Friday, 18 December 2015

Poncey, Poncey, Poncey

(Quick note to my Colonial fans… Not PONZI, that’s quite different, poncey is a UK slang word that kind of just means pretentious)

At this time of year, those of us who find ourselves gainfully employed may well be attending Works Christmas parties – Fun filled affairs that can see the best of us laid low by alcohol-fueled bad decisions, ill-informed liaisons and more blurred photocopies of freshly waxed genitals than you can shake a staple remover at. 

Many of us will attend formal meals at venues that we would not normally consider eating at.  Of course, the hotels/restaurants see the whole shebang as a bit of an advert / opportunity to show how inventive their chefs are… Mostly this involves combining foods that don’t traditionally go together, like turkey and chocolate, or cooking things in unusual ways like deep frying baby carrots, then giving them a French sounding name that no-one really understands.

To this end, I decided to publish a quick ‘Poncey menu to Real English’ translator to help you understand your menu choices (or if you’ve already had your Christmas meal, what it was that you were complaining was cold, without knowing that it was actually supposed to be, cold)

This post was suggested by my good friend Smoulder Wolf.

-oOo-

Ballotine – A bird sausage. Kind of… Well, more like a Kiev I suppose when you think about it, but instead of garlic butter, it’s filled with minced up bits of the same bird, mixed with its own rendered fat… Which is why the give it a poncey name, because like brawn… When you know what it is, it loses some of its magic (Did you know that the Colonials call Brawn ‘Head Cheese’?)

Balsamic – Has had vinegar splashed on it… No, seriously, that’s it. OK, the vinegar was (probably) made from cooked grapes and not barley, like the stuff you put on your chips.  But you can buy Balsamic Vinegar in Lidl now, It’s not the Waitrose only condiment that it once was.

Candied – Covered in bottled syrup, or stuck in a frying pan with some refined sugar and heated until the sugar melts, because that’s massively good for you.

Duxelles – Minced finely… in between chopped and pureed – Used where you want to hide the use of cheap ingredients in plain sight, but you also want them to be identifiable under low light conditions. “Ere, Michelle, is that the Parfait of Gressingham Chipmunk or the Duxelles of Hand-picked Sanddingham field mushrooms?”, “I don’t know, and neither can I find my Playboy thong. Chablis, me old flower.”

Fricassee – Cut into chunks, fried, then served in some kind of sauce, or a jus, if you’re a total knob-end. It’s the sort of thing you’d make for yourself in a dirty frying pan with a tin of spam and a tin of plum tomatoes after you get home from the pub.  You can tell the firemen, when they’ve finished damping down the remains of your maisonette, “That were a porc fricassee avec la tomate jus what caused that blaze, Trevor.”

Fondant – Now, you have to be careful with this one, it can mean different things.  If you’re talking about a dessert, it means a type of thick paste, often chocolate, that’s usually used as a base.  If you mean fondant potatoes, They’re right lush… imagine potatoes cut into cylinders, then roasted whilst being repeatedly basted with stock until eating them tastes like an angel has performed an unnatural sexual act on your tongue.

Infused – Boiled with.  If you want to make ‘Succulent potatoes, infused with jasmine’ then bang some jasmine in the water you’re boiling them in – I mean don’t obviously, it’ll make them taste like a rancid dachshund’s had a widdle in them, but that’s the general idea – potatoes taste like potatoes, that’s a lot of their basic charm in my opinion.

Jus – Pron: Djew… Juice… It’s what people who can’t make gravy do instead of gravy to serve with meat.  See also: flavoured water, or piss.

Mousse – We all know what ‘Mousse’ is, right, I mean the dessert, you can buy little plastic tubs of it almost anywhere chilled food is sold.  But, what’s a carrot mousse you say? That’s easy, you just get some carrot flavoured baby-food, then pump SodaStream gas through it until it doubles in size. It is purely a way of making food go further.  It’s an option that could easily be used by the benefit receiving masses to make their weekly food ration last longer.  I see a bright future in ‘Big Mac Mousse’ and suchlike.

Parfait – Weird one this, It’s a French word, that doesn’t mean what it actually means in France.  In poncey UK restaurants, it means a ‘Paste’ as in meat paste, especially designed for and by the hard of chewing. However in France, it’s kind of like ice-cream, often with alcohol in it.  So pretentious that it’s actually gone around the whole ‘Fake French’ idea and come in the wrong way. Which is just like a Frenchman if you think about it.

Shaved – Calm yourselves, it’s not what you’re thinking… It’s a way of thinly slicing things using a vegetable peeler.  It’s what happens when you give someone with OCD a carrot to prepare. “It’s not quite perfect, I’ll take a bit more of this side… Oh no, now it’s not symmetrical when viewed from this angle.” – And thus were shaved vegetables invented.

Triple-Cooked – Stuck in the deep fat fryer three or more times.  Another cooking technique brought to you by the Cardio-Thoracic Surgeons of the UK Benevolent Fund.  Each ironic tiny galvanised bucket full comes with its own set of defibrillator paddles.

Warm – An adjective that shouldn’t really need to be added to hot food, but they feel it gives things a more ‘homely’ feel, usually interchangeable with tepid and the slightly depressed customer exclamation of.. “Oh.” Most often applied to: Bread rolls & mince pies. Most often a complete lie.

-oOo-

Apart from all these wonders, you can ‘Poshen’ food up a treat by using some other meaningless adjectives like ‘Farm-Fresh’ or ‘organic’ or ‘hand-picked’.  And you can go a long way to improve the general provenance by naming the geographical area where the food was grown, reared, horrendously slaughtered, or the exact breed or variety (ten extra house points for using the words ‘heritage’ or ‘vintage’ unironically.)

So there we go, an easy-peasy go-to guide for people who want to decode their Christmas menus.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to make myself a nice steaming plate of seasonal haricots bouillis dans la sauce tomate served on a bed of warm Derbyshire pain blanc.


Merry Christmas Everybody

Monday, 14 December 2015

Dale & Samuelson, Solicitors. (Christmas Ghost Story 2015)

It's about about this time of year that I like to write a traditional Christmas Ghost Story in the style of M.R. James (No, not E.L. James) - This is this years, a tale of wet socks and expensive tea...

“Start, you complete bitch. Why must we go through this every time that the temperature drops below, like, two degrees?” I hit the steering wheel as hard as I can with the palm of my hand, accidentally beeping the horn, I look up, through the part-defrosted windscreen, at the schoolgirl in the almost too short skirt walking across the road.  She flips me the bird, then turns to her friend with the massively abnormal eyebrows and calls me something like ‘King Perve’ although I’m not entirely sure that I caught the first part of what she said. I made sure that they’d both turned the corner onto the pikey housing estate that leads to the local comprehensive school before I tried the engine again.  There is nothing as pathetic as the sound of a fifteen year old car engine turning over but not quite catching.  I stretched for the lever that opened the bonnet before realising that all that would lead to would be me, the ‘king perve’, stood in the slush, freezing my nuts off whilst I stared at whatever confusing hardware cars have under their bonnets, not really knowing what I was looking for.  A voice in the back of my head reminded me that perhaps I should have bought a new battery the weekend before last, rather than buying that studenty-looking girl two pints of cider and a pizza in the vain hope that I could find out whether she actually was wearing ‘Adventure-Time’ panties.

I got out of the car and slammed the door harder than perhaps I should have. The sound of something falling off inside the car didn’t help my mood any and I fumbled with my key, aware of the fact that it would be just my luck if it snapped in the lock.  I managed to get into the hallway without experiencing any other emergencies despite my glasses misting up almost instantly and the slush melting into my socks.  I made my way into the kitchen, dialed the office, and balanced the phone handset between my shoulder and my cheek whilst I filled the kettle.

“Hello, Dale & Samuelson, how may I help you?” Tina, the head receptionist answered, in her normal, disinterested way.

“Hey, Tina, it’s Steve.”

“Oh… Hello Steven, ringing in sick… Again?” She pronounced the ‘N’ at the end of my name as if she was hitting me over the head with a brick in a sock. But her comment did remind me that the word ‘disciplinary’ had been mentioned more than once in the past couple of weeks.

