Monday, August 29, 2005

Dolls are funny...

things and get everywhere. On Thursday I was visiting a house in Moss Side and noticed a very cool Action Man reclining on a roof. He was bronzed, wearing fashionable black shorts and looked every inch relaxed, in fact I'm convinced he winked though that might have been wishful thinking. Hey, I can't be the only one attracted to his scar! So some type of doll template must have clicked in my head because I began to see them everywhere. In the UK lorry drivers have this odd habit of tying dolls and teddy bears to the front grill of their trucks and it's frustrating to hear half heard stuff as they whizz past. Like,

"Fucking hell, fucking hell, fucking hellllllllllll."

Their tiny faces and rictus grins pinned by wind pressure to grills sticky with splattered insects. And that Doppler fade which makes it all sound a little sad, well it would if their life were not so exciting. Oh yes, I have heard them say other things. Where I live all the bin wagons have dolls accompanied by teddy bears, some have only teddy bears and some have only dolls and recently I saw one with a tableau of Washington Crossing the Delaware in an Action Man canoe. George was represented by a magnificent teddy whose arm has been stapled to his forehead in the manner of someone who has eyes only for the far shore. It was impressive and as this vehicle drifted past I could hear them muttering.

"Why didn't he do a beach scene like last time.... Oh god I'm gonna Pwrrggaaahhhhhhgggrrruuuuttthhhh.."
The last thing I heard was one tiny voice asking, "Who's Ruth?"

Recently a dog ran past me and in it's mouth was the sweetest looking doll in a summer dress, but she had such aggression.

"Dog you are dead, do you hear me, dead. I'm going to kick your arse the moment we stop. What the fuck you looking at dickhead!" That last bit was addressed to me.
I replied. "It's not a crime to look."
"Yeah right up my skirt you perv. I've got your number and when I've done with this dog I'll be round to yours."
No one was listening, not even the dog and as it ran down the street that little voice was still shouting. "Dog you are fucked, fucked... Jeeze it was easier being pinned to a wagon."

There's lots of angry dolls about plus some serious psycho dolls such as Victorian pot dolls on window sills, facing outward, no doubt concealing the axes they'd so dearly love to stick in our unwary heads. And the way their sunken eyes, like they've a serious drug habit follow you up the street. Fuck knows what the Victorians were thinking to design such horrors, mind you with laudanum being so prevalent can we be at all surprised by anything that sprang from such imaginations. Nevertheless I'm sure many a Victorian middle class child were really chuffed when daddy returned from work with a hate doll.

"Here you go my darling, a loverly doll. I know it looks mean but the axe was free and that livid mark around it's neck is a fault in the mould. Yes darling, the clothes are basic but let's face it Hessian is the next big thing. And those enormous hands, all the better for holding on to."

Which is okay until the morning when daddy finds his little girl with a baby doll axe planted squarely in her forehead. Kind of explains why they had such large families, the toy/child attrition rate was a national scandal. Imagine how hard it must have been before the Factory Acts banned children from playing with toys? Chucky? Fucky more like.

Ever since childhood I've liked cribs at Christmas. Joseph, Mary, the baby Jesus, the three kings, that generator, that wolf and those gobby pigs. I was always cheered by a good crib though after so long I'm now sick of Joseph moaning about his knees, the quality of straw, that bastard Rumpelstilskin and Mary's wandering eye. Give it a rest Joe I want to shout. However, it is a season of goodwill and dolls do their best which is why any crib worth its salt should have a mini bar, only for guests mind and only as a treat. A tip for those new to crib buying, avoid the Josephs with rosy cheeks cos once the capillaries have blown there's no way back to innocence.

