Friday, September 30, 2005

Car Park Attendants.

Why do all car park attendants have to be retarded, power crazed wankers?
Only someone with megalomaniac tendencies could possibly be attracted by a job that requires a quasi militia uniform, and a charter to terrorize innocent shoppers going about their legitimate business.

All these busybody uniformed tossers have one thing in common: they are too thick to get into the police. Now everyone knows that policemen are generally a bit dim; but this lot really are seriously deficient in grey matter.

I’m sure that there are more of them about these days. Even my local supermarket has introduced inspectors to enforce a two hour maximum parking period. The bastards clearly aren’t happy to have relieved me of £100 plus each week for the last ten years; now they want to screw me for £50, just if I overstay their allotted parking period by five minutes. Wankers.

The council inspectors are even worse. They can report you for having an out of date tax disc. Why should that be any of their bloody business: they’re not employed by the government?

There should be some sort of law to stop fuckwit thickos being employed in a capacity were they can ruin someone’s day. If they want a job with a uniform why don’t they join the Fire Service. With any luck their limited intelligence would ensure that they died a slow scorching death in a tower block inferno.

You don’t want to get me started on ‘park and ride’ schemes.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Curry Monster

I’m a bit of curry monster. Unfortunately I don’t live close to a decent Indian restaurant; the only one in my local town serves up rubbish at inflated prices.

When the curry cravings get too much, I make my own curry. I’ve become quite adept over the years, and I can produce a very good approximation of some of the curry house classics. The only problem is the time consuming nature of preparation. All that roasting/grinding of spices and pureeing of onions takes an eternity.

After some experimentation, I’ve come up with a quick and easy method of producing something which is very tasty, and is certainly a vast improvement on the prepared sauces that come in jars. I make up a blend of fenugreek, coriander, cumin, ginger, paprika and chilli powder, and mix to a smooth paste with a little water. I fry the paste over a medium heat for a minute, stirring vigorously. Then I add two finely chopped onions and four cloves of crushed garlic. This is then fried for ten minutes, stirring frequently. This is known as the ‘bhuna’ method; it causes the spices to cook out properly, release their oils, and lose their harshness. You can tell when the process is complete if the oil has risen to the top of the mixture.

I then add two thirds of a tin of coconut milk, and a tin of chopped tomatoes. I let the mixture simmer for thirty minutes, allowing it to reduce to a fairly thick consistency. I sometimes add a few cardamom pods, which add a nice aromatic fragrance.

This sauce is particularly good with prawns and scallops, and is also very nice with chicken.

Sprinkled with chopped fresh coriander, and served with steamed basmati rice, this is a proper top notch curry experience.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Garfer Comes Out

I need counselling.

My addiction to the semi colon is ruining my life. What the fuck is the use of this pointless punctuation mark? I’m no grammarian, and having been educated in the 1970’s, when god-awful hippy chicks were instructing youth to ‘express yourself’, I am about as acquainted with ‘Fowler’s English Usage’ as Jeffrey Archer.

Then there’s the colon, swanning about and demanding to be incorporated in a sentence. Why can’t it just piss off and restrict itself to describing the digestive tract?

My knowledge of the correct use of the English language is restricted to ‘what sounds right’. It’s the same with spelling. If it looks like its spelled wrong then it probably is. This approach is a bit of a pisser if the word doesn’t look right even if you have spelled it correctly. Parallel, parrallell, parralel, parallel? What the fuck does it matter? Everyone knows what you mean anyway.

Thank god for the spell and grammar checkers. If it wasn’t for them I’d probably be spouting a form of dyslexic Serbo-Croat.

Thank fuck for that. A post without a single colon or semi colon! Perhaps I’ll be able to give the Priory a miss.

The Woolly Suits

Policemen in small highland communities have the life of Riley. There is no crime to speak of, and the most they are ever likely to have to deal with is a brawl at a Ceilidh.

My village has had a chequered history regarding policemen. Moving to the boondocks doesn’t appeal to the ambitious woolly suits; we get the policemen that don’t really have much interest in policing, and are consequently fairly laid back about enforcing the finer points of the law. Perhaps this explains the number of pissed drivers colliding with sheep and stags.

We do get the occasional oddball. One ex Met policeman was, shall we say, rather proud of his appearance. Christened ‘gorgeous George’ by the local populace, he was swooned over by the local young ladies. This admiration quickly ceased when it was discovered that he had a penchant for stopping the police car in quiet lay-bys to indulge in a spot of feverish masturbation. His colleague, who loathed him, was a serial womaniser. He was hauled before the Chief Constable after a local hotelier complained that he was shagging his sixteen year old daughter. He was given the choice of resignation, or joining the UN police in Sarajevo. He chose the latter.

The current lot are ok. They don’t do much in the way of policing, preferring to indulge in a spot of bird watching while in uniform. That’s how policemen should behave; busy bodying about checking tyre tread depth and tax discs would just alienate people.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Drinking Jumper

My best mate Keith is in a state of considerable distress. His drinking jumper has deteriorated to such an extent that he can no longer wear it.

This garment has provided sterling service, coping with numerous benders over the years. Of indeterminate shape, and sporting a wide variety of stains and burn marks, it had proved a steadfast companion. He has purchased a new drinking jumper, but this is only a poor imitation of the original. It lacks the patina of years of excess, and does not yet reek of stale beer and second hand cigarette smoke.

I think that everyone should have a drinking jumper. As a badge of office of the hardened boozer they know no equal.

