Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Healthy living

The white room stretches six metres in front of me, two metres wide, three metres tall; a corridor to nowhere, a white-tiled cul-de-sac. A dull chrome bar clings with menace to the far wall. I am sent to it, told to face it. I want to steady myself on the bar but am afraid to show my fear. The white walls, the dimensions of the room, my near-nakedness, all threaten me. From behind a white counter, by the entrance, a water cannon is turned on my back. I flinch under the cold spray which starts at my feet and rises to my back, growing harder and warmer. Turn round. I am facing my aggressor. Nothing to hold on to. My arms hang awkwardly. Our eyes don’t meet. She blasts my body disinterestedly. It is a job to her, dull, functional, workaday.

"It’s good for the circulation."

I have mixed feelings about the imminent massage.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Beating the Bush

Donald Rumsfeld is giving the President his daily briefing, and concludes by saying: "Yesterday, 3 Brazilian soldiers were killed in an accident"

"Oh No", the President exclaims. "That's terrible".

His staff sit there, stunned at this display of emotion, nervously watching as the President slumps, head in hands. Finally the President looks up and asks...

"How many is a Brazillion?"

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Norway not boring!

Norway's prime minister today proved to a shocked international audience that his country is not nearly as boring as everbody thought, by resigning with his government.

"Sje peebol ov de worrld dink we de borink but we naat. I haf sjoan dis dooday," mushed the outgoing premier.

"Ssssss...harrumph...mine's a gin and tonic...ssss...zzzzz," said Britain's Foreign Secretary in a statement issued by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office responding to the news.

Monday, September 12, 2005


An apology to the hordes of readers out there who may be missing my irregular posts.

I will be more erratic than usual for the next couple of weeks because I've moved flat and don't yet have broadband. I ordered it at the weekend and was offered a special price, which made me feel special.

"Ooooh," I asked coquettishly, "and how much is this special price?"
"39.95 a month."
"oooh...oh. That's the same special price as usual. Which is to say, it's not special. And by extension, neither am I."
"It is special,"
"No, it isn't."
"...and so are you. Would you like ADSL?"
"You're all the same you, you, you UTILITY companies. All charming with your fine words and special prices but at the end of it all you're just after one thing."
"You get a free router."
"Hmmmm...ok then, but this is the last time..."
"It's wireless."
"Well, you'd better think about throwing some wires in, hadn't you? Hmmm?"
"For free."
"...it'll be with you in 20 days."

Disaster strikes!

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Booze and the oldest democracy

Harry Hutton wonders whether you're four times more likely to get punched in the chops in England today than 10 years ago.

Now there's a grand hoo-har over relaxing licensing laws to distribute chop-punching activity more evenly through the night and give the vomit on your porch less time to dry before morning.

It's maybe a good time to point out that your average Briton chinned 9.2 litres of pure alcohol in 2002 (link, info on page 2). Pretty impressive. Booze is surely one of the pillars upon which the oldest democracy stands.

On of the arguments for relaxing licensing laws is to encourage a more "continental European" drinking culture. The hope is that pallid yobs who like to follow seven pints of cheap lager with a fight and a kebab, will become tanned sophisticates sipping wine and strolling through the boulevards. I fear this is wishful thinking. Take a second look at this: link, info on page 2. In 2002, Britain boozed less than Luxembourg, Hungary, Ireland, Czech Republic, Germany, France, Portugal and Spain.

I was carousing in Spain last night and it is certainly possible to get staggeringly drunk over a long period of time in this fine land. But Spaniards aren't nearly so terrifying when drunk.

The British drink more recklessley, take more drugs and steal more road cones than any other country in Europe; always have done, always will. A stroll through the Victoria and Albert museum is like strolling through a British student's bedroom on Saturday morning, full of the spoils of past excesses.

"...and the priceless treasure on your right turned up in Lord Elgin's possession while the British Ambassador to Constantinople was on the outside of six pints of lager and a bottle of Metaxa. It is a sorry loss for history that Elgin couldn't remember the exact provenance of the vase but reckoned he must have swiped it from somewhere between the Good Times Taverna, where he fell into the arms of a syphilitic maiden, and his offices, the steps of which he woke up on at six in the morning having lost his keys. Elgin later attributed an otherwise inexplicable bruise on his shin to the same night out."

Friday, September 02, 2005

there's just a thin layer between us and total ratshit

I have had the overwhelming feeling today that if all this New Orleans carry-on happened in my home town, or in any of the cities i've lived in, the spiral into lawless mob-rule would be more or less the same.

I'm pretty comfortable in my western middle class cocoon watching disasters on telly, reading about famines in the paper, feeling bad for a minute before worrying that I'm nearly thirty and my most valuable possession is a pair of shoes (which need fixing, incidentally).

But if I was corraled into a stadium with no food, no water and pounding heat after having all my possessions washed away (ok, that's one benefit of the aforementioned) by a biblical deluge, I reckon I'd get pretty shirty too. Fuck it, I'd be pissing-on-my-socks terrified. I'm an utter and devoted coward. A mean fucker with knives wants my underpants and my broken shoes?

"Why certainly, good sir, and may I say, your one eye lends you a dashing mystery. I don't care what others say."

Put a gun in my hand and I'd undoubtedly shoot Mean Fucker instead of giving up my broken shoes and pissed-on socks. Not having much of a clue about guns, I'd probably shoot him in the ear, at a stroke justifying and increasing the tempo of the ensuing beating. Nope, I wouldn't come out of such an ordeal smelling of roses.

If there is any good to come out of this, and surely good comes out of everything, just as bad does, it is that we can no longer presume that bad things, disorganisation and collapsing societies only happen in far away countries we visit. ("Ya, such a great experience, man. The people are so real.")

We're all humans and disaster, whether it is war, famine, flood or other stuff, can happen however civilised you think you are. Some of the dumb fuckers moaning about how Africa should be left to sort out its own problems would do well to remember that.

Sorry for the serious post. Normal service will be resumed shortly.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Whoever names hurricanes should be well-versed in popular culture

In 1998 Hurricane Bonnie struck North Carolina. I was confident Hurricane Clyde was just around the corner. Two vicious Hurricanes named after two vicious bank-robbers. Can't say fairer than that, now.

Alas, the next awesome demonstration of nature's might was Hurricane Cyril, or Clive, or Chris or some other unmighty name.

I shrugged, disappointed. If I was at the business end of nature's kosh I probably wouldn't want the world to be smiling wryly at a well-chosen name while I'm watching my house swoop over the horizon with a cow.

But maybe not so much thought goes into the names after all. I've had "Walking on Sunshine"* stuck in my head for three days now.

*by Katrina and the Waves

Euphemism and cultural relevance

"The [flying of planes into tall buildings is] understood by both Arabs and non-Arabs... even by Chinese."

Osama bin Laden demonstrating that even crazies in caves use "Chinese" as short-hand for "you won't understand them and they won't understand you".

(link: later conversation turns to football (albeit with a flying-planes-into-buildings twist))

When I was 14, I wondered how my Dad's painter and decorator friend was big-house-with-swimming-pool-in-leafy-part-of-London-rich.

Me: How comes your mate Painter Decorator's got such a big house with a swimming pool?

Hughes the Elder: ...well...err...well...he's done work for Arabs y'know.

Me: ...

I now know that "done work for Arabs" is a Hughes-the-Elder short-hand for "married money".

I wonder who the Chinese think is unintelligible and Arabs think is rich? And do they both use "Greek" as short-hand for "buggery"?