audi olympics
'funny, and not a little bit strange' - the guardian; 'an offbeat treat' - web user
Thursday, October 31, 2002
 
You think I'm joking?

Since the Community Fund, which dishes out Lottery money to various causes, began, these are some of the many worthy beneficiaries:

£81,553 to fund an advice centre and services, including aromatherapy massages, for vice girls.
£98,000 to train Ugandan orphans in beekeeping and to buy honey-processing equipment.
£500,000 to stage theatre workshops in Brazilian jails.
£258,000 to help people in Rwanda make a living from pottery.
£151,782 to build greenhouses and develop agriculture for Tibetan refugees in India.
£220,000 to install luxury pig sties complete with under-floor heating, snout-operated showers, curtains and toys, at Whirlow Farm Trust in Sheffield.
£175,000 to take young gipsies on trips to the cinema and bowling alleys.
£262,216 to promote disabled rights in Burkino Faso, Ghana and the Ivory Coast.
£295,000 to help farmers in Peru breed meatier guinea pigs (for eating).
£4,570 to support a newsletter for deaf homosexuals in Birmingham and a specialist deaf cabaret.
£5,000 to stage gospel aerobic and fitness classes for French-speaking refugees in London.
£4,930 to stage a three-day festival celebrating the contribution made by gay, lesbian and transgendered people to the arts over the past 1,000 years.
£3,700 for mother-tongue classes to Sorani-speaking Kurds in Haringey, London.

...I'm crying. I'm bloody crying.
Wednesday, October 30, 2002
 
Things to avoid

In your eagerness to leave the office at 5 o’clock, spinning the Managing Director round at some improbable speed in the revolving doors.

Humming the theme tune to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang during your four-and-a-half month probationary review. Why do I have all these reviews? Why me? What’s next? My regular lunchtime appraisal?

Nigel, who’s this who’s climbed into bed with us?

Don’t worry, love, he’s from work. He’s my parole officer.

Eating Hershey’s Kisses. Like no kiss I've ever known (apart from Wendy Sedgefield, obviously). If farts were solid, they would be Hershey’s Kisses. Let's hope they're not working on something more serious, like Hershey's Fumbling with the Bra Strap or Hershey's Going Steadies. Forget everything I’ve ever told you about cheesy Snack-a-Jacks – these little gems probably started life on Saddam’s biological weapons programme.

Coming sooner than you might think: great ideas for movie scripts.

Tuesday, October 29, 2002
 
How to deal with telesales people called Kelly-Ann

Every few days, I get a phone call like this one, usually during an evening meal (most personal details changed to avoid murder).

Hello, I’m calling from XYZ credit cards, is that Mr Grabber?

No, there’s no one here of that name.

Are you sure? Is your postcode PR6 1TW?

Yes.

Is your phone number 425674?

Yes.

Do you live at 22 Forest Drive?

Yes.

Is your customer number 2234 5673 2229 0998?

Yes.

How long have you lived at your present address?

Nearly three years.

Can I just take you through some security? What’s your mother’s maiden name?

Johnson.

Your birthdate?

11 March 1963.

And your birthplace?

Newcastle.

Your significant date?

1982.

What was your first pet’s name?

Brandy.

The name of your third child?

Isobel.

Your favourite football team?

Bolton Wanderers.

Right, and you’re not called Nigel Grabber?

No.

Then, what is your name?

Graber. It’s only got one B. Anyone who hadn’t had a frontal lobotomy would know that, since it has only one B, it’s pronounced as if there’s a Y in the word. In fact, when you’re not writing it with a double B, most of you morons actually spell it with a Y. Now, piss off!

Monday, October 28, 2002
 
Bored in the loft

Well, a full day's boarding the loft left me too whacked to blog last night. Blogger was being a bugger, anyway. You know, this is what we do, us Brits, on a rainy, windy, foul, Autumn weekend. The Italians have a 48-hour lovefest, the French eat a 14-course meal and drink 11 bottles of wine each, throw up - then have a lovefest - and the Yanks break out the Bud, get their mates round and watch reruns of old World Series games. And we board the loft. We board the bloody loft.