Keith is an interesting character. At some point I may devote a post to the time he ended up in bed with the 78 year old Lady Ardgour (by accident).

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Bullet and the Ballot Box.

It is reassuring to learn that the brave soldiers of the Provisional IRA have finally seen fit to dispose of their vast arsenal of weaponry and explosives. Their bravery tended to manifest itself in knocking on doors and shooting people in their carpet slippers. Bombing a war memorial on Remembrance Sunday was also an act of conspicuous courage.

A thirty year campaign of sectarian carnage and murder may not have achieved their ultimate goals, but it went a long way towards forcing a spineless government to accede to many of their demands.

I would be more reassured by their act of disarmament if this was to be accompanied by dissolution of their vast criminal empire. Sinn Fein has become the best funded political party in Europe through extortion, protection rackets, and robbery. This criminality is the source of their power to outspend conventional political parties, and to concentrate their activities in attempting to subvert democracy in the Irish Republic.

Sinn Fein/IRA has never been particularly interested in democratic values: they are fundamentally a blood and soil nationalist movement, regarding themselves as the only true repository of the values of Irish Republicanism.

Tony Blair is naturally delighted by the news of disarmament. If he feels ‘the hand of history on my shoulders’ this time, it will hopefully be directing him towards the political oblivion and ignominy which he so richly deserves.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

The Skin Deeps

There was an interesting article in the paper today about the world of high fashion, and it’s nexus with the druggy end of the rock spectrum. Lack of intelligence seems to be a common feature of some of the more prominent members of both groups. This paragraph just about sums it up:

‘We’re talking about people who, in the main, move their lips when they read, and spend quite a lot of time standing around with their mouth very slightly open. A friend of mine recently described seeing Kate Moss and her creepy decrepit mate Bobby Gillespie standing in the street trying hard to read a newspaper article about themselves; apparently it was like watching toddlers learning phonetics.

That vacuous, drug addled, world of glamorous superficiality looks very attractive on the outside looking in. In reality they lead a fairly hellish existence.

People who work in drug and alcohol rehabilitation centres will tell you that alcoholics are usually fairly complex, interesting individuals. The majority of drug addicts, conversely, are empty, shallow individuals.

Extreme beauty seems to make people immune from criticism. Kate Moss has escaped criticism for her debauched, hedonistic lifestyle. Her beauty seems to dull the critical faculties of a press that is quite happy to tear celebrities to pieces.

Very good looking people are quite often unpleasant characters. They get what they want purely because of the way they look; there is no need for them to make any effort whatsoever. I once knew a girl who was heart stoppingly pretty. She was also an utter bitch, completely devoid of any moral sense whatsoever. Naturally, she prospered.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

What's the Story/Balamory.

I’m sure that everyone has a special place that is dear to their heart: somewhere visited in childhood perhaps, or a place redolent with the memories of an old love affair. Maybe it’s just a particular pub that has an atmosphere that can’t be replicated anywhere else.

That place for me is Tobermory on the Isle of Mull; a charming village in a sheltered bay with a row of houses painted in different colours. I have happy memories of visiting the place with my parents as a kid and, in later years, decamping to the Fishnish Inn (colloquially known as the Pishnish) with some friends. It was a place that you could go back to year after year, secure in the knowledge that nothing much would have changed.

Alas, the BBC has changed all that. The tot’s TV series, Balamory, has resulted in a deluge of pre school munchkins, anxious to visit the ‘real’ village where their heroes, Miss Hoolie, PC plum, and Archie the inventor reside. It clearly reveals that the term ‘pester power’ is no media invention. Tarquin and Isolde are quite prepared to drive eight hours from Islington in order to walk along a damp and windy seafront with their progeny in tow.

The increased visitor numbers do bring in more tourist cash; but there is a big downside. People tend to visit for the day; they do nothing for the hotel and bed and breakfast trade. Worse still, they put off people who have come to Tobermory year after year. There’s not much peace and quiet to be had when the harbour is thronged with a congregation of screaming toddlers in pink cagoules.

One hotelier got completely pissed off with little kids asking if Josie Jump was in. He told one toddler that he’d killed her and buried her in the back garden. This reached the press, and there were howls of outrage at this display of gross insensitivity. Good on him I say. Someone needed to strike a blow for the poor downtrodden ornithologists and hill walkers who have seen their bucolic island bliss reduced to a fairground.

Friday, September 23, 2005

That Prawn Cocktail Moment

I know that we’re supposed to scoff at the prawn cocktail. As a staple ‘Abigail’s Party’ entrĂ©e, it has all the social cachet of a shell suit combined with white socks and trainers. It screams ‘70’s sophisticated cuisine: some limp prawns doused in a lurid pink sauce on a bed of lettuce. As the introduction to a meal of fillet steak and chips, followed by Black Forest gateaux, and washed down with Blue Nun Liebfraumilch, it knows no peers.

I have a problem. I LOVE prawn cocktail; I can’t get enough of the stuff. They don’t have it on menus much these days; it’s all spicy chicken wings and tex mex combos (straight out of the freezer). That doesn’t stop me. I ask if ‘chef’ can prepare it for me. I have to endure some funny looks from the waiting staff, but they usually come up with the goods.

There’s an apocryphal tale that a chef once chopped off the top of his little finger, which dropped into a large bowl of prawns awaiting cocktail preparation. He hunted in vain for the severed digit, gave up, and doused the contents of the bowl in pink gloop. I can well believe this. Who would know the difference between a prawn with a bit of shell left on and the end of a pinkie?

