Archive for August 2013

One Vision

August 28, 2013

Specsavers has over 800 outlets dotted about the country. Working under the Specsavers umbrella with all its support services, each store is owned by a resident optometrist. The chain’s co-founder, Dame Mary Perkins, says its vision is to last forever. Specsavers sponsor many causes. For ten years they have had their name emblazoned on the shirts of Scotland’s football referees. This shows the refs are good sports even with all the bad decision-making they do.


Walking through any major city one is handed out leaflets from colourfully attired leaflet vendors. One of the pamphlets that does the rounds offers a free eye test. Free, I say! How good is that? Nobody ever declines a freebie. But wait a minute. Last time I checked my eyes were alright. Do I need this test? Do I want to read letters on the wall chart that are getting progressively smaller? My eyes are OK, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

One thing that does bring a certain frisson to eyes, young or old, is the first time they look through binoculars. The effects of the anticipation of using this strange new optical device have not been medically analysed but it’s safe to assume that the heart beats a lot faster just before the lens are placed on the eyes for the first time.

Looking through binoculars is a type of art form. On first usage a minor adjustment might be needed to focus the sight more clearly. This is done by rotating the central focusing wheel. After this, you’re away. You can see long distance. Just like the Bionic Man.

You can go from Steve Austin to Steve Irwin in the blink of an eye. “Crikey. Look at the size of the teeth on them!” you can exclaim when binocularily inspecting the pair of pliers on your workbench on the other side of the room.

So you can spot things far away and get a close-up of the horizon. Whoopee-do. And now…you yawn. When you’ve seen one Eastern Ovalaceous Warbler, you’ve seen ‘em all. What to do next? And this is where binoculars come into their own. You can turn them round and look through the bigger lens. This demagnifies things and has the effect of making objects seem farther away than they really are. This is a laugh. For a couple of minutes.

The only thing left to cherish was your first peep.


Hair we go, Hair we go, Hair we go

August 23, 2013


It’s all the sculpted, bronzed Cristiano Ronaldo’s fault. He had taken off his shirt at the end of a match and exposed his hairless chest. I wonder what it would be like having one of them, I thought. The hairy chest has been with me for thirty years now. We’ve been through a lot me and the chest hair: moonshining in Maryland, marmot-spotting in France, sock-darning in the tropical climes, we’ve been through it all. Still, I was considering a trimming of the ways.

Before I go on, I must tell you that I am not hairy all over. My back, I have heard from good sources, has no hairs on it at all. Or moles or any blemish whatsoever. You could say my back is my best feature. In fact, it has been said in certain circles that people like to see the back of me. What about that?

I looked at the options of getting rid of my unwanted hair. This is a big step in a man’s life. It’s right up there with getting a tattoo lasered off. The electric shaver, while doing a good job on my face, might not be up to the task in this more heavily congested forestry region. I could envisage missed clumps of hair and bristly bits sprouting after a day or two. Everything would be itchy and clawy. Clearly, the shaver was not going to make the cut. Which left me with wax as the only thing to work with.

I made a few enquiries with the professionals of the wax trade and basically they told me it’s a harmless procedure. The wax strips are adhered to the chest and just pulled off like a band aid. I looked at my nipples (this blog should be X-rated, don’t you think?) and the curly little nippers that grow there. I’m sure this sensitive area would feel the pain and they might miss their hairy companions if they were cut off. They were as close as a horse and a hound.

“Would you like a Brazilian?” the wax lady asked me.

Yes, there are Brazilians for men. They are similar to the traditional Brazilian, only longer. The waxers take off all the growth leaving a small runway of hair that starts at the top of the chin and ends where, well, you know where it ends. This trail of gunpowder was not for me. I refused.

It did get me thinking that maybe I should see a sculptor. With my full chest resembling a block of marble a good sculptor could go to town with it. There were myriad variations that could be carved in this dense woodland. This was exciting. It was like finding an unused part of skin and getting a new tattoo. I got a hold of Rodin and gave him a commission.

“Make my chest into a phone bar code.” I demanded.


Phone bar codes store information in a two-dimensional (2-D) matrix of tiny squares, dots or other geometric patterns. Next time I take my shirt off, the fans will get their cameras out and think that they’re scanning a bar code. When an image of the matrix is captured, software in the phone converts it into a web address, a piece of text or a number. Who knows, maybe it will direct the snappers to somewhere in the great blue yonder? More probably, they’ll be left with a photograph of my sheared self.

Lliterary mistakes- take one

August 17, 2013

There I was, browsing the books in Waterstones and yet again I discovered a filing mistake. Simon Bolivar! The excellent Peruvian writer, Mario Vargas Llosa was wrongly, alphabetically, planted in the V section. I counted to five but it was no use I was still angry. You never see Edgar Allen Poe squashed in the A’s, now do you? Why should Super Mario be singled out and dumped on the wrong shelf? Spanish naming customs can be complicated but the last name begins with L so put him with the other L’s, Willya?

