Sunday, 24 December 2006

His top hat is being re-lined.

Merry Christmas Eve, everyone. I'm off to Dorset to indulge in some family traditions like necking mulled wine with my sister, playing Ludo with my Granny, and smoking a thoughtful after-dinner cigar with the dog. Thank you for reading, and see you in the New Year.

Monday, 18 December 2006

When maths and sausages collide.

Sign in a shop on Tottenham Court Road: 'XXXX Sausages - now with 50% more meat!' You see, what they've done there is over-reached themselves. 10% more meat sounds quite good. Even 20%. But 50% more meat... frankly, there shouldn't have been that much room for improvement in the old sausages. They must have been at the most only 66.6% meat... and not even that, because if they were the signs would now say 100% meat. Which they don't. And suddenly the possibility that they were, say, 10% meat, and are now a mighty 15%, starts seeming horribly plausible...

Thursday, 14 December 2006

Let's give him a big hand...

In case you haven't yet seen it, it is my very great pleasure to bring to your attention what a friend of mine has already called 'The best story that has ever been in the news'. From the BBC website:

"The world's tallest man has saved two dolphins by using his long arms to reach into their stomachs and pull out dangerous plastic shards."

I mean. That's just unbeatable, isn't it? The World's Tallest Man! Two dolphins! Using his long arms!

If you want the full story, go here... but first, seriously consider whether reading more might ruin it. Are you not better off leaving the glorious details to your imagination? For instance, I like to believe that when they called in the World's Tallest Man, they hadn't even thought about his long arms. They just called him in because they were overwhelmed by the dolphin crisis, and thought... well, he's the World's Tallest Man! He's bound to have some ideas! So The World's Tallest Man arrived- travelling, as always in the World's Tallest Car- he had a look at the dolphins, shook his head sorrowfully (incidentally causing eddies in the lower atmosphere that would later result in a typhoon of the coast of Taiwan) , had a cup of tea, smoked his pipe... and then it hit him! Maybe my long arms could be of use!

Or better yet, maybe he wasn't called in at all. Perhaps he was simply taking a walk, using his long legs, when he stumbled across the two dolphins, lying on the beach of the river uttering piteous clicks, and pointing with their fins at their tummies... The World's Tallest Man, moved by their plight, had a look at the dolphins, shook his head sorrowfully, and... well, you know the rest.

Or perhaps it was no accident. Perhaps the World's Tallest Man sought the dolphins out. Perhaps he is so modest that this is the first of his acts of animal heroism to reach the press, but in fact some years ago the World's Tallest Man took a solemn oath to use his God-given height to save God's creatures from distress. Yesterday, he used his long arms to rub embrocation on the throat of a giraffe with pharyngitis. Tomorrow, he will use his long back to provide shelter for a family of marmosets. And every night, animals everywhere thank God for the long limbs and benevolent nature of the World's Tallest Man.

However it happened, the thing I'm most keen to keep believing - and which, fortunately, the article does not contradict- is that the World's Tallest Man saved both dolphins at the same time. After all, there were two dolphins, he has two long arms... why waste time? As I see it, the dolphins were placed on trollies, and positioned one on each side of the World's Tallest Man. The World's Tallest Man took a deep breath, and extended both arms sideways.... until in no time, the World's Tallest Man was up to both shoulders in dolphin. And that's the image I shall be using on my Christmas cards this year.

Wednesday, 13 December 2006

Who'd have thought it - the French are no different from you and I.

Well, wasn't that fun!? Oh. Wasn't it?

Nevertheless, the results are:

=1 Phoebe 12
=1 James H
=2 Tessa 11
=2 Joe
5 Matt 10
6 The Squirrelator 8
7 Miss Teak 5

James Lark is, as ever, in a class all of his own.

Which means, on average, you guessed 9.8 out of 27 (not counting the Americans, which was a mean trick) - almost exactly what you'd have got by random guesswork. I hope that's taught us all a valuable lesson. It's not for me to say that with this humble game, I have essentially abolished racism, but if that's the view of the Nobel committee, then it would be graceless not to accept their prize. Oh, and in case you're interested, the most misleading faces belong to the French and German gentlemen in the first set, whom not a single person correctly identified; and the most easily identified face was that of my Granny, labelled British by everyone except the one person who's met her. So, there you have it. You can't get more British than Granny.

If James H and Phoebe would like to get in touch one way or another, stating their preference for Crunchie, book, or blog entry, then their prizes will be sent winging to them.

Tuesday, 12 December 2006

An Englishman, a Frenchman and a German walk into a bar...

Behold: The answers!

1) Herr Marc Schulze. 2) Mr. Chris Wootton. 3) M. Sylvain Tesson.

1) Ms. Gabby Hood. 2) Fraulein Katharina Gebauer. 3) Mlle. Valerie Allain.

1) Herr Kurt Weinzerl. 2) Mr. Piers McCausland. 3) M. Pierre Yves Le Franc.

1) Mme. Germaine Belleguic. 2) Frau Elisabeth Heister-Neumann. 3) Mrs. Doris Finnemore.
1) Prof. Dr. Rolf-Dieter Heuer. 2) Prof Anthony Snodgrass. 3) Prof Georges Rhin.

1) Councillor Harry Webb, Labour Councillor for Havering. 2) Mme. Martine Leclerc, Vice President, The Regional Council for Limousin. 3) Herr. Hartmut Mollring, Minister of Finance, Lower Saxony.

1) Pfarrer Wolfgang Ipolt. 2) Pere Alain-Christian Leraitre. 3) The Rev. Douglas Claypole-White.
1) Herr Hermann Dornemann, 111. 2) Mme. Marie Bremont, 115. 3) Mr. Henry Allingham, 110.

