- You react impulsively by swinging your arm. Lashing out blindly, and with the co-ordination of a stoned chimp, you slap yourself around the face, knocking out two teeth. If you weren't awake 5 seconds ago, you bloody well are now!
- You reach around for the light switch, only to hit the snooze button on your alarm clock. A jet of cold cat piss shoots into your face. F*cking alarm clock!
- After wiping your eyes on your pillow case, you fumble around some more and finally locate the light switch. The room lights up, blinding you like a rabbit caught in headlights. With blurry eyes you glance around, as if expecting Dracula to be standing by your bed with a big smirk on his face and a small trickle of blood running down his chin. He's not there. Shit... this is going to be more difficult than you thought.
- You engage in a game of insect hide and seek. However, you're at a disadvantage because mosquitos are masters of disguise - they are the chameleon ninjas of the insect world. You try to hunt him out, but he's craftily transformed into a lamp, a sock or the March 2012 issue of Playboy. As a result you can't find him. Feeling wearier by the minute, you slump into a chair and wait for him to make the next move.
- An hour passes and he hasn't made an appearance. In a desperate attempt to resume your slumber, you stumble around the room randomly hitting and moving things, hoping for some movement. He, in the meantime, is having a good old giggle at your pathetic attempt to find him. It's a complete mismatch in size terms, but the little bastard is beating you.
- After a further hour of searching, and having enlisted the help of binoculars, you spot him clinging to a cupboard by the far wall. Grabbing something substantial (the February 2012 issue of Playboy), you tiptoe slowly towards him. As you reach striking range you take a big swing and... bang!!!! A colossal chunk of plaster falls to the floor. Sadly for you, the mosquito isn't under it - he flew off a millisecond before Miss February's ample cleavage had a chance to make contact with his tiny head. You're now faced with a new challenge - focussing your eyes on where he goes next. You go cross-eyed as he does three circuits of the lampshade before heading towards the dark bookcase and then... he's vanished again.
- You repeat steps 4, 5 and 6 endlessly until you collapse onto the floor with exhaustion. Beaten.
- A time machine. Your bread will disappear for twenty minutes, only to re-appear looking exactly the same as it went in.
- A cremation furnace. You pop your bread in and, 10 seconds later, a pile of ash falls out onto the tray (the ash may or may not resemble the face of someone famous from history... possibly someone who was cremated)
- I forgot my Columbo jacket and cigar.
- I drew a highly accurate portrait of the body and took very neat notes of the letter that was held in the victim's hand (more on that in a minute).
- I spotted a lady scribbling at speed next to me (to the point where she almost burnt through the paper and set off the fire alarms). She had, throughout the evening, written a WHOLE PAD of notes. So, it seemed foolhardy for me to resist the temptation to snatch the pad off her and read her clue list. That was a BIG mistake, as I almost became the third murder victim of the evening. Little did I realise that Little Miss Scribble had arms like Mr Tickle, as she wrapped them around my neck several times and began a long, slow, painful asphyxiation. I reached half way down the first page before things started to go slightly blurry, as she exclaimed "give it back.... GIVE IT BACK!!!!!"
- Which womble would you be?
- What is your favourite allergy?
- Do you believe in hate at first sight?
- Have you ever pollenated a tomato plant using an electric toothbrush?
- What's in your freezer? (an exciting variation on the 'what's in your fridge' question from last time and an opportunity to catch out the psychopaths)
- Do you like my electronic tag - it's even got pretty, flashing lights on it…?
- So, what is your stance on cannibalism?
- Would you date a guy who lived in a tent?
- Why don't sheep shrink in the rain?
- Has anyone ever told you that you look like Bill Cosby? (no, I obviously wasn't intending to use that one)
- You pick up the first card, open it and find it has the perfect message:
I bought this Valentine's card at the store, in hope that, later, you'd be my whore.
Through all the things that came to pass, our love has grown... but so's your ass.
Our love will never become cold and hollow, unless, one day, you refuse to swallow!
