Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Breaking my Rehab habit

I see that Amy Winehouse's father-in-law is recommending a boycott of the singer's music in a bid to get her back on the straight and narrow.

I'm pleased to reveal that I have been at the forefront of this boycott for some considerable time. Long before it became fashionable, in fact.

Penny for the guy, guys?

Since when did "guys" become the generic form of address for a group of people?

I've noticed that kids are frequently spoken to like this, particularly when they're in a larger group. If, for instance, I take one of the mini-Ws to a party at a gym or sports centre (a popular choice of parents in south-west London), the staff will say "This way, guys..." when they're leading the youngsters from one part of the building to another.

The mini-Ws and their mates are not guys. They are children. They are kids. They are boys and girls. But I sense these alternative forms of address are now thought too twee, too patronising and too politically incorrect to use. "Guys" implies that the staff and the children are all on the same level. (Intellectually, I fear this may indeed be the case, but I'll leave that for another day.)

When we took the kids to Pizza Express yesterday, we were collectively addressed as "guys" by the waitress. Now, it's one thing for my young daughters to be "guys", but I think it's quite another for me and Mrs W to be tarred with the same bruschetta. We are Sir and Madam. Or if this is too olde worlde and square for the likes of Pizza Express, I'd suggest the conversation could happily progress without any formalities at all. "What can I get you?" is perfectly sufficient and doesn't need to have the new and increasingly ubiquitous "guys" added as an extra topping.

I watched as the waitress moved to another table and - as my friend Eve-Marie would say, this is the God's honest truth - she used the g-word to a middle-aged lady, her husband and his octogenarian mother. The old lady may not have heard that she was a guy and so no damage was done. Nevertheless, I think it's pretty shoddy treatment for someone who probably sat out the Blitz in an underground station.

Monday, August 27, 2007

American radio

I've just been listening to an extraordinary commercial for Viagra on a US radio station. The opening creative gambit was "Are you doing the erectile dysfunction two-step?"

This is a question which, at every level, surely demands an emphatic "no" from the average listener.

It was the blurb at the end of the ad that really fascinated me though. Before popping the blue pill, you were supposed to ask your doctor whether your heart was strong enough for sex. And you were advised to seek medical attention if your ardour couldn't be suppressed after four hours. Surely they meant four minutes?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

That's my man

I'm a great believer in catchphrases and standing jokes that are repeated endlessly.

There's a guy in the ticket office down at my local railway station who always greets passengers with a cheery "Evening", whatever time of the day it is. Regulars get used to it, but it will always catch out the odd newcomer.

I thought for a long time that the party piece was reserved for customers. Recently, however, I observed the ticket man arriving on shift at lunchtime and saying "Evening" to his colleagues. It's his way of making the day go that little bit quicker and all power to his elbow. It reminds me of the shop floor at Grace Brothers:

"Are you free, Mr Humphries?"

"I'm free, Captain Peacock."

"Are you free, Mrs Slocombe?"

"No I am not free, Captain Peacock. I was up all last night with my pussy and cannot possibly go to Mr Rumbold's office now. And I am unanimous in that..."

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Good London viewing

New to my Virgin Media cable package: Celtic TV and Rangers TV. While I admire the ecumenical spirit of this initiative, I'm not quite sure why I'm getting free feeds from these giants of the Scottish game.

My nearest team is Brentford and for family/historical reasons, my support goes to the mighty Nottingham Forest FC.

I expect in Glasgow, they show Arsenal and Tottenham.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Charity muggers in action in Farringdon

Heading to Farringdon tube earlier this afternoon, I was accosted by charity muggers who were under the illusion that I would stop to talk to them in a torrential downpour. I snapped them on my Nokia 6300 and have been inspired to create a musical tribute:

I'm chugging in the rain
Just chugging in the rain
What a God awful feeling
I'm hated again
I'm laughing at clouds
And hated by crowds
Just chugging for
Diabetes in the rain

Ok, I'm very childish. I should know better. But they were taking the mickey. It was absolutely tipping it down and there was no way that anyone was going to stop.

Ryobi 524 H, 512 H, Roland 202, GTO 52-2, Shinohara

My spam friend Tatjana Fengler has been in touch again from Cologne and says she is ready to buy a range of machines. The Heidelberg GTO 52-2, for example.

Tatjana, if only I were ready to sell. It could be the start of such a beautiful relationship.

Test them on the buses

I watched a TV report yesterday that said children's IQs had been climbing steadily over the past 30 years. This no doubt explains how 99% of today's youngsters manage to pass their GCSEs.

It's difficult to dispute the figures, but I'm certain of one thing. These IQ tests haven't been conducted on the 281 bus route between Tolworth and Hounslow.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

No need to forgive or forget. But a little demolition wouldn't go amiss.

