Sunday, September 02, 2007


Goodbye, everyone.

It's been...virtual.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

I think I would wedge, dear heart.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

DAY 17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 27, 2007


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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 23, 2007


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

And may the gods have mercy on us all.

Saturday, April 21, 2007


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

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

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

Friday, April 20, 2007


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

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

Sunday, April 15, 2007


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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 07, 2007


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

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

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

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"A Sunday in January, my dear."

We clear up this little misunderstanding and proceed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"That's right, sir."

I am sooooooooooo grateful.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Eve of War

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

Fiendish. Such an uncompromising choice of tense.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, March 15, 2007


Yes, sometimes it really is this simple.

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

Thursday, March 08, 2007


Ferihegy. Terminal 1.

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

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

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

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

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

London. Luton. (Yeah, right.)

Christ, it's cold.

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

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

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

Oh dear, oh dear.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

London. Luton.

Christ, it's cold.

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

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

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


"It depends on the airline, sir."

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

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

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

"That'll be 15 pounds."

Ferihegy. Terminal 1.

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

Ferihegy. Terminal 2. Guarded parking.

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

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

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

Fuckery. But at least I can smoke.

Thursday, March 01, 2007


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

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

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

Anyway, back on Wednesday.

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

Sunday, February 25, 2007


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 23, 2007


Further proof that there are absolutely no limits.

Cheney warns on Chinese build-up

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


I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


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

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


Tuesday, February 20, 2007


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

What a waste of good Laphroaig.

Monday, February 19, 2007


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway, Here's the band.

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

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

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

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

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

Oh well, hey ho!

Friday, February 16, 2007



Chinese pupils are best-performing ethnic group with 86% passing national curriculum tests

Schoolchildren of Indian origin come second with 85% achieving the same standard

But only 80% of white British pupils manage to reach a similar level in the assessment"

The Independent.

Well, strap me to a tree and call me Brenda. Again.

Somewhat on a par with the revelations that the Earth isn't in fact flat and that water has been found to be jolly well wet and, if one isn't awfully careful, has the capacity to shrink little Johnny's undergarments.

The fact that Asians out-perform whites in just about any kind of test of academic achievement and intelligence has been abundantly clear ever since such testing was introduced and I suppose I would be relieved to see the fact acknowledged on a front page were it not for the absolute failure on the part of the Education Editor to entirely throw off his PC conceptions and at least consider the role genetics may or may not play in intellectual ability.

His choice of lexis in the heading rather gives it away. The 'but', the 'only' and the 'manage' indicate to me his belief that something should and indeed can be done about it.

The zeitgeist insists we look for a failure whether it be the schools themselves or, as suggested by the main body of the article, parental attitudes and culture. He states that "Parents in families of Chinese origin stress the value of homework", a quite meaningless statement when one considers it as he entirely fails to place it in any comparative context whatsoever and we are left to infer that it is somehow the fault of white parents for undervaluing time spent studying. Indian parents however, obviously need just to give that little extra one per-cent.

The fact that this rather flies in the face of a recent government sponsored study showing that the amount of homework and greater academic ability increase in indirect proportion in that the more homework you get, the less effective it is, is conveniently ignored.

And I know I'm on dangerous ground yet will go there nevertheless, but isn't there a bit of unconscious racism at work here? An idea that the Chinese and Indians can't be better than us, surely. It's the schools. The parents. The tests are skewed. Anything but consider the possibility that they just might be genetically predisposed to outperform us. That bloody PC insistence that we are all the same and 'equal but different' can take a powder.

He also states that girls consistently out-perform boys...another zeitgeist phenomenon that seems to insist that all things female are to be promoted over all things male and much to be preferred but I'll skip that...without actually delving too much into the details.

As an average, mean or whatever you want to call it, what he says is no doubt true but, if the results of these tests follow those of many, many others particularly in mathematics and the sciences, both the extreme percentiles, the very high and the very low, will be dominated by males. To an overwhelming extent. But, seeing as this contradicts the propoganda that a glass ceiling does in fact exist and is the only reason females are under-represented in research fellowships and the like, this too will be conveniently ignored.

