Friday 23 December 2005

My favourite quote of the Christmas party season

Girl shows her friend the uncomfortable shoes she's been wearing all day.

Friend: 'God, you were shopping in those? I see what you mean!'

Girl: Yes! I wasn't exaggerating when I said I wanted to chop both my feet off!

Sunday 18 December 2005

For the attention of Roy Wood, lyricist of 'I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day'.

Dear Mr Wood.

The snowman does not 'bring the snow'!!

The very first line of your song - and therefore the premise on which it is all based - seems to express your belief that the events described therein occur 'when the snowman brings the snow'. He simply doesn't. Obviously he doesn't. How could he? Snowmen are only created when there is snow to build them with. So it follows that they cannot possibly 'bring the snow', because their very existence indicates the snow has already been brought, by person or persons unknown. Just think about it. You don't see front gardens full of snowmen, standing in the middle of otherwise green and snowless lawns, and think to yourself 'Aha! There must be a snowfall in the offing - the snowmen are out!' No, of course you don't. Ironically, had you said 'When the snow brings the snowman' then you would have at least been on the right lines, although I realise you'd have run into problems with scansion. But they would be your problems, Mr Wood, not mine.

Furthermore, you talk about 'the' snowman, as if there's only one. The only snowman who has ever claimed a definite article, so far as I am aware, is 'The Snowman' out of the Raymond Briggs cartoon of the same name, who definitely arrived after the snow; built from it by the ginger boy with Aled Jones' voice. Oh, and now I think about it, I suppose Frosty 'the' Snowman. But I have no evidence he claims to 'bring the snow'. And- and this is my point Mr Wood- I don't believe you have either. So, could you please arrange to have your intensely irritating song withdrawn from all the shops that play it twice an hour throughout December until this crucial 'Which came first - the snowman or the snow?' question is satisfactorily resolved.

Thanking you in advance,

Yours sincerely,

John Finnemore.

Wednesday 14 December 2005

"So, my dear brother, are you still as allergic to cats as ever?"

A great day today, as I was able to crown a new winner in my long-running 'Most Bare-faced Piece of Exposition in A Radio Four Afternoon Play' competition. Of course, radio plays are particular happy hunting grounds for these, as they not only have to do all the standard 'How long have we been married now, darling?' stuff you get in any play, they also have to tell you where and when each scene is set, and everything else as well. Timothy West wrote a very funny spoof radio play about this effect entitled 'This Gun That I'm Holding In My Right Hand Is Loaded'. Anyway, the previous winner of my competition has held the crown for a very long time now- a brilliant line that began a scene near the end of a play that spanned twenty years from 1900.

LADY EXPOSITION: 'Ellen! How many times must I tell you - we will not lay out the best silver until this dreadful war is over!'

But now even that has been surpassed. Yesterday afternoon, the play concerned two lovers, one of whom went to fight in the second world war, whilst the other waited for him. Near the end of the play, a scene opened with an engine letting off steam, lots of crowd noise and shouting, the waiting lover saying 'How do I look?' and then, the proud new winner of my exposition award:

NEWSPAPER BOY: 'Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Our boys come home! Waterloo Station chocka! Read all about it!'


Monday 12 December 2005

Stop acknowledging Weimaraners

You know how Word underlines things helpfully for you from time to time? Not just mistakes, these days, but people and places too, so that if you write 'Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in 1933', little underlinings pop up, which if you click them offer to help you plan a trip to Germany to check, or, failing that, to set up a meeting with Adolf Hitler, and get the story straight from the horse's mouth. Well, it just did it with the word 'Labradors'. What on earth did it want me to do with Labradors? I know Labrador, singular, is a place I might wish to rush off to with the help of my ever-vigilant word processing programme, but Labradors, plural? What was it going to offer to do? Set up some walkies? So I clicked it. And got just one option. 'Stop recognising Labradors.'

Well, I've tried, Doctor; Lord knows I've tried, but it's a compulsion.

Oh look, that's Charlie. You see? I just can't help myself.

Wednesday 23 November 2005

Tune in next week for: The Martians Go Home Again

Listing from Radio 7:

Doctor Who
Invaders from Mars: The Martians are coming. The Martians have landed. Episode 4 of 4.

Makes you wonder a bit about the other three episodes...

Doctor Who
Invaders from Mars: The Martians are coming. The Martians pack, ask the neighbours to feed the Mars-Dog and leave Mars. Episode 1 of 4.

Doctor Who
Invaders from Mars: The Martians are coming. The Martians continue on their journey. Some of the Martians play i-spy. It's always S for sun, or S for space. Episode 2 of 4.

Doctor Who
Invaders from Mars: The Martians are coming. The Martians are still on their way. But by the end of the episode, they'll be nearly there, honest. Meanwhile, on Earth, the producer of Doctor Who begins to wonder if he was right to trust the scriptwriter who told him this was such a great story it could only truly be told over four episodes. Episode 3 of 4.

