Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy: An important new discovery which proves Einstein's Theory of Relativity

There's a scene towards the end of Steven Spielberg's epic Close Encounters of the Third Kind when a number of alien abductees disembark the mothership. As they're met by military officials, the following exchange is heard:

"They haven't aged a day. Einstein was right."

"Einstein was probably one of them."

So, bearing this in mind, take a look at this picture of Richard Dreyfuss, in character as the film's leading man Roy Neary.

Now skip forward 37 years to the release of Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy, featuring the excellent Chris Pratt as Peter Quill, otherwise known as Starlord.

Compare. Contrast. They are clearly the same person.

Neary went voluntarily into the alien craft, and nearly four decades later, having not aged a day, he's flitting around with a raccoon and a tree completely shitting up bad people after taking on the Starlord identity. He's also worked out a lot and turned into a roving space git, but the boredom of endless space travel does that to a man.

It's the only logical explanation and fits entirely to the narrative I've made up completely in my head, and for those of you of a scientific bent, this is the final, conclusive proof of the Theory of Relativity.

Einstein was right.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

PIZZOPATHY: A scientific exploration into the health benefits of takeaway pizza

Much has been written - most of it appalling crap - about the benefits or otherwise of alternative therapies such as homeopathy, faith healing, blood-letting, and other ridiculous mumbo-jumbo that has no basis at all in scientific fact.

Effective medicine is peer-reviewed by competent and suitably qualified experts in trials and tests the prove, beyond all reasonable doubt the a drug or treatment does exactly as expected, without unfortunate side-effects such as growing a foot on the top of your head, turning purple, or painful death. Painful death as a medical side-effect is seen - quite rightly by the medical community - as A Bad Thing which should be avoided.

That is why myself and a number of knowledgeable experts with the highest-level qualifications in ordering takeaway food from pizza shops have decided to undergo risky clinical trials to determine whether takeaway pizza can cure such serious conditions as "feeling a bit under the weather", "the grumps", and "I've built a fort out of sofa cushions and I'm not coming until we get pizza". We call this Pizza Therapy PIZZOPATHY, and will shout long and hard at any so-called "scientist" who calls our findings bogus.

Of course, there had to be a control group that didn't get pizza, and it pleases our research group greatly that their evening meal of raw brussels sprouts and rancid meat left them grumpy, a bit under the weather, and setting fire to the cushion fort we left for them.

A second placebo group were given what looked like pizza, but was in fact carefully arranged cat turds, the insoles from old trainers and a spray-painted frisbee make to look exactly like pizza. They smashed up the lab, and it took three hours to extract the frisbee from an unfortunate laboratory assistant's rear passage, a reaction we considered totally unnecessary in the light of our entirely valid scientific enquiry.

Important scientific supplies are delivered to our laboratory
 Thus it fell to the third group to sample real pizza from a takeaway establishment and report back on the health benefits, or lack thereof.

In the light of the danger of side-effects (turning purple, death), we volunteered to undertake this task ourselves, paid for by a generous research grant and a 50% off voucher from a major chain of pizza takeaways, provided we collected the goods ourselves.

The results were stunning. I went from "a bit grumpy" to "feeling alright" by the time thee garlic bread had disappeared down my face-hole; and by the time the large Domino's Mighty Meaty had disappeared, my malaise was utterly lifted, and I was ready to give the world a good old punch in the conker. Other members of our group reported similar effects with potato wedges/pizza combination, proof positive that Pizza Therapy has its clear benefits.

WARNING: Do not try this experiment with £1 pizzas from Iceland. You will die.

In summary: Proper scientific enquiry PROVES that takeaway pizza has positive health benefits, and we will fight any so-called "expert" who says otherwise.

To try PIZZOPATHY for yourself, send us £50, and we shall arrange clinical pizza supplies sent to your own home (Pizza lab technicians may be wearing Domino's Pizza uniforms, but we assure you that we are not simply ordering pizza for you and trousering the difference*)

I am not mad.

* We are

Sunday, December 28, 2014


So. I watched The Interview.

Of the many bad comedy films I have seen, it is certainly one of them. I'm not saying that because I'm a Korea-watcher and they were bound to get details wrong, but because it's a really, really bad comedy.

The good news is that despite all the threats, despite hackers taking turns in stealing data from Sony and hammering North Korea with DDOS attacks while sitting back and necking popcorn, despite Pyongyang resorting to actual racism (KCNA refers to Barack Obama as the culprit behind The Interview, "a monkey in a tropical forest"), the film finally got released and is a beacon of freedom of speech. Or something.

