Wednesday, June 29, 2005

I no longer answer my phone...

because 9 times out of ten it will be a computer trying to sell me something. And they are persistant. Some sound like Hal from 2001, "High Dan, no I'm not saying your kitchen is shit but just look around. Don't hang me up Dan, Dan..." On the average night I'll receive 8 maybe 9 of these calls. I know it's them because they never list their number, so if I check the gadget that records who's just phoned the voice always says, oddly in a Cornish/US accent, "The caller witheld their number." Lots or RRRR's and Brrrr's in that phrase. I love that voice, I'd buy cattle from that voice, it's a rural voice, got integrity. Thank fuck they don't use that voice to sell me stuff. "The caller has withheld their number Dan, but oi 'ave this fine Heifer, fit perfectly into that kitchen of yours, what with the mess and all."

Ocassionally there'll be a live human and they always sound suprised as if not expecting anyone to actually answer their call, "Err, oh, yeah, umm, hullo, yeah sorry, high. Jeeze man you really made me jump..." So I say, "You phoned me." and then follows a scripted reply spoken over the sound of pages being turned. "Is that Dan?" "Yes" "That kitchen's really fucked man!"

And it's all so ubiquitous (c'mon look it up, look it up!). I swear the other week friends were round for dinner and I answer the phone. A very noisy line, and I'm waiting for the pitch, I'm impatient, so I say "HELLO!" From down the phone a glass goes over, something's spilled, there's music, conversation, laughter and a script being rustled, "Hello," I say and can hear the voice on the other end say, "Bugger wrong script, I think the other's in me bag, hang on a mo..." So I say, "Hello, you rang me remember." And the voice says "Keep you're fucking hair on, some of us are trying to work here. Where's that bag" Then from the table my mate Joe says "Dan, where's me bag?" And he's holding his mobile fucking phone. So I say down the phone "It's by the front door." And he says. "Thanks mate." And I say to his disappearing back "There's fuck all wrong with this kitchen." He hangs up, returns to the dinner and says "Bugger, another sale lost. Still, he sounded like a right wanker."

See what I mean?

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Tonight I'm...

off to see Antony and the Johnson's play at Manchester University. Just released a strange and haunting album called 'I am a bird now'. Excellent.

Sadly no time for a blog so here's a joke instead.

Man goes into a petshop and says, "I'd like to buy a wasp." The pet shop owner replies, "We don't sell wasps." And the man says, "Well there's one in the window."

I've been thinking of that joke all day and it still makes me laugh.

Monday, June 27, 2005

In the UK Tony Blair's government...

insists the whole country needs identity cards. Posh, technologically advanced ID cards with something called biometrics in them. A public debate is beginning to generate about whether this is necessary but I've become more interested in the debate about what information should be on the card. I know it's a burning issue because I've heard people talk about it. Every day after work I go for a run around a beautiful little park near to my home. It's a good park with swings and slides for the children, trees, a green area for football, plenty of shade for lying around. Crowcroft Park is also a popular park, always busy, children rushing and shrieking, chasing their friends, old folk sitting on benches watching the day go by, couples strolling and holding hands, families promenading. Time slows down in such parks, nothing is hurried, even runners like me.

And lo today's park topic is ID cards and I swear it's on everyone's lips. I pass a 2 year old who's just vomited a pool of alphabet spaghetti in which float the words 'Al Qaeda' that is then licked up by a stray dog. Nearby observers nod at the child's luck and whisper about renditions, Guantanamo, and orange rompers though that bit was lost on me. I'm later told the baby was beneath the dappled canopy of the park's largest oak and so could not be seen anyway by the NSA satellite that covers these parts. And besides US Intelligence still hasn't sorted out the glitches in their baby sick programme, though they do have a secret deal with Heinz whereby over a period alphabeti will be incrementally reduced until there's only one huge letter in every can. Apparently it's the only certain method of avoiding that baby pooh/encryption locus.

Nearby, two elderly women, blue rinses catching the sun sit like angels with bright heads and talk loudly with that public frankness you only hear from people who are either really old or really young.

One says "Those baby bio cards, I wonder if they'll let us keep mementoes in them? I saved a bit of my Jenny's umbilical cord, she were a lovely baby our Jenny. Of course it shrivelled up and then there was the time Henry tried smoking it, well his eyes were going and it were dark. He said to me Elsie, what's the matter with this tobacco? It smells like pork! I thought they could fit it in a piece of glass, like those catholic relics, in the middle of the card. And everytime someone official asks for it it'll be a talking point as well."

