Saturday, 24 November 2012

All the Trimmings

I saw the sign on the outside wall of the bar. Sunday Roast. Lamb and All the Trimmings. £10. Perhaps it was because I was hungry that it had some appeal. Or maybe it was just that the bar seemed clean, fresh, airy and welcoming. I went in, ordered a drink and sat at one of the tables. Before too long a waitress approached, menu in hand. ‘Are you having lunch today,’ she said, as she handed the menu to me.I took it from her but I had already made my mind up. ‘I thought I might try the roast…the lamb,’ I said, ‘but tell me…what are the…err, trimmings?’
She smiled. Almost condescendingly, I thought, but a smile was a smile at least. ‘That’s the bits that go with it,’ she said.
‘The bits?’ I queried.
‘Yes, the vegetables. It comes with vegetables.’
‘Vegetables,’ I said, ‘so vegetables are the trimmings then…the trimmings as advertised on the board outside?’
The waitress curled her bottom lip fractionally, an involuntary response to my question. Perhaps it was an unusual question but not a particularly taxing one and, since the expression ‘trimmings’ didn’t really explain a lot, I didn’t think it too unreasonable, as a diner who was about to be fed trimmings, that I should ask what they might be.
‘Well, yes, I suppose so,’ she replied.
She supposed…presumed…considered. That suggested that she wasn’t certain. A worry for me if I was to order trimmings.
‘Sorry, you suppose so? You mean you don’t know?’
‘No I do know,’ she said, ‘I didn’t mean it like that. I meant that you definitely get vegetables with the lamb.’
‘Well yes, I know you do. You did tell me. But you said that the trimmings were vegetables. So, tell me, what vegetables do you get?’
She folded her arms for some reason before she replied. ‘Peas, carrots and broccoli, Sir.’
I wondered why she had started to call me Sir.
‘So just three different vegetables then?’ I opened the menu. ‘But your menu says that you have peas, carrots, broccoli, sweet potato, cabbage, parsnip, kale, sprouts, runner beans and cauliflower. So when you say that the lamb comes with all the trimmings, which you did say are vegetables, it actually comes with just three, not in fact all of the vegetables you have on your menu. So really your board should say, roast lamb with three trimmings then? Oh and I could say that if the trimmings are indeed vegetables and you say it comes with all of them, then in addition to peas, carrots, broccoli, sweet potato, cabbage, parsnip, kale, sprouts, runner beans and cauliflower I might reasonably expect to get spinach, turnip and cabbage too, wouldn’t you say.’
I was certain that I saw her roll her eyes. ‘No, Sir. It doesn’t mean just vegetables –’
‘But you said it did.’
‘It means that it comes with other things. The trimmings mean other things. Not just vegetables.’
‘Well, I did ask you what the trimmings were and you said vegetables.’
'I’m sorry. I thought everyone knew what trimmings were.’
‘Did you? Not everyone does. Why would they? If I was in France and it had snails advertised with toutes les garnitures would it not make sense to ask?’
‘Snails Sir? I don’t understand.’
‘Never mind. So the trimmings, as advertised, are not just vegetables?’
‘No Sir. They are all the things that come with your meal.’
‘Oh I see. So then it must include the cutlery, a napkin, a table, chair, a table cloth, a plate for example? All for ten quid.’
‘No…no Sir…’ She glanced behind her at the bar as if looking for assistance. There was nobody available. ‘…it doesn’t –’
‘It doesn’t? No table, no plate, no cutlery. You can’t mean that the roast lamb, with its three trimmings, is just tipped on the floor in front of me surely? No…you mean I have to pay extra for those then?’
‘Of course you don’t Sir. They are…well…part of the…the deal…free…you get the chair…I mean, you know…’ She brushed her hair away from her face and let out a long sigh.
‘Oh so, they are not part of this mystifying all the trimmings thing then?’ I said.
‘Well…no…I mean. Look, you get peas, carrots, broccoli, roast potatoes, gravy and mint sauce.’
‘I see. Peas, carrots, broccoli, roast potatoes, gravy and mint sauce are the trimmings then. All of them, in fact…as advertised. Is that right?’
She looked at me suspiciously. ‘Yes,’ she said hesitantly.
‘Right. I think I get it now. Trimmings are the bits that go with the lamb.’
‘Well, yes.’
‘So if I wanted a fried egg sandwich I should never ask for a fried egg sandwich with all the trimmings as I would get peas, carrots, broccoli, roast potatoes, gravy and mint sauce to go with it.’
‘Err…no…no Sir. They just go with roast lamb.’
‘Ok. They are just the accompaniments, embellishments, appurtenances with that dish then?’
‘Pardon?’ the waitress said, her face screwed up as if I had begun to speak in an alien language.
I had another question. ‘Don’t you think it would be a little less confusing if you wrote something more specific about the meal on your board, that might tell the potential diner what they are getting instead of writing up some obscure, meaningless word like trimmings?’
She declined to answer my question and instead just pointed at the menu that I was still holding.
‘Would you like to order the lamb Sir?’
‘No, I’ll have the lasagne…and hold all the trimmings.’