The bad news is this: It's shit. Yes, there are one or two belly laughs (there's a fight in the TV control room that is thoroughly outstanding in its gross slapstick), but it took too long to get going, and once it found its feet it didn't go nearly enough. It takes thirty minutes before they even get to North Korea, and it takes ages to get to the much-hyped Skylark-Kim bonding scene via an all-too-predictable hiding-something-up-your-arse gag.

The trouble is that while the main character (James Franco as the Richard Madeley-esque Dave Skylark) is meant to be unlikeable, he's so detestable you actually hate him within the first five minutes and things really don't improve. Seth Rogen as his put-upon producer turns in a far better performance, but he's underused and the film suffers for it.

Kim Jong-un: No bowel control
But you can see why the North Koreans hate the film. Quite apart from encouraging revolution in their country, plotting to kill their Supreme Leader and suggesting that he has a fully functioning bottom, claiming that he gets tearful over a Katy Perry song is enough to take East Asia to the brink of nuclear war.

So, piss-poor comedy, gets better toward the end, but hardly worth the diplomatic tensions that it has brought upon us over the last few weeks. Could - and should - have been better. In fact, I then went on to watch A Million Ways To Die In The West, which - while hardly the greatest comedy in the world - packs more jokes and at least knows how to do smut without being a bit creepy. An adequate palette cleanser following a plateful of turds, if you like.

Kim Jong Un: Stand down the missiles, there's a good chap. It's not worth the fury. 

Also, they had the wrong type of helicopters, because there's no way North Korea flies American Sikorksy S-61 aircraft. And to think you can buy a second-hand Mi-8 around $1.75m these days, small change out of a big movie budget.

Gets an extra mark for having a cute puppy.

Scores on the doors: Kim Jong-Quatre (4/10)
YES! I'm still the number one film about the assassination of a North Korean leader!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Hello, Wello

St Paul did a great many things. His was the original "Road to Damascus" conversion, he founded early churches and wrote a number of letters to the Corinthians, telling them - in a manner of speaking, not to be a bunch of assclowns. In one of these letters he told them that "when I became a man, I put away childish things", which I believe to be all manner of wrongness, especially in a world that (rightly) considers fart gags to be the acme of humour.

I tell you this because of Wello. Well is the small fuzzy duck in the top right hand corner of this page, and once existed in this world looking like this, back in the day when you weren't allow big pictures on the internet because dial-up was a thing:

Wello was a gift of apology to the first Mrs Coleman is December of 1990, after I had arrived home drunk from an office Christmas dinner and pissed all over her dressing table and Christmas present. Perhaps because of this genesis, the first Mrs Coleman and Wello didn't bond, so he became mine by default and her arch-nemesis because stuffed ducks are for kids. I never knew how deep this enmity ran until one year I was TRICKED into throwing him into an Oxfam clothes bank along with a bundle of old coats. And some other ducks. Such cruelty.

There were - I admit -a number of ducks. But we'll get to Bongo, Dingo, Honky and Tyoko (pronounced Choco) when we cross that particular bridge.

I tend not to write about the first Mrs Coleman if I can help it at all, because she's entitled to her own life without having to think I'm talking about her behind my back. But - damn - I might have been 35 years old and notionally a grown man at the time of the Great Wello Back-Stab, but to betray me and my priceless collection of stuffed ducks like that was something which hurt me deep inside. For thirteen years.

Well, I wasn't going to take that lying down. And it's three years after we split that Operation Get My Stuff Back has finally borne fruit, thanks to online tat market Ebay and a bank-busting bid of five pounds, plus postage. I bring you, ladies and gentlemen, after thirteen years in the wilderness, Wello:

I don't care what you think. I'm 48 years old and I've got my duck back. There are - I believe - no rules about growing up, and I am perfectly entitled to buy ducks off online tat market Ebay and keep them for myself. And give them names. And keep them on a special shelf in case the dog forms a negative opinion about his continued existence.

In fact, the president of a major Irish political party and one-time Public Enemy Number One on these shores has a large collection of Beanie Babies and rubber ducks, and you never hear anybody taking the piss out of him (mainly because he knows people who are acquainted with people who can possibly get in contact with people who could hammer nails through your kneecaps, no questions asked) (Is that enough degrees of separation to avoid a writ? I hope so), so if that's good enough for him, it's good enough for the rest of us.

