Sunday, July 31, 2005

So Sad About Us

Keith Moon couldn't really play the drums. Ask him to play a straight four by four and he'd have been totally flummoxed. When the Who took a year off so that Pete Townshend could indulge in some serious Corvoisier quaffing, Moon forgot anything that he did know about drumming.

When the Who reconvened, Moon would need at least a weeks practice before they could perform. He was a one off. If he hadn't turned up in an orange suit and informed Daltrey and Townshend that their drummer was shite I doubt that we'd ever have heard of him.

He wasn't right in the head really. He was a hyperactive little boy who never grew up. He had no independent existence outside of the Who. That band were his life. When they laid off for a bit he was totally lost; a rock clown drowning in pills and alcohol.

He aged extraordinarily quickly. In the space of ten years he turned from a fresh faced youth into a middle aged bloater.

What no one can deny is that he played the drums like nobody before or since. It's like Alex Higgins wasn't much cop at snooker, and George Best wasn't up to much at football. THAT'S NOT HOW YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO DO IT.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Invasion of the Caravans

It's that time of year again. Wilfrid and Ethel have hitched their caravan to the Rover and headed up to the Scottish highlands for their annual two week holiday

The caravan and car are of course crammed with food. This way they will not have to buy anything during their visit. Why should they line the pockets of restaurants, local shops and hotels when they can cook for themselves on their single ring stove?

I have always been mystified by caravaners. I can't for the life of me see the attraction of spending a fortnight in a tin shack and pissing in a chemical toilet. They may not be spending any money, but you can be sure that the caravan cost at least £10K. That would pay for plenty of holidays in a good quality hotel and a hell of a lot of fine dining to boot.

One of the joys of living up here are the empty sweeping A roads. There are no speed cameras and the local plod couldn't really give a stuff about speeding drivers. We need to speed because it would take aeons to get anywhere otherwise. The caravaners put paid to that. They drive in convoy at 40mph, occasionally dropping to 25mph to coo at the breathtaking scenery. As a consequence,a vast line of seething drivers are left in their wake. Eventually the frustration gets too much and someone tries to overtake six cars and three caravans in one sweep. Consequence: head on collision.

Keep death off the roads I say. Shoot the fuckers on sight or, at the very least, restrict their movements to the hours of darkness.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Intelligent Twits

Gyles Brandreth. The new face of Countdown.
Britain has a unique talent for producing highly intelligent individuals who manage to give the impression that they are utter fucktards. Gyles Brandreth is one of this breed and is eminently punchable. As far as I can make out his achievements to date amount to founding the National Scrabble Championship, and a teddy bear sanctaury at Stratford upon Avon. John Major made him minister for something utterly inconsequential in the last Tory Government. That isn't saying much though; Major also thought that Jeffrey Archer and Neil Hamilton were suitable for high office.
I am glad to hear that Gyles has been chosen to replace Richard Whitely as anchorman of Countdown. Whitely was also an intelligent twit. He made an entire career out of appearing to be utterly clueless.
There are many more examples of the intelligent twit and their inexorable rise in all spheres of public life.
Will Self is a particularly irritating example. Self seems to be incapable of composing one of his convoluted sentences without chucking in at least two or three obscure words. Take the following:
"....Zephyrs crouching beyond the four corners, Mercator stretching landmasses like silly putty, anthropophagi burying their head in the fizzing sands of Tierra del Fuego, unicorns prancing about Ultima Thule".
The intelligent twit gets paid £1000 a week for spouting this sort of shite in The Independent.
There are many, many others. I haven't got time to go into the details of their individual twitness, but here are some for you to contemplate at your leisure:
  • Stephen Fry
  • John Sessions
  • Hugh Laurie
  • Tony Benn
  • Sigmund Freud
  • Tom Paulin
  • Jimmy Saville

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Songs that go a bit mental in the middle.

Sometimes something happens in a recording studio that the bands involved probably hadn't intended. A reasonable song is plodding along quite happily when suddenly, seemingly out of the blue, everything goes completely mental
Maybe it's just serendipity, but it seems that at some subconcious level all the band members coalesce and transcend their individual capabilities.
The following examples spring immediately to mind.

The Stone Roses: 'I am the Resurrection'.

This is almost like two songs. It shuffles along as standard indie guitar pop. Then, all of a sudden, it drops into a loose, loping groove with John Squire's guitar carving out filigrees of sound (that's a crap description by the way: you really have to hear it).

Television: 'Marquee Moon'.

Somewhere, about five minutes into the song, everything just soars. This one is totally indescribable.

Lynyrd Skynrd: 'Freebird'.

Hairy guitar hero dadrock this may be; but half way through it drops a couple of gears and accelerates SOMEWHERE ELSE.

The Clash: 'Complete Control'.

An explosion of power chords, stacatto drums....distilled anger.

If you can think of any other examples, let me know.

Return of the Cybermen

Ah! Excellent: another disused quarry to invade. Summon the Cyberfleet!

I was reassured to read that the new series of Doctor Who is to feature arch-baddies, the Cybermen.

When I was a kid I didn't find the Daleks all that scary. Their obviously restricted mobility and inability to climb stairs was obvious even to my credulous ten year old eyes. I remember watching the Dalek movie (the one with Bernard Cribbens) and thinking: 'that spaceship is ace but those Daleks are a bit rubbish'.

The Cybermen, on the other hand, scared me absolutely shitless. Those flat, souless eyes and the downturned grimace/grin were my embodiment of evil. Occasionally Unit would turn up and have a go at the Cybermen with all guns blazing. In the end though, the Brigadier would have to rely on the Doctor to save earth from enslavement by the tin foil clad fiends.

I can't remember much detail of the Cybermen storylines. I know it's a cliche, but I genuinely did spend most of the time cowering behind the sofa whenever they appeared.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Flat Pack Hell

Today was my least favourite day of the year. The annual trip to the Glasgow Ikea to purchase items of a household nature could no longer be postponed.

A trip to Ikea is up there with root canal treatment in my list of things to which I do not look forward. There is something about shuffling along with a mass of amorphous bovine humanity which fills me with bottomless depression.