Spoilt for choice

I was seeking out the lyrics to Hugh Laurie's excellent song 'Mystery' today, and one of the sites Google found me proclaimed:

Our HUGH LAURIE Section contains all the songs you could possibly want.

A proud boast, and perhaps also rather a bold one, given that their HUGH LAURIE section contains... no songs. Now, I'm no great music buff, but even I, when trying to imagine how many songs I could possibly want, tend on the whole to go for a number in excess of nought. Still, even if this was a little disappointing, they were about to win me right back on side with a truly astonishing offer.

Browse our entire collection of HUGH LAURIE SONG LYRICS for free!

The entire collection? For free? Sirs, your generosity overwhelms me.

Thursday 17 November 2005

Thomas or Jeremy?

Well, the results are in. And I can tell you now that out of a possible 42 correct Tom/Jerry differentiations, you collectively scored... 18. So, we can draw two conclusions. For the average man on the street there is, contrary to what Tomish or Jerrimiad extremists will tell you, no way to tell Toms from Jerries. Whether dressed as soldiers, vicars, or Fathers Christmas; they are indistinguishable. However. It would seem there do walk among us certain individuals with abnormal and inexplicable Tom and Jerry sorting powers. So, should you be in a position where it is absolutely imperative that a Tom be told from a Jerry- or vice versa- you have two options. Call Karyn, possessor of unearthly powers of Tom/Jerry divination that have baffled the sceptics societies of three continents. Or, call either of the Jameses. And believe the exact opposite of whatever they tell you.

A Tom and a Jerry, yesterday.

Thursday 10 November 2005

Tom or Jerry?

Since time immemorial, Toms and Jerries have been sworn enemies. Over and over again, this ancient conflict has been played out: in the famous cartoons; in the battlefields of the First World War, where British Tommies were pitched against German Jerries; and perhaps most poignantly of all, in 'The Good Life'.

But are they really so different? I say no, and I invite you now to put aside your bias - whether it be towards Toms or Jerries - and put this question to a scientific test.

Below are eight pairs of Toms and Jerries. Use your skill and knowledge of how Toms tend to differ from Jerries to identify which is which. Then, right click each photo, and click 'properties' for the correct answer. Then post your score in the 'comments' section, and we will be able to discover, definitively and scientifically, whether Toms and Jerries can indeed be differentiated with the naked eye. Rest assured that all these photos ARE genuine Toms or Jerries - not a Thomas, a Jeremy, or even a Gerry has been allowed to creep in.

Ready? Good. Off we go.

Tom or Jerry?

Tom or Jerry?

Reverend Tom or Reverend Jerry?

Musical Tom or Musical Jerry?

Soldier Tom or Soldier Jerry?

Festive Tom or Festive Jerry?

Canine Tom or Canine Jerry?

There. How did you do? I can hardly wait to find out.

My thanks to all theToms and Jerries who unknowingly participated in this quiz. Naturally, if you would like your picture removed, you only have to say.

Monday 31 October 2005

Where's Johnny?

Today I was walking through Exmouth market when I saw two twin girls, about nine or ten years old, dressed in identical tracksuits. This gave me a slight start, as it happened that yesterday evening a friend, in the course of making a joke, had referenced three famous moments from the film 'The Shining': the lift full of blood, the little boy on a tricycle... and the two identically dressed twin girls. 'Hmm.' I thought. 'What an almost interesting minor coincidence'. It was at exactly this point, I swear, that a little boy rode past me on a tricycle.

If you should meet me in a tall building in the next day or two, can I suggest we take the stairs?

Wednesday 26 October 2005

You doing anything this week?

And now, time for another advert break. If you've been enjoying this blog, then roll up, roll up, to the Betsey Trotwood Pub, on Farringdon Road, opposite the Guardian offices, from tonight (Wednesday 26th) until Saturday, at 8pm; and witness before your very eyes a brand new comedy sketch night, written by me and starring Kevin Baker, Marianne Levy, Lawry Lewin, Beth Morrey, Clare Warde, and me again. Sources close to the author are calling it 'unmissable'. So there you are. It's actually impossible to miss. Why fight the inevitable? Come tonight.

Monday 17 October 2005

Blow, winds, and crack my voice.

The train I mentioned yesterday was taking me to see what I suppose I have to call a 'school play'; although for me 'school play' suggests a cheerful but tuneless Pirates of Penzance with stripy T-shirts and cardboard swords - this was more along the lines of a small scale West End production, with unaccountably short actors. It was really very good indeed.

But although the play was King Lear (an ambitious choice for a school production, you might think? Well, perhaps you're right) my favourite line of dialogue came in the interval, where one cheery father hailed another cheery father across a crowded foyer with the words 'Peter! I'm very much enjoying your son's waist!'

Sunday 16 October 2005

...And please welcome on the trapeze, all the way from the mysterious plains of Sun Alliance, the Amazing Perkins!

