Sunday, November 30, 2003

Just popped in as I thought you might like to see this.

Saturday, November 29, 2003

Well, well. Not a bad day at all. A fine 2-0 win for the Blades and Roger the roving researcher came up with this little gem for me.

The Stella Liebeck Awards

It's once again time to review the winners of the annual Stella awards.

The Stellas are named after 81 year old Stella Liebeck who spilled coffee on herself and successfully sued McDonalds. That case inspired the Stella Awards for the most frivolous but successful lawsuits in the United States.

Unfortunately the most recent lawsuit implicating McDonalds, the teens who allege that eating at McDonalds has made them fat, was filed after the 2002 award voting was closed.

This suit will top the 2003 awards list without question.

5th place (Tied)

Kathleen Robertson of Austin, Texas was awarded $780,000 by a jury of her peers after breaking her ankle tripping over a toddler who was running inside a furniture store. The owners of the store were understandably surprised at the verdict, considering the misbehaving toddler was Ms. Robertson's son.

5th place (Tied)

19 year old Carl Truman of Los Angeles won $74,000 and medical expenses when his neighbor ran over his hand with a Honda Accord. Mr. Truman apparently did not notice there was someone at the wheel of the car when he was trying to steal the hubcaps.

5th place (Tied)

Terrence Dickson of Bristol, Pennsylvania was leaving a house he had just finished robbing by way of the garage door. He was not able to get the garage door to go up since the automatic door opener was malfunctioning. He could not re-enter the house because the door connecting the house and garage locked when he pulled it shut. The family were on vacation and Mr. Dickson found himself locked in the garage for 8 days. He subsisted on a case of Pepsi he found and a large bag of dry dog food.

He sued the homeowner's insurance claiming the situation had caused him undue mental anguish.

The jury agreed to the tune of $500,000.

4th place

Jerry Williams of Little Rock, Arkansas was awarded $14,500 and medical expenses after being bitten on the buttocks by his next door neighbor's beagle dog. The beagle was on a chain in its owner's fenced yard.

The award was less than sought because the jury felt the dog might have been a little provoked at the time as Mr. Williams, who had climbed over the fence into the yard, was shooting it repeatedly with a pellet gun.

3rd place

A Philadelphia restaurant was ordered to pay Amber Carson of Lancaster, Pennsylvania $113,500 after she slipped on a soft drink and broke her coccyx (tailbone) The beverage was on the floor because Ms. Carson had thrown it at her boyfriend 30 seconds earlier during an argument.

2nd place

Kara Walton of Claymont, Delaware sued the owner of a night club in a neighboring city when she fell from the bathroom window to the floor and knocked out two of her front teeth. This occurred whilst Ms. Walton was
trying to crawl through the window in the Ladies Room to avoid paying the $3.50 cover charge. She was awarded $12,000 and dental expenses.

1st place

This year's runaway winner was Mr. Merv Grazinski of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Mr. Grazinski purchased a brand new Winnebago Motor Home. On his trip home from an OU football game, having driven onto the freeway, he set the cruise control at 70 mph and calmly left the drivers seat to go into the back and make himself a cup of coffee. Not surprisingly the RV left the freeway, crashed and overturned. Mr. Razinski sued Winnebago for not advising him in the owner's manual that he should not actually do this. The jury awarded him $1,750,000 plus a new Winnebago Motor Home.

The company actually changed their manuals on the basis of this suit just in case there were any other complete morons buying their recreation vehicles.

Hi-ho, silver lining...

Well, for some anyway. Bad news I'm afraid. Some bugger's won the Hungarian Lottery and as my phone isn't exactly ringing itself off the hook, it seems I'll be off to work on Tuesday after all.

Pish and ptui!

Friday, November 28, 2003

Not me guv'nor, honest...part 2.

Just when I thought I'd got it all out of my system another bottom-smackingly blatant bit of blame shifting, with more than a hint of cant and hypocrisy thrown in for good measure, impinges itself upon my consciousness as a result of reading reports concerning the Bush/Blair love in that recently took place at Brenda's behest.

And quite what gives that particular vowel mangling inbred the right to invite half the security apparatus of the good old U.S. of A. over to England at tax payers' expense is a subject I could all too easily go off on one about, so I shall snip this particular tangent forthwith.

No, what has really lodged in my craw today is reading that the two bees have come over all Oprah. It would appear that they are seeking closure. Apparently it is time for us to move on and forget our past differences as any other response will harm "the Iraqi people" and not aid in dealing with the "difficult situation" we "all" face.

Now, one has to be impressed by this. The balls! The sheer brazen effrontery of it quite takes the breath away.

Move on, they say. Well, they would, wouldn't they? Let's move on and forget that the rush to war was based on a huge lie. Let's forget WMD. Let's forget that Osama despised Saddam and had absolutely no contact with him whatsoever. Let's continue to ignore the fact that almost all the terrorists of 9/11 were Saudis. Let's pretend we didn't notice the closure of U.S. bases in Saudi Arabia and the relocation of troops to Iraq immediately following the invasion. Let's not remind ourselves that the only Ministry deemed worthy of protection was the one for oil. Sexed up intelligence dossiers? What of 'em? Let's not mention that we went blindly into war without even the remotest shadow of an idea of what we were going to do when it was all over.

Move on. And just who is this aimed at? Maybe they think they can con Joe Blow into going for this shit, and with re-election a priority that may indeed be the target audience, but they are also directing this at those governments and organisations who were kind enough to attempt to warn them of their folly and its probable consequences.

Sorry guys but this difficult situation is one you created yourselves and who can blame the "surrender monkeys" for telling Bush to fuck off now he comes crawling to them to help bail him out?

All of a sudden the United Nations has a major responsibility and a role to play in helping Iraq. Excuse me? Is that the same United Nations who were not given the time they asked for to confirm the non-existence of WMD? Who were lost in their own irrelevance? Who are still owed God knows how much in unpaid dues from the States? Good grief.

No, guys. You were warned. Loudly yet with rationality and reason. You dug the hole, now get yourselves out of it.

The problem with this is that they have not just royally screwed it up for themselves but for all Americans, Britons, Turks and Australians everywhere whom they have turned into legitimate targets for every fundamentalist would be martyr from Bradford to Baghdad. Thanks, bud.

"But hold on," I hear you say, "why not give them the benefit of the doubt?"

Okay then, let's look at Dubya's record of moving on, shall we? He moved the fuck right on out of Afghanistan, didn't he? The Afganistan that is now under the control of those lovely warlord chaps of the Northern Alliance, where women are still repressed, whose major export is once again the opium poppy and whose plight has dropped completely off the radar of western media. Good record there, then.

Let's consider the U.S.A. response to the plight of any subjugated peoples, shall we? Having allowed the Hungarians to believe they would be supported in the 1956 uprising, they sat back and watched the Russian tanks roll in. Having done the same with the Kurds and Northern Iraqis at the end of the gulf war, they again sat back and watched the gassings. And so it goes throughout history. Rwanda, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Korea, Palestine, Uganda, Chile, the Phillipines. They create these monsters, sign massive arms deals with them and convince themselves that at least they're "our" monsters and then, when they have outlived their usefulness, deny all knowledge or responsibility and beg others to help them out of the situations they have made for themselves.

And let's look at the hypocrisy, shall we?

Dropping laser guided missiles, from several miles up in the lower atmosphere, which may or may not hit their targets is an act of bravery on the part of our courageous pilots. Hijacking a plane and flying it oneself into a building is an act of cowardice.

We are not conducting a war against Islam. The attack on the WTC was an attack against all our Judaeo-Christian values.

We are fighting for democracy and Human Rights. Guatanamo bay, anyone? Homeland security? Identity cards? Anti-terrorism legislation?

And they care so much about the fate of the Iraqi people that they're not even keeping a body count of all the Iraqi civilians killed in this present conflict.

I'm well aware that this could be, and probably is being, written about in a much more coherent, erudite, better organised and well written fashion than I have managed here, but the fire is in me and I could not stop myself.

To return to my opening. A plea. Please treat us with a bit of respect and allow that we are intelligent, rational, thinking beings. Be honest enough to rephrase your pleas. Tell us that we should move on and forget our past differences as any other response would harm your re-election prospects and not aid in covering up, or diverting attention from, the complete fuck-up you have both, entirely alone and with malice aforethought, lumbered the whole damned world with.

Anyway, if you have been, you have my deepest sympathy.

Oh, almost forgot. Thanks to Roger for reminding me that Tesco mineral water used to be labelled 'suitable for vegetarians'. Well, I never!

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Sometimes, you just want to scream, don't you? You don't? Okay, I shall ignore you and concentrate on those readers with a pulse.

As I sit here writing this, not a foot away from my left hand there stands a can of Zippo lighter fluid. On its reverse is written, admittedly in small letters...

Highly flammable. No! You don't say! Flammable lighter fluid...whatever next.

Harmful if swallowed. Phew! That was a close run thing, I was just considering whether or not it might make a novel mixer for the Bols Vodka someone so very kindly gave me today.

Do not use near fire or flame. This for those of us who don't understand flammable, I suppose.

Anyway, that's an aside. What really switched me to rant mode today was a little item on Hungarian radio this wet and dingy morning. They aired a warning for anyone with coronary complications that there was a warm front on its way and that the subsequent change in pressure could bring on all sorts of pulmonary problems.

Now, just take the trouble to read that again. Please.

