Thursday, January 29, 2015

MEME-SPLOSION: Seven things you might not know about me

One of those social media memes, onto which I have hurled by still-twitching body. Read on, if you will.

This is difficult, because I've spent the last 13 years over-sharing everything on my blog, and regular readers probably know enough to set up a full-on and very effective identiy theft.

1. I have an impressive scar across my chest, which I tell people was caused by a wild animal. In fact, it was my sister scratching me one Sunday morning when I was ten. I can still remember the skin peeling off... She tried to drown me once.

2. I'm left-handed but play golf with right-handed clubs because I can hit the ball further that way. And by "play golf", I mean "haven't been on a golf course in 10 years and never likely to do so again".

3. At the age of 17 I qualified as an RAF marksman as a member of the Air Cadets, but they refused to give me the badge because "there were too many Air Cadets qualifying and it makes regular servicemen look bad". I could probably still shoot the balls off a fly at 300 yards given the chance. Left-handed. Go on, push me, see if I don't.

4. I was once abducted, beaten and robbed by Congolese militiamen in Brazzaville. I don't like to talk about it, but talk about it all the bloody time because PTSD. They're dead now. Don't know how to feel about that. Despite being a qualified etc etc (see 3), guns now give me the jitters, even toy ones.

5. I have twice prevented my place of work from burning down. One was when a monitor screen caught fire after years of dust combusted; the second was when somebody tried to cook cake in the microwave, which was a criminal waste of good cake. I have never been thanked for either of these actions, not even through the medium of cake.

6. I have voted for every major political party in elections (but I draw the line at voting for *them*). I have, however, defied conventional wisdom by getting more left-wing as I get older, and have joined a political party for the first time in my life. NO BLACKMAIL, COMRADES*.

7. I wanted to be a pilot and scored the highest marks in my selection group in RAF aptitude tests at Biggin Hill (Thanks, in the main to them being based on first-person computer games at a time I had just scored --- E L I T E --- in Elite for the BBC Micro). I didn't get any further, entirely because of a car-crash interview for which I was entirely unprepared. However, it wouldn't have worked - I get travel sick and hate flying.

* People's Front of Judea (Officials)

Monday, January 26, 2015

On near-death experiences and not getting to meet Jesus

It's a miracle! It's a genuine melon-farming miracle!
A trip to Farnham Hospital to see my surgeon, and - as expected - he gave me the all clear to start walking about on both feet. I went into his office hopping around on crutches, and I emerged minutes later, walking rather sheepishly, but with the crutches slung over my shoulder like a soldier carrying a rifle.

"It's a miracle!" I said to the packed waiting room. "He's cured me! I can walk!"

Not a bloody dicky-bird. Nothing. Proof indeed that hospitals are no place for cheerful people.

It wasn't until late that night that my brain finally processed everything the Colonel had told me in a short appointment, illustrated by a number of lovely photos of the inside of my foot that looked like they were taken by the Mars Rover.

Yes, all was well. Yes, I might still feel some pain. Yes, you've got a lot of physio ahead. And we almost killed you by mistake.


"Oh," says he, looking at my notes, sheepishly changing the words 'left ankle' to 'right ankle', "Your airway collapsed halfway through. Caused the gas doctor quite some concern."

That might go some way to explaining the sore throat for a week afterwards, then - probably the result of large metal implements being shoved down me, while somebody hammered on my chest screaming "Breathe, damn you!"

The British Journal of Anaesthesia says a collapsed airway is "common" during surgery, so I was probably in no real danger of being killed TO DEATH by highly-skilled professionals, so what I experienced was more a damn good sleep rather than near death.

Besides, it couldn't possibly have been a proper near-death experience, because I didn't float toward a bright light and meet Jesus. It would have been an awkward meeting anyway, seeing as I'm an atheist, and the whole thing would have ended with Our Lord and Saviour attempting to kick me in the fork. So much for a forgiving man of peace, he's a nut-cracking monster.

Elvis wasn't there either.

You need to realise at this stage that I have spent this year living in the dread of dropping down dead at the age of 48. This all came from the funeral of a good friend who died suddenly last year, where all I saw at the crematorium was headstone after headstone for unfortunates who had carked it at this deadly age, leading me to fear that I was headed in the same direction. I am 49 in less than three weeks AND NOTHING CAN GO WRONG.

Grim Reaper: Come at me bro.

On the bright side, 2014 will go down as the year I started being bullet-proof again.
A collapsed airway recently

Friday, January 23, 2015

CURED the doctor claims. That being the case, I've gone completely Michael Palin.

