Archive for September 2012

British Psycho

September 30, 2012

Dexter raved and drooled whenever he had something on his mind. Cleopatra’s, the new eatery on Floyd Avenue was the hottest place in town according to his sources. We’ll hit the place at lunchtime, he said. Parking the car round the bend we headed for the entrance.

“Not today, gents.” our way was blocked by an imposing male, impeccably dressed.

“We have a reservation.” pleaded Dexter.

“Doesn’t matter. He’s not getting in.” The doorman pointed at me. The more I looked at him, the more he resembled Heimdall, the sentry of Asgard. The guardian of the Rainbow Bridge was refusing us entry to the place of gold. This was a frosty reception.

“What seems to be the problem?” I asked. As far as I was concerned there was nothing wrong with my appearance.

“Ink on your shirt.”

I looked at my shirt. Sure enough, there was an ugly black pool of oil spreading over my chest. “My pen is burst.” I gushed silently to myself. I took the offending implement from my breast pocket. It dripped like a beaten fighter’s nosebleed onto the pavement.

“At least I’ll be able to get in,” said the unsympathetic Dexter, “I love the saying, it is not enough that I succeed, others must fail.” Dexter took a step forward and was met by the fierce grip of the doorman’s fist. This had the potential to be a gory moment. Heimdall had a sharp tongue to go with his, hidden for the moment, equally sharp swords.

“You’re not getting in either. You’re guilty by association. On your way, gents”

Now we’re eating our sandwiches in the run of the mill Spartan Bar. The place was full of the hangers-on and hangers-out and middle of the road fraternity. We’re squashed in here because my ball point took a leak. Dexter’s spirits had perked up and he piped.

“The best bouncer story ever was the time ten of us tried to get into Bo Derek’s nightclub. The steward was not having it. “I can’t let ten men in at the one time”. This gave us an excuse to go through all the formations to the bemused keeper of the door. What about four of us get in then three then another three. Or four-four-two. More attackingly you could let us in four-two-four. You know that soon we’re exhausting all the possibilities using improbable line-ups. Two-three-one-two-two. Five-one-three-one. There was a huge queue forming behind us yet still we were churning out systems. Blackie was a bit drunk and his counting went to pot. He had eleven men in his team.”

I’d heard all this before. Dexter added.

“It’s a pity that the nightclub wasn’t called Cleopatra’s. I’d have said “Why don’t you let us in using the pyramid system?”

Dexter laughed a big loud laugh opening his mouth wide as the Nile. What I’d give to fill that orifice with dark ink. In fact, I’d love to go farther and drown Dexter in a vat of ink. I don’t want Dexter to fail. I want him to die gurgling for his life in a man-sized inkwell. The Dex will be in tattoo heaven.

I’m home at the place I share with my girlfriend, Lucy. The usual clutter of department store bags filled with clothes she’s never going to wear blocked my entrance to the flat. I wished there were a roller shutter on our front door so I couldn’t get in. Now that’s what I call a bouncer.

“Hello honey. How was your day?” she purred. She pecked me on the cheek.

“Good. Dexter got a knock back from Cleopatra.” I hung up my jacket that had sustained collateral damage from the earlier incident. Turning my back to her to hide the totalled shirt I entered the bedroom and gave her the obligatory, nice to be nice, reciprocal question. “How was your’s?”

“Penny was with me today and she spent a fortune. The salesperson was all over us at Alamo’s. He had big dollar signs in his eyes. We bought enough leather to start a cattle ranch in Texas-”

And she was off. This would be a thirty minute monologue about the joys of spending money on useless things. I wouldn’t mind the expense on my wallet if she was as adventurous in bed as she was in the mall. She had a puritan bedroom manner. The missionary position had a monopoly between the sheets.

The other men had vamps as misses or so they said. Steam came out of my ear when I was told the acrobatics that went on in their world. Ever the liar, I had to embellish my exploits with Lucy to keep up with the Joneses. The best I could think of was the four-pillow sitting scissor position. I described the motions and nuances in great detail. The other men could not wait to get home to have a go at the four-pillow scissor position.

I was stuck with the missionary. I’ll give her missionary tonight. She was still prattling on with her sermon.

“So we’re eating turkey sandwiches at DiMaggio’s when Penny and I are talking about whether Dallas was better than Dynasty when, who should walk in dressed to kill-”

She’ll be getting the missionary all right. What the original missionaries got when they encountered a cannibal tribe. Her head on a platter and I’m sitting dabbing morsels of her flesh from my chin with a napkin. Good as these visions of supper were, things got better when Lucy walked into the bedroom and saw my coagulated shirt. She screamed. It was the first time she’d screamed in the bedroom.

