Sunday, February 29, 2004

Word of the Day

eldritch (n) What one's mummy always hoped one would marry into.


Okay, let's look at the positives...

1. She's definitely female.
2. Words of more than three syllables hold no horrors for her.
3. She seems to have a remarkably sound grasp of the 'Football, Beer and Sex' raisons d'etre.
4. Six inch heels? Need I say more?
5. She would seem to be well aware of all the erotic possibilities of a Blades' replica shirt.
6. Her knowledge of obscure bourbons is probably on a par with that of mine regarding single malt scotch.
7. She has a perfect balance of wit, sense, humour and intelligence and knows the value of a well crafted insult.
8. If I mention Sophocles, she won't think it refers to John's lesbian sister.
9. She could probably teach me a lot about html, of which I remain in total ignorance.
10. Her views on parenting are uncannily close to my own.
11. She is undoubtedly a dirty stop-out and would provide generous assistance should I chance upon a bar in serious need of propping up.
12. She reads my blog and turns not away from that which is contained therein.

And the negatives...

Well, apart from a seeming preference to Nietzsche over Wittgenstein, I can't think of any right now...but then again, I am on my second bottle of the white stuff with which I was presented last eminently drinkable Chardonnay, seeing as you ask.

So, notwithstanding all those wondrously beguiling positives, there was still something holding me back. Until today that is. When three minutes and forty seconds of earworm blinded me with the realisation that not only does she...blah...blah...blah...blah, she also loves jazz!

Marry me, Jess!


All in all, it's been a pretty grim weekend so far. The Blades lost again to set it up nicely and the weather forecast for last night said, "mostly cloudy." Well, I've just this minute finished shovelling eight inches of 'mostly cloudy' off of my drive. Still, I think I may just have stumbled across a rather good way of clearing the previous night's alcohol out of my system.

Oh well, must dash.

Friday, February 27, 2004

"You've got to help me. I have a blog to update and absolutely nothing to say."

"Why don't you go for a walk round the lake, breathe some fresh air, clear the cobwebs. Usually works for me."

Did absolutely bugger all for me though.

"Then have a lazy surf, read the papers, phone up a few friends and shoot the breeze."

Nope. Squat. Sweet doo-diddley.

"Well, there's nothing else for it then."


"You'll just have to start."

Well, I'll give it a go.

One of my company's contracts expired today and wasn't renewed and I've been out celebrating. Now that I'm in, I find the celebration has yet to reach its natural conclusion. My client very thoughtfully provided me with several bottles of Hungarian Cabernet Sauvignon of exceeding good vintage. 2000 was an exceptional year for the grape here and I find my appetite for the stuff quite unquenchable at the moment. They also saw fit to provide me with a case of something white, the provenance of which escapes me right now but on being presented with it, I seem to recall musing upon the fact that if this was the gear he was giving away, he must have restocked his cellar since last I saw it. And it was pretty blinding then, I can tell you.

Before you accuse me of pronoun slip, might I just make it clear that the 'they' referred to the company and the 'he', to the chairman/CEO thereof? Thankyou.

Chairman. Such an impressive word, don't you think? And one which, to my eyes anyway, still looks decidedly odd appended to my name on company correspondence. We, that is he and I, have had a chairpersons' relationship for some 13 years now and, as I owe all that I have to the largesse of his company, maybe it should have been me dispensing the Vintage this day. Naaaaaaah. Get a grip.

I remember our first meeting. I was shit scared. I mean, this was the Head Honcho of an oil company for Christ's sake and me, an Englishman on the make in post 1989 Eastern Europe. My first impressions did little to quell my fears, his aura entered the room a good few seconds before he did and all others present seemed to be in a strangely numb and stutteringly dumb state of obeisance. Then I noticed the way he walked, the way he planted his if he knew he was there, if you know what I mean. I saw the smile playing around just behind his lips. He didn't, but it was almost as if he'd winked when he looked at me and I remember thinking, "Aye, aye!"

I still have no idea why it was that he chose to reveal himself to me at that moment, but I am sure he did just as I am sure that it was a deliberate decision on his part. I've seen this guy at work with subordinates, customers and high ranking politicians and I have never seen him even for a moment exert less than total control over himself. What I saw that day, he had allowed me to see. And as I looked around, I knew that somehow he had contrived it to be for my eyes only.

