Sunday, June 29, 2008

Garfer's Guide to Peace, Love, and Understanding

There has been much moaning recently about the cost of motoring generally, and more particularly about the cost of fuel. Personally I think it's a good thing that fewer of the hoi are able to choke up the Queens Highway with their hideous little eco boxes and people carriers.

When you think about it the obvious method of reducing CO2 emissions from vehicles is to ban the working classes from driving. They used to cope ok on bicycles and trolley buses and the like, so I see no reason why they shouldn't revert to type. They could even start wearing cloth caps again. It would be most heart warming to watch the masses trudging to work in the pouring rain like in the olden dayes. Perhaps the powers that be could bring back tuberculosis to whittle down their numbers and reduce pension committments, thus leaving scope for tax cuts on beer and fags for the rest of.

I digress. The gist of my argument is that cars with petrol engines of four litres and above with a cylinder count of a minimum of 6 (although 8 or 12 are obviously preferable) are a minority because most people can't afford to drive them. If these cars were the only ones which could legally be driven the level of CO2 emissions would plummet.

It's blindingly obvious. No Kevin and Traceys lowering the automotive tone in their tatty old Ford Focuses, no smug marrieds in people carriers with 'baby on board' stickers on the back windscreen, no dieselists clattering about. This would not only reduce pollution at a stroke, it would also make Britain a more attractive and fragrant place.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Mr Squeaky Shoes

Chinese food in Britain is all much of a muchness; a 100 item main course menu, prawn crackers, and a healthy dose of mono sodium glutamate. Strangely the food in all Chinese restaurants tastes slightly different. You'd think they'd all be singing from the same hymn book, what with being Hong Kong Cantonese and all. I suppose it's just one of lifes mysteries, like the Loch Ness monster, or the British inability to run a public transport system fit for purpose.

My local Chinky has an exuberant and hail fellow well met waiter who bounces around on an extremely squeaky pair of shoes. The high pitched squeaks always let you know when your foods on the way. This helpful squeakiness, and his indefatigable cheerfulness, always compel me to leave a largish tip. This is unusual for a stingy Brit like me, so he must be doing something right.

Yesterday he was rather taciturn, his normal bouncy squeakiness somewhat deflated. I enquired tactfully if anything was the matter. "Yes" he replied "we've just had some customers from Beijing. They ordered me about all over and made me charge up their mobile phones. These Chinese are very rude (gesticulates). I from Hong Kong, we VEWWY polite"

So there we have it. Next time you get called a Gweilo and are shoved off the pavement in Hong Kong try and look on the bright side, you could be in Beijing.

Maybe I'll give the Olympics a miss.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Popular music is a limited form. This isn't surprising given its origins in the blues and the hillbilly music of Appalachia. Those origins are a narrow seam of the purest gold, but I increasingly feel that they have been virtually mined out.

Maybe it's just a consequence of getting older, but these days I feel that I've heard it all before. The same old chairs are being shuffled around the room. To be honest nothing over the last six years or so has really grabbed me. By 'grab' I mean the 'oh fuck' moment when you hear something for the first time and realise you've found what you were looking for without knowing that you were looking for it.

Loveless by My Bloody Valentine was released back in 1991, and remains the one album that I never ever get tired of. The word 'genius' is much too casually bandied about, but Kevin Shields emphatically has it.

Nothing since 1991, but so what? If you achieve perfection why sully it with anything less than perfect?

I can't really describe Loveless. It's elusive, melodies buried, vocals lost in the swirl, lyrics enigmatic.

Greil Marcus said that rock music is about 'power, beauty, and excitement'. Here it is in all its glory, its romance, and its despair.

Turn off the lights and turn up the volume. This was drifting from bedroom windows in 1991 for good reason.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


All blogging relationships are vicarious by nature.

Some of us have met, but mostly we are connected by nothing more than cables. Strangely that can make our relationships more intimate, sometimes divulging things which we normally wouldn't in face to face encounters. In that sense blogging is valuable, particularly in its international context. We become aware of the circumstances of other peoples lives and discover that whatever the distances that separate us we are made from the same crooked warp and weft.

I have never experienced tragedy. Nobody close to me has ever died; the things that have caused depressive phases are piffling compared to bereavement.

Rowan's loss is almost unimaginable. Although we lost touch, I feel her loss deeply.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Run Lola Run

I am always on time, never early, never late. I don't regard punctuality as one of the cardinal virtues, it certainly isn't up there with donating a kidney or adopting a kitten, but it matters to me.

Perhaps it's the potential embarrassment factor that does it, the realisation of lateness and the sweaty fumbling hurry to be somewhere at the appointed time. The room is already full, the audience attentive, the speaker into their stride. You open the door and a room of faces turns its gaze briefly on your perspiring dishevelled form.

No, I don't do late.

Early is potentially worse, it suggests over expectancy or nervous anticipation of the potential outcome of the meeting. Not good, and potentially fatal.

