Friday, August 31, 2012

The Egham Pecker OF DOOM

At last, the Wote Street Willy, Basingstoke's contribution to the world of phallic public artwork, has some serious competition. Head down to Surrey, turn right and follow the signs for Egham, and you see this:

Calm down, ladies, it's not real. A real one is MUCH bigger than that.

The Good Egg Pecker OF DOOM. And it's got the locals a little hot under the collar.

Then head north to Rotherham, and there the interested specatator may see a couple of tits on the High Street. [Ed: I think you'll find that those are the Chuckle Brothers]

Thursday, August 30, 2012

On getting Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett together through the medium of cannibalism

One of the greatest crimes of this modern age (barring quite a lot of murders and people having sex with cats) is the fact that the Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman novel "Good Omens" has never been made into a film or a TV series. As fantsy works go, it is head, shoulders and devilish horns above anything else, past, present, future, or residing in parallel dimensions.

There have been rumours of deals, followed by development hell and the inevitable crushing disappointment, but it is now abundantly clear that Stephen Fry is now far to old to take the role of Aziraphale and both leads will now have to be David Tennant before even he dies of old age. In fact, there's probably enough material to film a "The Not Making of Good Omens" which would fill an entertaining hour or so on a BBC2 theme night. Given the chance, I'd offer a quid for the right (50p each for Terry and Neil), and give it to the BBC to with a brief that simply reads "Stephen Moffat, and step on it."

Writing collaborations come and go, but Good Omens is one of those rare and happy occasions when the end result is far greater than the sum of its parts, and it's a shame that Pratchett and Gaiman never quite got it together to repeat the exercise.

To quote poor, dead Tomorrow's World: "That is, until now", and if this plan comes off, we'll all be millionaires.

It's quite simple: Trick Gaiman and Pratchett to enter a room together (Gaiman tempted in with a sign saying "Black Leather Jacket Sale NOW ON" and Terry with the promise that he is judging the fancy dress parade of sexy Werewolves at a Discworld event), lock them inside, and publish whatever they come up with after a month. I would pay a million billion pounds for the film rights, even if it is the harrowing account of two authors locked in a room for a month called "How I Killed and Ate Neil Gaiman" by Terry Pratchett.

Gaiman may be the younger, more athletic man, but Pterry's got a killer instinct an an eye for unusual and grizzly murder. All Neil has is a load of killer bees, completely useless in a confined space, sadly for him.

A win-win for all concerned, I think you will agree (unless you are Neil Gaiman).

This is a concept that could work for other writers. For example, I would be quite happy to lock Dan Brown in a room for a month with the 50 Shades of Grey woman, take any manuscript they produce and kill it with fire. Then leave them there for another month. Perhaps a couple of years.

Also, people who are not writers. Simply Red take note.

Ninja Edit: Of course, the moment I publish this, Rhianna Pratchett (daughter of Terry) writes - "Announcing the birth of Narrativia – a production company run by myself, Rod Brown & . First up are Good Omens & The Watch."

Err... Squeeee?!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

In which your author becomes an accidental matchmaker

I've been writing various blogs for myself and various - excellent - organisations for the best part of ten years now. There have been ups (Two national 'best blogger' awards), downs ("A turd-in-process being squeezed out of the fundament of your own prolixity" being my favourite piece of unintentionally hilarious trolling), and some side-to-sides (being called 'better than Jeffrey Archer', for example) down the years that have made it all worth while.

But I have never woken up at five in the morning for an unspeakably early start at work, flipped open my iPad whilst sitting on the toilet, and squealed with delight.

For there, in my Twitter stream was a message from a regular reader of my (officially) sixth-best British journalism blog Angry People in Local Newspapers, which said this:

"FYI. A man found my blog through your blog and now we are married (and I live in Canada). I owe you a pint."
I know what you're thinking, and you are correct: YES! FREE BEER! My writing has brought me prizes of electronic gadgets and a gas boiler down the years, but none has made me so pleased as this particular piece of news. Admittedly, it hasn't kept my house warm, but you can't have everything.

Also, I am thinking that the reader known as Non-Working Monkey is now living in a state of happy marriage because of some stuff I poured out of my brain onto the internet. Of all the things I've done in my life - bringing two excellent children into the world, chasing a dog off a football pitch, asking the awesome Neil Gaiman to write the foreword to my first book, and the twin triumphs of meeting a current world leader five minutes after the biggest poo of my life aside - my unwitting act of match-making is up there as the most incredible thing that's ever happened to me.