The ease with which negotiations passed surprised me and it did not seem at all strange that we were the only two who seemed to find the whole situation amusing. I remember leaving his office and having to restrain myself until I was well clear of the building before letting out such a whoop that has only been heard since on the occasion of the play-off semi-final last year.

He took me to his vineyard. Blimey. Every other poor sod has a two up-one down cellar, his you could have lived in and wondered where the room service had got to. Anyway, we had a nomadic wander from barrel to barrel and had it not been for the fact that his chaffeur was on 24 hour call out, we would both have had an unscheduled swim in the lake on our way home. A chairmen's night out...bloody marvellous.

He asked me to teach him English. I'd go in with a beautifully detailed lesson plan that would last all of about 5 minutes before he'd just cut loose. I don't think he had anybody with whom he could relate without reference to a different agenda. I was an outsider, a foreigner, not even an employee and we talked about anything and everything. He would even ask my opinion on how he was bringing up his two children. The amount of trust he placed in me by opening himself up in such a way, I have never experienced from any other person. Okay, I always knew that if he asked me to jump, my reaction would have to have been, "How high?" but the fact that he never in all those 13 years actually asked should tell you something about both of us.

I only ever had to bend the truth with him on one occasion and even that was an extension of the Hippocratic oath that I exercised with him. I taught his children English and went out for a drink with his son once. I had to tell his father when he rather tentatively asked me that I had not seen him after 2 o'clock in the morning. We had agreed that it might be for the best if he alone accepted responsibility for his rather distressed state and the wonderful scent on his fingers rather than blame it all on me. I was exceeding grateful. As for the scent, you can rest assured that we didn't get it from each other.

So, an end. And yet another beginning. My company has just signed a moderately lucrative contract with a well known English language learning institution and will sign another on the morrow. Kan the Man Enterprises Inc. is still far from the breadline.

But, as I sit here in a house I designed myself and had built, looking out on an enormous garden which presently could successfully audition for a traditional Christmas card, within easy reach of several bottles of the finest malts the Isle of Islay has to offer and typing this on a beast bought with oil company money...I would be hard hearted indeed if I failed to raise a glass to the man who made it all possible. Thanks, Miklos.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

I really must apologise Jess...I really am sorry. I must have read your latest about an hour ago and I've been otherwise engaged since but I've just poured myself a good two fingers of the finest, sat down in front of the beast and can hardly focus. If anyone can tell me why Jess taking a hefty right cross should have me in hysterics...I mean real tears of laughter here...I would be exceeding grateful. My own theory, for what it's worth, is that I've been right through it and come out the other side into a place where laughter is the only possible or even sane reaction.

Maybe Aeschylus can help me out again.

Near the heart the pointed sword
Waits; when Justice gives the word,
Through and through, sour edged and strong,
Strikes the blade. For none can long
Scorn regard of right and wrong,
Break the holy laws of heaven,
And hope to find his deed forgiven.

Justice plants her anvil; Fate
Forges keen the brazen knife.
Murder still will propogate
Murder; life must fall for life,
So the avenging Fiend, renowned
For long resolve and guile profound,
Now the wheel has turned with time,
Pays in blood the ancient crime.

It does rather seem a pity that after a few thousand years of human evolution, the best we can come up with nowadays is 'What goes around, comes around', wouldn't you say? I don't think I could be that patient, though...five minutes, that's all I'd ask. Doubt if I'd need it though.

Oh well, if you have been, keep your head down.

I have, after considerable thought and after reading Jess's bit on Socrates, come to the rather inevitable conclusion that hemlock was too good for him.

But seeing as we're on the classics, here's Sophocles on being a Blade.

Now once more, drenched with dew,
I walk about; lie down, but no dreams visit me.
Sleep's enemy, fear, stands guard beside me, to forbid
My eyes one instant's closing. If I sing some tune -
Since music's the one cure prescribed for heartsickness -
Why, then I weep, to think how changed this house is now
From splendour of old days, ruled by its rightful lord.
So may the gods be kind and grant release from trouble,
And send the fire to cheer this dark night with good news.

