Saturday, February 25, 2006


I really don’t know what the criminal underworld is coming to. It takes a fair degree of brains to steal £50 million from a security firm, but it displays a staggering lack of forethought not to know how to go about disposing of the stuff.

Some gormless Essex girl associate actually went into a Building Society and tried to deposit £10K in cash still wrapped in the official seal from the cash storage depot. How fucking stupid is that? Then another gang member abandons a white van containing £4 million close to the Eurostar terminal. He might as well have painted ‘cash here – come and get it’ on the side of the van. Useless tosser.

The robbers had six full hours before the police started looking for them. Instead of heading for the south coast they should have headed north. Once over the Scottish border the chances of anyone looking for them, let alone catching them, would have been zilch. I would happily have let them store fifty million in my holiday houses. With the curtains drawn no one would have suspected anything, and the cash would have been safe until Spring. It could then have been transferred to yachts and transported all over Europe.

I would only have required a small commission, say 10%, for my storage facility. I could also have proved useful should any gang member have threatened to go to the police. I know plenty of deserted lochs were a corpse could be disposed of with minimal chance of discovery. Properly wrapped and weighed down with stones, the body would be never be found as there are no fishermen or divers.

I think I may have missed my forte in life. I would make an excellent and discreet gangland fixer. All things considered, I’m sure I’d prefer it to working.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Oi am a Coider Drinker


In the early ‘90’s I lived in Bristol. Apart from being a happening musical place, with the likes of Portishead and Roni Size producing distinct musical idioms, it was also the sleepy capital of the West Country.

The south west of England has always been cider country, and Bristol had some pubs (usually in grotty areas) that sold nothing else but the stuff. It wasn’t the industrially produced Strongbow and the like, it was rough scrumpy with bits floating in it. Some people claimed that rats had been dropped into the cider vats to accentuate the flavour.

It really is the strangest drink that I have ever imbibed. A sickly sweet concoction, it was also a mind blowing 9% proof. Three pints of the stuff and your legs went numb. After five pints, the hallucinogenic effects took hold. Wandering out of a cider den into bright sunlight was disorientating in the extreme.

The stuff was also extremely cheap; a pint of beer at the time was £1.60, while a pint of scrumpy cider was 90p. Perhaps this price discrepancy explained the type of clientele that the cider pubs attracted. They were invariably ancient decrepit hippies, and whiffy vagrants. One thing that they had in common was one remaining yellowed tooth. The cider contained so much unfermented sugar that they were effectively spending all day bathing their teeth in the alcoholic equivalent of Coke.

There’s not much to be said for scrumpy really. It makes you go mad, and all your teeth fall out. No wonder the sheep in North Devon are the best serviced in Britain.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Pissed Chefs

Watching Gordon Ramsay’s ‘Kitchen Nightmares’ last night, I was unsurprised to learn that the chef in the Irish restaurant he was assisting turned out to be a chronic alcoholic.

Having been around the hotel and restaurant trade for years, I have encountered many chefs. They tend to fall into two categories: the psychotic, and the permanently pissed. Anyone who has ever witnessed the immense pressure that these people work under will understand the temptation to use drink or drugs to blur the frenetic hothouse that is a commercial kitchen. The psychopaths are thankfully rarer than the alcoholics; although they are much more lethal, having access to razor sharp knives.

My best mate Keith was an alcoholic chef. He was a strange alcoholic in that he only drank beer, most hardcore boozers preferring regular slugs of Vodka. He drank steadily throughout the day, beginning with a pint of bitter while preparing breakfast at 7.00 am. He managed to hold down his job because he was always able to function, and the food he produced was invariably wonderful. He’s sober now and can’t believe how much money he has. Drinking sixteen pints a day was putting a serious dent in his bank balance.

I never complain vociferously in restaurants as I understand how easy it is to cock something up. I draw attention to any shortcomings in a polite and reasonable manner. The last thing I want is a pissed, or psychotic, chef emerging from the kitchen brandishing a large carving knife.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Benbecula or Bust

The yacht has been booked for my annual trip round the Hebrides with my mates. A 38 ft sailing ketch with a diesel engine, it should be able to cope with anything the Atlantic throws at it bar a force 9 gale.