I didn't go into blogging for the cash (send more money), the fame (Agents: Please ask about my two brilliant fiction manuscripts), nor the recognition, but the fact that there are actual real live breathing people out there brought together because of something I wrote will probably have me walking on air for the rest of the year.

Yes, my default position is one of complete misery, I'm on pills for me nerves and I drive my middle-age spread around in a fifteen-year-old Nissan Micra. But, today, in the words of cartoon dog Droopy: You know what? I'm happy.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

My misguided campaign to get more religion on television

There's not nearly enough religious programming on television.

Yes, that sounds ridiculous coming from an atheist, but I am convinced that certain programmes will be hugely improved by adding a religious undertone.

You know what I want to see? I want to see an evangelical version of The Apprentice, in which Bishop Alan Sugar gets to point at a trembling vicar who has over-ordered on the communion wine and say "Canon, you're fired" every week.

That would be ACES.

Here endeth the lesson.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Military Fitness: Just say NO

Fitness fads come and go, some fatal, some not so fatal. I remember one which involved giant rubber bands that probably had hospital fracture wards filled to the brim with hapless fitness fanatics; while spaces under beds the world over are occupied by dusty exercise equipment which were used once, failed to sell on eBay, and subsequently hidden out of sight, only to return years later as the cause of a stubbed toe.

On top of that, there is also the cult-like devotion to the latest fashion in exercise class. Hospital fracture clinics were - once again - filled to the brim with hapless devotees of the Cult of Step Aerobics, as they found that the act of checking out the hot boy/girl on the next step along was a recipe for face-plants and broken ankles, yet the leaders of genuine religious cults did nothing to stamp out this menace. And that's before Zumba swept the planet with a fervour only usually reserved for end-of-the-world cultists. And judging by the outfits these Zumbists wear, the global apocalypse cannot come soon enough.

And now, emerging from the wings, comes a new horror, known simply as Military Fitness. The fact that this fad has arrived just as thousands of hard-working squaddies have lost their jobs cannot be a coincidence, but people are actually paying genuine cash money to experience what thousands of pencil-thin new recruits fondly remember as some sort of Hell on Earth. My home town of Fleet, neighbouring the former Gurkha barracks at Church Crookham (where every business worth their salt displays the crossed kukris at least somewhere in its logo) and the home of the British Army in Aldershot, crawls with extremely fit men with wispy moustaches and barrel chests (also women, only some of whom have wispy moustaches) looking for a new opportunity in life. And that new start in life comes through what they know best: Shouting at people.

What happens is this: You pay your money, stand in a field, and a man in a vest with a wispy moustache shouts at you for an hour. While this happens, your body is forced into all kinds of unnatural positions known to acolytes of the craft as "the press-up", "the star jump", the "run to the fence and back MOVE!" and - I shudder at the memory - "the burpee". From the safety of my living room, where I can see these dread rituals going on in the school field opposite, it breaks my heart to watch these lithe young ladies in their tight, sweaty fitness gear suffering for their long-term fitness. Then I go and make a sandwich.

Military Fitness is relentless, and I should know. I was once forced - as a relatively fit 18-year-old marathon runner - into taking part in one of these classes back in the day when it was an underground, furtive, but quite shouty movement. Yes, it worked and I lost loads of weight, simply through vomiting up my liver and later shitting out my pelvis. I was a physical wreck for three days, and developed a dislike for wispy facial hair, addressed only in my forties through recent participation in the Beard Olympics.

If I wanted to be shouted at by a huge, aggressive bloke wearing a vest, I'd go to the karaoke evening in a council estate pub and ask if they've got any Justin Bieber. Then, if that were not enough, I'd then try to jump the queue at the casualty department at Frimley Park Hospital.

Heaven knows from where the next fitness fad will emerge. God help us if it's Fifty Shades-a-cise.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Oh Lordy! It's the return of Kim Jong-un

Time we dropped in to see how our least favourite newly-married chubby Swiss-educated dictator is getting on. And he's dropped in on the families of troops guarding the sensitive border area with the South, and as you can see, they're overjoyed to see him.

I dare say the KCNA photographer is now up to his neck in shit and salt, being re-educated in the need for telling his subjects to watch the birdie and say "cheese". Unfortunately, the last time any of these people saw a birdie, they ate it; while Sacred Mount Paektu Dog Cheese is a delicacy reserved only for Party members.

If only he'd taken the new hot Mrs Kim, they'd have been all smiles. Here she is, inspecting wedding presents from the people of Greenland.