“Actually, no.  I was just calling to say that I was going to be a few minutes late, my car is refusing to start you see. So I’m going to wait for the b…” I didn’t bother continuing, she’d obviously got bored of me and had decided to put the phone down, bitch! She was one of those women who think they run the company.  You know the type, all high-heels, pencil skirts and plunging necklines when either of the partners were in the office. Made a mission of making everyone else’s life a misery when they weren’t. The kettle boiled and I looked at the clock; it was almost 8:30.  Fifteen minutes to drink my coffee, half an hour to get the bus into town, then maybe a ten minute walk, I should be in the office by half nine, probably. Providing the busses were running on time because of the light covering of slush on the roads, and I didn’t spill my coffee down the shirt that I’d just ironed. Not that I like to tempt fate you understand.

I jog up the stone steps to the imposing oak door of the office.  I’m always overcome with the feeling that I should knock, you know? Despite the fact that I’ve worked there for over a year now.  Do you ever get that feeling? As if you’re not really a member of the team, that they’re just tolerating you? I’m still the new-boy you see, no-one else has joined the company recently. In fact, I’m surprised that they don’t still make me get the coffee. I push the door open and step onto the marble tiled floor, my old, damp, trainers squeaking with every step.  The noise echoes around the empty space, making me cringe. I tried to make myself as small as I could, but Tina still spotted me from behind the sweeping desk and holds up a pencil, as if it were Lion-o’s Sword of Omens and she’d suddenly found that she had the power of Greyskull.

“Please hold, caller,” she said, talking to the client on the phone, but never losing petrifying eye contact with me, “Mr. Samuelson wants to see you, in his office, now.” She looked over her shoulder at the clock behind her, then turned back to me and shook her head. The Pencil of Omens was lowered and she continued talking, politely but firmly, to the client. As I pass the desk, I notice the sound of traditional Christmas Carols coming quietly from the radio, even though this was only my second Christmas with Dale & Samuelson, I’ll wager that our Reception had never heard the voices of Noddy Holder, or Michael Buble for that matter, wishing us a Merry Christmas – It was traditional choral music or nothing. Traditional… that was a word that came to mind more often than not.
I passed through into the offices themselves, momentarily wondering if I could go to Samuelson’s office via the kitchen so that I can make myself a coffee or something.  But I thought better of it, Tina’s obvious scowl at the clock had told me all that I needed to know. The partners’ offices were on the top floor, obviously.  With grand views across the city.  The few times that I’d been up there and had the time to look out - the skyline always amazed me, so many towers and spires, so much that you would never see from ground level. I arrived outside his office door after squelching my way up four flights of stairs, winter had managed to soak its way into my second pair of socks for that day. I looked down and realised that I was still wearing my trainers. Then I looked at the old drawstring swimming bag that contained my brogues. Oh God! Did I have time to change into my shoes? If I could just slip off my…

Come in please, Steven.” Samuelson’s voice echoed clearly onto the landing as if it had not had to suffer the indignity of actually going through the closed office door and my heart sank.  Nothing for it I suppose, ‘time to face the music’ as my father always said.  I opened the door and stepped inside, trying to conceal the bag behind me.

“G… Good morning Mr. Samuelson.” I stuttered, kicking myself for making it sound like a schoolchild greeting his teacher.  He pointed at the chair next to me with the flat of his hand and I sat down, awkwardly. He reached toward a floral teapot that was sat, gently steaming on his desk.
“May I interest you in some tea? It’s Da Hong Pao.” I shook my head and he smiled gently, his pale, thin lips parting to show hints of his tea-stained teeth. “A Christmas gift from a particularly satisfied customer. Its name means ‘Big Red Robe’ you know – I think it may have been his little joke.” He looked at me and I smiled blankly back at him. “Big… Red Robe? No? Saint Nicholas?” I nodded, finally understanding what he meant, and started to smile. He copied my movements almost exactly then sighed and turned away towards the window, as if he was dealing with a complete imbecile. Which in fairness, at this stage, he probably was. But he poured out two cups anyway. “What do you do for us, Steven? What is your reason for being with Dale & Samuelson?”

“I’m a junior filing clerk, Mr. Samuelson.” There are few feelings more cheering than sitting in your boss’ office and realising that he has no idea of who you are or what you do.

Yet another smile escaped his lips as he stood and moved over to the window. “I appreciate that is your title, Steven, but that does not answer the question that I asked. What is it that you do?” he raised his eyebrows, giving me the feeling that my future very much rode on my answer to his question.
“Well,” I started, trying to make it look as if I wasn’t just desperately stalling for time, “I cross reference all the paperwork that I receive daily, I process the probate applications and of course there’s the filing and the archiving in the… erm… cellar,” I juddered, as if someone had walked over my grave, I hated going down to the cellar, just the merest mention of it made me go cold, with its rows of dusty shelving and mysteriously locked doors. You never felt that you were completely alone down there, “and of course I flag up any queries with Mr. Muller, for him to follow up personally.” I noticed that I was wringing my hands in my lap with a mixture of anxiety and the cold spreading up from my wet socks.

“Mr. Muller, yes, one of our oldest and most respected staff members. Did you know that I recruited him personally?” I shook my head once more, “No reason you should of course, I just thought that he might have mentioned it.” He turned from the window and caught sight of my sodden trainers and the damp trail that they had left on his carpet. I squirmed, nervously, in the chair. “Are you… Uncomfortable? I understand that many of the younger generation wear their training shoes to travel to the office, but I admit to having assumed that they would change into something more ‘business-like’ upon their arrival.”

I held up my swimming bag, and explained that I had been in such a hurry to get to his office that I had forgotten to change my shoes. He peered at the bag over the top of his glasses, regarding the cartoon pirate motif. “And who is this ‘Captain Pugwash’ exactly?” he let me talk for a good few minutes about The Black Pig and Tom the Cabin Boy before holding up his hands and admitting that he was teasing me.

“My Mother made it for me.”

“I’m sure she did, yes. Look, I tell you what, why don’t you take off your socks and dry them by the fire, I can’t imagine anyone wanting to spend the morning with wet socks, let alone eternity.”

I slowly untied my trainers and rolled down my socks, all the time looking at him out of the corner of my eye, thinking that this was some kind of test that I would fail at any time. I went to hand my socks to him, but he shook his head and pointed at the open fire.  I stood, and trapped my socks under a pair of heavy candlesticks that were on the mantelpiece, so that they hung down, into the flow of heat - and then sat back down.

“How very festive,” Samuelson remarked, “Now, as I was saying, Mr. Muller holds you in very high regard. He feels that you are… wasted in your current position and he also feels that you are ripe for promotion.” He steepled his fingers together and drew them up to his lips. “Steven, I should like to offer you a position as one of Dale & Samuelson’s prestige client service advisors.  Do you think that this would be something that would suit you?”

My mind immediately started to spin with the possibilities; I could finally afford to get my car fixed… No, I could probably afford a new car – well, new to me at least.  And I could afford to take out girls that weren’t satisfied with cheap cider, I might finally have a shot with the posh ones who ordered wine by the glass. “Yes Mr. Samuelson, I would like to be promoted to a Client Service Advisor.”

“Good, there are some things you should know about your new position. One, you will need to wear this all the time, as a sign to our clients that you are ‘fully accredited’.” He reverently handed me a small box, like one that might hold a piece of expensive jewellery. I opened it to find a small, plain antique key on a chain just long enough to fit comfortably over my head. “It will open any door in the building.” He looked directly into my eyes, “Any door. And Two, there’s also the somewhat particular nature of some of our oldest clients.”

“I know that we have handled the legal affairs of some very prestigious families, from all over Europe.  Mr. Muller tells me that some are even royal.” I was desperate to show Samuelson that I’d picked up a few things whilst I worked.

