Archive for January 2010

The Great British Takeaway

January 30, 2010

The papers are full of tragic, miserable stories and proprietors must think we need our healthy diet of bad news. “Eeyore” tales sell copy, I was told by J. Jonah Jameson, the obnoxious micro managing publisher of the Daily Bugle. Yah boo and Pooh to that, we should be trumpeting the good things in life as that’s what Tiggers do best.

A bite sized snippet you might have missed in the broadsheets concerned the Swedish company SSP who have sold the Harry Ramsden chain of fish and chip shops to the Midlands based Boparan Ventures Limited (BVL). “Harry Ramsden’s is a great British institution and we want to put it back on the map by focusing on the fundamental basics of superb service, exceptional value and, most importantly, the very best tasting fish and chips you can buy”, said Mr. Boparan. Amen to that.

Apart from The Queen and the revered, majestic Royal family, the only thing that entices tourists to our shores is our cuisine. We have a plethora of fancy Dan restaurants but the humble “Chippy” continues to punch many fries above its weight. As fast foods go nothing smells or tastes as gut rumbling as a bag of heavily salted chips and vinegary cod. Fat’s the way we like it. In olden days it was served in newsprint and you could read through the oily fat stains the dire doom-laden newscast while you juggled a hot chip on your tongue.

Fish ‘n chip shops once held a monopoly on fast food in Britain before the invasion of a raft of new multicultural eateries. Kebabs, curries, pizza, chicken nuggets, big Macs and whoppers all had a shot at the title but tradition holds firm, especially in the older generation, and grease is the word. Grecian 2000 as well, for that matter, digressing.

Not everyone likes a fish supper and other extravagant fare was available on the carte du jour. In a certain part of the country the deep fried Mars Bar was very popular and my apologies for drooling. Fritters (was that the name of the now defunct Stephen Fry Twitter page?) always do a good trade and haggis truly is the Great chieftain o’ the pudding- race. Here’s a typical menu from these outlets. Scrumptious.


Musical Graves

January 26, 2010

Ricardo Viola was not the World Hopscotch Champion for nothing. His dedication to his craft ensured he left no stone unturned, no rock unrolled and no boulder not given the hard shoulder in his desire to stay one jump ahead of the opposition.

A charge was stigmatised that Viola was so good he had done a deal with the Devil. He denied the rumours and blamed the Charlie Daniels Band and their one-hit wonder song “The Devil went down to Georgia”. My name is Viola and not fiddle, he would shout, although the term fiddle may refer to any bowed string musical instrument. For his profession he said that a deal with the ghost of Fred Astaire would be more helpful.

As the Championships were soon to be played, he practiced more than he’d ever done before. He wandered the streets at night looking for a suitable venue to hone his skills. He trained until the witching hour and made his way home. For quickness he decided to take a short cut through a graveyard.

Deep into the cemetery he thought this was a bad idea. If the paparazzi could see him now all those allegations would have some corroboration. And then he stepped on someone’s grave and the sound was the sound of a sombre G note.

Slightly shaken, Viola looked at the line of graves set up in neat rows and saw in the splinter of his mind’s eye the appearance of a hopscotch heaven. He jumped once, then twice quickly, then once again on the melancholic G note as it aired a deathly tune. He repeated the sequence and as he leaped two graves the note emitted from this crypt was an atmospheric B note.

It is a little known fact that hopscotch experts have an uncanny ear for music and Viola began to skip from grave to grave and the noise was one of unremitting grimness. Mephistopheles stood in the wings and applauded. A band of demons joined in and it sounded something like this.

Chopin’s piano sonata No. 2, opus 35.

Don’t tell me you were expecting Fred Astaire and Ginger Roberts 

This is your Life

January 21, 2010

Whilst attending a meeting of personnel directors in Bali last week the contentious issue of CV’s cropped up. The CV is of course, in many cases, the first impression employers have of potential staff and a well written clearly laid out CV can help to secure employment. There should be no spelling or syntax mistakes and recruiters are looking for the truth about your qualifications and experience.

