Saturday, January 11, 2014

There was an old person from Hants...

Just in case you may have read this blog in the past and might be remotely interested, I have started a new one devoted to limericks. Click here to descend into the madness. 

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Another exciting game wot I made up

Remember the game I invented, ooh, a couple of hundred years ago? You know, the Much More Elaborate, Purposeful And Fulfilling Number Plate Spotting Than That Other Not Clever Or Anything Rubbish Version (i.e. Spotting Car Number Plates By Starting At One). Well, here's one you can play without moving off your settee, as long as you have Sky TV and access to its electronical programme guide.

I spotted the fun potential quite a long time ago but, although almost my entire family are very familiar with (and unsurprisingly quite exasperated by) the concept, I think there are exciting possibilities, as you will soon see.

I'll give you some examples and you will imagine the hilarity that ensues when a group of people visualise what's missing from the title of the programme and call out their suggestions – it's a bit like the missing words round on Have I Got News For You. When you bring up the Programme Guide on the TV screen, sometimes the names of the programmes are too long to appear in full and only the first part is displayed followed by a few dots. All you have to do is surmise the name of the programme armed with just a segment of it. Over the course of the last few weeks, I've been scanning the listings for suitable candidates for treatment.

Christmas Day with Ale… A perfectly reasonable idea, you might think, and there's really no need to suggest that there may be anything missing from such an admirable statement until you realise with horror when selecting the programme that it's Christmas Day with Aled Jones. *shudder*

The Librarian – The C… This surely had the makings of a particularly boring documentary about theChap who collects and issues your library books; an admirable calling, of course, but hardly a topic for peak time seasonal viewing. To my relief, it was another of those Indiana Jones type thrillers: The Librarian – The Curse of the Judas Chalice. It’s got Noah Wyle off ER and everything.

The Sheriffs are C… I would dearly love to elaborate upon the possibilities here but children are watching; they always used to be Cowboys, of course. Damn! They're Coming, apparently.

Sun, Sex and Suspicious Pa… Given the content of this show, it really ought to be Pant-stains but, somewhat disappointingly and, I suppose, inevitably, it's Parents.

Nursing th… I did think this might have been another one of those cringeworthy documentaries about young Brits in Ibiza acting like idiots, casting off their inhibitions and, frequently, their underwear, being very unkind to their livers and very kind to the bank balances of the owners of bars and clubs, nursing th…e Mother of all Hangovers practically every day. Instead of which, it’s a much more delightful televisual offering looking at the work of district nurses, called Nursing the Nation. Hurrah, for a change!

The Treasures of Ancient R… Apparently there are no treasures of any appreciable interest from ancient Reading, Rotherham, or even Ragged Appleshaw, Hampshire (N51.23 W01.55,  SU3148). Of course, you knew it was R…ome, didn’t you?

Get the idea? Now, the rules are simple. As you’re likely to be the sole participant (I usually am), you’ll earn points for all your suggestions, unless some disgruntled member of your family turns off the television and goes to bed. You won’t even be able to carry on playing by yourself as they will have taken the remote control with them. And, just to make sure, they’ll switch off the electricity supply*. Some folk are real spoilsports.

*I’m not sure how they do it but they turn 3G off as well.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

More than a tea dance

This is an extract from a letter in a recent edition of Metro. When I first read it, I found myself in a melange of emotions: shock and disgust at the revelation that there are, seemingly, many old folk who, because of the straitened circumstances in which they find themselves, are reduced to taking off their clothes to earn money for necessaries, wonder at the fact there may be an audience out there that relishes this wholesale degradation of a vulnerable section of society, and, after the righteous indignation subsided, concern that the old dears are being adequately compensated for the humiliation of displaying their week's ironing to the perverts of the parish and that they are managing their self-assessment tax returns.

Perhaps the government has at last realised that, by paying special allowances to the wrinkled ecdysiasts, it demonstrates a tacit acceptance of this vile and exploitative industry, and so have decided to have a long hard look at them. The allowances, that is, not the performances. That would be above and beyond.

