Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Saturday 27 December 2008

is my bag for life
a sound fiscal investment?
too optimistic?

There’s only so much of sitting about drinking Baileys and eating pies and chocolate that I can put up with, so I went out for some post-prandial fresh air and to do some shopping.
Sadly I forgot to check if Jeremy Clarkson was still sporting his Hitler moustache at Goldhawk Road Tube station. I’m hoping so.
I bought a packet of chicken biryani mix, since I often buy things like this in case I am stuck for something to cook one day, and they usually sit in the cupboard for the next two years. On the front of the box it said, in English, ‘Urdu recipe on the inside of the box’.
Exactly! That’s what I thought.
This evening I cooked my world famous Kung Po Chicken, although I suspect I overdid the chillies.
Sent a text to Russell Crowe reminding him that he still has our slo-cooker, and that we want it back, in this world rather than the next.

Monday, 29 December 2008

Friday 26 December 2008

the crash of software
deafens me to the outside
and this small event

Boxing Day. No one is really sure why it is called Boxing Day, although these days it may be related to parcelling things up so they can go back to Argos. Such is life.
Our computer is playing up, which is depressing me no end, since any software-related problem seems to worry me far more than physical ailments, such is the reliance we now place on this demonic technology. Over the last twenty-odd years we have made a Faustian pact with Information technology that cannot now be broken. I see this as a good thing, although it does concern me that I am affected emotionally by a potential lack of access to all my useful and delightful computer programmes. If one of those EMP bombs exploded over my house and scrambled everything, I think I’d be inclined to start strangling the neighbours. I’ve noticed that in dramas, when this sort of thing happens, people always fall to their knees, clench their fists, look up at the sky and shout ‘NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!’ although I’m pretty sure that no one has actually done this in real life.
Drama cliches, readers! Let’s be rid of them!

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Thursday 25 December 2008

strictly come dancing
christmas special. the barrel
has been scraped too deep.

It really wouldn’t be Christmas without a nice bit of religious bigotry, and who best to present it but Pope Von Benedict XVI, who brings a whole new meaning to the word pontificate.

“Pope Benedict XVI has said that saving humanity from homosexual or transsexual behaviour is just as important as saving the rainforest from destruction.
He explained that defending God's creation was not limited to saving the environment, but also about protecting man from self-destruction.
The Pope was delivering his end-of-year address to senior Vatican staff.
His words, later released to the media, emphasised his rejection of gender theory.
Speaking on Monday, Pope Benedict XVI warned that gender theory blurred the distinction between male and female and could thus lead to the "self-destruction" of the human race.” (bbc.co.uk news)

His Holiness Pope Herr Flick went on to describe homosexuality as the greatest evil facing mankind, far worse obviously than terrorist fundamentalists, poverty, climate change, war, famine, genocide and ‘Strictly Come Dancing’, more of a threat to the future of humanity in fact than even than the BBC’s ‘Hole In The Wall’, and that’s saying something.
OK Benedict, if you really care about the rainforest, why not start using the vast resources of the Vatican to do something about it, rather than waste time wittering about a subject which you have not researched, and never will, as this would put you into conflict with your own Church’s beliefs.
As far as I am aware, homosexuality is a facet of life for all mammals, not just human beings, and therefore, one imagines, if you believe such nonsense, would appear to be part of God’s plan. I imagine a committee of cardinals is already engrossed in deep theological discussion as to whether gay swans go to hell.
Maybe if Pope Herr Flick and his deluded minions looked at the real issues and allowed contraception to be used by their followers, we might start to sensibly address the overpopulation problem and also make some difference to the problem of AIDS around the world. The issue of surplus population might be a sensitive issue for His Holiness however, considering his rather shady past in Germany, but we won’t go into that.
Other than being informed that I was a threat to the future of Humanity (which actually makes me feel rather like a villain in ‘Heroes’) I had a lovely non-religious Christmas day,
This was only slightly spoiled by the BBC’s insistence on having a ‘Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special’ in which various ‘celebrities’ pair up with real dancers and bore the masses to tears. Not content with the given timescale the show over-ran and buggered up the schedules for the rest of the evening.

Friday, 26 December 2008

Wednesday 24 December 2008

searching for shortbread
through desperate shoals of men
as if it’s the end

Christmas appears to have crept up on me silently and then pounced. I seem to always assume it’s at least two weeks more distant than it actually is.
I felt constrained, having been released early from the secret government bunker, to do a final bit of shopping, although I was fairly sure we already had everything in.
‘Shortbread biscuits!’ the Ugly One shouted down the phone to me while I waited at Victoria for the Westbound District Line.
The Tesco Metro was like some budget version of Hell where stressed looking people ran hither and thither with seemingly no clue as to what they were looking for. I just wanted shortbread biscuits and small sausage rolls, none of which could be found.
I hied it to M&S where I discovered a tin of organic scottish shortbread biscuits, but only their pork and cranberry sausage rolls which I can confirm are, since I have already sampled them, an abominable hybrid of foodstuff.
I decided not to try Sainsburys, since Dante no doubt has already covered that fairly well, and there would be no point in my reporting it. Besides, their habitually empty shelves would almost certainly include sausage rolls, and I was too tired to even consider using my nectar points to bribe the manager.
So, I returned home sausage-roll-less, and we ordered Indian food from our local restaurant as a Christmas prelude.
Several vodkas later and full of biryani I crept off to bed.