The facts are indisputable. Cases of cardiac arrest, coronary infarct and the like do indeed rise on such occasions but to broadcast that? I mean, what!

Maybe I'm missing something here. Perhaps it was a reminder not to fail to take advantage of one of the many ambulances provided on such occasions to run the front as it were, pedal to the metal in an attempt to outrun or outflank the thing.

Or perhaps it was an alarm. Sorry guys, weather control satellite just got bumped by a massive dose of solar radiation and instead of diverting warm fronts to plague the cardiacally chronic of Romania, is ushering them your way at warp speed.

Just what was the point of it? Other than to alarm those who may be affected? What are they going to do? Or maybe everybody has a decompression chamber these days. My guess is that the government has run out of things to slap a health warning on and would quite like it if our paranoia were extended to a fear of the weather.

We can't be trusted you know. Not even with our own kids. We have to be told on the quite transparent packaging that something contains small parts and is not suitable for children under three. Four year olds apparently, can go hang.

The leaflet I received along with a toaster I purchased recently warned me against trying to prise loose any recalcitrant slices with a knife or other metal object without first disconnecting it from the mains.

And my chainsaw. Do not operate when under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Oh, right. As one who was once stopped by the police at four in the morning on a deserted highway riding my motorbike home with a three quarters empty bottle of vodka stuffed inside my leathers, I can vouch for the fact that drunks don't think, never mind read labels.

I'm also really grateful to all the food processing companies for including the phrase 'serving suggestion' alongside pictures of their foodstuffs. I was always intensely disappointed when after adding the requisite amount of boiling water, a place mat, three slices of wholemeal bread, a generous garnish of fresh parsley and a glass of red wine would quite inexplicably fail to materialise alongside my mulligatawny.

So, have we really become so stultifyingly stupid as to need all this? Or is it that we have become so used to nothing ever being our fault that the companies have to treat us this way to avoid being sued? Either way, it still makes me want to scream, projectile vomit or at the very least aim several kicks at the nearest inanimate object.

Which reminds me of a story I read somewhere. A woman had run out of petrol on a motorway and ended up trying to sue the police for being late in arriving to assist her and being impolite when they eventually arrived.

Now, on the phone to the police in the first place she had admitted that the petrol guage in her car was in the red and showing empty. But you see, it was a new car and in her old car that always meant she had a few gallons left....

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but would not a more honest reaction be "I fucked up. If I had a brain, I'd be dangerous. If the police demonstrate some slight resentment at being dragged out to help such a complete tit as myself, then it is no more than I deserve."? But no, somebody else is to blame. It's never my fault.

I forget exactly who it was who said, "I know exactly what's wrong with the world today. It's me."

He was quite right, you know.

Anyway, if you have been, my solicitors will be in touch.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Deep joy. What a wonderful Wednesday it's been so far. So good in fact, that I might just be able to locate within myself a slight smidgen of an iota of sympathy for those of you who have been less fortunate.

Waking up to discover that all last night's results went in the Blades' favour took at least 50mg off the morning caffeine requirements and also meant that I could face the bus into work with a less intense trepidation than is usual.

One hour's work later and it becomes apparent that none of my scheduled students for the day are going to be able to make it and it is therefore, with a profound sense of sadness and disappointment that I wend my way to the bus stop all the while pondering the clause in my contract which guarantees a minimum daily payment equivalent to 8 hours' work.

Arrive home. Fend off attentions of excited, exuberant and yet decidedly damp Alsatian. Change clothes. Make coffee. Open e-mail. Am reliably informed by accountant that my company's tax bill for 2002/2003 will be less than half of what I was expecting. And I was so looking forward to helping subsidise Tony's next foreign policy adventure.

So, having been thuswise rescued from the grip of penury, I call my mechanic and invite him to tootle over at his leisure, remove carcass of car and please to return it ASAP in tip-top, roadworthy condition. Only too pleased...etc...etc... Yip, yaroo.

And just when I was getting the hang of this bus business, too. Amazing what you can learn in such a short time.

1. Old people have absolutely no priority whatsoever and should be elbowed out of the way as and when the opportunity arises.

2. Four on the door...yeah, right.

3. "Youse is infringing upon me territorial imperative, chum" is best expressed by the application of metal briefcase to area immediately behind transgressor's kneecap.

4. In standing room only situations, the lurching of the bus is solely to provide an excuse for brushing against attractive members of the opposite sex.

5. Seating is only provided for those of the population who are either swift enough or aggressive enough to avail themselves of it. All Twirlies* must either dangle off the straps, wedge themselves firmly in the aisle or end up in a heap on the floor. There is no exception to this rule.

6. Speaking is only permitted if it occurs at sufficient volume to enable all present to be included in the conversation. There is no limit to the subject matter but the function of any oral output should be limited to complaints only.

Easy really, once you get the hang of it.

Point 6 doesn't really bother me. It's one of the advantages of the ex-pat lifestyle that it is easy to reduce conversations in a foreign language to mere background noise. You have to concentrate more to actively follow such a conversation you see, so the solution is simple. Don't. It's the first thing I notice whenever I return to England and it really does my head in. I understand what everybody is saying and I cannot, for at least a week, tune it out. One's senses are fried by such conversational gems as...

"...then she turns round and says.........."

"Ooooh, she didn't!"

"She did, you know. So I turns round and says....."

And I'm left with a strange vision of people spinning around on their axes before every pathetic little utterance and sticking my fingers in my ears rather than face the consequences of a probable charge of assault and battery. With intent. And malice aforethought.

I'm sure there must be other advantages to living abroad. I've never really sat down and considered it before. Let me see.

I guess a lot of it depends on where you expatriate to. I can only speak from my experience here in Hungary where what ex-pat community there is exists only in Budapest and is still, even there, to a large extent, avoidable. Which should tell you into which of the two groups of ex-pat I could reasonably be placed. Certainly, I hope, not the one that consists of people who congregate together, speak only English (only much louder) and spend most of their time complaining how unlike home it all is, all the while disparaging their hosts and making knowing, snide remarks about their quaint little customs and traditions. Bitter and unhappy individuals, the lot of 'em. I mean, there they all are, thrown together solely by reason of their Englishness and having to socialise with people they would cross the street to avoid back in Blighty. Not ideal.

The other group, and the one I feel the closest affinity to, contains those who learn the language and throw themselves whole heartedly into the experience.

One advantage to such a life is that you are always treated as something special, which does wonders for the ego but needs recognising for what it is. Realising that you have done little to deserve such treatment must always be at the forefront of your mind.

Relocating to a cheaper country and having a contract paid in sterling may also lead to earning more in a month than a lot of people do in a year. This also needs careful handling. 'If you've got it, flaunt it' is not the best course of action. Which does not, of course, mean to say that you shouldn't enjoy the lifestyle, just don't rub it in is all. I bought my first car here, I designed and built my own house, I never have to look at the price of anything in the supermarkets and I don't owe any money to anyone, no how. I could never, repeat, never have done this had I remained in England. The start to every day for me, is looking in the mirror and reciting "You lucky bastard" over and over again until such time as it wins out over the "Yeah, but I've worked bloody hard for it an' all" counter argument. And it's true. I invested a lot of time, money and effort in getting here but I'd be in deep do-do if I failed to recognise that, compared to the majority of the population here, my good fortune borders on the obscene.

What I find the greatest advantage of all is being able to look back on one's own country with an objectivity that would otherwise be impossible. Now I know that I'm on dangerous ground here (are you listening, Big Mart?!) but the realisation that there may be positive aspects of other countries, peoples and traditions and that these have just as much validity and worth as those of your own is one well worth making. Anything which leads to you overcoming your prejudices and stereotypes and to your reaching the conclusion that your own country is not per se the best in the world can only be a good thing. The people I find myself warming to, seeking the company of and wanting to spend time with, are increasingly those who have travelled, those who have spent some time in another culture and have therefore a better perspective on their own. To take a crass example, the average American rarely leaves his or her home State and most of the tourists I have met from there have been only too delighted to conform to my stereotypical conception of the American abroad. American travellers however, are entirely different. They are educated in a way that is not taught within the education system. I got to know the family of an American boss at a company in town and it was a delight to watch the change in them as they spent more time here. He was very easy going and his children were of such an age as to be infinitely adaptable but his wife, a generous, friendly and gregarious lady, had problems adjusting. Everything was compared to back home and found wanting. She couldn't seem to understand why Hungary wasn't just like Texas but with a foreign accent and why Hungarians didn't behave like your typical Texan.

A small example, but telling nonetheless. When Hungarian women would introduce themselves to her as Mrs Whatsername, she would announce that she hated that and why couldn't they use their first names? The fact that they either wanted to be polite or to maintain an appropriate distance never even occured to her. It took a good few years for her to come to terms with it all but at the end of five years, when she returned home, she was genuinely sorry to have to leave and went back to Texas, in my view, a much better person for the experience.

Now this doesn't apply to only Americans although the differences are highlighted by the facts that America is a long, long way away from any other culture and that it is such a mind-bogglingly big and relatively homogenous country. I have known Englishmen whose arrogance abroad is second to none. "Do you speak English? No? Then fetch me someone who does" might sum up their worst characteristics.

So, what do we see then, looking back with this splendid objectivity? All the faults unfortunately.

A public transport system hopelessly out-dated, inefficient to the point of hilarity and ruinously expensive. If a country like Hungary can get it right, then why the hell can't we?

