Monday, January 31, 2005

10 things to remember about St Valentines Day

I have just noticed that tomorrow is February. It sent shivers of fear down my spine. For February is that month, that month when we men must, above all the other months, have our wits about us. We must, when speaking with our significant other, understand every nuance of what they say to us, we must listen carefully to every sentence, analyse every word and notice every glance, every slight wrinkle of worry and doubt upon their brow, every soft sigh. We must be sure that we dredge up some romantic spark and fulfil their unspoken wishes, albeit that none of us are psychic and must fulfil these unspoken desires even though they are – unspoken!

Yes my fellow men the month of St. Valentine is upon us.

10 things to remember about St Valentines Day

1. St. Valentine suffered a grisly death at the hands of the Romans. This serves to remind us men what will happen to us should, by some simple twist of fate, or sudden onrush of Alzheimer's disease, we forget the day

2. Saint Valentine is also the patron saint of epilepsy. No doubt this condition was bought on by the amount of money he had to spend on Cards, Chocolates, Flowers, Sexy underwear and other trinkets in the annual attempt to convince his partner that he was truly in love with her – and at a time I might add when the credit card and the bank balance are still suffering from exactly the same exercise at Christmas.

3. Lovebirds are tiny African parrots that carry disease. Therefore, although initially this seems like a romantic and apt gift for your lover, they are likely to contract psittacosis. This condition can cause fever, chills, weakness and fatigue, chest pain and loss of appetite, all of which are classic symptoms of being in love and will for a short period engender some sympathy if not out and out fawning. But as soon as the vomiting, diarrhoea, headaches and sweating start you can be sure this would be a Valentines to remember.

4. Hallmark Cards generates $4 billion in sales and charges an average $2.95 or more for a greeting card at retail while it costs the company a mere seven cents to manufacture the card. However, it is a huge mistake (see No 1) to recycle last year’s card, attempt to make one unless you went to a top arts college or forget.

5. Roman youths drew the names of girls who would be their partners during Lupercalia. This custom was Christianized and spread to Europe, England and Germany. The modern name for this is ‘swinging’. It is doubtful that your partner would be thrilled if you suggested this as a Valentines treat unless of course she is Swedish or German, where this sort of thing goes on non stop – or so I’m told. I’m not sure about what happens in the Americas.

6. Do not present your secret or intended loved one with a bouquet of Bay leaf, although the Valentine symbol of ‘hope’, she is more likely to interpret this as a request for a stew or soup of some kind. Better the Gardenia: ‘I love you in secret’ or the traditional Rose: ‘I love you passionately’. Although the Persians believe that ‘at night a nightingale flew toward the white rose attracted by its fragrance. He was pierced by the thorns and his blood dyed the flower red’. So not a nice image to plight your troth with.

7. One explanation for not buying chocolate this year is that the Roman equivalent of Valentine is Lupercus, the Greed god. Telling your partner (symbolically) that she is a greedy bitch whose cellulite is getting out of control is not the real message of Valentines Day is it?

8. Apparently ‘Diamonds are a girls best friend’ and are popular gifts for women during Valentines. This is perhaps because the diamond derives its name from the Greek adamas, "untameable" or "unconquerable", referring to its hardness. Similar traits to those we find in women. They may well get all soft and dewy eyed upon reciving such a gift and we men may strike it lucky that evening, but beware, these traits will re appear as soon as normal service is resumed on February 15th.

9. Apparently food is the key to expressing love and going out for a meal on Valentines Day is popular. According to one website Lobster is very popular. Last year in the UK there were 90,000 reported instances of food poisoning. Even under the best of circumstances, eating lobsters can be a public health risk. Seafood is the number one cause of food poisoning in the United States, and shellfish are involved in more than 66 percent of all seafood-related illnesses. In fact, as much as 10 percent of raw shellfish are infected with organisms that can cause hepatitis, salmonella poisoning, cholera, and even death. Maybe Valentines is the night to stay in, protect the credit card and have some Pasta! She’ll love you for being so thoughtful.

10. Cupid and Psyche, once together, (it’s a bit of a yarn) had a daughter born to them whose name was Pleasure. A lovely story of true romance but let this be a warning to all you young lovers out there, a few glasses of champagne, half a lobster and some chocolate pudding, if you survive the food poisoning, you’ll end up pregnant and be paying for it for the rest of your lives. A daughter called Pleasure, I think not. Maybe a daughter called Wilful, Disobedient, Headstrong and ‘You’re not going out in a skirt that short are you’?

So men, muster your courage, grab that box of dairy milk, and the wilting bunch of twelve roses from the garage forecourt, strengthen your resolve and with beating heart, bend your knee and pledge yourself to your loved one.

You know it makes sense.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Nasty Nazi's

Since yesterday lunchtime I have been left with a bad taste in my mouth. No I didn’t succumb and have some vaguely Scottish sounding fast food burger, what left me with this bad taste was the fact that the BNF (British National Front) were leafleting in the City Centre.

What annoyed me was that they attempted to give me ME a leaflet as if I look remotely like one of their lowbrow supporters. I don’t know how they made that mistake. I mean, unlike Harry the Prince I had left my desert rat uniform at home and my SS uniform is at the cleaners. I don’t think I was goosestepping along past Dixons and I haven’t had a toothbrush moustache for years now.

The thing that gets me about these stupid fascists is that they seem to think that I or any of the passers by would want to take any political advice from a bunch of thugs and thuggettes dressed like chavs who have kitted themselves out at the local Oxfam shop. They all look like the low IQ neanderthals they are. Striding around the place in their baseball caps forcing leaflets on passers-by like the martinets that once policed the ghettos and the concentration camps in Poland.

The fact that they were doing this on Holocaust Day, which of course is denied within their distorted view of world history, was probably some sick mistake as I am sure that it wasn’t anything to do with planning. They probably all had to get up early anyway to sign on for their benefits and fancied doing a bit of leafleting before they settled down to Trisha on the TV and a can or six of Special brew.

Yes they rail on about how all the immigrants, migrants, refugees etc don’t contribute to this country and suck the economy dry, whilst at the same time this white trash breed like vermin with any slapper of a woman that will take their seed, never do a days hard work if they can possibly help it and claim as many benefits they can and cheat the system with fraudulent claims. I’ve never personally seen a BNP or BNF supporter who looks like they could hold down a job let alone fill in an application form.

I told the Nazi who tried to force their putrid ideology onto me to stick it up his arse and threw the garbage of a leaflet into his face. He looked surprised as if somebody had explained to him, now he was 26, how to write his name. Surprisingly he didn’t beat me up! But it still leaves a bad taste.

Lenny Henry (British Black Comedian) has the best put down when it comes to one of the main planks of the BNF’s policy - repatriation. He says ‘yes, I’d be happy to be repatriated, let them send me back to Dudley’. (Dudley is a town in the Midlands, Lenny is second or third generation British)

Fuck em!

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Illness abounds

I have just spent the last two days in bed. No it wasn’t a lennonesque BED-IN protesting about world peace or cheaper cheesy wotsits. I was ill. It was a quite non specific illness which drifted into my consciousness about 3:15 Monday when I started to feel like shit. You will remember from my previous post I was feeling quite happy and positive on Monday but by 4:00 I was at home and in bed feeling like I had not slept for the past two months and yet I couldn’t sleep! What was that about?

I am quite sure that it was not sciveritis (for the Americans out there a ‘sciver’ is a colloquialism for one who avoids work) as when I woke up the next morning I could hardly raise the energy to get out of bed – so I didn’t. I stayed in bed until my wife informed me that youngest son had a swollen face – yes folks he had mumps. So I had to get up, ring the doctor and take them to the appointment, even though I felt like death warmed up. The Doctor didn’t even notice my enfeebled state as he poked son around the chops.

