Saturday, April 29, 2006


As a faintly disreputable individual, I have a few reprehensible habits; by far the worst of these being enjoying a chuff on a cigarette.

I gave up the ready rolled variety years ago, preferring to spill shreds of tobacco on the carpet and down the back of the sofa. The bits of soggy tobacco that leak from the end of the roll up into the inner recesses of my molars are a slight drawback, but the vigorous use of a sonic toothbrush usually deals with the problem.

I was interested to learn that Jeremy Irons, Martin Amis, Jonny Depp, and Kate Moss, share my predilection for an artfully crafted home rolled cheroot. As a stylish, witty, impossibly debonair individual, I find this confluence of good taste most gratifying (apart from the Jeremy Irons connection).

My best mate Keith was in New York last year, in pursuit of a Uruguayan diplomat’s daughter who had developed the hots for him over the interweb. Naturally, when she caught sight of his stunted form and greasy mop he was given short shrift. Sitting on a park bench, he got out his rolling gear, and proceeded to console himself with a smoke. He couldn’t understand why everyone walking past was giving him funny looks. They obviously assumed that he was smoking cannabis in public.

Apparently 25% of UK smokers now skin up. That figure’s a bit high for my liking. Never being one to follow the herd, I’ve decided to take up snuff. Tar stained nostrils may not exactly be an asset in the pulling stakes, but they will provide an interesting conversational gambit should my silver tongued charm fail to work its usual magic

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Boys Bump Starting the Hearse.

Living in the boondocks, it can be quite difficult getting hold of the services that people living in urban areas take for granted.

I have a difficulty with glass. I’m in the process of replacing some double glazing, but I don’t have a local glass supplier. I could pay vast sums to have glaziers come and do the job, but I dislike paying triple for something that I can do myself.

I was wracking my brains to think of a way to get hold of some glass when I had a eureka moment: why not try the local funeral director? As a bit of lateral thinking I think this takes some beating. The buggers even have a massive hearse to transport the glass in. When they’re out on a local ‘job’, they pop the glass under the coffin and nobody’s any the wiser. The corpse is interred, they get a small delivery fee, and I get my glass. Everybody goes home happy.

I’ve actually collected glass from the funeral parlour on a couple of occasions. I get ushered into the back ‘office’ so that I can measure the panes to make sure that the dimensions are correct. It is slightly unnerving to be surrounded by coffins in various states of completion, but thankfully none of them are occupied.

The brothers who run the place are extremely cheerful. They have every right to be. I can’t see them going out of business any time soon.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Flash those Gnashers

I fear that I am turning into an outraged coffin dodger from Leamington Spa. I haven’t started reading the Daily mail, or playing crown green bowling, but elements of my character are displaying signs of “say that again and I’ll boot you in the balls”.

I’m convinced that the BBC News is responsible. They used to have proper print trained journalists who had probably earned their dues bayoneting Greek Cypriots, smoking cheroots, and wiring dispatches while too hung over to piss straight.

These days they’re all recruited from provincial television. If they can read in a suitably patronising manner from the autocue, while flashing their immaculately groomed molars at the camera, then they are perfectly qualified for the job. They even have cute little notebook computers on their desks, presumably to convey an air of journalistic competence.

The economics presenter appears to have strayed in from a Janet and John book, interviewing mongs outside Littlewoods to convey the economic pulse of the nation. Christ, they even have a weather forecaster who looks like a puppet, his gestures depicting showery days like a marionette on amphetamine.

What we need is a Reginald Bosanquet (the pissed British version of Walter Cronkite), or, at the very least, Anna Ford with a few under chin tweaks.

I’m no stickler for tradition, but I don’t see why I should have to tolerate wanker vision. We have enough Fox News (gag) and CNN (rolling boredom) as it is. Public Service broadcasting should ignore the fuckwits, and bludgeon the ignorant with the facts in a dispassionate manner. I’m sure that Lord Reith would have agreed with me.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Laff a Minute

As miserable bastards go, Thomas Hardy takes some beating. His eeyorish tendencies manifested themselves in developing exquisitely drawn characters and then subjecting them to a damn good kicking as a result of:

  1. Developing ideas above their station.

  2. Falling in love with dashing Calvary officers.

  3. Being good at business but a bit shite at maths.

My personal favourite is Jude the Obscure. Poor Jude Fawley falls in love with his first cousin Sue, aspires to an unobtainable University education, and dies friendless and alone on a sofa under the gaze of the heartless Arabella, his first wife. It really isn’t a chuckle a minute.

Thankfully the film adaptation of Jude the Obscure includes a cracking shot of Kate Winslet’s beaver. That is, I suppose, a meagre, and hirsute, compensation for nigh on two hours worth of god awful miserableness.

Depressing as it is, I think it’s preferable to listening to Morrissey warbling on about feeling happy and fulfilled. Fuck's sake, I’d be feeling happy and fulfilled if I was living the Dolce Vita in Rome and had a couple of squillions in the bank.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Why I didn't become Astronomer Royal.

I think it was my Maths teacher who was responsible. His nickname was ‘Bud’. This moniker did not result from the high regard with which he was regarded by his pupils; rather, it derived from his penchant for parading his diminutive legs around the classroom clad in excessively tight blue corduroys. He liked to flounce around the classroom like an ersatz Rudolf Nureyev, pausing to complete a quadratic equation on the blackboard with a flourish. This gave him the opportunity to cast scorn and contempt on those of us (most of us usually) that didn’t have a baldy clue what the prancing tit was banging on about. He was a complete and utter tosser.