On the train yesterday, I read the following strapline of someone else's copy of the money section of the Times: 'Anne Ashworth calls for insurers to be judged on how they perform in a circus'. Unfortunately, barely had I begun composing in my head my letter to the Times, backing Anne Ashworth to the hilt, and personally pledging to insure my flat with whichever insurer showed most flair when diving from the high wire into a tiny tub of water, juggling scimitars, or placing his head in the mouth of a tiger; when I noticed the final word was in fact 'crisis'. Rats.

Saturday 15 October 2005

Surely all those pauses qualify him for the Peace Prize as well?

Harold Pinter has won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Well, good for him, I suppose; even if the last five years of truly Vogon-standard anti-war poetry is hard to forgive. But let's not completely lose our heads. Yes, Alan Jenkins of the T.L.S, I am looking you.

"His dramatic and literary achievement is head and shoulders above any other British writer."

In other news, Tom Stoppard, Michael Frayn, and for that matter Alan Bennett have all simultaneous fallen under a bus. Apparently.

Saturday 8 October 2005

From the desk of Poctor Poger Smish.

Good Evening. Following the sad death of the great Ronnie Barker, I have been asked to spray a few worms on behalf of the loyal society for the pretension of pismrunciations. We at the sobriety knew Rennie as a tigerless spooksman for our cause, but the world knew and loved him as a grey tractor. He was the consommé commodian, whether in a scotch with his old fiend Runny Carpet; as the crimmened hardinal Normal Fanley Stretcher; or as Arkwright the shoppering stutt-keeper. But whenever he came on screen, you know one thing for certain: you were going to have a bath.

And now, Roonie has made that great journey up to Hendon. But I don’t suppose he’ll be sitting on a clown, playing a carp. No, I see him at a great pocktail carty in the sky, full of men in loud jockets and pretty waitresses enjoying each other’s company and whopping chests. I mean, swapping jests.

So far-well and thonks to Ronnie Barker – you will be mugely hissed, and we at the soquiety will light a candle in your memory at our next annual general mating. Or, if we can get hold of them… four candles.

Wednesday 28 September 2005

Also available: "Down With Cancer. I Am Great."

I've just come across this advert:

End Terrorism Wristband.
Official End Terrorism wristband inc. VIP band. Get yours now!

So many questions. In particular:

An End Terrorism wristband? Is that really our best idea?

'Official' in what way? Has someone copyrighted the opinion that terrorism should be ended? Is it now impossible to 'officially' express that sentiment without their approval? If so, I hereby copyright the sensation of feeling full, meaning anyone who eats a nice dinner should pay me royalties.

'VIP' in what way? Because if the VIP band (and incidentally, what would this look like? Is it a similar band to the End Terrorism band, or is it distinguished in some way, such as being six times the size, or encrusted with rare jewels?) is given out to everyone who buys the wristband, which Ps are the VIPs more VI than?

But most of all: do we infer from this advert that at some market research or focus group, someone gave feedback along the lines of: 'Well, yes, I am against terrorism, as it goes, and you've certainly persuaded me that the best way for me to help End It Now is to wear a wristband, since if the terrorists were to catch sight of it, it would certainly make them think again about thier evil deeds, or at least know that they couldn't count on my support. However. I'm not completely sold on the idea. And I tell you what would clinch this: if you could perhaps sweeten the deal by throwing in some sort of handy gauge of how important I am. Preferably 'Very'. Ok? Great. Bye.'

Friday 23 September 2005

The Linnets and the Old Rope

Marianne has pointed out this page of awfulness.

Good grief. "Shaky Tony smiles like a doll"? "Sssh my darling, take my hand/It's just the way he's dressed."? Well, if it's as easy as that, maybe I'll have a go:

“Linnets, linnets, sing thy songs
So lyrical and brainy!”
“Er, I don’t know, the war was wrong?
And Texas is all rainy.

“President Bush is really dumb!
Tony Blair's a loony.
Someone won the Ashes back
I think his name was Rooney.”

“Linnets, why dost thou sing such crap?”
'We'll tell thee' quoth the linnets
‘The Guardian paid a hundred quid
And it only took ten minutes.’

Tuesday 20 September 2005

Words the Dutch lady sitting next to me carefully underlined in the article she was reading, presumably because she didn't understand them.

Crap timing.
Torn up into tiny pieces.
Scales (as in 'fallen from eyes')
Deprived. (Underlined, and then, after a thoughtful moment, rubbed out again.)

NB. This is now a far better story than the original article. Just shows, you can never edit too much.

Friday 16 September 2005

That's funny. I could have sworn it said 'vasectomy'...

I had an appointment in a hospital yesterday. I was seen by a very assured, confidence-inspiring doctor who briskly examined me, reassured me nothing serious was wrong, and referred me on to someone else. The whole thing took about six minutes, and I left feeling braced and relieved.

Until I looked at the form he'd given me for the referral, and noticed he'd copied my middle name as my first name.

Now, I'm sure that for a doctor, this form wasn't very important, and my name was the least important thing on it. I'm confident that had he been transcribing my allergies, the dosage of my drug, or whether it was my right or left leg he planned to amputate, he would have taken more care.

Still, I wish he hadn't done it...