Tuesday 23 December 2008

the shrouded morning
streaked with wet naked branches
all dripping upwards

I rang my mother the other day who was telling me about the Christmas card my brother had sent her. My brother for a few years now has been making his own cards, not with cut-out 3D cottages, some decoupage and a bit of glitter, but ably assisted alone by MS Publisher. The results, though heroically attempted, are never very successful.
‘Why can’t he buy one from a shop, like everyone else?’ my mother asked, in the rhetoric tone of voice she uses which makes me suspect she’s asked this question of herself aloud whilst alone.
‘I suppose,’ she said, ‘as cards go, there’s nothing wrong with them, but it’s not the sort of thing to send on special occasions.’

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Monday 22 December 2008

all are winding down
to a christmas recharge
green lights are winking

I was accosted again by the smitten Spaniard on my way home from work, he who you may remember chatted to me not so long ago as I had a cigarette outside Stockwell Tube Station. Although a very nice man, his English is a little fragmented, although not, I confess, as fragmented as my Spanish, which is positively molecular in its degree of fragmentation.
‘I want to say... how you say.. to see you again...?’ he said.
I shook my head bemusedly.
‘When you see someone again, you say... what... to see you nice...’
‘Yes, that’s right,’ I said. ‘The phrase is ‘Nice to see you, to see you nice!’
‘Ahhh! Nice to see you, to see you nice!’ he said, and gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek before running off into the night.

Sunday 21 December 2008

the winter solstice
when the world stops and turns back
to the light again

For those of you interested in such things, ‘Strictly Come On, Do You Honestly Want To Watch This?’ was won by the lovely Dr Strachan from Holby City.
Alexandra Burke from The X-Factor is at No 1 with ‘Hallelujah’ and the late Jeff Buckley is at No 2 with ‘Hallelujah’.
Orgwin the Gormless of Quigg is back at home at no 43 with his four hundred brothers and sisters.
We celebrated the Winter Solstice with Duck in Black Bean Sauce and Egg Fried Rice.

Saturday 20 December 2008

arab cab drivers
waiting with glass cups of tea
and a cigarette

In a dream, I was made aware of the astonishing physical facial resemblance between Jeremy Clarkson and Frankie Howerd.
The Ugly One, determined I am sure to drive me to an early grave with a heart attack, cooked venison medallions with a rich sauce and some nice mash.
I was cheered to discover that another of my poems has been published on the website ‘Ink, Sweat & Tears’ - http://www.ink-sweat-and-tears.com/ - just as I was getting rejection blues, having received enough rejection slips from magazines to make a life-size papier mache Russell Grant.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Friday 19 December 2008

christmas is coming.
what rough beast slouches toward
westfield to be born

Christmas is approaching with the slow inevitability of Vanessa Feltz on a tricycle heading for the cake shop. I don’t object to Christmas per se. It is an important cultural festival celebrated across the world, although it would seem to be an established fact now that it is not the birthday of Christ, but the Winter Solstice, appropriated from the old Pagan religions of Europe in order that Christianity would be more acceptable to those upon whom it was imposed. Thus we have hangover Pagan elements such as the Yule Log, holly and mistletoe. The Christmas Tree is thought to have Germanic Pagan origins, while Father Christmas has its roots in Nordic mythology. Fundamentalist American Christians attempt to strip these pagan influences away (Santa Claus is outlawed by some as Santa is an anagram of Satan) although one has to admit that with all the magical fun stuff removed there isn’t a lot left to build traditions out of, and wouldn’t it be a bit of a boring occasion without all the glittery stuff to brighten it up.
Certainly TV isn’t going to make the Yuletide (that’s Pagan as well) any more joyful. Repeats, reality shows and brainless celebrities plugging whatever they’ve got to plug. No doubt Harry Potter (also outlawed by Fundamentalist American Christians), taking over the reins from The Sound of Music, will be making an appearance, as will the usual comedy Christmas specials which become less funny and more formulaic as the years go by. The BBC, it would appear, are once again scraping at the bottom of the barrel. They scraped pretty deep with ‘Strictly Come Dancing’, and even deeper with ‘Hole In The Wall’, an execrable series in which ‘celebrities’ in skintight silver lycra are lined up on the edge of a swimming pool. When the equally execrable Dale Winton shouts ‘Bring on The Wall!’ they have to fit themselves into a hole in a wall which hurtles toward them or get pushed into the water.
My, how we laughed!
Other channels scrape beyond the barrel on the flimsiest of ideas. A new reality series, on a channel the name of which I do not even care to remember, has made a reality series about a man called Willy who owns and runs a chocolate factory. They managed to get the word ‘wonky’ into the voice-over narrative just so the audience get the reference. I am tempted to wonder whether, had this man’s name been Brian or Nigel, this series would have ever been made.

