Friday, December 30, 2011

New Year New Danglies

Quite how Father Time got himself involved in an annual ritual alongside a new born baby without being locked up for paedophile crimes against humanity, I have no idea.

All I know is, the old guy with the beard has taken a number of disturbing liberties under cover of the bulldozer moving all the heaps of festive chocolate from one end of my living room to the other and the sighs of relief following the departure of irritating extended family members, most notably killing my laptop and iPod and the turbo switch on the tumble dryer.  Sad but true, it looks like I shall be forced to spend some of my Christmas money on replacement electrical goods rather than the full Lady Gaga transvestite makeover I had planned for the opening weeks of January.*

* As it turns out, I’d have been a few grand short of the Full Gaga even if the Father Time had failed to destroy my stuff, so maybe I was being a little optimistic.  Looks like the bearded one has spared me the toss up between an Andy Murray and three and a half Ken Clarkes.

The more you think about it, the more the whole Father Time / Weird Annus Dribblis Baby arrangement seems a little far-fetched.  I still have trouble with the whole Jesus and Mary thing, not to mention Brian Eno and Brian Ferry.  Call me a dumbo, but I can’t see any mother figure presiding over this annual rebirth.  Maybe she’s elsewhere, dropping sprogs every December 31st only to have them kidnapped and transported to a distant dimension by an old git who, for the past million zillion millennia, hasn’t once got the Philishave he put on any of his Christmas lists.  It must be sad for that mother figure, shambling namelessly in the void between hope and pelvic thrust, especially if she knows about us lot, swanning around at her expense, buoyed by the bonny bounce of a bright new year.

Maybe if we all went for an Andy Murray tranny op, Father Time could be persuaded to stay away for a few years.  That way, the nameless mother figure could get to spend a some time with her kids and experience the joys of a fledgling cosmos bristling with every promise of tomorrow.  As for us, being stuck in limbo for a while might not be very much fun, but assuming the mantle of a grumpy Scottish stubble grower would work wonders for persuading ourselves that it really wasn’t happening to us.

So to hell with it!

The iPod can wait!

Anyone else game for a little sacrifice in order to help a nameless mother figure in another dimension?  If you’re short of shekels, a single Ken Clarke might do the trick...

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2011's Last Slugs

The days between Christmas and New Year always seem to me to be something of a muddly kind of nothing.

You can’t really listen to carols any more and Shakin’ Stevens is even further off limits than he was prior to the 25th — and yet it’s not quite time to plan ahead with all seriousness and contemplate the forthcoming year.

So, as the last of the bubble ‘n’ squeak vapours blend into the whispery pre-2012 air, there’s a slug afloat on gelatin feel about the place...

Friday, December 23, 2011

Eve Eve Huzzara!

There’s been much talk on the Twitoblogofriendotwatowtfoshutthefuckuposphere about today being “Christmas Eve Eve”, as if somehow we’ve all only just discovered that’s what it is.

Whatever you choose to call today (and I’ll settle for Friday 23rd every time), it’s pretty much the last opportunity for getting in the last of the presents and the food for all the feasts — unless you’re a deranged enough sort to be leaving everything till tomorrow, in which case, best of luck to you as you battle to surmount the human pyramid of warring consumers in the frozen veg section of Asda armed with tinsel-covered machetes handed out by the security staff...

So I’m spending the afternoon catching up on the last of the seasonal necessities, like ironing the turkey and ensuring none of the coins in the Christmas pudding are Euros.  Maybe I’ll have the odd mince pie, maybe I’ll sink half a bottle of whisky and a few chocolate bars — I dunno.  Today I shall lounge and flounce like a man of seasonal leisure, tying up loose ends and magicking up the spirit of Christmas before things start cracking off big time tomorrow with the arrival of Mother of Girly of Whirly’s Mobile Tomb of Misery and Destruction dead on the witching hour of twelve noon.

It only remains for me to thank my visitors old and new for what has been a pretty shitty year.  Hopefully, with Gadaffi and Kim Jong-Il both gone, 2012 will bring us a better class of crazed dictator to distract us from our own stupidity in all matters social, moral and financial.  If we’re especially lucky, one of them might get to be US President.

In the mean time, here’s a re-tread from the archives...

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Chef Off

You can’t switch on the telly at the moment without being greeted by some celebrity chef or another grinning from the screen with both hands shoved up a glazed fowl’s arse.

If it’s not Jamie Oliver spitting out details of a pukka chestnut jus recipe from between his botoxed tripe lips, its Ainsley Harriot singing the praises of gander sebacious gland oil, high on a pint and a half of Kovonia, with his giant bald head glistening beneath the studio lights like the sealed glans of a neutered giant.

As for Antony Worral Thompson’s stuffing, I can only hope that some time soon a gang of suitably unpleasant have-a-go heroes will see to it.

It’s not that I claim chapter-and-verse knowledge of all things festive and culinary, nor even that my appetite for recipes fresh and exciting has wilted in the mistletoe heat — I just wish all these celebrity chefs would bog off to a secret hideaway and cannibalize each other till only their mushroom hats remained.

Then, maybe we can have some serious telly in the run-up to Christmas, like hairstyling tips c/o Little Mix and Jeremy Clarkson drowning a hapless lesbian in a swimming pool full of his own froth...

Friday, December 16, 2011

Grandad's Special Festive Android Bonanza

Here's a festive short story for you all, to accompany your yuletide glee as you sit around the fire burning your nuts.

There's a few f-bombs, I'm afraid — saw afraid, as it happens.

I'm indebted to the delightful Fairyhedgehog for inspiring me to finish this one.  Had it not been for her latest blog post, this story might have remained in a drawer, half-formed like a prototype for Beyonce's next pair of buttocks.

Her story is here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Surviving An Austere Christmas

According to all records of hope sting, most of us are now set to enjoy something of an “austere Christmas”.

This is not to say that Santa is about to bypass us all in his tempered miracle zeal, because as we all know [kid spoiler approacheth], Santa is, in fact, us.  Sad but true, it’s just how it is, here at the flobbly end of 2011.

So as we all grapple with limited means to rival a chrysalis-bound butterfly beached in the frost, what can be done this year to guarantee that our stifled generosity can rise to the occasion and deliver tangible festive output fit for all the family?

Let’s start with the basics.

Tucked away in every family shed is one of these:

According to my DIY-minded friends, this chunk of workmanly kit has been deployed over the centuries to assist in the erection of more cathedrals and in-home stair lifts than most of us have had hot dinners.  Now it’s time to shave our figgy puddings with it, reducing them in size to slightly smaller versions of themselves and saving up the shavings for years to come.  In ten years’ time, not only will we have graced the Christmas table with nine pudding-o lites indistinguishable from their full size counterparts, but we’ll have sufficient leftover slices of figginess to create a tenth for free in 2021.

“We hear your logic, Whirl — but do you have any tips to help out families with pets?”

Of course I do.  Everyone is familiar with the idea that a family pet adds value to our limited mortality, ie that having something fluffy and friendly about the place acts as a considerable distraction from the inevitability of our final and crushing demise, particularly if said fluffy and friendly pet is an elephant clad in a giant tea cosy.  Further value can be added to our sense of Christmas occasion by decorating our pets as we do our trees and refrigerators.  So it’s time to festoon the dachshund with a little tinsel, or grace the cat with baubles ‘pon every foot.  Whatever your pet, there’s always an odd scrap of garland or tinsel at the bottom of every box of Christmas decorations that would otherwise lay idle.  It would cost next to nothing to deck out your much-loved pets thusly, and if there are any scowls or yowls of complaint, you might wish to remind them of the terms of the deal, ie that without mankind to feed and water them, most household pets would die a miserable death in a cruel and heartless wilderness.

Note:  For anyone with a tankful of insubstantial shiny flippetyfish, I know it’s kind of tedious, but glitter does actually superglue underwater.

“OK, what about dinner?  Cranberry sauce is soooo expensive.”

