Sunday, September 02, 2007


Goodbye, everyone.

It's been...virtual.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


I remember reading once, maybe it was a haiku or a Chinese proverb, I don't know. Anyway, the gist of it was that it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive. Hmmmm...unless we can replace distance with time and therefore speak of a metaphorical journey towards Christmas and the usual childhood anti-climax involving socks and selection boxes, I think we can safely say our oriental chappy was a few grains short of a full bowl or had travelled to some pretty gruesome places in his time.

For myself, unless I am actually driving or journeying on water, the travel holds little fascination and arriving is all. Moreover, I have never, ever travelled without hope and this time will be no exception. And yet, this will be such a weird journey and each emotion I feel will be balanced by one which, if not exactly equal, is most certainly opposite. Paradox whichever which way.

In a very real sense, I'm going home. Where I belong and where I was destined to be. There will be an ease, a comfort and a familiarity yet at the same time a sense of dislocation. Not immense, no. Maybe just as if everything has suddenly moved one molecule's width to the right. Subtle, but a change all the same. I shall be full of hope, yes...and my doubts will soon subside. I shall be me and yet more and less than me. I shall be filled and yet will have emptied myself of all I have. I shall regret not doing this sooner and still know that this is the only time it could have happened. I shall recognise the language and yet some of the message will be hard to interpret. Nothing will change and yet nothing will ever be the same again.

Knowing all this, I shall place one foot in front of the other tomorrow morning. Deliberately. With forethought. I go because I desire it. I go because I must. And I go because this is where my life has led me. And I travel with hope, yes. How could I not?

There will be much laughter and a few tears. And that which has been apart for too long will be together again. And I shall use many names. Each shall have its own power. And its own weight. Its own magic. And they will issue from my lips. In my voice. With my love.

I am an extremely lucky man. And I am very content.


RogerB seems awfully concerned that, at my current rate of weight loss, there is some danger of my disappearing along with the bath water and he would appreciate an up-date. So, ever sensitive to the requirements of my readers, here you go, Rog.

No danger at all...14 1/2 kilos (32 lbs) so far and, along with the loss, some redistribution of inches from the abdomen to the upper torso.

I think I would wedge, dear heart.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

DAY 17

Not much when weighed against 30 odd years of nicotine abuse, 't is true but a fair chunk viewed from where I'm sitting and, as the biggest battle so far would seem to be trying to prevent myself from fitting a similar description, maybe sitting is not the best option right now.

It has been borne upon me quite forcibly over the past days that the body's immense capacity for self-repair and regeneration is matched only by the mind's power to cajole, persuade, delude and otherwise wheedle the nicotine free brain into believing that all its requirements would best be met as a result of ingesting a whole heap of pasta balanced precariously on a steaming ciabatta and washing it all down with a bottle or three of Belgium's finest. A carbo-hydrate induced sugar rush in other words.

I feel a little history might be in order here. For a long time and leading up to March of this year there was a certain, shall we say, strain in my life of which it might surprise you to know, I was largely unaware. If I were to transcribe my state into current psycho-babble, it would probably best be rendered as 'in denial'...and yes, without so much as a paddle and certainly no felucca. Keeping the lid on. Keeping up appearances. However you wish to term it, the result was, not to put too fine a point on it, fucking horrendous. Suicide by spoon, glass and cigarette lighter basically. I was over in England for the Everton match in March and I would let this photograph of that day stand as much more eloquent testimony than anything I can write.

Aye, the blob I saw here was not the man I saw in the mirror every morning...another demonstration of the mind's powers of delusion if ever there was. And I was not the only one to see it either, a fact for which I shall be eternally grateful. Anyway, pretences were discarded and certain truths long hidden were faced and finally admitted. And suddenly everything changed. And if it took my attempting to turn myself into a grosser version of Mr Blobby, then I can only be thankful the felucca sailed into view when it did and hauled me aboard, puffing and panting, for some kind of refit.

And yes...that was the key. Fit. What I most decidedly was not. Suddenly discovering that life had a point again rather demanded that I be in such a condition as to be able to live it. And the only way I had ever been able to do that before was by working out. I found the multi-gym again, buried under bags and boxes of empty beer bottles in the conservatory and, one Thursday morning, I set to. And on the same day, through no kind of planning or tactical decision whatsoever, I cut the crap out of my diet. I lost over 22lbs in five weeks. Still technically overweight but no longer obese. Surprisingly easy it was too. And then, during the course of a late night conversation with the Shoe a decision was made to give up smoking on the following Monday. Just like that. I rather thought I would cut down over the few, maybe four or five, days of smoking I had left and thus make the actual moment of quitting easier. I should have known better. Sometimes my self awareness can best be described as shaky. Anyway, by the time 4 o'clock on Monday morning rolled around, I had done my best to smoke myself into a stupor and I didn't enjoy my very last cigarette at all.

