October 29, 2006

That's some far-out road safety dude

"Research found that 1 in 10 people in Scotland, under the age of 40, have driven under the influence of illegal drugs. Cannabis was the most common drug used, with many believing it had little or no effect on their driving ability.
"UK statistics show that traces of illegal drugs were present in 18 per cent of road deaths. Applying this percentage to the number of people aged 16 and over killed in road accidents in Scotland in 1999 gives a figure of 50."*
When they published this about a year ago I read it briefly, thought to myself 'Aye, right' and forgot all about it. Hitchhiking around the country, however, has been a rare opportunity to conduct some small-scale unscientific research all of my very own.
Not so long ago I was stood on a roundabout outside Newcastle trying to thumb my way to Leeds. Within 30 seconds a blacked-out Range Rover screeched to a sharp halt. Wisps of thick blue smoke escaped as the passenger side window went down.
"Hey. I'm trying to get to Leeds. You headed that way?" asks I.
The driver looked like Jimmy Savile but younger. Sporting a shellsuit, fake tan and with a massive joint instead of Jimmy's usual Cuban, he replied (honestly): "Why Aye man."
I know the guy is pretty stoned but it's too late to turn down the lift. He might take offence and anyway, the next guy to stop could be an East European trucker with a compulsive masturbatory disorder (it happens) so I jump in the Range Rover.
The driver's clearly a drug dealer. He's too young to be driving a car like this legitimately and his girlfriend is too young and gorgeous to be going out with him for any reason other than he's loaded. Either that or his willy's massive. I ask what he does for a living: 'Ah, this and that.'
We proceed to Leeds at 100mph. The A1 is packed, as usual, which stresses the Geordie out even more. Every time he gets stuck behind a truck he opens the sun roof, erects a middle finger, swears loudly then sparks up another reefer. I decide not to tell him I drive trucks for a living.
Two days later I'm hitching again. This time on the A63 trying to get away from Hull as fast as humanly possible, which is the best way to leave Hull. I had to get to Preston, a good 100 miles away but the train is £30+ so I decide to thumb it. I figure if I can get to Leeds it'll be easier/cheaper to then thumb/train/bus to Preston.
Pretty soon a light truck stops. The guy's going to Leeds. Perfect. I jump in and start making the same old bullshit small talk. After a few miles the driver asks me if I smoke weed.
I start rambling: 'Well I've dabbled a little. Certainly in my younger days I smoked with alarming frequency although these day I tend to save it for weekends, special occasions, you know the kind of thing...'
'Can you skin up?'
'Skin up then.' He lifts an AtoZ to reveal hash, papers and tobacco.
Ever the grateful guest, I start to skin up. My host seems to be one of those smokers who needs it to be normal. It's probably a better idea to feed him than withold it or, worse, protest. Even if he is smoking that hard brown chemical Afghan shit - not like the Geordie who only smoked top-notch Dutch skunk. I agree to build the joint but confess that I'm useless at the final roll so pass it over for the penultimate manouvre.
(Sorry. Have to stop writing for a few minutes. John Martyn just came on the radio.)
We smoke. We laugh. We talk about places we don't like driving. London is mentioned.
'Ah run a woman over in London just last week affa Hyde Park Corner (a notoriously difficult junction),' says my driver. As the needle passes 70mph, he's steering with his elbows whilst triying to lick the joint. It's not funny but I laugh 'cos, well, I'm a bit stoned.
'Was she OK?'
'Naw. She was fooked mate. Rushed aff in an ambulance. Don't know if she made it or not. I should check really.'
We get to Leeds.
Turns out this guy is going all the way to my destnation, Preston. Bonus. All I've got to do is help him with a delivery or two and he'll take me all the way there. First up is an electrical supplier in Leeds. We diligently listen to the annoying American Satnav woman for about an hour and a half as she takes us on a guided tour of suburban Leeds. Eventually we stop outside a pretty terraced abode near the airport. It's nice but clearly not an electrical wholsesaler. My new mate jumps out, chaps the door and talks to the old lady who lives there. He jumps back in.
'What's up dude?'
'Fook, Bastard, Shite, Fook!!!'
'What's the problem man?'
''I moost 'ave stuck the wrong fookin' postcode in't Satnav when we was 'avin a smoke. We're in LS9, nae LS19. Fook!'
'What's the difference?'
'Af' o' fookin' Leeds is fooking difference. BASTARD! Sorry bud. We're gonna be an extra hour or two gettin to Preston.'
'Tell you what mate. Drop us here and I'll get in't train.'

October 11, 2006

Da power of da vest

Hmm. Two months and no post. Well it's tough to type and drive folks. Pretty sure ther'e a law against it. Same as there's a law against smoking and driving (although only in Scotland and only if you're being paid). Smoking, it seems, is much more damaging to the health of Scottish motorists who have jobs than it is for any other road user. So far around 50 truck drivers have been fined £50 for smoking in their cabs. Interestingly, 47 of them were caught by one force - Dumfries and Galloway Police. The bastards are obviously hiding behind the 'Welcome to Scotland' sign armed with wee notebooks and beady-eyed council officials with baldspots and even bigger notebooks.
They must be a scary bunch. I was hitching near Dumfries not so long ago. When I hitch I normally wear a yella vest so I'm easier to spot. As the light left me a local truck screetched to a halt. I hauled me ass into the cab and told the driver I was headed for Dumfries.
He said: "Fuck sake I thought you were a bloody cop jumping out with a speed gun."
To which I said: "Are you going to Dumfries or no?"
"Well, um, I don't normally pick up hitchhikers."
"Are you going to tonight?"
"Aye alright then." And off we went.
Yella vests are amazing things.
So that all the rich people who read this know what I'm talking about, I would have uploaded a picture of a yella vest. However, for technical reasons related to me writing this in a backpackers' hostel in Manchester, I can't.
So I'll describe them:
Yella vests are the fluorescent yellow, super-duper reflective tops that unimportant people wear either to make themselves feel important or when people from the council are about. Kieran calls them "Looking-down-holes vests". I think that's a perfect description.
In the previous entry, I wrote about a guy who, upon hearing that I had started driving trucks, said: "Welcome to the world of Dafties". I think what he really meant was welcome to the world of people who wear yella vests.
Do not underestimate the power of a yella vest. It's kinda like when Eric eats a banana. You become a hero.
Wear one in a city centre and people will ask for directions. Wear one in a railway station and old ladies will ask you to carry their bags. Wear one at the side of a road and shit-scared lorry drivers with nine points on their licence will stop thinking you are a traffic officer. Wear one at a gig and you won't have to pay. Rush out and buy one now. "Where?," you cry. I'd tell you, but you have to join the daftie club first.
PS: Normally when I write this shit I think it out, write it, proof it, spell check it, sleep on it for a few days, re-read it, edit it, proof it again then publish it with an appropriate photo.
Due to this being done on the proverbial hoof in an internet cafe, none of the above steps were really practical so my apologies for the disjointed nature, duff grammar and poor spelling (actually it was all like that before wasn't it?) Anyway, the next toy I'm saving up for is a PDA with a fold-out keyboard so I should be posting more regularly fairly soon.
In the mean time,
Monk out.

August 19, 2006

The World of Dafties

In the movie American Pie (or maybe it was Road Trip) one of the characters, possibly Stifler, claimed that cheating on your partner doesn't count if it takes place in a different zipcode. This is exactly the way I feel about road traffic accidents. Every time I phone up for an insurance quote I proudly exclaim, without a hint of guilt or irony, that I have never been involved in a car accident. If they were to delve deeper, and thank fuck they don't, what they'd find out I really meant is that I've never crashed in this country, in a car that belongs to me or crashed whilst the bearer of an EU driving license.
I do, however, know what it feels like to be at the wheel (or handlebars) during collision with another vehicle. Indeed, although I've never technically crashed, I also know what if feels like to lose control at high speed and what the consequences of such a high speed loss of control feels like.
On this basis, I felt qualified to sympathize with my new colleague Terry the other day.
Terry looks, smells and sound like a 15-year-old Yorkshire Terrier but I didn't know this the first time I saw him because at that moment he was driving the above pictured truck the wrong way down a residential street in a sleepy Home Counties village in green and pleasant England.
Driving any lorry the wrong way down a public carriageway is dangerous enough but to appreciate the hazards involved with these particular bastards, take a look at the picture and see if you can spot the Land Rover.
Terry had arrived at the MOD depot just ahead of me to help shift a bunch of unspecified Army vehicles just back from action in the Gulf. We stopped ahead of the depot entrance to give Terry plenty of space to pull out but nowhere near enough space. He exited the yard well in excess of 30mph, veered wildly to the left, ripped a gaping hole down two doors and the front nearside wing of a ford Fiesta driven by a little old lady in a flowery dress then slammed into a Renault Clio occupied by a pretty young girl also wearing a flowery dress.
Terry eventually stopped in a flower bed, climbed down from the cab and limped over to retrieve the old woman's wing mirror from the flower bed. Without uttering a word, he handed it back to her along with a company business card displaying our insurance details then hobbled back in and fucked off leaving two generations of the fairer sex quivering on a Berkshire roadside along with a Ghurka Corporal screaming blue murder after him.
I flatly refused to drive one of the brutes so my boss said: "Fine. I'll take one and you follow me in the car," which is what I did.
We caught up with Terry at a service station and went over to introduce ourselves and take the piss out of him for trashing the customer's vehicle.
Not a scratch.
One Ford Fiesta and one Renault Clio written off and not a scratch on Her Majesty's paintwork.
Almost makes you proud of British engineering although it's pretty likely that the engine was German, the chassis Polish, the suspension Japanese, the body work Italian and the failed breaks Spanish.
"Terry," says I,: "Had you ever driven anything like this before?"
"Ave I fook, mate."
"Weren't you shitting yourself man?"
"Naw lad. I ain't shat meself since some fookin' Arab shot me in the foot in Yemen in 1962."
"So the truck had a better time in the desert than you did mate."
And I was worried that driving trucks would be boring.
As a family friend said to me the other day: "Welcome to the World of Dafties."