1) Marcel Marceau. 2) Florence Nightingale. 3) Jacques Offenbach.

Triple Bluff. 1) Abe Goldstein of Iowa. 2) Bob Carlson of Washington. 3) Jim Ross of Vancouver. Sorry about that one.

Tomorrow: The Results!

N.B. If you're one of the people featured, or a member of their family, and you'd like me to remove you from this post, let me know, and I'll happily do so. I hope you don't, though. How many google searches for your name turn up the opportunity to find out how French, German and British people think you look?

Wednesday, 6 December 2006

Willkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome.

Here it is, then: the Grand One Hundred (And One) Posts Celebratory Picture Quiz.

Essentially, it's a version of the always-amusing game you can play in departure lounges, where you try to guess whether a particular passenger is from the country you're leaving or the country you're travelling to. But, with the help of the magical internet, I have assembled thirty people who are not only from three different countries, but are also quite astronomically unlikely ever to catch the same plane.

Your task, if you choose to accept it, which you must, is to look at the following ten sets of three people, decide which of each is from the great nations of France, Germany and Britain, and post your guesses in the comments section. Next Monday, I shall put up the answers, and then we shall see what we shall see. There may even be a prize. Hell, there will be a prize. In the spirit of the game, the winner can have his or her choice of one of three things: 1) the opportunity to write the next entry in this blog. 2) A secondhand book of my choice from my shelves. 3) A delicious Cadbury's Crunchie. So, with the prospect of milk chocolate with a golden honeycomb centre spurring you on to victory, get to it, and see if you can tell Hermann from Henry, Sylvain from Siegfried, and Piers from Pierre.

Good Luck. Bon Chance. Good Luck in German.

Friday, 1 December 2006

Turns out you get a telegram from Christopher Berners-Lee.

This, would you believe, is my 100th post. Who would have thought I had so much to say.

I'm working on another exciting picture quiz to celebrate, but it's taking me far too long to prepare, so it'll just have to be in celebration of the 101st post instead. That's a significant number too, isn't it? If you're a dalmation. Meanwhile...

Book in the library I'm working in: 'Just Enough German.' Third time lucky for the publishers, there, after disappointing sales for 'Not Enough German' and 'Too Much German!'.

Which had to be delivered in a truck.

Tuesday, 21 November 2006

...And his lovely wife, Misery.

I have just received a cheery email entitled 'Christmas Special!' about some replica watches the sender thinks I might be interested in. And who is this jovial festive watch salesman? Apparently, it's a Mr Ashamed Curse. Well, sorry to disappoint, Mr Curse, but I always do my Christmas shopping with the fine old family firm of Tragedy, Guilt and Woe.

Incidentally, I have an entirely ridiculous pride in the fact that my spam is only ever for watches, stock tips, and poker sites. I like to think this reflects the spammers' high opinion of me. "Well now, Quintessentially, this chap seems like a sucessful yet clean-living type, wouldn't you agree?" "Quite right, Candelabra old man. No cheap viagra or nympho sluts for him! He's a man who needs to know what to invest in, when to invest in it, and how then to re-invest his winnings in a game of skill. Send him the 'respectable young high-flier' set, pronto."

Thursday, 16 November 2006

For Sveriges Finska Pingstmission, see Uusi Yhteys. Or, if you prefer, don’t.

I like to work at the British Library, because it has large, serious reading rooms full of large, serious desks, at which large, serious people work seriously, which, on a good day, has the effect of shaming me into working seriously too. Not to mention largely. Whereas in my room, I am surrounded by my bed, my dvd player, and shelves full of some of my favourite books. None of which are large or serious, and all ofwhich are more fun than working. So, I go to the BL. But the reason everyone else goes to the BL is that it is a copyright library, where you can order up practically any book ever written. So the large, serious people aforementioned tend to be surrounded by piles of large, serious books. Looking to my right for instance, someone is poring over ‘The Origins of Marxism’. (I have a feeling that Marx wrote Das Kapital in the British Library, so he doesn't have far to look), whilst to my left we have ‘Figured in Marble’, ‘The World as Sculpture’ and a fierce lady with an expression that says ‘Stop Looking At My Books, Beardie’.

The effect of this is that when I first started coming here, I felt a bit of a fraud for writing away with no books beside me, as if it was clear to everyone that I might as well be writing in a Starbucks, and they all resented me for taking up a large, serious desk for my thin, facetious work. So I started ordering books myself, for camouflage. Unfortunately, this meant that instead of being distracted by some books, I was now distracted by my pick of every book ever written. Suddenly, my work-rate dropped sharply, and my reading-old-James-Thurber-collections-rate shot up. So I instigated plan B - picking a random dry text book from the shelves, rather than ordering up something I might be tempted to read. But when your only alternatives are working or reading a text book, it’s amazing how fascinating the geology of the Scottish oil-fields can suddenly become. Go on, ask me anything about the Scapa Flow. So now I’m on plan C. The book lying open in front of me as I type is the Svensk Tidskriftsforteckning 1990-91 (a vintage year for tidskrifts, as I’m sure you know) and I don’t understand a work of it. Perfect. Except that now, I’m paranoid that as a Curb Your Enthusiasm-esque punishment for my folly, a Swede is going to pass by, notice what I’m reading , utter a glad cry of… whatever one Swede cries when he meets a fellow Swede- and I’m going to be forced either to explain my shameful ruse to the whole reading room, or trust to my ability to improvise Swedish. But until that happens, it seems to be working. Even I can’t spend more than ten minutes reading what appears to be a bibliography in a foreign language, and for the last twenty minutes, I have been diligently writing away.

