Wednesday, August 23, 2006

My Own Private Idaho

Some places, although not fictitious, certainly merit their place in the popular imagination as being somewhat other. I mean ‘other’ in the sense that although not particularly inaccessible in the geographical sense (with the exception of Timbuktu), they aren’t the sort of places anyone’s likely to visit, or can imagine anyone actually coming from.

Boise, Idaho, is definitely one of them. I actually couldn’t place it on a map. I know it’s in the USA, but apart from that it inhabits a mental terra incognito that might as well be populated with dragons and cannibals.

Imagine my surprise when, a couple of years ago, some luridly clad cyclists hove into view. They dismounted from their cycles and enquired, very politely (if a bit loudly), if they could rent a ‘hut’ for the night. I was a bit nonplussed. I don’t get many Americans, but when I do they are generally crammed into a small saloon car, or peer down at me from the lofty heights of a massive Range Rover that does 2mpg tops.

I asked if they were from the USA (I’m good at identifying accents). “Gee”, they said, "we’re from Boise, Idaho!”. By this stage I was thoroughly disorientated. I showed them into a ‘hut’ and they took it on the spot. I think it was the ‘hot tub’ in the bathroom that swung the deal my way. I almost pointed out the luxury of separate hot and cold taps, but my common sense prevailed.

I was feeling like Mr Super Salesman until one of the Boiseites asked: “What time do you serve breakfast?” I wasn’t wearing a chef’s hat at the time, and the sign at the road clearly indicated ‘Self- Catering Lodges’. Frankly, I was shell shocked, and asked: “What time would you like breakfast?”

They asked for ‘Granola’, so I fed them some ‘Weetabix’; which must have been an acceptable substitute as none of them said anything. They them scoffed a full fry up and pedalled off towards the horizon (after leaving me a large tip). I quite liked them.

In hindsight I’m convinced that they must have been CIA fact finders, or representatives of some strange esoteric rattlesnake worshipping cult.

It’s hard to tell, but I’m still convinced that nobody actually comes from Boise, Idaho.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


An element of stress is essential, if only to prevent everyone sleeping in after composing haikus on the back of a cigarette packet at 3.00 am.

I prefer to avoid stress whenever possible. As far as I’m concerned my main calling in life is to contemplate the intolerable iniquities of humanity whilst smoking a cheroot. Sometimes it all gets a bit much and I consider moving to some god forsaken mosquito ridden swamp and devoting the rest of life to the betterment of the lame and the halt.

Thankfully reason takes hold. There are more than enough gap year students lugging rucksacks around the globe on the back of mummy and daddy’s credit cards to ensure that such gross social inequities will soon be a thing of the past.

I suppose I must be an incorrigible optimist. The Rev Thomas Malthus claimed that excessive shagging amongst the hoi polloi would result in a serious spud shortage, mass starvation, and the demise of the human race. It hasn’t happened yet, and judging by the global proliferation of fast food chains, it isn’t going to happen any time soon.

I’m sure that in my ancestry there must have been energetic sorts rushing about suffering thorns in their buttocks in pursuit of nuts and berries. Thankfully such exertions are no longer required. If the worst comes to the worst I suppose I can always eat the neighbours. Some of them have got enough lard on them to enable the graceful departure of an ocean going liner down the slipway.

On a darker note, my cat Oscar has finally departed for some far away nebula to hunt down strange silicon based mouse creatures.

Good luck to them. They don’t stand a chance.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Pa, pa, pa, pa, pa, pa, pa, pa, pa PAH.

It is most reassuring to learn that the froggies are to lead the UN task force in Lebanon. Hezbollah are no doubt quaking in their boots at the prospect of having their asses wupped by the garlic eaters.

The French generally hold their noses when the Americans or British send troops overseas. They noise off about vile Anglo Saxons tramping over downtrodden peoples in far flung corners of the globe.

This really is the rankest hypocrisy given the French predilection for stomping all over their former colonies given the slightest excuse. Their pursuit of ‘la gloire’ is far more indicative of a former imperial power fantasising about its world status than anything the British do.

No doubt they will send the Foreign Legion. The poor sods always get dispatched to futile wars in which they receive a thorough kicking (Algeria, Vietnam). Only the French could come up with the idea of having an elite regiment composed almost entirely of foreigners. If lots of them get killed the French don’t really give a toss as they can always recruit more.

It’s genius really.

Thursday, August 17, 2006


Schizophrenia isn’t that rare a condition. I imagine that all humanity suffers from it to one degree or other.

Take food for example: a large cheeseburger with fries and a strawberry milkshake obviously appeals to one cranial hemisphere, while the other yearns for duck confit served with a balsamic reduction and a nicely crusted pomme dauphinoise.

It’s just one of those things. Claude Debussy and Black Sabbath are not as far removed from each other as we might like to think. Ozzy may not have had a timpanist to call on when injecting some lachrymose, sensitive, moments into his paeans to covens cavorting on gravestones, but I’m sure Claude would have been delighted with a bone dead drummer capable of injecting some venom into his rhythm section.

I suppose it’s all a question of perspective. Viewed from either end of the telescope high and low cultures are mutually incompatible. Glyndebourne and Glastonbury may share something in the alliterative sense, but they inhabit entirely different mental universes.

If I had my way, all violinists would be compelled to plug in, and all Yamaha organ players forced to plug out. There’s something in me that says a switch labelled ‘samba’ is an offence against humanity.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

God help us all

I personally have no objections to the Persians acquiring a nuclear capability as long as they bomb this twat back to the Stone Age.