The war's over now: Liberation Square in St Helier, Jersey. The good shopkeepers and restaurant owners of the Crown Dependency liberated a lot of money from my wallet during a week-long stay. That's an enlarged facsimile of a ten-pound note they're holding in the picture (see blog entry below).

When I visited Guernsey a couple of years ago, I was very struck by the legacy left by the Second World War. I can report that things are pretty much the same in the nearby island of Jersey. As the only British territories to be occupied by the Nazis, you can imagine that these "Crown Peculiars" suffered real trauma. I was astonished to discover that there were 11,000 German soldiers stationed on Jersey between 1940 and 1945 and some estimates suggest that this figure rose to 16,000 at certain points. (To put this in perspective, fewer British troops have been policing large swathes of southern Iraq for the past few years. Jersey is about nine miles across.)

So the war was a nasty old business in the English Channel. But I can't help feeling that the relationship with the era is all a little bit weird. On both islands, the Nazi fortifications are left standing and are sometimes promoted as tourist attractions. Of course it's important not to forget the past, but why exactly would I want to sunbathe in front of an anti-tank barrier built by Russian slave labourers in 1943?

How do you spot a genuine Jerseyman?

My considered answer to this question - having just spent a week in the Channel Islands - is that you don't spot a Jerseyman. He spots you. A mile off.

He then charges you £14 to ride a bike down a promenade for an hour or £18 to park a car while you go on a day trip to France.

Don't get me wrong. It's a nice island with some very beautiful beaches and a fascinating history. But it's not as cheap as Aya Napa. Somehow or other, I always end up going to places on holiday that I can't really afford. That's Mrs W for you. She favours Switzerland as a general rule (see blogs passim) but has a sideline in tax havens and Crown Peculiars.

The Mrs really pushed her luck this time though. On a day trip to Brittany, she knocked a whole load of china off a shelf in a shop in St Malo. I was forced to shell out 43 euros on one of the most hideous china tea sets I've seen in a long time. L'ebay beckons. We have a sneaking suspicion that the miserable proprietor of this knickknack emporium had balanced things on the shelves in such a way as to make an accident likely. There was some wobbly wooden ornament that generated a cascade similar to those that you get in a money-toppling machine on an English pier. Only this time, the jackpot was claimed by the owner.

"C'est la vie, n'est pas?" I quipped as I coughed up on my Mastercard. The little sod just gave me a textbook Gallic shrug.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Tatjana, du bist eine spammerin.

Interesting email from Cologne today, sent by a lady called Tatjana Fengler.

"You yourself or somebody you know," she writes, "has submitted this eMail to our mailing list in order to receive periodically our offers and demands from (sic) second hand printing machines and equipment."

Let me say categorically, Tatjana, that I myself have no interest whatsoever in second-hand printing machines and equipment. I doubt very much that somebody I know would presume to subscribe on my behalf. Which leads to me to one very obvious conclusion: you yourself, Tatjana, or somebody you know has done it. And that's very naughty indeed.

I'd accuse you right here and now of being a spammer, were it not for the small print in your email which seems to let you off the hook:

"This message is forwarded according to the new electronic mail legislation: Section 301, paragraph (a) (2) (c) from S.1618 under the title 3 of the S1618 decree, approved on the 105th SPAM international regulations congress, this email will not be considered SPAM while we have provided ("opt out"/websiteaddress.com) e-mail contact so you can be deleted from our mailing list."

When 9 to 5 becomes 24/7

A lady called Diane Duffin has run into trouble with authorities in Sheffield for playing Dolly Parton tracks around the clock. Apparently, neighbouring tenants haven't taken too kindly to her non-stop country music festival.

It reminds me of the lyric to a 1970s Parton hit called "Two doors down", in which the prescient songstress clearly foresees events that are to take place in the UK some three decades later:

Two doors down
They're laughing and drinking and having a party
Two doors down
They're not aware that I'm around
Cause here I am
Crying my heart out and feeling sorry
While they're having a party two doors down

Press reports suggest that Diane may be evicted and given an ASBO, but I have a more inventive suggestion. Why don't they turn the estate into a British version of the Dollywood theme park? That way, the neighbours could get involved too.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

There's a hole in my bucket

While enjoying a meal in a Birmingham restaurant last night, I nipped to the toilet and was shocked to discover buckets serving as urinals. This is something I've never encountered in London. Luckily, I had my handy Nokia 6300 with me. The washbasins were green washing up bowls and looked very cute, but I decided one photo was quite enough. People would be wondering why I'd been gone so long.

Bucket cleaner wanted: Birmingham restaurant takes the... er.... mickey.