Tuesday 29 September 2009

Crooks chase cops! Cats have puppies! Hot snow falls up!

If you live in or near London, and haven't been to the zoo recently, let me just say this: there are lion cubs. Anyway, have a look at the 'other' section of this sign:

Don't you think that the vaguely feminist 'They've got the right idea, eh girls' implication is ever so slightly undermined by that exclamation mark?

'In lemur society, the females are in charge! If you can imagine such a bizarre thing! And day is night and up is down. Truly, those crazy lemurs live in a topsy-turvy land of misrule...'

Thursday 24 September 2009

If you must know, I shot a librarian. But I did not shoot a deputy librarian.

Here are the three books I've been reading at the library this week, as research for something I'm writing. But the librarians at the issue desk don't know that. And somehow, they always manage to hand them to me with the red one on the top of the pile...

... and then give a look that says 'My God... what did you do?'

Or so it seems to me. Maybe it's just my guilty conscience.

Monday 21 September 2009

Pieces of advertising material that have recently annoyed me - part six of at least nine.

For a phone company, answering the question 'What would you do if you had free texts for life?'

Would you now. So, Chris Addison's ugly cousin, you've been wanting to start a superband for a while, have you, but what's held you back is that the only way you can think of to contact 'all the musicians you know' is by text; and you're not prepared to go to that expense unless, in some utopian dream-world, a phone company gives you free texts for life. You see, I worry that you might not quite have the drive it takes to succeed in the music business.

Also, surely you can't start with a superband? You have to have a band first, you can't skip straight to 'superband'. Unless they missed out the space, and he's actually planning to start a super band. With topping drums, and spiffy guitars. I do hope so.

Friday 18 September 2009

Muttonchops and parrots: for those of you who like your Earls of Aberdeen a little racier.

I promise this marks the end of Lord Aberdeen week. More eminent scholars than I have been looking into the whole question of Lord Aberdeen's father-in-law and that dog he invented. So let us instead now briefly examine Lord Aberdeen's great-great-grandfather, and his grandson.

Our Lord Aberdeen, John, and his wife, who called themselves 'we twa', seem to have been beloved wherever they went, sent off by Queen Victoria around the Empire like benevolent supernannies, jollying Ireland along here, inventing brigades of nurses for the Canadians there, and generally adding to the gaiety of nations (although along the way, it seems, spending the family's money like water, especially on fruit farms and pageants, two things to which her Ladyship seems to have been particularly partial).

It was a different story when Lord A's ancestor George Gordon, the third Earl, was in the driving seat. Known as 'Lord Skinflint' and 'The Wicked Earl', he evicted tenants; only granted 19 year leases, and in general, I think we're safe in concluding, ensured there were no fruit farms or pageants for anyone on his watch. He was also quite the ladies man. Here, according to John Doran, is the charming tale of how he met his wife:

"During a stop-over at the Stafford Arms in Wakefield, he was so pleased with the mutton chops served for his supper that he demanded to see the cook. Thus he met Catharine Hanson, a handsome woman of 29 and immediately led her to his bedchamber. When the time came for him to return home, George could not resist the temptation to again sample the delights of the Stratford Arms. This time Catharine had a surprise for Lord Aberdeen. Faced with a loaded pistol and the choice of marriage or his life, George pragmatically decided the Gordons of Haddo would benefit from an infusion of English blood."

As we have seen, Lord John did not noticeably take after Lord George. But genes are funny things, as we will see when we now turn to Lord John's grandson, Alastair Gordon, 6th Marquess of Aberdeen and Temair (Lord John was promoted from 7th Earl to 1st Marquess, hopefully for services to comedy, or at least pageants.) Alastair, who died in 2002 at the age of 82, was an artist and art critic, 'a tall, sprightly, bespectacled man with a toothbrush moustache', who listed his recreations in Who's Who as 'wine, women and song'. He wasn't joking, either. The year before his death, he wrote an article for The Oldie entitled 'The Good Whores Guide', comparing and contrasting his wartime experiences in Mme Janette's brothel in Beirut, and Mrs Fetherstonhaugh's 'private hotel' in Kensington. Here he is on Mrs F's recruitment policy:

"This consisted of asking girls who seemed as if they might be enthusiastic amateurs - out-of-work actresses or married women with husbands away at the war - if they would like to come to a party. If they then showed signs of enjoying themselves, it would be suggested that they continue to do so for money."

