the red (ho ho ho).

I just hate the thought of scrimping on pressies for Karen and Ben. There is nothing worse than opening your own gifts on Christmas morning and seeing how much money and care your loved ones have lavished upon you and then secretly cursing yourself for not buying that diamante necklace for your partner or that £6000 bucket of Lego for your kid... why oh why did I do my entire Christmas shop at TK-Max?

Thankfully I’ve been a darn sight more upmarket than TK-Max and hopefully Karen and Ben will be chuffed to pieces with what I’ve got them.

Anyway, today has been the first day that I’ve actually felt Christmassy. I’ve felt completely out of kilter with the festive season over the last two weeks – mainly because of the volume of work coming my way through my Brighter Web Design business. I honestly felt like I was drowning at one point... but feel a lot better now for putting my foot down. I’ve informed my clients that as from this Friday I am taking a 10 day break. Almost immediately I could feel my shoulders lifting and the fugue in my brain clearing and a desire to hear sleigh-bells in the bedroom... but hey, let’s leave Christmas themed roll-play out of this for the time being.

It’s weird. Suddenly it is Christmas. For real. And I feel totally subsumed with the holiday spirit. All of which is bad news for my day-job bosses as I have utterly no intention of doing any real work at all this week.

Ha ha ha!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Fatty Gay

Grinch picNo. Not a reference to Johnny Vegas suddenly announcing a highly unlikely swing to the homo side of the street but instead a play on the French word for fatigue...

Yes, I’ve been burning the candle at both ends so much over the last few days that it now resembles Darth Maul’s light sabre. Only without all the balletic wrist-twirling, jump-kicking and grimacing.

Well actually there’s been lots of grimacing. My face has been pressed to the grindstone so much that if I were a CB radio ham my handle would undoubtedly be The Grindstone Cowboy...

Swamped by crap in my day job, my burgeoning web design business has also been hotting up so much that I’ve effectively been working 12 hour days for most of this week. I’m amazed at how dour “all work and no play” makes me. Christmas seems another world away rather than another week away.

Still things should slack off by the weekend and I can try at last to regain my Christmas spirit and joi de vivre.

After all there’s no point being a humbug at Christmas time if you haven’t got the energy to enjoy it.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Pig Off

After yesterday’s sense of humour by-pass I’m pleased to report that today has been imbued with a much more sanguine atmosphere. I’ve even been known to crack a smile in the last half hour.

The engineers have performed their diagnostics and have confidently laid the blame for yesterday’s indoor deluge at the foot of that singularly familiar blight of modern day living: mechanical failure. Basically the calibration of the humidifier’s sensor was completely awry and the pressure switch which acts as a safety valve to turn the machine off had also failed hence it was producing water vapour on a never ending cycle of Terminator style wanton destruction resulting in dripping condensation on the scale of Wookey Hole caves.

No. That explanation didn’t mean a thing to me either.

But it has allowed me to purchase a T-shirt with the words "See it wasn’t my fault at all ya mean-eyed bunch of gobshites!" emblazoned across the chest.

Vindication – it’s a marvellous thing.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Porker

This has not been a good day.

Woken at 5 am by the boy deciding to get up and watch TV (needless to say he was sent back to bed with a flea in his ear), I found it impossible to get back to sleep despite being desperately dog-tired.

Arrived at work bleary eyed to find one of the humidifier units in our main art store at the gallery where I work had gone haywire over the weekend. Result: massive condensation all over the (idiotically) metal ceiling and water pooling and dripping everywhere. Disaster clue: art work and water do not mix.

Spent the entire day chasing various engineers, “experts” and insurance bods to try and get a mess cleared up which my guilt complex says everybody is blaming me for.

Summary: I feel like I haven’t achieved a damn thing.

It’s been, to coin a phrase, a real pig of a day.

Friday, December 08, 2006

The F Word

Gordon Ramsey picI have to confess towards a huge liking for Gordon Ramsay. In fact both Karen and I are avid fans of both The F Word and Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. Both shows are compelling viewing. It’s highly amusing to watch the (apparently) super competent Gordon Ramsay rail against the inadequacies and physical dysfunctionality of the mere mortals flapping around him.

Of course I’m sure it’s Gordon’s abrupt and formidable manner which makes people flap and bodge about in the first place... but weirdly no true sense of class / personal superiority ever emanates from Gordon. He doesn’t think of himself as being better than anybody else – he just seems to be driven purely by a desire to do things properly and have others do the same and takes it very personally when someone else’s idea of perfection isn’t on a par with his own.

I think I like Gordon the most though because of his zero tolerance towards crap. He just won’t have it. Not in his kitchen. Not from those around him. Not from anywhere. And when he encounters it he is eloquently contemptuous and doesn’t pull any punches. He tells it like it is and my God don’t I wish I had the balls to do the same. Don’t we all?

Best of all though I like Gordon for his sense of decency and fair play. When he’s gone too far with someone he apologizes and makes amends. He’s a top bloke. And it explains why his staff are so fiercely loyal.

But each time I watch his shows I can’t help but be fixated by the fact his chin looks like it’s been on the receiving end of a malicious pastry crimper. Just what is that mark? A scar? A bizarre wrinkle formed by years of sneering at ham-fisted sous chefs? The join of a false rubber latex chin?

I need to know.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Licked Into Shape

I must confess to feeling a mite churlish after my rant about Lil Chris yesterday. Further research has proven that the kid is only about 16 and apparently was a winning contestant on Gene Simmons' Rock School.

Geez.

Being licked into shape by Gene Simmons' prehensile tongue live on TV is surely punishment enough.

Knowing that an aging rock star’s tongue is bigger than you are is just rubbing salt into the wound...

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Get Me To The Church On Time!

Tris, Frankie, Mila and EmilyYesterday I had the consummate honour of being the Best Man at the wedding of my good friends Tris and Emily.

Although as it turned out my actual title for the day was "The Almost But Not Quite Nearly Made It On Time But Didn’t" Best Man. Let me explain.

Normally getting from Leamington Spa (bright jewel of the Midlands) to London is an undertaking so easy as not to be worth discussing...

Yesterday, however, fate contrived to elevate this normally nondescript journey into something closely resembling a labour of Hercules.

Now Karen and I – being smart cookies and not unaware of some of the traffic problems that can sometimes befall the unwary traveller to London – factored in a huge 2 hour buffer zone to the timing of our journey and set off confidently at 9.0 am assured in the knowledge that the odd spot of congestion would hardly dent our schedule and be nothing but a minor aggravation.

I mean the wedding wasn’t until 2.0 pm – this gave us a whole 5 hours to make what should have been at most a 3 hour journey. Plenty of time to read the morning papers in the odd traffic jam on the motorway and still arrive in the Capital with enough time to spare to sup a skinny latte or two in a posh Oxford Street Café before heading off cool, calm and collected to Waltham Forest Registry Office.

Fate however had dictated that we were NOT to arrive on time for the wedding. First we were assailed by a 2 hour slow moving tailback on the M40 before the police turfed everybody off at junction 10. Fine, we thought, we’ll try the M1 instead. Unfortunately road works on the M1 created another 40 minute delay as we were funnelled through a contraflow system which had ground almost to a halt due to someone breaking down half way along it. Eventually we arrived on the M25 which thankfully was fine. Great. Moving again. We could still make it on time, we thought. Though we now had utterly no margin for error.

Ah how Fate must rejoice at such words. No margin for error…

Sigh. Heavy congestion along the sole segment of the M11 that we needed to travel along put any remaining hope we had of arriving on time for the ceremony completely beyond our reach. To add insult to injury after we’d painfully crawled to the end of the M11 the slip road we needed to take to bring us into London proper had been completely closed off due to road works and we ended up being diverted in completely the wrong direction!

