Tuesday, July 31, 2012

School report time

To work, where I receive a cunningly-worded invitation to complete my own annual appraisal form, as per the prophecy.

As I fill it in, trying to find a balance between rampant self-promotion, modesty and out-and-out finger-pointing over that business with the septic tank, I finally come up with a number of objectives which I am expected to achieve over the coming year.

"Don't be a git" is not one of them.

Then, there comes the all-important bench-mark question: "What will success look like?"

A tough one. Who can visualise what - exactly - success will look like at the end of another hard year, nose to the grind-stone? I wrack my brains for what must have been several nano-seconds, and come up with the correct answer:

"A smug goose smoking a cigar and wearing a stove-pipe hat"

I also draw them a nice picture, so we can see if my prediction comes true.

Another excellent school report, then.

Monday, July 30, 2012

My War Against the Red-Braced Del-Boys

Let's make one thing absolutely clear: Unlike other bloggers (you know, the ones with principles), I am more than happy to allow both individuals and companies plug their wares on these pages, particularly if actual cash money and/or free swag changes hands.

What I won't stand for, though, are red-braced Del-Boys at PR companies trying little tricks trying to get their content on my pages on the sly. Take this little exchange, for example, which came with a plea to plug a YouTube video on behalf of an Australian company:


I've been visiting Scaryduck: Not scary. Not a duck for a few months now and really like it! I'm reaching out to you because of a video on youtube that I thought your other readers may enjoy. It's a video of a crazy vending machine put in a mall in Australia that gets people to do hilarious things in order to get a snack for free.

The neat part of this story is I actually am in the crowd in part of the clip, so I'm pretty excited about it all! It was pretty crazy I happened upon a big group of people surrounding the machine and random dancing haha.

[Link to video removed]

Hope you post,

Yeah, right. Nobody writes like that and deserves to live. My suspicions roused, I took to Twitter to see if anybody else had received similar, and within seconds, two well-known bloggers replied in the positive. A touch of my ninja-style Google-fu confirmed my suspicions, and even found the name of the PR company. Caught, as they say, like a Treen in a disabled space cruiser.

Time I wrote back, then.


Are you a genuine person? I know at least two other UK bloggers who got this very same email and it whiffs of a marketing campaign. If you're going to run a marketing campaign, at least be honest about it and try not to trick people into thinking it's user generated content. Bloggers don't like being mislead. They write stuff about being mislead because it makes them cross.

If you are a real person and I am wrong, I will happily prostrate myself before you in abject apology and post the video every day for a month.

Regards to all at [PR Company name removed]

Your new pal

They do not reply.

Name names? I could not possible sink so low and get you to Google "Delite-o-Matic", because that would be wrong.

PR companies: You are welcome here, but in the words of TV's Wil Wheaton: DON'T BE A DICK.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Dogston O'Hanrahan returns from a night out

"Oh, God. Is it morning already? My head feels like Tom and Jerry are having a battle inside my skull"

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Weekend Video: Ash - Girl From Mars

FACT: The Girl from Mars from the song is a tribute to a young lady called called Shirley who worked at the Mars chocolate factory in Slough, until killed tragically and utterly to DEATH by a forklift truck on the Snickers production line*

* May be a lie

Friday, July 27, 2012

A Great Big List of OLYMPIC FACTS

It's the Olympics! The world's greatest sporting event that's not the World Cup or ...err... The Commonwealth Games. But did you know...?

* Olympic officials have been left red-faced after the last-minute realisation that they've forgotten to build the British Bulldog arena. As a last-minute compromise, they'll be using the Centre Court at Wimbledon between matches

* Due to complex rules regarding sponsorship, the only bicycles allowed inside the Olympic Velodrome will be the cumbersome Barclays "Boris Bikes" hired out at venues and transport hubs across the capital. All competitors will require a valid Oyster Card

* The current Olympic champions in the ancient martial art of Ecky Thump is the People's Republic of Yorkshire, which has won the event at every games since its introduction in 1908 (except in 1984, when the gold was won by Lancashire after Yorkshire controversially boycotted the Los Angeles games)