An education system that fails to educate. That spends more time worrying over the latest politically correct fads and crackpot ideas than it does on teaching our kids to think and preparing them for a life that despite non-competitive, no-loser games at school is a tad more cut-throat than that. A system in which creativity is prized above the ability to become proficient in one's own language. Where teachers are unaccountable and students are failed. I hear they are considering lengthening degree courses by a year because universities are having to make good the deficiencies of their students during the first year. A system that leads the Minister of State for Education to enrol her children in a private school rather than have them involved in a system of which she is in charge. And the fact that she thinks she can get away with it is another sad commentary on our country.

I have yet to see among young people of any country I have visited or lived in the same pride in ignorance demonstrated by your typical yoof in England. Only back home could I imagine the most intelligent members of a class being mercilessly ribbed for their abilities. Made to feel ashamed somehow that they actually want to learn something and maybe have a chance in life. I mean, what?

And in no other country have I seen the newspapers doing their best to continue this fine tradition of ignorance. It's not enough to say that people can make up ther own minds about what they read in the papers. They first need to be taught at school how to read with a critical eye, to examine motives and research background but as long as there are uneducated people, it seems that the papers will continue their exploitation of them.

I see middle/little England's complete inability to get over the second world war. It's over, done with, move on, get a life. Have a zap through all your satellite channels one day and see how many programmes you can find which are wholly or in some way related to the second world war. How we can hope to take our place in Europe or indeed the World when all this programming passes on to a new generation the wartime stereotypes of aggressive square-headed Krauts, surrender monkey Frogs, Johnny-come-lately Yanks and reverse gear Eyeties is, quite frankly, beyond my ability to imagine. And why do our newspapers constantly pander to this mentality, reinforcing the stereotypes at every opportunity?

I see a country divided. Divided by any which way imaginable. Economically, politically, racially, socially, geographically, any way you could possibly think of dividing and subdividing a population has been developed to a fine art in our British Isles.

Economically the gap between the richest and the poorest is widening at a rate faster than ever before creating an underclass of welfare dependant, uneducated people with absolutely no aspirations whatsoever to a better life.

Politically our culture is also divisive. The confrontational nature of the House of Commons itself and the politics it engenders leave no room for governing by discussion, debate or consent. Our first past the post, majority system of government means that Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair et al can govern unhindered and ignore the 55% of the population who didn't vote for them. What happened to discussion, compromise and good old fashioned agreement?

Racially, well, we like to think that we are well ahead of the Americans on this one. Oh, yeah? But as I can't think of any country that's got this pikey little problem sorted out, I think I'll leave it out of this little diatribe. But let's be honest about it, eh? Bloody foreigners, coming over 'ere, takin' our jobs etc...etc...etc

Socially, nobody does it better. If there is one thing at which England leads the world it is social discrimination. "Oh, he's a lovely chap but not quite one of us, is he?" runs all the way through society from the barking royals right down to the lowest rung. Each of us can, or the admen can do it for us, place ourselves with pinpoint accuracy on a social scale which allows for such descriptors as upper-lower-middle working class (with aspirations). And you just can't win. I was unfortunate enough to be born in Sheffield and not develop a Sheffield accent. Oh, I can put one on wi t'best on 'em but whenever I opened my mouth, people would assume I thought I was in some way better than them, that I was snobbish and superior. George Bernard Shaw got it right when he said that it was impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without another Englishman despising him.

Geographically, the north-south divide is becoming more pronounced year by year. The influence of the south, both economically and politically is also widening at an ever increasing rate and is yet another possible source of trouble and ferment in the future.

I don't see this division here. Maybe the fact that the family is still extended and that there may be people within it ranging from doctors to factory workers makes a difference. Maybe it just comes from a shared history, one less diverse than our own. But when I listen to the Hungarian National Anthem being played on all TV and radio stations at midnight on New Year's Eve, I know that all Hungarians are at that moment standing up, stock still and united in their common Hungarian-ness. I've been here for 12 years now and it still makes me cry. Why? Well, it's a beautiful tune for one, the most mournful and heartrending non-triumphant anthem you will ever hope to hear...about humility and love of country and not about hoping to be reigned over for even longer by some genetically challenged half-wit whose subject I must, under law, remain. But mostly I think, because we have lost any common ground in England. Any sense of shared community has gone and, I very much fear, will never return.

Now, I hope you won't misunderstand me. Please remove yourselves as far as possible from the position of not understanding me. I do not cavil and complain because I hate my country. Au contraire, it is precisely because I love it so much that it pains me to see just how we are viewed by the rest of the world. Love should never be blind and turning a blind eye to the faults of one you love is to do them a disservice. To pretend that everything is hunky-dory is to live in neverland and the only inhabitant I know of that place is hardly the best example for the rest of us. Patriotism is to love your country, nationalism is to hate everybody else's.

So, what do I love about England?

The landscape most of all. I have never seen another country which contains within itself all possible landscapes with the exception of desert, frozen tundra and tropical rainforest. And the green...they don't do green like we do anywhere. Not at all. Nowhere.

The cheery optimism..."mustn't grumble"...the likelihood of being engaged in pleasant banter at the most unlikely locations. At the checkout in a supermarket for example, at a bus stop, anywhere.

The humour. Long have I travelled and far have I roamed but nowhere have I laughed as much as I do whenever I am home. Nowhere does humour play such a large part in everyday life as it does in the north of England. No opportunity is ever missed for a wisecrack and usually, no offence is ever taken. If you ever need your deficiencies pointed out to you in colourful language then head north, young man.

The irony. Absolutely wasted on these foreign types. Too damned literal, the lot of 'em!

And, as far as I'm concerned, it's still the best country in the world in which to go for a walk, watch a football match, pop out for a drink, eat out, go to a gig, go shopping, get through a whole day without meeting someone you would just like to dissolve and in which to spend a lazy sunday afternoon in front of the telly.

Well, bugadifino where all that lot came from. Too much time on my hands, obviously. Normal service will be resumed but until then...if you have been, the doctor will see you now.

Yoicks! And away!

*Twirly (n) English female owner of old age pensioner's bus pass. Said pass only valid after 9.00 am. Result...hordes of senior citizens alighting buses at 8.59 or thereabouts and inquiring of the driver, "Am I too early?" or in dialect, "Am a twirly?" Has become generalised in use to mean any female senior citizen.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Monday, November 24, 2003

Oh me, oh my. Still absolutely oodles of the folding to be won in the Hungarian State lottery which was again unclaimed this week, so I shall be putting my little exes in the boxes once more in the hope that should I win, these will still be on the market.

Which would of course be followed by a modest little investment in one of these.

And a little something for the weekend.

I've always dreamt of owning a small remote island as well.

I could, at last, fulfill a childhood ambition.

I would finally be able to afford a maid. And if you click on the middle picture and look at the right hand side of the page, who wouldn't like to see it mounted?

Oh, before I forget, there's a bit of real estate I've had my eye on for a while. I mean, even multi-millionaires need a hobby, don't they?

And if I, allegedly had enough alleged money and could allegedly hire an alleged 'mechanic', then this alleged guy might allegedly be the number one target.

I mustn't forget a little something for Uncy.

And just maybe I'd bankroll Jessica for a Saturday morning in here.

Lampiao would of course get one of these.

And for Ally.

Oh well, until such time as my boat comes in, I'm just going to have to continue taking a lucky dip.

Saturday, November 22, 2003

I rather thought I'd set you a little challenge today and see whether you can decipher the hidden message in today's offering.

Having listened to the match on the net today, I am obviously not in the best of moods right now.

And, notwithstanding the fact that we lost , we have dropped down the table to fourth.

The fact that it would appear that the result had more to do with the ineptitude of the referee than any lack of form on our part is scant consolation.

Even now, hours after the event, I am still muttering and cursing the name Fletcher under my breath.

Fletcher...obviously a living embodiment of Jessica's word of the day, cockalorum - a self important little man.

Until next time then. Move on. Put it behind you. Remember the 7-0 thrashing in 70/71. That should put a smile back on your face.

Cockalorum. Mmmm. I can't quite see how it might be assimilated into a terrace chant. The referee's a cockalorum doesn't quite scan, somehow.

Kind as it was of everybody in the chat room to look on the bright side, after all it is not as if we are out of touch with the leaders yet, I fear that the sour taste will linger well into next week.

It shames me to admit it but I could have paraphrased Eric Cantona...I am not far from thinking that we are a bag of shite.

Notwithstanding Michael Brown's seeming return to fitness there are precious few positives I can take from this match.

Goalscoring seems to be a major problem for us. We enjoy good spells of domination over the opposition but cannot convert these into goals. The theory seems to be that we need a 20 goal a season striker.

I would beg to differ in that I am sure any of our myriad strikers would score more were they provided with a better service. Nuddy hasn't put in a cross all season and the amount of time Tonge spends on the left is less than that of the most rabid blue-rinse Tory.

Putting more emphasis on getting the ball out wide and whipping in a few inviting crosses would seem a more worthwhile between match activity than angling for an improved contract.

Surely, even the Chief would be capable of 20 or so goals were the service of a better quality.

Wendy fans on Praise or Grumble did their best to cheer me up though. What a miserable and pathetic bunch they were today. Mind you, if their comments on the performance of their team today were accurate, I'm not surprised they felt that way. At least we're still fourth and in with a shout of promotion. They'll be lucky to even avoid relegation.