Finally, I was going to say a little something about why shop window mannequins are so emaciated but will save that for another time.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

It has been...

unseasonably blustery here in the UK. The birds have had a tough time of it. For instance I was walking across the acres of car park outside my office yesterday and a couple of birds were struggling to make headway against the wind. I think they were sparrows, or song thrushes, or blackbirds or starlings bobbing up and down as though in a sea swell. A couple were wiping sweat (do birds sweat?) from their foreheads with patterned handkerchiefs, one sneaky sneering adolescent bird was using alternate wings, fucker got his though when a swooping hawk bit his smug head clean off. The bloody carcass tumbled down to be caught by a creature the spit of Bill Sykes' dog Bullseye. For those who remember their Oliver Twist Bullseye was supposed to be astonishingly ugly. Anyway it would have been that dog's luck day except just at that moment it was plucked from the ground by an enormous eagle who rather neatly I thought managed not to let go of the bemused postal worker it had clearly hooked sometime earlier. I tried pointing this out to a chap loading shopping into the boot of his car but was told to fuck off.

I've mentioned this car park in previous blogs but perhaps have not done it justice. It is large. Perhaps not as large as your average US car park many of which seem to straddle international borders but big enough for the UK. This car park covers so huge an area it has two time zones and a desert plus a bit with rusted barbed wire and wooden signs. The sign closest to me had written upon it "They wouldn't listen" and on another sign just below that "They would not listen" and just below that "They would not" and below that "Bugger, me back's gone", below that lay a parched skeleton holding a paint brush and you could see one of the lumbar joints was still askew.

A sandstorm was blowing so I turned for the office and would have lost my way except a group of local urchins approached pulling a handcart loaded with signs that said "Nobody's Listening" Their leader looked first at the skeleton and then at me and said.

"Did you do that?"
"Do what?" I replied.
He nodded and I could see how the sand had caught on his fair skin giving him the look of someone on whose skin sand would catch. "That." He said.
We both looked down.
"The sign?" I said
He nodded downwards again.
"Oh the body." I said
He continued to nod downwards. By now I too was nodding.
The group came up behind him and watched me closely before one said "Is this sign yours?"
"No it was here when I arrived. Help yourself"
"This er, skeleton. Is that yours?" Said question boy.
"No, it was here when I arrived. Help yourself."
They tugged and wrenched to loosen the sign and eventually it came free. Then they heaved the skeleton onto their pile of signs where it came apart and fell through the wooden posts clicking and clacking like badly played castanets. Three of the older lads seized the cart shafts and began to pull, their efforts coordinated by an aloepeciac urchin using two painter's ribs to tap a jaunty rhythm on his overbite. If those boys had any politics I suspect they'd be green.

My ongoing journey to the office was later interrupted by shouting and I could see them being chased by security having wrenched from the supermarket roof a still flashing neon sign advertising skin care and cosmetic dental surgery. And who says boys aren't vain?

Sunday, August 21, 2005

My front wall...

was finished yesterday, apart from some cosmetic painting. I previously mentioned laying four bricks in a June blog and how it took me ages. Well yesterday I managed eight coping stones using loads of cement. It made me very proud. I don't want to come across like some kind of cement obsessive but it was very messy and satisfying. I even used my spirit level so everything was on the level (ha ha, that's an old Masonic joke apparently) though unlike the Masons I didn't wear a tiny white pinafore, have a trouser leg rolled up or threaten to cut my neighbour's throat with a knife. Which I've heard is what Mason's do.

I got to handle my lump hammer which is a smaller version of the one Thor used to carry. Here's a Norse joke. Thor is wandering around Bacchanalia or wherever else they had their orgies and he comes across a girl with a lisp whom he quite fancies. "I'm Thor" he says and she says "Your Thor! I'm not thure I'll ever walk again."

I digress.