Why is it that when we men get ill everybody else’s illness is more important? (Especially the wife’s) Mumps, here in the UK, is a notifiable disease and the govt have to be notified and a nurse has to come around to our house, what for I don’t know, probably to paint a large red cross on the front door before she bricks it up.

So with number two son ill I get very little attention as I lay in bed – ok I was marginally happy as I had a few books to read, I was strong enough to just about manage to turn the page. I didn’t have the strength though nor the inclination to make it to the front room to watch day time TV – see how ill I was.

All a man needs when he’s in his sickbed is a little sympathy, a little caring and a little consideration – and that’s ALL I got. I mean come on, where were the grapes, the lucozade, the chocolates and the bedbath? In the evening I even had to open my own whisky bottle.

On a more serious note, I know I have been in the ‘death zone’ since hitting 40 odd. You know the time zone within which men of a certain age a prone to heart attacks. This was bought home to me about three years ago when my dad had a heart attack and then a tripe bypass. I had my heart and health checked out and was OK but my cholesterol was up a bit, but through diet I got it down.

But I just found out yesterday, off my mum, that a friend of mine from school has just died from a heart attach. So that’s even closer to home. I think this is another ‘sign’. So I really am going to have to watch my health status.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Emergency STOP

As I was driving my daughter back home last night we had a small emergency in my car. One of the red warning lights came on, the one that says STOP in big red letters. One of the other symbols lit up in red as well. The main problem with this, is while I completely understand what the STOP message meant, my grasp of symbolese is very limited. Looking closely at the symbol it looked a little like a bagel or maybe as it’s a French Car a round Brioche. Maybe it was telling me it was time for a buttery French bread snack; I doubted this as it hadn’t even come on as we drove through France last summer. And as I didn’t have the appropriate manual with me at the time, in fact I don’t even own the appropriate manual, I had to do some logical thinking and some investigative checking.

First things first, check the levels.

Water OK – check
Oil Ok – check
Hydraulic fluid O.. – cheque!

Hmmm the little red floater thingy was not where it should be – between the two red lines on the glass window, it was just about on the bottom line and this was probably setting off the light. That’s OK I thought as I distinctly remember buying some fluid before I drove to Ukraine last summer (I was a Boy Scout – Be prepared is my motto). I looked in the back of the car in my plastic box of car stuff – NO FLUID! Damn.

Ok I’ll drive to the nearest Service Station and buy some. Got back in the car, the STOP light didn’t come on so off to the nearest Petrol Station to get some fluid. At the first one I hunted high and low, but could I find some? No! I could have bought Tampax, Sliced White Bread, TV Dinners, Diet Coke, Milk, Sugar and Tea, Porno magazines, TV Magazines, Little smelly cardboard tree things to go in the car, Condoms, Chocolate, Peas, Charcoal, Cheese and Wilted flowers for my wife, but no hydraulic fluid for my car and they call it a service station – pah!.

I repeated this investigation at the next six service/petrol stations en route to my daughters’ home. No fluid, but I came away with a fluffy fleece car blanket, a hands free kit, a pair of binoculars, a 1,000,000 watt torch, a pair of fluffy dice and a girly magazine for later!

As I drove from service station to service station watching the light flick on and off intermittently I considered what my hero would have done in these circumstances. Yuri Gagarin was the first man in space and I’m sure if a little red light had come on in his capsule telling him his hydraulic fluid was low he would have come up with a solution. So at the next service station I started to seriously consider the viscosity of the various liquids on the shelves. Would milk or diet coke do the trick? I was loathe to use diet coke or any coke for that matter as I have seen what it does when you leave a old dirty coin in it for an hour or two, it would eat through my stainless steel pipes. (I hate to think what happens when you drink it).

Perhaps pineapple juice was better than milk, or is chocolate milk thicker? What would Yuri choose? It dawned on me that at that time Chocolate milk was probably not available in the Soviet Union so it would have been unlikely for it to have been in Yuri’s lunch pack. He would have probably had some tea or a flask of Borsch with him. Perhaps even his own piss, he probably had bags and bags of it floating around the capsule in plastic bags. But when it comes down to it, I think it’s the viscosity that is the main factor, how the liquid performs under pressure. (Perhaps one of you boffins at NASA or the former Soviet Space place who are reading my blog could come up with a definitive answer here. Which liquid would Yuri have chosen to refill his hydraulics - Chocolate Milk, Orange Juice (no bits), Diet Coke or his own piss). My guess is Orange juice or piss.

Anyway in the end, like Yuri, I kept my nerve and got my daughter home safe and managed to drive the 30 miles back home without any hydraulic related incident apart from the STOP light flashing on and off at me occasionally. But my main question is why, considering the motorist is their main customer, have Service /Petrol Stations decided that groceries are their main product, even when the petrol station is part of the Supermarket chain and located in their car park 100 metres away from where the same stuff is on the shelves, and now only sell a very limited set of car related products - a few bottles of oil, smelly tree things, windscreen washer, stuff for getting bugs of the front and L plates. Never anything I want!

So now I have to go to the specialist car shop – only open I might add, between 9 and 5 weekdays, never when you breakdown at 6 o clock on a Sunday evening – and they call that service huh?

To finish today’s blog on a further note about my engineering and technical prowess. I am proud that this weekend I attached my new pannier carrier to my bike with a bit left over from my Ikea wardrobes. This is classic British engineering bodging, the sort of thing Isambard Kingdom Brunel would have been proud of. The two clamps that were provided with the rack were too small for my bike (built by myself I might add) so to attach the pannier to the frame, I took this small metal widget that should be fixing the wardrobes to the wall bent it into the right shape and voila a custom made clamp that perfectly fitted around the frame - I am so proud, here I am puffed up and crowing.

La la, its Monday morning and I are happy.

Friday, January 21, 2005

My Blog Role of Honour

Since I have been blogging for a while now and have still not been able to sort my blog page out for one reason or another, mainly because:

a) It’s practically impossible to get access to the computer at home because of the two teenage boys welded to the darn thing.
b) My lack of website design expertise.

It is time that I listed my blog roll of honour. Many of my fellow bloggers have been kind enough to add my site as links on their own site and have often made some kind comments about my writing. I am pleased, as we all are, to get comments from our fellow writers and its time that I returned the compliment in some small way until I can sort my page out.

It seems to me that many bloggers sort of fall into two categories, those of us who while away the working hours by blogging, the constant tap tap tapping of our keyboards lulling our bosses into that false sense of security where they think we are working. God help us if they came and looked over our shoulders. And the others who blog from home, these are obviously singles and don’t have teenagers blocking the super highway!

So my role of honour:

The first thing I do is check out a few blogs for my morning guffaw!

Watski’s World is always fun and is usually the first one I check out in the morning, like most of us, sometimes he’s posted sometimes not. But usually most days there’s a great posting.

Then down to the Antipodes for The Hard Word. These are the adventures of an ex-pat Northern Irelander in Australia. Usually hilarious and if you ask me with way too many adoring female fans to whom Ian panders endlessly.

Then Back to Norfolk to the slightly surreal life of JonnyB’s private secret diary. He claims its all true and maybe it is – but who else would want to live in Norfolk apart that is from Bernard Matthews and his Turkeys.

For a bit of Grit and the hectic Life of a Musician, Mike Da Hat gives us a warts and all blog of his life, sometimes funny sometimes sad, but funny or sad it’s a good read and there’s always the inevitable tune on the ipod, he likes to keep us music buffs up to speed.

And then in no particular order:

Gemmaks’ blogs – life and stuff in Scotland

Bacon and Eh’s: A Canadian Perspective, sunny side up! This is a great blog, loads of interesting and loony links and an award winner too!

Sister Sunshines Diary is fun too and I enjoy popping into this one occasionally

MasaMania is a totally demented Japanese guy who runs this crazy photoblog of Japanese life. He documents all the wacky stuff that goes on there, its brilliant, go see it.

