Archive for June, 2009

26
Jun
09

Is that a moon rock in your pocket, or are you just pleased to see me?

Frankly, I’m still smarting over all those lies we were told at primary school about how we’d all be living on the moon in the year 2000 and flitting about in hover cars with robot slaves to attend to our every whim.

It’s a harsh blow, therefore, to discover that not only were my teachers big fat liars, if their uneducated predictions had been correct and the human race was living on the moon, we’d all be big and fat too. Oh, and bald. Big, fat and bald – three cheers for the future.

Dr Lewis Dartnell, from the University College London, has single-handedly burst the space bubble, meaning that only the terminally masochistic would consider signing up to a long period away from the earth.

“With very little effort required to move around in microgravity, future spacemen and women are likely to become pretty chubby. Also with no need for hair to insulate the head or eyelashes to flick dust from their eyes, future humans may become totally hairless,” he said.

BEFORE: Mum? Im off to space for a decade. Remember to record Cash in the Attic

BEFORE: 'Mum? I'm off to space for a decade. Remember to record Cash in the Attic'

It’s one big step for mankind that I’m not sure many astronauts would be willing to take – or able to take, once they’d halved in size.

Jetting off into the stratosphere is pretty sexy: returning as a hairless, rotund dwarf is slightly less so, even if you do have a few moon rocks in your pocket and an absolutely enormous helmet to show for your intergalactic troubles.

AFTER: This is a wig, you know

AFTER: 'Ladies? I've been to space. Form an orderly queue'

If we had all decamped to the moon, Gillette and Immac would have gone into administration overnight, no one would be able to reach the top shelf in the kitchen and the human race would be slowly dying because no one would be able to summon up the enthusiasm to go on the (gravitational) pull. It’d be like living in Wales, albeit with a far better view.

And it gets worse. If our future truly does lie in the skies, we’re not only going to be smooth, shiny dwarves who break a hip if we brush up against a cobweb thanks to our muscle and bone wastage, we’re also going to have huge, swollen heads.

Dr Dartnell added: “Without gravity, fluid would float up to pool in the skull, which would cause the head to look permanently swollen and out of proportion.”

Bloody marvellous. Anything else? Will we grow horns? Or tentacles? Or start farting smoke?

I’m waiting until they invent a space where you come back home thinner, better looking and more intelligent. I still want the robot slave, though, that’s a given.

PS My Uncle works for Nasa (FACT!), which means I’m pretty likely to get a trip on a rocket any day soon. Will you still love me when I am a fat, bald, huge-headed dwarf? Oh hang on, I already am. Phew.

23
Jun
09

Tell me what to write in my newspaper column again, and you’ll be reading it in hospital

When you write a column for a newspaper, people are forever making the mistake of telling you what you should be writing about.

They forget, of course, that I am a world expert on everything and therefore always know exactly what I should write about, even though I don’t actually do so very often.

Sometimes I write a not-so-brilliant column just to make the other columnists feel better about themselves – in addition to being an expert on everything, I’m also an extraordinary humanitarian (although I don’t like to talk about it).

Anyway, if I had a pound for every mind-numbingly dull tale which has ended with “…put that in your column!” I would have about £392.

And had someone actually paid me that £392, I might have been slightly more cheerful about being told to highlight someone else’s problem with their plumber/hip operation/neighbours/corns/demonic possession on my page.

As it is, I have developed an impressive ability to switch off while nodding – a bit like your work colleagues do when you show them your holiday photographs – because I figure that it’s hard enough to have my own opinions, let alone someone else’s.

People release their venom about the builder, the buses, young people today, old people today, MPs’ expenses, interest rates, Iraq, men, women, children, animals, humanity as a whole or the fact that BA lost their baggage on a flight back from Ibiza and so forth, then step back slightly, look at you expectantly and boom: “Well? What do you think to THAT?”

There are three answers to such a question.