Once again, the KCNA photographer is up to his neck in shit and salt, after accidentally revealing the Supreme Commander's liking for women's footwear. Size nine, extra-wide fitting, if I'm not mistaken.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Weekend Not-a-Video: Freelance Whales - Spitting Image

The new single from New York's Freelance Whales, with bass player and part-time solo artist Doris Cellar on main vocals. This from their forthcoming second album Diluvia, which is out soooooon.

Spitting Image: And not a latex puppet in sight.

You might have noticed that I quite like the Freelance Whales, for which I make no apology.

Friday, August 24, 2012


It turns out that I'm not paranoid, the world really is trying to have me killed completely TO DEATH.

This week's brush with the Grim Reaper's attempts to recruit me for his own personal version of the Final Destination movies comes on the lovely five miles of country road from Heckfield to Hartley Wintney, which comprises part of my commute to work. It's moderately dangerous, claims lives on a semi-regular basis, and invites people with lead boots to treat it like their own personal race track.

It's not. It's MY personal race track.

So, it hardly came as much of a surprise as I reached a sweeping left-hand bend (fifth gear, don't lift) that I should meat* ...err... meet somebody coming the other way in a Vauxhall Astra. He might think he is on the racing line, but to those of us attached to the skin we're in, we call it "my side of the road".

There is the briefest moment that lasts a lifetime, where I can almost smell the Old Spice and read the Ben Sherman tag on his shirt, before I am able to give him the briefest critique of his driving skills ("Cuuuuuunnnn...."), and a skeletal looking bloke holding a scythe and dressed in a poor quality Jeremy Clarkson disguise slinks back into the trees.

I arrive home dripping in fear and fury. Not because I am alive, but because I am alive, the battery has gone in my MP3 player, and Steve Wright in the Afternoon has come on. A living death, and more than a sane person can take in a single day.

Who knows what madness tomorrow might bring?

Let's hear it for near death experiences!

* This is what you get when you type things up on your iPad. Stupid predictive text.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Story About Man In The Village And The Duck In The Village And The Pond In The Village

A short story I wrote about a recent drive into work, taking a slight diversion through Arborfield:

The Story About Man In The Village And The Duck In The Village And The Pond In The Village

I drove through a village, and I saw a man in the village, and the man in the village was chasing after a duck, and the duck ran away from the man in the village, and the man in the village ran even faster after the duck, and the man from the village slipped and fell head first into the duck pond, and the man's friends and all the ducks laughed and laughed and laughed, and I laughed and laughed and laughed as well, and then I realised that if I had filmed the man from the village chasing after the duck until he fell head first into the duck pond I could have got £250 from You've Been Framed, but I didn't have a camera because it's against the law to film things when you are driving, even men in villages falling head first into duck ponds, so I stopped laughing and drove to work and had a nice cup of tea.

THE END... or is it?

Post Script: I drove past the same pond the other morning. The ducks are gone. There are only chickens. I fear something may have happened

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

How my satnav saved my life

I've never seen the need to have a satnav in the car, as I'm one of those people who is quite happy to find the route on a map, memorize it, hit the road and subsequently get lost. These days, I will print the map out from the internet, have a look at the destination and a few key junctions from Google Street View, memorize them, hit the road, and subsequently get lost.

We have a lot of 'getting lost' adventures. But I only ever get lost once.

So, I had my first ever experience of satnav the other weekend, on an epic trip to Millwall-by-theSea that is the North Kent coast. Of course, the best bit of driving under a satnav, I have found already, it to completely ignore it and see how long it takes before it gets into a huff and demand that you perform a U-turn in the middle of a dual carriageway. In the case of our chosen application - Navfree for iPhone, quite a long way. Yet it still claims the victory when you arrive.

However, there is one part of the satnav experience for which we are eternally thankful: The wild animal warnings. We had planned to pop into a few shops in Guildford on the way back, but were put off by the large number of carnivorous creatures in the area.

At every turn it was "BEAR LEFT" and "BEAR RIGHT", horrible ursine death at every corner. Yet the people of Guildford shopped on, regardless of the danger.

Also, "ALLIGATOR IN MIDDLE OF ROAD" on the way through Aldershot. God bless you, satnav.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Whitstable, still twinned with Mos Eisley

Little Chef, mid-morning, nursing a hangover from too much cheese the night before. In fact, this much cheese...


It was a long, long night in the Whitstable Travelhovel, haunted by cheese-driven dreams which are too disturbing to recount even on these pages.

Breakfast arrives, and with it, a loud family of cockney geezers, on their way down to the coast for a cockney geezer day trip scoffing jellied eels and punching whelks in the face. Cockney bloke is loud, intimidating, and putting me off my pork products.