* The smallest nation to enter the Olympics was the small roped-off Republic of Gesundheit, a country accidentally created during the post-war Versailles Conference when one of the delgates sneezed over the map of Europe. They entered the greyhound racing in the 1920 Antwerp games, coming last with Three-Legged Adolf. Gesundheit disappeared from the map the following year, after the invention of Tipp-ex

* The official mascot of the 2014 Winter Games to be held in the Russian city of Sochi will be Vladimir Putin, a cuddly version of President Vladimir Putin. This follows London's successful official mascot, Boris Johnson

* Organisers have denied that the 2012 Olympic Games have been over-comercialised, bowing to the whims of the many sponsors. "It's nonsense," said LOCOG chairman Lord Sebastian Snickers

* Following pressure from at least one Global Olympic Sponsor, Mystic Moo the "Official" Olympic psychic cow, is now an official Quarter Pounder with Cheese

* English sporting hero Dan Prick remains the Olympic champion for Holding Your Breath Underwater The Longest, last held at the 1968 Mexico Games. It was also the last Olympic gold medal to be awarded posthumously

* Britain's dismal medal haul in the 1996 Atlanta Games is widely seen as a low point in the country's sporting history. The country's only gold was won by Princess Diana, romping home in the Mums and Dads race

* Nigeria has emerged as an early favourite to hold the 2020 Games, the IOC impressed by their bid which involves "126 MILLION UNITED STATES DOLLARS PLEASE SEND YOUR NAME ADDRESS ORGANIZATION BACK ACCOUNT NUMBER, YOUR NEW FRIEND GENERAL AARON A AARDVARK (RET'D)"

* Words advertisers are not allowed to use during the Games include "Olympics", "Gold", "Silver," "Bronze", "London 2012" and "Big fat hairy buttocks"

* A new crisis has hit the Olympic swimming centre as organisers admit there is no way of switching off the "All yellow band swimmers please leave the pool" announcement. This emergency comes on top of the G4S staff employed to stop towel-flicking in the changing rooms has failing to turn up. Anti-towel-flicking duties will now be carried out by Royal Marine Commandos
Let's hear it for the Olympics, everybody!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

A sorry tale of addiction, clogged arteries and certain doom

There's an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation called The Game where the entire crew of the Enterprise are rendered insensible by an addictive computer game designed by a bunch of alien nasties to take over the ship and - ultimately - the Federation. However, thanks to the efforts of Commander Data and Evil Wil Wheaton's not-evil twin Wesley Crusher - the only shipmates not reduced to the level of drooling incompetents - both the ship and Life As We Know It are saved.

A similar thing is happening in our office, except through the medium of bacon-and-egg muffins. Every morning, the building wafts with the smell of freshly-cooked bacon, and desks are littered with muffin crumbs, blobs of egg yolk and canteen detritus as workers get their fix of pork product.

The implication of this strange and sudden mass addiction is clear: If everybody in our establishment ends up weighing twenty stone and is unable to do anything without keeling over clutching their chest, it is entirely down to the introduction of bacon-flavoured crack cocaine in our canteen. In fact, it's worse than crack cocaine, because it's so bloody cheap, extraordinarily delicious and isn't named after part of your arse.

Of course, I put this sad state of affairs down to a rival organisation, literally fattening us up before they strike, ending Life As We Know It through a sneaky and effective infiltration of our breakfast bar. What their motives might be is unclear, but my chief suspicion is that they are going to challenge us to a six-a-side football tournament and look surprised when they "forget" to organise the St John's Ambulance like they promised, and swap our half-time oranges for a metric shed-load of bacon and egg muffins, knowing we are helpless to resist.

Our only hope is if there is a brave pasty-faced vegan who understands what's going on, and can save us from a fate worse than death. Judging by the orgy of muffin-scoffing that occurs the second the clock ticks round to half-past-eight, this is unlikely to happen.

We are - in short - doomed.

Mmm.... Tasty, tasty bacon-flavoured, clogged artery doom.