And since that last gasper...I have lost not another ounce of weight nor had a moment's peace from the yearnings of my brain for carbo-bloody-hydrates. I think over the entire 17 days, I've only actually craved a cigarette maybe twice as I momentarily lost perspective driving over life's speed bumps as it were and that hollow feeling in the pit of the stomach just cried out for a blue Rizla wrapped around a good pinch of Drum mild. I doubt I will ever smoke again now. But most of the time, it's the call of chocolate...of a cheese and onion sandwich...of a bowl of Nestlé's Clusters...of fruit absolutely clarted in natural yoghurt and honey. I am told that mammals are not meant to feel full as we have to be ready for flight at a moment's notice...and that my body is not designed for the intake of the carbs I crave. I am also reliably informed that if I wish to continue with the weight loss, I shall have to shock my body with an even stiffer regimen. As this would seem to involve the intake of only a half litre of non-sparkling mineral water and a stick of asparagus six times a day, there is a pretty fucking good chance of your correspondent deciding he can get used to his present shape for a wee while anyway. And hey...I even went swimming today. One hour. Non-stop. Now all I have to do is figure out how not to become completely obsessive about it. Well, that and how not to so easily give in to my daughter's desire to photograph her 'new daddy'...

...especially when I'm wearing those bloody boxers.

Friday, April 27, 2007


Thanks to the Marvin Gaye Day over at the Shoe yesterday, I've been kinda thrust back into my teenage years and also a bit of a, well...not reappraisal exactly but at least a new awareness.

These were my rock years, you understand...before John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra just blew the fuck out of any attempts at categorisation and opened up new avenues for me to explore.

And yes...they may have been the rock years but there were also what I might call radio days...a soundtrack I would have preferred to think I was too studiously cynical to enjoy. From this distance it amuses me to recognise I was just too much of a prat.

And it also surprises me just how fresh the memories are and how deeply these songs have burrowed...the Drifters, Sam Cooke...the lyrics just there, at my recall. Under the Boardwalk, Saturday Night at the Movies, for Sentimental Reasons, Wonderful World...all there.

And then, just when I think I've remembered everything and there is nowhere else to go...I find this. And am speechless.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


I woke up at 07:32 this morning. Got up, had a piss, said hi to the family, realised that this was me under advisement and, as me never gets up at 07:32, promptly returned to bed for what seemed like a wonderfully long and nicotine craving free doze. Oh...eight...fucking...thirty...four. Well, sod it. It's 09:14 and two coffees later now. And maybe I'm a little the wiser and perhaps just a shade alarmed.

I remember much of yesterday being taken up with the thought of just what non-smokers do to pass the time. I mean, they must do something, right? Compulsive nose-picking? Arse scratching? Nobody can possibly be content with, doing fucking nothing...can they?

Anyway, I began to wonder just what it was I had done when I didn't smoke and well...just what is it that 14 year old boys do? So what then did I use to do when I didn't smoke so much? The only thing I could come up with here was, "I had classes". Either that or I'd run out of money. No...more accurately, that should read, "we'd run out"...smoking was very much a collective endeavour in those days. Me...Stephen Feather...John Harrison...names which, even today, have as a major part of their associations for me, the red and gold of a packet of Gold Leaf (Virginia) cigarettes.

And so, my dear, you might say I've had Virginia in my blood for quite some time.

And, in the balance, my age of innocence + 3 days weighed against just how many pounds of tobacco product? There's no fucking wonder I don't know what to do with myself.

And yet, 3 days in and I guess I'm surprised. Not at how easy it seems, no. But maybe at the fact that right now, it doesn't seem as impossible as I'd thought.

I haven't lost control. I have remained, reasonably, equable.
I haven't had any headaches, yet.
I can still sleep and even nap.
And I have the distinct feeling that, "Aye. I am driving this fucking bus." which is pretty neat.

Okay, there is a restlessness and yes, I do have to get up from time to time and go unscrew the cap off a bottle of mineral water and yes, there is a sense that something is missing and yes, there is a general...craving.