Still, I guess it's a start. But I fear that it will be used as a stick with which yet again to browbeat the government into taking measures to do something about that over which they really have no control.

Apart from massaging the figures, that is.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


This is why I always get out of the bath in a more colourful state than that in which I get into it.

And, as transient as it may be, it still accords with my pre-conception that children's art is usually figurative. Apparently, I was wrong.

Okay, I may be her father. But...just how good is that!

Sunday, February 11, 2007


Yes, it's that season of the year again, round about carnival time, when fundraising balls dominate the social calendar and some poor fucker gets roped in to do the organising.

That the noose of the Nagykanizsa School of Music and the Performing Arts should have fallen around the neck of my partner, light of my life and mother of my child has led to my becoming a poor fucker by default and, as I am desirous of avoiding atmospheres and unpleasant scenes and would rather prefer everything tickerty boo and my lunch on the table, I have been unable to kick up much of a fuss about it. Coward that I am.

Well, just how difficult can it be? Book a venue, sort the music and food. Job done.

Hmmm. Not quite, professor.

Having chosen to accept the mission, Idris decided quite rightly that, if 't were worth doing...etc and, taking a quick glance back at the history of the event (maximum attendees 90, last year's profit, zilch), made the decision to drag the whole thing, kicking and screaming, into some sort of relevance.

She chose a theme. The East. The Orient and beyond as opposed to Bulgaria and the Carpathians. I ask you. Just what on Earth was she thinking about? We live in a small town backwater in the west of Hungary with about as much connection to the exoticism of the East as Bradford railway sidings.

I think it was the idea of forever having to wash my own socks that finally brought me round or maybe it was the fear of having to arrange quality time with my daughter over the phone but anyway, I succumbed.

She wanted the entrance to the venue to resemble a bazaar. The two trestle tables were easily enough arranged and, bizarrely enough, she was supremely confident of her ability to turn these into a reasonable approximation of a middle eastern souk.

You see, I had reckoned without the Hungarian equivalent of the old boy network. Idris is a music teacher. She also runs her own private music nursery school with which she tours kindergartens in the area giving music 'lessons' to the pre-schoolers. She is also one of the members of Vabababa Társulat, a travelling theatre group of musicians who write their own stories with musical effects and accompaniment and tour nurseries and schools in the county, giving performances to kids. She does, as a consequence, know more young children in this town than just about anybody else and they, not to put too fine a point on it, absolutely adore her. This, as I have since discovered, gives her enormous sway with parents.

One visit to our local carpet emporium and a swift chat with the father/owner later and we left with a selection of the finest silk carpets and wall hangings from all points east. A visit to a furniture store and the mother/proprietor pressed about 6 Indian reed baskets upon us and it only needed a quick dash into the ethnic gift shop and a slight twisting of the arms of the parents/shopholders and we had our bazaar. Hookah pipes, jewellery, ceramics...the lot.

We also found a wonderful oil-burning lamp which every guest will have to rub on entry. A genie will then apparate (or so I am told) and present them with a small welcome gift.

As for the music. Well, much more problematic and has certainly led to the most inventive swearage thus far. I mean, this is a charity ball to raise funds for a music school right? I'll say that slowly. A. Music. School. With more competent musicians per hectare than anwhere else this side of Heiligenkreuz and every single fucking one of them wanted paying for their performance. Fuck 'em. It did rather give me an insight into why it has never made much profit before as it seemed everybody was intent on creaming as much out of it as they could. Bastards. Well, I say every single one...with the honourable exceptions of Angéla, of whom more later, and Laci, a double bass player of Romany descent who has his own band and agreed to play for the dancing for a very much reduced rate. I like Laci. For a dirty, thieving, job-shy, gipsy whorecunt, he's not at all bad.*

We also did a tour of nearly all the shops and businesses in town and most have donated something that we can offer as prizes in the raffle.