Saturday, 23 June 2012

The Polar Bear

I was enjoying a few glasses of South African Pinotage by a warm log fire when I heard a disturbance in my hallway. I went to investigate and to my horror discovered that a polar bear had broken into my house. Recovering from the initial shock I tried to escape back into the front room. Maybe it’s psychological but when faced with threat why do we retreat to a place we know? I should have legged it out through the back door but it was too late and I retreated as the huge creature followed me into the room. It is a little known fact but polar bears are left handed or, strictly speaking, left pawed. I backed up but it started throwing left jabs sending me further across the room towards the fire. I tried to counter with right hand leads but it was clearly more skilful than I had anticipated. At ten feet tall and 1,400 pounds the bear clearly had a height and weight advantage. I bobbed and weaved, hoping to confuse it but the jabs kept coming. I took one full on the nose and it momentarily stunned me. I tried another short right below the bear’s rib cage hoping to wind it but my blow seemed to be absorbed all too easily. Another jab caught me on the top of the head scrambling my senses. To give me time to regain my composure I did that thing that heavyweights do. I dropped my hands and shook my head rapidly from side to side to indicate that I wasn’t hurt. I even beckoned the beast forward in a show of bravado. Big mistake. I thought it might dispirit him but he kept coming. He tried to surprise me with a right hook. I ducked and in the bending motion my trousers must have gotten too close to the flame of the fire. I yelped, feeling the first rush of heat on my backside as the flames licked over my clothing.

I woke with a start. A burning hot ember had been discharged from the fire and had set light to my trousers where I lay on the polar bear skin rug. I jumped up as I felt the flames burn through the material. I kicked the glowing ember away with my foot and rolled on the rug to douse the flames knocking over the remaining red in the wine bottle. It poured over the rug staining it from its pure white to a crimson blot. In my eagerness to douse my burning pants I hadn’t noticed that the burning ember I had booted away had come to land by the main window and had now set light to both curtains. The blaze shot up the material, caught the wooden pelmet and brought the lot crashing down onto the sofa. It didn’t take long to ignite, first the cushions and then the actual sofa. There was nothing I could do to contain it. I grabbed my mobile and frantically punched in 999.
Most of the inside of the house got caught by the blaze but the quick action of the fire brigade managed to save the property and kept the damage to the neighbouring ones under control. A fireman emerged from the smouldering shell dragging the remnants of the polar bear skin rug. He was showing it to his colleagues and they were staring at me with a mix of awe and admiration on their faces.
‘You musta put up a hell of a fight with this critter mate. You took it out single handed. The thing is covered in blood’.
It may have been shock from the trauma of the fire that made me say nothing but I found myself accepting the praise and wonderment of the other firemen at my heroic battle with the polar bear.

Unfortunately, my moment of elation was short lived. I was arrested and charged with keeping an endangered animal in entirely unsuitable conditions. The magistrate berated me, banging on about how polar bears should be allowed to wander free and not be enslaved. She even mentioned global warming as if my house fire had in some way contributed to the earth's woes. My desire to defend myself by revealing that it was simply a bear skin rug was flattened as the dilemma of my position became apparent. If the magistrate was such an animal activist it would only further irritate her to imply that I was using an animal as a carpet. I stayed silent and accepted my fate.  I escaped with a fine. I look back on it now and wonder if it wasn’t all a dream.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Shopping