June 29, 2006

B.B.C (Bye Bye Capita)

"All paid jobs absorb and degrade the mind." -- Aristotle, Greek critic, philosopher, physicist, & zoologist (384 BC - 322 BC)

"No, no, no, Lisa. If adults don't like their jobs, they don't go on strike. They just go in every day and do it really half-assed." -- Homer Simpson, Legend (1990-present)

Not long now till my 23rd P45, in a working life of eight short years, hits the doormat with a familiar thud. I know 24 jobs sounds like a lot for a 24-year-old but you have to bear in mind that some (like the double-glazing call centre) lasted for as little as two hours. In fact, two hours was a personal best (or worst. Depends on your viewpoint). Some lasted weeks, some months, but only BBC Information and the world-famous Oban Times, lasted more than a year.
Onwards and upwards though. Now I'm gonna be a trucker. Not any old trucker either. My initial fantasies about driving for the Stones or some F1 team went out the window the second I found the above picture. I've got a new life aspiration - piloting rocket trucks.
In the mean-time, however, I'll have to settle for trade-plating up and down the UK, and occasionally into Europe, until I get 'spotted'. Hopefully, my constant itch to be on the move might make me quite good at my new job. Who knows? I might even last more than a year.
Not sure what I'm going to miss most about the old job though.
Perhaps, scurrying back from a fag break so as not to bust the 10-second rule. Or the sense of futile rebellion derived from timing all my breaks to exactly 15 minutes and nine seconds. The Devil makes make work for idle minds.
I've got particularly warm memories about the helpful Health and Safety notices such as "Warning. Kettle may be hot." Or an old favourite of mine: "Although this bin could hold much more, Annie's only five foot four."
What about error codes? I'll definitely miss those because there's no error codes when you screw up in lorry world - just the ear-splitting scream of metal on metal and blood-stained tarmac. Best be careful.
I think I'll also miss the opportunities for brutal honesty (and outright lies) afforded by late slips:
"Sorry I'm late old chap. Got held up in six-way talks over the North Korean nuclear deadlock."
Or: "Sorry I'm late. Got lost in a really good book on the underground and missed my stop. It was 1984 by George Orwell; about a world where workers have to account for every second of every day to a machine and the slightest deviance results in reprimand. You should read it."
I'm gonna miss the regulars too. Without mentioning names (coz that's bound to violate data protection regulations), I'd like you, my former colleagues, to relay the following farewells to some of our repeats who I haven't had the chance to talk to over the past few days. You'll need to figure out who gets what message yourselves:
"Sorry. I never did tell it to the regions but I'm sure your message will get through eventually you wily old fox. By the way, you're not Scottish and I'm not Irish. Honk Honk!"
(high piched) "Noone gives a shit about Palestine, much less your opinions you mad cow. Now piss off and drink some bleach."
"Slough deserves everything Ricky Gervias can throw at it - then some. Get off the gin you psychotic old tart."
"Awfully sorry darling, but Steve's kids never got their Christmas presents. In fact, Steve doesn't have kids. He's gay."
"The reason we don't have isobars on the weather forecasts is because you're the only person in the country who know what an isobar is and we delight in pissing you off you foul and obnoxious old prick."
"If you hate the Daily Mail so much, why don't you phone them for a change instead of implanting me with a life-time aversion to Geordies."
"The fact that you believe Princess Diana amputated your brother's legs before trying to escape in a cable car up Ben Nevis would be seriously funny if I didn't know that you live quite close to me."
"The East York-Shire Lawn-Mower Racing League may well be four-wheel motorsport but, to be honest, is about as entertaining as dropping a cheese grater down your pants then going for a 10k run. Now quit whingeing and watch the motorbikes."
"Andy. Rest in Peace dude."
Seriously, it's been an okay place to work and my colleagues have been a fine bunch. Hell, I might even miss some of you.
Take it easy, one and all.
Mike. 21/07/2006


Have a look at this guy's website. I'll say no more. http://www.ronpatrickstuff.com/

June 16, 2006

Trains with faces! Whatever next?

Anyone else noticed the BBC's news kids cartoon called Underground Ernie based on the 'lives' of a group of London Underground trains with human faces and personalities?
Trains? With faces?
Hmm. Sounds familiar. Haven't cartoons about talking trains come a long way since the Rev Wilbert Awdry created Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends more than 50 years ago.*
I bet Thomas never had to deal with the grief and horror of disillusioned Jihadist youths packing ammonium nitrate onto Bertie the Bus's back bench and sending the whole lot to Paradise though. Immigration rules, afterall, were probably quite tight on the Island of Sodor - an altogether more pleasant paradise where locals sipped warm beer at the cricket grounds on long Summer evenings.
Awdry, however, was ahead of his time in at least one respect. The Sodor Railway Co had four black engines which is four more than Auntie Beeb's Underground Ernie. Granted, they weren't called Jamal or Tyrone, rather Donald, Douglas, Mavis and Diesel, but their presence puts to shame the broadcaster's professed policy of ensuring ethnic representation across it's range of programming.
So far the only non-Anglo-European characters are Osaka, who has a rising sun on his forehead and goes super-duper fast. Then there's Moscow who, you guessed it, hails from Russia. Presumably he is descended from post-war displaced Jewish trains as he has something strapped to his forehead which can only be described as a Star of David.
Given the conspicuous lack of ethnic minority trains, 16-year-old single-mum trains and right-wing BNP trains, the cast seem only to represent an idealised British middle-class as interpreted by coke-snorting media whores at the Beeb. Having said that, even though none of the trains are openly gay, I have my suspicions about Hammersmith and City.
I could wax lyrical for days about how socially representative (or not) the show really is but many important aspects, like attention to detail, are dazzling. The main characters, for example, are all filthy and covered in graffiti. Honestly. Just like Ken Livingsone's tube trains and ours, here in Glasgow.
Anyway, to save you the hassle and pain of actually watching the programme, I'll describe the cast for you.**
Here goes (the first three are the underground's human staff):
  • Ernie - Underground Supervisor. Used to be a policeman but got kicked off the force for downloading kiddie-porn on a work computer.
  • Millie - IT Expert. Pretty - in a Jessica Rabbit kind of way. Blatant attempt to spark little girls' interest in scientific subjects at school. More likely to spark little boys' interests under the duvet.
  • Mr Rails - Janitor. Village idiot. Only allowed to hang around because noone has the heart to tell him to fuck off.
  • Bakerloo - (pictured left) Flat-cap wearing Northern train who must have come down to London to find work after Thatcher crushed the miners.
  • Circle - Annoying middle-class college drop-out. Outwardly chirpy but probably quite depressed when home alone. One suspects she owns a cat.
  • Hammersmith and City - Both immaculate with trendy specs and fancy hair-dos. One in ten. You decide.
  • Jubilee - (pictured right) Broad grin and dilated pupils are clear indication of heavy recreational drug use.
  • Victoria - (pictured centre) Matriarchal figure now confined to a local authority old trains home. Was forced to sell the council siding she bought off Margaret Thatcher in the 80's to pay for her own care.
  • Brooklyn - Annoying American exchange train. Probably fancies Circle. Won't carry Arabs so it's just as well that in Ernie's London, there are none. "Hell, freedom ain't free folks."
  • Paris - Cheese-eating surrender monkey train. Nuff said.
  • Sydney - Blond Australian backpacker train. Claims to go 'non-stop to the beach'. Other trains wish she would shut the fuck up and go 'non-stop back to Australia', preferrably via Iraq.

June 15, 2006

My New Habit - Part Deux

Anyone who read the entry (My New Habit - Part I), where I stole a duffle coat from a nightclub, will be delighted to read that I found a suitable junkie to give it to ala Robin Hood.
Oddly, the lucky recipient, sporting a wet t-shirt and missing a shoe, made no move to thank your hero despite me specifically asking him if he wanted a coat then going all the way up one flight of steps to my centrally-heated IKEA showroom to fetch it for him. I trust his cardboard box is now comfortably furnished with a duffle coat because he certainly wasn't wearing it the last time I saw him. The cheek. Last time any drifter gets goodwill on my doorstep. Guilty conscience allayed? That'll be the Daewoo.
The word 'habit' is intended to refer to the garment. You know, a monk's cloak. I've just noticed, however, that due to the accompanying picture it could also be misinterpreted as a reference to injecting heroin. It's really a reference to the poor guy I gave my 'habit' to but I'm going to leave it up there unchanged anyway, kind of like a cyber-pun.

Mr Honky Tonk lives...HIP HIP HOORAY!