On this blog entry, though. Not on, you know, any of the four things I absolutely have to complete in the next six weeks. But still, it’s a start.

Thursday, 9 November 2006

Bad Names For Twins

  • Catherine and Kathryn
  • Luke and Darth
  • Bob and Not Bob
  • The Indistinguishables
  • Jesus and Judas
  • Samantha and Her Sister
  • Yours and Mine
  • Good Twin and Evil Twin
  • Jane and the Back-Up

Friday, 20 October 2006

Middlesex pluckily takes a stand against the dreaded wall thieves.

Thursday, 19 October 2006

An embarrassment of riches.

Ok, deadlines are out of the way, and normal service will now be resumed. Sorry about that. (You can make up your own minds whether I'm apologising that there was a break, or that it's now over.)

Today I saw this strapline on a women's magazine:

'Inside - Win A Designer Handbag Full Of Chocolate!'

Dear readers of that magazine: I can't help thinking that the guy who came up with that must either have had some pretty serious deadline trouble of his own this month... or he's openly mocking you.

Next Week: Win, I Dunno, A Cake In Some Shoes.

Sunday, 8 October 2006

Also, nice use of brackets.

Sorry about the eerie silence last week - the air is heavy with the acrid smell of deadlines here at the moment. Normally, of course, that would mean a marked increase in blog-posting-as-displacement-activity, but these particular deadlines are big, angry ones that mean business, and they have me scared.

So, just time to report some graffitti seen in a pub loo:


To which someone had added:

'This is a pub, you cretin. (They don't drink.)'

So, not disagreeing with first writer's message, particularly - just critical of his logistics.

Thursday, 28 September 2006

It could have been worse, I suppose. It could have been a wreath.

God, that was unnerving.

Today is my birthday. And as I go to check something on Google, this is what confronts me:

How creepy is that? It's the internet equivalent of waking up to find a polaroid of yourself asleep pinned to the headboard. Have I ever given Google my birthdate? I don't think so. Surely I haven't. But maybe Google know everything about all of us. What am I saying- of course Google know everything about all of us. What's sinister is that now, apparently, they're not afraid to show it.

'Hey. You. Happy Birthday. Yeah, that's right, we know your birthday. And your address, your passwords, your pin number, your credit rating, and what you did last summer. So, enjoy the cake, punk. And watch yourself.'

(Either that, or this is Google's birthday too. I know which I believe.)

Sunday, 24 September 2006

One just for the Londoners.

I'm thinking of marketing a new line of T-shirts, for wear in central London.

Who wants one?

Saturday, 23 September 2006

Simple safety precautions.

Large sign I saw today in a works site in Smithfield market:

Our Number One rule: we don't hurt people who work on our site.
We need your help to make this happen.

Suggested graffitti to go underneath it:

So please stop being so f***ing annoying!

Thursday, 21 September 2006

A correction

Re. my suggested names for poodle cross-breeds a couple of posts down.

I am reliably informed that shih-tzu and poodle crosses are in fact common, and are known not as shih-tzoodles, but as shih-poos. Similarly a cross between a cocker spaniel and a poodle is known as a cockerpoo.

I should therefore like to take this opportunity to retract my foolish and faecetious suggestion that there should be a dog called a King Choodle's spoodle. It should of course be a King Charles's poo.

Thursday, 14 September 2006

An even more than usually self-indulgent post. Sorry.

This is a link to a column from The Onion. Not one of their best, actually. But...

...doesn't that guy look like my brother? I mean, I don't have a brother. But if I did... he would look like this guy. It's a bit disturbing.

Also, the fake name they've given him rhymes with the name of a friend of mine. They're definitely mocking me.

Tune in next week, to hear me explain how George Alagiah is giving me secret messages through the news headlines.

Tuesday, 12 September 2006

Now available for your office wall.

Saturday, 9 September 2006

Other poodle crossbreeds I'd like to see, following the success of the Labradoodle.

  • The Weimaroodle.
  • The Rottwoodle.
  • The Shih Tzoohdle.
  • The Great Doodle.
  • The Chihoodlehoodle.
And, most of all:
  • The King Choodle's Spoodle.

Thursday, 7 September 2006

A second Pooter

So, yesterday morning I had a nice hot bath. I know, thrilling already, isn't it? Then I dried off, stumped back into my room, glanced at the mirror... and saw to my horror my cheeks and forehead were covered in little thread-like broken capilleries. Bright scarlet ones, too, clearly leaking vital arterial blood straight into my skin. Well, I've seen enough episodes of 'House' to know what this was all about. Any moment now the camera was going to zoom up my nose to show the massive brain haemhorrage I was undergoing, then I'd slump comatose to the floor, then there'd be the opening credits...

Oh. Unless of course the little thread-like broken capillaries were actually not so much thread-like as... threads. From the brand new bright red towel I bought yesterday. With which I'd just dried my scratchy, bearded face. Ah.

It looks like I'm going to pull through.

Sunday, 3 September 2006

And now on Forget What Did, a choice of listening.

For people who are fans of hearing people whose weblogs they occasionally read guesting on Radio 4 sketch shows, there's this:

(I pop up throughout, but my main bit's at 16.20)

For everyone else, there's this:

(Make sure you watch till the end, with the sound on.)

Tuesday, 29 August 2006

Volumes of a set of encyclopedias in the British Library which I think would make rather good book titles in their own right.

Airports Ancient
The companion work to the rather larger volume 'Airports Modern', this intriguing coffee-table book includes details of the Ithaca Aerodrome, the great landing plains of the Nile Delta, and Ninevah International Transport Hub.