There is a difference between shopping and going to the shops. And if both sexes understood that difference the better we would get along.
Let me explain. Women go shopping, men go to the shops. If I go out to buy bread I come back with..... bread. That is because I am a bloke. If a woman goes out for bread she comes back with milk, jelly, carrots, bleach, something for the biscuit cupboard (whatever a biscuit cupboard is) and ... bread, including some for the freezer. And that is just with basic everyday shopping. What about the more complex variety... clothes shopping? If I need a pair of jeans I leave the house with one mission in mind. Go to a shop that sells jeans and buy some. It is a perfectly direct, straightforward commando raid on the shop. Go in. Pick jeans. Try on. If they don’t fit, try another pair. If they do fit, buy. Go home. In, out, done. SAS style without the flashes and bangs. This is called the Direct Approach (Male) and is what I mean by “going to the shops”. On the other hand if a woman goes to buy a pair of jeans it takes on the proportions of day trip to Brighton. To start with they don’t go straight to a shop that sells jeans. They go via a shop that sells candles, or lighting, or furniture. This is often followed by a visit to a cosmetics counter, a handbag shop and a shoe shop. They do eventually get to a shop that sells jeans but not just one shop. Often it’s several shops that sell jeans. And many of them “popped into” more than just the once. This is called the Indirect Approach (Female) and is what I mean by “shopping”.
But .. that isn’t the end of it. On completion of the jeans shopping away day, a woman will return with not only a pair of jeans but a consignment of other stuff that we don’t need in the house and a stack of clothes that will only end up on permanent display in the wardrobe. There then follows a conversation that goes something like this.......

“Hi honey. Did you get your jeans”?
“I did.... but they don’t fit”
“They don’t fit???”
“No. They don’t. I will take them back on Monday”
“Errrrr.... can I ask why you bought jeans that don’t fit?”
“They did fit in the shop.”
“I see... they fitted in the shop that you left half an hour ago but now they don’t fit. What happened? Did they shrink in the car? Or did you put on half a stone on the way home? Did you not try them on first?”
“Yes, of course I tried them on, but now they don’t fit. You wouldn’t understand.”

Precisely. I don’t understand so I leave it at that. If someone wants to spend several hours shopping for a pair of jeans and then wants to take them back again, I guess that’s just their thing.

Now that you can see the difference in the female shopping trip and the male trip to the shops, you are probably beginning to understand why a joint venture never works. Since the approach is entirely different for both sexes, a woman should never contemplate taking her man shopping. It can only end in a mutually dispiriting experience (there is no need to advise guys against taking their women shopping .... the idea would not be imaginable). For a start, once a man has been taken into more than two shops, especially ones he would not associate with the purpose of the shopping spree, he starts to disengage his brain as he loses interest in what is starting to become an alien activity. When his brain has been disengaged he starts to become mono-syllabic at best and uncommunicative at worst and, to relieve the boredom, he starts to look at the other women shoppers legs (this is a natural condition of the disengaged male brain which, in that state, reverts to primeval instincts.) None of this makes the woman feel comfortable. His apparent disinterest in her activity and sudden apparent fascination with other women create the beginnings of a chilly atmosphere. All she wants to do is share the shopping experience with her man and point out all the delightful smelly candles, embossed picture frames and various other junk, sorry... knick-knacks, which are placed on the shelves for the pleasure of the female shopper. However, it is not mentally possible for a man to visualise whether that candle she spotted would look nice in the conservatory, particularly when his mind is preoccupied with the stunners on the cosmetics counter. So, don’t ask. He isn’t being awkward. It’s just that his disengaged brain cannot comprehend the question.
The most harmonious way to visit the shops together, if you have to go together, is to place your man on a seat in one of the many coffee outlets in the high street, give him a strong coffee, a Danish Pastry, a newspaper and strict instructions not to move until you get back. He is happier. He can then read the sports pages and look at all the other woman to his heart’s content without serious risk to his relationship.
What you should also avoid like a seriously contagious infection, is taking him clothes shopping and expect him to be your fashion guru and advisor. Never hold up a top on a clothes hanger against your chest and say, “What do you think?” He doesn’t think. He cannot visualise it. He does not have the ability to pass judgement. And that is not because he isn’t interested. It’s because he has to see the whole picture. He has to see a woman in the top and preferably under low lights in a late night wine bar. Then he can maybe make an assessment, although in those circumstances it may be an unreliable assessment influenced somewhat by his bar tab.
Finally, never ask your man the two most relationship damaging questions you can possibly come up with on a shopping trip - “Does this make me look fat?” and “Does my bum look big in this?” In the first case it is an indisputable fact that if you weigh 19 stone, whatever you put on, you will look fat. If you weigh 7st, it is highly likely that no item of clothing will make you look better than undernourished at best. Anything in between and it’s your judgement call. As for the bum question, a man cannot answer that correctly without condemning himself to everlasting doom. Firstly, guys have a sneaking suspicion that you already know the answer to the question or you would not have raised it in the first place. If your bum does look big in those jeans that you spent several hours searching for after taking back the first pair you brought home yesterday, what can he say? If he says you look great you will be taking them straight back again the next day when it finally dawns on you that your bum may be mistaken for the rear end of the QE2. And not only will he be in the dog house for lying but it could well involve him in yet another unwanted shopping trip. On the other hand he cannot be truthful and say, “Yes, your bum does look big in those”, especially not after you’ve caught him ogling all those other women shoppers.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Takeaway Coffee

