Archive for January 2012

Scandinavian themes

January 28, 2012


The bankrupt Swedish car manufacturer, SAAB (Swedish acronym: Svenska Aeroplan AkiteBolaget), has had its loans repaid to the European investment bank by Sweden’s debt office. This move will make it easier for a would-be buyer as the Swedish government is now one of the major creditors in the company.

Never having owned a SAAB I have no emotional ties about their demise. When talking of SAAB I always seem to call them SAB. The extra A seems convoluted, almost like a filler track on a record. The difficulty of pronouncing SA-A-B means that it can be prolonged into a bout of SA-A-A-A-B’s. It is hard to stop the A’s flowing. It feels as if you’re at the doctor’s surgery.

SAAB is almost an anagram of Sweden’s most famous export: ABBA. If only Bjorn (Ulvaeus) was called Sven or Benny (Andersson) was called Sammy they could have rearranged the initials into SAAB or SABA or ABSA or BAAS. As these non-palindrome capitals trip off the tongue the band might have met their Waterloo early in their career. As it was,with the moniker ABBA they flew high becoming immensely popular. Nothing lasts forever (as the two divorces in the group prove) and ABBA are now in the history books where they are joined by their compatriots, SAAB.

On their frequent appearances on Top of the Pops it was always Agnetha for me: Agnetha the blonde. Good as the band were she was the stand-out. She looked pretty, pretty, pretty good. As a youngster, this was my pre-rock period and while I’m now a fully-fledged, devilish head banger, I will admit to singing, if I could find a willing female accompaniment, some SAABBA songs at karaoke. So many good tunes to pick from.

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1. The Pilot

January 19, 2012


Big Ralph was as ravenous as the pigeons that were devouring the scraps of discarded food that littered the doorway to the fast food joint. He crooked his head to the side in an almost look of love at the hungry birds. First things first, he thought, better pay the meter. The café was located on the main road. He rustled in his pockets for some change, fed the meter and received his ticket. He stuck the ticket to his windscreen.

Ordering his usual -three burgers, fries and a large coke- Ralph pondered on the fact that nothing in life is free. Won’t be long before someone taxes the air they breathe. After all, at one time there used to be a window tax. Daylight robbery, the masses called it. The more windows you had, the more you paid. Good job that one got thrown out with the bath water. This place was all windows. From floor to roof it was a glass palace of eating.

Chewing on the gristle on the first bite of the first burger while reading the complimentary newspaper of the outlet, a paper that had had its fill of grubby, greasy fingers, Ralph saw movement beside his car. He looked out the window and saw a traffic warden tucking a ticket under his window wipers. Stupefied, his chair scraped the floor backwards as he went out to confront the errant warden.

“I’ve got a legitimate ticket on my car,” roared Ralph.

“I’m sorry, sir. It’s not visible,” said the uniformed inspector.

Ralph was not in a pantomime mood to engage in a war of words so he checked his windscreen for himself. His ticket was not visible. On the outside anyway. A kit of pigeons had bombarded his windscreen with droppings, hiding his ticket.

“It’s their fault. Look,” Ralph opened his car door and pulled his ticket from the window. “There’s my ticket. Valid today.”

“I’m sorry, sir,” the warden’s tone was neutral. “The penalty has been issued and documentation registered on the computer.”

“Couldn’t you have used your sleeve to wipe the window before booking me? You guys really are the pits.” Ralph looked to the heavens to see a solitary pigeon sitting on a lamp post. It had its head slanted but there was no love lost between the doer and the receiver. Ralph went back into the fast food place to continue his meal. His table had been cleared. Burgers, fries and coke straight down the chute of the bin.

“Thought you’d cleared off,” said the waitress.

January in the Falklands

January 19, 2012


Much preferring to work in the field than in the office, when Rockhopper Exploration offered me the chance of sailing to an offshore rig in the waters of the Falklands Islands to report on the progress of its oil discoveries, I could not say no. Bye, bye paper clips, hello drill pipes.

The voyage was as uneventful as an episode of Last of the Summer Wine. We waved to the Canary Islanders; we bisected the Equator and languished in the doldrums before reaching the giant Sea Lion oil field just off the Argentinean coast. I cried “Rule, Britannia!” before stepping off the boat. Clumsily, I slipped into the South Atlantic. To my horror nobody noticed, they were too busy with their important oil related business to worry about me. Everybody vanished inside the rig to their charts, memos and kettles.

I remembered I couldn’t swim. This was hairy and scary at the same time. Somehow, I rode the foaming surfs and ran through miles of freezing water to reach land. Totally totalled I lay on the shore with the icy Tyson wind biting my ears. I knew I had to make it inland to shelter

With leaden legs and disorientation I went metric; I struggled through kilometre after kilometre of rugged landscape. The cold did give me one fringe benefit. I needed to sneeze. Sneezing is almost as good as sniffing tractor magazines. Although one goes out and one goes in the euphoric effect is the same. You can’t beat some ins and outs. I let the sneeze grow from its embryonic state. My eyes were half-open, my mouth half-closed, my eyebrows were scrunching, my body tensed, my nose was quivering at first then rattling as the Richter Scale was rising. Then…nothing. It was a false alarm sneeze.

Distraught, I laboured on as my strength was diminishing by the second; I could have used some of Rockhopper’s oil. Fortune threw me a lifeline. A short distance away I saw a tent. Using the last of my energy I entered the cabin of canvas.

My eyes were blinded by the brightness of the inside somewhat though I could see the outline of a sleeping bag on the floor. Exhausted, I crawled into the bag and it occurred to me that there was another human being beside me. My eyes became accustomed to the tent and all I could see was pink. My sleeping partner awoke and said.
“Hello sailor boy! You’re my first foot.”