Interjection Jesus
We know from the gospel of Luke that even as a boy of twelve Jesus was found in the temple, debating with the elders. But the author of this theological study has found more details in the apocryphal gospel of Leslie, revealing that the young messiah was in fact a right little know-all, given the nick-name 'Interjection' Jesus by his rabbis from his habit of piping up during talmudic debate with comments such as 'Yes, obviously'; 'Doesn't sound like Dad to me' or 'Tell you what -shall I just ask him?'

Overseas Patella
The inspirational story of little Chrissie Brown of Newfoundland, who in 1983 was involved in a serious dogsled accident, and urgently required a knee transplant. But so uniquely knobbly was her kneebone that the only suitable donor that could be found was an old man in a remote village in the Scottish Highlands. And so began a thrilling dash across the Atlantic to track down the donor, forcibly remove his knee, and return it to Chrissie before it went all green and manky. Heart-warming.

Quran Ropework
Islamic boyscouts! Impress your troop leader and the Almighty in equal measure with this guide to rendering the 99 names of Allah in knotted twine! Instructive, but potentially blasphemous if you're hamfisted.

Surveillance Tea
Suspicious of how much work the builders are doing while you're out of the house? Worried about what the au pair or babysitter gets up to? Surveillance Tea is the answer, according to this brochure from Janus Security Devices Ltd. Brew them a pot before you leave, flick the in-handle camera and the up-spout microphone to 'on', and prepare to learn the worst.

Friday, 25 August 2006

An elephant never exfoliates.

It struck me today that 'pachyderm', as in elephant, means 'thick-skinned'. Fair enough. They are. But it does seem to suggest that two ancient Greeks must once have had a conversation on these lines:

- So, then. Regarding this gigantic creature in front of us, then; the largest land animal any man has ever seen, with its monstrous flapping ears, its two huge shafts of bone projecting from its mouth, and its incredible prehensile proboscis, with which it is even now sending gallons of water cascading over its enormous body, as it lets loose a mighty trumpeting roar... what would you say is the most striking thing about it?

- I bet it's got really thick skin.

- ...Yes, it probably has. Ok, let's call it that.

- Fine by me. By the way, what's a gallon?

- Oh, alright. Kotulai, then. Smart alec.

Thursday, 24 August 2006

Bad news for Mrs Venetia Phair, an 87 year old retired teacher from Epsom.

Pluto, the planet for which she suggested the name, as an eleven year old schoolgirl in Oxford, is now officially no longer a planet. It is now... a rock.

Poor old Pluto. We've all had days like that, haven't we.

Sunday, 13 August 2006

My lawyers wish me to point out that my friends are in fact all exceptionally moderate and responsible drinkers. Almost tediously so, in fact.

The terrible thing about going on holiday with a group of old friends, of course, is that it becomes impossible to carry on ignoring the scale of their various drinking problems. Some, of course, make no attempt to hide the extent of their dependency:

While others try to hide behind such subterfuges as the 'I'm just going up to my room for a nap' ploy...

...or the 'Oh, only one glass for me...' dodge.

But perhaps saddest of all are those with that particularly acute type of drinking problem familiar to anyone who's seen the film 'Airplane!'...


Thursday, 10 August 2006

The Mysterious 'Mystery' Mystery.

Last November, I posted to an eager world my enthralling adventures googling for the lyrics of Hugh Laurie's song 'Mystery'. ( , should you want to relive those heady days.) This month, people from all over the world, but especially America, have reached my site by doing exactly the same thing. What on earth is going on? Is it a question in an international pub quiz? Did he start humming it in a new episode of 'House'? Whatever the reason, I feel a bit bad, because the post was about my failure to find the lyrics, which must be particularly irritating to read if you're only here as a result of your attempt to find them yourself. So here, as a public service are the lyrics to Mystery, by Hugh Laurie. And perhaps in return, one of you could tell me why you're all looking for them...


All my life has been a mystery
You and I were never ever meant to be
It's why I call my love for you a mystery

Different country
You and I have always lived in a different country
And I know that airline tickets don't grow on-a-tree
So what kept us apart is plain for me to see
That much at least is not really a mystery

I live in a houseboat on an estuary
Which is handy for my work with the Thames Water Authority
But I know you would have found it insanitary

Taken a violent dislike to me
I'd be foolish to ignore the possibility
That if we ever actually met, you might have hated me
Still, that's not the only problem that I can see...

Dead since 1973
You've been dead now . . . wait a minute, let me see
Fifteen years come next Jan-yoo-a-ree
As a human being you are history

So why do why I still long for you?
Why is my love so strong for you?
Why did I write this song for you?
Well, I guess it's just... a mystery

Tuesday, 8 August 2006

Three lines of dialogue in an otherwise harmless novel, published 1938, that made me suddenly keen to make sure no-one was reading over my shoulder.

Spoken by the hero:

'That's what comes of emancipating the wrong type of female. For a thousand years they breed a species to need a keeper and then they let it off the chain and expect it to behave.'

By another character:

'These government fellows, they wouldn't stand me for ten minutes if it wasn't for one thing. Do you know what it is? I'm a genius with my niggers.'

And, most strikingly of all, by the hero again; to his sister:

'What you need, my girl, is a good cry or a nice rape - either, I should think.'

For the record, his sister finds this annoying, and replies 'witheringly'. Cuh. Some people'll take offence at anything...

Sunday, 6 August 2006


Hello. I'm back. Tell you what, tiny bits of France are a lot bigger than they look on the map. Thank heavens I had with me those two veteran walkers, the Start-Rite kids.

