Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Rack Off

Kath & KimThe great debate has started.

Forget the US vs. Iran. Forget Miliband vs. Miliband. Forget man-pants vs. mankinis.

The question that is dividing the nation at the moment (like a wire-thin mankini in fact) is what is your all time favourite sit-com?

Bizarrely two distinct contenders have stepped forth out of the smoke and rubble of snarling opinion. In the red corner we have The Office – currently flopping about in Heather’s boxing glove like a rogue horse-shoe – and in the blue corner we have Kath & Kim swishing about like an illegal nunchaku in a Japanese tea-house as toted by London City Mum.

This is the moment when I jump into the debate and, much as I love The Office, I am going to nail my boxing shorts to the blue corner. For those of you that have been reading this blog a while, this patronage should come as no surprise as I’ve previously written about my love of Kath & Kim before – right here in fact – see I was on this particular bandwagon before it was even a bandwagon! That’s how cool I am.

Now I freely admit Kath & Kim aren’t to everybody’s taste. The ‘yoomer’ is distinctly Australian and rooted (if you’re Australian, you’ll find that word funny) in the heart of Australian suburban life. It is, to quote one Australian TV presenter whose name I don’t know, Australia laughing at itself.

So to get the yoomer I guess you need to have some kind of affinity with all things Oz. This does not mean you have to like Neighbours or Home & Away. In fact if you don’t like them Kath & Kim will probably tickle your fancy even more.

For me though, the biggest selling point of Kath & Kim is the incredible dialogue. This is where the yoomer resides. Yes, occasionally they do slapstick and physical humour, but for the large part the funnies are in the language and in particular how it is (Joe) mangled. Words are misplaced, transposed, wrongly emphasized and spliced in ways that are both cringe-making and ingenious. For me it’s what makes the whole show one of the most joyously quotable on the market.

For instance when Kath Day-Knight nee Day thought she’d committed bigamy with the love of her life Kel: “you know, Kel, I think I might just ask the pope for an annulment and be damned.”

Or when Kim lays into her poor beleaguered husband Brett: “Oi’ve made your favourite tonight, Brett – rack off lamb” (think about it).

The characters are incredibly endearing too. You can’t help but love Kath even with her eighties fashion sense and her frizzy perm (“the fro is the way to go – Kel loves my frizzy hair, no matter where on my body it is” and “Kel, loves my hair, he says it’s my clowning glory”) and even though Kim is the most horribly obnoxious, high maintenance be-actch in the entire world you can’t help liking the ol’ hornbag. And as for Kim’s “second best friend” Sharon Strzelecki – there is something about her morbid obesity combined with her rabid devotion to sport that is both tragic and richly funny.

I could go on. I know humour is a personal thing but my vote goes to Kath & Kim because, if nothing else, it is a Ricky Gervais free zone.

Now that has got to be the killer argument.

If you want to join the debate then feel free to dive in! The troops are assembling. People are arming themselves. Do you really want to be the one left in no-man’s land with only a copy of It Ain't Half Hot, Mum to protect yourself?


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sacrificial Virgin

There’s nothing like a tight sexy box, I always say, and after much umming and ahing the wife and I have finally acquired one for the use of the entire family.

Having been a cable TV subscriber for the best part of 10 years I was, I admit, reticent about the benefits of a set-top box but finally the law of economics won out. We need to make some savings and paying out for a huge cable TV package that features hundreds of TV channels we don’t actually watch seemed idiotic. My quality of life is not going to suffer for being without Bid-Up TV, Price War TV, Television X and Hot Grannies From Grimsby. That last one is made up by the way. Though I do, I admit, wince at losing all the history channels – my wife knows I am rather partial to an odd evening of “Hitler P0rn” as she calls it.

The set-top box we’ve gone for accesses all the channels we watch regularly and features a hard drive that can record 2 programmes simultaneously or record one programme while you are watching another. For someone who was still operating a front loading VCR last week that is technological progress indeed. Of course it now means the wife and I are experiencing recording lust and have already recorded a whole heap of programmes that normally we’d have been happy to let pass us by in the vain belief that we will one day find the time to watch them. There’s already 2 episodes of The Rob Brydon Show on the hard drive that we still haven’t decided to watch. Not sure whether this is good taste or bad taste.

Anyway, now that we’ve got a new, smooth, glamorously tactile box (alas, no Brazilian) we no longer need to retain the scabby, saggy box that Virgin Media supplied us with many moons ago (and that now smells of wee). So I rang Richard Branson to inform him of this and one of his customer facing minions at first accepted my decision to ditch their TV package but then inevitably went into hard sell mode pointing out that the TV package I currently subscribe to means I get an £18 reduction on my Virgin Media phone bill (eh? First I’d heard of it!) and that if I wanted to just reduce my TV package to the “small size” I could retain a £5 reduction on my phone bill.