I surveyed the staff. A couple of young, ditsy blonde females held fort. Digressing, this is the first time I have used the word ditsy; I don’t know what it means but it sounds right. One of MVL’s South American rivals is Colombia’s Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The New Granadian archangel is never stationed in the G department yet the Inca man was stuck in no man’s land. I prepared to make a scene and put right what was wrong. The only thing that stopped me in my tracks was an Amazon e-mail alert to my phone informing me that Llosa’s latest effort will be delivered soon. Machu Picchu! Or as they say here, ya beauty!

Cryptic Writings

August 14, 2013

One of the pleasures in hiring a library book is not just in the reading. The book itself has a history as unique as any living being. A cursory glance at the slip where previous lends were due signifies that the novel has had a rich life. Of course, some books by the likes of Ceri Radford, for example, remain on the shelf, unread, unhired, unbrowsed, untouched by human hands. Generally though, most books have departed from the stuffy library into the real world.

And the real world as we all know is as tough as Chingachgook’s feet. A fragile paperback is, to use the Howard the Duck phrase, trapped in a world he never made. Some book readers are harsh folders of a novel. In the nine circles of hell a cracked spine is one of the tortures inflicted on a book. Furthermore, one seriously considers the upbringing of those readers that don’t use bookmarks and instead crease the top of the page. For all that, this general wear and tear is to be expected as the book ages and handlers are less than careful.

What really turns my screw the wrong way is when I find foreign bodies between the covers. I’ve seen what I think is sauce, or is it blood, plastered on various pages of older manuscripts. Is the previous reader having his lunch or a nose bleed? Only the book knows and he’s not for telling. Discoloured and faded pages tell me the book has been in the wars. The worst case of this magnitude was when I neared the end of a nail biter and found a half-eaten barbeque chicken wing stuck to an important paragraph. Although, as you can guess, that last piece was just a bit of magical realism from me.

What prompted this tale was that today I found a note inside the book I hired when I went home. Written on a scrap of paper was the enigmatic handwritten message

14 moving again

call me soon

A crossword clue? A tenant leaving because there’s no room with a view? A CIA invisible ink message written in visible ink by amateur hour spooks? All day long I’ve ignored the book and concentrated on the secret code. I need Robert Langdon to work this out for me.

Monstrance Clock

August 12, 2013

Come together, together as a one
Come together for Lucifer’s son
Come together, together as a one
Come together for Lucifer’s son


I’ve seen the future of rock n’ roll and it is doom. There is a rock group from Sweden treading the boards whose front man dresses as the devil incarnate. The vocalist goes by the name of Papa Emeritus II, (He was Papa Emeritus on the first album, we’ll get to that in a moment) the other members of the band have no names preferring to be called nameless ghouls. The band are called Ghost.

Ghost have released two albums and another of their gimmicks was pretending that Papa Emeritus II was a different singer from the one on their debut album, the plain Papa Emeritus, presumably the first. Those of us with an ear for music are not buying it. The singer remains the same. Incidentally, bookmakers are taking no money on a Papa Emeritus III being on the third LP.

Following in the footsteps of other costumed bands -Kiss, Slipknot, Lordi, The Wombles- Ghost put on a theatrical show, a hard rock equivalent of Phantom of the Opera. Playing mock-satanic music while incense burns in the background their concerts are a mixture of dark forboding and humour. After all, the devil worship thing is not for real. Most heavy metal fans have normal jobs and a steady head on their dandruff-ridden shoulders. We don’t take ourselves seriously.

Now for more confusion. Ghost had to change their name in North America to Ghost BC for copyright reasons but for those of us that were in on them from the beginning they will always be plain Ghost. And these dark Lords just might make the mainstream as their music has a commercial ring to it, notwithstanding the occult lyrics and spooky tunes. If they do make it big, you heard it here first.

This little song has a singalong catchy chorus. It will stick in your head and you’ll find yourself humming it for days, end of days.


August 4, 2013

Hector had reservations about the upcoming dinner date with his eccentric friend, Jasper. Just humour him, said mutual acquaintances, and all will be well. Fine as that advice was, the dinner with Jasper was going to be a long, embarrassing occasion. Hector had to go, it was his turn in the rotation policy of their unit to play along with the madcap antics of an old friend.

The two friends embraced on the steps of the Astoria restaurant. So far, so normal thought Hector. After signing in they were led to their seats. A waiter appeared and mimed holding a bottle of wine. He said.

“Would you two gentlemen like a little wine before you order.”

“Yes, that would be great, old boy.” answered Jasper.

Putting the bottle on the table the waiter produced an imaginary corkscrew from his pocket which he inserted into the cork. Twisting his hand he made a popping sound with his mouth then lifted the bottle and poured Jasper a drink into an imaginary glass.

“When.” Jasper raised his hand to stop the pouring. The waiter then poured Hector a drink. Hector looked on exasperated. The waiter kept pouring then hesitated and looked at Jasper before pouring more tentatively.

