Saturday, April 30, 2005

I go to the chemist!!!

I have to wait for ten minutes whilst the lady pharmacist prepares my medication that is not for an embarrassing complaint at all, oh no.

A spritely old man wanders in to the shop.

I don't know what it is about me. Whether it's because I look approachable, friendly, vulnerable, lonely... or whether I'm just too polite to do the English thing and just blank people. But I seem to have this aura that makes people who I don't know start talking at me.

"Such a beautiful day," he remarks, not in a remark-like way, but in the sort of way that indicates a long conversation is to follow.

"It's certainly hot out there," I reply, politely, hoping that he is in the chemist to purchase deodorant.

"But I've had a lousy one, you know?" he continues.

"Ah. Really."

"I was in the Post Office drawing out money, and they asked me to put in my PIN number. Well I know what my PIN number is, it's 3108. So I typed in 3108 and it didn't work. And they said I must have got it wrong, but I said 'no' as I know it's definitely 3108. And I asked them why I needed to do this and they told me it was more secure, but if my pin number of 3108 - and it's definitely 3108 - doesn't work then how am I meant to get my savings out?"

I make 'help me' gestures behind the back of the Pharmacist.

It seems obvious enough what is happening. The elderly man is not who he is pretending to be at all, but an imposter - probably some sort of long-lost brother. The real elderly man is lying at home, having been horribly slaughtered. This imposter is about to draw out his victim's life savings using the cash card and PIN number (3108), but is first making sure that several witnesses can testify that I had known this number. Later on, I will find the cash card planted amidst my personal belongings, along with the murder weapon, an old silver snuff box and a packet of Werther's Originals.

I back out of the shop, clutching my box of perfectly ordinary pills.

It is a sad, sad, comment on the state of Britain today that this sort of thing should be commonplace on a routine trip to the chemist.

Crime - violent crime - is out of control, and politicians do not seem to want to do anything about it.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The bowling green is tucked away behind the village hall.

I approach it nervously, wondering if I'm at the right place. It is my first competitive game. Well actually, it's my first game full stop. A man had rung from out of the blue telling me to turn up here. I had expected some form of trial or practice session first but no - I am straight in at the deep end for round one of the cup.

Sporty Kev is my team captain. This is good, as he's the other person there who I know. Unfortunately, being team captain he gets to stand at the other end all the time, shouting at me to aim it at his foot. I shake hands with my other team member.

The opposition seem very nice. Going first is an elderly lady with a bad hip. She is very good.

I have made a list of all the sports I know. Team sports, individual sports, mixed, men-only, women-only, sports with horses, with balls, with bats and racquets, on grass, on tracks. Now the one thing - the only thing - that all these sports have in common, is this. No matter how new, rubbish, useless or hamfisted that you are, you are very unlikely to be beaten at any of them by an elderly lady with a bad hip. That, to me, is the definition of 'sport'.

We proceed to get stuffed.

Her bowl lands right next to the white thing. I have my first go, and my bowl goes about a grillion miles past everybody else's. Her next bowl lands right next to the white thing again. I pick up my bowl for a second go, but unfortunately it seems to have been sitting in some goose shit, and I get goose shit all over my hands. My towel is stuck in my pocket, so I get goose shit all over my trousers as I try to pull it out. By the time I've wiped the bowl, everybody is looking at me and I send another poor effort down, this time stopping about 8000 yards short of the cluster.

"Never mind!" shouts Sporty Kev, and everybody is very nice. I scrape smeared goose shit from my clothing.

My next go is a lot better, and lands encouragingly near to where I meant it to.

"Never mind!" shouts Sporty Kev.

By the end of the game, I have picked it up a bit better, and am enjoying myself. Our team gets hammered, but we win on two of the other rinks (a bowling term, I gather), and draw another. So we are through to the next round!!!

"I really enjoyed that!" I say, as we leave the field of play.

But I don't half ache today.

Monday, April 25, 2005

"All I am saying is that it is extremely unjust."

I was having an animated conversation with Narcoleptic Dave and Big A in the Village Pub. Throughout my life I have always tried to stand up for what I believe is right, even if it means being unpopular (although not very unpopular, I would draw the line at that).

"Oh, I agree with you," said Narcoleptic Dave, taking a glug of Stella from his glass.

The Well-Spoken Barman arrived at our table bearing a bowl of hand-cooked crisps. We tried to gloss over the fact that Mrs Narcoleptic Dave had fallen asleep.