Agreed, but if cuts have to be made, why not bash a hardback copy of Roget’s Thesaurus against your nose till it bleeds, and decant a few cupfuls of the red stuff into a reindeer-themed jugette?  Throw a few grapes into the mixture and no-one will notice the Great Cranberry Deception, because the wine you’re serving for dinner will, of course, be Lidl’s own white cider and everyone ought to be too pissed to care.  With so much lipstick about the place from kisses under the mistletoe, no-one will ever see the bruises to your face, and when the good times roll again, you can pass your crooked conk off as an act of aspirational home plastic surgery allied to a dream of meeting your favourite pop star.

“Any tips for a turkey substitute?  Are there cheaper birds, maybe pigeons or sparrows?”

Forget poultry altogether.  It’s time-consuming to fatten birds up and until we find a way of recycling all the beaks and toenails it’s also a massive waste of resources.  Best thing to do is invest in a dozen of the cheapest frozen burgers you can lay your hands on.  The breadcrumb-filled nature of most modern burgers lends itself to infinite malleability once they’re thawed, and with the right artistic wherewithal, a dozen budget burgers can be moulded into a perfectly passable headless, wingless, legless, lifeless lump of festive mock poultry.  Simply sprinkle with feathers from one of Granny’s pillows and hey presto! Oiseau du Jour!

“The fairy lights are costing me a fortune in electricity!  Help!”

It’s true that twinkly lights are an ambient drain on the pocket — especially for those who insist on hosting an animatronic Lapland in their back garden — so it may be time to recall the illuminatory staple of medieval times, ie the candle.  As long as you keep the tree regularly moistened with sprays of water, any arrays of candles slung from it will have next to zero chance of burning down your house.

“Times are hard.  We need Rudolph’s carrot for dinner.  Sorry.”

It’s a shame to play the harsh one when it comes to feeding imaginary seasonal quadrupeds, I know, but for the sake of the kids there’s nothing for it but to bite the weeniest morsel off the tip and throw the rest into the pan.  If the kids are at all concerned about Santa’s publicly-spirited reindeer missing out on a few treats, you could always try reasoning with them.  The worldwide reindeer carrot pot is potentially a vast one, and if we all chip in a little bit, there’s no danger of malnutrition-generated antler rot.  In actual fact, going with the present arrangement of personally feeding individual reindeer is a recipe for unwarranted obesity and a squandering of the world’s carrot resources.

“It simply won’t be Christmas without the new festive Cliff Richard CD of shamelessly sugary wank.”

Oh yes it will.  Save your money and sing a medley of Cliff’s finest as a family while you wait for the brussels sprout fug of bum gas to dissipate.  “Saviour’s Day” really comes into its own when there’s more than the usual stimulus to gag.

“Are you absolutely sure that whole budget burger mock-turkey thing will fool everyone?  My parents’ folks are coming, and in addition to not being born yesterday, they were both born in the thirties when this whole austerity deal was the norm?”

The solution here is to glaze with gruel — and while they’re drying off, remind them that without your charity they could be spending Christmas in a care home.

"But what about aunties and uncles?  Cousins and nephews and stuff?  It’s such a lot of people to buy for!"

Fortunately, all those Somali pirates have clubbed together to offer a home kidnap service.  For a modest fee you can arrange to have extended family members incarcerated for the duration of the festive season, ‘missing, presumed dead’.  Upon their return in the New Year, all you need to do is inform them that your Christmas budget has already been spent on discounted burgers for responsible family members who successfully managed not to be kidnapped, and the whole present buying conundrum can be bypassed like a dream.

If anyone has any further tips, the comment trail awaits your cost-cutting suggestions.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Monday, December 5, 2011

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Friday, November 25, 2011

For John: Still Dead, Still Gone

It seems like an age ago now, but there was a time when the Human League were the most exciting thing since Star Trek’s Lieutenant Uhura stuck a butt plug in her ear and began receiving communications from alien beings.  Gone were the shambling long-haired prog-o-hippies of yore and the wailing banshee of undiluted misery who changed her name from Roberta Joan Anderson to Joni Mitchell.  In their place stood brash new techno bands with haircuts like designer ladies’ handbags.  Of these, the League were the finest, and their lead singer, Phil Oakey, the most evidently clutch.

I first remember hearing them in the back room of a pub called The Union, right at the start of what turned out to be a lifelong experiment with alcohol.  To date, I’ve never seen so many people packed into so small a space, up to and including the celebrated circus contortionists Nicky and Nacky and their Trunk No Bigger Than A Toaster.  When you rubbed shoulders with people in The Union, it was by virtue of having been squeezed through their bodies to the arm on the far side.

In the corner of the room stood a jukebox, gaudy as a gypsy caravan minus the wheels and roughly the same kind of size.  From seven till eleven every Friday and Saturday night it belted out a succession of scratched 45s to the delight of the Union’s motley clientele.  For 5p you could choose from a selection of records to shame an 80GB iPod (so long as you had an hour to spare braving the crush to locate it) and the lone stool beside the jukebox’s hulking magnificence was fought over until closing time by hardcore musos duelling with dodgy roll-ups.

Around this time is when John first appeared on the scene.  He was much older than everyone else who frequented The Union, though how much I’d hesitate to say; when you’re sixteen, it’s still hard to figure out how old people older than yourself really are.  Maybe he was forty, I don’t know.  What I do recall is that his wardrobe looked like it had been dragged out of the nearest Oxfam shop (and by ‘wardrobe’ I mean his clothes, not an actual wardrobe — if he’d turned up for a pint with a wardrobe, either the jukebox or a dozen revellers would have been forced out onto the street).  No sorrier a collection of scuffed and shabby clothes have I seen before or since, all thrown over his careworn frame in varying shades of brown, and when he spoke, his words were even harder to decipher than most over the boom of the jukebox on account of his broken nose.  At some stage in his past he’d been involved in a fight and beaten with a crowbar.  If you think of what you might look like if you’d gone a hundred rounds with Joe Frazier you’ll have some idea of the damage done to his face — especially as Joe Frazier died recently and the only way you could go any kind of distance with him now is if his corpse was strapped like a demolition ball to a very long rope and swung by an ogre at your head.  Clearly, John had led a difficult life and had it not been for drunken idiots like me and my mates, I’m guessing there were very few people in his life to talk to.  Aside from passing comment on the music throbbing from the jukebox and the foolishness of the punks’ fascination for all things ‘safety pin’, his words spoke only of the past: adventures and altercations he’d had with people long since gone from his life.

As we threw on our clothes to go out of a weekend, my mates and I would ponder the John Conundrum.  Would he be around tonight?  Sat in the corner like a beaten anachronism, ready to parley over a pint or two of mixed?  Sometimes he was, sometimes he wasn’t.  If his irregularity had been a matter of choice I don’t suppose he’d have been any different from people like the Eagle Boy Gang, who tended to frequent the Union in their ridiculous tartan get-up only when their special New Romantic Spazz Night had been cancelled by the local night club.  When John failed to put in an appearance, it was usually because of some genuine bother, like being thrown out of his bedsit or getting arrested, all matters upon which he preferred not to dwell too much.  The one time he didn’t show for weeks on end was the one time the police found him dead.

According to my mate Ash (think Jim Morrison but with leatherier trousers and cornea), John was discovered unconscious and struggling to breathe in a grubby public toilet late at night.  By the time he made it to the hospital he was a goner.  No-one ever found out any more.  We didn’t even know his second name.  Maybe we should have mounted a hormone-rich teen expedition to uncover the truth of it all, but when you’re sixteen, you’re kind of stupid that way.  When you’re sixteen, there’s always some new fascination lurking behind every corner and letting go of stuff comes with the zits.  John came and John went, is all, like a television program that grabs you for a few weeks and then is gone.  In any case, if we’d partaken of any kind of fact finding expedition in a public toilet, most likely we’d have ended up in a sorry state too.  So were we heartless for not caring, for not bothering to want to know?  In some ways, probably we were.