But I am surprised at the non-specific nature of this craving. I have no conception whatsoever that it will only be satisfied and assuaged by an inhalation of tobacco smoke. I guess my brain has registered the sudden lack of direct nicotine hit but the signals it is sending tell me only of a need...maybe I could shut them up with chocolate...or one of those yummy pizzas.

I can see how people associate stopping smoking with weight gain...give in to these, well...what can I call them? Substitutes? Anyway, give into them and I will be a blob and I'm not going back there again. No, my dear. Not there.

And why is it that I am mostly underwhelmed at the size and difficulty of the challenge so far? Well, it might well be true that the worst is indeed to come and what I have felt up to now are just the preliminary skirmishes of a much greater battle. Yes, it could be. But I doubt it.

I started working out again after much longer than I care to remember. I cut out all the crap from my diet and, as a result of both, have lost a stone and a half in five weeks. These two things alone constitute something of a minor miracle so why should stopping smoking be any the harder? In all of this there has been a focus and a sure knowledge that I am not now and never will be, alone. Thank you.

And now...well, I’ve given my body long enough to adjust to this new reality. I’m going to pump some fucking iron.

Monday, April 23, 2007


I would just like to take this opportunity to place on record the fact that I have just now, at this very minute, smoked my last cigarette.

And may the gods have mercy on us all.

Saturday, April 21, 2007


Yup, it's that time of year again when the apple tree just explodes into bloom and, at least here anyway, I get my first hint of the hot and humid summer days to come. But right's perfect. All that's missing is a snirk and a mint julep or three.

And, whatever it is that is causing the collapse of bee colonies all over Europe and the States, it hasn't made it over here yet. Pollination continues apace and, come the Autumn, we will have another bumper crop. There's nothing quite like walking out of your own door, plucking an apple off the tree and crunching into it as you walk along the path to your gate.

Altogether now...don't sit under the apple tree...

Friday, April 20, 2007


When people ask me why it is that I value football above all other sports I usually mumble something about possibilities and poetry, vainly trying to pin down and put into words that sense of infinite potentiality a player has with the ball at his feet and the sheer beauty and rightness of a well worked move. Rugby can sometimes come close but the ball is less mobile and its distribution more restricted. There is a grace and athleticism inherent in football that simply cannot be matched by any other sporting discipline.

Now, you may rejoinder that watching Crewe against Gillingham on a wet Tuesday night in November is highly unlikely to result in your witnessing anything remotely approaching the poetic or indeed the graceful and you would probably be entirely correct. And yet, it is that...possibility again, no matter how remote, that you might just witness something like this which draws you back again and again. And you'll be able to tell your grandchildren that, "Yes. I was there".

Sunday, April 15, 2007


There are days, whole weeks that’s not right...I don’t tend to measure time quite like that. Especially when I think about my life. I have the year of my birth and then everything after that is recalled as a period, referenced maybe by its contents or perhaps as a before or as an after...after I left school...just before my father died. And sometimes by a mood. A general undercurrent of melancholy in my blue period.

So let’s just say that there are times, periods when one feels in some very elemental way, attuned. When you resonate with the world and your waves synchronise and amplify.

You’ll be driving and suddenly realise that the traffic is flowing for you alone. You’ll pull up to park and the woman just pulling away beside you will wind down her window and hand over her only partly used ticket. You’ll walk into the post office with such natural timing that the only person at the counter moves away as you arrive.

You might even walk into a garden full of strangers and within seconds find yourself completely at ease and at the centre of everything. It is also perfectly possible that you will leap up onto the raised patio with a grace and fluidity you thought yourself long incapable of and find yourself in flirty conversation with the grandmother of the house, refusing all her offers of scones and cakes with the easy assurance that comes from having teased the laughter out of her.

Maybe it’s just a perception...some kind of projection of an inner...attunement and yes, I can live with that. My own pieces and puzzles and some of the...bumps in my life have fallen into place or been placed in a truer perspective and I feel happier in my own skin at this point than I have ever felt in any other...period. An after period for sure. But also a before. And maybe it is the simple fact that I know that which has brought me so much joy. That and feeling whole for the first time.

Hell, I can’t help it if it shows. And maybe it is indeed, contagious.

Saturday, April 07, 2007


Along with so much else you gave me was a gentle reminder to sweep the cobwebs away from this blog. I think I can be trusted with the duster now. We'll see.

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. So many tomorrows. But only one that counts.