"YOU GOT COFFEE?" he bellows.

"Yes sir, we have coffee. What would you like?"


I will be the first to admit that I did an actual laugh out loud, before realising that I was eating in a Little Chef and therefore the loser in this whole deal. On reflection, at least he didn't ask for a "BLACK LATTE", because I would have pointed and laughed, my final middle-class act on this Earth before being killed entirely to death.

And to prove that the world IS royally screwed, we stopped at a motorway service station on the way home, where - with my own eyes - I saw a sign boasting "All-day breakfast - available from 12 noon"

I would have taken a picture, but cameras in a busy gents' toilet are somewhat frowned upon. I have diced with death enough for one day.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Whitstable, twinned with Mos Eisley

"You have reached your final destination," said the sat-nav, with a triumphant air of "fuck you" after we had spent much of the drive down ignoring its advice. And by "final destination", it is clearly more like the film series of the same name, rather than the end of our actual journey.

"No. No, it can't be," said Jane, "Let's drive a bit further until we find the proper hotel."

So, we drove a bit further, then a lot further, and then we drove back because it really was the right place. I know one should never get one's hopes up when the word (cough) "Travelhovel" is involved in any trip away from home, for they have reached the very bottom end of the scale for budget hotels, and kept digging. To borrow the words of poor, dead Alec Guinness in his least favourite role: "You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy than the Whitstable Travelhovel". And I should know, because I've stayed at the one in Swindon (and in my defence, both were booked by other people).

Petrol station, Little Chef, run-down hotel in the middle of a sea of litter-strewn tarmac, built far too close to the thundering A2 trunk road.

Inside: flaking paint; a bed with legs falling off from the energetic nocturnal sports of earlier customers; holes in the duvet cover; a kettle with exactly two teabags, two coffee sachets and two tiny pots of not-milk; and a TV that was cutting-edge cathode ray technology back in the early nineties. Even the single chair in the room is so filthy I think twice about hanging my jacket over the back. And I tweet:

Dear Travelhovel, I have screwed the legs back on the bed in room 27 because you couldn't be arsed. Your pal, etc
Further adventures turn up cigarette burns in the black-out curtains for that authentic "starry sky" experience when closed; the toilet roll holder held to the wall by God-knows-what and the paper NOT folded into a point. It takes dedicated complacency to keep standards so low across so many hovels.

Dear Travelhovel. Me again. I haven't got the tools to sort out the broken toilet roll holder in room 27. You're on your own. Your pal, etc
On the plus side, we note that there is a plug for the bath, an extravagence that will cost Travelhovel dearly later in the evening. Oh, yes.

Then I notice that the internet is being charged at £5 per hour in a brazen attempt to gouge even more from hapless customers of what must surely rank as the Ryanair of hotel chains.

Dear Travelhovel, Yeah, guess who? Five quid an hour for internet? Bugger, and indeed off. Over and out, Your former pal, etc
Like a teenager with a hangover, we vow "never again", but know that - yes - we will.

Post script: This is the view you get of the place on Google Street View:

Speaks volumes.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Weekend Owl

Back from holiday in the New Forest, where we met the O RLY owl. YA, RLY.

Also, DEATH from above.

About a million more pictures of owls from my owl-related holiday HERE. Also, some pictures of birds which are not owls.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Friday, August 17, 2012

A little local difficulty with the bankers

To Lloyds TSB to pick up a cash advance for a business trip. I present my credentials, and after the cashier told me to put them away, I then showed her the piece of paper telling me my currency was available in this very branch.

"Bear with me."

"You'd better be careful. Bears are dangerous."

"Pardon, sir?"


Several minutes passed as she checked her computer screen and a large ring-binder, as a lengthening queue of customers snaked out of the door. Eventually, she returned to the counter empty-handed.

"I'm sorry, sir - we've received the paperwork from your organisation, but the notes haven't arrived yet."

Let me just put one crucial piece of evidence in front of the jury: The currency I was after was this --- Her Majesty's Pounds Sterling.

"But... But..." I say, the spectre of a wasted trip looming up before me like Jack the Ripper over a doomed Shoreditch slattern, "You've got whole DRAWERS of money. And possibly a few bob put aside in the safe."

"Yes. Yes we have," said the cashier invoking the memory of Captain Mainwaring," But none of it is YOUR money. Come back this afternoon when we get our foreign currency delivered."


"After one-thirty."


"Next, please."

Got help us if there's a war.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A brief encounter with the long-ish arm of the law

The seven words that no driver wants to hear: "Going a bit fast, aren't we sir?"