Tuesday 13 September 2005

The Ashes? For us? Oh, you shouldn't have.

See, I told them and I told them to pick Thorpe instead of Pietersen. And would they listen to me? No.

Well done them.

I suppose that for a mouthy badger-haired ear-bejewelled arrogant South African show-boater, he was quite good at using that plank of his to keep the balls that blond guy with the white nose kept throwing at him away from that little sculpture he'd built out of sticks.

Sunday 11 September 2005

John spends a happy morning designing a shrine to himself.

Look what I built!

You see, for a long time now I've felt the internet, good though it is, has been lacking something. Specifically, a page devoted to how great I am. I've been waiting patiently for several years for someone to set one up, but no, as ever, the really important stuff is left up to me to do. So here it is. What do you think?

And incidentally, does anyone have any idea what those Chinese characters below the banner mean? My guess is: 'A thousand thousand curses on the ignorant foreigner who uses our ancient language to decorate his website because he thinks it's pretty. Also, we've read Amy Evans' Strike, somehow, and we think there are many glaring plotholes, and that the characterisation is flimsy at best. Give it a miss. Love and kisses, The Chinese.'

Tuesday 6 September 2005

Three 'comedy' words or phrases I wouldn't care if I never heard again.

-based and -related.
To make a mock pompous formulation, as in: 'A wotsit, or other cheese-based snack!' or 'I was sorry for the old man and his footwear-related woes'. Yes, that was funny for the first six or seven years. Stop it now.

Marrying your sister.
Apparently the inevitable fate of all residents of Norfolk, Wales, the West Country, the North Country, Scotland, the American South, or indeed anywhere where you can see trees. As in Graham Norton yesterday: 'So, you shouldn't go to Cornwall. No, you really shouldn't go to Cornwall, because you'll end up marrying your sister!' Apart from the fact someone was well paid to photocopy that joke into the script, I'd also like to point out that if you're going to Cornwall, presumably your sister doesn't live there; so rather than marrying your sister for lack of other alternatives, as the Cornish all famously do, you'll have to persuade your sister to move down to Cornwall from London or Sheffield or Moscow for the express purpose of marrying you. And I'm not sure she'll be game for that. And if she is, then frankly the incestuous tendency is clearly latent in the pair of you, and I don't think you can really blame it on Cornwall.

Restraining orders.
As in '...and that's why I don't see her any more.' 'Yeah... that and the restraining order!'. Especially annoying in sitcoms, where we're supposed to believe the lovably hapless character was so stupidly in love, his ex had to put a hilarious restraining order on him!!! Yes, and then he was humorously sectioned under the comedy mental health act.

Saturday 3 September 2005

I bet it would work, though.

Headline on BBC News online now:

Wales: Big game warning to troublemakers.

Sadly, the warning turns out to be not to make trouble at the Wales-England qualifier. And not, as I was hoping: 'One peep out of you, see, and we'll set the tigers on you!'

Thursday 1 September 2005

Attention, pigs of Surrey.

I saw the least committed piece of political graffiti ever on Embankment yesterday.

It read 'Simon Hollis is Innocent. Tell the Surrey Pigs.' Which is pretty lame to start with. How are we good people of Embankment supposed to tell the Surrey Pigs? Chinese Whispers? A megaphone relay? I can't help thinking that, rather than rely on one of us bumping into a Surrey pig at a cocktail party, Simon Hollis's defenders might have done better to scrawl their message of defiance in Godalming, Frimley or Dorking; where a passing Surrey pig could have learnt the surprising news of Simon's innocence at first hand.

But this isn't what really makes me question the writer's commitment, so much as what it was written on. A bus-shelter. Nothing wrong with that- it's not Nelson's column exactly, but it does the job. But...

On a pink heart-shaped post-it note. Oh dear. Simon, it might be a good idea to acquire a taste for prison food. I don't think they're really trying.

Still, I suppose I noticed it. So, if anyone reading this happens to be a Surrey pig, listen up. I have it on excellent authority that Simon Hollis is innocent. There. Duty done.

Wednesday 31 August 2005

...or Lobster Thermidor a Crevette with a mornay sauce

For some reason, something about my last post triggered a deluge of responses, most of which I believed to be the handiwork of a certain internet funster, but which I am now almost ('almost', you hear me, James?) persuaded were genuine examples of the spammer's art. I've deleted a dozen or so, and just left my favourite three, to give you a flavour. There's the guy who has posted in order to let me know that Army Chief of Staff Stramento Degrillo is the owner of Cricket Communication, a claim I can't help thinking is open to doubt. Then there's an extremely breezy message from this chap: 'I have a Changing Your Life site/blog. It pretty much covers changing your life related stuff.' Oh good. Nice to have that pretty much covered. I shall bookmark it immediately.

But my favourite is this, from an old and dear friend of mine who shyly posts as 'anonymous', but signs himself affectionately 'Jack'. Here's what Jack has to say, in full.