I’m not just nostalgic for the prawn cocktail; I miss Berni Inns as well. There are times when I can think of nothing more agreeable than to settle into a faux suede banquette and scoff the full works.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Let's Educate the Mong Brained Fucktards! - Part Deux

It was today reported that one in four students fail to graduate. I don’t really find this statistic surprising. What I do find remarkable is that some commentators ascribe this failure rate to the iniquity of student loans, and the consequent financial misery heaped on such young shoulders.

Hasn’t it occurred to anyone that they are failing because they are dung brained thickos, who should not be allowed near institutions of Higher Education in anything other than a cleaning capacity? Let’s face it, most of them are functionally illiterate; brought up on a staple diet of Heat and Nutz magazines, their vocabularies haven’t developed much beyond the Janet and John stage. As for numeracy, they can calculate the change out of a fiver after paying for a Big Mac and fries, but that’s about it.

The failure rate of one in four doesn’t apply across the board. The traditional universities – i.e the PROPER ones that existed before the politicians had a collective head fit – manage to produce graduation rates of 90% or upwards. The worst performers are, naturally, some of the ex polytechnics that were effectively glorified technical schools before being given university status.

The government has demanded that the traditional universities explain why they don’t recruit more students from poorer backgrounds. Maybe it’s got something to do with the fact that they still put some store by academic achievement and percieved aptitude. Perhaps if the government did something about shithole inner city comprehensives the situation would be different.

Why can’t the politicians get it into their fuckwit skulls that only about 10% of school leavers have the aptitude to benefit from a university education? Frankly, it’s immoral to shackle impressionable 18 year olds with £15K debts, just so that they can walk away after three years with a degree certificate which might as well have: ‘EVER GOT THE FEELING YOU’VE BEEN CHEATED?’ emblazoned across the front.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

My Homer Simpson Epiphany

While standing outside the Braehead shopping centre near Glasgow last week, my gaze was drawn to the idle cranes of the once mighty Govan Shipyard. Turning to look into the shopping centre, I cast a gimlet eye on a chav and chavette cooing at the DKNY watches in Ernest Jones window.

That’s when I had it: my Homer Simpson Epiphany. In an episode of the Simpsons, a new, dedicated, and efficient employee at the power plant has a major nervous breakdown after a visit to the Simpson household. He berates Homer for having the perfect home, family and possessions; while he, after a lifetime of hard work and commitment to self improvement, has nothing. Homer just shrugs his shoulders and responds: “Dunno. Don’t ask me. I don’t know how the economy works!”

I don’t know how the economy works either. Thirty years ago the chav and chavette would either have been reliant on the Govan shipyard for employment, or reliant on the earnings of someone who worked there. They certainly wouldn’t have had time to drool over bling gear, and they certainly couldn’t have afforded it.

I look at my possessions, and am perplexed that they are all made overseas. My car was made in Japan, my computer components in South Korea, my underpants and iPod in China. They were shipped here in containers manufactured in Poland and staffed by Phillipino coolies.

I hear all this stuff about the ‘knowledge economy’, and I think to myself; that’s all very well, but what happens when people overseas start getting knowledgeable? What are we supposed to sell them then? We can’t expect to make a decent living out of Gareth Gates, David Beckham, tins of shortbread, and bottles of scotch. I’m worried that some day we’ll wake up and discover that we’re living in fairyland.

Until that day arrives we can continue selling our houses to each other for increasingly preposterous sums of money. We can stock up on Indonesian underpants safe in the knowledge that when the casino economy does finally grind to a halt, someone else will have to put the lights out.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Garfer's Smokeasy

I dislike being told what to do. I’m a very contrary individual, and if anyone tries to force me to do something against my wishes, particularly if they claim it is in my best interests, I am invariably determined to do the opposite.

I suppose that I’m a social libertarian really; I don’t see why any government or agency should have any say whatsoever in what I choose to do or consume. Of course, I fully accept that I have responsibilities to others; and that any behaviour which is detrimental to others should be proscribed by law. If I choose to do something detrimental to myself, however, then I am adamant that is purely my affair.

We seem to be living in an age when proscription is seen as the remedy to every ill. By banning hard drugs, and appointing a drug Czar to deal with the consequent explosion in drug related crime, we seem to think that we can deal with the misery of drug addiction. This is obviously utter bollocks. Legalise narcotics and control their supply, and you immediately cut out the criminality of the drug dealer, and the despair that drives the user to crime.

My main bugbear at the moment is smoking in pubs. Scottish Labour, with their customary love of gesture politics, has decided to ban smoking in pubs. Now it’s a funny thing, but I don’t think that people have ever gone to pubs to get healthy. Presumably it will still be ok to mash our livers with double vodkas, just as long as we don’t have a wheeze on a fag while we’re doing it.

I fully accept that some people want to drink in a no smoking environment. The same goes for bar staff. It just escapes me why we can’t choose to allow some pubs to have licences allowing smoking on their premises. With suitable extraction systems the smoke wouldn’t even effect the bar staff.

Well, never mind; I guess it’s going to happen. All those spit and sawdust boozers will soon be full of sad old geezers peering into their pints, and steeling themselves before venturing into the cold and wet to satisfy their addiction. I think that it is fucking outrageous that we should suddenly be subjecting the lame and the halt to potential hypothermia, purely for indulging in an activity which they enjoy.