But I don’t need the cable TV service at all, I pointed out. I’ve disconnected it. I very patiently explained this to him twice before – sounding personally insulted and aggrieved – he finally agreed to acquiesce to my wishes though he truculently pointed out that when I made telephone calls from my Virgin Media phone line in future they will now increase the amount of my monthly bill by the cost of the call.

Really? Is that how it works? I never knew.

So now I have to ring a different number to book in the disposal engineer (my name for him) because, or course, the guy I spoke to can do everything but that for me apparently though hopefully the call won’t cost me money which will go onto my monthly phone bill. Heaven forbid.

So our old box’s days are numbered. I do, I admit, feel slightly dishonorable. Like I am betraying an old friend. Casting her out into the cold or if not into the cold then at least into the caverns of a vast Virgin warehouse full of old chapped boxes that nobody wants to finger anymore or indeed ever. I am plainly a heartless cad.

But all is not lost. Perusing the instruction manual that came with our new non-virgin box, it seems our new purring playmate can get the Yesterday channel. I can access Hitler p0rn after all!

Cool.

Well in that case: Virgin smirgin. Auf wiedersehen pet and guten tag Adolf!


Sunday, September 26, 2010

You Talkin' To Me?! You Talkin' To Me?!

Blog etiquette.

It's a funny thing.

Most of the time we're polite and respectful of each other's blog's and opinions but sometimes, you know, you just lose it with someone. You suddenly want to punch the face of a blogger you have never met and are not likely to meet. So what do you do about it?

You write a blog post slagging them off. You let off a bit of steam and lace your hyperbole with acid and visceral toilet humour. You sprinkle it with the burning chili seeds of your displeasure. You do, in fact, do everything but name names or give too many details because there is this rather stupid idea that that would be bad form.

And you don't want to come over as a sour-faced, shit-stirring, misery guts who likes to cause trouble, do you? So you come out with the ol' "I'm not naming any names but..." line because somehow that makes you a decent person and the one who is in the right.

Right?

Wrong. Heather at Note From Lapland has written a superb post about it here and I suggest you go check it out. Certainly do so if you're planning on producing a diamond sharp piece of character assassination anytime soon.

Heather's rules are simple. Details, details, details. If you're going to attack someone on a public forum (which our blogs, unless private, are) then give names, give details so we, the reader, can make informed opinions. Link back to the person you are drubbing - we're all mediawhores after all. And best of all - let them know - give them a chance to respond. Make it a debate not a cowardly attack.

So in that spirit there is a blogger here who I've long wanted to take to task. His blog constantly zips about all over the place. One week it's personal stuff. The next it's TV reviews. Then he'll throw in a bit of music. Oh and the women. Constantly, constantly he composes the most dire odes of adoration to whatever flimsy bit of eye candy is infecting his TV screen at any one time. The man plainly cannot be constant even if it were to save his life. And his frequent recourse to gratuitous "glamour" photos just to drive up his site traffic is transparent and pathetic in the extreme.

And don't get me started on the "humour". I say "humour" in inverted commas 'cos this person thinks they're funny. This person obviously thinks he should be writing comedy for Mock The Week of Have I Got News For You. Weekly we get the most lame, uneventful, unexciting life stories from this bozo's working week jacked up with the type of jokes and gags that even Keith Harris and Orville would sneer at.

You're not funny OK?

So if you're reading this, Steve from Bloggertropolis, please, please stop. I'm just sick of it. I wasn't going to name you; I was going to spare your blushes, but Heather is right. If I'm going to do this then let's do it properly. Face to face. Just you and me. And you know I'm right. Who the hell do you think you are? You're not a blogging god. Your opinion doesn't count. You don't sway the masses. Get down off your high horse and try eating some humble pie for a change you big poetry writing, non-published ex-emo!

God, I feel better already.

Katie McGrathAaaargh!


Friday, September 24, 2010

Letting Rip...

Rip Van WinkleThe call came through late yesterday afternoon. “Man unconscious on the floor of the baby change.”

I put the phone down with a weary sigh and performed a precautionary save of the revolutionary Word document I’d been working on all day which described a plan that, if implemented immediately, would save the council millions of pounds in these cash strapped times (sack ALL the managers and the executives. To be honest I’m not sure if my bosses will be willing to embrace this radical approach – curse them and their shortsightedness).

Great, I thought. Another vomit laced drunk with a scabby top lip and trainer bottoms that have failed to act as an emergency colostomy bag. I’ll have to call out the paramedics to scrape him off the floor.

