Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Teeth, and the Decline of the British Empire

Open wide
No. 3 son, or MicroGrump as I call him, has just finished cosmically expensive orthodontic treatment. I tried to talk him out of it by appealing to his better side. I told him that if we gave the money to Translithumoronia instead we could protect their threatened uranium mining industry for the next decade.

No go. He wanted perfect pearly whites, like all his schoolmates, so they can admire themselves in their shiny iPhones. He now has A1 Ku Klux Klan teeth.1

What's happened to us Brits? When we had bad teeth we ruled the world. Only fuzzy-wuzzies and Italians had good teeth. We've lost the splendid attitude displayed perfectly in verse 14 of the National Anthem:

"A cricketing hero from Leith
Who while batting got hit in the teeth
He spat out a molar
And said to the bowler
"A bit to the left, if you pleath"

That was the stuff. We used to have a stiff upper lip, which was mainly to hide the ghastly sight beneath, but now we're all full-lipped and pouty and sparkly, and what's the consequence? The empire is down to the Falkland Islands and seventeen retirement communities in Spain. We've gone soft.

Oh, for the excellent martial spirit of Rudyard Kipling:

"The boy stood on the burning deck
Impervious to the killing
He bit out the pin of a hand grenade
And risked his brand-new filling"

Well, I'm bringing it all back. I'm going to have a whip-round at my local, The Bridge and Crown, and buy a surplus ship from the Royal Navy (there are plenty). We'll name her HMS Halitosis. Once the weather gets nice, I shall load up with Twiglets, sugary snacks, and no toothpaste. Then it's off to France where I'll claim Calais back. Then I'll point the prow westward. It's about time somone invaded America. So get ready, colonials. You owe me a lot of back-tax. We can negotiate it over a nice cup of tea.

1 - White, mostly straight, and boring

Thursday, 18 March 2010

iPhone, You Phone, Everybody Phones

Hello? Hello?
They're everwhere. iPhones. You can't get on a train, go to the cinema, run round the park, shuffle round Sainsburys or even visit the loo without bumping into someone staring cross-eyed and jabbing frantically at a greasy little screen. And I wouldn't mind so much but they're constantly trying to use it to impress.

In pubs people run a little doodad which, when you hold the iPhone to your mouth, and tip, shows a virtual beer emptying. This is truly hilarious the first twenty or so times you see it. There's an application which tells you which London Underground train carriage to choose, so you are closest to the exit at your destination1. There used to be an entertaining if rude aplication called Wobble, but the stiff folks at Apple put paid to that by removing it from the app store. That's OK; there are 150,000 more.

My little bro' has one and let me try it out. Well, I'm not impressed. Is it a telephone? No! Where's the speaker? Where's the microphone? Which way up do you hold it?

Is it a computer? No! Where's the keyboard? Where's the dot-matrix printer? Where's the fire extinguisher? Where's the cupholder?2

Is it a games console? No! Where's the joystick? Where's the popcorn? Where's Mario?

So; it's just an expensive chunk of electronic bling. It's a make-up mirror with batteries. And if I invite you out to dinner, I didn't invite your iPhone, so switch the bloody thing off. No, not 'vibrate', 'off', you pervert. What do you mean there's no 'off' button?

If I'm honest I'm also starting from a poor vantage point because I loathe all mobile phones. That may sound strange from someone who's spent his working life welded to a computer, but for me, life took a turn for the worse when my job could follow me into the bathroom. Mobile phones are the worst invention since the internal combustion engine foisted pollution, furry dice, obesity and the M25 on the world.

I have one of course; Mrs G made me get it, so I bought the cheapest one I could find from one of the 42 phone shops that blight Winchester. It cost £2.88 provided I bought £10 of pay-as-you-go time. That was a year ago and I've still got £8 left, mainly because the battery only lasts long enough to dial about six digits3.

So I obviously don't want an iPhone. Those iPads look pretty sexy though. When they make one that fits in my pocket, I'll be first in line.

