Archive for August 2012

Luftwaffe descending

August 26, 2012

It was my birthday. My wife always had a surprise gift for me on my birthday. She told me to close my eyes and she led me up the garden path. When we reached the frontline she said “you can open your goggles now” and dangled a set of keys in front of me. There, parked on the driveway was a Messerschmitt 109. Just what I’ve always wanted.

“Danke.” I said to her.

“Well go on, take it for a tailspin.” she said.

Leaping into the cockpit I searched for the slot for the ignition key. There didn’t seem to be any. The control panel had a mind-boggling array of switches, dials and buttons. I grabbed the steering wheel and pulled it back the way. A roar grunted from the engines. Chocs away, way-hay.

I turned into the road, managing to avoid hitting any of the military topiary figures my Polish neighbour had cut into the hedge. I was particularly wary of the air to surface missile shaped decoration but the Me-109 manoeuvred past the obstacles. We hit the road running, powering along the tarmac.

Gaining altitude was a problem as no matter what I tried I couldn’t get off the ground. I put the flaps down, I put the flaps up, I shook the flaps all about. I pulled levers, I pushed levers, I left levers alone. I shouted at the controls, I caressed the controls, I pleaded with the controls still we were kissing the asphalt. The altimeter read: 0 MSL (mean Sea Level). This meant we were level with the sea. Down here with the ants the clouds seemed so far away.

Then I had a fuselage moment. Fuselage! I remembered I once played flight Simulator on the Spectrum ZX console. I hoped I could use this experience of flying to pilot the plane into the skies. Trouble was there was no QWERTY keyboard on the dashboard. There was no shift/control and up/down buttons to push. And no space bar for cruising. Of course, I had forgotten that the Spectrum ZX was an obsolete format and not as modern as the Messerschmitt 109, for Focke-Wulf.

The next problem was an everyday one. I was approaching a red light. I could have taken a cyclists mentality and steered through were it not for the fact that a little old granny was crossing with her wheelie bag. Where’s the brakes, where’s the brakes, where’s the brakes, I rat-a-at-tatted for all I was worth. There was nothing else for it but to stick one of my legs outside the cockpit onto the road and use it as a brake. My shoe was burning rubber. Friction forces were slowing the fighter plane down but not nearly enough. The lights and the granny were upon us. She was shouting something about “boy racers” and disappeared under my wing. Checking the mirror I could see she had survived. She was saved by her stoop.

Onwards and upwards, though not literally, I flew along the street.

Mein Gott! Up ahead was something very rarely encountered today as it has its roots in the medieval age of chivalry. A fraulein in distress.
She wasn’t tied to the tracks of a railroad though she was in some discomfort. A beautiful young lady wearing a tight T-shirt and a mini-skirt was lying down on the ground holding her shapely thigh as if hurt. Her helplessness made an appeal to my gentleman courtesy. I parked the Messerschmitt into a tree.

“Guten tag, have you broken your leg, Madame?” I asked.

“Only a nail when I scraped it on the kerb. It’s all Hans fault. He owes me big time. This better be worth it” she remarked.

“I don’t understand.” Suddenly, from the bushes emerged the aforesaid Hans with a gun in his hand, a Luger if I’m not mistaken. He was smelling of cologne. It was overpowering, I couldn’t resist. Hans gesticulated for me to sit down. As scent rises this was a good thing.

Hans and, I don’t know her name, Gretel or something jumped into the Me-109’s cockpit closing the canopy behind them. She was going on and on about her broken nail. I felt sorry for Hans. One quick reverse from the tree, a burst from the engines, a swift exit down the makeshift runway, a lifting of the undercarriage and they were airborne. Hans knew his stuff. This wasn’t good for me. I had been carjacked.

Trusting in the local constabulary I phoned the police outlining the details of the crime not overlooking the fact it was my birthday to which I received a many happy returns greeting, thank you very much. Much mirth was going on in the background as I narrated my tale of woe of the stolen Messerschmitt. I overheard one officer quip “the Red Baron has been the victim of a honey trap.” another said “Did he lose a dogfight?” I hung up on them.

Stranded as I was in no-man’s land I had to get home somehow; there was a big party planned for me tonight. Not being a larcenist I would not copy the German stunt of Grand Theft auto. Hitchhiking is a safer option. I could hear a rumbling from around the corner making the ground shake. We weren’t on a fault line, why are the Teutonic Plates moving?
Karl Heinz Rummenigge! Looming into sight was a Tiger tank. That was what I wanted for Christmas.


The Battle of Corsock Bridge

August 21, 2012

NBC executives, smarting from a drop in ratings, had held emergency talks about broadcasting a new one-off live reality show. Historical war documentaries had always had segments of actual footage, if available, with some scenes of actors re-playing crucial events. This would be different as the whole show would be re-enacted exactly the way the battle happened. It was decided that a voiceover would only speak a few times during hostilities.

Using the American Civil War re-enactment society as an inspiration living historians from the British city of Glasburgh re-created The Battle of Corsock Bridge. At the top of Corsock Bridge was an unused railway line that had all its track stolen. Underneath the arch shaped bridge was the graffiti-ridden dividing line, the border, between the warring housing schemes- Carntown and Dennistyne.

