Sunday, January 30, 2005


or Pavlov’s Blog

Maybe it’s the hidebound conservative in me but I do sometimes pine for the good old days of language teaching. Grammar translation, chalk boards and the merest squeak out of the little scroats would result in the violent insertion of the board duster into their juvenile oesophagi. The fact that these days exist solely in the fevered imaginations of the only occasionally sane is neither here nor there.

I would add a few refinements of my own devising, concessions to our cruel and pitiless modern age. Random acts of even coarser brutality to keep the buggers on their toes.

“And what does your father do, János?”

“My farder he work in a…” BLAM!! Both barrels. Point blank.

“Okay, there will now be a short test. Anyone failing to score at least 75% can stay behind after class and help scrape János off the wall.”

Scoop him into the ‘Flunk Bucket’ and ship him off to his next of kin.

That should sort the little sods out.

Have you ever seen film of teacher training or group therapy sessions? Those in which a small ball or bean bag is tossed around from person to person indicating to the irretrievably feeble minded that it is their turn to speak? Well, a slow burning fuse and a small explosive charge should certainly lively that one up a bit. I would aim for a detonation somewhere between that required to merely startle and that which would be necessary to reduce everything within a one metre radius into its constituent molecules.

You could wire all their chairs up to a stack of car batteries. A set of red buttons on the teacher’s desk and one of those evil villain type levers for adjusting the intensity. Irregular verbs? Sorted. I am reminded of John Craven.

“Don’t think you know.”


A system of demerits might be in order. At the end of the course, certificates would be graded by the simple expedient of counting body parts still attached. Prosthetics will not be allowed into the examination room under any circumstances.

I may even consider a complementary merit system. One gold star and you can be in charge of the bolt cutters for a day.

I could never, ever work in a state school. And no, it isn’t because I have a penchant for nubile teenagers whose rowdy young buttocks are forever punching the seams of their jeans and would, therefore, have to spend most of every schoolday beating down a penile protrusion with an old copy of Newsweek, although I will admit the prospect of such debauchery is somewhat appealing. It is more that I fear I would not last longer than it took the parent teacher association to complain that their progeny were arriving home in body bags. Although why on Earth they should cavil at my eliminating the scum at the bottom of the gene pool would be quite beyond my capacity to understand.

Ah, well. Ardbeg it is then. Stress relief in a glass.

Sunday, January 23, 2005


I shall try not to add too much time to the 6 days 13 hours 7 minutes 49 seconds I’ve already spent on EA Sport’s Total Club Manager 2004. I shall probably achieve this by acquiring the 2005 version. Neil might like to know that the Blades are now five times Champions’ League winners and that Beautiful Downtown Bramall Lane now holds 100 000.

I shall not take firearms or trout of any description into TESCO with the intention of introducing radical reforms in the fields of public relations and customer service. I shall accept sullen staff and shoddy service as my lot. I shall smile beatifically, thank them for the ritual humiliation and return after dark with ridiculous quantities of high explosives.

I shall have more conversations which resemble the following.

“Right. One of the questions you may be asked in the oral examination concerns the reasons you have for studying English. So. Why are you studying English? What could you say?........Anybody?........No?........Okay, I’ll tell you. Three little words. ‘I…don’t…know.’ Right…moving on to….” In short, I resolve not to care.

I shall find time. Bollocks. I have time, I am just irredeemably lazy. I shall spend less time in front of the monitor or reclining on my right flank on the sofa watching all the football on Sport1 and Sport2. I shall, not to put too fine a point on it, get off my ass and deal with the following.

My IT technician friend has three children, one of whom is 12 years old and is a jazz pianist. My saxophonist friend has been teaching him since he was nine and he now says that he has taught him as much as he can. He gives concerts every Friday evening in the vineyard jazz club and I have yet to get out there to witness this prodigy. I suck.

I do not see enough of my friends. And when I do, I am listless and terrible company. Suckity suck.