Wow ! Talk about Spam. I'm almost afraid to leave a post. I saw your site when I was looking for ideas for mine which is, Digital Cameras , and it naturally covers topics like "megapixel digital camera bundle" . I hope it's not too confusing. Take a look if you get time ---Jack---

You're right, Jack, there is a lot of Spam today, isn't there? For instance, the one posted three minutes before your message about bridal showers, or the one three minutes later with the old coins site which pretty much covered all old coins related stuff. Talk about Spam, indeed. I'll tell you the truth, Jack, for a moment I almost didn't spot your warm, friendly non-spam message nestling between them! But thank heavens you were only 'almost' afraid to leave a post. Because if you hadn't managed to conquer your very natural timidity, I'd never have found out about your Digital Camera site, and you know- as only an old friend of mine could- how concerned I've been lately about topics like "megapixel digital camera bundle". Actually, Jack, as one chum to another, I'm not certain that is a topic, so much as a bunch of four vaguely related google-search type words, but it still sounds fascinating. I'll take a look if I get time, and I'll try not to be too confused. But you know what I'm like, Jack! I pretty much cover all the confusion related stuff. Anyway, keep in touch. Love and kisses, ----John---

Tuesday 30 August 2005

Glossary of terms which I attempted to persuade Marianne, who speaks much better French than I, were colloquial expressions she hadn't come across.

Quelque Chose.
- What a shame.

Comment t'appelles tu!
- Hurry up, slowcoach!

- Onwards!

Ou est la mouton de la nuit?
- What is the meaning of life?

Cordon Bleu!
- Unrepeatable expletive

Confit du canard.
- Scornful term for foreigner who thinks she knows a language, but is in fact ignorant of many of its basic idioms.

Sunday 28 August 2005

Oh, sorry, were you waiting?

Well, I hope that's given you enough time to really think about my thoughts on Madame Tussaud's poster campaign. Sorry. I probably ought to have said I was going on holiday for twelve days. Then again, I estimate at least a third of my readership were on holiday with me, and the rest of you probably struggled on somehow.

Anyway: Five Things I Learnt On My Holidays.

I get better at Boules the more I drink.

If you're going to get stuck in some rapids in a canoe, a good idea is not to allow the canoe to get stuck tilted at such an angle that the on-rushing water fills it up, and you can't get out, and it's too heavy to turn over, and then you drown.

It's not just a cliche, it's a sombre fact - no one outside Great Britain has the first idea about tea. Not the faintest clue. Marianne's tea highlight of the trip was non-boiling Earl Grey, with a plastic tub of cream. Yum.

Driving and navigating in France is easier if you and your navigator agree early on not to make the slightest effort at all to pronounce the names of the places on signs properly, but simply ruthlessly anglicise them to words they look a bit like. On which basis I can heartily recommend the charming villages of St Hilary of the Breathmints; The Largeness of Bernard and Licorice Hat.

When Kevin says he's the detective, he's not lying. When Karl does, he is.

Saturday 13 August 2005

Slogans Regretfully Rejected By Madame Tussauds For Their Tube Poster Campaign... favour of:
'Grope Brad's Bum - Without Getting a Restraining Order!' and
'Get Closer to Angelina's Cleavage Then a Paparazzi's Zoom Lens!'

-'Cop a Feel Of Kofi's Packet Without Having to Breach a UN Security Cordon!'

-'Put Your Head Up Condaleeza's Skirt, If You Want To! Go On, She Can't Stop You! She's Made of Wax!'

-'Rub Your Hands All Over Mahatma's Shiny Bald Head!

-'Stick Your Face In Between Anne of Cleves's Breasts And Go 'Blubbalubbalubbalubba!'

-'Madame Tussaud's - The Next Best Thing To Sexually Molesting A Famous Person!'

Thursday 11 August 2005

The Man I Slept With Last Night

In the middle of last night, I was gradually woken up by a soft humming sound. As I came to, I saw at the foot of my bed the image of a strange man, sleeping peacefully. The experience had this in common with that famous occasion when everybody was kung fu fighting: It was a little bit frightening.

What had happened was this. I sometimes set my TV to come on in the morning, to wake me up more gently than an alarm clock. Last night, something went wrong with the timer, and it turned itself on in the middle of the night. It happened to be tuned to E4, and during the night, E4 screen live coverage of the Big Brother house. In this case, up to minute exciting updates of one of the housemates being unconcious. (Which, presumably, someone, somewhere, wants to watch. 'Come quick, Vince's dreaming about what ShaQeezza did to Geography in the chicken shed! You can tell by the way that muscle in his sleeping face twitched! Someone fetch me a blank video tape - this is a keeper!').

But I don't watch Big Brother, so to me, this was just the image of a complete stranger asleep. And I'm thinking that the installation / performance art piece that occurred in my room for the ten minutes or however long it was before I woke up, featuring one man sleeping in a bed, whilst the TV screen in front of him shows a live broadcast of another man sleeping in another bed, would be a worthy entry for the Turner Prize. What should I call it?

Monday 8 August 2005

And Now, A Commercial Break.

