Thursday, July 31, 2008

Fanfare For The Comma, Man

Here's Vampire Weekend's Oxford Comma...

Great, isn't it? But what is an Oxford comma? Shall I tell you?

Imagine you are a man who is getting dressed for the office in the morning. Do you put on (in strict order)...

pants, vest, socks, shirt, trousers and tie?


pants, vest, socks, shirt, trousers, and tie?

See the difference? See the Oxford comma in the second example?

My old English teacher drummed it into us that there should never be a comma before the "and" in a list. Now and again I throw one in to be a devil.

The song's author, Ezra Koenig, was inspired to write it when he discovered that there was a Columbia University student group which named themselves "Students for the Preservation of the Oxford Comma". Hence the first line "Who gives a fuck about an Oxford comma?"

I certainly don't. Life is too short for getting all excited about other people's use of grammar. I've never read Eats Shoots and Leaves and I don't intend to. In fact, if I were ever to open a greengrocer's shop I'd call it The Rogue Apostrophe Greengrocer's and make sure it was fully stocked with potatoe's, green's, green bean's, tomatoe's, and (note the Oxford comma) asparagus tip's for the grammar stream.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Today's Management Decision

11 a.m.

Here we go again. We've had ducklings, a duck, pigeons, a seagull. Now we've got another juvenile seagull on top of the building outside our office fire escape window.

Like all those others, it can't fly away. Poor fucker.

Women are clucking around it, talking to it like it's a human baby, feeding it fishy cat food, keeping its bowl (yes, its bowl) topped up with fresh drinking and bathing water.

The RSPB say there's a bloke in Yorkshire who's a volunteer who may be able to arrange for another local volunteer to take it to the coast and release it into the wild. That's what happened with the other seagull - you'll see it at Hastings next time you're there. The Society say that if it is uneconomical for someone to come (credit crunch alert!) it shouldn't be fed out of a dish but food should be spread all over the roof, dotted around in small portions so the bird gets used to the scavenging lifestyle. Its mother may encourage it to fly and, who knows, it may take off.

The fat fucker's had six tins of cat food in two days!

The women have not called the RSPCA as "they put birds down".

What to do? What to do?


12.15 p.m.

A bloke from the office next door turns up with an RSPCA warden. She picks up the screeching bird.

"I see you're feeding her," she says. "Do you want me to leave her here?"

"Where would you take him?"

"To a wildlife sanctuary," says the warden. "Do you want me to take her?"

"What do you think, Geoff?"

"Yes, please. Take it."

Friday, July 25, 2008

My Friends Ain't Enough For One Hand

My mum's concerned about me and Betty.

You haven't got a hobby. You do nothing with your spare time.

We do. We watch telly. We read. We listen to music. We blog.

Yes but you don't communicate with other people.

Blogging is communicating.

Yes, but it's not face to face. I don't know any other couples like you. Most normal couples have a social life. They meet up with other couples. They go round to other couples' houses. They entertain.

What have we got in common with other couples? Come to think of it what have I ever had in common with most people? Besides, I've got my friends.

Which you see how often?

They're miles away! How often would you see your friends if they moved hundreds of miles away?

We're always making new friends. We've got friends from dancing. Friends from bowls. Friends who we meet on holiday - we're always chatting to new people when we're on holiday. Tell me, Geoff. Are you really happy? Are you really really happy with your life?

Outside of work?

Yes, of course.


You need a hobby, though. One where you meet people. Golf.

I hate golf.

You used to play sports. Tennis.

That was for the competition. I didn't make any friends from tennis.

I'm not going to get anywhere with you two am I?

We're happy with our sad little lives.

Are you doing anything at the weekend?

Of course not. You?

Of course.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Nutty Nuptials

"Wayne phoned me from Scotland last night. He said the wedding was fantastic, the best he's ever been to. You'll never guess where it was held."

"In a castle?"