Alms for an ex leper?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Goodbye to the sticks

To the foulest pit of HELL to you (or return to the Fracture Clinic at Frimley Park Hospital as the label suggests)
Tomorrow, all being well, I see my surgeon and he will tell me that I will no longer need crutches to walk.

They've been the bane of my life for the last six weeks, and despite giving me more exercise than I've ever had in the last few years (my arms are BUFF), I'll be glad to see the back of them.

But there's two things I'm going to keep - my pair of Reebok weightlifting gloves which were exactly what my poor life-behind-a-desk hands needed when they going got tough.The best eight quid I ever spent.

I will fight ANY MAN who slags off my badass gloves (terms and conditions apply)
Also, they look totally badass and will probably help me avoid fights in the future.

I'm not allowed to keep the wee bottle, but Amazon keeps suggesting that I buy another. Tempted.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Living in TEH FUTAR

It is the year 2015, and Marty McFly is due to appear any time now with his hoverboard and flying De Lorean. But is the future as glamorous as predicted by Hollywood? Clearly, questions need to be asked. Where is my personal jetpack? Why haven't I got a monkey butler? What happened to my patent application for a realistic sexbot? The future, it seems, has been an enormous let down.

But fear not! TEF FUTAR has arrived in the Baker-Coleman household in the shape of new television and Blu-Ray devices, which replace a "big back" TV of uncertain vintage that took about 70% of the floor space in our house, and a DVD system which had enough wiring to fill the other 30%.

What's so great about this news that hasn't already been experienced by tens of thousands of households all over the UK? Consider this recent update I posted on Facebook:

We are living in TEH FUTAR with our brand new HD widescreen television, brand new Blu Ray player, all connected to the internet through our brand new 50MB router. So we spent the evening watching Thundercats cartoons.
With the entire creative output of all mankind at our fingertips, to be viewed on demand and in high definition at any time of day or night we please, the only thing we found that was worth watching was a low quality 1980s cartoon featuring man-cat creatures in leotards squabbling with a low quality Egyptian mummy over a sword.

With so much going on in the world at the moment, the most important thing in my life is this:

"Why did Lion-O grow into an adult and the other two kid-cats didn't?"


"The female Thundercat's special power is just fewer clothes, isn't it?"


"Mumm-Ra's really shit, isn't he?"

But fair play to the People's Republic of China. With the events from Bladerunner only four years into the future, they are doing their level best to pump the atmosphere full of smog to at least make that one prediction come true. 

I've seen things you people wouldn't believe.
Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion.
I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate.
All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.
Time to die.
If we're going to be brutally honest about it, living in the future isn't everything it's cracked up to be.

Thursday, January 15, 2015


So, one thing led to another, and people kept asking me when I was going to do more Samuel Pepys. It's been the best part of three years since I last spoke to the cur, it is high time we caught up with how the great diarist is doing. This extract from his newly-discovered diaries starts on July 2nd 1660, exactly where we left off at the end of Samuel Pepys: Lust For Glory, available from Amazon for surprisingly little money.

Given a following wind, another six months of Pepys will be available from good bookstores sometime around the crack of doomsday.

Thursday July 2nd 1660: Up betimes to be shock'd by a hideous visage at myne bedroom window. "Begone, Hampton, you foule cur!" I shout'd, think'ng it to be my newly-appoint'd man-servant going about his duties with far too muche enthusiasm. However, it transpir'd that Hampton is in Shoreditch on the orders of my wyfe, settl'ng debts to an auction house which I drunkenly stumbl'd upon yesterday with myne good fryend Newton, and bought a camel-leopard* for the sole reasons that I a) was very drunk and b) wanted a camel-leopard. The beast is currently outside, lick'ng the wondows of my chamber, and Mrs Pepys is fuck'ng steam'ng with rage because it has already eaten her fin'st French under-garments from the wash'ng line.

It is as I break my fast that I realise the true extent of my profligacy whilst very much in my cups. Quite apart from the camel-leopard, I also purchas'd 36 cases of wigs found to be infect'd with the rabies, a carrot in the shape of the hat'd Lord Protector Cronwell, and two gross of oversiz'd clockwork cucumbers. Newton, I am told, bought an item call'd a 'flux capacitor' for half a groat, and has left a message tell'ng me that I shall next see him 'a weeke last Thursday', whatever that means.

Friday July 3rd 1660: Office day, mak'ng enquiries about the city and its environs to see if I can finde a buyer for the rabid wigs and the clockwork cucumbers to set aside my debts, which, as usual, are many. Alas, my efforts were thwart'd by a summons from the Royal Palace, where HIS MAJESTY THE KING has me confus'd for somebody else and has appoint'd me the Inspector of the Palace Drains (Unpaid). The messenger tells me to make my way 'without a minute to lose' because 'HIS MAJESTY has done an Oliver** that won't go round ye bende".