Yes, nothing perfect - Wello MkII is a slightly different shade of grey (The back story is that he's developed a Philip Schofield barnet in his time wondering the world), and I had to add the lines on his beak myself, but the duck came back. THE DUCK CAME BACK.

This is going to be the best Christmas Walford's ever seen.

Monday, December 22, 2014

A 100% Non-Patronising Exploration Of My Very Mild Mobility Problems

Now, I'll be the first to admit that my six-week stint in wheelchair and on crutches makes me little more than a Wheelchair Tourist, but it's opened my eyes as to how damn inconvenient the world can be for anybody with mobility difficulties.

With a following wind, I should be back to what passes for normal by the end of January, but there's one or two things that have opened my eyes to the world of (very mild) disability that I hope won't sound too patronising for readers who have suffered a lifetime of this sort of thing.

1. Mobility is difficult. I'm dreadfully unfit, and crutches have be gasping for breath within 50 yards. My chair is from the Red Cross, and made of the same stuff that the British Army uses in tanks and weighs a ton. The slightest upward incline is Hell.

2. Yes, people DO patronise you in a wheelchair, but not has much as you think. I've only had one person talking over my head (The "Does he take sugar?" syndrome, I believe it's called). Could do better, Tesco.

3. Accessibility Part One. Shop doors that aren't wide enough. Yes, you, Holland and Barrett.

4. Accessibility Part Two. So, we booked a table to eat out the other night. "I'll be on crutches, so can we have an accessible table, please?" Accessible was up two flights of stairs at the back of the restaurant. But within five paces of the accessible toilet, which was up two flights of stairs at the back of the restaurant.

5. Mobility Part Two. Wow, motivation is difficult. Out of two weeks so far, about 11 days have been spent on the sofa, and I'm developing a severe case of arse-ache and a mild trouser rash. So easy to be housebound.

6. Nice people. Jane has been awesome. She admits that she didn't realise how much like hard work looking after somebody with mobility problems would be, and I've only got a slightly broken foot. Many people don't have this help, so I'm extremely lucky. Also, pizza delivery is excellent in these parts, but could prove fatal.

I'm going to be better soon, but many people aren't so lucky. A few years ago, there was a nasty atmosphere to public discourse when the disabled were being portrayed as spongers in the press and by certain political parties. I'm glad that seems to be passing (at least among the general public), and nobody's tried to kick my stick away. But - here comes the patronising bit - my eyes are well and truly open to the struggles of millions. The mobility-impaired have to work twice as hard just to keep up, and I have the added benefit of having a decent job without any sort of financial struggle.

The British Red Cross have been kind to me without asking anything in return, so send them money. You can do this buy buying a special version of The Farm's Altogether Now, which I rank as the second-best version of the song.

Here's the definitive version:

And the one by Atomic Kitten that will have you poking knitting needles down your ears:

Despite the original's anti-war message, I would gladly call down air-strikes on the Atomic Kitten version.

That is all.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Insulting The Dignity Of The Supreme Leader Of The Democratic People's Republic Of Korea (Again)

In retrospect, Kim's visit to the Pyongyang Children's Foodstuff Factory could have gone better for all concerned.

"Sweet mother of Kim Il-Sung, haven't you got any Haribo?"
"Look, I just want a packet of sweet, sweet Haribo, and now you're causing a queue"
"I don't care if Haribo is dead people, I'm the Supreme Leader and I want Haribo"
"I will personally kill the next person and enslave three generations of their family who says I can't have Haribo"
"Worst lucky dip ever"
"There, that wasn't so bad, was it?"
Next stop, a return visit to the lube factory.

"Yay lube!"
Boring reality of the factory visit here, if you're interested.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Oh Lordy, Not The Rainbow Bridge Again

I was saddened recently when an internet chum recently lost an elderly pet cat, a beloved pet of many years standing who will - I'm sure - be sorely missed. The loss of a pet is an emotional stab in the heart that non-pet people cannot understand, and those who are well down the road of pet ownership develop defence mechansisms in the face of death's icy grip.

That is why my internet pal stressed NO RAINBOW BRIDGE OR FUR BABY RUBBISH on her timeline, and for good reason.

Regular readers will know that I have problems with the Rainbow Bridge poem, and my previous critiques of the World's Worst Poem have earned me stern rebukes from people who really ought to know better.