Save yourselves, people. I'm done for.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The second coming of Spud-U-Like

To That London to see how my new pals in the British Olympic Team are getting on in their HQ situated next door to the fuck-off huge M&S at Westfield Shopping Centre. They are doing fine, they tell will, and will NOT be abusing their 9th floor position up above the walkways leading to the Olympic Park to take pot-shots at the knees of their rivals. This is mainly because a) We are firm believers in the Olympic ideal of "May the best man win" and will not stoop to such low tricks, and b) You can't open the windows.

Arriving early, I head into this cathedral of the retail experience for a spot of lunch, and immediately fall foul of worshippers praising the Gods of Shop in the only way they know how: By stopping dead in their tracks in front of me for no reason at all.

But this is all for nought when I enter the food court and clap eyes on the Lord High Priest of Shop - one that had died and come back again in a triumphant second coming - SPUD-U-LIKE.

Sing from the roof tops! SPUD-U-LIKE!

Yes, they've updated their menu to cater for ponces, so you can get pesto and sun-dried tomatoes on your potato, but the old standards are still very much in evidence: Formica, gravel, and the tormented souls of the recently deceased.

I had a Starbucks and fled.


Other root vegetable-based takeway food outlets are available

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The tiny, tiny world of the Daily Express

Where would we be without the Daily Express? Happier, for a start.

While the Daily Mail exists just to make people angry with its deliberately trolling columnists writing linkbait for the outragederati of the internet, drawing the punters in with its Right Hand Column of Doom of scantily-clad celebrities that goes all the way down to the centre of the Earth and out the other side; the Express just goes rounsd and round in its own little world, hating everything.

Foresaking my sanity, I went back through an archive of Daily Express front pages and found that they rotate the same half-a-dozen stories day after day, in a formula that doesn't appear to have changed for years. One can only suspect that their entire readership suffers from some sort of medium-term memory loss as their limited range of stories manages to contradict each other week-in, week-out.

There's a formula for the Express from which they rarely deviate: Big picture of a pretty lady (preferrably Kate Middleton); free giveaway of something that they've previously said will give you cancer (including - on one memorable occasion - two pounds of sugar); big shouty lead story designed to scare the living shit out of certain UKIP-voting elderly readers.

A typical Express lead story will ALWAYS BE (even if other papers are reporting on the impending end of the World):

1. EU hatred

2. ...but especially the pesky Hun who cannot be trusted and would probably shit in your airing cupboard given half the chance

3. Immigration and lazy racism, because everything is down to those ethnics. And the Germans, who'd shit in your airing cupboard given half the chance.

4. Miracle cures for Alzheimers / Diabetes / Cancer / Obesity to the point that if they still printed using old-fashioned typesetting, the printers would leave the words "Pill to Beat" left permanently set up in type

5. Pensions, with are going up, going dowm, or heading for oblivion and you'll all be eating cardboard in your old age

6. The cost of your foreign holiday, despite the fact that you have been told to hate everything south and east of Dover, it being full of pesky Hun who'd shit in your airing cupboard given half the chance

7. The weather, with their rent-a-meteorologist making nigh-on impossible six month forecasts on a weekly basis, usually contradicting last week's guess

And let's not forget the old favourites, which have suffered under the sheer volume of Kate Middleton covers in recent months:

Poor, missing Maddie who never deserved the shower of shite published in the name of the so-called 'World's Greatest Paper'.

Poor, dead Diana, who was - of course - murdered TO DEATH by The Duk.... ++++ CARRIER LOST ++++

Actual, real-life people who get to vote, have children and walk around in public read this tat. Other real-life people who get to vote, have children and walk around in public also read its sister paper comic The Daily Star. They NEVER make up stuff, ever.


Share my hate/hate relationship with the Express and other low-rent tabloid newspapers? Follow the quality @dailyexpresslol on Twitter

Monday, July 23, 2012

Homeopathy and Astrology: TOGETHER AT LAST

Take one tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny dose of the derp that is homeopathy; and mix it together with the pointless herp that is astrology, what do you get? The cavalcade of herp-a-derp that is genuine, actual people trying to make homeopathic medicine from the light from the planet Saturn, a bowl of powdered milk and a telescope, and calling it Trituration proving of the light of Saturn.

The light shining out of my arse, more like.

