Archive for February 2011

The great big shoe gig in the sky

February 26, 2011


Old elephants, fearing a trip to the dentist having worn out their sixth set of teeth, take an instinctive one-way journey to the fabled land called the elephant’s graveyard. This final resting place is where they will lay their pachyderm head, all ivory and gums, for the last time. OK, get your handkerchief out and have a big cry for the elephant before we continue.

My Adidas training shoes had seen better days. Scuffed and torn, the intestines of a sweat-drenched cotton fabric garment burst forth from the belly of my boots. My trusty trainers had fared me well over the years. Many a goal or two had been scored by a controlled instep. Many a bus had been caught by the ground-eating blistering pace of the soles. Now exhausted Adidas was on the road out, lacking that Nike Swoosh.

I wanted to move left but my feet went right and carried on moving that way against my will. Powerless to stop this force, it was clear that my footwear was in command and taking me on a trip to the unknown. I ceded to my training shoes anddidas it demanded.

Eighteen and a half blocks later -I counted them- we reached the point where all good trainers shoe-shuffle off this mortal coil. There were a gang of a dozen teenagers all partaking in the last rites of used shoe ceremonies. Up above, a phone line stretched and heaved with the skeletons of previous deaths. All shoes go to heaven and are thrown airborne.

Various throwing methods are employed in this fun -for the human if not the shoe- enterprise. In all cases the laces are tied together and then it’s a freestyle paradise. Only the very skilled will land their “plane” on the line with one shot. Adopting the hammer-throw technique, I swung the shoes in a fast circular motion over my head. At great speed I hurled my Adidas up, up and away. To much applause from the Reebok-booted young, my projectile dangled like diamond earrings. Definitely, a cut above the rest.

“Here comes the law. Run, everybody.” screamed one of the shoe undertakers.

It dawned on me that this sacrilegious practise is a form of vandalism and the police would not be happy. My fellow vandals were prepared for this eventuality and their new trainers made them fleet-footed. I had thrown mine away and was shoeless; I would know better next time. In agony, I hobbled away on the unforgiving concrete. Luckily, the cops were wearing new shiny boots that weren’t broken in yet and they ran slower than me.

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A cut that wasn’t in the manifesto

February 22, 2011

It seems to be an unwritten law that as women age they cut their hair shorter. That young girl that bent forward and brushed her fountainous locks religiously five hundred times a day has curtailed the will to let loose her wispy strands. A less buoyant plant now adorns that crown, signifying maturity.

The follicles from the molecules of a man’s head, on the other head hand, have a mind of their own. They will disappear altogether or patch randomly in imitation of the fields seen from the window of an aircraft. Like fragile snowflakes no two heads of hair are the same.

With the good weather from the shores streaking inland, I decided to go out on a limb. Forsaking my usual slight trim and tidy up instructions, I gave the go ahead to shear my mane. Halfway into the operation I was half cut and wondered who the guy in the mirror was? The rest of the session passed in a blur of scissor cuts, razor rakes and barbed banter with the barber.

Although I was now the ultimate aerodynamically-correct machine ever built, problems existed. When I go to the Iron Maiden concert I’ll have to wear a wig.

One Day in the Life of The Royalist

February 20, 2011

1955-

The Volgans were here and planned to stay. One thousand and one years of Volgan rule was promised; one more than normal. Europe had capitulated before the might of the hordes from the East. America, that bastion of liberty and high-rises, had watched idly from the sidelines committed to their new policy of non-intervention, even though they had the big bomb. Volgan propaganda had hinted that they too possessed the ultimate weapon. Refusing to twist, the Americans would not call their bluff, they stuck.

Britain had been defeated. Freedom was lost to the Brotherhood, as the Volgans called their native country. As Mother and Father had been used before, hood options were limited, the Nationalistic Volgans plumped for Brother. Sometime in the far future with all the family connotations spent, a rising or newly independent state will have to claim the wordy, second cousin on my father’s side hood.

A fiercely Royalist and loyal subject of the crown of Britain was not amused. Today he was to report to a compound to work for his new master. He was wrestling with the hose in the shower. By turns blistering hot or numbingly cold the temperamental water had a mind of its own. He pulled the nozzle from the tap and surprised by the pressure of the water he slipped, wrapping the shower hose like a stethoscope round his neck, then fell into the shower curtain and derailed it. It was going to be one of those days.

