Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Wordy Wednesday

Flat Out

Chris' hilarious post about presidents and death got me thinking about road rollers, as I've always found the thought of someone getting flattened by one amusing, since they move so slowly.

Unfortunately, when I actually read a real account of such a mishap, I started thinking about how horrible, painful and slow a death it must be for that one in a million person. Which rather spoiled my fun.

Having said that, the real person didn't get run over by one whilst crossing the road, which was the scenario I had in mind. Anyway, moving swiftly on (unlike the road roller)...

Environmentally Hostile

I went shopping after work. Because the clocks had gone back at the weekend, this was my first trip in the dark for a while, so I had forgotten what a pain it is to unload the car in a dark garage (it's got no lights), with no light in the boot (my car is a basic model). Next time I go out, I'll probably find that I missed something, which by then will have started to rot.

I've not been doing briliiantly with the green shopping bags, either. The last time I forgot to put them in the car. This time I put them in the boot, but forgot to take them into the shop. Maybe next time...

In fact, although I didn't actually get hit by a road roller, the shopping trip really didn't go that well. When I emerged with my trolley-load of ready meals and soft drinks, I couldn't find my car. I usually park it in roughly the same area of the car park, and I had a vague feeling that I'd done something different, and ended up wandering round in the dark like an idiot (my basic model car doesn't have radio-controlled locking).

Eventually I realised what I'd done differently. I'd parked it in almost exactly the same place as usual, same row, about the same place in the row, but on the right instead of the left side. I'm easily fooled.

I think it's just because I'm tired, but it's going to be one of those evenings. After writing this I think I'll take it easy and try not to strain anything...

Monday, 27 October 2008

My Healthy Eating Fad

I've got an anouncement to make.

I'm going to become a health food fanatic. I've decided that I should eat and drink better food. Food that will hopefully keep me alive and healthier for longer. I have thought about publishing a book on the subject and becoming rich, but that would be selfish, and in any case this particular diet won't need any kind of hard sell.

The reason that people make loads of money out of weird diets is that they are disgusting and don't actually work. Just like the food that they persuade their gullible readers to eat. The prevailing message is that if it's unpleasant it must be good for you.

Now, all of this is about to change. Thanks to the miracle of modern science we can look forward to keeping cancer, diabetes and obesity at bay on a diet of

Beer and Burgers.

Yes, that's right. The boffins have finally come up with something useful. In Britain, they've genetically modified tomatoes to contain cancer-beating chemicals. There is only one slight drawback. They're purple:

Mothers will nag kids of the future, not to eat their greens, but to smother their food in life-giving ketchup. I wonder whether the children will like this, or whether it will make them rebel and insist on pouring a light French dressing over their food instead.

Meanwhile, in Massacheus..., in Massechuset..., in the US, some science students are doing a similar thing with beer. The chemical in question is one that makes red wine good for you. They haven't yet produced the beer, and they didn't say whether it will have to be a psychadelic colour.

I'm hoping that it won't look too bad. I don't think that polka-dot beer would be a good idea, for example. Especially not after you'd had a few and your head was starting to spin. The term "rainbow yawn" would be even more appropriate than it is today.

Obviously this is good news for the license trade, who may well see an end to the trend of fewer people going to pubs, but their current clientelle may not be so pleased. After all, imagine what today are dens of iniquity and guilty pleasures being transformed into healthy eating and drinking centres frequented by all the po-faced humourless health freaks. Where swearing will be considered as anti-social as smoking.

Nevertheless, my mind's made up. No matter what sacrifices I have to make in the pursuit of longevity, I'll stick to my beer and burgers...

Saturday, 25 October 2008

"Music" to Start your Weekend

Other countries and cultures are great - they enrich our own in all sorts of special ways. America, for example has loads of culinary and alcoholic delights from their neighbours south of the border.

Unfortunately for us Brits, our southern neighbours eat snails, but we do get some great things from other European countries. Take Belgium, for example. They've given us Belgian beers, Belgian chocolate (though personally I prefer Cadbury's), chips/french fries, Hercule Poirot and... the Smurfs.