Does This Mean I’m a Grownup documents Catts life as an American mum or is that mom. Its funny, read it. She blogs most days.

Incestuous Amplification is always good for a laugh too, she’s got a good thing going now with the dead pool, join in, its fun.

There are others that I dip in and out of but for now this is my main role of honour if Ive left some out Im sorry. No doubt that I will add more and will eventually get to adding links to my own page.

So thank you all again for you comments on my writing and for visiting my page and I hope you too find something funny or interesting in the list above.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

My Ukrainian Family

Having a family that is foreign is an eye-opener. First you get to see your own culture through the eyes of ‘strangers’, this is especially interesting for me as I am a Sociologist. But as a Husband, first and foremost, it sometimes gets very frustrating. I am held to task whenever my culture or my system is deemed to be failing. So it seems because our water tastes horrible, it’s my fault, or the food tastes different, ‘why? I’m asked’ – I don’t know and I am always loathe to say ‘well the food in Ukraine wasn’t anything like an elaborate taste extravaganza’.

Then the Health service is held up to inspection, why is it so bad? Again I don’t know and am at a loss to come up with some rational explanation because I always thought it was OK. It has always suited me and I’m generally healthy. But I know that my pre-conceptions in regard of the health system in Ukraine were wrong, it is in fact very good and accessible, so my visits there have opened my eyes to the shortcomings of the health service here.

Then there is the eternal, or so it seems, money pit that is the various bureaucracies we have to deal with. Look, I knew when I took this on that the visas would cost money, (and I have to say, don’t I, that for my wife every penny is worth it) but now it seems every little thing you need to do with these people costs money. A new passport for the stepson from the Ukrainian embassy was £60 plus £15 fee. That’s not counting the £100 in fares to get to London, plus the hotel etc etc. Now we have to go to Croydon or Birmingham to get the old visa re-stamped into the new passport. More fees, more transport etc. Then it’ll be the turn of the younger stepson, then we have to get a visa called ‘Further Leave to Remain’ for all of them and that’ll cost around another £400. Then I think we even have to pay for Citizenship!

The other interesting thing about having a family from another country is that you suddenly get thrown into that group’s local culture. My goodness, if you had asked me a year ago about the number of Russians living in the UK or the number of Russians living in Devon for that matter I would have probably shrugged my shoulders and said ‘not many’. There are bloody loads of them! My wife now has more friends than me! She’s only been in Plymouth since we moved in November. I used to live here about 6 years ago and have worked here over 10 years and she now knows more people than me. And they’re all Russian or Russian speaking of course.

Now I don’t mind that because it means she now has this huge support group and there’s loads of self help going on and of course I get access to loads of vodka so it seems we’re all happy. But it is surprising and of course lots of these people are very enterprising, I even saw an advert in London when I was there where someone was selling his National Insurance Number – very enterprising I must say.

And cross cultural marriages, do they work? Well I’m only in the first year of mine. My wife’s English is fine, good enough for us to have the usual marital rows. So we can communicate well. Having two hulking teenagers appear in my house eating everything in sight was a bit of a shock to the system and the wallet. I guess even the usual UK teenager is uncommunicative but these boys, both extremely gifted in Maths (what is it about the former Soviet Education system and the current Ukrainian/Russian systems which produce such good mathematicians and our British system can only produce innumerate, inarticulate, illiterate, kids who think Emenem is a high grade poet.) Seem only to be able to communicate in some sort of computerese. Which after all is probably the geek equivalent of liking Emenem!

My wife’s only vice is wanting to shop till she drops, yes she’s catching onto Capitalism rapidly, far too rapidly for my pocket that is. Like the song by Queen goes, ‘she wants it all, she wants it all, she wants it now!’ I have to explain to her many many times that we only have one income at the moment, mine, and unless we win the lottery this coming Friday, then she cannot have everything she sees in the shops. I am afraid that the January sales have tainted her view of the world and everything in every shop has been discounted.

But then when I remonstrate with her for wanting to spend, spending, or just simply wanting the unachievable, she simply retorts with her sexy accent, ‘Well I am Woman’

Fair Comment!

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Motivation - now theres a word to conjure with

I think I have SAD. I’m just weary and I can’t put my finger upon it. I look out of my office window and sunny Plymouth is officially grey. I don’t think I even have the energy to write another word, that’s how tired I am. I am so tired I don’t even think that a gram of amphetamine mainlined into my central nervous system would wake me up. I am so tired that I can’t even think about a gram of amphetamine let alone spend the energy actually trying to buy the foul stuff.

I am feeling numb from the top of my head to the aching soles of my feet. I feel so numb that if someone where to beat me around the head with a 5 kilo codfish I wouldn’t notice. I am so numb that when my wife asks me why my head and clothing are encrusted with scales I would just shrug and look numbly at her.

I am fatigued. My muscles feel like they have been overworked and underfed. My greatest wish, should I summon up the enthusiasm, would be to lie in bed somewhere being intravenously fed with vitamin enriched lucozade backed up with a glucose drip. My fatigue is so inherent that should Kyle wish to attend and perform the bed bath upon me my penis would lay there like a sleepy snake at midday mid Sahara.

I am shattered. My energy lies in shards around me, but like an ill matched jigsaw I just don’t seem to be able to pick it up and put it together again. I am so shattered that if the building were to burn down right now, at least my office would be warm for a while and I’d be comfortable. They’d find my burned and charred husk sitting with my blackened stumps upon my desk enjoying the heat, remembering those hot summer days when we are all so full of energy.

I am drained, like a can of peas after lunch; I no longer have any juice. I can’t make my pods go pop with any vigour. I feel slightly greenish and slow and sort of mushy. My vital energy has drained right out of me just when I wasn’t looking, like a slow puncture in my tire, I have been let down. Now I am desiccated, dried and demoralised should someone stand next to me and sneeze I would explode into a thousand million molecules and float around for eternity getting up peoples noses and giving them allergies.

I am bushed, just like many Americans; I’ve just had enough and am all-in. If I had the wherewithal I would vote for the one day week and the compulsory Lennonesque 6 day bed-in. I am totally bushed, and have the energy levels of an inmate at Guantanamo Bay who has just been kicked shitless by the guards but given a weekend pass. I’ll pass. Mañana will do for me I couldn’t drag myself out on the town even if I was strapped to a herd of rogue elephants being teased by white mice.

I am just dead beat, like a dead beat after a bottle of Thunderbird. A nice soft gutter would do me right now, an eiderdown of newspapers and a mattress of cardboard sounds like bliss. Take me to oblivion on a single ticket and shackle me to the railings. I’m sleepy, no hi ho’s will keep me awake, like drowsy, I’m six dwarves short of a snooze. My lids are drooping, and I’m drooling down my shirt like a bad Pavlovian experiment. I can’t write another word; my fingers droop over the keyboard, neither can I check the thesaurus for another, yet another, synonym – I am pooped.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

London Sccchhhmmmundon

Would you Adam and Eve it, all the way to London and here I am still stuck in my office. I can’t understand it. How come I wasn’t discovered by some of the big film producers like Sean Connery was or at least by one of the big name modelling agencies? There must be a market for middle aged, slightly overweight chic, as oppose to pre pubescent heroin chic. I want to be the face of something too! Andy Warhol promised!

And another thing there’s not a cockanee to be seen! I thought at least I might have bumped into Ray Winstone or Bob Hoskins. . But nothing, not even Barbara Windsor and I know she’s in the City because she’s been on every TV show and Radio programme in the country touting some keep fit video for old biddies. They’ve all moved out, vanished, the cockanees. I think they’re all living on the Costa De Sol on the profits of some blag or selling ice creams at £5 a cone to the Americans or all gone out to Australia. Australia is the traditional destination of the cockanees and has been since about the 16th Century when all you need to do to get a ticket was steal a loaf of bread or worry some sheep.