And so, on to the show.

You're not going to believe this but, this small town on an old trading route between the Alps and the Adriatic has as part of its cultural possessions a rather nifty and decidedly attractive troupe of belly dancers. They said yes. I said yes, please.

Now, back to Angéla. She runs an after hours percussion orchestra for the kids at the music school...a lot of xylophone work mostly but other percussion, too. She has agreed to arrange a kind of Taiko or Japanese drum performance for us. It's looking up.

Idris' contacts in the theatre world led to us being able to procure the services of the 'Fireflower Moving Theatre' who will perform traditional eastern tales with music and dance accompaniment.

Our Frog attends the local ballet school and they have agreed to send a group of modern dancers along, too. Although quite how this will tie in with the oriental theme is anyone's guess.

Idris and a fellow oboist from a nearby town are going to perform a comedy snake charming act and that just about wraps it up.

The only thing that bothers me is the food. We chose a restaurant as the venue and they will take half of the 4000ft ticket price for food and hire of the large banquetting hall.

I give you the contents of the trench for your perusal.

On arrival: Glass of honeyed pálinka

On arrival at table: Cheese sticks with lentil dip.

Served at table: Meat and vegetable balls with curry sauce.


Indian chicken breast marinated in spicy yoghurt in a ginger, honey and fruit sauce.
Char-grilled turkey kebab.
Stove cooked pork steaks.

Red onion chutney with figs.
Chili sauce.
Jacket potatoes.
Jasmine rice.
Mixed salad.

Apple and almond strudel with cinnamon sauce.

Doesn't look too bad but I wonder what a Hungarian chef will do with it.

We also did a deal whereby we get a discount on the 50-50 ticket price split which kicks in should the alcohol bought exceed a certain level. Pepe and I are both going. This is guaranteed.

So, we get tickets, posters and invitations printed (see above graphic) and, so far, have sold 184 of the buggers with one week still to go. We are on course for both record attendance and profit and, quite remarkably, are still talking to each other.

Better not be too much of a success or they'll ask her to do it next year an' all.

*Irony alert, folks. (Just in case, you understand. One can't be too careful.)

Friday, February 09, 2007


Yes, I know. One of my more tenuous titles I'll admit, but nothing else would quite do.

As your innate perspicacity and powers of detailed observation will no doubt already have registered the fact that Amstelladagain has been Shoe-horned into a long overdue re-fit, my actual posting about it would, at first glance, appear superfluous in the extreme. However, some rumours are best quelled at source lest matters swiftly get out of hand.

There has been an insidious sussuration of snide whispers that Amstelladagain was a mere spectator in the process and that the photoshopping and html manipulation involved was entirely the work of the woman who does. I would just like to take the opportunity of stating that any further perpetuation of these scurrilous rumours* will leave me no choice but to place the entire matter in the hands of our legal representatives.

You have been warned.

*(Edit) The Amstelladagain legal team would like it clearly understood that they are in no way responsible for the veracity of this statement.

Sunday, February 04, 2007


Once again I must express my indebtedness to the Shoe for bringing to my attention the latest in a long line of contrivances designed to prevent the young girls and gentlewomen of the United States from ever having to confront or even question the patriarchal attitudes to their burgeoning sexuality. Purity rings.

I mean, what!

There is so much that is deeply troubling and worrisome about this that it is difficult to know where to start, never mind how to best organise one's thoughts on the subject. Jess covers most points admirably and yet I feel that insufficient stress is given to the root cause underlying all her arguments. A denial borne out of fear.

It is not the sole preserve of the religious to seek to deny the basic truth that we are, in the final analysis, what one might term linnéally part of the animal kingdom yet it is the conservative right which seeks to apply this logic in such self-serving and hypocritical a fashion. We, all of us, in western societies far removed from the 'natural' harbour within ourselves an aversion to anything which reminds us of our animalistic heritage. How many of us feel entirely comfortable using the purely descriptive words 'shit', 'piss' and 'fuck' rather than the myriad twee euphemisms with which we attempt to gloss over the 'coarse' reality?