Thinking, “wow, that was easy,” you make your way to pay.
- You pick up card after card, but can't find one that looks right or conveys the right message. What's more, every card seems to read like a miniature novel on how your love life should be, but isn't. If you plump for a card at random, you know fully well that she'll be thinking "he didn't really make an effort with this one, did he?" After two and a half hours of looking, with legs wobbling and brain rotting, you opt for the best one that you can find - a £20 gold-patterned card with a pig on it (let's hope she doesn't think you're calling her one).
Let me ask you a question: Why don’t they make alarm clocks with a mosquito sound? I can’t think of anything guaranteed to get you out of bed swifter than that irritating, high-pitched whine… with the possible exception of your cat peeing on your head. However, I would speculate that alarm clock sales might decline with a cat urine spray as the featured wake-up call. One can only speculate on the consequences of hitting ‘snooze’ - perhaps you might be awakened 10 minutes later with a vomit-soaked fur ball.
Following on from that bizarre introduction, let me tell you a story about how one clever little mosquito’s big appetite ended up costing him dearly. If I was a super-villain then this would be a most timely moment to include an evil laugh. Oh what the hell… MUHAHAHAAAAAA!!!
For the purposes of this tale I have taken the decision to name the mosquito Colin, if only to add personality and dramatic effect when I kill him off at the end. I agree that ‘Colin’ doesn’t seem like a very ferocious name for a supremely despised, blood-sucking creature. But then you haven’t met my bank manager.
On the right is a picture of Colin - to add additional persona to his character. Obviously the picture isn’t actually of Colin. I didn’t have time to ask him to pose for a series of candid portrait drawings before sending him on his way to mosquito heaven. With forethought I’d have perhaps considered taking ‘before’ and ‘after’ photographs to publish on billboards as a warning to other mosquitos not to mess with me. Kind-of like the ‘Don’t Drink And Drive’ campaigns. A possible slogan off the top of my head: ‘Don’t Whine And Dine!’ I think it’s got legs… which is more than can be said for Colin - one of his legs is still dangling limply from my curtain. I’m leaving it there as a trophy.
Allow me to set the scene a little. It was a warm Wednesday night and I had just returned from a night of drinking, singing and merriment in a local Cancun bar… with the added entertainment of watching one particular young lady (Christine) chase cockroaches around the room with a mop, in a mild state of hysteria. Cockroaches are said to be the only creatures capable of surviving a nuclear holocaust - they’re “hard bastards” - so I can’t think that being chased by a stick with a wig (poor Christine needs to put on some weight) would have them particularly quaking in their little boots.
At the end of the evening, and having had rather enough of insects, I made my way home and into bed. All was peaceful. And then a few minutes later it happened… a whining sound coming from behind my ear. Being that I’m not married, I immediately twigged that I had a mosquito problem.
What happened next? Well I’m sure you’ve all been in this position yourselves, so I will quickly summarise the principles involved with solving a nighttime mosquito situation…
Back to my story now and, after waking to the sound of Colin’s dulcet tones, I discovered that he had cheekily tucked into an appetiser. He’d bitten me on my chin. Of all the delicious parts of me that he could have chosen to start with, he chose my chin. I deduced from this fact that he was either incredibly bright or incredibly stupid. Here’s the logic behind my thinking:
Incredibly bright - he lands on my chin, I go to hit him and knock myself out. He then continues to invite all his friends over for an all-you-can-eat buffet.
Incredibly stupid - of all the places to chow down into, the chin is surely the least appetising. It’s a bit like me killing a cow and then chomping on his buttocks. I’ve never eaten cow buttock, so I really don’t know how it tastes. However, I suspect that if it was truly delicious then cow buttock would feature prominently on steak restaurant menus. I feel I should point out that I’m not comparing my face to a cow’s arse and any resemblance is purely coincidental (and a little cruel if you ask me).
