Monday, November 29, 2004


Before I go down for the third and, quite probably, the last time, I rather thought a cry for help might be in order.

Unusually for me, my powers of persuasion have proved too weak to convince the client that changing the titles of my two lectures might not be all that disastrous an idea. I was up against the power of advertising you see. I am informed that my presence in the capital has already been heralded as indeed, have the titles of my little presentations. Hot diggedy spange-wanglers.

Doubtless the Kan visage is, at this very moment, adorning every lamppost on the faux parisienne boulevards of Pest; Buda is snowed under with tacky leaflets dropped at very little expense by hang-glider pilots suicidal enough to take off from Gellért Hill and throngs of eager participants are already building up to multiple orgasm at the mere thought of whatever pearls of wisdom I may have to impart.

Now before I reveal to you the full extent of my plight, I would ask you to bear in mind that my client is an internationally renowned company and that my audience will, in all probability, entirely consist of fully qualified teachers.

The forenoon, three-hour apéritif is entitled, 'All You Need to Know about Communicative Activities to Guarantee Success in Client's Examinations'.

Okay, not altogether inspiring but I am, nevertheless, confident in my abilities to bullshit upon it in an extremely convincing manner for however long it is they manage to stay awake.

The post-prandial cocktail however, is an equus of a not altogether similar hue. Going under the rather snappy title of, 'All You Need to Know about the Use of Mono-Lingual Dictionaries and Text Books to Guarantee Success in Client's Examinations', it has me completely stumped for the minute.

Excuse me? You did say that I have to explain to teachers how to use dictionaries and text books, didn't you? Thought so. Then might I be the first today to accuse you of such a display of supreme Friday Fuckwittedness on the receiving end of which I never imagined it would be my pleasure to be?

So...your challenge for today is...well, it's quite simple really. Help.

Advice along the lines of, "Get 'em all bladdered at lunch time and they'll never notice" has already been voted down as being impractical. I was brave and quoted what I thought was a hefty sum. They didn't even blink. Buggers can get pissed on their own money, then.

Hey ho.

Friday, November 19, 2004


Not wanting to appear presumptious or anything but for those of you who, for one reason or another, actually give a shit, I am in fact alive and well but am also, unfortunately, snowed under with more work than it may lie within my capacity to handle right now.

Notwithstanding the fact that I might well be outside the best part of a bottle of Chardonnay and am indulging of a rather delicious home and self made pizza (I am such a good cook) as I type, time is rather a precious commodity these days.

On top of my duties as an examiner and extra to the 22 lessons a week I already have, I have allowed myself to be persuaded into the devising, designing and subsequent teaching of a 14×45 minute, 3 or 4 week English course specific to the needs of Polish and Hungarian oil industry workers...those involved in the drilling for, to be precise.

Not a problem per se, but when the boss desirous of procuring such a course, upon hearing my quotation for provision of same, reacts thusly, "Is that all?", one may be forgiven the odd expletive or two and even the subsequent lack of any motivation whatsoever. I guess I must lack the killer, capitalist instinct or somesuch. Whatever.

The Town Hall was also kind enough to get in touch this week to sound me out as to the possibility of the future provision of translation and interpreting services. My original thought was to reply, in a Robin Williams type Scottish accent, "Fuck off!", but I managed to check myself in time...told him that although I am diarrhoeatically fluent in the Hungarian that I know, that which I don't could fill volumes equivalent in capacity to the Encyclopaedia Brittanica...and informed him that I would be only too happy (you little fibber) to act as a 'lector' and check any translations that have been carried out by Hungarian nationals and are, therefore, as eny fule know, absolute bollocks. As the guy was obviously in doubt as to his ability to give good phone, he took my e-mail address and promised to be back in touch. Sad thing is, I think he will.

Strange being an ex-pat. You daren't turn down too much work in case everybody forgets about you. And although I am spread pretty thin at the moment...rather like Marmite should be in fact...from little acorns...

Talking about acorns, I had one of the 'Ice Age' variety (nowt but a shed load o' fuckin' trouble) drop on my electronic doorstep the other day. An international, and internationally renowned, company...the one my company is under contract to examine for, to be exact...has invited me to Budapest for Friday, December the third. Although one might think such a trip has a certain attraction, there is, as always, a catch.