No, London is devoid of cockanees which makes it difficult when you try to buy a cup of Rosie. The place is chock a block full of foreigners, and I’m not just talking Americans here. (At least they speak some form of English!) No, to get a cup of tea in London you need to speak at least one of the 142 languages spoken in the City at the moment (most of them behind the counter of your favourite fast food purveyor). Luckily I had my electronic translator with me (well I do have to communicate some how with the wife!) and was able to communicate our needs quite well, however, what I’m going to do with the 15 kilos of sun dried camel I managed to purchase is beyond me.

We visited all the famous places and battled with the Japanese for the best photography spots. They give way quite easily due to their short stature and they’re easy to knock over, but I am always a bit worried that some of them may be Ninja’s on holiday, I mean how could you tell if they haven’t got their black kit on? (Another thing is, why don’t the Japanese fill their Olympic team full of Ninja’s surely they would win all the gold medals!)

I was also a bit put out that we weren’t invited in for Tea either at the Palace or Number 10. You would think with the amount of money we pay in Taxes to keep Liz and her bunch of in breeds in the life they have come to expect to lead, the least we commoners could expect on a trip up to the Capital is a quick cuppa, a biscuit and a bit of a sit down to give our aching plates a rest. She was in as well as the flag was flying over the Palace. But she seemed to have surrounded herself and the Palace with big policemen with submachine guns; do you think she knows something we don’t? Perhaps if she wasn't as tight with the Typhoo and the Bourbons she could rest a little easier in her bed, without that recurring dream about Charles 1st and Louis 16th comparing cuts happening everynight.

If buying a swift cuppa and a burger from some guy who swam ashore last Wednesday and speaks Amharic wasn’t bad enough have you tried to buy a cup of coffee in the City? My electronic interpreter couldn’t keep up. It's all in some strange Italian dialect - ‘mocha choca skinny caffe latté grande, barista, ee con panna de caf‘ and all I wanted was a cup of decaf Nescafe and a sit down.

My wife was pleased though as we managed to find the Russian speaking section of London - Bayswater! We found a Russian food shop and she was in raptures over various bits of food that she hasn’t seen for the last year or so. Various bits of smelly, smoked blackened, fish found their way into our bags, unfortunately for pounds and not roubles – O how they have embraced Capitalism! And this fish looked a bit suspicious as it was probably an ornamental carp swimming around quite happily in some municipal park pond outside of the Capital just last week. So loaded down as we were with sun dried camel, cabbage and beetroot I was starting to lose my temper.

My vision of London was fast fading before my eyes. Gone were the pearly kings and queens, the boozers and the gangsters, gone was the romance of the chimney sweep and the cries of Olde London, gone was the Plague and the Black Death. I know life moves on but I was a little disappointed. As you know I had high hopes for this trip to the Smoke. Like Dick Whittington I thought that the streets were paved with gold and I would make my fame and fortune. Well they’re not; the streets of London are paved with paving stones like anywhere else. How our dreams shatter in the cold light of day. And unlike Dick I didn’t even have a little pussy to keep me happy!

Thought for the day re my previous post!

We have really everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language.
Oscar Wilde, The Canterville Ghost, 1882

Friday, January 14, 2005

London here I Come...

This weekend I am off to the Big Smoke, Going Up Town, Going to See the Bright Lights, yes I orf to Laaaden. The home of our Queen, bless her and her corgi’s, Parliament, that House of Commoners, and that ole man ribber the Thames.

I’m so excited I don’t know what to wear. Should I wear my Pearly Kings suit, my Beefeater Uniform or be a bit casual in me chimney sweeps outfit al la Dick Van Dyke? Cor Blimey Guv I’m all ov a quiver! I don’t want to look too much like a tourist, you know the local yokel up on a jolly. I want to blend in with them Cockanees. Maybe a sharp black suit like in Lock Stock sorta like gangsta stylee.

I bet I’ll see loads of stars there, probably have a drink or two wiv Babs Windsor in some gaff of a boozer in the East End, full ov faces and rozzers eying each other up. I’ll probably have to buy some hookey gear while I’m there, I’m hoping for a knocked off ipod or two, they’ll be hot as a sausage but as cheap as chips. Crikey I’m up for a good time.

Maybe take a stroll down Soho to av a quick butchers at the Tarts and maybe a quick look in to one of them shows, you know the ones, the guys are always beckoning you in, they say it’s really cheap too! That’ll be fine, go in for a pint or two and flash me mince pies over the tottie. Bargain! Then I’m sure the security guys on the door will point me in the right direction, they’ll all be diamond geezers!

Maybe I’ll go to Leicester square there’s bound to be a film premiere going on, we can get a couple of tickets and hobnob with all the stars and then off to some flash restaurant in a taxi, but mind you I don’t want none of them pepperami taking my photo’s, I don’t want to see my wife’s gusset on the front page of the Sun tomorrow morning. Caaants!

I’m not to sure what I’ll get to eat, as you know I’m a vegetarian and all them cockanees eat Jellied eels and stuff, pies and mash wiv gravy, bangers and mash like me muvver used to make. I gotta have something that’s pukka yah nah what I mean like. None of that fast food crap, its gotta be good British food, like a nice Ruby Murrey, hot as fuck with poppadoms. Great scran cos I’m sure I’ll be Hank Marvin by the time I’ve seen some of the sights.

Then I’m sure my wife will go bargain hunting down Oxford St. I’ve been there before so I’ll probably buy her some perfume from the guys that sell it out of suitcases, they always seem a bit twitchy but they guarantee it’s the real stuff and it’s like half the price, I’m sure the trouble and strife’ll be happy with it . I’ve heard that there’s some great clothes shops there, I could do with a new whistle. I’m told there’s a great shop called Byrite which carries class gear, I have heard though that Carnaby Street has gone down hill a little bit.

I’ve been practising a few songs for the evening singsong in the boozer, just some tradition London cockanee songs like ‘Gotta pick a pocket or two’, ‘Chimchimminey’,’ Maybe its because I’m a Londerner’ and ‘I’m forever blowing bubbles’. I’ve heard that the cockanee is a happy soul, poor, but always has a cheery word and a whistle for his fellow traveller. Most of them drive taxi’s, appear on British talk shows similar to Oprah, or are crooks, but they’re the salt of the earth, gor blimey. Give me a cockanee over a scouser anyday of the week. Luvaducks.

See you all on Tuesday when I’ll tell you all about my trip to the smoke!

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Two Gay Dogs Fucking

I have finally got my North American Indian Name – ‘Two Gay Dogs Fucking’. This came about as I was taking a gentle stroll through the city centre this lunch time. There I was minding my own business when I came upon a gawping crowd. The focus of attention was the aforementioned dogs going at it like hammer and tongs. Well why not I thought. It’s a nice sunny day, there’s a hint of spring in the air sending tingles through our armpits and groins, and why not let the dogs enjoy it as well.

And they did seem to be enjoying it, great pink tongues lolling out of grinning mouths, eyes rolled up into their sockets, I don’t want to anthropomorphize here but they looked like they were smiling to me. I looked around and the crowd were enjoying it too. I couldn’t see a man with a bucket of water anywhere.

This simple bit of furry love action seemed to bring a smile to everyone’s faces and ribald comments abounded – ‘That’s right my son, fill yer boots’, it was then I noticed that they were both ‘sons’! While one was up and making jam the other had a great pink hard on – dogs are just so obvious, aren’t they? They might well call it ‘Puppy Love’ but these puppies were downright hardcore.

One section of the audience was made up of Arts students, you could tell they were ‘wacky’ arts students, by their uniform baggy black clothing, their uniform piercing, the pink hair on the girls, the blue on the boys and the fact that they were all frantically taking photographs of the carnal act being played out before them. No doubt these pictures will be the centre piece of their shocking end of term presentations a la Tracy Emin.