"Saturn," they say in their introduction, "is a very earthy planet". That'll be the gas giant Saturn that's made out of gas and not like Earth in any way whatsoever. I'm already seeing signs that this might not be a study that's going to appear in the British Medical Journal any time soon.

Now, I've never been one to mince my words about either of these subjects (that's because I'm a typical Aquarius), but anything that starts with the words "As a homeopath and astrologer" and contains the phrase "Angelina Jolie tongue-kissing her brother" needs to be destroyed by fire, the ashes fed to a walrus; the walrus sodomised with a cactus, before being hollowed out and rowed down the River Thames like a walrus-shaped canoe. And no court in the world would dare convict me.

And lets see what their conclusions might be after grown adults pointed one end of a telescope at Saturn and the other at a bowl of milk diluted a million billion times:

"From a homeopathic point of view, both the physical symptoms that appeared and the content of the discussion during the proving suggest that this remedy might be effective for accident-related trauma, bone and nerve damage."

I've studied their evidence and have come to the following conclusion: No it fucking won't, you imbeciles.

Don't let these people get started on - oh-ho! - URANUS, it'll be - oh-ho! - SHIT! Like homeopathy. And astrology.

Next, please.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Hyperbole corner

From a recent edition of the super soaraway Hemel Gazette, officially Britian's most dull local newspaper, serving Britain's dullest town:

Will it? WILL IT?

That's the sort of headline that will cause local panic, people running around shouting "Think of the house prices! Won't anybody think of the house prices?!"

Purists will also note the inappropriate news sponsor

More dull news in the Dull News in Local Newspapers section of Angry People in Local Newspapers.

Meanwhile, regular reader Alan Galaxy sends me this little shop of horrors.

Comic Sans: The Font of Champions. I neither condone nor encourage arson, but no jury in the country would dare convict.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Weekend Video: Freelance Whales - Locked Out

New material from my favourite bunch of musicians.

Free download HERE

...and you might like to take a look at the website of band member Doris Cellar.

Friday, July 20, 2012


The morning crawl to work made exactly 1.00006% more interesting with the sighting of a van in a lay-bay belonging to a company called Robotic Demolitions.

Wow. I decided there and then that I would actually pay genuine cash money to watch them in action.

However, there being no driver to offer my shiny pound coin, I could only come to one conclusion: The van got there by itself, and when called into action "transforms" itself like some mechanical dervish into some kind of dreadful demolition machine. They should even make a film of that.

In fact, I am convinced that I have clapped my eyes on - in a truck-stop on the A33 south of Reading - the legendary Optimus Prime.

Didn't ask for an autograph. I hate disturbing the talent on their day off.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

From the Cunning Plans Department: How to attract women

One from a B3TA Question of the Week called 'Cunning Plans'. "Ever come up with a cunning plan for something?" B3TA asked, "Did it work? What went wrong? Do you look back through the filter of the years with a burning sense of shame?"

I may have told this story before, but it bears repeating for its sheer self-confessional awfulness.

How to attract women

It started down the swimming pool. As I pootled around the shallow end, I clapped eyes on her for the first time - a vision of older blonde loveliness in a tiny yellow bikini - and I was in love. Over the following weeks, my passion for mature blondes in postage-stamp bikinis grew, and I decided that I must - somehow - have one of my own. Acutely aware of my own immaturity, I knew from the outset that actually speaking to one of these angels was out of the question, so I opted for another, more drastic cunning plan.


My cunning plan was cunning in the extreme: I would sit on bike bike at the top of the hill on our 70s concrete housing estate until a blonde goddess appeared. Then, I would swoop down, gather her up, take her behind the communal bins and force her to wear a yellow postage stamp bikini while I strutted up and down. Foolproof, I am sure you will agree.

It was as I swooped down the hill on a trial run (the target being an unfortunate cat which had sidled out of a hedge), that I realised I was doomed to failure, mainly due to a number of factors which are now utterly obvious:

1. The target is unwilling to be scooped up and will run away, causing you to fall off your bike and end up covered in blood, snot and sick

2. My bike had three wheels

3. I was six years old

I look back through the filter of the years with a burning sense of shame

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Laws of Charity Shops

I love charity shops, and have found myself that one elusive store which actually stocks the kind of books I like to read and the music that I like to hear. But I fear for them. By taking this brave stand, they are breaking The Laws of Charity Shops which all such establishments must obey lest they have their lease terminated and turned into a pound store.