The only solution will be for me to open a chain of ‘Tunnocks Teacakes Smokeasy’s’; and strike a blow for smoker freedom while making a few million for myself in the process. I don’t think any right thinking person could object to that.

Monday, September 19, 2005

River Cottage Forever

Hugh Fairly Windscreenwiper

I don’t have a great deal of time for celebrity chefs. The sight of Anthony Worrall Thompson makes me want to gag, and the sound of Ainsley Harriot whooping like an imbecile is enough to have me reaching for a shotgun. I’m not overly keen on chinless wonder toffs with double barrelled surnames either.

I’m prepared to make an exception for Hugh Fearnley Whittgingstall, the old Etonian and Oxbridge educated advocate of traditionally raised and matured meat. His back to basics sojourn at River Cottage was of course a fantasy. I’m sure that it’s not too difficult to make ends meet as a smallholder selling surplus radishes if Channel 4 is paying you £100K to make a TV series documenting your efforts.

The locals who appear in the deepest Dorset set series are portrayed as jovial yokels, fond of rabbit catching and scrumpy production. In reality I’m sure that they probably bear more of a resemblance to the inbred retards in ‘Deliverance’. When Hugh’s back was turned they probably indulged in a spot of incest and some light bestiality. Anybody called Silas with long bedraggled whiskers has to be a bit dubious.

I loved the episode where Hugh dismembered an enormous squid in his bathtub. If that isn’t devotion to culinary excellence then I don’t know what is.

The bucolic, self sufficient lifestyle, is a dream that could never be realised. Watching Hugh is a form of escapism; but he does draw attention to what we have lost with our reliance on factory farming. Properly matured, grass fed beef, and organically raised pork is available if we’re willing to pay the price. Having tasted the difference, I’m convinced that it’s worth paying a premium for the best. Imagine no more grey beef and cardboard pork; think of the anticipation as a well hung rib of beef sizzles in your oven. Food isn’t just fuel. We should treat the stuff with a bit more respect.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

St Kilda

A couple of years ago I hired a yacht with some friends and headed off for a ten day tour of the Hebrides. It was a wonderful trip; wall to wall sunshine and as many fresh prawns as we could eat.

You get a totally different perspective on the landscape when travelling by boat. You can access natural harbours and beaches which are inaccessible to those restricted to the road network. We had some memorable barbeques on the white sand beaches of Uist, our only company the wheeling seabirds. These barbeques were somewhat enlivened by a litre cider bottle containing rough mash (undiluted) malt whisky from the Talisker Distillery, kindly donated to us by a friendly fish farmer. At 130% proof the stuff was rocket fuel, but was delicious and gentle on the pallet.

The highlight of our trip was a visit to St Kilda an island archipelago located 41 miles from the outer Hebrides. St Kilda is a World Heritage Site, and is well worthy of its status. It’s hard to convey in words the sublime, other worldly atmosphere of the place. Nature is at its most primal, and you feel totally removed from the world.

There is a military missile tracking station on St Kilda, and a development of hideous concrete 1970’s military buildings in Village Bay, the only harbour. It does provide one consolation though; the aptly named Puff Inn, which is open to army personnel and visitors. St Kilda is outside UK territorial limits for excise purposes, and tax is consequently not levied on alcohol. Admittedly it’s a long way to go for drink, but it is highly satisfying to pay seventy pence for a measure of whisky.

The National Trust take volunteers out to St Kilda every year to help with repairs to the abandoned houses in Village Bay. You work for a week and have a week at your leisure. It’s worth a look if you fancy escaping civilization for a while,and engaging with a landscape that will alter your perspective on the natural world for ever.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

In Praise of Nice

Spice, variety and excitement are all very well and good; but every so often I just can't be bothered with all the fuss and palaver. Sometimes I crave the bland and nice: things that aren't particularly challenging and can be enjoyed with a minimal expenditure of energy, preferably while recumbent.
The word 'nice' is rather frowned upon these days. It seems to have become synonymous with flavourless, everyday, humdrum activities or pleasures. We hear continual references to 'white bread sex', or 'just an average day'.
I don't see what's wrong with wanting something 'nice' every now and then. We're made to feel guilty about it; persuaded that we should be out white water rafting, or eating poisonous puffer fish sushi. I feel that it's about time someone established a national 'Nice Movement'; possibly with Boy George as national convenor. It was George who, don't forget, claimed that: "I much prefer a nice cup of tea to sex".
Next time you're contemplating an Indian menu; go for the Korma and shun the Jalfrezi. Opt for lemon sole with a nice parsley sauce instead of goujons of basking shark with chilli salsa. Try a nice cup of tea and a digestive, forget the double expresso and chocolate croissant. Don't spend two hours on the cycling machine at the gym, go for a nice stroll along the river bank.
Find your inner peace. Go nice today. You might even find that you enjoy it. When you get bored you can always move on to the exciting stuff.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Professional Yorkshiremen

“Comin’ oop ‘ere wi’ yir smart suthurn ways.
Y’can go booger yirsel’. If y’don’t like it yi can fook off”

I’ve always been a fan of candour. Nothing is more irritating than oohers and aahers who won’t come straight to the point. Same with people who use euphemisms all the time: it’s not a ‘front bottom’, it’s a twat; just come out and say it for fuck’s sake.