Another section of the fascinated audience were the owners of the dogs themselves, the half dozen down and outs who were enjoying the sunshine and the spectacle of their dogs fucking through that alcoholic haze that a couple of cans of Special Brew brings on first thing in the morning. These guys spent most of their time egging the dogs on, not that it looked liked they needed any egging, and guffawing at the students taking pictures.

I’m sure that the drunks missed a trick or two here, I am sure that for this singular performance they could have pan-handled their way around the crowd seeking gratuities in the same way that mime artists or those people who pretend to be statues do. I mean this was a bloody sight more entertaining that those statue people and I’m sure the event would have raised a few bob towards the next bottle of White Lightning.

I took what I could from this little cameo of human life. First of course the North American Indian Name, of course we all need one, I’m not sure how appropriate this one is, but I feel it’s the one I’ve been ‘given’ so I must honour it. The students will probably get satisfying jobs with their arts degrees as managers in fast food restaurants and the bums will remain as ever, honourable bums plying their trade with dignity.

And the dogs, well may the dogs fuck with abandon whenever and wherever they will – I envy them.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Alan Tichmarsh’s Compost Heap

OK so California didn’t slip into the Pacific Ocean last night, well I guess it didn’t as no one called. So now I am on tenterhooks not knowing what to do re the End of the World and to make it worse, without my even noticing, the Students are all back on campus!

Yes they’re there, I’ve seen them, swanning around the University with their brand new mobiles and their brand new fashion branded fleeces and tee shirts, showing off their trainers that cost their mums and dads and arm and a leg as Christmas presents. How can a pair of trainers cost over £100? There’s not even enough material in them that justifies that amount, I guess as a marketer I should understand more about added value or maybe as Marx suggests, the surplus value, ‘cos that’s what ends up slopping around in Mr. Nike’s back pocket as he buys another island somewhere.

O to be a student again, those long afternoon sitting in the bars, canoodling in the study carrels in the library, those long, intense discussions about philosophy, the state of the world, the university and who’s shagging the Sociology lecturers! It’s a world I once inhabited and how I envy these bright young things on the threshold of a new life, experiencing new highs and lows, losing their virginity, experiencing projectile vomiting for the first time from too many vodka and red bulls, kissing frogs and princes down in the Student Union and still getting their essays in on time. All hoping upon hope for at least a 2nd or even a 2:1.

This wish is more than a wish to be young again. I don’t want that. God, just seeing Jackie Stallone on TV last night scared the living daylights out of me. Are we sure that Sty is her son cos I would put money on the fact that she shares at least some DNA with Michael Jackson, maybe it was the same batch of Botox or lamb (or monkey) foetus. Please don’t let those two procreate, I know she’s nearly 102 but stranger things have happened on this earth, I don’t know what but I’m sure they have.

Can you imagine it? The monster that would emerge from between her thighs, or from the test tube, if you want to dive right into the Brave New World of Aldous Huxley, this thing created from the union of these two cyborgs! Ugh.

Lets change the subject before I even sicken myself. And in an attempt to make my life better, so I am match fit for the final countdown which is no doubt upon its way, I am currently drinking a cup of Dr. Stuarts botanical Detox Tea.

If I just list the ingredients you will have some idea how foul it really is:
Dandelion Root, Burdock Root, Corn Silk, Milk Thistle, Bearberry Leaves, Liquorice Root, Peppermint, Spearmint, Ginger Root, Sage, Galangal Root, Artichoke leaves.

This teabag pouch reads like the contents of Alan Tichmarsh’s Compost heap and believe me when I tell you it tastes much the same. Perhaps I have to abide by that old adage, ‘if it tastes bad then it must be doing you some good’. Wrong. The only way this tea will Detox me is by helping me relive those moments, when as a mature student, I still entered the spirit of the student experience and succumbed to projectile vomiting.

I mean I don’t even know what Corn Silk is, lets google for a minute…

Corn silk is useful with the following
Zea mays (yes - the soft hairy strands on the top of the fresh cob) is great in helping and treating the following problems and conditions
soothing urinary tract
assists with prostate problems
kidney tonic
fluid and water retention

Sounds good so soon I’ll need to rush to pee but I won’t get boils. Fine now what about Galangal Root…

In Western Europe in the Middle Ages, the root was considered an aphrodisiac.

Whooohooo watch out wifey I’ll be in the mood tonight!

Hmmm this is interesting, what about Bearberry leaves never heard of those either…

Bearberry leaves are, therefore, used in inflammatory diseases of the urinary tract, urethritis, cystisis, etc… Cattle, however, avoid the plant.

Hmm so it seems my urinary tract is going to be healthy, but I’m gonna worry about the cows, what about their urinary health (have you seen them pee - think Niagra Falls!) and what do they know about this plant that we don’t? We need to be told!

And Milk Thistle

In the 19th century the Eclectics used the herb for varicose veins, menstrual difficulty, and congestion in the liver, spleen and kidneys. Milk thistle has also been taken to increase breast-milk production, stimulate the secretion of bile, and as a treatment for depression.

So after this foul cup of tea, it looks like I am going to be a happy randy sod with a healthy liver and urinary tract, no varicose veins, no period pains and more breast milk! Bonus and I got this for free in the local health food shop.

I’m sure the rest of the stuff is probably aimed at my bowels so we’ll draw a swift curtain across those and see what happens. This Dr. Stuart seems to be a clever sod and according to Google he existed as well as the ‘Father of Modern Herbalism’.

O well another day and…excuse me I must just slip off to the…….

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

The End of the World

I’ve been thinking about cancelling my life insurance, my house contents insurance, my car insurance, not paying any more bills, exceeding the limits on my credit cards and flying off to some place hot where the women don’t wear much and the drinks are cheap and I don’t mean the local nightclub.

Why’s that you ask?

Well you don’t need a degree in Estate Agency just to state the bleeding obvious do you? It’s the End of the World isn’t it?

Yep my friends please assume the crash position, place your head between your knees and kiss your ass goodbye. You only have to look at the evidence.

First and foremost has to be the Tsunami in the Indian Ocean. This is major evidence that we are all on our way out. The earth is cracking up (please don’t panic, form an orderly queue and make your own way to the local cemetery) some of the islands in that area have moved 20 or so meters from where they were three weeks ago. In a months time we’ll find them off the coast of Cornwall or somewhere and Cornwall’ll be lodged against Coney Island (wherever that is)

Plus it’s snowing in California for the first time since prunes where invented, whereas it’s not yet snowed in Ukraine for the first time in 40 years. Add that to the wave of floods and stuff we’ve been experiencing here in the UK and I’m convinced that the End is Nigh. All I need now is to see one of those little old men in a sandwich board with that gloomy message written across it and I’ll be certain!

Look it’s true, it’s in the bible isn’t it?

Someone, probably John (a gobby apostle by all reports) asked ‘How will we know of the end times’ and Jesus said:

“And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth." (Lk. 21: 25-26).

All I am waiting for now is maybe a plague of locusts or for the sky to rain frogs and toads – maybe blood. I expect to see, any moment, careering around the corner by Argos, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Death, Plague, Hunger and Jason.
Jason’s the Horseman of Dyslexia - he thought he was signing up for the Argonaut but got it a bit mixed with Apocalypse! But you watch soon we’ll all be starving and singing Ring a Rosie again but not being able to spell it or write it down and then just being dead.

What I can’t stand though is those Born Again Christians marching around with that smug look on their faces, knowing that ‘come the day’ they will all be ‘raptured’ off to go and sit on Gods right hand. This is where all the Christians will rise above us and float off - like shall we say cork and leave the rest of us to flap about in Hell. That’s Christian values for you isn’t it just when we need em most they all rise above it all and ignore all us sinners, who I might add, are meant to be saved by that cowardly lot.

I thought at first that global warming would be quite a good thing. I mean the UK could do with a summer now and again and the winters are always so damp and dismal. We need it to be a little warmer here, so we don’t have to spend three months of the year getting mouldy and having sniffy colds sneezing over each other. But it seems the alternative is worse. I mean spending eternity in Hell after the End of the World, we’ll all be wishing for a bit of a chill and a sniffy cold – unless that’s what Hell is really like.