The Smurfs are celebrating their fiftieth birthday. I'm afraid that I can't give you a full explanation of these loveable blue creatures, since I know almost nothing about them. Luckily, they have a website, which should more than satisfy any curiosity you may or may not have (they're even advertising job vacancies in Smurfland). Apparently their creator became a cartoonist after failing to land a job as a dental assistant. All I remember about them is their hit record, made with Dutch performer Father (Vader) Abraham, which reached number 2 in the UK charts in 1978, and sold over 30 million copies worldwide:

You have to remember that at the time, the competition to get the naffest possible record into the charts was really fierce. Another 1978 hit was Irishman Terry Wogan's "Floral Dance", which completely outclassed Father Abraham, though it only got to number 21:

After which your weekend can only get better. Have a good one!

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Wordy Wednesday Imagining a Winner Dinner

My Weekend

At the weekend Helena and I went to McDonalds, where I tried a new burger. It was surprisingly better than a Big Mac, and I'm glad that I've now found something vaguely edible to have when we go there.

The end.

This isn't very wordy, so instead I've decided to write it in the style of a certain famous British film director:

Winner's Weekend

I'd been meaning to visit this particular branch of McDonald's for some time, as my friend BOV has been pestering me for a review. Purely by chance I happened to notice that the route taken by Sly Stallone's private jet, which he'd lent me so that I could get from Cannes to a delightful dinner party at Hertfordshire, would pass within a few miles of the place.

So whilst the pilot made a refuelling stop at the local airport, I spotted that Martin Lord, owner of a delightful winery in the area, happened to be there with his helicopter, and cadged a lift to McDonalds. The pilot wasn't happy landing in the car park, but I explained that this was an emergency, and that this counted as a starvation relief flight.

The decor has changed recently - pastel coloured furniture and decorative murals make the establishment look more upper class than the old plastic primary colours ever did. There was a brief difficulty when they refused to move a family who were sitting at the only well-located table in the place, so I had to tell the mother myself to take her husband and their screaming brats somewhere else.

On my way past, I stopped at another table to steal a bite of the famous filet o' fish. Sadly it met my expectation, with the exception of the capers in the tartar sauce, which to my great surprise were of particularly high quality.

The staff were very helpful, though they didn't seem to be able to locate a wine list, or the sommellier. So I got on the blower to Martin and he very kindly got the helicopter to fetch me a bottle of his 1997 Cabernet.

Meanwhile Charmaine, the delightful manageress of the establishment brought me my "M" burger. Unlike normal McDonald's food this is made with real meat, and real cheese, and the sauces are somewhat less overwhelming. It wasn't quite up to the standards of the Savoy Grill, but it was passable as a quick snack for hungry jetset directors, especially when washed down by two bottles of Cabernet (I had to send out for a second one), and I can recommend it.

Next time, though, I'll phone ahead so they can boot all of the riff-raff out. There were so many normal people in the place that I almost had to have a third bottle of Cabernet to steady my nerves.

The great thing about the whole fast food experience is that within 30 minutes of Sly's jet landing, we were back on our way to Hertfordshire, where the evening was ruined by my host's terrible faux pas of letting the port breathe for 15 minutes too long. But that's an article for another day.

NOTE: I'm away this week, so don't be surprised if I don't post any comments over the next few days...

Sunday, 19 October 2008

The Spy Who Audited Me - II

Previously, our hero, 008, was bending over the corpse of a woman who had been eager to speak to him, presumably about the strange goings on relating to the world's finest caviar.

Bland turned round, and found himself looking into the barrel of a gun... Or rather two barrels, since there were two identical looking thugs both pointing pistols in his direction.

"She tried to defend herself with that revolver", explained one, "it's a pity, but she had to be killed before she told you, er, something."

"I see", said Bland, "but now you're going to take me to the Evil Genius Bent on World Domination, who no doubt will want to tell me all about it anyway."

The thugs looked are each other. "Actually, you're supposed to fight us first."

Bland shook his head in despair, "And single handedly beat you unconcious, then I'll no doubt meet some tarty blonde in the bar..."

"Pussy Toulette's a brunette, actually", interrupted one of the villains.