It was a lot hotter than it looked on the map, too. Although the ingenious walker can always find a solution to this problem. Drinking plenty of water, perhaps, or carrying a portable fan, or...


Saturday, 15 July 2006

By the time you read this, I will be gone.

By the time it's August... I will be back.

Such is the nature of holidays.

I'm off to walk a tiny bit of France. Wish me luck!

Saturday, 8 July 2006

Maryland took a while as well.

Number of hours it took me to remember all fifty states of the USA:
4, over 4 days.

Number of hours it took me to remember forty five of the states of the USA:
Half an.

Those last bastard five, in the order eventually remembered:
Wyoming. Missouri. Nebraska. Minnesota. New Mexico.

State I don't know if I'd ever remembered if I hadn't, by complete coincidence, picked up an old Garrison Keiller book to read on the train, and found it mentioned on almost every page, in a coincidence which felt uncomfortably as if God had been peering over my shoulder with increasing frustration for the past three days, and was now unable to control himself from shouting out the answer:

Four places which, to my shame, I seriously considered as possible states:
Wicheta. Omaha. Nantucket. Alberta.

Place which I actually did think was a state, and the non-statehood of which meant that when I finally checked my completed list, I discovered to my anguish I had in fact only suceeded in remembered 49 of the states, a significantly less impressive achievement (and let's not forget, that makes it significantly less impressive than 'really not very impressive at all'):
(District of) Columbia.

State I'd left out:
Delaware. Bastard Delaware.

Amount of use any of this was in its intended task of helping me get to sleep on any of the four nights:

Friday, 7 July 2006

A Found Play

You know people sometimes describe an unintentially poetic list, spam email, or Donald Rumsfeld quotation as a Found Poem? Well, I've just found a play. Which is handy, because writing my own is turning out to be a bit of a bugger. But this one is brilliant: it's pacy; exciting; brilliantly evokes character; and has a great twist at the end. It's a list of questions on a website search form, along with the first options from the drop down menus, and you need to imagine it as a conversation between a patient French estate agent, and a billionaire client who's very enthusiastic, but has an extremely short attention span. Here it is, in full.


A new play "by" John Finnemore

-You wish to rent a house in France or buy one?
-I want to buy a house in France.
-In which part of France?
-Everywhere in France
-In which French Region?
-Every region of France
-What do you want to pay if you want to buy a house in France?
-Any price
-The house must be suitable for how many persons?
-Never mind


Interested theatre companies, please contact my agent.

Wednesday, 28 June 2006

Of course, tap water actually DE-hydrates you.

According to its label, the bottle of water I've just finished was no ordinary bottle of water. Oh no. It's 'One Litre of Pure Hydration'! Wow. You mean to tell me that every drop I drank of this water has added water to my body? That the water was, in fact, entirely made of water? What a miraculous age we live in. Now excuse me, I'm just off to eat One Banana of Pure Fruit.

Monday, 26 June 2006

Finland, Finland, Finland; the country where I quite want to be...

The BBC website is running a quiz where you listen to a World Cup chant and guess the country. Once you've guessed, they provide the translation: for instance, for Croatia, the touching ballard 'Call, just call, all your sokolovi, they would give their life for you.' This gave me an idea for a quiz of my own. Here are twelve World Cup chants. Which ones are genuine translations, at least according to the BBC, and which have I made up out of my head? Answers in the comments section. Let me know how well you did.

(Oh, you can play this and then the BBC quiz without spoiling it, but not the other way round. So do this one first.)

R. R. R. R. We could beat you just with our players beginning with R.

Czech Republic is the winner in the championship because the Czechs are the best in the world. It's very beautiful and it has good people.

'54, '74, '90, 2006. We will sing together and with our hearts in our hands and the passion in our knees we will be the world champions

Ghana, Ghana. Thanks to him, thanks to him, let's give thanks to God because this ground he has loved and he does forever and his mercies are bountiful.

The football team of Iran with their cool players, we will win the game and we would die for Iran in this situation.

There are very little silver fish all over the pitch, very little silver fish, very little silver fish. There are very little silver fish all over the pitch, and we know who released them.

Aye, aye, aye. Sing and don't cry because singing gives a happy heart. Sing don't cry.

Netherlands, Netherlands, you are the champions. We all love orange because of your achievements.

We won’t win the cup! We won’t win the cup! We won’t win the cup, but we’re happy to be here, and we’re having a joyful time!

Win the championship, or don't come home; win the cup or cease to call yourself Saudis.

The best striker in the world – he is from Serbia. The best centre-forward in the world – he is from Montenegro. How happy we are that they are brought together.

USA. USA. Let’s go score some goals today.

Thursday, 22 June 2006

Lesson Six: How to punch a stream.

Oh dear. A month seems to have gone by. It would seem I am a bit of a slacker. Let's see if I can pull myself together and do this a bit more regularly, shall we?

I saw two signs yesterday that made me worry about Men. As a breed. The first was in the window of Topshop, and announced that all or some of the money raised by something or other (meticulous research- that's the secret of good writing) would go to funding research into male cancer. Male cancer? Prostate cancer, I've heard of. Testicular cancer also. Doubtless there are other male-only cancers I haven't heard of - cancer of the beard, perhaps. Cancer of the bald-spot. Cancer of the Black and Decker Workmate. But what on earth is male cancer? Cancer of the man?

The second sign was in the gym, and it advertised a new class, under the cheery banner 'Sorry Ladies - Men Only'. And that class was... Aqua Combat. Yes. That's right, ladies, when the water comes to get us - and it will- you delightful creatures can just stand on a table and scream. We men will fight it back for you. With our deadly aqua combat skills.