Coping stones are the decorative brick things that go along the top of garden walls. They also double as calming objects for the stressed, hence the name. Here in the UK it is not uncommon to issue a coping stone to those who are depressed, the deeper the depression the heavier the stone. The rational being that these stones take your mind off your worries, actually they narrow the focus of your worries from the general to the particular, so rather than worry about bills or relationships or general stuff like that instead you worry about the damage done to your back by having the carry such a heavy object. And once you've learned to cope with the stone you're cured. Well that's the theory anyway. Of course only three professions promote this form of treatment; Psychiatry who use it as a means to reclassify incurable psychosis as builder's back and thus pass substantial numbers into spinal medicine; Spinal medicine who in a recent expose were found to have significant financial interests in walls; and of course the Masons who just have significant financial interests. To cut a long story short yesterday I bought eight coping stones from a local builder who sold them to me via a hatch in a steel reinforced door where all I could make out were eyes peering in a manner similar to those Mexican baddies in Sergio Leone films. The conversation went something like this.

Me, "I'd like eight coping stones please"
Him, over the sound of extra locks being turned. "Eight?"
Me, "Yes eight."
Him, sotto voce to his mate "Barry set the dogs loose we've got a nutter."
Me, "I heard that."
Him, "Why do yer need eight? Most people make do with one, eh? Are you a greedy bastard?" His eyes narrowed "Your not one of them cement obsessives are you?"
"Look I'm just sorting out the top of my wall."
All of a sudden he relaxed, "Oh you're a Mason, why didn't you say so."
Me, "No, I'm not a Mason,"
He, "That's a double negative. So you are a Mason?"
Me, "I am not a Mason, look." I lift a trousered leg.
"You're a psychiatrist then?"
"No, I'm not a fucking psychiatrist."
"Backs then. You're a spinal man."
"Then you must be really depressed, fuck off away from here." Sotto voce to Barry "Hold the dogs he's a depressive"
Me, "I am not depressed. I'm finishing a wall."
I could hear him and Barry discussing this and they eventually decided I might be telling the truth. The hatch slid back to reveal what I took to be Barry's piggy eyes looking me up and down.
Barry said "You sure you've not got a knife? You look like a Mason to me."
He stepped back and a dog yelped.
"Mind the fucking dog you dozy bugger!"
The two original eyes reappeared. "Okay, we'll sell you eight but you've not to let on where you got them from."
I sighed, "Okay."
As I drove out of the yard wondering how they managed to stay in business a large truck arrived and written on the side was North Manchester Primary Health Care Trust, NHS, followed by the legend "Coping Citywide"


Thursday, August 18, 2005


a balloon man arrived next to the man who works the ride for tiny children. The weather was so hot 'rideman' had fixed parasols to the cup and saucer cars. Balloon guy was holding a fair selection of helium inflated balloons that jostled and bumped above him. My eye was caught by the impressive range of figures and characters, there were the usual Bart's and Lisa's, there were Teletubbies, Barbies, Barbie's horses (Neddy, Shane, Snow, Crystal, Meth, Imminent Arrest) and strangely a Donnie Brasco though I'm not sure children got that reference. I did ask one or two but they thought it was the Brad Pitt character from Fight Club so what the do they know?

On occasion a gentle breeze caused balloons in the centre to push their way outwards. It was an ever changing crowd and I glimpsed a touching Baby Jesus dressed in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger, a Mary and Joseph briefly appeared riding Barbie's nag Wilmott and pursued by Columbian Federal Troops, Mary had a white moustache and looked fucking fabulous but that might have been a trick of the light. A child passed by and tied to her wrist was a long silk tape atop of which bobbed a representation of the Tay Bridge Disaster that included a neat outline of the doomed train's final moments before it plunged into that black river. You could even see the driver looking shocked. Tying balloons to children is a good idea given their propensity for letting go though in various high corners around the precinct there was evidence of parents who had not done this. Huddled above the hardware store that sells drinking paraffin a few wrinkled balloons seemed attached to a rat faced Dealer balloon. One child's tape was clearly too tight resulting in a poor hand swelling up like a balloon and as a result he now floated just below nearby guttering and people were running for a ladder to get him back down. As it is with some children he wasn't distressed merely curious that he could finally see what happens on roofs. Some nun balloons were praying for his soul and a few held soul balloons in case he was a catholic. The nun balloons were being admonished by a Dominic the Umpteenth balloon that was fat and bloated and in his top pocket was a tiny Papa JP2 sporting a white moustache balloon with a speech bubble that said "Bogota tarmac! Little wonder I spent so long on my knees." No idea what he meant by that. I was getting bored of balloons when another balloon man arrived with crowd of thug balloons looking for trouble. Just across from the door to my office a large truck appeared and began unloading a boiling kettle ride. Hmm, seems the only thing that's brewing in funland is trouble.