Gah!!!!

Anyway, let’s dispense with the travelog. Tris and Emily were wonderful about it all. They delayed the ceremony for 10 minutes in the hope we’d still make it in time but in the end one of Tris’s friend’s had to step in at the last minute to do the business with the wedding rings… and the ceremony quite rightly went ahead. Karen, Ben and I finally arrived about 5 minutes before the end of the ceremony looking sweaty, chagrined and dishevelled with not a skinny latte in sight. The best laid plans of mice and men, eh?

For all that it was a wonderful day and Tris and Em, aside from looking fantastic, were fantastic – it was really great to be in London with so many lovely, warm hearted people and to be made to feel so welcome. We really wouldn’t have missed it for the world. I was able to discharge part of my Best Man duty at least by giving a speech at the reception (which hopefully didn’t die too much of an awful death) and it was very moving to see two of my best friend’s so happy together.

The whole occasion made Karen and I come all over all gooey and romantic too and our boy Ben really hit it off with Tris’s eldest kids, Frankie and Mila.

Worth a five hour car journey through hell?

You betcha.

Congratulations Tris and Emily – may you have a long, happy life together.

Next time we come to see you we’ll take the train.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Hot Stuff

Yet more lesbian snogging in Torchwood last night. This time it was the turn of Toshiko to get her tongue-twisted by a formidably blonde, blue-eyed, bouncy breasted alien who had the gruesome habit of ripping out the hearts of men who annoyed her. Evidently men were a major turn off for this particular intergalactic filly. Even Captain Jack himself didn’t manage to get a bite of her cosmic cherry - the closest he came to it was being told he smelt different (damn flash Americans with their damn flash aftershave) and being allowed to keep his heart in situ.

There’s so much girl-on-girl action in this show that I’m amazed it’s not been snapped up by one of the many adult TV channels and leads me to wonder if the cast were advised that they’d have to snog absolutely anything with a pulse and/or face and/or orifice as part of their normal acting remit.

All of which is effing great as it drags sci-fi out of the cold, boring realm of geek-dom and into the far more exciting arena of risqué sexual practices and futuristic porno. Which is exactly where it belongs in my book.

Ironically the only character in the show not getting any action at the moment is Jack himself.

Jack himself? Hmm. I’m sure there’s a bad joke in there somewhere...

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Casino Royale

N.B. Spoiler warning!

007 pictureKaren and I saw the new Bond movie yesterday and were absolutely blown away by it. Daniel Craig is the best bond in years and in my opinion even gives Sean Connery a run for his money. Anybody who saw Craig’s performance in Layer Cake wouldn’t have had any doubts as to his ability to make the Bond role totally his own… frankly I’ve been amazed at the dissenting and doubting voices which, sensibly, have been very much in the minority.

Craig’s Bond is blond, brutal and cold and for the first time since Connery an uncomfortably dangerous animal. Unusually for the modern Bond we see him kill with his own hands, up close and personal, strangling one enemy to death and drowning another in a sink basin. There are no deaths by ridiculous gadgetry in this film. When Bond fights his style is economic and purely functional – and far more believable than the idiotically suave Moore or the choreographed automaton of Brosnan. There’s a coldness about Craig which suits the role perfectly – the coldness of emotional armour not of disinterest and this distinction is important. The latter would displace him too much from the audience’s emotional radar. As it is we connect with Bond and root for him but are pushed away from him in the same way that he keeps the other characters in the film at arm’s length. And of course we react in the same way. The more we are kept at bay by Bond’s emotional armour the more compelled we are to stay close to him and urge him on. Craig’s Bond has something that’s been sadly lacking in most Bond’s since Connery: charisma and true magnetism.

The action sequences are impressive and gritty without resorting to the usual Bond-esque extravaganza of trashing absolutely everything in camera shot and the humour is richly dark and adds to the blackness rather than undercuts it – the scene where Bond is tortured by villain Le Chiffre is a case in point. You will shift uncomfortably in your seat as you watch it.

There’s plenty of eye-candy for both sexes – Craig’s blond good looks complimented by the brunette fulsomeness of both Caterina Murino as Solange and Eva Green as Vesper Lynd. Even Dame Judi Dench as M manages to smoulder – not bad for a woman old enough to be drawing a pension!

Although the plot sometimes lacks truly unexpected twists the direction is good enough to make every second of the film satisfying nonetheless. Even though we know that ultimately Vesper Lynd is going to die her death scene is still shockingly disturbing and horrific – we watch her drown with an intensity that is somehow very intimate and affecting. We know that Bond’s revenge is going to be suitably unforgiving and magnificent and this sets us up rather nicely for the next instalment…

And I for one hope that it won’t be too long before it reaches our cinema screens.

Welcome back Mr Bond.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Taking It On The Chin

Marian in scarfOk. I’ll admit it. The BBC’s Robin Hood is slowly growing on me (like lichen on tree bark). I still have issues with the show’s propensity for extravagant anachronisms but slowly decent plots are beginning to shape up and the characters are being given room to develop and drive the show forward.

Last night was a case in point. Having discovered that Gisbourne had tried to kill the King in the Holy Hand (highly dubious, I know) in an assassination attempt that left Robin seriously wounded (cue several bouts of post traumatic stress disorder… i.e. bad dreams) Robin set about making Gisbourne pay and gave him a right royal kicking in the forest. Robin actually got – dare I say it – quite nasty.

And was all the better for it. I hate to say it but making Robin a politically correct moralist – though an admirable quality in itself – has totally hamstrung his heroic capabilities. In real life pacifism is good sense, sanity and commendable reason. In action-drama it is pointless, fruitless and a complete disaster. Pacifism and action-drama do not mix!

Giving Robin and Guy an extra reason to loathe and hate each other can only be a good thing. It ups the ante. Makes the conflict more personal, bitter and brutal. This can only be a bonus for future plot and character development.

Making them rivals for Marian’s affections only adds petrol to the blaze. Good show! Some emotional action at last!

I may even end up a fan.

Incidentally my mate Tris has cast vicious aspersions that Marian’s hormonal make-up may have exceeded the testosterone levels of most normal women, identifying her impressively large chin as evidence… now that would be one hell of a plot-twist: Marian more of a guy than Guy! And Guy’s predilection for bad leather apparel would suggest that maybe Guy is gay… So if Marian is guy and Guy is gay who the hell is taking care of Little John?

Merry men indeed.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Uncle Bulgaria 5 – 1 Odds On

Just been flicking through the current issue of Viz Magazine (as is my wont) and happened across what I think is one of the funniest composite pictures of all time. Grotesque horse racing pundit John McCririck restyled as Uncle Bulgaria from The Wombles...

John McCririck as Uncle Bulgaria

Uncannily accurate.

Incidentally, Karen and I have a theory that John McCririck is covered by a coarse fur of matted red hair and has a belly button like a ginger tom’s arsehole.

Just thought I’d share that with you.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Another 15 Minutes Of Fame

Gosh. I’m doing well in terms of getting my name into The Courier this year.

Poring through today’s edition I see I managed to achieve a “highly commended” runner-up position in their recent haiku competition – the subject being “fireworks”.

Here for your edification (and my self-aggrandizement) is the poem:

As a month’s wages
rocket skywards in blue smoke
all the kids explode...

Aerial Suicide

TV Aerial pictureThe UK campaign to upgrade every household in the country to digital TV reception produced its first casualty this morning.

At approximately 3.0 am our – already damaged as the result of a past illicit pigeon-shagging incident – decided that it would rather jump than wait to be pushed. We awoke to the eerie sound of stressed metal screaming as it threw itself off the chimney stack and into the gutter.