So what did I do next? Well I was tired, half-drunk and I couldn’t be bothered to start searching around for the little sod. Instead I sprayed myself with insect repellent and hid under the covers. I didn’t hear from Colin for the rest of the night. But, if I thought that that would be the last I heard of him then I was wrong…
Colin re-appeared the next evening. I can only think that he got a bad case of the munchies (having only sampled my chin the previous night) because he attacked me when the light was on. I saw his approach from a mile off, moving off the bed and goading him with a confident demeanour of someone who knew the game had changed in his favour. I waited for him to land on the curtain next to me and then, as he settled, I was all over him like a fat kid on a cupcake. Revenge was mine… MUHAHAHAAAAAA!!! (I’m beginning to enjoy these evil laughs!)
So it transpires that Colin wasn’t particularly bright after all. He certainly won’t be renewing his Mensa membership next year, let alone his Playboy subscription…
Having had fun with origami money boats two days ago, today I took the opportunity to jump into a boat of my own. Thankfully this particular boat was not crafted out of paper, which I think is a fairly good thing when you’re cruising across a crocodile-infested lagoon. I haven’t studied crocodiles a lot (I can’t bloody find one for a start - they’re clearly afraid of cameras), but I suspect that if I stood in front of Mr Croc whilst holding a beautifully crafted paper swan, he wouldn’t be admiring the quality of my paper folding.
We had booked in for a one hour Jungle Tour as a group of four people; Christian, Sarah, Christine and myself. Arriving at dockside in the late afternoon, our first task was to read and sign their disclaimer form. It was the usual arrangement; in the event of death as a result of turning the boat over, hitting a tree or being eaten by a crocodile they lay claim to your house, children and priceless collection of Justin Bieber memorabilia.
I must point out that it was only after initially signing their disclaimer form that we were given our safety equipment. There appeared to be good reason for this, as having donned my life jacket I felt about as safe as a man walking into a cage of hungry lions dressed as a pork chop. I can only presume that the purpose of our life jackets was to make us slightly more chewy when being masticated by a crocodile. The safety equipment in our boats wasn’t much better, consisting mostly of four inflatable plastic tampons attached to the boat sides as buoyancy, two of which had more holes than a colander.
Having inspected the ‘safety equipment,’ we were introduced to our guide Martinez. Now, its very important I get his name right as he did say to us that if we enjoyed ourselves we should make sure “not to forget” him. I realise that in some parts of the world this can be a hint to leave a big tip. But I got the impression that on this occasion he just felt unloved, the poor guy.
So let me introduce our guide Manuel to you - approximately 5ft 6 tall, 41 years old, Mexican, dark hair, fat, with a medium-sized moustache, Gemini with a hairy back and mild halitosis.
Before we jumped in our speed boats, we were taken through the in-depth safety briefing and important safety signals. Being in Mexico, we were unsurprised by the amount of thought and effort they’d put into their set of safety signals; one arm in the air moving up and down for ‘slow down’, a lasso motion for ‘speed up’, two arms waving in the air for us to signal “help!!!!” and one arm in the air with ‘v for victory’ sign for “I’ve just successfully thrown my passenger out of the boat and she’s currently having her leg chewed off by a large croc.”
After our 10 second safety briefing, we clambered into our boats. I was with Christine - approximately 5ft 3, American, brown and purple hair, slim, slight moustache and with a mild kamikaze attitude. She didn’t ask me “not to forget” her - God, I only wish I could - I’m just getting into the swing of describing people.
We set off at speed - our guide Mauricio in the lead boat, Christine and I in the second boat and Christian and Sarah in the third. And when I say “set off at speed,” I mean just that. Our guide Malcolm sped off into the distance like he was late for his appointment at the local whore house. Perhaps if I’d seen more of him during the trip, rather than just as a speck in the distance, remembering him wouldn’t be such a problem. We stuck the throttle fully down and set off after him. I tried my very best to be as unsafe as possible with some kamikaze steering in order to cut the distance to our guide and generally increase the risk of Christine losing her Justin Bieber collection.
