Archive for October 2013

It’s going to be a H2O Halloween

October 27, 2013

Halloween. A time of the year when everyone has a license to thrill by dressing up. Previously, guisers only decked out in ghoulish garb as befit’s the pagan festival that is the dark heart of Halloween. Now you can go to a party dressed as Bob the builder or Lady Ga Ga.

men-s-napoleon-costume

sexy-viking-costume

Our household and close family observe the ritual of Halloween by having a party with all the rites associated with the day/night. Dooking for apples is a treat that even the grown-ups enjoy. Of course, after the event we don’t eat the apples we convert them into cider using home made techniques. Waste not, want not and all that.

This year it was suggested at a recent family meeting that the forthcoming party should be a fancy dress occasion. Sane minds had left the room and the motion was passed. Now it was every man, woman and child for himself, or herself, whatever the anatomy may be. Conversation was in whispers as no one wanted to reveal what would be their costume. This level of secrecy could mean that two Barbarellas might turn up. Too bad. Or too good depending on who was wearing the outfit. If you know what I mean.

Nonetheless, the die was cast and the cast departed to put their thinking caps on. The party had now turned in to a competition to see who could have the best fancy dress. My thinking cap went into over the top mode. Immediately, obvious guises were binned. Cowboys are old hat and I’m too tall to be a Stormtrooper(sic). Something special was required. I surfed the internet looking for ideas. Nothing hit me until it hit me that it was staring me right me in the face. A surfer.

All I need to be a surfer is a surfboard and a pair of budgie smugglers.

silver surferI considered the idea of being the Silver Surfer but discarded it as I’ve seen Goldfinger and know what happens when you cover your complete body with paint. No gold or silver for me I will bronze myself up to win first prize.

With the party scheduled at a relative’s house only days away I can hardly wait to spring my entrance. The surfboard is going to bring the house down. How good is it going to be at a party with a surfboard? I won’t need a taxi, I’ll just surf along the wet pavement, absorbing all the admiration I’m getting from the skateboarders and roller skaters.

Then when I get there the mayhem can begin. Buzz Lightyear will have a job dooking out an apple but I can just jump in the basin with my board and splash those apples out. This might ruin the game but hey, surfs up.

Music will be playing and where there’s music there’s dancers. The other dancers will be in mortal danger when I surf onto the dance floor. The rocking board will sweep everyone off their feet. For the slosh I’ll pick my board up and hold it under my arm. When it’s time to turn I’ll wipe out half the village. So there goes Rambo, Ginger Spice and Hannibal Lecter to name a few.

The surfboard could double up as a huge tray and carry drinks and food to various parts of the room. Balancing the board could be tricky with the end result being inevitable spillage. Wonder Woman wouldn’t look so hot with sauce all down her front and Tarzan, well, he’s just wet.

Wish me luck.

To a square sausage

October 23, 2013

Scottish Butchers shops are springing back to life. They don’t have sawdust on the floor any more as they have all sorts of hygiene laws to abide by but there is a boom, it’s bull time, for the meat selling men in white coats. Supermarkets tried to slice and dice them out of business though extinction like the dodo has been averted and solo outlets and chains are back in the New York groove.

The butcher’s shops are great places to visit. The big Sammy character of Pulp Fiction, Jules Winnfield, would have put it thus “a butcher’s got personality. Personality goes a long way”. Who could argue with that? The friendly patter amongst all the blood and carcasses in the shop is refreshing. There was the butcher’s in Dennistoun in the 1960s that had a notice on the wall which simply stated “CREFDIT”. It allowed the butcher of course, when a puzzled customer said there was no F in Credit, to reply: “Exactly”.


The square sausage, Lorne as it is called to the locals, is native to these parts and the butcher’s Lorne is far superior to the pre-packed Lorne shelved in the supermarkets. The difference in taste is noticeable. Like reverse swinging in cricket the reasons for this are a mystery. Is it the supermarkets packaging to blame? Are the fridges temperatures in the stores too high? Is it just that the butcher’s sausages, served straight from the counter, are fresher? We can only guess.

Having a nasty streak of bacon side that you might not know off I make sure I have both sets of sausages at hand and as the occasion demands I can call on them for service. I’ll give you an example of what I mean. One of my wife’s uncles likes to impress us with his vast knowledge of literary matters. One day he said.

