Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Fred Dibnah - Time Traveller

It's a curious thing, time travel.

Some think it completely impossible. Clearly I have proved those fools wrong. When it happened to me I had no working knowledge of the concept of moving between different points in time. I had just finished my national service and was spending my days endlessly riding the streets of Bolton on my 1927 350 cc AJS motorcycle looking for work as a steeplejack. Special relativity was the last thing on my mind. Actually I was more concerned with finding weathervanes to fix.

In 1962 I was commissioned to repair a chimney at a local brewery in Catterick. It was raining that day. I was getting my ladders out when I saw a flash of light and felt like I was falling. This sensation went on for about ten seconds then I woke up curled in a ball on the floor. I felt like I was mildly hungover and slowly came to me senses. It was much like that bit in the Terminator films when Arnold arrives in a bluey electrical sphere that seems to be made of lightning and the cops don't know how to react. Luckily I wasn't naked but I reckon on watching these films now that Arnie was definitely hungover.

My immediate concern was for my partner Percy Fowler. I had left him reversing the van up to get nearer the stack with a fag in his mouth, swearing. My last recollection was him shouting at a goose. Where was he? I looked round feverishly but Percy was nowhere to be seen. At this point I noticed that I still had my ham sandwich in my hand. Although it was still mid morning I often like to have a quick bite just to see me through to lunch time. I get quite peckish climbing ladders and don't want to go light-headed when I'm 80ft up. I was once up Nelson's column in 1976 and felt a bit wobbly because I hadn't had my toast that morning. I took a nibble.

I looked up at my surroundings. Where was I? The sky was blue. But the buildings were wrong. Everything was wrong. Wrong wrong wrong. I stood up and noticed that the floor wasn't Lancashire gravel but some kind of crystals, like tiny transparent stones pressed together to make the hardest substance imaginable. There was no cigarette butts or dog shit. I puffed on my pipe, gave the ground a quick kick and realised that it was a lot tougher than that cemetery wall I had re pointed last summer.

I noticed how clean everything was. Narrow buildings stretched into the sky as far as the eye could see, some with huge spherical tops. A few were so high that they were partially obscured by cloud. The wind blew warm in my face and was curiously lacking in odour. I should add at this point that there was no fear. I was so dumbfounded with my surroundings that it hadn't even occurred to me to figure out where I was, or what might have happened to bring me here.

Slowly I came to my senses. I took in the awesome vista surrounding me and contemplated the sheer, magnificent Utopian beauty that I was now part of.

The closest pictorial evidence I can find is this:



Clearly this was not Catterick.

Strange vehicles, the likes of which I'd only ever seen on Buck Rogers, were traveling high up in the sky. They were following behind each other in huge lines that stretched off into the distance like galactic conveyor belts. I was used to seeing Leyland vans asthmatically puffing their way up Carter's Hill. These things had no visible means of propulsion and it befuddled me.

Where were the people? In my confused stupor I hadn't noticed that in the distance that there was movement. Tiny, barely perceptible movement. I started shuffling through this strange landscape in my soot-covered draper's overalls in awe at what I was seeing.They looked like humans, but they seemed to be travelling on silver plates. They were stood on these discs hovering approximately a spanner's length above the ground moving at incredible speed. Again, there was no visible means of propulsion. I marvelled at this incredible technology. Their clothes were weird too, sort of like a cross between 1980s power-suits and leotards.

I heard a voice:

"Are you new here?"

I couldn't place the accent.

Then again:

"Are you new here?"

"I'm not sure" I replied. "I was on me way to fix the brewery chimney, there were a bloody flash and next thing I knew I were stood 'ere. Where am a?" I puffed on my pipe as I wiped my glasses.

"You are in Sunlight City friend. All are welcome here." the figure replied smugly.

I'd taken to this chap as he seemed a friendly sort. He told me his name was Kalus and his job was to deal with newcomers to the city. I tried explaining that in Bolton we usually just send them to the Castle pub for a few jars and a game of darts but I don't think he understood. I tried striking up a conversation about boiler pressure-testing but it rapidly became clear that we didn't have a massive amount in common.

He encouraged me to stand on his metal disc and then transported me to some kind of laboratory. We hurtled across the city at incredibly high speed, his mere thoughts controlling our velocity and direction. I dropped what remained of my ham sandwich somewhere on the way.

We arrived at a huge glass building and plugged me into a machine. The questions started.

"What is this place?" I enquired.

"More a case of WHEN is this place." Came the reply.

He then came to explain how something to do with the ladder I had been carrying back in 1962 had sparked a massive time-shift, tearing normal space asunder and catapulting me into the year 3012. This explains why the place looked so alien.

Technically I was still in Catterick but not as I knew it. This was a futuristic Utopian dream that had been built in approximately 2080. A living, breathing embodiment of futuristic technology. A bastion to the egalitarian future of mankind. I took another puff on my pipe.

I suppose the next question was how to get back. Luckily my futuristic friend already had this base covered. He explained to me that Boltonians are frequently catapulted through time and space by ladders. I was beckoned to approach a device that looked like some brass knackers. Huge, brass knackers. They were shimmering and had a strange brassy glow.