I arrive as fast as the Thames ferryman can take me, and find that one of the rabid wigs made fast to an oversiz'd clockwork cucumber clear'd the block'ge and earn'd the favour of THE KING. Alas this favour was not as expect'd, for he has give'n me his entire stock of wigs infected with rabies, and forty score outsiz'd clockwork cucumbers seized from flee'ng Parliamentarians and Papists. Flogg'd a pass'ng mendicant on the way home, which somewhat assuag'd my temper.

Saturday July 4th 1660: Stay'd abed until the late evening havn'g consum'd several bottles of Port wine the night before, when I was woken by the sound of explosions by the dockside. Sending Hampton to investigate, it appears to be the work of dozens of sailors, freshly return'd from our American colonies and celebrat'ng their National Blow'ng Thynges Up Day***. Sent a message ask'ng if they had any need for over-siz'd etc and rabid etc etc, but to no avail. America will come to nothing, marke my wordes.

Sunday July 5th 1660 (Lord's Day): Up betimes, and to church where I made a roar'ng trade of the cucumbers to the widows of the parish before the service. Alas, the sermon was a fiery one on 'The Evils of Over-Siz'd Clockwork Cucumbers Which Are Caus'ng Sin And Slatternly Behaviour Among Refin'd Gentle-Women Of Englande Who Will Spend An Eternity In HELL As A Resulte Of Their Foul Self-Abuuse (of which illustrative wood-cuts are available after the service for a groat each)", and I was forc'd to refund all but one, the preacher's wife say'ng she was keeping hers 'as a reminder of SATAN'S EVIL tongue'. Hampton brought dinner, which transpir'd to be the kidney's of a camel-leopard, which goes some way to explain the beast's disappearance.

Monday 6th July 1660: Much excitement around the City as a general appeal is decree'd by THE KING for the re-building of London Bridge after I burn'd it down last week while defeat'ng The Great Zombie Outbreak of London Town**** Enthus'd by HIS MAJESTY'S plea I have donat'd all the clockwork cucumbers to go in the Great Pit that shall form the foundation of Sir Chrs Wren's mighty monument to the defeat of the waters of the Thames. And thank shitt'ry they're gone.

Tuesday 7th July 1660: To my Whitehall office, where My Lord Downing tells me that HIS MAJESTY has ask'd me to work directly with Sir Chrs Wren in giv'ng the new government's support in build'ng the New Bridge. On meeting Wren, I discover that despite his acknowledg'd genius in the artes of build'ng and architecture, he is the most enormous turd, who calls me "My man" and "You there in the wigge". While he takes an afternoon snooze, I replace his wigge for one of the rabid ones I have in my satchel, and may that be a goodly lesson for him. And so to bed.

Wednesday 8th July 1660: Newton***** is return'd, wear'ng strange breaches, long black boots and a black jerkin with a strange cross-symbol in white, black and red on his arm. He babbles on excitedly about 'Going Back To Ye Future', where he has made a new fryend in an Austrian gentleman called Herr Hitler******. I believe he is quite, quite mad, and have a passing watchman knock him cold and taken to the madhouse, and paid some pass'ng loafers to have his strange, silver carriage push'd into my out-build'ng where I have hidden it from the WYTCH-FYNDER.

Thursday 9th July 1660: Summon'd early from by bed by My Lord Downing. The New London Bridge has fallen down due to the instability of its foundations. Also, Sir Chrs Wren is quite, quite mad with head-rabies. I tell My Lord that I know noth'ng of either calamity, and take my leave. Thrash'd a mendicant on my way home, but found no pleasure in doing so, and therefore resolv'd to get very drunk in the privacy of my out-build'ng.

Wednesday 9th July 3000: Fuck. They all live underwater, but your great great great grand-daughter is pretty fyne*******.


* A giraffe. There was a brief craze for giraffes around the time of the restoration during the The Great Zombie Outbreak of London Town (See Samuel Pepys: Lust For Glory, Coleman, 2011) after Londoners realised that sitting on the backs of the beasts put them far enough off the ground to escape the undead horde. Unfortunately, the craze ended virtually as soon as it began following The Great Zombie Camel-Leopard Outbreak of London Town.

** Oliver = Oliver Cromwell = Shit. From the Cockney non-rhyming slang 'Oliver Cromwell was a bit of a shit' = Shit. It was not until the 18th century that Cockney residents of east London found that rhyming slang was much easier to remember, and looked good on souvenir tea towels.