I feel better already! The only advantage of sharing a city with a team like Wendy is that we can always, even in our moments of deepest despond, glance over at that shower in S6 and thank our lucky stars.

Cigarette, anyone? Slimline filters are back on the market and to roll one up for you would be the work of but a moment. No? Suit yourselves.

Having reached the end of this pointless little post, I am however, curious as to how many of you will fail to spot the message contained herein. Answers on a postcard to the usual address and if I am not deluged with correct answers, I will have to adjust my opinion concerning the intellectual capacity of my readers and reach the inescapable conclusion that you are all closet Wendyites. If you have been, I thank you.

Friday, November 21, 2003

An old link but one well worth repeating given the current political stuation. Wait for it to download totally before clicking play and the wait will be worthwhile. Honest.

Up until today, I have enjoyed the discipline of blogging, self imposed as it may be, but nevertheless a challenge worthy of my best efforts. Faced with a virgin page on this day however, I fear the challenge may be beyond me.

Maybe I expended all my creativity during the last lesson of the day, or had it sucked out of me...and yes, you know who you are! I only gave you the URL so I could wind you all up! Mind you, we did rather rush the question and answer session at the end, didn't we? Do I feel a slight tickle from my muse? Hardly the lusty strike I have come to expect but, in the absence of anything better, I could take this opportunity to fill you in on the details we didn't have time for. So, Q & A it is then.

What's the best meal you've ever had?

Anything I've ever eaten after eleventeen pints in a convivial hostelry. Next!

How would you describe the way you dance?

If I'm conscious of the fact that I'm actually dancing, then awkward, pathetic and bad are three adjectives that spring immediately to mind but whenever I succeed in transcending this knowledge (and to this end I find Stella exceedingly helpful), then freestyle, abandoned, wanton and reckless would only give you a very rough idea indeed. This might help.

When did you last laugh until you cried?

I mark homework. Enough said.

What are the three essential ingredients of love?

Place one Nastassia Kinski, one Jenny Agutter and one Sharon Stone on a king sized bed. Stir well, add aphrodisiac of choice, lashings of double cream and a drizzle of coconut oil and lead me to it. I think that just about covers it.

What TV show did you never miss as a child?

Noggin the Nog, The Magic Roundabout, Doctor Who (half missed as I was behind the settee for most of it), The Woodentops and Morecambe and Wise are entirely responsible for shaping the malleable child I was into the even bigger child I am today.

What does your favourite outfit look like?

Black, slinky, diaphanous and preferably sliding off the shoulders of any of the three ingredients of love.

What is your favourite meal of the day?

Hey, as long as it's liquid, who's fussy?

What's the worst haircut you've ever had?

The next one.

What's the worst thing about travelling by air?

Hungarian flight attendants saying "Coffee, please." and having to reply "Sorry, fresh out I'm afraid, but I can roll you a cigarette if you'd like."

In what ways are you like your mum or dad?

We have the same surname. I don't know. Ask my brother. He'll tell you.

How would you describe a perfect Friday evening?

See yesterday's post concerning leisurely bender.

What are you really good at?

Rolling cigarettes.

When did you last feel annoyed and why?

This afternoon, when alighting from the bus in the centre of town. Standard Hungarian procedure for waiting to board a bus goes something like this. Loiter at bus stop or anywhere within 10 metres thereof. On sighting bus, surge lustily towards roadside. Coagulate towards any one of four doors of bus. Express surprise that there are people that actually want to get off. Move exactly three centimetres in any direction to assist them in doing this.

How good are you at lying?

Not been reading this for very long, have you?

When did you last take a taxi and where were you going?

Too boring to even contemplate. Next!

What's the wierdest thing you've ever eaten?

Lung soup. I do not wish to expand on that.

How would you describe your favourite T-shirt?

Apart from threadbare, you mean? Okay, a phantasmagorical, multi-coloured extravaganza featuring Dougal from the Magic Roundabout doing his impression of a misunderstood artist. "No wonder van Gogh cut 'is ear off."

How do you relax?

By staying up later than the people I live with.

What are you most looking forward to this week?

Giving Ipswich a damned good thrashing tomorrow. The cask strength Laphroaig in about 15 minutes and the drawing of the Hungarian lottery tomorrow evening. It hasn't been won for about a year and the amount is staggeringly, mind-bendingly, trouser-bulgingly enormous. It just might be my lucky day.

What sort of music are you listening to these days?

As ever, the good stuff. Jeremy Isaacs, Boss Hog, Roberta Flack and my tune of the moment, Yamore by Salif Keita, which reminds me, I really must send that one to Jessica. If that doesn't get her vital fluids pumping, then I'm a sesquipidalian Baptist. Don't ask, I'm not too sure meself.

Toodle pip!

Thursday, November 20, 2003

As it has, so far, been a day of disillusionment and disappointment, I have chosen a FFC moment to reflect this. Enjoy. No.5.

And a candidate for second sexiest photo of all time is this one.

Here's one for the degenerates amongst you.

And this is just silly.

Whence the disillusionment? Well, although I understood the English education system to be in a bit of a tail-spin, I had always considered the Hungarian version to be superior in every respect. I was, today, disabused of this notion, at least with regard to the teaching of literary appreciation.

One of my students had produced an essay as part of a homework assignment and a jolly fine piece of work it was too. Pedant that I am however, I picked out one point with which I could not agree. He had included the line; "As Shakespeare said - Would not a rose by any other name..." Grammar, fine. Spelling, perfect. Punctuation a bit dodgy with the dash to introduce a quote, but we'll let that pass.

My problem was with the fact that Shakespeare never said anything of the sort. In all of his many and various works, the only things he actually said are to be found in the sonnets. Everything else, he put into the mouths of his characters and does not necessarily represent that which he himself might have had to say on any given subject. In the above example, it was the still pubescent Juliet who actually spoke the words in question and from her viewpoint at the time, I'm sure she felt that were Romeo in fact called Kevin or some such, It would have made no difference to her feelings for him.

In other words, putting words into the mouths of dramatis personae is a literary device. It provides an insight into their characters and also into their thought processes at the time. In no way does it necessarily reflect the views of the author. He didn't seem to get it and worse still, he was supported by most of the class.

Okay then, said I, consider this. Were Shakespeare around today, would he be of the opinion that "murdered civilians" could be called "collateral damage" without affecting at all our response to it? "Oh, yeah. But they didn't have stealth bombers in those days, did they?"

OK. Different tack. In one of his plays he has a French character refer to England as "perfidious Albion." Could he, as a patriotic Elizabethan have really considered this to be true? "Well, he must have done or he wouldn't have said it." I should have given up here but I inherited a stubborn streak from my father.

Right. He also had Polonius (I think) say, "Neither a borrower nor a lender be." Now, seeing as how Polonius had rather a tenuous grip on what we might call the nitty-gritty of everyday life and was therefore, probably the last person you would go to for advice, and as how Shakespeare availed himself of the moneylenders on numerous occasions, how can you possibly say that this represents his opinion on the matter? "Well, he didn't like borrowing money and thought it would be better not to." But...but...oh, sod it!

Maybe I should just be impressed by the fact that they know enough Shakespeare to be able to quote from it which, unfortunately, is more than the majority of English people seem capable of these days.

Mind you, they still use the same technique with the Bible though, don't they? (What is it with me and religion nowadays?) How many times have people prefixed what they obviously thought was going to be some pretty shit-hot advice with, "The Bible says..." Well, I've got news for you. The Bible doesn't say squat. It did not write itself and must therefore, be the recollections and opinions of those who did. "But the spirit of the Lord was with them and what they wrote is the word of God."

Hmmm. A few points here. One; why is his word so contradictory then? Is it an eye for an eye or is it turn the other cheek? Is it monogamy or may we, like Solomon, have several hundreds of wives? You would have thought that, were he so intent on guiding our lives in the right direction, he would have signposted the route a little more clearly. Two; the spirit of the Lord is with them could just as easily be interpreted as their having fasted for too long under the heat of the desert sun or being under the influence of psychotropic mushrooms. If people hear voices today, they are inevitably diagnosed as suffering from some mental abnormality and are hastily assisted into the long-sleeved shirt with no buttons down the front. That we should be so dismissive of our present day listeners to voices and remain so respectful of those in the past is puzzling to say the very least. And three; why are people always so selective in their choice of which parts of the word of God to follow? Surely, as a believer, if you believe that one part of the Bible is the word of God, you have to believe that all of it is. Now, my point here is that if I seriously believe that the 20% acrylic in my otherwise cotton socks is going to lead me into the fires of eternal damnation, then I would have no choice but to accept the other, admittedly more sensible, strictures as well. What I cannot find in any way logical is the apparent willingness of believers to accept the broad sweep of, say, the 10 Commandments and then to ignore all those other petty rules and laws which, to our modern sensibilities, seem a trifle ridiculous. In for a pound, in for a penny, say I.

Anyway, I hereby do solemnly swear that this blog shall henceforth and hereafter be declared a religion-free zone for the near and foreseeable. Honest.

And the disappointment? Oh, yeah! There are no slimline filter tips to be had for love nor money in all of Nagykanizsa at the present moment and rolling with the 8mm variety leads me to feel the resulting cigarette rather as I might a 12 bore between my lips. Pish and ptui!

As today is, in effect, my Friday (I only work 8 - 4 Tuesday through Thursday) and as I feel like sharing with you all, I shall outline the little programme I have been planning for myself all week.