I headed downstairs to investigate and for once was pleasantly surprised to find a young man in his early twenties merely asleep on the floor of our topnotch (cough!) baby change facilities. No smell of booze. No smell of vomit. No seepage of bum gravy warranting calls for BP to come in and clean up the immediate environment.

He was just asleep. Sound asleep. Breathing deeply and contentedly. His head lying on his carefully folded jacket and the nappy bin strategically placed between his head and the door so that should an unwary mother with a pewling toddler rush in to avail themselves of the baby changing mat he wouldn’t wake up to find his brains had been twatted out of his skull and splattered up the wall behind him.

Some considerable thought had obviously gone into this.

Although the phrase “let sleeping dogs lie” came into my head he just couldn’t stay there. This is a baby changing facility not a doss-house (Leamington’s drunks please take note).

So I tried to rouse him. I tried calling politely. I tried calling rudely. I tried shouting like Gerard Butler in 300 (this is not a youth hostel – THIS IS SPARTA!) but ol’ Rip Van Wrinkle wasn’t waking for anyone or anything. I even tried the old armpit poke but that had no effect whatsoever. He was so deeply asleep he was in danger of being kidnapped by 7 dwarves.

Part of me felt envious. As someone who is continually woken before 6am by my eldest boy bouncing action figures of the metal bars of his bunk bed I admired this youth's ability to shut out all external stimuli and remain furiously, passionately asleep.

Another part of me just thought he was a git and I therefore rang the police to see if a bit of politically incorrect truncheon action might encourage him to move on to his own bedroom or at least the nearest furniture store.

The police were amused and said they’d send someone out as “a priority but not an emergency”. I don’t blame them. It was plain this guy was in the best of health. He was just asleep. Asleep on the cold hard floor of a public amenity immersed in the sweltering odour of about 30 overflowing nappies.

While I waited for the police I thought I’d give waking Mr Sleepyhead another go. I returned to the baby change. I saw the sink in the corner and inspiration struck. A good handful of ice cold water was summarily dropped at great height straight onto Coma Boy’s head.

Boy did he wake up. I stepped back just in case he barked but he just looked nonplussed. He wiped his face and looked around at the immense puddle that had suddenly formed around him. I could see his brain formulating the question but thought it best not to be too forthcoming as to the source of the deluge.

I checked after his well being and suggested he move on. With much grunting (that surely only his mother could love) he concurred and shambled from the building a darn sight cleaner than when he came in.

I returned to the phone and called off the fuzz. I then returned to my Word document and felt... strangely buoyant. Strangely wired. It had been fun. I’d enjoyed it. Tipping water onto someone. Hmm.

Dear readers, I fear a cruel appetite has been awoken in me. Should you ever find yourself in my neck of the woods suffering from exhaustion or even narcolepsy don’t expect any sympathy or understanding from me. You see, I’m just waiting for the call. I have a large bucket under my desk now and a 2 litre bottle of water in the fridge. It’s chilling nicely.

And it has your name on it.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Enid Blyton Land

The “terrible twos” as they are known are OK.

By that I don’t mean they are enjoyable – nobody likes having to deal with a tantrumming youngster – but they are acceptable because (and do correct me if I’m wrong) they are age appropriate. They are part of the development process that we all (at some point in our lives) have to go through, where we learn how to handle disappointment and frustration and to hear the “no” word without throwing our dummies out of the pram.

Tantrums are part of a learning curve.

Tom, my little ‘un, has them. Not many. Not daily. But a couple of times a week and more if he’s feeling grotty. We can all sympathize with that surely?

The nursery who look after him during the day – and it’s a great nursery, really wonderful in so many ways – have notified us that they are assigning the equivalent of a case worker to Tom to try and get his tantrums sorted out. Because apparently they feel it is not normal for him to be tantrumming. The intimations are that none of the other kids are doing it or have ever done it in the entire history of the nursery.

Rubbish is my answer to that.

Tom is only 2. He’ll be 3 in October. Like all kids he has issues and personal foibles. For me his tantrums aren’t a problem. If he throws one at home he gets put into the kitchen and left alone. I guarantee he’ll cry for 10 minutes, come and seek comfort (which he is given) and then is instantly calm and accepts the decision that caused the tantrum in the first place. All done and dusted. Sorted. Best of all the tantrums are getting shorter. He’s learning.

For the nursery to suggest that Tom having a tantrum in the first place is somehow not normal just enrages me. It is not normal for a 30 year old to have a tantrum! For a 2 year old it is, believe me, normal. Terrible Twos, right? It’s quite common. It’s part of the developmental yadda yadda yadda. Already said that.