Hopeful job seekers have been known to embellish their life story with wondrous tales or irrelevant information. The meeting descended into anecdotal stories of some of the greatest whoppers presented on paper. Although I didn’t see any chocolate offerings around, I was busy enjoying myself at the free buffet – dontcha think a junket just doesn’t sound the appropriate word for these gatherings- and quaffing on the expensive wines while the stories recounted were inducing much laughter.

The following is a selection of real CV quotes. Needless to say none of these people made the interview stage.

Here are my qualifications for you to overlook

I have been the Prime Minister of four different countries

Received a plague for Salesperson of the Year

I have an excellent track record, although I am not a horse

Personal interests: donating blood. Fourteen gallons so far

I am bilingual – fluent in English, Spanish and French

References: None. I’ve left a path of destruction behind me

The hiring managers were all rolling about the floor laughing and I joined in. Soon we were guffawing for all we were worth with tears streaming down our faces, falling off of chairs, slapping one another on the back and the odd “get out of here” said. Then another recruiter told of another CV he’d received.

“This man said on his CV. “I travel extensively: I goes to Spain for a fortnight every year. I am the world Kit-Kat eating champion and so good at sums I can count better than Dracula.” Well I tell you the howls of laughter spread right through the building until everybody in Bali, did I say Bali? I meant to say Blackpool, everybody in Blackpool was laughing. Except me. I wrote a lot of CV’s in my early days.

A Head for Heights

January 12, 2010

The magnificent Burj Khalifa Skyscraper is a colossal 2716 feet in height (or 828 metres for the metric minded) and has recently become the World’s largest building. Situated in downtown Dubai it is a monument to man’s quest to be the best and the Dubaians can boast their dad is bigger than your dad.

(Big Burj and little Eiffel)

Progress does hurtle on remorselessly and old fashioned ideals are swept away by today’s technological Marvels. New benchmarks and new landmarks are created at an alarming rate in our present now, new, now, new, new, now society. As redundant as your Betamax the good old days are nothing but a memory.

A thing that was missing in ancient times was the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). This is an organisation that tangles businesses in red tape, sticky toffee pastry and Velcro (?).When expecting a visit from the HSE, every employer will clean and polish their factories as if HM the Queen was on her way. Not for nothing do HSE employers think the world smells of disinfectant. We didn’t have these meddling, nosey parker, pesky kids (copyright Scooby-Doo) when I worked on the building sites. Good job too, as in those prehistoric times we cut more corners than Michael Schumacher.

Years ago when I worked in construction I was helping to build the Red Road Flats in Springburn, Glasgow. These are the largest high rise flats in Europe, although they are being demolished soon. A lot of dodgy practices were practiced during the creation of the towering behemoths.

Here is an old photograph of me and my apprentice. I’m the guy on the left. Isn’t my friend a big girl’s blouse? He’s wearing a safety helmet.

The Eels in the Loft

January 10, 2010

Craving for sleep to spirit you away

For you’re awake with a room gone insane

The clock ticks, ticks on and the wind runs down

The chimney; and it blows open your window

And it lets in somebody.

                                      Afraid under

The sheets you squirm. The sheets cover and crawl

All over you, a mighty planarian worm

You look for respite -escape- the ceiling

Then you remember the eels in the loft

The beating of your heartbeat beats thunder

Below the bed, coiled springs vibrate

A shuffling sound. There’s someone un-der- you

Afraid to stand on the floor in case you

Feel a living carpet. Entombed eyes

Can see scary creatures inside the room

Breathing. Unaware your feet have fallen

Outside the bedclothes. Its gone cold as a

Slimy hand touches your toes.

                                                You explode

Explode into the night. The dark has torn

Your brittle mind apart; Insanity looms

Scent of a celebrity

January 6, 2010

As the consummate professional that I am, when I was going to write an article about Boots the Chemist I rang Andy Hornby the Chief executive to let him know. Even more professionally Mr. Hornby invited me to an after hours tour of the flagship four floor Boots shop in Oxford Street, London. After a game of soccer and a take away I hurried to my appointment.