Right, off to Westminster we go. Chant loudly after me:

"What do we want?"

"When do we want it?"

I don't know why I bother.

Thursday, July 05, 2012


You know, I really shouldn't allow myself to have idle moments because they enable me to drift off into a dangerous reverie fuelled by pedantry. I suppose, in a way, it's inevitable given my idiosyncratic obsession with the English language and its vagaries.

One of the many futile exercises which occupy my mind from time to time is trying to guess what news headlines REALLY mean. Not those ones in The Sun, some of  which make you want to take up a cudgel and break the limbs of innocent passers‑by (in a rather perverse way, I almost admire some of them – not that I couldn't write better ones, obviously), but the summaries in about 24 point font you see above an actual story. It's very easy to deliberately misinterpret it and write a completely different summary of the story. I can see you're straining at the leash for examples, aren't you? Whatever.

Villas-Boas named Tottenham Boss
(BBC Sport)
Levy: "Good morning, André. Welcome to the interview. Please sit down."
AVB: "Thank you, I'd rather crouch here and keep my mac on."
Levy: "Very well. I have an important question for you. Who was the manager we sacked recently?"
AVB: "Harry Redknapp."
Levy: "Well done, you've got the job!"

Apple settles China iPad case
(BBC News)
The opportunities here are endless. It ought to be the strange story of the man who bought a hard case made of porcelain for his iPad and foolishly sat under an apple tree in windy weather with the trusty device by his side. As predicted by dear old Isaac Newton all those years ago, an apple fell from the tree and smashed the fragile cover to smithereens.

Katie Holmes braves split from Tom Cruise
(Daily Express)
Apparently, as a wedding present, Katie gave Tom some Red Indian servants and, as well as carrying out traditional duties, they were experts in the provision of vital services like scalp treatment and face-painting; also, Tom frequently ate at the best restaurants and they were extraordinarily good at making reservations. However, they all fancied Katie and reluctantly went with Cruise when the couple moved apart. Also, they were bitterly opposed to Scientology, constantly accusing L Ron Hubbard of having spoken with a forked tongue. So they resigned en masse.
A source close to Cruise said "Tom's not really bothered as they used to hold a staff disco every Friday night and it never bloody stopped raining, even though it was dry everywhere else in the County."

I'm a hopeless case. Still, at least it's a blog.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Complete and utter iWash

I'm not sure if I've mentioned the disaster which befell my brand new iPhone in a bathroom-based incident a while ago, after I'd had it barely a week - which just goes to show the verisimilitude of the statistic pointed out to me by several piss-takers well-wishers that two of the most common forms of damage caused to iPhones is the screen cracking and that occasioned by submersion in water. Mine fell into the *ahem* latter category.

And no, I didn't undertake the immersion-in-a-pouch-of-rice treatment afterwards; I was too upset and actually quite concerned that  a family member might find it and think it was a boil-in-the-bag ready meal, thus making matters even worse.

Smarting from the incident, I wandered around the house in a daze, wondering what iniquitous deed I had perpetrated in my past which had rendered me deserving of such a harsh gadgetry-related punishment. Suddenly, I remembered; in an episode of that top comedy show The IT Crowd, precisely the same thing had happened to one of the main characters (Moss), after he had put his phone in that most conveniently placed of locations, the top shirt pocket – and I had laughed out loud.

My tweet to the show's writer Graham Linehan, demanding compensation, elicited no response, so I turned my attention to my buildings and contents insurance, administered by a certain company from whom I could possibly have obtained a claim form in person if I had bothered to take the 20½-hour journey via Brittany Ferries from Plymouth. No, there isn't a prize.