Yachtsmen are a strange breed. On the whole they are annoying tossers that have more interest in the mechanics of sailing than of the seascapes that they pass through. There is no bar bore more likely to have you heading for the exit than a self proclaimed master mariner wittering on about navigation charts and types of knot.

My lot aren’t anything like that (of course). Most yachties are public school types from the south of England that arrive in these parts clad from head to toe in brand new sailing gear. They bray on the waves, and bore everyone senseless in every saloon bar from the Mull of Kintyre to Cape Wrath.

My crew are local highlanders (actually I’m part of the crew, not Captain Ahab). We can afford a yacht for a week as we all chip in to the charter cost. This amounts to about £350 a head, which should, on the face of it, make for a reasonably cheap trip. Unfortunately this figure does not include ship stores: a weeks worth of food, and twenty bottles of rum and whisky. Then there is the cost of nightly sojourns ashore for a spot of carousing.

It all gets rather expensive, and I’m sure that I could head off for a fortnight in the Med for less. I never regret it though. The seascapes around the islands and west coast of Scotland are some of the most hauntingly beautiful on earth.

Sitting on a yacht watching the porpoises crisscrossing the prow as the Atlantic swell rolls beneath you is an otherworldly experience. It kind of puts things in perspective.

Monday, February 20, 2006

You Make me Feel Like Puking

I am frankly bemused that Leo Sayer has made it to the top of the charts. I can vaguely remember him from the seventies; a bubble permed nerd in ridiculous braces who jigged about like an imbecile while performing his cheesecake pop.

The decade that taste forgot produced some risible acts that, bafflingly, managed to achieve huge success here and in the United States. After the decade that produced the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, we came up with the Bay City Rollers and Leo Sayer.
Talk about the sublime to the ridiculous.

If Leo is all the rage with todays teenyboppers I will feel justified in digging my spacehopper and tartan flares out of the attic. I can sit on a huge beanbag, smoke a giant spliff, and play ‘Shang a Lang’ on a pair of massive seventies headphones. I can, like, get with the kids, and scoot about on a Chopper bicycle.

Leo’s success will no doubt be of interest to Wyndham the Triffid, who recently informed us that when he grows his hair he is the spitting image of the grinning tosser. I say go for it Wyndham. Get a cheesecloth shirt and some braces and head down to your local pub for the Karaoke.

Your day has obviously come.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Dirty Bastards

I rent out holiday homes, and am constantly amazed how some people can turn a spotlessly clean house into a filthy midden in the space of seven days. It appears that some people have a vacuam cleaner phobia, and are quite content to use a grill pan containing an inch of congealed fat.

I’m no cleanliness fetishist personally, but I do adhere to some basic standards. It is a fact of nature that entropy is the inevitable outcome of a lack of human action. A failure to do a little housework on a daily basis results in an accumulation of tat and general filth.

I’ve noticed that the filthiest people tend to be from middle class backgrounds. Doctors, barristers, and architects tend to be the main offenders. I suppose this is because they are used to paying people to clean up after them. I wouldn’t mind this so much if the stingy bastards had the common decency to leave a sizeable tip for the cleaners. They never do.

Filthiness as an outcome of national character is also readily apparent. The French, naturally, are the dirtiest mingers of all, closely followed by the Dutch and English. The paragons of cleanliness are, unsurprisingly, the Germans and Austrians. They usually leave their houses in such an immaculate condition that they barely need cleaning.

Such Teutonic efficiency is rather frightening. It’s no wonder the squareheads almost won the war.

Friday, February 17, 2006


On the whole, I prefer to avoid abroad whenever possible. It’s not that I don’t like to experience other cultures (even if they are a tad less civilised than us lot), it’s just that it’s too damn dangerous.

Take the USA for example; have a nice snooze and you’re liable to have your nadgers nipped by a scorpion; go for a stroll in the woods and chances are a wolf will bite your leg off below the knee. Then there’s Canada, a frozen wilderness filled with wolverines with razor sharp teeth and grizzly bears just itching to tear your head off. Australia is the worst of the lot, a continent filled with the most venomous snakes on earth, and a dirty big bastard spider that lurks in toilet bowls hoping to inject venom into your naked buttocks at the first opportunity.