I guess his glass was half-empty, too.

He also had a few words to say about Nick Montgomery .

Come, look on him, and weep.

About Wendy, he was quite specific.

As byword for abhorrence
Another name is named:

He must also have been present on an occasion when the Blades played host to visitors from S6. I think they must have upset him.

Out of this temple! I command you, go at once!
Quit my prophetic sanctuary, lest you feel
The gleaming snake that darts winged from my golden bow,
And painfully spew forth the black foam that you suck
From the sour flesh of murderers. What place have you
Within these walls? Some pit of punishments, where heads
Are severed, eyes torn out, throats cut, manhood unmanned,
Some hell of maimings, mutilations, stonings, where
Bodies impaled on stakes melt the mute air with groans -
Your place is there! Such are the feasts you love, for which
Heaven loathes you. Is not this the truth, proclaimed in you
By every feature? Find some blood-gorged lion's den,
There make your seemly dwelling, and no more rub off
Your foulness in this house of prayer and prophecy.
Away! Graze other fields, you flock unshepherded!
No god loves such as you!

Blimey! He also had a word or two of advice for our Neil.

Wealth and honour will attend
Love of goodness gladly held;
Virtue free and uncompelled
Fears no harsh untimely end.
But the man whose stubborn soul
Steers a rash defiant course
Flouting every law's control -
He in time will furl perforce,
Late repenting, when the blast
Shreds his sail and snaps his mast.

10 out of 10 for the translator, I think there.

And in case you are beginning to entertain a soupcon of a smidgen of a particle of a scintilla of an iota of a suspicion that either Sophocles was alone in his Bladeness or that my classical education only encompassed Greeks whose names began with S, here's Euripedes on last year's play-off final.

Happy are those who never knew
Gladness, whose birth embraced misfortune,
Steeling their souls to endure adversity -
My still-remembering heart envies their stubborn will!
From joy to tears - this cruel exchange
Weighs down the mortal spirit with long despair.

And Aeschylus was quite emphatic about the source of Wendy's plight an' all.

'The hand of Zeus has cast
The proud from their high place!'
This may we say, and trace
That hand from first to last.
As Zeus foreknowing willed,
So was their end fulfilled.

Next time, we'll be looking at "Five Go off in a Caravan" and relating it to early Existentialism. Nature, nurture or Nietzsche?

Wrap up warm, now!

Monday, February 16, 2004

Word of the Day

pusillanimous (n): a feeling engendered by sick felines.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

I had 110 gigabytes of Winchester memory on my puta and yet it still wasn't enough. The bytes free counter was in free fall and I figured it was high time to save a lot of stuff to disc. So, I scanned the contents in an attempt to maximise returns and figured that, as I had about 75 films on hard drive and as I have a home entertainment centre which plays a variety of discs, it might be a good idea to convert all those DivX avi. files to VCD format. I managed to find a program capable of this mighty feat, downloaded it and set off. After having spent about ten minutes watching the task bar stick at 0%, I figured it might just be time to ditch the Celeron III and upgrade to something more capable of performing the task in hand within my allotted three score and ten.

One phone call to my bank manager later (beware the perils of phone banking...the illusion of wealth it gives you is exactly that...illusory) and I was informed that my company's bank account was in an exceedingly healthy state and therefore capable of fucking the tax men by supporting an upgrade of my system.

I called my friend, who owns a computer shop, and told him to book the holiday, I'm on my way. I settled on a 2 by 256 Mb dual channel memory and a Pentium IV which also entailed a video card upgrade...TV out, video capabilities and pedal to the metal. The only remaining original components are the 80 and 30 gigabyte hard drives and my audio card...I even had to buy a new case/box/container to fit the whole shebang into. At this point, I'm afraid I rather lost the plot and my friend's holiday suddenly took on Niue proportions as I bought an HP deskjet 5150 printer and a Canon scanner. The scanner was made with me in mind...three buttons only, one for a scan, one for a photocopy and one for send by e-mail...I'm a simple kinda guy.

Now because I run on Windows XP, such an upgrade meant a complete re-installation of the operating system rather than a simple refresh and I am still in the process of re-installing all the program files I lost in the process. Fuckity fuck fuck fuck might best express the feeling engendered by this rather tiresome task.