Sylvester Stallone in the 80’s became one of the all-time greats. Dean burned out and Brando faded away, Stallone was here for the duration. He immersed himself completely in the parts he took.

Escape to Victory (1981) had Stallone playing an allied prisoner of war. The prisoners play a football match against a German team and Stallone was picked as the goalkeeper for the allies. A huge list of real football players featured in the film, none huger than the 5ft 10 Pele. Pele said that Stallone was better than Banks such was his agility between the posts.

Over the Top (1987) gave Stallone ample screen time to flex his muscles. As a man trying to get his life together he sees a chance to make money by entering arm-wrestling competitions. Underplaying it and showing realistic grimaces throughout, you couldn’t see Olivier do this role better. Therein lies the genius of Sylvester Stallone. He could turn his hand to anything.

Tango and Cash (1989) transcended the action film genre and was a flawless piece of art. The premise of pitting two maverick cops who hate one another in jail is the most original slice of scriptwriting to come out of Hollywood. Corrupt guards and henchmen criminals torture the pair in prison. The two cops devise a plan to break-out. Stallone’s electrifying performance was a shoo-in for best actor award. Incredibly, Day-Lewis won the Oscar that year for My Left Foot.

My library books are a day late. The librarian knows this. She sees me coming and has a Mona Lisa smile on her sadistic face. I’ll let her stew awhile. I enter and turn left away from the counter and head for the aisles of reference books. One by one I take them out and lay them on the table. These mighty tomes will weigh heavily on the librarian that has to put them back in their right place. Because everything has a right place in here.

I scan the banks of computer terminals occupied by a mixture of students and fossils. Knowledge is power. There’s knowledge in books. Why aren’t they reading books?

A cough interrupts my thoughts on monitors electrocuting their users. It’s the librarian waiting for me to check-in my out of date hires. I approach.

“My good lady, is it possible I could check these books out again.”

“Of course you can, sir. Let me see if there are any outstanding issues with your selections,” she has seen through my ploy, “I’m sorry sir, they seem to be overdue. You will have to pay a small fine.”

I take out my cheque book though I wish it were an electric saw.

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Tomato Wars

September 29, 2012

There’s a lot of potential flashpoints ringed around the world that could ignite at any time- think of the Japan/China crisis or the holy wars between Israel/Iran or the disintegrating marriage of Catalonia/Spain. Diplomats have never been busier. And yet, an edible little fruit could bring about the biggest trade war of them all.

The US has terminated an agreement that has set a minimum price on Mexican tomatoes imported into the United States over the past 16 years. Mexico has threatened to retaliate by raising costs of its tomatoes imported to the States and endangering other bilateral trade disputes.

The tomato is about to embark on a campaign of terror that would make Bloody Mary flinch. And the tomato is such a nice guy, ordinarily. Now I don’t know about you but I can’t put a burger in my mouth without it dripping with tomato ketchup. The sauce blitzes those taste buds into a frenzy; tomato sauce has got personality.

On its own the little red ball can be eaten singularly like an apple. And it is more fulfilling than a bland Granny Smith green ball. The tomato has to be consumed carefully as it can be messy with the juice and pips flying all over the place. Though this little inconvenience adds to the glamour of the salsa’y nature of the Ferrari red tomato.

The Italians who know a thing or two about food use tomatoes extensively in their pizza and pasta recipes. It’s also hard to think of a better starter on the table than tomato soup. The tomato really is a gift from the gods. It’s a pity it has got mixed up in this disagreement between the North American neighbours. Though, when the going gets tough the tomato gets going. After all, it is a member of the nightshade family. Deadly tomatoes are about to be thrown in a twenty-first century Mexican war.    

 
 

4. The Roller Coaster

September 25, 2012

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The fairground was buzzing with the joyful atmosphere of happy people. The carnival was having one of the busiest days of its season. Ralph was gobbling up the last of his candy floss as he waited for Jeff and Sly to come off The Big Wild One rollercoaster. Ralph had a low opinion of candy floss; he was sorry he’d bought the cotton candy. Jeff and Sly appeared through the crowd and surprised Ralph.

“Hey.” said Jeff.

“Hey.” said Ralph.

“You’ve got candy floss on your cheek, Ralph.” sneered Sly.

“Hey, Sly. Thanks for the heads up. Candy floss is an over rated sweey , if you ask me.” Ralph wiped his face with a tissue.