“Did he indeed? And what else did Mr. Muller tell you?” Samuelson’s eyes seemed to light up.
God-damn! That sounded like a loaded question, was there something Mr. Muller had told me that he shouldn’t have?  Was this all just a ploy to make me admit to something irregular, or illegal even, that Muller had done with the promise of a promotion? “Erm… No, not really… That was about it, I asked if I could go with him on client visits sometimes, but he always said that it wouldn’t be possible.”

“No, no… Quite right too.” He clasped his hands behind his back and paraded slowly around the room, “You will be dealing with cases where there are post-mortem changes to the will.  You would be surprised how often that happens.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t… Oh! Do you mean where there’s an argument between the beneficiaries and the executor about how the…”

“Ah, no. You misunderstand. Sometimes the deceased isn’t happy with the way that their will is being interpreted, there may have been unforeseen circumstances or an issue with a member of the family perhaps, and that is where we come in.  Ah! Mr. Muller, so glad you could join us.”

Muller stepped into the room, nodded at Mr. Samuelson and shook my hand. “Welcome to the business Steven.  I’m sure that…”

“I was just about to ‘process’ Steven’s promotion, would you care to assist?”

“Of course, Mr. Samuelson, it would be an honour.” Muller moved behind my chair and wrapped his arms around me, pinning me down.  Despite my struggles, and the fact that he was easily twice as old as I was, he would not budge. It was as if the chair itself was holding me fast.

Samuelson moved until he was right in front of me. “You see Steven, despite the fact that most of our clients haven’t been dead for very long, they do all seem to have developed something of a distrust for the living, which is why this promotion will be so very final.” He brought his hands from behind his back and I just had time to register the straight-edged razor in his fist before it sliced cleanly through my throat.  Muller held me whilst my body tried to thrash around in panic. At one stage I thought that we would both topple over with the chair and end up on the floor. But slowly, the feelings subsided, Muller let go and brushed his lapels, then both men reached into the collars of their shirts and pulled out their own key.

“I’ll have one of the boys from Maintenance move your body to one of the crypts in the cellar, you can visit it whenever you like.”

I looked down at myself slumped in the chair, the front of my shirt and suit was covered in my own, sticky blood, then I saw my key, on its chain in my hand, I took it, carefully put it over my head, and tucked it into my collar.

Samuelson sat down at his desk, “Now, how about that tea?”


This time I grabbed the delicate china cup and drank the cold, black tea down in one gulp, I had never been so thirsty in my life, it was almost as if my throat had been...

Friday, 20 November 2015

Unpaid Review: The Coronation, Derby (Steamin’ Billy Pubs)

Bit of an odd one this, I only usually do restaurant reviews. You know, because that’s the sort of place you actually might visit if you found yourself in the area.

Not that I’m saying you wouldn’t…

Well, isn’t this going well? I’ll start again.

A little under 50 years ago, there was, unto the small hamlet of Crewton, in Derbyshire, born a saviour… A saviour of grammar, good breeding, pronunciation and forensic etymology.  Namely me – And just around the corner was a pub, and it was called the Coronation (it’d been built in 1953 y’see), and it wasn’t a hugely nice place at all.

Don’t get me wrong, the lounge was OK in a ‘stuck in the 1950s/yellowing paintwork/smelled a bit fusty’ kinda style.  But you wouldn’t go in the bar without being dressed like James Caan from Rollerball (The original one, from 1975, not the awful bloody remake with Chris Klein – Although, thinking about it that one did have Rebecca Romjin in it… Yeah, OK, watch them both – But for different reasons)

Upon my coming of age in the mid-80s, or slightly before, truth be told *cough* I often went there with my Dad (when he was still alive – He’s nowhere near as vocal since he died, unlike my Mother) and we’d sit in the lounge and nurse a couple of pints for the evening. And later, when my Brother visited from his hollowed out volcano lair in the Mediterranean, we’d do the same.  Although we’d drink more quickly because he was richer and could afford to buy more beer more often and have the occasional go on the tote.  But still, we’d never go in the bar, for that way madness lay.

Over time, the pub went a bit further downhill, it was mismanaged by a succession of half-baked tenants and landlords – this, along with a generally unsavoury reputation, culminated in the pub closing its doors.

The pub was due to be sold to a developer so that it could be knocked down and about 70 tiny houses built on the half-acre site. But luckily they got cold feet, or they woke up with a Staffordshire bull terrier’s head in their bed or something similar. Because the jolly types at Steamin’ Billy managed to get hold of it and turn it back into their latest real pub.

It's significantly better on the inside, honestly.


It only opened a week ago (05/11/15 if you’re reading this in the future – Which is likely, as that’s when I’m writing it) and it’s not really fair for me to give it a full ‘Dandy’ style review as the staff and their support team are still ironing out all the kinks and suchlike.  But as you know from past experience, ‘fair’ is one of those things that I don’t often do… Along with favours, chick-sexing and teaching pigs to whistle showtunes.

So here’s an interim report - a story so far, if you will.

The pub is literally five minutes’ walk from Dandy Towers, so Heckmondswyke didn’t need to unmothball the Dandymobile – I gave him the rest of the evening off, he has just taken up the gentle art of steam-ironing badgers you see and I understand that he used his downtime to practice folding them so that they’d fit nicely in his album with a minimum of kerfuffle.

On their opening night Mrs Dandy and myself sauntered down Baker Street, where the establishment is located, fireworks bursting overhead and Gerry Rafferty’s oeuvre spinning around in our heads.  Upon entering, we gravitated towards the lounge – as was traditional at the time.  I had a pint of real ale that may, or may not have had a cartoon of Oliver Reed on the handpump and Mrs Dandy contented herself with a half-pint of fruit beer (She’d developed a taste for fruit based alcohol during the week we spent trekking back to civilisation in the Andes after our Heinkel ditched whilst we were supposedly ‘Nazi-Hunting’ in Bolivia).  The place was everything you could expect from what we assumed to be a normal ‘estate’ pub – There was music, just at the right volume, and the banquettes were upholstered in a wonderfully gaudy striped material which I would have no compunction about having a pair of curtains, galoshes or indeed a dinner jacket made from.  There was a selection of memorabilia affixed to the walls as is so often the case in the modern victualing environment, including hunting equipment and the occasional stag’s head – Which may put off the pale hemp-wearers a little, not that that’s any bad thing as there are plenty of places that welcome that kind of tomfoolery with open arms.

The staff were all exemplary, friendly, knowledgeable and attractive. Chris, the Landlord is a hale fellow, hearty of forearm and ruddy of cheek.  He made us feel welcome, commented personably on our refreshment choices and as the younger generation may still say ‘Ticked all the boxes’ as one would find in the 2010 Mein Host examination paper. He is also the older brother of Bill, the chap who runs the Brewery that runs the pub. This positively ourobourosian prospect means that there’s a real chance that any suggestions about general services and improvements are a mere whisper away from the heart of the decision making process – Which can never be a bad thing in my experience.

We have visited The Coronation of a number of occasions over the past week and have found ourselves favouring the bar area – The main reason for this is that it is also the food area and has, at its centre, a brand-new (as you would probably expect after a complete renovation) £20,000 pizza oven.  This produces some very splendid thin-crust pizzas (using bought-in dough by the taste of it, but as I mentioned, they’ve only been open a week) which all have a royal theme.  Sadly I don’t believe there was one called ‘The Prince Albert’ that comes with a complementary piercing… But that’s idea for the future perhaps?  Both the bar and, when it is completed I assume, the beer garden are both animal and child friendly - behaviour notwithstanding (up to 7:30ish in the evening, completely at the landlord’s discretion – and he strikes me as stern but fair) and there are tales of a non-smokers shelter outside with a wood-burning stove that has yet to see the light of day.  During my visit on Tuesday afternoon I was treated to the sight of a gentleman climbing on a roof in the rain, with an electric screwdriver – So I’d assume work is going on at a fair old pace.

On the whole, it’s a great place. The Memsahib and I have adopted it as our local and we will be attending as often as our currently limited funding sources allow (Buy my books, it will mean that I can go to the pub more often).  There is a poster (Well, an upturned wooden box affixed to the wall) that promises a steak night, a pie night and a quiz night (Sundays from 8:00pm) amongst other things and no doubt these boundless hedonistic pleasures may well be the subject of many future blogs.

