'funny, and not a little bit strange' - the guardian; 'an offbeat treat' - web user
Saturday, November 30, 2002
Thomas Hardy owes me £11
Sometimes, something beyond this world, something beyond the mortal, tries to communicate with us. That’s why, when Thomas Hardy’s President of the Immortals sent an angel cleverly disguised as a chubby Geordie bloke to tell me to back an 8-1 shot in the Hennessy Gold Cup, I sat bolt upright.
It was all so elaborate. The chances were remote that I would bother to ask the Geordie bloke whereabouts he came from. They were even slimmer that we would both originate from South Shields. That he happened to mention, a propos of nothing, that his grandfather worked in the Shields Pilot Office – just as mine had - was extraordinary. That they were contemporaries was astounding. That I then received an e-mail from someone with the same name as his grandfather was, frankly, bloody scary.
Of course, to top it all off, the very instant I climbed into the car and switched on the radio, I got a racing tip for a horse called Harbour Pilot. This was the clincher. Naturally, I put my life savings (£11) on it.
So why the fuck did it come in fourth?
Friday, November 29, 2002
Nasser Hussain, who today won the toss and elected to run for cover, has been widely pilloried in the British press for his tactical ineptitude and utter spinelessness. However, I believe Hussain is a very, very shrewd man. Amidst all the furore surrounding his decision to have his wife flown over to Perth so he could be there for the birth of his son, one crucial fact has been overlooked. His kid is an Aussie.
Where did I put those job-vacancies pages?
This story, written and published by me in my staff newsletter today, seems to have caused unrest among senior management. Names changed, of course...
Where do former writers go?
Best wishes to Bethany Feggle, recently engaged to former company writer Dave Rhomboid. Dave left in August to do teacher training. Bethany claims Dave was asked to speak on the topic of his choice to his classroom. "Dave practised his favourite subject on me night and day for a whole week. I am now an expert on erectile dysfunction.” We hope you have a happy and fulfilling marriage, Bethany.
Thursday, November 28, 2002
Audi man spots new opportunity
Professor Thrigwald Prowler III
Let's go UK
Dear Professor III
In your travel magazine, you describe the UK as ‘a delightful cultural melting pot of social contrast, bracing seasons, timeless tradition and stunning scenery’. Clearly, you have not visited this country since 1862, are clinically mad, blind, drunk, or brilliant at euphemisms.
The UK is no longer the quaint, polite world of Dickens. It is one where quaint, polite people do all the work so that homicidal yobs can reap the benefits. Britain’s friendly population of incensed asylum seekers would quite like to kill you; our mad cattle, under pressure from the daily rainfall, frequently float past the window of our crumbling, overpriced maisonettes; and the bitter, howling wind gnaws at the very core of your soul. Crime and drugs are the dominant industry, it’s dark by 3.45 in the afternoon, and our Prime Minister sees the place as an annoying diversion in his quest for world domination.
Visit this chilly, rain-lashed, expensive, strike-hit, seething mass of social tension if you must, but don’t go out after dark, and bring some scuba gear, your life savings and a loaded weapon. Alternatively, for a similar effect, stand in an industrial freezer and perform root-canal work on yourself with a Bosch hammer drill.
I see that Let’s go UK has a vacancy for a Senior Features Writer. I enclose my CV.
Late-breaking cricket news
On the eve of the third Test against Australia, and following man-of-the-match performances in the first two Tests, Extras has been promoted to number three in England's batting order.
Digging up the past
Just been reading my archives. This stuff has changed radically, hasn't it? Thank God. Any other bloggers out there quite like to hit delete on their early stuff?
Wednesday, November 27, 2002
Time to move on
Conversation with Ms Pernicious Chuckles (not your real name, probably), Training Director.
Me: Ah, Pernicious, been meaning to speak to you. I had a problem with the editors I trained in London on Friday.
PC: In what way?
Me: In the way that their grasp of English grammar was considerably worse than David Beckham’s. My opinion of them is low.
PC: How low?
Me: Think ‘chihuahua’.
PC: So what’s the problem, exactly?
Me: Well, there wouldn’t be one if they were employed to wipe horse manure from the walls with their socks. But, the fact is, they’re editors and senior editors. I expect a firefighter-sized pay rise if I’m being asked to train people who are significantly more stupid and more senior than I.
PC: Than me.