The founder of Ikea was a Nazi sympathiser and boy does it show. Those arrows on the floor are not there to direct you, they are there to herd you along like a division of the Hitler Youth minus the swastikas. I am always reminded of 'Dawn of the Dead' as the consumerist zombies shamble along their preordained route. Aldous Huxley would have a field day; the drugged up automatons in 'Brave New World' couldn't hold a candle to the stupefied 'Ektorp' and 'Billy' admirers.

I only go because it's cheap and I can replace damaged or soiled items at minimal cost on a regular basis. I suppose that we should be grateful really; Ikea have been a godsend to young couples and students setting up home for the first time. I don't object to the individuals who purchase the odd item; it's the Ikea obsessives who furnish their homes to resemble an Ikea catalogue that mystify me. WHY? Do they want to announce to the world that they have no imaginative flair whatsoever. Do they assume that everything sourced in Sweden is the epitomy of suave modern design?

Thankfully the ordeal is over. The Ford Transit has been emptied of its oblong cardboard boxes. All I have to do now is assemble the BASTARD STUFF.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

I Want One

Please, please,please let me get what I want sometime.

I went and had a look at one of these last week. It was a 1994 Jaguar XJS with 40,000 on the clock. Priced at £9,995, I was sorely tempted. I couldn't really have afforded it, but I almost convinced myself that I could with a series of spurious arguments that didn't hold water:

  • It's an old Jag, it's bound to become a classic and appreciate in value.
  • If I keep it in the garage and only drive it on dry days it won't rust (not much anyway).
  • I can get one of those classic car insurance policies and the premium will be low
  • The petrol consumption is really quite reasonable for a huge V12 engine.

I let myself sleep on it overnight and allowed sanity to prevail:

  • Each new tyre will cost £220. That's £880 every 20,000 miles.
  • If the front cross member rusts it will cost £1500 to replace.
  • It has more electrical wiring than a Boeing 747. Bits of it are bound to fail.
  • an annual servive will be £500 minimum.
  • The petrol consumption will regularly be eight miles to the gallon.

So I didn't buy it.

I've always liked my old Jaguars. A proper louche cad's car that sits low and wide on the road. The new Forduars are a bit souless for me, even if they do build them so that bits don't drop off at regular intervals.

Maybe I'll have a look at one of the 4 litre, 6 cyclinder ones. They can do up to 28 mpg. Then again, maybe the whole ideas daft. There's something a bit chest wiggish about driving around in enormously long cars that only seat two people, even if they do 150 top whack. I suppose I could get a Ford Ka instead.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Over Qualified, Under educated.

In days of yore when men had mullets, women had shoulder pads, and pop music (apart from The Smiths obviously) was crap, I was a student.

There was no such thing as tuition fees and, apart from some mumblings from the Thatcher government, the student maintenance grant was seen as sacrosanct.
It wasn't much, but with a bit of part time work you could do your three years and emerge not owing a penny.

There were less than a third of the graduates there are today. A degree set you apart and you had your pick of graduate trainee jobs offered by blue chip companies. No debt and a good job almost gauranteed; we were a lucky and charmed generation.

The massive expansion of higher education over the past twenty years has changed everything. No one can argue against widening access to education; the more elitist system that existed in the past was heavily skewed towards kids from a middle class backgroud. What can be argued against is the governments assertion that a degree today has the same value as twenty years ago, and that the standard of education has not suffered from this rapid and underfunded expansion.

The funding per student head has not just fallen, the ratio of students to tutor has risen to the point where any notion of one-to-one tuition and support is derisory. Student tutorials where one of the bedrocks of our university system. The erosion of that bedrock must inevitably have had an impact on the quality of the learning experience. New technology and the interweb have made individual research much easier, but by removing the dialogue between tutor and student we have lost something vital.

It annoys me when the government continually quote statistics to prove that the average graduate will earn 40% more over their lifetime than their non-graduate peers. This figure is based on the earnings of people who graduated twenty or thirty years ago. It is not comparable. This is just another meaningless statistic bandied about to justify tuition fees and student loans. We all know people with good degrees who are working in call centres or stacking supermarket shelves. Lets face it, someone with a degree in Surfing Studies from Plymouth University is probably not going to earn as much over their lifetime as a qualified plumber.

We are already seeing the emergence of a British Ivy league of elite Universities. This is inevitable. If the British university system is to retain any international reputation for academic excellence there has to be an elite. In the future, the academic institution attended will have more impact on future career prospects than the subject studied or the degree classification attained. The government will of course insist that all educational institutions are equal. That is, of course, balls. They never have been and never will be.

If I was eighteen again I would think long and hard before taking a degree if I couldn't obtain a place at one of the top universities. Why lumber yourself with £18k of debt if the degree you come out with is of little or no value? If you ask me it is, as our American cousins would say; a 'fucking no-brainer'.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Withnail and I

I'm sure that everyone must have encountered a Withnail and I obsessive at one time or other. You know the type. They've watched the film fifty times and have memorised the entire script. They regale you with tales of the Withnail drinking game (you have a drink whenever they do) and are fond of quoting their favourite lines ad nauseum. There's only so often that you can hear someone opine that "We want the finest wines known to humanity, we want them here, and we want them now" and still find it amusing.

I think that they're missing the point. The film is of course scabrously funny, and Grant's Withnail is a splenetic comic creation of absolute genius. There's something else though. Throughout the entire film there is an undertow of despair and depression.

Withnail is on the edge of drug and drink induced oblivion. Paranoiac, self-centred to the point of psychopathy, he is fully aware of his absolute failure as an artist. We know that his future is bleak; that he is engaged in a cycle of self-destruction that will end in death. When we leave him orating a soliloquy from Hamlet to the tigers in Regents Park as the rain pours on his crumpled umbrella, we know that he has no future. It is incredibly poignant.

Withnail and I is an elegy to the death of the 1960's. The hope and aspirations of that decade are crumbling into dust. It illustrates that the '60's dream was a chimaera; that the Britain of that era was in reality a sordid, shabby dump.

