Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Man vs phone marketers

The phone rings, and caller ID steels me for the fact that something terrible is about to occur with an "Out of Area" message. And so it proves.

"Hello," says the call centre voice, "Am I speaking to Mr Baker?"

"Yes," I lie in my best Timelord voice, "This is Tom Baker."

"Are you aware that there are government grants available for loft insulation?" they ask from their script.

"Why, yes," says the Fourth Doctor, "Yes I am."

"And have you ever considered applying for one of these grants? Our one stop shop makes this process as simple as possible and could save you pounds."

I shudder at the words "one stop shop", a phrase which marks the very worst of Buzzword Bingo, and reply in the negative.

"I'd advise you take up our offer right away, sir. You could be missing out on discount loft insulation."

Time for the bombshell. I hope they are wearing appropriate protective clothing.

"We live in a ground floor flat. Your move."

They do not reply. The line goes dead.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


With Hallowe'en just around the corner, people who do not care for the tradition of Trick-or-Treat will be looking for some way of keeping the kiddiewinks from their front door.
That is why we've come up with this 100 PER CENT OFFICIAL 'No Trick-or-Treat' Poster.
 (Click on pic to embiggen)

Simply print it off, put it up in your window, and we can guarantee that you will not be disturbed by hordes of little scrotes come the 31st October.
However, should your house be burned to the ground by a torch-wielding mob carrying "DEATH 2 PEEDO'S" banners, don't come running to us.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Hitler Time Machine conundrum

Ask anybody what they'd do if they had a time machine, and the first thing they say is "Go back in time and kill Hitler".

Yeah, but what if Hitler had a time machine?

What if you go back in time to kill Hitler, Hitler gets the better of you with the old surprise wedgie and he runs off with your time machine? What's he going to do?

My guess: Go back in time, ensure Germany loses World War I, falls into economic ruin, motivating the people to elect an extreme Nationalist party that revives the country's economic and military might to become the most feared state in the world, capable of virtually anything it sets it's expansionist, murderous mind to achieve.


Say what you like about Hitler. At least he killed Hitler.

And while we're on the subject, why is it always Hitler? Why not world's worst person Josef Stalin? Why not world's second worst person Jimmy Savile? First thing I'm going to do is go back in time and kick my arch-nemesis the Dalai Lama (Not daily. Not a llama) in the fork. No reason, it would just be really funny. Then Mick Hucknall.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Weekend Video: Amanda Palmer - No Surprises

From the snappily-named album Amanda Palmer Performs the Popular Hits of Radiohead on Her Magical Ukulele, in which Amanda Palmer performs the popular hits of Radiohead on her magical ukulele.

This is the second time I've posted an Amanda Palmer video in recent weeks. AND WHAT OF IT?

Friday, October 26, 2012

On spoiling my chances of ever getting anything from a PR Company ever again

I get email. Email from a PR company

Currently we are spreading the word about a creative agency out of Santa Monica. They are crowdsourcing a rename of their agency, the winning idea submission will receive $4,000.

We thought that this contest would be a great post for your readers, etc etc etc
Of course I am interested as there's genuine cash money involved. And I firmly believe that we are the people who can win this competition in the name of good, old fashioned British creativity. So I look at the brief:

Rename the agency to better reflect its philosophy of positive change. This agency walks the talk and behaves in line with its philosophy, as conveyed through the new name. We want an agency name that is conceptual and intuitively understandable.
Dear Chris

Thanks for your recent email. I have given ther competition at least five seconds' thought (I am a GENIUS, this is a LOT of my time) and I've come up with the following award-worthy name:

* The "Why Lie, It's Shit" Advertising Agency

A new, novel angle on the entire ethos and raison d'etre of the advertising and public relations industry. The great unspoken - the elephant in the room, as it were - is that advertising exists solely to draw attention away from the fact you are peddling crap. Why lie? The client knows they want you to dress up turds, and you are expert turd dressers who would be unemployable elsewhere.

There's no point hiding behind buzzword bingo, the ten-foot experience will allow a 'through the middle' approach for a continuum of products which will allow a thousand flowers to bloom right through the value chain. Truth is the new lying. The positive change is that you will be the first agency to acknowledge the man behind the curtain is rogering the advertising rhinoceros with his wizard's staff of necessary untruths.

* and are both available

This idea will give you:

* A refreshing outlook on the industry
* Free, and dare I say it - VIRAL - publicity
* Superb merchandising opportunities

This idea will give clients:

* Honesty about their products
* Ready made-slogans: Buy [XXX BRAND], marginally less awful than [YYY Brand]. Ideal for politicians and companies with products with fatal design flaws

* Spectacularly high advertising rates as companies flock to the only honest PR company in town

It's a Win-Win, I am sure you'll agree (except perhaps for your staff, who may all be unemployed and unemployable within a month). You might as well send me the four grand, all the other entries are going to be SHIT (see what I did there?)