What matters now is that John is still as dead and gone as he was in 1981, and I wonder who else remembers him now.  It’s not that I wake up every morning with an image of his broken nose blurring from my pillow, or sit and meditate on his death like a morbid guru whenever I’ve no sandals to crochet.

All I know is, whenever I hear the Human League, his sorry and dishevelled form intrudes on the gaze of my mind’s eye, hauling the Union’s mighty jukebox on his back like Jesus treading his final steps with the cross.

Needless to say, neither Oakey’s handbag vocals nor the rhythm of the synths inspire me to dance in any way.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Elephantitic Dork-out Week

If it’s possible to have elephantitis of the brain, this week I seem to have contracted elephantitis of the part of the brain responsible for making the brain as a whole function properly, the sorry effect being that most of the grey matter I normally rely on for getting from dawn till dusk successfully has been squeezed out of my ears by a bulbous lump of even greyer matter complete with floppy-abouty trunk-like appendage.

Watch as I stumble like a half-wit to erase the contents of a backup hard drive only to accidentally wipe from all existence the contents of my Main Data Drive!

And is that a dinky 8GB flash memory stick I see before me — or merely the void where once it sat upon my desk until I mislaid the fucker?

Let’s celebrate with a curry so badly burned that the pan in which it was cooked is now capable of shielding me from radiation thanks to the blackened ex-korma carapace I figured was going to eat for tea until I dorked out like an uberdork handing out his dork essence from on high!

Or what about that query letter to an agent whose name I managed to transform into nothing even remotely like her actual name — and then mis-spelled my own?

Girly of Whirly’s favourite dinky top?  Now an unrecognisable shade of bleugh thanks to being tossed in the washing machine with a load of my socks!

And it’s only Wednesday.

My only consolation is that the trunk I mentioned came in really handy for cleaning the bath.  Given the finite number of walls in my bathroom (the standard cube-formed six) there are a surprising number of nooks and crannies practically unreachable without having been born a gibbon.  You can say what you like about the supremacy of Mr Muscle, but when it comes to getting stains and smears off difficult-to-reach surfaces there’s nothing to beat a prehensile proboscis the size of Nigerian Viagra salesman’s cock.

Hoping to be back later in the week with a post about 80s music.  If I don’t make it, you’ll just have to assume I’ve accidentally poisoned myself or dashed blindly in front of a firing squad...

Sunday, November 13, 2011

My Caprino Mind Warp

It’s over two weeks since my last post and I’m just checking in to assure everyone that I haven’t been murdered, abducted by aliens or buggered by psi-goats.

In addition, I also haven’t been...

* Commanded by the Greek army to produce black market Feta cheese.

* Snorkelling, with or without skimpy trunks.

* Lashed to the back of a tired 70s comedian for a celebrity quiz show lampooning the stupidity of Joe Public.

* Undergoing surgery in order to become Julie Whirl.

* Rubbing grannies with olive oil and butter to help them out with their aches and pains.

* Buggered by psi-goats and robbed of my short-term memory.

I mention this because there are flutters of inconsistency breaking out across the blogosphere as people wind down or close their blogs in order to tweet, befriend and troll.  In my case, it’s just been a busy fortnight, is all, and rather than post details of things I never had time to do, or all the ponk I somehow became embroiled in, I’ve run with the whole psi-goat thing because, again, it never actually happened.

It’s over two weeks since my last post and I’m just checking in to assure everyone that I haven’t been murdered, abducted by aliens or buggered by psi-goats...

Friday, October 28, 2011

My I Ching Venetian Blind

The sun continues to beam unusually brightly for October, and as I sit, tucked up snug inside my sheepskin boiler suit, I feel aglow with the very best of the world’s radiance.

My only complaint is that the glare — reflected from every surface of my study, including the sheep’s eyeballs — makes typing at my laptop almost impossible and my descent into Typo Central as inevitable as the shrieking of hapless angels kidnapped by demons and thrust into the bowels of Hdaes.

Normally, of course, I’d draw the curtains and throw a necessary shroud over my workspace, but since Girly of Whirly has taken them down to run up into a ball gown, I’ve had to crack out the I Ching venitian blind from the attic, where it has resided for the past twenty-five years alongside boxes of clutter and old bicycles — and the remains of some woman who claimed to be a long-lost aunt who I was (sadly) forced to club to death after an altercation.

I originally purchased the blind in 1985 when uncertainty about my future had reached fever pitch.  The I Ching, as you’re probably aware, is a kind of divination device you can use in the absence of being bossed about the place by a mad dictator or having any clue about what to do with your gift of free will.  Rendered in venetian blind form, it can also serve as a handy means of moderating the degree of light available to rooms (and, in my case, partial concealment for an attic corpse).

The idea is very simple.  Every time you adjust the slats, one of the sixty-four I Ching hexagrams is displayed at random.  For tasteless design buffs, such blinds are a great addition to living rooms bursting with crap, but to seekers of the truth such as I was in 1985, they’re perfect for posing philosophical conundrums while dealing with the realities of night and day.

It’s up now, and I can more or less see to type.  A gentle breeze blows from the open window, causing the blind's plastic slats to chitter like the legs of distant beetles, and as I sit, wrestling with the sub-plot of a spurious story, I’m minded to check in to an I Ching divination website to seek counsel about what to have later for lunch.

First, I must formulate a question, some item of purest ponderousness upon which the oracle can “make like a sage”.

And the question I choose is: Should I finish off the curry from last night or make a fresh cheese and tomato sandwich?

A hexagram appears on the slats, tugged into being by the pull cord which I now see has a withered ear dangling from it.

According to, this is hexagram 49.  Named ‘KO’, possibly after one of the Teletubbies’ parents, it’s composed of two parts, namely ‘The Joyous’ and ‘The Clinging’, and embodies the idea of moulting or shedding.  According to Chin Chin Wee (who runs this particular site from the privacy of his weirdo bandana), the idea here is that just as animals’ pelts and religious and political movements come and go with the seasons, so it is with the subject matter of my question.  More specifically, Wee says,

Fire in the lake: the image of REVOLUTION
Thus the superior man
Sets the calendar in order
And makes the seasons clear.

In terms of imagery, this makes some kind of sense.  If there were ever a fire in the lake here at Whirl Towers, it would scare the bejesus out of half the neighbourhood in a way guaranteed to make heads revolve, and if the cyclic changes Wee describes are inevitable, it makes sense to have a timetable for predicting their comings and goings to which one can refer.

But what does this mean for my lunch?

My curry, though more revolutionary than a cheese and tomato sandwich in terms of spiciness and potential for inducing gastric tornadoes, is nonetheless an old curry — ‘yesterday’s pelt’, if you like.

Conversely, my cheese and tomato sandwich is the more revolutionary of the two by virtue of the simple fact that I haven’t made it yet.  The cheese remains unsliced, the tomato unmachetied, and nothing short of a revolution of matter is required to change this.  Plus, being from Belgium, the cheese has a 'pelt' of mould.

So I’ve decided to eat both.

I shall reheat the curry and dip my sandwich into it naan-style, cross-legged in my study chair like an eastern potentate, as the shadow of KO plays upon my sheepskin.  Philosophically speaking, it’s the worst kind of cop-out, but I’m an unrepentant foodie and I don’t care.

Feel free to check in to the comments trail with your Friday lunchtime treat, especially if you decide to consult the oracle about it first.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Posing For Family Photos

I’m no great fan of ‘the Family Photo’.

This is not to say that my hard drive isn’t bursting with pixel after pixel of Son of Whirl gurning for England or Girly of Whirly lolloping from exotic location to exotic location in a selection of dazzling bikinis — if truth be told, I’ve snapped such a colossal volume of fam-friendly bobbins with my camera over the years I could bore most immortals with the resultant slide shows.