I expect I sound funny when I try my French and Spanish abroad but sometimes it is hard to get to grips with foreign accents in your own locality.I bought a coffee to take away this morning in a well known high street coffee shop. The conversation that followed my purchase went like this.
'You want a lead for that Sir?' I was asked
'A lead?'
'Yes, Sir, a lead.'
'Why would I want a lead? Is it dangerous?' I asked.
'Dangerous? No, Sir. Not dangerous. Fresh ground coffee from beans. No chemicals. No chemicals at all.'
'Why would I want a lead then, if it is not dangerous. I mean I want to drink it now, not walk it!'
'But you said you do want to walk it Sir...take away. Is why I ask if you want lead. If you want to drink in now, lead is not necessary.'
I was getting confused
'I want to take it out...with me...on the street... now,' I said.
'Then you should have lead, Sir.'
'Well if it needs a lead,' I said, 'it definitely sounds dangerous.
'Not dangerous, Sir. It fresh. Hand made by barristers.'
'Barristers? Your coffee is made by barristers?'
'Yes, Sir. Very good barristers. They have two week training.'
'Two weeks? I thought it took years to be a barrister. That is very quick! I wouldn't be happy using them for a legal case.'
'No. No Sir. No legal case needed. Coffee is good. No suing. But you must take lead if you want to walk it.'
By now I just wanted my coffee and was even more confused. I decided that I would take whatever lead the guy had to offer and be on my way.
'Ok, I will have a lead, thank you,' I said.
He handed me a lid. A lid for the takeaway container.
'Oh...a lid!' I said, the surprise showing on my face.
'Yes Sir. That's what I say. A lead so you don't spill coffee. You might sue us if you burn yourself.
'Well, I suppose so, but if you have your own barristers then they must be used to defending any claims you get,' I said, trying to make light of the situation as I felt my cheeks redden at the thought that he may think I had been taking the mickey out of his accent.
'No, Sir. They just make the coffee. Not do suing case.'
'Strange barristers then, that don't do legal work. Must be expensive for the....'
It was then that I saw the leaflet and the line 'hand made by baristas.'
Having appeared foolish enough already I resisted clarifying my understanding with my foreign friend, jammed the lid on my coffee container and bid him good morning.

'Sending' an e-Mail

What’s happened lately with e-mail speak? Yesterday I overheard a colleague on the telephone saying that he would ‘bang’ an e-mail over later. Earlier on a female client had told me she’d ‘pop’ me an e-mail and yet another colleague tends to ‘ping’ e-mails! What’s that all about? What’s the obsession with delivering emails in a flurry of perceived uproar or commotion? Maybe I am just old fashioned and haven’t got past the ‘SEND’ option for emails yet. Mind you, I can hardly be blamed for that since my e-mail software does not yet have a bang, pop or ping option as the method of delivery. I have to say, if someone tells me they will be ‘banging’ me over an e-mail I usually take precautions and sit well back from the computer monitor prior to its delivery.

Perhaps the psychology of it all is to make a relatively innocuous task seem a lot more important by applying an onomatopoeic noun to the deed. The aforementioned colleague has also been heard to say that he would ‘bang out’ an e-mail. I do worry for his IT budget if his keyboard takes such a hammering. Maybe it makes the, dare I use the word, ‘sender’, seem more crucial to the process as if the action of applying pressure with a single finger to a keyboard button demonstrates some contained power. A bit like the President of the United States hitting the nuclear button! It could even be that, in the mindset of the sender, the use of more powerful words imparts much more significance to the content. So, the more badly written and the more lightweight the content of the e-mail, the greater the need to use a powerful noun to imply gravitas. For example if you were to write ‘ hello mate. Hows ur weekend. I will get the parcel of to u in the morning’, you would need to explain to the recipient that you were going to ‘explode’ an email over to him in order to create importance and consequently engender any anticipation.