Be lucky

Your new pal

Albert O'Balsam

Thursday, October 25, 2012

On anger management

I get email. I like getting email, especially if it is of the high quality spamular persuasion

"Do you have to deal with personality and behaviour problems? Learn to manage disruptive and negative behaviour quickly and easily"
It is, it turns out, a cunningly-worded invistation to attend a half-day seminar on coping with anger and disruptive behaviour in others.
This effective and valuable session gives you the insights, skills and techniques as well as practical tips, so you can manage difficult behaviour in the workplace, whether dealing with colleagues, managers, customers, or in fact anyone.
Sounds reasonable, and I dare say I might learn something. Not too expensive, I hope?
An enlightening half day £139.00 (plus VAT)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Smug Travel Books: A Lesson from History

On holiday recently, I accidentally found myself in the Travel section of a local book shop. Drawn in by the Bob the Builder Haynes manual (where it turned out that the one in the window was their only copy), my delight at finding the place entirely 50 Shades Free was somewhat tempered by the shelf upon shelf of spiritual bollocks advocating all kinds of quack cures that are making their authors very rich and me realise that I'm in the wrong business.

But then I reach the travel section. I am well aware that your average travel book falls into one of two camps: The straight-up travel guide, for which most tourists are thankful; and the smug travelogue, for which they are not. This particular bookshop was stacked floor-to-ceiling with the latter.

I'm no stranger to the smug travelogue, for I once knowingly read one entitled "Pecked to Death by Ducks", only to find with no little disappointment that nobody actually got pecked to death by ducks at all, the title coming from a smug dinner party conversation. But it was this bookshop that made me realise that once you get past all the comedy travelogues which are - quite rightly - filed under comedy, that the smug tales of smug people with considerably more money than you must be published with an equally smug title which sticks to the following formula:

For example:

Backpacking Across Indonesia with Two Buddhists in My Tent

Bungee Jumping in Argentina with a Three-Legged Lemur

Chinese Tea Ceremonies on the Great Wall with an African Shaman
At that point, I burned the bookshop to the ground, and no jury will ever convict me. Read about it in my forthcoming travel title:

Burning down smug bookshops with a Coke Bottle filled with Petrol

Monday, October 22, 2012


There is a sign outside our local pub which has been there since early September:

"It's never too early to book your Christmas party"

Let's see about that, shall we?

"Good afternoon, Mein Host," I say, trowelling on the smarm, "I'd like to book a Christmas party, please."

"Right you are, squire," Mein Host replies, returning my smarm in spades "I'll just get the diary."

There is a lot of smarm going on. If we were to start a double act, we would be called the Smarm Brothers.

"I'm afraid I'm a bit early."

"No sir," he says, quoting from his own sign, "It's It's never too early to book your Christmas party. When do you want it?"

"Let's make it a week before the big day," I tell him, as he flips the diary open, smarmily.

"December 18th? Right you are."


"Beg pardon?"

All pretence of smarm is gone. I fear that the Smarm Brothers idea is already dead in the water.

"December 18th, 2016. It's never too early to book your Christmas party."

"I'm sick of you loonies*. Get out."

"I'm sure we can do 2015, as well."

* I don't know what he means. However, if you want to see a genuine political leader in red-hot pub action, it is the local of the superb Howling Laud Hope.

Sunday, October 21, 2012


If you see anybody attempting to use Comic Sans in public, call the police on 999. That number again: 999.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Weekend Video: Amanda Palmer - Trout Heart Replica

One thing led to another, and I've heard Amanda Palmer for the first time. Oh My.

New(ish) Album "Theatre is Evil" now available on a "pay want you want" basis HERE

You may also wish to look for her Radiohead covers, played through the medium of ukelele.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The demise of the three-party political system

It was a beautiful late summer's day, somewhere, somewhere in a garden in Hampshire. Tea on the lawn, the dogs running free, a good book in the shade of an apple tree.

Then, Jane's mother stood up, turned round, farted, and sat down again.

Not a word was said, and I thought we were getting on so well.

And here's the nub. Jane's mother is a former mayor of the Borough of Basingstoke and Deane, and - a rarity these days - a popular Liberal Democrat councillor.

But if these are the depths to which Coalition parties have sunk, then I have no truck with the broken political system in which we live and toil. Nick Clegg should bear full responsibility for this outrageous attack on an innocent member of the third estate, and I demand his head on a plate, the moon on a stick and a cloud in a jar.