Or worse: A tanning salon.

The Laws of Charity Shops are clear, and there are no exceptions:

- One copy of Every Loser Wins by Nick Berry (7" vinyl)

- At least one All Saints and one Daniel O'Donnell CD

- CD box set of The Very Best of Fifties Rock'n'Roll

- Coronation Street "never broadcast" exclusive set in Africa / the Med / Blackpool on VHS

- The entire canon of Jeremy Clarkson books (unread)

- Any book by Dan Brown that isn't The Da Vinci Code

- A china storage jar shaped like a chicken

- A Wasgij

- Fifteen boxes (minimum) of dolls house furniture

- On trying on any item of clothing, the customer is required to ask "Did anybody die wearing this?"

- Seedy looking man eyeing up the lingerie rack from the other side of the shop, waiting for all other customers to leave
Legislation is being rushed through parliament as we speak to include the book "Fifty Shades of Grey" on the above list. We shall keep you posted*

*No we won't

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Bad Writing Tips for Bad Writers

Bad writing is an art, and I should know. As a bad writer myself, I should know a thing or two about bad writing. Follow these EXCELLENT tips, and you'll soon be a bad writer like me!!

Multiple exclamation marks!!!!!!!!!!!

Write your historical fiction as a cutting satire of life in Tony Bliar's ZaNu Lie-Bore government

Make sure your hero is a mute, orphaned only child. Saves a lot of writing. And dialogue.

Leave your reader guessing. Introduce your villain in the penultimate chapter

Take your cue from the Daily Mail readers' comments,,,,,,, the only worthwhile punctuation is the multiple comma,,,,,,,,,,,,

See what's no.1 in the bestsellers, then write a hilarious parody. Readers LOVE parody. This week: Forty-nine Shades of Grey

Follow Stephen King's example by spending thirty pages building up a character, his hopes, dreams, fears and complex family life in Bangor, Maine. Then kill him and never refer to him again

Get your work more widely read by ending every chapter "RT if you read this and thought of Justin Bieber"

End every chapter with "Little did they know, it was a decision that would come back to haunt them." Just like Dan Brown

Make sure your reader knows the exact tone of voice a character is speaking in by ending the sentence with an adverb, he said loudly

When describing bedroom unpleasantness, ensure that all mentions of human anatomy are kept as indirect as possible: "He probed her fragrant rosebush with his tumescent candlestick-holder"

Send your manuscript in to a prospective publisher in 20-point Comic Sans (The Font of Champions), with every character given a different colour

There is currently no book-of-the-film for Two Girls, One Cup. There's a fortune to be made for somebody

End your story "The End... or is it?"

...and it was all a dream
Books, everybody! Let's hear it for terrible books!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Dear Thames Water

A new record for driving the 18 miles into Reading for work: Ninety minutes thanks to Thames Water replacing a worn-out mains in the centre of town.

Now, I realise that I only have myself to blame for not paying the slightest bit of attention to the doom-laden signs left at the roadside for weeks in advance, and planning an alternative route to by-pass the town centre, but stuff that, I've got a better idea.

Time for a letter...

Dear Thames Water

Congratulations on being the number one water and sewage company in the Thames Valley. I have used your fine services on my occasions, hardly ever encountering bizarre plumbing accidents, and with no side-effects whatsoever. A record of which you can indeed be proud.

The problem is this: Sitting in a traffic jam caused by your chaps replacing hundred-year-old water mains, it got me thinking that there REALLY must be a better way of doing the job. After all, you can't magic the pipes into the ground, nor can you summon up undead hordes of zombie and golem workers to get the work done in a fraction of the time. I imagine the unions AND the immigration people will have something to say about that, particularly as the undead tend to be a bit of a health and safety risk to the not-undead.

So, here's my idea, along with the picture that I pushed under the door of the Patent Office in the dead of night. In the words of respected London businessman Derek "Del-Boy" Trotter: "This time next year we'll be millionaires".