I do not pay enough attention to Idris. There is a dynamic there that is in urgent need of adjustment and fine tuning. I shall spend less time in completely and utterly selfish bastard mode and do something about it. I shall probably phone out for pizza more often.

My daughter loves me. Now there’s a weight too heavy for anyone’s shoulders. I fear I shall never be worthy of it. It is also only recently that I have had to accept the fact that she is Hungarian. She is four and a half years old and we have communication problems. Her Hungarian is better than mine. Up to now I have always spoken to her in English and she has replied in her mother tongue. As Idris doesn’t speak English, this is the only exposure she has to the language of her father. Minority parent, minority language. Not good. As far as I can tell, her passive skills are excellent. She replies appropriately (most of the time) to what I say and she can handle English language children’s web sites with aplomb. Actively however, is another story. Vocabulary wise, she’s pretty good but her sentences are limited to, “Daddy, can I have a …..”, “Pick me up please, daddy”, “Thank you” and “Pretty please”. I don’t think I can rely on her naturally acquiring the language any more. I am going to have to take a much more active part.

For failing to deal with any of the above, I have two perfect ready made excuses. I work far too many hours and am usually drained when I arrive home. And do you have any idea of how exhausting it is to have to conduct your entire life in a foreign language? To have to actively concentrate and focus exclusively on even the most mundane of conversations?

My use of ‘have to’ in the above expresses obligation and it is true that I am obliged in the ways I explained. But. It was also my choice, my free will, my decision. I shall have to find better ways of dealing with its consequences.

I shall focus less on excuses and deal with the reasons. I am fat, I am lazy and I am a slob. I eat shit and far too much of it and get no exercise whatsoever. I am of an age now where remaining fit is an effort of will and an expenditure of time. Even if in my mind I am still 18, I shall have to come to terms with the fact that I cannot abuse my body as I did then and still be able to run for buses. I guess this is the nub. I get fit and I will have more energy. I have more energy and I will not feel as if everything is too much trouble or somehow beyond me. I will then deal with my life in a way I can be proud of. I shall remove the crates of Amstel and Stella from off the multi-gym in the conservatory. I will. Honest.

And I shall not hold out any hope of hearing anything better in 2005 than that which I could hardly believe I heard on Friday evening.

“You don’t mind if my friend joins us this evening, do you?”

You what? Birthday, Christmas and New Year all in one. Waheeeeeeeey! Life can be good sometimes.

or Past Imperfect

So, what was all that about, then?
“What the fuck was that?”
“That was 2004, mate.”

I seem to remember I began the year resolved to cut back on the amount of work I do. So how is it that I had five tutorials on a Saturday afternoon? Gang oft agly…too damned right.

I’ve never been much of a one for this end of year stock-taking lark so from whence comes this retrospective temper, I know not. Perhaps it has been brought on by the fact that I cannot buy most of the imported items upon which I have come so much to depend. The wholesalers are hanging on to their stocks in order to take advantage of the annual January price rises and who am I to say them nay?

So what have I learnt? What pearls of wisdom can I impart as a result of yet another year’s experience? Very little if the truth be known…unless you can count, “Never trust a geek bearing bourbon” as sound advice. And seeing as how that was responsible for one of the more memorable events of the year, a drunk to end all drunks…a drunk against which all future drunks will be measured and found sadly wanting, I would judge it about as sound as the Hutton inquiry if I were you.

High points? Meeting Lamps and Weggie in the flesh was pretty cool, and Weggie in the flesh is even larger than his cyber self…a barrel full of bonhomie and belly laughs. Not much of a kisser, though.