Anyway, this is for *You*. From *Me*.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


"Thank you for calling international card services at this busy time. Be assured your call will be answered as soon as an agent becomes available."

I am assured alright but only of two things; the first being that this call is going to cost me a fortune and the second, that I will now have time to make that first coffee, roll a cigarette and maybe even meditate upon such imponderables as why men have nipples for a sufficient enough time to finally come up with a satisfactory explanation.

Unfortunately, and probably just as I was about to have an Archimedes moment regarding the male mammary papilla...

"You're through to ****** ******, could you give me the last three digits of your debit card please?"

"Well, I could but this is about a credit card."

"Oh...well, if you could give me the number of the card and then I'll put you through." There is a rising intonation and I realise I'm talking to Australia. I accept the fact that I'm in for the long haul and make another coffee.

"You're through to ****** ******," I'm in Scotland this time, "Could you give me the day and the month of your birth, please?"

"A Sunday in January, my dear."

We clear up this little misunderstanding and proceed.

"On the 26th of March, there was an attempted payment of around 600 pounds..."

"Actually, there were several attempted payments. All to the same place and none of them successful."

"And could you confirm that this was, in fact, you?"

At this point, the only thing I felt like confirming was the fact that this girl was just not listening.

"Yes. Well, there was in fact a security flag on your card."

"Again? That's the third time this year!"

"Yes. The computer, you see, didn't recognise the attempted payment as conforming to your usual spending pattern."

"It never lets me use the fucking thing often enough to create one is probably why. Is there anything I can do to ensure that when I want to use the card, I can? How much prior notice would you like?"

"Unfortunately not, sir." I make a note to introduce swearage sooner next time. "It's all done on computer you see, which builds up a pattern of your spending and flags anything not conforming to it."

"I am beginning to understand, yes. Your computer won't allow me to use the card and yet, if I don't use it often enough, your bank is introducing an annual charge of over 30 quid to cover what you describe as administration costs. Just how much juice does this computer use?"

"I'm sorry, sir. But there is absolutely nothing I can's all this fraud, you see. Anyway, I've lifted the block on the card so you can make the payment now."

"Actually I can't. You see, I had to find another way to pay which incurred a 30 pound charge...I don't suppose you could reimburse me for that, could you?"

"Unfortunately not, sir. There is a verification charge of one pound, sir but that won't be coming out of the account."

"I'm sorry, could you run that one by me again, please?"

"There is a verification charge of one pound but it won't be deducted from the account."

"So, what I think you are saying is that there will be no verification charge in this case."

"That's right, sir."

I am sooooooooooo grateful.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Eve of War

Well, thanks to The UK Today for passing on Bloggerheads' original guided missive, I would seem to be obliged to at least attempt some kind of coherent answer to the question, "Daddy. What did you post when the war started?" Well, unfortunately my archives don't reach back that far into the dim and distant so I shall borrow The UK Today's admirable paraphrase of, "Daddy, what did you do when the war started?"

Fiendish. Such an uncompromising choice of tense.

I could tell him what I had done up to that point although the story would be too long or the list of achievements too damned short for this space.

I could even inform him of that which I had yet to do but the story of being presented with myself, sliced and diced and yet loved beyond measure is one which I am not sure I am quite ready to write.

Would that he had used the past continuous and I were able to relate just how, like so many others, I was sitting wide-eyed in front of CNN watching shocked and awed as several thousands of tons of exported democracy fell upon central Baghdad. I should have known better; after all, we had been here before but there was still that sense of disbelief, the feeling that after so many fuck-ups and failures, the bastards are at it again. And at it again they certainly were, that fucking chimp getting his strings pulled by those whose belief in geo-politics had survived even Afghanistan and our Tone on some kind of touchy feely crusade to rid the international community of nasty tyrants with silent movie moustaches. And as the lies were found out one by one and the lack of even a basic post-baboom plan became abundantly clear, all that was left was some kind of deranged repetition of the mantra, nine eleven, nine eleven, nine eleven...

And you know what the really sickening thing is for me to admit? It is that I can actually understand the motives behind the one and yet when I consider the other, I have no way to rationalise it nor even to lever it into some kind of accommodation with that part of me that finds such state sponsored throwing your fucking weight about just because you can absolutely abhorrent.

And yet I should turn myself to the matter in hand and a realisation infinitely more depressing than anything above. It does not help in the slightest that I am not alone, that I am probably representative of the majority in that when my daughter raises her eyes to me and asks, "Daddy. What did you do when the war started?", I shall have no alternative but to answer, "Absolutely nothing."