So, I finally had a system capable of working at a speed equal to that of my un-Stellad synapses and could I use it? Could I fuck! Excuse me for a minute...I have to hit the fridge...memo to self...last bottle of Stella...refresh stocks forthwith, particularly as the Blades have a match on the morrow.

I have to give you some idea of the topography of my abode in order for you to be aware of the problem with which I was faced. Any guests I may have are accommodated in the same room as my puta on a sofa bed I installed for the very purpose. I have this very day taxied my soi-disant mother-in-law to the train station and thus regained internet access. She goes to bed at 8 pm at the latest and so rather curtailed my prime time internet activity. So, throw away your Simple English text books guys, I'm back!

So it is that, rather like the Blades, I've been playing catch up today. Having finally torn myself away from the penguin games on offer at Lamps and GCB's places, I hit on my favourite blogs and was not disappointed.

I enjoyed reading about Jess's confrontation with the American Coalition of Life Activists and was well impressed with her demeanour. My reactions under such circumstances are to a) try and reason with them or, if that fails, b) resort to a grizzly violence. I am amazed at how I have changed as I have got older (I nearly said matured then, but in the interests of factual accuracy settled on the former). In the past I would have walked over hot coals to avoid confrontation but now I find I am less likely to walk away and odds on favourite to create what my parents would call a scene. Life is too short to put up with stupidity and ignorance. Sorry, mum.

I am also all agog to discover how Roger's 'Into the Tumult' pans out and moreover very impatient to inform him that Wendy are indeed fucked.

I would also like to hazard a guess that Churchill the nodding dog was indeed modelled on Bagpuss and I await the Pixar version with bated breath.

Jess's love of stories also gave me food for thought. I figured for a moment that my supply of same was rather limited but then consoled myself with the fact that they haven't been properly coaxed out of me yet. She may apply the whip, cudgel or obscure bourbon as she sees fit. And, as it appears I have now missed Valentine's day by the merest whisper, may I say that I regret not having being born in Maryland and that she has my permission to attempt to sweep me off my feet to Niue whenever the fancy takes her.

Oh well, if you have been, it sure ain't my fault.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

I finally got around to tooling around with the settings on this 'ere Blogger and reset the times to GMT + 1 which means that my blog and I are now in perfect chronological synchronisation and I must admit, it's all a tad upsetting.

Whereas before, I could look at the times of my postings in Standard Eastern or whatever it is you Blogger boffins use as the default and remain blissfully unaware of how it related to my real time, I am now forced to confront some rather unpalatable truths concerning what may loosely be described as my lifestyle.

It is a little disconcerting to realise that any daytime post from Tuesday through Thursday indicates that I am not where I am contractually obliged to be. Actually, that's not entirely true...if all the executives at the company where I teach are otherwise engaged, then why should I hang around when I could be blogging? Particularly when I negotiated a clause in my contract which guarantees me a minimum 8 hour daily payment regardless of actual teaching hours. Which sets me to wondering if there's an 'insufferably smug' emoticon I could use at this point.

Daytime posts on Monday or Friday indicate that Burns' wee observation, 'The best laid plans of mice and men gang oft agly.' has stood up to the rigours of practical testing and proved to be pretty damned accurate and on the ball. These are the days I set aside for acclimatising myself to the digital age by working from home. That the work in question is marking examination scripts and is thus, strictly analogue is neither here nor there and I hope you feel ashamed of yourselves for being so finickerty.

It is also quite a revelation to realise that the posts which have caused me the most pleasure on re-reading have been those conceived in the wee small hours of Friday and Saturday, or to be more accurate, Saturday and Sunday. As you are by now no doubt aware, it is a rare occasion indeed that I enter the witching hour without having first availed myself of industrial quantities of Malt and Stella chasers and you may, therefore, share my bemusement at the fact that while Shelley and Coleridge's muse was enticed out of her shell by laudanum, mine seems to need kick starting with Laphroaig, Stella and Drum cigarette tobacco. And no, now would not be a good time to remind me of my father's maxim that, "You only get out what you put in."