The catch this time is that I would have to lecture to Hungarian teachers for two sessions of three hours each on 'All you need to know about communicative activities which guarantee success in ESOL and SESOL examinations' and 'All you need to know about the effective use of dictionaries and course books for ESOL and SESOL examinations'. All you need to know, eh? I know I'm a teacher nonpareil but...

Oh well, I think I'll go for it. Even if it is hardly an offer I can't refuse.

Friday, November 12, 2004


- Why are you crying, sweetheart?
- Because I miss Jess. Where is she? Is she in America?
- That's right.
- Well, can we get on a bus to America and go and see her?
- I don't think there are any buses to America, sausage. We'd have to get on a plane.
- Can we get on a plane, then?
- I don't think mummy and daddy have got enough money for that right now.
- Will we have enough money before Christmas?
- I don't think so.
- I'll open my piggy bank.
- I still don't think we'll have enough.
- Mmmmm. Can I send something to Ann, then?
- Of course you can, sweetheart. What would you like to send?
- Something for Christmas. I know. A Krampusz!
- I don't think she'll know what that is.
- Why not?
- I don't think they have Krampusz in America.
- Oh. I could go with the postman and tell her about it.
- It's a very long way, darling. Across a really big sea.
- Really, really big?
- Very big.
- Too big to swim?
- I'm afraid so.
- How does the postman get there, then?
- In a big ship.
- Hey, I forgot Tim. I'll have to send something for Tim, too.
- That's okay, sweetheart.
- How can we send it?
- In a big box.
- A big box?
- Yes.
- A really big box?
- If you like.
- Then what if I get in the box and you can send me?

etc etc etc.

Thursday, November 11, 2004


An electronic correspondence. Only the names have been changed to protect the guilty.

From: Simon
Date: 11/11/04 12:19:03
To: Perky Secretary
Subject: Re: exams

...and a jolly good day to you, P.S.!

I did indeed receive the box this morning but unless you can convince me that only 32% of the total candidates for the recent examination entered the spoken part, I will find it exceeding difficult to escape the conclusion that I have been right royally shafted with regard to my polite request for more SESOL than ESOL. Grrrrrrrrrrrrr.

I ought to thank you for providing me with an opportunity to practice my Hungarian. I now find I can swear for at least a minute without once repeating myself.

But, never fear. I shall not start marking them until my desire to, "Fail them all!" has subsided. This may take some time.

Oh well, I had better stop now, take a few deep breaths and silently count to a very large number indeed. If this fails, I shall pull on the biggest pair of boots I can find, go outside and kick the dog.

More SESOL please, or the dog gets it.

Toodle pip,


From: Perky Secretary
Date: 11/11/04 16:01:51
To: Simon
Subject: RE: exams

Hello Simon!

Let me see, what can I do for you…? You can haggle with me over this matter. Ok, I will try to send more SESL than ESOL but as you are so smart that you can mark both of them, you can help me if you mark the ESOL scripts also so please forgive me if you find some ESOL exams. I promise, next time you can get only SESL. Is it good for you?


Perky Secretary

From: Simon
Date: 11/11/04 16:23:47
To: Perky Secretary
Subject: RE: exams

Hello my little flowering rhododendron,

Who told you that flattering me always works? I'll bet it was that Bosswoman. May her armpits be infested with the fleas of a thousand camels.

Anyway, you have brought a rosy glow of pride to my cheeks and have made my dog very happy.

Thousands of blessings be upon you,


From: Perky Secretary
Date: 11/11/04 16:51:02
To: Simon
Subject: RE: exams

Well, nobody told me this trick, I’m sneaky alone. I was just off the top of my head. It can be successfull with a man.


Perky Secretary

Perky secretary is new. It would appear she is a very fast learner.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004


Thanks to Lamps and those wonderful people over at gprime, it gives me great pleasure to present the following for your viewing delight and delectation.

First up, footage of an experimental mass barber robot developed by the RAF as a military cost-cutting exercise. The plan was to line up all the squaddies and

Next up, in the category of 'engage brain before turning ignition key' we have what can only be described as a "Hey! Look at me! Look at me! Ooooops" moment. Here.

