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.