Having said all of the above I now feel some pressure to up my game in the e-mail vernacular stakes. I may well stop using such a passive and uninspiring word as ‘send’ to denote the method by which I will be providing information to you via cyber space and look at something more descriptive. The fact that communication goes via cyber space therefore lends itself to space related terminology and in future I may warn you that I am about to ‘launch’ an e-mail - as in, 'I will launch you an e-mail shortly, mate.' As the pressure increases to express the importance of my e-mail communication I may then resort to more explosive nouns and I may propel, thrust or even blast you an e-mail. I have decided though, that for reasons of decorum, ejaculating an e-mail may not be interpreted in the truest definition and therefore I will avoid that one, as indeed everyone else should!!!

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

An Ordinary Night Out




It was just an ordinary night out with a good friend until we decided to visit an old haunt for nostalgia reasons. A trip down memory lane to an establishment which, for reasons that will become apparent later should you decide to persevere with this narrative, shall remain nameless. I had been to a formal black tie evening earlier and was dressed in a dinner suit, although I had now removed the bow tie. My friend was dressed smart and casually as you do for a Saturday night beer.
It was midnight when we made the decision to visit a club we had not been to for over ten years. That’s the point of trips down memory lane. To revisit and see what has changed, if anything, and bring back the feel good moments that we have stored in the mind having completely blotted out all the crap nights we probably spent there too. The first thing that had changed was the security. On the approach to the club the pavement was strewn with an array of metal barricades set out in that ridiculous way that you find in post offices where they decide to filter you around the room in a snake like manner instead of letting you take a direct walk straight to the counter. Another form of crowd control that we accept, I guess, just like religion. Anyway, the pavement was set up in the aforementioned post office style queue control method, although the general imagery was that of preparation for a riot rather than an inviting entrance to a desirable establishment where a convivial evening was to be had. Stationed at various points along the circuitous metal walkway were a number of bouncers dressed in what appeared to be riot gear topped with fluorescent jackets, headphones clamped to their ears and radios crackling importantly on their shoulders. Each of these guardians of the metal walkway were just under seven feet tall, the same width as the pavement and sporting commando haircuts, although ‘haircut’ is perhaps a fatuous term since none of them actually had any hair.
Our first direct encounter with one of the walkway beasts was when we were stopped and told it was a ‘mixed night’.
‘A mixed night,’ I said, more out of trying to comprehend the term rather than actually asking what a mixed night might be.  Helpfully, the bouncer’s method of explaining what he meant by a mixed night was to repeat the phrase saying, ‘Yeah, a mixed night.’
I had visions of men, women, aliens and animals all turning up for this innovative mixed night.
‘Do you mean that we should be with women, or something,’ I said by way of trying to get an explanation.
‘Yeah, women,’ was the response. It was clear we were not with any women and this was just another barrier, to support the physical metal ones, designed for making entry into this establishment more difficult than the Twelve Labours of Hercules. At the moment he said it I spotted a group of girls negotiating the complex security system in the distance, led by a young lady in heels that could only be designed to aerate a lawn, a dress that was just about keeping her neck warm, purple hair and enough dark makeup to make Cruella De Vil envious.
‘Err...that’s my wife,’ I said, optimistically pointing out the lead lady.
‘Are you with a party?’ the bouncer responded as he tried to come to terms in his head with the possibility that the guy in the dinner suit in front of him could possibly be in some sort of matrimonial relationship with the girl from a science fiction movie walking towards him. Fortunately my friend had the presence of mind to say that we were with a party and they were already inside.