It was frustrating, however. Knowing that Miriam from 'The Apprentice' had been unfairly sacked, and not being able to do anything about it.

"I liked the way," I continued, "that she was very magnanimous afterwards. It was just like Nelson Mandela when they let him out of prison. But without Tracy Chapman doing a concert."

Sometimes it is very disheartening having a widely read Internet Web Log. Even though I have lots of people who hang on my every word and would do anything I told them to, I feel impotent and helpless. It is a bit like the bit in the Superman film where he got cross then sort of span the world backwards to change things. Except I do not have super powers. (Except invisibility).

But what can I do? I don't know. I must have lots of readers at the BBC and at Amstrad who can change things. The final show is being filmed tomorrow, there would still be time for a production assistant to run round to her house and say: "oh golly Miriam, we're sorry, when he said 'you're fired' he didn't mean it, it was one of the others really." And everybody would understand and the BBC would come out of it very well.

If this happens then I promise to watch the BBC all the time in future.

And buy lots of cheap shoddy electronic goods.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Here's the announcement of the new Pope, as the newspapers reported it yesterday:

The Mirror:

The Express:
Whilst a million British Catholics are turned down for the job, this man slipped from country to country and now lives in luxury at their expense.

Daily Mail:

The Guardian:
Inside: Paul Carr on how Bloggers influenced the cardinals.

The Sun:
Inside! Send them home; look at that ugly slapper; burn them, etc.

News of the World:
Red-robed reporter in shock security expose


PR Week
Man in wanky glasses slams chimney system

Richmond and Twickenham Times
'Council did not consult us' claim residents of posh street.

Lynn News (King's Lynn):
North Lynn couple once holidayed in Austria, which is quite near Germany, where he came from

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

I go for a run.

Run! Run! Run!

Up the hill past the shop, then left onto what would be a delightful little green lane but is, in fact, dog shit alley.

There is a new flashing sign!!! It flashes when you go above 30 miles an hour. (I was not running faster than this, a car just happened to pass me and got flashed). It was very exciting, and the car slowed immediately. It was still going faster than me though. Next time I will try to beat the sign and make it flash.

The flashing sign would have been more effective in traffic management had the flashing sign erector people not accidentally placed it the wrong way round. So it flashes you as you leave the village for the derestricted bit, rather than as you enter the built up area.

'Built up' being a relative term.

Run! Run! Run!

I jog down the grassy lane, leaping gracefully. I am in a good mood and have remembered to go for a wee wee before I left, unlike Paula Radcliffe who I have written about before and who seems to think that she is a small child and can go for a wee wee any time and anywhere she pleases.

Honestly, I am a better runner than her.

I have not been running for ages and I can feel it. Craig and Charlie burst from the MP3 player with their motivational running music, but I am gradually slowing down.

And then it happens.

I stagger to a halt. My shoulders slump and I shake my head. I have not pulled a muscle or had a heart attack. I am suddenly and inexplicably too knackered to carry on running.

This has never happened to me before. I wheeze and pull my lead-filled legs back towards the direction of home.

I am not a better runner than Paula Radcliffe after all. How depressing. I have broken down just like she did at the Olympics. Boooo!!! For a few minutes I thought I had discovered a world-beating talent that I did not know I had. But I am just her equal.

I check my pants just to see if I have soiled myself. But I am clean. So I am a bit better than her after all.
Short aside...

This week, I'm taking part in a series of interview/debates about the General Election at Ben's site, Silent Words Speak Loudest.

There aren't any jokes, just a bunch of normal people chewing the fat. If you're after jokes, This is this is well worth a peruse.

Monday, April 18, 2005

"There you go. Room 123, sir. Down the corridor."


I wandered out of the foyer, just catching the start of the next interaction at the reception desk. "I'd like to complain in the strongest possible terms about my room..."

Room 123 was certainly down the corridor. There is a law in country house hotels that states that your room is never actually in the country house, but has to be situated in a late-sixties concrete annexe that has been bolted on the back by somebody who forged their architecture certificate.

I hiked down the corridor.

Our room was not exactly how the description on the leaflet had portrayed it. It was a sort of cross between a hotel room and a place to which Mr Howard would send people for processing. I gazed sadly through the window out onto the Gatwick flight path.

Dinner was interesting, and silver service (of course). The melon starter was, well, melony, but was nothing compared to the beef, which appeared to have been sourced from the Screwfix catalogue. But there was wine - lots of wine - and the goodwill and cheer from being there to support a Good Cause.