Now to tag some more willing (more or less) bloggers.


Thursday, March 15, 2007


Yes, sometimes it really is this simple.

And yet, at other times, you simply have to set phasers to stun.

Thursday, March 08, 2007


Ferihegy. Terminal 1.

"No liquids are allowed on board, including gels, pastes and lotions."

Now, let me get this straight, okay. You say that all the above itemries could shield ingredients which, when mixed together, could cause quite a serious loss of aerodynamic performance, right?

But you are going to allow me to take up to 100ml of each forbidden substance providing the whole lot doesn't add up to more than a litre and will fit into a re-sealable plastic bag, yeah?

You do realise this is completely barking, don't you?

And just how come you decided to let those two girls through with their 300ml soft drink bottles and yet have no choice but to bin my shaving foam and cigarette lighter?

London. Luton. (Yeah, right.)

Christ, it's cold.

So, off to passport control, customs and immigration and, once again, evidence of the quite clearly deranged. There are two policemen in flak jackets, one flanking the hall and the other behind the booths. They are each armed with a semi-automatic (and very plastic looking) rifle and a holstered pistol. The rifle is held in the Port position and the trigger finger, across the trigger guard.

I tried...honest. I really tried to find an even half-way rational explanation for this and came up with absolutely nothing. A couple of beat cops would have been sufficient to deal with any disturbance at what I imagine must be just about the safest place in the entire airport. The only warning signs visible in the whole area were those banning smoking and mobile phones and sure enough, the flanker busied himself with the seriously telecomically challenged and I was left wondering whether or not he operated a three strikes and you're out policy. Even I could learn to love that.

England. (Oooops, sorry...the Regions of the UK.)

Oh dear, oh dear.

What a race of whinging, spineless, helpless and dependent nancies we have become. The land of the sheep and the home of the cowed. You generally get what you deserve and the nanny state is what we've got. Is there any area of our lives into which we will not allow the government control freaks? Any limit to the amount of shoddy service we will accept? A point at which we will say, "No mas" to the spin and downright falsehoods of our elected representatives at Westminster?

Just what the fuck is going on with this much vaunted and imminent ban on smoking? An entirely legal activity, harming only the smokers themselves and one which nets the government a fair whack in revenue, will only be possible in the comfort of one's own home or in one's car. Now I am of an age which allows me to recall when theatres and cinemas were all smoking areas and yet nary a cough or minor protestation was evident during the entire performance. These days, an actor lights a cigarette on stage and half the audience breaks out in sympathetic bronchial expectorations. Bollocks. Conditioning is all.

You may deduce from the above that one, I am a smoker and two, that I hold no truck with all the passive smoking twaddle either and you would be right on both counts. The issue seems to me to be about unpleasantness and lack of consideration which I am, most definitely against and consider them both to be evils of our time. Now we have designated smoking areas, smoking rooms in offices and groups of smokers gathered outside buildings feeding their addiction or just revelling in the pleasure that only tobacco can provide. And just what the fuck is wrong with that? Nothing as far as I can see. And yet even these are to go when the legislation comes into force. Where is it going to stop? When will talking too loudly on a mobile phone be punishable by a fine? Or personal hygiene problems? Farting in an enclosed space? Car stereos at excessive decibel levels? It's bollocks. It's discrimination. And it needs to go.

Green. Green. Green. The colour of the moment it would appear. The colour of both a healthy spring meadow and a decidedly unhealthy globule of snot. Everybody is stressing their green credentials, making the right environmental noises and yet really, actually, in fact, doing absolutely bugger all about it. The government is already some 30% behind its interim targets to allow it to meet its treaty obligations by 2020 or whatever and yet Blair is interviewed about his frequent flying and is allowed to waffle on about new fuels and new aircraft design being the answer. The only problem with this is that there are at the moment and well into the foreseeable future no alternative fuels available and the new designs he mentions have so many inherent stability problems that they would have all the airworthiness of a not particularly streamlined breeze block. Gordon Brown is allowed to get away with breaking his promise to freeze duty on LPG fuel and, with oil and gas reserves approaching worryingly low levels is not at all interested in providing any funding whatsoever for research into alternative energy technologies. I heard, so don't quote me, that some English developments in nuclear fusion were as usual, ignored and not funded and they are now being investigated by the French. And talking of the bloody government, just whose brilliant idea was it to make the need for EU qualifications for NHS doctors retrospective by 10 years? I'm sure all the Indians who were invited over here and welcomed in order to keep our health service going in the face of almost overwhelming odds weren't expecting any form of gratitude. Surely not.