Wednesday, 17 May 2006

Oh, the humanity.

Can anyone beat this for a moment of astounding self-obsessed loss of perspective?

Last Friday, I wanted to watch Have I Got News For You. My TV, for reasons to dull to mention, has two remotes: one to turn it on to whatever channel it was on last; and the other to change the channel. I could only find the first. I turned the TV on, and it was set to BBC4 (Oh yes, BBC4. I'm quite the intellectual, donchaknow) which was showing a documentary about the San Francisco Earthquake. All very well, but no good if you want a wry sideways look at the week's news. So, I hunted for my second remote. I lose this a lot, and it normally takes between 30 seconds and two minutes to find. But this time... nothing doing. Nowhere to be found. Five minutes went past, eight minutes... still nothing. By this time I was becoming that ridiculous 'But...this cannot be!' type of angry you get when a thing can only possibly be in six places, and you've checked them all ten times. I'd missed nearly a third of my show; the thing was clearly properly lost; it was looking like I might not find it for a while. And that's when - and here comes the point of this long-winded and astonishingly dull story - the narrator of the earthquake documentary said this: 'It was now that the true scale of the disaster began to dawn on them.' And I thought to myself- without the slightest hint of irony or self-awareness: 'Yes... same here!'

That's right. 1906: San Francisco is devastated by a colossal earthquake, leaving 3,000 dead and 300,000 homeless. One hundred years later: John Finnemore doesn't get to tune in to Have I Got News For You until half way through the odd one out round. Across the decades, united in suffering.

Although obviously if it wasn't for the Monday repeat, I'd win hands down.

Monday, 15 May 2006

If I keep this plug short enough, perhaps we can all pretend it never happened.

I have written a fifteen minute TV play, which will be broadcast today (Monday 15th) on BBC1, at 2:35. It's called Semi-Detached; and is part of a series called Brief Encounters. If you're an Imogen Stubbs fan, you will be interested to know it stars Imogen Stubbs. If you hate Imogen Stubbs, I advise you to keep well away. But also... what are you thinking? Imogen Stubbs is great.

Plus, the BBC7 monologues I wrote and performed are still happening, here:

And that's all the pluggery. For now.

Saturday, 6 May 2006

And Featuring: Ian Actor, as The Murderer, It Turns Out.

Don't you hate it when... start to watch an episode of some long-running US drama, and at the end of the opening credits, you get this: 'Special Guest Starring : Ego McSpoilsport, as That Villain You Thought Was Killed Off Two Seasons Ago, But Will Be Reappearing In This Episode, In What Would Have Been A Fantastic Twist, Had Ego's Agent Not Ruined It By Insisting His Name Appear Here, In The Opening Titles.'

Oh. Don't you? What do you hate then? Oh. Right, third world poverty. Yeah, that's bad too.

Tuesday, 2 May 2006

Black sheep

Well, just back from the Finnemore family reunion, always an exciting occasion. Turns out my obnoxious cousin Zac is doing very well in the music business:

...whereas poor old Uncle Barry has fallen on harder times:

But then, we all have a hard time living up to great great great great great great great great great great grandad:

In less made-up news, should you have access to the wonderful world of the digital wireless, five two minute monologues written and performed by me are going out every so often as fillers on BBC7 over the next few weeks, as part of a series called 'Sketched' The first broadcast of the first one is just before 9pm this evening.

Saturday, 15 April 2006

I'm worried about Dobbin. He's right off his cuttlefish.

The BBC have set up a helpful site where experts answer questions about bird flu put to them by idiot members of the public. And the idiot members of the public have risen magnificently to the occasion, with such questions as:

Could my horse be affected?

To which the answer, astoundingly enough, turns out to be... no. Not unless your horse is a bird.
If you’re having difficulty telling whether or not your horse is a bird, here are some handy tests:

1. Run at your horse, shouting, and waving your arms. If your horse flies away, your horse is a bird.

2. Offer your horse some tasty millet. If it pecks daintily at it, emitting little cheeps of pleasure, and ruffling its feathers, your horse is a bird.

3. Ask your horse who is a pretty boy then. If your horse replies that he is a pretty boy, your horse is a bird.

4. Wait until your horse is running towards you, and shout ‘Woah!’ If it fails to stop, your horse is a bird. Or a deaf horse.

5. Sit on your horse. If your horse is now dead, your horse was a bird.

Monday, 10 April 2006

...And 28/10 at weekends.

Heard this week:

'We're expected to work 24/7, five days a week.'

Wednesday, 5 April 2006

Penguins, however, He didn't get at all.

Sorry for the quietness, it's all got a bit busy round here. I expect you coped, though.

One of the tricks I use to fight my insomnia sometimes is to pick the dryest, dullest book I can find, and tell myself the only way I'm allowed to stop reading it is to go to sleep. Esentially, I'm holding my brain hostage. This plan was entirely foiled last night, however, by the promising sounding 'A Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation', which in no way lulled me to sleep with the brilliant sentence:

'It might be argued that one of the most clearly established facts about Jesus is that he found camels funny.'

Might it? Don't get me wrong, I certainly think it should be argued, if at all possible, but... really?

Of course, I shouldn't have doubted the authors - they're absolutely right. The evidence is all there in the Apocrypha, in particular the Gospel of Bob, Chapter 7:

4. And Jesus spake again unto the Pharisee, saying: Doubt not that the Father hath placed in thee- pfffffffff! 5. Sorry about that. Sorry. 6. No, as I was saying, doubt not that the bhahahahaha! Look at his eyelashes! 7. And His disciples, who stood about Him, turned one to another and lamented, saying: 8. Oh, bloody hell, He's off again. He's seen another camel. That'll be it for the day now. 9. And so it came to pass, indeed, that nothing else got done that day , but for Jesus waxing increasing mirthful about the camel, and its stupid hump.