"Go on, touch them. Don't be shy. Touch the knackers friend."

I wiped my hands on my overalls and gave the knackers a quick feel. Within a nanosecond I was hurtling through time and space. It was like that scene from 2001 where Dave Bowman is transported through the Stargate and ends up on the other side of the universe. A sensation of incredible speed, bright colours and scenes of wonder beyond the ken of mortal man. I woke up on the floor with Percy standing over me swearing.

"Where you bloody been? Mr Hobbs were 'ere lookin' for you. Wonders why it's tekkin' you bloody long to get started. Told him you'd nipped down scrappers to 'clect your payings. Didn't know where you'd bloody gone. Then I find you bloody lyin' on floor like you're in bloody bed."

I sat up, looked round, took another puff on my pipe and got to work.


In memory of Fred Dibnah, 1938 - 2004
.

Day in the life of Ian Curtis

6 AM: Alarm wakes me up and I spring out of bed into my circuit training. Most mornings it is shadow boxing followed five hundred crunches. Sometimes I blast the Wagner to get me motivated. At the end of my exercise sessions I am a sweaty mess and dive immediately into a brief, cold shower. I then commence my seven-stage beauty routine.

7AM: I jump in the BMW M5 and hit the highway. I really love this car. I bought it on the back of an annual bonus I received that year. There was initial concern over whether I had selected the right trim package. I opted for the Deluxe option on the grounds that it came with chrome surrounds and a Bose sound system. I usually listen to Bowie’s ‘Diamond Dogs’ at high volume as I am driving in from Macclesfield.

8 AM: I arrive at the office before anyone else. Everyone starts between 9 and 10 AM, but I like to get ahead-start and work quietly for at least one hour before the open space gets full.I send an update about my project to my manager, because when you get up at 6 AM it’s good to point out your dedication to others.

Note: I’m doing a bit of “face-time” here because I’m still the new guy. But in general, people in corporate finance don’t care nearly as much about face time as bankers do as long as you get results.

After answering my emails, I start crunching numbers for one of my projects.

Usually in a portfolio acquisition, the head MD makes an estimate of the number of people required to take care of the additional clients. But, given that his latest estimate was off by twenty people, I’m creating an Excel file to make more accurate predictions. It’s a bit of maths mixed with a lot of common sense. You have to analyze comparable transactions and project the growth of the portfolio.

My time spent at Macclesfield benefits office in 1977 has provided massive amounts of experience in this arena.

If I get my work done in a timely manner I try and squeeze in a quick bit of Wordsworth on my E-Reader. Current fave is ‘My Heart Leaps up’.

9 AM: My manager arrives, and I’m a bit shocked by his outfit. I knew that Casual Friday is a big thing but I was not prepared for this – when the guy that you usually see in a classic suit and tie shows up in sneakers, jean and a white t-shirt it just rocks your world.

My first casual Friday was three months ago and I still can’t get my head around the whole concept. To me this Casual Friday thing just shows how useless it is to wear suits from Monday to Thursday when you rarely (if ever) see clients in person. Maybe it’s out of jealousy for consultants (not likely), or just in case a client shows up in the building unannounced (even more unlikely).

My Friday outfit usually consists of very skinny slacks and a brown shirt.

10 AM: I start preparing a presentation for next Monday. My manager offered to let me pitch my project to the Paris Headquarters. Maybe it’s because I’m fond of French existential poetry; last time he did a presentation they couldn’t understand a word (he has a thick northern England accent). Or maybe it’s because he just likes me.

If you make a single mistake, all this nice treatment just washes away and it’s even worse than in investment banking, because they know you and they’ll remember you when promotion season – or layoff season – arrives.

11 AM: Tea break. Apparently Starbucks doesn’t know how to make “proper” tea so we make our own. I’m from Macclesfield and don’t have any strong opinion about how tea should or shouldn’t taste, so I just observe and casually join in conversations (and speculation) about the upcoming bonus season. I usually bring my own ham sandwiches using stuff bought from the Mace shop in Macc.

11:30 AM: My pitch is almost ready but I’m interrupted by a “critical emergency.” We have a monthly meeting at 2 PM and my manager didn’t have the time to prepare his slides (no kidding !!) so I need to do it ASAP.

I wonder how he can be surprised – the same meeting takes place every month and I’m thinking about actually booking it as an “emergency time” on my calendar.

1 PM: Damn, it feels good NOT to be an investment banker. I’ve been trying to align everything but this stupid title just won’t fit properly. Thank god I only spend around 5 hours a week preparing slides for other people. Now that I’m almost done, my manager reviews it and makes me change everything by annotating with a red marker instead of using the “track changes” feature in PowerPoint. Permissible, I guess it’s not that much better than investment banking.

1:30 PM: All the modifications are done. I only have 30 minutes for lunch and I usually spend this watching a bit of Werner Herzog on my laptop.

2 PM: The monthly meeting starts. It’s a one-hour update about this month’s performance and objectives for the next one.

Every manager pitches his own business and around 40 slides are presented.