And then there's Lincolnshire county council. Selective waste collection or somesuch. Every household now needs three bins into which must be deposited only that which the waste collection service instructs people to so do. A very worthy initiative, I'm sure and yet...

Okay, there's the investment in three outside dustbins and, if you are too lazy to go outside every time you need to throw something away, three indoor ones as well. They do not collect from the driveway anymore so every senior citizen has to struggle to get them to the kerbside. And last but not least, there is one material missing from the list of those of which they will dispose. Glass. That's right, bottles, mustard and jam jars, pots of face cream, the lot. Any glass. Right out.

Now, where I was staying, in a little village just on the edge of the Lincolnshire Wolds, the nearest bottle banks were a drive away either to Spilsby (about 3 miles) or to Horncastle (about 15). These have now disappeared, no doubt due to the impossibility of emptying them frequently enough to keep up with the demand. All thoroughly thought through as you can see. I have visions of old auntie Ethel gradually being shunted out of her own house by the sheer weight of empty glass containers.

It's all getting too much. Identity cards, road charges, ASBOs, surveillance cameras, the lot. Maybe we should just have a chip implanted at birth and give up completely. Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.

London. Luton.

Christ, it's cold.

"Do you have any forbidden, dangerous items on you at all, sir?"

"Only my lighter and I'll bin that before going through to departures."

"No need at all, sir. There's even a smoking area now, attached to the bar in the departures building. You can take it on the plane as well."


"It depends on the airline, sir."

"I flew with you on the way here and I lost my Zippo."

"Ah. You do know you're three kilos over your baggage allowance, don't you? That'll be 15 pounds."

"I was 5 kilos under on the way here. Do I get a discount?"

"That'll be 15 pounds."

Ferihegy. Terminal 1.

Lights on, nobody home. No passport control, no customs, nothing.

Ferihegy. Terminal 2. Guarded parking.

"6 days then, sir. 18 000 forints."

"6 days? I brought it in at 5 o' clock on Thursday afternoon and it's now 20:30 on Tuesday. That's a whole day for three and a half hours' parking?"

"That'll be 18 000 forints please, sir."

Fuckery. But at least I can smoke.

Thursday, March 01, 2007


Right, off to Budapest for a flight back home and the Everton match on Saturday with a whole bunch of exiled and ex-pat Blades. Anyone wandering past the Devonshire Cat at 12 o'clock on the day is very welcome to drop in and buy me a drink.

I've just had an e-mail from my brother informing me that a T-shirt is awaiting my arrival. A T-shirt?

Only this season's replica home kit is all. Twenty as chips...but a T-shirt? Jesus.

Anyway, back on Wednesday.

If I'm not up on a charge of fratricide, that is.

Sunday, February 25, 2007


Yes, there is such a thing as the Continental Shelf and it is a fundamental component of the Great White Telephone through which we all converse with our god in times of severe distress.

However, when faced with a view such as this and despite the urgency and desperation involved in making such a sight a necessity, one cannot help but wonder at some of its more obvious design features. One’s first and quite natural assumption that it was designed for human use by a human with at least some experience of evacuatory functions is rapidly replaced by the conviction that the designer or, more probably the designers...a sub-committee consisting of two three-year-olds, a sub-atomic particle physicist and a continental equivalent of a Sun leader writer...never actually had to use the bloody thing.

I mean, no matter what the excretion or evacuation involved in its use, the design mitigates against facility in every respect.

If one considers the technicolour yawn, for example, one must concede that the diced carrots, proceeding at quite a lick under the influence of gravity and the acceleration generated by a heaving stomach, will hit the porcelain after having been decelerated by at most, 1cm of standing water. Now, I am sure that some kind of physical formula obtains to calculate to a nicety the resulting flow patterns but, I think you will agree, it would not take the combined processing power of too many computers to conclude that the splatter factor of such an event would be of too high a magnitude for it to be entirely contained within the bowl provided.

This is doubly unfortunate as, under normal circumstances, such use is accompanied by an almost blissful inability to care and a complete lack of cognisance both of which mitigate against the user leaving the scene in a state even remotely approximating that in which they found it. It is my experience that this will result in one’s having to make one’s own coffee the following morning and a rigorously enforced period of being ‘off games’.