"This is all odd, isn't it?" I remarked, as I sat back with Short Tony, Big A and the womenfolk (that is a really good and useful word that I haven't used before). The fact was, that we'd never been out of the village together before. It was like one of those sitcom Christmas specials where you take the normal characters but set it overseas for no particular reason.

I had another drink whilst Big A hit the dancefloor like a man gesticulating angrily to a friend at a seventh floor window.

Friday, April 15, 2005

I have been commuting!!!

Years ago, I used to travel into town from an Essex commuter town that must remain nameless and secret. Later, I upgraded to London accommodation, my choice of area governed by - and this is 100% true - a radius of one bladder's worth at closing time from the pubs near my place of employment.

Now I just walk downstairs, unless I have important meetings, which have been frequent this week. In this case, I need to get the TRAIN TO LONDON.

The line from King's Lynn to London is one of the great railway journeys of the world. This is for two reasons - a) the ticket collector is quite friendly, and b) there is a proper café at the station who will do you a bacon sandwich and a tea just how you like it.

If I am ever asked to go on the popular BBC television programme 'Room 101', my main thing to choose apart from people who make modifications to their cars, R & B singers doing duets, marzipan, obsequious MPs at Prime Minister's question time, Anthony Worrell-Thompson, Realplayer, diversity awareness training, people who send you 'amusing' email circulars, the film 'Sliding Doors', car stereos that you can't understand, Otis Ferry, the man in charge of buying apples in supermarkets, ground elder, JD Wetherspoons, silver service dining and anything that has ever been presented, endorsed or touched by Noel Edmonds, will be 'retail facilities at airports and stations'.

It is clear that retail facilities at airports and stations are rubbish. They are the soul-destroying arse end of the processed food industry. The staff in there have no means, ability or incentive to sell you anything that is not on the ten-point laminated overpriced menu. And yet they proliferate, like a rash.

Railtrack once trumpeted the results of a huge 'customer consultation' questionnaire process. "You said," thundered big posters, "that you wanted more of your favourite retailers at our stations. We've listened. More are coming soon!"

The posters had to be withdrawn. Actually, people had said that they'd quite like the trains to run on time, thank you very much, and had not at all requested another Tie Rack, 'Jardin du Paris' or - God help us - Whistlestop.

I don't know how long the café at King's Lynn will be there. Sooner or later somebody will realise that three branches of Burger King will bring in more rent.

But it's brightened up what has been a fairly tedious week. So I commend it to you for the weekend.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Er... talk amongst yourselves for a bit?


Monday, April 11, 2005

I leave the bookies, pleased with my selection.

Owner: Mr G Factory
Trainer: Mr P Chum

But there is one more thing I need to do while we are in town. I have to buy some sporting equipment!!!

"Are you sure Nike don't make bowls shoes?" I ask Big A, as we head for the shop. I have retained Big A as my sports equipment purchasing consultant, as he is already a member of the club. I am at a delicate stage in my membership application and I would not want people to laugh at me because I have unfashionable shoes.

The assistant brings out four boxes of different bowls shoes. Short Tony and I examine them critically.

"These ones," says the helpful lady, "are exactly the same as those ones, but have velcro rather than laces."

We don't try those on.

In the end, both Short Tony and I purchase the most expensive pair. When you are playing sport, it is important to have the best equipment, so that you perform to your optimum. Having good footwear can help you avoid problems such as shin splints, etc. We leave the shop, pleased with our selection.

All in all it has been a very sporty day. We retire to the Village Pub to prepare ourselves for the big race.

Friday, April 08, 2005

I stalk the rabbits.

The rabbits who were once my friends, who entertainingly frolicked on the garden. The rabbits who betrayed me by eating my herbaceous border.

Ignorance of the law is no excuse - but they are not ignorant. Once they were relaxed about being seen in the garden - now they skulk guiltily, scuttling off at the slightest noise or movement.

Which is why, for the past few days, I have been working at the PC with a loaded rifle by my side.

There are two main vantage points from which I can be Rabbit Michael Ryan. The French windows look out over the back garden - I keep one slightly ajar so I can cover that area of ground.

The window in the toilet covers the border.

I don't know if you have ever done any rabbit stalking, but it involves being very still and quiet, and staying in the same place for a length of time. I have a lot of reading to do for work, so this doesn't matter.