Even the local bored teenagers who as I passed were carving prime numbers on the legs of a tiny scoutmaster had an opinion. Though typical of that age it was mainly expressed in grunt, a language familiar only to themselves. I was struck though by the khaki shorts with hoops that made their poor victim look like he'd been eaten by a couple of trumpets and that from 6 miles up might also resemble the binary configuration for FUCK YOU!

There's bound to be arrests.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

People are wonderful...

but sometimes a little odd, and I don't exclude myself from this. The front wall outside my house has been looking pretty shabby for a year or two now. Charities have started posting leaflets inviting me to apply for grants and other forms of assistance. I answered the door once to a local priest who from the front wall's condition assumed I was near death. I said I didn't believe in God and also thought Benedict the Umpteenth was a stop gap pope who wouldn't last the course. He left in a huff when I suggested the next pope might not even be Catholic, sort of as a shock result. You know how it is with those ancient Cardinal guys I shouted at his receding back, dark room, nappy time, and before you can say I've forgotten my name a young French nurse is Popina Angelique I. It's easily done. Not impressed with my perspective on pope futures he managed to push down a bit of my wall on the way out. I could be generous and say he stumbled, but the un Christian, "Rot in hell you Marxist Fuck" was a giveaway. However, this is a wall story so I'll move on.

Yesterday I bought a 1kg lump hammer, 1" chisel and set about said wall. Now many of you may know I'm a social worker by profession and therefore not used to holding manly tools of anykind. Nevertheless I managed the day with little injury though the RSI flared up. Not for me builder's lung, dislocated shoulders, or melanoma from all that sun, no siree, all I'm good for is a bit of tendonitis. Still I was proud to have suffered for that wall. Today I bought some cement, forgot the sand. In fact didn't know I needed sand until I the cement wouldn't mix. A passing priest, for it was he, muttered, "You forgot the sand, you half wit. Think you can change the world when you can't even change a wall!". I politely asked him if the 90 year old Benedict the Umpteenth had "MADE IT THROUGH THE FUCKING NIGHT?" but he affected not to hear. I fetched sand. 10 minutes later he passed again. "You forgot the bricks numbskull." Hmmm, I crept to the store and bought bricks. A crowd gathered, it's a hot Sunday, the football season's over, people are bored. The crowd got bigger, arguments were had about the proportions of sand to cement (6 to 1 as it happens), priests worked the aisles, everyone had an opinion. Hours later I'd laid my four bricks (the coping stones are for another Sunday) even used a spirit level. A passing hippy who looked like Jesus quietened the crowd with a tale about real spirits in the level, tiny trapped Sisyphus's pushing against each other in eternal competition.

"Hey look man," He said in that classic stoner voice. "You can even see them." He held the level to his eyes and lost touch with the rest of us. "Hey! Hey! Fuck man. there's a fucking crowd of them, and they're all fucking green. Hey and there's priests working the aisles man. Wow." I gently took back my level and the hippy blinked "Far out man, far out. I think there's more than two Sisyphuses in there man. Never seen that before, more than two. And fucking priests as well man. Fuck!" He gave two fingers of peace to the crowd and wandered away muttering "That level's fucked man, crowd like that, how's the bubble gonna move man?"


Saturday, June 25, 2005

I was stopped...

on a country road yesterday by a ginger cat languidly scratching itself in the middle of the road. I looked at it, it looked at me and continued to scratch. Eventually after what seemed like an age it sighed yawned and moved ever so slowly to the road side and began to examine a squashed hedgehog. All my friends know I hate cats, I'm allergic to them, seriously, need drugs and stuff. My ideal cat is a flat cat, hedgehog style, or cats drop kicked over walls, I don't really care which, anyway the cat was slinking into the undergrowth when a bird shat on its head. It really did! For a moment the woodland froze, all sound stopped and then I heard a single bird laugh, tee hee, followed immediately by a heh heh, then a hah hah, then gales of bird laughter, louder and louder then with mania. A Hitchcock moment started to develop, well more Beavis and Butthead as I began to understand what they were saying, and it was sooo rude. Lots of voices, a cacophony in fact, the collective noun for this type of thing is a 'bitterness'.

"Fuck him, yeah, fuck him." "Right on the noggin, well done Charles." "Yeah do it again" "Yeah lets all shit!" "Give him what the hedgehog got, yeah" "Flat bastard, yeah" "Where's the fucker slipped away to?" "Little bastard, try licking that off" "Heh, heh, didn't he eat your brother?" "I know, lets shit on each other!" And at that the forest again fell silent and all including me turned to the seediest looking bird who said "What? It was only a suggestion!"