No, we are not, because I am sitting in a lay-by with my window rolled down talking to a police officer in a hi-vis tabard and an over-crowded bat utility belt.

Own up to nothing: "Ummm. I might have been."

"What," he asks me, "What if there had been a child in the middle of the road?"

Yes, what if?

"Well, I'd be saying to myself 'There's a child in the middle of the road'. In the middle of nowhere. In the rain. At three in the morning. On a school night. I'd be calling the police."


"Yeah, I'd call the police. We've found that missing kid. We've found him. We'd be heroes."

He reaches for his radio, finger hovering over the transmit button, before realises he's being played like a cheap fiddle.

"Yeah, you've got a point, sir. Uh... Don't do it again."

"No, officer."

I flee.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


As Official Fridge Monitor, I rule with a rod of iron. And this mean that when things go wrong, something has to be said. And recently, people - accidentally or otherwise - have been leaving the fridge door open.

While this is a laudable attempt to battle global warming one fridge at a time, it does mean that your milk tends to go off rather quicker than intended. Time to use SARCASM.

That'll learn those fridge door curs

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

On Festi-Jeeves™ and my rubbish Fun Lovin' Criminals joke

Sunday evening, and I pick Jane up from the station after a weekend at a music festival.

"So," I ask, "How were the Fun Lovin' Criminals?"

"They were AWESOME," she replied, amongst other superlatives.

"And where did you sit?" I ask, unleashing my Fun Lovin' Criminals joke. "To the left ...or... To the right."

She looks at me like I'm some sort of lunatic, which I am. "That's the Stereo MCs."


My only Fun Lovin' Criminals gag going down the toilet, our conversation turns to the festival itself, which was - according to Jane - a lovely family-orientated event, "but there were queues for EVERYTHING. You had to wait thirty minutes just to get a beer."

Thirty minutes? THIRTY MINUTES? Surely there must be some way of cutting down the waiting time. Or, by-passing it altogether.

"What we really need," she says, "is some sort of Festival Butler Service."

This is a brilliant idea, which I immediately flesh out: An extra hundred notes on your festival ticket gets you your own personal Jeeves, who will queue for your beers, fetch sustinence from the food stalls, and carry a discreet bottle should you find yourself caught short down by the stage.

Also Festi-Jeeves™ will wake you up at a reasonable hour in the early afternoon with a cup of tea and fried breakfast, and use his knowledge of jiu-jitsu, karate and fisticuffs to keep tent thieves at bay. He will also play loud music to drown out the sound of your festival shag.

"You've taken it too far again," she says, "You always do."

Yes. I always do. But that is how insanity genius works.

But: Festi-Jeeves™! I'm going to put this to Glastonbury's Michael Eavis and the people behind the Olympic Security cock-up. This time next year, Rodders...

Monday, August 13, 2012

Homeopathy: Still out there, still rubbish

It's so very easy to take the piss out of Homeopathy, simply because of the utterly ridiculous claims that its followers come out with.

Homeopaths claim that if you dilute something down so many times that absolutely no trace of the original substance remains, then it becomes an effective medicine. Some people - who are actually allowed out in public, vote and have opinions - reckon that the light of Saturn focused on powdered milk will cure broken bones. Doctors, chemists and people who bothered listening in school instead of drawing pictures of unicorns all know that this is complete bollocks.

Unfortunately, despite even the NHS eventually wising up to the complete lack of any scientific basis behind homeopathy, you can still waste your money on sugar pill "remedies" in most major chemist chains, and worse, homeopaths are still allowed out in public to make the most ridiculous claims as to their (cough) craft.

Jane returned from a weekend away recently with this little present for me - a leaflet from some quack who was pushing his wares on the general public. I'm not going to reveal names - simply because a) I'm not going to give anybody free advertising and b) Just in case they're litigious, or represented by somebody who is litigious. The last thing I want is a court case for calling somebody a quack and a dangerous charlatan who should be run out of town covered in tar and feathers in the traditional American style.

Let's take a little look at the derp, then.

They say: We're not homeopaths. We're HOMŒOPATHS
We say: What? WHAT? Where did that spare Πcome from? It's the same thing, though if we're going to split hairs.

They say: "Simple, obvious and good science"

They say: "Homœopathy is effective. Good evidence exists to support this"
We say: HA HA HA HA HA HAHAAAAAAAAAARGH! PROVE IT. Also, my money - if I were a betting man - is on the "doing nothing"

They say: We can help you with cancer and mental disorders (list edited for brevity)
We say: We say: HA HA HA HA HA HAHAAAAAAAAAARGH! Preying on the desperate and the vulnerable

They say: The homœopathic process is empowering
We say: We say: HA HA HA HA HA HAHAAAAAAAAAARGH! No thanks, I'd rather empower an actual doctor

They say: Look at all these satisfied customers
We say: HA HA HA HA HA HAHAAAAAAAAAARGH! Singular lack of people say "Hey Doc, thanks for curing me of cancer"

They say: Look! We've even got an official-looking medical snaky thing!