Monday, 20 March 2006

All hail the Hypno-ferry

Spent very nice weekend in Dorset, land of my fathers. And of my Granny. Discovered that the chain ferry in Poole is sporting a new banner it never used to have... and which I find a little sinister.

Forthcoming banners in the chain ferry's insidious propaganda campaign:


Sunday, 19 March 2006

Together to the end

An online dictionary I use has a quote of the day on its front page. Today's is:

'Go on, get out. Last words are for fools who haven't said enough.'
- Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

I like to imagine them lying in adjacent hospital beds, angrily chanting this in unison.

Friday, 17 March 2006

...Not to mention numbers 1 to 5.

Talking of adverts on the tube, this is quite a striking one:

Now, I'm no advertising executive, thank the Lord, but I'm quite tempted to write in to the University of Dundee, suggesting they run an advert to be placed next to this one, reading. 'Fact. You're quite obviously not.'

Thursday, 16 March 2006

Lynne Truss has a lot to answer for. For which to answer, I mean.

In one of the lifts at Chalk Farm tube station, a scholarly debate is raging. Someone has amended one of those Microsoft adverts with the dinosaur headed office workers- the one featured a triceratops trying to get on with his photocopying, with the slogan 'This data is multiplying like rabbits.' The offended grammarian has crossed out 'This' and 'is', and replaced them with 'These' and 'are'. Fine. But, gloriously, someone else has crossed out the correction, replaced the original words, and added 'Stet. Data is an uncountable noun'. I just love the 'stet'. What, in case someone tries to print the lift?

(Of course, if it is an uncountable noun, you've got to worry about whether it can be compared to rabbits, plural. Perhaps the slogan should more properly be: 'This data is multiplying like the rabbit'. Or, for complete clarity: 'This data is multiplying at the speed colloquially associated with the species Oryctolagus Cuniculus.' But let's give the guy a break, shall we? After all, he has a lot of photocopying to do. And he has the head of a triceratops.)

Sunday, 5 March 2006

Time and motion study

Typing away at something just now, I decided to change the word ‘coincidentally’ to ‘accidentally’. Obviously, there was no point in deleting the 'ally' at the end - that's four keystrokes of my valuable time. So, I put my cursor in front of the a, and prepared to hit backspace. Then I noticed the words had more in common than I thought. There was a 'dent' I had no need to delete and retype... and come to that, a 'ci' in front of that! So, I diligently moved my cursor back through the letters till it was between 'coin' and ‘cidentally’. Then I started deleting. But when I got to the last letter, I noticed it was a c, and I needed a double c for 'accidentally'. So I hopped over it, and placed an ‘a’ before it. Voila.

All this was done without the least hint of self-awareness, as just the logical thing to do. My God, but for someone who is prepared to drop everything for half an hour to stick paper eyes on a tulip, I seem very careful not to waste vital milliseconds typing letters twice…

Friday, 3 March 2006

Return of the Killer Tulips

Interesting. I've had more emails in response to my evil tulip post than to all the other posts on this blog put together. Thanks, no doubt, to the link from the blog of well known author, frog collector and bon viveur Joe Craig. Thanks, Joe! Anyway, by popular demand, here are a few more shots of the little critters. Click to see the full size version. (Oh, and... I promise I wouldn't be pompous enough to mention this unless people had asked; but: yes, you're welcome to use these images yourself, so long as you say where you got 'em from. Although links are nice. Copyright remains with me. )

Monday, 27 February 2006

Don't you hate it when you buy a nice bunch of tulips, and then one of them turns rogue?

Wednesday, 22 February 2006

Liminal advertising.

I really like old adverts, the sort that tell you to buy Higginson's Coal Wax, because your coal needs waxing, and Higginson's coal wax is the best coal wax with which to wax your coal, so just buy some, ok? These ads often contain cartoon men frowning at their dirty, unwaxed coal; and then beaming at their shiny, waxed coal, twinkling with that unmistakable Higginson's gleam. I didn't think you could find adverts like that around any more, but this week Marianne and I were in Dublin, and came upon the following masterpiece in neon. It's an exciting tale in three parts.

Questions of baldness and hairiness have no meaning for me, for I have no top to my head. Nor do I have a mouth. Possibly these conditions are related, possibly not. Either way, going bald is the least of my problems.

That's better, I have a mouth... but it's a mouth set into a vexed pout of disappointment, because, would you believe it, I've gone bald! In fact, it would appear I've polished the top of my head so hard my skull's showing through. Botheration!

Hooray! Those good people at Universal have fitted me with a wig cleverly matched to be as red as my face, and I'm cheerful again! Especially as my wig is giving off rays of illumination, like the sun. That's got to be a good thing. Or possibly it's just fitted with seven spikes to stop pigeons landing on it. Either way, I'm on top of the world... and it's all thanks to Universal! Why don't YOU go and buy a wig now, Baldie?

Sunday, 12 February 2006

If the post sparks a major diplomatic incident, my apologies.

You'll be delighted to learn that I had a very good dinner last night. It was a massive pie. And there are few things in this world I love more than a massive pie. Hosts, should you read this: thank you again. Thank you for the massive pie.

After the massive pie had been demolished (It really was a massive pie), we sat round with our wine glasses propped on our pie-filled stomaches, and played Articulate. (You know the one - describe the word on the card so your team-mate can guess it.)

This was my second-favourite moment:

Word on the card is 'Nut'

Describer: Pistachio is a type of...?
Guesser: Ice cream!