It’s just not safe, I tell you. I’m with the poet Phillip Larkin, who opined that he wouldn’t mind visiting the Great Wall of China as long as he could be home in time for his tea.

Britain doesn’t have much in the way of dangerous critters. The best that we can come up with is the wankiest of venomous snakes: the adder. If you suffer a bite from one of these you might suffer a slight fever, and a bit of a headache, but that’s about it.

We do have one creature that, although unlikely to kill you, has the potential to ruin your day. The highland midge is a small biting fly with a voracious appetite. They attack in clouds, and are guaranteed to evacuate all campsites and barbeques in ten minutes flat.

The Scottish Tourist Board literature mentions the highland midge in small print at the back of their brochures. I can appreciate that it’s best not to over emphasise the potential down sides of a holiday in Scotland, but it would be fairer to warn summer visitors that a midge hood and an ample supply of insect repellent are essential purchases.

If these insects existed in the south of England I’m sure the scientists would have worked out a way to exterminate them fifty years ago. Unfortunately there are too many biodiversity experts up here. If I hear another eco fuckwit blethering on about the essential role of the midge in maintaining the diversity of birdlife, I’m going to strangle him with his cagoule.

As far as I’m concerned, the Lesser Spotted Mauve Lapwing can fuck off and die. I can live with a few less flappy things if it stops me being eaten to death every summer

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

You're Not Good Enough


When I was a kid we lived in a house that adjoined the Stormont Parliament grounds in east Belfast. The building had been mothballed at that stage; the last devolved Unionist government having been dissolved by Edward Heath in 1973.

My mates and I used to climb over a fence at the bottom of the garden and play in the woodland in the grounds. I suppose we were trespassing, but no one ever said anything. It was excellent cowboys and Indians territory, and there was much whooping and hollering.

These days I have ambivalent feelings about the Stormont building. It has a magnificent neo classical frontage, and sits on a hill at the end of a mile long drive. It is imposing, but not in the right way. The building, with its statue of a belligerent Edward Carson outside, seems to be announcing to the populace of Northern Ireland that they aren’t good enough. Imposing architecture quite often has that effect, cowing the people whose sovereignty it represents.

John Hume was once asked what he thought should be the role of Stormont. He replied that it should be turned into a golf club. I’ve always regarded Hume as an irascible wee shite, but I’m inclined to agree with him.

Northern Ireland should have a new Parliament building like Scotland. Stormont is so heavily weighted with unpleasant history and negative imagery that it can never serve a society as divided as Ulster. It would make an excellent hotel and conference centre, and I’m sure there must be room for an eighteen hole golf course in the enormous grounds.

Images and symbols are potent. If Northern Ireland wants to start afresh a new building would be a good place to begin.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Cupid's Arrow

No valentines for me today. It’s ridiculous really, it’s not as though I have hair growing down the back of my neck, persistent body odour, or a severe case of halitosis. OK, I may look a bit hung over from time to time, and my acquaintance with a comb is only a casual thing, but apart from that I’m reasonably presentable (at a distance, in dim light).

Disconsolately, I ventured out to Morrison’s to wander around the food aisles looking hangdog and unwanted. Imagine my surprise when my eyes locked with a gorgeous female's across the frozen foods section. She didn’t wince, which is unusual, and I might have been in with a chance there. Unfortunately I couldn’t think of anything to say other than “do you fancy doing it doggy style over the petit pois?”

Oh well. Maybe next time.

Monday, February 13, 2006

The Boys Brigade

In the dim and distant past I had the dubious pleasure of being a member of the Boys Brigade.

It had two sections: the Junior Brigade up to the age of eleven, and the Senior Brigade for those aged eleven and over. The juniors was great; we spent most of our time mucking about and playing football. In hindsight I can see that, rather like the Jesuit Order, the juniors was a way of collaring us young so that we would stumble into the seniors with no idea what awaited us.

