Monday 22 December 2008

...And the annual 'Favourite Guess From Christmas Games of Articulate' award goes to:


It's a bird... like a magpie, but with bluish wings, I think... it's got the same name as a letter of the alphabet... A,B,C,D,E,F,G,H,I... ?  


Thursday 11 December 2008

He didn't feel a thing.


'Okay then, it's a mural for a hoarding outside some new student accomodation. So, let's not over-think this: we'll just get some studenty looking models, dress them in studenty gear like, I don't know, a guy in one of those short necklaces surfers and gap-yearers wear, that kind of thing. And once we've got the shots, we'll sort of splash them with washes of primary colours, to be like, youthful and vibrant, yeah? 

I mean, what could possibly could go wrong with that?'

Hey students! Come stay with us! Our serial killers use Samarai swords so sharp, your decapitated head won't even fall off your body!

Tuesday 9 December 2008

Why is it that after a year of news and media saturation...

...and as he stands on the brink of becoming the most powerful man in the world, I still occasionally have to do a little mental check as to whether 'Obama' is the president elect's first name or his surname?

Monday 8 December 2008

See also, example of atypical murine / fuliguline amity in the works of Walt Disney.

I love Wikipedia, but sometimes it can be such an idiot. This is from the entry on Tom and Jerry:

The plots of each short usually center on Tom's (the cat) numerous attempts to capture Jerry (the mouse) and the mayhem and destruction that ensues. Since Tom rarely attempts to eat Jerry and because the pair actually seem to get along in some cartoon shorts it is unclear why Tom chases Jerry so much. Some reasons given may include normal feline/murine enmity, duty according to his owner, Jerry's attempt at ruining a task that Tom is entrusted with, revenge, Jerry saving other potential prey (such as duckscanaries, or goldfish) from being eaten by Tom or competition with another cat, among other reasons.

Yes, it's a real puzzler, isn't it? Why does Tom (the cat) chase Jerry (the mouse) so much? Why aren't there more cartoon shorts in which Jerry (the mouse) helps Tom (the cat) with his tax return, or the pair of them do a crossword together? Why the constant chasing? Which of the some reasons given among other reasons can possibly explain it? I feel like we were almost on to something with 'normal feline/murine enmity', but... no, it's gone again. Just one of life's unsolved mysteries, I suppose. Maybe when Wikipedia has finally raised the six million dollars it keeps banging on about, we'll finally have the resources to work it out.

Friday 5 December 2008

What a smashing, positively dashing, spectacle...

This illustration is part of a horse race scene painted on the window of a bookies near my house. 

And what wonderful memories it conjures up of that glorious day at the races. All the gang were there: Gerry Adams, wearing his usual dirty beige mac and flat cap in case the weather was bad, and his cool shades in case it suddenly turned sunny. The bollard with a top hat on it that Gerry takes with them wherever he goes. The stunted James Bond villain, whose sinister experiments have left him with, on the debit side, a massive right leg, twice the width of his left; but on the credit side, the ability to levitate six inches above the ground. He was accompanied as always by Medusa, now almost recovered from that cartoon gas explosion she was involved in. And of course, Ascot simply wouldn't be Ascot without the presence of three evil midgets, two of them wearing enormous plate hats, one in a neck-brace, and one wearing a nightgown splashed with the blood of the victim of his latest frenzied knife attack. 

All together now: 'Everyone who should be here is here....'

Thursday 4 December 2008

Please be seated.

The other day, I was on the tube. It was busy, but not crowded - all the seats taken, one or two standees. I was seated. The tube stopped, and a middle-aged woman got on, and stood near me. And at once, I was thrown into my own private episode of 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'. You see, I quite like giving my seat up for people. It's easy, it's courteous, and it makes you feel at once youthful and self-righteous, which is an excellent combination, just ask Joan of Arc. I wish we still had the rule that a man automatically gives up his seat for a lady. But we don't, and so just as I was about to get up, it occurred to me that this woman might not be pleased if I did. She was quite overweight, so it was hard to judge her age- she could have been anywhere between 40 and 55. And if she was only 40, it might be really depressing - 'Oh God, I look so old someone actually offered me their seat on the tube!'. Or worse, what if she thought I was offering her it because she was so overweight? So I stayed sat down (and so did everyone else in the carriage, to be fair), but felt bad about it. Then, at the next stop, salvation. Another woman got on, who was definitely over sixty. Brilliant. I could prove to the first woman that I was the sort of person who gave up my seat to ladies of a certain age, but that her obvious youth and beauty meant she didn't qualify. I sprang to my feet with olde world charm, and the second lady, thanking me prettily, sat down. 