Then a gruff little voice said "Who's that fucker in the car?"

And an even gruffer little voice replied. "He's looking at us, the fucker, think he brought the cat. Let's shit on him."

So I wound up my window and left with a thought that maybe it's not age that gets woodland birds but ulcers from all that stress.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

The summer has finally arrived in...

Manchester. It is soooo hot and humid. In the area of south central Manchester where I live it's a melting pot of nationalities. Longsight and Levenshulme, neighbouring areas are so cosmopolitan. In the 50s Levenshulme was a big Irish area and there's still Irish pubs here. In the 1960's Longsight became a big African Carribean area, now there are Pakistani people and Indians, Bangladeshis, Nigerians, Sudanese, Egyptians, Iranians, Iraqis. Two years ago on Longsight's brilliant little Saturday market I was on an anti Iraq war stall and during an hour and a half petitioning I spoke to people from 31 different countries. All in this tiny area of Manchester. I was so impressed. At this moment my windows are open and I can hear an African man talking to a taxi driver in the street below. An African family has moved in opposite and they have small children who run around, it's nice to hear that sound again in the street, children shouting a having fun.

And the heat, ah the heat. The British are an odd lot when it comes to the weather, talking about the weather is an national past time. Meeting people at the bus stop, in a queue, at the shops, strangers in a bar, on a train, everyone's opening comment is about the weather. Generally it's either too hot or too cold. For us Brits the weather is never just so. I find this annoying because I love the heat, hot, hot, hot, hot, hot, hot. I like that feeling of sweat trickling down the centre of the back, and the stillness of a summer night. I like being able to leave the windows open, and the way sound travels long distances so you can hear faint music, or a train, or a heavy truck, or people talking quietly sitting on their front step feeling the warmth on their skin. And food, hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, food. Below is a recipe for Gaspacho, a traditional Spanish soup served cold. To sip Gaspacho on a summers eve is to be touched by heaven itself.

Summer, hurrah, and it's only just begun!

Gaspacho is an easy soup so you don't need to be gentle with it, if you've got tomatos, cucumber, garlic, onion, olive oil, and lemon you're 3/4's of the way there. Add a pinch or two of some beautiful green herbs and the whole world is suddenly a finer place.

Serves: 4

1 tb Chives, fresh4 oz Olive oil1 tb Chervil, freshJuice of one lemon1 tb Parsley, fresh1 Onion, mild; slice paperthin1 tb Basil, fresh1 c Cucumber; diced1 tb Marjoram, freshSalt1 Garlic clovePepper1 Pepper, bell1/2 c Bread crumbs2 Tomato; peeled & seeded

Chop the herbs and mash thoroughly with the garlic, pepper, and tomatoes, adding the oil very slowly, and the lemon juice. Add about three glasses of cold water [I still say this is the *correct* liquid. But often I use good meat or fish stock.] or as much as you wish. Put in the onion and the cucumber, season, sprinkle with bread crumbs, and ice for at least four hours before serving.

Bugger, I can't end this blog without one final recipe. I know this as Peri-Peri but it may have another name.

Serves 4.

Olive oil
Dry white wine
red chillies
fresh corriander
unshelled prawns
bread for the mopping up.

Take a large wok and pour in half pint of olive oil, finely slice two or three large onions and saute. Add oodles of garlic and cook. Finely slice a couple of red chillies and sling them in, add more or less chillies depending on how hot you want it. And mind them Scotch Bonnets as they've been known to take a man's hand off just by looking at them (message to my Guyanese friends, I know, I know, I'm being really wimpy re the chillies but I'm a white European, I can't help it.). Throw in a hefty pinch of salt and pepper to taste. When the onions and garlic etc are soft pour in most of the wine and bring to boil. The alcohol will boil off fairly quickly but give it a moment anyway. When the liquid is simmering throw in the prawns and cook for five mins. Finally, chop a decent sized bunch of the freshest coriander and throw that in. Stir only once then take it immediately to your friends at the table where it is eaten with chunks of bread. Drink loads of wine and beer. Be deliriously happy.


Wednesday, June 22, 2005

There's a dog barking...

outside. Make's me think of Gary Larson's dogs who are all really thick. Yup, dogs are dim. Some time in distant history they saddled themselves with us. Been downhill all the way for dogs since then.