Of course, we only spend one minute on what I created. Almost 3 hours of preparation for one minute of presentation – not the best ROI I’ve seen, but I guess that’s what it’s like to be an analyst, no matter where you work.

3 PM: We’ve got another meeting. But this time we’re not the ones pitching – consultants arecoming to visit us. My mission has an obscure link to their work so my boss asked me to come. I accepted enthusiastically because it’s always a lot of fun when finance people meet with consultants. It's their third meeting with us and right from the start I regret missing the first two.

They start the meeting by talking about “what’s been done so far” and apparently they “successfully challenged the perimeter of their mission”.

I turn to my boss and he tells me that they defined this very “perimeter” – in the previous meeting.

But it gets even better:

They announce a “stochastic approach”. Unfortunately for them, they don’t know what the word means but everyone on our team does – whoops.

In my opinion if you want to be a consultant, you should really consider building expertise in one field by working at a regular company, and then only go into consulting at a more senior level once you actually know something.

4 PM: I go back to my desk and connect to the internal job search engine. I browse through the latest openings and forward the interesting ones to a bunch of friends interested in corporate finance. Hooky and Hannett would be good at this lark.

I also give them advice on their resumes and cover letters to improve their chances. It feels good to be helpful, but I’m not doing this only for the sake of philanthropy – HR offers £1200 if they recruit someone you recommend. Given the size of bonuses at analyst level in corporate finance it would be nice to get some extra cash like that. Plus, it’s also good for my networking efforts so I try to invest in this whenever I have a bit of “down time”.

5 PM: I’m starting to think about leaving but someone from headquarters decides otherwise. I receive an “urgent” email – on a Friday at 5 PM!

6 PM: Usually I’m off at 5 PM, but I had to deal with this fire drill first. I leave with the MD and we chat in the elevator about our plans for the weekend, and he offers me a ride to the pub.
To the pub? Yeah, because it’s Friday and therefore time for after-work drinks. We hit the Castle in Macclesfield.

I was surprised at first, just like with Casual Friday, but this one was a good surprise. Each Friday, everyone from corporate finance meets at the pub and you get free rounds from the head MD or other managers in a very relaxed atmosphere. It’s like Christmas before Christmas for people who like to share the latest rumors about their colleagues and senior management.

Conclusions

It was a typical day, with some data crunching, some interesting meetings (and useless ones too) and some pointless requests.

Ian Curtis went from punk icon to become a big-time trader. After a bout of ill health he realised
that he couldn’t hack the late nights so joined a Fortune 500 company in their corporate finance department instead.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

an odd affliction

I once had a jumper that I kept for years. I bloody loved it. I bought it from a charity shop in Northwich in, I think, 2001. It was on of those rare finds. Something that most people would ignore but to me was perfect. It was torn, threadbare and holey but I loved it more than life itself.

But now it is lost. Admittedly, I have not worn the damn thing for years, but I'm still bloody annoyed as to where it has gone.

I live in a small house and yet things are constantly going missing. Shoes, TV remotes, belts, CDs, plates. Where do they all go? Not a day goes by without me stomping round, cursing, lifting up the sofa cushions, throwing things around and generally scratching my head in confusion. My wife thinks there is a reason for this, an affliction that affects approximately 50% of the population.

She's right. It's called being male.

We are incapable of looking for things. Our wives carefully sift through the ironing pile looking for that purple top, then systematically go through their CD collection until they patiently and expertly find that missing Eternal CD. Meanwhile we are busy slamming cupboard doors and hurling drawers shut. I swear I once could not find ANY item of my proposed outfit. Nothing at all. The trousers, shirt, jumper and shoes that I had oh-so-carefully planned to wear that day were gone. Of course they turned up later on in the week but that's not the point.

Women seem to have an inbuilt instinct for household items that men do not. I constantly buy bottles of soy sauce because I am certain as hell that we haven't got any. My wife knows instinctively what food we have got in, exactly how much, where it is and when it goes out of date. Including the six bottles of soy. The amount of money I have wasted on herbs and spices that we already own must be in excess of the national debt.

It's funny how we tend to buy too much of things we like.

I once bought some Nike sneakers that were cheap, had a brilliant Van Halen-esque look and were my pride and joy. I wore them every opportunity I got. I tried to buy another pair as I knew I was on to a winner but they had sold out. I was stuck with my original pair.

Come to think of it I lost them too.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Cold hands

My hands are freezing.

I don't know why as the rest of me is warm. I've put some of my skin-tight gloves on so that I can still type while my digits get hot. I remember buying these gloves. I was cycling to work one day in Autumn 2006 absolutely desperate for something to keep my hands from freezing to the damn handlebars. I leant my bike up against a tree in Clayton Square and popped in to TK Maxx. I recall being annoyed because I hadn't brought my bike lock but chanced it anyway. The bike was still there when I got back.

It's one of those things isn't it. It's not possible to enjoy anything with cold hands. Much like needing a wee. It's an awful dilemma isn't it? Being safely tucked up in bed yet having that gnawing sensation of a filling bladder. But what does one do? The ultimate choice. The great leveller. Do you get out of the warm bed and tiptoe across the landing, trying not to wake anyone up? Or do you lie there feigning sleep worrying that you will wee the bed?