The problem with professional Yorkshiremen is that they have turned a love of straight speaking into a fetish. They mistake pig ignorance for candour. Inverted snobs to a man, they hold no truck with ‘book learning’, and are contemptuous of anyone who doesn’t regard Yorkshire as the centre of the universe. They call a spade a spade because they can’t spell shovel. More than anything, they despise puffs: any male displaying the slightest hint of sensitivity is immediately classed as a ‘booger’.

Money for a professional Yorkshireman is ‘brass’. I had a boss from Yorkshire once whose favourite phrase was “ aye, but did you get the brass?”. A meaner bastard you could not have the misfortune to meet. He never bought anyone a drink, let alone a round. He drove an Austin Montego because it was a “reet good car”. His favourite pastime was Morris dancing. I don’t know if this is popular in Yorkshire, I can only assume that he was attracted by all those straps, buckles, and bells.

Thankfully the professional Yorkshireman doesn’t travel much, regarding all other parts of the country as puff and softy infested middens. They stay at home in God’s own county, shagging Brendas to ensure the survival of their kind.

If they ever find themselves abroad ( Maidenhead say, or Malvern) they will make a point of informing total strangers that they hail from Yorkshire. They will never, under any circumstances, leave a tip in a restaurant. As far as they are concerned the price on the menu is the price, the concept of a gratuity is completely alien.

All in all, they are miserable antediluvian bastards who are best avoided at all costs.
Still, I suppose they are marginally preferable to the Welsh.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The 'Big Issue' Seller

It isn’t really the done thing to have a go at Big Issue sellers. It was a great idea to give the homeless and down and out an opportunity to earn a few quid, and not have to resort to begging. Evan if they did spend the dosh on cider and crack, at least they got the cash to do so legitimately.

The problem these days is that some of the sellers are basically engaged in a form of aggressive, coercive panhandling. A hard eyeballing, and pushy “Big Issue Sir?”, are enough to have some people coughing up cash rather than stare at their shoes. They’re not contributing to the welfare of a homeless person; they’re paying up just to get away from the bastard.

Of course in genuine cases of homelessness it’s a perfectly legitimate activity, and a degree of urgency in attempting to sell the magazine is understandable. It’s just that some of them aren’t homeless, and appear to have decided that they can make a career out of sponging off other people’s sense of social embarrassment.

My local town is a major tourist centre. During the period from Easter until late October the place is teeming with visitors. There are consequently jobs galore: a fact testified to by the legions of Aussies, Kiwis, and Poles, serving in hotels, bars and restaurants.

Despite the ample employment opportunities, we have a resident Big Issue seller who is permanently stationed outside W H Smith. I am sick to the back teeth of walking past him and being regaled to buy a copy. He seems like a perfectly personable individual who could quite easily secure and keep a job.

I don’t know, perhaps he has personal difficulties, or has some psychological dependency on the activity which once, presumably, saved him from the gutter. Then again, he might just be an IDLE, SPONGING, SKIVING, MALINGERING BASTARD.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

What's Y'r Take On?

Apologies for the lame nature of this post. I have just arrived back from Glasgow two hours late due to a car crash road closure. The bastards had the nerve to walk away from the wreckage. They might have had the common courtesy to suffer at least a couple of multiple fractures. Holding me up like that. Bastards.

I am absofuckinlutely knackered.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Wicker Man 2 (The Travesty)

A Hollywood remake of cult British Classic, ‘The Wicker Man’, is currently in production in the United States.

Like many films which have subsequently attained cult status, The Wicker Man had inauspicious beginnings. A low budget effort, it was initially rejected for cinematic release, and only shown in a bowdlerised form in a limited run, tacked on as part of a double bill.

In the intervening decades since its release in 1974, the film has seeped into the popular consciousness through television screenings and subsequent VHS and DVD release. A firm favourite with students, it is held in affectionate regard by everyone aged between 20 and 50 who have been fortunate enough to see it.

Hollywood studios like nothing better than to seize upon a cult classic, and ‘reinterpret’ it. Reinterpretation generally entails:

  1. Shifting the location to America.

  2. Altering the nature of the principal characters out of all recognition.

  3. Changing plot lines and film endings as they deem appropriate.

The new movie is to star Nicholas Cage. Unlike the original, he will not be a repressed, free Presbyterian Scotsman, terrified by the danger posed to his soul by sensual neo paganism. He will be an American with a fatal allergy to bee stings. THAT’S RIGHT! The new version of The Wicker Man will include killer bees.
Presumably Nicholas will be paying more attention to his antihistamines and adrenaline injection kit than any threat to his mortal soul.

This pisses me off. I may be wrong, the film may be a triumph; but I’ve got a feeling that the producers are going for the mall rat demographic. These people don’t get existential angst; they need their horror to be served neat and simple: preferably with people being chased.

The original Wicker Man was a subtle film. It produced an increasingly unsettling sense of unease; culminating in a scene of utter horror.

Has Hollywood got the guts to eschew a happy or hopeful ending? I very much doubt it.

Monday, September 12, 2005

The Ways of Righteousness

I am firmly of the opinion that the youth of today have things far too easy. They regard life as an endless succession of pleasurable experiences; their every whim to be catered for by their over protective and indulgent parents.

They need to be firmly taken in hand, and shown that this life is not intended to be an orgiastic delight of hedonistic pleasures. I have taken it upon myself to tutor young persons in the paths of righteousness, and adequately prepare them for the trials and tribulations which they will experience in later life.