Many skirmishes had taken place between gangs at Corsock Bridge- verbal baiting, rock throwing, the odd punch. For the most part an uneasy peace had ensued until the fateful day in 1980 that one of the commanders of Dennistyne gave the order to invade. This was the famous battle that keen re-enactment gangland enthusiasts accurately portray. NBC were going to film the scripted fight.

The venue of Corsock Bridge had changed little. It was the same dump it always was. With the battlefield set all the actors needed was to get into uniform of the time. This meant wearing Adidas Kick and three-button T-shirts. The weapons used were sticks, broken bottles and sharp implements, home-made chibs as they were called. A cordon was put up keeping spectators out of the way of the cameras. Ice-cream vendors did a roaring trade as the crowd was sizable; the sweet tooth option was the staple diet of Glasburgh. A mobile memorabilia shop sold scarves and pennants of the protagonists. Preparations were complete. Authentic onlookers that were present that day were in position as were the two armies. NBC started to roll.

“Who you lookin’ at?” an all too familiar call to arms was uttered by a foot soldier of Carntown.

“You” answered the monosyllabic Dennistynian.

Young children, cadets from the academy, aiming to make a name for themselves began to throw rocks at one another. A very young trainee did not have much strength and his rock hit one of his comrades on the front line. The victim, not happy with this friendly fire incident, slapped the errant thrower in the face who ran away saying.

“I’m going to tell my mammy.” Internecine warfare was a regular occurrence.

The Dennistyne gang advanced into enemy territory. They chased the young team away. One of these youngsters who was eating a Marathon bar raced to the headquarters (an old pigeon coop) of the Carntown general to warn him of the raid.

Sitting on a ravaged bench at the edge of Carntown two winos were finishing off another bottle of super strength wine. The two drunks were an inebriated version Of Statler and Waldorf. The Dennistyne ranks approached them. One of the sots said.

“Awright boys, have you any change?”

The Carntown gang made their appearance and an ugly stand-off developed. There were lots of shouting and swearing, bluster and bravado being meted out. At last someone from Dennistyne took the initiative and swung his stick at an opponent. He ducked and the stick wielder twirled round. Nonetheless this lit the toilet paper and both sides engaged in conflict.

There didn’t seem to be any military tactics in the battle. The free for all was freestyle fighting that was not very fierce. If you said Clausewitz to any of the soldiers that day they would have guessed, does he play with Bayern Munich? The battle continued with a series of forays and backtracks until a woman passed by with a pram. She spotted someone in the melee.

“Johnny MacGregor. Is that you?” Both sides backed off and Johnny MacGregor sheepishly stepped aside. “You wait ‘til I get you home.” The mother moved on with Johnny in tow. The re-enactment began again with a war of words.

The watching crowd, off camera, were unhappy with the fare that was being dished up. Some had came miles to see this. A loud chorus of “We want our money back, We want our money back” was screamed from the terraces until someone pointed out that today’s proceedings was free. NBC tried to hush the hullabalooists. The unforeseen interruption broke the concentration of the re-enactors and they had lost the plot. Dennistyne soldiers were beside Carntown soldiers as everyone was out of position. Lines and cues were forgotten in the mix-up.

“Cut, Cut.” shouted the NBC director.

“That’s not right,” said a Dennistynian corporal “nobody got cut that day.”

The Bucket List #4 – The Pole Vault

August 20, 2012

Insiders at JJB Sports have issued a Mark Twain like comment by saying that reports of its impending demise are premature. Nonetheless the share price for the sportswear and accessories firm is in free fall. Rivals (Sports Direct and JD Sports) have strengthened their place in the market. Mismanagement is blamed for the financial crunch that has put the company on the edge. Even the country wide feel good factor of a successful Olympics has not helped sales.

To me a sports shop should cater for every sport, however minor that sport should be. If you are a synchronised swimmer and you’re needing a peg for your nose, JJB should have it not the local hardware shop. Similarly if you’re a high jumper, high jump mats should be on display. Discus safety cages are another thing you never see. Can you imagine practising your speed-building rotational method Shot Put in the house without a cage? Carnage is the appropriate word to use here.

Usain Bolt, by common consent, was the star of the Olympics and will have inspired a new generation of sprinters. I’ll give JJB some credit here. They do stock running shoes. But when I asked an assistant if I could buy a set of sprint blocks, a starting gun and a winner’s podium they meekly answered, no. I bolted out the shop.

It annoyed me that there was a plethora of golf balls and golf gloves available on the shelves. Rugby was adequately compensated with kicking tees and mouth shields. If minority sports like these two are well stocked why don’t they have a crossbow, a saddle or hurdles for sale. And don’t get me started on pole vaults. Now pole vaults might be 14ft in length and cumbersome, if stacked vertically they wouldn’t take up much floor space. I didn’t see any pole vault cross bars, either. I am a frustrated pole vaulter just as pole vaulters are frustrated bloggers. Come on, when was the last time you read a blog by a pole vaulter? Me, I’d love to just once have a shot at pole vaulting.