He joined the queuing ranks of Britons that were to be administered into work groups. Eventually, Volganese was to be learnt from everyone but for now the mother tongue of Shakespeare, Holst and Prescott was accepted on certain occasions. The gloating Volgans had posters saying: Venimus, Vidimus, Vicimus. Horrible in victory, they had adopted Caesar’s quote and the three fingered double V (or W) sign was a gesture of Volgan supremacy.

The Royalist heeded the warning from the frightened man beside him. Whatever you do, don’t mention the Tsar. He neared the front line until he faced the Volgan secretary in charge of this detail. This clip-board bureaucrat was well-dressed except for the bottom of his jacket that, slightly creased, flapped open. There was a button pinned inside his jacket that resembled the polished fasteners on his torso. A spare button! The Royalist was taken aback, with innovations like these no wonder the Volgans won.

Still astonished he was asked his occupation, which he gave, then led at gunpoint to the back of a truck. The vehicle’s occupants were men of immense build, worn boots and chequered shirts; these were the good guys; they were the size of steam ships; he’d feel safer with the Volgans. The Royalist squeezed between two of these hulks and the truck rattled along the street.

Conversation was limited as the soldiers minding them would inflict punishment without fear or pity. In whispers the Royalist could make out two bulging muscled inmates proposing a wish to be sent to Belgium where they could bask in fame and glory as opportunities were plentiful. He could not unravel this cryptic chatter focusing instead on the floor that gathered dandruff from the finger-combing heads of the occupants.

One of the Volgans shouted “Octahobka” although it was February. The truck stopped with not a café in sight. Disembarking all the men were forced to give the Volgan sign. The Royalist contemplated dropping a finger and taking some stitches for the team. This would warrant an inclusion in a revised, updated edition of Fox’s Book of Martyr’s. The rebellious streak passed and in submission he double V’d (or W’d) with false abandon.

With their rifles cocked the Volgan soldiers gave each man an axe. You can’t dig graves with an axe, thought the Royalist cheerfully; at least we’re not burying bodies. Quizzing an axeman that cometh to his side, he asked his compatriot, what in the name of the House of Windsor are they doing deep in the forest?

“We’re here to go logging. We’re loggers’.”

“I told the office clerk I was a blogger.”

“Well you’ve got something exciting to put in your next post. There’s nothing more rewarding than cutting down trees.”

First among equals

February 19, 2011

In the colony, by common consent, Dalep Wiltonguru was the most handsome man and therefore was the subject of envy by his male contemporaries. Mucous formed in pools around the mouths of the jealous when Dalep was around. The world is not fair was the general feeling amongst the pride and they wished that they had Dalep’s lovely lesions.

Dalep did not think he was lucky. He roamed the lands of his adopted outpost and women literally threw themselves at his feet. Yet, they disgusted him; this wasn’t because he preferred the company of his resentful, foot-dragging, barely masculine associates. Far from it, he was of the manly opinion that all men are unattractive. Somehow, the ladies found him ravishingly appealing.

In desperation the females would beg Dalep to be their mate. Dalep grimaced as one by one he refused their favours. He was cursed to be loved by the ugliest, most gruesome women that lamely walked this earth. There are no good-looking ladies in a leper colony.

Impulse

February 16, 2011

In Stanley Kubrick’s flawed masterpiece Eyes Wide Shut the Nicole Kidman character confesses to her husband that she was tempted to have a one night stand. Only providence stopped her from committing this act of infidelity. Such scenarios are played out for real in the real world. What drives individuals to stoop to this behaviour? Can it just be an impulsion for forbidden fruit?

Being true in spirit it has never crossed my mind to be unfaithful although I can be impulsive; I think we all are from time to time. Yesterday a strange desire almost took over my senses. I was walking along an industrial estate and a haulage truck was in the process of being loaded. The driver entered the factory to, I’d imagine, make sure the paperwork was in order. He had left the doors at the back of the trailer open.

The truck was loaded right to the front of the cab; I could climb on and shimmy along the pallets to hide in the darkness further down. Once the doors were closed I was set for a mystery ride. Where would I end up? A few miles down the road? The other side of the country? Would I be unloaded? Perhaps the truck was going into storage and it would be days before I would see daylight.

In seconds the drive to be daring left me and I walked past the opening into a different future.