It was at this point that it occurred to me there was another possible interpretation of what I'd just done. Because the first lady was black, and the second was white.  It might be that by sitting stolidly in my seat whilst a black woman stood, and then leaping up the moment a white woman boarded, I had come across as just a little bit... Klansman-y. I looked over to see how the first woman had reacted. And that's when I noticed that she wasn't quite as overweight as I'd thought. She was pregnant. 

Wednesday 3 December 2008

Cervix Savvy Update

An anonymous benefactor has pointed me in the direction of the Cervix Savvy website, which rather astonishingly manages not to have a single picture of a woman anywhere on it. Plenty more pictures of unusually cervically-savvy young men, though. My favourite is this chap in a cardy, pictured here in the act of giving the top excuse for not having a smear test. And, to be fair, it's an exceptionally good one.

Tuesday 2 December 2008

Unless 'Cervix Savvy' is his name. Come to think of it, I think I got some spam from him once...

Don't get me wrong, I'm as feminist as the next man, or woman because it could be either, actually.

Even so, I don't completely understand this advert:

However gender-blind we would like our government-funded organisations to be, can it really be a good use of NHS funds for this man to have a cervical screening? Because even with no medical training, I reckon I can accurately predict the result of that screening. I think it will be negative. On both counts. No cancer, of the no cervix.

Wednesday 26 November 2008

Armchair, two towels, two shirts, a t-shirt, two toilet rolls, socks, seven potatoes.

Yep, it's a definite infestation.

Also, I know curiosity famously killed the cat, but I can't help feeling this cat should learn that there can also be dangers in not being curious enough...

Monday 24 November 2008

Graffiti on the lead roof of Carfax Tower in Oxford.

  • I love London!
  • Jenny loves Sandy loves Grace
  • We are the world champions of the world Italy
  • Sacred Turtles rock
  • Tibet is, was, and will always be part of CHINA
  • Salut les Anglais!
  • I feel I am a God.

Wednesday 19 November 2008

Rocking chair, leather jacket, oven gloves, swimming trunks, silk tie, kitchen roll, poker chips, cat toy, mugs.

Oh dear, looks like we've got Muppets.

I wish I was an uncle, so I'd have an acceptable excuse for doing this stuff.

Thursday 6 November 2008

I might go round there about three tomorrow morning, trick or treating.

It's four o'clock on the 6th November. Someone has just let off some fireworks nearby. It's the day after bonfire night. But it's not the Friday or Saturday after bonfire night; it's a Thursday. And it's not yet dark.

I can imagine getting over-excited on the 5th, and letting them off at four o'clock because you can't wait a moment longer. You'd have to be six years old, or a moron, but still, I can imagine it.
I can also imagine being busy on the 5th and yet being so keen on fireworks you postpone your display to the next day; or finding an extra box you forgot about yesterday, or getting some half price on the 6th because the shops are trying to get rid of them.

What I can't imagine is the combination. Postponing your Guy Fawkes night celebration until the day after... and then getting so overtaken by the sheer excitement of the occasion that you let them off in broad daylight. 'Four o'clock is late enough! We can imagine the pretty lights - they're the most boring part of a firework anyway. What's important is that we honour the historic occasion of it being 403 years and one day since a failed political assassination by making the noise 'bang', and that we do it NOW. There's not a moment to lose!'

All of this ire, incidentally, is provoked by the sight of the scardier of my two cats (who was visible for most of yesterday evening only as a cowardly furry arse poking out from behind the cupboard he had decided was the flat's closest approximation to a nuclear bunker), haring back to the house in the manner of a Trafalgar Square reveller on VE day who's just seen a Messerschmidt.

Monday 13 October 2008

Pieces of advertising material that have recently annoyed me. Part three of at least three.

In the window of a kitchen and bathroom shop:

'Not just a basin... a vase for your hands'

Oh, piss off!

Why stop there? 'Not just a draining board... a trophy cabinet for your washing up.' 'Not just a bidet... a showcase for your arse.'

Tuesday 7 October 2008

Pieces of advertising material that have recently annoyed me. Part two of at least three.