I also don't know whether you use your toilet for extensive sitting on, but if you're anything like me it feels a) uncomfortable with the lid down as there is not a shapely fit with your buttocks, and b) uncomfortable with the lid up when you are fully clothed - just somehow wrong. I keep feeling that I will have an accident in my trousers if I sit like that.

I wait in silence on the toilet, the gun poked through the gap in the window, my pants round my ankles.

They had been scrabbling around earlier in some loose cuttings, but here I am covering the juicy new garden-centre-sourced plants that they appear to love so much. My documents conveniently balance on my lap and I work while I wait.

It is around fifteen minutes before something happens.

There is a knock at the door.

It is Mrs Short Tony!!! I have no wish to make the local newspapers, so I adjust my attire before answering the door. We discuss neighbourly things, quite normally.

She has scared the rabbits off; they live to fight another day.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

"You look a bit down," said the LTLP with concern.

Her women's intuition was right, as usual. Because I am a creative and arty type of person, my moods can swing from cheerful amiability to black depression and back again at the drop of a hat.

And I was very, very down.

"Do you want a game of Scrabble?" she asked.

I cheered up immediately. I like playing Scrabble. Although I am not an overly competitive sort of person, I tend to win a lot, and enjoy watching my opponents face as I put down long high-scoring words until their shoulders hunch in defeat and they start crying. That is what a good education does for you. (I did not go to university, but I got 'O' Levels and they were more difficult than what they do these days.)

We set up the board and picked up our letters. Me to go first. I put down a brilliant word (I can't remember exactly what it was, but it was really good).

Her go.

She studied her letters hard. Shuffled them around. Studied them hard again. Sucked her finger. Moved the letters again.

I sat patiently, waiting for her move.

More shuffling and sucking of fingers. She studied the board really hard, then studied the letters, then the board again. Then there was a bit more shuffling.

By this point I was very bored. I did not want to start reading the paper as it would be rude, so I just yawned a bit and looked at my watch.

About six minutes later, she leapt into action.

"Could you pass the dictionary, please?"

I passed the dictionary. She leafed through it. Shuffled some letters. Studied the board. Looked at the dictionary again.

As far as I could tell, she was reading through all the words beginning with N, M, N and O. I could feel my beard growing.

She studied the board. And shuffled some letters.

"There," she announced, placing her letters. "M-A-N". Five points.

I placed my word immediately. It was really good again, although I had to check that the English language hadn't developed overly since I'd thought of it. I picked up some more letters.

She studied the board.

And shuffled her letters a bit.

I drummed my fingers on the arm of the settee. I could see about seventeen words I could use, if my go ever materialised again.

She picked up the dictionary.

I glanced out of the window. By this point the village was full of futuristic buildings and the world was being ruled by giant ants.

"There you go," she said, when we finally finished the game.

"Did that cheer you up a bit?"

Monday, April 04, 2005

The past weekend's events made me question our values as a society.

Acres of newspaper coverage in tabloid and broadsheet. Photographs. Background. Commentary. People going on and on about it on the telly.

And ploughing through it, what I'd like to know is:

What, precisely, is so wrong about punching Keiron Dyer in the face?

Due to recent sad events RE His Holiness the Pope, this will be a specially extended column, relegating village news to about two minutes at the end.

Here is a link to some sombre music.

I watched the news about him. I wasn't particularly a fan of the Pope, but I do not wish to speak ill of the dead, and his wife and kids are probably upset. They showed a Cardinal breaking the news to the crowd in St Peter's Square, although I'm sure even now someone is writing a pretentious article about bloggers uncovering the story first.

I hope they have a crematorium bigger than we had for my Auntie Margery, otherwise some people will have to wait outside. She had a Humanist person presiding, which was lovely, but I expect they will want to do it themselves. It will be easier.

A man explained how they choose a new Pope. I am no expert, but it seems to me that this runs counter to every employment law in the book. They should advertise it externally and try executive search before trying to fix it up with their favoured internal candidate. It is ripe for a legal challenge.

They could run assessment centres for the candidates. In the morning they would have to do things like in-tray exercises and psychometric tests, then in the afternoon there would be a group exercise with all the prospective Popes pretending to be on a desert island and having to role-play their way off it.

There could be an on-line application form. It'd be great.

The newsreader took us back to Rome, for the latest developments at the Vatican. But he was still dead.

Then after the news, the local news. "Catholics in Lincolnshire..." began the announcer.

In other news:

The Village Shop was closed!!!