Thursday 18 December 2008

the panic bit when
i searched for cigarettes and
found nothing at all

I rang Russell Crowe to remind him that he still hasn’t returned our slo-cooker, but I just got his voicemail. You’d think he could afford his own, wouldn’t you?

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Wednesday 17 December 2008

god is still missing
no one has phoned the police
i suspect foul play

I am sure that many of you are thinking, ‘This a radical atheist’s page! When is he going to talk about god or religion?’ and I’ve been thinking the same thing. ‘You’ve got to get a grip, Rod,’ I said to myself only this morning. ‘There are far more Godbotherers about than you, and they’re ranting twenty-four seven.’
Recently, however, there hasn’t been a whole lot to write about, although the evidence is around us every day that foolishness abounds.
Much has been made of Tom Cruise’s outspoken remarks about Scientology, regrettably in one case criticising a fellow actor for taking medication for post-natal depression. Although I am not in any sense defending Scientology, we have to get the matter into perspective, and if we are getting into a realm of attacking someone for making statements based on their religious beliefs, then you shouldn’t be able to pick and choose which religions can speak out and which can’t.
Just to be clear, Scientologists believe that 75 million years ago an evil galactic ruler, named Xenu, solved overpopulation by bringing trillions of people to Earth in DC-8 space planes, stacking them around volcanoes and nuking them. Then the souls of these dead space aliens were captured and boxed up and taken to cinemas where they were shown films of what life should be like, false ideas containing God, the devil and Christ and told to get ill.
After that they supposedly clustered together and now inhabit our bodies. Scientologists believe that if they rid themselves of these body thetans then they will be healthier and will gain special powers like mind-over-matter.
Absolutely ridiculous, of course. Everybody knows that there’s an immortal invisible entity who made us all out of dust and spare ribs watching over our every move twenty-four hours a day, and that he gave us free will, and therefore never intervenes in anything, no matter how badly people behave, although we still have to pray to him and ask for help, just so that we have a chance of getting to heaven.
Anyway, why is it OK for people to picket and harass abortion clinics and doctors but it’s not OK for Tom Cruise to criticise someone for taking medication?
I was dragged from this vexatious question by a phone-call from the Ugly One.
‘We’re having lobster for dinner!’ he said.
I was thinking that he’d bought fresh lobster and was preparing some gourmet feast, something by NIgella maybe.
It turned out to be ‘Tesco’s finest’ Lobster Thermidore, reduced to clear, but was nevertheless very nice.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Tuesday 16 December 2008

on days of our lives
the child with the brand new head
makes me yearn for guns

I took a day off today to catch up with some writing, and, of course ‘Days of Our Lives’ which I sometimes just leaving running like background music. Those people new to this soap will be baffled by the complex and tangled family tree, and would be well advised not to climb its interlinked branches until you’re a bit more familiar with the characters. Bo Brady, for instance, is actually the son of Victor Kiriakis, and therefore, Philip’s brother and Brady Black’s uncle, and likely to become the stepson of Nicole Walker when and if she marries Victor , who is also Jennifer Aniston’s father, but in real life, not in the show.
The new Will (the son of Sammy Brady, who is the child of Roman Brady when he used to be married to Marlena, who is now married to John Black. His father is Lucas, son of Kate Roberts, who used to married to Victor, who is Bo Brady’s father) is beginning to grate on me since he is one of those child actors who believe that fame is dependent on vocal volume.
It’s a shame young Will didn’t encounter a friendly lion or leopard while out in the wilds of Africa, or at least some predator that stole his vocal cords.
Meanwhile, it has been discovered that the government has a secret laboratory in the basement of Salem hospital, where the cheerfully named Agent Spectre is holding a set of genetically engineered twins who fell from space during a meteor shower.
I kid you not.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Monday 15 December 2008

It would appear that the success of Alexandra’s ‘Hallelujah’ has had peculiar repercussions in that the Jeff Buckley version has now been rereleased and is climbing the charts, along with the original Leonard Cohen version, which is the best.
I’ll be Hallelujah’d out by Christmas day.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Sunday 14 December 2008

the tones are muted
colours have been drained like blood
saved for emergencies

I made my special chicken laksa today, which I am sorry I volunteered to do as it meant I had to go out and buy chicken. I also engaged in a long and fruitless hunt for macadamia nuts, before giving up and buying cashews instead.
On the way home I was on the eastbound platform of Goldhawk Road station and confronted by a giant poster of Jeremy Clarkson, upon whom some bored (or maybe angry) commuter had imposed a Hitler moustache.
Weirdly, it suited him, and it’s not a look that suits many people, not even Hitler actually.