Or, she just really needed a guff.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Hey! Stop looking at my crystal balls!

I get more email from alleged psychic spammer Maria Medium (FACT: Little sister of TV Comic Eddie Large), who appears to be a close friend of Tara.

The subject this time is: "Maria is wacthing you"

Dear Maria

It's been literally hours since you last wrote. How the devil are you?

Thank you SO much for youe recent communication entitled "Maria is watching you", and I have a few questions regarding this.

1. What, even when I'm naked?

2. How many fingers am I holding up?

I look forward to your reply.

Your new, best pal (I bet you KNEW I was going to say that)

Albert O'Balsam
I shall report back.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A descent into middle class poncery

My descent into middle-aged, middle class poncery continues with the increasing and disturbing urge to take part in some sort of wine-tasting course.

Yes, I know. There is nothing for poncey, wine tasting courses surpass even celebrity chef cookery course in which said celebrity chef may make an appearance for ten minutes on the final day.

I realise that I am genetically pre-disposed to a life of ponciness - much like Cockneys are born within the sound of Bow Bells, I am from Parson's Green in West London, within the sound of a million braying yuppies in ine bars. Being a ponce is in my blood, and I may as well surrender to it.

So, here goes, a lovely little bottle of Chateau Paraffin, £1.99 from the local co-op.

I'm getting fruit. And road kill. And the tortured souls of the dead.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Scooby Doo business plan


"So," said the bank manager, "you're opening a shop. Can I see your business plan?"

He is shown the business plan, and frowns.

"Is this it? You're just going to sell stuff and hope to stay afloat in THIS financial climate? How are you going to eliminate your competitors?"


"It's war out there. How are you going to drive them away?"

"I.. Err.."

Bankie smiled that smug smile you only ever see on George Osbourne's face when he's after the blood of your first born. "We recommend the Scooby Doo plan. Spread rumours about a monster. Dress up as a monster and scare all your competitors' customers away. Monsters."

I am aghast.

"I am aghast. I don't think that's actually ethical. We're an ethical business and..."

"Ethical never made a profit. Why do you think the library is the only book outlet in town?"

"Because they're free?"

"Because of the Waterstones Zombie," the suited devil says. "No one dare set foot in there, and Old Man Jenkinson at the library is coining it in on the overdue charges."

I am still aghast, and slightly disgusted.

"I am still aghast, and slightly disgusted. I don't think I should be banking here if that's the advice you give."

"You could go elsewhere but..." he leered.


"Four words: NatWest bank vault vampire"

By the short and curlies.

*Didn't actually happen

Monday, October 15, 2012

A spotter's guide to wedding discos

A late summer evening, hoping to spend some time in the garden, drunkenly throwing logs into the wood burner, eating cremated barbcue food and downing extraordinary quantities of French wine was spoiled somewhat by sounds of torture coming from the village hall down the road.

Somebody has hired the place of a wedding reception, and - alas - the wedding disco is of the Wally variety.You know the type: downmarket DJ who sings along to the records, for a downmarket clientele who do much the same. It was like a Banshees' convention. Unable to see the full horror, we dare say there was a smoke machine, three traffic lights in a box, and drunken aunts.

It is one of the ineffable laws the makes this world go round that wedding discos must contain a combination of elements which make them the Worst Thing In The World. Worse even than war, Thatcher and people who use Comic Sans.

- The only dancing allowed during the first hour of the wedding disco is one three-year-old guest, with their grandmother

- Hero by Enrique Inglesias MUST be played, preferrably as The Happy Couple's first dance. No "Angels" - that's for funerals (See also "You Raise Me Up")

- Oops Upside Your Head MUST be accompanied by that drunken rowing-boat dance that gives seven-year-old perverts the chance to see up the mini-skirts of the bride's workmates

- There MUST be a Motown/Grease Medley to keep the drunken aunts happy. This may coincide with the lowering of the volume by 25% to allow for the buffet

- When playing Sex on Fire by the Kings of Leon, the DJ MUST dip the sound during the chorus, so everybody in a three-mile radius can hear a caterwauled "WoooOooOoooah Your sex is on fire" sung by drunken bell-ends

- Fighting is only allowed during "Karma Chameleon"

- Songs by Madness may only be played if there is a male majority at the reception

- Nobody must admit to knowing the words to YMCA, but will sing them anyway

- The DJ MUST sing along to his favourite song, which is - by law - Reach by S Club 7

Now I understand how chainsaw massacres happen

Sunday, October 14, 2012

UPDATED: My search for Britain's most wretched hive of scum and villainy

So, I make one throwaway comment, based on a photograph I took last year, about Basingstoke being a "wretched hive of scum and villainy" and an entire tiny corner of the internet goes mad.