"...and spend the night with her, but she'll have been hired by your boss and will drug me, and then you'll come and carry me off to Evil Genius HQ? 007 might go in for that sort of thing, but the taxpayers would have to fork out for me to stay another night in this extortionate hotel. No, I'll just come with you now."

The thugs sighed, and one of them waved his weapon at Bland in the classic "go that way, and no funny business or I'll blow your fucking head off" gesture, and off they went.

Bland was led blindfolded into the nerve centre, where a large emaculately dressed man, obviously the Evil Genius Bent On World Domination, was waiting to greet him.

"Ah, Mr Bland. Sit down". The thugs pushed him into a chair, and tied him to it with thick rope. "Have a drink". Bland was handed a cocktail glass. He sniffed it and then threw it onto the floor.

"Vodka martini, stirred not shaken!", he exclaimed, "not only is that a criminal thing to do to a cocktail, but I only drink mineral water anyway."

"Ah, yes, your accountant's brain must remain unclouded", smiled the Evil Genius Bent On World Domination, "which is good, because I want you to understand just how clever my plan is. Before you die, of course.

"Thousands of tonnes of cheap caviar has been stored in underwater tanks. We have kidnapped all of the caviar fishers, and will substitute ours for the real thing."

"You're planning to poison all of the world leaders, aren't you?"

The EGBOWD looked insulted. "I wouldn't do anything that crude. Anyway, if I did, there would be plenty more leaders where they came from. No, my caviar when fed to people who have been brought up eating the good quality stuff will give them dreadful indigestion and constipation. Oh, did I mention, I own Smiff Kline Laxo?"

"The pharmecutical company specialising in laxitives and indigestion remedies!", said Bland, "They have a built up a 100% market share worth $5bn in the last..."

"Quite", interrupted the EGBOWD, "and my agents are right now going to all the shops and clearing the shelves of these products. The leaders in their agony and discomfort will start arguing, declare war on one another, and I will rescue the world by supplying my laxitives, in return for being declared World President."

"Shit!", said Bland, "and it's even tax deductable. Since your investment in laxitives is in pursuit of a new job, you can claim back the VAT. Let me see, 17.5% of 5 billion..."

"It's not too late to join me, Bland. I could use a fantastic financial brain like yours", said the EGBOWD as he lit a massive cigar.

At that moment his leggy assistant entered the room. "They've now bought 99.4% of the medicine", she reported.

"Well, tell them to hurry up!", said the EGBOWD angrily, looking at his watch, "it's not a difficult mission, they've only got to nip down to a few chemist's."

The leggy assistant turned to leave, but her stiletto slid in Bland's spilt drink and she went flying into the EGBOWD. In turn, he fell over, and the match that he was using to light his cigar flew through the air and landed on the floor next to Bland. The puddle of vodka ignited and the rope holding Bland caught fire.

Bland looked sadly at the burn marks on his jacket, and was wondering exactly how much he could claim on his expenses when he suddenly realised that he ought to be doing something. He sprung to his feet, and also slipped on the wet floor.

He pulled himself up, holding onto a lever of some kind to steady himself. Of course, the lever moved, and red lights and sirens came on. "Self Destruct in 5 minutes!"

Bland looked around, trying to remember which entrance he'd come through. But he'd been blindfolded. There were no signposted emergency exits, which he was sure must be against the local Health and Safety regulations. However everyone else was running in one direction, so he decided to follow them. The EGBOWD and his leggy assistant were both unconcious.

At the UN World Leader's Annual Dinner the delegates were sipping their choice wines and commenting on how fine the caviar was this year, whilst discussing what they could do about the dreadful economic situation. Standing in one corner, N and Bland looked on approvingly.

"A job well done", said N. "One day, no doubt someone will make a film about it. Though they'll have to spice it up a little - no-one will believe that you saved the world single handedly without firing a single shot, or getting intimate with some gorgeous women. I wouldn't have thought it was possible myself."

Bland smiled, and turned to leave. "I'm sorry to rush off, N, but I've got meet a Miss Pussy Toulette. I'm sure she's not declaring all of her earnings, you see, so I need to give her books a thorough going over."

N shook his head in despair. Her books! Luckily 007 was making a good recovery and things would soon be back to normal...