Saturday 13 December 2008

rain stole all the sun
carrying it down to light
the gutters and drains

Robert of the Never-sleeping Tongue came round this evening to watch the X-Factor final with us. We’ve been trying to settle on a nickname for finalist Eoghan Quigg, whom I still think is a forty-year old midget in a Tina Turner wig, but never mind.
We’ve been calling him Ogwin or Noggin, or just Ginger Wigg, but finally settled on Orgwin the Gormless, due to his habit of gawping into the camera like a bassett hound waiting for a biscuit.
I prayed to Argos, the omnipotent God of Catalogue Shopping, that Orgwin would not get through. I have a feeling that Orgwin’s mentor, Simon Cowell, was doing exactly the same thing, as, for the second time in three weeks, while announcing his own act he said ‘Wow! Blimey! I’m still reeling from the astonishing performance by Alexandra! ... Oh, by the way, here’s Orgwin the Gormless!’ or words to that effect.
Our prayers were answered, albeit by a non-existent entity in an ironic post-modern sort of way, and Orgwin was sent back to the peat bogs. Hoorah!
Meanwhile, the Ugly One cooked us his famous duck breast in cinnamon cherry sauce with parsnip dauphinoise, followed by creme brulee while we waited for the result.
This year, the winner’s song was a cover of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’, although apparently it was a cover of Jeff Buckley’s cover of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’, and although JLS made a good attempt, ‘It’s just the pretty one singing and the other three humming in the background again’ as Robert put it, Alexandra’s performance knocked all competition completely out of the water and is maybe the best version of that song (apart from Leonard’s) that I’ve heard.
Of course she won. There seemed little doubt that she would, until I read the released voting history for the final three contestants for the last twelve weeks. Apparently for the first seven or so weeks, Orgwin the Gormless was streets ahead of everyone else, which doesn’t bear thinking about. I actually wish he’d got into the final two now, as I’m very curious to know what he’d have made of singing ‘Hallelujah’, apart from a pig’s ear.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Friday 12 December 2008

i am now swollen
full of fish, chicken and lamb,
a fat city zoo

The secret government agency for whom I work has an annual curry night in the depths of Tooting. The restaurant has no alcohol licence but allows us to bring some along of our own, so I toddled in with a bottle of ‘Lost Sheep’, a white wine of which I have become very fond, as much for its surreal label (which features some kind of wooden Frankenstein sheep) as much as for its taste and alcohol content.
As has become tradition we paid a flat fee of £17.00 and had interminable dishes brought to the tables with the result that, as turnout was low this year, most of us were full by the time we’d sampled all the starters; popadoms, chicken tikka, onion bhajis, lamb kebab, lamb chops (yes that’s what I thought) fish tikka, fish bhajis and samosas.
I did have a bash at the biryani, which was delicious, but could fit no more in, despite the necessary lubrication of the bottle of LS.
I got home to find the Ugly One assembling our Christmas Tree and realised we have had our Christmas fairy so long that if she were real she’d be pregnant and in her own council flat by now.

Thursday 11 December 2008

wheel from a suitcase
lying on the station stairs.
i could do nothing

This morning, I was, as is normal for me, blearily gazing at the BBC News when I spotted the face of a friend of ours above a caption saying ‘later at 8.20’.
Thinking that, as an actor, he might have been involved in some International Thespian Scandal I set the video to tape the segment and hoied it to the bathroom. While there, I reconsidered, since his greatest acting claim of late is an appearance in The Bill where he opened a council flat door and said ‘Whatchoo want, copper? You’re not taking arr Wayne!’ in his butchest cockney.
As it turned out, the BBC were interviewing ‘the public’ about the quality of Christmas gifts and our friend whittered on for quite some time about his mother’s woolly jumpers. I was very disappointed. I was thinking he was going to confess to something along the lines of an affair with Gordon Ramsay, or at least an archbishop. He’d have been picked up by the tabloids then... and the police of course, but that’s the price of fame.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Wednesday 10 December 2008

Ooooh! Despite my reservations, I can’t help liking ‘Apparitions’ with the marvellous Martin Shaw as demon-battling Catholic Priest, Father Jacob, who this week teamed up with the muslims to defeat a demon posing as the Virgin Mary in order to get a demon released from Hell.
I have to say that the biblical research is very in-depth, and one can learn a lot about the arcane structure of the Catholic Church from this show. I still remain concerned, however, that many believers will see this as a documentary rather than a work of fiction.
Acting respect has to be given to Father Jacob’s sidekick, his Devil’s Advocate nun, the cynical Sister Ruth, (Siobhan Finneran) who is torn between between her loyalty to the Church and her growing belief in Father Jacob. The scenes between her and the charismatic priest are often the best thing in the show.
Sadly, it doesn’t seem to be garnering the viewing audience it deserves, but I suspect that it will become a cult classic in years to come.