Sir Professor Mr Tony Blair
Prime Minister
Great Britain

Your Royal Blairity

I am writing to you about Britain, as I believe you are in charge. I have a money-saving proposal for you. I work as an editor and have just been paid. Unfortunately, I had to hand over around £550 in deductions to the Government. And this is not the first time this has happened. As I understand it, much of this money is then farmed out to single mothers, refugees and one-legged incontinent gibbons from Haringey, so that they can buy football shirts and satellite dishes.

Fair enough. I know this is a necessary part of living in a sort of giant kibbutz, and I have no issue with that. However, I have an idea that might just cut out the expensive middle man. Instead of paying tax, with all the associated administrative costs, I suggest that, each month, the workers of this once-great land simply wander round our local council estates handing out vouchers for JJB Sports, Sky Digital and the local sunbed emporium.

Thank you. Oh, and Tony, can you do something about all these dodgy insurance companies that are springing up? Once upon a time, they used to be reputable enterprises with posh names like Baines and Ernst. My friend’s recent claim was handled by a firm called Go Get ‘em Mutley. I find this poor.

Yours etc.

Saturday, October 26, 2002
 
Panto season comes early for British tennis

Panto season came early at the National Championships at the Bolton Arena today. And the pantomime was British tennis. There were the evil stepmother LTA administrators, struggling to pass stringent inspection by the Environmental Health Department, attempting to disguise themselves as a large pile of dandruff, and protecting the ugly sisters of this great game.

There were the goofy Home Counties, horsey, daddy's girls and boys who have comprised the top echelon of the sport in this country for the past 60 years. The set-up was shoddy - the backboards will probably find further use as the props and scenery in Aladdin, the scoreboard was manually operated by a 12-year-old kid who didn't know the rules of the game, the officiating could have been handled better by the back end of a panto horse, and a bumper crowd of around 195 showed up to find out where the great days of British tennis were. "They're behind you!" I shouted.

Fortunately, Cinderella went to the ball with a vengeance, driving it hard and deep into the corners of the court, and Jack ensured that all the efforts of the old order didn't amount to a hill of beans. Promising 18 year old Alex Bogdanovic slayed the giant with his magic sword-like backhand, Anne 'Cinderella' Keothavong, 19, cleaned the floor with Julie Pullin, who probably left daddy's horse outside, and the combined age of the men's doubles winners was 31. Bogdanovic... Keothavong... fine, traditional English names. Hmm, I wonder why. Fe fo fi fum...

LTA funding does a Dick Whittington
The Arena is a fine venue. One the LTA spent a fortune setting up. And one the LTA decided, quite rightly, was a suitable base for a specialist training camp, under the wing of my old university doubles partner, Jim Edgar, for the next 21 years. And one that, for no obvious reason, they suddenly decided should no longer be a specialist training camp under the wing of my old university doubles partner, Jim Edgar. Like Dick Whittington, the LTA have clearly decided there is nothing down for it out of earshot of the Bow Bells.
Thursday, October 24, 2002
 
Audi man in affairs shocker – wife gets flowers

“Nigel, why have you bought me flowers? Is this anything to do with an affair?”

“Yes. Several.”

After a conversation with someone prepared to spill the beans about various dalliances at work, I have decided that these people need to be exposed:

Steve and Donna: that kind of behaviour is not appropriate on the boardroom table. Especially during a board meeting.

Pete and Sinitta: that’s an amazing manoeuvre, but don’t try it on Tuesday or Wednesday – the fire brigade are on strike and no specialist cutting gear will be available.

Andy: don’t think that behaviour like that – with her – will get you promoted. I’ve seen your work.

Phil and Conrad: Ugh.

Brian, Rachel, Graham, Tom, Sinitta, Kevin, Tramp and Wazzer: that’s truly incredible.

James and Lassie: that’s bloody disgusting.

James, Lassie and Goldie: that’s even more bloody disgusting.

Graham, Bella, Dazza and Goldie: that’s illegal, but damned exciting. Why don’t you get together with Pete and Sinitta and start a circus?

Coming real soon: great ideas for movie scripts.

 
HR girl sweats over middle-class revolution

Well, the site traffic’s shot up. Ho hum. I’ve got them worried over in HR.