Tough isn't it. I usually bite the bullet and go for a wee. No point staying in bed if you're not going to sleep anyway.

Did Freddie Mecury ever get cold hands? I think not. I bet all that piano playing kept him warm. Mind you I bet he didn't play the piano very much in later life. I bet he had some African boy play it for him while he stomped loudly around his house in a pinnie.

That's a nice thought.

Come to think of it, my hands are not freezing any more.

Friday, 17 February 2012

What do you mean, it's blocked?

It started with my wife looking out the back window and simply saying "Oh dear, drain's blocked again."

Again? How can it be blocked again? My father in law only rodded the fucker last summer. Do we use *that* much bog roll?

Sure enough, I angrily barged her out the way and had a look. She was right. Yet again, we were knee deep in sewerage. She told me to leave it for tonight as it was getting dark and to have a go tomorrow. How could I, a proud and violent man, leave that fucking mess over night? No way would I be able to sleep with that catastrophe hanging over me like the Sword of Damocles. Imagine the shame, the abject misery of the neighbours knowing we were living in shit. I thought about those Japanese businessmen that topped themselves during the financial crisis because they could not bear the thought of having brought disrepute on their families. I thought about Stewart Pearce missing that penalty against West Germany in 1990. I was worried about cats walking in it too.

I did my usual trick of getting a common-or-garden plunger and attaching it to the end of a mop handle. This particular drain is about five feet deep so it's not like I can simply lie face down in the shit and reach in. That would be too simple. I put on my hiking boots and started plunging away like a bastard.

Ten minutes goes by. Nothing. Now the back yard is simply deeper in shit and so was I.

I decided at this point that the best thing I could do would be to pour chemicals down there and let nature take its course. I thought back to all the great scientific and chemical minds, desperately wondering what they would do in this situation. Robert Whilhelm Bunsen. He was good. His biggest contribution seems to be the humble bunsen-burner, a great bit of equipment that school children have scolded each other with for decades. I don't think fire was going to help me here though. What about Marie Curie? Fuck that. I put all these stupid thoughts aside and got the vat of harsh Muriatic Acid that I used to strip the brickwork on the front of the house in Summer 2009.

Let me give you some background on this acid. Everybody told me not to use it. They said I was an idiot and that the stuff is really dangerous and corrosive. They told me to get an expert in. They told me to get some industrial rubber gauntlets and goggles and for God's sake to be careful. Even the guy who SOLD it to me - who, incidentally, is dead now - questioned my ability. I did none of these things. It was the height of summer and I had a t-shirt on, stood at the top of a step ladder squinting into the sun as I carelessly daubed this liquid on with a cheap emulsion brush while kids were passing beneath me on the street. The brickwork fizzed and so did my skin. It took six weeks for my wrists to return to a normal colour and even longer for the neighbours to forgive me. This is really nasty stuff and I would not wish it on my worst enemy.

So I poured the entire contents down our back drain.

I knew this would need time to have the desired effect so I nipped out for a bit in the Micra and let the magic happen. When I came back my father in law had already been and gone. He had fixed the bastard in about five minutes so I never got to see the fruits of my labours. Lucky for him he didn't know I had poured strong acid down there minutes before. I bet he wondered why his shoes melted.

So here we are with a back yard that is lovely and shit-free. The question is; how long will this last?

I don't know. It was lucky that we had a hose in the back yard so my father-in-law could hose all the sewerage back from whence it came.

Come to think of it, he fixed that too.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

yet more stories

Geoff is retired. But he feels cheated. He has been driving taxis, on and off, for forty years now. He started off in the early sixties with a Wolseley Sovereign but got rid of it when the oil seal on a wheel hub went. He remembers giving Henry Cooper a ride to the Thomas A'Beckett on Old Kent Road circa 1962. Sadly, this was the highlight of his driving career to date. He'd love to say that he once took Ringo Starr to the pictures, or collected Nelson Mandella from Heathrow but none of this is true. The highlight of his driving career, it appears, was taking a second-rate British boxer whose claim to fame was being chinned by Muhammad Ali to a gym full of criminals. For a brief period in the seventies he toyed with the idea of becoming involved in rally driving, but despite his vast road experience he found that his skill did not translate well to the world of gravel tracks and pitch black icy roads. And his co-driver proved somewhat stupid. Slowly the notion of driving superstardom turned into a more obtainable but less lucrative one of running his own firm. Taxi firm that is. The firm still runs to this day, but it never seemed to provide the security Geoff required. Despite running for twenty years, his drivers still call him names and turn up late. One even put dust in his coffee. He has tried both the carrot and the stick approach, but both are met with scorn. It was his secret hope that his firm would pay the way for his family when, as happened last week, he retired. All he asked for in exchange for his graft was enough money to eat, travel, heat his home and send his kids to school. Whilst he met these targets, it would be a lie to say that his life of work has lined his pockets. It seems so unfair to Geoff. Footballers are payed much more than him for poncing around with fashionable haircuts for a few minutes a week. City gents spend all day on the phone and earn hundreds of thousands per year. Plumbers bend pipes and get £15 per hour. Geoff knows that the way he feels is part & parcel of life in Britain, but it doesn't make him feel any better.