No, the sort of family photos I refrain from applauding are those taken by professional photographers.  As I walk Geoff’s ghost round my neighbourhood, shadowy lounge windows trumpet glimmers of these obscenities from mantlepiece, dresser and display, and it’s all I can do to draw my cowl over my eyes for fear of being haunted in my sleep by some vile image of Mum and the Kids and Grandad and Barney the Dog and the urn containing Jerry the Terrapin’s remains.  Grinning faces, staring out through the whipped cheese of their own vapidity against a backdrop of faux reality and lovely jumpers.  Arghhh!  If my skin weren’t so tightly bound to my body, these kinds of images would almost certainly creep it the heck off my bones.

So imagine my delight this Saturday when Mother of Girly of Whirly turned one thousand and dragged our entire extended family to a professional studio for a professional shoot with a professional photographer whose name out-pretenced the most fluffily exotic of Nigella Lawson kinky dinky fairy cake recipes.

To be fair, it all kicked off sensibly enough: thirteen people, all more or less related to one another, arranged like a smartly dressed football team, smiling their sibling rivalries into oblivion.

Then came the wriggling and writhing around on the floor.

Gone are the days of sitting on chairs, it seems, or even leaning nonchalantly against the wall with the pensive glee of underwear models.  These days, you get to lie prone on the floor as grandkid after grandkid piles onto your back in a human pyramid of visually appealing suffering.  We had Mother of Girly of Whirly snapped in mid-air as strapping sons gave her a leg and a wing beside a huge potted plant; babies hung from Tarzan-style vines over heaps of mothers dressed as Roman goddesses playing their offspring, pendulum-style, with bare feet; and finally, a kind of trapeze act involving too many somersaults and a mural of the Niagara Falls.  Apparently, this new approach to family photography is good for “capturing people’s personalities”, but until we see the final images of fear, incredulity and shame, I don’t suppose we’ll know how accurately represented we were as a miserable bunch of buggers.

Whatever the outcome, it was a lot of hard work for an inch square hologram branded onto bleached dolphin fin flesh bound in a frame of purest wicker, which is what Mother of Girly of Whirly has chosen to hang over the downstairs loo.  Sure, the fridge magnets were £500 cheaper, but seeing as it was such a special day for her it would have been foolish not to go the distance.

Hopefully, that’s me done now on the whole family photo thing until Son of Whirl is twenty-one and hitched to a girl with a face like a horse...

Monday, October 17, 2011

Legs? I Never Mentioned Legs!

Regular visitors may remember a post I ran a while ago about Victoria Coren — specifically her skills as a consummate turner.

Since that time, I have noticed (c/o my tracker) that random visits to this site relating to ‘victoria coren legs’ now outnumber any references to ‘Noddy Holder’s Cock’ and ‘Medical Students & Leather-clad Sub-dom Sex Slaves’ by about 2:1.

I can quite understand why someone might want to type ‘cock holder’ into their browser and how such a search could lead them to me via the miracle that is cybertranslocutery flammery. As for medical students and the realm of the sub-domly, the two go together like ‘chalk and cheese’ and ‘black and white’ at a Things That Don’t Go Together festival.

But ‘victoria coren legs’? What kind of search is that?

I have no doubt that Victoria Coren has perfectly interesting legs and less doubt still that there are plenty of people out there who would like to see more of them. Why they’re ending up here is beyond me (the random visitors, not Ms Coren’s legs). My original post doesn’t mention legs at all, either dangling from said quiz host and poker whizz’s torso — or anyone else’s.*

*OK, so there’s knees and bottoms — but nothing that would get you here via ‘legs’.

So let me clear things up about the whole Victoria Coren thing. I stand by everything I said in that original post (apart, perhaps, from changing my stance towards people in gorilla suits), ie that Victoria Coren is the best Turner To Facer in the quiz hostess business. And that’s all. Matters concerning her legs are nothing to do with me and as far as the whole turning thing goes it wouldn’t make the slightest difference what kind of legs she had — or even if she was an amputee.

If you’re here because you’ve just typed ‘victoria coren legs’ into your browser, then BUTT OUT, LOSER — this is a serious writing blog.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Naked Tootsie Un-Nirvana

Looks like my slippers have finally had it.

By ‘it’ I don’t mean “sex with a giant interstellar hippopotomoid” (though from the visual clues, this wouldn’t be too much of an inaccurate assessment); what I’m referring to is an ‘it’ in terms of functional life as a pair of slippers. That, dear friends, is what they’ve had.

One slipper, it’s true, could solo on, like a Wise without a Morecambe, a Kim without a Mel, the concept of the number 5 with one less plastic Jackson. Its sole, unlike that of its partner, has not prised free from the faux faux suede in a totally unmendable way, and I could conceivably hop around the place in it with my other foot tucked snugly in a blanket or tea cosy. But this would be like David Beckham continuing to play football for B and C teams until he’s forty-five. Plus, I don’t hop too well these days, even when roused to anger by the thought of having to shell out hard-earned cash on a new pair of dinky foot muffs.

So what am I to do with my single slipper? It’s a finite universe after all, and Hollywood has already burned off 5% of it beefing up Schwarzenegger’s pecs for the Terminator movies. It would be useless as a mantlepiece ornament, and no use as a burglar deterrent to sit alongside the chainsaw in the hallway, and even if I could fit it with motorized wheels, I no longer have an Action Man to sit inside it.

For now, I’m going to hang it on a hook beside my computer, where it can remain like a sleeping bat until such time as I need to “beat myself up” about something. When next I lose my wallet in the supermarket or find myself scammed into airmailing my family to some hardcore Nigerian mak your cock like that of a snake merchant, I’ll take my slipper down from its hook and thrash myself repeatedly about the torso with it.

The knackered slipper, I’ve sent to my local. The Dog and Wrestler has just been taken over by a couple from County Tyrone after years of neglect, and as part of its refurb, now boasts a menu featuring the resurrected 70s favourite, Chicken & Chips in a basket. Last time I was in they were out of baskets after a rugby lads’ stag night went horribly out of control, so I figure they could use some help.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Weekend Gruelling

In these harsh economic times it’s more of a treat than usual to send out for a take-away.

Nonetheless, on Saturday night, Girly of Whirly and I counted up our shekels and plumped for a modest Chinese feed to cheer ourselves up while we pondered the prospect of global financial meltdown.

Our local Chinese take-away is much like any other — there are fish, a selection of pretty young girls in dinky hats, and the usual array of newspapers and magazines from 1988. The cuisine is far from Ken Hom, but you get a nice enough meal for under fifteen quid without having to buy in a ton of chips or a pizza with every topping but the kitchen sink.

What I hadn’t expected when I turned up on my unicycle was for the Golden Palace to have closed down. Even more surprising was that it had been replaced by a branch of Gruel R Us.

Harsh economic times, indeed.

As I pondered the menu in the window, it seemed to me that Gruel R Us was definitely positioning itself just below the very bottom of the market. Fifteen quid would buy you everything on the Chef’s Specials section and most things were forty to seventy-five pence. But what to do? With Girly of Whirly ironing the cutlery back home and the nearest alternative being Big Bob Bumcrack’s Burga Bar it was either a case of cycling home empty handed or taking a risk on a form of cuisine fit for the workhouse.

Call me an optimist, but I bustled past the tramps huddled in the doorway and took out a fiver like Dirty Harry unpacking a Magnum.

“What yer want?” said the bloke at the counter.

I studied the cauldron, the ladle. “I suppose it’s gruel isn’t it?”

“Or fritters,” the bloke replied curtly. There seemed no need to ask what was in the fritters — or whether the bloke’s name was Terry Jones. All I needed to figure out was what flavour to go for, and whether I wanted it pouring into an empty pop bottle or a rusty oil can.

While I cogitated, the bloke spoke again. “Chicken?”

“Actually, that would be very nice, thank you.”

He shook his head. “What I meant was, you look scared shitless. It ain’t poisonous you know. Ask any of the regulars outside.”