Women's brains turn off...

at orgasm. The UK press this week has been running a story about how the more intense a woman's orgasm the more her brain shuts down. The articles have been accompanied by 3D images done on those doughnut shaped MRI machines. Oddly there's no photo's of men's brains at orgasm where no doubt the opposite applies. A brief supernova with the emphasis on brief.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Here in the UK...

some rich people drive enormous vehicles. Machines designed to be driven through jungles and deserts, over glaciers, across the dark side of the moon. In driving terms UK roads are average, bland, safe, uninteresting, one might even say dull. By European standards the country is fairly flat yet these wankers insist on paying thousands and thousands of pounds (I gather between £30,000 and £150,000) to own one. The UK is also a relatively clean place, no dust storms, typhoons, tornados, monsoons, mudslides, or any other catastrophe that might lead one to think, my family is so much safer with that 4 by 4 parked in the drive. The latest must have for 4 by 4's is spray on dirt. I kid you not. For the princely sum of £7:50p you can buy a aerosol of dirt to spray on your car, sort of to make it look like its been used properly. Only the rich are stupid enough to buy dirt, they haven't cottoned on to what the rest of us know, that dirt is free and exists in abundance, you've only to look behind my sofa to see that. What an odd world capitalism makes for us. Prior to the 1930's the rich hated tans because only the poor had them, a tan was a sign you worked out of doors. Wealthy people displayed pale skin as a mark that they did not need to work. That changed as holidays in hot areas became an exclusive of the rich, so tans became a sign of wealth. Once dirty cars symbolised a form of poverty now they symbolise wealth. Actually this is not strictly true, because beneath the new dirt are new cars, expensive cars, phenomenally expensive cars. The rich are so rich they buy camouflage to make it look like they really use these vehicles as designed. I imagine driving round most neighbourhoods on a Sunday morning and men (why is it always men!) are out washing cars clean, drift into the richer suburbs and they're spraying them dirty. Honest, they'd starve if left to themselves.

Monday, June 20, 2005

I am so offended...

by this James Blunt single called You Are Beautiful that I downloaded the lyrics just to make sure my queasy feeling was based in the world of fact. The plot goes like this, James Blunt (or another wanker) is on the subway when he sees a beautiful girl. Catching her eye fills him with longing and desire. Knowing they can never be one he laments. "But we shared a moment that will last till the end." This drivel then proceeds through one final verse and ends by pointing the finger of blame at an angel.

The first time I heard this on the radio I nearly crashed. A bloke sees a girl on a train, she sees him, he falls in love with her, he gets off (presumably at his stop though it's not made clear, in such a deranged state it might have been an earlier station) he's depressed, he blames God.

Interstingly we never hear the woman's view. More likely she catches his eye and thinks, 'Fucking hell, who's that perv looking at. Jeeze it's me. Better look away. Poor bugger, even surgery wouldn't put that right. Oh thank God he's getting off.'

Quod erat demonstrandum, methinks.

Friday, June 17, 2005


this last fortnight life's candle has been burning me at both ends, not even enough time to blog, fortunately the tide of busyness has again receded so I'm back proper on Monday. Before I go, here's something that I like and something that's really been getting on my nerves. There's a new version of Martha and the Muffins' "Echo Beach" by a band called Vanderkill currently sounding out on UK radio, it is so good. Unlike the putrid efforts of someone called James Blunt whose current single would win prizes in a competition based on how many sickbags a normal person might fill if severely provoked. I plan to dwell on this further after the weekend.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Robot bartender in...

Glasgow. So declares a headline on Net News this morning. Oh how the mighty are fallen. In only two weeks a promising career in medicine, over. No mention was made of the circumstances that dragged Sister Mary so low, nor interestingly was there an indication of the type of bar she now frequents. For more information I set loose a search engine, it took two tries. My first category: Robot Doctor/Scandal, had thirty hits, all unfortunately referring to how Pope John Paul's old life support machine became a drug mule in Naples after been thrown onto the streets by the new guy. Apparently Dominic the Umpteenth was having a clearout and JP2's trusty leather bellows (genuine calfskin) were first to go. The rest is well known, gambling, debts, a tincture too many of the holy wine, heroin. Everyone saw it coming.

My second category: Sister Mary/Vigorous Bed Bath/No Change Given/Mind That Mess On The Floor, bore fruit. Honest, it shot me straight to the site of Trixie's Palace in Easterhouse, even had a photograph of Sister Mary behind the bar dispensing both drinks and advice regarding infections that weep. Robot Doctor looked tarnished but well though promising career in pole dancing ended when she fell for the pole.

I suspect we've not heard the last of Sister Mary, robot functionary, friend to the lonely. Struck off but not struck out.