Or rather into the guttering.

I guess the fact that we’ve already been watching cable for the last 3 years so have no need to upgrade was little comfort. It knew its days of snowstorm TV reception were numbered. Better by far to descend earthwards in a last self-actualizing bid for glory.

When the rag-and-bone man comes next week the sound of his rusty hunting horn will be a fitting tribute to past services rendered.

Goodbye old friend. We salute you.

Now what’s on Sky One tonight?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

I’m Never Gonna Dance Again

Bunions pictureIt’s official. I have abnormal feet.

Persistent pain in the foot I injured a few weeks ago - plus since Sunday new pain inexplicably in my other foot (making the original injury seem like light relief) - forced a return to the doctor’s this morning in an attempt to get to the root of the problem. I mean I’m hobbling about like an old man and am in constant pain. It’s getting ridiculous.

Anyway a brand new surgery meant a brand new doctor (I won’t bore you with the mundane details just accept that I’ve changed my doctor for utterly no controversial reasons at all) and this brand new doctor was certainly on the ball.

Of my foot, in fact.

It seems I’m suffering from hallux valgus resulting in metatarsalgia.

Basically my feet are foobarred.

To paraphrase my doc: the bio-mechanics of my feet are not right resulting in incorrect and ineffective load bearing capacity, bunions, calluses, a lot of pain and worst of all toes that are being pushed outwards and upwards causing cross-overs and yet another obstacle to walking correctly and without pain.

No chance of a quick fix then?

Nope. None at all. I have to see an Orthopaedic specialist at the local hospital (which could take up to 4 months to arrange), buy "orthaheel" insoles and ultimately will have to face surgery if I "still want to be active in 10 year’s time..." In the same breath my doc also warned me that foot operations are not to be entered into lightly as they are invariably very painful and the recovery time is both painful and long. However that option could be years away as yet.

Oh great. At least it won’t spoil Christmas then.

Sigh.

It seems my dancing days are over.

And my chances of winning the London marathon are much reduced...

And for those of you that bothered to follow the links above and read the resulting information: NO I DO NOT WEAR HIGH HEELS!

I've always preferred granny slippers...

Monday, November 20, 2006

Death Wish

What’s in a letter?

Picture the scene if you will... it’s Friday afternoon, it’s 30 minutes before knocking-off time, you’re tired, you’re bored and you’re desperate to finish off the last of your work and head home for the weekend...

All you have to do is email your department manager with some info he has requested - in this case an inventory of building equipment - and then you’re almost in the home stretch and can practically taste the free air of the weekend.

You begin to compose the email. You don’t want to appear too informal - he is after all the big boss of your department. Clearly "Hi Dale" is too chatty, too casual for what is after all a very slight but very formal working relationship. "Dear Dale" is much the safer option. Respectful, full of old style reverence and it can’t possibly offend anybody.

Unfortunately you’re so tired and eager to get away from the office that your typing skills are on the skids. An innocent finger slip - unnoticed in your haste to leave the grind of the workplace - substitutes the "r" for a "d"... and suddenly instead of "Dear Dale" your email begins "Dead Dale".

But you don’t notice until... Oh God. It’s been sent. And there’s no way to recall it.

You slope off home hoping that the famed dyslexia of this particular section boss will perhaps render the faux pas unnoticed...

Unfortunately you arrive at work this grey Monday morning to find a print-out of Friday’s email placed in the middle of your desk with the mistyped word highlighted big and large in bright red marker pen with a massive exclamation mark beside it...

What do you do now?

Keep your head down and hope the incident is soon lost amongst the normal flotsam of the day and make a vow never to rely solely on the spellchecker to pick up your typing errors ever again?

Or meet conspicuously with black suited Italian businessmen at lunchtime and make good the veiled threat?

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Borat Pack

Borat pictureKaren and I made the most of a rare day off work together this week by visiting the local cinema to see the new Sacha Baron Cohen movie, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.

It was an interesting experience (the film that is, not going to the cinema with Karen... though of course that IS always interesting... in a totally good way I mean, oh God, moving swiftly onwards...) as the film veered adeptly from uncomfortable scatological slapstick to discomfortingly subtle satire. Despite the shallowness of the Borat persona he was nevertheless an effective vehicle for the film’s many weighty and often poignant themes.

My favourite scene was when Borat was invited to share a meal and experience the niceties of Southern etiquette by attending a small dinner party organized by some of Atlanta’s social elite in the presence of the local preacher. After pointedly excusing himself to visit the toilet facilities Borat, feigning total ignorance of western bathroom protocol, reappeared some minutes later armed with his freshly produced stool daintily contained inside a plastic bag and asked the hostess where he should put it.

Weirdly the reaction of the inanely grinning hostess to this bottom-based faux pas was one of serenity and calmness - one might even say one of motherly indulgence - as she led Borat back upstairs and patiently explained how we in the West go about disposing of our bum-fruit and the various intricacies of the post-poo undercarriage clean-up operation.

Yet as soon as Borat invited a black hooker into the house to be his dinner companion all hell broke loose. The preacher - poker faced to within an inch of being a statue for much of the evening anyway - immediately stormed out leaving his aghast wife behind him and the no longer grinning hostess ordered Borat and his date to leave the premises without further ado and informed him that the police authorities were being called.

Amazing.

It’s important to note that the hooker wasn’t naked or swearing. She wasn’t making any lewd suggestions. There was utterly no soliciting at all and she was better mannered than Borat.

Conclusion:

It seems it’s fine to wave a hardening turd around when attending a dinner party in the deep South but if you bring a woman into the house whose only crime is to dress like a streetwalker - and a black one at that - then you can expect to be chased out of town, arrested and perhaps even lynched - with the local clergy brandishing the biggest pitchforks.

It seems respectability and respect for others (regardless of social class) are mutually exclusive concepts in American polite society...

Hmm.

America, something stinks...

...and it sure as hell ain't my bag...

Pocketropolis.com Is Back

Churchill V For VictoryDone it!

Up yours Web-Warehouse!

Finally after much emailing and document swapping, after numerous faxes and photocopying of "Government issue photographic IDs", after much wrangling with various US based domain name registrars and complaining to www.icann.org... finally www.pocketropolis.com has been fully reactivated and placed totally back under my control.

Full victory has at last been achieved.

I realize this news won’t mean diddly-squat to anybody else but me but I am crowing loudly enough about it this morning to want to share it with the whole world. It is the attainment of the glorious cup of success that I’ve long been thirsting for. And proof positive that perseverance in the face of big anonymous companies can sometimes get you what you are striving for.

On a more sober note I have to say that this experience has taught me how little protection there is for the "little guy" on the World Wide Web... but it’s nice to acknowledge the positive role that www.icann.org played in this particular mini drama. Cheers guys... whatever you did nudged certain somebodies in the right direction and got things moving...

My world is now as it should be.

Sigh.


Fix bayonet. On with business...

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Rat Race And Call-Girls

I’ve spent the last two days back at work as my foot, though still twitchy, is much improved. I was quite expecting to be assailed by a huge feeling of depression as I re-entered the rat race after two weeks of relative luxury / torture watching Loose Women on TV (sadly not a fly-on-the-wall expose on UK houses of ill repute) but instead was surprised to find my return to the real world accompanied by a sense of exhilaration and even enjoyment.

It seems I must on some level enjoy being occupied… even if it is with the usual cavalcade of bureaucratic crapness that infests my job like pubic lice in an East End call-girl’s knickers.

Hey back to loose women again! No wonder the re-adjustment was so smooth.