“One of Orwell’s rules of writing was, that is George Orwell and not Orville the duck as I know how your mind works, never use a long word where a short one will do. Within this sentence GO has broken his own rule. Shouldn’t it be …where a wee one will do?”

He sat back in the chair, satisfied, emitting in the air a glow that said he had trumped Orwell. In the name of the wee man, Orwell was just over six feet in height so he was practically a midget, I will pay this false high-brow back for his smug tendencies. I offer the uncle some food. And deliver to him a pack sausage on bread. That’ll stick in his throat.

Contrast this with one of my wife’s friends. We’ll call her Elaine because there are so many things that rhyme with Elaine: train, brain, migraine, gubbed again, Michael Caine, bus lane, Tommy McLean, JW10 domain, ankle sprain, varicose vein, eau rouge chicane…I’ll crash there, I mean stop there and in your spare time you can think of a few other thousands. Have fun.

So anyway Belinda, I mean Elaine, it’s Elaine, jumbo jet airplane, Dave Mustaine, paved road terrain. Right stop, stop, stop, don’t start all that again, we’ve ascertained it’s Elaine. When Elaine visits she always has sensational news to break to us. We are regaled by the tales that Sky News didn’t broadcast. She ticker tapes off stories of bin men atrocities, illnesses of neighbours, office romances and who has come into money, new car and all that. Now you could call her nosey. You could say she is a gossip. For all that she is entertaining company. Elaine is pure champagne. No pack sausage for her. She will always be rewarded with a butcher’s square sausage in my house.

Overrated: Julia Louis Dreyfus

October 19, 2013

The curse of Seinfeld.

elaineThis is a term used to describe subsequent sit-com failure by an actor after achieving phenomenal back slaps in a successful show. Coined after the first projects worked on by three of the main characters in Seinfeld crashed and burned in the ratings.

Since then the woman that played Elaine Benes in Seinfeld has bounced back clutching a string of TV awards. Benes was played by Julia Louis Dreyfus. One guy’s worcester is another guy’s ketchup but for me Seinfeld was top of the pops. The only low point in the show being JLD. No matter how hard she tried she just wasn’t funny. The Seinfeld scripts were comedy gold but Dreyfus couldn’t make me smile once.

The usual storyboard of an episode concerned the four characters having their individual stories which would intertwine with one another in an arc and end with resolution all round. I hated when Dreyfus had the screen time. Her facial mannerisms and the timing of her lines was all wrong. I cringed for her. Her character co-stars Jerry, Kramer and Costanza were accomplished performers that had moments of real genius in some of their works. Against this trio it is no wonder Dreyfus was nothing more than a water carrier.

As the careers of Kramer (Michael Richards) and Costanza (Jason Alexander) have stalled JLD is the toast of Emmy land as she sweeps all before her scooping up best comedy actress trophies like Meryl Streep on speed (or was that Sandra Bulloch?). Dreyfus has pulled the wool over the selectors eyes which is not a bad thing for them as then they can’t see her awful acting.

The best and the worst of crime fiction

October 14, 2013

Sorry to spring another post on the groaning public as the last one still had some running legs in it even if it was full of dodgy Beatles knowledge on my part and I‘m trying to escape it, I am a strict one draft, no edit, quick post sort of blogger.

Previously, those good people at WH Smith offered a selected book of the week at £2.99 if you bought The Times newspaper. So for £4 or so you would get a paperback and a paper. The offer changed last week and now you have to purchase the Daily Telegraph if you want the book, which is still on sale at £2.99. While the standard of both the quality newspapers has been said to have dropped I would say the DT is the better read. With The Times now in tabloid form it is also a joy to spread the broadsheet Telegraph out in your arms as if you are holding the Champions League Trophy.

Never minding all that this week’s book was the 2013 paperback version of Michael Connelly’s latest Harry Bosch tale called The Black Box. I remember one or two of you recommending Connelly a few years ago. There are 18 Harry Bosch novels in all.

The Black Echo 1992.
The Black Ice 1993.
The Concrete Blonde 1994.
The Last Coyote 1995.
Trunk Music 1997.
Angels Flight 1999.
A Darkness More Than Night 2001.
City of Bones 2002
Lost Light 2003.
The Narrows 2004.
The Closers 2005.
Echo Park 2006.
The Overlook 2007.
The Brass Verdict 2008.
Nine Dragons 2009.
The Reversal 2010.
The Drop 2011.
The Black Box 2012.