Once all my familial duties are discharged and my daughter is knocking out the zees, I fully intend to seat myself in front of my monitor and do some serious surfing. This however, will be mere background noise, a soundtrack if you like, to the real business of the evening.

I shall begin, I think, with a cold Stella to reacquaint myself with the taste of alcohol after a long dry week and to prepare my palate for the delights to come. Then a slug of Ardnave, a specially selected for Tesco's Islay malt and one that will merely serve to heighten the pleasure I will have later when I come to sample the real thing. A bit of mouse manoeuvring and another Stella later, I shall pop the cork of a bottle of Bowmore, to my mind one of the smoothest and least aggressive of the Islay malts and treat myself to a thick finger or two. The blurb.


Age: 12 years
Strength: 43%
Colour: Warm amber
Nose: Lemon, pears, honey
Palate: Peat smoke, dark chocolate
Finish: Remarkably long and complex

Another Stella and I'll be into pre-orgasmic mode as I stretch out a hand for the Ardbeg. Several writers more knowledgeable than I about such matters have suggested that if such a thing as perfection on the palate exists, then this is it. To the blurb, then!


Age: 10 years
Strength: 46%
Colour: Straw, amber
Nose: Exceptional balance and depth. At full strength the aroma is a beguiling mix of toffee and chocolate sweetness, cinnamon spice and medicinal phenols. Fresh citrus and floral notes of white wine are evident as are melon, pear drops, general creaminess, fresh phenolic aroma of seaspray (iodine) and smoked fish. Hickory and coffee emerge later as the most volatile top notes fade.
Palate: An initial moderate and clean sweetness is rapidly followed by a mouthful of deep peat notes, with tobacco smoke and strong espresso coffee, which then gives way to treacle sweetness and liquorice. The mouth feel is firstly lightly spiced (astringent), then chewing, mouthwatering and finally dry.
Finish: Long and smoky. A smoky sweetness is left on the palate, with a crushed peat and sweet malted cereal character.

But for me it lacks can I put this? Analogy time, I'm afraid.

It's like being slapped about the face with a freshly caught trout. Refreshing but without the thrutch of a single blow with a prize salmon.

It's having a door held politely open for you instead of being propelled through it by a hefty kick up the rear.

It's having a pleasant evening's lovemaking with the wife as opposed to wild, abandoned, unprotected sex with a horny, low down and dirty nubile.

Masturbation rather than fornication.

I shall, nevertheless, linger over it. Such pleasure, foreplay as it may be, is best unhurried and will only serve to increase the ecstasy later.

So, a quick sluice of Stella and it'll be on to the main courses. After titillating all points north, south and peripheral, it will now be time to dip into the honeypot itself. Probably having to suppress a tremor or two in the trouser area, I shall now reach for the Laphroaig or, as I heard it referred to recently, the Leapfrog. Heretic! To the blurb is the cry!


Age: 10 years
Strength: 43%
Colour: Full, refractive, gold
Nose: Phenolic, seaweedy, very peaty with a hint of sweetness
Body: Medium and oily
Palate: Richly smoky, fully peated with a hint of sweetness, salty
Finish: Lingering and unique

Now this stuff really does take no prisoners. On a taste intensity scale of 1 - 5, I would have to give this a 6. I only have the 10 year old version and this is full of adolescent energy, arrogance and braggadocio, its rough edges as yet unsmoothed by age and its spirit aggressive, rampant and unrestrained. A perfect storm of a malt in fact, and yet just a first wham-bam, thankyou ma'am compared to to the encounter still to come.

I shall postpone the Stella here as I savour the lingering after-taste of the Laphroaig and ponder on the skill of the distillers and the mystery of the middle cut.

And then, onwards ever onwards. A few glugs of Belgium's best and it will be time to retrieve the key to the tantulus from its secret abode and with no little ceremony, pour out a good two fingers of cask strength Laphroaig and in no time at all I'll be taking deep breaths and reaching for the cigarettes.

This stuff is the business, the absolute dog's bollocks. At 57.3% alcohol and with a taste even more concentrated than the 10 year old, you may wish to take the precaution of nailing on your socks before sampling it. This should neither be your first experience of an Islay malt nor the first drink of an evening, but as a climax to a leisurely bender, it cannot be surpassed. Suffice it to say that, although I am reasonably free when it comes to offering around my other malts, this one is strictly for my own personal pleasure.

Hopefully on my next malt run to England, I will have enough of the folding to fill in the gaps in my present stocks by purchasing some Lagavulin, Bunnahabhain, Caol Ila, Port Ellen and Bruichladdich. I would also love to extend the range of ages of the ones I now have. I once sampled a limited Edition 1977 Ardbeg and well what can I say? You had to be there!

Bottoms up!

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Thought I'd come back and add a little link to the sexiest photo I have ever seen in my life. It's here and it's hot!

Post's a bit late today, isn't it? Well, apart from the pressures of work, I've been trying to figure out how to respond to those of you who have attributed all the problems I've been having with my car recently to divine retribution for my paean to paganism the other day.

I would hardly have called it an evangelical piece, my aim was not to convert, just to highlight the dangers of taking everything the Church says at face value was all.

Anyway, he goes through some peculiar phases, this God of yours, doesn't he? From the hellfire and brimstone role model for Ariel Sharon in the Old Testament (although I must admit old Ariel has improved on it of late with regard to the smiting), through coming over all of a lovey-dovey in the New and now I am expected to believe that he has fallen so low as to tinker with the mechanics of my car? Please.

As I said, the story of Jesus stands alone in all theologies as the sole example of a god who paid us the ultimate compliment of assuming human form, checking all his heavenly powers at the door, well...those not involving turning water into something eminently more drinkable and raising the dead to name but two...and finding out exactly how it feels to be human and suffer like the rest of us poor souls. Never would we again be able to wail, "But you just don't understand. You don't know what it's like."

Turning the other cheek and loving my neighbour? I'm all for it. Up to a point, beyond which a good slap upside the head is likely to be much more efficacious. Anyway, a good story and one well worth repeating. The fact that I just don't happen to believe it is neither here nor there. Nor do I believe one word of any of Shakespeare's historical plays but it doesn't stop me returning to them with a sense of awe and wonder from time to time.

I'm not entirely sure if the blasphemy laws remain on the statute in England but if they do, what say you to a cosy little bonfire around which we can all gather and discuss our differences? I'll agree to respect your religion as long as you agree to respect mine. And what is mine, you ask? A belief in free speech and tolerance, I guess. And could I ask your forgiveness in advance? In the same way as Christians occasionally slide from the path, otherwise they would have turned the confessional boxes into public toilets by now, so might I backslide a little from time to time as my tolerance is tested to its very limits by small dogs, most of the recent posts on BU and by the existence of said blasphemy laws in a supposedly democratic society. Why should only christians have special protection under the law is what I want to know.

I guess it's similar to these new 'hate-crime' laws I keep reading about. I mean, what? I can wholeheartedly agree that turning the head of someone of different race/creed/religion/sexual orientation into something resembling tomato puree should be punishable by quite a stretch in chokey. But should the head of my caucasian, heterosexual self meet a similar fate, quite why the punishment for such an act should be any the less is something I am finding it difficult to come to terms with.

I can just picture the interview at the crime scene now.

"Constable, could you just wipe some of that blood and cranial debris off his face so's I can determine racial orientation."

"Right, Sarge."

"Oh, dear. Not looking good, I'm afraid. Looks like he's married an' all. Sliced his ring finger off, dint they? Now Sir. Religion? Hedonist eh? Well, we'll put you down for C of E, shall we?"

"Sarge, maybe they just had it in for blokes with smug, supercilious expressions."

"Hang on a mo', then...let me, Shirt Lifter, Sodomite, Taoist, Transvestite....naah, no Smug down here. Now then, Sir. 'Fraid there ain't much we can do for you. If you wouldn't mind movin' along now, Sir. We can't have you blocking the thoroughfare like this now, can we?"

Oh, well.

A short word about identity cards. No.

A long word about identity cards. Unconscionable. And if that isn't a word, it damn well should be!

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Right then. Life, linguistics and Laphroaig. Okay, life it is.

My car died yesterday. Well, I say died but that might be stretching things a bit. Let's say seriously wounded, shall we? Yes, that's much better.

There I was tootling along merrily when the temperature guage shot up to 115°C and steam started escaping from under the bonnet. Now not being in the least bit mechanically minded, I lifted the hood more in a spirit of curiosity than in the belief that I might be able to actually do anything about it but, even with my untrained eyes, the sight of water pumping out of one of the cooling hoses like blood from a ruptured aorta led me to diagnose the problem in an instant.

Five miles from the nearest settlement as I was at the time, the Bugadifino gland kicked don't know the one? Then allow me to explain. Imagine if you will, a beautiful, deserted, tropical beach upon which you are reclining in the dead of night. Above you is a cloudless sky, peppered like buckshot with myriads of scintillating celestial bodies. As is your wont on such occasions, your mind turns to considering such ponderables as, "Why are we here?" and "What is it all about?" And, in the deep, dark recesses of your brain, a gland awakes and a familiar, friendly voice in your head says, "Bugadifino" which was exactly the reply I received yesterday when I posed the question, "What am I gonna do now?"

So, after standing around like a complete pillock for a few minutes and musing upon the fact that machinery wins hands down over Zen Buddhism when it comes to relieving one of one's ego, my brain finally made some very important connections.