I sometimes think that Tom’s nursery is living in some kind of parallel universe that is loosely based around the novels of Enid Blyton. A world where the kids are all polite, well spoken, silent unless spoken to and outwardly inquisitive but only in an adult and responsible manner. In this strangely quiet land the kids don’t argue or have tantrums. They respectfully enquire if their fellow citizens wouldn’t mind them having their own way for once but only if it won’t cause too much consternation or disapprobation among their fellow peers. All kids are born with an innate ability to manage their anger and emotions in such a way that counsellors all over this land are rendered surplus to requirements. Crime is at an all time low but then so is creativity and individuality and the global birth rate.

*Sigh*

What an awfully sterile place it must be.

To conclude then, do we here in the west try and impose an inaccurate and unnatural and horribly rose-tinted view of childhood onto the very people who are living it – our children? Do we let the pursuit of some nice, idyllic, blanket wrapped ideal impose a framework on our kids which is not only a downright lie but also stifling and unfair and, worst of all, denying them the right to be normal, feeling, reacting human beings?

Or am I just spitting the dummy out of the pram?


Monday, September 20, 2010

Keeley, Why Didn’t You Call?

Keeley HawesA week on and I’m still rather tearful.

My mobile phone has an unsightly crack in its display from where I threw it into the bin in disgust.

All bloody day I waited, checking the signal reception just in case I was in a communications blackspot or Vodafone’s spy satellite had been nuked by the Russians. But no. All was fine. The technology was functioning as it should. Like a well oiled machine in fact.

And talking of oil, I was oiled up too. Oiled up and waiting.

Was that the problem Keeley? Would you have preferred me dried and talced as opposed to oiled up like a centurion in a Roman bath house?

Well, you could have rung and told me. I’m amenable. I’d’ve bent over backwards for you (I’ve got the harness and everything).

But no.

You were in Leamington Spa last Monday and didn’t call me. Not once. I don’t dare show my face in Pizza Hut again after the fuss I made. She’ll be here I said. Any minute. You just keep that All You Can Eat For £6.59 buffet open.

But 3 hours later they had to close and the only thing that had caressed my lips was a breadstick.

I don’t want to hear about shooting schedules; about how you were only here to film the external shots for the new up and coming remake of Upstairs Downstairs.

All I know is I’ve sung your praises on this here blog for the last 3 years and I thought we had an understanding.

I’m cut to the quick, Keeley. I’m now on an uneven keel and feel like I’ve been keel-hauled and not in a good way either.

Next time you want a pizza you’re on your own, baby. We’re done.

P.S. I’m free next Wednesday. I’m very forgiving. Just call me (I’m still on the same number; your lawyer probably has a record of it).


Friday, September 17, 2010

Manager Wanted: Apply Here

Whilst strutting back to work from my lunchbreak one day much in the manner of John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever (only without the tin of paint) I came across an unexpected and rather fragrant piece of street theatre.

Though I’d like to think these boys were fresh from the Edinburgh Fringe I know for a fact they’ve not missed a single day of retching through the park gates for at least the last 3 months so I know they haven’t been as far north as Boots The Chemist let alone Scotland.

But there they were. 5 of them. A street drunk quintet all sitting on the steps of the KL Oriental Supermarket looking like a living, moving fly tip.

They’re a strange combo in terms of audience demographics but I can see they’re trying to cover all their potential bases. Their ages seem to range from mid 50’s down to early twenties. There was even a guy with a porkpie hat and a moustache who looked as if he’d been exhumed from the communal grave of 1960’s skiffle.

Now it’s not unusual to see one or other of these guys singing. Usually a bad Tom Jones (geddit?) or a raspy Shirley Bassey – occasionally a bit of Happy Mondays – but to see all of them performing as a single ensemble was quite frankly so jaw-droppingly amazing that I literally nearly dropped my... well... my jaw.

They were singing together. They were organized. They’d obviously rehearsed. Even worse / better one of them – the baby of the group (a 6 footer of around 25 but undoubtedly with the liver of a 65 year old French man) was attempting to provide percussion solely with his mouth. A human beat-box. Or in his case, a human beat-up-box.

Unfortunately he hadn’t quite mastered the art so all his spitting and raspberry blowing sounded less like a kick-drum and a snare and more like an elephant farting into a biscuit tin. With the addition that everyone in a 2ft radius of him was getting wet.

Best of all these guys weren’t singing into “air mics”. Oh no. Nothing so crass and amateurish. They were singing into their cans of Special Brew. Possibly this deepened the rich timbre that their vocal chords were producing and added a touch of reverb.

Anyway, I confess I had a Dick Rowe moment and briefly considered taking these boys on and seeing if I could steer them to fame and fortune. Or if not that then at least The X Factor (I’d love to see Simon Cowell getting rhythmically spat on) but what with my other commitments – Take That, Amy Winehouse and Jane McDonald – and a young family to raise I just don’t have the time or the energy to take on a boy band with so much genuine street cred and so many permanent health issues.