Greeted by two of the most beautiful sales girls I’ve ever seen, the ladies, Andy and I made a circuitous journey round the store. Immediately I headed for the perfumery department and tried all the testers. Firstly I drowned myself with some expensive cologne. The trinity dream team of Paco Rabanne, Calvin Klein and Hugo Boss emitted a sweet cocktail of women magnet enticing aromas.
But I knew they weren’t the real deal…and then I saw them; Brut 33 and the classic, Old Spice. Now we’re talking, so I splashed the mark of a man all over. I smelled like a million dollars with this refreshing masculine double fragrance.

It seemed like I had been given carte blanche to do what I want in the shop. So I brushed my teeth, shaved with an electric razor, cleaned my ears, put on some anti-wrinkle cream (you never know when you might get your first one) and made myself undesirable to the ladies. I took my socks and shoes off and stuck a plaster on my sore toe; I had stubbed it at five-a-side football earlier and it was not a pretty sight.

Soon I was having a ball and trying on sunglasses and snow boots, taking digital photos of the displeased Mr. Hornby and the less than happy looking women. Come on Andy, let yourself go I cajoled. Entering the, dare I say it, untidy stockroom I jumped on the spokes of the fork lift and encouraged Andy to drive me round the shop. He quickly got in the swing of things and what a scream we had. We bumped and crashed and laughed and completely annihilated the place. Alas, it was time for me to go. I thanked Andy for a great time and said I will give his company a huge write up.

Unbeknown to us word had spread that a famous star was shopping in Boots after the doors had been closed to the public. A huge crowd had swelled outside of expectant autograph hunters and paparazzi. As I left the building I exited by the main door to trumpets of applause and clicking cameras flashing furiously. In the mayhem I caught some of the snippets of conversation of the tumultuous throng.
“He’s not David Beckham.”
“I thought you said it was Johnny Depp.”
“Barack Obama, my foot.”

The mood of the crowd had changed because of their disappointment and they were starting to turn on me. However as soon as anyone got too near they were instantly repulsed. I knew why. When Andy wasn’t looking I sprayed on some Harmony hair spray. It seems it is too pungent for some. Or was it the Old Spice? Or was it that dodgy chicken madras that was turning in my stomach and sending smoke signals down my alimentary canal?

Stake Pie Supper

January 2, 2010

My wife’s weird sisters were giving me the creeps and I could take no more. They were conjuring up a New Year feast for the family and the ingredients would have made Caligula vomit all over his “Little Boots”.

An insect starter was being prepared and I had already seen the recipe. Fried crickets on the side plate beside a steaming hot dish of boiled silk worm grubs with sliced scorpion stings added for some bite. Heaven and hell knows what the main course would be so I planned to take evasive action.

The Christmas tree was still in its place at the window and I eyed an opportunity to escape. A well read reader like me had seen this plot device on many occasions. Stealthily I hid behind the decorated wooded plant. Lifting it slightly off the ground I moved slowly to the door. A rogue bauble fell and rolled past the relatives and into the coal fire making a hissing noise. Philosophically I wondered if there was no one in the house would it have made a sound.

My boasting brother-in-law was boring the other family members with his – me, me, me conversations. My grandmother never said a truer thing as when she observed of him “He’s a bigger bum than five asses.” However his blowing off of his own trumpet diverted attention away from the moving tree camouflaging me and I reached the door unnoticed.

Using the techniques of a tigress with the hunched shoulders and silent movement I managed to make it outside where I abandoned the tree. I was well on my way now and covered five miles in no time. The night was dark but the blue moon lit my way and I was as happy as Bruce Willis in Pulp Fiction after he’s retrieved his watch. The spring in my step was of trampoline proportions.

Now far, far from the madding crowd of witches and braggarts I found myself lost…and hungry. Suddenly thinking of the barking mad sisters menu was making me drool. I smacked my lips and wondered what would the main course consist of? My stomach was growling and hurting. Then I saw a rat. This looked like a tasty little rodent hoaching with fleas. Yum-yum.