Sarah (HR girl on phone): Mike, I’m a bit concerned about one of our new editors.

Mike (MD): Oh, yes. Which one? Do I know him?

Sarah: Nigel Graber. Bald as a coot. Looks a bit like Agassi and Barthez’s lovechild. I had him in for his probationary review yesterday. His behaviour was odd – a bit distracted. Especially when I offered him a snack... Anyway, he didn’t seem to want to talk about the job. He seemed to have a lot to get off his chest – about refugees and HR girls and the Lotteries Commission and a whole load of other stuff. Thing is…

Mike: Hold on, Sarah. Who’s this fool outside my door? Just a second. There’s some idiot brandishing old copies of the Daily Mail and ranting on about something…

Sarah: Ah, that’ll be him. Thing is, he was talking about using the company’s money to fight what he called the Middle-Class Revolution. He seems to think it would be good PR.

Mike: Keep an eye on him, Sarah. This company can do without dangerous, middle-class subversives.

Wednesday, October 23, 2002
 
Audi man in confidence crisis

Summoned to HR for probationary review.

How are you finding the work?

What work?

What’s the commuting like?

It’s like one man’s vision of hell, thanks.

"What do you see yourself doing in six months’ time?”

I’d like to write a funny column for The Spectator or some similar publication, except I’m not funny any more. Failing that, hmm, probably lots of tennis, playing with the kids, more commuting – bags of commuting – and probably still sending out e-mails asking for some work to do, please.

Oh, and one other thing. Do you write a blog?

Prickly fear. Like in The Great Escape when the German officer says "Goot luck," to the Aussie guy and he knows he's been rumbled.

A what? A weblog, online diary-type thing? No.

“Are you sure?

Certain.

With that, I’m out of there, back against the wall, eyes closed, breathing hard, sweating. They’re on to me.

Last night, I dreamt that I had a bad night’s sleep. How disturbed is that?

Later. Oh God. Read the fourth 'comment' on TAO 8/10. I've just realised it's possible to die of embarrassment.

Tuesday, October 22, 2002
 
A guide to some lesser-known dances

The TransContinental

This dance begins in Northern Spain in the summertime, but crosses several European borders, the Russian Steppes and the Tibetan mountains without stopping, before winding up atop the Chinese Wall around the Christmas holidays. Participants are advised to dress appropriately, to stock-up on dried meals and to make sure their passport and jabs are up-to-date. This is a dance known for its huge demands on participants, for the magnificent sweep of multicontinental scenery, and for the extraordinarily high ratio of fatalities.

The Whirling Fetish

A bizarre dance set to a musical version of a chicken jalfrezi recipe. This routine begins slowly, but gradually gathers pace until participants are but a blur. At the height of the action, with observers clapping in time to the music, and without slowing down, the dancers must attempt to don fetishist clothing, such as rubber, leather and feather suits, clingfilm and corrugated-plastic underwear, from a huge pile in the centre of the room. This is the dance that has redefined people’s attitudes to the higher echelons of the British clergy, to MPs and to circus clowns.

Les Grands Financiers

A desperately fast routine, popular in Manchester, that usually takes place in and around banks and other financial institutions. The dress code for this dance is fairly relaxed, although a balaclava is preferred. Participants, usually armed to the teeth, leap from a waiting car, and pirouette onto the dance floor. True to the dance’s roots, in the fable and folklore of West Africa and Crumpsall, the lead dancer whirls a tribal machete around his head and demands a maiden’s dowry in gilt coinage, or sterling equivalent. This routine demands perfect choreography and split-second timing, particularly from the getaway driver. Usually followed by a Samba.

La Clune

La Clune, or La Maladie des Nevilles, as it is known in English, is performed entirely by divorcing couples. La Clune requires the dexterity of a ballet dancer, the physical strength of a stevedore and the morality of a travel rep. The man, usually male, takes hold of the woman’s left foot with his right hand, sweeping his left leg around her neck and back tight against her trachea. Each participant, traditionally through clenched teeth, simultaneously reads out a list of their partner’s indiscretions or failings, including illicit lovers, competence at household chores and sexual inadequacies. Meanwhile, the woman carefully savages either of the man’s testicles with a food-processor. When the screaming stops, the man will normally move in on the pressure points, and record a resounding victory through either two falls and a submission or involuntary manslaughter. La Clune is an enormously satisfying dance, and one that has replaced costly legal action in rural parts of Greece and Turkey.