I've been told by an actual Christian that my dismissal of the entirely-made-up Rainbow Bridge is going to send me to HELL, which is fine by me as one fictional place is very much like another. Meanwhile, another tells me that my non-belief in said Rainbow Bridge shows I don't care about my two (then) recently deceased dogs, and I shouldn't be allowed to keep animals. Twats, the lot of them.

But enough for the h8ers, cos h8ers gonna h8, whatever than means, for I sat bolt upright the other night, head bursting with questions about the practicalities of there being a bridge where pets wait for you when they die. Because, frankly, such a place would be a fucking madhouse.

  • Is there a passage of time at the Rainbow Bridge? I'm pretty sure that childhood pets who be getting pretty bloody bored waiting for you to die peacefully in your sleep at the age of ninety. The place must be bursting at the seams. Is anybody in charge of - you know - scooping?
  • What if your animal was a family pet? Does he cross the bridge with the first of your clan to die, or wait for his favourite? In some families, that's going to cause a fall-out worse than the time Auntie Vera said something at Brian's surprise party...
  • What are the rules for adopted pets that have had more than one owner? First to die, last to own him, or wait for the favourite? Fight to the death?
  • I've had fish, birds, cats and dogs in my lifetime. All natural enemies. Am I going to arrive at the bridge to just one, very fat smug-looking dog?
  • I once adopted a leopard in a zoo, along with several other people. What are the rules? Timeshare, or fight to the death?
  • Bee-keepers. Discuss.
  • Do pets that have been neutered in their lifetime get their sexy parts back, and are they making up for lost time? You won't be able to cross the bridge for dogs clamping themselves onto your leg.
  • Do fish wait on the bridge itself or under it? Or perhaps in a plastic bag in a wheelie bin on the bridge? Do goldfish even remember who you are?
  • What happens if you live on a farm and have a pet pig, then eat the pig for bacon? That's hardly going to be a happy reunion, is it? I suspect Porky's going to be waiting by the bridge to completely shit you up.

So many questions, so much angry bacon. I put it to "Author Unknown" that you haven't actually thought the whole thing through, and you are unknown for a very good reason (for eg: savaged to death by angry bees).

Down with this sort of thing (again).

Sunday, December 14, 2014


Classic Turner: 80% wig, 100% talent
One of my favourite sights in the low pantheon of tribute acts in a white Tina Turner who entertains crowds on the south coast of England. Apart from the fact that she's clearly a fraction of the original star's age, she's Turner from head-to-toe, from the fright wig to the frighteningly short dresses; from the over-emoting of every single word, to the bandy legs through which you can drive a bus. To easily-pleased seaside audiences, it's like you're in the same room as Ms Turner, especially when it's a pub-full of drunks helping her along with a boozy rendition of Simply The Best.

The thing is, no matter how over-the-top your Tina Turner impression, no matter how drunk your audience, your dresses will never be short enough, the fright wig will never be frightening enough, the thigh gap too narrow, and you'll never be able to say "Why, he's just a raggedy man" in quite the same way as Real Tina.

At the risk of coming over all Patrick Bateman/American Psycho, there's much to admire in the example of Ms Turner's re-emergence as a star in the 1980s - a recognition that it's never to late to get what you want in the face of advancing years --- just as long as you've got a killer tune, huge shoulder pads, and Heaven 17 twiddling the knobs on your comeback disc.

The reason I mention this is real and pressing: I've had her 1989 hit Steamy Windows stuck in my head as an ear worm for three weeks now, and it's driving me mental.

Let's put this tune into perspective: Sixty-year-old Tina Turner is making out with a gentleman friend in the back seat of an automobile to the point that their combined body heat makes it impossible to see out. Fair play to her for finding herself in this position, I never knew Tuesday nights down the Gala Bingo were such a hotbed of passions, and this deserves future scientific investigation in the name of SCIENCE.

Now, as any fool knows, you leave one window open, if only to stick one leg out in the moment of the capital act. Also, it leaves the from windscreen clear in case you have to make a quick getaway.

Like any Tina Turner tune of any repute, it's best sung in the Vic Reeves club-singer style, and it is this that has been stuck inside my brain for most of the month of December so far: "Shhhhteamy winaaaaaaahs! Caused ba bod-ah heat a-wallah wallah wallah".