“That is one great ride, Ralph, you don’t know just how good that was.” Jeff was holding a souvenir photograph of him and Sly on the ride. “Look at this. What a thrill that was. You definitely missed out. Look at Sly’s face.” Ralph stared at the photograph. The grinning couple in the snapshot eyeballed him back.

“Yeah, she looks thrilled.”

“Too bad you’re too chicken to go on it, Ralph.” Sly sneered again.

“I’m not chicken. You can only get two people in each carriage. Three of us couldn’t fit in it.” explained Ralph. Sly shot back.

“They do allow a single person rides. You would have the carriage all to yourself.”

“You know, that’s not fair. There’s a huge queue and if they let everyone ride singly they’d be doubling the ride waiting time. Single riders are selfish. Shouldn’t be allowed.”

“But it is allowed, Ralph. You’re only using this as an excuse.” Sly would not be beaten.

“No I’m not. And another thing it’s only sad individuals that go on these things alone.” Jeff and Sly looked at one another not convinced by Ralph’s argument.
“Think about this, Jeff. Would you go to a movie by yourself? No, you wouldn’t. This is just the same.”

“No it’s not.” said Jeff.

“It is. Remember that time I wanted to go and see The Watchmen and you couldn’t make it.”

“I wanted to go. It was a busy time at the office. You know what my clients are like.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Go yourself” you said. And I replied “What kind of loser would I be if I went alone?”

“You did go alone.”

“Yeah, but I felt like a loser.”

“Wait a minute. You told me the cinema was full of single males. Single male, empty seat, single male, empty seat, single male, empty seat. You said you didn’t feel uncomfortable at all.”

“That’s because I was sitting in a room full of losers.”

“You’re both losers, liking comic books at your ages.” said the unsympathetic Sly. “Watchmen. Watching men, whatever.” Jeff changed the subject.

“Me and Sly are going for something to eat. You wanna come, Ralph?”

“No, I’ve just eaten.”

“Suit yourself. Come on Jeff.” Sly flung a sly look at Ralph.

“Yeah you two go on. I’ll hang about here and browse the funny hats stalls. Or have a go on the hook-a-duck stand. Maybe I might find a comic book shop, if I’m lucky.” Ralph watched them disappear into the bustling human traffic.

Ralph wandered around the fairground with no particular place to go. Thirty minutes later he ended up back where he started- in the vicinity of The Big Wild One rollercoaster. By some chance the queue was small. Ralph figured maybe every one had had their fill of Europe’s Greatest ride (self-proclaimed). The queue was manageable and having the relevant tokens he joined the end of the line. This will shut the Sly one up.

The row of thrill seekers was going in quick and Ralph was soon strapped into a double-carriage by himself. Once a loser, always a loser he thought. In the blink of an eye the ride took off. Ralph was in a state of exhilaration but no way could you call it fear. He took coasters in his stride no matter what Sly might think.

Jeff had told him that the camera part of the ride was near the end and Ralph had still to make a decision on what face to pull for the celluloid. I’ll just play it straight and stare at the camera nonchalantly, he decided. The Big Wild One dropped into a terrifying dip that wrought screams from panic stricken passengers. Ralph never moved a muscle as the camera was about to make its flash storm. A big fat guy in front of him, also a lone rider, unstrapped himself and stood up. The fat guy roared as the camera clicked furiously.

The ride ambled to the finish line. Ralph had the awful feeling that something was not right. He sneered at the fat guy as he departed his carriage.

A kiosk was set up after the ride with photographs of recent photos of the ride for purchase. Ralph scanned the images for evidence of his Big Wild One experience. There were none. The big fat guy had monopolised the four shots of the two double carriages. Ralph was invisible in all the photographs. Jeff and Sly appeared on the scene.

“Nice one, Ralph. What are you doing in here. Trying to fool us into thinking that you were on the ride.” said Sly in a sneering tone.

“I was on the ride.” said Ralph.

“I don’t see you in any of the pics, partner.” exclaimed Jeff.

“I was on it. I looked at the camera with a normal face. Just like this,” he showed them his face, “A fat guy was in front of me. He stood up and covered my shot.”

“Yeah, Ralph we believe you.” said Sly. She didn’t mean this.

“Jeff, come on. You know I don’t lie.” By this time all the photograph’s from Ralph’s ride had been wiped and the screens showed new images.

“Nnnn,” Jeff made an noise that signalled that he was unsure, “There’s no photographic proof, Ralph.”

With little point in continuing the discussion Ralph went quiet and the three of them moved on with the screams from the patrons of the next coaster ringing in their ears.