Monday, October 21, 2002
 
Film reviews: hypercash required

Film: Clockstoppers
Stars: Overpaid actors
Cost: Approx. £357 for family of five, plus popcorn and Coke, Warner
Village Cinemas, Bolton

In this expensive film, people move at an accelerated speed in ‘hypertime’. Money also leaves the wallets of the audience at a similarly alarming rate. The sheer cost of this damn film made it difficult to focus on the screen through the tears I was shedding. Following the plot was made doubly difficult by the frequent need to contact financial advisers, mortgage brokers and Dial-4-a-loan.

Olympics verdict: Spend money at a slower rate by attaching a slowburn fuse to some banknotes, or by not going to see the film.

Sunday, October 20, 2002
 
Film Reviews: At last - higher mathematics hits the silver screen

Film: A beautiful mind
Stars: Russell Crowe, Some Bird
Cost: £3.50, DVD, Blockbuster Video

A film about higher mathematics.

Olympics verdict: A film about higher mathematics.


Saturday, October 19, 2002
 
Could you provide a loving home?

It's National Adoption Week, sponsored by Electrolux. In the UK, there are thousands of children needing good homes like yours. Homes with fridges and freezers. And quality vacuum cleaners. So, here at the Olympics, we're giving you the chance to adopt one of these delightful children:

Blade and Victim, 4, are triplets. These all-action kids do everything together, including rough-and-tumble games, bank jobs, money-laundering and simple street crime. These children need a cosy, disciplined home or, even better, a maximum-security prison.

Alf is an affectionate child who enjoys live football, budgie-breeding, smoking his pipe (Clan is his preferred poison), drinking real ale and pottering around his greenhouse. Although he is 52, Alf needs responsible parents who will teach him basic table manners and will get him to do simple household tasks, his wife says.

Tornado, 12, is an energetic and lively boy who loves to be the centre of attention and comes with fully comprehensive household insurance. He enjoys WWF wrestling, American football and messing with plastic explosives. Tornado’s links with Al Quada and the IRA have now largely been disproven.

Ferocity and Velocity, 15, are one child sharing two bodies, interestingly located in different time zones. Foster parents should be willing to commute, be bilingual and have dual nationality.

Rebekka, 7, is white and about four-feet high. She's always full of pizza, yoghurt, different cheeses and her favourite drink, milk. Rebekka stays cool in all circumstances, enjoys compartmentalising her life, and is very organised. Rebekka also doubles as a fridge. You can buy Rebekka in-store at one of the many Electrolux outlets nationwide, or online at Electrolux.co.uk.

All children come with a one-hour guarantee. The value of your child may go up as well as down. Your call may be recorded. See instore for details.
Friday, October 18, 2002
 
The happy, happy world of work

And the prince and the princess lived in a happy place where everyone always smiled and no one ever got cross or got hurt. And this place was called Work.

“Hello, Nigel, great morning, isn’t it? How are you diddlin'?”

“Well, actually, I’ve been getting these violent headaches, I feel sick at night, and sometimes I wake up wailing in pain. My first AA meeting didn’t go too well, my wife beats me with a specially designed club that she keeps under the bed, and my children are mainlining hard drugs. Sometimes, I feel terribly mentally unbalanced and wonder if I can face each new day. What about you?”

“Great, thanks. Won a tenner in the pub quiz last night. Would have scooped the big one but for Ian bloody Porterfield. I mean, can you remember who scored the winner in the ’73 Cup Final? Anyway, don’t forget that support meeting at 10. Have a nice day!”

Company Rule Number 62b: Any signs of unhappiness will be reflected in your appraisal.

Sometimes, I remember my days on the dole with affection. They were great – until I got cheeky. I asked for overtime. On the grounds that I was doing sod-all in the evenings as well.