Me: Surely not? Right – I want £95k, private health insurance, a green Audi TT, free chocolate, and a nice, tickly, daily scalp massage delivered by a topless Brazilian beachgirl.
PC: No, it’s me, not I.
Me: Wrong, love. It’s a personal pronoun used with the verb ‘to be’. It always takes the subjective form. As a former editor, you should know that.
I know that. But now I’m looking for a new job. Probably.
Clues that you are very, very tired
You write an e-mail but can't find the energy to hit Send.
You leave your car who-knows-where in Tesco car park and spend 43 minutes looking for the little bugger.
Tuesday, November 26, 2002
Bound by invisible connections
At the fag-end of a drab Monday, a stunning conversation with an internal client.
“Which part of the North East are you from, then, Sean?”
“Wow. So am I, although I left when I was 7.”
“So did I. My grandad used to run the Pilot Office.”
“Huh? …so did mine.”
This coincidence was almost supernatural. Even more so, because, when I hear a North-East accent these days, I don’t normally bother them with it – I left so long ago that it seems irrelevant. But, on this occasion, something drew me to ask the question. And it turns out his grandad worked with mine in the South Shields Pilot Office. Now, here we are, 40 years later, 200 miles away, working together on something altogether different. I ask you, what are the odds?
At the very instant he told me his grandad’s name – Ramsay – I got an e-mail on Lotus Notes from someone called Ramsay. Driving home, the radio tipster was plugging a horse for Saturday’s Hennessy Gold Cup – called Harbour Pilot.
Get your cash on it right now.
Monday, November 25, 2002
More things that baffle me
Why, when celebrities are snapped passing through Heathrow Airport after a foreign jaunt, they’re always described as ‘looking tanned and fit’. Why fit? Why does the sun taking eight layers of skin off your face suddenly give you a six-pack? I’m damn sure they weren’t working-out by the pool.
Technology. In general. And people who try to explain binary to me. “It’s easy. It’s just like a load of 0s and 1s travelling down a big wide cable.” Well, thanks. That’s nice and clear, then.
Also, this trend to merge technologies – cameras and phones; PCs and multimedia; TV and e-mail, and so on. Let’s try and keep the right technologies together, eh? I feel that the day your mobile phone is incorporated into your iron may be a bleak one for the technological industries.
Blog of Note by proxy
Many thanks to Foxinternet for putting me first-up on their home-page reading recommendations. Oh, the joys of alphabetical order. Hmm, hang on, don't I begin with a T? These guys were once a Blog of Note. I claim Blogofnoteness by association.
Saturday, November 23, 2002
Is this what happens?
The man in the bow tie fixed me with a cold stare. "Tell me something remarkable about yourself." It was 1989, and it was still socially acceptable for interviewers to talk utter nonsense in job interviews. Provided they were wearing a bow tie and a smirk.
"My mother was a horsefly," I said. No, I didn't. I thought for a second, then countered, "The difference between my IQ and my pulse rate is 122. I believe it's a world record." It probably was, too. He said, "That's incredible. You shouldn't be here. You should be on the space program." I then pointed out that my pulse rate was the higher figure. He didn't laugh, so I turned the job down.
Yes, I was, indeed, a Superbeing. Well, I knew I wasn’t but, to a casual observer, the signs were all there. An IQ of 162; a pulse rate of 40. I was in MENSA; I ran marathons; I was mentally sharp, if a little unfocused.
My point in all this is that, topless, I looked in the mirror yesterday. I am, clearly, no longer a Superbeing. In days gone by, if my fitness lapsed for a while, I would wait until enthusiasm regrouped, then work my arse off. Well, my fitness took a holiday a few months back, and I'm still waiting for Johnny Enthusiasm to kick in. I’m sitting here, impatiently staring at my watch. It ain't gonna happen. I’m just going to have to get started and wait for the enthusiasm to catch up later.
Hell, I'm pushing 40 - is this what happens?
Friday, November 22, 2002
Points to bear in mind when running an international, progressive, slightly upmarket chain of hotels
It seems to me that, if you're part of an international chain of hotels with big aspirations on world domination, that, if you're going to go to the trouble of providing a 'pillow menu' of five pillows, that if you're going to offer guests the opportunity of checking-out while having breakfast, that if you're going to provide a beautiful swimming pool, sauna, steam room and gym, then it makes no sense to employ a team of Venezuelan check-out girls.
"What he say?"
"He want cause stinks and capers with your bed lard."