Months are funny things. They seem to fly right by before you've had a chance to put your pants on and fetch your gun. Some seem to take longer than others. August, for example, should take a leaf out of January's book and hang around a few weeks longer then perhaps January could fuck off to Eastern Russia where I hear they like it cold and boring (the weather, not coitus [although who am I to say]).
Alternatively I could always head back to the Southern Hemisphere where they have quite the opposite problem.
Which reminds me, (and allows me to go off on a wild tangent and ain't wild 'uns the best 'uns?), has anyone heard of the Aymara Amerindian tribesmen from Northern Chile's Andean Mountains? Nope? Didn't think so. Neither had I until I clapped eyes on this gem at www.guardian.co.uk (not that I read the Guardian for I am no yellow-belly):
"Time, as Einstein showed, is a tricky concept to nail down, and all languages resort to metaphor to express it. In fact, with staggering monotony, they all resort to the same metaphor: space."
What he means is that we think of ourselves as being close to (or far from) any given point in time. Your birthday, for example, is behind you even though it can't be. If you turn round, I promise you it won't be there. In fact, birthdays only exist in our heads and they don't even exist at all in my head (Sorry Dad. I've set the alarm for next year). Confused? Pity the poor Aymarans then, who presumably get younger the older they get.
"Rafael Núñez, however, a cognitive scientist at the University of California, San Diego, who is interested in how we develop abstract ideas like time, now believes that he has definitive evidence that the Aymara have a sense of the passage of time that is the mirror image of his own: the past is in front of them, the future behind."*
I could bang on at length about the mind-fucking implication's of Nunez's research or just leave it with you, which is what I'm going to do because the whole thing is, as previously stated, a wild tangent.
All this babble about time comes not from my blisteringly-hot talent for wasting it, but because I started writing about the concept of 'month'. The term 'month' is significant for two reasons:
  • I) A 'month' is about how long it's been since I last updated this blog. Shameful, I know.
  • II) A 'month' is almost exactly how long it's been since our persistent friend Mr Honky Tonk phoned me in my capacity as a serf in the complaints department of a well-known broadcaster.
It is with jubilation and relief, therefore, that I am hereby able to update you with his latest mad rant:
"Hello. How can I help?"
"Hello, is that the regions?"
"Yes, yes, this is the regions! Is that you Mr Honky Tonk? How are you? I thought something had happened."
"Well, I've been in hospital for a bit but never mind that. Are you Irish?"
"No, I'm Scottish, as you well know."
"Well, you never can tell with those Irish. Don't trust 'em one bit . The Scots though, they're a different story. All that whisky and porridge. You like whisky and porridge don't you? Or are you Irish."
"I've dabbled."
"AHA! But do you like whisky-porridge or even...porridge-whisky?"
"Sure. I like 'em both."
"Thought so. Bloody Scots. Anyway. Down to business. This fellow who got bitten by a snake. I take it you've heard."
"Umm. I'm not sure if I have."
"Of course you have. The one in the city. You know."
"Which city?"
"Bristol you nicompoop! What other city could I be talking about? Glasgow? HAHA HAHA!"
"Of course, of course. The reptile keeper who got bitten by his own Cobra and nearly died."
"That's the very one. I noticed the keeper had a special instrument to hold the reptile down and I want you to tell the regions that I too have a beautiful thing with a trigger in my house."
"What? God man! You can't be serious. Look I've only ever joked about guns."
"Yes. It has a trigger and little jaws so I can pick up my keys if I drop them. Nothing bigger though. It wouldn't work if I dropped, say, a dog or something like that. A cat maybe. You have to be discreet about these things though. At least I do, coming from a medical family and all that. Now you pass that on to Fatso and Big Ears [Charles Clarke and Tony Blair].
Toodle-pip. Honk Honk."
Line goes dead.

May 08, 2006

Scotch, Custard, Apple, American, Mince or Porkie...Pies (Lies)

TheUrbanMonk offers a mix of opinion, journal and, to be (dis)honest the occasional outright whopper. The Brazilian Excursion, for example, is all true. In fact its a fairly watered-down account of a gonzo rampage up the Brazilian coast. Mr Honky Tonk and I, on the other hand, never really met French seagulls at the coast with machine guns. Mr Honky Tonk does exist though.
I'm levelling with you because I need to stress that this next bit is true: I just saw a Traffic Warden do something nice. Honestly. Standing on the street outside the office enjoying the glorious sunshine (which annoyingly disappeared on Friday afternoon and reappeared on Monday morning) I was pondering what next to write here when, as if directed by the almighty himself, a motorist in distress (female) got stuck behind a lorry and lo, a traffic warden came to her rescue.
I'm afraid that's the punchline. Whoppers, however, are much more fun. Like me telling Carolann the other day that Ziggy Stardust was a biblical character.
That was just for kicks but sometimes you really do have to think about whether or not to tell the truth. An early example of such a dilemma was the time my Dad confronted a 12-year-old me with empty beer cans he had found up the back garden. What to do? Lie and say "Yes. I drank them, I'm your man" or tell the truth; that I had destroyed them with a perilously-dangerous yet tremendously entertaining home-made blowtorch? I told the truth back then but I don't think it did me any good. I'm a raging alcoholic and my Dad still thinks I copied my final-year English essay off the internet (I got an A by the way. No copying).
Even so, I usually tell the truth nowadays. Here are a few examples, however, of times I didn't:
"I've owned this car for years sir, every one of them trouble free. This Vauxhall is a joy to drive and yours for £400."
Or: "Of course I'm 18. I've got stubble don't I? Look. Here, just under my nose."
Probably wasn't as serious as: "Perimeter checked Boss. The compound is safe and secure. I can categorically assure you that there are no hooligans presently relieving an articulated lorry of £25,000 worth of stock."
Which led me swiftly on to: "Asleep on the job Boss? Certainly not. I was lying in wait. There's been a lot of site burglaries round here recently. I was simply luring the perpetrators into a false sense of security in a daring effort to save the company thousands of pounds. The pillow? Part of my disguise."
And: "What do you mean I don't look or behave like a representative of Her Majesty's Foreign and Commonwealth Office? Can't you tell from my pasty white chest and Union Jack swimming trunks? I demand you call the embassy."

April 10, 2006

What're Youz Up Tae?

Apparently Glasgow is the best place in the country to go shopping. Lots of people say so, especially in Glasgow.*
I was sceptical until today. Today I found the Foam Store - a foam monger, if you like. This is a shop that sells nothing but foam; not the soapy kind but the spongy kind. You can have foam any size or shape you want. It's all they do. They don't even sell cushion covers. Just foam. Mountain of it. They've even got a bum-shaped bit of foam with a hole cut out to keep the pressure off your farmers** and a wee guy with glasses and a pencil behind his ear who will cut your foam any shape you want.
Not only does Glasgow have a shop that sells nothing but foam, it is probably the only city where you can have a conversation like this (it'll work better if you imagine it's sundown and whistle that wild-west tune like they do in the Cowboy movies):
Me "Say, I'm uh lookin' for some foam."
Foam Monger: "Well I guess you've come to the right place. What you got in mind kid?"
"I'm thinking maybe grey, about 120mm x 340mm x 60 mm."
"Well we got 600mm x 400mm x 65mm."
"I guess that could work."
"I got a cutting tool out back, I can cut to size. How you put for time?"
"That depends on how accurate's your tool?"
"Oh it's accurate alright."
"How accurate?"
"Well I could shave you off a clean 4mm before you could say jackrabbit and wouldn't leave a mark."
"Okay, I'll give it a go."
"Comin' right up."
*According to the 2003-2004 UK Shopping Index compiled by Management Horizons Europe (MHE), Glasgow remains the top retail centre in the UK, based on its range of shopping on offer. Glasgow’s main shopping thoroughfare, Buchanan Street, has been named as one of the world’s top retail destinations - www.seeglasgow.com
** Farmer Giles - piles. Geddit?

(not) Bang Up To Date

Donkey's Ears (right)

When I started this thing I planned to post every couple of days. Lately though, I've been flagging. I think the problem is that our office has taken on lots of new work but not lots of new staff. I don't seem have nearly as much time to burn as I used to. The upshot, as both of my regular readers have already realised, is that I haven't posted in a long time or, you might say, in Donkey's Ears (that's slang for years - check out the pic).
I did get halfway through a post a while back then didn't finish it. The reason for this is that I meant to give my coat to a homeless guy but never got round to it. That last sentence will make sense if you scroll down two or three entries and read My New Habit...

I Have a Dream

Not so long ago I saw a graph charting an individual's political leanings and dreams/aspirations (x axis) against age (y axis). At the time I vowed never to lose my dreams or, worse, to become conservative - big 'C' or otherwise. Three years on and it's amazing how accurate the graph seems to have been. Dreams do indeed fly out the window when you hit your mid-20's and aspirations slip surely down the pan. Kiddie-fiddlers, taxmen and teenagers, I now agree, should be strung up by the short 'n danglies. Ambition now stretches to having £20 in my pocket.
Or it did...until I saw the guy in the above picture. He's noone else's hero but mine. Every Sunday he tears across our TV screens and I'm the only who points and shouts: "Who is that nut and what the f**ck is he doing with that clock? I want his life. I want to live someplace that's got no highway code; where 2CVs career gaily down country lanes, their drivers raising two fingers to the laws of physics and the land."
Don't laugh. Clockman is cool. If he was Australian that would be a VW Beetle with a surfboard hanging out.
I want to be a peculiar British version of Aussie surf-board guy. I want to show those annoyingly good-looking antipodeans that we too can put impossible objects in ridiculous cars and go for a spin on warm Summer days. So what if we do it in the Dales with the Antiques Roadshow theme music blasting out of the 6x9's. I want to sing with the roof down. Something like this: "da DADADA dada, DADADA dada, doo-doo-doo de-doo-doo doo-de-doo!"
I'm gonna have two flappy-eared dogs hanging out the side windows lapping up the wind, their noses pointed home to a cottage somewhere full of clocks. That, I tell you, is ambition.