The McGann character cuts his hair, puts on a trilby, and moves on into the bright uplands of the future. Their will be no such escape for Withnail.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Guide to New Wave French Cinema

  • French bloke in sharp suit walks into seedy hotel bedroom smoking a Gauloise.
  • French bird lies recumbent on unmade bed.
  • French bloke shags French bird.
  • French bird stares at wall looking tres desole.
  • French bloke and French bird smoke a Gauloise.
  • Fin

A Local Shop for Local People

MY LOCAL SHOP*( there's nothing for you there).

Let's face it. All small rural communities bear some resemblance to the fictional dystopia that is 'Royston Vasey'. With all that inbreeding over the centuries seriously depleting the gene pool, is it any wonder that the quotient of mong brained idiots, web toed dysfunctionals and preternaturally gifted banjo players is significantly higher than average? If it hadn't been for the advent of the bicycle enabling inter village copulation on an enhanced scale, god knows what sort of strangely deformed semblances of humanity would be wandering the village lanes molesting the local wildlife.

To the local population of slightly deranged, six toed locals, have to be added the 'incomers'. This lot aren't that much of an improvement. Burnt out deadbeat ex hippies, bearded and sandled eco flat earthers, dolescum spongers moving to the sticks to be out of reach of the DSS. That about sums them up. The odd normal individual does turn up, but they don't last long. Perhaps they get eaten, or maybe they are sacrificed at the local shop petrol pumps to satisfy some strange pagan deity. It's hard to say.

The local shop, is of course, at the centre of the community. My local shop is a classic of its type. All types of tinned comestibles, confectionary, fags, and prophylactics are available to the casual browser. The proprietor, Dougal, is a figure of some standing in the community. Not only does he keep shop, he also runs a sub Post Office and has a sideline as head of the local fire brigade. All in all, he is a one man Trumpton. He opens the shop for twelve hours daily and only takes three days holiday a year. No European Working Time Directives for our Dougal, I can tell you.

Nothing is too much trouble for Dougal. Should you be in need of..ahem..condoms, Dougal will happily accommodate you. A quiet word in his ear (assuming that no ladies are present) will ensure that Dougal shuffles into the back storeroom and emerges with the required items decorously wrapped in a brown paper bag. Thoughtful and efficient. Not so sure about the efficiency of the condoms though; there's so little call for the things round here that they're probably made out of bakelite.

Dougal is invaluable; it's his assistants that are the problem. There must be an unwritten rule that states that local shop assistants must be moth eared trolls with facial warts and an inability to perform even the most basic simple arithmetic. I'm convinced that when Dougal has these bag lady harpies manning the till his turnover must drop by 75%.

It mystifies me why he employs them. Perhaps they're just there to keep an eye on the out of date sausages, just in case they make a sudden and unexpected bid for freedom.

Dougal has asked me to let you know that his goods may be ordered at

* This really is my local shop.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Still Game

Jack and Victor go Large

Tonight, at 10.00pm on BBC2, UK viewers are at last to be treated to one of the finest sitcoms to be produced by BBC Scotland. Jack and Victor, two reprehensible old reprobates living in a high rise Glasgow housing scheme, live out there second childhoods and discuss lifes vicissitudes in the local boozer. 'The swallie' (or lack thereof) is one of the leitmitovs of this fine series.

It's quite difficult to describe why this scenario is so funny. Think of it as 'Men Behaving Badly' crossed with Harry Enfield's 'The Old Gits' and throw in a dash of pathos and you should be just about there. Not quite up there with Royston Vasey or Craggy Island, but pretty damn close.

The accents are (sort of) comprehensible, as Glaswegian goes. Not like 'Rab C Nesbitt', which had to have sub- titles for English viewers.

I feel fully justified in awarding this fine comedy four and a half teackes.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Mama, We're All Crazeee Now.

I don't know whether or not MI5 have slipped some strange potion in the reservoirs, but there seem to be more and more raving nutters wandering around out there. Put it down to 'care in the community' if you like; it seems to me that unless you are bona fide straitjacket and Largactil material, you are free to go about torturing cats or whatever takes your fancy.

Take that repulsive teenager who stabbed his parents to death and then flew off for a three night jamboree with his girlfriend at the New York Plaza hotel. Everyone at his school just thought that he was a big headed wanker, not a delusional maniac.

Apparently he was suffering from 'narcissistic personality disorder' (NPD). American psychologists identified this particular sydrome as a rare disorder suffered by one in a hundred people. This worries me. On that basis, in my nearest small town, there are one hundred delusional maniacs preparing to run amok with a Stanley knife at a moments notice.

If you consider all the psychological disorders identified by psychologists it gets even more worrying. If, say; 3 in 100 are sociopaths, 6 in 100 suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder, 4 in 100 have bipolar schizophrenia, and another 20 in a 100 have some other mentalist condition, you have to reach the logical conclusion that a third of the people that walk past you on the street are total nutters. Having stood in a long Post Office queue populated by twitchers and mutterers, I have no doubt that this is the case.

I'm beginning to wonder if it's safe to go outside at all. Maybe I'll stay home tomorrow. I can have a go at coaxing mother out of the woodshed; she's been in there for a couple of weeks now. Anyway, my toads need polishing.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

My Low Fat Food Hell


I'm glad that I found this photograph. It means I can have a pop at two of my favourite bugbears simultaneously.

Failed stand up comedian, Ainsley Harriot, has to be the most irritating man in the universe. Having a go at him can't be construed as rascist; even black people can't stand him. He prances around like a goofy Uncle Tom playing up to every racial stereotype imaginable. Percy pepper, Suzy salt? Fuck off. If the tosser was to put an arm around my shoulders and say; "what are you like?", I would have no hesitation in kneeing him firmly in the balls.

It's not even as though he's a proper chef. Teams of researchers come up with recipes for line caught tuna marinated in balsamic vinegar and goats urine. Then all Ainsley has to do is prance around like something out of 'The Black and White Minstrel Show' circa 1973. Tit.