One question though:

Does this mean I’m the "pimp-daddy" for the local council?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Broken TV Aerial

Obese pigeon pictureLast night Karen and I suffered the singularly peculiar experience of being woken up at 3am by our TV aerial clanging against itself in the wind.

We noticed it was broken a couple of weeks ago when by chance we forewent the usual televisual hogwash on cable and switched to good old terrestrial telly… and found that the reception on all channels resembled Channel 5 on a good night (international readers of this blog won’t have the foggiest what I’m talking about - let’s all savour the smugness of knowing something that they don’t…).

A quick sojourn out to the front garden revealed that our TV aerial was nigh on snapped in half and dangling down like the guest of honour at a bah-mitzvah.

How such a thing can have occurred when every other TV aerial in the street is flying stiff and correct at the horizontal, I don’t know. My only theory is that our aerial was singled out by an amorous pair of immensely obese pigeons who proceeded to go at it hammer and tongues on our "roof-top antenna love-pad" and wrecked the poor thing to within an inch of it falling off the roof in total embarrassment and disgust.

Now on windy nights our street resounds to the forlorn clanging of multi pronged metal bashing itself against its own up-stand…

…and we’re going to have to pay some poor sap a few hundred pounds to go up on a ladder, fix the bloody thing and wipe it free of pigeon spunk.

Marvellous.

A Cardigan Too Far

Lucy Griffith's as MarianGiven that I watch it religiously every week I must find some virtue in the BBC’s new rendition of the Robin Hood legend… even though as regular readers of this blog will know, I’ve been giving it some major stick over the past weeks.

Last night’s episode (the awfully named "The Taxman Cometh") was full of the usual batch of horrendously jarring anachronisms that are fast becoming the show’s motif…

There was a huge sewer system that enabled Robin and Much to escape Nottingham Castle. I mean, come on! They did NOT have sewers in 11th Century England. They had midden heaps, bogs and in the worst case scenario the castle moat. Modern town planning complete with systems of waste removal did not come into being until nigh on 700 years later (correct me if I’m wrong).

Worst of all though (and this is a shame because I think Lucy Griffiths' Marian is the best thing in the show) was Marian’s costume. God knows the costume department are offloading more than a fair share of the clothing inaccuracies onto Lucy’s (broad but shapely) shoulders but this week they just went a step too far.

Marian was gamely sporting a rather fetching looking yellow cardigan that not only was plainly bought "off the shelf", it was also patently, blatantly machine knitted.

Now I know Marian represents the privileged Old Saxon aristocracy in this time period but even so I didn’t realise the old English nobility had full access to Jaeger and Monsoon

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Nexus Of Accountability

I guess it’s reassuring to note that the recent sentencing of Saddam Hussein to death by hanging hasn’t been enough to sway the American voting public to shore up the subsiding Bush administration during the recent US mid-term elections. It seems our American friends have got some sense after all.

I do wonder though if their disapproval of Bush (and, by implication, their disapproval of the US led war in Iraq) isn’t so much down to ethical discomforts (the complete invasion and destruction of a sovereign country by an aggressive foreign power, thousands of Iraqis maimed, dead and dying daily) as the fact that so many US soldiers (and British, don’t forget) are regularly losing their lives upholding a campaign that is to all intents and purposes flailing about uselessly without any of its primary objectives being achieved.

I’m sure most Americans would be joyously backing Bush to the hilt if the campaign had been an all-out success (no matter what the cost in human life - Iraqi as well as American) and Iraq had become a Middle Eastern province of US style democracy.

As it is, I’m sure the average Joe Yank is currently scratching his head in a very confused fashion wondering why – if might is right – they haven’t got the war won? Why given their immense fire power and military resources they are still absurdly waving their pudgy arms about trying to swat a bunch of flies that are still incessantly biting them on the arse…

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Axis Of Guilt

Saddam and GeorgeWith miraculous good timing Saddam Hussein is sentenced to death by hanging a couple of days before the US mid-term elections. What a lucky man George W Bush is. Vindication right when he needs it.

While Saddam Hussein has undoubtedly committed the grossest atrocities against humanity and deserves to be brought to account it’s difficult not to react with some cynicism to the way this trial has been conducted. The whole thing has been a circus at best and a fully choreographed farce at worst.

The sentence of course has always been a foregone conclusion. Guilty. And nobody would argue against it.

But if we’re going to start dolling out righteous punishments for those who commit "crimes against humanity" then we need to be more even-handed and wider ranging in terms of where and on whom we set our sights.

When sentence was being delivered there was room in that dock for a few more people…

All of them politicians. Some of them "world leaders".

Saturday, November 04, 2006

My Left Foot

I’ve actually spent the last 5 days at home having been signed off by the doctor due to my pathetic bottom-rung ladder accident as reported here a couple of weeks ago. The doctor’s prognosis was “fore foot sprain” (as opposed to a “four foot sprain” which would have sounded far more impressive) and he prescribed some industrial strength painkillers to dull the agony and sagely recommended that I keep off my feet as much as possible for the next 7 days.

Which I have done as much as I have been able but a return visit yesterday resulted in me being signed off for another week and an appointment for physio made on my behalf via Warwick Hospital. All sounds rather grand and cool, doesn’t it? A workplace based injury. White coated experts fingering every nook and cranny (on my foot that is) and humming to themselves in concerned tones…

If only. The trouble is my injury isn’t cool at all. I stepped awkwardly of the bottom rung of a medium sized ladder for God’s sake! It wasn’t like I fell 150ft into a roiling vat of female pop singers. Worst of all, although the sprain is healing slowly my toes have gone into “spasm”… which means they’ve locked themselves into a position where they’re pointing upwards making me wonder if (pardon the un-PC-ness of this next outburst) “spasm” isn’t short for “spaz mode”. Anyway, the result of all this is that I am unable to walk properly or without pain and because my toes aren’t functioning properly my foot is beginning to turn inwards when I walk. Hence the physio.

I’ve been medically removed from the workplace due to the effects of toe spasm.

I mean really!

No jokes about foot jobs please.

Pocketropolis News

As some of you will have noticed www.pocketropolis.com has been off the air now for the best part of three weeks. My attempts to recover it continue apace. Without going into the nitty-gritty Web Warehouse (the current hosts) have continued to be totally incommunicative leaving me to go it alone in figuring out a solution. Emailing the various US based registrars that Web Warehouse do business with merely resulted in the usual game of informational ping-pong whereby I was pushed from pillar to post and back again until, finally, an email sent to www.icann.org flagging the problem finally produced some concrete results. In response to this a Registrar in America (who I won’t name) then sent me a form to fill in which should - in a week or two - hopefully see www.pocketropolis.com placed completely back under my control.

I will keep you posted.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Trick Or Treat?

Am I the only person in this country who finds Trick Or Treating abhorrent? Please tell me I’m not.

Look I realize I’m fast gaining the reputation of someone whose sole pleasure in life is humbugging the innocent pastimes of other people but personally I feel that the concept and practise of Trick Or Treating is inherently criminal.

It’s begging. With menaces.

Extortion in other words.

Fair play to Warwickshire Police for bringing in an £80 fine for nuisance Trick Or Treaters, I say.

Bah humbug!

Ok. Ok. I admit that Trick Or Treating is mostly just meant to be harmless fun and to be honest the majority of the kids out on the street last night were accompanied by a responsible adult (invariably dressed in a witch’s costume made from old bin liners) but the simple fact is we got hassled 7 times yesterday evening by gangs of kids demanding sweets. 7 times! Karen and I were both shattered yesterday evening and all we wanted to do was kick back, eat and watch TV in the comfort of our own home without having to get up and answer the door every ten minutes. Instead we had the doorbell rang, the door knocked, the letterbox rapped and – most invasive of all – the living room window banged loudly upon by a load of wretched little ghouls with a collective sweet tooth.