On a biscuit packet: 'Have you tried... The Dunk?', with a picture of the biscuit being dunked in a cup of coffee.

Well, no, since you ask, I haven't. I haven't 'tried' 'The Dunk', as if The Dunk is the cool new craze that's sweeping the nation's hippest and sexiest young biscuit eaters. What I have done, in my time, is dunk a biscuit in a hot drink. And in fact, though modesty should prevent me from saying so, so precocious was I that I did it without even the aid of a diagram.

(PS. For extra irritation points, in the diagram the hot drink is clearly labelled as being the brand of coffee made by the makers of the biscuit. Because obviously if hot drink and biscuit are incompatible, The Dunk can go horribly wrong. People have lost an eye.)

Tuesday 30 September 2008

Pieces of advertising material that have recently annoyed me. Part one of at least three.

A billboard for one of those firms that are sort of to do with money, but not a bank: a hedge fund tracking facility or a financial extrapolation service platform provider, or whatever the hell. Slogan ‘Challenging times mean a great deal to us’. Ok. Good. I imagine they do. Not sure why that means I should give them my money to look after (if indeed that is what they want from me; I have no idea) but maybe they can persuade me with some telling imagery. So, what picture have they opted for to drive home their message of challenging-time-meaningfulness-capacity?Ah. A zebra looking over its shoulder.

I mean, what? Is this some obscure extension of the already quite weird financial/animal symbolism system I’ve not come across? ‘Bull = boom; bear = bust; retrograde zebra = vague expression of foreboding’? Or is the zebra supposed to be clocking his own challenging times approaching from behind, and about to mean a great deal to him – an enormous lion in full pursuit, for instance? In which case, he seems a bit fatalistic about the whole thing . He’s certainly not making any effort to run away. So the company is representing itself as akin to a soon-to-be-devoured ungulate with a death wish. And frankly that doesn’t inspire me to tie my basket of tracker bonds to their base rate. Or whatever it is they want me to do.

Tuesday 2 September 2008

Single breasted, two button? My, Sir is a regular Beau Brummel, isn't Sir?

Today, I had to order a suit; but because I am me, I've left it a bit late, so I needed to find somewhere that could have it ready in five weeks. I explained this to the man on the phone, and he hesitated, but said it might be possible. Then he said: 'Could I ask the nature of the event?' I couldn't quite understand what difference that would make. Was he checking to see it was worth his bother? 'The Duke of Devonshire's Hunt Ball? Why, of course Sir! The wedding of some non-entity you went to college with? ...One rather thinks not' Still, he'd asked, and he was a Man On The Phone, so I told him. 'Well, I've got a dinner on the tenth, and then a wedding the following day.'

To which his reply, word for word, was this: 'Oh! Quite the social butterfly!'

What? I mean, what? Am I wrong in thinking that a man has just taken the piss out of me for answering his own inappropriate question? And what's funny about the answer I gave anyway? That I said two events instead of just one? That was the answer! That's why I wanted the suit by then! Did he think I was trying to impress him? 'Oh yes, I go to dinners and weddings, donchaknow! Sometimes in the same week!' And even if that is what he thought, how is it ok to take the piss out of me for it? And with the phrase 'Quite the social butterfly'?! I mean, did I accidentally phone a tailor out of The Simpsons?

I'm still buying the suit from them. They were cheapest.

Thursday 21 August 2008

Plus - a lie in!

Banner seen on the wall of a school:

'Arriving at school at 9:05 means you are ten minutes late. That's fifty minutes a week, or over three hours a month, or over thirty hours in a school year. Believe it or not, that is a week out of school!'

Now, I'm no child psychologist, but I was, for several years early in my career, a child; and I strongly suspect that the lesson that banner is supposed to convey, and the lesson any right-thinking child is actually taking away from it, are two very different things...

Wednesday 20 August 2008

Jesus' diary, if the icons I saw of him recently are anything like accurate.

Standing calf raises, 5 sets of 20 reps.
Incline sit-ups - train heavy, but not to failure.
Dead lifts - 4 sets of 10 reps

Cardio, plus maybe some work on abs and triceps.
35 widths of River Jordan.
Minister to sick

Dead lifts - 5 sets of 5 reps.
Hack squats - 5 sets of 15 reps - get Peter to spot me?
Cure leper.

Half marathon to Tarsus.
Upper chest work.