The Boys Brigade at that time had its roots in Britain’s period of imperial pre-eminence. The idea of the organization was to produce fine, outstanding examples of manhood, presumably so they could be sent out to govern the fuzzy wuzzies in Ongobongoland in a fair and equitable manner. This was a bit silly as the British Empire in the late 1970’s consisted of Hong Kong, Ascension Island, and the Falklands. The fuzzy wuzzies, having learnt all they needed to know about the phrase ‘fuck off’ and Association Football, had most ungratefully told us to piss off back to our wet little islands.

The Boys Brigade had many of the features of a quasi-paramilitary organisation. There were military caps, armbands denoting rank, and belt buckles that had to be polished until gleaming. We seemed to spend all our time marching about in formation and standing at attention while a martinet officer inspected our uniforms.
Most of us were a bit sick of it, but rather like the IRA, once you were in you were in you were in for good. There was no way out.

The one thing that made it tolerable was the annual camp at Douglas on the Isle of Man. We departed from Belfast on an ancient Isle of Man Steam Packet Co ferry that had seen action during the evacuation of Dunkirk, and smelt like it. A week under canvas wasn’t that enjoyable in itself; what was ace was the opportunity to escape to the bright lights of Douglas.

After last post had been blown, and the Officers retired to their tent, us senior boys would sneak out and head into town for a spot of debauchery. The younger scrotes, having been threatened with extreme violence, didn’t dare breathe a word.

We went to nightclubs, sank pints of lager, danced like spastics, and generally felt dead hard. We got away with this for two nights, until Rodney McCallister informed us that brandy and ginger was a vastly superior drink to lager, and proceeded to get pissed out of his tiny mind.

We discovered just how superior a drink it was later that night. Rodney projectile vomited over two of the junior boys, who promptly ran screaming to the officer’s tent. We was rumbled. That was the end of our nocturnal adventures. We spent the rest of the week confined to camp peeling spuds.

I suppose the Boys Brigade was a character forming experience. On balance I suppose it’s better for spotty youths than hanging around the kiddies playpark in hoodies swigging Buckfast.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

That's Me at the Back.

I can identify the first sharp waning of my sympathies for placard waving protesters to one specific moment in time.

It was 1987, and I was standing on Westminster Bridge, London, surrounded by students protesting about the proposed introduction of student loans. The crowd was being prevented from crossing the bridge by the Metropolitan police. The police weren’t doing anything to provoke the crowd. They were straining against the mass of bodies pressing against them, and I heard one constable should out “fucking middle class wankers.” That was about as bad as it got. There were no batons raised.

I remember thinking at the time: he’s right; we are a bunch of fucking middle class wankers. What we were effectively doing was protesting in defence of privilege. The vast majority of us came from comfortable middle class backgrounds, and were enjoying a lifestyle and education subsidised by the taxpayer.

At that time a lot of people (apart from the miners, obviously) still had a bit of respect for the police, and certainly didn’t regard them as repressive state functionaries. Unfortunately there was an element in the crowd that didn’t think like that at all. The usual Anarchist and Marxist sects had turned up to pursue their own agenda. This amounted to puerile chants of ‘fascist pigs’, and chucking stuff at the police. To their credit, the police didn’t respond.

That was the end of my street fighting days. We live in a free society were the right to demonstrate is a fundamental freedom. There are many causes in which it is right to demonstrate. I only wish most demonstrations didn’t attract the kind of sanctimonious, self righteous, banner waving tossers that derive a smug satisfaction from adding their chants to that of an unthinking mass.

Friday, February 10, 2006

The Kids are Alright

Strathclyde police have announced one of their perennial crack downs on the gang culture prevalent in the south side of Glasgow. I forget what they call it: probably something along the lines of ‘Operation Kickarse: Reclaim the Streets’.

Maybe it’s just me, but I thought this sort of thing was what the police were supposed to be doing all the time. Gangs of spotty herberts hanging around street corners and hurling abuse at passers by shouldn’t be tolerated in the first place. The Yanks have a term for this: ‘Zero Tolerance’. The police allow the little mongs to get away with their anti social behaviour for years on end and then wonder why the problem proliferates. Useless tossers.