Needless to say the front door remained shut and any chocolate that was in the house remained firmly in my possession. I don’t spend a fortune at Sainsbury’s every week to feed other people’s kids a load of gack! I mean what do people expect? Yeah – sure – come in and take the food of my table / the money out of my wallet, etc, I don’t mind.

Why the hell should I feel obliged to slip a Mars bar to some speccy-eyed Playstation-dazed geek from up the street who in ten years time will be coming home from the pub bladdered and taking a slash in my front garden?

The whole concept is thoroughly distasteful and infuriates me.

Mostly though my biggest concern last night was my granddad. 86 and partially sighted he goes into panic mode when anybody knocks at his door during daylight hours - let alone when it’s gangs of kids out on the cadge at night – because he can never see who it is. The thought of him – and every other OAP – being scared to death by sugared-up rowdy gangs of kids in skeleton masks demanding sweets turns my stomach.

Harmless "innocent" fun?

I don't think so.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

TISWAS

Sally James vs Swap ShopI met up with my good mate, Tris, last night for a gentlemanly catch-up of personal news and life happenings over a couple of bottles of red wine in Leamington’s coolest uptown joint, Wilde’s wine bar. And as we sat handsomely in the darkest corner we could find we discussed all the important world issues that have currently been keeping us awake at night and preoccupying our waking minds…

…like the undoubted superiority of TISWAS over Swap Shop.

It’s an unarguable fact that TISWAS was leagues ahead. There was and still is utterly no contest.

I mean just compare the two shows yourself:

Swap Shop had Noel Edmonds, Keith Chegwin and Maggie Philbin – three presenters who in themselves were enough to give any TV studio sick building syndrome and cause kids to vomit up a week’s supply of penny chews on the spot – but dress them in awful chunky knit pullovers and novelty 80’s jumpers and suddenly you have a recipe for turning kids into dysfunctional psychotic misfits who develop a pathological counter-fashion need to wear lycra and purple shell suits. Take a look out your window right now for evidence that this country has been completely destroyed by the Swap Shop generation…

TISWAS however had Sally James whose major contribution, as Tris rightly pointed out, was a pair of amazing tits struggling to burst out of a tiny waistcoat. For a teenage boy that ticks every boob-shaped box in the book. Anything else is a bonus.

Much as Maggie Philbin was an intrinsically likeable person there was nevertheless something ineffably asexual about her. She was like a school lab technician. Kind of there but invisible. Or should that be visible but not exactly there? It’s very common to develop a crush on a teacher at school but unheard of for anyone to fancy a lab technician. It’s just not possible. It’s like they’re not real people. They’re clones. Or synthetic people. As well fancy a Barbie doll (albeit a very speccy mousy one with sensible shoes and a clipboard).

Sally James, however, oozed earthy, filthy, rock-chick sex appeal from every pore and hair flick. And she got splattered with custard pies and various cream toppings every week.

I leave it up to you to draw your own analogy…

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Touching Wood

Gwen and Captain Jack from TorchwoodThe BBC's new version of the Robin Hood legend is still - like a lucky wolf at a "Win A Farmyard Animal Competition" – getting my goat. The only difference now is: I know I am not alone. Emails from various friends have confirmed that there is indeed something very wrong with the state of Nottinghamshire as portrayed by the Beeb film making department...

The chief complaints appear to be thus:

1) Where is Friar Tuck? Reports that he was dropped from the legend for fear of offending the obese and the religious are quite frankly un-tucking-believable!
2) Why is Guy Of Gisbourne wearing a coat half-inched from a Spandau Ballet video?
3) Why does the Sheriff frequently appear in public without a hat – surely this was not done by those who held high office in the Middle Ages?
4) Why were Robin and Much wearing vests with perfectly stitched round collars in a recent episode – since when did Ye Olde Burton’s open up a store in Loxley?
5) What’s with all this talk of “torture camps that turn men against their home country” – was there a Ye Olde Guantanamo Bay in the Holy Land?
6) Why is Robin sporting a re-curve bow that I’m pretty sure wasn’t invented until much later by the Mongols (correct me if I’m wrong)?

And lastly:

7) why oh why have they made Robin a pacifist?!?

The Normans were absolutely hated by the English – and in principle we still hate them now. We WANT Robin to shoot them! Shoot all of them! Horribly and violently!

Sigh... Much as I applaud the notion of pacifism I have to say it makes for a pretty naff hero. What next? Robin and his men form a dispossessed Saxons action group – English Serfs Against Norman Rule – and hold a rally and rag-rug making event in Nottingham Market Square to raise money for their cause?

All of this is a great shame because the acting is pretty damn good and it’s plain that a lot of money has been invested in the show. I could even forgive the anachronistic costumes if only the script writing wasn’t so pants. The people who thought up this post modern, self reflexive version of Robin Hood should be hung, drawn and quartered at their earliest inconvenience... for murder. They’ve killed Robin Hood with Political Correctness.

"Robin Hood! Robin Hood! He re-appropriated from the commercially buoyant and redistributed to the financially disadvantaged whilst adhering to his Zen Buddhist pacifist beliefs..." I’d like to see someone put that into a song.

Torchwood, on the other hand, is a triumph for the BBC. Decent sci-fi on terrestrial TV at last. Aliens, a bisexual hero and girl-on-girl snogging in the first two episodes! Wow. Best of all was a scene featuring an errant security guard beating one off the wrist whilst watching a couple shag on his CCTV screen. Torchwood? Touchwood more like!

Good old Russell T Davis. The Beeb should have got him to script Robin Hood... having Marian work in a Mediaeval Pole Dancing Club might have improved my opinion of the show...

Lame

Got the grumps today.

More trouble with Pocketropolis.com – or rather more trouble with the web host. Basically it’s been off-line since Monday which, for a sad, neurotic, perfectionist writer like me is akin to having both my hands chopped off, my tongue ripped out and my brain lobotomized. Yes, I know that for many of you the latter would be deemed a worthwhile improvement to my character...

And due to a pathetic bottom-rung ladder accident at work I’ve been limping around like Brian Blessed in Long John Silver (only without the booming voice and voluminous beard) since last week. The doctor’s diagnosis was “a badly sprained foot” and recommended copious amounts of Ibuprofen and the application of heat to the injured part, however, all attempts to purchase a foot microwave on eBay have proved fruitless.

Consolation: the BBC’s new sci-fi series Torchwood is excellent. So much better than the continually disappointing Robin Hood....

But more on that later...

Monday, October 23, 2006

Sunny Side Down

I have to admit, tail drooping between my handsomely formed legs, that since Friday’s Courier article on the web based adventures of yours truly my web sites have not exactly been overrun with frothing visitors or vibrant fanatics.

It isn’t so much a case of my stone making only infinitesimal ripples in the diamond pool of fame as the fact my stone appears to have fallen short, hit the bank, ricocheted backwards and buried itself in the anus of a passing stoat - unlikely to be seen again and unlikely to be welcomed gladly if it is.

I have to face the fact that the best efforts of myself and the kindly journo at The Courier haven’t been enough to propel me into the heady stratosphere of tabloid centrespread stardom and broadsheet column inches. It seems they’d rather wax lyrical about Charlotte Church’s botty and the unending pantomime that is Iraq. The poor blind fools.

Maybe I should have gone for the vice shame exposé angle (as a mate of mine initially suggested)? Photographed Craig Charles stylee in the back of a taxi cab snorting badly cut drugs from a homemade bong cobbled together out of an old biro and a carton of Sunny D?

No.