You could do a lot worse than spending your free time at The Coronation.  The staff are friendly (one of them even lent me 5p, which I should really pay back at some stage), the beer is excellent and the pizzas are flat with cheese and other things on top.


Oh! – Just realised that we’ve been all pros and no cons… My only reservation is that it’s not cheap, you’d be well advised to budget for your pint of beer to cost you somewhere between £3 & £4 – But this is really to be expected for the amount that has been, and probably will be, invested in the pub in the near future.  It’s still less than a tenth of what a china cup of my exclusive weasel tea would cost if you visited me at home. Actually, a couple of the re-purposed scaffolding board tables could do with a bit more sanding too if I'm being totally honest.

The Coronation
Baker St, 
Derby DE24 8SL
Tel: 01332 913140

Facebook: The Coronation
Twitter: Steamin' Billy

Monday, 16 November 2015

Your knee must be aching by now surely?

Firstly, I’d like to get the whole Paris thing out of the way.  What happened over the weekend of 14-15/11/2015 was an abomination. Nothing more.  The people who were directly involved and those animals who convinced them to blow themselves up or shoot innocent civilians need executing… No more, no less.  The 130 or so victims and their friends and family have my condolences, without reservation, not that it means much in the grand scheme of things. The dead will still be dead and the living will still be scared.



If you’re holding an event, or a silence, or if you’ve changed your Facebook picture to feature the Tricolore then it’s brilliant, especially if it makes you feel better about the situation or yourself… It’s great… You should totally do it – You probably shouldn’t do it if you’ve felt in any way pressured to do it, or you’re only doing it if everyone else is doing it and you’re worried about what people will think of you (See wearing a poppy).  But hey, that’s just my opinion and what do I know when it comes down to it? I’m just a fat, bald bloke who goes on about his unimportant thoughts.

What I’ve been thinking about recently are the other terrible things that have happened recently that no-one seems to give a toss about.  

You’d have had to have searched the news pretty hard to find out about the mass grave that’s just been found in Sinjar in Iraq, where the bodies of 70 or so elderly Yazidi women were found… Executed for the crime of being too old to be sold as sex-slaves by ISIS (or Daesh as people would have us call them this week – I wish these terrorist organisation would pick a name and stick with it… Islamic State, ISIS, ISIL… I can’t keep up) I’ve only seen one person who’s – very bravely in my opinion, changed their Facebook profile pic to the Iraqi flag to show solidarity with them. 

As it happens, I’ve seen a couple of Lebanese flags too.  What? You hadn’t heard that anything had happened in Lebanon? Now you’re wondering if you even know where Lebanon is. Well, does it help if I tell you that their capital city is Beirut?  People of a certain age may well have used the phrase ‘It looked like bloody Beirut.’ to imply that a place was messy… As if a bomb had gone off possibly, at one time or another.  Very popular in the 70’s were phrases like that – I’ve used it myself on occasion. Just before the weekend there was an ISIS twin bomb-attack on the Burj al-Barajneh district of downtown Beirut.  Admittedly, it only killed 40-odd people, but it did injure another 240, so that got the numbers up nicely – Should really have been worthy of some column inches somewhere other than in The Guardian don’t you think?

Then there was that nastiness with the Russian plane flying out of Egypt… You’ll have seen that on the news surely? But did anyone change their Profile picture for that? Although I’ll freely admit that I probably wouldn’t recognise a Russian flag if someone wrapped me in one and put a stitch through my lip – Back in my day it was a big, red affair with the hammer and sickle on it, but I gather it has stripes and everything now, it’s very post-modern – But I’m sure I would have remembered a minute’s silence for the 224 people who were blown to pieces by ISIS there.

Why France but not Lebanon or Iraq? It probably wasn’t because they were ‘only’ Arabs or some made-up Zoroastrian type religion that they don’t cover in British RE lessons.  Might it be because they were Middle-Eastern ‘Stone age’ type people who live in the dust and have livestock roaming about the place and read squiggly lines rather than good, honest western-type letters?  The world’s not really going to miss people like that are they?  It’d save us a fortune in aid if they all just kept blowing each other up wouldn’t it?

And the Russians? Is that just because they’re Bond Villains? They’re not men, women and children who were just flying home, moaning about having to go back to work in the office on Monday, or excitedly talking about the time that little Ludmilla trod on that sandcastle that her brother had taken an hour to make and he cried then tried to punch her.

And don’t get me started on Israel Vs Palestine – I’m really not sure whose side we’re supposed to be on at the minute – Is it the one that we sell guns to, or is it the ones who were flinging their sandals in the air and cheering on Sept 11th? – I can’t keep up with that either.

What really gets me is the reaction from all the British people who have the perfect answer to it all.  Whether it be killing all the ‘Muslins’, Daubing Nazi symbols on Bangladeshi shops or bombing ISIS back to the stone age.

Actually,

There’s two problems with that last one:

  1. They’re pretty much already in the stone age (see above)
  2. They look exactly like the plucky indigenous people that we’re trying to defend… You know, the people who are running away from it all, helping us out by trying not to die so that we don’t have to feel guilty about them.  When questioned, they will often reply “ISIS? No, not me squire, I’m a pomegranate salesman.”


We’re 100% at war, we’re at war with an armed group who have no issue with killing innocents (because they don’t really see anyone other than themselves as innocents).  But we’re not at war with a country.  If we were, we could just turn Syria or Afghanistan into car-parks in short order.  We have the technology.  We could do it from space probably, just to be sure.

We’re not even at war with a religion.  If we were, we’d be quite within our rights to have a crusade or at least a nice cuddly pogrom… We could put everyone who stops work every ten minutes and ululates towards Mecca to the sword and have done with it.

But we’re at war with an idea… A way of interpreting words in a book.  Can you kill an idea with bombs? You can kill the people who have that idea with bombs certainly.  But you have to find and kill every single person who has that idea.  And the people who’ve ever heard the idea – In case they ever decide that it’s a good idea.  Then you’d also need to kill the children of the people who’ve ever heard the idea – Because they’ll be bound to wonder why you killed their parents and they might get a bit shirty about it in the future and no-one wants that do they?  Not the whole thing starting all over again.


Do they? Powerful things these ideas, aren't they?

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Write what you know

I can't believe that I've not broached this subject before.

In the good old days, I was happy to call myself a 'Blogger' - I blogged... It's what I did, I picked a subject and desperately tried to have an opinion about it. That's what bloggers are, they're the 21st. century equivalent of that bloke that smells of urine and shouts incoherently at pigeons - Occasionally funny, but you wouldn't want to sit and listen to them for very long.

Then I released my first book, all the way back in November 2013 - 'Mumblings of an Irate Pangolin' hit the streets, well I say hit... It sort of slithered down them, with a noise reminiscent of a recently defenestrated squirrel. Some people bought it and liked it, some people didn't do either - You can't blame them really, it wasn't great literature when you get right down to it.  But I thought it was funny, and I published it myself.

I guess that's what I wanted to talk about today.  Publishing, specifically the different types of publishing available to a person like me, who initially just wanted to get a book out in a hurry, because he had a deadline (Which is an unfortunate choice of words as it happens)

I could go into the whole story, but luckily, my local paper covered it in detail - You could read about my motivation here if you really wanted to.



TL:DR - Chap with over-inflated sense of his own worth wants his Father to acknowledge him one last time before he dies.

That's maybe putting it a little starkly... But effectively that's what happened (and winter is coming), I'm OK about it - You guys already know I'm pretty shallow.

But the important thing is, I did everything to bring these first few books to the great unwashed myself.  I wrote them, proofread them, edited them, typeset them, designed the covers, chose the font, advertised them and collected all the profits.

That last one's the important one really.  I'm an OK writer, some people say I'm pretty good in fact, I'm also an OK Editor - People occasionally pay me to correct their grammer.  I can knock out a decent picture every once in a while, so I'm OK at designing book covers, but that's where my experience ends.