*** National Blowing Things Up Day was celebrated in Britain's American colonies until the year 1776, when the date was usurped to mark America's independence from the British Crown. In recent years, it has once again reverted to National Blowing Things Up Day, to celebrate blowing things up.

**** See Pepys: Lust For Glory.

***** No relation.

****** Quite possibly the first occasion in recorded history of evidence of a person travelling FORWARD in time in order to meet Adolf Hitler, rendering this one of the most important historical documents of our age.

******* Once again, we find Pepys fore-shadowing items of modern culture centuries before they occur. In this case, it is clear that he was the original author of the song 'Year 3000' by the popular British beat combo 'Busted', who now have some explaining to do.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The fragility of life, the permanence of death, and the importance of memory

Life, at times, can take you so far out of your comfort zone that there is nothing you can do or say to make things better. It's personally difficult for me, as I'm socially awkward at the best of times, so when a dreadful calamity befalls someone near to you, there is no personal experience to fall back on, and no right thing to say.

I'm writing this in the days and weeks after our neighbours' two-year-old son died suddenly over Christmas. Tommie, a happy and healthy toddler taken ill one day and laid low by illness. It is something that no parent should ever experience, but life can be fragile and cruel and even the best people are visited by the kind of tragedy that is beyond most of our imaginations.

Just about everybody experiences loss at some time or other. The only real grief I can fall upon is that from when my mother died suddenly 15 years ago, and even though that knocked me sideways for years, it's no equal to the absolute devastation that Maria and Luke are facing right now. It's something that I want to convey to them, but all I've managed is an awkward, lop-sided "I'm with you" smile and equally awkward small-talk. One cannot even say "I know how you feel", because there is no way I can come even close to that. So, I remain silent, and it tears me up.

Does not saying anything ever get mistaken for not caring?

Life is fragile, and worse, life is not fair. That's exactly what I thought as I watched weeping funeral directors place a tiny white coffin on the dais. Even people who see death on every day of their working lives know it's not fair. But the world still turns, people are born, live, die.

I am torn, too, between knowing in my rational mind that death is a permanent state from which there is no return; and the comfort that people get by saying "I'll see you one day soon" as some way of diluting their grief. Belief is an important thing at the lowest points in people's lives, and it's not my place to criticise or ridicule anybody who live in the hope that their departed are out there, somewhere, waiting for them. Even the grey-haired chap outside the chapel who re-assured me of the "certainly and the joy of the resurrection", a Jesus-fish lapel badge sparkling in the sun, has his place. That's his coping mechanism, and I dare say it is more effective than mine.

But I'm drawn to an exchange I remember from a 12-Step Meeting I attended a few years ago on the importance and fragility of life, as we discussed "Question 20" in the members' handbook on whether addiction had driven you to thoughts or actions toward self-destruction:

"You're a long time dead, and do we have any idea what it's like? I'll tell you... Remember those six billion years before you were born?"


"Exactly like that, only longer."
Without sounding like I'm pointing out the bloody obvious, an eternity is a damn long time for you to be forgotten. And you will be forgotten.

That's why memory is so important. People die, billions of them, and the vast majority are eventually forgotten about, vanishing completely, nothing but an entry in the birth registry, and the inevitable death certificate. And one day, if you're lucky, somebody might even care enough to research you for the family tree, and even find a story to tell that proves you were once a living, breathing person full of hopes, fears and dreams about scoring the winning goal in the FA Cup final.

But while the body and the life are gone, the memory remains alive as long as you and others will it to be so. It's never going to bring anyone back from Death's icy grip, but mourning, eventually replaced by remembrance and celebration are crucial for those left behind, and help you somehow blank out the fear that one day it will be you.

I have incredible trouble blanking out that fear.

So, while there's nothing I can say or do for my neighbours in these dreadful days except to be there for them when they ask, I hope that the sad tunes will be replaced with happy ones, and that Tommie's short life will be remembered with happiness rather than tears.

They played the Pingu theme tune at his funeral. All the way through. Twice. Goodbye, little man.

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Great Creme Egg Scandal

I'm all for reasoned debate and the philosophy of 'live and let live', but not patriotic Briton should stand idly by and let the greatest scandal of the decade play out without taking appropriate action.

I refer - of course - to Cadbury's new American owners changing the recipe for Creme Eggs, saving money by coating them in lower quality chocolate, whilst selling them in multipacks of five instead of six.

If we are all to get diabetes, we want to do it properly, with Creme Eggs coated in Dairy Milk chocolate  and filled with sugary goo the way the Good Lord intended.

Also, they've got to go back to making them the size of ostrich eggs, like they were in the 70s without bumping up the price.