Probably silly not to mention this here. If anyone is looking for a room in a flat in Central London (Zone 1) for £505 a month, get in touch. There's one in this flat. It's very nice. There, has that sold it to you?

'Begorrah, Father Pat, I've dropped me shillelagh in me Guinness!' Or is that too obvious?

Yesterday, I spent some time working on a long opening scene for something, where the problem is trying to subtly weave in quite a lot of background information about the characters without being tediously obvious about it, or falling back on cliches. It was hard work, and I still haven't quite managed it.

Then in the evening, I was lucky enough to be invited to an excellent dinner. It was held at Solly's Kosher Restaurant in Golders Green. At one point, one of the party gave another a menorah, to wish her well on her forth-coming trip to Israel. Later, someone else used the phrase 'Well, we won't talk about what happened at my Bah Mitzvah!'

All of which I only mention to point out that although truth is almost never stranger than fiction, it does get away with some very clunky exposition.

Saturday 6 August 2005

People Whom, If You'd Never Heard Of Them, You'd Assume to be Heroic or Villainous Purely on the Strength of Their Name.


Neil Armstrong
Judy Garland
Harry. S. Truman
Ernie Wise


Joseph Heller
Russell Crowe
Walter Cronkite
Calista Flockhart

Thursday 4 August 2005

The Mondeo that cried Wolf.

There's an interesting little social experiment going on in my street at the moment. For the past four days, a smart looking Ford Mondeo has had a faulty burglar alarm. It's being going off about three or four times a day, often in the middle of the night. It's also one of those particularly annyoing alarms that cycles through various sirens, so you can't tune it out. The interesting thing is that the owner is clearly away, so nothing's being done about it - leaving the neighbours nothing to do but vent their frustrations on the car. On the second day, a note appeared under the windscreen wipers, beginning with a plantive 'Dude - sort your alarm out.' The next day, I saw a fifty-something woman leave a much stroppier note, including the words 'How much longer must we put up with this?', and threatening to call the police. Yesterday, after it had gone off for ten minutes in the middle of the night, it had had an egg thrown at the driver's door. And this morning, the damage has begun. The boot has been dented, the rear bumper kicked until it cracked. When I returned this afternoon, nail polish remover had been poured on the paintwork, and a sign glued to the windscreen reading 'FIX YOUR FUCKING ALARM!' And now, perhaps angered by this treatment, the car has gone properly haywire, playing its alarm for a minute or two every fifteen minutes. If I know the people on this street (And of course, living in London, I don't) they will not stand for this. I expect Lord of the Flies style anarchy to break out at any moment...

On the plus side, it certainly hasn't been stolen.

Wednesday 3 August 2005

008 - Licenced to Operate the Cinematograph

The Riverside Theatre in Hammersmith proudly displays the following framed licences in its lobby:

Licence for the Public Performance of Plays
Cinematograph Licence
Sunday Cinematograph Permission
Licence for Music and Dancing (Including Entertainment of the Like Kind)

This is because it is a reputable and respectable establishment. How very different from the sinister dive of a theatre round the corner, where scoundrels and bounders gather to view the cinematograph on Sunday without permission, and indulge in Entertainment of an Unlike Kind...

Tuesday 2 August 2005

Edinburgh Fringe Recommendations, 2005

I shan't be going to Edinburgh this year, so I've been spending July going to lots and lots of Edinburgh previews. Here are my top five, all of which I heartily recommend you see if you're planning on visiting the City That Never Stops Smelling Of Beer.

Dara O'Briain

No theme, just one hour of yer straight-forward vanilla stand-up. But he's hugely likable and (apparently) effortlessly funny. Now with added crutch.

Daniel Kitson

An hour long discussion about how an Australian critic was wrong about him. Sounds terrible. Is captivating.

What's the Time, Mr Lion?

Jeremy Lion's latest show is a superb, terrifying, beautifully-crafted hour of the worst children's entertainment imaginable. I am still laughing at lines from this several days later.

Dan Tetsell - Sins of the Grandfathers

Fascinating, personal, thought-provoking, and far-funnier-than-it-ought-to-be account of how it feels to grow up knowing that the answer to the question 'What did you do in the war, Grandad?' would have been 'Well, funny you should ask- I was an officer in the SS.'

Alex Horne - When In Rome

Alex Horne and loyal assistant Tim teach you Latin in an hour, pushing both powerpoint and punning to their very limits. They've put far too much work into this, and it really shows.

Other things I haven't seen, but would still recommend, include:

Comedy Zone - four comics do quarter of an hour each, so you're bound to enjoy at least a couple, especially as one is the extremely funny Matt Green. And I don't just say that because he's a friend of mine- I say it despite that.
John Oliver and Andy Zaltzman - the best satirical comedians around (alongside Armando Iannucci).
Richard Herring, Colin and Fergus, John Shuttleworth, Ben Willbond, Stewart Lee, Mark Watson, Simon Munnery - you can't go far wrong with any of these.

Saturday 30 July 2005

'Yes, actually, this IS the time for complacency', announces police chief.