I was on the way home when I saw this fifteen foot brick wall. I think there was a prison on the other side, I’m not sure. Call it deus ex machina if you will but sitting handily at the side of the pavement was a big stick and I mean a big stick. In much the same way you never walk by a ball without kicking it you never walk by a big stick without picking it up. So I picked it up. I took twenty paces backwards. Holding my big stick like a lance I launched myself at the wall. I dug the big stick in at the foot of the wall and soared to the skies. I might end up in jail, you never know.

Sign here

August 16, 2012

Have you ever chased someone down the street to try and get their autograph? Have you waited hours in the rain for the chance to get a star to scribble on your wet notebook? What is the script with these Autograph hunters that stake out their big game just to get a signature? It bewilders me the waste of time spent on a goose chase to capture a C-lister at best. I mean there’s not many of us that could get close to Beckham, Bieber or Boris, now is there?

Even more crazy are the collectors that buy autographs from memorabilia sources. What is the point of this? Even if the signing is genuine there is no glory for the recipient. The inscription is second hand and hasn’t been recorded “live”. There is a remote chance that Elvis is still alive but all copies of his writings were noted (more…)

Circumventing codes causing chaos

August 11, 2012

We’ve all heard the expression the cheque’s in the post. Normally, this means the cheque’s not in the post. Taking it further it means the person in debt is defaulting on his payment. At some point or another we have all experienced that awful moment when we know we have been ripped-off. You know what I’m talking about. You give someone a loan of money and they keep it. Or you buy from a mail order firm and they don’t send the goods. Sometimes you just have to accept that you can be a loser in some transactions. This is tough as money makes the world go round, though I think that’s not entirely true as gravity plays a big part.

Ordering online has always worried me. Don’t get me wrong reputable sites like Amazon have a 100% record with items that I have ordered, it’s just that I don’t trust that little padlock that says, don’t worry your card details are safe here. Padlocks can be opened if you have the right key. Or to be more precise as we are talking softwarish, if you have the right encryption code.

Hacking is another word that has been brought back into fashion under a new guise. Previously, a hacker was a not very good footballer whose job was to kick the opposition’s best player. Being a bit of a ball player myself (he says, pure utterly big-headedly) I used to hate the hackers on the field. Now I hate the hackers in the cyber world. These malicious malcontents can steal your identity. They can rob from your bank account without holding up the staff, wearing a mask or having a fast getaway car. I always wondered what would happen if more than one hacker stole your identity because there are more than one hacker out there. Be good if they all met one another.

“I’m Spartacus.”
“No you’re not. I’m Spartacus.”
“You are all having a laugh. I’m Spartacus.”
“I am the real Spartacus.”

Before you know it all these thieves would be left high and dry. With so many fraudsters kicking about they’d be easy to spot.

Passport control would say “We’ve got another one here trying to leave the country and go to the Canaries. Call for the Security service. He must be mad.”

Younger hackers hoping to pull off an under age tattoo stunt would be pierced with the legend. “You’re the fiftieth punter wanting an All the Days of Dolores inking. Clear off.” Pause. “Nice ears, though.”

Then there’s the foreign expatriate hackers that try to set up fish and chip shops in the U S of A. “We only do burgers here, you phony.”

Attempting to hire out library books fraudulently would be met with the contemptuous “You want to read Ceri Radford? You must have a fake ID or you‘re looking for a door stop.”

All these Spartacus’ roaming the continents and feeling disgruntled with the world can only lead to one thing: Revolution. Will the real Spartacus stand up?

Big Day is coming

August 2, 2012

Saturday will be a big day. I have been selected as best man to my brother-in-law’s wedding. It will be an honour to be the “best”. Happy occasion as this will surely be for the excited couple I will have mixed feelings about the event.

Naturally, I will be pleased for the bride and groom as they are really nice people. There are other points regarding the wedding that I am worried about. I must tell you that I love weddings. If I had my way I’d marry my wife every day. And therein lies the problem. I cry my heart out at weddings. Even ones on TV. But as co-star in this production and one who has a responsible position I will have to keep the tears in check. We can’t have the official photographs full of blubbering snaps of the “best” doing a Gazza.

The meal. It is common knowledge that I am a clumsy eater. My food utensil to mouth coordination is not up to Olympic standards. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t bother me. It does other diners though that doesn’t bother me either; in a food fight I can custard pie with the “best” of them. It’s all to do with suits. We will be wearing hired suits. (we don’t do kilts, BTW, that’s for the numpties in other parts of the country) Taking the cuisine-coated suit back to the showroom could be nasty. It will definitely be taken to the cleaners and so could I. I’d better have a few bob at the ready.

And finally and I’m sure you’ll all have guessed what I am most apprehensive about. The speech. The “best” speech. Half the occupants at the reception are not known to me. Will they take to my stories? Will I have to tone down the excessive exaggerations? And if so, what will the known half say about this? Should I just hit a straight drive down the middle, upsetting no one? Decisions, decisions.

I’ll leave the dilemmas to Hamlet and stick with the tried and trusted. The speech has got to be full of hyperbolic, outlandish, fabricated embellishments. It’s what I do “best”.