The Science Department wasn’t much of an improvement. Our Chemistry teacher had been involved in a horrific car accident ten years earlier. The wonders of 1960’s facial reconstruction had left her with one glass eye permanently fixed on the bottle of concentrated sulphuric acid in the locked chemicals cabinet. The other eye, which twitched, gazed out of the window at the dinner hall, presumably attempting to divine what culinary delights the dinner ladies were concocting for us.

The Physics teacher was just eccentric. He liked to fiddle with springs; sported tweed jackets with leather elbow patches, and drove a maroon Triumph TR6 (impossibly naff then, unbelievably cool now).

My personal favourite was the Biology teacher. A three foot two inches cross between Marie Stopes and a bag lady, she liked to inform us (a class of fifteen year olds) that: “The desire to consume food is a far more urgent mammalian impulse than the desire for sexual congress". Aye, right.

The Arts teachers were generally ok. Our History teacher had a different suit (usually involving a waistcoat) for every day of the month, and was obsessed with the Franco/Prussian war. The English teacher, despite her bulging eyeballs and tendency to swoon over Shakespeare’s sonnets, was inspirational. She drove a Fiat X19 (impossibly cool then, unbelievably naff now)

My favourite was the French teacher, Miss Halliday. Fresh out of Teacher Training College, and drop dead gorgeous, she liked to correct our pronunciation. She had breasts and everything.

I have a teaching qualification, but I have never taught. I think it was a wise decision. If I had, just imagine the sort of things people would be saying about me today.

It doesn’t bear thinking about.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Taliban

Hostility between Protestants and Catholics is thankfully a thing of the past. Northern Ireland may seem to be an exception, but even there the terms are just labels for populations with a different sense of nationality and identity. Similarly, the displays of naked bigotry at football matches between Glasgow Rangers and Glasgow Celtic don’t extend beyond the confines of the stadium, apart from violent drunken altercations between rival groups of moronic fans after the conclusion of matches.

The oddest manifestation of the Protestant Reformation is probably to be found in the Outer Hebrides, where the north of the island chain is staunchly Protestant, and the south devoutly Catholic. Of the northern islands, Harris and North Uist display the most extreme forms of Calvinism. I think even the Rev Ian Paisley would be shocked at the unbelievably strict form of Sabbatarianism that prevails. Children’s swings are tied up on a Sunday, and there are strict injunctions against drying laundry, watching television, or reading newspapers. Woe betides anyone who does not abide by these rules: they will immediately be castigated as spiritual lepers.

It’s a bizarre experience to travel between North and South Uist. The North is home to the free churches, while the south is home to chapels and statues of the Virgin Mary. There is no open hostility between the two, but it would be fair to say that there is little in the way of social interaction.

On a yacht trip I was once in a pub in the Lochmaddy hotel, North Uist. It was during a Scottish Cup final, and the locals were pissed out of their minds (obviously not church goers). One of them asked where I was off to next. When I said I was heading to South Uist he informed me that I should think twice about my choice of destination. “Don’t go there pal, they’re all Catholics and they don’t wash”

It’s nice to know that such enlightened views are to be found even in the wildest corners of the Kingdom.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Eilean Shona

Some places are out of, and beyond, time. Tourists don’t discover them, preferring the obvious landscapes that are ingrained in the popular memory, or those that are promoted as national icons.

I haven’t been to the central highlands of Vietnam, or slept on a Kashmir houseboat. I probably will get round to doing these things, when I can find the time, and when funds permit. In the interim I have to be content with the local and intimate. It’s a worthwhile exercise to contemplate what is on your doorstep.

Patrick Kavanagh bemoaned the fact that he had rejected the landscape of his birth: had ‘flung her from me and called her a ditch, although she was smiling at me with violets’. It’s easy to overlook what is outside your own front door, and aspire to things that are promoted as superior.

Eilean Shona, on the west coast of Scotland, doesn’t appear on many tourist maps. It should . J M Barrie, author of Peter Pan, spent time on the island, and it may be the inspiration for Neverland.

The island is owned by the Branson family. It lies across a short stretch of water from Castle Tioram, a twelfth century castle in a ruinous condition. While the tourist hoards descend on the obvious sites, it is possible to experience this sublime place, even at the height of the tourist season, in something approaching seclusion.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

There Goes the Neighbourhood

I don’t normally suffer from inexplicable cravings (of a non carnal nature), but the other day I developed a sudden desire for a Pot Noodle.

I haven’t eaten one of the things for at least twenty years. The memory of reconstituted rubber bands, and the glutinous residue of eviscerated peas and monosodium glutamate, had obviously seared itself into my memory like a Guns and Roses tattoo.

Perhaps I am experiencing a hideous inverted childhood, when a purple Jelly Baby and a pot of Marmite (neat) shall hold equal allure. It must be that, or maybe I’m just sick to the back teeth of corn fed free range chicken (flu free), and 21 day hung rib of beef.

Whatever the reason, I purchased two pots. I have a tub of Chicken and Mushroom, and a tub of Bombay Bad Boy, safely stashed in my larder. I haven’t summoned up the courage to tackle the things yet, but I know that their day will come (probably tomorrow).

I know that no good can come of this aberration, but sometimes it’s better to be brave than sink nose down in a plate of Coq au vin.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

I asked for water, she gave me gasoline.

There is a time, in every young mans life, when the dreaded year of 39 arrives. Waking in an arthritic fever of disconnected joints I shuddered, and checked that everything was functioning.

Remarkably enough everything was, so that’s alright then.

My mother has gone completely round the bend, my father is jumping up and down like a demented geriatric punk rocker with a wasp up his arse, and every morning I am confronted by a cat with a tumour the size of a golf ball on its neck. Life just doesn’t get much better.

Still, things could be worse, I actually managed to post something.