"No. A field! In the middle of a field in Scotland! You'll never guess what the dress code was."


"No! Wellies! Wellies in a field in Scotland! You'll never guess what they sang."

"Donald Where's Your Troosers (Trad Arr)?"

"No. Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life! You know, the Monty Python song!"

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Avery Brundage - A Life In Sport

It's forty years since Tommie Smith and John Carlos gave their Black Power salute on the Olympic rostrum, the most enduring image in the history of the Games.

The documentary, Black Power Salute, filled us in on the background and the characters involved in the event.

It also introduced me to a new villain. Avery Brundage was the International Olympic Committee president at the time. He was fiercely against involving politics in sport and expelled both Smith and Carlos from the Olympic Village and then made sure they were suspended from the US Olympic team.

See if you can spot the difference between the damning biography of Brundage on Wikipedia and the "non-political" stance taken by the Olympic Movement.

Buggered if I can.

Sunday, July 20, 2008











Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Victorian Restaurant, Bexleyheath: An Apology

Back in December 2006, I unfairly wrote a very unflattering review of The Victorian Restaurant, Bexleyheath. Since then my review has not left the front page of Google searches for the restaurant and people have been reading the post in droves.

Today I had my first comment from one of my new readers. They wrote the following...

"I can tell you would not know a first class meal at a resonable price if it bit you on your Burburry cap covered empty heads. Stick to MacDonalds you cheap, moronic, unappreciative egits.

By the way the Victoria Restaurant is a fantastic place to eat, we had our company Christmas do there and found the food, wine, surroundings and staff to be excellent."

I must say I am humbled and I wish to put on record that my experience in the restaurant was tainted by a brain disorder that was shortly afterwards corrected by some very strong prescription drugs.

That December I was in the grip of an irrational hatred for French food. Frogs' legs, snails, foie gras, petits filous, anything French in fact. That day I purposely ordered an English roast, knowing full well that this was the equivalent of choosing omelette and chips in an Indian restaurant. This marked me out as common to the core and fully deserving of a teaspoon of the head chef's spunk mixed in with my gravy. Not that that sort of thing actually goes on. I mean, can you imagine Gordon Ramsay knocking one out into the watercress soup as he effs and jeffs his way through a tense evening populated by incompetent staff and rude customers?

So, dear readers, if ever you're in Bexleyheath, come and join me for some top notch French cuisine. The Duck A L'Orange sounds right up my rue!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Street Survival

When I'm walking where there are people about...

If someone in front of me lights a cigarette I quicken my pace and overtake them.

If someone in front of me smells of bad body odour I quicken my pace and overtake them.

If someone in front of me smells of urine I quicken my pace and overtake them.

If someone in front of me has been shopping in Lush I quicken my pace and overtake them.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Don't Step On The Cracks

I don't believe in superstitions but I've had a few over the years. Usually of the sort, "if I don't throw this piece of paper directly in the bin, I've got a terminal illness." I've never missed unless I've tried the old "if I throw this piece of paper directly into the bin, I've got a terminal illness." OK, I can change my mind when the paper's in mid-flight.

When I was a young teenager I had a book written by an author who'd died of a terminal illness. I couldn't bring myself to read it and kept it on top of the wardrobe, back picture cover down so I couldn't catch whatever had killed him.

In recent years my main one involves my funeral tie. If my navy blue funeral tie falls off its tie rack, it means someone is going to die. It does fall off occasionally, but as yet the funeral I'm expecting to attend in the near future hasn't happened.

This proves to me that superstition is nonsense.

I've also yet to be convinced that the future can be "read" by "chosen" people. A work colleague of mine has just been to see a Tarot reader. She was told that there are going to be six redundancies at work in August and that in the end our department will be one of the last ones to go.