I return from a brief sojourn in the smallest room, reading a few pages of my current toilet book, arriving back at my desk to find Twitter shouting "38 new interactions" at me, mostly from people who are saying "Clearly, you have never been to [insert town here]". Most of these towns were in Essex, and the majority of them being Basildon, twinned with Mos Eisley spaceport, the original wretched hive etc.

The fact is, Basingstoke isn't all that bad. We've just about forgiven the place for Liz Hurley, and the council had the good sense to pull down the worst of the 1970s concrete and replace it all with some spanking new 21st Century concrete. My totally unrelated beef with the town comes from an unfortunate episode where a former mayor of Basingstoke and Deane broke wind in my face (with hardly a by-your-leave, I might add), and if that is the kind of trumpy behaviour one can expect from its first-among-equals, then what is the rest of the place like?

I have a rule of thumb for any town's potential crapness, and it is to ask this question: "Can the bus station be used as a set for a zombie apocalypse movie?"

The former bus station in Basingstoke - before it was pulled down - was Zombie Apocalypse Central, the effect was somewhat magnified by a supply of drooling undead shambling about demanding both spicy brains and the price of a cup of tea. I have no idea where they are now, but in all probability they have moved to Reading (twinned with Your Mum) where the old, silently rotting bus station still stands, and zombies are welcomed with open arms in the nearby derelict shoppping mall.

The second question I ask is "Have I ever accidentally stayed in a Travelodge there?" That's you, Swindon.

You can publish as many lists as you like about crap towns, but it's all hugely subjective based on where you've actually been. Hull was voted the worst town in Britain in 2003, but I found the parts I saw reasonably pleasant. On the other hand, I'd be happy to see the following year's winner - Luton - leveed and turned into an overflow car park for Watford.

Almost all of the north of England and Scotland is a closed book to me, and my chief experience of many places comes from my years as a rather (cough) excitable football fan, usually running away from the dismal suburb where the football stadium once stood. The lovely city of Norwich scores badly for me, simply because the police made the passengers from the Football Special walk from the station to the football ground in bare feet, an experiment in crowd control doomed to failure. Bangor gets on the list simply because it was closed when we visited.

I spent much of my youth on holiday with relatives in the concrete jungle of Basildon (more specifically the post-nuclear nightmare suburb of Laindon), so my judgement may be somewhat clouded.

My Worst Towns List

1. Basildon
2. Luton
3. Bangor (North Wales)
4. Swindon
5. Portsmouth
6. Basildon
7. Basildon
8. Norwich
9. Colchester
10. Basildon

I have never been to Stoke-on-Trent, hence its lack of inclusion on this list despite many Twitter followers warning me of its growing reputation, but I am firm in my belief that Match of the Day is aired as a warning for people to stay away. If you live in Stoke, and believe the opposite, I apologise, but Gary Lineker does not lie.

Oh, and Slough.

And Sutton Coldfield.

UPDATE: I went to Aldershot the other day, and vowed there and then never to return. Except - perhaps - to go to the nice Tesco. Basildon - I take back everything I said.

Friday, October 12, 2012

A doomed attempt to bring the religions of the world together through the medium of poetry

I learn with some interest from That There News than an Indian poet is using rhyming couplets to inspire harmony between the religions. This, I suppose, is the international news equivalent of the pensioner's poem to the local newspaper, complaining about council policy on discount parking on market days in the worst doggerel imaginable.

Time to put a stop to this sort of thing. Religion isn't religion unless you are engaged in some kind of Holy War against all other religions, and is probably why Baha'i (the only major religion to be nice to other religions) is perhaps the most persecuted in the world.

By way of an opening gambit, this one's been personally approved by the Archbishop of Canterbury himself:
"Come to our church, you know it's right
All other religions are a bag of shite"
Then, there's my Ode to the Dalai Lama

You think you're so clever, Tenzin Gyatso
Tell that Buddha "Up yours fatso"

If you're into celebrating a bloke who got nailed to a tree...

The Catholic church is full of joys
Sign up now and fiddle with boys!

That last one - quite naturally - celebrates the free adult-and-youth violin lessons that are currently on offer. Also:

The Church of Rome extends its hand of friendship
Unless you’re a woman or gay, then fuck off

Let's not forget the Atheists, because all people are born equal:

You really think you're so clever, Richard Dawkins
Let's see how smug you are once the devil gets a-porkin' (anus)

And, of course, somebody's bound to say "You'd never insult Islam, you coward", or "Go on then, try something anti-Semitic" and they'd be right, because I wouldn't. This one is NOT about Islam, or Judaism. At all.