And what about all the Hindu’s after the End of the World’ where will they be re-incarnated to? I mean it’s gonna be a bit of a shock to be reincarnated and there’s nothing there. I’m sure thought that Krishna will have some plan. He’ll have had a bit of a chat with God and Buddha I suppose and they will have sorted it all out between them.

Anyway I’ll be packing my kit tonight. Surfboard for the waves, sugar for the horses of the Apocalypse and a nice Golden Fleece for Jason. I’ve even found this website that’ll give me some tips for the rapture, so it might be alright. If California slips into the Ocean sometime between now and tomorrow morning can someone please give me a call I’ll need to wax my board!

Surfs up dudes…..

Monday, January 10, 2005

Happy New F&%”!*g Year

I am deflated, crushed and demoralised. Its only January 10th and the New Years not going well. I am not just talking about the normal things as well. Yes I’ve looked at the bank account, gasped, gone white and felt slightly faint and there’s still another 20 days to the end of the month. I have calculated the amount left on the overdraft and the amount of money we need to get to pay day with out having to resort to eating next doors cat and the figures don’t match up. This is also despite having to go to London next week because one of the boys needs a new passport and his embassy demands he attend in person.

I am talking about all those other superfluous things and events that conspire to make sure that life is not the smooth placid, enjoyable experience one would want it to be. So, for example, there am I crowing about how holier I am than thou about cycling to work every day in my feeble attempt to ward off the on coming heart attack (I am well within the death zone). I don all my lycra on Friday morning prior to cycling to work when I noticed that my back tyre looked a little soft. I got out my trusty pump and attended to this minor problem. Half an hour later I am still trying to get some air, any air back into the tyre. No I haven’t got a puncture, the tyre was perfectly OK but I just wanted a little more pressure in it. But every time I have it pumped up hard and tried to take the pump connector off, I lose all my pressure. (This could be an analogy about any 50 year (plus) old man, but its not thank you). So I have to finally give up defeated and get the bus to work! I am deflated.

So I spend my day sorting out my office and when I get home later in the afternoon my wife and I have to go shopping, because as you will remember it was, on Friday, the Ukrainian Christmas Day. So we jump into my trusty Citroen and zoom off to Tesco’s where can you believe it but my car tyre goes down! Two flaccid rubbers in one day can you credit it? Fortunately I am near the garage and can get the tyre pumped up again. No there’s no puncture, the car is sitting outside my home right now, with the tyre nicely plump. I fear I might have some sort of tyre-letting-down gremlin haunting me.

Next in my list of New Year Calamities is my car crash! On Saturday I had to travel to Okehampton to pick up my 6 year old daughter Matilda to bring home for the weekend because my mum and dad and sister and brother in law were all visiting to celebrate the above mentioned Christmas with us. But I had to briefly pop into Somerfield for some stuff and while we were at it got a chocolate croissant for Matty and a plain one for me for breakfast on the road. So we jumped in the car ready for the hours journey home, we were just driving slowly out of the carpark when, I dropped my croissant on to the floor, I looked down briefly and the next second there was that gnarly, crushing screeching sound of me ripping someone’s mirror of the side of their car and all the trim off the side of mine let alone the dent on my front wing. You would have thought they would have been a bit more alert to someone veering into their path wouldn’t you? Anyway we exchanged names and addresses and now I’m expecting a huge bill. BAH!

The final indignity was me falling off the wagon and eating my face off and drinking lots this weekend to make up for the disappointments of these two days. I know that this default was well within my own personal control, but hey its my wife’s first Orthodox Christmas away from her family so I had to get into the spirit of things didn’t I? It would have been rude not to and its not often my parents visit me at home either, this is my new home so they were coming to give it the once over as well. I know you told me so, but I’ll be back on my bike tomorrow, I bought a new value replacement kit so all should be well. I am working at home today expecting the boys new computer to be delivered, delivery time between 8 in the morning and 6 at night, nice to know the precise time they are coming isn’t it?

O well back to the tele!

Friday, January 07, 2005

Nun's Piss soup!

Hello now I am back online I thought I would follow up some of the statements I made earlier.

1. Unfortunatly Red Bull isn't made from Bull's Piss or testicles (please RB don't sue!) just another urban myth I gather. And its vegetarian according to the Red Bull website!

2. I haven't found anything about the Asian Hair - yet!

3. How about this Nun's Piss soup to ingest the hormones to make you pregnant I found this extract below here

'To begin you’ll need supplemental hormones to jump-start your pre-menopausal reproductive system. If you go the medical establishment route, these will run you over $3000.00 a cycle. Ridiculous. Hormones are organic, freely produced in nature, so take the initiative and Do-It-Yourself.

Think gardening - with an interpersonal harvest. The hormones required are found in the urine of post-menopausal women, originally collected from cloistered nuns in Italy. Pure as that may be, it isn’t necessary to restrict yourself to nuns, unless you’re a traditionalist with a papal dispensation. Let’s not be fussy, any post-menopausal urine will do.*

Once you have the urine, the next step is getting it into your bloodstream. The medical establishment requires injection, so you’re looking at a lot of needles, syringes and a bruised butt.

My suggestion is to do a sauce reduction, doctor it up with herbs d’ Provence or hot chili peppers and toss it into the blender with a lot of garlic, creating the base for a pungent broth or sauce which you will consume at night before retiring, for obvious social reasons, over the next seven to ten days. Unlike the ironical Durian fruit from Southeast Asia that “smells like a toilet but tastes like heaven,” there’s no contradiction here. Once digested, the broth will soup up your egg production, allowing your ovaries to produce more than the customary one egg per cycle, thus increasing your chances of pregnancy.

*If you think gathering post-menopausal urine is unpleasant, just wait till menopause commences and you have to extract estrogen from horse urine!


The Good Life

This post was written yesterday whilst I was in office limbo and not online

Hello all, it’s great to be alive after cycling to work again for the second day! How is that for commitment to my new healthy living lifestyle? Ok I still have the headache but I am putting that down to the amount of blood that has either drained away from my brain during the uphill burns or the rush of blood around my system, due to the exercise, is purging all the poisons out of my grey matter.

My aged legs also seem to have managed the two days of cycling and are not aching too much, plus they have had to cope with the three flights of stairs that take me to my new office. (I am currently writing this in an empty room on the windowsill as I am in moving limbo, none of my furniture, books, desks etc have arrived yet. I am not holding my breath because although it is only a move of a few hundred yards from building to building, knowing my luck my office will end up in a room on the campus of the University of Portsmouth!)

But I digress back to my healthy lifestyle. Yesterday, being the first day of the rest of my life, I had cottage cheese and rice cakes for lunch. What marvellous inventions these rice cakes are, not only are they nutritious and low in calories, but I have often seen them used as ceiling tiles and other forms of insulation and sound proofing. I bet the Chinese invented them; they seem to invent all the good and interesting things like paper and gunpowder! And isn’t Cottage Cheese yummy? I can’t believe that they make it by putting sour milk into ladies tights and hanging it for weeks. I hope they wash the tights first.

By the by on a similar note I was once told by a post graduate student doing ‘Food Culture’ or something that one of the preservatives that go into frozen pizzas is synthesised from Asian peoples hair, he also told me something about Nun’s piss but I can’t remember what it was used for – I am sure if it was in something I ate or drank I would have remembered! (PS Why do you think Red Bull is called Red Bull? Because the Taurine (root of the word is Taurus – the Bull) the active ingredient, is synthesised from Bulls Piss – I think it would give me more than wings - probably some sort of projectile vomiting. Anyway I am now beyond frozen pizza so it doesn’t worry me. See I told you the Chinese were inventive.