Paul Newman in the 1960’s

February 16, 2011

While not having the acting ability of Marlon Brando or the stage mannerisms of Laurence Olivier, Paul Newman was a Hollywood giant nonetheless. Charismatic is how to describe his towering screen persona. Sadly, he died in 2008.
He had a successful business life away from film sets and donated generously to good causes. But it’s the films me and millions others will remember him for and the 1960’s were his Golden age. Bear with me as I look back on some dazzling highlights of a great movie career.

The Hustler (1961)

Newman gives a gritty performance as a small-time pool player reaching for the top. His self-destructive ways lifts this film way above other sports based vehicles of the era. The sequel, The Color of Money, made twenty-five years later is lesser- one ball short in the Rack.
As a perennial loser at creative writing contests, Battleships games and Draughts, I have adopted “Fast” Eddie Felson’s maxim- “I’m the best you ever seen, Fats. I’m the best there is. And even if you beat me, I’m still the best.”

Sweet Bird of Youth (1962)

A Southern soap opera based on the play by Tennessee Williams. Hollywood cashed in on Newman’s good looks as a gold-digging gigolo. As Mozart was wont to play too many notes, Williams was noted for writing lots of words, however, fine acting by the ensemble makes this a rich, rewarding melodrama to watch.

Cool Hand Luke (1967)

Allegedly, there are numerous illusions to the life of Jesus in this tale of a prison chain-gang; believe it if you will. After a shaky start Luke starts to win over the rest of his inmates and they follow his lead. A terrific film that as the critics would tell you -it will leave you thinking. Memorable scenes abound, none more so than the famous egg-eating competition.

This was re-enacted tenuously in a challenge I received by a fat man in the pub many years ago. He said he could eat more Kit Kats than me. Now he was big but I was the chocoholic and I left him folded in a heap like a crumpled wrapper.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

Quite possibly my joint favourite film of all-time. I’ve watched this a dozen times and can quote vast tracts of the script. A lot of people memorise monologues and dialogues from Shakespeare which is a waste of memory space in my book. Give me “I swear if Sweetface told me that I rode out of town ten minutes ago, I’d believe him” any day. Newman as Butch exudes charm and humour throughout the film and is ably assisted by his partner in crime, Robert Redford. Despite the subject matter, on every level this picture is tremendous, script, photography, music, the works.

A Day at the Zoo

February 11, 2011

It was a beautiful day to go to the zoo. Donning a safari hat, black reflector shades and a white muscle Brando T-shirt tucked into -floppy to circulate air- multi-coloured shorts, I looked every bit the part of a big game hunter. The black socks and training shoes were the only part of my apparel uncool but who looks at feet anyway?

Zoos have a polarising effect on people. For some it seems cruel to have animals away from their natural habitat and kept in captivity for the amusement of customers. Zookeepers will tell you that the animals are well treated and that they have a lot of conservation projects in place that help the welfare of some of the endangered beasts. I’ve always enjoyed visiting zoos but as I walked through the park I began to feel sorry for the beings behind bars.

Giraffes have always been a favourite of mine. Anyone with a fireman’s pole for a neck is the bees’ knees in my book. At the giraffe station I opened the gate and walked into the herd. Like a cowboy I yee-hawed and slapped the giraffes on the bottom. This started a stampede and they escaped through the gate. Run free my children, I shouted.

I decided there and then to free as many of the imprisoned beasts as I could. Not wanting any fatalities on my conscience it would only be tame non-carnivores I would liberate. Obviously, the big lions growled at me as I was Noah good to them. The good-looking camels kissed me (the ugly ones shook my hand), the meerkats hugged me and the monkeys ate bananas with me such was the unrestrained joy of freedom.

The entire zoo was a pandemonium of shrieking guests, animals wandering here and there and zookeepers trying to recapture their pets. The scene was straight out of a Benny Hill show. My laughter came to an abrupt halt when a snake sneakily slid into the gap in my baggy shorts and bit me high up in the groin. Some fool had aped my plan and let loose the reptile house. I fell to the floor in agony and shock. A crowd surrounded me and I could hear murmurs of “who wears black socks with shorts nowadays?” “Look at the state of those old-fashioned trainers”.

Lapsing into unconsciousness as the venom was entering my system a snake handler pushed through the crowd in the campest of fashion. He was draped in pink overalls and called to me. From the pitch of his voice I recognised it was my old adversary who never failed to catch me when I was at a disadvantage.

“Hello, sailor boy.”

“What are you doing here? I thought you were a masseur.”

“The place got raided. By the way we’ve no anti-venom left, I’ll have to bite the poison out.”

And he pulled my shorts to the side.