If we move on to the urinary function, one is faced with the identical problem of splash-back. As porcelain is not noted for its ability to absorb impact, the wearing of both shoes and trousers is the only way one can remain in non-theoretical ignorance of the golden shower effect taking place below the level of the knees.

The only way of avoiding this entirely is to attempt to direct one’s stream into the deep water at the front edge of the bowl. This can be attempted in two ways, neither of which is in any way practicable. The first is a sideways on stance which is fine in mid-stream as it were but completely useless at both extremes due to the decrease in front to back target area. At commencement, most men will admit to not having the slightest knowledge of the exact point of impact until, in this case, it is far too late to adjust one’s initial aim. At cessation, it is impossible to guess the strength of the muscular contractions we employ to squeeze out any recalcitrant liquid and this too, will result in either over- or under-shooting.

The second is to develop such a technique that one can piss vertically downwards without losing one’s balance and whatever control one has over the stream. This is impossible.

And what of the unloading bay’s most pleasurable activity, the longed for and much anticipated dump? Well, this is problematic on so many levels it beggars belief.

The first is again, the problem of splash-back. Whereas in a perfectly designed British contrivance, the evacuate is funnelled downwards into a sufficient depth of water and never has to impact at right angles anywhere, the Shelf, on the other hand, appears designed to maximise ricochet. Now, I am sure that your diets ensure your stools are of a pleasing firmness and regularity and that it is only my insistence on the highly spiced that results in what a certain wombat of my acquaint has termed a ‘Bangalore Arse Rocket’ but, on occasions like these it is only the presence of my ample buttocks which prevents my making major alterations to the colour schemes of the floor and wall tiles and a resultant spatter pattern which would not look out of place at even the most frenzied crime scene.

Your advice at this point would probably be to increase my fibre intake and very sound advice it would be too. And yet a firm and log-like stool would incur another penalty.

One has only to consider the inability of the average turd to curl regularly around itself like one of those German sausages or maybe even a brioche together with the distance between one’s puckered sphincter and ground zero to realise that any anal extrusion longer than say about 12 - 15 cms is going to require a direction other than down in which to go. Now, I realise that no stool is firm enough to retain vertical integrity under even the lightest peristaltic strain so what one might gleefully term a logjam, in which equal and opposite forces achieve perfect balance is, to all intents and purposes, impossible but, the problem remains. Where does it go?

Well, depending on density and distribution of mass, to any point of the compass is where. At some point along its length it will begin to sag and, upon exit, the upper end of the log will tend to follow the direction of sag. Now, if one considers the topography of the arse with the coccyx as South and one’s gender specific attributes as North, one can immediately see that both West and East are, when thusly seated, at a lower elevation than one’s anal orifice and that the chances of suffering buttock smear in such a situation are reasonable to high. And even given the possibility of it travelling exactly along the North – South axis, those possessant of a scrotum are at an even higher risk of discomfiture.

And then there is the question of what (seeing as we’re on the subject of all things anal) kitchen chemist Heston Blumenthal would undoubtedly call the flavour molecules. With any sensibly designed apparatus, the solid olfactory evidence remains satisfactorily submerged and it is only that of gaseous provenance which provides the nasal accompaniment to one’s enjoyment of the sports pages or, my own particular preference, the latest Elmore Leonard. With the shelf however, one is not only sitting in one’s shit but on it giving free escape to all said molecules throughout the whole process.

Even if one manages a smear and spatter free evacuation, the perils of the shelf are not yet over. When one reaches down to wipe, it is advisable to make sure one’s knuckles do not, under any circumstances, come into contact with the top of the pile.

All in all, the lack of the possibility of a diving turd causing an entry splash resulting in a few drops of lightly scented lavatorial water to attach themselves to one’s cheeks and the ease with which one can examine one’s stool for colour, consistency, texture, worms and the like are hardly ample compensation for the drawbacks of this particular shelf-life which does not represent too much of a technological advance from the pole and a hole in the ground.

Now please excuse me. I have to go water my socks.

Friday, February 23, 2007


Further proof that there are absolutely no limits.

Cheney warns on Chinese build-up

US Vice-President Dick Cheney has expressed concern over China's military policies, saying they were at odds with the country's stated peaceful aims.


I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


Hot news here at the minute is that the population of Hungary is (no, that's not quite right as the stress is definitely on the Magyar part of it so I guess that rules out all the Roma, Jews, Croats etc whose breeding programmes are carrying on as apace as ever) continuing its rapid decline, decrease or plummet and voices are being raised to the effect that the government should jolly well do something about it.