I know that the police have a tough time. All those endless hours sitting in patrol cars scoffing burgers are bound to take their toll. I fully appreciate that it is much more rewarding to harass harmless motorists and attend cultural diversity seminars, but I don’t think it’s too much to ask that they should devote just a little of their time to actual criminal activity.

Personally I think they should allow people like me to form militias. The ‘Tunnocks Crew’, armed with tazers and CS spray, would of course employ minimal force in clearing the streets of Buckfast swilling scum. If the gangs failed to respond to an initial pelting with Teacakes we would, regrettably, have to employ more robust methods.

It’s best to be cruel to be kind. Any brain damage, or permanent disfigurement, inflicted on the little cretins would be an unfortunate, but necessary, price to pay.
You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few heads….sorry….eggs.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Of Asses and Arses.

Proper English (i.e. UK English) is full of daft spellings that make no sense phonetically. There are words that sound the same but are spelt differently and have completely different meanings. The language must be an absolute nightmare to learn.

This is a good thing, keeping UK language schools packed to the rafters with overseas students trying to master words like ‘picturesque’ and ‘disestablishmentarianism’. This is a welcome source of foreign currency, and presents teachers sick of Comprehensives with an alternative source of employment.

I am constantly annoyed that the interweb seems only to recognise US English. This is most inconsiderate as it was after all a Brit, Tim Berners Lee, who invented the damn thing. Then there are the drop down nation lists. The USA naturally comes top, while we have to scroll down the list alphabetically to just above Uzbekistan. Fucking annoying that.

What annoys me most of all is the North American use of ‘ass’ instead of ‘arse’. Everyone knows that asses are donkeys. Cleopatra was happy to bathe in asses’ milk, so I don’t see why the word should have its meaning debased to describe the human backside. ‘Arse’ is a much more satisfactory word. Arsehole is a much more satisfying term of insult than asshole; the r adding an emphasis that conveys the right note of disgusted contempt.

We invented proper swearing, and it irritates me to hear other people balls up the finer nuances of our profanities. We are the originators of such words of genius as ‘fucktard’, and ‘gobshite’. I think it’s about time these foreigners showed us a bit more respect, the arsing arsehole arses

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


I haven’t done much hob nobbing with celebrities in my time, but I have had a pint with hirsute cock rock god Robert Plant. He was looking a bit wrinkly and over permed at the time, but he still carried an aura of lemon squeezing hairy rock squealer about him, which isn’t bad considering his larynx has long ago given up the ghost where the falsetto notes are concerned (perhaps his balls have dropped).

He sometimes stays in the posho hotel across the road, but comes into the pub to mingle with the local oiks from time to time. He developed an attachment to the area when he and Jimmy Page bought a house hereabouts in the early seventies; presumably so they could mooch around in a bucolic fashion and converse with pixies.

Of course the younger generation are not familiar with elderly rock gods. The barmaid Maggie didn’t know him from Adam. She challenged him to a game of pool and casually asked, “what’s your name?” Percy said, “Robert Plant”; to which Maggie replied, “rubber plant, that’s a stupid name for a man!”

I almost felt sorry for him.

Invasion of the Librarians.

I have some librarians staying in one of my cottages at the moment. I suppose they could be described as ‘cottaging’, but I don’t think that particular euphemism applies to the female end of the gay spectrum.

I’ve had a lot of librarians stay over the years. I imagine self-catering is preferable to hotels as they have privacy, and don’t have to endure sniggering chambermaids and leering barmen.

For some reason they always seem to have a pair of Cairn or Highland terriers. I’m not sure if this is common to British librarians, or is unique to the Scottish branch of librarianship. Perhaps they are a ‘signifier’ to give the wink to those in the know. They could be paying tribute to ‘Greyfriars Bobby’, and displaying their loyalty until, and after, death.

Who knows? Does anyone actually give a toss?

Thought not.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Ridicule is Nothing to be Scared of.

I find the furore surrounding the publication by a Danish newspaper of cartoons lampooning Mohammed mystifying.

Freedom of expression and speech is one of the bedrocks of western societies; a bequest from the Judaic/Christian heritage that, not withstanding the decline in religious belief, still informs our culture. I don’t see that there is anything to apologise for. If we appease Muslim intolerance on as basic an issue as this we might as well shut up shop and hang the Crescent flag over Downing Street.