Who am I kidding?

I wouldn’t be seen dead with a carton of Sunny D.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Fame At Last

What a day. I’ve had Jonathon Ross on the bleedin’ phone all morning, Fern Britton on email trying to line me up to do an interview on This Morning and I’ve had to fight my way through a huge scrum of flash happy hacks and journos salivating on my doorstep just to get to work this morning!

And why?

All because of some article about me in The Courier!

I mean really!

Is it really that big a thing?

I’m certainly not going to let it change me or let it go to my head…

Visitors to this blog please note the following:

Signed photographs are available upon request.
I’m available for weddings, funerals, bar mitzvahs and barbecues – I do the lot, me.
I only do supermarket openings on Saturdays.
I don’t work with children or animals.
Or Pete Burns.

Jeeves, start the car. I wish to see the flowers at the bottom of the garden…

You can read my world shattering Courier shenanigans by following the links below:

Blogging Article
25 Questions

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

It’s 1973. It’s lunchtime. I’m havin’ hoops.

Gene Hunt picKaren and I are fighting off a hefty dose of the pre-winter blues at the moment by watching copious amounts of Life On Mars. Not content with mere re-runs on TV we’ve been sad enough to invest in the rather princely packaged boxed set so that we can watch the kipper tied adventures of DCI Gene Hunt and Sam Tyler whenever we feel like it.

And incredibly it’s even better upon a second viewing... which is saying something because personally the show got my vote for Best of 2006 the first time round. And I’m not at all alone in this opinion.

I suspect the show has proved so popular not just because of the clever premise (DI Tyler horrifically run over by a car in 2006 immediately wakes up in 1973 and finds himself immersed in the police culture and bigoted politics of that decade) but because - ostensibly set in 1973 - the show can justifiably dispense with all the tedious, irritating, creative red-tape that is Political Correctness.

Now I’m not saying that we should all open our doors once more to the Four Horsemen Of Idiocy – sexism, racism, homophobia and disability discrimination – but I think it’s a commonly held opinion that Political Correctness has turned the corner from sensible consideration for other people into a cul-de-sac of ridiculous and unending prohibition: can’t do that, can’t say that, mustn’t write that, shouldn’t wear that, etc, to the point where nobody knows what the best thing for anybody else is anymore and every example of PC-ness at work has had the effect of narrowing people’s freedoms and sowing more discord than there was before (Jack Straw’s comments about Muslim women wearing the burqa being a case in point).

Gene Hunt’s response to all this mock-saintly, nanny state prescriptiveness would be simple: “Stick it in yer pipe and smoke it, deaf-aid.”

And I bet you’re all laughing or at the very least smiling as a result.

But that’s the point. Have we gone so far down the road of trying to offend absolutely nobody that we now inevitably offend everybody? Has Political Correctness become so inhibitive and synonymous with the idea of “thought police” that a show that reminisces about the “good old days” of un-PC-ness and schoolyard intolerance actually makes the old days seem somehow glamorous, more free and attractive?

Of course I’m sure this wasn’t at all what the makers of the show wanted to achieve. But be honest. Who was your favourite character in Life On Mars? Who is the one that people enjoy quoting the most?

“Guantanamo Bay? Give over – it’s nothing like Spain.”

I have a sudden itch to wear Hi Karate and grow some sideburns.

Victory

Monkey picWow. Result. Pocketropolis.com has been fully restored.

I’m almost gobsmacked. It’s amazing what you can do with a horse’s head and a computer.

This means I am now operating my cerebral circus of internet buffoonery from two web sites - Pocketropolis.com and Pocketropolis.co.uk. Could this be the start of a web based, globally ambitious evil empire?

Mwuh ha ha! Mwuh ha ha! Mwuh ha ha ha!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Hit Man

The battle for Pocketropolis.com has commenced.

I have just issued Stuart Conroy, the erstwhile director / technician of Web Warehouse, a not very veiled threat that if he doesn’t restore full ftp access to Pocketropolis.com to me by the close of business tomorrow I will initiate the transfer of the domain name elsewhere.

Yeah, that’s right! You don’t mess with me! You wanna start, eh? Do ya? You wanna start? C’mon then! C’mon!

Of course, given the appalling service that Web Warehouse has been spitting my way of late I should just commence transfer proceedings forthwith... but even in the midst of my Ray Winstone-like rage I have this lame desire to give Mr Conroy yet one more chance to make good.

God I’m so soft.

“Yes, Giuseppe, I appreciate that you have the horse’s head all ready and waiting. Yes, I know you’ve risked life and limb to get into Mr Conroy’s bedroom. Yes, I’m well aware that a horse’s head in Mr Conroy’s bed will terrify him into immediate compliance. I just feel that giving him one more chance won’t do any harm and will reflect the better on us. Bring Dobbin home and we’ll re-schedule for Wednesday. Bad-a-bing.”

Yeah, deep down I know that I’m wasting my own time. Nothing will have changed by Wednesday and ultimately I’ll have to make good my threat to transfer Pocketropolis.com (a whole new can of worms in itself). I guess I just lack the killer instinct.

Mind you if he refuses to allow the transfer then I WILL get mean. I’ll be directing some pretty stiff complaints to the www.icann.org ombudsman, I can tell you.

Yeah.

Bet ya scared now, eh?

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Death Of Pocketropolis.com

Cheesed off isn't the phrase.

Due to an incompetent and infuriatingly incommunicative web host - Web Warehouse - www.pocketropolis.com has effectively been disabled. For the time being it is suffering the internet version of a coma. It's there to look at but I can do eff all with it.

I won't bore you with the details but needless to say I'm about to commence what will probably be a very protracted process (given that the support team at Web Warehouse seem incapable of answering emails or publishing a telephone number that actually works) of transferring www.pocketropolis.com to a brand new web host... most likely the one you are utilizing now to read this blog. Once I've achieved that - and frankly I'm not confident given the contempt Web Warehouse show for their customers - www.pocketropolis.com will rise again.

In the meantime I have had to hastily set up a new domain name from which the legend that is Pocketropolis can operate: www.pocketropolis.co.uk

Welcome to the new world order, folks.

P.S. You'll see from the reply to the "Curse You Courier!" entry below that the blogging article isn't now due to appear in The Courier until Friday 20th. Just as well, really. It's given me time to set up this alternative domain name. I've emailed the journalist and hopefully he will be kind enough to update my web address in his article...

Friday, October 13, 2006

Monkey!

Monkey picA proud admission this: I utterly loathe and detest the Power Rangers. I absolutely hate them. With a passion that would see me willingly tear apart whole countries if it would enable me to destroy them and their intrinsically shite by-blows and spin-offs.

Which is a shame because my 5 year old boy absolutely loves them. With a passion that sees him tearing apart the house and any toy with a limb in an effort to emulate them.

This makes for a modicum of conflict as you can imagine. I’m afraid to say that in response to this my answer has been to adopt the Victorian Dad approach and ban Power Rangers utterly from my kingdom (i.e. the house) and this ban has extended so far as to ban the entire God-awful Jetix channel from ever sullying my television screen. Yes, like all cruel fathers before me, the television is my ultimate weapon. The biggest gun in my arsenal.

Maybe this seems overly cruel and unjustifiably unreasonable? Perhaps. But in my defence I would like to point out that after a mere half hour’s exposure to Power Rangers and other copycat shows my boy – along with every other boy who watches them, I hasten to add – becomes so blindingly aggressive and pumped up with adrenalin you’d think he’d wolfed down a two pound bag of sugar (the transformation is like Jekyll and Hyde and has been noted by various family friends). Trouble and tears inevitably follow and in the end Karen and I both decided that the short tantrum that ensued from not being allowed to watch the show was infinitely preferable to the madcap violence that possessed the boy when he had been allowed to watch it.