Instead of causing weeks of disruption by digging up major roads in the UK, simply move your entire road maintenance team to Australia, and dig UPWARDS. This approach is 100 per cent foolproof, and I've seen enough Hollywood blockbusters to know that despite crushing pressure and scorching heat, you can get from one side of the planet to the other in less than an hour and a half, morlocks and evil Kings of the Underworld permitting.

And here's the winning move: All the water that leaks through the pipes can simply flow downward through our Thames Water Access Tunnel, and can be sold to our parched Australian cousins at a substantial mark-up. I expect the project to pay for itself within a matter of weeks. Win-win.

The only problem I can see with this is the obvious Health and Safety issue. Australia - as you well know - is riddled with nasty things that live under toilet seats, and it only takes a moment's carelessness for one of your chaps to lift the lid on your tunnel and find himself killed completely TO DEATH, an embarrassing bite mark on his bottom which will be upsetting for his nearest and dearest.

To this end, I propose a diligent procedure involving rim-blocks, Domestos, and a big brush on a stick, and the safety of this multi-trillion pound project is assured. I am certain that your shareholders and customers will agree that this extra expense will be well worth the effort.

To demonstrate my confidence in this plan, I am willing to invest cash sums of up to 10 (TEN) pounds in its research and development, a substantial sum given the current economic climate. Please get back to me soonest, because those Johnnies from Southern Water have been sniffing around with a couple of fivers and a garden spade, and might get in before you.

Be lucky.

Your new pal,

Albert O'Balsam
Not a real letter? Oh yes it is. The T.W.A.T. must be built.

I am not mad.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Oh Lordy, it's the return of Kim Jong-un

OK, own up. Which one of you jokers gave him the keys to the secret doomsday base?

James Bond is going to go absolutely flippy when he finds out.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Friday, July 13, 2012

Veggie bands

Meat is murder, said celebrity whinge-basket Morrissey, and he is right. Tasty, tasty murder. However, pop music can make up for its meat-devouring ways by simply re-naming a few popular beat combos to help publicise the surge toward vegetarianism.

Already signed up are...

So Salad Crew

Status Quorn
Dexy's Midnight Runner Beans

Tofu Fighters
Rocket With Parmesan Shavings and Balsamic Vinegar From The Crypt

Bun-Lovin' Criminals
Bachmann Turnip Overdrive

Frankie Goes To Holland&Barrett
The Hummus League

Men Without Ham
The Dave Clark Five-a-Day
Let's hear it for Veggie Bands, everybody!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A political scandal that goes all the way to the front door of Number Ten

Alas, I catch myself watch commerical television during the afternoon again, and their advertisements are aimed toward the kind of person they think watches commericial television in the afternoons.

Which is why I find myself caught up in the drama of message on behalf of a dog adoption charity. "When you sponsor," said the voice-over, "your dog will write".

My ears prick up, much like a surprised dog, for I did not know that illiteracy in canines was an issue. Well, that certainly reeled me in, because if my tenner can teach a dog to read and write, who knows what we can achieve?

Alas, my research turned up a sad state of affairs. A fiver, I am told, only gets you an illiterate mongrel, while a hundred pounds lets a guide dog take an afternoon off work every week to go to college.

Of course, the more money you have, the greater your level of access, up to a level that can only be termed scandalous. Stump up £250,000, and you get a pedigree animal that gets to have a steak lunch with David Cameron's dog and discuss government canine policy.

However, as political commentators have pointed out, Cameron doesn't actually own a dog, leading us to reveal that this creature is - in fact - merely Nick Clegg in a fancy dress shop Scooby Doo outfit. A political scandal that leads all the way to the very top.

An extra fifty notes lets you tickle him on the tummy, no questions asked.

POST SCRIPT: Here's my actual exchange with the Dogs Trust whose advert it was:

And they send me this...

They are 100 per cent getting a donation. And you should too.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A slight charity shop adventure

Buoyed by the recent £2 bargain purchase of a copy of Primal Scream's Screamdelica, I am mooching through the CD racks at our local charity shop. Having moved from the book shelves after checking for the obligatory copy of "The World According to Clarkson", something has gone awry.