March 12, 2006

Oi Predict a Riot '06

When Borussia Dortmund came to Scotland to play Glasgow Celtic their hooligans came too. They were a funny bunch and not much how you'd expect skinheads to be. They effused that typical German apologetic politeness but simultaneously boasted 'a lineage of intellectual violence dating back to Nietzsche and Wagner,' according to the Times.
After the match a BBC Scotland news crew at Glasgow airport interviewed two such psychos heading home. It went like this:
"Excuse me gents, could we trouble you for a quick word for the telly?"
"Ja ja, Ve vood be only to happy."
"So, how have you enjoyed yer trip tae bonny Scotland?"
"Vell it has been lovely really. Sehr Schon. Der scenery vos beautiful, the sun shone and ve liked the visky, ja."
"You weren't involved in any scraps?"
"Unfortunately no. Ve ver actually quite disappointed with the lack of violent enthusiasm displayed by the Glasgow Celtic support."
"You mean you travelled all the way from Germany specifically to fight Celtic supporters?"
"Ja ja. Naturlich. For us, ze main attraction of travelling to this game was Glasgow's international reputation as a centre of football violence. To be honest though, ve feel a little bit let down."
"Do you think that disappointment can be attributed to the world-class policing skills of Strathclyde's finest?"
"(laughs) Nein nein nein. It just seemed that the Celtic fans ver not too much interested in violence. I mean, ve threw vun or two bottles and barstools around the streets just to try and get ze ball rolling, so to speak, but they wouldn't bite."
"Thank you gents. Have a safe trip. This is Archibald McArchibald at Glasgow Airport. Now back to the studio."
The point is not to expose Celtic fans as incapable bums but to highlight how seriously neo-Nazis view off-pitch violence.
Fast-forward to the present and Germany 2006 is almost upon us. Newspapers are full of horror stories about riots erupting between English and German hooligans and I gotta say, I'm worried too. Really worried. Not for the sanctity of law and order on German streets but for the physical well-being of the English fans. Don't laugh. This is serious.
I'm worried because British police have banned 3,500 known English hooligans from travelling to the tournament. A wise move, you'd think, but that's 3,500 of the hardest men in England. Now, only the wimps are getting to go and you can bet your bottom dollar that when they get there, Germany won't have booted out its thugs for the duration. It's like Churchill sending the Girl Guides to D-Day. Nobody would have thought that a sensible idea. Everyone knew then, and now, that the only solution was the total deployment of the American Military-Industrial Complex.
Left to rely on a bunch of pansies, however, your everyday Englishman is up the creek without a paddle - or a knuckleduster. Don't laugh, some of my best friends are English.
Again, don't laugh. Once you get past the arrogant self-assurance, misplaced sense of historical superiority, irrational national allegiance to an 80-year-old granny, an annoying devotion to the year 1966, their tendency to sing loudly and publicly in groups whilst drunk and a habit of calling Scottish people 'Jock', some of them are okay.
They need to think of something and they need to come up with the goods quick. Had it been the 'Jocks' going to Germany, we'd just have worn kilts and there wouldn't have been a problem. In any case, the Government would never have banned 3,500 of us from going. You see, men who wear skirts don't slag off other people's cultures so don't end up in fights. We don't feel we have a right to poke fun at others whilst looking so ridiculous.
Not the English though.
They don't wear kilts but they look just as ridiculous. German streets will be knee-deep in noisy dickheads with blistering foreheads, puke-stained England shirts and those silly St George wigs. They're gonna need body armour. You know it's all going to kick off when one pissed English prick sees a skinhead and shouts:
"Oi, Adolf. Who won the War mate? Oi Oi saveloy. Yer sausages are shite mate - suck on mine,' before he stuffs a piping hot bratwurst down his pants and has to be carted off by medics suffering third degree burns to the penis. As he's 'going home in a foockin' ambulance,' his mates, unable to defend themselves due the fact that they will be pussies, are going to get slaughtered.
Don't laugh.
All this sends the shits up me not because I truly give a toss about a load of mouthy Englishmen getting their heads kicked in but because I agreed to join them. A while back I promised Posh Dave that I would go to Germany, as an English supporter, if Scotland didn't make it to the finals. Possibly history's dumbest wager.
Thankfully Dave forgets pissed promises as quickly as I do.

February 20, 2006

Monkey Business

Gabriel has just reminded me that nothing much has happened here for about two weeks. You're right Gabe. It's not good enough, so here's a monkey. More soon...

My New Habit - Part I

Life for me is one long rollercoaster of sin and redemption (heavy on sin, light on redemption). I'm not bad to the bone but no saint either. I'm not even a monk. All the more so because monks, unlike me, don't steal strangers' clothes.
I no longer steal for fun so to understand why and how I came by my new coat you should consider the lyrics to the Fields of Athenrye. Particularly "Michael they have taken you away. For you stole Treveleyn's Corn, so the could see the 'morn." Set aside your love for the great Glasgow Celtic and think about Michael's motivation for stealing Treveleyn's corn. He, like me, had no choice.
Basically, I stole a duffel coat from a nightclub because someone else stole my denim jacket. I had put my jacket where I knew I would find it but when I came back it was gone. Some scum-sucking tea-leaf had pinched it and I can't figure out why. It was a pretty scabby piece with no value to anyone but me.
With no time to think I had to face facts: I was wearing a wet t-shirt and outside it was minus five - and falling. There was nothing for it. I had to lift the closest jacket or I was going to freeze; just another statistic levered off the pavement on Sunday morning, beaten by the elements on the notorious late-night crawl home along Woodlands Road. "Fuck the other guy," I thought. He can steal someone else's coat. We'll start a chain reaction; a cold and confused riot at 3am on the street outside the club.
What a jackpot. Miraculously, my new coat is a perfect fit and warm as hell. I did a deal with my conscience, resolving there and then to hand the coat into a charity shop or give it to a beggar as soon as practical.Fuck that though. I can't. Even though it makes me look like Badly Drawn Boy, (more so because I usually wear my Sambas at the same time) it's a wicked coat.
My only problem now is running into the rightful owner. Fear ye not; I've devised a cunning (and entirely uncharitable) get-out. I'm going to say I got it in a charity shop. This will be believable because nearly everything I wear either comes from a charity shop or looks like it did. Also, I happen to know that the particular nightclub in which I 'found' the coat sends lost and unclaimed property to the closest charity shop.
I therefore expect any conversation with the rightful owner to go something like this:
"Oi! That's my coat."
"No it's not. It's my coat."
"No. It's definitely mine. It's got cream paint stains on it from the time I was decorating my Mum's bathroom whilst wearing a heavy duffel coat. It got nicked from the *** ****"
"Well there's your answer. I happen to know that the cloakroom staff at *** **** take all lost and unclaimed property down to the nearest charity shop, which is where I got it."
"So it is mine. Give it back."
"Hold on a minute there Cowboy. I paid good money for this coat and, possession being 9/10's and all that, I'm going to have to insist that you reimburse me my £8 before I you get it back."
"Okay then. Here's £8."
See. Noone gets hurt and I absoloutely definitely honestly swear-on-my-pet-parrot's-life that I will donate the £8 to charity...aye right.

Don't Panic...Mr Honky Tonk's here

Bird Flu's on the march. So far the global pandemic has wiped out three ducks and a sparrow and shows no sign of letting up. The measured response of many national governments has been to slaughter tens of millions of chickens.
The Communists burn 'em alive and the Muslims gas 'em. I've never had much time for poultry but I wouldn't let those fanatics loose on my worst enemy.
This whole thing is getting crazy. With or without Avian Flu, chickens are filthy creatures - one rung under rats. It's always been that way and it's always been smart to avoid 'em* (don't believe me? Read the footnote - I dare you).
What's more ridiculous? The fact that we've only just started worrying about the health of our poultry stock or the fact that we think the problem comes from wild ducks. In any case, we're better off without them. Who cares if our stinking chickens chalk up one more disease?
Mr Honky Tonk cares, that's who. He doesn't see it my way. In fact, he doesn't see anything my way.
As Avian Flu edges closer and closer to our soggy little island, the Honkster gets twitchier by the minute. A Swan here, a Lesser Spotted Tit there. There's no telling where it'll stop. Even though it's February and half the country has got flu anyway, the old crank is ready to fight - like he did in the Blackwatch.
"Put on your dressing gown and lose the cathater Mr Honky Tonk, we can't show any signs of weakness. You batten down the hatches old boy; I'll load the pitchforks on to the Range Rover.
"Fear not, the menfolk of Old Knebworth are bound to be on our side too. Those heroes know a rampaging European maurauder when they see one. By jove, you should've seen 'em when the Buncefield oil depot blew up.
"COME ON BOYS, Lets get to the coast. We fought off the Hun - we can sure as hell fight off a bunch of lame Turkish chickens. One thing's for sure though, we can't trust a Labour government to do it for us. That swine Blair's sure to look out for himself. Don't worry though, those dirty little bastards won't make it this far. They don't stand a chance. It's gonna rain blood and feathers over the channel tonight. Bird Flu? HAHA! More like Fish Flu.
"Not you though, Honky Tonk. You're not coming."
"No. You need to stay here, man the Bren gun and scream bloody murder at the invading red menace. Remember, now's no time for surrender or weakness - it's us or the birds."
"NO SURRENDER bloop bloop! Sacre Bleu! The French can 'ave 'em."
"Exactly. GOOD GOD MAN! Do up your dressing gown...that's better. Now don't let the side down."
Alternatively, and more likely, he could phone me at work.