Of course, you can't fault her for accuracy. It is. Whereas the sentiment behind my favourite moment of the night is, um, a little more subjective.

Word on the card is 'War Office'

Describer: Ok, so a huge global conflict is a?
Guesser: War?
Describer: Yes! Now, where might one of those be planned?
Guesser: Palestine?

Wednesday, 8 February 2006

See a penny, pick it up...

...and all that day you'll have good luck. And, of course, boost your purchasing power to the tune of a hundreth of a pound. And certainly when I was a boy, I wouldn't dream of not picking up a penny. A penny, after all, could be traded for a blackjack or a spongy pink sweet in the shape of a prawn at Candy Chocs, the sweetshop in Broadstone Broadway with what I now realise was a very odd name. Come to that, when I was a little boy, and they were still around, I would happily stoop for a ha'penny. One fortieth of your weekly income is surely worth a stoop.

I don't remember when I made the policy decision that I had, if anything, too many coppers, and I would no longer stoop for pennies, or even tuppences. But it's been a while, and as I still seem to end up with jangly pockets of coppers, but have largely gone off spongy pink prawn-shaped sweets, I have never regretted it. However. Today, for the first time, I saw a 5p piece... and I let it lie. No stoopage occurred. I didn't even break my stride.

I'm not sure how I feel about this momentous rite of passage. I suppose it depends where the tipping point comes on an imaginary 3D graph representing 1) Inflation 2) My modestly increasing income and c) My slowly decreasing fitness. Or to put it another way, I hope the reason I didn't pick it up was that I'm so hugely successful and rich these days, and not because I'm so hugely lazy and fat. I also hope I'm not in for five days of bad luck.

To help me decide how to feel, let's have a survey. What's the least amount of money for which you're prepared to stoop? Honestly, now.

Monday, 6 February 2006

Necessity is the mother of invention. Boyo.

I've never really felt I could do a Welsh accent.

Then, this Saturday, I found myself at a bus stop in the centre of Cardiff, two hours after England had beaten Wales at rugby 47-13, with five very big, very drunk men in red rugby shirts, one of whom (the one wearing a Welsh flag over his shoulders like a cape) shouted at me 'D'you see the fucken game, then?'

Turns out I can do quite a good one.

Wednesday, 1 February 2006

Es is nicht groB und es is nicht gescheit.

Look, I'm really not the sort of person who looks for things like this. Honest. But I spent yesterday in a library, working opposite a floor to ceiling bookshelf containing a thirty volume German Encyclopedia. And I couldn't help but notice that right at the start, four consecutive volumes were labelled:


Which raises two questions. Firstly, why did the editors of this German encyclopedia leave the task of deciding the volume divisions to an English 10 year old boy? And secondly... what's rude about 'BER'?

(P.S. The child contained himself for the rest of the volumes, none of which are naughty at all. Until the end, when he broke out with an exuberent valedictory 'WEE')

Wednesday, 25 January 2006

Business News Editor In Sense Of Humour Shock

So, Pixar studios - you know, the animation studio behind Monsters Inc, Finding Nemo, etc, and officially one of the Best Things In The World - has finally been bought up by Disney. A story the BBC News Website (coincidentally another of the Best Things In The World) has chosen to illustrate with this still:

Well, yes. Quite.

Thursday, 19 January 2006

Mixed Messages

My girlfriend, because she knows me well, gave me lots of books for Christmas. The first one I unwrapped was called 'Never Let Me Go'. Hmm, I thought. Perhaps a little clingy. I unwrapped the next one... 'How To Be Alone'. Ah.

Thursday, 12 January 2006

For sale: The Oxo Tower. Wld suit first-time buyer.

I do like watching a film somewhere where a line or a shot gets an entirely local reaction it wouldn't get anywhere else. The last good example was when I saw 'Shakespeare in Love' in Cambridge, and all the mildly high-brow literary in-jokes about John Webster or the dark lady were met with the ostentatious guffaws of English students anxious to prove to one another that they got the reference.

Well, there was another one yesterday. We went to see the new London-set Woody Allen film 'Match Point'. (Not perhaps the most subtle and nuanced work of his career. For instance, four people, three rich and one poor, are ordering in a restaurant. Rich Person 1 chooses 'Baked potato with truffles. Yum yum yum!' Rich persons 2 and 3 opt for 'the caviar'. Poor person goes for 'roast chicken'. Oh, I see. Because he's poor. Later on, this line is spoken: 'Perhaps it would be more fitting if I was to be apprehended.' Because that's how people in England talk, you know. I mean, you comprehend.)

Anyway, we saw this film at Angel, and easily the biggest laugh of the film came when the (admittedly very rich) newly-weds entered their enormous new flat, and the wife told the husband it had a lovely view. Cut to the view: a vast panorama of the Thames at Westminster, up to and including Big Ben. At which the audience, all of whom had presumably rented or bought flats in London, collectively wet itself laughing.

Friday, 6 January 2006

I'm fine, and broadly speaking I'm fine.

Happy New Year. May 2006 be full of the sorts of things you like, with barely any of the sorts of things you don't like.

Graffiti in Starbucks:

*Hows life and hows your life in general

So many questions... Why did you separate the 'hello' from the 'everybody'? What is the mystic purpose of the asterisks? How are you hoping for 'everybody' to respond to your biro-on-coffeeshop query? And most of all... why the last six words? What's the difference between how life is, and how life is in general? Were you really worried that asking 'everyone' 'how life is' was a bit too specific?

Ha. See how I pick on only the loftiest and most worthy targets to bring down with my mighty gift of sarcasm. That's taught her a lesson!