Of course I'll report any developments.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The UK...

is a funny old place, with some funny place names. I am wont on occasion to ponder this fact, mainly whilst driving in the countryside. As I understand it most place names go back to Anglo Saxon times, or when the Vikings were using this place as a larder, or that time the Roman's got offended because we were mainly painted blue. Either way some place names are, well, interesting. Only last week I was driving in Cheshire toward a hamlet called Little Pigmeat, just along from Garnish which was beyond Heavily Pregnant. I passed many an old bloke dressed in hessian with XXX printed on the chest and chewing some stalk or other. Oddly they all seemed to be called Jacob except the one called Nebudchadnezzer though I suspect he was showing off. It looked to me like they'd been hired from Gnarlies R US because no one dresses like that anymore what with hessian being so last year. They were strategically placed on country lanes leaning over gates, sitting on hay bales, polishing churns, oiling mink, and they were so ruddy, and only had three front teeth, which of course were crooked. Talk about your stereotypes. When I go to the country I want authenticity not some Ad Exec's idea of rural. And those village names, Throat, Strange Bicep, Heavy Thigh what is that all about? Two rivers, the Merkin and Pudendum meet beneath a crossroads with one of those wonderful fiveway signs that direct the traveller to Region, Nether Region, Myitisdampdownthere, Infection and It'lltakemorethanacourseofantibioticstoclearthatup.

In Manchester there's no romance when it comes to names just the brutal practicality of city life, no iffing no messing just call it like it is which is why I live in Crap. But amongst rolling fields, copses, hedgerows, pasture, the song of water rippling over smooth stones it is possible to feel closer to nature, to Ghia. So I stopped for birdsong that could just be heard over the noise of tractors spraying shit. A very slow moving truck passed and on the rear flat bed were lines of old fellers all dressed in sacking and murmuring about how fine the weather was and how good the harvest would be if they could just entice their waster son Jethro back from the city, some were calling for a return to capital punishment, not for anything in particular, they were just calling for its return. If you've ever seen those bollards they put down on motorways to close off lanes, a lorry drives and men (hey, it's technical work) drop bollards one after another, well it was somewhat like that. At key points they'd unload an old guy and not even halt the vehicle. I was later told that lead boots served to both stop them from tipping over and wandering off. All in all a pretty slick operation, organised by a city firm of course, well you can't entrust the countryside to those who live there, they'd only mess it up.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Professor Mouha, Internationally...

renowned healer and clairvoyant has left a card on my windscreen. It states "I can help you in bringing back your loved ones, infidelity in relationships, domestic and family problems, depression, substance misuse, addiction, losing weight, impotency, infertility, immigration, court cases, breaking black magic, Jinx, demonic forces, success in business, exams and career, spiritual guidance, stress, job interviews, marriage problems. Just a single call can change your life forever. Your pain relief is my responsibility"

Is that an impressive list of skills or what? Problems with demonic possession or obtaining that loan? Then Prof Mouha's your man. I nearly phoned to check if his interest rates were comparable with the big money institutions. In small print on the reverse of his card there's some fairly dry warnings, written by a lawyer of course, (says something when an agent of Satan is forced to hire Counsel). Under the heading Penalty for Non Payment it said "Yes we really do charge an arm and a leg." Fair enough I thought, after all the big banks take your children as well, and your home, your livelihood, good name, car, remaining relatives, goat. In fact our goat was once interviewed for a job with Barclays but missed out to a shitbag Tory bastard who claimed the goat couldn't be a Christian on account of his beard and faraway stare. Jesus! Even Jesus had a beard! Banks and Tories, drawn together like flies and shit, what can you say?