Tuesday 9 December 2008

I got chatted up outside the tube station by a Spanish Man called Claudio. Which was nice. It’s not often I get pursued by people who are after my body, or my mind, for that matter, so it’s a relief to know that my innate charm still works.
Meanwhile, on ‘Days of Our Lives’, and indeed, many other ‘continuing dramas’ people occasionally disappear for a short while and reappear with a new head. It is alleged that Tracy Barlow once went upstairs to ‘listen to me taaaapes’ and came down again months later having regenerated into another being entirely.
The Ugly One and I have been for some time concerned about the parentage of young Will from ‘Days of Our Lives’, whose batlike ears were a continuing distraction from the show. Will has been in Africa for some time with his father Lucas, who had recently emerged from a year-long coma. Now Will has returned, seemingly three years older, blonde and with no bat-features whatsoever.
This evening, we watched ‘The Mist’ on DVD, if only to confirm to myself that this is one of the worst films I’ve seen in quite some time. Watch it yourself. I defy you not to predict what happens at the end and not to laugh when it happens.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Monday 8 December 2008

I awoke, feeling very ill, and with my stomach punching me from within and complaining at its treatment of late. I poured myself into the bathroom, did the necessary, poured out again and poured myself a restorative coffee.
‘Days of Our Lives’ usually eases me into the gruesome day, so I settled down to concentrate on the lives of the good folk of Salem.
A hitman, it appears, has been hired to kill old neckless Victor, and Bo Brady and newly graduated supercop Billy Reed have been detailed to go undercover to the Salem Inn where the hit is due to take place. ‘Undercover’ is a vague term in the Salem police department since Bo’s attempt at disguise consisted of combing his hair down over his forehead into daggerlike points.
The hit man appeared, at exactly the same time as Sammy Brady and Nicole, who chose that moment to have a catfight in front of Victor, with the result that Nicole has been shot and is in a coma. This is not a cause for alarm, since Salem is the coma capital of North America. There’s been at least three comas in the last six months, as well as Tony Dimera’s mini-comas which hit him at least three times a week, leaving him standing up and staring into space.
Meanwhile John Black has been busy standing around showing a mysterious blue key to his own independently mobile eyebrows. His wife, Dr Marlena, has been having premonitions about, well, not very much really, but she’s looking twice as concerned as usual.
It’s a wonder she ever has time to see any patients as whenever a relative or friend calls in to see her, she is sitting at her desk writing notes.
On the way home from work I sat opposite Robbie’s dad from ‘Eastenders’. I suspect this would not be a celebrity omen as no one seems to know who he is.

Sunday 7 December 2008

It may be true to say that the excesses of the last two days have caught up with me. I suspect I am getting too old for this level of alcohol intake.
I went out to do some shopping and to get some fresh air, which was maybe not a good idea, as I returned frozen to the very marrow. To the very marrow, I say!
However, I then remembered that my dessert from Gary Rhodes last night was a souffle, which the waiter pierced and, into the hole created, poured a jugful of cream.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Saturday 6 December 2008

now i’m depleted
eating in unreal splendour
with the hoi-polloi

The Wise Woman of Wigan, bless her, took us out to Gary Rhodes restaurant at the Cumberland Hotel at Marble Arch. As usual, it was a very posh and relaxing experience. A succession of waiters talked us through the food and wine and the cocktail barman even came to the table to divulge the secret of his James Bond Martini. It’s not the sort of place I could really afford to go to on a regular basis, as a bottle of wine would no doubt pay two month’s council tax in some areas, but it’s well worth the additional expense once in a while.
Following canapes of grilled cheese toastie sandwiches and smoked eel goujons, I started off with pork belly and langoustine with sauteed pears (I think), followed by saddle of rabbit stuffed with foie gras.
At that point somebody (probably me) mentioned Britney Spears and I went into a gesticulating rant which is probably why, when I accidentally struck one of the (thankfully empty) wine glasses, it somersaulted into the air and plummeted to the carpet where it shattered. I explained to the waiter who was cheerfully brushing up the remains that it was probably the mention of Britney Spears that caused it to spontaneously explode. I suspect that Rhodes either uses brainwashing techniques or employs Mormons, since his staff are the most unremittingly cheerful people in the world.
I’m not sure if it was the Moscow Mules or the red wine, but I’m stumped if I can remember what I had for dessert. I remember describing it as a culinary adventure, a triumph of design and a masterpiece of something else, but the details elude me.
Later, quite impressed by the wine-glasses, I looked them up on t’internet and discovered that each one costs seventeen pounds. I could get three bottles of Snapper Cove in Marks and Spencer for that!