My first telephone conversation was with a very friendly and helpful young lady who, I realised after a subsequent conversation with another equally helpful young lady four days later (which was on the Friday afternoon), had done absolutely nothing she had promised, i.e. passed the matter to the company who dealt with damage repairs on their behalf.  So the second young lady made the same promise and, all things considered, I couldn't help feeling rather pessimistic about the outcome. However, I had a call within a couple of hours, giving me a reference number and informing me that DPD would be collecting the phone for repair or replacement on the Monday, between 9.00am and 6.30pm.

I had a text message on Monday morning saying that the phone would be collected - bizarrely - between 12.18pm and 1.18pm! It was therefore with a strange but totally unfounded disappointment that I welcomed the DPD bloke at 12.21pm.

The company dealing with the phone had told me it was repairable and would be returned via Royal Mail within 7 to 10 working days. Given that Royal Mail make a habit of doing things like ditching the first-class post, conveniently forgetting to tell everyone about it, and bearing in mind the onset of Christmas mail, I was not all that optimistic.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I was forced to make four more telephone calls, the repairing company decided the phone couldn't be mended, the insurer coughed up the full amount for a new replacement (less £35 excess) and, as soon as the dosh appeared in my bank account, I hastened down to the nearest iPhone merchant and bought one.

I'd had a Blackberry for almost three years (which my employer provided) but I finally decided enough was enough (I hated it) and that, after a good deal of research, I was desperate to have an iPhone.

Hey! An Apple turnover.*

*I'll get me coat

Monday, March 12, 2012


That word commands rather a lengthy entry in my Oxtail Dictionary of Words & Phrases With Which Is Incorporated Latin Words & Phrases and New Words Introduced Into the English Language. It is simply a feature of speech which unfortunately achieves prominence if you have to wear dentures. This may be part of the natural degenerative process through advancing years or the inevitable consequence of a lack of tooth care - if you choose to believe Pam Ayres – but, however it happens, ensure you acquire some decent ones, or you should avoid singing Gracie Fields' famous song The Biggest Aspidistra In The World, attempting tongue twisters like 'she sells seashells on the seashore', Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven (or, at least, the line that begins "And the silken sad uncertain rustling…"), if you don't want to keep being asked at the Christmas party for a rendition of the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' song "Whistle While You Work", or Pinocchio's "Give A Little Whistle" or constantly being given the cards in Charades for The Old Grey Whistle Test, Whistle Down The Wind, The Whistle Blower, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café, and, last but by no means least, the memorable 1968 film from the well-known Filipino director Consuelo Osorio, based on the story by Mars Ravelo, Ngitngit ng Pitong Whistle Bomb.
Imagine if Lauren Bacall's immortal lines as Marie "Slim" Browning in To Have And Have Not  had to be changed because poor old Bogie was a sufferer: "You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow jam in the false gnashers and say 'ipsissimus'."
Notable proponents of this occupational hazard are John Craven (currently appearing on the BBC's Countryfile) and Sir David Attenborough (currently appearing in most nature programmes on several channels and the BBC's more and more annoyingly frequent ITV-style interludes advertising its  current and upcoming offerings).
I count myself very lucky that I am in the position of not knowing if all dentures exhibit this irritating tendency but, if I were John or Sir Dave*, I'd consult the BBC Props Department. Michael Parkinson (currently reduced to TV commercials for insurance) appears to have the problem beaten, although he can't read the auto-cue without it looking totally obvious that's what he's doing.

Geoffrey Palmer is a very good actor, isn't he?

*polite informality

Friday, August 19, 2011

Road Observations (leaving Rage for another day)

You will all be familiar with (and, no doubt by now, totally hacked off by) my ramblings about road travel, particularly via the M6; the notorious section just before Junction 15 to Stoke‑on‑Trent and Newcastle‑under‑Lyme is pictured above with, I think I’m right in saying, most of the traffic somewhat disingenuously Photoshopped out. I just can’t help it, though, no more than the motorway itself can help being in league with the Devil – if you ask me (though I know you won’t) it should be called the M666 (or, if you are a pedantic devotee of QI, the M616) but giving one of England’s main cross‑country arteries a bad name is not my current purpose - not this time, anyway.

