Friday, 25 October 2013


I am not overly keen on 'politeness' for the sake of it. That is probably due to a traumatic experience I had as a callow youth of twenty-one when, as a keen tennis player anxious to become involved in the social scene of the local club, I overcame my natural Capricorn reticence and shy nature and bought myself a ticket for a Wine & Cheese party!!! Out of my depth at such functions (in fact out of my depth socially anywhere) since I still retained the inelegance of my teenage years and gauche nature of an ex boarder, I attempted conversation with a variety of people whilst balancing a plate of cheese nibbles and a glass of red plonk in either hand. My face was pinker than the not very inspiring vintage that wobbled around in my glass, this state having been induced by my cringingly embarrassing attempts to engage in conversation with the fairer sex, my limitations in this skill being cruelly exposed by rambling sentences interspersed by a stutter which, up until that point, I didn't realise I possessed.

My evening scaled the heights from difficult to extremely complex when I was engaged by what I can only describe as a professional ‘small talker.’ His conversation, such as it can be called conversation since to accurately be described as such it possibly has to be two way, involved him telling me all about his accountancy firm. I assume he was telling me, but I wasn’t entirely certain, because his eyes scanned the room as if he was expecting an imminent attack by a disgruntled client, rather than look at me directly.

In hindsight I wish I had had the cojones to interrupt and say,’ Can I stop you right there. Listen, I am not remotely interested in the boring, dull and pathetic existence you lead out there and your attempts to make it sound like what you do is some sort of much sought after, wild, innovative career. And since I am not interested, why don’t you save your breath and go tell it to some of these other similarly dull half wits that earlier on this evening I had so wanted to be accepted by.'

But I didn’t say any of that.

But... the experience has made me question why people need small talk and pleasantries? Why don't they just get to the point? Why ask things of strangers like, ‘How are you?’ Just get to the point. If you are talking to a stranger it must be for some reason otherwise you wouldn’t be doing it. Always remember that if you ask a question which is merely a preamble to the real point of your conversation, you run the risk of having that question answered and, consequently, being bored witless by some nobhead who actually thinks you might want to know!

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Shaving Gel

After work this evening I called into a well known high street purveyor of cosmetic and beauty products to get shaving gel. I took my selected item to the counter, handed it to the sales assistant and reached for my wallet.
'Would you like anything else, Sir?’ she asked.
‘No thank you,’ I said.
She looked at me squarely in the face.
‘Did you know that if you spend fifteen pounds you can have a free face mask?’
Ignoring the obvious insulting content of the question I gathered my thoughts. I'm no oil painting but I am allowed out in public so I considered a mask to be unnecessary and risked telling her so.
‘It’s ok,’ I said, ‘I'm ok without the mask.'
I don’t know if she thought that to improve my facial appearance I would need to spend a lot more than fifteen pounds but she suddenly switched anatomical regions.
‘We have a special offer on body butter,’ she said, an optimistic smile lighting her face.
I say optimistic because I assume the confidence in her sales pitch was based on the assumption that I had actually heard of body butter.
‘Body butter?’ I said, confirming my lack of knowledge. The fact that I was questioning it was completely missed.
‘Yes, body butter. We are doing two for one.’
I was confused enough at that point, considering that perhaps body butter was something you applied after spending too long exposed to the damaging rays of the midday sun and resembled a bit of burnt toast. I was half expecting the two for one to include body marmalade as well. The shake of my head and the mumbled ‘no thanks’ only encouraged her to move back to my face.
‘Perhaps you would like something to exfoliate?'
'Yes...your face.’
My Face? Sure I needed a shave. I wouldn't have come in to buy shaving gel if I didn't but what had she got against my face? And what would happen if I exfoliated it anyway? Did she mean obliterate it? I only wanted a shave.
‘No. I don’t think I should...should...err..exfol...a shave is...I mean the shaving gel will be fine thanks.’ A queue was building up behind me, all of them women.
The assistant then decided to treat me like a four year old.
‘Shall I pop it into a little bag for you?’ she asked, in a twee, high pitched voice.
I was surprised she didn’t begin to make coochie coo noises and tweak my cheek between thumb and forefinger. I suppose I shouldn't have been that surprised given that she found my face so horrendous. She'd probably decided that touching it in its present 'unexfoliated' state was a step too far.
As she placed the shaving foam into the bag she came up with another offer.
‘Would you like a free Moroccan scrub, Sir?’
Moroccan scrub? I had visions of a bloke in a fez and djellaba jumping out from behind the counter with a very large brush and a bucket of soapy water. She saw my quizzical look.
‘It’s a free product that helps get rid of dead skin.’
She placed a small round container into the bag.
Dead skin. Blimey, she clearly didn’t think much of me. I grabbed my little bag, ignored the smirks of the ladies behind me and exited the shop as fast as I could.