1. I have just been shopping.
2. There is a whole crate of mineral water in back.

Well, there was no three, really. I didn't stop to consider whether the rate at which I could empty twenty, one and a half litre bottles of water into the reservoir would exceed that at which it was haemorrhaging out of the hose like the first piss of a night's heavy drinking, I just went for it.

I got home with two bottles to spare.

Anyhow, seeing as how I was supposed to be attending the first parents' council meeting at the nursery school my daughter goes to, I considered it to be evidence of the hand of fate. I simply was not meant to be there.

Nevertheless, said hand has been rather active of late with respect to my vehicular transport. Apart from the leak in the hose, the cooling system is buggered anyway, the ventilator has breathed its last, the window ratchet on my side has gone, the rear windscreen wiper will flip no more, the lock on the boot is inoperable and, as I drive, there is an ominous sound coming from beneath the car reminiscent of the opening minutes of "Apocalypse Now!" where the ceiling fan is doing its helicopter impression...thwop...thwop...thwop.

So, like Lamps yesterday, it was public transport for me today. Unlike the Sheffield experience however, buses in Hungary run frequently, on time and always stop where they are supposed to. So, why do I hate using them so? Having to get up at 6.30 in the morning to get to work for 8.00 might have some bearing on the matter. Or maybe it's the incurable snob in me rebelling against the necessity of boarding a bus and bringing myself into close physical proximity with entirely the wrong class of person. And just how do mothers balance a briefcase, three bags of shopping and a three year old, with only two hands and still succeed in proffering the correct change to the driver?

"Right!" I hear you cry, "That's enough of the life for one day. What about the linguistics?" Hmmm. A classroom anecdote may suffice. It was a Monday morning and me being as per, a little slow to hit high gear, I got a class talking about their weekend. One of them, a hunter, piped up "Last Saturday, I shat three rabbits." I mean, how priceless is that? I shall be forever in his debt as whenever I think of it, I still get a wonderful image of Elmer J Fudd, trousers round his ankles, buttocks to camera and with an obvious strain on, popping out three little bunnies.

Oh, and did you know that the verb 'to buttonhole' is a corruption of the verb 'to buttonhold'? No? Shame on you.

So...that leaves only Laphroaig. I'll have to loosely apply this one but I have found some lovely alcohol related stories in the news recently which I reproduce below for perusal at your leisure.


Germany wins again. Germany has regained the European drink-driving record. A Worms man found comatose in his car later tested for a blood-alcohol level of 5.3%, 11 times the limit and well beyond the level at which death should set in.


Mike Murphy, an officer with Springfield, Missouri, police, was a bit too much like Homer Simpson. Finding 70 beers seized by the underage drinking squad, he drank the lot. His lawyer said Murphy was following force policy by disposing of the beer. "And turning beer into urine is disposal," he insisted. Despite this novel defence, Murphy was fired.


And finally. What about the Finnish bank robbers who were so drunk that the manager talked them into accepting a loan?


Monday, November 17, 2003

Well, hello and a happy Monday morning to one and all.

Being temporarily bereft of any inspiration whatsoever, I think it's time again to make use of that journalistic device known as reader feedback.

Now until such time as I upgrade this blog and avail myself of the rather nifty features such as the ability to include pictures, graphics and e-mail links, I have to rely on those readers who for one reason or another, are already in possession of the means to contact me. Rest assured that, should these prove insufficient, I shall rely solely on my powers of invention.

I must admit that it was rather a blow to my pride that so many of you saw fit to begin your critiques with the phrase, "If I could just work out what the fuck you're on about..." I will concede that my penchant for circumlocution can lead, on occasion, to sentences which are deucedly hard to follow, but it is simply a linguistician's delight in seeing just how far he can stretch the use of embedded structures and relative clauses in an utterance and have it remain essentially, albeit after careful study, decipherable. To apply the standards of the Campaign for Simple English to this blog would, for me, take all the fun out of it so...tough titty on that one, I'm afraid.

The green ink brigade has also been out in force and to the list of voiceless bi-labial plosives, I can now add the word 'preposterous' and what a little gem of a word it is too! Very old school and high Tory, wouldn't you say? My only reply to this is that if I have caused such characters to spray their monitors with an indignant shower of spittle, then I must be doing something right.

Most of the feedback concerned my attempt at allegory, Wed Nov 12 re. Bombing McDonald's.
More than a few of you were desirous of knowing just what it is I have against McDonald's. Well, apart from the obvious, very little in fact. The whole thing was an attempt to highlight the fact that, were I to follow the example of my elders and betters, in this case a certain Tony Blair and his forays into international relations, I could make an equally valid case for reducing the Nagykanizsa branch of McDonald's into its constituent parts. A lesson here, maybe. Attempts at allegory should be more thinly veiled. And perhaps I should mark any attempts at irony with an *. Relying so heavily as it does on intonation, irony in print can easily be taken at face value and lead to blogs such as this one showing up on a CIA watchlist.

Which reminds me of that wonderful story of the Scottish distillery receiving a phone call from a CIA operative informing it that one of its factory webcams was malfunctioning. After thanking the caller for the information, a gentle enquiry led to said operative completely blowing her cover in a splendid demonstration of that American spirit of openness and disclosing that she was, in fact, monitoring the distillery for the CIA as part of the War on Terrorism. It appeared that a simple tweak in the distillation process could result in the production of weapons of mass destruction. Well, I don't know about mass but Scottish distilleries have been responsible for my own near destruction on occasions too numerous to mention. And haven't fast food outlets allegedly been responsible for mass outbreaks of E-Coli from time to time? Oh well, onwards and upwards.

Several of you, very correctly in my view, scolded me for publishing a list of pet hates. You reminded me that it is all too easy to carp, cavil, complain and otherwise find fault and that my energy would be better served by listing those things which introduce a feeling of joy and contentment into an otherwise dreary day, in other words a list of pet likes.

Notwithstanding my initial reaction which was, I'm afraid to say, something along the lines of, "Bog off and go and listen to the Sound of Music if that's what you want", it did set me to meditating on the idea, and the more I reflected upon it, the more it became apparent that, as an exercise, it is remarkably more difficult than it would at first appear. I don't mean simply listing those objects towards which we have a particular fondness, my record collection for example, or those which our appetites and individual taste bud configuration lead us to crave such as, in my case, Islay malts and sausage, bacon and tomato sandwiches, but a list of those things which one encounters in everyday life and which oil the social machinery as it were. Damned difficult.

Not being one to shirk a challenge, well...not one which doesn't involve fisticuffs anyway, in which case my policy has always been one of amelioration and as a final resort, should braggadocio and trying to face down my opponent fail, of removing myself from the situation as expediently as possible, in other words, running away, I feel I should at least make a token effort to compile such a list. So, to that end, here goes.


A rather devalued word, I will concur, and one that has become unfashionable of late even to the extent that, as a quality, it seems to have dropped out of public life altogether. To witness the behaviour of our politicians, our interviewers, most of our journalists and, I am reliably informed, participants in reality TV shows, is to witness conduct totally devoid of this once prized attribute. Politeness, respect and tolerance in our dealings with others no matter what the occasion can only lead to society's wheels and gears running in a smooth and congenial fashion and induce a mood opposite to that engendered by the sneering, cynical, opinionated, insulting and, quite frankly, downright ignorant.

Having written that, and reflected upon it, it has become clear that almost everything I find uplifting about life in general can somehow fit into this category. Anything from polite and cheerful shop assistants, through a cheery "Good morning!" in a bus stop queue, to drivers acknowledging my actions on the road with a wave of the hand are all demonstrations of the fact that small acts of niceness can have a disproportionate effect on my general mood. They cheer me up, make me feel all warm inside and much better prepared to face the day. They put a smile on my face and renew my faith that most people are, at heart, thoroughly good eggs.

So, where does that leave me in regard to the list? Well, having to fall back on that which I promised to avoid to be honest. I will, however, make an attempt to avoid the concrete - Laphroaig, mature Cheddar etc. - and concentrate on the abstract.

Verbal sparring.

Should I, or anyone else come to that, toss a verbal high ball into the air, nothing gives me greater pleasure than to see it smashed back with glee, joyful abandon and total lack of malicious intent. I once admitted to a certain confusion in electronic conversation with my favourite Uncle and was asked whether the source of my confusion was Unicum or Stella. Not the most devastating of jibes maybe, but one that demonstrates that no opportunity should be missed to try and provoke a chuckle, in this case, successfully. The only condition I would impose on this activity is that those dishing it out should welcome, indeed invite, its being returned as indeed is the case with Uncy and Jessica both of whose steel it has often been my delight to taste.

The inventive insult.

Rather goes against the general thrust of my argument for niceness I know, but my love of language and verbal sparring makes it inevitable that I should have a soft spot for any creativity in the insult department. If imbued with enough humour and creativity, a well crafted insult should leave even its recipient with a trace of a grin on their face. My all time favourite in this category is an exchange which took place between Lady Astor and Sir Winston Churchill which went something along these lines.

Lady A: Winston, if you were my husband, I should flavour your coffee with poison.

Sir W: Madam, if I were your husband, I should drink it.

George Bernard Shaw once sent Churchill two tickets for the opening of his new play and asked him to "bring a friend...if you have one."

Churchill replied saying that he was otherwise engaged but requested tickets for the second performance..."if there is one."

And a classic from John Wilkes.

The Earl of Sandwich: Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox.
John Wilkes: That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress.