I don't know the first thing about advertising, wouldn't know where to start.  I'd probably be embarrassed to do what was actually required if I knew what it was.  Advertising's a bit like lying isn't it? And I'm not hugely good at that.  But if you don't advertise in the right way, people don't know that your book exists; if people don't know your book exists, they can't buy it even if they would ordinarily have wanted to. If people don't buy your book, then sitting back and collecting the profits becomes a far lonelier idea.

Createspace, the arm of Amazon that I used to self-publish my first three books sends you a notification every month of how much you have earned in royalties - This makes you feel like a 'real' writer, right up until you open the mail and realise that you can probably afford a bag of crisps with your royalty payment this month.  But don't tell anyone that, it spoils the mystique and makes you less attractive to your chosen complimentary sex.

Don't get me wrong, Self-Publishing is great.  If you use one of the online services like Createspace, it's virtually free, and you can publish anything you like - Even a list of your top 10,000 favourite crisps (not flavours, the individual crisps themselves) with notes about taste and crunchiness and which deity they most resemble. But... If you don't put your back into advertising it, the chances are, you're not going to make any money... Full stop.

So, if making money is important to you (and let's be honest, in this day and age, who doesn't want money?) how do you go about making money by writing a book?  The 'easiest' way is to take the more traditional route and get your book published for you, by people who know what they're doing. There are a few hoops that you have to jump through to even start thinking about making it a reality.  You can fall at any one of them.

First of all, you have to have a pretty good, original idea for a story.  If your story is rubbish, you may as well just give up with it and think of something else.  If one of your friends reads your story and says 'It's good, but it's also an episode of Star Trek.' You're backing a loser. Be original, I can't stress that enough.

Then you make sure it makes sense and is spelled correctly.  Whatever you do, don't just rely on the spellchecker of whatever word processor you're using, 90% of them will be set to American (or what I like to call 'simplified' English) It'll also miss where you've put 'is' instead of 'if' and idiotic things like that.  You could get a mate down the pub to take a look, and as long as their English is good... Actually, you'd be better off getting a real proofreader to take a look.  Your local writers group (which you should probably think about joining about now) is invaluable for stuff like this.

So, your story is great, the words make sense... but your book is 518,000 words long.  The next stage is editing. People have as many ideas for the length of a perfect first novel as there are perfect first novels.  But in my humble personal opinion, I'd aim for 80 - 120 thousand words.  Long enough to tell the story, but short enough for your reader not to get bored and jump off a bridge.  By all means, do a first edit yourself - See if you can trim some stuff out that's not really required.  But there's an ever-present danger that you'll see the words you've written as your precious babies and not want to get rid of them... I know I do. So again, it's good to hand this off to someone who knows what they're doing. Word of warning - You will learn to hate your editor, he/she will make you cry, they will take your cunningly crafted prose and carelessly tear great chunks out of it to wipe their bottoms on.  Editors are both a writer's best friend and their worst enemy.  Make sure you have a good relationship with yours, they will improve your book 1,000%

Writing: Done, Proofing: Done, Editing: Done. Now, all you need to do is convince a publisher to spend a fortune printing and marketing your book, with no guarantee of ever seeing a penny of profit.  Would you do that yourself? would you wager literally thousands of pounds on some no-name illegitimate nobody who's convinced that they're the next Raymond Chandler? Of course you wouldn't, you're not a mental.  But there are people out there who will happily sit between you and a publisher and act as a buffer to take some of the risk out of the transaction.  These people are called Agents... And they are the closest things to gods you will ever encounter during your publishing journey. They know publishers, they know writing, they have a good idea what sells and they are not scared of telling you that your book is rubbish... If you're really lucky, they might even have the time to tell you why (But they probably won't because they've got 100+ Raymond Chandlers in the queue waiting for their shot).  You just have to convince these people to stake their reputations on your book being saleable... Simple, right?  If they agree to work with you, they will draw up a contract that usually promises them a percentage of the money that you will make from the book, there will also be all sorts of other clauses and caltrops in there that may (or may not - Depending on how decent a sort they are) trip you up, and you could do worse than having it looked over by a professional; as with any contract that might end up costing you money in the long run.

This last paragraph is for the less than 1% of new authors that actually get this far.  If you are lucky, and good, and confident, but mostly lucky, a publisher that you have heard of will show an interest in your book... And initially that's usually all they will do.  Most publishing companies are like wily old pike.  Your agent will play them for you, like Isaak Walton on MDMA. And this can go a huge number of different ways.  You know that sign you sometimes see that says 'Your Experience May Vary'? Well, it will... No two writers get treated the same.  You might be asked to sign a deal for just the work you're pitching.  you might get offered a deal for a series of books (especially if you've told your agent that's your long-term plan) You might even be offered the holy of holies - an advance large enough that you can quit your day job and write permanently. For instance, Garth Rick Hallberg just scored a $2,000,000 advance on his debut novel 'City on Fire' - You however, will not... Don't think you will... It never happens, ever, not even once... Stop thinking about it

But you can't can you? - Why are you sat reading this rubbish? Go... Go and write something... Do it now!

Monday, 14 September 2015

Unpaid Review: Iberico World Tapas

Welcome to Episode 3 in an occasional series where your humble blogger goes undercover as a member of the public (which doesn't take a huge amount of subterfuge as he is, technically, a member of the public) and dines at expensive restaurants so that you don't have to.

No, wait... That came out wrong - You should definitely visit this place, for all the resons that I'm about to enumerate, but just to let you know in advance, for those male readers who use expensive restaurants to 'grease the wheels' for a possible physical liaison with their chosen paramour, Iberico scores a 93 on the 'Aidan Turner gusset dampening scale' but you're going to need to budget at the thick end of £100 to make the whole experience a sure-thing, especially  if you include a decent bottle of wine.

Anywho, back to the 'PG' rated portion of the review.

On Friday (11/09/15), the incumbent Mrs Dandy had made it known, loudly and vociferously, that she had a hankering for some meat - A hankering that could only be extinguished by the application of copious quantities of barely cooked beef... Not a problem in itself, but Derby, the town where we live is known more for its engineering history than it is for its plethora of steak eateries.  A quick Google search threw up a couple of possibilities (yes, I realised after writing that that I could have put it better) and within moments, Heckmondswyke, our faithful manservant had brushed the whoop of mating marmosets (or is it a flange of mating marmosets?) from the plush velour interior of the Dandymobile and we were winging our way from our sleepy suburb into the throbbing metropolis of the city centre itself.

We were dropped in the Marketplace and I requested that Heckmondswyke travel the ring-road in the style of a common mini-cab driver until he was recalled.

Imagine our surprise, when purely due to my lack of research, we were unable to find the steak restaurant that I had researched not hours before. In its place (or so it seemed) was a shining beacon, a temple to gastronomy, a positive... erm... good place... to do some ahh.. eating in.  However, the Thai restaurant seemed to be a bit drab, so we popped next door to a tapas bar that we hadn't previously noticed.

Not that it really matters, but for completeness, you should probably know that I wasn't wearing my usual dinner-jacket / board shorts combo, neither was I wearing my kilt (traditionally) - Time constraints meant that I was still dressed for my day job - New Rocks, tight jeans, two leather jackets and a 'Guardians of the Galaxy' T-Shirt

To continue, I had never, knowingly been to a tapas bar before, certainly not whilst sober and I was pleasantly surprised with both the decor and the ambiance - there was a lot of smooth wood and artisan tiling, which is like normal tiling, but you have to take a run-up - The venue's website describes their choice of fabrics as sumptuous, which I'd probably agree with.

We were shown to our seats by a very agreeable gentleman who provided menus and offered to take my coats and so forth, which I politely declined for 'reasons'. After a very short delay, a young lady appeared to take our wine order and I let the Mehmsahib choose from the copious menu (Seeing as I have little or no use left in the tastebuds that register wine after that sordid incident in Mozambique) After assisting Mrs Dandy in the pronunciation of her wine choice, she educated us as to how the whole 'Tapas thing' works.

How the whole 'Tapas thing' works.