ME: "Good evening, how can I help?"
MR HONKY TONK: "How can you help? Who the hell can help? What gall Downing Street has to say 'don't panic', they're idiots. Of course we're going to panic. What do they know down there in Blairland. Blair is nothing - he's just a punk, a hobgoblin. On behalf of the the Chelsea Branch of the Conservative Party I want to say: 'Pink Punk Poof!'. PANIC"
"Pink, punk poof?"
"Yes. Pink punk poof. That's what we say to Tony McWaffle because we're a party of teasers and we'll tease them down to their little red knees. We'll toss bad eggs and rotten tomatoes at them and spoil their suits. BLOOP BLOOP! We want McWaffle out of the house and back up to Sedgefield tonight and that's an order. We'll wipe the smile off his face, you'll see. You tell it to the regions. Honk Honk!"
Line goes dead.
* For further information on just how filthy poultry already is, visit http://www.advocatesforanimals.org.uk/resources/farmed/broilers.html, where you will find the following passages:
"Broiler sheds are never cleaned out during the lifetime of one 'crop' of birds so the litter becomes impregnated with the birds' droppings and urine. This combined with inadequate ventilation, water spillage from drinkers, diarrhoea etc can create filthy litter. Forcing the birds to live in these conditions means they can develop painful hock burns, breast blisters and ulcerated feet. High ammonia levels can also cause blindness. Keeping broilers in such poor conditions not only inflicts suffering on the birds but also poses serious threats to human health."
"An investigation by the Food Standards Agency found that more than half of the chickens on sale in the High Street were contaminated with campylobacter (Daily Mail, 20/11/02). Sources are believed to be the hot and crowded conditions on factory farms, imported chicken meat and the poor hygiene in slaughterhouses which the Consumers' Association has attacked as "appalling". In 2000, a recorded 17,000 people were admitted to hospital with the bug - 86 people died of the illness."

February 06, 2006


I badly want to support our wire-rim wearing Nordic cousins over all this cartoon bullshit - but how?
Whole Muslims countries are "boycotting Denmark" so I figure the best counter-protest is to buy as much Danish stuff as possible. But what does Denmark really make except bacon? Should I buy more bacon? Muslims don't even eat it, so buying more than I already do would be a zero-sum protest. No. More pork won't solve the crisis. Lego is our only option. We need to go out and buy barrow-loads of Denmark's only other export.
"But," I hear you cry: "What will we do with barrow-loads of plastic bricks?" Well, followers, we're going to build a 100 ft Lego Muhammad with a children's chute spouting out of his turban like a bomb fuse. The slide will carry hollering kids snake-like round the prophet's body towards the ground. Better yet, it's going to be part of the new Legoland complex we're building to replace Denmark's burnt-out embassy in Lebanon. Amongst picturesque models of European capitals we'll have little Israeli bulldozers ripping through Palestinian refugee camps. Miniature buses will sporadically detonate around the park just to keep visitors on their toes.

At first, some will object - especially Lego executives. I understand. Afterall, it runs contrary to everything their founder Ole Kirk Christiansen stood for when he started out way back in 1934. His philosophy was that toys were "nutrition for children's souls" and consequently, his company was not allowed to make anything even slightly military.* His successors uphold that code to this day.
I think old Ole was a patriot though. He'd be cool with Lego suicide bombers: not spinning violently in his grave. They'd only have to put turbans on the little Lego guys and sit them in the firm's existing extensive range of toy planes, trains and automobiles. Rucksacks from the late '80s Lego Pirate range would double as backpack bombs and the "goodies" could be CIA agents in Lego Star Wars X-Wing Spaceships. No violation of Danish pride or Lego philosophy need occur as Terrorists aren't military - are they George? Otherwise there wouldn't be hundreds of suspects rotting in Guantanamo Bay. How could Christiansen be pissed at that?
Okay. So the Lego plan is a bit of fantasy. All my best ideas are. More productive, and safer, to stay in and get wasted on Carlsberg.

One thing though; The Danes hate to see it leave...

* I know this much about Lego because I used to be in the official Lego fanclub and have been to Legoland. Honestly. The real Danish Legoland too - not the piss-poor English imitation.

February 01, 2006

My Mate Dave

My mate Dave, I reckon, is one of only three people to read this blog. The other two, I think, are my Dad and my girlfriend. I know nobody reads it because there is a company which emails me every day telling me how many hits I get, which is basically none.
This post though, is for Dave.
Dave and I have done loads together. 'The Brazilian Excursion,' (see January) is a fairly accurate illustration of the breath-taking speed and inevitability with which our escapades go awry.
With friends, we've drunk together, travelled together, run away from ugly women together, fiddled expense accounts together and sworn each other to secrecy every glorious step of the way. We are, like they say in the movies, buddies, and for all those reasons, I've let Dave kip in the spare room, on and off, for the past month or so.
That was until his most recent departure to 'visit his grandparents,' when it fell upon me to freshen up the spare room in preparation for future visits from guests/landladies/flatmates etc. I only intended to air the bed and open the windows but imagine my heartfelt dismay, nae HORROR, when I uncovered a collection of empty beer cans stashed under the window sill.
This must mean, 'buddy', that all those times you said you had no beer left, you actually did. Not only that, but you must have sat in your bedroom ALONE, and drank them without me. AND, as if none of this was bad enough, you were only too happy to help yourself to my beer which I ALWAYS leave in the fridge for public use.
Did our escapades mean nothing? The roadblock we built on Byres Road? The high-speed chase through Sao Paulo? The Elvis fans? The flight to Belfast? Nothing?
I'm sorry Dave but in light of the beer can discovery I feel compelled, though it pains me, to make the following announcements:
I) From now on, all my beer will live under my bed, in a padlocked box.
II) Although Dave said he was leaving Glasgow to visit his grandparents, he actually went to Amsterdam to get laid.

Mr Honky Tonk's Soggy Justice

Honky Tonk's mercilessly-low opinion of the ruling Labour government is hurtling earthwards with it's tail on fire and a dead pilot at the helm. His savage insights blaze down the throats of Tony's Phoneys and up the backsides of the new Tory leadership with equally determined precision and deadly accuracy. Tonight. He is on form:
"Good evening, how can I help?"
"Are you watching the television?"
"Well, I'm trying to work but yes, we've got one on in the corner."
"Did you see that Starckey woman on the television?"

"Em no. I was actually busy trying to explain, in intricate detail, how the effects of high atmospheric air pressure on the terrestrial transmission network caused her to miss Coronation Street."
"I don't care about Coronation Street. Look, who is this? Did you see the Starckey woman on the television or not?"
"Well there's more guff comes out of her gob than even Blair's, whom, by the way, we no longer call Tony McWaffle. We now call him Tony McPuke. In fact, we say to the whole Labour party: 'Take a running jump New Labour- into the Thames, Tees, Trent or Severn, we don't care.' They'll know all about it when they've drowned for Britain. And you can tell that to the regions. Toodle-ooh, HONK HONK, byeee!"
Line goes dead

January 26, 2006

Uh oh, it's Mr Honky Tonk

Who left the asylum door open? Fools! He's escaped. Lock up your daughters and bury your LibDem party membership card, the hit-and-run Tory nut is at large and dangerous. Hostile embassies and government departments be warned, your time is up...
"Good evening, how can I help?"
"We want Blair off all our screens up and down the country. He is a silly twit. We call him Mr McWaffle - TWIT TWOT TWOOP. The man is a donkey. EEH-ORR, EEH-ORR! and no use to anybody. Toodle ooh, HONK HONK!"
Line goes dead
One day this old cracker is going to fade away and my days will become much longer.

You've been Glasgowed

Awrite ya dobbers. We hud this Euro burd kippin roon oors a cuppel o weeks back, bytheway. Wu hit the toon n got pure pished, like, 'n it went a bit radio rental. She sent us wan o 'em emails saying cheers an aw that. Here's whit she sez, bytheway:
"Hey there guys,
Thanks once again for letting me stay, giving me some to-do recommendations, and showing me a good time . I hope you enjoy the rice cakes - never had them before but they looked interesting.
Quick question - besides alcohol did we have anything else the other night? I can't really remember... I missed my plane this morning by the way - turns out I had to go to the Glasgow International Airport not Prestwick... so found myself at the wrong airport with no money and still quite tipsy - luckily a woman who worked their gave me some change so I could connect to the interent and transfer money into my account and I eventually got to the right airport. Not so cool: I had to pay a little over 180 pounds for a new plane ticket - na ja, c'est la vie - now I know there are 2 airports in Glasgow and I probably won't be forgetting that.

If you guys or your friends are ever in the Netherlands (or in Berlin in the summer), you're definitely welcome to drop by."
Steambots man! ats Glesca for ye, fanny baws!

