Archive for November 2012

5. The Ladies Toilet

November 24, 2012

Ralph and Jeff were dining at a very upmarket restaurant. The talk, inevitably, revolved around toilets. Hygiene and layout were important factors in the most private of rooms.

“Dick Lewis was here last week and he waxed lyrical about the state of the toilets.” said Ralph.

“I’m presuming Dick said conditions were good.” stated Jeff.

“The best, my friend, the best,” Ralph went on “Each urinal has a full length screen. Eh? Eh?” Jeff nodded in agreement. “Civilisation has come a long way since the days of the trough.”

“You got to hate the trough especially if you were at the end with the drain. All that-”

“OK Jeff, that’s plenty. Dick said that the urinal dividers were so high it was impossible for those “peekers” to sneak a peek without being caught. There are so many strange men that haunt toilets.”

“Hate the peekers.”

“Your drinks gentlemen.” The waiter arrived with the refreshments. After thanking the attendant they turned their attention to their drinks.

“This is posh, Ralph. They’ve even put a cut lemon in your vodka. Look at it embedded in the glass. That’s class”

Ralph squeezed the lemon into his glass though chaos theory reared its ugly head as a rogue tributary squirted from the fruit into Ralph’s eye. Lemon in the eye is a painful circumstance that doesn‘t happen often. He was in distress.

“Ralph, go to the toilet and wash your eyes. The toilet is just over there.” Jeff pointed to a set of rooms not far from their table. Half-blinded Ralph walked over to the rest room and entered.

Ralph looked around. This toilet was even better than the one Dick was talking about. This establishment must have two different toilets. From his still hurting eye he could see that there weren’t any dividing cubicles. There were separate rooms instead. This is posh. You can’t beat posh, thought Ralph. At the sink he splashed some water on his lemon-filled eye. Gradually, as his sight got better he adjusted the fly on his trousers. As he was zipping up he saw a woman in the mirror coming out from one of the toilet stalls.

Ralph had deduced that he was in the ladies toilet. The woman started to scream. A loud, terrified shrill. Ralph was a rabbit caught in the headlights. In desperation the first thing he thought of to get out of this mess was to fake that he was sleepwalking. He narrowed his eyes and put his hands out straight in front of him. He was the walking dead walking asleep though he was awake. The woman screamed again and ran out of the toilet in terror.

The commotion made all the diners turn in their seats. Jeff saw Ralph come out of the ladies loo with his arms outstretched like a zombie. The lady from the toilet disappeared into the street fleeing for her life. Jeff went up to Ralph.

“What’s the matter, Ralph?”

Uttering out of the side of his mouth in the fashion of a ventriloquist Ralph told Jeff he was pretending to sleepwalk because he had made a mistake with the toilets. Jeff immediately sprang to his friend’s aid.

“Stand back everyone, it’s OK, he’s only sleepwalking.”

Ralph made a growling noise while he staggered around forcing Jeff to whisper to him “Cut down with the method acting.”

“It’s only three in the afternoon. Why is he sleeping at this time and why is he sleeping in a restaurant?” asked one of the diners. It doesn’t matter where you go there’s always one that gets involved. Jeff holding back the urge to throttle the man who enquired said.

“This is a disease. It can strike at any time. This man has instant sleep and sleepwalking disease. I, S…um, I, S, S, D syndrome.” Jeff was in improvising mode.

“I’ve never heard of that one.”

“What are you? A Doctor or something?” Immediately Jeff recognised his mistake. If this nosey diner was a doctor they’d be rumbled. Good grief, hadn’t he heard a thousand and one times that a lawyer never asks a question he doesn’t know the answer to. Not that Jeff was a lawyer in the first place. He was a bricklayer.

“No. I’m an accountant.” answered the diner. Jeff breathed out a sigh of relief. Ralph continued on his aimless walk around the room brushing into chairs and grunting out zombie noises. He was in full over-acting mood.