“You’re going to need a bigger glass.” said Jasper. The waiter stopped pouring then walked off looking over his shoulder at Hector with an angry frown. Jasper picked up his phantom glass and took a healthy slug then smacked his lips in a satisfied manner.

After a short while they ordered their meals and normality resumed with mature conversation. Hector hoped that the little aberration early in the evening was going to be the only peculiar event of the meal. Although, Jasper was continually taking sips from his nonexistent glass.

The waiter came over with their starters: two bowls of soup. These two bowls of soup were invisible. Jasper lifted his soup spoon and delved into an imaginary bowl of broth.

“Tuck in Hector, before it gets cold.” said Jasper while breaking imaginary bread into his soup and stirring the intangible liquid.

Hector surveyed the room. No one seemed to be bothering about the strange goings-on at their table. And although all the patrons were eating real food, and a neighbour even gave him a friendly smile, there was nothing to suggest anything out of the ordinary was happening. I can’t believe I’m going to do this, said Hector to himself. He picked up his spoon and slowly scooped up some imaginary soup.

“Whoa, Hector, you’re spilling some.” said Jasper with a little grin on his face. The grin of a pantomime villain.

The first course successfully navigated the next three followed the same ritual. They were pretend eating. Jasper and the waiter both acted completely natural as if nothing was amiss. Humouring him, Hector also played along, receiving a lot of barbs from Jasper along the way.

-I hate it when you scrape your knife along the plate
-Wipe your chin, Hector, it’s full of sauce
-Try some of this banana fritter, here, take this piece on my spoon. Don’t worry, I’ve no germs

Hector was almost tempted to fight fire with fire and hit back with a choice cut of his own. He resisted as he didn’t want the insanity to be infectious and thought that all in all this was not too bad a gig compared to what the others endured. The only annoying thing was that Jasper kept ordering more wine and then acted as if blind drunk. So much so that the waiter came over and gently ushered Jasper outside to an idling taxi.

Phew, thought Hector, thank heavens that’s me back at the end of the rotation. Just as he was about to leave he could see that the charade was not over yet as the waiter appeared with a, more than likely, imaginary bill. But no, it was a real receipt and it was handed to Hector.

“One hundred and eighteen pounds and forty pence!” exclaimed Hector.

“That’s correct, sir. Excluding, of course, the tip.”

Headline: More cuts on the way

August 4, 2013

Lots of time I have been criticised by my offspring for doing pointless things. PDA’s they call them- Pointless Dad Activities.

The most major of the PDA’s is my predilection for cutting up the daily newspaper and magazines. Firstly, let me be clear that I am not a Daily Sport reader (or Playboy magazine reader, though there‘s not a lot of reading in that, so they tell me), I am a Daily Telegraph man, born and nurtured.

There’s a lot of reading in the Telegraph and it’s hard to absorb in one sitting. Therefore, I carefully cut out sections or articles that I will peruse at a future date. The family groan when they hear the sound of scissors snipping. They know there will be a new mountain of cuttings being tectonically formed. Some parts of the paper don’t make the cut, that’s life. When I’m done, the newspaper, violently disfigured, sits in an unfolded heap.

Finding time to read the cuttings is hard. I do read some of the choice cuts from the pile but most of them are left unread and eventually will be put in the bin. I try to do this unseen but sometimes I get caught and face the wrath of the PDA committee. See, knew you wouldn’t read them. The detractors say why don’t I leave the newspaper complete as then I would go back to it. They don’t understand that after reading a page it must be destroyed. It’s pointless having a piece of newspaper you’re not going to read again. The cuttings have a chance at being read before the cull.

Other PDA’s that have been hurled at me include-

“What is the point in scraping the ice off the car in the winter when you know that you are not going to be driving it that particular day?”

“What is the point in having dozens of pint glasses when you only have one mouth?”

“What is the point in writing about tractors? You know nothing about tractors . Or bees.”

That last one stung me. But only for a wee while. Because there’s a good case for saying that everybody’s activities is pointless not just mine. The only thing not pointless is breathing as that is an important function, in my opinion.

This is the New Holland T4 Powerstar.

The all-new three model T4 PowerStar range has been designed to take farming comfort to a whole new level. With 55 to 75hp on tap farmers, municipalities and other operators will be able to sit back and relax in this thing of beauty. From distinctive styling to responsive performance, from loader integration to a whole host of customisable options, the new T4 PowerStar is designed for ultimate comfort. Boasting a super flat floor and wide opening doors mean easy entry. The Command Arc offers ergonomic and intuitive control, and the high visibility, fully opening roof hatch, and the integrated joystick guarantee precision loader operation. Stay cool on the hottest days with dual zone air conditioning, and share your T4 PowerStar thanks to the full size instructor seat with seatbelt. Playboy, beat that.

Girl with Red Toenails by B.Keeper

A girl lounges on her deck chair

Her toenails are painted a deep red

It entices the flying marvel

Away from the honeycomb flower beds

The bee surveys the ten little red seas

Before plunging for a nibble

It gently feathers her pinkie nail

She giggles at the tickle