So, to summarise: HA HA HA HA HA HAHAAAAAAAAAARGH! I'm sure the people behind this here leaflet after truly lovely people trying to eke out a living in the midst of an economic downturn with something they truly believe to be true. Just a shame that it isn't. The only chink of light in the leaflet is the comment recommending a visit to your GP. With any luck, he or she should say "You're doing WHAT?"

If you want to try homeopathy, go right ahead - I'll even send you this leaflet because I'm not going to stop you. It's your money, it's your right in a free society, and it's your funeral.

But my view is clear: Homœpathy. Or homeopathy. It's herp. It's derp. It's dangerous herp-a-derp.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Me and an Elephant and a Boat

Last year, I gave an elephant to the Cultural Olympiad's Boat Project. Now it is on a boat.

"The Coastguard confirmed that the sinking was caused by an elephant-shaped hole in the side of the craft. Police have been asked to look out for a bearded idiot, last seen heading for a country without an extradition treaty."

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Weekend Video: Mrs Kim Jong-un - Excellent Horse-Like Lady

What better way to mark the Great Marshal Kim Jon-un's recent marriage than the official video of Mrs Kim's bazzin' song straight from the North Korean Hit Parade - Excellent Horse-Like Lady.

As poor, dead Fluff Freeman might have said: Not 'alf!

(EDIT: It turns out that this particular singer was Mr Kim's ex-girlfriend. Who he has subsequently had KILLED TO DEATH)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Top tips for gentlemen

GENTS! When taking a shower, make sure it's a posh one and remember to pass water before you start.

There is nothing worse for the person following - who may be of the more sensitive sex - to labour under the impression that they are showering in the urine of some malodorous brute.

That's what the wash basin is for.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Your Author versus the Fleet Panther

Night times have become a chore.

Having fallen victim to Restless Leg Syndrome, each evening before I go to bed I am forced to go for a walk around the neighbourhood else any attempt to go to sleep is doomed to defeat as my legs jiggle about like I am an extra in Riverdance. This exercise - I must point out - is by no means an attempt to stalk the streets of Fleet (officially kinky sex capital of the United Kingdom if you are to believe a recent survey based on credit card receipts found in my recycling bin) for glimpses of naked people through upstairs windows, a view sadly not shared by the local constabulary, magistrates and upset naked people.

Be that as it may, every night at around 11pm, just as your average Fleet resident is standing proud and in a state of undress in their bedroom window, I must pound the pavements to rid myself of this impossible-to-scratch itch in my knees and the urge to dance, dance, dance that takes over my feet.

So, it was as I stepped out one clear evening, the full moon of Ramadan high in the sky, and my eyes below first floor level as per the court order that I caught movement in a nearby hedgerow. My evening forays have brought me closer to the night time fauna - the hoot of an owl, the scampering of a fox, the slugs rutting away on the pavement like a the stars of a specialist film I once saw by accident on the internet. Movement in a hedgerow can be any number of things. A gust of wind, a drunk bowking rich brown vomit after a night exercising his drinking muscles down the Prince of Wales, or fast spiky death eyeing my throat like a fat kid eyes the last Pepperami in the fridge.

A cat. An absolutely massive black cat, eyes glinting orange in the street lights, a fearsome growl that I felt all the way to the bottom of my spine. Three, four, no - five feet high, menace seeping from every hair on its black, black body. The creature turns its head to face me and my blood runs cold at what is surely some sort of panther, out on the town for fresh meat. And - at the present moment, the only meat - fresh or otherwise - on this particular street in North East Hampshire is me.

Remembering my classics (Jurassic Park, Jurassic Park II and Jurassic Park III), I freeze. If I do not move, surely the huge animal cannot see me. Unfortunately, this good work is completely undone by my involuntary ejaculation of the words "Nice kitty," which - as final words go - are a pretty poor choice. (In fact, my last words in this instance are more likely to be "AAAAAAAARGH!")

And then... It moved. It moved, one step, two steps towards me, my mouth dry, my bowels turned to mousse, my usually hyperactive legs glued to the pavement, my body frozen in fear.