And one from a genius of the one liner.

Clare Boothe Luce (meeting Parker in a doorway): Age before beauty!
Dorothy Parker (gliding through the door): Pearls before swine!


And my favourite curse.

"May you be cursed with a chronic anxiety about the weather."

John Burroughs (1837-1921)

Well, that's all I can think of for now. It will have to remain, like the pet hates, an occasional series to be added to whenever inspiration strikes. Until then, if you have been, don't blame me.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Oh, well. Nearly made it through a whole day without blogging but then I found this little jokelet which I thought I'd share.

A lawyer married a woman who had previously divorced ten husbands. On their wedding night, she told her new husband, "Please be gentle, I'm still a virgin." "What?" said the puzzled groom. "How can that be if you've been married ten times?"

"Well, husband #1 was a sales representative. He kept telling me how great it was going to be.

Husband #2 was in software services. He was never really sure how it was supposed to function, but he said he'd look into it and get back to me.

Husband #3 was from field services. He said everything checked out diagnostically but he just couldn't get the system up.

Husband #4 was in telemarketing. Even though he knew he had the order, he didn't know when he would be able to deliver."

"Husband #5 was an engineer. He understood the basic process but wanted three years to research, implement, and design a new state-of-the-art method.

Husband #6 was from finance and administration. He thought he knew how, but he wasn't sure whether it was his job or not.

Husband #7 was in marketing. Although he had a nice product, he was never sure how to position it."

"Husband #8 was a psychologist. All he ever did was talk about it.

Husband #9 was a gynecologist. All he did was look at it.

Husband #10 was a stamp collector. All he ever did was... God! I miss him!

But now that I've married you, I'm really excited!"
"Good," said the new husband, "but, why?" "You're a lawyer. This time I know I'm gonna get screwed!"

Oh, yeah. Nearly forgot. No.4. Just say no!

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Right then, before I forget, here is my all time favourite FFC for Webbo...No.3.

Forgive me if my prose is a trifle jaded today but I was up all night. Not through choice, unfortunately, but with an incredible pain where my skull joins the spine and which intensifies to an excruciating degree whenever I assume a horizontal position. Imagine the worst hangover you've ever had, multiply it by the number you first thought of and you will still have no idea. I'm stuffed to the gills with muscle relaxants and prescription painkillers whose mg count is into 4 figures and the biggest decision I will be faced with today is whether or not to ensure all my affairs are in order and add alcohol to the mix.

Anyway, it did give me an opportunity of catching up with posts on the various SUFC message boards and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the spirit of "Bah! Humbug!" is as alive and well on Viewpoints as it ever was. Images of London Blades taking out neon illuminations with a wide selection of firearms sit rather easily with my own idea of what the christmas spirit should be about. Anarchy and bacchanalia run rampant. "Squeezing Sponges over Policemen's Heads" would be an appropriate soundtrack to this but I digress.

If you think you've got it bad over there in the Old Country, and you undoubtedly have, spare a thought for us poor buggers over here in Central (German influenced) Europe who, at this time of year get hit with a double whammy. Okay, I might be one of the few Englishmen who can get through an entire Yuletide without having their senses assaulted by Slade upon entering any High Street Emporium or hostelry, and I seem to recall some appalling and interminable Woolworths ads as well, but I will have to go through the whole shang-a-lang on two separate occasions. Two times. Twice.

It's this whole Father Winter bit you see. Now, without wanting to bore your bottoms off with too much detail, what we call christmas was originally, like easter, a pagan shebang at which our pre-christian forebears would shuck off their skins and engage in a bacchanalian bonk-fest to celebrate (get that...CELEBRATE!) mid-winter. You know, a from here on in it's a downhill ride to spring kinda thing.

There now follows the only bit of Kan conjecture in this entire narrative. Now, if we accept that the tradition of the May Queen is also a hangover from the pagan rites of celebrating fertility and renewal round about easter time, it doesn't take too great a leap of faith to imagine a Father Winter type character figuring in their winter whoop-de-do.

And then what? Back on solid ground now. Along come the first christian missionaries and did what christian missionaries have always done. Seen what fun the natives were having getting down to the serious business of celebrating the cycles of life and started figuring out how to put a stop to it. Running parallel to this abhorrence of all things involving heat (notice that christ imagery is always warmth) was an intense and scheming desire to implant their own religion, a dry, arid, eastern, desert religion amongst the fertile forests and rampant greenery of Europe.

And what better way to do this than to suborn the pagan festivals into christian ones? Now, I'm sure the Romans obviously just stumbled across an empire stretching all the way up to Hadrian's wall without a bureaucracy capable of the intellectual leap required to realise that the middle of winter might not be the best time to hold their census, and seeing as all archaeological evidence points to it being in the summer months, hey...what the hell? Christ's birthday...job's a good 'un.

And, the worst cut of all. One of the old pagan deities was a nature god who lives on in the English language as Robin Goodfellow, the Old Man of the Woods and even in pub names such as the Green Man. Thing was, he traditionally was a kind of Pan type figure, part human and part horny old goat and what did the bastards do to him? Only turn him into the horned, tailed and cloven hooved popular image of the devil is all.

And just in case you are still harbouring doubts as to the verity of all this, just consider easter. If you can show me the christian connection to any of the following, I might just listen to your arguments. Painted eggs, rabbits, phallic maypoles and the central European practice of the men and boys of a community sprinkling perfumed water on the women and girls whilst reciting such obviously pious rhymes as...

Red eggs, blue eggs
I've also got two eggs
Up with your skirt
Down with your pants
I'd like to sprinkle your rabbit

and receiving brightly coloured eggs and a shot of palinka in return.

And to judge just how successful they were in all this, just try popping down to your local library and try researching your pre-christian heritage and see how far you get. Druids? Don't make me laugh. Bit o' pansy dancing and new age mumbo jumbo around stone circles at summer solstice does not an unbroken pagan tradition make.

Anyway, to return to the Father Winter character. Well, he was transformed into St Niclaus amongst the germanic tribes and was probably imported into England by that fount of our present genetically challenged royal family, Prince Albert, as St Nicholas, Santa Claus or Father Christmas.

And herein lies the double whammy. In Germany and here in Hungary, Mikulas has his own day, the 6th of December and it is on the evening of the fifth that Father Christmas shins down the chimney to give the children their first lesson in the triumph of hope over experience.

The birth of christ however is celebrated on the evening of the 24th when children are suckered out of the house, one parent mysteriously disappears and the kids return to a decorated tree under which are presents the delivery of which was, and get this, the responsibility of the baby Jesus.

So, take whatever it is you are experiencing at the present time and imagine having to go through it all again three weeks later. You've never 'ad it so good!

Anyway, even if we accept that the christians acted in good faith, then exactly what is left of their festival today? A spiritual reflection on the meaning of the birth of a man in whom the one true god supposedly paid us the ultimate compliment of finding out exactly what it is to be human and suffer the same shit as the rest of us and who taught us to love our neighbour...?

The amount of spirituality we are prepared to dish out is calculated to a nicety bordering on the scientific...20 quids' worth for Uncle Tommy, 16 for Auntie Glad and what can we get ferra fiver for second cousin Edward twice removed? Cant, hypocrisy and more than a whiff of mendacity in the air, wouldn't you agree?

It's all heading towards where the americans have already gone. The family holiday route. values...Victoria...Margaret bloody Thatcher...god save us from family values! Fratricide, matricide, wife-beating and incest have, to my knowledge, never taken place outside a family environment and most cases of children being battered tend to happen within one as well. There is nothing quite like a family for inspiring and nurturing feelings of jealousy, spitefulness, vindictiveness and just plain nastiness. And it all takes place behind closed doors, away from prying eyes and when it does eventually explode we get the "Oooh! And he seemed such a nice man!" and "She brought it all on herself, you know...the little baggage." Family values? I've shat 'em.

"Bah! Humbug!" to christmas. Mind you, if there's any o' that mulled wine or hot toddy goin' spare, I'll join you in raising a glass or few to the memory of the Green Man. I'm sure Bacchus would grant his full approval.

And, as a postscript, I've just dredged this little anecdote out of my archives and feel it would be rather appropriate to include it here in full.

"There is a story that St Augustine persuaded an English king to turn Christian when sitting with him in a great hall having a Christmas feast - it wouldn't have been called a Christmas feast, it would have been called a Yuletide wassail, I expect - it was a big winter do, that's the point. As was common in those days before Magnet and Southern sliding patio doors, the party was going with a swing. A great fire crackled in the log, a great log crackled in the fire, and a log fire crackled in the grate. All was glee and revel. The only ventilation provided took the form of two holes high up on either end of the roof.

Of a sudden, or 'suddenly' as we say in England, a bird flew in through one of the holes in the wall, fluttered about for a bit and flew out through the other. The King, we shall call him Boddlerick, because I have no intention of hauling my great corse up the stairs to look it up, who was accounted something of a philosopher, turned to Augustine, his strangely berobed and behaloed guest, and said unto him these words, in this wise: 'Behold, strangely berobed and behaloed guest! Is not our life like that of this poor bird. From the dark and howling void we came, cast suddenly into a world of colour and warmth and light, of music and mirth and merriment, briefly to flutter our baffled wings in alarm, only to be pitched back into the eternal cold and dark again?'