The landfall of Hurricane Jess in Nagykanizsa left echoes which resonate still. Two full days, one of which was spent in near death experience and shock at the realization that alcohol is, in fact, poison and yet more was said that was worth saying and worth hearing in those two days…

Meeting the MBB at the Nelson also deserves more than an honourable mention. Uncy was living proof that good things come in small packages but the shocker of the year title belongs sans doubt to Big Mart. Ah’ve sin mo’ meat on a fookin’ sparrer. Mind you, compared to Kirsty, Mart was positively wobbling with excess adipose deposit. First time I saw her, I’m sure she was hanging on a hook behind the door in Hancock’s ‘Blood Donor’ sketch. Don’t grab her too hard, Lats…tha’ll cut thissen.

Next on the list? You lot, I guess. If I have not lost you forever as a result of my recent tardiness in posting, that is. Blame pressures of work and Bill fucking Gates, anything but aim your arrows in my direction, please. You have renewed my belief in the fact that if you were to toss a small packet of ‘Intimate Wipes’ out of any four storey window in any reasonably densely populated area of the UK (even in Norfolk if it landed on JonnyB) it would land on the head or at the feet of a ‘good egg’, an all round ‘jolly good sort’. I even include (how could I not?) da Goldfish in this…anyone who can go off on one as only he can must possess more humanity in the tip of his little finger than any of the Scrutons or some such (Levin excepted) to be found on the editorial pages of the Times. You are all linked on the right, you know who you are. Friends? No. But in a very real sense, also yes. I feel better knowing you are there. And I do know you. You know I do. No one is that disciplined as to be able to write regularly and succeed in keeping that part of themselves which is essential hidden from view. I could argue that if you had a sufficient outlet for expressing your true selves in your fleshly, corporeal lives, then your blogs would be redundant. Thank god they are not.

Thanks, in no particular order go to…

Bykersink over at Wor Man in Hanoi for reaching the parts for which Amstel and Stella have no route map. Tears are not enough. A brave man and good. I hope we can meet next season in the Prem.

Bob Piper for putting me in my place. Thanks, Bob. I needed that. And keep up the good work.

Peter over at Naked Blog…an inspiration. And I mean that most sincerely, folks.

The Choobies, Karen and Pete at Uborka for their wit, wisdom and acerbic comments about Hungary.

Roger the Shrub over at the Six Dwarfs. You were okay then, Rog and you’re okay now. Less of the negative vibes, Moriarity.

The Urban Badger for giving me the opportunity of reaching the parts that only the Doctor can reach.

The UK Today and the Yorkshire Ranter for reminding me that there are more things in life than sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. No really, there are.

The Jones girl at Bridget Who? who, besides possessing the exact same name as my own particular ‘lost girl’, had the bare-faced cheek/brass neck/effrontery to publish pictures of herself in highly embarrassing, but deliciously sexy Village People mode. She could indeed, keep her hat on. I remain, hormonally yours…

And to all you other buggers, raising a smile, a grin, a chuckle, chortle or belly laugh or occasionally even tears, thank you. Thank you so much. You do make a difference.

Tomorrow (if all goes according to plan), a glimpse into the future.

Friday, January 07, 2005


I have been highly successful in keeping from my clients the delicious news that my beloved Blades will be beamed direct to my living room on the morrow. One of them however, has been made cognisant of the fact that I have a prior engagement and am quite unable to fulfill my contractual obligations. The bar will open at precisely not very long after I stumble out of bed. You are all most welcome.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005


Has the Badger been Gumboed yet, I wonder? Posted well before Xmas and yet still no news. Be so kind as to inform me of its safe arrival or the Post Office Tower may well develop a serious list. My local airport is running hang-gliding courses and I might just enrol.


I do hope you won't think me too presumptious if I take this opportunity to wish myself a very happy birthday on all your behalfs.

Thank you.

Now, pray excuse me. I think I shall get roaring drunk and go and insult some clients.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Part Five

The breakfast arrangements at this hotel were of the abominable buffet variety where one is charged for the privilege of serving oneself with a selection of cold cuts and cheeses. My friend however, was in excellent spirits.

“Behold! An all you can eat affair, is it not? Yet they are obviously of the opinion that providing plates the size of saucers will prevent me from extracting as much value as is possible from the cost of our room. Very well. The gauntlet has been thrown. I accept the challenge.”