Alas, I have since discovered that Shhhhteamy winaaaaaaahs can now be added as a coda to virtually any song in existence, making them exactly 962% worse. Last night's viewing of the Bond epic Skyfall - for example - was dragged down to the level of farce as Adele's passionate theme tune ended with "caused ba bod-ah heat a-wallah wallah wallah", rendering [SPOILERS] Bond's presumed death a sideshow, and [MORE SPOILERS] poor, actual dead M's gift of a Tina Turner box set on a London roof-top in the closing scenes all the more moving.

Think about it: You're Dame Judi Dench, and you've been [EVEN MORE SPOILERS] trapped in an ancient car with steam-up windows all the way from central London to the Highlands of Scotland with that miserable bastard 007 - presumably for days - the first thing you're going to buy at the services on the M6 is a Tina Turner box set just to make him shut up. But you couldn't quite find the right moment to give it to him, not while he's busy killing people. And by the end of the third reel it's too late [LAST SPOILER, HONEST] because you're dead.

"It's got all the early stuff, too"
Tina Turner: You and your big hair and you big voice and your stupid steamy windows are wrecking my sanity.

Thursday, December 11, 2014


A grinning nerk in a fez wants to part you from your money
This Christmas, I shall be mostly supporting the tremendous charity Send A Cow. It's not just because they sent me this truly special Christmas jumper, which I shall treasure, but because they do important work in sustaining lives while everybody's attention has been drawn away to the cause du jour, that being the Ebola crisis in the west of Africa.

Also, I wear a fez now, because fezzes are cool.

Ebola is serious, and the cause deserves everybody's support, but it's not the whole story of  a massive continent of 54 countries and 1.1 billion people. For many in farming communities in sub-Saharan Africa, it's still very much a life-on-a-razor's-edge existence, and that's why help from the First World is still needed.

Now, I work with a lot of people from Africa, I've worked in Africa, and I've had my head pummeled by a nasty chap wielding a rifle butt in a certain country to which I have no wish to return, so I know to talk about "Africa" and "Africa's problems" can be patronising in the extreme. This especially when parts of it are doing very well, thank you very much, and they DO know it's Christmas. (Especially since Calendar Club is near enough universal these days).

But there are still developing areas that still need a nudge in the right direction, and Send A Cow - like Water Aid, another cause close to my heart, are doing the right thing for the right people. They're making lives better, and helping families become self-sufficient in food and facilities.

So. Send a farming family a donkey, a goat, a cow, or even a sofa (because, frankly, why not?) for Christmas, not because you've been guilt tripped or to make yourself feel smug about yourself, but because it's the right thing to do.

You don't need a grinning nerk in a fez and a truly special jumper to tell you that. Foreign aid matters - from governments, NGOs and individuals - because it's not about politics, it's about humanity.

Give to Send A Cow.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


 So, back from Frimley Park Hospital covered in bandages. Funny how the threat of a catheter up your willy gets you discharged in double quick time and back home in the comfort of your own bed.

I'm lighter by a shaved-off bit of foot bone and a lump of Flappy Cartiliage (the name of Npalm Death's album of B-sides and out-takes, fake fact fans), and they've filled the problem area with micro-fractures in the hope that it all fixes in the right direction.

And the crutches. I didn't realise crutches would be such hard work. Just going to the loo in the middle of the night is a major logistical operation that requires major household turmoil. I'll have the upper physique of The Rock by the end of these six weeks hobbling around; and my Amazon order history now has a piss bottle, a pair of weight lifting gloves and a copy of Cards Against Humanity against my name. I'm only a side order of a Michael Bolton CD away from them tipping off the police.

Fiinal observation: The NHS is awesome. Let's keep it that way.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Smug, middle-class tweeting

So, what happens when you fill your Twitter timeline with hugely exaggerated and sometimes not-true-at-all #FirstWorldProblems and #MiddleClassProblems tweets with the sole aim of getting them picked up by lazily-compiled listicles on news websites?

Answer: They get picked up by lazily-compiled listicles on news websites.

That's The Times. The Times of London. The Thunderer. The world's newspaper of record.

The Times. Calling me a smug, middle-class tweeter.


Saturday, December 06, 2014


Give me your clothes, your boots and your motorcycle.

Move over, Schwarzenegger, that Terminator gig is mine.

Thanks to Dave Skinner for the photoshop job on an already awesome selfie.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

YouTube Comment Reconstructions are BACK BACK BACK

Warning: Contains enough sweary language to bring down modern civilisation

"I've had loads of anacondas. It's like an aircraft hangar down there"

And crapping nora! There's another one!