Wednesday, October 16, 2002
 
Well, that is a severe reaction, Mr Graber

The immunologist had seen many things in his time in clinical practice. But rarely had he injected several common pollen samples into someone's arm and seen it turn into the Secretary of State for the Environment. "Well, that really is a severe reaction, Mr Graber. Are you sure it's just hay fever that you get?" It really was quite dramatic. It was a reaction strong enough to bring down a South American government. My arm had increased to the size of a mildly swollen cat, turned several shades of azure, grown a pair of ears, developed multilinguistic ability, and bolted for the door.

Now I have to see what the boss' reaction will be when I ask her for a half day off work each week for seven weeks.

Those people who hover near the end of queues, so you don't know if they're queuing or not. I've noticed they wear trenchcoats. Often, they're unshaven. They're angels. Watching over the cashpoints of this world.

Coming soon: great ideas for movie scripts.

Tuesday, October 15, 2002
 
The Elrika diaries: day 39

Continuing our sensational serialisation of Swedish sex-bomb Elrika’s tempestuous past, today we look at the self-destructive urges that led Elrika to choose some highly unsuitable men. At her lowest point, Elrika dispensed with her black book, and simply downloaded FBI’s Ten Most Wanted.

Although he was on remand for grievous bodily harm with intent, I felt myself drawn to the beautiful inner spirit of psychopathic Birmingham-based footballer Roddy Marsupials. Our first date was sweet, tender, romantic, almost poetic, and deeply, deeply violent. The following morning, in the Severe Burns Unit of the Royal Birmingham Infirmary, I awoke with two broken arms and the certainty that Roddy had shown enough of the gentleman within, that I couldn’t wait for us to be alone, away from the prying eyes of psychiatrists, medical specialists, welfare officers, fellow ex-cons and animal trainers.

I knew he felt the same. Sure enough, sweetie that he is, Roddy logged over 200 abusive nuisance calls over the course of the next ten minutes or so. By lunchtime, we were in Paris and, by teatime, were joined in matrimony by his barrister in a lavish ceremony on a Seychelles beach attended by a crack team of social workers, police frogmen and many highly respected members of the criminal fraternity.

Our honeymoon was a terrific success, only hampered by sharing the marital bed with four of Roddy’s ex-wives and by his continual visits to the local brothel. Fortunately, by the end of the first week, much of the extreme violence had subsided, and was replaced by bouts of heavy meths drinking and bar brawls with the local police.

Monday, October 14, 2002
 
Film reviews: Cup-winner hits the screens

Film: Mike Bassett:England Manager
Stars: Ricky Tomlinson
Cost: £3.50, Sky Box office

Mockumentary, Spinal Tap-style footie spoof. Mike Bassett (Tomlinson) is the manager of Norwich City, and gets called on to manage the England team when the FA have exhausted every other option. Many, many instantly recognisable characters.

Olympics verdict: I can't stand Tomlinson and very few things make me laugh. This, however, blew my head off. Unmissable. I thought I was going to die.
Sunday, October 13, 2002
 
Film reviews: angels with 5 o'clock shadows

Film: City of Angels
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Meg Ryan
Cost: £3.50, Blockbuster Video

Believe in the Hereafter? I need a crate of San Miguel just to believe in the Now. I have particular difficulty in grasping the concept of an angel with a five o'clock shadow lunking around in a greatcoat.

One day in the operating room, as Seth (Cage) waits to take a dying man's soul, he looks doctor Maggie (Ryan) in the eye and becomes instantly smitten. He dreams of doing the unthinkable: touching a human. He falls to earth, forsaking angelic status.

Olympics verdict: Just like every other film you've ever seen about a renegade angel in a trenchcoat who breaks away from the pack, falls in love with a heart surgeon, and decides to fall to earth and become irreversibly human. A script would have been handy, too.
Saturday, October 12, 2002
 
Geniuses get younger and younger

Driving to horseriding this morning, my conversation with Hannah, 7, went like this:

"That was a nice poem you brought home from school. Did you copy it from a book?"
"No, daddy. I wrote it myself."
"Ha ha. Very good. Which book did you copy it from?"
"Daddy! [indignant]. I wrote it myself. We did it in pairs. I wrote it with Jack, but he was useless. He just sat and stared. And, anyway, its a song, not a poem."

Song, poem... judge for yourself.