I mean, just look at him.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Walkie talkie

Isle of Ulva looking across to Ben More, Isle of Mull

I’ve never been much of a hiker. The distaste which lurid outdoor wear evokes in me, and my general hatred of exercise, has ensured that I resist the temptation to purchase a pair of Goretex lined hiking boots.

I do, however, make an exception when walking is restricted to well sign posted dry paths with gentle gradients. I went to the Isle of Ulva today and walked for three whole hours, only pausing to chuff on a ciggie on three occasions. Feeling rather proud of myself, I then repaired to the Boat House restaurant and pigged out on freshly caught langoustines doused in garlic butter. Any calories burnt off by this unusual exercise were consequently instantly replenished.

Ulva is one of the jewels of the west coast that most people overlook. Reached by a two minute ferry crossing, it is a world apart. There are no roads on the island, just a network of paths which lead into verdant woodland and unexpected views of wonderful seascapes.

I feel so proud of myself that I’ve decided to reward myself with some beer. I think I’ve actually earned it for once….hic.

Saturday, August 12, 2006


I like a nice kipper. A bony morsel it may be, but grilled with a little butter it is a real delicacy, especially if it’s an Arbroath smokie; the true aristocrat of the smoked fish world.

I take a different view of guests who decide to have a bumper kipper breakfast on the day of their departure. The lingering fishy odour they leave in their wake is impervious to even the strongest air fresheners and odour neutralisers. It is to my immense chagrin that I have to escort new guests into a log cabin that smells like Long John Silver’s underpants after a month on a pirate ship.

I watch their nostrils twitch as they trade brief glances. They don’t actually say anything, but I know they suspect that the previous occupant must have suffered from colostomy bag leakage. I pre-empt any potential complaints by launching into my ‘logs absorb odours and the fishy smell will soon dissipate' spiel. I know they don’t believe me.

I put out a heartfelt appeal to all holidaymakers. THINK BEFORE YOU KIPPER.

Some of us have to suffer the consequences of your self indulgence.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Kath & Kim

Maybe I’m just puerile. Come to think of it, I AM PEURILE. Only a lowbrow sensibility with a love of bum and fanny flap humour could possibly find the Australian stitcom Kath & Kim remotely amusing.

It makes me laugh out loud. It’s hard to say why. Every episode is ultimately a variation on the same theme and repeats the same jokes with minor variations.

Perhaps it just conforms to my existing prejudices regarding Aussies. Having never had the remotest desire to emigrate to a land where Aussie Rules Football (legalised violence) is regarded as a first rate sporting pastime, Kath & Kim has reinforced my antipathy.

I know that Australians aren’t all crass suburb dwelling ignoramuses with an obsession with barbies and slabs of tinnies (crates of beer), and I’m sure that the Sydney Opera House is a perfect symbol of cultural and artistic maturity, but even so, I think Kath and Kim have stamped their stilettos on the true beating heart of Ockerdom.

It’s got nothing to do with old world snobbery. I’m sure a Birmingham brick box housing scheme isn’t much different (apart from the sunshine and swimming pools).
In the end, I think that it comes down to the lingo. Any society that describes cracking birds as ‘hornbags’, and good looking males as ‘hunk ‘o’ spunks’ has to be a bit suspect.

Britain is so much more civilised in this respect. The sight of crowds of bevvied retards baying for the ladies to ‘get your tits out for the lads’, and micro skirt clad laddettes peeing in gutter, makes my heart swell with pride.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Swifts.

I can’t claim to be much of an ornithologist: the lesser spotted mauve Flapwing and the irritable red flushed Bulltit are pretty much of a muchness to me.

A recent visitor to my veranda has, however, revealed an unexpected latent interest of which I have previously been unaware. A Swift has nested in the eaves of my balcony and I am now playing host to three diminutive chirruping Swiftlets. Personally I don’t hold with squatting, and I really should attach the extra long extension to my vacuam cleaner and dispose of the little varmints.

Unfortunately they’ve completely won me over. The sight of three small beaks craning on slender necks is enough to melt even my callous and stony heart. I have also been impressed by Mrs Swift’s bravery. She completes wide circuits as swiftly as only a Swift can before hovering two inches in front of my nose and glaring at me malevolently. I am convinced that any sudden movement on my part will result in my eyes being pecked out.

The only problem with Swiftlets is that they produce an inordinate amount of bird poo. God knows how many worms Mrs Swift is shoving down their voracious maws.
I’m convinced that if I collect their excretions I will be able to fertilise all the local flower beds (for a small fee).

No doubt the little fellas will be off soon. It will be a sad day. I suppose I should think up some kind of uplifting moral allegory to ameliorate my sense of impending abandonment. Unfortunately I can’t think of one.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Back for the Boyos.

Despite being of an unfortunate Welshish persuasion, it is undeniable that Cerys Matthews is drop dead gorgeous.

Having burnt herself out imbibing and snorting various inebriants of a legal and non legal nature she opted for rehab, moved to Nashville, got married, and dropped a couple of sprogs. This was most inconsiderate as I was available at the time and I’m sure I could have produced some suitable lyrics for her gutsy voice. Shame that, we could have been the new Elton John and Bernie Taupin (Elton being a big girl).

Never mind, she’s back fully shorn of all Britpop appendages and has just released a
new album. I might even buy it and muse wistfully on what might have been.

Cerys may have a jaw line to rival Arnold Shwarzenegger’s but she still floats my boat.