“Right what happens now is I wake him up.” said Jeff playing to the crowd as if he was a magician and Ralph his duped assistant.

“That’s dangerous.” said the accountant.

“What is?”

“Waking someone up while they’re sleepwalking.”

“I thought you said you weren’t a doctor”

“I’m not but everyone knows you don’t waken a somnambulist.” smirked the smug accountant.

This baffled Jeff “Som-what?”

Ralph knew that it was time for him to solve the problem himself as Jeff had ran out of ideas. Ralph let out a mighty AAHHH making the ladies in the room scream once again. Slowly, he dropped his arms to his sides, opened his eyes and with a disorientated voice said.

“Uhhh, where am I?” Jeff came to the rescue again.

“It’s OK now, Ralph, you’re awake. Let’s go sit down. Easy pal, it‘s all over.”

Jeff led Ralph back to their table. On the way Ralph acknowledged a few of the suspicious diners by raising his eyebrows in a pleasant gesture. The pair sat down and looked at the menu.

“The lobster looks a good choice.” said Ralph

“Love the lobster.” agreed Jeff.

Just then the door of the restaurant thrashed open and the lady from the toilet reappeared with two policemen at her side. She was at boiling point.

“Officers, that’s the man from the ladies toilet who was playing with his trousers. God knows what he was doing at the sink. And then he chased me.” The woman singled out Ralph. The accountant sneered. Ralph turned to Jeff who shrugged his shoulders and said.

“What do you think toilets are like in jail?”


Don’t forget to remove your batteries

November 23, 2012

Standard & Poor’s (S&P) Ratings Services on Friday confirmed France’s double-A-plus rating, offering the beleaguered Fifth Republic’s President, François Hollande, a boost, albeit delivered from the back of the hand. This was just days after rival Moody Investors Service stripped the country of its triple-A ranking.

There’s a lot of things about this statement that make me scratch my head. What are France playing at, having a President called Hollande? The French have gone Dutch? Whatever next, I wonder? A Prodi in charge of Italy? (They’ve been there, done that, bought the gelato – sub-editor editing correction)

Move over R2D2, here’s PP3

And what’s with all the battery rating nonsense. Double A, Triple A. what happened to A, B, C? If the financial services want to use the battery standard to grade countries economies why is no one given a 9 volt PP3 rating? The PP3 series are the chunky little batteries that have a snap connector at the top. These are the Monte Carlo of batteries. Once you’ve connected a PP3 no other battery tastes the same. Snapping them into the relevant device is almost as good as popping bubble wrap. We’ll leave the Bubble wrappers anonymous story for another day.

Battery charging is one of the things that raises the mercury in me. As a non mobile phone user I never have to worry about the cell running out of juice. I don’t have a tablet, not even an aspirin, that would need re-energised. I walk this world alone, different from the rest of humanity with their chargers. If aliens from outer space landed on earth, they would send back reports to their homeland that this whole world is a planet of battery chargers. That’s, of course, if their messaging service was at full power and didn‘t cut out during transmission.

Then there’s Standard & Poor itself. They seem to exclude the wealthy from their name which is a form of discrimination. What happened to Rich? Is rich a dirty word? Why aren’t they called Rich, Standard and Poor?

While giving S&P the nod that we were going to be mentioning them in this article, they said that they have began a process of rating websites. We didn’t blink. We have nothing to fear from a poor ranking. No one in their right mind would invest in us. However, if we get a 9 volt PP3 rating there’ll be plenty knocking at our door. The Greeks will try to vow us by singing “Grease is the word” and Le Français will pucker up and kiss us on both cheeks.

In the dark

November 17, 2012

Hygiene standards have improved considerably in modern times so much so that ear wax is going out of fashion. Which leads us nicely to the also nearly extinct item: the humble candle. In olden times all homes were stocked with candles as they were a necessity. You never knew when the next power cut was coming.