  • Tapas is for sharing, it is more of an experience than it is technically a meal.
  • Well, I mean, it is a meal, obviously.. But.. you know, just go with it
  • There is a bread / nibbles menu (that you or I might call appetisers / starters, because we are all old)
  • Then the main menu is comprised of small dishes that just 'appear' throughout your meal for however many people there are at your table to share.
  • You should get 2 or 3 dishes per person
  • You keep eating until you run out of plates and / or money
  • Then you pay, whilst stifling a silent prayer to your bank balance


On the whole, our experience was hugely enjoyable, the food was excellent, the staff were polite, helpful, interesting, tattooed and one even had wonderfully dyed electric blue hair (I'm presuming it was dyed... The one joy of being the IT Manager for an International Hairdresser is that you can often recognise dyed hair when you see it) - There follows a small rundown of the dishes that we actually had:


  • Mixed Olives (Manzanilla, Gordal & Nocellara)
  • Catalan Bread (topped with tomato, garlic & herbs)
  • Crispy pork belly with fermented radish & nectarine mustard
  • Triple cooked Patatas Bravas 
  • Barbecued Cauliflower
  • There was a lamb thing too... (which I can't find on the online menu, I think it had quails eggs on it)
  • And also some kind of omelet (Which may or may not have been served with a foam or a reduction or something, I forget)

But every single dish was perfectly cooked, presented and served.  On the whole the venue was stunning - If I knew anyone that I wanted to impress, I would certainly bring them here.

It seems like the sort of place where you could happily take a different young lady every week and the only reaction that you would get from the staff would be a knowing wink... Presuming of course that you tipped them royally.  Otherwise, they'd be all up in your grill like a maddened badger, maybe, that's just a guess though in fairness.

Great place, great food, great people.- I understand that they also have a location in Nottingham, although why anyone would want to go there is beyond me.


Monday, 7 September 2015

Steve walks warily down the street With the brim pulled way down low...

How was your weekend?

Mine was alright, I’ve had worse… Kept myself busy, you know, the usual, did a bit of shopping, took the dog for a walk, that kind of thing…

Nothing special… Pretty standard kind of weekend that you have when you’re halfway between paydays.

There was only one minor difference… at 9:30, on Friday 4th September 2015, My friend Rick ‘Odie’ Hoad lost his incredibly short (as far as I knew) battle with lung cancer.

You might have heard me talk about him once before, but not by name  – The incident with ‘Buskilla’ and her detachable wheels? - But he wasn’t the sort of person that you had madcap adventures with… He wasn’t a SMick, or a Jock (RIP), or a Gullible Steve (RIP); That’s not to say he wasn’t funny – He’s had me laughing to the point of tears on many occasions – In fact he told some very inventive, if ultimately crap ‘Christmas Cracker’ type jokes which invariably contained one solitary, often accidental, swear-word… Which would evoke an instant apology to the parents of any youngsters in the room – Then a wink to the kids themselves… And the laughter resumed louder than before.

He was an old-school biker, well, more of a triker really as he seemed to spend more time on three wheels than he did on two – But he was never that slightly ‘up-themselves’ biker that you see in films and TV programs, he was the biker that other bikers usually describe themselves to be… He was there for the sense of brotherhood, for the joy of riding motorcycles – for having a good time. Always in his leather jeans and wrap-around shades

He had his demons, like we all do. He’d suffer crippling bouts of depression, he’d be cantankerous, offensive, forthright… blunt didn’t quite cover it on most occasions – But you knew where you stood with him, and it was usually just at the end of the phone, or a Facebook update, where he was waiting for an opportunity to help you, or to be given an invitation to a rally or a party.  He’d be there like a shot – In any weather, under any circumstances…

He really was one of life’s good guys – And he was also a dyed in the wool, 100% full on, accept no alternatives, knob of the highest calibre.

He really was, pretty much all of the time – One of the people who have paid their respects over the weekend described him as human Marmite, I think that’s a brilliant description.

He invented his own trike riding style… And demonstrated it to me (once… Just the once) – He’d lean out, rather than in on bends, claiming that it put more weight on the outside rear wheel and therefore increased the ‘sticktion’ enabling you to corner faster… To test his theory, we went round and round the traffic island outside my local B&Q on one of his trikes faster and faster, leaning out as far as we both could (it not helping that neither of us were particularly small) up until the inside wheel lifted off the ground, the front wheel all went a bit ‘tankslappery’ and the bollards got real-close, real-fast… He also had this habit of flicking his ignition off and then back on again to cause a backfire as we passed crowds of schoolchildren/football fans/old people/police/pregnant women and nuns.

He also once drove the entire Dandy family to the wonderful seaside town of Redcar (Near the oil refinery) to pick up a puppy that Mrs Dandy had bought under false pretences... All he demanded in payment, despite being given the option of a slap-up meal at a hostelry of his choosing, was a Pick 'n' mix (and his petrol, I'm not a slave driver)

I found also over the weekend that I didn’t have a single, solitary picture of Rick to share with you all.  Which is a pity – The man was an animal… So I’ve borrowed some from the many people who’ve shared their memories over the weekend. See if you can guess which one he is in the photos.

(If anyone minds that I’ve stolen their photos, I will gladly remove them – Just drop me a mail or leave a comment – No offence taken or intended.)

No helmet, just a leather top hat?

Tigga & Rick

Being composed at a wedding...

Stolen the kids' bubble mixture

But he felt the cold, the poor lamb


My condolences go out to his wife, Tigga, His Ex-wife Fiona, and his kids, whom I never had the pleasure to meat. And to his cat, Nermal T Groovekitten (The Ginger Terrorist) who bit my thmb once.

Ride free Brother, Don’t eat all the bacon nor drink all the Jack – I’ll see you down there, but I’m afraid it won’t be for a good long while yet - if we're both lucky.

And for the record, I quite like Marmite.

Oh yeah... Whilst I remember - FUCK CANCER! - FUCK IT RIGHT IN IT'S STUPID ASS!

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

It's all Tripe!

Some of you might remember that back in April (2015) I had the great fortune to win in the Alternative Blog Awards – I think I might have mentioned it in passing once, maybe twice tops?



I didn’t win the entire thing, obviously, but I did win in one of the categories that I was nominated in (Which yet again, is something that I don’t have in common with Leonardo Dicaprio) – It seems that you lot, or at least those of you who felt empowered enough to vote, thought I was the ‘Wordiest Blogger’ in the whole wide… Actually, I’m not sure if it was a global competition… It may have just been country-wide – Or perhaps just in my own fevered imagination – But for now, I’m going to go with World-wide, because you lot can’t prove otherwise, and my version of the truth is pretty much anything that you can’t disprove without some effort (Something I do have in common with the Conservative Party).

A lot of people asked what I had won, apart from the undying love of many, many loyal fans and the respect of my peers.  Those same people looked at me a little oddly when I told them that I’d received lifetime membership of ‘The Tripe Club’ – Which is sort of the fun, social-media savvy, young and sexy arm of the UK based Tripe Marketing Board.



(If a board can, in fact, have young and sexy arms)

What is tripe? I hear you ask, somewhat tentatively – With a screwed up nose, because you think you already know.  Well, it’s the stomach lining of an animal, most often a cow, that’s been removed (obviously) then bleached and part-cooked, before being sold to you, the consumer to... erm… cook again, and then consume, often with boiled onions, white sauce and mashed potato (which makes it look more like the 1950’s as you are actually eating a meal in black and white), or just pepper and vinegar possibly – I don’t know, you’re a funny old lot when it comes down to it. 