No, punctuality's the thing.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Noir Rock

I was on a knife edge all morning. My nervous twitch started playing up and I only quelled the staccato tapping of my foot by downing half a bottle of Scotch and chain smoking a pack of Players Weights. Pinkie couldn't be trusted. He was shifty, a little sewer rat with no morals who used a razor as a conversational gambit. I couldn't be sure the little bastard would come through, but he knew he owed me big time. I had the dirty on him with the snaps of him cavorting with those baldy Yorkshire poofs and he knew it.

No rock and the word would out.

I heard the rumble of a car engine. It could've been Big Vern with another consignment of shootahs. It could've been Sniffer of the Yard on my tail again, but the engine note was wrong. I peered through a gap in the drapes.

The omens were good.

The goods were intact

Top quality gear. Stripy. Mmmm....nice.

Now I've had my fix Pinkie thinks it's game over, but he's got another thing coming. I'm gonna take the twisted little scrote for all he's worth: first his candy floss, then his 'kiss me quick' comedy policeman's helmet, and finally his donkey.

Revenge is a dish best served cold.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside

The sad demise of the traditional British seaside resort when the hoi cleared off to Benidorm has been much lamented. The descent into tawdry decrepitude didn't happen overnight, the fly blown encroached gradually. Bed and Breakfasts were slowly colonised by the homeless, usually suffering alcohol or drug problems. The paint on the sea front hotels flaked and peeled, their once proud frontages turning into the face of a demented dowager aunt.

There has been a recovery of sorts over the last decade or so. The affluent have bought second homes and the demise of the ghastly boarding houses with their harridan landladies has resurrected a tourist trade, albeit one a shadow of its former self.

I like the seaside. Nothing beats candy floss, rock, amusement arcades, fish 'n' chips, and cockles eaten from a polystyrene cup. Even the slightly downbeat air of a seaside resort in winter appeals to me. The disconsolate wander along a blustery parade, pause, and gaze out to sea into their futureless futures.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Boy With The Arab Strap

Twee is not one of my favourite words. The twee is hard to define, but you know it when you see it. For me it is epitomized by clay figurines of tartan clad haggises playing the bagpipes.

Herge Smith made the unforgivable error of describing Belle and Sebastian as twee. This is precisely what they aren't. They capture the underlying melancholy romantic Scottish spirit perfectly.

I rest my case on the untweeness of Belle and Sebastian on this video. I must advise that this video (containing images of the lovely Miss Isobel Campbell playing the recorder, tambourines, people clapping, and a drummer wearing a Perthshire Advertiser T shirt) is unsuitable for young children or those of a sensitive or nervous disposition.

Clap along now boys and girls.

Bitter sweet ain't twee.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

A fool and his money are soon parted


Imagine for a moment that it is 1930 and you have saved £80 which you have lodged with the Midland Bank on the Tottenham Court Road. You are inordinately proud of this £80, it resides at the back of your mind and its comforting presence may be summoned when the workaday world overwhelms you with its tedium and pointlessness.

That £80 is destined to diminish; at first in trifling amounts, but as your infatuation gathers, with unforeseen haste. It will soon reside in Jenny's delicate little hands. She won't have grasped it, she won't have consciously tried to steal it from you, but there it will reside.

I don't normally like television adaptations of novels, they lose much and add what is inappropriate. Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky is an exception: perfectly pitched, perfectly acted, perfectly adapted.

Delusion, despair, and thwarted dreams have rarely been so uplifting.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Vulgar Bulgar

The siblings Gloom, Doom, and Despondency are dancing the light fantastic at the moment. The general air of 'God help us all' is increasingly inclining me towards the view that Herge Smith's imminent departure on a banana boat owes more to astute financial prescience than to the sybaritic hedonism I had hitherto suspected.

Now that the Labour Party has finally made a total balls of the economy (which they always do eventually) I fear that life on this island will inevitably become increasingly depressing. Drunken mongs throwing up on the pavement and knife wielding hoodies are just about tolerable when fivers are apparently falling like confetti, but when buying a loaf of bread and a tank of petrol doesn't leave enough change for a copy of Viz then all hope evaporates.

Like most people, I would like to emigrate somewhere warm and cheap. I think I'd settle on Bulgaria; it has all the plus points of mostly sunny weather, cheap booze, and long legged lovelies. Not only that, all Bulgarians smoke all the time everywhere which makes the place ideal for inveterate chuffers like me.

I think I've got what it takes to become a vulgar Bulgar. I might even grow a moustache and beat up Gipsies, just to blend in like.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

May I Have a Word?

Words that deserve to exist

*iconoclastic - a nice concatenation of syllables this one. I try to use it in everyday speech such as: "That's a very iconoclastic frock you're wearing today Marjory".

*circumnavigate - as Milo almost said: "why say go round when you can say circumnavigate?"

*desultory - just right this one, with a nice hint of insouciant couldn't care lessness

*ampersand - because its the word for that squiggly jobby that indicates 'and'. Not a lot of people know that.

*ennui - listlessly draped on a chaise longue swigging laudanum and feeling melancholy and bored in a slightly pleasurable kind of way. And it rhymes with pee. Obviously French.


Words that don't

*banquette - most commonly used in conjunction with the phrase 'faux suede'. Deeply contemptible.