I turned to the pallid faces pressed up against the glass by trails of snot. “So is there any chicken?”

“Not tonight, no. All we’ve got left is Plain.”

Girly of Whirly’s face flashed before me, a wash of intolerance and rage. The longer I took to cycle home with something the more I risked being poisoned in my sleep in the run-up to Christmas.

“What’s in the Plain?”

“Fuck all. That’s why it’s called ‘Plain’.”

“OK. How much?”

“55p a pint,” said the bloke. “But I’ll knock you 5p off if you’ve got your own bucket.”

A meek smile played my lips like the last twitches of an electrocuted stunt man. “Sorry. My son’s nicked the bucket for his school history project.”

There’s always a sense of anticipation whenever a feast-to-be is being prepared, but as the bloke sloshed my dinner into a pair of worn wellies I couldn’t help feeling moderately sick. Fortunately, I didn’t spew up. He’d only have mugged me for trying to set myself up in competition.

“One ten.” Such courteous gruffness.

“Thanks,” I said, and scurried outside to attach the wellies to my paniers.

When I got home, Girly of Whirly was moderately incandescent. “Where the hell have you been?”

I flopped the wellies onto the dining table. “You know how it is with fine dining. The more exquisite the ingredients, the harder they are to source.”

Her nostrils flapped shut like spasming ani. “I said noodles, not dragon bowels.”

Treat clearly shot to pieces, we raided the larder for tinned tomatoes and pasta and rustled them up with a few chillies. It wasn’t exactly haute cuisine but it did have the advantage over the gruel of ensuring that our stomachs didn’t suffer a horrible demise. In any case, a few of the patio slabs had worked loose over the summer and we were fresh out of concrete.

I suspect there’s more of this sort of thing to come, with bathtubs taking the place of council swimming pools and donkey-drawn charabancs replacing buses and trains.

So — how was your Saturday night?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Baby Slugs

In spite of the unusually hot weather here in the UK it’s nonetheless the very beginning of Autumn. The leaves are browning, the witches are polishing their balls in preparation for Hallowe’en — and my kitchen is awash with baby slugs.

I have no idea how this happens, or why it only happens at this particular time of year, but every morning since last Friday, I’ve risen to discover slugs by the half a half a dozen slithering their way along my supposedly gastropod-unfriendly lino. In the dawn’s virgin light, it’s possible to see their silvery trails weaving between the chair legs, under the fridge and partially up the wall via numerous treacherous skirting boards. I don’t know whether they’re racing, idling around or simply acting on some genetic predisposition to wazz me off big time but there’s only one thing for it once I’ve spotted them, and in the absence of an M&S Slug Getter Upper (similar in function to the eco-friendly Wasp Leash for those pesky bobbers about a-window), I bundle them into a sheet of kitchen roll and toss them in the wormery.

Today, there were four such slimy off-wazzers, and I still can’t make my mind up whether they were a quartet, a pair of duos or a trio and a solo artiste — or four independently awkward mucusy entrepreneurs. To be honest, at 6.30 in the morning it’s the kind of speculation I can do without.

As ever, once they were out of the way I settled in front of the TV with a plate of muffins to catch some early morning drivel — interestingly, today, an interview with a maths professor who has devised an equation for tracking the relationship between the width of David Cameron’s mouth and the weight of his cheeks in preparation for the PM’s inevitable evolution into a curmudgeonly old fat man — and that’s when I noticed Numero Funf winding its way over the carpet towards the front door.

At first, I thought it was trying to escape. It’s what you’d do when you’re an illegal immigrant and the cops have rumbled your mates: make a beeline back to the border. Tossing my muffins aside, I leapt up to confront it, annoyed to be witnessing its rubbery foulness as I chomped my breakfast into a similarly textured mush. That’s when I saw how far it had travelled, this tiny slug no bigger than a sliver of grated cheese (albeit brown cheese). My carpet is no Axminster, but it’s got quite a pile on it. To this slug, each protrusion of twilled wool must have been like a thick, fuzzy spear. I couldn’t tell which direction it had taken because the spears were clearly so absorbent they’d soaked up the silveryness of its trail. Whichever way it had come, it must have travelled at least ten feet, all the time having its limited supplies of mobility-enhancing mucus sucked from under it. So how come it hadn’t shrivelled to a twiggy husk? And why didn’t it just stop and wait for the gastropod emergency services? As I hovered over it, watching it battle on, with its wibbly bits swaying from side to side, it seemed to me that here was a very determined creature indeed (in the sense that a slug can be determined as we humans understand the term). Maybe I’m Disneyfying the little ole thing, but — my — what a battler this guy was. Could this be The Little Engine That Could for the Noughties? Hugo the Litter Baby Slug? Look, toddlers all, how his indefatigable spirit and pluck drives him on in the face of all obstacles, how he will grow to triumph in all endeavours as a well-rounded and courageous adult! Marvel at his vim, his spunk! Cheer as he battles the forces of evil with his trusty sidekick, Weirdneck the Ant!

For a moment I was away with the children’s book fairies, and had even begun designing merchandise to accompany the series — like Hugo wristwatch straps and salt shakers — when Drivel TV reminded me of the time.

So I bundled Hugo onto an egg spoon, out into the garden, and strode from my house into the arid nightmare world of late 2011 England, emboldened as a knight of the realm inspired by the slimiest of will o the wisps.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

My Slasher Zombie Adventure

On my travels about the four Kingdoms of the Orb I normally pack a few tissues in my back pocket for use in nasal emergencies. During the hay fever season there’s often a bulge in my trousers the size of a small Linford and people have been known to stop in the street, wondering if my pelvis has rotated a hundred and eighty degrees about the base of my spine (though they usually get what’s happening when they see my feet — and I sneeze).

Yesterday I was devoid of such mucus-busting luxuries. And yesterday, I had a killer nosebleed.

Stranded, half a mile from the train station (and tissue-vending shops), I began oozing blood like the leader of a horror zombie tribe, splashing droplets onto the pavement and spidery trails all over my fingers. Nothing I did could stop the flow. Very quickly, I realised it was Goodbye Fleece Time as I pinched the fluffy blue wuffiness of its fabric about my nostrils. “It will rinse out in the bath,” I thought, “as long as I make it home having not been drained of all fluid.”

But still the blood came, still it oozed, backing up against the top of my throat till I could hardly breathe. Every hundred yards I had to remove my fleecy bung in order to release the pressure. Sadly this also meant releasing a parabola of scarlet to shame the Black Knight scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

I suppose I should have knocked on someone’s door and asked to use a few sheets of kitchen roll — but there’s something about looking like you’ve just been in a life-and-death battle with a crazed Rottweiler that kind of kills the idea stone dead.

So I shambled on like a slasher movie victim (albeit without the eerie music).

Now, it isn’t every day you find a pair of white socks lying on the pavement, but I’m glad to say that yesterday, I did. It was a hot day for September — 27 degrees so we’re told — and I figured that maybe some svelte fitness freak had stripped them off during a run to cool herself down. Whatever the reason for them being there, I whipped them from the tarmac and bunged the least smelly up my right nostril, concluding that pride and emergencies share a mutual exclusivity along the lines of Little & Large and humour. Sadly the torrent-stemming effect turned out to be much the same as for my fleece, but at least I wasn’t ruining my own clothing.

And that’s when I encountered my first passer-by: a girl of nineteen or twenty (and possibly a student returning after the summer break).

My first thought was — are these her socks?, so I stared hard at her feet for a couple of seconds as my mind span with get-out clauses along the lines of hey look, I’ve found them — but then I got bitten by a horse.

My mistake here was to forget the golden rule of EYE CONTACT. Maybe if I’d thrown her a friendly smile, she might have wondered if my blood-drenched form indicated the presence nearby of a film crew, prompting her to clamber from her bike and volunteer herself as the victim of a zombie nibbling.

As it was, her startled eyes fell upon what was clearly the weirdo neighbourhood psycho killer, sniffing the foot fetish sock of his previous victim and hungry for the legwear of his next.