I must admit that I thought, when I first won the award (Did you know I won an award? – I’m an award-winner you know, Like Michael Winner and/or Stephen Fry – For those interested in plaudits, I once briefly but simultaneously held the top three places in Amazon’s Best-seller list with my three books, in the humour essays subdivision anyways. So, award-winning, best-seller would probably be a better epithet for me methinks.) that it was all a bit Framley Examiner, a bit The Onion – After all, it’s patron is David “Bumble” Lloyd, Ex-England Cricketer and fellow left-hander, and the Honorary President is the hugely famous Opera Singer and BBC Radio personality Martin McEvoy (I am sadly unsure as to his handedness)

It’s Chairman? For as you know every Board requires a Chairman, is none other than LA Times Interviewee and friend of the downtrodden, Sir Norman Wrassle. He’s a stern but fair Chairman who bears a passing resemblance to a dead Swedish Politician in a certain light, with a following wind.  And he follows me on Twitter, because he is the epitome of class and good sense…

Obviously, I am now convinced that this salubrious institution is completely serious and above-board and you should all immediately become members.  Membership is available via Their website, or by contacting them on Twitter, or for you Londoners, you can attend the Theatre Royal Drury Lane on the Evening of 7th September and join them in person – I am in two minds whether to go to this no-doubt fabulous and star-studded affair, as it’s a bit expensive to get a train down to the Smoke, and it’s a long time until payday.

Sadly, the membership number you will be issued will be higher than mine… Do you know why?

Muhahahahahaha!


If you would like any more information, or if you have been effected by any of the issues discussed in this blog, please leave a message in the comments and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can… I’d have thought

As the Tripe Marketing Board say themselves – 

TRIPE. YESTERDAY’S FOOD. TODAY.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

So let's make the buggers useful then

There was a thing on local radio this morning... It was about beggars being fined £250 for begging then being sent to the Pokey for up to three months when they can't pay. 

Seems a bit arbitrary to me, but allegedly this isn't a negotiable figure, the courts have their hands tied to an extent. It's probably all to do with the 1824 Vagrancy Act, which I will detail in the below paragraph - Feel free to skip it, you'd be missing out thought, the wording is seriously sublime...

-oOo-

Persons committing certain offences to be deemed rogues and vagabonds.


Every person committing any of the offences herein-before mentioned, after having been convicted as an idle and disorderly person; every person pretending or professing to tell fortunes, or using any subtle craft, means, or device, by palmistry or otherwise, to deceive and impose on any of his Majesty’s subjects; every person wandering abroad and lodging in any barn or outhouse, or in any deserted or unoccupied building, or in the open air, or under a tent, or in any cart or waggon, not having any visible means of subsistence and not giving a good account of himself or herself; every person wilfully exposing to view, in any street, road, highway, or public place, any obscene print, picture, or other indecent exhibition]; every person wilfully openly, lewdly, and obscenely exposing his person in any street, road, or public highway, or in the view thereof, or in any place of public resort, with intent to insult any female; every person wandering abroad, and endeavouring by the exposure of wounds or deformities to obtain or gather alms; every person going about as a gatherer or collector of alms, or endeavouring to procure charitable contributions of any nature or kind, under any false or fraudulent pretence... every person being found in or upon any dwelling house, warehouse, coach-house, stable, or outhouse, or in any inclosed yard, garden, or area, for any unlawful purpose; every suspected person or reputed thief, frequenting any river, canal, or navigable stream, dock, or basin, or any quay, wharf, or warehouse near or adjoining thereto, or any street, highway, or avenue leading thereto, or any place of public resort, or any avenue leading thereto, or any street, or any highway or any place adjacent to a street or highway; with intent to commit an arrestable offence; and every person apprehended as an idle and disorderly person, and violently resisting any constable, or other peace officer so apprehending him or her, and being subsequently convicted of the offence for which he or she shall have been so apprehended; shall be deemed a rogue and vagabond, within the true intent and meaning of this Act;and, subject to section 70 of The Criminal Justice Act 1982, it shall be lawful for any justice of the peace to commit such offender (being thereof convicted before him by the confession of such offender, or by the evidence on oath of one or more credible witness or witnesses,) to the house of correction... for any time not exceeding three calendar months.

-oOo-

There was a lot of talk about how stupid it was to fine a person just because they had no money, and how much it costs the Government to arrest and detain someone (it's like, a billion pounds per person per day or something, because it's been outsourced to a private security company)

Which, even with my rudimentary knowledge of finance, seems like a raw-deal for everyone who's actually paying... i.e. you and me or 'Bloody Muggins' as we're colloquially known in the press.

Then you get the other side of the coin where shop-owners are having to step over people who are asleep and covered in carboard boxes, to unlock their emporia in the morning.  There are many reports of them being followed inside and being pestered for money from the till then having threats and verbal abuse thrown at them when they say that they couldn't help themselves to the float.

There are 'bad' beggars and there are 'good' beggars.

There are 'real' beggars and there are people who are just looking to supplement their income by sitting outside Greggs with a dog on a string and their palms outstretched.

But all they really need is a purpose, to feel wanted... And possibly security, warmth and shelter from the elements.  So I've had a couple of ideas - The first one is a bit radical, but stick with it. And the second one might be a little expensive in the short term, but in the long run it would pay for itself.

1) Outsource the entirely of the process to Greggs, the high-street bakers.  I'm sure that they would be cheaper than using someone like G4S as they wouldn't have any of their 'accomodation' overheads.  The only proviso is that we would have to be even less interested in what was in their 'Sausage' rolls than we are now

2) Secure large plots of rural land, with scenic views and ample, if not exactly regular, transport links.  Somewhere that housing estate builders are not traditionally interested in... Possibly near old mine workings or swampland.  Then build a large 'Country House' style building that fits in sympathetically with the local area... Something like this one in Southwell, Nottinghamshire:



Or this one in Croydon - Just to prove that their stark majesty can work in urban areas:


Then set up the upper floors as a selection of common and/or private bedrooms and kitchens, and the lower floors as commercail units where things could be laundered or mailbags could be sewn or other things that could be done by people with few, or no marketable skills.

You could give all the homeless people some Work

And you could also give them a House

Some Work... A House... Work... House...

Hang on, I've just thought of a brilliant name for these places


Friday, 14 August 2015

And they were all wearing stockings

I was thinking of going out tonight, with the family, maybe to a chain-restaurant of some kind.  Maybe a Pizza place or an Italian – You know the sort of thing?  I was even going to go to the extent of searching GroupOn for a voucher, so that I can look all ‘Devil may care’ and extravagant in front of my family.

But then I thought, “Maybe not…”  You know why I thought that?  Well, yes, a lot of it had to do with the fact that I am as tight as a Moorhen’s special private area.  Mostly though it was be because they’ll all probably be full of people who’ve just received their ‘A’ level results.  I’m not going to discriminate between those who’ve passed or failed… I find people who’ve been given their first slurp of Asti Spumanti (and being told it’s Champagne) because they’ve got the results they need to go on and Study Marine Biology at Sheffield just as annoying as those that randomly cry into their Sloppy Giuseppe’s because their “Three Fs and a U” won’t get them into Norwich to do ‘Gender tropes in Black and White adverts from the 1970s and their impact on the theories of crop rotation.’

I’m not saying that having aspirations is bad, I’m not saying that the years and frankly obscene amounts of money that you will spend at University are a waste… They’re a valuable and enjoyable part of becoming a useful member of the human race.  If you want to be a scientist or a doctor or a teacher or… erm… something else academic that I can’t be bothered to think of at the moment, you won’t be able to do that with at least one Degree in some pertinent subject.  My dear Brother is a product of the British Higher Educational system, and he has now retired early and abandoned England to set up home inside a hollowed-out volcano in the middle of the Mediterranean (So maybe that wasn’t a 100% great example, but you get the drift)

“But Dandy,” I hear you shout, “I’m reliably informed that you have a degree, and that makes you a hypocrite!” – Well, yes I have, but I didn’t get it straight out of school. I went away and had a bit of a life, gained a little experience and decided what would really be of use to me at a later date.  Turns out that I was completely wrong and it didn’t do me any real good that I could put my finger on.  It might have done I suppose, if things had turned out differently – But you know, they didn’t… My life turned out like my life… Your life will probably turn out like your life – I’m so sure of that, that I’ll buy you a pony if it doesn’t.