Yes, fellow patriot, we've put up with Americans not being able to spell 'aluminium', 'colour' and 'flavour' for far too long, and we even let them send Piers Morgan back to us with barely a whimper, but NOW IS THE TIME to stand up to this American outrage.

Until we get our Creme Eggs back, I say we go over there and shit in their jacuzzis until they cave in. It's now or never. Creme Eggs, or our country is defeated.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Ouija board, ouija board

One thing led to another, and I ended up arguing with somebody on the internet who thinks that ouija boards are real and therefore a danger to life and limb.

Not only that, but the person with whom I had engaged argued that not only are these toy shop devices for speaking to the spirits of the dead real, but they also involve (and here it comes) powers of which we know little about. Rarely for one of these spirit-world-is-real types, they have a full explanation for why this is the case. Quantum physics.

I repeat: Quantum physics.

It turns out that quantum physics is dead people, and the 'God Particle' (if ever there was a name applied as an ironic laboratory in-joke that went too far, then this is it) is actually God Himself. How quantum physics moves the pointer on a ouija board around during a drunken student party after all the liquor has been consumed and everything in the kitchen cooked up into what is laughingly called a chilli was not made entirely clear, as my opponent used the "too complicated to explain, so it must be God" cop-out that every creationist and anti-science ranter resorts to sooner or later.

If you think ouija boards really are driven by spirits and quantum physic, then I've got news for you: You're an idiot.

I sat through months of lectures on quantum physics many years ago before I eventually switched disciplines to politics, and not once were dead people mentioned. Yes, some of the time I was bored very near to the point of actual death, but I am certain that and 11-dimension universe doesn't quite have room for the recently departed farting around with God Particles.

However, I am still prepared to be open-minded, and a comment by a fellow member of the Pizzopathy team (see recent blog post on the science behind Pizza Therapy) on the potential power of the board game Scrabble to channel messages from the dead prompted me into an important experiment.

Naturally, this required the laboratory conditions that validate all ouija board experiments, which meant several pints of strong ale, mixed with 'goon sack' wine and a half bottle of vodka, the Russian cyrillic on the label translating as "Uncle Vanya's Patent Got-Rot". Then we cooked everything in the kitchen into a chilli, and broke out the Scrabble set.

 A promising start:

Going downhill already:

Seems legit:

Oh. Who the shittery is Rodney?

 QED, I think you'll agree. Another victory for Quantum.

Huge thanks to Hayley Stevens for accidentally encouraging me to write this.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

On not being allowed to buy a tank

This little beauty has recently appeared on the Ministry of Defence surplus sales website. Needless to say, it's my idea of a cute little runabout, with low, low mileage.

Unfortunately, while Jane forgives a great many things, it appears I may not get my dream car, not least because it wouldn't fit in our designated bay.

Me: "If I had £40,000, can we have this tank?"

Jane: "Where would we park it?"

Me: "Anywhere we fucking liked."

She is - of course - quite right, and we will have to make do with our standard-issue Roomba floor sweeper because I doubt if the multi-storey at the Hart Centre will take the weight.

And who wants a tank in this day and age? It wasn't too many years ago that you could buy a military helicopter direct from the factory in Russia for just a tad over sixty grand. It's a ground-attack helicopter or nothing, because I want to beat the traffic jams. And by "beat", I mean "thoroughly destroy".

Monday, January 05, 2015

On tasting the rainbow

Poor Joel from the Skittles advert. Everything he touches turns to Skttles and for this he deserves our pity.

But the more you think about it, the more you realise the horror of his existence.

Who clothes him? How come his clothes don't turn to Skittles?

How does he go to the toilet? What comes out when he goes to the toilet? If it's Skittles, what do they do to the Skittles?

If he touches people, do they turn to Skittles? Do they bag up and sell those Skittles?


Harsh, but I say we have him killed, even though the bullets may turn to Skittles they moment they hit his body.

Taste the rainbow? Taste Joel's poo and dead people, more like.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Altered People in National Newspapers

The Independent: No Google, this isn't a picture of Kim Jong-Un's sister

In which your humble writer accidentally makes news in the national press. They did - however - fail to call me by my official title of "smug, middle class Twitter user Alistair Coleman", and I might almost nearly send them a mildly-worded complaint.

For the avoidance of doubt, this is Kim Yo-jong voting in North Korea's recent "Vote Kim Jong-Un or we nail your head to the coffee table" election:

As you can see, only one member of the Kim family is addicted to Swiss cheese and tasty, tasty cake.

Saturday, January 03, 2015


True fact about life no 76,109: Every time you reverse into a parking space, Jesus kills a puppy.

Don't let Jesus kill another puppy.