I'd love to have a go at Gary Rhodes too, but he's just a skinny whippet with a stupid haircut.

Which brings me neatly onto the subject of low fat food. I've got nothing against low fat food per se; I'm quite partial to plain steamed basmati rice, and I wouldn't turn my nose up at a nice piece of freshly fried mackerel.

It's low fat versions of perfectly edible full fat recipes that I object to. How in the name of god can you have a low fat gratin dauphinoise? The whole point of the stuff is that it's 60% double cream and butter. That's why it tastes unctuous. Start bollocking about with low fat creme fraiche and reduced fat spread and you end up with something that tastes like spuds in wallpaper paste. It is an abomination.

I have to be very eagle-eyed in the supermarket. It's perfectly possible to inadvertently pack your trolley with lots of yummy pre packed meals and sauces that turn out to have 'eat sensible' and 'reduced calorie' written on their packaging in small lettering. Has anyone ever tasted low fat Hellman's mayonnaise? It is absolutely fucking foul. I would rather eat a plate of mouse droppings.

Fat is flavour. If you want to diet, just avoid the stuff. There are plenty of clean tasting low fat alternatives that don't pretend to be something they're not. Just don't kid yourself that curry sans ghee, or potatoes roasted in Benecol are the real McCoy.

You don't want to get me started on SALT.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

When is a Blog not a Blog?

Jeanette Winterson is one of those writers who like to take risks.
She doesn't restrict herself to one style of prose or a particular area of subject matter.

I was surprised by her website when I first encountered it. She has included a vast range of her journalism, and includes some of the poetry which she most admires. There is even a message board. It feels intimate and personal in a way that most writer's sites don't. It almost feels like a blog.

Winterson's personal background couldn't be more bizarre. She was adopted by strict (some might say barking mad) pentecostalists. They brought her up to believe that the only book worth reading was the bible. From an early age she was groomed to become a missionary; speaking at tent revivalist meetings and handing out biblical tracts on beach seafronts. It's not the Christian tradition that she was brought up with that is unusual, it's the intensity and narrowness of her adoptive parents world view that is frankly shocking.

Her escape was the classic working class story of Grammar School, books and University. Her background has produced an individual of strongly held and, some might say, contradictory views. Firmly of the liberal left, she also funds her godchilds education at an elite private school.
This is understandable; her escape from an impoverished intellectual background was through education. Naturally she wishes her godchild to benefit from the same high educational standards that she experienced. That, sadly, is not available in today's state education system. Comprehensive education has betrayed the very class it was meant to benefit. The Grammar schools were the greatest agency of class mobility for bright working class kids after the war. The closing of that route has entrenched the very social disadvantages that the Comprehensive system was intended to address.

Some writers, once successful, retreat to Hampstead. Winterson, typically, bought a semi-derilect 18th century Hugenot terrace house in east London and has renovated it at huge expense. On the ground floor she has opened a delicatessan. I admire that; writers should engage with the world, not be aloof from it.

Click on the link to her website. It's worth a look.

The Fantasy and Sci-fi Section at Waterstone's

Fantasy literature is a strange cul de sac. It has its own corner in bookshops which is usually frequented by spotty, greasy haired nerds in faded Iron Maiden t shirts.
The 'Lord of the Rings' started a new genre. It's a magnificent book. It creates an entire world and an entire new language. In terms of sheer narrative drive it has few peers. I could say much the same thing about 'The Hobbit; but this is a childrens book.
The fantasy literature genre consists of pale imitations of the Tolkein original. The books are usually trilogies with titles like: 'The Fourth Lamentation of Thrall: The Chronicles of The Children of Warzworpeld; Book the Third'. The title tells you it must be bollocks; the cover
illustration undelines the message.
It is utterly puerile*. It's fine if you're fifteen and want to escape the world of girls that ignore you and galloping acne. When you get past the age of twenty and are still indulging in this crap then it's time to worry. Put your dungeons and dragons figurines in the attic and leave them there. You can stay at home and play a daft RPG like Warcraft with your mates online. That way no one will have to look at you.
If you must read fantasy, then head to the children's literature section. You can find Phillip Pullman's 'His Dark Materials', The Harry Potter series and C S Lewis's 'Chronicles of Narnia'. Sure, it's for kids, but adults can read it too. Some of it is even multi-layered so that it can be read by children AND adults.
* I'll make an exception for Ursula le Guinn and Meryn Peake, but that's it.

Monday, July 18, 2005

The Boy Looked at Jonny

Androgyny Personified

I was fifteen when I fell in love with Patti Smith. I was too young for punk and the likes of Duran Duran and the other new romantic poseurs did nothing for me. I saw the record sleeve and I just knew. It was the icy gaze and the stick thin frame; the black pelmet of hair, the sheer arrogance of the stance. The photograph was taken by the art house photographer, Robert Mappleforth.

The thing with Patti was that she made worlds collide. New York art school sensibilities, the poetry of Rimbaud and visceral rock and roll met to produce a melange that is inimitable and indespensable. 'Horses' was an album that predated punk rock. It also transcended it. A combination of churning garage rock and vocals of power, range and complexity that haven't been matched by anyone since.

It was a one off. Everything just gels. The Patti Smith group never produced anything so startlingly original again. She personified everyhing that is good about New York. That arrogant New Jersey twang and the refusal to believe that anything is impossible. Raging against the world yet able to contemplate the sublime.

Some music is unclassifiable; it can't be imitated or improved upon. This is as good as it gets.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Ocean Finance

Parasitic Bastards

I have a deeply held and longstanding hatred of all banks and lending institutions. I know they are essential to the economy, and that we couldn't live without them, but that doesn't alter the fact that they are blood sucking parasites that make vast sums of money off all our backs.

What really gets my goat is their insistence that they want to be our friends. No they fucking don't. What they really want to do is tether us for life and squeeze as much cash out of us as possible. Do my 'friends' charge me £35 to write a letter advising me that I am £5 overdrawn?