Friday 5 December 2008

and then you texted
‘wre r u now?’ melting the
frost from my mobile

We went to our office Christmas party today at the Bierodrome in Clapham where I happily devoured half a lobster and a steak.
Several glasses of white wine and a couple of vodkas later I made my way home, but was waylaid by a text message and an offer of Moroccan broccoli.

Thursday 4 December 2008

even in daylight
the dark seeps from the pavement
and paints the railings

Monday, 8 December 2008

Wednesday 3 December 2008

We were complaining today at work about the influx of nauseous American habits, such as Trick or Treat and Secret Santa. Secret Santa particularly miffs me as a couple of years ago I did try and get into the Xmas spirit and bought (anonymously) a present for a colleague. I went to a lot of trouble to hunt around for something within the price range that suited his personality and that he would enjoy, and, as far as that goes, it was fine. He loved the present. However, the down side was that I had to publicly open a gift that someone anonymous had bought for me, and one would expect, wouldn’t one, that everyone should put a bit of thought and originality into the gift.
It was a pair of stripey socks, and I must admit that for a few seconds I was a little stunned, sensing that there must be some deeper significance to these woollen horrors.
Alas no. That was it. Socks. I can only presume that someone had some surreal post-modern idea that the iconic image of bad Xmas presents would somehow amuse me. I did, to my credit, smile patronisingly and slid the socks into my desk drawer, from whence, a little later, they slid out and straight into a waste-paper basket.
‘We might celebrate Thanksgiving here soon,’ my boss said, apropos of this custom of adopting the stupidest ideas America has to offer.
On the other hand, that might not be a bad idea. Should, for instance, Thatcher die in mid-November, it would give us all a chance to give thanks each and every year for her departure from this world.
I imagine it does not have to necessarily be November. It would be nice to have a celebration in the parts of the year where we are bereft of public holidays.

Tuesday 2 December 2008

I spent a quiet day at home doing very little apart from musing on the infinity of space, and the inexplicable public interest in Paris Hilton.
The UO arrived home with a vast parcel which turned out to contain 80 Agatha Christie novels which he’d bought off t’internet.

Monday 1 December 2008

The Ugly One and I trotted up the West End this evening to see Bill Bailey in his ‘Tinselworm’ tour. We found our way without incident or assistance to the stalls, but then were foxed as our tickets read 013 and 014 respectively, with no clue as to what row we were in. I accosted a lady laden down with programmes who merely said ‘Follow me’ in a rather imperious tone. She led us half way up the rows and then pointed. It was row ‘O’, between row ‘N’ and row ‘P’.
‘Oh!’ I said.
‘Yes,’ she replied. ‘O!’.
Bill Bailey restores my faith in human atheism. He told us that he recently, to his credit, refused to be a godfather In a Catholic christening because he would have to publicly ‘renounce Satan and all his works’ and felt he couldn’t get through the line without collapsing in fits of hysterical laughter.
The UO has various strange talents, one of which being the loudest laugher in the world, and is inclined to shout things out in Theatres.
‘I’m from West London,’ says Bill, ‘Are there any Westies in?’ at which The UO shouted ‘Yes! Shepherds Bush!’ and engaged in some audience participation for a few minutes.
It was a marvellous evening. You can never go wrong with Bill Bailey. It’s always a surreal and titillating rollercoaster of philosophy, politics, rock and science fiction, all stitched together with impeccable wit and amazing musical virtuoso moments.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Sunday 30 November 2008

Maybe I’m being too harsh to Britney Spears. Rationally speaking, if we didn’t have all this bad music about we’d have nothing to judge the good music against.
I spent the afternoon burning CDs onto my mp3 player, which, like most technologies which have entered into my life, I have become dependent upon. I already have begun to think of wikipedia as an extension of my brain.
So, what is on my mp3 player? I have to say that about 30% of it is classical, the majority of which is Bach, and a lot of that is violin or cello concertos. There’s also some Vivaldi, Gorecki, Schubert, and some strange German stuff based on the work of Rammstein.
Also, I have some original Rammstein, which is great for blowing the cobwebs away at nine in the morning. There’s some David Bowie, David Byrne, Echo and The Bunnymen, Siouxsie Sioux and Roxy Music to ease my nostalgia for the days when dinosaur music ruled the Earth. Then there’s Nile. I discovered Nile from a t-shirt someone was wearing at a Roger Waters concert which read ‘The Slaughterers of Apep’. I think it was Apep. At the time I thought it was some kind of international Oil consortium, but it turns out to be a character from Egyptian mythology. Nile are like Rammstein-lite. Although they sing in English rather than German, it makes little difference, since the singer sounds like Xerxes from ‘300’ and is therefore completely unintelligible. I have read the lyrics, and to be honest, I’m not missing much. They sound good though. Lots of pomp and camp orchestral drama, fused with pounding guitars.
There’s also some ‘Yes’ and ‘Tangerine Dream’ to feed my hippy philosophical side, and two albums of Gary Numan cover versions.
I’ll have to get back to you on the rest, as my access to my wikipedia interface has been temporarily lost.