And then... Everything snapped back into perspective. The fearsome best stepped out of the shadows and into the truth of the street lights and revealed its true form. Its true form as Next Door's Cat That Looks Like Hitler, a nervous little thing with an uncanny resemblance to the late Fuhrer, its hideous growl being mews of appreciation for the meat products that the woman upstairs routinely throws out of her kitchen window into our front garden.

Tonight's special: Half a Ginster's Meat Feast Slice. Mmmm.... tasty.

"Nice kitty."

It fled. So did I.

The Fleet Panther is real. It's just rather smaller, cuter and Nazier than expected.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

God-botherers and the case for elephants

To Weymouth to take in the Olympic sailing, where rising fervour for the Games is matched only by the religious nuttery of the kind that you only get in towns at the far end of the railway line out of London. They fall asleep on the train, wake up as it shudders to a halt and - Lord be praised! - a new town ready to receive God's Healing, whether it wants it or not.

Firstly comes the news that the town's local Islamic convert (the subject of a TV documentary and a subsequent poorly-attended march by bussed-in EDL knuckle-draggers) has had his collarless dish-dasha felt by the Old Bill over terror plot allegations, which comes as little surprise. The town exports lunacy like Melton Mowbray exports pies and Liechtenstein does false teeth. I should know - I lived there for ten years, and I'm on pills for me nerves, you know.

The town heaved with preachers, healers, roving Jehovah's Witnesses, all hoping to save a few souls amongst the sock-and-sandal wearing visitors down for a bit of a seaside holiday and the chance to watch beach volleyball on a thirty-foot screen.

On the harbourside, a furtive-looking chap heaved his display of religious tracts out of a suitcase like Del-Boy trying to shift hooky after-shave down Peckham market and launched into what I can only describe as the worst argument for the proof of God that I had ever heard. Turns out he was a creationist, with a particular dislike for a) reason and b) atheists. As a deity-curious atheist with a particular disdain for young-earthers, my ears pricked up in a way that millions of years of evolution had conditioned out of my body.

His argument essentially revolved around the fact that evolution is "only a theory without evidence", therefore God. All through the medium of elephants, for which he appeared to hold in particular disdain.

"I could say that elephants don't exist, and you would need faith to believe me," he said, clearly off his rocker. "It's the same with these atheists and God. They say he doesn't exist, when there is evidence everywhere. THERE ARE NO ELEPHANTS."

Bit of an elephant-sized hole in your reasoning, old chap, on account of all the elephants. I felt tempted to show him the evidence for gravity (which is also 'only a theory') by pushing him over the harbour wall, but a couple of burly coppers hoving into view told me this would be a bad thing.

Instead, I joined a small crowd which was openly booing at a G4S security van, and felt much better for it.

And then, parched from an afternoon in the sun, comes the welcome sight of a balding chap handing out free bottles of water. And, yes, there's a catch. Your water comes with a free bible, a book I've already read thank you very much, and I thought the author - to quote Dawkins - was "jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully". Worse than Jeffrey Archer, even.

So, my thirst quenched, this leaves me with a problem. Anyone got a use for 200 bibles and a semi-conscious Gideon?

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

A mild disaster involving footwear

A sartorial disaster strikes!

We have gone away for the weekend, and it only as we arrive and unpack that I realise I have neglected to pack any socks.

No socks.

The number of socks in my overnight bag is this: Zero socks.

You can understand my distress and confusion at this catastrophe, and there is only one thing for it: TO THE SHOPS!

Alas, there is no branch of Sock Shop in the village, nor any shop at all that sell socks over the counter to consenting adults. None, except for the local charity shop.

"I'll take these," I say, handing over the least-worn pair to the assistant.

"That'll be a pound fifty. Want to Gift Aid it?"

"Yes. Yes I will," I reply, "but please tell me one thing before I pay."

She looks at me quizically.

"I am quizical. Proceed."

I draw a deep breath, and avoid looking into her eyes, for this is the queston that dare not be asked. But ask it I must.

"Has anybody died in these socks?"


Monday, August 06, 2012

Scone or scone? That is the question

One thing led to another, and I found myself trapped on page 326 of "Pies and Prejudice", Stuart Maconie's epic exploration of the North of England. The trouble being - having read the entire book with Mr Maconie's voice in my head, I had come up against a single word, without a clue as to how he might pronounce it.

The word was "scone".

Do you - I asked him through the medium of Twitter - say "scone" to rhyme with "stone" or "gone"? He does not reply, but it is too late, I need to know, for it is a question that has haunted me for my entire life. I dare say it has defined me somewhat. Defined me as a bit of a twat.