The most annoying of the loathsome bunch are Ocean Finance. If you ever tune in to the Sky repeat channels you must have come across their revolting adverts. Ocean Finance are what is known as 'sub-prime' lender. This means that they lend money to people with poor credit histories or CCJ's. As these people are deemed to be high risk they are charged inflated rates of interest. That really makes sense doesn't it? The poorest and most vulnerable are charged more than the rest of us. They consolidate overdraft and credit card debt into one 'single easily affordable repayment'. There is of course a catch. The loan is secured on your home. Default and you are evicted.

If people have serious debt problems they can go to a Citizens Advice Bureau. They will contact the lenders to negotiate lower rates of repayment over an agreed period. Firms like Ocean Finance continually splashing themselves over the airwaves are trying to hook the most vulnerable. They offer that simple easy solution. Is it any wonder people fall for it.

What really irritates me is their adverts. You can just imagine their marketing director sitting down and thinking: 'I know, we'll have a hunt through our files and find our lumpiest, most common clients. As long as their loan isn't too big, we'll offer to write it off if they appear on TV telling everyone how great we are'. Cynical bastards.

The people they choose are supposed to be representative of the man on the street. The thing is, they aren't. They sit perched on their World of Leather sofas looking decidedly odd. One guy has greasy black hair parted in the centre, an olive complexion and a sarf London accent. He is clearly an alien. They tell us that; 'Those people at Ocean Finance are really easy to talk to'. Of course they're easy to talk to. I'd be easy to talk to if I could lend someone money at 6% above base over 10 years and get security on their house.


Saturday, July 16, 2005

On Swearing

I like to have a bit of a swear when I am blogging. I don't swear much out in the real world. It isn't really the done thing, and anyway, I am a pathetic physical coward. If I swore at people they would probably punch me. That wouldn't be very nice at all. I would be forced to cower.
Blogging is different. It allows the release of innermost frustrations and enables the expression of irritation with the petty absurdities and daft constraints of day to day life.
I suspect that most peoples mental processes are more or less a stream of conciousness swearathon. That woman fumbling through her purse at the check out queue in a vain search for the right debit card. All appears calm on the sanguine exterior you present to the rest of the queue. Inside, your expletive strewn tirade grows in profanity as a vein bulges in your temple.
In certain situations public swearing is ok. Stubbed your toe; go ahead. Children present; let rip.
Tired and emotional; be my guest.
The English language has a seemingly inexhaustible supply of swear words. We have the good old reliable, monosyllabic anglo-saxonisms. The beauty of these is that they can be co-joined to produce a vast array of permutations: fuckwit, cuntfeatures, shithead etc etc. Synonyms for the more popular swearwords abound (twat, shag etc) and are usually more acceptable in day to day usage.
I am convinced that the essential non bellicosity* of our natural character can be explained by our abilty to swear inwardly and at length. We don't count to ten, we curse to ten.
As the British lowered the Union flag as Aden was given independence in 1967, Denis Healy turned to the Governor and asked wistfully:
" What do you think will be the lasting legacy of the British Empire".
The Governor replied:
"Two things Foreign Secretary: association football and the phrase 'fuck off'"
Couldn't have put it better myself.

*Except when congregated in city centres of a Saturday night getting pissed up on super strenghth lager.
Continental 'cafe culture' Mr Blair. Pah!

Friday, July 15, 2005

The Edinburgh Festival

I'll be off to the Edinburgh festival for a week next month.
For the period of the festival the city's population will almost double as people congregate from all corners of the globe. As a melange of art and culture it probably has no peers.
Of course, the legions of backpackers and tourists of every religious and ethnic group may make a tempting target for those who regard their chosen path as sacrosanct; and all other beliefs and ways of life idolatrous.
It won't stop anyone going of course. Why should it? What could be a better way to celebrate our culture and diversity and snub our noses at religious extremism and intolerance. The show must go on.
I am encouraged to see that after 7/7, life in London is returning to normal. After an initial period of shock we go about our business as before. A little more wary perhaps, but determined not to let the rythmns and minutae of our lives be disrupted. The same thing happened after the New York and Madrid tragedies. Our culture and values are stronger than our enemies think.
I believe it was Franklin Roosevelt who said that: 'we have nothing to fear but fear itself'.
Words that were apposite in a different time and different circumstances are as valid today as they were then.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Bloody Tourists

'WHERE are the DONKEYS. YOU SAID there'd be DONKEYS'
I don't dislike tourists. Tourists are the source of my sustenance and wellbeing. Without tourists I would have to subsist on a diet of gruel, sliced white and tap water. 98% of my guests are great people. Some of them come year after year and are, I hope, lifelong friends. It's the other 2% that present the problem. They are the bane of my life. I'm sure they are the bane of their own lives, their childrens lives, their relatives lives and their next door neighbours lives.
The baleful impact of this gruesome 2% manifests itself in two forms:
1) The gormless fuckwit question asker.
Here are some of the stupid questions I have been asked down the years:
  • My front door. Sunday, 9.00am. Q: 'Why isn't the shop open?. I always get my Sunday Times at 9.00am in Basingstoke'. A: 'Newspapers are published in London you stupid tosser. They are delivered by train, ferry and van. This is the north west of Scotland. How the hell do you expect them to get here by 9.00am; fucking CARRIER PIGEON?
  • My front door. Sunday, 9.15am. The hillwalkers. Q: ' We're Monro (mountains over 3000 ft) baggers. We've looked at our maps. There aren't any Monros around here. Where's the nearest Monro?' A: 'Why, in the name of God, didn't you check your OS maps before you got here you pair of clueless imbeciles. If you look carefully you'll find that most of the mountains around here are about 50 ft short of Monro status. They have better views. Why not climb one of those you tasteless monomaniacs. Now get your hideous, lurid, Goretex encased carcasses out of my sight. Wankers'.
  • The local shop. Sunday, 11.15am. Q: 'This suntan lotion is £4.99! That's daylight robbery. It's only £4.15 in my Milton Keynes Tesco. How do they expect to get away with charging those sort of prices? It's outrageous'. A: 'This shop sells about 10 bottles of suntan lotion per week. Tesco sells about 50,000. Haven't you heard of bulk buying and economies of scale you mong brained ignoramous'.
  • My front door. Saturday. 11.15pm. Q: 'Sorry we're late. We're hungry. Where can we get something to eat?' A: 'If you pop down to Glasgow you might find a kebab shop open. If you're quick. No you can't have a pint of milk. Can you have a loaf of bread? What do you think I am, a bakery. Kindly fuck off. I've had to wait about for you bastards when I could have been down the pub SO DON'T EXPECT ANY SYMPATHY FROM ME'.
  • My front door. Sunday, 11.30am. Q: 'We like to go fishing. Are there any fish in this loch?' A: ' No, a nuclear sub sank last week. The radiation killed all the fish. Of course there are fish in the loch. It's the SEA,you clueless twats'.
  • My front door. Sunday, 12.45pm. Q: 'We're thinking of going to the hotel for lunch, what's their soup like?'. A: 'Hot and wet'. Slams door. Goes to pub.