I have begun my educational endeavours by introducing my 16 month old nephew, Conor John MacClean, to the concept of extreme culinary displeasure. At this tender age, the young persons tastebuds are at their most receptive to new flavours. What better time to introduce them to the delights of the pickled onion.

Above, you may observe the reaction of Conor John to his first encounter with the pickle onion.

I am highly satisfied with the outcome of this exercise. The grimace of pure pain on young Conor’s face bears testimony to the efficacy of my methodology.
I will continue to tutor the youth in the ways of righteousness. In time, I may be regarded as the new Dr Spock, and be consulted by anxious parents on the correct method of dragging up their pampered sprogs.

I will be only too happy to assist.

Sunday, September 11, 2005


Biopics of rock bands are usually atrocious. The director chooses an actor that vaguely resembles the lead singer, and has him mime his way through a collection of greatest hits, never appearing as more than a caricature of the original. The execrable 'The Doors' is one example.
Backbeat took a very different approach, covering the genesis of the Beatles as a rock band on Hamburg's Reeperbahn during the early 1960's.
Ian Hart was cast as John Lennon. He looks nothing like Lennon, but managed to capture perfectly Lennon's sneering, cynical wit. You really feel that you are watching the young Lennon, and you understand the pain and insecurity that drives his musical ambition.
As an evocation of a time and place, it is masterful. You can feel the benzedrine rush of the performances, and the claustrophobic atmosphere of the Star Club seems to close in around you.
The film focuses on the relationship between Lennon and his best friend Stuart Sutcliffe. Sutcliffe was an outstanding artist, and overshadowed Lennon in terms of the attention he was receiving for his paintings. He also had the prototypical rock star look, even if his musical talent was negligible to non existent. Sutcliffe collapsed and died from a cerebral haemorage while in his early twenties.
Lennon was haunted by the death of his mother and Sutcliffe. His complex personality, and often cruel behaviour towards those closest to him, have been well documented. It's quite often the case that people with immense creative imaginations act with little regard for their loved ones.
Backbeat captures the exhiliration of early rock and roll, and takes us back to a world on the brink of transformation.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Oh Lordy!

While aimlessly perusing technorati for any links to my lame blog posts, I was interested to find a link to urban dictionary
Imagine my utter astonishment when the link directed me to the following:


Slang for a sexually transmitted disease rising in popularity in the United States. It’s most common among drug users and the poorer areas. The proper name for “the Garf”
is Bacterial Intestinal Miracitus. The disorder is known to last over a span of years and can be controlled by sulphonamide class synthetic antibiotics.
The worst fact about the Garf is that there is no known protection against its infection, not even condoms. Symptoms are subtle at first and bloom within 2 to 3 months. Initial symptoms include fatigue, sleep pattern changes, dry mouth, and muscle ache. Anyone with this disease should be checked immediately.

I don’t want to catch the Garfer, so I abstain from all forms of sexual intercourse.

Yikes! All this time I have been merrily typing away under a moniker which is used Stateside to describe a nasty sexual disease.

As a matter of interest, I thought I’d check out urban dictionary on the user names of some of my fellow bloggers. Imagine my delight in discovering:


A Herge is a general word to describe an act of bizarre sexual behaviour between two strangers.
Also used as describing the individuals who are involved in the act of a Herge. Eg. by doing that you are a Herge.

Those people were Herges.

and (rather wonderfully):


A young supple 16 year old boy looking to pleasure anyone or anything in his way.

Wyndham likes to pleasure…..or….I got Wyndhamed today.

I strongly advise everyone to check out their user names for any unsavoury connotations. By the way, I’m free on Wednesday night if anyone fancies a shag.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Places I Like No 1

I've always been rather fond of visiting seaside resorts during the winter.
I'm not so fond of them during the summer. There is something depressingly vulgar about the plastic pleasures and shrieking children that puts me off. The tawdry funfairs and vomit flecked pavements after closing time speak of a desperate attempt to escape the workaday world.
The winter is different. The places feel half asleep; their faux gladrags and winking slot machines concealed beneath drapes awaiting the start of the summer season.
I like to stroll along a deserted seafront with a cold wind blowing through my hair: my coat collar turned up against the chill. There is something reassuring about sitting in a warm cafe, the windows misted with condensation, gazing out at the ubiquitous drizzle.
They are the sort of places where nothing is expected of you, and you expect nothing. Time feels open ended and you can just while away the hours with walks and, perhaps, a matinee in a deserted cinema. The French word 'ennui', sort of describes the feeling I'm trying to describe. It's not directly translatable into English; but roughly means a feeling of pleasurable listlessness. It's a kind of melancholy that bears no relation to depression.
Of course, I wouldn't want to live in one of these places. If I'd been brought up in one I'd have been on the first bus out. They're just nice to visit; a temporary respite from the world of schedules and deadlines.
The traditional, empty winter seaside resort is becoming something of a rarity. These days there is a permanent community of immigrants and homeless people in most of them. That alters the atmosphere and can make them seem, if not threatening, then certainly on the depressing side of seedy. The more affluent resorts also have a permanent community of retirees and commuters who make the towns feel like suburban outposts of somewhere else.
Thankfully they can still be found; and while they continue to exist, I will occasionally be found standing on a rain lashed seafront gazing out to sea.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Garfer's Cookery Corner