Power-walk to mount. Give sermon.
Ab crunches

Tuesday 19 August 2008

Dark mysteries in the countryside of two nations...

Two urgent questions.

What have the mussels done to upset the people of Normandy?

And what are the people of Kent doing that they don't want the horses to see?

Monday 18 August 2008

Adding a welcome touch of drama to asking for profiteroles.

Now, before anyone starts, I know that what I'm about to say is purely a reflection of the English language, not the French; that it only strikes me this way because we chose to use the words we ripped off from Germanic languages for everyday, and the words we ripped off from Romance languages for Sunday best. I know that. But it doesn't stop me enjoying the fact that the French are never just sorry, but desolated; that things don't just bother them, they derange them; that while English speakers are merely advised in fire warnings to keep calm, the French are told to guard their sang-froid; and, my favourite new one from this trip, that they are not asked in a note on a restaurant menu to order their pudding at the start of their meal, but to demand their dessert at the debut of their repast.

Thursday 31 July 2008

Things I have said to hills today. Out loud.

  • Oh no, no. No.
  • God, no.
  • You bastard!
  • Piss off
  • I don't believe you. (To a hill that was pretending it was just a long gentle slope down now.)
  • What in ****ing **** is the point of you? (To three hills, all visible at once, which left a road at the same height at which it began)
  • Oh, yes, you're flat now. (To a hill that stopped being a hill at the point where I turned off it)
  • Just stop it.

Thursday 17 July 2008

Watch out! Christ's About!

Sign outside a church in Chatham. 'Jesus is closer than you think'.

They were aiming, I suppose, for 'Thought-Provoking', but they seriously overshot and landed bang in the middle of 'Scary'.

Monday 14 July 2008

Two announcements that surprised me today.

Woman on the radio: 'About one in five people with anorexia will ultimately die'.

I am agog to know what will happen to the other four.

Sign on hoarding outside building work on Oxford Street: 'Another exciting branch of HSBC opens here soon.'

I can hardly wait. What do you think the exciting part will be? Log flumes to the cheque cashing machines? Randomised hole in the wall that gives you anything from a penny to a million pounds? Bears as cashiers?

Sunday 22 June 2008

Look what I saw this week.

An unimaginable quantity of otters.

Tuesday 10 June 2008

Literally anything could happen. Disclaimer: Not literally. Not anything.

Sorry about the lull. There is a time when having other writing that one really ought to be working on actually means one does things like this a lot more, as displacement. Then there comes a time then having other writing that one REALLY, REALLY ought to be working on means that one does things like this a lot less, as panic sets in. Other things one does less: Emails. Phone calls. Seeing people. Refraining from screaming at the cats.

However, I just had to say something about this week's Apprentice. Because I happen to know someone behind the scenes on the production team, and I can tell you, sparks really flew at Sir Alan's latest maverick decision. 'You've done what?!?' shrieked the producer, unable to believe the no-nonsense millionnaire's sheer chutzpah. 'You've put four of them through to the final!?! But Sir Alan, how could you? You know how hard I and the whole team here have been working on setting up a really exciting final task for two finalists- we've spent tens of thousands of pounds on making it the best one ever! And now, just because of your unpredictable on-the-fly decision, we're going to have to ditch it all, and start from scratch on a whole new idea that will work well for four finalists!' 'I'm sorry' growled the incorrigible tycoon 'But you know me - when I have a crazy loose cannon notion, I act on it. That's just the way I roll.' 'Oh well' sighed the long-suffering TV honcho 'You may as well sink those two paddle-steamers, Lyndsay. They're no use to us now. And hey, everybody - start thinking of something four people can compete at. Maybe... Ludo. And as for you, Sir Alan- just try to keep your iconoclastic behaviour to a mimimum next time!' 'I'll try...' grinned the rule-breaking entrepeneur 'but I can't promise anything!' 'Oh, you!' exclaimed the producer 'I can't stay mad at you for long!' And with that, he grabbed the surprising businessman by the fuzzy chops, and planted a big kiss right on his crinkled forehead!

That's what happened. True story.

Thursday 22 May 2008

He could have gone to the trouble of finding out her first name, though.

There is a bench near where I live which now bears the following inscription, half in black leading, half in blue felt tip. See if you can guess where the break occurs.

'In memory of John Randall-Gieves 1921 - 1995 - 2008 Frank Lampard's Mum.'