Of course, I don't say any of things. I am helpful and courteous to a T. But I'm THINKING them. Next time you go on holiday please, please think before you ask.

2) The pernickety complainer.

These boils on the backside of humanity are thankfully rare. I take pride in what I do and can count the number of pathetic git complainers I've encountered on one hand. Thing is, they UPSET me. They never, ever say anything to your face.They have their weeks holiday and then write to complain that they couldn't find the salad tongs. Why don't you look in the right drawer you blind moron. Someone even sent me a photo of a cracked verhanda tile. Fair enough it was cracked; but it was a hairline crack, barely visible to the naked fucking eye. Tosser.

It's difficult not to develop the odd Fawltyish tic when you work in this trade. I think I've escaped pretty lightly. I am, on the whole, sweetness and light and affability personified.

My neighbouring hotelier ( a real call a spade a spade Yorkshireman) took a slighty different approach:


It's an interesting approach to customer relations. Maybe I'll give it a try sometime.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Hazard County


When a mere nipper, there was nothing I liked better than to settle down on the sofa and take in an episode of seminal '70's TV drama ;'The Dukes of Hazard'.

The escapades of Bo and Luke Duke, Boss Hogg, Cleetus, and the delectable Daisy Duke held me enthralled. Bo and Lukes big block V8 Chevy, the General Lee, powered through the southern landscape leaping over bridges and scattering hay bales in its wake. The lovely Daisy displayed her lovely long legs (it's called acting) in a pair of obligatory 70's micro pants. I believe that those pins were insured at Lloyds of London for $1,000,000. They were worth every cent.

The ineptitude of the obese Boss Hogg and his gormless deputy (hee,hee,hee) Cleetus were displayed in every episode. They never did catch those god darn Duke boys.

At the time, I didn't realise that these characters represented a very specific socio-economic/ cultural grouping in the southern United States. I wouldn't have understood if someone had told me that these people were 'rednecks'.

Later I discovered that these 'rednecks' had been widely represented in US cinema and TV dramas.Through 'The Beverley Hillbillys', 'Deliverance' and culminating in 'The Dukes of Hazard', the rednecks had covered all bases.

It has been reported that the southern white male is an endangered species. Pilloried and ridiculed for his antedeluvian love of drinkin' and fightin', he has been forced to retreat into smaller and smaller 'good ole boy' enclaves. In these enclaves the flag of the Confederacy still flies and redneck arts such as the Mudpit Bellyflop, Hubcap hurl and Armpit Serenade are still practiced. There is no softy apple dunking for ELBOW and his buddies. They go Bobbing-for-Raw-Pig's-Feet. That's what I call a real mans activity. You won't find that at the Church of England annual fete at Little Sodbury.

You can't really be nasty about rednecks. Their antecedents made up 25% of the US population 200 years ago. Every American from the Florida panhandle to northern Alaska has a bit of redneck in them. Fuck's sake, Bill Clinton IS a redneck. You just have to look at him to know that he scoffs deep fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches on the sly.

Perhaps you would care to join be in a rendition of the redneck National Anthem sometime.

'Sweet Home Alabama (di ne ne ne), where the skies are blue.............'

* This post was in no way, shape or form slightly cribbed from a newspaper article. Oh no, not even a teensy weensi little polka dot bikini bit.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid.


I have a phobia about insects and arachnids. All things creepy crawly, winged with feelers, or possessing six spindly hairy legs give me the total heebie jeebies.

It's not so bad living in the UK; most of our insect life is reasonably innocuous. I don't mind bumble bees, and wasps can be dispatched with a quick flick of a rolled up magazine. Bluebottles squish nicely but leave a nasty yellow smear on the window. Never let it be said that 'he wouldn't hurt a fly, that one'. I was the nasty little git at the back of Primary 1 who tore the legs off flies before impaling their loathsome rotating torsos on the end of a compass. I don't approve of the bastard things. Never have and never will. I am as about as likely to become an entymologist as I am to become one of Madonna's backing singers.

There is, however, one repulsive varmint resident in these isles that leaves me twitching in abject terror. I bring you THE GIANT WOOD WASP (Urocerus gigas L.). Pictured above; it just looks like a black ugly wasp. It's much, much worse than that. The bugger is fucking ginormous. It grows to almost the length of my index finger. Not only that, it has a hulking great proboscis protruding out of its abdomen that you can just imagine sinking into one of your buttocks like a giant hypodermic needle. If you ever have the misfortune to experience one of these huge bastards flying past your ear buzzing like a chain saw at full chat, you will probably react like I did. I ran; very fast, in circles, yelling.

The one redeeming feature the Giant Wood Wasp possesses is that it is actually totally harmless. What looks like a big sting is in fact a probe used for laying eggs in scots pine trees.