1 - AnallyRetentive 1.0, from wwwwwwww.getalife.com. Probably
2 - My computers are quite old, admittedly
3 - I have fat fingers, so I have to dial with a Twiglet, which doesn't help

Friday, 12 March 2010

Mrs G Goes To Work

And there's make-up on the upholstery

My favourite car is a very beaten-up Nissan. Bits are falling off, but the engine and gearbox are sweet as they come, and parking is a breeze1. But recently I am doubly smitten.

First my lovely motor has begun to pong. It's quite unpleasantly pungent. I've searched under the seats, in the boot2, in all the little handy Japanese compartments, for rotting fruit, dead animals or stale twiglets, but nothing. Maybe it's e Coli in the AC, or a Coli in the EC, or something. I'm not good with cars.

Secondly, Mrs G has begun taking it to work. As mentioned last post, she has found herself gainful employment, abandoning me to clean the porcelain. To add insult to injury, she's nicked my car.

Mrs G loves her job. She works on a smallholding providing opportunities for people to learn horticultural and outdoor skills. They have 100 chickens3, some donkeys, rabbits, three lambs (soon), and about a trillion worms.

And since Mrs G likes to share the love, and they have a constant need of help, she asked me. A door on their chicken shed is loose; could I fix it?

Well of course I could. Like most men I am extraordinarily gifted at fixing stuff. Except cars. I chuck the drill in the (other) car and head up. Mrs G shows me the offending door. Although it is a challenge drilling while being surveyed at close quarters by Chicken Licken and Henny Penny, it's fixed in a jiffy! Damn, I'm good. Mrs G, all impressed innocence, invites me for tea as my reward. Why, I'd love to. Teatime is in about an hour.

It's about now I should have got suspicious.

An hour to kill. What shall we do? I've got a suggestion, says Mrs G, fluttering her eyelashes, today is the day we clean out the chickens. Come and help me. OK. What does that involve?

Over the next hour I really earn that tea. 'Cleaning out the chickens' is a euphemism, like 'walking the dog'4. It really means shovelling colossal mounds of chicken crap into wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow. I had no idea chickens had such a productive digestive system. It's a foul job (pun intended). The fumes could knock a grown man off his feet5.

But wait a minute! I know that smell. And after tea I watch Mrs G pack up. She changes into her day shoes and chucks her gunge-encrusted boots into the back of my lovely car. So there's a silver lining. I simply treat Mrs G to another pair of boots she can use at home; and lo, my Nissan pongeth no more.

And that's my last scatalogical post for a while, you'll be relieved to hear. Spring has sprung; time to move on to more fragrant themes. But not before I show you this, with the best product write-up, ever. Ha! I never need to clean another toilet again. Or chicken.

1 - French style. Just drive up to stuff until you hit it
2 - That's 'trunk' to you, colonial chums
3 - 98 if we're picky. Two popped their clogs over Christmas
4 - Which actually means 'taking the dog to poop on the neighbour's lawn'
5 - That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it. Tripping over a chicken would be undignified

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Rage Against The Mr Sheen

The perils of office life

I'm on my knees scrubbing a toilet. I like to start with the toilet, as it's the worst bit. Baths and basins are easy, plus, you get to shine the taps. It'll soon be one bathroom down, three to go. After that I get to wash towels and sheets. Sigh.

It wasn't always like this. I used to be an Executive. I had ties that I didn't wear, because we dressed down. I had a PA who fielded my calls and brought me tea. I went out with other executives, and we relaxed with manly jokes1. I had a pen that went 'click'.

But I only have myself to blame. Back when I was young and stupid2, it was fashionable to set life goals, so I did. One of my goals was to be able to stop work at 40, so I did. We sold the company, paid off the mortgage, did some clever investing3, and hey presto. Mrs G and I can now cruise along quite happily, provided we avoid extravagances like holidays, and eating.

Well guess what? Mrs G, after many years of looking after kids, and me, has decided she needed to 'experience the workplace again', and gone and got herself a job. How selfish is that? I could have told her about the workplace. It's all sitting down; in a car, on a plane, at a desk, on the loo, in meeting rooms, on the photocopier4, and on the job.