Her response was immediate, knee-jerk. Without pausing to gasp, she pedalled past me furiously, wailing, “aaaargh! Monster! Woman killer!”

Call me a quick learner, but that’s the last time I’m shoving a pair of women’s socks up my nostrils, prom.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Small World Stars

Is it me, or is a nasty screw being turned increasingly on our affairs?

I ask this question in the wake of news released this week that caning in schools is being mooted as a potential solution for dealing with unruly school kids, not just by the usual suspects with fond memories of how “birching never did me any harm”, but also (alarmingly) by increasing numbers of parents.

My stand on this is a simple one, namely that discipline based on fear is no kind of discipline at all. I’m long enough in the tooth to recall the cane being used at a few of my earlier schools and it seemed to me to offer no deterrent whatsoever — my friends and I still got beaten up and had our bikes stolen, and at least one of the kids responsible went on to murder a three year-old girl in cold blood. In that sense, the end of corporal punishment made no difference to me: I was never on the receiving end of the cane and never behaved in such a way as to fear its potential lash.

What disturbs me about all this now is my own naivety. I had always presumed that the abolition of corporal punishment in schools was a done deal, a necessary step in the advancement of human wisdom that would never be overturned unless the planet was invaded by space Vikings with a penchant for pliant wood. Like George Michael’s appeal to teenage girls after he put on weight and started crashing cars, the whole thing looked like a goner from the 70s onwards. But of course, the human race has a proud history of being a bunch of grubby little shits and I suppose it was only a matter of time before all that shittiness resurfaced, masquerading as “common sense”.

Where this leaves us now is open to question. My hope is that the punitive resurgence of which this whole caning thing is but one aspect is yet another spectre raised whose phantom spooking won’t make it to the rattling objects stage. On the other hand, five years down the line, we may all be party to parliamentary debates about the differences in degree to which children of varying ages may be lawfully chastised: raps on knuckles for the over 12s and light slaps for the foundation year, perhaps? Whatever happens, the dial is evidently flickering on this one (and others like it), and its new location on the scale is as yet unfixed. There’s still time to look at what we currently have and ask searching questions about its value. An overly lax and tolerant approach which is fuelling a national demise? Or reason in spite of our beastliest instincts?

I mention this because my novel (details in menu bar) is set against a softly pre-dystopian background which is registered as normal on the dial by all the main characters and world inhabitants. Quietly, I ask: What is ‘normal’ and how do we decide? There are no armed police enforcing the laws of a draconian government nor any kind or perceived oppression, yet in the version of England I present, the dials have been fixed in place for so long that no-one has the faintest recollection of where zero is. Acts of barbarism that you and I would find abhorrent are everyday events in this world of the numbed, and grubbiness hovers in the background of the plot, ever present and taken as read, like the low, incessant rumble in Eraserhead.

In one scene, my protagonist stumbles into a crowded market place on his way across town looking for romance. As he pushes his way past a crush of bodies outside a glitzy TV showroom, he finds himself party to a weekly social event taking place across the nation. Thursday night is National Execution Night — and this week, some hapless female from the underclass is being strung up from the gallows. Gangs of lads await the spectacle with their fags and lagers, businessmen discuss proceedings on their mobiles, and housewives squeeze their buggies to the front of the mob: it’s what you do. When I wrote the scene I had the intention of making things as impossibly grisly as I could — “turning up the dial to 11" if you like. So in addition to the to the central spectacle of someone being hung or electrocuted on live TV, there are X Factor elements and sprinkles of game show pizazz to jolly along the vengeful bloodlust. In my version of post-millennial England, you, dear viewer, can pledge cash to raise the stakes and vote for the manner of death, content in the knowledge that your hard-earned money will be used to help the needy. After all, you can recoup the lot by betting on how long the victims manage to string it all out — along with a range of other Double Yer Money variables. As the heartbeat and breathing stats flash from the HD over your fireplace like cartoon KERZONKs and KAPOWs, how pleasing it is to know your vote came top of the heap this week. Dirty chav stole money from a pensioner and now she’s getting her come-uppance: your come-uppance. So sit back and watch your quid being well spent. Look! A little Downs boy is initiating the proceedings. Officials point him to a lever and encourage him to pull — but bless his little heart, he needs some help. From the split screen, the victim’s brat of a kid wails into the night as her mum spins and kicks from the rope. The commentator makes a joke about women footballers and bemoans the “waste of a nice pair”. Then the body is cut down from the gallows. The Downs boy makes his way to the super sparkly lever as the crowd chants Go Spacker Go. Three. Two. One. And the hounds are released from their traps.

It’s still as much of an outlandish nightmare scene as when I wrote it in 2008 — only it kind of isn’t. Odd though it seems to me, the dial on reality is notching closer to that of the spoof world of my imaginings. Of course we’re not about to hang people in front of their kids on live TV as a way of fixing Buggered Britannia, but as a society we were once told didn’t exist, we do seem to be developing something of a hunger for a return to beating, shaming and incarcerating ourselves out of harm’s way.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Hoover The Now With Your Brain

We’re barely into September and already the first crops of plastic pumpkins and ghoulie masks are making their way onto supermarket shelves. Back in August, I even saw an advert prompting one and all to BOOK YOUR CHRISTMAS MEAL emblazoned in a shop window on a 20' x 10' muralette. Thankfully, they only meant Christmas this year.

Why this urge to get things out of the way as quickly as possible? To prepare? To take the longest possible run-up?

What’s the problem with it just being now?

Maybe our preoccupation with warp driving out of the present is simply a way of fending off the oblivion merchants who insist on playing down the future. With a winter of strikes looming and the prospect of Feta cheese disappearing off the menu as the Greeks scour their economically barren landscape for a new currency, it’s like we’re gazing into a negatively charged crystal ball with positively charged eyes. No wonder we’re all going goggle-eyed about what’s immediately in front of us.

Staying focussed on the whispery business of our lives as they happen is by no means straightforward. Our senses bombard us with information all of the time and unless we gouge our eyes out with spoons, stuff our ears with cotton wool, place pegs over our noses, stick our tongues to the roof of our mouths, and excise all appreciation of the tangible (up to and including which way up is), being in the here and now is kind of the default setting for most of us. Trying to be here or get here is pointless because we already are. So why do we bother?

Maybe Buddha had it right when he said all those deep and meaningful things about serenity and not sticking your willy in a food processor (and if it wasn’t him, it was Batman — but you get the point).

I mention this because I’m now sitting cross-legged on a product I hope to roll out across the UK with the backing of at least one Dragon (though preferably not Duncan Bannatyne on account of the death threats and the terrier semen hair lacquer).

My patented Buddy Bag (tm) will soothe, relax and inspire like no other Buddha-festooned bean bag before it, transporting you to the eternal present on its abundance of pink vinyl.

As you lay spreadeagled upon it, mindful of its inner polystyrene ‘beans’ and their unique arrangement within the cosmos from Buddy Session (tm) to Buddy Session (tm), the enriching energy of NOW will flow within you (unless you have the wind or a salesman calls).

The first hundred Buddy Bags (tm) sold will come bundled with a CD of myself chanting while yogic flying atop it. Mainly, it’s rhyming koans and haikus but I’ve also thrown in a few football songs, some Amy, and a ten minute recording of myself brushing my teeth which is gently relaxing — like the waves on a distant shore slapping against a beached whale’s corpse.

Any takers? If you’re quick, I might also throw in the world’s most accurate wristwatch.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Gnats Of Irritation Invade My Brachial Plexus

For the whole of this morning my hands have been thrashing and twitching like the novelty Rose Pouchong tea I’ve taken to drinking recently has been laced by the pouchongers of China (or possibly Huddersfield) with some kind of Whirl-destroying nerve agent.

Any sentences I’ve typed ended up like thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis.

Or l i ke th i s .