This is patently nonsense. It's not August, it's September!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Long Walk To Finchley

This drama was about Thatcher's early political years. Her failure to get selected to be a candidate in East Kent, her success in capturing Britain's most eligible divorcee Denis, her success in producing two beautiful twins and her eventual success in winning over the Tories in Finchley (with a little help from the lovelorn (yes, lovelorn) Ted Heath....

Yes, it was more a comedy really. Including really hackneyed jokes foretelling things that were to happen later in the evil family's life which I won't bore you with here.

What was disconcerting, however, was that she was played by the outstandingly beautiful Andrea Riseborough...

Jesus, I fancy Thatcher!

"I wonder if anybody's ever pleasured themselves to a picture of the real Thatcher?" said Betty.

"And anticipating the moment of release shouted 'MAGGIE! MAGGIE! MAGGIE!...'"


N.B. The retiring Member for Finchley was played by the increasingly jowly Geoffrey Palmer (who I once saw in Tesco's)

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Hit The North

I got in from work last night and Betty was livid. I could tell because Adam and The Ants were blaring out from the stereo.

"I've recorded some of Richard and Judy for you," she said. You've got to see it. I'm so angry."

This was the cause of her ire.

"I can't believe it," I said. "Not another book deal for a blogging middle class English woman. This one sounds even worse than the rest. Speaking as a husband, son and a father..."

"You're not a father. Are you?"

"OK maybe not. But how on earth does this twat represent bloggers? I've got absolutely nothing in common with her. She calls it work! Work! It's not bloody work! It's a bleeding diversion from work! I'm going to do a post about this. About how all the published bloggers are middle class women. What about the working class male bloggers, eh? What about blogs such MY BIRD IS A SORT!"






"Yeah, what about them? Middle class wanker publishers."

Monday, July 07, 2008

Betty's Birthday Meal

So we booked a table at a Soho restaurant for Saturday evening. Not realising Saturday was Pride London Day. As opposed to London Pride Day which would attract streets of Keith Flett lookalikes.

We walked through Soho as the party was winding down. Or was it winding up for the night to come? Well, we walked through Soho in a bit of an alcoholic daze, unfazed by the bloke pissing against a wall and the broken bottles underfoot. In the restaurant, we sat at a window table so we could see younger people drinking, chatting, kissing, hugging, punching and littering. A glass or a bottle was thrown at the restaurant window. I felt bloody old.

At 9.30 precisely, the street cleaners came and removed all the rubbish from the street. A little later the fire brigade turned up to sort out a gush which was making a bit of a river of one side of the street. They came, they went and everybody carried on doing what they were doing.

I'd chosen the restaurant from the Time Out Guide 1998. Back then, Phill Jupitus was a regular. The food was supposed to be decent and the portions were meant to be large, plenty enough for a man of Jupitus' girth. Of course we didn't see him there and no wonder, for he would have needed ten main courses as his starter.

We left the restaurant, unsatiated, and walked back through the partying crowd, just avoiding stepping in a drunk young woman's vomit. We missed our train by 30 seconds. With half an hour to kill we went to the nearest pub where they graciously relieved us of £9.50 for two glasses of wine.

We stepped off the train the other end and my stomach was demanding more food. So into the kebab shop it was for a nice hot portion of chips. While we were waiting for the order, a very unusual family got out of a cab and joined us at the counter. Dad had a head like a violent billiard ball and big earrings. Mum and the kids looked like they'd stepped out of a 1973 holiday camp. This was obviously the climax to their night out. Kebabs and chips to take away.

They seemed to be regulars. All it now needed was Phill Jupitus to walk in to make it the perfect evening.

He didn't.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

That Hateful Inch

I haven't watched any of Wimbledon this year. Neither has Betty. Yet we both used to be big tennis fans. What happened?

I'll tell you what happened, kids. Are you sitting comfortably?

The inch that changed tennis forever happened, that's what happened. I bang on about this every Wimbledon-time. Though it applies to any of the other just as important as Wimbledon tournaments around the world.