Saturday 29 November 2008

Our friend Robert turned up this evening for some posh nosh and a bit of X-Factor.
The Ugly One, emboldened by a freezer full of hoity-toity meat, had been to The Wholefood Shop to buy a matching set of posh mushrooms.
Thus we had mushroom risotto, followed by game bird pie with five-vegetable mash and madeira gravy, followed by raspberry and passion-fruit pavlova.
A touch of verisimilitude was added to the evening by my discovery of a piece of shot in a portion of bird. I’m not sure if it was partridge or pheasant. I just know it had been shot, presumably by some posh person out in the country.
The X-Factor is getting more bizarre, particularly in view of the fact that they are inviting guest artists more known for their success than their actual talent. Last year we had Celine Dion, who had to be forcibly silenced on stage after gabbling on interminably about the other acts. This year we have already had Mariah Carey (why use one note when thirty seven will do perfectly well?) who grinned manically through her botox death mask while muttering ‘awesome!’ through her seemingly wired-together teeth.
Tonight it was Britney Spears, and because Britney was due to appear, the poor contestants had to perform Britney songs. I was not convinced there were enough well-known Britney songs to go around, but apparently there are.
I knew three of them.
As was to be expected, the contestants did not do well. Britney songs are, for one thing, not particularly good ‘songs’. As recordings, they were no more than over-produced dance tracks with augmented or adjusted vocals, and wouldn’t stand alone as ‘songs’. It is obvious that the producers saw the appearance of Britney as something of a coup, and consequently the interests of the contestants themselves were sidelined, particularly in view of the fact that she was not in a mentoring role as all other guests have been.
The highlight of the show was Britney herself, but for all the wrong reasons. Stumbling around the stage and miming very obviously and – one might add – incredibly badly, she was then interviewed very very briefly by Dermot O’Leary and, when asked about the other contestants’ performances, avoided the question and talked about how awesome London was.
It appears that Ms Spears did not see any of the contestants’ performances.
On the X-tra Factor later it was only ‘Gavin & Stacey’s James Corden who was brave enough to point out Britney’s deficiencies. ‘She comes on, does a half-arsed bit of miming and then buggers off straightaway to do a set at Heaven.’
As it turned out, Heaven was to be disappointed, since Ms Spears failed to turn up and took an early morning flight back, hopefully to eventual obscurity.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Friday 28 November 2008

We’ve been watching a series called ‘The Inbetweeners’, having landed on it while channel-hopping some weeks back. I can never fathom why these excellent comedies are tucked away in late-night slots on the minor channels, while the mainstream channels churn out the TV equivalent of chicken nuggets for the masses.
Adrian Edmondson recently did ‘Teenage Kicks’, a sitcom in which he played a divorced dad, living with his crazy mixed-up teenager children in a student flat, and having to sleep in the cupboard under the stairs. It was originally, it appears, a radio comedy series which the PTB thought may transfer successfully to TV. Sadly no. Rather than transferring to BBC 1 or 2 it went to ITV, which is always a worrying prospect for sitcoms. It still sounds like a radio comedy, the beauty of which is that you can imagine the surreal and grotesque characters within the bounded universe of the writing. Having said that, ‘The League of Gentlemen’ made the leap to TV spectacularly well, so it can be done.
‘Teenage Kicks’ failed by being simply old-fashioned and not updating the writing for TV. Ade should have had a word with the wife. She’s had a bit of experience in things like this.
On BBC1 at the moment we have ‘Not Going Out’ which stars Lee Mack and the ghastly Tim Vine. I don’t know what it is about Tim Vine that makes me want to pick up a gun. It’s not just this sitcom, which is as dull as they come, and scheduled at an hour where the viewers are mostly likely to be drunk and no doubt more appreciative of the subtle philosophical subtext.
The blurb for a recent episode runs as follows:-

“Lee pretends to be gay to find out more about a new business acquaintance - but only because his reward for doing so is tickets to Wembley. His deception is soon uncovered and he is taken to a `specialist' club to test his alleged sexuality. “