Those old power failures, while a boon for adults, were a source of great happiness for the young. With everything on the blink the parents cursed their luck as the TV show they were watching disappeared from the screen. Of course, no catch-up TV was available and the half-missed episode was gone forever until it was repeated on UK Gold thirty years later. I don’t remember that one, would say mum and I’d say we probably had a power cut at the time.

The youngsters, though, cared not a jot for television. We liked the skulking about in the dark. While slightly afraid of the thick darkness there was still a thrill in the air as we basked in the excitement of the gloom. And then the hunt for the candles began. All played under the blanket of pitch black. Then the treasure was found. We had the candles. Oh no, where’s the matches? Striking it lucky, dad would have matches in his pockets. Where they always were.

The wax would be melted onto a saucer to give a foundation for the candle to be stuck onto -These saucers would be used for food at a future date but nobody was looking that far ahead all we wanted was light. And then there was light. We could see our spooky faces hanging over the candlelight. What fun.


There was someone knocking at the door. Much arguing ensued over who was to answer the call. As the males in the house, dad was pressured into going with me at his back. We walked the hall with the glow of the candle casting shadows that formed the shapes of ghouls. We didn’t have a spy hole so we opened the door blindly to the stranger that called.


It was next door’s neighbour asking if we had any spare candles. What a let down. We were expecting an axe murderer. We never get what we want.

The power cut has gone the way of the dodo or has it? I got one the other night. BOOF. Everything conked off. How strange? Using a torch (this is the 21st century after all) I went to the electricity box in the cupboard and flicked the power switch back on. We had suffered a power surge safety cut-off because of the amount of appliances that were on.

TV, computer, laptop, lights, cooker, fridge (that power eater is always on), washing machine, two X-box consoles, CD player, air freshener plugs (it’s a long story about football boots) and phone chargers.

With all that wattage in use it’s a wonder we didn’t blow the power in the whole street. Then the neighbours would come knocking as they do when these things happen. Not for candles, they’d be outside with burning torches and pitchforks.

Steam on the inside

November 13, 2012

Many tides ago I recall reading in some obscure magazine that it is not a good idea to make friends while on a cruise. The reasoning for this was that, although initial contact with the strangers you’ve just met was favourable, after a few further meetings they can start to annoy you. His jokes are rotten, her voice is grating and things like that. Avoiding your new acquaintances can be difficult as big as the boat might be, there are limited spaces to hide on a ship. Diving over the side is not an option, especially if there are sharks in the water or if you can’t swim. There’s a lot of islanders that can’t swim, you know.

I’ve singled out cruise ships but irritating holidaymakers can be found on any kind of vacation. Or location. On a train, for instance. There’s no telling who will sit beside you on a long train journey. If it’s the chatty type you’re in for a long haul. Guess what, I was once the victim of a gabby traveller who could talk the leaves off a tree.

My ordeal began, as these things do, quietly enough. The carriage I was in was empty save me and I settled down for an enjoyable read of my Kindle. The silence was broken by the siren of the train signalling it was about to move. I had selected my novel from the library mode of the machine and breathed out a pleasant air of satisfaction as the train trundled on its way. Suddenly, there was a back draft as the door of the train opened and a middle-aged man jumped into the cabin with the verve of a superhero.

“Hello there, I’m Dan.” Dan offered his hand to me and during the clasping of hands he tried to wrench my arm from the socket. A firm handshake is one thing, why do some men go the extra inch? It’s definitely a my car is better than your car kind of thing. Male alpha/beta nonsense. And we all know what these men are hung up on.

“What are you reading?” Danman asked.

For me, this is bad practise. It’s Ok for close friends to ask this personal question not complete outsiders. I was also reading a Kindle which should give me amnesty from this type of query. The whole point of the Kindle is for private reading. There are no big covers displaying your reading material only a leather bound wrapping protecting the e-reader. My hesitation lasted a lifetime forcing Dan to utter another enquiry.

“Do you speak English?”

This was a lot easier to answer. “Yes”

“So what are you reading then?”