Chief Constable Richard Holyfield surprised many this evening by announcing at a press conference that, following the arrest of the four suspects in the attempted bombings of last week, now was the time for complacency. ‘We’ve got ‘em!’ said a delighted Holyfield, beaming out on the crowd. ‘We’ve got ‘em all, and quite frankly I think it’s time we rested on our laurels awhile, and congratulated ourselves on a job well done.’ At this point, the Chief Constable sat back in an easy chair brought on to the platform by two PCs, undid the top button of his shirt, and let out a contented sigh. ‘Yep, I think you’ll find that’s the last we’ll hear of “terror attacks on London”.’ he continued, cracking open a can of beer and kicking off his shoes. ‘I have a funny feeling that from now on everything’s going to be juuuust fine.’ When asked whether now might not more prudently be the time for cautious satisfaction, Holyfield waved the question away with the stem of his pipe. ‘No, young man’ he said ‘now is the time for complacency. For years, we policemen and politicians have been saying that this or that time is not the time for complacency, in a manner suggesting that there will come a time when ill-founded over-optimism and self-regard will be just what the doctor ordered. Well, that time has come. I am fully persuaded that everything will probably work out fine, and it is therefore perfectly legitimate to let down our guard, and take our eye off the ball. And now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for my nap.’

Friday 29 July 2005

Film double bills I'd like to see.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

O Brother Where Art Thou?

Who's Afraid of Virgina Woolf?
All The President's Men.

What's Eating Gilbert Grape?
Twelve Monkeys.

How Green Was My Valley?
8 1/2

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
Fight Club.

Doctor Who?
Doctor Strangelove.

Wednesday 27 July 2005

You scratch my back, I'll stab yours.

Yesterday, I went to see a screening of ten things, one of which was written by me. (Don't worry, they were quite short things. I wasn't watching ten opera cycles. That's on Friday.) Anyway, in the chat after the screening, I got talking to another of the writers, who asked me which one I'd written, and then when I told her, said she'd liked it. Obviously, this told me nothing about whether she'd liked it or not, just that she was a normal polite human being. We both knew it, and that was fine. But it did mean that I now had to ask her which hers was, and then say I liked it; being bound doubly by the laws of being a normal polite human being (qv), and also by the laws of being a recently complimented human being, required to deliver myself from compliment debt. We both knew this as well, and this, also, was fine. Except that, as I opened my mouth to reply, the stupid part of my brain expressed a concern that this wasn't going to sound very convincing. At this point, of course, the rest of my brain ought to have wrestled the stupid part to the ground and sat on it, explaining between hammer blows that it didn't need to be convincing, it just needed to be polite. Unfortunately, the stupid part of my brain is quite a large part, and the rest of my brain looked at it, and didn't fancy its chances of getting it down and keeping it down. So instead, it asked the stupid part of my brain what it thought we should do about it. 'Be honest!' said the stupid part of my brain, as it so often and so stupidly does. 'Acknowledge the situation! Make light of it! That's bound to work!' All this took only half a second, as the stupid part of my brain is very quick-thinking, in the sense of quickly thinking something really stupid. And so I said

'Thank you! And which one's yours? Although obviously whichever it was I'm going to tell you it's great!'

Immediately, the rest of my brain caught up with what the stupid part had done. This was disaster. I hadn't done anything to evade my duties as a polite person and a complimented person- I had merely made it much harder to discharge them. Because now I'd wilfully and unnecessarily pointed out the situation we were both aware of anyway, a simple 'Oh, right! That was great!', -which was all that required of me a moment ago- would now practically be an insult. The only way out was to put on a big Oscar-winning performance about how, actually, conincidentally, that one (whichever it was) genuinely was my favourite, for the following six good reasons. Or was that the only way? The stupid part of my brain was down, but it wasn't out. Perhaps, it reasoned, stupidly, perhaps now the whole issue is out in the open, there is a humorous 'get out of jail free' card to be played... And so it was that the following exchange took place:

Her: Oh, I wrote 'The Icy Cormorant of Love'.
Me: Did you? That was rubbish!

She looked as if I'd punched her.

And the really annoying thing is that hers was actually one of my favourites. Astonishing the things they can train cormorants to do these days.

Monday 25 July 2005

Did you know...?

Glass is made by freezing air, and then varnishing it to stop it melting.

There are around 40,000 bacteria living on every human’s skin, some of them up to four inches long.

All cocaine sold in America is now legally obliged to carry the warning: ‘Caution: This drug is illegal’.

A good way to purify water is to run it through a sieve.

The notes represented by the lines in the treble clef can be remembered by this simple mnemonic: Every Bad Girl Forfeits Dinner.

Chess is so fiendishly complex to play that no-one has ever completed an entire game.

The oldest man in the world is Signor Julio Raol Herreras of Peru, who, astonishing as it seems, is just coming up to his 77th birthday.

Every time a child says he or she doesn’t believe in fairies, Father Christmas kills an elf.

Most dogs have the same name as their owners.

Sunday 24 July 2005

Or: 'Any time you like, he can't hear you.'