I really admire your much-revered belief system
Please, not the face.

Even if the whole "rhyming couplets" thing's gone to the dogs, that's just about all the bases covered, don't you think? Oh, hang on...

Your Sacred Spirit is such a farce
Stick your dream catcher up your arse.
There, much better.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The world of camper van practical jokes

As a new co-owner of a camper van, other camper van owners* have introduced us to the oh-so-wacky world of camper van practical jokes. Try these beauties for size:

If your camper van pal likes a lie-in, why not throw some bread on the roof of the van. The sound of seagulls' feet on the van roof first thing in the morning will drive them MAD

If your camper van pal likes a lie-in, why not throw some raw meat onto the roof of the van, and drive it to the lion enclosure at Longleat. The sound of lions' feet on the van roof first thing in the morning will drive them MAD

If your camper van pal likes a lie-in, reverse the van right up to the edge of a cliff. When they wake up, they'll be halfway to their rocky doom before they notice they've been well and truly PRANKED

If your camper van pal likes a lie-in, spray-paint the words "Gary Glitter world tour bus" on the side of the van and drive it to the rough end of town. The sound of the lynch mob on the van roof first thing in the morning will drive them MAD

If your camper van pal likes a lie-in, paint a large target on the side of the van, drive it to an army firing range, the sound of explosions will etc
All a barrel of laughs, I think you'll agree

Also, the dogging

* For eg: The other co-owner's sister

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The worst book in the world: Don Estelle - Sing Lofty: Thoughts of a Gemini

Back in 1975, Don Estelle and Windsor Davis sold the best part of half a million copies of their song Whispering Grass off the back of their characters in the sitcom "It Ain't Half Hot, Mum". Estelle, as Gunner "Lofty" Sugden, was a competent actor and a gifted singer, and enjoyed a successful double act with Davis as a result of the song's success. I should know, I've got a copy somewhere, for I was nine-years-old and thought it the funniest thing on the planet.

Estelle died in 2003, having fallen off the British public's radar to such an extent that he was singing and flogging records in shopping centres. It was in his final years that he put the finishing touches to his autobiography: Sing Lofty - Thoughts of a Gemini, widely regarded as the worst (and rarest) of the genre. Encouraged by TV, radio and all-the-excellent-things-in-life's Danny Baker to climb over the dead bodies of your nearest and dearest to get hold of a copy of this bitter literary marvel, I coughed up a 50p reservation fee to have it fished out of Hampshire County Libraries storage facility, and I was not disappointed. It is - to use the language of the professional book reviewer - shit.

I should point out that Estelle comes across as a decent chap who loved making music, enjoyed the friendship of people, and lived to work. This review is not meant to be an attack on the man himself, it's just that his book is - by some distance - the worst I have ever read. And that includes the Dan Brown paperback I once threw out of a train window. So bad, that I took seven pages of notes, and I NEVER research or take notes for any of the crap I write.

Where do you start? The ridiculous third-person introduction? The fact that he doesn't even mention his birth name (Ronald Edwards) until page 98? The sudden and meaningless rants against modern society, and constant changes of direction for no reason at all? The final 100 pages being the world's most boring list of professonal dates which might as well been copied straight from his desk diary? The grand total of three showbiz anecdotes, one of which appears twice? The repeated, unending praise for Rochdale Town Hall, one of the finest in the country? 

Or the bitterness? God, the bitterness. He's bitter about his lack of chances, the work slowly drying up, show business moving on without him, and, boy does it show.

"Maybe it's not a real book at all," says Jane, "It's probably one of those cypher books spies use to decode secret messages."

She has a point, and I quote: "I went back to give my marriage a second chance, but it didn't work out. About the same time, speed king Donald Campbell was killed in his Bluebird."

"Yep," she said, "that's the KGB telling somebody to bring down the French government."

"Or spare Rochdale Town Hall if there's an invasion"

And that's one of the things about Thoughts of a Gemini. It's an autobiography, but Estelle gives virtually nothing away bar his enthusiam for Rochdale Town Hall, one of the finest in the country. If you want a timeline of his life, fine. But if you want to know the name of his first wife, you're out of luck. The marriage lasted for several years, and even produced children (but I'm not entirely sure how many, or what their names are), but it is given little more than a page in his memoir. Even his time on two of the BBC's best known sitcoms - Dad's Army and It Ain't Half Hot, Mum - are given little more than a passing nod except for repeated thanks to the writers. Eight series of "Hot Mum", and one low-quality showbiz tale to show for it. You actually consider yourself lucky when he recounts how Jim Davidson made him corpse during a panto, that's how desperate it gets
It is abundantly clear that once words were typed they became sacred and uneditable. There is no other explanation for his not wanting to talk about a disastrous house move on one page, followed by a blow-by-blow account several pages later, And the same goes for sudden half page rants about the modern world, before snapping back to subject as if nothing had happened. Estelle thanks an editor on the penultimate page, so one can only assume what the original draft was like. Possibly the same.