When I came to drink my second cup round about half past eleven I was almost afraid to boil the kettle just in case I scalded the flesh from my body.

Then it dawned on me: this isn’t a weird kind of shakiness resulting from the onset of infusion poisoning — it’s because I haven’t posted on my blog for nearly four days and my fingers are itching for something to do other than churn out work-related crap.

So I cleared my desk immediately with a wild swoop of my arms (after several missed attempts karate chopping the wall like some fitting martial arts artiste) and sat down to set to with gung ho.*

* Not a martial artiste, btw — it’s just a turn of phrase. In any case, I never sit down to write in the same room as anyone capable of separating my head from my neck with the merest flick of their tongue.
That’s when I realised I had sod all to write about.

No prog rock lookalikes in my neighbourhood have been brutally assaulted recently, nor has Mr Do Something done something all over my life; Stoat no longer plays for Stilton, and if you think for one minute I toyed with dressing up in a kilt again just because Obama’s ratings are going through the roof of the Abyss, then you’ve got more things coming to you than a tambourine man with a red flag at the Pamplona bull run (and, yes — I nearly wrote ‘pavlova’ there).

Hmmmph. Conundrum

All I’ll say is that the shaking has stopped for the time being. Knowing my luck, I’ll be inspired to make a cocktail later this afternoon from a selection of exotic fruit juices and will no longer be able to summon any shakeability.

So — how was your Friday?

Monday, September 5, 2011

What Good Do You Imagine You're Doing, You Fools?

The problem with taking an early morning constitutional at the moment is that lots of other people are at it, most of them sporty types.

I’d love nothing more than to meander through a woodland glade at crack of dawn, alone with only my serenest thoughts and wisps of elves and unicorns billowing through the bracken — possibly in my cape.

What I can’t be doing with is fitness enthusiasts blasting their salty pheromones into the atmosphere as they stomp past, oblivious to the beauty of their surroundings.

Muscular duos of sinew-pumping, lycra-clad thrustoiditude, I say unto you: fuck off to the bloody gym so I can dream up some decent fiction alongside the ancient oaks, the spirits of woodelande beings and the occasional festooniment of the ridiculous.

Ditto Mrs Shouldn’t Be Walking Let Alone Running, clad in her bombardment of Mad Lizzie tracksuit colours! It’s one thing to jump out of the way for burly lads whose eyes are so fixed on some implausible metabolic horizon that they would willingly tramp into oblivion all other sentient beings, but quite another to have to be prepared to catch, and then resuscitate, some poor deluded old fool on the offchance that she might die, suddenly and violently, like a lawnmower engine fitted to a space rocket fired up to fly to Jupiter in under a fortnight.

Terra firma shuddered this morning, like the San Andreas fault had relocated to downtown Midlandio-sur-Mer, and instead of the sonorous breathing of imaginary dragons, all I heard was the puffing and panting of people who obviously haven’t discovered the fitness benefits of climbing up and down their own stairs a hundred times. That, my imbecile irritati, is the most energetic thing you can do this side of holding your own breath at the very bottom of the Marianas Trench for half an hour — so why don’t you all bloody well go and do that instead of pissing me off with your ludicrous displays of ‘fitness’?

Friday, September 2, 2011

Playing Nat King Cole On Your Own Face

For part of my holiday reading this year I chose Physics of the Future by Michio Kaku.*

* I also ran my eyes over a fair few restaurant menus (though never in bed for fear of prompting langoustine-riddled nightmares).

The premise of the book is that there is going to be a future — a future that will be happening soon.

In the spirit of Jules Verne, Kaku has taken his insider knowledge of the latest scientific breakthroughs and mapped out what the possibilities for the coming century might be if they work out.

Electric cars, magnet-powered telekinesis, morphing bras and mankinis: it’s all in there.

Some of the possibilities (like space tourism) seem perfectly plausible and are already happening in fledgling forms, and Kaku’s analysis of the demise of ever-increasing Silicon chip computer power seems sound. However, my concerns were prompted by the number of times Kaku referred to Star Trek, specifically in that “look how a lot of gooky sci-fi ideas from said hit TV show have evolved into science fact” kind of a way, and I’m reminded of all the hopeless inventions and innovations flagged up on Tomorrow’s World which died a horrible mid-70s death.*

* Like the Brian May detector box which kept going off in Judith Hann’s hand even though Queen were thousands of miles away live on stage in Detroit.

I have no wish to claim Kaku isn’t an expert (though if he does turn out to be a deluded fraud, there’s definitely a place for him in a future prequel series of Dr Who playing the first incarnation of everyone’s favourite time lord), but my experience of predictions of the future is that they are generally wrong.

The very best ideas falter and fail or are scuppered by chance disasters, weird things happen which no-one could have predicted, and the universal constants of the cosmos shift and change and turn around like Graham Norton playing a serial transvestite in a West End farce on a revolving stage lit by a zillion stroboscopes.*

* Why don’t physicists know that the one universal constant is Dulux magnolia emulsion?

Whether Kaku’s speculative expertise turns out to be right or wrong, I don’t particularly care. As I read the book my intention was never to bone up on the latest in theoretical physics and pump action nanodildos; primarily I read it to fill myself up with fiction fodder.

The point I’m getting to (because there is one) is that I don’t tend to get a lot of ideas for fiction from reading fiction. Fiction isn’t a raw enough material for my tastes. It’s too polished, too finished, too final — like a Barbie doll you can only play Barbie with — and I’ve always found it tends to feed back into real life more than into new real fiction. Like the nanoscientists Kaku mentions in his book, I prefer to start from the bottom up, with all the stuff that has zero to do with fiction.

As Son of Whirl would have it, I’m an “Elemental Mage” rather than a “Sorcerer Savant” or “Bloke With A Ridiculous Bloody Hat”.

So what about you, fellow writers? Do you recycle fiction into more fiction or start from scratch elsewhere? Or do both? Neither? Something else?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Whirl's Bank Holiday Weekend Q&A

Why are you having a Bank Holiday Q&A?

Because it’s a bank holiday weekend, I’m back from my holidays — and because I can.

But you’re asking all the questions! What Kind of Q&A is this?

It’s my kind of Q&A, so butt out, Big Nose.

Nose off!

Arse Face!


Grolly Pimp!

So. Anyway. Is it true your car was stolen on holiday?

Not quite — Girly of Whirly and I only found out it hadn’t actually been stolen after we telephoned the gendarmes, by which time we presumed we’d be spending a couple of nights rotting in a French jail for irritating said cops with our bogus robbery antics.

How could your car have been stolen when it actually wasn’t?

We walked round the car park three times but mysteriously missed its uniquely filthy silver glow on every single occasion.

Crikey! Next thing, you’ll be telling me the gendarmes screamed into the car park at the precise moment you finally clapped eyes on your supposedly stolen vehicle.

Your assessment of the comic timing on this one is not wrong.

Were you bricking it, given that the gendarmes pack rods?

Some of my hastily layed bricks were reserved for this, yes, but I was mainly thinking about our initial encounter with the gendarmes barely seconds into our holiday as we rolled off the Eurotunnel train into Calais.

Would that be the same Eurotunnel train as the one where you were caught short with no functioning toilets and an endless queue of doubled-up Dutchmen?


So what was the problem with the gendarmes in Calais?

We pulled in front of them on the ring road in our excessively laden car and they stuck the Vs up while packing their rods.

Phew! I thought you were going to say they pulled you over and frisked you till the goosepimples crawled up your neck and made giant lychees of your heads.

Don’t be silly. That only happens in Tripoli — and then only to clearly transvestite dictators down on their luck.

He still has his own hair.

So they say.

Moving on, what was all the business with the malevolent goats?

Apart from a layer of fromage de chevre on a 650-cheese pizza there was no direct goat-on-man action, I’m pleased to say — but I did notice that while I was away, no less than three people dropped in to this blog as a result of searching for “attacked by a goat”.

Hmmm, enough said about the goats. I’m sure you don’t want to scare your readers with any further talk of quadruped menace — so what about the restaurants?