Deciding to read them in order, over time I have managed to read the first five. Last year a friend insisted I break the system and read The Drop. It was worth it. After I’ve finished The Black Box, which I began today, I will try to burrow through the rest when the notion comes over me. Had to laugh when I saw one of the books was called The Last Coyote. Last of the Coyotes was going to be the title of my autobiography.

Mr Connelly is a fine crime writer, up there at the top of his genre. As I watch a lot of crime TV

shows I figured I could write a script that the producers of Columbo or Kojak would accept. The following story was written on another website to, generally, poor reviews. Crime writing isn’t as easy as you think. Michael Connelly need not worry about me intruding on his market.

The story is long by my standards. Feel free to skip it and read the phone book instead, that would be wise.

The Mystery of the Hot House

The neighbours were complaining of the heat. The top floor apartment of the modest Forbes building was owned by Herman P. Herman and he wasn’t answering his door. It was agreed by the other occupants that the caretaker should be called. While they waited, the heat was getting worse.

The caretaker arrived with a spare set of keys. He inserted them in the lock. He did not need to turn them in the slot.

“The door’s not locked.” he said. “It must be locked from the inside. I’m going to call the police.”

Inspector MacLeod had been having a quiet few weeks. The murder rate was down and all he had on the go was following up on cold cases from the past. When the call came in for the police to knock down the door on old Herman’s house, Macleod decided to go with the two policemen to the scene. A change of scenery might stimulate him.

A crowd had gathered outside Herman’s door. After ascertaining that the mortise on the door was locked from within as the caretaker had said, Macleod told the neighbours to back away. The two policemen had come armed with a ram. They battered at the door and splintered the inside frame. Fragments of wood lay on the carpet beside a u-shaped hinge that was the distaff of the species to the long bolt that was nailed to the door.

The heat hit them immediately. A boiling radiator was close to the front door. In a few seconds the law enforcement men were drenched in sweat. They began a sweep of the room. One of the policeman found the central heating controls and switched it off, though it would be some time before room temperature was recovered. From the bedroom, the other policemen shouted.

“There’s a body in here.”

Lying peaceful on the bed was Herman P. Herman. Dead. MacLeod felt for Herman’s pulse. There wasn’t one. Herman was very warm but stone cold dead.

* * * * *

Back at headquarters Macleod was baffled by the mystery. The door was locked, apparently from the inside, the heating was on for God knows how long and Herman was dead. Next of kin had to be informed and after investigation it appeared that Herman P. Herman had a grandson. The grandson’s parents, the father of which was Herman’s son, had died in a car accident. The grandson was the only living heir and he stood to make a fortune. The thrifty Herman P. Herman was a very rich man.

Autopsy reports came back that showed old Herman had been suffocated. Time of death was hard to pinpoint because of the stifling heat in the apartment but the pathologist had evidence -bruising under the dermis- that a felony had been committed. The murder weapon could have been a pillow. it wouldn’t have taken much to kill the old man especially if he was sleeping.

MacLeod set out to interview the grandson, Rufus T. Herman. Rufus had already been told of his grandfather’s death through the regular police protocol. He wasn’t expecting an inspector to call. Macleod knocked at the door of the modest apartment that Rufus resided at. Rufus answered the door. A badge was flashed.

“Inspector Macleod. Homicide. Can I ask you some questions regarding your grandfather’s murder?”

“Of course you can, Inspector. Come on in. I could not believe it when I heard Grand had been murdered and did not die of natural causes.”

“This is purely routine, sir, but can I ask you where you were on the night of the murder?”

“I was right here. Watching TV.”

“Thanks. You know this case is unique for me. Your grandfather was killed. Of that we have no doubt. This little thing about the door being locked from the inside puzzles me. How could the murderer have committed the crime and locked the door?”

“To be honest with you Inspector I didn’t visit Grand much. We weren’t that close and I did not have keys to his house. Does anyone have a spare set of keys to his house?”

“The caretaker of the building had a set. Why?”

“I don’t know just a silly hunch, I guess. Is it possible the caretaker, through careful practise, could manipulate the bolt to lock by a certain way he manoeuvred the door? I mean I’ve watched super criminals on TV doing all sorts of dodges.”