Windsor’s Fall

September 24, 2012

Deep in the middle of autumn I arose from bed with a spring in my step. Throwing open the curtains I expected the seasonal thorny weather. My eyes saw the glory of a dry garden and overhead, a blue sky. With great haste I made my elaborate preparations for a comfortable stay in the back yard.

Shorts, t-shit and flip-flops were the garb of this calling. The plastic chair and table were emptied from the cluttered hall cupboard. A flask of ice-cold cola chilling from the fridge would help me from dehydration and the Kindle would hide the latest embarrassing book I am reading. Any enquiries from nosy neighbours could be met with the blatant lie, “just a little something by Prost.”

Before my adventure could start I was assailed by my wife.

“Where are you going?”

“The back.”

“It’s freezing out there. Are you crazy?”

“It’s not freezing, it’s nice. I’m going out there and you will regret not joining me.”

I set up my paradise in the garden. I idled in the idyll. It was as if a little piece of Jamaica had been transported into the sprawling urban metropolis that surrounded me. Swigging some of the brown, sugary nectar of the gods I delved back into my Dean Koontz blockbuster.

A light breeze tickled my toes, though it wasn’t a laughing matter. For once I wished I had socks under my flip-flops to ward off the slight chill in my lower extremities. As if by a switch the sky turned a shade of grey. Then a whipping current of air tore at my face. Nonplussed, I guessed this was just a passing breaking of wind.

My guess was wrong when the goose bumps sprouted from my flesh as the cold intensified. I turned round to see my wife at the window. I managed to fake a smile with my teeth chattering. Standing up to bring some heat into my body by moving, the chair was blown across the ground and rattled off the garden wall where it continued to flap. I picked up my cola and headed for the back door of the house; you never leave a cola behind.

My homeward journey was difficult as the wind was changing direction constantly. The only good thing about this was I hoped there were a lot of people playing golf today. Leaning my upper torso 30° into the wind I could fight my way to shelter.

“See. Told you it was wild outside.” said my wife.

Now this I could not stomach. For the rest of the day I did not want the “told you so” thrown down my throat at every opportunity so I had to counteract her claim.

“What are you talking about? I forgot to put on my sun cream. After I put it on I’m going back outside.”

I might not be coming back.

I bet this didn’t happen at the Library of Alexandria

September 22, 2012


 

The good thing about libraries is searching the online catalogue. If your local does not have the book you want on its shelf you can request a transfer of your chosen book from another library to your nearest. If there isn’t a waiting list, in a few days your selection will be ready to pick up. This is good.

Stepping into a library can be bad. Not all bad, I might add. Browsing through the tomes of the Encyclopaedia Britannica is always a delight. True, you can’t hire it out but reading this work of reference in the confines of the study room is an intellectual enchantment that is right up there with getting a question right on University Challenge.

As usual, economics and lack of money contribute to the downfall of libraries. Before the reading rooms were a place of knowledge and wonder, now they are a shabby affair denizened by uncouth individuals that are loud and trashy. How did it come about that drinking and eating was allowed in these premises?

Wandering through my local I was saddened to see so many buckets placed around the floor. Obligatory warning signs near the pails notified patrons to beware of the leaks. The roof was coming in on the library. When it rains, as it usually does in these parts, the drops cascade from the ceiling. It is now part of a librarian’s duties to empty the buckets.

One thing that was amazing was the fact that all the rainfall was missing the shelves and the fragile paper that books are made of. Was this a coincidence, I asked the librarian? No, she said. If the leak is dropping on the books they move the shelves to another location, a dry location. What they’re doing is the same as a superstore when it changes its layout; another thing that makes my blood boil. Where’s the bananas? What have you done with the bananas?

In a nutshell, the leaks are calling the shots round here. The librarian did add that if the water was falling on Ceri Radford’s books they let nature take its course with all the catastrophic circumstances that would happenstance. Now, many is the time I’ve wanted to burn Ceri’s books, the library prefers to drown them.

Finally, it baffles me why any one would want to go to a library to use a computer. Having experimented once when the internet provider was down, it was a slow, slow, slow experience. Three shaves I had waiting on the Sky Sports webpage to load. Yet, still the computer terminals are used by the foolhardy. I eyed them as they sat and stared at a buffering screen. I was about to leave the building when an expectant hush came over the atmosphere.

“He’s here” said an unshaven patron of the computer aisle.

At the risk of sounding like Bud Costello in a prehistoric comedy routine, I asked Beardy “Who’s here?”

“The computer whisperer.”