Some people might think that, whilst driving north and south up and down the highways and byways of the country, all I do is spend my time thinking about what vitriol I can pen in my next highway-related diatribe, and that’s why I have to get Sheila to read out the Daily Telegraph crossword clues several times before properly taking them in. No, no, not at all, I can’t hear them because of the ambient noise of the radio coupled with the constant hum of tyre on road (that’s what I tell her anyway). We finished both crosswords on the way up on Monday, but only one and a half on the way back on Tuesday (I think I had the radio on louder and possibly some more decent resurfacing is required on the southward leg).

The following are simply observations on one or two new initiatives introduced by my very good friends at the Highways Agency (HA) and spotted during our latest trip – quite uneventful as it turned out, except for a new half-hour programme we watched on Monday night, The Sergio Aguero Show, a feature that I hope to be repeated on a regular basis.

The signs which used to say: “Queue Ahead” now read: “Queue Caution” – this has been done, apparently, as too many motorists had been regarding the former as an instruction.

The HA has also instigated new signs at several locations which say: “Bin Your Litter – Other People Do”. The first three words are an admirable suggestion but their effectiveness is considerably lessened by virtue of the accompanying statement which is based, in my view, upon the thinnest evidence. Rather, they ought to say: “Bin Your Litter Even Though Most People Don’t And The Bins At Motorway Services Get So Full That They Quickly Become A Health Hazard What With All The Rubbish Blowing Around The Car Park And Everything Not To Mention Wasps Etc”. I suppose if the signs were too lengthy, everyone would have to slow down considerably or even park up to read them. In which case, maybe they could give us advance warning by changing the signs at appropriate intervals to read “Queue Ahead To Read Next Sign”.

Right, how many words in the answer to 12 down? Sorry? What?

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Driving me mad

After due deliberation, I have come to the conclusion that I am a jam magnet. Before you run away with the idea that, in some strange way, I attract fruit spread, let me disavow you of this misapprehension with the following relevant definitions for ‘jam’ from to fill or block up by crowding; pack or obstruct; to make (something) unworkable by causing parts to become stuck, blocked, caught, displaced; and - probably the most relevant - a mass of objects, vehicles, etc., packed together or otherwise unable to move except slowly.

You may or may not have read the sad account of one of my many journeys north-westward when the M6 jumped out from behind a clear road and made me take almost four hours to travel just 20 miles. Well, I am now proud to announce that I was once a participant in the greatest M60 Manchester Ring Road snarl-up in living memory. The traffic lady on the local radio was delivering the news in a most inappropriately gleeful manner, in my humble opinion, saying that she had never seen the like: apparently, the whole circular route had been a massive car park for most of the afternoon. I would therefore dispute the ‘move slowly’ bit of the last part of the dictionary entry above as it engenders an entirely false impression that movement was a regular feature of the affair.

I had travelled from Manchester (where we were spending a few days away from Hants with rellies) to Merseyside for a meeting with a colleague, and this vehicular melée was the culmination of a wonderful day on rain-sodden roads (one stretch of the M56 was far better suited for water-skiing) that included a stop-start excursion through the centre of Liverpool (where, incidentally, I had never driven before) and a surreal episode with my satnav in the Wallasey Tunnel. I was understandably surprised to see my journey under the great River Mersey depicted on its screen all the way through (quite often it goes blank when I drive under a tree) and I assumed that there must have been some sort of signal boosting equipment installed in it (more damned electrickery, you can't get away from it). I did wonder why, though, as soon as I emerged into the open from the tunnel towards the toll booths, it told me the satellite signal had been lost!

Pretty much par for the course that day.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Henners' Day

On Sunday 19th June, one year and one day after the sad passing of a famous parish nuisance, some of us met up in darkest Surrey to commemorate the event and to visit his very first geocache and where his ashes are laid. By the time we got to within 10 or 12 feet of the spot (according to Omally's GPS), I had been o'er many a hill and dale and was well and truly knackered. So was this poor little creature:-

No, no, not Jan - Daisy! And despite my obvious physical distress, Jan flatly refused to cuddle me on her lap while I had a kip.