A good analogy, you'd have thought. Worthy of Jonathan Miller himself. But Augustine was having none of it. 'No, no, sire, majesty, liege,' he countered, 'you have it entirely the wrong way round. Our lives are dark passages in the stream of light that is God's love. To those who know God, through the window is paradise.'

Instead of telling Augustine not to be such a silly old ninny and to get another skinful of rude mead and another eyeful of rude dancer, this fat-headed king liked what he heard and fell bell, book and candle for the whole funky Christian groove thing. This country and its Christmasses have been damned ever since. Because, from that wretched day on, the world and its colour and music and light are things which we have had to write crawling thank-you letters to God for until we die. As little children sprawled before the lap of Father Christmas Almighty we cannot even enjoy the gifts of the world without guilt, shame, terror and gibbering gratitude.

So bog off St Gussie and roll on Boddlerick, say I. It's cold and dark and loveless outside, and this is as good as it ever gets. So let's feed the poor now, because their reward is NOT in heaven, let's drop ash on the carpet, slob around in our dressing gowns, mull wine all day long, watch television lying on our tummies, forget our thank-you letters to granny and God and have a ripping good time.

But let's not do it on Christmas day. Let's do it every damned day, for ever and ever Amen."

Thank-you, Stephen. I couldn't have said it better myself.

Friday, November 14, 2003

Those of you familiar with the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers will be able to imagine the planning that went into this anarchic, military manoeuvre.

And for those of you entirely unfamiliar with the work in question, I found these scripts but it was the standard of the drawing that always did it for me.

And as an incentive for Webbo to drop in from time to time, here is No. 1 of an occasional series concerning feline filosophy.

Closely followed by No. 2...I just couldn't resist it.

This talk of occasional series has put me in mind of another I would like to run as the fancy takes me...a list of pet hates. Now I don't mean anything that would have me screwing the silencer on the old .45 or reaching for the nearest blunt instrument to hand...nothing really winds me up to that extent...but rather those little niggly things that may cause your hackles to rise and generally introduce a feeling of irritability into an otherwise perfectly acceptable day. Anyway, in no particular order, I present the following.


I was woken up this morning at what was, for me, a rather ungodly hour by my mobile phone ringing. After struggling for a while to co-ordinate brain and fingers, I finally managed to press the right button and position said phone against ear. A rather bored sounding Hungarian woman introduced herself and bade me good morning. Now, I am never at my sharpest before at least three coffees and a cigarette or two so it took a while before my brain clicked into understanding rapid Hungarian mode. At this point, I realised that she was telling me something about my mobile phone number having been drawn at random and that if I would be so perspicacious as to take advantage of this wonderful..."Yeah, right. Thankyou for waking me up. Now, fuck off!" Suppose I should be grateful really. After all, it isn't every day you get to swear at complete strangers with total impunity, is it? Mind you, if my phone rings every hour on the hour tonight, I might just revise my opinion.

Ring tones.

Now, it may be the old conservative in me but Muzak of any kind does for me what fingernails scraped down a blackboard do for numerous other souls of my acqaint and to hear it coming from a phone is rather like hearing a butch Alsatian dog coming out with an effete miaow. The two do not belong together. A phone is a phone and should sound like a phone.
"But how will I know that it's my phone that's ringing, then?"
"Because it is on or about your person, you tit! Or if your auditory equipment leads you to believe that the sound is coming from the place you last deposited said phone, then you are at liberty to assume it just might be yours that is ringing. Do I make myself clear?"

Musical doorbells.

Pretty much as above really. Muzak again and the fact that doorbells seemed to more than adequately perform their function when they went ding-dong or buzzed. It doesn't help that I once lived in an apartment block the intercom doorbell of which would have me mentally reaching for the sledgehammer every time it produced a version of "Fur Elise" with its tinny electronic circuitry. Mind you, if I could find one that played "Fohat Digs Holes in Space" or "Itchy and Scratchy" at stomach pumping volume, I just might be persuaded to change my mind.

Chivas Regal.

A perfectly acceptable blended Scotch and one which does, in fact, use Laphroaig as its base note. But what really tees me off about this is that it has managed to somehow attach to itself an image of superiority by a mind-bendingly simple bit of reverse logic. Some guy had the wonderful idea that if they made it noticeably more expensive than other equally acceptable blends, Joe Public would automatically assume that it was of a much higher standard. I can't really hate them for the idea, I guess. What really beggars belief is that it has worked!

Txt spk.

"But it saves time!" is the cry. Yeah, right. For somebody with nothing better to do with their time than to send text messages, I can see how an extra 30 seconds or so might make a really important and vital contribution to their day. Besides, I harbour the vague suspicion that it affords them an opportunity to conceal the facts that their grasp of English spelling is tenuous at best and that, if brains were chocolate, they wouldn't have enough to fill a Smartie. The only text message that I would look upon with anything other than a sneer would be one promising "Gr8 sx l8er" and even then...

Drivers of Suzuki Swifts.

Chimps the lot of 'em. You could sell these here in Hungary without indicators or rear view mirrors and their owners would never even notice. Enough said.


Or any other small dog that is usually carried by women of a certain age, bedecked in canine accessories and possessant of a most irritating yap. Upon confronting one of these abominations, I am seized with a curiosity to discover the distance in feet that I could kick it.


Now don't get me wrong. Forums and message boards are a fine and wonderful thing but as for avatars...The cause of a momentary snigger at best and a monumental distraction at worst. Rather like leaving a TV on in the corner of the room when you want to get down to some serious shaggin'. No matter the expertise of your partner, your eyes will always be drawn to it...until the short strokes of course, when they're probably clenched shut, wrinkled like sun-dried Italian tomatoes and part of a face the expression of which might possibly suggest to a casual observer that its owner is in the middle of a rather strenuous dump. Anyway, that's by the by. Avatars? No.

That bloody awful, diamond pattern Sheffield United shirt.

Still rankles even after all these years. The Blades play in red and white stripes. End of story.

Hungarian shop assistants.

These deserve and will no doubt one day have, a post all of their own. Until such time as I have stored enough bile and sufficient spleen to vent on this subject, I will confine myself to the following observation. Some two or three years ago, I had returned to England during the summer months and was in Tesco's, at the checkout to be precise. After being stuck behind a woman who seemed to be taken by surprise by the fact that she might possibly be expected to pay and was rummaging in her bag for her purse, it was suddenly my turn to check out my goods. The rather attractive young lady at the till fixed me with an open, bright smile, wished me a good afternoon and asked, "Do you need any help?" Well, so taken aback was I by this question that I found myself going through a quick mental checklist. Have I got my trousers on back to front? Did I remember to take the straightjacket off? How did I look in the mirror this morning? Are my ears haemorrhaging? You know, those kind of things. I blurted out something along the lines of "'m I look...well, mentally subnormal or something?"
"Oh no, with your packing." It was then I realised that I had been living in Hungary for far too long.

Anyway, looking for something on which to work out my frustrations, I came upon this. It isn't every day you get to find out that you're a serial killer. Takes a while to load but I found it strangely invigorating. Then again, maybe I need therapy.

And thanks to this, which also might take a wee while to load, I have a whole new strategy for dealing with chihuahuas.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

For all the thrills and spills of "Kill Bill" without the luscious cinematography, movie in-jokes and ham acting, click here.

Now this IS bad news. If it ever takes off here in Hungary, I'm going to have no credibility left at all.

And into the "this could be bad news but we'll withhold judgement till a later date" category, comes this little promotional offering from the Beeb.

And I suppose I should be happy to have got this far and still remain 37% pure!

And as this aims to be an inclusive endeavour here's one for you women.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

For absolutely no reason whatsoever, I thought I'd have a musical introduction today. Just click the play button.

Having always been told by my elders and betters to follow their fine example, I have until now been rather successful in resisting these and other attempts to form, mould or otherwise trammel my character. If anyone tried to push me in one direction, I would head off immediately to the other point of the compass. This has proved to be pretty sound policy and even if I have ended up knee deep in the bisque on a few isolated occasions, I feel my life would have been much the poorer for not encountering them.

Upon reaching the age of 45, however, I feel it might be time to reassess my position. Purely in the nature of a social experiment you understand, and with myself as guinea pig, it would seem only fair, for once in my life, to follow the example of those who should know better.

To this end, I have decided to bomb McDonald's.

It seems that such a course of action should begin with a media campaign. Maybe Terminal Velocity can lend me his heavy metal glider for the day and I could do a leaflet drop over Nagykanizsa. The campaign should highlight the extent to which the company can ruthlessly dictate the diet our children should adhere to, its conscienceless propaganda targetted at such malleable young minds and the company's insistence on feeding an entire generation burgers of mass malnutrition.

Now I fully expect apologists for the corporation to argue that any changes to their policy should come from within or even be customer driven, but how a company which can come up with the menu item "McNuggets" is to be trusted to view their customers as being possessant of anything other than a smaller than average amount of cerebral matter is quite beyond my ability to explain.

I also predict that I shall be urged to consult the end users of the product, the customers themselves. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Why on Earth should they be bothered with such complicated nutritional matters when there is someone like me who has studied the problem from every conceivable angle, become convinced of the only possible solution and is prepared to carry it through no matter the cost? The very idea!

No. I shall simply reduce the Nagykanizsa branch of McDonald's to a pile of smouldering rubble and point to the resulting improvement in our children's diet as ample justification.

Anyway, for those who missed it first time round on Lampiao's blog, here it is again. A classic of the genre.

And for the precision vaulters among you, there's always this.