more short stories

It started happening in August 1993. I was working at an orange juice factory at the time, and this involved getting the 7:32am train from Runcorn West to Ellesmere Port. I first noticed her two weeks into the job. She always stood at the exact same location on the platform, day in and day out. At first I thought nothing of it; she obviously had a job that required getting the same train as me on the same days of the week. Nothing unusual there. But you know when someone piques your interest for no particular reason? It was one of them. I had the desire to approach her and find out her story. But I had to find a way to do it without appearing to be a lunatic. It wasn't sexual attraction. It was deeper than that. It's like when you're on the tenth pint and feel somehow 'bonded' with which ever poor sap you have been wittering at for the last three hours. And anyway, it was getting weird. It's like when you get a lift to a very high floor and there's another occupant in there. The longer you confined together the more tense it feels. Someone needs to say something but nobody does. So one day it happened; I strolled up and asked her for a light. I didn't even smoke at the time, so it's lucky she didn't have one. I asked her where she goes at such an obscene time of the morning, and she replied by telling me that her mother was in the process of being wiped out by head cancer. The visiting hours at Leighton Hospital dictated that an early train was necessary. Naturally, she reciprocated the original question back to me. It seemed feeble to tell her the real reason for my early travels, so in the spirit of trying to impress I told her I was a mortician. Maybe it can be blamed on the dormant parts of the human brain, but this was the wrong thing to say. God only knows why I blabbed it out. I could have told her anything; a milkman, a car salesman, a miner. But no. A mortician. A mortician. I would have loved to have brought some levity to the situation, but small-talk is not my forte. A mortician.

newest short story

They tossed the bottle towards the waves and hoped for the best. But they both knew that, by God, it was at best a long shot. A drop in the ocean's chance of being found by someone able or humane enough to alleviate their plight. It was a stupid idea in the first place. Launching a catamaran from Formby beach, a vessel comprised mostly of orange crates and duct tape, is asking for trouble. Some twat had even had the nerve to daub 'Sunshine & Glory' on the front in garish yellow. Their first week stranded wasn't too troubling. To be honest, it seemed like more of a novelty; like that feeling when you're on the way to work and your train breaks down. It's not entirely pleasant being trapped with the other passengers, but it's quite nice that you're not going to have to work today and you're not to blame for once...... The worry of collecting work keys, buying papers, charging Nokias and scrubbing doorsteps soon subsided into a wholesome desire to survive. They didn't even know where they were. I mean, they knew they were trapped on a small island festooned with crisp packets and used condoms, but WHERE WERE THEY? Amongst the group of castaways speculation ranged from the Manchester Ship Canal to the Algarve. This of course begged the question of whether this new and littered land had seen human contact before. Would they be remembered as explorers, or even heroes? Time dragged on. The grave nature and slaggish absurdity of their predicament began to bear down upon them. Food was a constant worry. Not knowing the situation they would end up in, provisions were somewhat of an afterthought. The gang had been surviving by eating a strange moss that someone found growing on a bicycle frame; it was causing uncontrollable mania and funny tugging sensations in the brain. To our gang it danced across the pallet like a true friend & companion. Weeks turned to months. Daftness held sway. They were now suffering from an unnamed babbling, foaming insanity that turned even the most mundane task into a teeth-gnawing adventure. One of the team banged his funny bone trying to hoist the jib from a ship out of the waves. The ensuing display of indiscriminate aggression scars the landscape to this day. Imagine Mike Tyson with his balls wedged in the workings of a gearbox. On second thoughts don't. Too late. Then it happened. The previously dispatched bottle, now a month at sea, had ended up in the garden of an old biddy living on the Norfolk broads. Her son had found it whilst chasing an eel. For reasons unexplained to this day he took it to his teacher who proclaimed the missive contained within to be a genuine SOS. The teacher knew what to do. She was an old hand at contacting water-based rescue services; her dog Pansy had been swept away in the Severn Bore some years before. These coast guard men are shit-hot. Within days a seaplane was vaguely following a search pattern of the west coast. Fat good that did. Turns out the stupid buggers lost at sea were actually somewhere in the middle of the Wash, where a famous king supposedly lost a bit of treasure many years ago. From Formby they had drifted south and gone right at Cornwall. They passed Truro and drifted further east towards Hove. Upon reaching Dover a transcontinental thrust had boosted them north towards Walberswick and inland towards the Wash. Nutters.

More stupid headlines

Queen found with nunchucks and viagra
Man 'sees air'
Disease stops people avoiding butter
Scientists prove that water is made from tiny hammers
Bolsheviks angry at Sting

Monday, 13 February 2012

Politicans on reality TV.

What the hell is that about?

They spend an entire lifetime trying to be taken seriously and then go and blow it all by appearing on what is essentially the TV equivalent of McDonalds; a base-level form of entertainment made on miniscule budgets for people with miniscule minds. Never before has there been such a disparity between ideologies; the quest for statesmanlike-respect and an insatiable hunger for complete and utter media oblivion.