*epistemological- beloved of philosophers and sociologists, as in 'epistemological break'. For me this always conjures up an image of groups of bearded sociologists rushing off to the gents urinals.

*actually - oh really? How fascinating.

*chalet - pronounced 'shally' in Britain and used to describe beach huts built from bits of old cardboard.

*gotten - this is an American invention, and utterly unforgivable. They may have Harvard and Yale but while this monstrosity continues to exist they will remain backwoods hicks.

*umbrage - because people are constantly taking it with me for no apparent reason.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Dublin Milk

There are few more traumatic experiences that a young man can suffer than to draw back the curtains of a stinky Dublin hotel room and find his nakedness scoffed at by a gurning urchin perched precariously on the window sill.

That's when I knew it was going to be a bad holiday. The auguries hadn't been good up to that point; Dave the Brummie had stomach cramps on the flight, Nina drank too much gin and was rude to a stewardess, and Keith and Karen were on the verge of splitting up and spent the entire journey swapping sarcastic bon mots.

Dublin: city of exquisite Georgian architecture, former inspiration for the genius of Joyce and Beckett, cradle of Oirishness gleaming by the softly flowing Liffey.

My arse.

When we got to the hotel/hovel there was nobody there: no lights, no welcoming smile from a pretty receptionist, no fuck all. After several phone calls a pissed munchkin turned up and informed us that " de owners have gone to de Cheltenham Gold Cup and oim lookin' after de guests till dey get back". The swaying dwarf then escorted us to our rooms, although he obviously had no idea which rooms we were supposed to be in as singleton Dave the Brummie (who still had stomach cramps) got a family room, Nina and I got a squalid little wardrobe in the basement, and Keith and Karen were confined to an attic garret.

During the course of our stay we enjoyed dirty hotel rooms, miserable bastard Dublin bar men, and ubiquitous urban drizzle. It was so depressing that even copious amounts of Guinness and Bushmills failed to lift our downtrodden spirits. I tried to cheer things up by suggesting we visit a south side Dublin bar, where tourists never ventured and where the real milk of human kindness Dublin bonhomie still lingered. Unfortunately Keith got into a political argument with a drunken harridan who accused him of being "no better than a fuckin' Black and Tan" and "the spawn of Satan". We were ejected.

And that was that. Dublin: rip off capital, cockpit of miserable bastards, armpit of humanity. It's no wonder Joyce and Beckett got out of the place as fast as their legs could carry them.

Still, things could have been worse. At least we didn't meet Bono.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Lost Weekends

I'm sure we've all had 'em, regretted 'em, forgotten 'em, and glorified 'em while glossing over the more embarrassing details.

Unfortunately I haven't had one in as long as I can remember, so I'd like to solicit some advice on what I should do during the lost weekend that appears to be welling up in my psyche. It is important to remember that all things are possible on lost weekends, the outré or esoteric equally likely given the appropriate level of chemical enhancement attained.

I've tried to narrow the field down as far as possible, so give me your best shot.

Prague - I'm not over keen on dumplings, but I love cheap beer.

Inside Uma Thurman's underwear - for obvious reasons.

A Butlin's glam rock weekend - this would be to satisfy my sense of post modern irony. I have no desire to dance along to Mud's 'Tiger Feet'.

Inside Robert Mugabe's Head - so that I could understand the obliviousness to human misery that megalomania enables. Then I'd give him an aneurysm.

With Jean Paul Sarte - just to find out if he really was such an ugly little bastard as everybody claims.

With Simone de Beauvoir - just to find out what a cracking French bird was doing with an ugly myopic little French bastard like Sartre.

Saigon - so I could wander around in a linen suit, quote French Existentialist philosophy in a pretentious manner, and smoke opium.

Unfortunately I don't suppose any of these are particularly likely. It's more likely to be Edinburgh, Perth, or Glasgow as usual.

One can but dream.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Floppy Haired Git

I recently purchased an iPod Touch, a gorgeous little gadget which has become my constant companion. The only catch with the device is that it isn't Flash enabled. Sure you can get YouTube, but that still leaves a lot of internet content unavailable.

Thank God for the BBC, who have converted iPlayer content into a format that can be viewed on the iPod in superb quality. They didn't have to do this, and it's good to see them spending money on the people that really matter (i.e me).

I'm not so keen on them handing out £18 million to Jonathan Ross. I appreciate that the organization can't hold to a Reithian ideal, but I fail to see why a tosser like Ross should command silly money. Clever he may be, but he is also deeply repulsive. He's like Ricky Gervais in that respect; he may be good at what he does but he makes my skin crawl.

I'm convinced that the BBC should spend that sort of money on high production value series like Lost or Heroes. My God, the talent is there and the CGI makes it possible to do things that were unthinkable twenty years ago. A proper adult sci fi production would sell overseas and probably recoup its costs many times over. Personally I'm bored with costume dramas, what I want is aliens and stuff that doesn't look like it's made out of traffic cones and sticky back plastic.

Doctor Who is all very well and good, but ultimately it's a kids programme.