"NO. For the eighth time, I said, please may I put my drinks and newspaper on the credit card?"
"You think snowshoes ape an edit hard?"
"Yes, yes. That's exactly what I mean. Now, please will you let me go? I only have around 42 more years to live, and I need to see my children."
Adding spice to Celebrity Big Brother
While on my travels, I had an idea to add some much-needed spice to Celebrity Big Brother. What's missing is the right people. I have drawn-up a list of the folk I'd like to see share a house:
1 Anthea Turner.
2 Audley Harrison.
3 Marc Almond.
4 Melinda Messenger.
5 Dani Behr.
6 Peter Sutcliffe.
7 Ian Brady.
8 John Christie.
9 Robert Pickton.
10 John Haigh.
Denis Neilson would, of course, be studio MC. My particular gripe with Marc Almond goes back to 1988. Apart from being a hideous, camp, greasy, pouting, smelly vegetable-creature, his ghastly version of the Gene Pitney classic Something's Gotten Hold of My Heart has been on default as resident wallpaper music in my head for 14 years. Fourteen bloody years.
Thursday, November 21, 2002
The King of Speed
Just a quick blog before I leave for the Dirty Smoke to present yet another course. Tomorrow’s could be the quickest ever, owing to the promise of a game of tennis if I get back early enough. Not having played for three weeks, I’m keen to find out how fast a human being can present a training course:
Tuesday, November 19, 2002
Audi man in Euro freebie record
A medical editor has smashed the British, Commonwealth and European record for collecting freebies from an international expo centre. Moving with speed and guile across all 72 exhibition stands at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC), Nigel Graber collected over 150 items of pointless tat, all advertising miracle HIV drugs. His record haul included four clocks, a rucksack, 38 pens, 11 golf balls, a calendar, a CD wallet, a twig-shaped pencil, a clockwork boxing fish, half a plastic mouse, 12 musical condoms and a car headrest carved roughly in the shape of Brian Blessed's mother. A spokeman for SECC said, "This was a magnificent performance, and we're particularly proud that Nigel achieved it on Scottish soil. I have never seen a man hell-bent on collecting utter shite move at such speed."
Addendum to yesterday's post: I had printed off the Sitemeter map and was reading it sideways. To my knowledge, I have no fans in Greenland.
Monday, November 18, 2002
Nine steps to heaven
The Right Rev. Belonius Trittle
Senior (Technical) Vice President
Your Right Reverence
This morning, I accidentally set the temperature rating on my Sirrus shower to 5, rather than my usual 4. I enclose my skin.
I also have a query. Since the temperature ratings on this shower go considerably higher than 5 - and 5 is volcanic - just how hot is 9? Are you trying to murder your customers? That being the case, I wonder if you might consider the more humane option of fitting rotating knives to your shower cubicles? Failing that, you could provide a small but violent, fully armed Gurkha warrior, who could lurk inside the bathroom steam. This might bring about a swift and relatively painless demise for your clients. I believe that sarin and cyanide are also effective in this respect.
I hope you will take my comments on board.
Whale-processing goes belly-up
Hmm. Sitemeter says an amazing 14% of my audience is in Greenland. Do you suppose they have any idea what I’m talking about? Maybe I'm solely responsible for the demise of the North Atlantic whale-processing industry. I have a mental picture of some stern-faced Inuit gaffer cracking the whip over his idle fish-workers, all gathered around a computer screen in the site igloo, nodding and making appreciative Eskimo-type noises.
Sunday, November 17, 2002
Meaningless advertising phrases
1) 'No added sugar'. As in Sunny Delight. OK but, at what point, exactly, do they stop adding sugar?
2) 'Up to 35% more effective'. Right, so it could be 0% more effective?
3) Shampoo ads: 'Now with dermo-peptides'. Oh, so, suddenly, the gloopy-ceramides just aren't good enough, eh?
I have discovered the Trainee Writers at work are paid the same as I am. My particular gripe is that they have few of my skills. Life has passed me by. Big money has given me its widest berth. Where have I gone wrong?
Friday, November 15, 2002
Revolutionary is salutation victim
Don’t, whatever you do, address the company’s Operations Director as ‘mate’ in an e-mail. It goes down very, very badly. Even for a revolutionary.
Thursday, November 14, 2002
Things that worry me
Here’s a few examples from my subject-verb agreement exercise on my training course. Warning - you may die of boredom whilst reading this.