For me chocolate is just a distant memory as is cheese and although I still have a case of 20 bottles of Stella at home I didn’t even go near them last night and the fridge is packed with exotic cheese we bought for Christmas but nobody likes. Fortunately I ate all the chocolate off the Christmas tree last week as I sat trying to find something to watch on the freeview channels – no wonder its free no one in their right mind would pay for it – ok nitpickers I bought the box!

Shortly I will be off down town to wander the health food stores to check out the choices there and then perhaps off to Tesco’s to check out the salad bar. You might have thought that with me being a vegetarian and all that I would stand as slim as…er…a slim thing all beardy with sandals. But no dear readers I would be hard pressed to stand as a proud example of healthy living and vegetarianism. Whilst ne’er a morsel of animal fat has past my lips for the past 30 years or so I have had my fill of veggie curry, pizza (extra cheese please) chips, Linda McCartneys’ 100% fat thingys, all sorts of pasta shaped things smothered with cheese and so on. I know I know think of your veins young man. Think of that nasty white gunk filling them up. Well I can take the high ground on this. After my dad had a heart attack I was checked, the cholesterols were a bit high but by changing my diet and using something called Guggul an Ayervedic treatment and flax oil (linseed) I got them down to below the national average. This is one of my current goals because I do think I have back slipped a little.

(wowee first office window bonus – breaking news, just seen my first naked torso (waist up) in the windows across the road, unfortunately it was a man, but this proves that the theory works in principle, roll on the start of term!)

I only had fruit for breakfast today so I am a little peckish, I am going to try and stay away from bread, apart from the bread I make myself. I do have a bread maker and this is a wonderful boy’s toy which is practical as one can make bread that’s not full of white flour, sugar, salt, double yeast and one can also fill your bread with useful things like oats and flax seeds. But the sandwich shop on the campus makes a great Eastern quorn (curried quorn) French stick and of course just before Christmas I discovered Subway! O how weak ones will is when it comes to affaires of the stomach! But I will remember that old adage – one second on the lips, a lifetime on the hips! Or in my case middle aged mans stomach!

Yes today is the first day of the rest of my life, and I shall start as I mean go on pure in mind and body. My body will become a temple of good, low calorie, low fat things, things that will make me glow from inside. People will comment on my pure radiance and contemplate my shining visage and not whisper together wondering if I have slathered myself in lard or the vegetarian equivalent. My belt size will drop to match the age I wish I was (sort of low thirties if you must ask) and my libido will soar to an unmatched peak so that my wife will wonder if I am having an affair such will be my passion.

Yes this is the good life…

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Office Moving Day

Today I will be moving my office for the fifth time in four years. I will be moving back across the road into an office two doors away from the office I was in two years ago. Fun eh!

Admittedly this move can be seen in many positive ways. For instance: The removals guys, they never have to do any domestic removals, which is their main trade if the sides of their vans are anything to go by, because the University has probably got them block booked until 2020 and beyond. Everywhere you look on this campus offices are moving, the whole place is always in ferment. We are like hordes of nomads constantly changing places in a feeble attempt to make our work lives better.

The second benefit could be that I am moving out of my cupboard. Yes it really was the photocopying cupboard; it measures about 3 metres by 2 metres. My desk just fits across the width of the roomette. At least I have a window. The new room I will be moving into is a proper sized room, but the downside is I have to share. This means I have to suss my new roommate out very carefully. (I don’t really but I am going for the intrigue factor here) I mean will he be a clock watcher? One of those people who clock your every coming and going. Noting down every lost minute of employment as you saunter in at 9:30 once again. Mentioning casually ‘Oh off to lunch then?’ as you slip out at 11:30, or ‘Short Day?’ as you switch off the laptop at 4 o’clock. It might mean I have to live with my guilt rather than totally ignore it.

How am I going to blog – another problem? I guess I will just have to blag it and hope this guy thinks my work rate is phenomenal and the numbers of reports that I write is noteworthy, that is as long as those notes don’t get back to my boss. See paranoia is setting in already and I haven’t even moved yet.

So I’ve spent the day, after recovering from the bike ride, packing my office. Not much just about four boxes of books and various bits of ephemera. About 6 bags of rubbish though. I have managed to dump loads of stuff I have never even looked at which seems to be a bonus and of course if anybody ever asks for it, which they will, guaranteed, about one week after the move, I can shrug my shoulders and mutter, ‘well it seems to have got lost in the move – pity’.

Another bonus is that the windows of the office I am moving to seem to be opposite some private student accommodation and as we are three stories up we are pretty much on the same level as the bedrooms, so I’m off down to Argos to buy a telescope! You never know we might have struck underwear gold dust!

Who’d have my job hey? Its hell…

Wednesday, January 05, 2005


Now Ive also got a whammo of a headache, unhealthy me Naaah. Bed here I come....

I need CPR please help!

Help, I’m dying, I really am. Is there anyone out there who can perform CPR? I can’t catch my breath, I have a pain in my chest and I am sweating. Help, please…

I have just cycled to work for the first time in over a year Ok way over a year. I can pinpoint my last journey to work on my bike to a week in February after I fell off my bike and broke my collar bone in September 2002…O!... that’s nearly two years isn’t it? No wonder I’m knackered.

As I lived nearly 30 miles away from work I used to stick my bike on the back of my car every day and cycle the last five miles to work which was in the main all down hill and cycle the uphill five miles back to my car. This was good as it resolved two problems. 1. It was faster to cycle than fume in queues of cars creeping into Plymouth 2. I lost weight and got fit. So yes it resolved three problems.

But cycling is always fraught with danger. I am generally not one of those ninja cyclists one sees zipping around the large cities of this world, jumping red lights, cycling on the wrong side of the road and scaring old ladies whilst cursing car drivers. No I generally have a high regard for my personal safety and try to ride defensively. But even so in the course of a year or so of cycling I have been off my bike through no fault of my own at least three times.

The first time I was minding my own business cycling along next to the curb when WHAM I was face down in the gutter. Some female driver had taken me out with her wing mirror. When I got up and dusted my self off and remonstrated with her, she claimed it was my fault. This is always the refuge of the car driver (I am one of these as well). She suggested that I was in the wrong cycling as I was in the gutter and that I should have been in the middle of the road facing the on coming traffic – huh!

Bus drivers seem to have a vendetta against cyclists too. Forget give the cyclist six foot clearance as they overtake, no, its lets see if I can skim his handlebars and then while he’s still wobbling cut him up. Many a time I have had to batter the side of the bus scaring myself and the passengers inside to warn the bus driver that he was cutting me up and was about to smear me across the pavement. One time the bus actually stopped and the driver offered me a fist fight – maybe he had had a bad day, I don’t know.

Another time I was zooming down a hill safely on the cycle path when BOOM some kid just pushed his bike out of a blind entrance straight into my path, the world looks a funny place as you careen upside down before hitting the dirt. I have old bones so it hurts. Although the pharmacist at Tesco’s did a wonderful first aid job as she found me dripping blood looking for plasters.

The final time was simply my fault, I can’t blame anyone, although I have tried and it just doesn’t ring true. I have to live with my embarrassment. I had just put those foot clips on my pedals so give me more power or something; make me look more like a ninja cyclist probably. I had just left work and was just starting to go down hill and couldn’t get me foot in the clip, so I looked down and actually bent down to fiddle with it, looked up and I was two foot away from a kerbstone and going quite quickly – WHAMMO a perfect somersault and pike, a nasty sounding crack from inside my shoulder and there I was laid out on the grass with a broken collarbone. My first trip in an ambulance (no blues though) and some nice attention from some nurses that stopped on the road to see to me – good Samaritans all.

So I haven’t got on my bike properly for getting on for two years, no wonder I am out of shape and a fat unfit bastard. I know I have put on loads of weight and am nothing like as fit as I was, that’s what getting married does for you, complacency sets in whilst those love handles grow and meet in the middle.