“I don’t see that being the case, sir.”

“Why not?”

“For one there doesn’t seem to be any motive for the caretaker to kill your grandfather and I was there when we banged down the door. I’d swear on the bible that this man did not do this crime. He was as shocked as all the residents when we told them the old man was dead. The caretaker is a no-no.”

MacLeod continued his questioning, asking if Rufus had anyone to verify he was at home on the fateful night. He didn’t, he lived alone. Rufus T. Herman told the Inspector that Herman didn’t have any enemies as far as he knew. Macleod also found out Rufus had no computer or means of going online. In this technological age this struck him as odd. With no further questions to ask, Rufus said.

“Oh well, good luck with your investigation, Inspector.”

The two men shook hands and Macleod noticed the grimace on Rufus’s face. This was strange. Not being one of those forceful alpha males like others in The Force, Macleod had a neutral handshake. It was compact rather than firm. The obvious hurt on Rufus intrigued him but he did not say anything.

* * * * *

The heat bothered him. MacLeod pondered on the big detail of why the apartment was so hot? Further medical reports said that it was almost certain that Herman P. Herman was asleep when he was killed. there didn’t seem to be much of a struggle going on. This seemed to rule out the old man leaving the heating on. Therefore, the killer put the heating on. Why? Was the killer cold? Why would the killer hang around and warm himself up? Ramping up the temperature to outfox the medics didn’t seem plausible. Without disposing of the body, the cleverest of villains would know time of death would eventually be solved.

Rufus with no one to back up his alibi also bothered him. It stood to reason that Rufus would be the main beneficiary in Herman’s will. Rufus had a motive. MacLeod would have liked the tech boys to have a look at Rufus’ computer. Most criminals will leave some kind of trace, even miniscule, on their hard drive that could link them to the crime. The problem was Rufus didn’t have a computer or laptop or phone that could surf the internet. MacLeod wished he could see a list of the TV programmes that the telly addicted Rufus watched.

And what about that handshake? Rufus was of average build yet he was in pain when the men shook hands. There was something that MacLeod had missed. Something that was easily overlooked. The door. The door had to be checked.

The lab boys had the door frame in their workshop and MacLeod went back to the scene of the crime. MacLeod was on his hands and knees feeling his way through the fibres of the carpet at the front of Herman P. Herman’s apartment. Young Cole, the lab technician, interrupted MacLeod’s search just as MacLeod had hit pay dirt.

“Got something for you boss.”

“I’ve got something for you too, Cole. You go first.”

“This is the latch for the barrel bolt. As you can see it is still in perfect shape. If this were on the frame when the door was knocked down it should have some kind of mark on the metal because of the force used. It doesn’t have any blemishes whatsoever. We also analysed the door frame and we have conclusively found out that frame was tampered with.”

“In what way?”

“Results have shown that the wood on the frame had been damaged before it was shattered by the ram. There was a slight check chiselled into the frame at the place where the bolt and latch meet.”

“Well done, Cole. Now I have just found a splinter that was embedded deep in the carpet. This will be one of the fragments that had been chiselled. Take this to the lab and get me proof that this slice of wood is part of the same frame. This could be a vital part of evidence.”

* * * * *

Macleod went back to see Rufus. Rufus was watching the Discovery channel.

“Good evening Inspector. What can I do for you? Have you found the man that killed my Grand?”

Macleod grabbed Rufus by the hand, shaking it firmly. Rufus let out a cry.

“Do your walls ever make a sound during the night?” MacLeod asked.

“I beg your pardon?”

“Walls. They creak. It’s all about cooling and heating. You must know about that. What with all those documentaries you watch.” MacLeod indicated to the TV. “You see, somebody took the latch off your grandfather’s door and then chiselled a little bit of the frame. Just enough for the barrel bolt to fit into.”

Rufus’s face hung. The high life Rufus T. Herman wanted would never be his. Rufus was lowlife, MacLeod knew it and Macleod knew he had his man.

“By putting the heating on at full blast before he left, the murderer knew the bolt would meld into the hole in the warping wood, leaving the impression that the door was locked from inside. Almost a perfect murder. How can a murdered man lock a door?”

“You have nothing on me.” protested Rufus. MacLeod grabbed Rufus’ hand again. This time he gripped it violently. Rufus was close to tears.