To be perfectly honest, I don’t see much that is admirable about Muslim cultures. They are dictatorial regimes that repress women, stifle free speech, and treat non Muslim populations as second class citizens. A culture that has experienced neither a Reformation nor a Renaissance is in no position to lecture western societies on civilized values.

The Danes are a peaceable lot, and I find the sight of Muslim fanatics burning down their embassies stomach churning. The nutters should have a hard look at the prosperous, harmonious society that the Danes have created. If they compare the wealth and success of this prosperous democracy with the likes of Syria they should be well aware of the utter failure of their culture.

I think it’s about time that we stopped apologising to fanatics in the name of tolerance. What we are actually doing is appeasing people with a medieval mind set. These peoples only goal is the destruction of our societies and way of life. If we don’t draw a line in the sand we’ll just end up driving people into the arms of the vile Nick Griffin and his racist cohorts in the British National Party.

Friday, February 03, 2006

The Twat in the Hat

Jay Kay

As irritating rock star twats go, the diminutive Jay Kay takes some beating. I assume that he wears large hats in order to obscure the fact that he is a shortarse. This attempt
is a miserable failure, and he just ends up appearing as a preening shortarse twat with the level of good taste only to be expected from an Essex boy pretending to be a white soul god.

How anyone can make £20 million by sounding like an ersatz Stevie Wonder is frankly beyond me. Musical originality may not be a prerequisite for success (cf Oasis), but in a just world some spark of creativity would be a requirement.

Jay is fond of hanging out with blonde bimbo models in posh West End nightclubs. His espoused hatred of the paparazzi is a bit rich given that he jumps at any opportunity for the limelight. It’s not really on to go about punching the very people that publicise your rock god aspirations. In Jay’s case it is particularly reckless given that most paparazzi are a burly 6’ 2” while he is a weedy 4’9”.

Jay owns a croft house near Mallaig in the west highlands. He spent most of his childhood holidays in the area. He spotted the croft while on holiday and approached the two old ladies who owned it with a view to purchasing it. The ladies informed him that the croft had been their ‘heilan hame’ since they were bairns, and that the property was not for sale. Jay informed them that he would have a bankers draft for £250K in their hands by the end of that evening. The ladies, as genuine canny highlanders, accepted on the spot. Not a bad decision given that the croft was only worth £60K on the open market.

He was stopped by the police on the Road to the Isles for driving his Lamborghini at 110 mph. This is proper rock star behaviour, and is one point on which I can congratulate them. According to the locals he is a personable, friendly individual, and always stands a round at the bar.

Perhaps he isn’t all bad. Escaping from the media circus can do some people the world of good.

Thursday, February 02, 2006


I’ve always regarded decent public libraries as one of the hallmarks of a civilised society. The promotion of literacy is a function of government the neglect of which will have negative consequences in the long term.

Judging by the dowdy standards of most of our public libraries, most councils place a very low priority on this essential service. It increasingly seems that councils much prefer to splurge council tax payer’s money on mobility scooters for bastards too lazy to walk, and five veg a day implementation officers.

I’ve always held the view that the purpose of libraries is to lend books. These days most of them seem to be a cross between internet cafes and video rental shops. I don’t see why my taxes should be used to provide internet access for gap year Aussies who want to email their Auntie Sheila in Brisbane.

Then there is the library staff; a shuffling mass of middle aged women who appear to be aspiring towards bag lady chic. I’m sure there must be a secret recruitment policy that strongly favours female applicants with faces like a bag of weasels and a wardrobe consisting of frumpy cardigans, ill fitting beige slacks, and flat shoes.

As far as I’m concerned, all public libraries should resemble a branch of Waterstones bookshops. Not only can you find any book you want at Waterstones; you are permitted to slump on a comfy sofa and read to your hearts content. As long as you don’t crack open a can of Special Brew the staff will pay no attention to you.

Maybe that’s the future for our public libraries. Make them into Waterstones franchises with an ancillary lending facility at a nominal fee. Everyone would be much happier with the service, and could visit safe in the knowledge that they wouldn’t be glowered at by a miserable old bag with buck teeth.