I am not suggesting for a moment that we should all succumb to our animal urges and instincts. We are about as far removed as possible from a natural environment wherein such behaviour would be a reasonable survival strategy and, as we have shaped our environment, so must we adjust our actions and attitudes to suit. The problem lies in the fact that our society today has been shaped by men and, as a logical consequence, largely for them as well.

And what of men? What, to use a theatrical term, is their motivation? The acquisition of power? Maybe. A desire to control? A possibility. Jesus...look at those answers. Any of you who were in any doubt of my gender have just been enlightened. In the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, I have only allowed myself to admit of the possibility rather than accept a blunt affirmative as the only reasonable response. But even this misses the point. Both these desires stem from something deeper, something much more primal and, by even referring to it, I am probably forfeiting all rights I may have had to membership of the man club and laying myself wide open to charges of heresy, treason and betrayal or, more likely, that my views are totally unrepresentative of the sex as a whole and the product of a sadly deranged and probably latently homosexual mind. Such are the defences we employ.

At base, the problem is fear. And it is the fear of female sexuality. What else would prompt us to explain away our own transgressions as a succumbing to our basic animal urges, a problem solely of weakness of will in other words, and yet view the possession of the same by the female as the problem itself?

Catch most men in a moment of unguarded honesty and they will admit to a desire to basically fuck anything with a pulse, Anne Widdicombe excepted of course; a celebration and affirmation of their masculinity, each convinced of their own inate alpha maleness.

And yet, in the same moment of unguarded honesty, they would have to admit to entertaining the idea that this is delusion of the highest degree. And one which strikes at the heart of our self definition as males, our cocks.

I don't think I am taking too much for granted when I say that women just do not possess an organ so intrinsic to their sexuality nor one as capable of wreaking such havoc to their ego. I mean, they may worry about the size of their tits but I have never experienced a situation where non-performance of mammary glands has precluded an act of fornication. Is clitoris size an issue in self-image? I doubt it. Inadequate lubrication is a problem that can be overcome. A failure to erect on the other hand will lead to despair and a possible desire to invade small, lightly armed middle-eastern countries. There is, and I apologise in advance for the imagery, just so much riding on it.

And even given a full and totally reliable erectile function we are still screwed when it comes to performance. Only once in my entire sexual life have I encountered the situation where my partner in the horizontal dance was, in the total sense of the word, fucked and I in a condition for further activity. Once. Penis envy? A trifle compared to our longing for an organ as capable of multiple orgasms as a vagina. The disparity in capacity between a cunt and a cock is surely a further proof of the non-existence of god or, at the very least, that he or she was intent on fucking with us.

The point being that, taken on average and on a purely physical level, no man is capable of entirely satisfying a woman sexually and this really pisses us off. We who control so much find this one basic function over which we have none. Something. Must. Be. Done. Limp dickery is not an option.

And so we take the easy way out. We deny our own inadequate sexuality and attempt to prevent the female from ever finding a full expression of hers. We exaggerate and praise our performance and seek to express our virility in other ways while at the same time attaching the label of immorality to female sexuality. Job done. Or at least it is as long as the (male) Church holds sway over issues of morality and it is this perception that the religious right seeks to perpetuate with these fucking purity rings. A patronising pat on their little heads and instructions not to worry their pretty little selves at all about that insistent itch which demands scratching. It's just the devil at work, dear. Just say no.

On the whole, I think I prefer the 'What would Jesus do?' bands.

He would forgive you, my dear. And ask his old man to get the balance right next time.