So now I have moved to Plymouth and live well within cycling distance from work I resolved to get back on the bike, it’s probably only about 10 minutes although it took me about 20 today. Two rather biggish hills to climb but as it’s a short cycle one needs the hills to get the blood pumping and to burn those calories.

But I’ve done it and as I’m still writing I seem to have survived. We will see how well this new regime works. I will weigh myself when I get home, if I can find the scales and will keep you posted.

That is if I make it home alive tonight!

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

A Day at the Sales - a lifetimes misery!

I have just come back from the city centre and let me tell you it is manic down there. People are rushing around, darting from shop to shop looking for bargains. Looking for that one thing that might make the trip into town, the stress, the fatigue and the inevitable credit card bill at the end of the month worth it.

You can see it etched onto their faces as they barge past you swinging their packed bags against your legs, letting the shop doors swing back into your face, snatching the last bargain off the shelf as you peer at it. They are searching. They are regressing back to past times; the hunter/gatherer gene is humming in their nervous systems as they pursue their prey. The cheap skirt, the reduced electrical goods, the half price cosmetics, the discounted hammer drills, they want it, they want it all!

They know that deep down they will enjoy that vicarious thrill, the adrenaline burst of happiness if they could just get that ipod for another 25 quid cheaper down the road! They will be crowned king of the jungle when they get back to the office or home and lay out their catch like returning hero’s, back from some dark lands showing off their tobacco and potatoes.

But will they be happy? We all know that doom laden feeling as the credit card bill drops through the door. We all know that we have to pay eventually. But we may be able to assuage that guilt a little bit by telling ourselves that yes we really did need that new extra large plasma screen in the lounge and yes it does really make me happy when I look at it. But does it? Are we really happy? And does that happiness last? I would argue no it doesn’t and we are just fooling ourselves.

Material happiness is transitory. We soon become unhappy with the things we own. For example I have an MP3 player. It’s very good, cost a lot of money and has a 10 gig hard drive. It contains lots of mp3s I have downloaded. It’s fine. So why do I want an ipod? Will it make me happy? Maybe, for a while (If I could even reconcile having to find another 200 plus quid to buy one) but my happiness would soon flag. That’s the trouble with material happiness is that it soon dissolves in the sea of materialism that’s out there. Our happy state is bombarded by media messages telling us of the next best thing. The new car that will make your wife want to have oral sex with you on the beach, the new stereo that will turn your shambolic bedsit into a haven of lurve, the clothes, the glasses, the furniture, the lifestyle that can be yours, just by remembering your pin number when you next venture out with your credit card.

For years we have been warned against the dangers of materialism by many great thinkers. Marx, for instance told us that we would become entrapped by the processes of capitalism, of lives forever blighted by what he called embourgoisement. That in the unthinking consumerism of our time we will in our attempts to ape the bourgeoisie, to become middle class, become more and more alienated from society from what we really are. Capitalism tends to create layer after layer of 'false needs.' In order to expand markets, it is useful to use psychology, sociology, mass media and the drama of sex and violence to create a demand for 'surplus production.' Marx spoke of this as the 'realization problem.' Since there is ever more production with ever fewer workers to buy it up, goods accumulate so advertising and the generation of 'false' needs is important millions of pounds being spent to 'colonize consciousness’ to make us want what we don’t need.

Anwar El-Sadat tells us ‘Most people seek after what they do not possess and are thus enslaved by the very things they want to acquire’. We become slaves to what we possess or to what we want to possess rather than the other way around. Why should a mechanical device like an ipod enslave me and colonise my consciousness more than the other things that are happening in my life or my world? How can a cut price suit change my life?

Someone called Doug Horton tells us 'Materialism is the only form of distraction from true bliss'. But what is this ‘true bliss’ Horton is on about. It can’t be the true bliss of bagging a bargain on a wet weekday in early January can it? No I think it is more. Marx missed the point and Weber got it wrong in the Protestant Ethic when he told us that if we were prosperous then God was smiling on us. Henry David Thoreau tells us that Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind. With respect to luxuries and comforts, the wisest have even lived a more simple and meagre life than the poor.

This is what I believe. I believe that to be happy we need to have a more spiritual basis to our lives. By this I don’t mean that we have to become religious per ce or to live like hermits in a cave renouncing all luxuries, but that we need to understand that things in themselves will not bring happiness into our lives. Materialism remains unsatisfying, it cannot help us to understand or explain our deeper selves. We all have aspirations that go beyond the material. These may be unspecific longings for more freedom in our lives, to find a spiritual pathway that will lead us away from this bizarre and confusing life we are forced to live, to be more understanding or more understood. And these longings cannot be satisfied by matter.

Hindu’s and Buddhists have a similar approach to materialism and the spiritual side to our nature. They tell us that ‘the deceptions and delusions of materialism stem from its inevitable superficiality. Materialism traps us, unawares, in a world of possessions hag-ridden by irrational fears of likely loss and lurking dangers. Finally, it degrades creativity to consumption’.
Again Marx pointed to this as he argues ‘why can’t I be a poet one day, an artist the next?’ Why can’t I be creative and get in touch with my own humanity? Why must I live a life alienated from nature? It is because we are caught up in the whirlpool of consumption and it blinds us to what we really are. We believe in the holy grail of the sale. We believe that the transformation of our old cd player into a new cd player with surround sound and built in mp3 player (on special offer just this week) will bring us happiness.

True happiness can’t be bought in the January sale. It has to be sought after; it has to be found in one’s relationship with one’s God, Deity or spiritual beliefs. The spiritual option is not to renounce modernity or demonise development. It is, instead, to transcend the spirit of materialism. It is to ensure that material development remains conducive to the blossoming of the human spirit. It is to remain vigilant against the danger of losing the needle of life in the haystack of the material circumstances for living.

If anything the tsunami in Asia this Christmas should warn us all about how tenuous a grip with have upon our material lives. One minute we have everything, the next nothing, all we have left after such an event can only be our belief in something higher. Something that can lift us above the loss of our clothes, mobile phones, mp3 players and lifestyles. Maybe this is why reports about the kindness and humility of the Thais have been widely reported by travellers returning from Thailand. Is it that they, being in the main Buddhists, do have a belief that transcends material life.

True happiness can, I believe, only be found in spiritual happiness. Don’t get me wrong, I am still a searcher, only I am not searching the stores of mammon down in the high street for happiness, I am searching elsewhere. I have not found it in the churches of the Christians nor the mosques of Islam. I have touched upon this spiritual happiness once or twice in the past years of my life but it is ephemeral. It comes and goes. I hope it will enter my life once again but I know that I must seek it out. I must seek it out with the same vigour that the shoppers downtown are seeking out their bargains. But I know that my happiness will not come cut price from the bargain bin nor will it only last a few short months. I want my happiness to transcend time and to be with me forever.

Hare Krishna!

Main reference

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Christmas Groundhog Day

You might laugh dear readers but I am in hell - HELL I tell you. The last of your turkey might well be simmering away in the curry sauce, the satsumas rotting in the fruit bowl but I am married to a Ukrainian and their Christmas is on January the 7th. I HAVE TO DO CHRISTMAS AGAIN!!!!! in 5 Days time!!!. I don't think I can be festive for that long. I hope the tree can!

But I've put my foot down so no shopping at 5 am this time, no turkey and no presents. I have already had to forcibly force my wife away from the sales and explain the concept of sales i.e. NO not EVERYTHING is on sale! (she was a communist once but how quickly they forget and some sort of female bargain hunt programming takes over!)

No we are going to have a quiet Russian christmas not even as much vodka as was drunk on Christmas eve when our russian friends visited! (Thank God we've finished the mother-in-laws moonshine vodka!) Maybe a bowl of Borsch and some pickled gerkins!

So to all the Russians out there Snovom Godom!

And to the rest Happy New Year and normal service will be resumed when I'm back at work and can blog in peace!