NOTE: I'll be away this week, so don't be surprised if I don't post any comments over the next few days...

Friday, 17 October 2008

The Spy Who Audited Me

NAME: Bland, James Bland

AGENT: 008

MISSION: Undercover Accountant


"You asked to see me, N?", said Bland as he entered the office. He was unaccustomed to anyone senior showing the slightest interest in his work - they were normally only concerned with the more violent and melodramatic missions.

"Sit down, Bland. Something's come up. Or rather it hasn't. We need you to take over 007's duties for a while. He's a little, em, indisposed at present."

"You mean someone has finally managed to shoot him?", Bland asked incredulously.

"Oh, nothing like that. He was testing a special pair of Speedos for his next assignment. They were fitted with a flame thrower. Unfortunately, it backfired." Bland winced and crossed his legs.

"Quite. They can do wonders with reconstructive surgery, these days", said N, "but a lot of women will be very disappointed in the meantime."

"I see", said Bland, "you want me to take over? Well, just give me their phone numbers and I'll get onto it straight away."

"That's not exactly what I had in mind", said N apologetically. "I want you to take over his next assignment." He handed Bland an envelope. "Tickets and passports. And pack some beachwear. You're going to a Black Sea resort, supposedly as one of those millionaire playboys.

"The region is also known for its caviar, and we've had reports of suspicious activity. That caviar will be being harvested for the UN Annual World Leader's Dinner in two week's time, so you can understand our concern."

"Absolutely", said Bland, "with global caviar supply down 15.78% over the previous quarter, coupled with increasing investment by the futures sector, they're looking at a 31.45% increase in price compared with last year. Which as a percentage of the GDP of..."

"Just go there and find out what's happening", interrupted N. "What's in your holster these days?"

With the lightening speed of a specially trained agent, Bland drew his weapon. "The Casio 1256D", he said proudly, "specially modified by Q, of course. Not only will it calculate Standard Deviation, but it also handles scale adaptive nonparametric regression and has an audit function key."

Suddenly, there was a pop and the claculator leapt out of Bland's hand and exploded. "The Walther PPK", said N proudly, "specially modified by Q, of course. A match for any calculator. I think you'll find it much more useful on this mission."

Almost a day later, Bland stood at the door of his luxurious "Executive" suite at the Hotel Paradiso. He tipped the porter then wrote the amount down in his notebook so he could claim it on his expenses. Suddenly his highly trained senses told him he wasn't alone. They also told him that someone had put their hand over his mouth. He slowly turned round, protesting with "mmm! mmmm!" sounds.

His "attacker" was a young lady whose Slavic features suggested that she was a local. Silently she made a "shut the fuck up" sign and handed him a card, went to the door and slipped out.

The card was for a nightclub, the Cossack Cellar. On the back was scrawled the following:

Must tolk with you. Room buggered. Tonight 10.00

However, before he'd finished reading it, he heard a woman's cry, and a "pop". He opened the door, rushed into the corridor, and fell flat on his face. As he got up, he realised that he'd tripped over the girl. There was a small red hole in the middle of her forehead. Funny, he'd not noticed that before.

There was something lying beside the body. He picked it up. And found himself looking straight into the barrel of a gun...

A voice behind him said, "I'd put that down, if I were you, Bland. You might hurt yourself."

For the second time that evening he turned round slowly.

To Be Continued...

Thursday, 16 October 2008


Aimilia has been absent from our screens for the last few days. Apparently she's ill. I hope it's not too serious. However, the TV columnist ("Pistoli") in today's "Simerini" paper reckons that the Communist government are trying to get rid of her because her politician brother Kyriakos Kenevezos is a supporter of the previous President.

I hope Pistoli's wrong...

Ο αρφός της Κενεβέζου
(Aimilia's brother)




Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Wordy Wednesday - Party Food

I know that some of you will be planning your halloween parties, so here is a selection of food that might go down a "trick or treat" on that special night. There's an added bonus that most of it is deadly.


This is a Japanese delicacy, which has the slight drawback that the fish contain poison that is 1,200 times as lethal as cyanide. Each fish has enough poison to kill 30 people. It paralyses your nervous system, so that you can't move or speak, but are conscious as you die. Even if they get you to a hospital, there's no antidote.