"My God! It's all Daniel O'Donnell!"

The entire rack is nothing but Daniel O'Donnell CD after Daniel O'Donnell CD.

"Somebody must have REALLY gone off Daniel O'Donnell," I say.

"Or," says Jane, offering the more likely scenario, "they done a die."

And that answers that particular question: What's worse than your granny's Daniel O'Donnell collection?

Your granny's haunted Daniel O'Donnell collection.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The fearful danger that hangs from every rear-view mirror

"Here in my car," sang eighties superstar Gary Numan, "I feel safest of all." I put it to you that he is lying through his teeth.

Driving a car these days is a dangerous business. Not only everybody who uses a car these days is a nutter - look up from the iPad that's perched on your lap as you read this on the commute to work and look at those weirdos with a death-wish - but the cars themselves do their best to fall apart around our ears.

"I have absolutely no sympathy," said Jane as she drove her car back from the garage, "for anybody who fails their MoT test because of a failed light bulb."

I heartily agree, and within a week, my car has failed its MoT because the bulb that illuminates the rear number plate isn't working. Yeah, I'm a dope, and I have already punched myself in the face for this act of brazen stupidity.

Having suffered a similar fate, my Twitter pal Steven (and well worth the follow if you are that way inclined) asks the question that absolutely needs asking: "I wonder how many people every year are killed due to non-functioning number-plate bulbs". I believe the answer to be somewhere in the region of the square root of zero.

Granted, they are handy for those times when you've been run over at three o'clock in the morning, but frankly you ought to be in bed at that time, not lying down in the middle of the road with tyre marks up and down your back. Unless you are - oh-ho! - a sleeping policeman.

However, it must be said that the MoT test remains important in that it prevents any number of unnecessary road deaths through a careful check of vehicle components.

For example, you might be interested to hear that before a tightening of standards three years ago, an average of thirty-seven back seat passengers were killed entirely to death by car cigarette lighters with faulty springs. Now, this number is more than halved, thanks to an ingenious fix by some bright spark at the Transport Research Laboratory in Berkshire that involves wedging a slither of cardboard down the side of the lighter so that it doesn't rattle about so much. What will these boffins think of next?

Our guard against mobile death traps must not and will not drop. Let's not forget the huge cover-up after the air freshener poisonings caused by rogue dangly air fresheners that don't look like trees, which only came to light after cars failed the strict emissions test even before the equipment had been switched on. Now, dangly air freshener checks are ruthlessly efficient, with only top quality dangly air fresheners that look quite-a-lot-like-a-tree being permitted. Yes, it's an extra 79p extra expense - a daunting sum in these cash-strapped days for Britain's already harassed motorists - but well worth the peace of mind of not getting killed entirely to death by dangly air fresheners made out of razor blades, typhoid and the souls of the damned.

I am not mad.

Monday, July 09, 2012

How Twitter has killed the English language utterly TO DEATH

I've been saying it for years: The internet really went downhill the moment they dropped the written exam. Nowadays, they just let anybody online, regardless of whether or not they've got the most basic grasp of their mother tongue.

This lowering of standards can be easily observed just by taking your life into your hands and reading the bottom half of the internet: For example, the comments on any YouTube video or Daily Mail news item. I gave up on the bottom half of the internet some time ago, and my stress levels have fallen off the bottom of the scale.

But that doesn't mean we can stop being a complete internet snob and have a bit of fun. There are over 600,000,000 accounts on Twitter, and a significant number of these didn't listen in school, and the mangling of the English language leads to literally minutes of fun. I've scraped laughs out of Twitter users saying somebody is "with the angles" whenever a celebrity shuffles off this mortal coil for quite some time now, but I've recently exanded my repertoire to cover these aces:

Damp squid / Damp squib

Chess pains / Chest pains

Pedal stool / Pedestal

Carpool tunnel / Carpal tunnel

Kniving / Conniving

Rediculas / Ridiculous

Liable / Libel

Coldslaw / Coleslaw

This is quite possibly my favourite Tweet of all time, and "lactose and tolerant" opens up whole new rolling vistas of derp.