By the time the memoir reaches 1986, he's dialling it in. The whole year is seen off in 48 words. Famous names flash by, including a stint working with Dudley Moore. But not a word on what it was actually like. "1987 was a very happy year for me," he says of the following year, and leaves it at that. If I were not so determined to see the book through to the end, it would have gone out of the window at that point.

I've read Thoughts of a Gemini cover-to-cover, usually with my mouth opening and closing like a goldfish in complete shock. Yes, it's terrible. But you can't help feel a pang of sympathy for poor Don as he chronicles his declining fortune, calamatous property deals and repeated Groundhog Day apearances at the Spalding Flower Festival. It is a book with any sort of theme, jumping as it does from episode to unrelated episode to Spalding and back again. But if there was a message to take away from this, there are four. Five, if your mission is to big-up Rochdale Town Hall.

  1. When writing a memoir, always include the full postal address of any venue you visit  
  2. Modern life is rubbish  
  3. Don't get your hopes up  
  4. Books should be concluded with the word "FINIS"
"Why," Jane asks, "Why do you read such terrible books when there's so much wonderful stuff out there?"
My answer is simple: "It's an object lesson in how not to write badly. About four books too late for me, mind you."

Some Thoughts of a Gemini

Read each quote, then immediately think "Then I played [Insert full postal address of theatre or club] and [full name of manager] was [OK/fine/a jumped-up moron]", as this is how they invariably appear in the book

On showbiz
"The tight-crutched, white-trousered morons who rule the roost know as much about entertainment as a visiting Martian. There are others who sound like they are swinging from their genitals, if they have any sex gender at all."

On modern TV
"Working in TV is like a public toilet. Nobody is there long enough to make it their own."
"Insults and down-right rudeness, and suggestive sex garbage which reflects their stinking minds. The sicker it is, the more the tight-cructched morons in white pants called producers like it."

On the BBC
"Faceless wonders masquerading as BBC executives... Blinkered, nose-bag accountants lurking behind the scene. They insult us, the paying public"

On modern music (and he might actually have a point)
"Aimed at the bestial, basic, sex mad, drunken louts with an IQ of morons."

On modern society
"Duplicated clones who walk about looking like one another... Self-assertive, confident, unsmiling, saying 'Look at my even larger CV and ego coming out of my head'. Head is the wrong word, of course, but you know what I mean."

On Rochdale and the finest Town Hall in the country
"The people are warm and friendly, and it has what I consider one of the finest town halls in the country."

On falling down a manhole in Moscow while staring at a passing pair of breasts
"Ladies certainly make the world go round, don't they?"

On life in general
"We are just so much mashed potato"

On the passing of the years
"Doesn't time go quickly? It's like being on an express train, which you are - A Time Train!"

On the last word in the book

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

My traffic light hell, again

Any big company these days of tightened belts relies on its sales team to keep their heads above water. With a great sales team, they say, the sky's the limit. And get a sales team that can sell ice to the Eskimoes, then you're laughing. Laughing at Eskimoes, probably.

And, in my humble opinion, the the greatest sales team on the planet belings to the traffic division of technology company Siemens. They must employ people to drive around towns in Britain, searching out perfectly good road junctions that are as yet unfettered by traffic lights, before sending in their highly trained sales ninjas to the council offices to put a stop to this dreadful state of affairs.

This can be the only reason why my journey into work in Reading is regularly interrupted by a set of traffic lights at a previously traffic-light-free junction known locally as Poo Island (named because they built an entire housing estate and Hilton Hotel on top of the old sewage works, notorious for the town's 'Whitley Whiff'). As you roll to a halt, the only car on the main A33 trunk road at quarter to six in the morning, you realise that you are being told to stop by no less than nine red lights facing your direction. Then you roll up another five yards, and realise that another - tenth - unit is hidden at the back. And that's just in one direction.

Planning officer: "Are you absolutely sure that nine sets of traffic lights aren't overkill here?"

Salesman: "Now you come to mention it: THINK OF THE KIDDIEWINKS"

Planning officer: "Damn, you're abosolutely right. A small child could be crossing the road at six in the morning on their way to scavange at the rubbish tip. Better make that ten."

Salesman: "Ch-ching!"