If this trend continues, it will not surprise me if, by the year 2015, the largest concentration of Hungarians anywhere in the world is in Chicago.


Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Purely in the interests of scientific study you understand, I decided to sample the Chivas again after many a long year.

What a waste of good Laphroaig.

Monday, February 19, 2007


Well, it's over, we're still talking and the only blot on the horizon is that I've just discovered that the boiler is on the fritz again.

Anyway, the souk was a great success as you can see here, complete with oriental ghosts in the machine.

The fault of my camera, I'm afraid. Nikon COOLPIX 4110 is reasonable for well lighted shots but indoors, the indoors/party mode needs too long an exposure and a tripod and the basic flash mode leaves me staring at something akin to a black cat in an unilluminated wine cellar.

Anyway, half the floorshow and the contents of the trench later and Idris slips into something a little more comfortable for the snake charming act.

A very simple routine involving absolutely no snakes whatsoever and yours truly on north African drum (the Doumbek for those of you who are interested). We bundle Idris into a basket off in the wings and I leave to take centre stage. I play and they drag the basket on from stage right. Sanyi, for it is he, enters stage left playing a very arabic theme on the oboe and begins to circle the basket. Nothing happens. He plays more vigorously. Still nothing happens. He kicks the basket. Nothing happens. He plays on. He kicks the basket again. Idris emerges and begins dancing. Loud cheers. A few twirls later and Sanyi deliberately fucks up the oboe line causing me to lose the rhythm. Idris feigns inordinate anger and whips the oboe off Sanyi. She proceeds to demonstrate to him how it should be played and I regain the rhythm. Sanyi takes over the dancing part of the act to even louder cheers and the whole thing ends when Sanyi climbs into the basket. Star turn. They loved us. Photos to follow if any fucker bothered taking any. Which they did, it must be said. Whether or not they included me in the frame is another question entirely. Watch this space.

And then came the belly dancing. Oh boy. Only two of them and one had to resort to tricks...hopping quickly around on alternate legs to generate the required fluidity of the hips but the other more than made up for it.

A bloody awful photo it is true and one that, although it looked fine in the screen of my Nikon when I took it, had to be digitally enhanced in order for it to achieve the admittedly sorry state you see it in here. But christ, can she move. She is an incredibly intelligent and hardworking single mother of Romany descent and who therefore, should have more than a rudimentary knowledge of these things and yet she was so taken with my playing of the Doumbek that she enquired of the possibility of my accompanying her on future gigs. I am decidedly self deprecatory when it comes to my ability on percussion, African or otherwise but even that would not lead to my turning her down, and I have yet to make up my mind by the way. No, what would really do it is that I am sure I would make a fool of myself, lose the rhythm due to a certain abdominal virtuosity and may even begin to drool and dribble. Kegels? I've shat 'em.

Anyway, Here's the band.

This is included only because I would like to place on record the fact that Csaba, one of the finest jazz drummers it has ever been my pleasure to hear perform, managed to stay awake throughout the entire performance. That's him at the back, behind the drum kit, in auto pilot mode. He also retrieved my congas from out at the vineyard jazz club and tells me, as have so many other percussionists (Danny Cummings for one, whose work on George Michael's 'Careless Whisper' still brings me out in goosebumps) that my Natal instruments have the most unbelievably excellent sound (except when I play them of course) and thus earned my undying admiration as an arbiter of good taste.

I bought 15 raffle tickets for 3000 forints (about 7 pounds 50, left the choice of numbers up to the delightful piano teacher I have lusted after for years and bottle of Chivas Regal 12 years old, base note Laphroaig, one multi media stereo headset, and one Galimard Parfum en 1747. Result.

I also managed to drink 7 litres (roughly 13 pints and, before you scoff, we were there at 18:30 and didn't leave till 04:00) of St Miguel draught beer, 6 honey pálinkas and 2 Johnny Walker Red Labels and remained disgustingly sober. Which only goes to show that, even when it's for charity, Hungarian landlords still water down the draught. Not only that but our 30% cut of the bar takings worked out at just 60 000 Hungarian forints. A hundred and ninety guests with beer at 500 forints a korsó? Yeah right. Wanker.

Anyway, despite his best efforts, we still made half a million forints which is half a million up on last year. We rule.

Ah, yes...and at about 02:00, we were approached by the Director of the music school who, after a few brief skirmishes around various and sundry bushes, asked Idris if she would be so kind as to organise next year's event, too.

Oh well, hey ho!