Chefs train for years to prepare this, and then have to go through a test which involves preparing and eating it. Only a third of them pass, though not many of the failures actually die.

Once they pass the test, they are licensed not to kill. Although some famous Japanese actor is supposed to have walked into a restaurant and insisted on being served four portions of the poisonous bits. He died, and the chef lost his license.

Apparently they often leave a little of the poison in the food so that your mouth goes a bit numb. At least you hope that's all that goes numb. This, added to the fact that it's expensive, is why I'll stick to Fish Fingers.


Another Japanese delicacy is raw horse meat. I know this doesn't count as a deadly food (it's probably more dangerous alive), but it is rather gross. Apparently freshness is very important when it comes to horse, so I suppose cooking it would spoil that. If I'm ever dying of starvation in the middle of nowhere, and the only place for miles around is a sushi bar with an old chef who's hands shake, and it's a choice between fugu and horse, I think I'll go for the fugu.


I'm thinking here of the ones that are bright green round the edges. Do you ever eat those ones? The green contains a deadly poison. Only a little bit of it, though, which is good news for blind people...

Look out for the green ones


These are deadly if you have a nut allergy, or if you choke on them, or you get hit on the head by some falling off a tree. Or if you stand on one and fall over onto a busy road or a railway track. Eating some varieties involves the use of nutcrackers, and you may slip, cut yourself and die of gangarene.

Anyway, when I eat pistachios I always get very dirty nails. Perhaps you're supposed to wash them (the nuts) first. They also create a lot of rubbish. Even though the shells are likely to be more biodegradable than your average carrier bag, I did wonder whether or not there were any uses for them. Then I found this web page and realised that the answer was "no".


Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, apparently took nitroglycerine (which his factory made), and was dependent on it. Or maybe he just liked the taste. He lived into his 60s, so presumably he wasn't a smoker. It turns out that they really do use it to treat chest pains and heart problems. Though they call it something slightly less explosive sounding. It's the bottle in your medicine cabinet that doesn't say "Shake well before use."

There you go. Everything you need to make your party go off with a bang...

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

An Egocentric Guided Tour

In view of a couple of questions that Tracy asked, I thought I'd be horribly self-indulgent and give you a guided tour of my blog. It won't take long, because I try to keep it reasonably simple and clutter-free, and I wasn't planning to post today, so if you're not interested please feel free to skip straight to the comment section.

Let's start at the top, with my title banner. This is a photograph of the mantlepiece in my lounge. When I started my blog, I didn't have a camera, so I fairly quickly got one, and this was the first thing I photographed with it. The busts are of Bach and Beethoven, and the clock in the middle is a super modern radio controlled one, though it's very nicely finished and looks like an old Napolean clock. Usually my keys, phone and wallet live on that mantlepiece too. The unsightly wire is a speaker cable.

Moving to the first sidebar, we have a very unflattering photo of the blogger, together with my email address. Then there is my virtual clock, which I love. I don't know why more people don't have one.

Under the clock there is a link to Wiktionary, which was added for Bee, who complained that I sometimes use British words that she has to look up.

At the top of the second sidebar is Aimilia Kenevezou, who is the blog's muse. She reads the main weekday news bulletin in her own inimitable style on Cypriot state TV, my main source of information about what's happening in the real world.

Underneath is my blog list. I keep this short - in general it consists only of those blogs that I read on a daily basis. Bee and Jean Knee are at the top of the list, and although part of me would quite like to have everyone in alphabetical order, I can't bring myself to move them down the list. They have been faithfully reading, commenting and hijacking my blog from the very beginning, and are not completely of the opinion that it is my blog. They might be right...

I should also mention Klearchos, since he's not a regular commenter. He has a fantastic blog, which is in Greek, English and Bulgarian. He takes wonderful photos everywhere he goes, describing the places as well as any tourist guide. I don't visit his site anywhere near as often as I should.

Then there's the blog history thing.

Underneath that there are some Linux/Ubuntu logos. Contrary to popular belief, Ubuntu is not a town on the US/Canadian border, but a version of Linux, the computer operating system that I use instead of Windows. The penguin, Tux, is the Linux mascot.