Anyway, what brought all the above to mind was that for my birthday a few months ago Karen bought me the entire Monkey box set. If you don’t know what the hell Monkey is – tough, look it up on the internet. The box set contains all 52 glorious episodes and every weekend since then the boy and I have watched a couple of episodes per afternoon. It’s kind of become a male bonding sort of thing. But the thought struck me that in a weird kind of way Monkey is possibly the forerunner of all these horrible shows like Power Rangers and Mutant Ninja Turtle Doves or whatever it is they’re called. Cowabogoff, dude.

So why do I approve of Monkey and not Power Rangers?

Easy. There’s a deep-set spiritual aspect to Monkey that anybody, whatever their level, can connect to. But more than this the moral viewpoint of Monkey isn’t so abrasively black and white as it is in Power Rangers – it is in fact exceedingly grey just like real life and so behoves the viewer to think and consider and empathize with all the characters before forming your own judgements. With Power Rangers it’s all so easy and simplified that there is just no need to empathize or show mercy and so it encourages a ruthless streak which borders on the nasty.

Sure my boy still likes to emulate the fight moves in Monkey but underneath it all I can also see that he’s battling to crystallize his own sense of good and evil, right and wrong. Better he does that than blindly accept the bigoted intolerantly moral codes of the horribly Americanised Power Rangers and end up stomping his way round the world with an unassailably righteous chip on his shoulder...

A little bit of uncertainty can be a virtue.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Robbing The Hood

Maid Marian and Guy picMy first impressions of the BBC’s new production of Robin Hood are not at all positive, I’m afraid to say. I’m sure readers of Thursday’s blog will not find this revelation at all startling. What can I say? Hand on heart I really did try to like it and after Thursday’s blast tried to approach the show with a completely open mind and magnanimous view point… but the constant cross-cutting and those awful location titles zinging into the bottom of the frame (accompanied by computer generated sounds of arrows flying) just got on my tits from the off.

My initial synopsis after the end titles had zapped themselves off the screen was “style over content” and after a good night’s sleep I will whole-heartedly stick with that first opinion. The acting was fine. Can’t fault any of the performances. The locations were sumptuous – can’t fault those either – though I’m not sure of the architectural accuracy of the buildings in the villages. Can every village in the 1100’s have looked like Stratford-upon-Avon?

My main problem is the awful stylisation and shallow nature of the show. It’s hard to explain why I found it all so without depth. The basic ethos of the legend is there (God knows it’s not a difficult premise) – good over evil, the defence of the poor and the oppressed, the exulting of old Saxon values over the unfair and voracious laws of the Norman conquerors – but it’s all done without any real emotional heart or true empathy.

The script felt like it had been written by Guy Ritchie in collaboration with John Ford: East End gangster movie meets wicked wild wild west western. It wouldn’t have surprised me to see Robin and Much skinning up in the forest and banging some jumpin’ rave music out of a brightly painted lute. “Yo, Robby, gonna go down to see Bez after? E’s got some top E, knah what I is sayin’?”

All the Western motifs were there too – the quick on the draw bow shots (“how many arrows did I fire, kid? A full quiver or one short? Feeling lucky, huh, punk?”), the dramatic soundtrack punctuating every raised eye brow and head turn, the heroes returning from the wild and civilizing themselves once more by enjoying a hot bath… Did Saxon nobles even have baths, for God's sake? Why bother to fill a trough when you can dunk yourself in the nearest river?

Worst of all were the costumes. They just did not look right. They jarred. And most jarring of all was that of Guy Of Gisbourne. Dressed in some awful black leather duster coat complete with airplane collars he looked like he’d stepped right out of an atrocious 80’s pop video and was auditioning to join Clint Eastwood in Pale Rider. This is mediaeval England for Heaven’s sake! How difficult can it be? If in doubt check out the Bayeux Tapestry!

However I’m sure the show will be a success. Why? The proliferation of eye candy. Plenty of doe eyed men for the girls and plenty of Maid Marian for the boys. Even my boy, aged only 5 bless him, was heard to audibly gasp when she hit the screen. Zounds! A bullseye! Have her in a field of poppies eating a Flake and I might be tempted to change my opinion of the show…

Friday, October 06, 2006

Curse You Courier!

It appears I baited my breath for nothing!

After hotfooting it down to my nearest newsagent there to grab a copy of The Courier hot off the steaming press I was grief struck to discover that the article on Leamington Bloggers has not graced this week's pages!

How can they do this to us, my sweet salivating public?

Don't they care?

Harrumph. To be honest the hack I spoke to did say that it might be an article that they hold over until next week or the week after. I guess the news this week was just full of more interesting and entertaining morsels than me. Hard to believe I know. Oh well. Better cancel the press launch and the TV interview with Philip Schofield and Fern Britton. It seems I won't be appearing in Extras just yet...

But on other matters, my poetry reading at Warwick Castle went well and I met some lovely people. Karen, Ben and myself were made to feel very welcome and it was a fantastic venue in which to find ourselves. I'm glad to say I didn't make too big a fool of myself and got some very positive feedback.

Here as promised is the poem:

The Trolley

We found you in tussock, wheels up
like a shot donkey.

Spiders had grown the metal ribs
of your belly shut. Chrome

gleamed beneath the matted poultice
of gnats and bindweed.

Beautiful.

Brushed off we knew the hill and you
were made for one moment.

Down as birds, eye-cornering, swing
across a fast sky.

Quickly you were not made for two.
I barely made it

passed the brink

and met the fierce angles of this world
headlong in tall grasses.

My mate tobogganed on and drove
your jolting government

hard against the sod, laughs flailing
into a cross wind,

inseparable,

your weights ox-ploughing twin grass-tracks
fast through muck and turf -

a railroad of whoops and curses
billowing clock seed

and thistle leaf - until the rough
jerk of wheel pivot

met hidden stone.

In my mind now he doesn’t stop
but rattles on, flag

in a long wind getting smaller,
his shouts like copper

on the tongue or an empty basket
dropped

over an edge of years

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Throbbing Hood

Having been a massive Robin Of Sherwood fan since I was a teenager I’m awaiting the new BBC Robin Hood production with breath as baited as Friar Tuck’s nosegay. I feel amazingly precious about how the Robin Hood legend should be portrayed and, much to Karen’s amusement, am already mithering about the BBC’s current adaptation – forming my groundless opinions purely from the trailers that the Beeb is currently hurling at the nation like giant arrows from a slick multi million pound ballista.

Having grown up with Robin Of Sherwood my heart leans more to a grimly realistic portrayal of the legend – full of muck and hardship and dark Anglo-Saxon gods - and I worry that the new production will instead lean towards Kevin Costcutter’s take on the story: cheesy grins and coiffured hair, Hollywood style tavern room brawls, machismo sword play and flash-bang-wallop what a picture dramatization and dialogue. God how I hated Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves. What a thoroughly reprehensible film. Stiff, heartless and grey. Robin Hood? Lobbin’ wood, more like.

The Beeb’s Robin Hood has already raised my hackles with fast zoom camera shots and a “hero muzak” soundtrack apostrophizing Robin’s every bow twang and sword clash and I’m not sure what kind of Sheriff the swivel-eyed Keith Allen will make. He’ll have a hard time following Nickolas Grace for my money. But hey. I’m being unfair. Condemning the programme before I’ve even seen it. Who do I think I am – the gov’nor at Guantanamo Bay? I’ll be good and reserve judgement until after Saturday.