Monday, December 01, 2014

My first general anaesthetic

Next week, I shall take myself to Frimley Park Hospital, where I shall be rendered unconscious and a nice man will hit my foot very hard until it is broken.

Then I will wake up, and hobble around for a couple of months before - hurrah! - my gammy ankle will be fixed. Either that, or it will fail miserably and I go on the list for a foot transplant FROM A DEAD PERSON.

It is not - however - the first time I've had a general anaesthetic, for I got the benefit of being laid out sparko when I was a teenager so that surgeons could fix my hideously deformed British smile.

I can't say it was a terrific experience. In fact, my mother said it was the funniest thing she ever saw, and she had a long and fulfilling career working in hospitals and saw much strangeness involving partial and (one presumes) total nudity.

But I suppose seeing your own son, completely off his face on pre-meds, attempting to go to the toilet whilst wearing only an open-at-the-back hospital gown and bearing my arse to the entire ward, ranks right up there.

Later that same day, my face full of surgery and plastic, I got my revenge by puking stale blood all over the inside of the car on the way home, and up the stair carpet once we got there.

Not hoping to repeat the performance.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The War on Drugs - Under the Pressure

From this rather good popular beat combo's album Lost in the Dream, which comes with the Scaryduck Seal of Approval.

Monday, November 24, 2014


Swiss Army Axe: Every home should have one
Behold! The finest impulse buy of my life, and I should know because I've made a few. It is exactly what you think it is - a penknife with saw, file, very short ruler and a screwdriver, only with a pert yet terrifying axe built in.

Acting on the encouragement of my boss, who wanted to explore its possibilities vis-a-vis getting meetings to run on time, we engaged in acts of SCIENCE to see whether Swiss Army Axe was actually any good at all.


Experiment One - Swiss Army Axe vs Canteen pork products

VICTORY for Swiss Army Axe. The soft, yet well-grilled porcine flesh is no match for the ruthless possibly-Taiwanese steel. Left a lingering after-taste of porky factory grease.

Experiment Two: Swiss Army Axe vs Banana

VICTORY for Swiss Army Axe. We thought the rubbery peel of the banana would cause difficulties, but a single blow cleaved it in twain like an angry mob severing a sex deviant's hampton. Taste: After making that comparison, we gave the banana away and were told it was "just like a banana. Why are you asking?"

Experiment Three: Swiss Army Axe vs Mars Bar

SCORE DRAW. The Mars Bar is the Gold Standard among confectionery, and it was only right to conduct the test under standard conditions: Still in its wrapper, direct from the vending machine. While the wrapping survived a single hearty blow from the Swiss Army Axe, the inside was 90% severed by the flashing blade. Taste test: Is it just me, or are Mars Bars no longer the Gold Standard they once were? And quite positively smaller, too.

CONCLUSION: If you want to have a 10% chance of survival when attacked by a journalist wielding a small axe he has recently purchased from TK Maxx for £6.99, then wrap yourself in Mars Bar wrappers. They seem to have a similar effect to bullet-proof vests, but with tastier non-lead contents.

That ends our findings. We think you will find that whichever side of the debate you are on, SCIENCE is the winner.

UPDATE: Hey wow - it's on Amazon!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

North Korea - The CNC Song

I'm sure you'd like to see what I do all day, and amongst a number of other things, it's to watch stuff like this on North Korean Central Television.

While we in the West are getting down and groovy with our favourite popular beat combos such as the Bay City Rollers, Shed Seven and Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich, the poor citizens of Pyongyang are treated to this bouncy little number praising CNC milling machines. It's enough to make your heart burst out of your chest.

There are lyrics included, so sing along if you know the words (and speak Korean).

Standard North Korea murderous human rights abusers disclaimer goes here.

Friday, November 21, 2014

"Tore down the House of Commons in your brand new shoes"

A noisy afternoon in Westminster

To the Palace of Westminster in the line of duty, for a meeting of a parliamentary group on – what else? – North Korea.

It's the first time I've ever been inside the building that I've been past hundreds of times in my life. In fact, it was the source of years of youthful terror when I was small. This stems from the days when we would routinely drive through Westminster and along the Embankment on the way to my grandfather's house on the far side of London – by far the least slow route in the days before the M25, and probably still the case now.