There comes a day in the life of every blogger when the well of inspiration dries out completely. When this nadir is reached, no alternative remains but to reduce oneself to the sad ignominy of the recipe post. For this blogger, that sad day has come.
This is my version of Spaghetti a la Carbonara; and even if I do say so myself, it is pretty damn tasty.
I've had supermarket ready meal versions that are absolutely disgusting. Limp spaghetti and flaccid bits of bacon are suspended in a gloopy cream sauce that tastes of absolutely nothing.
It is simplicity itself to prepare. You mix one whole egg with two egg yolks, a generous handful of grated parmesan, extra virgin olive oil, a little butter, a splash of double cream, and salt and pepper. Set aside. Gently fry one small onion with strips of smoked bacon until the onion is lightly browned and the bacon is starting to crisp. Add a finely chopped clove of garlic a couple of minutes before the end of the cooking time.
Boil the spaghetti in well salted water for approx eight minutes. Return the spaghetti to the pan and mix in the bacon and onion mixture, stirring well. Then add the egg mixture and stir over a low heat until the egg granulates and the spaghetti is well coated. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve. Delish.
Some recipe authors claim that the egg mixture will cook in the residual heat of the spaghetti. THESE PEOPLE KNOW NOTHING. If you take that approach you will end up with a slimy sauce composed of partially cooked egg with an undertone of salmonella.
Apparently this dish isn't really Italian at all. It was produced for British troops in Italy during the war who were homesick for their bacon and eggs.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Broadband Comes to the Boondocks

AT LAST. The steam technology that is dial up is about to be superseded by broadband in my local village. This is very good news indeed. Relying on cumbersome dial up that takes aeons to download photos is really getting on my tits. It's even worse trying to upload stuff; I've got time to make a cup of tea, drink it, and smoke two fags in the time it takes a 800 by 600 photo to appear on screen.
One of the few sensible things the Scottish Parliament (a toy town institution populated by pygmy politicians) has done, is insist that every community in Scotland should have broadband access by the end of 2006. This isn't due to genorosity on their part; they've got so much spare dosh sloshing around due to Gordon Brown's munificence that they don't know what to do with it.
In a UK context this is profoundly unfair. Rural communities in England may have to wait in excess of ten years for broadband access. Effectively, their taxes are being used to subsidise access for the Scots.
I don't know how long it will be before the English population decide to kick up stink about the inequitable levels of public spending in other regions of the UK. The Scots, of course, have a prepared and irrefutable response. The peak oil revenues from the North Sea were used by the Thatcher government to pay for the three million unemployed and the Falklands war. The Scots got squat.
I have to admit, they have a point.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Garbh Beinn

There is a misconception in the minds of many that the Scottish highlands are uniformly cold and bleak.
In fact, nothing could be furthur from the truth. The whole of the west coast is warmed by the gulf stream.
Northern Scotland is on the same latitude as Siberia and northern Canada. Were it not for the ameliorating effects of the gulf stream, we would be subjected to blizzards and sub zero teperatures for much of the winter. There has been speculation that the effects of global warming could lead to
the cessation of the warm water currents flowing from the Gulf of Mexico to northern latitudes. This is worrying. Much as I like snow, I have no desire to have my bollocks frozen for half the year.
I took the photograph above at the head of Loch Sunart. The mountain is called Garbh Beinn (in Gaelic), and is said to resemble a recumbent Queen Victoria, complete with bonnet. There is a profusion of wildlife along the lochside, including otters, herons, pine martens, and oystercatchers. It is a photographers paradise; the natural magnificence of the landscape accentuated by the clear northern light.
The Scottish mountains may not be particularly lofty, but are of a perfect scale in conjunction with the rest of the landscape. That this wild, empty environment is only two hours drive from the urban sprawl of Glasgow, and eight from London, never ceases to amaze me.
Apologies if this post has seemed like an advert for the Scottish Tourist Board. Sometimes hype is justified.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Boring cat post 2

The histolgy results on Oscar's cancer haven't come back yet, but he is more or less back to normal.
The wound from his surgery was enormous, stretching from the right side of his shoulder all the way down to his left leg. He was shaved prior to the surgery and looks faintly ridiculous in his half bald condition.
The vet used staples to close the wound. Thankfully there has been no infection. I will be taking him back to the vet this week to have them removed.
I am constantly amazed at the power of recovery that animals possess. Within two days of the operation Oscar was hollering for food as usual, and demanding to be let into the garden. Surgery of this scale on a human would leave us incapacitated and in pain for a month.
I'm keeping my fingers crossed that he might have a few years left in him yet.