I woke myself up this morning by laughing. I was laughing at a joke I was telling someone in a dream, and once awake, I still found the joke so funny, I forced myself to wake up enough to write it down immediately before I forgot it. The joke, thus preserved for posterity, was as follows:

Q: When is it time to visit the Chinese Threeth-doctor?
A: Midnight.

And the really peculiar thing is that even typing it now, sixteen hours later, it still made me snigger.

Saturday 23 July 2005

People whose names sound as if they've been hastily made up by the drivers of hire cars stopped for speeding.

Jimmy... Carr.
Hugh... Laurie.
Minnie... Driver.
John... Constable.
John... Sergeant.
Gunther... Grass.
George... Bush.
Ford... Madox... er... um... ... Ford?

Friday 22 July 2005

The Aftermath

In the light of the awful events of yesterday morning, I think it's very important that we all stand together, united, as we try to recover from the shattering experience of being made so late home from work that we nearly missed our tea. Above all, it's vital that we don't go: 'Ha! Call that a bombing? My Granny could bomb a capital city better than that! Go back to bomb school!'

That would tasteless and inappropriate.

Wednesday 20 July 2005

But can he juggle?

On Monday, I drove about 150 miles, having previously not really driven anywhere for four years. This was exhilarating, both in the good way when sailing along country A-roads; and in the other way when negotiating Hyde Park Corner whilst providing the squishy Corsa filling in a hearty bus sandwich.

Anyway, one of the things that awaited us when we arrived was the sight of Tarzan of the Snails leaping acrobatically from branch to branch. No, really. Look.

It reminded me of one of my favourite postcards:

Which, coincidentally, more or less sums up the way I feel about the project I'm currently (avoiding) working on...

Monday 18 July 2005

No 'Fossilised Fishhooks!', then.

Should you happen to be talking to any teenagers soon, and wish to impress them with how wicked and happening you are; these, I am told, are the words you should currently use rather than, for instance 'wicked' or 'happening'. I haven't made any of them up, though of course it's always possible the teenagers who told them to me did.

Bear - Very
Bait - Obvious
Long - Boring
Butters - Ugly
True dat - I agree
Flush - Attractive
Fly - Attractive
Safe - Cool
Raw - Cool
Sick - Cool
Hectic- Cool
Off the hook - Cool
Dread - Not cool
Low dat! - Accept it
You do it, I'll rate you hard - Should you go through with the scheme you have outlined, you will earn my respect and admiration.
Whatever Trevor - I no longer have any interest in what you have to say to me. (Not limited to interlocuters named Trevor.)
Whatever, Minger! - Not only am I uninterested in what you have to say, I also note you are distinctly lacking in pulchritude, and to reinforce these two points you will please observe that I am making first a 'W' and then an 'M' with my fingers. So that's you told.
Missions! - I consider the task you have just asked me to perform unduly arduous.
Blood - Friend
Bredrin - Close friend
Brother from another mother - Really very close friend indeed.

Doesn't it make you feel old? I thought I'd recognise at least some of them, but no, 'Cool' is still around, and that's pretty much it. I felt like a Victorian anthropologist stumbling through Africa "'Off the hook' Right. Is that good or bad? And 'sick' is good now, is it? I see."

Although there was one heartening moment when after a long string of 'raw', 'bait', 'Low dat' etc, one girl told me earnestly: "Oh yeah, and if like you don't even hear someone, right, you go 'Come again?' " Yes, dear. You and my Granny both.

Saturday 16 July 2005

Yes, but should they be?

Headline on BBC News Online currently:

WALES: Dead bodies 'could be connected' .

Now I know it can get a little boring in Wales sometimes, but can I just say I think this is a really bad idea.

Moments from the life of King William

A story from a girl in year seven, telling of King William's quest to release a beautiful princess.

Here is the noble King in peaceful mood:

'He took his royal coat off, and calmly stepped off his horse, giving it a nice pat.'

But don't run away with the idea that William is some pampered royal milksop, incapable of dynamic action. Nothing could be further from the truth:

'King William jumped on his horse, and sped out like a bee.'

Friday 15 July 2005

Le Mot Juste

In a class of year sevens - 11 and 12 year olds. Ten minutes into the lesson, a gaggle of four boys turn up late, and sheepishly shamble in to the room. At which point, the smart girl at the front of the class who always has her hand up gazes at them scornfully with all the (considerable) poised eleven-year-old sophistication she can muster, and murmurs ironically: 'Oh, Bon Voyage!'

On Your Head Be It, Mrs Crayford.

I spent quite a lot of today in a school.

Sign on the staff room notice board: "Enid Crayford is resigning, after 32 years! We're shocked by her resignation, and appalled by the thought of what Wilkyn Hill school will do without her."

Slightly disquieting use of the word 'appalled' there, I thought. 'Can't imagine what' I would understand, but no, it seems that's not strong enough. Evidentally Ms Crayford has been more or less the last remaining moral brake on Wilkyn Hill. I just wonder what on earth the appalling thing is that the school will soon be free to do...