His wife Anne, according to the obituary, 'regarded her husband's interest in sexual matters with tolerant amusement' and 'decorated their home with her colourful flocks of parrots.' That's what I call a wife.

I now promise not to go on about any other Lord Aberdeen. Not even Lord John's grandfather: the Prime Minister who took Britain into the Crimean War; or the current incumbent, Lord Alastair's son Alexander, and his ill-fated tank-driving business. You can have too much of anything, even Lords Aberdeen.

Tuesday 15 September 2009

Lord Aberdeen's best joke.

So, yesterday I was grossly unfair to John Hamilton-Gordon, seventh Earl of Aberdeen. I went through the whole of 'Jokes Cracked By Lord Aberdeen', and deliberately selected the one that has aged least well in the last hundred years or so. So today, by way of atonement, here is his Lordship's best joke. Seriously, I really like this one.

A lady remarked to a former Bishop of London on one occasion “Oh! Bishop, I want to tell you something very remarkable. An aunt of mine had arranged to make a voyage in a certain steamer, but at the last moment she had to give up the trip; and that steamer was wrecked; wasn’t it a mercy she did not go in it?”
“Well, but” replied the bishop, “I don’t know your aunt.”

Pretty good, eh? And surprisingly cruel. Modernise the language and references, and Jimmy Carr could use that today. Not that I'm saying that's necessarily the highest accolade in comedy, but not bad coming from a late Victorian Governor General of Canada.

The Laird ruminates over whether he's better off sticking to his tight ten minutes tonight, or trying out some of his new stuff on the second Home Rule bill.

Monday 14 September 2009

Obviously, you have to read it in the voice.

The British Library sells postcards (that's not the main thing they do, but they do do it), and some of them are of unlikely book-covers, such as this one:

However, another thing the British Library do is allow you to order almost any book ever printed in Britain (that is the main thing they do). So anyone sufficiently intrigued by the material of nineteenth century Scotland's premier aristocratic comic can nip up to the reading rooms, and order it up. Which reminds you, have you heard this one?
"A young man had occasion to move from where he had hitherto lived, to another district. He had been associated with Presbyterians in his former abode, but it transpired that his views in Church matters were not of any rigid sort. It occurred, therefore, to the clergyman of the Episcopal church in the neighbourhood that the young man might suitably be invited to become a member of that Church. This was accomplished; but not long afterwards it transpired that he was about to join the Roman Catholics. On hearing this a friend of the Rector, who, like himself, was a keen curler, remarked, “Man, you’ve souppit him through the Hoose.”
*tap* *tap* Is this thing on? Oh, come on! He'd souppit him! Through the Hoose! Because, he had been associated with Presbyterians in his former abode, but now.... oh, never mind. Tough crowd.

Thursday 10 September 2009

Times when apostrophe contractions, though normally so useful, are probably best avoided.

  • I think, therefore I'm.
  • Unforgettable, that's what you're.
  • I'm what I'm, and what I'm needs no excuses.
  • 'Will you love her, comfort her, honour and keep her, in sickness and in health; and forsaking all others keep thee only unto her so long as you both shall live?' 'I'll.'

    Thursday 3 September 2009

    Sexist packing

    Hello. Back now, and straight into the myriad joys of flat-moving. One of the sixteen billion boxes into which our lives have been packed is labelled as follows:

    Tool Kit
    Christmas Decorations
    Jump Leads
    Fairy Lights

    I think anyone going by the evidence of that box alone would have to conclude that our flat is shared by Ernest Hemingway and Milly Molly Mandy.

    And is that so very far from the truth?

    (Answer: Yes. )