‘You got any ID?’ the bouncer asked.
ID? ID, I thought. Why would he ask us for ID? Was it not apparent that both of us were not far short of 107 years old for god’s sake?’
The bouncer saw the quizzical look on my face. ‘A passport or something like that with your picture on it,’ he said to clarify matters.
Who brings a passport with them to go for a beer on a Saturday night in suburbia? I thought passports were for allowing you to get on aircraft and fly off to some exotic overseas destination. Not for allowing you entry into Club Guantanamo. I fumbled in my wallet and was relieved to find my driving licence. It had now become a test to beat the system, hence my relief at being able to find the licence and match the next test. He looked at my picture for several seconds.
‘That’s not you, is it? He said.
Of course it’s bloody well me, I thought. Who were you expecting to see? Did you think I’d be carrying Muhammad Ali’s driving licence with me? I know that we often make a split second decision to have a formal photo done in one of those station booths and we don’t always look our best, and I know on the day in question that I had had a stressful day at work and it was pleuting down with rain as I ran to the booth, but you didn’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to see that the picture did bear a passing resemblance to the owner of the licence.
In jest I replied, ‘Of course it’s not me,’ and that seemed to appeal to his sense of humour. He turned to my friend who did not have a driving licence with him nor, oddly enough, a passport but was holding out a credit card to identify himself.
‘It needs you picture on it mate,’ the bouncer said, a look of self-satisfaction appearing on his face at the realisation that he may have found a legitimate reason for preventing entry. My friend pointed out that if he flipped the card over he would see it did indeed have his picture on it. It was one of those gold plated credit cards for which you would normally need two police motorcycle outriders accompanying you, to be allowed to take it out in public. From a Swiss account, that required it to have a photo, my friend could have actually bought the whole building that we were trying to get into, such was the card's credit limit. It was no lightweight ID.
‘It doesn’t have your address on it, ’ was the next impediment to our passing go, ‘I will have to check with my boss.’
Of course it doesn’t have his address on it, I thought, otherwise Neanderthals like you would be straight round there looting the place. As we stood awaiting the decision from on high as to whether we would be ‘lucky’ enough to be deigned entry into this salubrious establishment, it crossed my mind to pack up and go home. Who needs the aggravation? Just as I was about to make the suggestion we were given the green light by the ‘boss’ to proceed to the next round.

On we went, around a corner of the building, to encounter the next stage of entry. An airport style security scanner complete with trays in which to put all your personal belongings, was positioned straight ahead of us and manned by two more flak jacketed, florescent coated bouncers. My wallet, phone, coins and everything else I had in my pockets had to go into a tray and I walked through. Inevitably something, it could have been the cuff links on my shirt, set off the detector and I was frisked down, criminal style, by one of the wannabe militia. I had nothing to declare nor had my friend and eventually we  were allowed through to the front door of the club. After a tortuous screening process we had made it to the point of a trip down memory lane. Entry cost us £8 each when in reality we should have been given £8 each, in compensation for being treated like terrorists.


Inside much was the same. The same carpet after ten years and the same lay out. What was different was that beer was now served in plastic bottles, presumably so that my friend and I could not smash each other to a pulp should the contents of the bottle interfere with the normal hardwiring of our brains and we, uncharacteristically, suddenly developed a propensity for extreme violence. The clientele was different too. The average age was now somewhere just over twelve or so it seemed. It wasn’t that they all looked young but just that they all behaved as if they had just got out of primary school after a tough first day sampling acid. The women were dressed as if they had run out of cash on a shopping trip and could not quite afford the whole outfit. That is not normally a complaint from a bloke but it was clear that some of these ‘ladies’ should wear a lot more clothing, just to avoid some of us suffering post-traumatic stress after being exposed to such visual discomfort. The general standard, which at one time, given its original varied and mixed age group, had been easy on the eye, had now slipped to several degrees below ogre level.

Once we had managed to negotiate a bar melee several bodies deep from end to end and walk away with our plastic bottles, my friend and I decided to find a quieter location in the bar and stick to it. I wasn’t quite prepared for how literally that intention would play out. After several minutes I realised I could not move my feet. I attempted to lift my right foot and then my left and quickly became aware that, as I did so, the carpet was rising with them. Over the years the club had, unwittingly through a combination of spillage and body fluids, invented a very powerful form of adhesive that, if they can only realise its potential, will enable them to shut the place down and enter a new market selling industrial super glue. With some effort I managed to unstick myself from the carpet, with the realisation that I would at some point need to have both my shoes resoled since I could now feel the floor with my socks. I placed my plastic bottle on the bar, beckoned to my friend and we headed for the exit.
Sometimes curiosity makes you go back but sometimes going back should just be in the mind!