What a new and revolutionary idea. I’m sure no one ever realised before that a straight man pretending to be gay could have such extraordinary comic potential. Why did no one ever think of this before?
Somebody please strap me down before I vomit with excitement.
The point I am trying to make is that the good stuff, the groundbreaking excellent comedy, (with the exception of Channel 4) is hidden away on obscure channels at ridiculous times.
‘The Inbetweeners’ for instance, should be shown at prime time on BBC1, along with ‘The Mighty Boosh’ (BBC3) ‘Flight of The Conchords’ (BBC4) and the brilliant ‘Gavin and Stacey’, which has knocked all other series out of the water.
In the meantime, catch up with ‘The Inbetweeners’ for the best comedy on TV at the moment... and avoid anything with Tim Vine in it. It’s bound to be a regurgitated version of something that was eaten in the Eighties

Thursday 27 November 2008

Our Christmas meat arrived today which the Ugly One had ordered from Scotland. He went a bit mad, and as well as ordering a bit of lamb for the actual day we had a selection of chopped up game birds (pheasant, partridge and pigeon) and some Red Deer medallions. It was frozen and packed in dry ice, which unfortunately had mostly evaporated by the time I had got home, as I wanted to put a lump in my vodka and coke and lounge on my sofa like a vampire siren. Well, one can dream.
We then caught up with Apparitions in which Martin Shaw battles Satan on a weekly basis. This week he was on the trail of a female demon possessing a rapist who may also have been simultaneously possessed by a saint. I got a little confused, but at least Father Shaw got to exorcise the rapist before he died.

Wednesday 26 November 2008

So, I was in the kitchen, rustling up some culinary disaster, or maybe washing up... it could have been either, when up popped Jeremy Paxman with ‘The Moral Maze’, who this week were discussing the BNP membership list, which had been leaked onto t’internet by a disgruntled ex-member who though that the party was getting too mamdy-pamdy and not hanging enough black people.
One of the guests was a BNP Press Officer who, much to my immense satisfaction, did his party no favours at all, since he talked over everyone else on the programme and ranted at length without really saying anything very solid. We did get the fact that BNP manifesto aims to promote rights for ‘the indigenous races of Britain’.
I was under the impression that the only indigenous races left in Britain were small bits of Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Tuesday 25 November 2008

So, I take the morning off and text ‘Steve’ (once I’d fortified myself with the coffee, cigarettes and ‘Days of Our Lives’) to let him know I can meet up with him this morning, and he dutifully rang me back and told me he’d meet me in Tescos in Aintree Road.
There was something of ‘24’ about all this, what with me meeting mysterious visitors from Syria to pick up packages, although I’d rather my contact had been called Mahmoud or Abdul or something. Steve doesn’t really have that ring of international espionage about it.
Getting to Perivale was fine. I took the A-Z with me, even though international spies seem to know instinctively where everywhere is, and never have to consult maps, or else have them projected onto the inside of their contact lenses..
From the A-Z it seemed like I could walk through the Perivale Industrial Park and come out on Aintree Road. Beside the tube there was a raggedy path which had a sign reading ‘Car park’, but that wasn’t on the map at all.
So, I walked about inside the industrial estate for what seemed like hours, only to find myself going in a complete circle, and having then to go on a roundabout route through various avenues until I found Aintree Road. For some reason there seemed to be a preponderance of Indian men up scaffolding, looking at masonry and shaking their heads.
Aintree Road didn’t have a Tesco in it, so I had to ring Steve again, who gave me further directions.
I didn’t like to ring and point out, when I eventually reached it, that Tesco wasn’t on Aintree Road at all.
I had a coffee and Steve - who turns out to be a truck driver who looks like Rio Ferdinand - eventually turned up and handed over the merchandise; a gold cigarette lighter embellished with arabic lettering, and a small jewellery box with similar designs inside, as well as a letter and some pictures.
‘I had to open it,’ said Steve, ‘ in case it was drugs.’
‘That’s quite understandable,’ I said, and thanked him perhaps a little too much for going to the trouble of turning up. I was a little overwhelmed since it’s been a long time since I had coffee (or indeed, anything else) with a truck driver, and without wanting to be too rude to truck drivers as a community, they’re very seldom this cute.
Sadly, he stayed very briefly, and disappeared off to his truck to do some trucking, but it was very nice to meet him anyway, despite the labyrinthine route I’d walked to get there.
On the way back, I discovered that the raggedy car park path would have brought me straight through to where I wanted to be and saved me three-quarters of an hour of wandering about. I suspect that Argos, the God of Catalogue Shopping, is punishing me for not using his outlets as much as I should.
This evening, we tuned into the second episode of ‘Survivors’, Terry Nation’s seminal tale of life after viral apocalypse. The catastrophe is not quite as cosy as it was back in the Seventies, when the BBC series ran to about three or four seasons.
Basically, a global flu-type thing has decimated the world population, and the remaining few have to band together to survive. They’ve kept some of the original character names (such as Greg and Abby) and the central premise that Abby is searching for her son who may, or may not, be alive.
This seems a much grittier view of depopulation though, taking into account that our culture has become far more technology dependant than it was in the seventies, and perhaps that, as a nation, we have lost something of what it means to be part of a community.