I don't care. They are still utterly terrifying. Guess what type of tree surrounds my house. Yep, you've guessed. Bleedin' scots pines. God, do I choose some sensible places to live.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Our Wonderful, Wonderful NHS

Last year my father, who is 68, had to have his gall bladder removed. This is a straightforward, routine procedure using keyhole surgery. The NHS advised that there was a nine month waiting list for the operation. Rather than endure intermitent agony, my father forked out £900 to have the procedure performed privately.
My mother, also 68, now has a problem with one of her toes. The waiting list for chiropractic surgery is eighteen months. She is experiencing great discomfort walking and has decided that she has no alternative but to pay £2,400 to have the operation performed privately.
My parents can afford to pay for the treatment. What annoys me is that people who have dutifully paid taxes all their lives can't rely on the NHS to provide their care when it is most needed.
The Chancellor has thrown billions at the NHS to no appreciable benefit. We were told that increasing expenditure to the western European average was the answer. It wasn't.
The Labour government, heirs to the originators of the post war welfare state, had the opportunity to radically reform the health system. Frank Field was told by Tony Blair to 'go away and think the unthinkable'. He did. We have never been told what his conclusions were. The government chickened out and we are all left with the consequences of the endemic failure of a monolithic, highly centralised, beuraucratic behemoth.
Even the food in our hospitals is inedible and doesn't even provide adequate nutrition. Add to that dirty wards and superbugs and you have a system of healthcare which is a disgrace.
It baffles me why we just don't look at how other developed countries organise their healthcare.
If a mixture of private and public provision is producing results in France and Germany why don't we just bite the bullet and accept that wholly socialised medicine has had its day.
Wake up Mr Brown. It's not 1945 any more.

Ryanair Meets it's Match!

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Who says you can't eat views?

The view from my front window
I am a lucky, lucky boy. Ten years ago I was sitting in an insurance brokers office. I was well paid, but I hated every minute of the job. Thankfully I was made redundant.
I moved to the west highlands of Scotland and now own and rent out log cabins to holidaymakers. I cannot imagine a more congenial way of making a living. I have a third of the overheads of the neighbouring hotels and as high an annual turnover. I also have a quarter of the workload. I make a living watching people enjoy themselves. What could be nicer.
It's funny that this tiny little overpopulated island of ours still contains areas of wild emptiness.
I don't think most people realize just how ethereally beautiful the north west coast of Scotland is.
I've been to the Canadian Rockies and the Alps. The landscapes may be on a grander scale but the Scottish scenery can stand shoulder to shoulder with both.
At this time of year it never really gets dark. The light shimmers on the surface of the loch and all I can hear are the keening calls of the curlews at the shoreside.
People come on holiday with the tension and stress of their lives etched on their faces. Within a few days the tension has evaporated. It's a wonderful process to watch.
I remember that dead weight that settled in my stomach on a Sunday evening as I contemplated the working week ahead. It's something that I will never have to suffer again and I am profoundly grateful.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Early Adopter

  • What's playing on your iPod?

    I suffer from 'early adopter' syndrome. This seems to be an affliction suffered only by males. I have to have the full range of techno kit, and it must be as state of the art as possible. Flat screen monitor. Yes please. Just make sure that is has triple DVI connectors, the highest native resolution possible and a response time of 30 mbs. A twenty one inch screen would be nice too. I have a 42' plasma TV that dominates my living room like an elephant in a toilet cubicle. My digital camera has a resolution of 7.1 million pixels. My ipod mini is the 6gb model, not the crappy little 4gb. My DVD has 7.1 surround sound. I am a total fucking technohead.
    Do I need most of this stuff? No. Can I afford it? No way. I undulge in a practice known as 'man maths'. This constitutes sitting down with a calculator and working out that my prospective purchase isn't really all that expensive and will cause me little financial pain. Total balls.
    Women may buy 50 pairs of shoes and spend £100 on a manicure but I can guarantee that their credit cards don't sustain the kind of abuse that mine do.
    There should be treatment available for people like me. Perhaps the Priory could start a residential on conquering addiction to pointless purchases.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Selective Memory

I was interested to see that Ken Livingstone was obviously disturbed and upset at the events in London today. I have no doubt that he was genuinely shocked at the carnage wrought by the Islamonutters. One thing troubles me.
Twenty years ago he was quite happy to invite Gerry Adams and various other twitching Sinn Fein flat earthers to City Hall, London for tea and crumpets. These were the people who represented the organisation that maimed and slaughtered on the streets of Belfast, Birmingham and Guildford.
Presumably there is a distinction to be made between violent Irish Republicanism and Islamo- fascism.
I have to say; I don't quite get it.
Ken is a reptile fan. Reptiles shed their skin. Perhaps he is a changed man. I suppose he deserves the benefit of the doubt.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Celebrity Tunnocks Teacake scoffer No1

Everyone knows that drummers, with the notable exception of Phil Collins, are all round top geezers. Topmost geezer of them all is Danny Goffey of popular beat combo, Supergrass.
Danny is a long time teacake afficianado and always has a box backstage at gigs. Lined up next to snifters of cocaine and bottles of Jack Daniels the teacakes look resplendent in their inviting shiny wrappers.
Boyd Tunnock (let his name be worshipped) has heard about Danny's love of the chocolate coated delicacy and always ensures that a consignment of teacakes is laid on for him when the band plays in Glasgow.
The manager of Supergrass recently suggested that the band should consider adopting a 'darker', more mysterious image. What a ridiculous suggestion. Danny and the boys like nothing better than 'pumping on their stereo' and being 'caught by the fuzz'. Energetic funsters like the 'grass have no time for mystery.
When well fuelled on teacakes Danny knows no peers when it comes to skin bashing.

In defence of Anne Widdecombe

I like Anne Widdecombe. There, I've said it.
She may be a slightly barmy tory with frumpy dress sense, but as far a I'm concerned she is basically an allright sort of cove.
The Labour MP Diane Abbott was overheard commenting: 'that woman hasn't even had a decent fuck, let alone felt her waters drop'. This says more about Diane Abbott than it does about Anne Widdecombe. It says: 'I, Diane Abbott, am an ignorant gobshite who isn't fit to be an MP let alone aspire to high office'.
Anne probably wouldn't make a great Home Secretary, but I'm sure she would be a vast improvement on the big eared school bully we have to put with at the moment.
The real clincher for me is that if I was to go away on holiday I would be more than happy for Anne Widdecombe to look after my cat.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

How to Kill

How to Kill

Under the parabola of a ball,
a child turning into a man,
I looked into the air too long.
The ball fell in my hand, it sang
in the closed fist: Open Open
Behold a gift designed to kill.