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Eurovision Song Contest 2012

With a Sunday work commitment looming I decided to stay in and watch television on a Saturday night. The choices were an international football match, Norway v England or the Eurovision Song Contest hosted by Azerbaijan. England football performances are a bit like the Euro song event – all promise going in and a flat performance to finish so I decided to opt for Eurovision. Besides I knew at the very least I would be entertained by the cheesiness of the staging, the possibility of some attractive women in skimpy outfits, the political voting and the dire offerings that song writers produce in the effort to become the next Abba. And even if Azerbaijan is the other side of the Black Sea, on the Caspian Coast, east of Turkey and bordering Iran, that is Europe...... err, is it!!!???

The show was introduced by two people. A typical glitzy, glamourous lady and a bloke who was twelve but had managed to get himself into the auditorium by wearing a false beard. This made him look fifteen. First up was Englebert Humperdinck with a dirge so depressing that after two minutes I wanted to shoot myself. I would have done but for the lack of a handgun (at one point I was seriously considering a quick trip to the badlands of North London to score one) and the fact that I would have missed the following twenty five songs. The poor start was swiftly followed by a woman from Albania who appeared to be wearing a pile of cork on top of her head and whose delivery of her ‘song’ was akin to someone screaming in abject agony. A glance at the dress she was wearing supported the argument that in fact she was screaming in agony and not singing. Her upper body was wrapped in a giant hard, upright collar, so rigid that it must have been the nearest you could get to public asphyxiation. A quick trip to Google Translate confirmed that the chorus was not a chorus at all, but simply her screaming ‘Get me out, get me out, woncha, get me out of this f*****g dress.’

For some reason Israel were performing. I glanced at my atlas and found that it appeared that the country was still in the same geographical location it always had been and not in Europe at all. I am still busily searching the internet to see if in fact they have negotiated a deal over disputed territories in their region and have taken over Belgium, thus qualifying to wail at the event.
Russia sent on a group of grannies in traditional costume who not only attempted a performance but also baked some cakes at the same time. Nobody was fooled as, to go to such extraordinary efforts, it was clearly remnants of the KGB dressed up to spy on Ukraine, Estonia, Georgia and Lithuania.

Cyprus came up with the first tune that you could possibly consider as a ‘europop mainstream discoeeee’ offering. However, since most of the stuff that had gone before was a serious assault on the ears, this conclusion may have been open to argument. A bloke from Lithuania came on wearing a blindfold singing ‘Love is Blind.’ He was singing in English so it didn’t need the ironic symbolism. I was willing him to walk closer to the edge of the stage so he could unwittingly indulge in some audience participation.
Denmark’s offering was not bad. Strip away the backing band, including the demented female drummer, take out the usherette’s costume that some nobhead decided Soluna Samay (the singer) should appear in and you had a passable voice accompanied by her guitar - a bit of an Alanis Morissette/Avril Lavigne thing going on.

Greece delivered a song called Aphrodisiac. This title may have been some unwitting response to the parlous state of their economy and a sub-conscious attempt to arouse the nation into thinking all was well. The song was upbeat in the way that a demented hyper-active child on speed is (you haven’t been to those parenting classes??) and contained the inspired lyrics, ‘I think about you all the time, I just can´t get you of my mind.’ Sensibly it appeared that the writers and musical arrangement team had created a song that had no chance of winning in the knowledge that to win meant hosting the next contest which means bearing a significant financial commitment. Since this time next year Greece will be using sea-shells for currency and no civilized country in the world is likely to trade in sea-shells, it is a good thing that they stood no chance of success.

And then came Jedward. Only the Irish could take a contestant who had failed to win before and say, ‘Bejesus Mr Jedward, sure didn’t you not do too bad last year. The voters thought you were crap for sure, but shouldn’t we give yees another chance to be crap again this year.’ So Ireland was again represented by the boys who had failed last year. But to be fair to Jedward they are not pretending to be anything else but a kitsch, exuberant bit of fun. They were singing a song about water and came on wearing silver space suits as if they had arrived from another galaxy. Possibly they have. Their uncoordinated ‘dance routines’ are merely a symptom of the youthful exuberance they portray and they had no chance of winning even when they jumped into the bizarre water feature that was part of their backdrop. The British public voted for them but then you would expect that from a country that has been brought up on a diet of manufactured bands. Clearly those who pick up the ‘phone to actually vote in these shows have primary school musical taste and an IQ hovering around the single digit mark.