The only thing I've not explained is the title. "o vretanos" is simply Greek for "The Briton", because I first started looking at Greek blogs, and I wanted it to be clear if I commented that I was British, so they'd know why my Greek was so bad. Instead I spent most of my time reading English (or rather American) blogs, and the rest is history...

Monday, 13 October 2008

Es que vous parlez English?

I loved reading Chris' account of his schooldays, and it started me thinking about my own far less interesting and distinguished scholastic career. I was a very lazy student - which meant that whilst I scraped enough qualifications to get into a decent university, I failed to get to grips with most of the subjects at school.

Once you've failed in something, it's very difficult to go back. I'll never be able to understand chemistry, or history, or French.

My most important failure was French. Once you leave school chemistry and history really don't seem that useful. On the other hand, a language might have been.

French was pretty much compulsory when I was at school. This was for historical reasons, perhaps dating back to when it was the only language that our royal family spoke, and that until relatively recently all our laws were written in. It was also the language of diplomacy, and in the 80s, the language of Europe.

Nowadays English is the language of choice in the European Union, since most of the newer member states use it as their second language. And in schools children are as likely to be taught Spanish, or if they're lucky Urdu or Chinese.

But we were stuck with good old French. I remember when I'd just started it at school, coming home with a list of words to memorise, probably the first 20 numbers, or something. I spent 5 minutes or so looking at the list and gave up. As I said, I'm lazy.

The next five years were much the same. Lists of words came and went. They were usually grouped by topic. Furniture, jobs, the beach. For me, all missed opportunities. If I ever end up sur le plage in the Riviera, not only will I not be able to chat up the bikini-clad beauties, I won't even manage to rent a deckchair, or buy a bucket and spade. All because I didn't learn that beach vocabulary.

I had another major problem with French, which I don't think I've ever admitted before to a living soul - the accent sounded really effeminate. I couldn't bear to try and pronounce the words properly, just in case...

When I got married, we went to Paris for our honeymoon. My wife made me do all of the talking, and I discovered that I'd remembered more that I'd thought. The major problem, though, was eating. She always had a Salad Nicoise, while I would confidently pick something from the menu, thinking that I could make an educated guess about what it was.

Unfortunately, I was never right. One evening I was presented with a plateful of meat that didn't look like it had been cooked. I suppose I should be grateful that I never actually got anything that was still moving.

But it wasn't all bad. Once, when I was 14, the teacher commented at the end of a piece of writing, "Sounds very French". Most of the words were spelt wrong, conjugated wrong, or whatever, but I'd caught something about the idiom. Of course, it wouldn't have sounded French if I'd said it out loud. I wouldn't have wanted to sound like a woofter*

*Not that there's anything wrong with it.

To illustrate this post, I hunted far and wide, but could not find a picture of a typical Frenchman - you know, with the blue striped shirt, the garlic and the bike. So I had to make do with Brigitte Bardot. Sorry, but I did try...

Saturday, 11 October 2008

A Day in the Life

Bee has announced her intention to document every hour of today, and post the results on Monday. I think she's being a bit inconsiderate - She should write it at 0:00 on Sunday and post it straight away instead of keeping us in suspense for a whole extra day, but I'm sure that it will be worth the wait.

I wouldn't dream of keeping you waiting, so I'm going to tell you in advance what I might be doing today.


I will probably get some food, perhaps even some clothes, some beer and a new carrier bag, to replace the one that split. I might toy with the idea of splashing out and buying some banks (at £500bn they're practically giving them away), we'll see.


I've still got a pile of books to read, so I'll finish the Agatha Christie I'm reading (The Mysterious Mr Quin - a book of short stories), and move onto one by Henning Mankell. More realistically, I'll probably just manage 5 pages of Mr Quin.

Eating and Drinking

Having gone shopping today, and with Helena not coming until tomorrow, I'll almost certainly have far too much to eat. In fact, I'll probably eat all of the food I buy today and have to go shopping again tomorrow. I'm likely to have a cornish pasty and potato salad for lunch, some kind of ready meal for my dinner, and snack on crisps, breadsticks and humous. Washed down with Guinness, of course.