Thursday, February 01, 2007


Whilst hardly coming as a shock of a magnitude capable of causing even the most negligible twitch of the seismograph, it was nonetheless quite sobering to discover upon rousing oneself from the deep and dream-filled that an idea first mooted in the ethereal world of late night chat had evolved into a form altogether more substantial, the upshot of which is that Amstelladagain has been decreed Social Secretary to the Shoe, a position which, in this case, is more akin to that of a firewall than personal organiser.

Our main duty, it would appear, is to facilitate the avoidance of any unpleasant scenes and/or the kind of thwarted expectations that would lead to the hasty and most likely fumbled attempts to stuff the agreed upon buttonhole of choice as far down into the breast pocket as possible without drawing unwanted attention to the deed.

Now, acknowledging the fact that with great responsibility comes great power, it would seem incumbent upon us to adopt a policy of impartiality, considered judgement, objectivity and honesty but, as the priest was heard to mutter on his way to the choir stalls, "Bugger that." It is well to know one's limitations, after all.

So, first things first. Physical attributes. Hmmmmm.

Whilst those of dangly genitalia are undoubtedly in prime position to avail themselves of any dating opportunities, previous experience has been such that any application from the differently gendered will be looked upon favourably on the understanding that representatives from Amstelladagain reserve the right to show up at any time during the date to observe that events are proceeding smoothly and to offer any assistance that may be required.

I feel pretty confident in making the assertion that, if you are able to rest your nose atop any bar of standard height without having to stoop or bend at the knee, your application would fall at the first hurdle. EC is no Amazon yet is shown to her best advantage alongside the reasonably tall and broad shouldered.

Six pack stomachs offer no real head start here as the self absorption and narcissism needed to acquire such would probably manifest themselves in other areas as well and lead to conflict and unpleasant scenes. Besides, such muscles are akin to speed bumps and unnecessarily hamper progress in either an upwards or downwards direction and rather tend to spoil the quite pleasing curvature of the slightly convex belly.

Facial hair. Eyebrows a must for both sexes here. Beards? Not at all high on the list of must have features although they are acceptable for the male only if they are of we say, nautical variety and do not depend for their maintenance upon several hours in front of the mirror and a post graduate diploma in topiary.

A propensity towards maintaining equilibrium and co-ordination even during the most severe of alcoholic broadsides will be looked upon extremely favourably. Clumsiness, whilst not grounds for automatic exclusion, will not likely be tolerated in outdoor situations and most definitely not if demonstrated indoors and while already, or on the way towards being, horizontally engaged.

One will not be expected to be overly fastidious in one's choice of apparel. One should aim for appropriacy, casual elegance and comfort above all. Natural fibres are recommended for all occasions and brownie points will be gained by expressing a preference for the hand knitted. Any leanings towards the leather, rubber, PVC or any dressing which could in any way be described as 'cross' would better be suppressed until at least the fifth date.

A little personal hygiene goes a long way. EC is relatively low maintenance in that personal grooming products essential for creating a good impression are limited to a good soap and essence of rum and cigar smoke.

Right. Time to delve a little below the surface, I feel.

Character. All applicants should have one with no exceptions.

Manners. Old school Southern. Again, no exceptions although the Yorkshire variant has proved efficacious. Producing an authentic rendition of, "After thee, lass" will however, require the production of one's credentials, a birth certificate being the only true guarantee of success. And, even then, on no account should one ever refer to Beautiful Downtown Bramall Lane as, "a dashed fine spot, don't you know?"

Honesty. Advisable at all times except when it isn't. These times may vary and be subject to whim, situation and bourbon content. The phrase, "You don't sweat much for a fat lass" is best left until at least the second carnal encounter and care must still be taken over tone and intonation to avoid the possiblity of one's being measured for prosthetics a little earlier than one might reasonably have anticipated. Amstelladagain has no advice whatsoever concerning the correct answer to questions such as, "Does this make me look fat?" other than to say that, "No, dear. That's the cookies." is probably not one's best option at this point.