“You’ve got a splinter in your palm you can’t get out, haven’t you? You should have got that seen to but don’t worry I’ve got a Police doctor outside who will take it out for you. Let’s see if it matches the wood on your grandfather’s door.”

Buses: Heads and Tails

October 13, 2013

There are two types of people in this world : those that run for the bus and those that don’t run for the bus.

Put me in the latter category. The possibility of chasing a bus and not catching it would be too embarrassing for words. I’ve a friend who disagrees. He maintains that if you don’t run for the bus you won’t catch it but running for it gives you a chance. And the embarrassment angle, he says, is not as bad as you think. Sure, there will be bystanders that will be laughing inwardly as you are left eating the gravel the bus has left in its wake but as embarrassments go it’s near the bottom of the Beamer scale. In fact, he says, it’s so fleeting you soon forget about it just like you instantly can’t recall the pain of childbirth!

Armed with his ideals I went out looking for a bus to catch. I stared with an easy one. A bus was at a stop and lots of passengers were embarking, I ran the thirty yards and joined the queue. It felt good catching the bus even though I had no idea where it was going. Nonetheless I paid my fare and took my seat.

I got off God knows where and scanned the horizon. The road had a few shops with some people milling about. Then I heard the unmistakable drone of a bus getting closer. I searched for the nearest bus stop. It was one hundred yards away. With the Chariots of Fire theme tune in my head I bolted like Usain. The scene that panned out seemed to be shot in slow motion. The bus and I were moving through our respective flight paths and the vehicle was gaining on me. It was closing in on the next stop. I had a look over my shoulder. No one was getting off. The bus accelerated. Using the last of my energy I pushed for the line and threw my hand out. The bus braked, stopped and opened its doors.

Not having a clue where I was going again, I paid my fare. As I strode down the gangway I could feel an admiration emitting from the other passengers. They were exchanging looks that said “this man raced for the bus and he caught it”. Women were staring at me with love and lust in their eyes. A man said “respect, brother”. My chest was puffed out with pride. Now I know how the guy that wins the Krypton Factor assault course feels.

And then the bus broke down.

We all had to get off and wait for the next one. All my bus fans had turned grumpy as they complained about their lot in life. My exploits were forgotten. I was about to join them in their sorrowful ring of surliness when I saw a bus coming in the other direction on the other side of the street. It was time for shock and awe tactics.

The bus stop was fifty yards away. Firstly, I crossed the street then began to run. My chest must have been puffed out from the last race. I was moving at half-pace. This chase was over too soon. The bus overtook me and disappeared into the distance. I was left eating its gravel. Across the road my old buddies were doubled-up with laughter. All manner of insults were thrown my way. What happened to the inward laughing? This was top of the range Beamer scale embarrassment. The old dictum that you are only as good as your last bus race ran true.

Not in Wisden #10: Little Nippers

October 9, 2013

There’s a sports centre not far from where I live. When my youngest son was small I would take him there and have a kick about at the side of the full size football pitch. He also loved to play in the long jump sand. He’d kick the sand and roll about in it. On one occasion when he was destroying the sand pit I took my eyes off him for a few seconds and he disappeared. A cold sweat broke over me only eased when I heard a good natured shout of “Hey, ref. They’ve got twelve players on.”

My son had wandered onto the football pitch and took up a position in the six yard box just as a corner was about to be taken. The players were all smiles as this small being stood beside giant centre-halves and forwards. I ran onto the pitch, apologising profusely, and lifted my son off the park. The referee smiled at us then blew his whistle. The corner was swung in and a forward headed it into the goal. The investigation began between the defending side players into who was to blame. Accusations and recriminations were shouted ending with a claim that the boy had disrupted their concentration. I had anticipated this result and as the goal went in I moved far from the madding crowd.

Border-Collie-11This scene reminded me of an even longer ago incident that occurred in the GDCCC (Glasgow and District County Cricket Championship). It was a fixture early in the season between local rivals, Riddrieshire and Carntyneshire. One of the regular Riddrieshire supporters, Wally Ewing, had turned up with his new pet dog: a border collie called Nipper. Both sets of players went over to clap the dog and friendly banter ensued.

Carntyneshire’s all-rounder Alan Gilchrist said to Wally. “That’s ironic that your dog is a border collie considering your house straddles the border of both of the counties playing today.”