Now in my dial of glass appears
the soldier who is going to die.
He smiles, and moves about in ways
his mother knows, habits of his.
The wires touch his face: I cry
NOW. Death, like a familiar, hears

And look, has made a man of dust
Of a man of flesh. This sorcery
I do. Being damned, I am amused
to see the centre of love diffused
and the wave of love travel into vacancy.
How easy it is to make a ghost.

The weightless mosquito touches
her tiny shadow on the stone,
and with how like, how infinite
a lightness, a man and shadow meet.
They fuse. A shadow is a man
When the mosquito death approaches.

Keith Douglas

Keith Douglas was widely regarded as the most gifted British poet of his generation. He was killed during the Normandy landings, June, 1944.
He was 24.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Garfer no longer social pariah shocker

I today traded in my Rover 45 for a new Mazda 6 . This is a GOOD THING. Small boys will no longer point at me and fall about in fits of giggles.
I bought the Rover in a fit of abscence of mind. Driving past the dealership I saw ' NO DEPOSIT!! 0% FINANCE!! emblazoned on the window. Sounds tasty thought I. Twenty minutes later the greasy weasel of a salesman had me well and truly by the nadgers. It looked fine and shiny in the showroom. A gleaming tribute to British craftsmanship at its finest.
After a week or so driving around in my fine new purchase, I began to have misgivings. Every other Rover 45 that I encountered on the road was piloted by a crumbly geriatric in a tweed cap.
I had joined the ranks of 40 mph junction ditherers and roundabout obstructers. The label 'coffin dodger' might as well have been tatooed across my forehead. Try asking a female out when you drive a Rover 45. 'No Chance mate'. Even George Clooney would stand no chance in the totty stakes if he drove a Rover 45.
I have tolerated three years of this abject misery. I was tied into a finance deal and there was no escape without incurring severe financial pain.
Today, I was set free. The vistas of the open highway lie before me and all seems right with the world.
You can pick up a three year old 45 for £3,000. If you can live with the ignominy go right ahead. Just make sure you purchase a tartan rug and a Thermos before committing social hari kiri.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Ned Awareness

Burberry Ned

This strange looking creature is a Glasgow Ned (non educated delinquent). He looks perfectly harmless and on an individual basis probably is, not that you would want to have a conversation with him. Don't be fooled. Neds roam in packs and when well blootered on the Buckie behave with all the social grace of a pack of feral dogs.
They are uber Chavs and are to be AVOIDED AT ALL COSTS.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Unfortunate ommission in the Ginger Twat series

Charlie 'Boy' Kennedy
Missed this (Scottish, how cool is that) ginger twat out. If he had as many political convictions as he has freckles I might even vote for him.
Charles is the original Irn bru kid. Raised on a diet of Whyte & McKay Whisky, Tunnocks tea cakes and 20 B& H a day, he was destined to rise to the pinnacle of political ineptitude.
While a star student at Glasgow University, 'oor Chaz' was known as 'Taxi' Kennedy. Whether this related to his general bone-idle can't be bothered to walkness ,or an occasional 'I'm too stocious to walk'* is unreported.
* Chazza is off the drams but often enjoys a quick chuff on a fag. Vote liberal democrat.

The ongoing saga of Bono's stetson

Bono Vox (crazy name, crazy guy) is presently engaged in a court case against Lulu Von Klepto,
his personal dresser and stylist during the seminal Joshua Tree tour of 1987.
Bonio alleges that in the inner sanctum of his backstage dressing room Lulu stole his stetson hat and diminutive oompah loompah leather strides.
Bono claims that he is a rock icon, and that these items are consequently of iconic value.
Why an oversized twat hat and short arse leather keks should be classed as 'iconic' is frankly
beyond me. Hendrix's Stratocaster, yes. Keith Moon's 'Pictures of Lily drumkit', most certainly.
Morrissey's bunch of gladioli, deffo. Bonio's hat and stumpy strides, nope.
Lulu Von Klepto is defending herself on the basis that as Bonio handed the said items to her, he was conferring a gift.
I am with Lulu all the way. The poor bint has obviously been severely traumatised by being forced to witness at close quarters a munchkin Oirish git in the nuddy. Not only should Lulu be allowed to sell these items on Ebay at an exorbitant price to some tasteless fuckwit; she should be awarded a substantial sum in respect of the pain and suffering caused by the naked prancing 'rock'n'roll icon' tit.
The case is ongoing.
Bonios bank balance currently stands at £40,687,438.17
Lulu Von Klepto's bank balance currntly stands at £1,568.14
Perhaps, Bonio, in the spirit of christian charity for which he is renowned, can be persuaded to drop the case.
Fat chance.

Friday, July 01, 2005

It has come to garfers attention that the previous post has aroused howls of outrage in certain quarters. Garf would like to make clear that he is not prejudiced, nor does he bear any malice towards those of the ginger persuasion. Any offence caused to redtops, carrot tops, ginger nuts or ginger minges is unintentional and Garfer apologizes for any offence which his comments may have caused.
Chief Superintendent Birtwhistle O'Toole today released the following statement:

'Greater Manchester police wish to convey their regret that Cakesniffer was erroneously identified as an intellectual plagiarist. The witness who identified Cakesniffer in the original identity parade was subsequently found to be colour blind. Greater Manchester Police fully accept that Cakesniffer has at no time been ginger (except when she was an infant) and is in fact auburn.
The question of suitable pecuniary recompense payable to Cakesniffer in respect of hurt feelings will be determined by a tribunal to be held at Manchester Free Trade Hall at 9.30am, 2nd July, 1895.

garfer was planning a post on Narcissistic Personality Disorder but will get round to that subject tomorrow. He has his hair to do and needs a good two hours preening in front of the bathroom mirror before attending The G8 Conference in his official role as convener, head honcho , big cheese, top cookie, and big heid yin.