In the meantime I just want to say that the new BBC Robin Hood, played by Jonas Armstrong, bears an uncanny and unfortunate resemblance to Gorillaz / Blur front man Damon Albarn which I’m going to find very hard to overcome when I watch the show.

“Curse you, wolfshead! What do you want with me?”

“Awight Sheriff. I wanna house, a very big house in the coun’ry, dun I? You wanna cut down on the venison matey – too much pork life, no worrimean? Now gis me giro.”

Robin Hood and Damon Albarn pic
I bet Kevin Costner is kicking himself for a missed opportunity...

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Poetry Corner

Ah luvies, tis time for a bit of culture don’t you know. As my poetry reading debut at Warwick Castle nears (27 hours and counting) I thought it incumbent upon me to offer up to you, the delirious reader, a short poetic aperitif with which to whet your appetites.

Providing I don’t massacre my prize winning poem at the Warwick Words ceremony tomorrow I may well bung it on this ‘ere blog at the end of the week. In the mean time you’ll have to make do with the haiku below. TTFN.


Toothbrush Haiku

Ninety-five. No teeth.
Toothpaste dead. On windowsill
dry toothbrush bristles.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Magoo

Last Friday afternoon witnessed the photo shoot of the century. Yours truly, the photographer from The Courier and my freshly dusted PC (gleaming under a glass-like patina of Mr Sheen - my one and only glamour prop) were all crammed into my office at home in an attempt to recreate on digital media that classic iconic image of a fast tracking media mogul about to hit the big time.

Picture leopard skin rugs draped seductively over the chaise longue. Picture black silk sheets draped like Bedouin tent flaps from every wall and rafter. Picture exotic cocktails in the hands of fawning dolly birds pawing at my quivering flesh as I fling yet another verbal masterpiece onto the internet with the lightest of touches... and you’ll have an exact idea of what the whole experience wasn’t like.

To be fair the photographer was a really decent bloke and if he fulfils his promise to me of not making me look like a nerd or a pratt I may even buy him a drink should I ever run into him the next time I frequent my usual drinking establishment of choice.

The problem was, given the tiny proportions of my (steady! steady!) office I spent the entire duration with my ugly mug practically crushed up into the guy’s zoom lens. Not exactly the close-up that either of us wanted. I lost count of how many photos he took but by the fifteenth attempt to get the perfect shot my carefree, natural smile had become a rictus of spasming muscles and I looked like I was trying to pass a gold plated Boeing 747 out of my nether regions. By the twenty-seventh shot I’d become so blinded by the flash that I was blinking entirely out of trauma reflex and probably resembled a photo-phobic Tourettes sufferer. Great. Say effing cheese for the camera.

The end result will no doubt be that should I be lucky enough to actually have my ugly mug feature in The Courier I will simply look like Mr Magoo with a terminal coke habit...

Marvellous.

Point me to my limousine, Waldo.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Infamy! Infamy! They’ve Got It In For Me!

Blimey but yesterday was eventful.

It appears I am to be permitted two bites at that overly ripened, rough skinned tavern wench: the tart cherry of fame. And these double barrelled opportunities for distinction come replete with the obligatory attendance of professional flash photography and newspaper column inches focusing on the derring-dos of yours truly.

Star Moment Number One was the revelation that I have come third in the Warwick Words Poetry Competition and will have the chance to strut my poetic stuff in The Great Hall of Warwick Castle (one of Christendom’s finest tourist attractions of immense historic value and Royal patronage, blah blah blah) next Thursday evening at a spectacular prize giving event that will outdo anything that Matthew Kelly could summon up on Stars In Your Eyes.

Star Moment Number Two was a communiqué from the Leamington Spa Courier announcing that they wished to interview me (backed up with the gritty realism of fly-on-the-wall photographs) about my long running “blog” on Pocketropolis. Shock horror. Knock me down with a feather. Come in boat 37 your 15 minutes is about to start.

I feel like a blind fisherman with a snapped line. I’m still reeling.

The Poetry comp news was lovely. Having been plugging away at the old poetry game for years it’s nice to finally receive a bit of recognition at long last and I only hope that my wobbly knees and nervously fluty voice will be up to doing my prize winning poem justice when I come to deliver it to my esteemed peers next week.

The Courier article, I must admit, I feel a little more ambivalent about. A hefty dose of natural paranoia has kicked in and I’ve found myself reviewing all my despotic and curmudgeonly outpourings on Pocketropolis – of which there are loads - though without changing a single word of any of it, it has to said. I guess it’s time to stand by my writing. I’m entitled to my opinions as much as anybody else is and I can only write from my own personal viewpoint.

My one and only hope is that when my work is flinching beneath the unremitting glare of a wider audience it is considered entertaining, humorous and thought provoking – even if nobody else agrees with what I’m saying.

That thought will really warm the cockles of my heart when the lynch mobs come with flaming brands and newly edged pitchforks to drag me from my Slumberland bed and garrotte me over the nearest lamppost...

Pull away, boys, pull away.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Hooker Shoes

Karen arrived home from work last night displaying that weird duality of emotion that all women generate when they have been on a lunch time shopping spree... slight guilt and embarrassment at having flayed the credit card to within an inch of its limit and extreme pride in her capacity for good taste and expert consumerist tuition. This is best summed up by the phrase “yes I’ve spent money that I probably shouldn’t have - but I got some real bargains.”

Now, before I risk a night on the sofa with only my big mouth for company, I probably ought to point out that actually Karen barely spent £50 (correct me if I’m wrong) therefore the credit card was hardly driven to breaking point and (most incriminating of all) I’m just as prone to flogging the plastic during a lunch break shopping frenzy and exhibiting the exact same ambivalence when I get home and realize I have to fess up about it.

Big up for equality and all that.

Anyway, Alvin Hall style financial debates aside, Karen’s big moment last night among the intimate pageantry of our domestic catwalk was the unveiling of The Red Shoes...

Red Shoe Diary

Now red shoes are a new departure for Karen who usually favours black or brown boots (the foot fetishists among you no doubt have ears eagerly pricked up at this point... or something at any rate) always being mindful of wanting to appear fashionable whilst maintaining an all-over-air of consummate professionalism. I say this not just to flatter my wife into allowing me to sleep inside the house tonight but so that you can appreciate just how surprised I was at being presented with a pair of insurmountably red high heeled shoes yesterday.

I’m hoping it’ll also explain why the first phrase out of my mouth was: “Wow, they look like hooker shoes”.

Yes. I know. If ever a man was rendered transparent by the things he says...

Knowing full well how the male mind works (which isn’t that well at all) I suppose I shouldn’t have been that surprised by my own ill formed response to the magnificent examples of machine stitched foot wear that Karen was waggling before me... but what did surprise me was Karen’s pleasurable reaction. Somehow, although I hadn’t said exactly the right thing I hadn’t said exactly the wrong thing either.

How the hell does that work then? I am really confused.

Hmm. Maybe the threat of me sleeping on the sofa this week wasn’t as real as I thought...

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Birth Of Bloggertropolis

Ok. Technically it should be “re-birth”. After nearly 2 years of hand coding my own blog on Pocketropolis I’ve finally taken the plunge and got me one of these here new-fangled third-party software driven automated blog things which means I can concentrate on the laughable quality of my writing while some clever programming script does all the necessary back-flips and butt slapping to get it presented on-line in a fashion both ship-shape and aesthetically pleasing. All at the click of a button.

Marvellous.

I love technology me.

Especially when it’s slapping my butt.

Seriously. Don’t knock a bit of html S & M until you’ve tried it. I love nothing better than being <> tagged to within an inch of a massive header.

Damn. First entry into my new blog and I’ve already fallen into the techie pervert trap... somebody better come and smack my script up. And fast.