Big Ben filled me with dread. What would happen if the bell struck when we were driving past? Blood out of the ears, painful death, the whole nine yards. What an arse I must have looked, cowering in the foot-well of the family car. I'm over it now. After all the traffic's so loud, you can barely hear it on a good day.

(Nevertheless, in my days as a boy technician at the BBC, one of the feeds we had coming through the control room was the microphone up in the bell tower, which was used for – among other things – the chimes on Radio 4 at 6 o'clock. Just listening to it, hearing the traffic hundreds of feet below gave me the willies.)

So – inside I go for the first time ever, and it's exactly like visiting your local town hall, except for a genuine student riot going on outside, and considerably more heavily-armed police officers.

Despite terrorist fears, its amazing how much of the place is open to the public. So much so, you can wander through Westminster Hall, arrow-straight corridors, winding staircases, peeking into rooms, occasionally to the bark of "No photography!" from important-looking people in extravagant headwear. I might have taken some pictures.

The Palace of Westminster, twinned with Hogwarts
 The real show – naturally enough – comes thanks to the public galleries above the main debating chambers. They're a long, long way up, and you have to surrender your bag, your phone, and sign a piece of paper promising not to be an arse. Unfortunately, you're sat behind a glass screen, because certain people in the past cannot be trusted on that front. And there's some poor bastard whose job it is to watch you watching the politicians, and there can surely be a more thankless task in the whole of the world.

The view is magnificent, especially if there's something interesting on the agenda. I got Home Secretary Theresa May quietly sitting through a proper, heart-warming bollocking from Yvette Cooper, a waft of dusty old Ken Clarke, a touch of Keith Vaz, and an Ed Balls.

I repeat: ED BALLS.

Some of their lordships have frankly bizarre names
Then, another wander around Hogwarts, the committee room, a sighting of William Hague in a penguin suit, then out and home.

Tourist tips: Avoid the gift shop. You get better stuff from the tat stand on Westminster Bridge, which does Princess Diana postcards into the bargain.

Find and excuse and take a trip before UKIP turn up in droves and fuck it all up for everybody.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

"I appear to be a tad over-dressed, what?"

There are misunderstandings, and then there's the case of Sir Alexander Glen:

Admit it, we've all done it. One minute you're in your best penguin suit looking forward to trying your luck with those lovely debs, the next you're shooting seals on a glacier with Evelyn Waugh.

From his entertaining obituary in the Daily Telegraph's archive.

Some comments from social media:

"I like to imagine that when he was invited to his daughter's wedding he accidentally ended up on a trip to Mars, and that's how he died."

"Is he really Bertie Wooster?" 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Big Issue Issue Revisited

I expect you're wondering what happened after last week's difficulties with my local (un)friendly Big Issue seller.

If you're short on memory, or you're new to the story the tl;dr version is this:

Our local Big Issue salesman is getting rather pushy with the begging when he should be doing his job, for eg selling magazines. This came to a head last week, when he guilt-tripped me into buying him a sandwich, which he then refused.

As you'd expect, this confused me somewhat because I'm British and I don't take social awkwardness very well. This is mainly because everybody thinks a Big Issue sales person should be a happy, cheery soul, not some misery tapping you for money while you're trying to get from Starbucks to the British Heart charity shop. The lady in Caversham is lovely, and always has a kind word. Ours is not quite so cuddly.

That being the case, I asked the internet hive mind whether they thought he was an ungrateful wretch, or if I should think more of him as a human being. They said he was an ungrateful wretch, but one thoughtful soul suggested - perhaps - I should just buy a magazine off him, and give him the money they way he's supposed to be earning it.

So. I decided to reset our relationship completely, and stick to what I should have done before: Just buy a magazine from him, no more, no less. After all, that's his job - one that gives him the dignity of doing something for a living while getting a roof over his head, without having to resort to begging.

And Saturday lunchtime this happened as I strolled from Starbucks to the British Heart charity shop, belly full of skinny latte and buttered hot fruit toast:

"One Big Issue, my man," I didn't say, because that would have been dreadfully patronising.

I pushed a fiver into his hand, for two-pounds-fifty-worth of finest charity magazine.

And he stiffed me for my change. I was so British, I nearly said something.

I don't care if he's a Big Issue seller. I've decided he's a git.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

In which - once again - I insult the dignity of the Supreme Leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea

"When you've quite finished staring, rip me a page out of that notebook"

 "Then they drift down the rapids, right to the pool where the hungry crocodiles will be waiting for them"
"Excellent, excellent. When's Mr Bond due?"