Taste. A veritable minefield and one which will lead to the removal of all but the fittest from the EC dating pool. A falling by the wayside of almost mythical proportion will occur as the lack of an ability to discriminate between the genuinely excellent and the merely well advertised in any field takes its toll. Received wisdom here will help not a whit. One must at all times be prepared to justify one's choices and preferences although be warned that any justification one might have for preferring Jim Beam or Jack Daniel's to small batch sipping bourbon will be dismissed peremptorily and out of hand. There are no second chances here.

Sexuality. Worth having. Definitely.

High maintenance submissives. Need. Not. Apply.

Accessories. Mobile phones should on no account be used for sending pictures of one's gender specific attributes whether in a state of advanced arousal or no. This is in no way a symptom of a Victorian prurience but is rather borne out of the inarguable logic which states that such an act does automatically disqualify one from any claim one might have had to be, even barely, human.

Miscellaneous. Any queries answered on request for a nominal fee.

EC. A tall order? That's as maybe and not for the faint of heart but a reward well worth aspiring to nevertheless.

All applications will be treated in the strictest confidence and will not, never, no how be made public on Amstelladagain without prior permission.*

*This may not be entirely accurate.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007


And to think I'd believed them all these years. Sheesh.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


When I first received this, for want of a better description, calendar, I couldn't figure out how it could possibly work. I left it wrapped in its transparent packaging and sat down to work out all the possible combinations of the two numbered cubes that would allow me to display every date between the first and the thirty-first and not one would do the trick.

And then it hit me.

No prizes on offer. Just curious you understand. Hopefully it will drive you as crazy trying to work it out as it did me.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Mincing, fucking elitist, snobby bastards.

Quite why such a trivial event has caused me such apoplexy, fury and venom is beyond my meagre powers of explanation. But if have managed to convey the extent of my in-a-bateness by means of my opening line, then I have succeeded in my objective and can safely move on without the possibility of your in any way lagging behind.

I think it was the Independent online I was perusing the back issues of when I came across some work by a rising food writer and, believe me, had I been there when he wrote the piece, he would have risen a good foot and a half further.

I mean, just what is the fucking point of an article purporting to present some funky breakfast dishes the recipes for which, to stretch the point somewhat, absolutely depend upon the procurement of six and a half grammes of the finest Peruvian smoked llama cheese or somesuch?

Stroll on.

This twat, and I do use the term advisedly, despite my somewhat overcooked blood, was extolling the virtues of kedgeree and not once, nor even twice but thrice in the same short paragraph managed to set my pulse to racing, my ire to rising and engender within my normally placid breast a desire to do such physical harm that I had not felt since I devoutly wished to severely, and probably anally, incapacitate Norman bloody Tebbit with a bicycle pump.

I don't think I really needed him to parade his knowledge of culinary trivia so blatantly as to inform us that the dish derives its name from the Indian khichri and nor did I welcome with a loud hussah the news that any kedgeree worth actually cooking has as its prime requirement only the finest and the freshest smoked haddock. These would obviously, in and of themselves, have led any right thinking individual to reach for the mashie-niblick with a view to inflicting some form of cranial rehabilitation therapy but what really got my goat was his insistence that we, on no account whatsoever, should even contemplate for the merest slice of a nanosecond using that godawful, yellow dyed smoked haddock available in most supermarket emporia near you as I type.

This is babble. Who the fuck does he think he is? Or, much more to the point, who does he think we are? Does he really think his readers are the type to now examine the contents of their fridges and ditch any yellow haddock the possession of which, beyond calling napkins serviettes and holding one's knife as one would a pencil, so obviously and beyond all doubt delineates one as of the lumpen proletariat? Those who know no better? 'Kinell.

Mind you, this is from the same newspaper which published an article which appended the adjective pikey to the compound soft play centre, producing within me a similar urge to explore soft flesh with various sharp and abrasive objects and, one would assume, innuring me against further occurences. Wrong.

I will never learn.