Choose the correct option:
None of the doctors is/are here.
Jim or John prepare/prepares the room each week.
Claire's account of expenses balance/balances perfectly.
Panic and fear characterise/characterises the presentation.
How worrying is it when one of the company’s ‘most promising’ trainee writers completely ignores the two possible answers and, instead, simply inserts an apostrophe directly before every single letter s? She couldn’t have been further off beam if she’d turned the answer sheet into a paper doily and sung popular Kylie numbers through her bottom.
And a brief mention for the way-too-honest bloke who found £110 lying on the floor in Tesco and promptly handed it in to Customer Services.
I’m going to thank me, even if no one else is.
Tuesday, November 12, 2002
With London’s traffic in a state of gridlock, hope is on the horizon with one man’s amazing discovery. Stevie Garrett of East Cheam says he has stumbled across a vast underground train network in full operation beneath the streets of London. An army of Transport Ministers is said to be looking into the claims. “In the current climate, this could be excellent news for the commuter,” said a few of them.
Meanwhile, a raunchy calendar featuring Manchester students has been banned by union bosses. Girls’ blushes on the calendar are spared only by diving suits, and by strategically placed factories and aircraft hangars.
Yet more things I don’t understand
How the Peter Rabbit’s Bollocks the public ‘staying vigilant’ is going to prevent a terror attack on the UK. `A simple west-country mud farmer has brought down seven of Al-Quada’s planes using only extreme vigilance, a bicycle pump and some large popcorn', is a sentence I expect not to read in the press.
Monday, November 11, 2002
Serious blog warning! - speed cameras aren't working
Sorry, not in funny mood today. I probably lost my licence over the last four days of ping-ponging around the country. It would be impossible not to, since there are speed cameras about every 200 yards. However, they are clearly not working, as the accompanying roadside messages indicate. '2,677 offences in the last week'. Hmm. That would seem to suggest that motorists aren't slowing down. And yet there's many more cameras planned. Could that have anything to do with the £60 fine? I know cameras that are hidden behind blank roadsigns on major dual carriageways - on roads and in conditions that pose no threat whatever to the public or other drivers. Yet you never see them near schools, or on housing estates where children play. Shame, that.
Sunday, November 10, 2002
Barrymore: Burrell inspected his weapon says Leslie in clever four-way news story tie-up
Yes, the headline did say 'Barrymore: Burrell seduced me as Diana lay dying'. I assumed it was just a way of pulling together several news stories in a weak attempt at saving paper costs.
Just back from Worthing. Audi man in 1,200-mile, four-day driving odyssey. Anyway, here's a photo of Worthing's youngest resident. Our arrival reduced the average age to around 84. Amusing sights included two wrinklies racing each other along the seafront in their covered buggies. You can tell an oldies town by the way the grassy play areas have signs up saying 'No card games'.
Not sure my constant singing of Morrissey's Every day is like Sunday endeared me to the locals.
Every day is like Sunday
In the seaside town
They forgot to close down.
Come Armageddon, come Armageddon,
Come, Armageddon, come,
To the seaside town,
They forgot to close down.
Friday, November 08, 2002
Things to consider when running a small, unattractive, downmarket hotel in Bracknell, Berkshire, England
Providing instructions for the shower.
Fumigating the room, bathroom, corridor and foyer.
If taking £4.45 off guests for a Continental breakfast, actually delivering it.
Stocking the bathroom with shower gel that you don't have to suck out of the capsule.
Things it's best not to do
When well into your seventh hour of driving home from Berkshire, and having taken a massive detour through Manchester, drive between the two platforms of a tram station in your small car. Note: stopping the vehicle, winding down the window, waving, and shouting "Oops, sorry folks. My mistake. Have a nice journey," simply compounds the astonishment of the waiting passengers.
My thanks to Nasser Hussain for providing the biggest laugh of yesterday: "We decided to put the Aussies in to bat, as we thought the ball was going to seam". Well, I thought the ball seamed a helluva lot. From what I could see, the ball seemed to cross every possible inch of the boundary ropes.
Thursday, November 07, 2002
HR suspicions grow
Summoned to HR again.
HR girl: Nigel, your training courses have been a huge success.
Me: Thanks, I’ve made a big effort with them.
HR girl: Yes, it’s amazing. There’s over 570 people on the waiting list for Business English alone.
Me: Well, I’m very pleased.
HR girl: There’s only 400 people in the company.