What struck me most of all however, was the fact that almost all the timings of my posts can be explained by the quite simple fact that I am a father. All posts not succeptible to this simple explanation can be ascribed to the fact that I have turned a deaf ear to the pleas of the Hungarian edition of the Goddess Rampo and resolved to indeed 'sit in front of that fucking computer all sodding night.' This, you will understand, is a very free translation. The Hungarian version is much more colourful.

I have a three and a half year old daughter whose very existence prevents me from blogging from the time at which she arrives home from nursery school, gymnastics or music school until such time as she lays her sweet head to rest of an evening. I'm sure that when she is older she will realise just how abjectly selfish and wanton was her behaviour but, until such time, it will remain my lot to be pressed into service to best fulfill my parental obligations.

I seem to have drifted into fatherhood in the same way I drifted into cohabitation. No sooner had I teased open her little oyster, or so it seemed, than I was handing over morning coffee making duties and other associated services to a Hungarian, and admittedly infinitely more curvaceous, equivalent of a personal gentleman's gentleman and having to invent acceptable explanations to the inquiry, "Where have you been until this time?" Thing is, I don't recall ever inviting her to see how long it would take to leave her corporeal imprint on one side of my mattress. Actually, thinking about it, it was probably a shrewd and ruthless move on her part as I was seeing (and touching and exploring) two other lovely ladies at the time of our meeting.

Anyway, seven years passed...we survived several, shall we say indiscretions on my part (examples of sexual incontinence would be more accurate) and, although I loved her dearly, it was with a slacker's 'whatever' that I greeted her announcement that she was not going to chemically suppress her hormones any longer and attempt to achieve conception before her biological meter entered the red zone, as it were. She is my junior by ten and a half years, by the way.

Eight months later and I was watching the gentle swell of her belly and entertaining the first thoughts about how it would feel to be a father. When the swell became a distend and I was singing into the womb, "Wakey, wakey! Time to wake up and kick your mummy!", I was still no nearer an answer.

When I cut the umbilical, held her in my arms and showered her with salty tears, I was not convinced that my reaction was not more due to the indescribable wonder of the occasion rather than the first burgeoning feelings of fatherhood. I always thought it would happen automatically...that as soon as she was born, I would feel somehow different...more grown up...more responsible...more...more like a father.

Mmmmm. She was a week old when we took her to her first motorcycle rally and I went bungee-jumping for the first time. Ten days and she was in a vineyard watching her old man get deliciously inebriated. Two weeks and she got to see me on stage percussing away in St Vitus mode. Less than a year and we load her into the car for a 2000 km trip to Blighty.

And I'm still waiting. Waiting for that fresh trout slap upside the head that will tell me how to feel. I really did expect it to be changing and bottom-kickingly obvious but it hasn't been like that at all. Men are not mothers. At least this one isn't anyway. Zsuzsi seemed to change overnight...she was with me on not letting Lorna disrupt our lives and stop us from doing whatever it is we wanted to...we decided to take her everywhere with us (invite us, the frog comes too) and Lorna has certainly benefitted from this but Zsuzsi's first thoughts are always with her daughter and I don't think mine are.

With me it seems more gradual, more occasional. I'll sometimes go to sleep with her in our bed and be totally overcome with just how wonderful she is and have to explain to her that tears aren't always of sadness.

It hit me when I went to pick her up from Nursery School one day and her face lit up, she came running towards me, greeted me with a cry of "Mummy!" and jumped into my arms. We got half way down the stairs and she decided she had to go back, give one of the boys a hug and promise him that she'd bring him a present on his birthday.

It's Carnival here at the moment and as Zsuzsi is a music teacher and organises a weekly class for nursery school kids and as she was compering a Carnival concert at our local theatre she got all the kids to sing and dance on the stage of our town's theatre last week. All of them dressed as rabbits...word perfect and all in synch. Would that I had an URL...I'd show you the pictures. Lorna on stage and me crying my eyes out. She escaped from my lap later that same evening, ran onto the stage where her mum was introducing the next act, grabbed the microphone, said, "I've come because I just wanted to tell you that I love you, mummy." and brought the house down.

So, maybe it's happening...slowly but slowly that perhaps I am unaware of the change. All I know do anything to harm my daughter and I will snap your neck as if it were a twig.