So I’m throwing it open to the blogging community. This could be your opportunity to get onto the ground level of the next big thing. A contact in Alcoholics Anonymous would be a plus as would a natural immunity to the combined odours of vomit and beer breath. A sponsorship deal with Heineken is already in the pipeline and A&E are expecting you.

Good luck.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Could Dave Be The One?

The search has been long.

There have been times when I have given up hope, when my heart has cried out, “just let this foolish hope go, learn to live without it – why put yourself through the pain of rejection time and time again?”

But the call, that human call of one to another, of flesh to flesh, is strong and unquenchable. So you lick your wounds. You dust yourself down. You gird your loins and throw yourself back into the market place.

When I first started looking I had a few promising bites, a few responses that I confess I built up too high. Far too quickly I pinned my entire future happiness on them. Invested far too much emotional energy.

To a man they all let me down. They didn’t return my calls. They didn’t answer the phone. Some, the worst of them, faked interest, even went so far as to make plans with me, describing how they thought the liaison would go... and then left me hanging. They disappeared. Took off with someone else. Allowed themselves to be bought by a higher bidder.

I confess I briefly considered a session of DIY. There’s no shame in it. We’ve all done it at some point I’m sure. But – let’s be truthful here – it’s just not as good as when someone else does it for you. When you have the right person on hand to manipulate the right parts. Who will fit you in and make sure all the pipe work connects properly.

So I held out for Mr Right. Held myself firm through the long, dark, cold nights of rejection.

And finally it paid off. Finally I found him.

He was advertising in the local paper. Just a small ad but I saw that as a good sign; a sign that he was as hungry for what I had to offer as I was to give it. His name was Dave. An honest name if ever there was one. I rang him and told him my needs, my voice a-tremble and breathy – how many times had I reached this stage in the past only to be ultimately spurned?!

He said he’d call round. I tried to take it with a pinch of salt, to not get my hopes up lest they be dashed again. But no. He arrived. On time. On the day and time that he said he would. A man of his word.

Finally my heart dared to hope.

He listened to my wants, my desires. He didn’t turn away in disgust or contempt. He could do all that I wanted. He priced it all up. The full service. It was just right. Affordable but no so that I’d feel too cheapened by the transaction.

I agreed. We shook hands. The rendezvous has been set for next week.

The relationship is established!

And now my dear, dear reader my heart is now joyous where once it was bereft. My soul sings where once it did cry. The long search is over. A plumber has at last been engaged. My taps and my leaky bath are to be saved!

Hallelujah!


Monday, September 13, 2010

Morgasma

+++ APOLOGIES +++ MINORITY INTEREST POST +++

Katie McGrath as MorganaSo with the return of Merlin to our TV screens last Saturday (apologies to my overseas readers) I find myself dusting off my TV critic’s visor and lance and preparing to saddle up the steed I call “please Radio Times employ me as a columnist”.

The first two series of Merlin were good. They were OK. They were ample. They were entertaining. Compared to the BBC’s ill thought out, misbegotten Robin Hood, they were brilliant. But compared to other stuff the BBC was churning out (Lark Rise To Candleford, Ashes To Ashes to name but 2) the writing was patchy. A good episode was frequently followed by one which merely made me shrug my shoulders and toss my gauntlets down in exasperated ennui. Only the searing brunetteness of Katie McGrath’s Morgana kept my interest constant.

After only one episode it’s impossible to say whether the writer’s of this third series have finally found their legs but they certainly left the starting blocks with enough acceleration to leave Roadrunner spitting out tarmac.

Finally the story is moving. The pieces are beginning to fall into their allotted places. Morgana has turned to the dark side. No more riding around on a palfrey mare looking like a representative of the Scottish Widows (although actually she did do that in this episode); no more haughty looks above a d├ęcolletage that I would love to drop my wand into (though, er, she did do a couple of those as well) and no more simpering smiles to Arthur and Uther as if she were accepting an invitation to cream tea at The Berkeley (though, yes, there were some of those but they were all part of her evil plan to lull them into a false state of security).

The dynamic has changed. Old allegiances are broken. The whole social dynamic of the show has been injected with a newer, darker energy. The interaction between the characters is now far more interesting. It’s gone from Enid Blyton jolly japes to C.S Lewis good vs. evil mysticism. There is betrayal and sneering looks afoot. There is righteousness and corruption. This is all much more in-keeping with the Arthurian legend and gives the actors something to really get their teeth into.