Except Mrs G's job is all outdoorsy, and horticultural, and people-oriented, so it's not a proper job at all. And it's only half-time. Where's the stress? Where are the repetitive strain injuries? Where are the office intrigues? Where are the incomprehensible coffee jugs? Where are the nylon carpets that send 5,000 volts up your bottom when you scoot your chair around? Where's the photocopier?

Anyway, Mrs G's job is for another post; today is about me.

So: I'm a house-husband two-and-a-half days a week. It's ghastly, but fascinating. Look what I've learned in a short time:
  • The hardest substance known to man is left-over Weetabix

  • Domestic vacuum cleaners are unsuited to Autumn leaves, especially when they're wet

  • You can have too much Tupperware


  • Twiglets are not good with breakfast

  • Drier lint is surprisingly inflammable

  • Flammable and inflammable mean the same thing

  • The postman always rings twice. No idea why

I've also learned that I don't like it much, so grudging respect to Mrs G for putting up with it for so long. Time for some new life goals, I think. In our next life, we will live on a beach, which never needs cleaning. And has no toilets.

1 - Like 'Why haven't women been to the moon? Because it didn't need cleaning.' Oh, the shame. You wouldn't catch me telling a vile sexist joke like that now
2 - As opposed to middle-aged and stupid
3 - Savings account, premium bonds, and roulette. And we sold the pets
4 - At the Christmas party. Ahem

Monday, 1 March 2010

Come back, Monster Raving Loonies, all is forgiven

Jackass or Dumbo. Make your choice
Election fever is gripping Britain. We will soon be summoned to choose between the sorry collection of has-beens, crooks, no-hopers, spongers, bankrupts, conmen, hangers-on, talentless minority group opportunists, fading B-list television celebrities, and geriatric dorks that pass for politicians here.

What a choice. It comes down to Gordon 'take that, you English pussies' BROWN, David 'Thatcher without the spine' CAMERON, and Nick 'who?' CLEGG. They'll all be licking babies and paying off unions until May or June when the whole ghastly business comes to a climax, as all the over-50s go and vote, and everyone else goes to the pub. And one thing is guaranteed; whoever gets elected will be as tedious as Mr. Bean: The Movie. And the sequel.

You can't even watch TV to escape. All channels will show 'Election Special' on the big night. This may sound like Asian pornography, but is in fact three wrinkly old men and a token wrinkly old lady pontificating to eternity while the results crawl in. All bloody night.

British politics used to be a lot more interesting. The '80s were the heyday of the Monster Raving Loony Party, headed up by Screaming Lord Sutch. They ran the party from a pub in Llanwrtyd Wells1, fuelled by good Welsh beer, and twiglets.

By 'heyday' I mean they almost, occasionally, got the 5% of votes needed to avoid losing their £500 deposit. But undeterred they kept coming back for more. Their policies were bonkers but strangely compelling. For example:
  • Traffic cops "too stupid" for normal police work to be retrained as vicars

  • All motorways to become massive cycle tracks

  • The introduction of a 99p coin to "save on change".

See? The stuff of genius. I voted for them, twice. Partly because I liked them, partly because it was a great way to choose 'none of the above'. Lord Sutch himself is no longer with us, God rest his barmy soul, but the party, although much reduced, limps on.

The Loonies weren't the only 'out there' party. Miss Whiplash led the Corrective Party. The Fancy Dress Party made a brief showing, with their signature policy of using a smaller font to automatically reduce unemployment statistics.

Alas all that has gone, suppressed by the fat sloppy swine in Westminster who protect their jobs through a series of mealy-mouthed self-preserving small-minded laws making it harder for a small independent party to stand at all, much less get elected. Thank Heavens for Europe, where we've dispensed with all this democracy nonsense, and choose our president the old-fashioned way. Behind closed doors, over a fat cigar.

1 - If you pronounce that right, it should sound like burping and sneezing simultaneously