Meanwhile, in Fleet, the school lollipop lady (a middle aged lady of voluminous proportions I once witnessed the worse for wear for drink at the local comedy club) has been replaced by a set of four Siemens traffic lights, which is probably the minimum unit sale. Go fifty yards in either direction, there are two other traffic light controlled crossing points.


Planning officer: "We'll take as many as you've got"

Salesman: "Ch-ching!"

All the better for getting the kiddiewinks safely into the EXCELLENT gun shop that's just opened opposite the school.

Monday, October 08, 2012

An inability to deal with procrastination

Oh, irony strikes the Coleman/Baker household.

"Could you drop this book back to the library tomorrow?" Jane asks, "They won't be open, just stick it through the book slot."

Fleet Library does indeed have a book slot behind the war memorial, so that insomniacs (and/or people too tight to pay for the car park) can return books at five in the morning.

"OK", I say, taking the book from her sweet, sweet hands, "I'll put it in my school bag."

The book is a self-help title called "Getting Things Done".

"I never got round to reading it," she confesses. It is also a day overdue.

So, Monday morning, like some furtive cat burglar in reverse, I am "Getting Things Done" by shoving the book through the library return slot and fleeing for my life. As Mayor of Fleet Library on Foursquare, this is the sort of corruption that could lose me my position.

But having said that, if there was a book called "The Guide To Returning Library Books On Time", I'd keep it for a year, and keep their angry letters in a file for comedy purposes. As Mayor, not a court in the land would dare convict me.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Weekend Happy Car

Aww, look at his smiley little face!

Sadly, this is the last time you'll ever see him smiling: Jeremy Clarkson's booked for a ride next week.

Friday, October 05, 2012

My Chugger Nightmare

"Good afternoon madam, have you got a minute?"

"You look like you've got a happy face. Got a mo?"

"Hey hey! Could you spare a moment for a good cause?"

May the deity of your choice send mercy - the chuggers are out in the middle of Fleet. And this one's particularly keen, with a huge cardboard cut-out of the cutest kitten you've ever seen behind him, a shiver is sent down my spine as I realise that they're now allowed to use props.

This is bad. Worse, even, as that business with the Gideons that resulted in the the untimely deaths of all those Gideons, and I gird myself for the onslaught of good cheer mixed with guilt-tripping as the chugger tries to relieve me of my bank details.

"Hey!" he says with a smile on his face, "You having a good day?"

I am about to say that I was having an excellent day right up to the moment that our paths crossed, when I realise one important detail: He is addressing the shopper behind me.


He looked right through me, decided on the spot that I was a dead loss, and went for the shopper behind me. What's wrong with me? Am I invisible or something? Do I look like a potential Death of Chuggers? At the risk of sounding classist - DO I LOOK POOR?

Anger welled up inside me. Anger enough to whip around and vent my rage direct into his all-too-cheerful face: "My scorn not good enough for you? WHY WON'T YOU CHUG ME?"

I almost nearly said something, but went into Waitrose instead.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

On Breaking Toilet Twinning

For reasons which have an awful lot to do with my being an enormous bell-end, I find myself in a church hall most Thursday nights doing non-religious things as part of my cure for being an enormous bell-end.

This being a church, their hearts are always more-or-less in the right place, offering me endless mirth through the piles of God-fearing literature the host church stocks, long with jaunty posters advertising future events in Comic Sans (The Font of Holy Champions). And - bless 'em - they also indulge in a bit of Toilet Twinning for charity.

As a matter of fact, we are of the same bent, and our flat's toilet is twinned through the same people, and it is a reasonably good deal as long as you behave yourself. Through the medium of giving Toilet Twinning some cash money, they go out and build some facilities for a village in Africa. It's all very worthy, but I can't help feeling that the 5,000 mile pipeline connecting the two might be just a tad unnecessary.

This being the case, I'd like to offer my personal apology to the owners of toilet no.1327, somewhere in Burundi. That sound you heard last Thursday evening was not that of your traditional drums, but my personal disaster in the end cubicle in the Kennet Valley Free Church. I managed to tell my fellow Don't Be A Bell-end Club members to avoid that particular crapper like the plague, but there was nothing I could do bout the deluge at your end.

You can just imagine some poor sap, settling down with his copy of the Times of Burundi, hearing a distant rumbling before all Hell breaks loose in a veritable fountain of British turd exports. The kind of mental image that will scar each and every one of you.

And for that I'm truly sorry.

Sorry. Just give it ten minutes or so, and burn a bit of rolled-up paper, or something. Sorry.

But go on, save a few lives from misery and death. Twin a toilet

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

The Dangers of Reading Books

And so, because we like books and CDs and DVDs and stuff so much, we ended up in the market for a new bookcase, to go with the five other bookcases. And the sideboard. And the book room which is full of shelves and books and shelves and more books. Books.