For the girls Bradley James (Arthur) spends much of his screen time either swishing his sword or his nipples around in manly topless abandon and Colin Morgan (Merlin) somehow manages to muffle and mangle his muscular Irish accent out of all existence and into a generic English plum with such skill and verve that you completely overlook the fact his ears totally eclipse the light of the sun. How the lighting riggers manage to backlight him without making his head resemble Shrek’s, I don’t know.

For us guys Angel Coulby plays Guinevere as if Thomas Mallory had re-written Cinderella but is wenchy enough to be modern, sassy and, dare I say it, chav-like but all in a positive way (I’d just love her to say to Arthur “yo bruv, it’s well shameful but like I love you, innit”) but for me, the real star is Katie McGrath. Poised, graceful, long limbed, brunette and able to wield a plunging neckline as expertly as she wields a blade. She can pull my sword from its stone anytime.

The producers have found some money too. I suspect the wagon load of groats that was delivered to their gatehouse with a note from the BBC executive team that read “’ere, give us a third series and make it look like Clash of the Titans” had a lot to do with it but I am not complaining. Last night we had giant scorpions, fighting skeletons (almost as good as the ones Ray Harryhausen produced for Sinbad) and a flying dragon. And for once none of it looked too ropy. Hopefully this is a sign the BBC are in for the long haul and we might actually get to see Arthur crowned king rather than have the Beeb pull the plug just as it all starts to come good.

So, all things considered, I will be flying the flag for Camelot every Saturday evening for the next 13 weeks though secretly supporting the dark side just ‘cos the bad girls are hotter than the good ones. And whilst in that vein, Katie McGrath you have the honour of receiving this blog’s second TV Totty Of The Week award for services rendered to corsetry and witchcraft.

Just bung it on the mantelpiece next to your grimoire, luv; it’ll look magic.


Thursday, September 09, 2010

Baps, Craps & Taps

The lovely Dr Alice RobertsI’m loving the new Stats link on my Blogger Dashboard and, judging from the number of posts of a similar nature to this one, so are lots of other bloggers.

Now of course it’s interesting to see which countries people are reading your blog from, which web sites are referring readers to your carefully crafted missives but really what any self respecting blogster / webster wants to know is what people are searching for when Google throws up your pearly white blog before their swinish eyes.

I was imaging some high falutin’ search terms like “leamington novelist”, “people’s poet” or “literary giant”.

But no.

People are coming to my blog via the following keywords:

alice roberts skinny dipping
"debbie does dallas" "2 disc" dvd
naughty why men don’t skinny dip
plumbing"blogspot.com"


And for some strange reason:

aid for constipation in dogs

Basically, as the title of this post suggests, baps, craps and taps.

In fact, the search terms that make reference to Alice Roberts outnumber everything else by an alarming amount and are always and inevitably combined with the words “skinny dipping” or “in a pool naked”. Although one dyslexic Alice Roberts fan wanted to see her skinny diping – not quite sure what that involves but it plainly requires the p to be taken.

It doesn’t take a brainiac to deduce that Alice Roberts is a popular girl and my bloggerly admiration for her drives a huge audience my way with not much effort on my part at all. Hence I’m mentioning her a lot in this post and even posting a picture of her above, complete reprobate and media whore that I am. Come and get her guys; here she is!

So. To conclude. Nobody is here for the fine writing, for elucidation, for philosophizing of the most noble and high minded kind. You’re here for the sex, the innuendo, the eye candy and the canine version of Imodium.

I’m so glad to be of service.


Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Christine

ChristineAs a rule we don’t name our vehicles in my household. They merely get referred to as “the car” or “the bike”. After all it is impossible to get them confused so why bother being more personal?

“The car”, however, has now earnt the moniker “Christine”.

Yes, as in the film.

Karen, the kids and I were on holiday last week. We had lot of plans to visit people and places. To see the country. To travel. The weather was set to be good. Things were looking up. We just had to get the car through the MOT.

Christine decided to malfunction the day before the MOT. A big overheating problem. However, we managed to limp her to the Peugeot garage for her MOT.

They rang back fairly quickly. The head gasket had “gone”. I don’t know where it had gone, ‘cos it was there last time we looked, but it had gone.

Annoyingly, if the car had fully broken down amid smoke and bits of spewed metal, my wife would have called out the AA who, bound by the terms of the insurance agreement my wife has with them, would have replaced the head gasket and carried out all repairs at no cost to us.

But because the damn thing hadn’t the grace to breakdown properly and we’d got it to the garage we were now liable for all repairs.

Although I wasn’t there, Christine’s headlights glowed evilly red as the garage hit us with their quote to do the work.

£1800.

1800 effing £!

That’s a serious dent in our savings. In the end, after much deliberation – might it be worth just buying a new car? – we decided to get other quotes and go for a repair. We just can’t afford to tie up thousands of pounds in a new car until Tom is at school and Karen is working full-time again.