Those of you who have been saving up your spare change since you were three and a half and are at a bit of a loose end as to what to do with it, could follow the example of this guy who, with little or no thought to his own personal development or social skills, has single-handedly kept the arcade owners of Japan in sake and sushi as a result of the take from this machine alone. Here.

And finally, in the category of 'way too much time on one's hands' comes a nifty little manoeuvre you never thought you'd see in a game of table football. Here.

I realise that I'm a day late regarding the birthday but, what the hell. I'm going to have a bath anyway.

Monday, November 08, 2004


This blog is one year old today and I have absolutely nothing to say. So, anyone care to join me in raising a glass of Bunnahabhain? Cheers. Your very good health. Thank you.

Thursday, November 04, 2004


I'm not entirely sure where this is headed but you're welcome to hitch along for the ride if you promise to raise a glass or few with me as we go.

As is my wont, I read the Shoe yesterday and, as is her wont, she provided a post which turned into a bit of a brain worm and which has been gnawing away at the back of my mind all day.

Not the triple whammy she was suffering as a result of D.W. being D.W., Dubya being Dubya and Alfie being Alfie but rather several soundbites concerning US politics and European ignorance thereof.

I sympathise, I really do, with most of her admirable, honest and heartfelt sentiments but I just cannot, no matter how fervently I desire it or how much of this rather delectable red I drink, see any chance whatsoever of any of them being magically zapped into reality by a simple shake of the simple Texan's schlong.

One of her wishes was that America should become more isolationalist and not ship out her military, industry, business, time and materials anywhere. Minority of one, I think there, girl. Although I'm sure the people of Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq would side with you on the military bit; and although I for one would have preferred the boss of the local GE factory not to have, allegedly, put pressure on the mayor of Nagykanizsa to refuse planning permission for Philips to build a factory in town, creating much needed jobs but probably pushing up GE's wage bill at the same time; and I'm sure we could all manage to live without Coca-Cola, Burger King, Starbucks and McDonald's, the likelihood of all that happening is on a par with me waking up tomorrow morning with a face full of Nastassia Kinsky's nether regions, albeit just as desirable. And anyway, you'll never be able to be at all isolationist as long as you depend on the import of foreign oil to fuel one of the most fuel inefficient economies on this planet. Saudi was becoming a bit hot and the Bush-bin Laden ties a tad too close to the surface so a decision was taken to relocate all military bases to Iraq. I await developments there with interest.

As an adjunct to this, a desire was expressed to see more attention paid to healthcare and the fights against crime, poverty and disease. Again, a wonderful ideal but all totally impossible in a society so driven by the buck as that of the US. Was it 600 million dollars spent on advertising alone in this presidential campaign? I wonder how much of that was insurance company donations? How can you hope to have an equitable system of healthcare in a country where the very mention of the word socialism is a guarantee of electoral suicide? And that is just what such a system would be...socialist. Funded by the rich to alleviate the suffering of the poor. Can't quite see that one catching on somehow.

Crime and poverty? Well, call me an old cynic but in a society where such a value is laid on conspicuous consumption, where people worship at the altars of mammon and celebrity and where everybody is under pressure to fulfill their own personal version of the American dream, then I guess crime is inevitable.

Poverty, likewise, will never be eradicated because of the aversion to socialist principles again. And, more pertinently, both crime and poverty are essential tools of the Bush administration in their desire to extend the climate of fear within the country. Be afraid. Be afraid of being mugged, shot, raped, blown up by terrists and of having your morals warped by those commie-pinko-foetus killing-liberal-Darwinist faggots. And be afraid of losing your job, of unionised labour, of cheap foreign imports, of immigrants stealing your, shucks...just be afraid okay? It's the American way.

And disease? Well, just who is suffering from diseases anyway? The poor, the disenfranchised, the illegals? You got the dosh, you get the doc...and the overpriced medication.