Having been brought up in the 1970s, one of my finest memories is the Bunfight at the OK Tearooms epsidoe of The Goodies, where the trio fall out over this very question, with near fatal results.

So, I asked my followers on the Twitter and the Facebook. How do you say it, and where do you live?

The result is this map in wonderful Comic Sans-o-Vision, the Font of Champions

As you can see, there is a fair spread of skon / skown, with a couple of contrary jokers north of the border insisting on "skoon". However, it is clear that "skon" (which many may think is the working class option) heavily outnumbers the more plummy "skown", but I imagine that it's skon people who end up suffering as the skowner sit around having cream teas at the Savoy.

But - most tellingly - it's "skown" in Southampton and "skon" in Portsmouth, and a similar divide between Dublin and Belfast; while there's a battle between the two in the viarious suburbs of Manchester, spreading hate and despiar right across Lancashire. No wonder the world's completely fucked up.

It's "skon", by the way. The rest of you can just SHUT UP.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Weekend Video: Skyfall official trailer

New trailer for the forthcoming Bond epic Never Say The Spy Who Fingered My Pussy Galore Forever With Love.

Looks a bit epic

From the "Because they asked nicely" department

After the recent PR company shenangians on these pages, it's a brave intern that approaches me with a plug for their wares.

So, fair play to Helen of social media nice people The 7th Chamber who came at me with a request to share this video for their clients Intel and Toshiba (he says, typing on an Intel/Toshiba laptop, so he's not biased AT ALL):

See? If you ask nicely and don't be a jerk, it's free advertising all the way. Let's hear it for Toshiba and Intel! And nice intern Helen!

AAAAAAA++++++ PR-ing skills. Will use again.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Rules of the Internet: Three words that must be banned

And here's another thing that gets on my nerves on the internet.

Three words.

Three words, and two of them aren't even spelled correctly.

They come - in the main - on Facebook (but can be seen elsewhere), when somebody unloads the drama of their life in one great chunk onto their timeline - a huge, necessary cathartic outpouring of sadness, anger, grief, annoyance or rage. Some of the time it's even punctuated. Some of the time it's in ALL CAPs. But all of the time it doesn't matter, because the whole point is in the rage, the whole point is to get it out of your head, onto the page and out of your life.

And then, the calm after the SUBMIT button is clicked.

The calm.

The pause.

Then those three words that inspire further rage, despair and a desire to hunt the culprit down with rabid badgers.

"U ok hun?"


Thursday, August 02, 2012

Taekwondo v Morris Dancers: Whoever wins, we all lose

To the village fete in Jane's home village of Overton, a two-day street fair right outside the front door of her parentals.

Aside from the contractually obliged teams of roving Morris men and women (one of whom laid low in a bizarre dobbing stick accident), comes the equally contractually obliged terrifying display of Taekwodo.

The main arena (part of the street cordoned off by the few hay bales remaining after a freak storm on the first morning washed the rest into the River Test along with several pensioners and a dog) was a blur of white dressing gowns as grown men who ought to know better, and young boys who also ought to know better, fly at each other and kick flimsy bits of wood to oblivion.

And if this display of the martial arts taught me one thing, it is this: Don't try to rob people wearing dressing gowns whilst armed only with a flimsy piece of balsa wood. They'll kick the fuck out of it, and you'll be at their mercy and tied up with their dressing gown cord in no time.

I'll certainly think twice. In fact, I'll use my new contacts and set a heavily-armed troupe of Morris Dancers onto them. In fact - any village that can organise this kind of show on a bouncy castle will get my full attention, and a one pound donation to the charity of their choice.


Wednesday, August 01, 2012


We haven't looked in the company staff suggestion box for a while. Let's see what the proles have come up with.

SUGGESTION: I notice you recently set up a non-demoninational prayer room for the religious people who work here. As an atheist, can we have an anti-prayer room? I'd like official permission to go there five times a day, and read Zoo magazine without fear of persecution for my non-beliefs for which I am threatened - almost daily - with the eternal flames of a non-existent Hell. If you DO insist that I use the non-prayer room to worship something, may I humbly suggest Will's hot mum from The Inbetweeners?

RESPONSE: You've had an anti-prayer room for at least ten years now. It's called the "Social Club Bar", at which I note you spend several hours each day taking the unholy waters, and blaspheming about your gods (me) in no uncertain terms. For eg: "He's a sadistic bastard, and I'm certain there are bodies under the new speed bumps in the car park." Mine's a pint, and I notice cars are still driving too fast on site.
So good that we can make a positive contribution round this place without having to resort to direct death threats for a change.