I will need to vaccuum, because if I leave it much longer I won't be able to find the floor. I also need to clean the bathroom, but I might just put some clothes in the washing machine instead - there's only so much time available, unfortunately, so I can't do everything.


I will of course be watching the news at 6.00 (even though Aimilia isn't on it at weekends), and no doubt will find some other stuff to watch as well. As long as it's in Greek, it doesn't count as time wasting/vegging/being a couch potato.


I'll write some crap in my blog. I'll mention that my first ever post was a year ago today, and that I've enjoyed myself so much that I've almost forgiven Bee and co for coercing me into starting it in the first place. I'll point out that my first post was about things that weren't happening, money, drugs and Aimilia Kenevezou, so nothing much has changed. I'll also say a big thankyou to everyone who's read and commented for making this worthwhile.


Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Wordy Wednesday: Ancestors


Before we progress to the "mainstream of today's symposium", I must just give you an update on the supermarket situation.

When you spend £50 or more in Sainsbury's, you get a fuel voucher that gives you money off overpriced "black gold". The elderly couple in front of me had got enough shopping to get over the magic £50, but reckoned without some special offers, which meant that they were in fact £1.13 short. So they went round the shop trying to find enough things that they wanted, but not too much, of course. Luckily I was feeling particularly patient today...

Oh yes, and one of my reusable bags has split after three uses. It says that if you take it back they'll replace it free, so that's another hassle for the next shopping expedition.


In Princess Ida, W.S. Gilbert explains the evolution of man as seen by man-hating women's libbers. The story begins with the reason for apes evolving in the first place:

A Lady fair, of lineage high,
Was loved by an Ape, in the days gone by.
The Maid was radiant as the sun,
The Ape was a most unsightly one-
So it would not do-
His scheme fell through,
For the Maid, when his love took formal shape,
Expressed such terror
At his monstrous error,
That he stammered an apology and made his 'scape,
The picture of a disconcerted Ape.

This, is of course nonsense. As mentioned previously on this blog, scientists (who ought to have been doing something useful such as growing courgettes with barcodes) have discovered that the reason women like Brad Pitt is that he resembles a Neanderthal. And it works - All the women on Chris' blog went mad and clicked some link just because he mentioned the guy's name.

So perhaps we shouldn't be too proud of having evolved so far. You may have seen the story about monkeys who are working as waiters in a Japanese restaurant. Next time you get rotten service somewhere that claims to welcome customer suggestions, I think you should suggest that they trade in their useless human staff for some chimps. Perhaps if enough people do this, it might actually happen.

At the same time there is a campaign to get a BAFTA for Cheetah, the tarzan monkey. The monkey has a lot more experience in the movie business than Mr Pitt, and is also a very good actor - for years no-one realised that "he" was being played by a "she". That's impressive. Nevertheless, I bet the judges ignore this and give the award to Neanderthal Brad.

How does the feminist version of evolution end? Not happily, I'm afraid:
And to start in life on a brand-new plan,
He christened himself Darwinian Man!
But it would not do,
The scheme fell through-
For the Maiden fair, whom the monkey craved,
Was a radiant Being,
With a brain far-seeing-
While a Darwinian Man, though well-behaved,
At best is only a monkey shaved!
Perhaps the customers in that Japanese restaurant would agree with the last couplet, though...

Monday, 6 October 2008

Reasonable Rant

I don't rant very often. Not on my blog, at least. This is partly because I don't get very stressed about things, and partly because rants tend to be somewhat unreasonable, one-sided and hypocritical. Not always, of course. Obviously my rant will be reasonable and contain no hypocrisy whatsoever. Actually, I'm not sure it's violent enough to be a rant, but it's the best I can do, I'm afraid.

Last week I went to the supermarket during the day. I went quite early, because I imagined that this would be a good quiet time to go. I was wrong.

There were a number of old people there. I expected that. Most of them were there when I was out shopping at the weekend, and still hadn't got to the till yet. I'm sure I've remarked before about how odd it is that the very people who don't have much time left before they die are the ones who seem to do everything so slowly.

I'm not going to rant about old people, because I don't want someone showing me this post when I'm old and pointing out that I'm slow and doddery and indecisive and manage to block the whole aisle for an hour whilst deciding which brand of denture fixitive to buy.