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Big Issue issue

Help me with an ethical dilemma, people.

Part One: Sandwichgate

"Get me a sandwich, man," our Big Issue salesman asked and we bid him hello on Saturday afternoon.

And I bought him a sandwich - as usual - because I'm a nice ask-no-questions sort of guy, and it breaks my heart that even our town - officially the place with the best standard of living in the whole of the UK - still has a homeless problem.

But this week, the sandwich I bought wasn't a sandwich from Starbucks because we realised we're paying through the nose for a Starbucks sandwich that's no better than one from any of the local supermarkets.

So I bought him one from Waitrose. Not too shabby, I know.

"Take it back, I don't want that. Why didn't you get me a Starbucks sandwich?" he asks. Rather unreasonably, I thought.

I do my impression of a goldfish as he then demands that I go to Greggs to get him something else instead.

He got this: The square root of shit-all, and a determination never to show him any kindness ever again. Until next week, of course.

Part Two: The Dilemma of Charity

And here's where I am torn between kindness and bastardism.

It would be very easy to say "Beggars can't be choosers" and leave that to be the end of it. The would be exactly the kind of thing I would have read dozens of times over if this was a local newspaper story, and those were the comments left by people with names like 'Common Sence' and 'UKIPDAVE'.

But I'm neither Common Sence nor UKIPDAVE and I question my actions as much as I question Big Issue Man and his natural desire for a decent lunch.

Big Issue Man has a job and he makes money by selling magazines. But he's homeless, or in a hostel and needs as much help as possible. I promised him food, and threw a silent passive-aggressive hissy fit when he turned down my act of charity. I never stopped to ask what he actually wanted, and instead got him what I thought he DESERVED, even though he's entitled to preferences like every other human being on the planet.

It was a failed act of charity that was supposed to make me feel warm and fuzzy inside, but instead left me quietly seething. That's the selfish gene inside of us all.

By way of background, Big Issue Man has become increasingly cheeky in his demands, having tapped me for some money outside McDonalds so he could have a burger, and then not buying a burger. I was all 'never again' after that one as well, and it has come to the point that we sometimes take a detour to avoid him.

So, should I have got him a Starbucks sandwich, or something greasy from Greggs like he wanted? Or should I just say 'bugger it' and never speak to him again?

Middle class problems in a middle class town.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

The new John Lewis Christmas advert that will bring Britain to its knees

This boy could wreck the entire British economy with his flightless bird madness
The new John Lewis Christmas advert is a disaster for Ed Miliband.

There, I've said it.

I've said it as a card-carrying trades unionist and Labour party member who knows a kick in the teeth when he sees one.

Not long ago, Young Ed was confidently pushing his "one man, one owl" policy onto an enthusiastic British public, who received this Harry Potter-like fiction with gusto, not stopping to think of the billions it would cost to bring into reality.

And now, with his plans already in pull swing, they've been stopped in their tracks by John Lewis and their "One boy, two penguins" Christmas advertisement.

As a result, the bottom's fallen out of the owl market, owl prices are now less than 50p for a dozen, owl houses are nothing but scrap wood, and enthusiasts daren't give their owls a friendly squeeze in case another damn egg pops out.

Like a bacon sandwich, like giving money to a street beggar, Ed takes a winning policy and deftly - yet innocently - rends it into shreds.

Ed blows it again
But the other parties can cease their gloating. David Cameron finds himself red-faced too as his copycat "One man, one polo pony" election promise shuffles off to the glue factory, its tail firmly between its legs. With stables already half-built the length and breadth of the country, on long-term private-public contracts, it's going to cost tens of billions to shut down.

And meanwhile, in the snug bar at the Jolly Xenophobe, UKIP's Nigel Farage mumbles glumly into a near empty pint glass, his party's "One man, one rabid ferret" policy in similar disarray.  Already a popular membership offer among UKIP voters, the incidence of rabies among the over-50s in the UK has already risen one-hundred-fold in the last twelve months, leading to the swamping of the National Health Service, and an emergency slash-and-burn policy by agriculture officials that has laid farmland to waste the length and breadth of the country. The cost, DEFRA and Department of Health ministers say, is beyond calculation.

But Nigel has alternatives. He opens a letter from a fan to read a single condoling word: "LEDGE", and manages a smile, For Marks and Spencer are due to unveil their Christmas advert, and the grapevine tells him it's rabid badgers.