Saturday, September 03, 2005


" Men are reputed to think about sex every twelve seconds". I don't know who came up with this statement, and I don't know where they got their evidence, but I think they were exaggerating (a bit). In the case of fluffy upper lipped adolescents it may well be perfectly true, but for those of us of a slightly older vintage, there are matters of a day to day nature which I am sure loom much larger in our conciousness.
Speaking for myself, the foremost of these is cash. By the term 'cash', I'm not referring to credit cards, bank accounts and cheque guarantee cards; I'm referring to the little bits of coloured paper commonly referred to as: readies, dough, bread, the folding stuff, nicker, notes etc.
I was once unemployed for a year and as a consequence was totally skint. I remember looking in bakery windows and seeing filled rolls and pastries which I couldn't afford to buy. Of course, not being able to afford something makes you want it even more. I was positively drooling; that fat, freshly baked roll stuffed with coronation chicken was beckoning to me like a temptress. As I fondled the twenty odd pence in my pocket, I knew that this was one love affair that was to remain unconsummated.
I think that period of penury has left a psychological scar that will remain with me for life. Of course I use bank accounts and credit cards like everyone else, but always keep about £200 in cash about me at all times. There is something real and reassuring about those crisp, rustling little pieces of paper. They are tangible; they can't say 'overdraft limit exceeded', or 'balance available to draw £0'.
Every so often we hear that the 'cashless economy' has finally arrived. That, frankly, is bollocks. Cash will always be with us because it is fluid and ultimately untraceable. I run a small business and know full well that the plumber, electrician and builder will carry an invoice and cash price in their heads: the difference between the two generally being 10% in favour of cash.
If someone comes off the road looking for accommodation and produces a wad of banknotes, I have to admit that I too show a certain flexibility in the price charged.
It's estimated that the black economy accounts for arround 15% of the total British economy. That's hardly surprising given the cumulative effects of income tax, V.A.T and national insurance contributions. The government could try and clamp down, but it would probably be counterproductive. The chattering classes in London wouldn't be able to afford their Phillipino skivvies if they couldn't pay them sub minimum wages in backhanders. We know how important these people are electorally. Let's face it, if Tarquin and Isolde didn't have a full time cleaner the fucking country would fall to wrack and ruin.
Cash is king. Upholster your mattresses with fifties I say, and tell the bankers to piss off. THINK ABOUT IT. Why should those leeching bastards get to drive around in Aston Martins at our expense.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Mycological Madness

I have always been partial to mushrooms. Big fat flatcap mushrooms sauteed in butter with a little garlic and served on toast: what could possibly be nicer.
Recently I decided to widen my horizons and explore the esoteric world of wild fungi. The damp, temperate climate of the British Isles is ideally suited to the growth of fungi. Perhaps that explains my smelly socks; but I'll leave that subject for another day.
The continental Europeans are huge fans of wild mushrooms. We, for some inexplicable reason, are absolutely terrified of the things. The very word 'toadstool' conjures up visions of evil goblins, and witches stirring vile concoctions in cauldrons. We like PROPER mushrooms, by which we mean the uniform little white ones that come neatly packaged on the supermarket shelves.
Last year I armed myself with a field guide to British fungi and headed into the woods with a basket ready for filling. I'm sure that I must have looked a total twat; a cross between a trainspotter, an obsessive twitcher, and a potential child molester. I ventured forth bravely, field guide in hand, prepared for any whoops of adolescent derision which might be directed my way.
I was pretty clueless, but did manage to identify the 'chanterelle', a delicately gilled, peachy yellow fungi much prized by the best chefs. I collected a few, along with some other specimens for later identification, and returned home.
The chanterelle is one of the easiest of the edible fungi to identify. It has a unique shape and an aroma of apricots. Quickly fried in butter it has a delicious, delicate taste and texture. They can be quite difficult to find. If you do manage to find a patch it is best to keep the knowledge to yourself, just in case a rival fungi fiend should plunder your hoard.
I'm still a rookie where fungi are concerned. There are some real nasties out there; the aptly named 'Destroying Angel' destroys the liver, kidneys, and circulatory systems, and the 'Death Cap' does exactly what it says. There is no antitode, and a slow unpleasant death is assured within 10 days of consumption.
One other variety which I can confidently identify is the 'Liberty Cap'', more commonly known as the magic mushroom. Strangely, it is perfectly legal to pick the things, but if you dry them they are classifiable as a Class A drug. I haven't sampled them. My sanity is questionable at the best of times without me messing around with hallucinogens.
If you fancy having a go yourself, be VERY VERY careful. It's worth taking along someone who is knowledgeable (unlike me). If you are not sure what something is, do not, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES eat it.

Thursday, September 01, 2005


We are all prone to indulge in a bit of stereotyping from time to time. I suppose its inevitable given the human propensity to classify and label.
Racial stereotypes are one of the most ancient and indelible sources of prejudice. The Greeks kicked it off by referring to everyone who wasn't Greek as barbarians. They labeled them thus as, to their ears, everyone speaking a language other than Greek sounded as though they were constantly saying "bar, bar, bar".
If the people who gave us classical civilization were prone to taking the piss out of up country yokels, what chance have we got.
At one time, racial jokes were extremely popular, and not intended as a form of gentle ribbing: they were used to reinforce existing prejudices. In Britain, the most popular butt of jokes were the Irish. As emigrants from a rural, catholic, uneducated peasantry, they inevitably occupied the lowest rung of the social and economic ladder. The dislocated, drunk, Irish navvie was a perfect example for those seeking proof of the intellectual inadequacies of the Irish.
The British aren't unique in picking on one racial or ethnic group as a butt for their humour. The Americans like to have a go at the Poles, and the Germans like to stick the boot into the Bavarians. Even the Irish like to rip the piss out of Kerrymen.
Of course, as a high minded individual, I wouldn't dream of demeaning any nationality or culture. The Irish, for example, have produced such internationally acclaimed writers as: W B Yeats, Oliver Goldsmith and Samuel Beckett. Here surely is conclusive proof that the Irish can produce genius's as well as the next man. The fact that the aforementioned were Anglo-Irish protestants of English descent is, of course, completely beside the point.
The fact that Bono is a short arse, pontificating, munchkin git is no reason to take the piss out of the rest of the Oirish. Bejasus, begorrah and top o' the mornin' too all of yis. Sure if we weren't able to laugh at ourselves who could we laugh at.