Crawling with creatures with either too many legs or none, I’m afraid. It’s said the French have strange taste in food but I think it’s more a case of a taste for strange things that aren’t food.

Okay — so what about the waiters? And the food?

You mean the overly generous oriental chap who graced my trois boules de Monsieur Whippy with more chantilly cream than actually existed in the world right after serving me a sea bass the size of a whale and a starter monstrous enough actually to be more of a “finisher”? Or the liquified salt cod and mash that came served in a bowl with a jacket potato accompaniment as if in a Look Out There’s A Carbohydrate Midas About kind of a way. Ha! At least that one was tastier than the self-organising fat molecules cunningly self-organised into a pile of chips dancing in a cloud of eau de Carbonised Maris Piper.

Were you molested by a drunk French nudist?

Not quite — though he did come close enough for us to see the blacks of his pubes.

Any skinny dipping for you?

Not intentionally. That said, I did forget I was in a public place on one occasion while changing out of my trunks and accidentally flashed a wrinkled old lady.

Was she scared?

Luckily, her head was buried under a copy of Le Figaro. Made her miniature ludicrous dog howl, though, like it had been prodded with a cattle prod still attached to a rampaging bull.

How was the weather?

Mostly sunny and bright but there were a few days when the French seemed to have laid things on Le Pub style to make us feel at home.

So — plenty of thunder and lightning, huh?

Yes — plus they kept lining up to drench us with their hose pipes.

Including the drunk French nudist?

Including the drunk French nudist. Luckily he was so drunk, his exuberant parabolas missed us, otherwise we’d have gotten absolutely soaked.

By ‘us’ I presume you mean Girly of Whirly and Son of Whirl. What were the highlights of their holiday?

Son sloped around with the enthusiasm of a cocoon for the whole fortnight, breaking the aching silence only occasionally with comments such as, “this is crap”, “this is boring” and “what’s so interesting about the inside of a useless church?” In contrast, Girly of Whirly was a typhoon of energy, racing from one shop to another for a traditional Gallic basket like she does every time we visit France despite there being about a dozen such holiday souvenirs collecting dust in the attic.

Did you kiss Zinedine Zidane in the toilets at E LeClerc?

When I threw my arms around the guy and pressed my lips to his cheeks, I was absolutely certain it was him, but you know how easy it is to make a mistake in the twilight world between urinal and hand basin. Turned out to be Franck Ribèry.

Talking of grottos, how were the many troglodyte caves you visited?

You mean, did I inadvertently offend the ugly woman dressed in green behind the counter at Les Grottes de Matata by joking that her Village Troglodyte badge was a name tag rather than a Gallically reversed reference to the tourist site in question — the same ugly woman who was, in fact, English?

What happened when she tried to wrestle you to the ground in a fit of anger?

We were very fortunate that Franck Ribèry had taken a shine to me and had been stalking us since I kissed him in E LeClerc, and he burst from a group of bewildered Germans and defused the situation with his ball skills.

Beats goats, I suppose.

I’ve heard he does.

That it?

Always end on a goat...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Whirl Goes Sunbathing

Running away to catch some sun while England burns seems almost irresponsible but my skin needs the flicker of credible sunlight across its disturbing pallidity — plus there’s no way I’m walking round Brum in a hoodie while possessed by some Android-hungry feral frenzy.

This means nothing will be happening on this blog until almost the end of August — unless you, dear readers, choose otherwise.

In a ‘cat away, mice can play — hey, they can even dress up if they like’ kind of way, I’m leaving the comments trail open for samples of your teenage poetry.

Think of it like Tie A Yellow Ribbon.

A man goes to prison and emerges years later to find his sweetheart — a bearded 70s hippy — has strangled an oak tree half to death with dyed knicker elastic. What it never mentions in the original song (by Dawn*) is that the guy got sent down for rioting in San Pedro (specifically, stealing two boxes of 8-track tapes from a liquor store and, in the absence of a bona fide hoodie, inadvertently exposing himself trying to tie his underpants round his face).

* Dawn? More like The Middle Of The Afternoon On Bloody Mercury

So tie me some ribbons while I’m away.

Five contributions, and I’ll post a sample of my own teenage poetry at the start of September.

Ten contributions, and I’ll post an academic treatise on the genre.

Fifteen contributions, and I’m staying in France...

Friday, August 5, 2011

Snakes Still Alive (Yet)

Did anyone catch Dragons’ Den this week?

The new series featuring that bus conductress woman with the Black & Decker workmate stuffed under her jacket?

I’m a regular watcher of the show, partly to keep tabs on how dreadful most people are at giving speeches and presentations, but mainly to fulfill my need for mocking spurious creations.

This week, there was a bloke who’d come up with spectacular initiative for preventing splashback while you’re sitting au bobbeur. I’m guessing he came up with the idea after accidentally dropping a rubber duck down the pan while cleaning the bath. One set of opened bowels later and — Eureka! An inflatable toy floating dead centre in the water can nullify any degree of splashback bar the Full Honours Stomach Bug Splatterpan Posse Of Doom.

None of the dragons went for it, of course. For starters there was no point investing in the manufacture of a product that had already been invented in other forms (from balloons to tennis balls to other floaty bobbly things up to and including dead fish). Secondly, it was just a bloody stupid idea. There’s enough to do with a toilet brush on a cleaning day morning without the extra requirement of scraping shit off a ludicrous obstacle costing £9.99.

But I’m nothing if not an entrepreneur — and it got me thinking.

A duo of trained water naga would be perfect for remedying splashback.

Instructed to swim in opposing circles when presented with an overhead gusset, they could quickly produce a Dyson-style cyclonic suction effect on the water that would eliminate any hint of splashing and speed anything deposited quickly away. If your loo handle was fitted with a scent ‘n’ detergent dispenser there would be no need to clean up afterwards. Or ever. The naga would continue circling each other for a few more minutes in a miracle of self-cleaning. Why — you wouldn’t even need a loo brush.

I envisage a range of products.

You’d have your basic twinned naga as described above — but then there would be advanced versions.

With the Home Safety option, your naga would act as watchdogs whenever you left the house, circling once every fifteen minutes to produce a roar like the growl of a slumbering bulldog. Any unwanted house guest failing to be deterred in this way could always be bitten and poisoned to death at a later stage.

Add on a Kleenee Weenee plan and your naga could function as an accessory washing machine on those days when you have too much dirty laundry for a single load. I can see the TV ad for this one right now. Mrs TV Family is straining to fill the washing machine when her husband (played by James May) wanders into the washroom with two pairs of smelly socks and some stained cycling shorts. He shrugs, as if to say, “there’s no way these will fit in that damned tiny machine without straining the door or damaging the tub so I guess I’ll have to turn up to the gym tomorrow reeking like some disgusting tramp!” Mrs TV Family smiles (and I’m thinking here of either Caroline Quentin or Edwina Currie) and chirps back, “don’t fret, love — just toss them in the Kleenee Weenee Naga.”

A similar scheme could work well with dirty dishes — or children — and, if the naga were especially intelligent, wheeling Granny to the Bingo.

The top-of-the-range product would have to be ultra swanky, mind, with multiple layers of naga like a Gillette ten blade razor or quintuple glazing or a fizzy drink so fizzy there’s no actual liquid in the bottle.

Think ‘multiple double helix of serpents’ — all the way down the soil pipe to the centre of the earth. Sewers, as they currently exist, would be rendered obsolete overnight, and if enough people bought into the Swankee Option, mankind might have at its disposal a global network of powerful jet-like motors for avoiding a future asteroid collision emergency.

Again, the TV ad:

Quentin: The suction on that thing is so powerful it’s unravelled the twill on my knickers!

May (chortling): Yes — and that huge chunk of space rock that’s been hurtling towards the earth since 735 B.C. has just sailed right past and smacked into Venus!

Am I on to a winner or am I on to a winner?