I suppose what I’m really trying to say is that, to my knowledge, no-one has ever died because they haven’t gone to the University that they wanted to (I guess some people might have died because they didn’t get into the Universities their parents wanted them to get into – But probably only in the more medieval themed Asian countries)  You’re just as likely to have a great life if you go straight from Sixth Form to a job in retail or *gulp* service industries and then sort yourself out later – No-one needs to know the ins and outs of the mating cycle of a nudibranch to be happy (Unless their surname is Cousteau)

You don’t need to get all of your ‘Learnin’ done in one big splat – (Please note, I’m not advocating a gap year… If you take a gap year, one of three things will happen:)

1: You will spend it on the sofa, in your pants, watching Spongebob
2: You will become a social pariah, known by all around you as the one who starts every story with “Oh, yah! When I was on my gap year in Bali, we…”
3: You will be murdered – I Sh*t you not, read the news – it happens more than you think.  You will be alone, and frightened and no-one can help you… Just don’t do it kids

So, none of this is important enough for you to lock yourself in your room and cry over, none of it is important enough for you to have to issue ‘A cry for help’ over (If you know what I mean) – Everything’s going to be OK, really, believe me, I’ve lived through it.

-oOo-

And as I used to do, I’ll illustrate this point with a story from the good old days.  It’s about the part of my life that took place after I left school and didn’t go to University.



This was me in the mid-1980s – I know, I looked like the bastard son of Queen’s Brian May and a pipe-cleaner.  But I’d found myself a girlfriend who I just assumed was a bad judge of character at the time – She wised up a few years later though…

We’d gone on a pub-crawl – Now, I’m guessing every town has a ‘Golden Mile’, a row of pubs of indeterminate length that are close enough to each other to enable you to move from one to the other without getting tired if you’re young and not used to wearing high-heels, and that’s where we were. I’d arranged to meet her in the first pub, because I had no transport and we lived at opposite ends of the town (Plus we were still pretty much at the awkwardly holding hands stage) – So, when she walked through the door with two of her seventeen year old friends (Please note, I was also seventeen, this isn’t my ‘Oh yes, I was a paedophile’ story – Wait, no! – I don’t actually have an ‘Oh yes, I was a paedophile’ story - Have you ever wished you hadn’t started something?)

Anywho… So, we’ve got several, very slightly underage people in a pub, in the days before people started demanding ID, who were all clustered around a table thinking how sophisticated we were for drinking half-pints of imported lager.  The teenage boys were having impure thoughts about the teenage girls – The teenage girls were… Well, if I’m honest… I’m not sure what the teenage girls were thinking – Still don’t as it happens.  The night progressed pretty much as you’d expect – there was giggling and a few pretty half-hearted slaps as hands were suddenly found to be in inappropriate places.  Until the young ladies decided that it was time that they made their way home.  I offered to accompany them (to the other side of town remember) because I was a gentleman, and not because there were many dark alleys between where we were and where we needed to be.

There were two incidents during the trip that stick in my mind. (Well, there were three, but I’m only going to tell you about two of them)  

The first was when we were walking down the street.  I had done my best to put my arms simultaneously around all three young ladies, with varying degrees of success, when I noticed a couple coming towards us – Being a gentleman, I reluctantly broke up our ‘menage a’ quatre’ so that they could get past…

The gentleman remarked to his girlfriend, ‘Why has he got three and I’ve only got you?’
Her reply was a slap across the face so resounding that I very briefly saw his face do a complete circuit of his head before he started to sob uncontrollably and apologise.

The second involved a bridge spanning a dual-carriageway, and explains the title of this post (Which is the only reason that you’re reading this right? Be honest) – My seventeen year old then-girlfriend leant over and whispered ‘I’m wearing stockings and suspenders.’ to me. Of course, I responded in the only way open to someone who had received such a revelation, 
‘Prove it,’ I said, not believing her for a second.
So, she raised the hem of her skirt to her chin and did just that.
Her two friends turned around at this time and witnessed the act just perpetrated… Then fuelled by strong lager and a lack of passers-by, proceeded to prove that they were similarly equipped themselves – It is here that the 70’s guitar music would have started if this had been a fuzzy VHS video that you’d found in your Dad’s sock drawer.

What happened instead is that we climbed the steps up to the top of the bridge (I stayed ten or so steps behind the girls, because I was still seventeen myself and full of hormones) and I watched the three teenage girls flash their underwear at passing trucks and taxis for a (very) good five minutes.

Then we went for a Chinese at my girlfriend’s house and I got a taxi home, where I couldn’t sleep on my front for about an hour. (The walls at my Dad’s house were very thin.)

That’s the sort of thing you’d miss if you went straight to University.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Men stare at boobs – FACT!

Yes, of course the title of today’s blog is Clickbait – I used the word ‘boobs’ which is a trigger word for both sexually-active males and ladies with relaxed gender roles.

However, it also ‘kinda-sorta’ fits with what I wanted to talk about because it’s about an experience I had, in the company of my adoring and supportive wife, which made me think about the plight of ladies. Specifically those ladies with breasts, and even more specifically, ladies whose breasts are on display save for a t-shirt or low-cut blouse for instance.

[Dons tin helmet to avoid damage from brick-throwing people yelling ‘Misogynist!’]

Let me just say that I feel breasts (I was toying with finishing the sentence there, but I quickly thought better of it) are completely the property of the people that they’re attached to.  You can do with them as you will… Cover them up, get them out, paint them to look like comedy animals… Whatevs! – They’re yours – Gods, you can probably even feed babies with them if you want (as long as you cover yourself over with a blanket whilst you’re doing so and try not to offend anyone that is - wouldn’t want anyone using them for their designed purpose when there’s erotic flaunting to be done.)

Anyway, back to the point in hand (f’narr f’narr) – I bought myself some T-Shirts last week, they had slogans on them, as many T-Shirts do.  I wore one of them during an impromptu trip to my local shopping centre on Sunday – This is the T-Shirt.




As some of you will know, this is a quote from the BBC UK Television series ‘Sherlock’ starring Martin Freeman and Stickleback Bumberclart.

For the record, many-many people stared at my chest… And being the dirty-whoer that I am, I quite enjoyed the attention.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure I’d get tired of it after a while… And this is why I find myself suddenly sympathising with ladies whose upper chestal area is worthy of notice. 

(This is a blatant lie – As with most men, we are all a shot of Tequila away from being a male peacock – I would say that 90% of the people staring at my chest were women and the law of averages says that 50% of them would be attractive – to me, by my shallow personal standards – And yes, I still have my helmet on so you’re wasting your time throwing those things – All men are pigs, we pretend to agree with feminist issues so that you will eventually sleep with us – That’s another fact. We’d much rather that you made us a sandwich, and be naked whilst you do it, if possible)

But if we push boobs to one side for a moment (This stuff just writes itself, sorry) – What actually is the difference between a psychopath and a sociopath? – Even a High-functioning one?

Well, they do say that both conditions are what is known as an ‘Antisocial Personality Disorder’ – So they’re not hugely dissimilar when it comes down to it.   The first real difference is that Psychopaths tend to be ‘Born’ possibly with some kind of brain lesion, and Sociopaths are ‘Made’ by their environment – A real case of Nature Vs Nurture here.  Psychopaths can form massively complex social relationships based entirely on fiction, purely to benefit themselves – Sociopaths won’t bother, you’re below them… Really quite a way below them.

Even their attitudes to criminality are totally different – Your garden variety Psychopath will plan and plan in the finest detail and there’s a very good chance that you will never discover that a crime has been committed (Unless you’re the one who’s dead, buried in an oil-drum, with your thumbs removed and sewn up your bum).  A Sociopath won’t plan at all - If they feel like committing a crime, they’ll do it there and then.  They firmly believe that the laws don’t exist for them – that laws are just for the common people

As a rule, Psychopaths feel no fear and have no sense of right or wrong, whereas Sociopaths do – But they’ll have their own ideas of what they class as ‘moral’ behaviour which might not go along with those of the general populace.  On the whole, Sociopaths are less dangerous… One might kill you if you were to make them angry enough.

But a Psychopath will kill you to death with a rusty spoon because you look like their Mum’s old milkman.


So, which one are you do you think?