Autumn days by Hannah Graber

Autumn days, when the grass is jewelled
And the silk in a chestnut shell
Jet planes meeting in the air to be refuelled
All these things I love so well
So I mustn't forget
No, I mustn't forget
To say a great big thank you
No, I mustn't forget.

Clouds that look like familiar faces
And winter's moon with frosted rings
Smell of bacon as I fasten up my laces
And the milkman sings.

Whipped-up spray that is rainbow-scattered
And a swallow curving in the sky
Shoes go comfy though they're worn out and they're battered
And the taste of apple pie.

Scent of gardens when the rain's been falling
And a minnow darting down a stream
Picked-up engine that's been stuttering and stalling
And a win for my home team.

"Miss said it was very good." Miss needs to look more closely at what she reads... she needs to recognise genius when she sees it. Lengthy study of the works of Charles Causley, Conrad Aiken, William Blake and Alfred Austin has failed to reveal any obvious plagiarism. I am, frankly, flabbergasted.

Later. Apparently, the little sod nicked it from Common Praise. Right. Pocket money has been withdrawn.
Friday, October 11, 2002
 
Yaris subjected to ultimate test

Sir Tarquin Blunderbuss
Director of Public Relations
Toyota Europe

Your Royal Sirness

I recently invested in a Toyota Yaris 1.0 GS. It’s about as macho as a hairdresser’s clutchbag on a dancefloor. That aside, may I say how very pleased I am with my purchase.

Last night, I decided to subject the car to the acid test – my friend Stephen. Stephen is a hard-bitten, diehard, bitehard, diebitten German car freak. If it’s not a powerful Audi, VW, BMW or Mercedes, he just isn’t interested.

I knew that getting Stephen’s approval was going to be a tough job. Particularly as I had traded in an Audi A4 TDi that had his unqualified admiration. I had argued with him for hours about the Yaris’ fuel efficiency, about the cost-effective servicing, about the legendary reliability, about the dealer warranty, and about the lower-rate road tax. I sensed he could be wavering. But only by showing him the car in the flesh could I be sure.

And so it was, with some trepidation, that I took my Yaris round for his critical inspection. And the verdict, from this passionate supporter of German power and efficiency? This fan of big, high-mileage cars that go forever? This flag-waver for quality, older vehicles built by prestige manufacturers? This devotee of Audi build quality?

He laughed his arse off.

Yours etc.

Thursday, October 10, 2002
 
Epitaph: None the bloody wiser

Mental note to me: slumping on the toilet seat at work for 24 minutes while dribbling uncontrollably could indicate extreme tiredness.

Thank you to the earwig who bit me on the elbow. You would be gratified to learn that it hurts like hell and is the size of a volleyball. If you were still alive.

Things I don’t understand

1 What those men who carry number plates are doing hitching lifts on motorways.
2 Why those temporary narrow lanes on motorways are always separated by thousands of cats’ eyes*? Who puts them there? And how long does it take?
3 Algebra.
4 The urge to dance.
5 Logarithms – what the f*#k?
6 Stocks and shares. And what’s the difference?
7 American football, which seems to revolve around 14 homicidal maniacs piling on top of 14 other homicidal maniacs while the Jolly Green Giant hurls a child’s rugby ball about 3 miles.
8 Evolution. Why one species has a completely different set of survival characteristics to another. It's clever. But so damn random.
9 The urge to regale people with stories they don’t want to hear. Like your frickin’ Michael Jackson concert. Unbelievably, it wasn’t my failure to secure a ticket that meant I missed the gig, so much as my total lack of interest in the event. OK? Did the glazed expression, the yawning and the big placard indicating that I wanted to die not give it away, then?

*another mental note: stop calling them pets' eyes. It disturbs the children.

Tuesday, October 08, 2002
 
New feature: online confessions

Some things weigh heavy on a man's soul. Sometimes you have to come clean and confess. And, frankly, if winning Britain's Best Blog 2003 is at stake, I'll confess to masterminding the Nuremberg rallies. But today it's merely e-mails. One in particular.

Ray, if you're reading, you never knew about this, but it was I. And it wasn't personal. In fact, I quite liked you. It was just a boss thing.