Those crazy Mancs

BBC's Jesus sings "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now"
by Ben Dowell, Thursday January 26, 2006
THE BBC plans to mark the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ this Easter with an hour-long live procession through the streets of Manchester featuring pop stars from The Stone Roses and Happy Mondays and featuring songs by The Smiths and New Order.
In the programme, called Manchester Passion, a character representing Jesus will sing the legendary Joy Division anthem Love Will Tear Us Apart before dueting his arch-betrayer Judas on the New Order hit Blue Monday, according to senior church sources involved in the production.
Mary Magdelene, the penitent whore of the New Testament, is also getting in on the act: she is being lined up to sing the Buzzcocks hit Ever Fallen in Love (with Someone You Shouldn't have) accompanied by a string band.
Former Happy Monday and Celebrity Big Brother winner Bez will play a disciple.
The climax of the event sees Jesus sing the Smiths classic song Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now as he is being flailed by Roman soldiers. He will then come face-to-face with his Roman prosecutor Pontius Pilate with the two of them singing a duet of the Oasis hit Wonderwall and its chorus:
"I said maybeYou're gonna be the one who saves me?And after allYou're my wonderwall."
The broadcaster, which plans to show the event live on BBC3 on Good Friday, insisted the event was inspired by "the way Bach and other composers fused music and the Passion story".
The "contemporary retelling" of Jesus' last hours will begin with the messiah - who is yet to be cast - singing the Robbie Williams hit Angels, which will mark his procession into Jerusalem.
In this case, Jerusalem will be represented by Manchester's gay and red light area near Canal Street and the Passion scene will pass via Chinatown and St Peter's Square to culminate in Albert Square.
The march will be followed by members of the public who will be encouraged to join in the singing of relevant anthems, which include the M People hit Search for a Hero Inside Yourself.
The crowd will carry a large white cross and the public will also be asked to bring a symbol of their own burden - "something they are personally concerned about" - according to senior church sources involved in the programme.
The crowd will be joined by Bez - the entertainer famous for bashing his tambourine on stage with the Happy Mondays. He will be accompanied by former Stone Roses frontman Ian Brown and Black Grape saxophonist Martin Slattery.
The event will end with the resurrected Jesus singing an as yet undisclosed song from the top of Manchester's town hall.
The show is being made by the corporation's classical music television department, which has won plaudits for its experimental music and drama work overseen by its head, Pater Maniura.
These include Flashmob: the Opera - a live opera event staged among commuters at Paddington station in London in which members of the public performed a song inspired by the Orpheus legend - and the forthcoming Riot at the Rite, a dramatisation of the notorious first performance of Stravinsky's ballet the Rites of Spring, to be aired in March.
While the event is likely to raise eyebrows among more traditional-minded Christians, it has the broad support of both the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church in the area.
Church of England spokeswoman Gillian Oliver said: "We are working with the BBC on this and are very pleased to be taking the good news of the gospel onto the streets of Manchester. If anything, something like this can translate the old story into new terms."
Canon Robin Gamble, canon evangelist at Manchester Cathedral, has been tasked with encouraging churchgoers to attend the event.
"I wouldn't know a Buzzcock from a ballcock so I couldn't really comment on the music. All I can say is that they are not doing a Christian service, it is a piece of contemporary theatre and that is going to get people to think about the story in modern terms," he said.
"It is going to come from the streets, with the sounds of traffic and people bustling around and it will make people think about this story in a new way. It is going to be challenging and shocking and is going to get things rumbling - it's going to be brilliant."
A BBC spokeswoman declined to comment on the details of the line-up but promised that the event would be "exciting".

January 20, 2006

Who's Nuts Mr Honky Tonk?

Overnight, our hero has veered wildly from coherent to raving-lunatic. Another guy in the office took this call earlier today:

"Good afternoon. How can I help?"
"The Brazilians are nosy parkers. We like Brazil nuts though."
"Hmm. Okay."
"Yes. And tell your Chairman to stop cavorting around like a gazelle. Okey dokey? Toot Toot."

Line goes dead.

January 19, 2006

Mr Honky Tonk Strikes Back

Honky Tonk's on the prowl again, terrorizing bureaucrats and telephonists the length and breadth of this soggy little island we call Great Britain. He's concerned that the trial of terror suspect Abu Hamza al-Masri (accused of inciting racial hatred and soliciting for murder) might not go his way:

"Good evening, how can I help."
"Are you Irish?"
"Good man. Don't think much of the Irish, you know."
"What can I do for you."
"It's about this Abu Hamza chap - he's a rat and we don't like rats. We have to send him back from whence he came and pronto! There's no time to waste."
"Where to?"
"Afghanistan, I'd say."
"And you're telling me this because..."
"Because you're going to tell the regions of course. Why else would I phone you? Silly willy."
"Of course. I'll get right on to it."
"Good man. You do that and I'll ring up the Home Office again in the morning and tell them too. We'll give them till midnight tomorrow."
"Excellent plan sir."
"This Hamza chap has to leave at once. Good riddance to bad rubbish, I say, and I think the Archbishops of York and Canterbury will agree. Toodle-ooh."

Line goes dead

January 16, 2006

Holy Jee-had, Batman!

Backpackers are always looking for cheap digs so www.couchsurfers.com is the perfect resource for skint nomads. The site puts 'Couchsurfers' in touch with like minds and a place to crash for a night or two. It markets itself as a unique way of discovering the 'authentic' culture of the host Couchsurfer.
Check the website out. There are eight posts advertising couches in Iraq. Honestly.
I would donate my balls to science for a chance to be a fly on the wall at Bagdhad International when some dumb Aussie backpacker disembarks at the arrivals gate looking for his new Couchsurfing chums:
"G,day mate. I'm Bruce. You guys must be my new Couchsurfing buddies."
"The River Tigris will run red with your blood, infidel pig."
"Strewth! You guys are the real deal. Hey mate, do all Iraqi's carry swords like yours?"
"Oh yes. It is very normal."
"No shit, eh. I love yer balaclava too mate. Did you get it from the Billabong outlet."
"Thank you very much infidel and no, I did not get it in Billabong. My mother wove it from the hair of our last hos... I mean, Couchsurfer. Please now allow me to carry your infidel bags to our car and we will drive you to our accomodation."
"Aw mate, you're the best. Wow! Real AK47's too! Awesome!"
"Please Mr Bruce. You must get in the trunk. We do not have enough seats, you see."
"Bonza, mate! Aw wow! Nice trunk mate."
"We are making a movie of your visit Mr Bruce. Please smile for my camcorder."
"Sure thing mate (grins)."
Meanwhile, back in arrivals, the CIA have also devised a Couchsurfing ploy to take the hard work out of killing Arabs. Afterall, why hunt terrorists in the Bora Bora Caves when you can pick'em up at Bagdhad airport?
Dumb Aussie MkII: "G'day mate. I'm Stevo. You must be my new Couchsurfing buddies."
Agent 1 (to Agent 2): "Psst... he don't look like no raghead, Hank."
Agent 2: "Well he ain't gonna tattoo it on his forehead is he, dumb-ass. It's gotta be a trick."
Agent 1: "Welcome to Ee-rack, buddy. Glad you could come."
Aussie: "Aw wow! I didn't think you Iraqis would sound just like Americans. Flamin' hell, I didn't expect you to be wearing gold-trimmed bedouin robes and carrying ceremonial scimitars either."
Agent 1 (to Agent 2): "Goddammit Hank. I told you this disguise was over the top. This sting's a stoopid idea?"
Agent2 : "Shut the fuck up and stop calling me Hank you idiot. What did I say about using our real names?"
Agent 2 (to Aussie): "Whatever do you mean my noble Australian jihadi comrade. Everyone here dresses like this and talks with American accents. That's why we have to kill the infidels, right?"
Aussie: "Jihad? Strewth mate! I've got no idea what you're skwakin' about. I'm just here to surf and put some yabbies on the barbie."
Agent 2: "Aha (wink wink, nudge nudge). You want to surf in yankee blood and barbecue their hearts? We can talk plans in our humble locally-made automobile. Let me carry your bags. (Agent 1 produces hand-help x-ray machine)
Aussie: "Wow! Six armoured Chevy Blazers just for me. Bonza! You Iraqis really hit gold. They'll be perfect for the beach, guys."
Agent 2: "Uh sure, the beach. First we gotta make a stop at our personal hangar down the street. Say buddy. You don't mind getting in the trunk do ya? There's no seats up front."
Aussie: "No probs mate, where are we going?"
Agent 2: "Cuba, asshole."