The first is the answer the person wants you to give them. “WHAT? You mean to say the builder expected you to PAY for that driveway? Despite the uneven bit near the garage? If you’ll excuse me for a moment, Sir, I must call our presses immediately and stop the front page.”

Or you can try a stalling technique: “I will definitely bear that in mind.”

And finally there is the truth. “Sir, I am standing in the frozen food section of Sainsbury’s. My children were last seen scaling the shelves in the crisp aisle three hours ago. Although I hear what you are saying, I cannot pretend to give a monkey’s chuff about your piffling problems.”

I never try the truth.

Anyway, I lumbered out of the dentist’s the other day, a few hundred pounds lighter (sadly only in monetary terms, which is a shame, because hiring that winch to get me in and out of the bath is proving to be costly) and was innocently waiting for a bus when I felt a jab in the ribs.

“You want to write about that (jabbing man gesticulated with his head towards a new development of flats at the site of a former furniture shop called Courts in Norwich) in your column. Bloody ridiculous. What do we need more luxury flats for?” said the man queuing next to me.

Although anaesthetised to a point where my head felt like a balloon only loosely tethered to my shoulders, I still had enough mental and physical fortitude to pretend I hadn’t heard anything. Not that this ever stops anyone.

“Eh? Them flats. Ridiculous.”

I have to admit, I am not aware of a huge gap in the market for luxury loft-style apartments in Norwich, even if they have got scenic views of a roundabout, an office block, a travel lodge and a funeral director’s.

Practically every disused building in the city has been converted into a luxury apartment – I’m surprised someone hasn’t put plate glass windows and some laminate floors in the disused, haunted toilets at the bottom of a hill near my house and marketed them as a low-rise luxury studio flat. With lots of en suites.

You see vile old boarded up public toilets full of rats and dribbling tramps, I see luxury flat(s)

You see vile old boarded up public toilets full of rats and dribbling tramps, I see luxury flat(s)

And since when has “loft-style” been luxury? Aren’t they just unfinished beige warehouses with nice taps?

I’m always concerned about the history of the places where I have lived and to this end have never bought a property on the site of an old abattoir, in a converted warehouse, next door to a concentration camp, in an old nuclear power station or on top of what used to be a Native American burial ground.

Thankfully this has been fairly easy to do in Norwich, although the housing development at the old Norfolk and Norwich Hospital sailed pretty close to the wind on several counts.

With this in mind, might not the spirit of Courts be lurking in the very fabric of these new flats? Might you find yourself looking for minimalist furniture for your aircraft hangar only to find yourself drawn to the mahoghany-look TV and video cabinets, the stained-glass effect spice racks and the nests of wicker tables?

Anyway, there you go, Sir, I did bear your suggestion in mind and I did write about them bloody flats.

Although I have to say, you were pushing it when you asked me to try and settle that problem you’re having with the milkman (maybe he didn’t GET the note about the orange juice – did you think about that?).

**** Apologies for my absence, again. All I do is apologise to you, like a pathetic partner who has been unfaithful – or hit you – yet again. In my defence, I’ve been working on the mother of all freelance projects which has not only eaten my time, but also a vast proportion of my soul. So blame Satan and his tempting freelance jobs, that’s all I can say. Don’t tell me what you’d like me to write a column about. I’m not listening, even though I’m nodding ****

05
Jun
09

My children love me reading aloud to them. Selfish little sods.

A major new survey of children’s reading habits has revealed that a third of the multi-GCSE owning youngsters of today believe that books are for “nerds” and half think libraries are boring – and that’s despite plans to introduce gay fairytales into the National Curriculum.

Personally, I thought that gay fairytales had been around for years – Snow White and the Seven Co-Habiting Dwarves, anyone? – but thanks to Clause 28, a bill which in my day banned schools from “promoting homosexuality” in case children became gay overnight after discovering that there’s more to love than boy meets girl, I never got to read ‘Jenny lives with Eric and Martin’.