In my last job, I discovered my boss had two weeks off immediately before my own fortnight away. In glee, I e-mailed cousin Col. The thrust of the message was, 'Yippee, a month without Ray'. Only, by accident, I didn't send it to Colin. I sent it to Ray.

There's a particular horror that comes over you when you suddenly realise you've made a mistake like that. Your feelings fluctuate between acute embarrassment, panic, despair, more despair, hopelessness, despair, anguish, gloom, despondency, depression, despair and utter joylessness.

Glancing around in panic, I noticed Ray using the phone directly behind me. I had a chance - a slim one, but a chance just the same. My entire career rested on my quick thinking and on the unlikely possibility that Ray was off his head on magic mushrooms. Moving like a gazelle on a promise, and sweating like Harry Palmer in The Ipcress File when he realises the kidnappers are onto him, I slammed open Ray's office door and prayed that his PC was on and he was logged on to Lotus Notes.

Outside the office, I could hear him winding up his phone call. The sweat was pouring from my brow like water from a clown’s flower, as I began my evil work. Yes, the PC was on! Yes, he was in Lotus Notes! Yes, yes! Voices, like a jury’s deliberations, came from outside the office. Ray’s call was over. But he’d been delayed by a colleague. Thank God Everton lost last night. There was two minutes’ idle chat in that alone.

Click Lotus Notes…click Ray’s Inbox. Refresh, refresh! Come on, you slow 486 bastard, he’s outside the frickin' door! There it is. Delete! “Oh, hi, hi,…hi Ray, just checking your, er, operating system’s OK. Yeah, I’ve been thinking of joining the IT task force for a while now…”

Monday, October 07, 2002
 
New feature: mindless ramblings about the past

Right, if Scary Duck can win the Guardian’s Britain’s Best Blog competition with lengthy reminiscences about his past, then so can I. And today it’s mice.

As a group of students in Manchester in the early 80s, we not only had delusions that we were The Young Ones, but we also had a mouse. Just the one. But an annoying little sod, seemingly trained by the SAS, who could abseil into both larder and fridge. Being a group of individuals, we all had different ways of dealing with the problem.

Memorably, Crispin, raised on a tea plantation in Malawi that appeared to be the last bastion of the Empire (complete with slaves) and, unbelievably, studying English Literature in Salford, had his own bespoke kit. Yes, under his bed was a small wood-and-leather trunk containing everything you could possibly need – from a rounders bat to very sharp forks – to immolate a rodent. Meanwhile, Antony, the thinker, had cleverly skewered a piece of Cheddar onto the end of a bare live electrical wire. I, being ever-so-slightly straightforward-of-head, had simply propped up a large rock with a digestive biscuit.

But none of it was working.

Until the night when, unable to sleep, I came down to the kitchen in search of a drink. Any drink, but probably Special Brew or lighter fluid. And there it was. The noise. The sound of a mouse scurrying around. But where was it coming from? The larder? No. Under the table? No. No, those little legs were running around on metal. It couldn’t be…yes! The little bugger was in the grill section of the cooker, no less.

Do I need to continue? Imagine Mike’s surprise the next morning when he pulled out the grill pan and, exactly where he wanted to place his toast, found a stupid-looking rodent baked solid into a sitting position.

Friday, October 04, 2002
 
Tetchy? Me?

Just imagine how annoyed I'd be if I'd spent the whole night pacing the lounge with toothache, trying not to howl for hours on end, waiting for the painkillers to work, then going back to bed and getting up an hour later after a sleepless and painful night - to find the toothache gone. Ha ha! Can you imagine how narked that would make me? Hee hee. Ho ho!

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagh!
Thursday, October 03, 2002
 
The dangers of the long-distance novel

My pal, Ant, and I are writing a novel. He does a bit. I do a bit. His bits are good. Mine aren’t. His bits focus on blackmail, dodgy Italian geezers, shotguns, criminals, warehouses at Heathrow, fast cars and fast women. He’s just sent me the latest instalment – from location, from location, mind you – in Madrid. Come on, mate, take this more seriously! My bits centre around a paranoid bloke called Nick hiding out in Northern Scotland and discovering bodies on the beach at Nairn (is there a beach at Nairn?). So far, Nick has no discernible or possible connection with the story. It will take a ghost writer of the magnitude of Hemingway to sew-up the two elements of the plot.