Affe arbeit - It's German for Monkey Work

Western 'freedom' is a myth. It depends heavily on a strict set of rules which restrain us but also allow us to live peacefully and happily side by side. It's a flawed system though.
One flaw, for example, is that we are allowed to drink massive volumes of a dangerous synthesised drug (alcohol) which turns us into noisy/depressed/romantic/violent idots. Yet the same system criminalises users of an ancient herb which makes people eat lots then fall asleep. The Chancellor of the Exchequor can drink whisky in the Commons but if he sparked up a biffter he'd probably get rugby-tackled by Charles Clark and Black Rod, or, even better, David Blunkett would unleash Sadie the guide-dog on him.
Even though it's a warped system, subjected to frequent change and regional variations, it keeps us reasonably safe from things like murder and robbery. Some people, however, are left vulnerable.
One particular arena where more rules would be a good thing is the minimum wage trade. This is because work kills, especially the kind of menial tasks that pay £5 an hour. Work is the biggest killer in town and the few existing rules governing it ain't up to the job.
I have, therefore, devised my own set of rules to be followed by any wage slave wanting to live a longer and happier life. If you can think of any other rules, email me and I'll add them to the post.
1) £5 WORKERS MUST BE SLOPPY. Employers! If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. Workers shouldn't be too neglectful but neither should they go beyond the call of duty. Minimum wage buys your presence and that's about it. If an employer want to utilise your intellectual capacity, they can pay for it. Any shortchut will do as long as it gets you to the pub quicker.
2) £5 WORKERS MAY NOT SMILE. That costs extra. Whether the extra cash comes from the employer or customer is unimportant. If anyone tells you a smile costs nothing, headbutt them and tell 'em to cheer up.
3) £5 WORKERS MAY NOT BREAK A SWEAT. There's no need. The security industry is great for this. Nightwatchmen get paid loads because they can work lots of hours when they're fast asleep. I used to work 70-80 hours a week like this. One guard I knew used to clock in to his site, go home, spend 10 hours tucked up in bed with his wife then come back to work in the morning and clock out. I was his boss. Trust me, there are thousands of jobs that permit this level of slacking. You do not have to work for £5 an hour.
4) £5 WORKERS MUST TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE BOSS. Your boss is probably taking advantage of you so be sure to return the favour. Kick the arse out of the staff discount. Get cheap stuff for your friends, your family, your priest, your postman - anyone. Have steak for your staff meal. In fact, nick some steak and have steak for dinner too. Make full use of any spillage or breakage books you have. Get a scam going with any delivery drivers that visit your work - things fall out of trucks all the time; your boss expects it. Be sure to flog contraband booze and fags to your colleagues - everyone loves a bragain and you need the cash. Make long-distance phone-calls and surf the web at work (I write this blog at work). And don't get me started on expense accounts...
5) £5 WORKERS MUST BE UTTERLY DISLOYAL. Think cat , not dog. There is always something better out there. Don't think for a second that you're employer wouldn't give you the flick the moment you become surplus to 'business needs'. I've had over 20 jobs since I left school eight years ago, 16 of them at uni, and I've never been fired once. If you find yourself breaking any of these rules, quit. It's easy. You deserve better. There's thousands of shit jobs in Tony's Britain and most of them do not require you to bust your balls/tits.
6) £5 WORKERS HAVE TO BE DRUNK. Time passes much quicker when you are drunk/stoned/high so get wrecked before your shift starts. Try anmd stay pissed at the company's expense. If your employer notices this sort of thing, refer to Rule 5. Getting minced at work makes it bearable, especially if everybody is doing it. Afterall, they can't fire everyone can they?
7) £5 WORKERS MUST LOOK BUSY. Even when you are doing nothing, give the impression that you are. This is an artform. A good trick is carrying a cloth from one end of the bar to the other with purpose in your stride. Another is to be invisible. Just disappear for a while. When you come back, everyone will think you were out back cleaning bins or something.
Don't work too hard. It'll kill you one day.
DISCLAIMER: These rules apply only to shit-suckin' dead-end jobs in service-type industries. If you have an apprenticeship, traineeship or entry-level job with a good firm, work hard, even though they pay crap. Otherwise you'll get nowhere.

January 12, 2006

Mr Honky Tonk Rides Again

A typically brief exchange with Mr Honky Tonk (for further explanation see previous posting):

"Good afternoon, how can I help?"

"Let's poke a snoot at the Labour Party and throw rotten tomatos. We'll give Blair a New Year splatter. Googlie wooglie wooglie! Toodle-ooh! Honk honk."

Line goes dead.

Hello Mr Honky Tonk

Everyone has to earn a crust. I earn mine by manning the phones for a major international newscaster. We only deal with complaints and queries but some people just don't get it. I swear this country is around half-populated by certifiable loonies. The best one is an eccentric old Tory who's real name I'm not going to use. From time to time though, he calls me Mr Honky Tonk so that's what I'm going to call him.
There are outrageous old bigots and there's Mr Honky Tonk. Noone escapes his comedy hatred - especially Arabs and Irish people. It's as if his social attitude receptors were deep-fried in 1945.
I stopped arguing with him a long time ago; there's no point. Now I, along with all the other battery chickens in this office, just humour him and laugh. From now on I'm going to record the conversations I have with him on this blog (for want of better, or more interesting, material).
Wed Jan 11
"Good morning, how can I help?"
"Put me through to the Iraninan division please."
"Um, I don't think we have an Iraninan division sir. Perhaps I can help?"
"Are you Irish? I can't stand the Irish you know. They're a useless bunch."
"Em no. I'm Scottish."
"Aha! Scottish eh? I love the Scots. I served with the Blackwatch you know."
"I like us too. Now how can I help you?"
"I need to tell those Arabs to stop building nuclear bombs, right this instant."
"Well, perhaps you should speak to the World Service. I think they broadcast in that part of the world."
"Will they pass my message on to the Arabs?"
"They might. Who knows."
"Very well, give me the number and hurry up about it, there's no time to waste, you know."
"The number is 020* *** **** but they don't open till 10 o'clock."
"Don't open till 10? What's the use of that? It's already lunch-time in Iran. I thought you were supposed to be international."
"I agree. Doesn't seem very international does it?"
"No it doesn't. Listen here, it's crucial that my message gets through to Ayatollah thingimajig or whatever he's called these days. They have to be stopped. We don't like it one bit. We don't like the smelly old has-been Tony Blair either. He has to go - no later than Friday."
"Is that 'we' as in 'the Royal we' or 'we' as in your local branch of the Conservative Party?"
" 'We' as in the *********** branch of the Conservative Party of course. Who else would I be talking about?"
"Just checking."
"Right well. If the World Service doesn't open till 10, that gives me time to get back on to the Iranian Embassy. They open at 9. Toodle-ooh. Honk honk!"
Line goes dead.

January 10, 2006

The Brazilian Excursion.....

Here's the trip in a nutshell. I didn't think I would write nearly this much and this is barely half of what happened. Perhaps I should write the rest down before I forget. Here goes:

Hertford-shire is an unlikely place for a travelogue about Brazil to start but it's where the journey began so it's where this piece begins too. For four or five years now, Dave has been banging on about his local, The Lytton Arms, so I was quite keen to see it. First we had to nip into Luton to get some Brazilian money or socks or something. That place sucks. Here's a free piece of advice: If the bombs come down and Luton becomes the last habitable place on earth, avoid it. It's ugly and it's where all those dickheads on Holiday Reps: Uncovered come from. We scarpered to the safety of Old Knebworth where Dave reversed into a tree. "First one this week", he told me. (Dave's car looks like the one in the Peaugeot 206 advert where the Indian guy makes his own car with nothing but hammer, some pig iron and a glossy Peaugeot advert he's cut out of a magazine.) Dave's auntie stuffed us like turkies then we hunkered down with a bottle of whisky. The next day we ate bacon. All day long. My host was trying to run down his burger van stock so we had to eat it or it was getting chucked.

"How many rashers do you want in your bacon buttie mate?"
"I don't know, six or seven maybe? Surprise me."

We'd eaten as much bacon as any human could so we set off for Heathrow. It's pissing distance away but we had to sit on the M25 for two hours. I swore there and then that I would never live anywhere that required a journey on the M25 to get to it. Tooled up, we got on the plane had a drink, slept and woke up over the Brazilian coast.
Arriving in Sao Paulo we had stinking hangovers. Dave, henceforth known as 'The Englishman', couldn't fill in the blanks so I did it for him:

"You don't remember singing 'Rule Britannia' at the top of your voice while we watched Last Night of the Proms on the in-flight entertainment?"
"No. That didn't happen."
"Yes it did. And you spent two hours down the front of the plane chatting up the fat air hostess. That's why she winked at you when we got off the plane."
"No I didn't."
"Yes you did. And you stole several bottles of wine and stashed them under our seat and behind the flight safety card."
"Don't be daft. I didn't do that."
"Yes you did. I just drunk them half an hour ago. That's why I'm still pissed and you feel like shit."

We knew we were about to have a decent trip when we got picked up at the airport by a guy in a suit with a slick blacked-out car. This was one of Gabriel's 'people'. He took us to a hotel (courtesy of Bernie Eccleston) complete with our own rental car (cheers again, Bernie). If anyone asked we were to tell them we were British consular staff (the real British consular staff are going to have fun trying to check into that hotel).
Gabriel, henceforth known as The Brazlian, met us for lunch that first day and took us to a barbecue place where an army of Goucho cowboys run round with spits of meat, filling your plate 'til you can't eat anymore. What impressed me most was when I put a cigarette in my mouth, an arm suddenly appeared from my peripheral vision with a lit match. Real fuckin' service. Nobody pisses in your milkshake here. I kept stubbing out my smokes then popping new ones in my mouth just to keep the cowboys on their toes.
Gabriel had to leave again so the Englishman and I found ourselves in down-town Sao Paulo trying not to look like Gringos. Picture him in Union Jack shorts, a straw hat and deck shoes constantly telling me in a loud public-school English drawl that we have to try and "blend in" so's not make ourselves targets. I wasn't much better. I had harboured this notion that I was some kind of Man from Del Monte so was wearing a jeans, a beige sports jacket and a light cotton shirt and pale white skin - every inch the gringo.

"Tell you what Dave; Let's change all our money into $1USD bills, loosely stuff it in our pockets, blaze a trail of green all over this city and see if we don't get our faces kicked in."