For about an hour At first, we were unable to locate the sacred spot despite much circular non-environmental thrashing about in the undergrowth - well, it was deep in the woods, hidden among the head-high ferns. And there was me thinking Ned and Marco Polo had been soul mates.

No, Ned - the ground's by your feet - tchoh! Also, I think this was one of the moments when we had to snap Hutters out of his obvious fixation for the forest floor in the region of my right leg and point him in a particular direction whilst reminding him how to move his legs alternately. I swear I could hear Henry guffawing on more than one occasion. Wanna see a good scowl? The geographical challenge was causing desperation to set in:-

All of a sudden, Hutters uttered a 'Eureka'-type exclamation and there it was, about two feet from where I had been standing (or trying to stand without my leg seizing up) for a good half an hour!

Unfortunately, the birch sapling that was originally planted hadn't lasted, so we planted an Acer (Orange Dream variety, I was reliably informed by the label) next to the small wooden cross. Well, I say we, Omally did all the digging with his very own trowel, brought specially for the purpose. Hutters' joke about an Acer spade was beginning to wear a bit thin after the third or fourth time. Here's the plant which we hope will flourish:-

Hutters did the honours and read the very moving pome by Canon Henry Scott-Holland, "Death is nothing at all", which you can read here and cry a bit as well, if you are so inclined.

All in all, it was a very worthwhile day and my guilt has been a little assuaged for having missed the dear old chap's funeral last year.

RIP, David.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Unsocial Network

By and large, I think the internet is one of the most significant and influential innovations of the modern age. You can interface with friends and family wherever in the world they might be, via the written word or live audio/video, you can buy and sell all manner of goods and services, and it is a vast source of information on anything you care to name - even donkey porn.

A lot of the time, though, it just gets on my bloody tripe.

You are - by which I mean, one is - well, at least, I am – if you’re still with me? - bombarded with e-mails from banks and building societies explaining that your account has been the subject of unusual activity – it would actually be unusual if I used it seeing as I don’t have an account with you – vital security checks requiring confirmation of your PIN and other account details. What can you do to put a cyber spanner in the works of these thieving morons? It’s a great shame there isn’t an option in Outlook to “reply with 5,000 volts”; that’d make their follicles sizzle. Maybe I should reply to them all, helpfully providing my hat/willy size, inside leg measurement and medical history, hoping they’ll eventually get fed up. Fat chance.

I have recently distanced myself from Farcebollok and disabled my account (it’s not your fault, by the way) – I object to the intrusive, overbearing way it subjects you to an unsolicited barrage of invitations to take part in inane quizzes the results of which are then published to an audience of your friends who are apparently agog with eager anticipation to learn what sort of television set you are (I bet I’m a wide screen) or which member of the cast of ‘Friends’ you would most like to (a) take out to dinner, (b) shag, or (c) punch in the face. No, I’m not going to tell you (although I imagine you could take an educated guess).

I really don’t want to know that someone has just found a three-legged brown sheep wandering (limping, surely? I am a pedant, after all) around the farm – I’m a tolerant sort of bloke and, if they want to play that game, leave them alone to do so, without a commentary which is best suited to a weak plot line in The Archers. The farmer’s wife going missing and a dismembered body discovered in a grain silo would be infinitely more interesting but I still remain unconvinced that I’d want to know about it.

Before I’d ever even countenanced going on Farcebollok (the only reason being that, just prior to taking the plunge, I didn’t fully understand how it worked but some friends persuaded me – to join, that is, not that I definitely didn’t know how it worked), I did have a temporary dalliance with MySpace but gradually became disenchanted with the eerie solitude – I believe it’s now known as MyEmptySpace.

I wonder how long it’ll be before I get fed up with Twitter?!