In all, I witnessed him make three passes of the table; on each occasion he returned with a plate heaped so high that I feared for the carpet and the safety of other guests. I need not have worried; his dexterity when it came to the consumption of a hotel’s profit margin was a wonder to behold.

His repast was curtailed only by the imminent arrival of our jarvey who was to take us through the city to the venue of my friend’s lectures.

The journey through the city was no less traumatic than had been the one into it, our frenetic passage broken only as we crossed the majestic Danube into the bustle of Pesth. I left my friend at the door with a promise to return for luncheon.

It was on the stroke of one that he burst out of the building, took me by the arm and led me away at some speed.

“Did it not go well?”

“On the contrary. It went swimmingly. They were agog. I feel in need of heroic company. Let us away to the square!”

I regretted not having followed his example when we had broken our fast. Luncheon was a rapidly fading prospect.

“Just look at this lot. We’ve got Nelson and the bloody lions and they’ve got this. No fucking contest whatsoever.”

It was indeed impressive. A monumental square dedicated to Heroes of the Republic. From the first Hungarian king all the way to Kossuth who had called the people of Alföld to arms against the Hapsburgs. All represented in bronze within a semi-circular colonnade but it was to the centerpiece of the square that my friend hied me. Here were huge figures on horseback, pagans all. The leaders of the original seven tribes who had first settled this area, although conquered would probably be more accurate; and judging by their fearsome appearance, none would have willingly stood in the way of their progress.

“Get a load of these guys. Christ, I’d’ve loved to have had the chance of a revel or two with this lot. A history like this and it took them 40 odd years to get rid of the Red Army; probably too busy wassailing to notice, I shouldn’t wonder. Woke up one morning with the mother of all hangovers, realized Ivan was still here and kicked him back to the Caucasus before breakfast, I expect. Jeez, this is something.”

Indeed it was, and is. But I am old and tired and my deadline approaches relentlessly. Maybe I can prevail upon my friend to continue this narrative at some later date on his own account.
Until such time, I must remain,

Your faithful servant,
Part Four

Our lodgings were basic but comfortable and I took the opportunity to have a brief nap in order to recover from the travails of our journey. When I awoke, it was to find the bird had flown. I performed a perfunctory toilette and went in search.

I found him in the bar in earnest discourse with a rather comely barmaid who already seemed to have become accustomed to the rhythm of his drinking and was sliding schooners of ale across the polished wooden surface without need of any request.

“A three star establishment only, I’m afraid. And, apart from ourselves, it would appear that the clientele is of a decidedly lower order. Probably East German or Slavic, I shouldn’t wonder.”

“The guest book?”

“You do me a disservice. The lack of any single malt gives the star and the fact that all the spirits are kept under refrigeration should tell you all you need to know of the standard of guest. Should you need further verification, cast your eyes about you. What do you see? Acres of heaving female décolletage promising sweaty delights for an extortionate fee? I think not. Eastern Europeans on very tight expense accounts, therefore. The only plus I have thus far been able to ascertain is the fact that this rather attractive wench has allowed herself to be persuaded that this guest at least would prefer his glass of refreshment without the standard thirty percent froth content. A small triumph but a victory nonetheless. Do be so kind and pay the girl, would you? I must away to bed."

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Part 3

My friend cut across four lanes of motorway with a nonchalance I could not share and moments later we pulled into the courtyard of the Ventura Hotel in the XI district of Buda. My companion alighted with gusto and set off jauntily for the main entrance. I followed behind somewhat encumbered by our impedimenta. I caught up and found him in animated conversation with the doorman who seemed to be attempting to persuade my friend to avail himself of an ashtray situated some sixty feet to the east of our intended route into the establishment. My Magyar is scant, but I do believe I caught a reference to somebody's mother as my friend rather theatrically allowed his cigarette to drop to the pavement and ground it underfoot. I followed him through the revolving door.