I suppose the most notable example of this was George Galloway's appearance on Big Brother in 2006. We will never forget that harrowing image of him bent over imitating a cat, tenderly pretending to lap milk out of the hands of a fellow contestant. There was something deeply, deeply disturbing and alarmingly sexual about this. I am still haunted now. I'd go as far as saying many current cases of erectile dysfunction can be traced back to this specific TV holocaust.

I recently read an article about a guy in Wisconsin who took a shotgun to his TV when he saw American politician's daughter Bristol Palin on Dancing With The Stars. Some might see this as an overreaction. I applaud this guy's actions. There must be no better feeling than being mortally irritated by something then taking decisive and extreme action.

Fame is a cruel mistress and drives people to extremes.

Things I Like

Sick of people thinking I am a miserable, grasshopper-dicked bastard with nothing nice to say. Here is a list of things that make me happy:

1) People falling over.

There is nothing, NOTHING funnier than the other guy's misfortune. I'm not talking life-altering stuff like being accosted by Somalian rapists in Solihull, but small, insignificant stuff like bastards tripping over in public. I particularly like it when it's those middle aged fuckers with leather jackets trying to look young and vital. In the puddle in that bus stop outside Clas Ohlson? Yes please sir.

2) Book shops.

I have enough books to equip a small library yet this has absolutely no limiting factor on the amount I buy. Only yesterday I had two hours to kill in Chester and handed over £4 for a used Balzac. Nothing is as relaxing as a book shop. Especially a nice warm one with a lovely dog and some old bitch on the till silently staring out of the window.

3) Coffee.

I literally cannot survive without coffee. I would rather sacrifice a limb than give up this sacred elixir. It's funny because for many years I was strictly a tea man but now I need at least three Musettis a day - not the cheap crap - or I go into spasm. I could be in an iron lung but as long as I am being supplied decent quality java life is good.

There you go, three things that I like.

Another request

A kind, red-headed girl has asked me to compile a list of stuff to be suspicious of. She has asked for twenty but she's getting ten.

1) Anyone that lives in a shit house but has a nice car. Priorities clearly out of goose.
2) Men with a jumper draped over the shoulders. Clear sexual confusion going on there.
3) Beware of the man that only shows you the best bits. He's a twat.
4) Anyone that uses the word 'muppet'. Probably watches UFC too.
5) SHORTS IN WINTER. This is a biggie. Men and women.
6) Funny slogan in the back of the Dad-wagon. A surefire sign you have given up on life.
7) People with CD collections that mostly comprise of Greatest Hits. Probably a sex offender.
8) A passion for Thai food. Stay away.
9) Anyone who gets married in an unusal location. A cave in Malta for example. These people are probably goths and must be hurt.
10) Superdry. Anyone that wears Superdry must never be let in your house.

My fucking irritations

Some piece of ass has asked me to produce a Socratic discourse on my top five irritations. Mal, you may regret this.

Here we go.

1) Wonky tables.

Is there anything more annoying? Call me awkward but I don't enjoy having my precious £3 mug of Musetti propelled over me when I merely *breathe* on the table. I was in a pub today with a table so unstable that microbes could upset the balance. I angrily folded up the lunch menu and jammed it under the leg. I mean, come on. It's not like a table suddenly becomes unstable. These pricks must know that people are suffering but they do fuck all to help. I'm going to start bring woodworking equipment to Costa from now on.

2) Packeted fruit.

So pointless. You see this in Boots and on airlines usually. Please tell me Sir, what is the advantage of slicing the apple and then serving it to me in a small plastic packet? Not only are you having to pay for the packets to be made but you are then having to go to the trouble of slicing up the apples as well. WHAT IS WRONG WITH A NORMAL, TRADITIONAL APPLE? You have spent so long trying to solve a problem that doesn't exist that you have fucked everyone over. If you had got off your fat arse and actually checked you would realise that people do not mind having apples that are a bit bashed about. It's nice to eat a real piece of fruit the way nature intended, not in some hermetically sealed bag.

3) World music.

Nothing irritates me as much as this. There is a smugness that goes with world music. A certain Guardian-style belief that you are listening to something genuinely different, something that represents the music of a certain country. Dare I say it, authenticity. I've got news for you. What you are listening to no more represents Somali/Nigerian/Afrikaan music than Coldplay represent British music. Just because it is 'world' does not mean it is authentic or good.

4) Highways Agency.

Surely the most useless, over-beaurocratic organisation in the history of the whole world. I honestly think NASA are quicker getting a fucking space shuttle designed, built & flying than these bastards are at reopening a motorway. I ask, is it necessary to close the M56 just because a traffic cone has fallen out of the back of a builder's lorry? If a truck has a blowout and has left rubber on a slip road simply get one of those patrol cars there, pick up the tyre and lash it in the bushes. Why is it necessary to close the entire damn motorway network?

5) 'epic'.

Just don't. It's not big, not clever.