Wally was in no mood for sledges and he angrily retorted. “ I’m a Riddrieshire man, born and bred, there’s no Carntyne in my blood.” The other players calmed Wally down and the match got under way. It was watched by a handful of spectators and the obligatory man with his dog; in this case, Wally and Nipper.

The match was a close run affair and it went right to the wire. With one ball remaining Carntyneshire were three runs in front. Provanmillshire’s number eleven, Soggy, had to hit a boundary to take the spoils. Carntyneshire’s captain had a meeting with the bowler, Alan Gilchrist, and they discussed where the last delivery should be bowled. It was agreed that Gilchrist should take a bit of pace off his bowling and concentrate on line and length. This would negate the possibility of the batsman using the speed of the bowling to hit a lucky strike. The last man in would have to use his own skills to win the match and poor Soggy had all the attributes of a rabbit.

Gilchrist ran in and bowled a good length ball outside of off stump. Unconventionally, Soggy moved to the off side and swished his bat but he connected a tad early. The ball ran dismally to the vacant mid wicket area and a man in the deep ran towards it. Clearly the most Riddrieshire could make out of this hit would be one run.

On the sidelines Wally Ewing was heard to say “Fetch”. Nipper was off like a shot. The collie got there before the fielder and picked the ball up in his mouth. It was now all over bar the scoring. The border Collie sprinted over the boundary line. The umpire waved his arms signalling four runs.

Celebrations by the jubilant Riddrieshire team were interrupted by protests from the Carntyneshire players and officials. The cry of cheating was dismissed by a rules book expert who declared there’s nothing in the rules that says an animal can’t intrude in play. Animals can’t distinguish between borders. The spirit of the game was brought into disrepute said a Carntyneshire player until Soggy’s words of wisdom left everyone speechless.

“You can’t blame Nipper for your loss. There’s no difference between what he did and say…a colony of ants picked the ball up in the out field and carried it over the boundary. It’s still four runs.”

With this the players and spectators drifted away.

Another bubble that is going to burst

October 8, 2013

 

The chewing gum producers, William Wrigley JR. Company, plan to build a second factory in Russia. The site has not been decided yet. They are also preparing to expand their current plant in ST. Petersburg. “We’re open to more acquisitions in Russia,” said Igor Savelyev, Wrigley’s chief for Eastern and Southern Europe. “There’s huge growth opportunity.” This just goes to show how far a stick of gum can go.

My sheltered life meant I have little experience of chewing gum. My grandmother positively prohibited it in our household. “It will stick in your throat and you’ll die!” was the warning she gave me and my sisters. This had a sobering effect on us though, of course, we weren’t drunk. We could only look at our chewing gum contemporaries as their mouths worked like pistons on the bark. It never stuck in anyone’s throat, when they were finished with it they stuck it under the desk.

In those pre-computer games days football card trading was one of the joys of childhood. After buying a few sets of cards inevitably, you would have a few “doublers” of players. Thus, the swapping began. I’ll swap you Kevin Keegan for Alan Hansen. You must be joking. Here, have Joe Corrigan instead. This friendly bartering was part of the appeal of the game. Unfortunately, for me, the packet of cards came with a piece of bubble gum as a bonus. Soon my friends were blowing bubbles with their gum and they didn’t even support West Ham. With envy I looked as they had contests to see who could blow the biggest bubble. Spotting an opportunity, I lotted my unchewed bit of bubble gum in an auction. The gum would go to the bidder that offered the best football cards. In football heaven, at last I got my hands on Glenn Hoddle and Ossie Ardiles.

 

Talking of chewing gum auctions a startling item was bought on Ebay last week. A piece of gum chewed by Gene Simmons of Kiss -he’s the one with the long tongue- sold for $247,202.74. (you’ve got to love that 74 cents, don’t you?). One wonders what the rich recipient of the flavourless little clump will do with it. Maybe he will have a wee chew at it himself and then stick it under his desk. Or it could be he’ll put it in a glass cabinet beside his Jean Simmons toenails clippings collection.

From toenails to twinkle toes.

Arsenal paid a hefty £42.5 million to capture the German footballer, Mesut Ozil. Watching his skills with chewing gum you can see why they paid such a big fee for him.     

 
A collection of unusual Kiss merchandise

For the discerning collector, these are must-have items: cycling shorts, lip balm and adorable sock monkeys.