And now there was nowhere to hide or run or dive and attempting to shield my pulp reading matter I lied to Dan that I was reading that masterpiece of complex human relationships dealing with the theme of madness, Tender is the Night.

“Tender is the Night.” was my lying reply.

“Fitzgerald, eh.” Danman was on the ball with books. He went on. “Don’t you think Redford was miscast in the Great Gatsby? He ruined the whole film for me. A better choice would have been James Franciscus.”

This was too much for me “James Franciscus has never been in a decent film or TV show in his life.”

Dan was not for budging. “Franciscus was absolutely sensational in Beneath the Planet of the Apes. He outHestoned Heston.”

“Are you kidding? The Apes saga was Chuck’s best work.”

Dan sat back in his seat deep in thought before resuming the conversation. “I’ll let that one go. Let’s go back to Gatsby. Lloyd Bochner would have played the part much better than Redford.”

“Dan, You’ve lost the plot. Bochner must have been about forty when The Great Gatsby was made. He’d be too old.”

“Actors change their appearance. They’re never too old or young.” Now I’d had enough. What am I doing, sitting here arguing over trivialities with a stranger on a train? Goodbye, Danman, I’m going to jump. I opened the door of the carriage and leapt outside.

My fall was broken with a soft landing. I had jumped into a small lake which was beside the railway. How lucky was that? And then I remembered I couldn’t swim. More serious was my worry that I didn’t know if the Kindle were waterproof or not. At least as I was in Britain there were no sharks or stingrays or piranha. I heard a splash in the near distance. Crocodiles? Alligators? With my head barely above the surface I could see a figure powering toward me through the water. It wasn’t a caiman it was Danman.

A Shot at Glory

November 8, 2012

A few weeks back I was at a family wedding and my brother-in-law cannoned an idea to me that he didn’t think would see it past the break-off. He proposed a snooker competition. A four player tournament comprising the two of us and my two sons. For those of you unfamiliar with the game of snooker, I must tell you that snooker is one of the few things Scots do really well…except me. Therefore, he expected me to turn the notion down. I was swayed by the fact that he had bought a trophy from one of the trophy making centre shops, these fly by night ventures that spring up and just as quickly spring down, to be presented, fully engraved, to the winner. His keenness had won me over. That and the chance to have a big fancy dan trophy. Oh, to sit on the throne.

Generally, without making a big fast food meal deal out of it, I am startling brilliant at everything. Snooker however, is as the French say, my Bet Nawr. I’m not a Potter. I’m not a Harry Potter fan either, I’m more for Lord of the Rings but that’s a whole different ball game. Furthermore than Tolkien, I’m a Game of Thrones guy, born and bred. Or converted, whatever the case may be.

My sons took to the tournament like a cue ball to the bottom bag. To surprise my brother-in-law, me and my sons made a magazine in honour of the event with lots of in-jokes to amuse him. This was all done in a light heartened vein. Life should have more fun in it, don’t you think? We will hand this copy to him tonight.

The magazine consisted of player profiles, a snooker quiz, funny ads and a hard hitting article about the game written by yours truly. I write the Final Frame feature under the pseudonym of Steve Parrott. Best I could think of when pushed. We expect all good newsagents to stock this piece of history. Details for overseas readers on how to purchase this magazine will be printed soon. (As will a few pages of the lauded magazine when I get round to it)

The draw was kind to me. It was conducted at the aforesaid wedding reception in the evening with my wife picking numbers from a sweeties pick and mix bag.(This is true, by the way, I’m not making this up). I was drawn to play my youngest son who, in all fairness, is the weakest of the three players I could have got. Still, he will probably beat me. The other half of the draw brought the two heavyweights together. They were distraught, one of the big guns had to go out at the semi-final stage.

That’s life, funny as it seems. Some people get their kicks and there’ll be plenty of kicks during the finals. I’m talking snooker kicks, of course. The first round matches, or semi-finals if you prefer, take place this evening- November 8th 2012- wish me luck. By gum, I’ll need it.