Despite the slightly unsettling Dr Who style regeneration picture it conjures up of the curious events of 1995, I find this oddly touching. I like the idea of these two people, Mr Randall-Gieves and Mrs Lampard, who are very unlikely ever to have met, finding themselves roughly yoked together by two other people's desire to commemorate them. After all, that's what you do with park benches - you share them with strangers.

Saturday 10 May 2008

Humph would be proud of us.

You know that little box on the BBC news website with the top five most popular stories at any given time? Well, at the moment the most emailed story is a report on how one British bird species is actually thriving under climate change, under the headline 'Great tits cope well with warming'. How encouraging to see that people are at last giving ecologicial stories the attention they deserve...

Sunday 4 May 2008

I am supposed to be writing a sitcom.

My friend Ed has just announced to the world, or that part of the world which is on F*c*b**k, (Gosh, that looks unexpectedly rude when you asterisk out the vowels) that he has seen 'more otters than you can possibly imagine'. Naturally, I scooted over to his page to leave a message with the funny joke that he shouldn't be too sure of himself, because I can imagine ten otters... only to find not one but two people had already got there. Well, I suppose it's quite an obvious joke. Plus my friend Ed knows a lot of comedians, both in the literal sense and the sense beloved of sarcastic policemen. However, I would like to point out that my two rivals used the numbers six and nine as the number of otters they could possibly imagine, both of which I think are slightly less funny than ten otters. Because it's a round number, and so sounds like a number I've genuinely reached by testing, not just one I picked for a joke, whilst still being hilariously low. But I didn't reach it by testing, of course. I just picked it for a joke. And that brings me to my sermon for today.

How many otters can you possibly imagine? Because if I say I can imagine a million otters, I'm obviously lying. I can't really even imagine a million pounds. I know what it could buy, but I can't imagine an actual million actual pound coins. Still less otters. They're famously harder to imagine than coins. Now, a thousand pound coins I think I can imagine. I can certainly imagine a thousand page book. But I don't think I can imagine a thousand otters. But then, what are my criteria here? To qualify as being imagined, do I have to be able to imagine each individual ottery face, and be able to distinguish in my imagination young Tasmania the Otter from Old Uncle Winchelsea the Otter? (I'm assuming here that otters use broadly the same naming system as Wombles.) No, I don't think so. I think I just have to be able to imagine what that mass of otters would look like, how much space they would take up, and how cross they'd be about it. I can imagine eight otters around my dining table, for instance, but I can't really imagine a thousand otters. My guess is that that's about a double decker bus full, but I can't imagine whether that's a tightly packed RSPCA nightmare of a bus, or whether the otters are lounging in relative comfort. (Remember they can sit under the seats as well as on them. And in the aisles).

Now, the ADC Theatre in Cambridge seats about 220, and I reckon I can imagine that full of otters. (An otter on every seat, that is. They only sit under them on buses. I mean, come on, they have to be able to see the stage). This is good - let's ramp it up. The Garrick theatre in London has a capacity, so Google tells me, of 656... but with regret I must admit I can't really imagine that full of otters. I mean, I can... but if I'm honest with myself, I'm just imagining the theatre, filling the stalls with otters, and then mentally clone brushing those same otters into the dress circle and upper circle. I'm not even certain I'm imagining the otters at the back of the stalls. I'm just imagining 'a theatre full of otters'. And now, confidence crumbling, I'm beginning to doubt my feat of imagination with the ADC. Did I really imagine 220 otters? Even the ones at the back, and the sides? Or am I just imagining 220 seats, and then tacking the word 'otters' over the word 'seats'? Hell, can I even imagine one otter? Let me check. Right, I've checked, I definitely can imagine one otter. He's called Barney, he's slightly over medium size, and he has a white mark on his muzzle where a larger otter named Velasquez snatched a trout from his mouth. From this we can draw two further conclusions: 1) I can imagine two otters. 2) The Womble naming system is not invariable amongst otters.