Saturday, January 20, 2007


Reading Jess, on the Shoe, as I do, I was reminded of our very intense conversation on the subject of...naah, such a wide ranging kitchen conversation was never limited to just the one subject but, all the same, the nub, crux or kernel of the matter was our shared penchant for what might reasonably and psycho-analytically be termed compartmentalisation.

Shultz had Linus remark that, “Happiness is a drawer full of warm socks” but I would add a codicil to that along the lines of, “if warm socks were all it contained”.

When one compartmentalises to the extent we do, happiness may well be defined by the knowledge that when one opens a drawer one knows exactly the contents thereof. Take the lid off a surprises there.

Now, please don’t get me wrong. Remove yourselves, as I have urged you before, as far as possible from the possibility of misconstruing what has preceded this beseechment and denude yourselves from the delusion of our being some tight arsed labellers intent on stuffing our experiences into some alphabetically arranged compartments in our mental Dewey Decimal catologued memory banks. This is NOT, as Wittgenstein was so fond of calling, the case.

We are open and, dare I suggest, more than most, to the full panoply of stimuli this mortal coil can offer and retain the ability to absorb, digest and agglutinate same (Okay, agglutinate sucks but I have held forth before on the difficulties encountered by dint of the simple fact that English is no longer my first language) into our respective world views. And please excuse me at this point as I erode a further micrometer from the trail between my terminal and the fridge for another bottle of inspiration.

We do not attempt to shoehorn realities into previously annotated files. We have, as far as is ever possible, no conceptions that are in any way pre. We absorb, we cogitate and we adjust. We also fail quite spectacularly to realign our expectations of others. We, totally unrealistically, expect them to react to any given as we would, with the same considered intelligence. In this, we are naive in the extreme. We can see it, why the fuck can’t you?

And yet. Our lives are boxed, filed and tramelled into entirely discreet and separate areas. Thus far, I have, rather presumptuously, used the ‘we’ and yet from here on in, the first person singular will have to suffice with emphasis on the singular.

The whole question revolves around the query, “Who the fuck are we?” and, given the fact that our cells regenerate every seven years, we are hardly the person we thought we were in that not one of our cells extant at the time of our seventh birthday is with us today. Fuck. That’s a biggie.

So, who are we? Or, more to the point of this rumination, who am I? Am I the same 5 year old who developed an acute stammer as a result of an infant school teacher exercising her prerogative over the children in her care? The same junior school boy whose cap was nicked by the resident bully Wednesdayite? No fucking way. And yet we seem to expect that we are somehow a progression...a result of all that has occurred up to now and that the whole is a kind of totality. Bollocks.

And so it is. Bollocks. Those of us who do not have recourse to boxes are condemned. Doomed to be the same person at all times to everybody. Absolutely impossible. Or at least it would be to anybody who desired to remain sane and relatively likeable.

We who box, box most ourselves. We recognise that the totality of who we are is so completely inexplicable that to attempt to rationalise our selves is rather akin to pissing into the wind.

But we also have a freedom and an ability to mix, to be equally at home in the pub and the cocktail lounge. If you have no need of boxes, you have attained the unattainable, the ability to move within circles without ever having to adjust yourself. I couldn't do that. I am made up of so many contrasting and conflicting parts that to fully explore them all, I have to keep them separate to a very large extent. Few ever get to see all of them. Those who do are valued beyond measure and, perhaps unsurprisingly, tend to have boxes of their own.

But I am drunk and have long since begun to ramble. I shall probably delete most of this in the morning anyway. Put it down to the Stella.

And file accordingly.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


Just to prove that if it isn't underarms, legs or bikini line, women just haven't a clue.

"Wow! It must have taken you ages to grow it like that."

"Was it an accident or did you do it on purpose?"

"You've done something to your beard, haven't you?"

"There's something different about you. No, don't tell"

"What happened to the other half?"

I had, I thought, anticipated just about every other reaction but these left me, for once, absolutely speechless.