So we found another garage. A reputable, well recommended one. He could do the job for £900. Only thing is he couldn’t start until the penultimate day of our holiday and we wouldn’t have the car back until the day we were all due to return to work / school.

We had no option. So all our travel plans were scuppered. No visiting of friends. No drives around the country. Christine sat on our drive exuding brimstone from her exhaust and revving her engine in praise of Satan for much of our holiday week until we finally offloaded her onto the mechanic last Thursday.

We should have got her back on Monday but the repair took longer. Something about a fan blade shearing off and taking out the radiator grills. I’m guessing she was trying to snuff out one of the grease monkeys who were working on her...

So Karen, who needs the car to get to and from work, had to ring her employers to say she couldn’t make it in. This meant taking an unpaid day off. That’s us £50 down already before we even pay the garage.

We finally got the car back yesterday afternoon (so another day off unpaid for Karen) but... and here’s the rub. The car now has to be re-MOT’d. The mechanic can’t do that. We have to take her elsewhere. That’s a third day at home for my wife. We are now £150 down this month on top of the repair bill.

Christine meanwhile was writing “666 in clover” in engine oil all over the floor of the mechanic’s garage and buggering a virgin over the pile of tyres the mechanic keeps at the back of his repair bay.

Today the position is this: we’ve managed to get her into another garage today for an emergency post-repair MOT at midday. Should she pass we’re all sorted and only a grand down. If not then we will be throwing more money after bad...

Did I say bad? Harrumph. I’m calling a priest. That car needs some serious exorcising.


Monday, September 06, 2010

This Space Is Free

So, I’m immersed in the small scale mania of my first day back at work after a week off with the wife and kids. I won’t belabour the point but I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to be picking up the phone, picking up the contracts, picking up the complaints, picking up the tab, picking up exactly where I left off and running in that big wide circle of dull employment that positions me back in this exact same position this time next Monday.

But I am and I will. The bills need paying. The kids need feeding. The wolves at the door need sating. This is life, right?

But there is one consolation. One undeniable fact that makes this reintroduction to the corporate grindstone a little more bearable this morning. Hell, it even makes me review my career path and makes me think that maybe I didn’t bum out after all.

And I have ASDA to thank for this joyous epiphany.

A quick walk to their store yesterday afternoon to pick up a packet of Bourbons and draw out money that I haven’t got from their ATM brought me into contact with a member of their staff who surely must have the most demeaning and soul destroying job on the planet.

Maybe this position has been around a while and I have merely missed it due to my infrequent visits to ASDA’s superstore? Maybe it’s not big news but it was certainly a new experience for me.

I’d grabbed my Bourbons. A double economy pack if you must know. I was heading down the aisle towards the checkout booths and that’s when I saw him. Or rather I saw it first.

It. The big green cardboard pointy hand held up on a big stick. The big green pointy hand with the words “space here” printed across the palm in ASDA’s jolly shopper script.

ASDA are employing someone to stand in front of the checkout area, moving along its length backwards and forwards like a crab in a force 10 gale, indicating which of the checkout booths has space on their conveyor belt of plenty to accept a new customer.

You poor sod.

Those were the exact words – pure and unadulterated – that entered my head when I saw him. He wasn’t even a young YTS-wannabe. Not a Hoodie serving community service. It was some poor middle aged fellow. Geez. Someone my age. He looked as fed up as such a job could make anyone. I could feel his depression emanating from him like the BO from his upheld arm. Space here. How he didn’t just dip that sign down so it was pointing to his own skull, I don’t know.

And then I thought: well, my job isn’t all that bad. I have a desk. I have a computer and a telephone. I have an In-try and an out-tray. Paperwork and emails. Budgets. And most important of all. I have a need to fill. My job is required. It is needed and, dare I say it, essential to the smooth running of the building. It’s important.

But then again it also has stress. And responsibility. And fall-out. And consequence. And complaints. And accountability. And capacity for foul-ups. And boredom and tediousness. And a sheer lack of personal engagement which quite frankly stultifies my brain for 5 days a week.

The only difference between me and that guy in ASDA is the stick.

And the BO.

*Sigh*

Space here. If anybody wants it.


Saturday, September 04, 2010

Why Bunk Beds And Vomit Do Not Mix

Cleaning up vomit must be one of the worst jobs a parent has to undertake within the normal gamut of parental experience.

I have literally just hit the anti bacterial hand wash to try and rid myself of that horrible tangy, catch-you-in-the-back-of-the-throat odour that seems to hang around you for hours afterwards after you have come into intimate contact with kiddius vomitus.