Here’s a flavour of Ant’s latest contribution. I love the style:

"On five, Mike."

"One." Ann grabbed the package. "Two." Mike cocked the gun. "Three." Ann reached for Mike’s handgun in the door compartment. "Four." Ann pulled the gun, spun, and dropped to the side of the door for cover. "Five." Mike paused, then lifted the boot and stood, levelling the shotgun. Nerves made him touch the trigger harder than he wanted, but the gun held its charges.

“Where is he, Ann?”

Mike saw the muzzle flash: two shots. One hit the Range Rover door, setting off the side-impact airbag, shattering the glass, and knocking Ann heavily into the door pillar. The other shot went through the bay door close to Mike. He spun towards the flashes and gave it both barrels, then crouched to reload. Mike heard footsteps, then the bay doors by the Merc started to open…

Wednesday, October 02, 2002
 
New acronyms society runs into bother

A new society that turns abbreviations into memorable acronyms has run into trouble. The Fabulous Acronyms Routinely Turned-out Society has had to radically alter the central function of some organisations – just so that a catchy acronym can be created.

The Society for Heightened Interest in Gnomes, which is entirely funded by the corners of Cherie Blair’s mouth, had to switch its focus from ridiculous garden ornaments to Tents, to attract the considerable fee on offer from the acronyms group. The result was widescale redundancy in the gnomic industries, and confusion among the British gnome population, many of whom, in a direct and hard-hitting protest, have flatly refused to pitch camp in the UK ever again.

Meanwhile, the newly named British Educational Destabilisation: Britain’s Organisational Utilities Need Cooperation from Yaks were dismayed when they were forced to change their allegiance from assisting undereducated children to helping out Tibetan farm animals – all in the name of a decent acronym. The result was mayhem in the educational world, massive redeployment, plastic surgery for Cherie Blair and the partial collapse of the Brooklyn Bridge.

When it was pointed out to Mr Ed Smudgers, Chairman of BEDBOUNCY, that the word Youth would have served just as well, he broke down and called his mother, begging forgiveness for his sins, promising to call home more often, to restrict his bowel movements to the toilet bowl, and to clean his grandmother more often and much, much more thoroughly.

Tuesday, October 01, 2002
 
Ann Widdecombe’s secrets of ageless beauty

Who says ladies of pensionable age can’t be beauties? At last, Tory MP Ann Widdecombe, 87, single, and with only the merest suggestion of a third buttock, has come clean - after four long days with a Brillo pad and some industrial bleach. In an Olympics exclusive, Ann tells the world the secret of that look. And it’s not easy. Ann’s schedule would kill a Mexican donkey, and maintaining her appearance is a 24-hour job in itself. Ann agrees that a successful regime very much depends on finding a reputable and affordable beauty supplier, and Ann’s preferences are Halfords, Lafarge and B&Q. Let’s look at Ann’s daily ritual:

6am Ann will not drink tea or coffee, and won’t touch tapwater, owing to the high urine content (although she no longer uses the water tank in this way). Instead, Ann washes her breakfast down with a pint of battery acid and turpentine substitute, on the rocks with a small cherry.
7am Ann’s skin treatment begins with a light sanding with Halford’s 24-grade wet-and-dry, followed by a thin, water-based undercoat, then a heavy gloss varnish – Ann prefers Sadolin Woodstain or Ronseal. She then stands in a wind tunnel and applies an oxyacetylene blowtorch to her hair.
8am The punishing daily workout starts at 8am GMT, and finishes at 9am, central European time.
12.30pm Ann’s light but frenzied lunch arrives screaming in a Transit van, is violently killed and cured by slaves, and then pitchforked into her office. After cleaning the bones, Ann has just enough time to wipe the evidence from the walls before meeting the PM at 5 for strawberry jam, scones, clotted cream and a pot of Earl Grey.
8pm Back home, Ann has a quick appointment with her Royal Ascot-trained beauty adviser, before luxuriating for several hours in a foaming acid bath. Forty minutes in a darkened room with a blunt cheesegrater completes that unique look.


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