I might just grow a beard.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013


I don't go food shopping! I'm a bloke. I did go once and found that :
a.) women get in the way
b.) everybody wanders around in no coherent order
c.) people just stop dead in the middle of an aisle with a full trolley completely oblivious to others trying to get past with their trolleys. (I do hope the same people are not allowed out in cars)

It seems that most people have no idea what they went out shopping for in the first place. Either that or they suffer amnesia on the way there...because they just stand staring at things once they get if they are indeed suffering memory failure. Go in, pick it up, put it in your basket and get the hell outta there. That's proper commando shopping. Get in, get the job done and get back out. Don't stand gawping at jam! It's goddam jam. You either came out to get jam or you didn't? If you didn't why are you staring at it? If you did...pick it up and move on! Jam can't have suddenly become immensely appealing, causing a trance induced state - unless you started out on hard narcotics. And if you did, you shouldn't have driven to the shop in the first place. In fact you shouldn't even be in charge of a trolley. Perhaps that's why you just leave your trolley slap bang in the middle of the aisle when people are pushing past to go stare at Weetabix. You forgot you had a trolley. Maybe on the drive home you'll just forget you had a car, stop it in the middle of the road, get out and just leave it right there, engine running holding up the whole High Street causing a ........a jam.

Extract from Vegas Pursuit (Fleeing Sin City) - The Speed Awareness Course scene

Lucy looked up and placed her hand over the telephone mouthpiece.
‘I will be with you in a moment, Sir.’
‘I just need to know…to find out…where the course is...some information…’
As I said the word, I stopped in mid flow. Information. The board. The notice board behind me. An information board maybe. I ran across the floor towards the window and stopped in front of the gold framed panel. Speed awareness…where was it? Speed…speed. I caught sight of the key words - speed and conference. Room B, Ground Floor.