No, I'm much more concerned about the number of SAHMs that there were ahead of me at the checkout. What happened to those magic words "Stay At Home"? They should be indoors blogging, not making me queue. They should order their groceries on line - after all, they can be at home to take the delivery.

The lady in front of me had got almost a trolley-full of fresh vegetables. Now, I appreciate it isn't her fault that it takes so long to put this stuff through the till. This is down to those selfish good-for-nothing scientists, who instead of working out how to genetically engineer fruit and veg so that it grows with machine readable bar codes, are spending all their time inventing invisibility cloaks and boring people at parties.

I do wish, though, that she hadn't decided to buy a small dolphin-shaped something (lotion, body wash?). That didn't have a readable bar-code either, which meant a wait whilst someone went off to find out that the item in question cost 50p, or whatever.

She also bought some clothes, so I had to wait and fume and watch the checkout assistant carefully and neatly fold up said clothes...

Finally, it was my turn. The supermarkets have all decided that they won't have bags by the tills any more, to encourage people to use the recyclable ones. They had an announcement about it in the shop over the PA system. They could have told me before I left home. Then I might have remembered to take my super-green reusable bags (only used once). Instead I had to ask for some evil disposable ones. "Forgotten your bags?", asked the checkout lady.

This is terrible moral blackmail. I think that we shoppers shouldn't stand for it. We should make a point of asking for disposable bags. Then only half-filling them. In the face of civil disobedience they'll be forced to abandon this silly green nonsense.

I had managed not to buy anything without a bar code - none of that fresh healthy food for me, thankyou. I'd also got some clothes. I do all my clothes shopping at the supermarket where at all possible. It's so much easier. The lady was very good, and folded my clothes neatly - what excellent service, and how nice to find a shop where they're prepared to spend time on their customers.

I sneaked out of the shop, the nasty bags in my trolley screaming "Environment Wrecker!", especially as everyone else appeared to have reusable ones. Needless to say, I won't forget my bags next time...

Friday, 3 October 2008


How many of you are old enough to have learned how to use one of these at school? For once, I can gleefully say that I'm not. It's a slide rule, of course, and it's what people had before they invented pocket calculators.

It works on the same principle as log tables. I'm too young to have been taught those, too, though naturally I did learn about logarithms, so I do understand how they were used.

This was my father's, probably circa 1970, when he was getting some qualifications to make up for the fact that he'd left school at 15. My mother found it a while after he died, and being a young mathematics student I was fascinated by it, and started to use it. For most calculations it gives an accurate enough answer - generally 2 or 3 significant figures.

It's difficult to see a use for it in our computer age, and being plastic it's not very decorative. However, it is one of the few things I have that I really value - simple (it's just two pieces of plastic that slide), yet highly functional. I must admit, though, that the last time I used it was to draw a straight line...

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Wordy Wednesday


The other evening a colleague took a couple of us to a village pub out in the middle of nowhere, where we had a meal and a pleasant couple of pints. I'm glad he was driving, because it was down single-track country lanes, which I'm never that keen on.
Because he'd chosen the pub for the quality of its beer, I thought I'd try some of the real ale to go with the Hungarian Goulash - usually I stick to lager or Guinness. The first pint of Doombar was so nice, that I felt obliged to have another. Well, we had come a long way...


In town at the weekend, I bought the box set of the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes films, made between 1939 and 1946. There are 14 in all, which have been wonderfully restored by the UCLA, a project which took them 10 years.

Even though I like detective stories, I've never been too sure about Sherlock Holmes. He's always jumping to amazingly detailed conclusions from the tiniest bits of evidence, and too many of the villans smoke unusual brands of Turkish cigarettes. He's also not a very likeable character.

Nevertheless, I've watched the first two so far with Helena, who really enjoyed them. The first one was the "Hound of the Baskervilles", which has the ominous line at the end "Watson, the needle.", reminding us of Holmes' opium addiction. And the second was a WW II propaganda film, though not too bad considering.

There. It doesn't take a detective to see from today's meagre WW offering that this week has so far been uneventful, but busy...