Our eldest has just chundered / technicolour yawned his way down every step of his bunk bed. Great coughing hiccups of bile, slimy chicken, chocolate, pork scratchings, lemon tart and lasagna (don't ask; it's been a long day). Not his usual diet I have to say but we took ourselves off to Warwick this morning to sample both its restaurants and its Saturday market. This stomach eruption should in no way be seen as a gourmet review. It is, I hope, just a reaction to the day's rather rich eating.

Because as a parent, when one of your offspring decides to blow chunks, you inevitably experience that gnawing, nagging fear that the household has been hit by a stomach bug that is going to work it's way around every single one of you and see you, the parent, mopping up yet more vomit before the night is through whilst vomiting huge spicy carroty-bits yourself.

However, the little 'un seems fine. Sleeping soundly, breathing calm. Which is no mean feat in a room that smells like Jimi Hendrix's pillow.

I, however, feel very queasy but I am putting that down to my recent close encounter with my son's expelled stomach lining that I have just poured down the toilet.

Bunk beds, for those of you that are thinking of investing in them for your kids, are not great. Yes, they save you space, but (and I am speaking from past experience here) when both occupants are ill you inevitably end up with a sick sandwich. The double decker chunder if you will. Clearing up ground vomit whilst being rained upon by air launched vomit is not a great milestone in any parent's career.

Today's encounter with hot-vom has been mild in comparison.

I have scraped off the carpet. Rubbed down the bunk bed ladder. Polished the child proof gate that divides my youngest from the upper level of the bunk bed kingdom. I have done my best to check over all nearby toys for collateral splashing and vegetable soup staining.

All seems as clean as I can make it.

The room still smells like a bulimic's handbag but both boys are now breathing peacefully and are sound asleep.

I'm fervently praying for a dry morning.


Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Leamington Is Full Of The Strangest People, No. 3: Tin Can Andy

Still from John Carpenter's The ThingAnd so may I present what is probably going to be the third in a three part series about some of the strange people in Leamington Spa that you may meet if, like me, you actually lived here.

For those of you that have missed the first two (what were you doing? Leading a life?) Number 1, Bob The Shopkeeper is here and no.2, Pooper-Scoop Pete is here.

Today though we are going to speculate on the strange existence of Tin Can Andy.

Like most towns across the UK our household waste collection service is divided over a 2 week period. One week it will be the pre-sorted, pre-flattened, pre-washed recyclable stuff. The next week it will be the uneaten food stuffs, body parts, landfill fodder and stuff the charity shops wouldn’t touch with a barge pole.

On the recycling waste weeks, so early in the morning that the birds are still brushing their teeth and gargling with Listerine, you can hear the squee-squee-squee of Tin Can Andy’s shopping trolley. Well. When I say Andy’s shopping trolley I really mean Asda’s shopping trolley.

As I’m so paranoid about having my bin nicked I don’t put my recycling boxes out until the very morning of the collection. I’m usually up pretty early anyway as I have kids and anyone who has kids knows that 6.0am is a lie-in.

It is during this early morning chore that, if I am lucky, like spying a red deer emerging from the mist, I sometimes spot Tin Can Andy moving surreptitiously amongst the red boxes and bags that his community has placed outside their doorsteps ready for the waste disposal team to empty.

Tin Can Andy you see likes to rummage around other people’s recycling waste and re-appropriate... you’ve guessed it... all the tin cans. By the time I see him he must be about half way through his “round” as his trolley is usually piled up already with his ill-gotten aluminium gains.

Now I confess I don’t know what to make of Tin Can Andy. Part of me feels an undeniable sense of indignation. Technically these cans are not his property. They belong to the people who have left them out in good faith for the council bin men. Technically what he is doing is theft. Isn’t it?

But then the other half of me thinks, what the hell. It’s only junk. Who cares?

Presumably – though this is yet to be confirmed – there is money to be made selling old tin cans to scrap metal merchants? Certainly given the number of drain covers that have been stolen from the Warwickshire area over the summer people are crying out for metal, whether it is “scrap” or not. But would the money you’d get from a tin can really make the sheer effort involved in acquiring it worthwhile?

So my other theory is that Tin Can Andy is building something out of the tin cans. He is, in fact an alien. One of those multi-morphing alien creatures from John Carpenter’s The Thing. And out in his backgarden, in a clumsily dug cavity under his B&Q shed, there is an underground tunnel leading to a half built spaceship. Once Andy has acquired enough cans of baked beans he’s buggering off home again to Alpha Centauri or Clacton, one of the two.

To be honest I couldn’t care less.

As long as I don’t have to see his upside down head scampering across my lawn on giant spider’s legs I’ll be more than happy. Though to be fair, he does keep the occurrences of cat poo invasion down to a minimum...