Silence reigned along with the raindrops that…rained….into the buckets. Drip, drip, drip. The computer whisperer took up a position near a monitor. He mumbled at the screen. I edged closer to hear. He made another inaudible mutter.

“What’s he saying?” I was met with a tremendous SHHUUSSSHHHH by the irate online operators. Silence is meant to be golden round here so I stilled myself. You could have heard a pin drop if not for that annoying drip.

The whisperer continued his quiet soliloquy with the processors. His soft tones registered with the machines. The workstations clicked into action. Soon the computer screens were alive with high-speed resolution. An applause rang out for the departing computer whisperer. He had other appointments. My computer’s a bit on the slow side at the moment. I rushed out after him

Pain comes to town

September 17, 2012
 
 

The default channel on my TV is the home shopping network, QVC. My wife is a huge fan and good customer of this network. The constant droning of the presenters in the background as I try to concentrate on my reading of the Wall Street Journal can be distracting. Secondary indoctrination has brainwashed me into knowing all the salespersons and their products.

As my wife is a hard working housewife I try not to protest about the bombardment of goods that are regularly shown. It would be futile to try and change the channel anyway as she has the remote in her hand. On her other hand is a phone and if Kipling bags or L’Occitane fragrances are on screen, there is a good chance the hucksters at QVC will be getting a sale.

As you all know I am a renowned tennis player and adequate five-a-side football player. These are the only two sports I play and they keep me in trim. Time has not caught up with me just yet to curtail my athletic activities but recently I have been picking up some slightly niggling injuries. Naturally, reared in a tough housing scheme I fight through the pain barrier without complaining. Well, not when anybody’s looking, anyway.

A leg knock I received last week was taking its time to heal. This was a bit more painful than niggling. My calf muscle was badly sprained. Holding back the agony with hidden grimaces, I didn’t tell my wife about my problem. One has one’s reputation to uphold. We were having a pleasant evening in. I was reading Domino Toppling Weekly and she was watching QVC. And then on came SBC.

Excusing myself I headed to the bathroom. Locking myself in I raided the cabinet above the sink. There it was: SBC Arnica Gel. My hardworking wife bought this from QVC to relieve her aches and pains. I have always been sceptical of the mystical healing properties of this plant. Nevertheless I rolled my trouser leg up and plumped a big glob of the gel on the affected area. Massaging the Arnica into the wound, there was a nice cooling feeling.

Flame On! This thing really works. The pain knew it was beat and decided to leave town with its tail between its legs.
Completely recovered I ran into the living room and jumped backwards onto the couch. Cured by default.

We t Ha St ward

September 6, 2012
 
 

Charlie was in a good mood. In fact, if you could have a cloud ten or a division above the Premiership he’d be on it. Today he was starting his new job as a steward at Upton Park, home to the mighty hammers of London’s east end, West Ham. His duties were, basically, showing people to their seat. This menial task was offset by the uniform Charlie was given: a big fluorescent yellow jacket.

All his life Charlie had wanted to don a big yellow jacket. It was in double figures the amount of times he failed the interview to be a car park attendant. He was too anxious and it put employers off. That was in the past, now he was a member of the yellow brigade. A figure of authority. He took his spot at the top of the enclosure steps.

He started off well. Early entrants to the match had been directed to their positions with little difficulty. Charlie knew his section like the freckles on the back of his hand. There were some spectators that found their seat themselves but for the floundering Charlie was their man. Without Charlie they were lost.

Coming up the stairs to the arena was a young supporter with his eyes fixed to his ticket. Charlie nodded to himself, this guy doesn’t know where he is going. Sure enough the fan spotted the yellow jacket and asked Charlie for help in finding his destination. The ticket said J10.

Charlie pointed down the steps and said “you’re ten rows from the front and just in to the right”. Thanks, said the hammer fan. Charlie turned to look for more incoming when a few seconds later the same fan pulled at his elbow.

“My seat’s not there”. said the fan.

“It must be there. Is somebody sitting on it?” asked Charlie.

“No. the seat’s not there.”

Charlie decided to investigate and took the young fan down the steps. All the steps were lettered beginning with A at the bottom. Charlie went to step J. The paint lettering on  the concreted step J had been worn off. Step I, on the ninth row, and step K on the eleventh were clearly shown. The tenth row had no letter. Although he was exasperated Charlie retained his sense of duty. He sat the fan down just inside the aisle on the J10 seat.

Charlie went back to his post at the top of the steps. He thought to himself. When you are in the yellow jacket fraternity you meet every walk of life in society. The next person to ask Charlie for directions had a ticket with the location J15 on it. Charlie burst into football song- here we go, here we go, here we go…again.