I digress.

Prof Mouha states he can sort demonic forces, break black magic and Jinx. Again I return to the small print on the back. At this juncture I should say that the card is approx 3'' by 4'' and pretty straightforward though when you turn it over a little origami trick occurs and in the manner of a concertina four volumes of legalese unfold to the floor. Thank fuck I didn't read this thing on a bus, or in the loo, or any other confined space, I'd never have got out. Essentially it says unless the contract (hereafter referred to as The Contract) specifically includes the Jinx, black magic, demonic forces clause, neither Prof Mouha (nor the Parent Company, Lucifer Holdings (TM) ) can be held responsible. Old Nick, such a cheeky get. Not so smart though, not in this modern world. There was a time he did just what the he wanted, no explanation, no forewarning, just one puff of smoke and suddenly your working the eternity shift on Beelzibub's Big Barbie. Not anymore, with litigation achieving new levels of popularity and an increasing interest in health and safety the Horned One (and his franchisees) have been forced to overplay their cloven hoof. Spells? Spell it out more like. What choice has he got? Any trouble might lead to a snap inspection by the Local Authority, a couple of swabs from those work surfaces, a bit of peering into those dark corners, a little testimony from the tortured and before you can say "Injunction" Hell is shut right down. Let's not forget Heaven's Angel showers received the same treatment only last year after that messy verucca outbreak among the Seraphim. God lost half a season's takings when traffic switched to Purgatory and the market's still not recovered because the bloody purgers love the discomfort so much. And I'll not go near that brouhaha about 'Angel Showers' except to say that in reality God being so dim has once again proved to be a blessing.

And speaking of pain. I did phone Mouha on Saturday morning about a headache and he said that when he wrote that my pain was his responsibility he meant in an existential way. I tried contacting my lawyer but he's still in Purgatory, seems the caterer's have struck and all flights are cancelled, maybe something good has happened this week. Yay!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

A children's ride...

has appeared outside a local supermarket. It features cars shaped like cups and saucers that the man spins gently as they pass him. If there's an excitement scale for these types of funfair equipment with the most dangerous being indexed as 'Poohyerselfanddoitnowcosallcontrolhasgone' and the least frightening as 'agentlebreezehasjustwaftedyourskin' then this ride must be a 'Ihopethatfeatheronyourlegisn'ttoomuchofaninconvenience'

What's sweet is to see the different attititudes on display from the three and four year olds. Some are really cool and take in the air, maybe nod at waiting parents whereas for others it's little ashen faces that stare out as they glide by. Aaahhh!

As a kid I came from the 'ohmigodI'mgoingtobesickohohohohwhoarrrggggghhhhhh h h h' school, and I could achieve this state by merely glimpsing a fair pulling into town. Nowadays I admire the cool tots and feel empathy for those who achieve that curious green hue.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Wey Hey!

Back after a short break. This weekend I went to look at Anthony Gormley's new exhibition 'Another Place' on Formby beach in Liverpool.

The above link goes to his website though unfortunately I couldn't find a reference, other than an excellent opening photo, to the sculpture. The piece is composed of 100 lifesize cast iron figures standing upright on Formby's shallow beach. They extend a kilometre into the surf and three kilometres along the beach. As the tide rises and falls the figures are exposed and covered in turns. It is very impressive and always changing. Sometimes only the heads of are visible above the waves, then chests and slowly as the tide recedes each figure stands solitary facing seaward, looking to the west and Ireland or maybe beyond. On Sunday I went with friends from Manchester and it was a beautiful day, sunshine, blue skies, and a perfect wind for our kites. Not that I'm a kite person generally but looking upward into that wonderful sky and watching a Harry Potter kite with it's long tail fluttering high above me was as glorious as it gets. The exhibition is planned to last 18 months and I think it's going to New York next. Such a long seasonal timespan will change the perspectives, autumn gusts, winter storms, spring tides, can't wait.