I practically broke down the door of Room B, such was my rush to get in. My hurried entrance caused the audience to swivel around as one in the direction of the hastily opened door. At the far end of the room a surprised looking executive type in a dark blue suit stood in front of a white drop down projector screen, mouth open as if his script had been ripped from his hand.
‘Sorry. Sorry I’m late,’ I blurted out. ‘It’s a long story. I’m not too late am I?’
The executive type regained his composure in an instant.
‘Never too late my friend, despite the fact that it’s nearly twenty past ten. Now who are you?’
‘Yes, I know. I’m sorry. My name is Matthew Malarkey. I’m booked on the course. I’m really sorry about being late.’ I realised I was overdoing the apologies.
‘Well, welcome Matthew, take a seat. You can catch up as we go along. I’m Robin Hargreaves and I’m running the course today. We’re having a coffee break at eleven fifteen and we can do the formalities then.’ He turned towards the white screen. ‘Right, let’s crack on.’
Relieved at having finally made the course I took a seat at the end of a row in the middle of the room. The adrenaline that had been pumping through my system began to dissipate as I settled in my seat. Robin Hargreaves picked up where presumably he had left off before my entrance but my attention began to focus on my surroundings rather than on what he was saying.
‘…are in an age of instant demand…’
I estimated that the room was filled with around thirty to forty other people, all smartly dressed, an even mix of male and female. The thought flashed through my head, as I viewed my fellow miscreants, that we law breakers all looked fairly normal.
‘…it’s about expectations…you know that feeling when you are standing at an ATM and your cash can’t come out fast enough…’
The age range appeared to be between early twenties up to late forties. Speeding wasn’t just the domain of boy racers it seemed.
‘…when you surf the web you need instant access. It’s all about speed in this day and age…’
A wave of tiredness washed over me as I surveyed the room. The sudden drop from hyper unease to quiet inactivity had hit my concentration levels. I knew I had to focus in order to get through the course successfully but I was just catching snippets of Robin Hargreaves’s delivery. I sat upright and stared ahead in an attempt to apply my full attention.
‘…a Traffic Management system that allows you to monitor traffic activity so you never go over your limit…’
My interest picked up. That sounded useful.
‘…successfully achieving speeds up to two hundred and forty times faster than the national average…’
Who was going that fast, I wondered. What did he say? Two hundred and forty times faster than the average? That couldn’t be right. What was the average anyway? My mind started to tick. I was on the course because I had been doing forty-six in a forty mile an hour speed limit area. If someone was going two hundred and forty times faster than say thirty, that would mean they were doing…I pulled my iPhone from my pocket and tapped on the calculator icon…7,200 miles an hour. Seven thousand, two hundred? That couldn’t be right. I must have misheard.
I leant towards the person on my right, a woman in her twenties.
‘Sorry,’ I whispered, ‘did he say two hundred and forty?’
‘Excuse me?’
‘Sorry…I didn’t quite catch what he said. Did he say two hundred and forty times faster than the…err…limit…the average…limit, thing?’
‘Oh…erm…yes, I think so.’ She turned away and looked to the front again.
I concluded that she must have misheard too and tried to focus my attention on what was being said.
People are demanding faster speeds and we are encouraging that demand…’
I knew that there had been Government discussion on increasing the speed limit but I was not aware anyone was encouraging it.
Our platform is based on super-fast network capacity and our unique fibre optic system is capable of delivering some of the fastest broadband in the world.’
I turned again to the woman on my right.
‘Sorry to interrupt again but did he say broadband?’
‘What? Broadband? Yes, he did say broadband.’
I detected a slight note of irritation in her voice. She turned away.
‘But I thought this was about speed awareness. What’s broadband got to do with it?’ I asked, risking her disapproval.
She turned sharply to face me, the irritation at my continuous interruptions now plain on her face.
‘Yes, it is about speed awareness and broadband has everything to do with it. Look, I realise you were late and you have missed the introduction but if you listen you’ll catch up. Now I really would like to hear what is being said. My company has paid a lot of money for me to be on this seminar.’
‘Your company paid for you to be here? Err…do you have a company car then?’ I asked, a little confused since I had paid my own way.
‘I beg your pardon? A company car? What are you on about?’
‘I mean…you know…were you speeding in a company car?’
‘Speeding? I wasn’t speeding in anything. Look, I told you, I want to hear what –’
‘Yes, sorry…I know…but you wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t broken the law too, would you?’
‘Listen, Mister…Mister whatever you said your name was. I don’t know what you want or who you are looking for but this is definitely a case of mistaken identity. I haven’t broken any laws at all. I am here because I want to be here. Because I work in an IT department and I want to learn about next generation broadband delivery. Now if you don’t mind I would like to listen to what is being said.’
Next generation broadband delivery. The words penetrated my skull but I brushed them aside by forming another question.
‘Err…are you sure you’re on the right…the right…’ Next generation broadband delivery. The words swirled around my head refusing to be dismissed so simply. ‘…the right course?’
My newly made acquaintance did not reply. She simply stared directly at me as if I had asked her to remove her clothes and dance naked for the entire gathering.
DashNet Internet Solutions has anticipated the growing demand for bandwidth and committed the capital investment that will make these superfast speeds possible…..’
Robin Hargreaves’s enthusiastic delivery rang in my ears as I contemplated my own words - right course.
A shockwave began its heated ascent from the pit of my stomach and rushed rapidly to my face, its sudden impact causing me to jump to my feet in an uncontrolled reaction.
‘The right course…is it the right course?’ I shouted out, causing the entire audience to turn in my direction.
A brief look of dismay darkened Robin Hargreaves’s features.
‘The right course, Mister…err…Matthew. The right course for what?’
‘Yes, the right course…am I on…I mean, is this the course…the right course…for…speed awareness?’ I asked, my sentence struggling for coherence as I waited for an answer.
‘Well, sure it is Matthew.’ Robin Hargreaves scanned the room. ‘You guys are all in the ISP business, right? As carriers you want to deliver better and faster broadband wireless to your consumers. We at DashNet Internet Solutions are here to show you how to do just that.’
At that point I knew that my next question was pointless but I couldn’t help myself.
‘No, I mean…the course…isn’t it for people who have been going too fast?’
A low murmur echoed around the room, interspersed with a few stifled chuckles. A smile played on Robin Hargreaves’s lips. He glanced towards a window to his right as if looking for composure before he replied.
‘Quite the opposite Matthew. Today is for people who want to go faster. People who want more speed. For those who want to get hold of the latest innovations and –’
The expletives silenced the room. I spun around and sprinted towards the door.

Back in the hotel lobby I rushed over to the noticeboard. I skimmed the list looking for Conference Room B. I found it. DashNet Internet Solutions-The Need for Speed Conference. Definitely room B. My gaze scanned the rest of the list. A hairdressing product launch in room C; a doctor’s medical conference, room D; I could hardly read the letters such was my rush as my stress level heightened.
‘Come on, come on…where are you?’
Surely not the wrong hotel too?
‘Are you ok, Sir?’
I heard the voice from behind and turned to see Lucy, the receptionist that I had tried to engage earlier, standing to my right side. Out from behind the main desk she looked taller, her hair tied back in a tight ponytail.
‘Err, yes…no…I was just talking to the...the…err…no, look I am trying to find the National Speed Awareness Course. The driving thing…for people who have been speeding. I’m supposed to be attending it today and I’m late.’
‘That’s in one of our meeting rooms, Sir. This is the Conference list,’ Lucy said, a kindly smile lighting her face.............