The Bush administration and even Republicanism come to that, is characterised, for me anyway, by huge defense spending, wars overseas to boost same and the rise of oil, big business and pharmaceutical lobbies to cabinet rank; tax relief for the very rich while persuading all the blue collars that the trickle down theory whereby they run after the rich guys catching the crumbs falling out of their pockets really works and by the instilling of fear into the population. Scared people are easily manipulated and there must have been at least a small part of the Republican machine that saw 9/11 as a godsend.

And the alternative? God give me strength. An entire campaign strategy based on "I am not George W. Bush" was hardly going to light a fire under the electorate was it? The timely bin Laden tape, on the other hand...

The news that "not a one of (the American electorate) cares what the rest of the world wanted" is bad news indeed. Carte blanche for the cronies to do whatever they like in and to the world at large in the sure and certain knowledge that the folks back home won't give a damn. An attitude that may yet come to haunt our very own Mr Blair one day in the not too distant.

The mole in the post, however, the depth charge, the small, strategically placed explosive detonation, the knife between the ribs, the dirty it whatsoever you will...was the very thing which chills me to the bone every time it pings among the little grey cells; just how could a large proportion of the intelligent electorate have turned out in their droves to vote for the candidate they thought best represented their interests? I say potato, you say...I see a chimp, you see...what exactly?

And it is here that we arrive at the very nub of the problem. Jess laments that she has yet to meet any European with a true understanding of the American psyche. Notwithstanding the facts that the reverse may well be true and that we voted in Thatcher for 12 absolutely miserable, hellish and unbearable years, it remains a blatant truth that we have no conception at all of just what it is that informs the thought processes of that non-existent individual, the average American.

We see the dichotomies, the wealth of paradox and the inherent contradictions but fail to see what it is that unifies them all into a coherent whole in their minds. It is particularly hard for us English. After all, they were English once, weren't they? They still speak our language. But we were here long before they were and, therefore, must know better. So what do we do? We patronise, we mock, we employ wit, irony and most of all, sarcasm, we denigrate, we disparage, we cock snooks in our self-righteous arrogance and the phrase, "only in America" trips lightly off our tongues. Hemingway, Steinbeck, Faulkner, Updike, Hicks, Miller, Bird, Coltrane, Davis, Allbright, Carter, Chomsky, Bacall, Earhart, E. Roosevelt, King...abberations all and conveniently forgotten in our scathing desire to belittle.

But you're right, Jess. We don't understand your particular brand of patriotism. The educated Englishman is sceptical of too much flag waving, displaying and saluting and carries too much guilt from our colonial past to be patriotic in anything other than a post modern sense. The grunts will still wave the paper flags and will still turn up for royal occasions but God help us if they ever become truly representative.

To understand your respect for your president, we would have to have an equal respect for our monarch and, quite frankly my dear, I have little if any. We do not have the republican spirit because, quite simply, we are not a republic...we are not citizens but subjects and our country does not legally exist any more, so far have we sunk.

But it is your contradictions which absolutely boggle whatever is left of my mind...the longer the post, the greater the amount of alcohol consumed and this is a biggie...the irresolvable (is that a word?) dichotomies. Intelligence allied with a belief in creationism, tolerance with Republicanism, friendship with distrust, community spirit with individualism, isolationalism with interventionism, pacivism with a lust for war, compassion with hard-heartedness, generosity with greed, secularity with fundamentalist religiosity, Christianity with rampant right wingery, curiosity with narrow-mindedness, complication with simplicity, flexibility with rigidity, cosmopolitanism with xenophobia, mercy with the death penalty, basques with stiletto heels...ooops, now I know I've had too much.

I will not have the brazen effrontery to express the hope that possibly I have made sense here and, if you have been, I salute you.

G'night and God bless.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004


And I've just seen my first Coca-Cola Christmas advert of the year. I am not a happy chappy. Wake me up when it's all over.


How could you? Falling for it once, I could understand...maybe. What is it with you guys? Giving that cretinous, god-bothering, knuckle-dragging, dumb-ass, jello-brained chimp and his satan-spawned cohorts another four fucking years? You deserve all you fucking well get. I hope you'll be very happy together. Just remember. Stay afraid, keep your kids indoors, hoard that food, install your panic rooms and buy like there's no tomorrow.

Just don't ask us to take you seriously any more, okay?