Poor old Jenny caused uproar in the 1980s, when the Daily Mail discovered that the Labour-controlled Inner London Education Authority had placed copies of the book about a little girl living with her father and his gay partner in school libraries.

 

Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin. Deal with it.

Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin. Deal with it.

She was quickly removed, and replaced with lots of staunchly heterosexual books about morally upstanding subjects like algebra, geography and the Cold War. By God no one was going to catch gay from a school library, or if they did, it’d be because they’d looked it up in an uncensored dictionary.

These days, children are so intelligent that they are passing 34 GCSEs each while simultaneously being the least literate generation since we sent nine-year-olds up chimneys or down mines. When pupils from 35 schools were asked what they thought about reading, one wrote: “Reading is the last thing i (sic) would want to do i would rather die.” And that was the most enthusiastic response.

The gay fairytales need to be drafted in quickly before reading becomes something quaint which used to happen in the olden days, like riding side-saddle or smiling at people in the street without being knifed. Who could resist ‘And Tango Makes Three’ about gay penguins who fall in love and raise an adopted child? Or ‘King and King’ about a prince who searches his kingdom for a princess to marry before realising he actually fancies other princes?

I only wish my own children favoured such literature instead of steadfastly sticking to the kind of books which give you newfound sympathy for the unnamed pupil quoted above.

For example: I challenge anyone in full possession of a working brain to read The Scooby Doo Storybook Collection without mentally assessing any nearby beams for their potential to bear the weight of a noose and a swinging body.

Hours of my life have been squandered to that damnable book, clearly written by a revengeful depressive attempting to bring the rest of the world into his dark nightmare, and I will never, ever get them back.

 

Now let me think: where did I put the Scooby Doo Story Collection again...?

'Now let me think: where did I put the Scooby Doo Story Collection again...?'

On the rare occasions that I have been able to hide the Scooby Doo Storybook Collection somewhere so cunning that my son can’t find it (past successes have included putting it in a plastic bag and placing it in the toilet cistern) I am faced with a book about the revolting personal lives of insects.

I say “a book”, I mean one single passage, which I have now been reciting on a continuous loop for several long years. Let’s put it this way – I finally have a specialist topic which I could take to the Mastermind studios.

My boy is endlessly fascinated with the life and times of the Bombardier Beetle, a highly-strung creature which defends itself from predators by firing a high-pressure jet of toxic boiling liquid out of its rectum. 

 

Whos up for some water sports?

Who's up for some water sports?

No laughing yet, you haven’t seen the money shot: if the Bombardier Beetle gets really, really angry, it squirts so much toxic liquid out of it brown eye that it blows its own arse off. Now imagine how much my son, an eight-year-old boy whose idea of highbrow comedy is farting on a leather sofa, loves the Bombardier Beetle.

Personally, I long to hear what other insects can fire out of their arses or whether they can blow off their thorax with a particularly loud belch. But we have settled on the Bombardier Beetle, and I fear we may never turn the page – I should be so lucky as to read the adventures of a gay penguin.

My daughter, thankfully, would rather die than listen to me reading after suffering years of my attempts to emote my way through the latest Spot the Dog potboiler or yet another identically-plotted Rainbow Fairy “adventure”.

Now she disappears into her bedroom with a Harry Potter book which, judging by the slow progress of the bookmark, is less to do with her thirst for literature and more to do with a large bag of sweets she has hidden under her bed (more on H Potter another time. I have much to say about that magical little shitfish). 

Personally, I say bring on any books whatsoever which might capture the attention of children, whether they be about gay princes, co-parenting same-sex penguins or transexual elephants who’ve lost a balloon. Anything bar Scooby effing Doo or the Bombardier Beetle. Even if they start co-parenting together.

**** What can I say? Work has been insane. Apologies for my sporadic posting – I will try and be slightly more productive. Blame my son – that bastard beetle eats up precious time when I could be writing for you and he’s only eight, so most of you (Ram not withstanding) could take him in a fight ****




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