France came on and decided to gain some sort of advantage for both the event and the forthcoming Olympics by featuring the French Olympic Gymnastics team as backing ‘dancers.’ This detracted from the song completely and my only recollection of the performance is that Anggun (that was the singer’s name and she may well have been from the badlands of north London with a name like that) had great legs.

Moldova stole the show for weirdness. If it had been the Eurovision Weirdness contest they would have wiped the floor with the other entrants. The male singer wore a yellow shirt and some semi trouser/jodhpur arrangement held up by braces whilst delivering a forgettable song (I can’t recall what it was called!). However the full weirdness factor was provided by his backing dancers. The term ‘dancers’ is used to set the picture but would not be permissible under the trade descriptions act which is fine I suppose since I suspect they don’t have such an act in Moldova. The all female troupe wore a variety of multi-coloured box-like skirts and golden tights with no shoes. Their choreographer may well have been the victim of a drug spiked drink when the routine was created. All five girls sidled along in a weird sliding motion, curled up on the floor and wriggled and convulsed as if in a nightmare disturbed deep sleep. Meanwhile Mr Yellowshirt took it all seriously and carried on singing. Had I been the performer I may have been tempted to call an ambulance for my colleagues.
The winner of the contest for 2012 was Sweden. Theirs was a song entitled ‘Euphoria’ and was sung by a girl called Loreen who appeared to be having a seizure during the whole performance. Apparently the song had been No.1 in several Scandinavian countries before it was unleashed upon the general European public. It was also the ‘bookies favourite’. Clearly bookies all go to the same shit disco. ‘We are here. We are alone in our own universe,’ the lyrics said, and at that point I wished they were.  
Finally, there was the voting. This is a series of visits to the capitals of other countries where some wannebee tries to maximize their two minutes on TV, in which they are supposed to be giving their countries votes, by coming out with gratuitous smart arse comments. At least the bloke from Finland, who came on dressed as the creature from the black lagoon, was up front about it. Predictably neighbours voted for neighbours. At other times they invade one another but when it comes to the glitzy, schmaltz of the Eurovision Song Contest they go all gooey and dewey eyed and start getting neighbourly, handing out smiley votes like confetti.

The decent songs, and there were a few, came nowhere. Britain came second bottom, quite rightly because they put in a crap song and the wrong performer. Shameful when you think about our capacity to lead the world with music.  The weird, bizarre and totally hopeless songs got the most votes. This speaks volumes for the mentality of the Euro zone. We ain’t got nothing in common with any of them. It should be a top priority for David Cameron to pull Britain out of the Eurovision Song Contest followed swiftly by removing us from that other European shambles that had no chance of working from day one (if you don’t agree look at the way these countries vote in this song fiasco!). A simple massage from Dave would be, ‘It’s Your Rope. Go hang yourselves with it!’

Relationships only ever end up in one place..... Tescos.

This blog has been created for no reason other than to be an outlet for me to write the things that spring to mind. No indulgence in political or social comment - just the randomness of life as it occurs to me. I like to write so I will, regardless of whether I have any readers. A writer should not write for someone else to read but should write to get rid of the thoughts!

This first entry is simply a mention of my first book, Cupid's Pursuit. It is not my intention to bang on endlessly about it but I may mention it periodically and anything else I publish from time to time.

So, Cupid's Pursuit takes a humorous approach to the world of internet dating through the story of the central character's dating adventures. As more and more people search for that elusive relationship on-line, Cupid's Pursuit is not only topical but is also a commentary on the bizarre world of trying to meet a partner through the internet. Written from a man's point of view, but with a touch of romance, the story will enlighten and amuse many women who have tried the on-line experience. However, it also has a strong male take on women and dating, particularly through the outspoken Cecil character, and will appeal to a male audience as well.





Cupid's Pursuit
Matthew Malarkey is a man on a mission. To find a soul mate. His first problem is where to start looking. He has tried pubs and bars, all without success, just a sore head and an empty wallet to show for it. Now it's the turn of technology. The internet. Cyberspace could be the way to that meaningful relationship that Matthew is seeking. He signs up on line in the pursuit of love and embarks on a series of dating escapades, with a variety of ladies, only to find that Cupid does not make the quest for love easy. As Matthew searches for that elusive spark, he finds himself becoming involved in a succession of entanglements, culminating in a date he doesn't want - with the law.