Budget being a factor, our search is concentrated on Gumtree, online tat market Ebay, local skips and hedgerows until Jane makes an important discovery.

"There's a charity shop in Basingstoke that deals only in used furniture. We should go there."

Agreeing that, yes, we should go there, we go there and find our dream charity shop bookcase for which offers are invited.

But first, the crucial question: "Has anybody died in this bookcase?"

After all, this is an acceptable enough question to ask when buying charity shop clothes, so why not ask if some poor sap has been killed to DEATH by a topppling set of encyclopedias whilst reaching for a copy of Fiesta hidden on the top shelf?

"Well?" I ask, pointing to a suspicious-looking blood stain, clump of hair, and the remains of the diary of a man trapped under a bookcase for six weeks called "Diary of a Man Trapped Under a Bookcase", his last words being "I can't even pull my trousers up."

We leave empty-handed.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Duck v Waitrose: Middle class smugness defined

So, posh supermarket Waitrose started off a dommed marketing hashtag on that there Twitter, asking why people shop in their supermarket. Needless to say, it backfired spectacularly, with punters turning the shop's poshness up to eleven and sending in replies like "Because Asda don't stock unicorn food".

Even the Guardian found it amusing In a moment of inspired genius (because modesty is one of my major assets), I sent in this little number:
"I shop at Waitrose because..." you say "Ten items or fewer" not "Ten items or less", which is important #WaitroseReasons
To say things went mental is an understatement. All of a sudden, I'm being quoted on Radio Four (twice), the Guardian, and find myself with over 3,000 Twitter followers, most of them real actual people, all waiting for my next bit of middle class wit. So I Tweet a bit about football, and most of them bugger off and head back to knitting their own lunches.

I haven't had this much fun sincer the Governator retweeted my "Vote for me if you want to live" gag, and I really think Waitrose should send me a great big prize, like a two-hour trolley dash. I'll need the whole two hours, because we need to check everything is organic.

This post is brought to you by the letters S M U and G.

And when I thought it was all over, my Tweet turns up on page three of the Daily Mail. I feel unclean, somebody get me a wire brush.


And Marketing Magazine

Monday, October 01, 2012


Let me take you back to the year 1988. Thatcher was still in Number Ten, Kylie's "I should be so lucky" had just been knocked off the Number One spot, and Reading Football Club were officially the 43rd best team in England. On a good day, with a following wind. I remember standing on the terraces at Elm Park during a dour 1-0 victory, singing "You must have come in a taxi" to the visiting Shrewsbury Town fans, who - it transpired - had come in a taxi.

But then, the team that was doing nowhere except to the old Division Three did something extraordinary. Reading Football Club went to the old Wembley Stadium, and returned home with the ludicrously-named Simod Cup, beating top-flight Luton Town 4-1 in front of 67,000 people. Within a fortnight, crowds were back down to three men and a dog, the dog coming along to support the away side.

Not being allowed to keep any items of the cup-winning players' kit for posterity, the club historian instead bottled the water that was used to launder said kit, and ate out for some years on the fact that he possessed the actual blood, sweat and manly juices that contributed toward Reading FC's (until then) greatest triumph.

What the man didn't realise was that he had the very distillation of gladiatorial triumph in those old pop bottles, which diluted, shaken, diluted, shaken, diluted, shaken and served up in pill form to the Reading Football Club of today would make them completely and utterly invincible.

In short: Homeopathic Victory, backed up by 100% genuine SCIENCE*.

I say this because, in a recent investigation into where lost socks go, one of my stalkers said they always assumed they were dissolved by the washing machine, instead of simply skipping into a parallel dimension as proven by genuine SCIENCE*.

He may or may not be correct, but it stands to reason that any water from a washing machine contains the very distillation of clothes, which diluted, shaken, diluted etc and served up in pill form can only mean one thing: HOMEOPATHIC CLOTHES.

Instead of getting dressed in the morning, you just take one of these tiny sugar pills which contain the homeopathic memory of your best jeans and T-shirt combination, and you are all ready to hit the street, HOMEOPATH STYLE!

Of course, some people (for example officers of the law, those with some sort of high-fallutin' education) might say that you are buck naked. They are dead wrong, for you are clothed from head-to-toe with the proven SCIENCE* of Homeopathic Clothes, and no jury in the world would ever convict.

I understand that to mark 25 years of their Simod Cup triumph this season, Reading Football Club will play on the date closest to the anniversary (which just happens to be an away match at Arsenal) in a specially-designed homeopathic football kit. Mark your diaries. Can't wait for Match of the Day that night.

* No SCIENCE at all