The article I've linked to seems to think it was a good thing. Well they would because they sell the monstrosity that is the modern tennis racquet. Let me take you back to a time much gentler than the current time.

There was a ten year old boy called Geoffrey. His dad's friend played social tennis. No, this was not a euphemism for swinging...

Geoffrey's dad's friend was a very nice man. And he offered to teach the boy how to play tennis. He leant him a racquet, very similar to his own. He showed him the basics.

After a few elementary lessons, Geoffrey was able to hit the ball against a wall. He practised and practised against the wall of the garage bordering the local field. He could hit the ball harder and more accurate. He was ready to play with other people.

Meanwhile, Geoffrey's friend had been taught a few elementary strokes. He had practised, too.

So they joined a club together. They joined the junior section of their local tennis club. There was no tuition there. The kids were left to get on with it.

So Geoffrey and his friend played against each other. Hour after hour, game after game, set after set. They developed well, with their own individual styles. As they got older, they were invited to play with the seniors. They could hold their own as they had the individual techniques to surprise their stronger opponents. They both specialised in a heavy topspin forehand, though they could vary their strokes using drop shots, lobs, slices, etc. They only went to the net when forced to. They hugged the baseline.

Then came the extra inch.

Suddenly, racquets became wider. There was more room for error. What used to be a balls up with the old racquet became a winning shot with the new. Slow, considered skill was out, POWER was in.

Everybody started buying the new bigger racquets. They became more confident, more powerful players overnight. More aces were being hit. Serve and volley was where it was at. POW! POW! Baseline players with old-fashioned smaller wooden racquets were getting blasted off court. Taller players were at an advantage. They could serve, volley and smash. The little guys couldn't use their guile any more. A game of chess became a game of real war.

I miss the days when you could measure the correct height of the net by laying one racquet horizontally on top of a vertical one. When the game was hypnotically beautiful, to play and to watch. The game lost me a long time ago. And it's not having me back.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Top Tips

Some useful information I learnt from watching Tuesday's episode of Criminal Justice. If you're ever banged up in prison, tell them you're a Mormon. That's the wonderful Pete Postlethwaite's line, anyway. If you say you're a Mormon you won't get the revolting prison tea, but a delicious mug of hot chocolate. But isn't there caffeine in chocolate, too? Ours is not to wonder why.

This reminds me of some more advice I was once given. If ever you're in hospital, say you only eat kosher food. It's brought in from outside and is hot and delicious. The only thing is, if you're unlikely to make it out of hospital you get a visit from the rabbi. Who'll probably ask you if you're eating well.

By the way, star spotters, guess which one of the following I just made eye contact with in the street...

1. Mitch Winehouse, leaning out of his cab, buying a copy of The Evening Standard.

2. Leonard Cohen, combing his hair, looking at his reflection in the window of Currys.

3. ABC's Martin Fry walking towards Covent Garden, in conversation with an attractive young lady.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The 1970s That Never Went Away

My mum has recently started a diary. So has my stepdad. They're to remind them of what they've done in case they forget. They haven't got blogs, though. My mum's glad I've got a hobby but a little concerned about what sort of people I may be mixing with. "They could be swingers, or anything," she's said.

Of course you can never tell who's up to what. I was once in a pub with a young man from work, his father, and his father's male friend. We were all peckish so one of them suggested we go for a meal. On the way to the restaurant, I was asked "Are you sure you want to do this? You know what this is about, don't you? It's not just a meal, you know." I graciously made my excuses and had a bean burger at Burger King.

So how would you react if you had heard that someone you know may be, say, a swinger? Just supposing, of course. I'm not saying that I'm in a similar situation at the moment. Oh no, far from it. How would you act in their presence?

Would you...

a) Whistle the tune to the Jungle Book song King of the Swingers?

b) Whisper in their ear, "Come on, big boy, show us your car keys"?

c) Continue to act as if you know nothing, trying but failing not to imagine exactly what goes on?