So. I'm confident I can imagine those two otters and their struggle to come to terms with that terrible summer's day when Barney's trust in Velasquez was forever shattered; but shifty about those 220 otters enjoying a patchy but basically competent student production of The Duchess of Malfi. So, maybe the thing to do is avoid any helpful framing device like a theatre or a bus or a netball team, and just imagine an increasing number of otters in a blank white void. No, that's too depressing. I'm just imagined Barney there alone, and it's breaking my heart. I'll imagine them in my garden. Ok. One otter. Check. Two otters. Will Barney ever forgive him? Three otters. Easy. Four otters. Piece of cake. Five otters. Yep. Six, seven, eight - yes. Nine, ten, eleven. I think so, yes. Twelve otters... ... ... ... ... no. I can't imagine twelve otters. Not really. When it comes right down to it, I'm just imagining six otters twice. And if I don't break it down into sub-groups like that, it's basically no different from my image of eleven otters. Come to that, I'm not sure my eleven otters were that different from my ten. What about my ten from my nine? No, there is a difference there. That's interesting. Because that seems to suggest that the number of otters I can possibly imagine... is ten. Ladies and gentlemen, it was funny because it was true.

I think Ed probably did see more than ten otters. I shan't bother leaving a message.

Friday 2 May 2008

Two things you might be interested in.

'John Finnemore, Apparently', my pilot radio sketch show, will be going out on Radio Four at 11pm this coming Monday, May 5th, and will be available on 'Listen Again' for a week afterwards. Hope you like it.

Also, free tickets are now available on the BBC website ( for the recordings of what they are pleased to describe as 'a new brilliant new sitcom'. So, both brilliant and new, then, but twice as new as it's brilliant... It's called Cabin Pressure, it's about the pilots of a tiny charter airline, and very excitingly it stars Benedict Cumberbatch, from A Life Backwards, Hawking, and Atonement; Roger Allam, from The Thick of It, The Queen, and A Cock and Bull Story; and Stephanie Cole, from A Bit of a Do, Housewife 49 and Talking Heads. And me, from here. The recordings are all in June - do come if you'd like to. (The tickets for the sketch show recording went surprisingly fast, so you may want to get in quick.)

Plug over, normal service will be resumed shortly.

Monday 28 April 2008

Book titles that are improved by knocking off the last letter.

  • Three Men in a Boa.
  • How to be Goo.
  • Of Mice and Me.
  • Catch 2.
  • Winnie the Poo.
  • A Brief History of Tim.

Friday 11 April 2008

My thought process on seeing the advert 'Make Yourself 3D'

  1. Ooh. That sounds somehow intriguing. I wonder what it means.
  2. Ah. It turns out it means 'Turn yourself 3D by making a character that looks and dresses like you. It's fun and free.' That no longer sounds intriguing, because I am not a nine year old girl. Besides, if I wanted to make a character that looks and dresses like me, I would simply have a child.
  3. Hang on though. Surely if you make a character that's rendered on a flat computer screen, that's turning yourself 2D?
  4. Hang on more... I'm already 3D! I don't need to make myself 3D - three is precisely the number of dimensions in which I currently exist!
  5. I don't think it should have taken me four steps to realise that.
  6. Oh look. A pigeon.

Thursday 10 April 2008

Enter our prize draw for a pickled egg.

Strapline of the April 2002 issue of the Fish Friers’ Review: ‘Win yourself some chips’. Now that’s what I call knowing your readership.

Friday 28 March 2008

Lines from Bob Marley songs that were written for him by a middle-class Englishwoman.

  • Don’t you worry about a thing
  • There is one question I’d really love to ask
  • Stand up for your rights!
  • I hope this jam is going to last...

Tuesday 11 March 2008

Not to mention the spin-off series about her brother Rhodes.

You know how sometimes you see a sign that suddenly inspires you to write a whole series of adventure books for children? Oh, don’t you? Well, to be fair, neither did I until ten minutes ago. But as I looked at that sign; like JK Rowling on that train journey, or Joe Craig after his usual pre-book pint of margaritas, inspiration struck; and my heroine leapt fully-formed into existence – the impetuous Irish-Italian girl detective, and the dare-devil adventures that lead her mother to exclaim the title of, let us say, the fourth book in the series: ‘Please Take Care, Piazza Slippery!’

Friday 7 March 2008

Job done.

Sign at till at the British Library cafe:

"Due to a new credit card terminal installation, we are not able to process any payment by cards."

Right. Frankly, I'd have been tempted to stick with the old terminal.

Saturday 23 February 2008

Or: 'Yes, if you're some kind of IDIOT!'

What they say on the Northern Rock website in reply to the following Frequently Asked Question: (Thanks Marianne)

Can I still withdraw money from my account?