Observations

1) Despite hating the BMW-driving man you are slightly jealous.
2) Pizza tastes better slightly burned.
3) You never see a brand-new double decker bus.
4) You have never owned a computer printer that you have been entirely happy with.
5) Barbeques just are not worth the bother.
6) Vomiting is euphoric.
7) You miss the early nineties just a little bit.
8) Whenever you buy a new fridge you are concerned that it's not quite cold enough.
9) Nobody knows where the mugs in your house came from.
10) You harbour secret ambitions to be a writer.
11) Wasps can completely ruin your day.
12) It's horrible walking down the street at the same pace as a complete stranger.
13) You can't understand why some cars have the lights wired up wrong.
14) Your mother slams the car door too hard.
15) You feel at home in B&Q.
16) There is no location worse than a station car park.
17) All community centres are depressing.

Short fucking story

People often ask me how it started.

It’s hard to put into words. Maybe it’s best described as some kind of Lynchian nightmare, a fucked up plot for an even more fucked up horror film dreamt up by a lonely cretin with a deep penchant for the truly bizarre. A situationist prank by an angry interventionist God. A veritable lollapalooza of misfortune. It could be all these things, a combination of some, or none.

Most of these stories start with people breathlessly reminiscing about how happy and fun-filled their childhood was, their great woe manifesting itself in later life. They’re usually accompanied by black and white photos of happy family holidays spent on a beach. Father, Mother and kids all merrily slurping sandy iced-creams while the grandparents look on with white skin and brown teeth. It was a similar pattern for me although my particular tale is different to most. Some say I have been touched by the Gods and should be worshipped like some kind of deity, others are completely freaked out by me and think I should be allowed to die in the corner of a pub car park.

I’ll try and get this story out with the minimal of emotion and stick to the facts.

Throughout my formative years I was indeed that normal child. I wasn’t precocious, particularly gifted at sport or proudly artistic. I came from a really close family that spent lots of time talking. I once filled my sister’s rucksack with soil on a trip to the swimming baths, ruining her Walkman and rendering her swimming costume filthy. Apart from this we never really fell out. My favourite memories are visiting the boating lake near my Nan’s house in Swaffam. I often think back on this time and when I’m feeling low. One of those blissful memories that truly encapsulates the joy of youth. I was a popular kid at school owing to the fact that I possessed a very powerful magnet – scavenged from a local scrap yard – and my father had a key that could open any door, anywhere. At least that’s what I told my friends. These sorts of details are important when you are in primary school.

I was also pretty good at basketball but once soiled myself during a game and had to play with an arse full of shite. Mr Daly the PE Teacher (Springwood High School, King’s Lynn, circa 1993) didn’t believe me and wouldn’t let me change my shorts. I was too terrified to try basketball again after that experience.

An ideal childhood? Yes. Apart from the arse full of shite.

People usually say at this point something like “we were never rich but we never went without”. Bollocks to that. My parents were fucking loaded but me and sister got fuck all. We really *did* do without, and I harbour resentment about this all these years later.

There was nothing indicating that I was going to be plagued by strangeness. Nothing at all.

The first thing I noticed was that my limbs were stiffer than those of most kids. Whilst my peers were playing football, climbing on the school roof and daring each other to cross the railway tracks I was spending countless hours with Dr Thrift, our local NHS physiotherapist. For years many medical professionals thought it was simple Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis – a recognised medical condition that affects thousands of children. I was put on all manner of drugs and exercise regimes to try and loosen up my stiffening limbs. Nothing worked. Someone suggested that Saturday afternoons spent on the indoor climbing wall in Norwich would add strength and flexibility. Alas, no. After a particularly nasty fall one weekend in 1991 my parents decided enough was enough. They took me to Laser Quest instead from then on. This was one of those prototypical early nineties cyber-holes filled with fake smoke, rave music and fluorescent paint.

At age fourteen, when my friends were entering puberty, I was going through a very different body change. It would baffle the scientific world for decades to come. There was no escaping it; my skin was turning brown. It initially affected only arms but slowly spread throughout my torso, legs, and finally my face & neck. Of course as a child of fourteen this affected my self-esteem. While the other kids were called bullied for having the occasionally pimple on their oversized noses I had the fucking colour of Creosote appearing on my bollocks. It’s hard enough to fit in even when things go right, let alone when you’re getting called ‘Mr Browncock’ on a daily basis. And that was just the teachers.


Time went on. My youth was ticking by. Things slowly got worse.


When my whole body had turned brown a strange pattern started to appear. It first it was barely noticeable. Then it became unavoidable. My delicate, once-perfect childhood skin was taking on a wood veneer finish. There was no mistaking it. It had a grain and knots. Not just my bollocks. Total skin coverage. The grain got more and more profound and eventually took on a high-gloss finish, kind of like that corner table your Nan has probably got.


By this time I had been referred to the top dermatologists in the country. I felt like some kind of fucked up oak tree that had sprouted limbs. It was as if the Ronseal man had burst forth from TV, donned a school uniform and was slurping a Calypso from the school canteen. I appeared on several mid-morning chat shows and held court.