HR girl: There’s one other thing. Some of the comments on the feedback forms are a little odd.
Me: Oh, yes?
HR girl: Yes, look at this one. This person has put down his post-course objectives as to help raise funds for a specialist land army to fight the asylum-seekers menace, and to kidnap the Director of Finance. This is on - let me see - the 'Basic English Styling and Grammar' course...
Me: ...You should see the Advanced course...
HR girl: And that's not an isolated case. This girl here states that she wants to replace the staff newsletter with the Daily Mail. And there’s more. Look at this one: to mobilise a company-wide march on Downing Street in the firm’s Volvos.
Me: Well, the countryside people went in their tractors. I just thought…
HR girl: So that’s why everyone’s wearing these little Volvo badges, I suppose? And what about the desk chanting?
Me: [rapping]…paid our tax, consider the facts, kicked in the ass, poisoned by snacks…
HR girl: Er, yes. It’s very disruptive. Did you know profits are down 60% this month? Just what exactly are you teaching on these ‘courses’, Nigel? Let me ask you a question. Have you ever seen any of that old, grainy film of the Nuremberg Rallies?
Me: Hmm. Would you like me to run some more courses?
Wednesday, November 06, 2002
Bad luck is snow fun
Snowballs during the Christmas holidays, two years ago. An idyllic scene. The whole street is out, adults and kids alike. Rolling snow into snowmen, gleefully compacting the beautiful flakes into firm white balls, revelling in the joy of the winter holidays.
I’m chucking snowballs with the best of them, but suddenly I’m in a dogfight with one of the neighbours. It’s hell, and I’m going down in a flurry of snow. Thinking quickly, I duck behind a car and emerge with a haymaker, a real beauty of a forehand that knocks his glasses from his face. Knocks, in fact, one of the lenses from its frame.
In the next few minutes, it becomes clear that I have removed the lens from the glasses of the street’s only one-eyed man. Not only that, but it is the lens covering his good eye, rendering him, in effect, blind. And no one can find the little bugger.
In terms of bad luck, this is truly world class.
Oh, how I laughed as he blundered his way back to the wrong house, gashing his shins on upturned sledges and sliding for miles on the sheets of ice.
Tuesday, November 05, 2002
See’s Candies strikes again
Not content with destroying the digestive systems of an entire continent, See’s Candies have now gone for world domination by exporting their repulsive ‘Lollypops’. This is the snack that launched Al Quada, that they sucked on Apollo 13, that felled the Clinton administration, and that was used to oppose the Christian doctrine of Good at the Oxford Literary and Debating Society. You can lick these of an evening, but place your life insurance documents somewhere where your loved ones can find them.
Audi man on world tour
Well, if that was Sunday, that must have been Windermere and Blackpool. It’s off to Maidenhead next (Thursday) to present my training course, back to Audiville (Friday), then to Worthing (south coast) for a wedding on Saturday. There’s a trip to Glasgow next week and another jaunt down to Maidenhead.
Sunday, November 03, 2002
Too bushed to blog
Busy day re-enacting A Perfect Storm in small boats on big waves on Lake Windermere.
Then kept a promise to Hannah and took her out to Blackpool for the evening. One glance was enough to confirm that the town planners had given up on their idea of turning the place into the Las Vegas of Western Europe, settling instead for the far less ambitious plan of creating the rancid arsehole of the western world.
Too bushed to blog any more.
Saturday, November 02, 2002
More things I don't understand
Buying small vans. I'm almost certain it makes more sense to buy a big van and then have the option of putting less in it.
When playing Guess Who? with Tibbie, today, I asked Does your character have grey hair? When she said no, I couldn't work out whether to eliminate all my characters with grey hair, or those without. I have an IQ of 162 and am a former member of MENSA. What does that say about MENSA?
See, I'm posting. I'm posting! You were worried, admit it. I was worried. Daily blogging is hard. Even Anna is having a crisis. It takes discipline, will, inspiration, balls, beer and lots and lots of chocolate.
Friday, November 01, 2002
Possible freeze-frame warning
For some odd reason, my life is quite busy right now and I’ll be whizzing all over the country for the next few weeks. I may not have as many opportunities to blog. This does not, in any way, constitute a closing ceremony. Please bear with me during this trying period. I will do all I can to restore normal service as soon as possible. Obviously, if you're still reading this message in 2007, you can safely assume it's all over. But that's not the plan.