The Bank of England and HM Treasury has made it clear that all existing and new deposits in Northern Rock are covered by these guarantee arrangements and are safe and secure. Customers need not fear for their deposits. Northern Rock continues business as usual. Savers can, should they wish to, withdraw money in the usual way. But there is no need to do so, since all savings are safeguarded by the Government. If you still wish to make a withdrawal, you may do so in accordance with the Terms & Conditions of your account.

What they would like to say:

Can I still withdraw money from my account?

Why do you ask?

Can I still withdraw money from my account?

Doesn't matter whether you can or not. You don't need to.

Can I still withdraw money from my account?

Why? I've just told you, your money's fine. Leave it where it is.

Can I still withdraw money from my account?

I'm not telling you.

Can I still withdraw money from my account?

Oh, for heaven's sake stop whinging on about your bloody money! There's more important things in the world, you know! Things that money can't buy! The tranluscence of a butterfly's wing! The laughter of a child paddling in a brook! It's not all about your stupid squalid little pot of cash, which is, in any case, perfectly safe!

Can I still withdraw money from my account?


Thursday 31 January 2008

So if anyone needs a towel, just give me a shout.

I was getting myself some car insurance the other day, and had to select my job from a drop down menu. Only they didn't have 'writer'. Fair enough, I thought, I suppose it's a relatively niche profession, I can understand them leaving it out. Except that here are just a few of the jobs they were absolutely fine with.

Violin Maker
Clay Pigeon Instructor
Foam Converter
Pearl Stringer
Weighbridge Clerk
Tea Taster
Water Diviner
Head Lad
Towel Supplier

Wednesday 23 January 2008

And doubtless someone, somewhere, was once given it for Christmas... and was overjoyed.

You remember how I paranoidly take out books to have on my desk at the British Library, so it looks like I have a right to be there; but cannily choose ones that look really dull so I won't be distracted into reading them? No? Well I do.

Such as the excellent 'Early United States Barbed Wire Patents', by Jesse S James. Presumably he added the 'S' to avoid being confused with notorious outlaw and train robber Jesse James. Though I can't help thinking he did this job far more efficiently just by writing a book about barbed wire patents. Here is the first sentence:

'I started to realize the dire need of a book of this kind soon after I started to collect old types of barbed wire in 1957.' Hats off to Jesse the use of the word 'dire'.

Here are my other three favourite sentences:

'I believe it would be a safe bet, if anyone could ever get a caller, that there has been more of this ‘Hodge’s ten-point spur rowel’ wire found by barbed wire collectors than all the other ‘rotating’ type barbs combined.'

Look out for some terrific exclamation mark work in this next one:

'I believe this patent takes the cake for the largest number of barb types shown that can be used on its fence-wire. Seven!'

And the peerless:

'If you happen to be a barbed-wire collector who has been trying to locate the patent data on your ‘saw-toothed ribbed ribbon wire’, you need look no further!'

See, now it looks as if I'm sneering at someone for being enthusiastic about their hobby, and God knows I've bored on about comedy for too long to too many people to be allowed to do that, even if I wanted to. But, Jesse, I don't know... barbed wire? Really?

Monday 14 January 2008

Rejected titles for the film 'Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium'.

  • Mr. O'Moore's Fantastical Store
  • Mr. McWopp's Bewildering Shop
  • Mr. Moletail-Begalia's Odd Wholesale Retailer
  • Mr. Bleeosk's Kooky Kiosk
  • Mr. Roy Far-Bus's Weird Branch of Toys-R-Us.
  • Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory (Memo to self - remember to change name of guy, and thing he owns.)
  • Death Mask IV.

Tuesday 8 January 2008

Next week: Will the Beatles ever reform? We ask them all.

An advert on my email sidebar has just encouraged me to subscribe to the Washington Post, with the following inducement:

'All the latest Pakistan news - Benazir Bhutto interview.'

The latest news? Really? I can't help thinking there's a story they may have missed...

Monday 7 January 2008

No mention of their sworn enemy, the Sodding Fat-Faced Cat.

Good news, everybody! It has just come to my attention that there lives in Madagascar a species of rodent - in the Nesomyidae family, since you ask - known as the Bastard Big-Footed Mouse. See, don't you find that this bleak, cold, new year's world suddenly seems that much happier a place to be, knowing we share it with Bastard Big-Footed Mice?