Of course by this time I still wasn’t famous. I was getting well known to the local community but mainstream success eluded me. I was young and scared and stupid but instinctively knew the implications of my dilemma; I could make money. Massive, unspeakable amounts of money. I could travel the world as the Eighth Wonder, be pawed at by tourists far and wide and be touched by kids in obscure African villages. A film? Who knows. It was probably not out of the question that I could land a high-powered job in the music industry.


Then things got worse. My body shape actually started changing. People initially thought I was merely piling on the weight but my whole torso was getting more and more square. My legs were actually becoming webbed together and my feet had become blocky and fucking massive.


Now this was bad. I didn’t mind being a bit stiff and grainy, it added a sort of √©lan that most do not have. A talking point if you will. The girls fucking loved me. This was getting serious though. I was now as rigid as a board and had to be carried like a ladder. If only one person was available they had to load me on to one of these trolleys like Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs and wheel me down the street.


Time passed. Experts came and went. Nobody knew what to do. My body was growing more and more square until one day I happened to be at an antique auction in Acle. I was having a good time at this auction just generally wandering around and taking in the ambiance when a strange thing happened:


AN ELDERLY GENTLEMAN CARRYING AN ATTACHE CASE TRIED TO BID ON ME, MISTAKING ME FOR A BORNHOLM GRANDFATHER CLOCK. HE THOUGHT I WAS PART OF THE AUCTION. IT WAS CLEAR THAT I WAS SLOWLY TURNING INTO A GRANDFATHER CLOCK.


For those not au fait with Bornholms here is a brief description:


This kind of grandfather clock takes the form of a tall wooden box. These are Danish long case clocks driven by a pendulum made in Bornholm, a Danish island found in the Baltic Sea. Bornholm clocks are pendulum driven clocks that were made from 1745 until 1990. However the demand for Bornholm grandfather clocks began receding in recent years.


My woody condition worsened until I was ticking and had an actual working clock face on MY face. I was now completely immobile and had to be fitted with wheels. I tried to carry on a normal life but it’s hard to enjoy one’s self when you’re a fucking massive chronometer.


I suppose the saving grace in all this is that I am still able to speak. Nobody fully understands how my voice has been unaffected by these unfortunate changes but I’m not complaining. I can sing, orate and bust a rhyme with the best of them. Who knows, maybe I can even find work as a rapping timepiece?


I was able to write this by dictating it to my best friend Tom. He has stood by me through thick and thin. He also polishes me up when I’m a bit dusty.


I’m not angry at life. I actually count myself lucky that I stand out from the crowd and genuinely consider myself an individual. It’s a drag not being able to do normal things like drive a car and consume Tic-Tacs but I’m a simple man/clock and have simple pleasures. I don’t ask much from life. Just stand me in the corner of Nag’s Head and pour the occasional pint of Wheatsheaf into my moon dial and I’m happy.


I dream of going back to the yacht pond in Swaffam one day, just like I used to with Dad.




Stupidity

It concerns me how fucking stupid a lot of people are in the world, it really does.

Is it just me, or has this economic turmoil dredged some really stunningly inane people out of the woodwork? I mean real, REAL pieces of shit with nothing more than a dead wasp rattling around in their skull.

Only the other day I was driving down Southgate Road and some cigaretting youth ran over an old lady on the crossing. Of course this is very traumatic for the old lady and clearly no laughing matter. One thing I want to make clear though is that where road crossings are concerned PEOPLE HAVE NO FUCKING INTELLIGENCE AT ALL. NOT ROUND HERE, OH NO!

It's like their IQs are temporarily drained my mystical forces and all of a sudden they're proud to be stupid. The junctions near us are terribly bad. People - usually fat mothers pushing a pram - are too busy screaming into an Iphone to notice that 2 tonnes of metal is heading their way FAST. I want to know what goes on in their heads.

Could it be:

"I'll just knowingly push my child into a road where there's accidents all the time without looking. We are invincible because I am screaming into and Iphone."

Or:

"Despite the fact I have lived here my entire life I haven't noticed that cars hurtle round here at high speed and people are always being run over."

Well, which is it?

Anyway, this particular old lady was run over but then the guy that ran her over left his car blocking the road when he consoled her. Can I repeat that:

HE LEFT HIS CLIO BLOCKING THE ENTIRE ROAD, STOPPING ALL TRAFFIC FROM GETTING PAST.

I know that he was eager to ensure that she wasn't too mashed up but could he not have spent 10 seconds moving his £1500 rollerskate out the way so that everyone else wasn't punished for HIS stupidity? He could SEE the queue of traffic building up and still chose not to move his Halford's special.

You see this everywhere. A total overreaction. It's the same with these pudgy pricks that hear a siren from half a mile away and actually drive on to the fucking curb to get out the way of a vehicle that might not even be coming their way. Ditto the fucking motorways. A lorry has had a blowout and left a tyre on the carriage way. Whoopee shit. I ask this: why is it necessary to close the entire sliproad for an entire afternoon? Why can't the first copper there simply drag the damn thing out of the way and put an end to it? Will we ever see the day when civil servants don't have to fill in thirteen different forms just to unlock a door?

Like Balzac said: "Beaurocracy is a giant machine controlled by pygmies." Come to think of it, he was a twat too.