I won't bore you with the details but the night ended with a high-speed car chase through Sao Paulo. We were yelling: "faster, faster, undalay, undalay," waving lots of dollars at a taxi driver who seemed used to this kind of thing. On our tail were three fat gangsters in bulging suits, a greasy street-kid and a sweaty queer all crammed into a tiny Fiat that clearly wasn't designed for high-speed chases. We thought we'd be fine when the police got involved but those bastards were worse. They just smiled and waved us off. I learned a thing or two about South American Policemen on that trip. One; they are best avoided, two; when they're unavoidable they are very expensive.
The taxi driver failed to lose the heavies, who came all the way into our hotel lobby, and took most of what we had. We spent the rest of the night sitting by the roof-top pool, drinking warm beer and listening to the reasuringly-distant sound of gun-fire ringing through the Brazilian night. This was South America. I like it.
The F1 passed off without major incident (unless your name is David Coulthard). The food was excellent as was the drink (all free). The guy on the next table was the Minister for Sport but I didn't know this till I saw his face on the front page of all the papers next morning because he was in the middle of some corruption scandal - scandals are all the rage over there.
Lindsay and Katie set out, as is their style, by consuming huge amounts of alcohol then fighting or collapsing. The Englishman also stayed true to form, walking around like a dog with two cocks. "Mike, take my picture with her...quick, there's another fitty - get her picture"...and so on. No girl was safe - or interested - but that didn't deter him. Embarrasing to watch but, in a way, you have to salute him.
Straight after the race everyone was pretty keen to get out of the city - especially Gabriel, so we drove up to his father's farm. The drive itself would have been okay if not for The Brazilian's South American driving style. God knows where he picked that up because he's spent his entire driving career in the UK. He had a new car and there was just no explaining to him that cruise control is really intended for motorway use. He was well delighted with this new gizmo though, so all we could do was grip the Jesus handles and pray. Round winding mountain roads we flew, at 70mph - no more no less. We made it to the farm - just.
The farm is something else. Several buildings set around three lakes, a pool, cattle and many thousands of coffee trees. Bizarrely, they also have emus (yes, the big birds). Apparently they were delivered by a farming friend who arrived without warning and dropped them off as a gift then left. They're a tax scam if you ask me but I won't squeal.
Those days were spent completely relaxing. We didn't lift a finger. Meals were made for us and maids cleaned up after you. Felt weird at first but I could have got used to it. Lunch was just like the barbecue in Sao Paulo on the first day. They have a real Goucho who's role in life seemed to be cooking cows on a huge outdoor barbecue. Joam was impressive. His real job is looking after the farm but he insists on cooking the barbecues too. Who's gonna argue with that? For Joam, it seemed to be a matter of pride. I guess the bond between a man and his barbecue is universal.
The meal started with chicken hearts on a spit. We told Allan they were sausages so the silly monkey stuffed his face. Then he found out what they really were. This was a bit of a theme for the whole trip. The following exchange was typical;

Alan: "What's this red stuff?"
The Englishman: "Ketchup, mate"
Alan: "(gulps it down)................. BASTARD!"
The Englishman: "(tears running down cheeks) HAHAHA"

Got him every time. After chicken hearts Joam would barbecue some Brazilian sausages and large chunks of cheese. This was all before main course. On offer, as is typical throughout Brazil, was an amazing variety of beef. Sirloin, top sirloin, fillet and rump steak all flame grilled and bloody as hell.
Great so far but the weather had been decidedly Scottish since arrival. I've started calling this the Curse of Fort William, after my hometown. I call it this because even though I've made a point of visiting some of the hottest and driest places on earth, it always pisses down. The desert in Spain's South Eest only gets four days rain a year and I got three of 'em. Rainfall levels in the Mojave Desert are similar to Spain's yet it pissed down when I turned up. So it came as no surprise when it I arrived in Brazil that it rained there too.
On my travels across three continents the locals always remark how on unusual it is for there to be so much rain. I used to think it was coincidence but now I know it's the curse. The Englishman, The Brazilian, Al, Katie and Lins all thought I was joking but everywhere we went the locals would say: "That's funny, it was sunny yesterday, very strange for this time of year," and when we moved on we would later find out that the Sun had indeed come out right after we left.
had that continued, the others might have wanted rid of me. I began to feel I was going to receive a blow to the skull then wake up gagged on a rickety transport plane headed for the jungle. With this in mind, I risked following the others to The Brazilian's sister's beach house but I slept with one eye open.
More barbecues. They don't have little barbecues like us. The minimum seems to be; half a cow, 30 sausages, a kilo or two of cheese and the vital organs of 20 chickens. Nothing much to report here. The village had sand for streets and we just chilled out on the beach for a couple of days. We needed to go back to Sao Paulo for me to get my flight home and all the others to head off on the rest of their trip.
Mine and The Englishman's car ran out of petrol though, and the Brazilian didn't want to stop (must have been the cruise control) so we lagged half-an-hour behind them and had to find our own way back into South America's biggest city alone. This took hours. Any other pair of bozos would have made it back fine but put me and The Englishman in any imaginable situation and we'll fuck it up. Tearing along bumpy six-lane motorways with no road-markings in nose-to-tail traffic at 50mph is hair-raising stuff. The death rate is high. Quite right. People who drive like that on a regular basis deserve to die.
Eventually we passed a Ferarri dealership and remembered that we had met the owner at the F1 so we stopped in and asked for directions. Mad Frank didn't have a clue who we were. He's a wiry hyper-active little guy who, I'm told, started out selling vegetables from a barrow. The last time we had seen him he had a six foot blond on each arm and a curious white powder streak on his upper lip. We explained ourselves and he nobly pretended to remember who we were and gave us directions to the hotel - though not before someone tried to sell us a helicopter.
We checked into the Hotel Trans America (thanks again, Bernie) where the drivers had stayed during the race. It was super-duper nice but devoid of soul or character so I decided to go out and get in touch with the real Sao Paulo. I wish I hadn't. I bought a hot dog from a street vendor outside the hotel and spent the next 24 hours with vomit and shit spraying out both ends.
I was also due to go home the next day (October 3rd) but I couldn't face it, especially not with all the others staying. I made many phonecalls to the airline. The Brazilian AA staff, like anyone in employment in Brazil, were useless. I eventually got through to one of those uber-efficient American pricks who said the next available flight was on the 17th. "Screw my job. I have to do it," I thought, then went back to the shitter.
Was fairly glad to get out of the city again but it meant a 26-hour bus journey to the North Coast. I was worried but I needn't have been. Long-haul bus travel in Brazil was like Business-class air travel with BA. A few beers and a bottle of sleeping pills made the trip fly by. We got off the bus in Porto Seguro and it was like a different world; hot, lots of palm trees and very, very laid back. The Brazilian couldn't bring himself to get on the bus though so we had to wait for his flight to arrive before checking in to the Shangri-La. Don't be fooled by the name. The Shangri-La was awful. At £4 a night we shouldn't have complained, so we didn't, but we did check out and get a Corran-type RoRo ferry to another village called Ariel d'Ajuda.
I would happily still be there. People we met who had also been to Goa said it was just like Goa but unspoilt. Some people go on about the Spanish 'manana' attitude but they haven't been to the Brazil Bahia. The preferred mode of transport is riding pillion on a moto-taxi (Honda CG125s). I used them a lot thinking: "These guys are obviously expert riders being used to such terrible roads and chaotic traffic." I later met an Argentinian settler, however, who explained that Honda had actually just opened up a showroom in Ariel and had offered these bikes for £25 deposit and 0% finance. Therefore, every kid in the village had one a bike but no licence and no riding experience. I stopped using them quite so often when I found this out although the more I had to drink the more sensible an idea they became.
I used a moto-taxi to get back to Porto Seguro airport when I left the others. I didn't get a photo but picture, if you will, a fat Scotsman, all my luggage and a wiry Brazilian Indian on a bottomed-out CG125 riding through congested Latin streets at 11pm. To get back to the airport I had to go back on the ferry and I've never seen a ceilidh like the ceilidh I saw on that boat. Brazil is a seriously musical country. A little old man we had seen around before and had dubbed 'The Orangeman', was banging a drum and singing his heart out. About 150 local teenagers were dancing around him. An original Pied Piper of Hamlyn, he led us up the slipway to the bar-strip on the other side which seemed to me like an eminently more sensible place to spend the rest of the night than the airport floor. A few rums worse for wear I hit the airport for the flight back to Sao Paulo and passed out in a quiet spot. I couldn't have picked a better place. I woke up at the front of the check-in qeue. Must have saved myself about an hour of check-in time.
The Brazilian had left Porto Seguro before me and picked me up in Sao Paulo. We headed straight back to the farm where his family were spending the weekend. TB's stepmother, was running late for dinner so she arrived by helicopter (as you do). Lots more eating and relaxing ensued before The Brazilian and I went back to Sao Paulo a day before my flight. I stayed at his flat in the city. It's actually sickening to see how much cheaper it can be to live in a place like that. The same money wouldn't get you a shitehole with rising damp in Glasgow but over there you get a view and underground parking. I don't think Gabriel dreams of a life in Sao Paulo though. He says he wants to be a coffee farmer and, to be honest, so do I now.
The flight back was uneventful. Managed to sneak into business class while none of the air hostesses were looking so I was quite comfortable. The last thing I remember about that flight was a concerned Scouse stewardess asking me if I felt okay and me replying: "Why wouldn't I be? By my reckoning I've just had a bottle and a half of your best red wine, half a pint of Johnnie Walker and six sleeping pills." Bye bye Brazil - hello Blighty.