(Turns out that one's from a pretty awesome parody account. Here's a real one, then)

I could go on. "Low selves of steam". "Hammydowns". Our civilisation is doomed.

And while we're here, let's take a quick look at online tat warehouse eBay. Surely nobody's murdering the language there?

Oh. Chester draws.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Weekend Owl

No doubt I have already bored you to death with the fact that my car once appeared in a Specsavers advert. It did. Really.

But there's one detail which I never noticed at the time - and that's what's hanging from the mirror.

Where's my owl? I bought a car that had an owl, and now it doesn't have an owl.


Saturday, July 07, 2012

All of my heroes have left the stage: An obituary of sorts for Eric Sykes

Nothing is permanent. Nothing stays the same. I say this in sadness as another of my comedy heroes - the great Eric Sykes - dies at the age of 89, the post-war boom in comics taking another step toward extinction.

I met Sykes just the once, the same day that I met another great comedy writer in Denis Norden in the staff canteen at Bush House, headquarters of the BBC World Service.

Bush is another of those great institutions soon to be lost to the nation, as the Beeb gives up its lease on the venerable old building on the Aldwych in London to move its global operations to Broadcasting House.

You have to dice with death to get to Bush, it's on a traffic island along with the Australian and Indian High Commissions, surrounded by roaring traffic, and if you want to reach this quiet gem of British excellence, you have to take your chances. Once through the impressive columned entrance, the canteen is in a windowless sub-basement of the warren-like building that always seemed to be in a constant state of renovation, which can only be reached from some quarters via the boiler rooms. It's a shadow of its former self, thanks in part to the ubiquity of Pret a Manger in the capital, soon to be lost for good as Bush speaks to the world for the last time these coming weeks.

One of the unwritten rules of the BBC is that you don't bother the talent around the buildings. They're here to work as much as you are, and shouldn't have to spend their days being hassled for autographs. I have dined out for years on the time I exchanged a knowing look with Ian Beale from EastEnders as we stood at a the urinals in the gents at Elstree, while another member of the cast of Britain's second favourite soap suffered what can only be described as explosive diarrhoea in the end stall, complete with realistic sound effects which will haunt me to my grave. But - and this is most important - not a word was said. And now Ian Beale is living my executive lifestyle, fighting tramps for their clothes and sleeping under a hedge.

But there was Sykes, in the queue in front of me, and then at the same table in the postage stamp-sized canteen. And I'll never forget the words he said to me that morning, which I shall treasure forever: "I've gone and sat down now. Could you get me a spoon?"

I got him a spoon. I like to think he got a joke out of it. A joke about a small fat scruff with a spoon.

It's a lie that you should never meet your idols. It's a phrase that only stands true for footballers, who are - almost to a man - perhaps the most disappointing people on the face of the planet; but brief meetings with the great Sykes, Norden, Milligan are amongst the most treasured of my life. Thanks to my father, I grew up with post-war radio comedy such as Around the Horne and The Goon Show. While my contemporaries were quoting Not The Nine O'clock News around the playground, I was still saying "He's fallen in the water" and "What time is it Eccles?" and looked upon as a bit different. I learned reasonably quickly that Julian and Sandy quotes didn't go down too well in the all-male school gang.

So I went and met Spike Milligan at a book signing.

I'd heard the warnings about him. In fact, if you get the chance to read the seven volumes of his war memoirs, do so. They should be required reading for anybody studying mental health in general and PTSD and bipolar in general. "He hates giving autographs", I was told. "You've got to get him on a good day," they said. I got both.

He look up at me, old and tired, having spent the best part of an hour signing copies of what were - truth be told - not his best work. But the glint was still there.

"Who do I make it out to?" he asked.

"Cash," I replied, and got a smile from my hero. The result: Not his best work, with his name printed in beautiful copperplate fountain pen. A treasure.

I heard recently that he wanted to be buried in an old washing machine, just to give future archaeologists something to puzzle over.

Now he is gone, along with Eric Sykes, Harry Secombe, Peter Sellers, Frank Muir, Ronnie Barker, Kenneth Williams, Morecambe and Wise. British comedy owes them so much.