Now, at the very beginning of this story you may remember that I said that we were on the ‘Jungle Tour.’ In all honesty they might as well have called it the Tour De France, such was the amount of actual jungle in the ‘Jungle Tour.’ It was only after about 25 minutes of wave jumping, salt-water-in-the-face, mental driving that we actually reached anything that could be described as ‘jungle.’ A row of trees on either side of a winding strip of water and a single stork bird standing to attention like a guard at the entrance. The stork - approximately 2.7ft tall, slim, thin legs, Capricorn, bipolar - seemed quite happy to stand in the crocodile-infested water and watch us sail on by. I suspect there was a reason why there was only one stork - his friends had been eaten by crocodiles, with their legs used as post-meal cocktail sticks.
Having made our way through the (3.4) trees, we were now approaching half way. There was just time to drive slowly past an area with adults and children swimming (which we nicknamed the crocodile ‘cafeteria’) and a bridge with people on it, all staring down at us wondering what we were doing. I’m pretty sure that some of them had never seen a boat before, such was their reaction. Perhaps the bridge wasn’t connected to any land. They certainly looked miserable, so I stood up and gave them a big two-handed wave to try to cheer them up. Just as I did so, our guide Matthew screeched to a halt, executed a very swift 180 degree turn and began speeding back towards us. It became apparent that, in my over-exuberance to wave at the miserable bastards on the bridge, I had inadvertently given the ‘SOS, emergency, holy shit! Help!!’ signal. Oops!
After apologising for the ‘SOS’ incident, we sped on to the half way point. It was now time to turn around and head home, traveling back past the ‘cafeteria’, underneath the bridge (remembering not to wave), past the pile of stork bones and back across the second section of the lagoon. We did so with no more incidents, mostly thanks to some more sensible piloting by Captain Christine.
Arriving back at the dock we clambered off the boats. It had been a really fun trip - one that would live long in the memory, along with our guide… errr… Bill. No, shit… what was it?
Having finished our Jungle Tour, I felt it timely that I re-assured our guide Margaret that I would remember him for eternity (someone needed to boost his self-esteem, the poor bloke). I took his photo and told him that I would frame it and hang it on my lounge wall. As he stood with his hands out, palms facing the heavens, and staring at me with sad looking eyes, I felt for him. I ran towards him and embraced him with a big squeezy hug - one that would provide him with enough love to last a very long time. As I stood back and stared into his (now rather shocked looking) eyes, I could tell he appreciated the gesture. In fact, he continued standing there in the same position with the same expression for a very long time as we strolled away…
The hotel breakfast experience can be an uncomfortable, tense affair - especially if you’re in a foreign country. Does this story ring true with you?
Bleary eyed, wearing your shirt back to front, and with your hair looking like you were assaulted by a troop of wig-stealing monkeys on your way in, you fumble your way through the door of the hotel’s breakfast room. It’s a buffet breakfast; all you can bloat. You chuckle to yourself as you imagine the fat American man you bumped into yesterday (the one with the enormous boobs) jumping up and down with joy at the potential calories on offer. Let’s hope he’s wearing his sports bra…
As the Maitre d' greets you by the door, it becomes obvious that he speaks no English. So, you try to hint that you want a table for one without inadvertently giving him ‘the bird.’
Following a period of mis-communication, during which you seriously considered punching the Maitre d' in the face, as he stood between your hungry stomach and the eggs and bacon, he sits you down at a table of his choice. Frustratingly, he’s chosen the table furthest away from the buffet, meaning that you have to undertake a small marathon to reach the food. The realisation passes through your mind that you will probably burn off more calories getting to and from the buffet area than are actually contained within the food. Oh, why can’t they supply golf carts?
The waiter walks over. He, at least, speaks a little more English…
Waiter: “Tea? Coffeeeee?” You: “What… err, tea… yes, I’ll have tea. Thank you”
Then comes the list…
Waiter: “What tea you like? Engresh breekfast, caamomile, greeen tea, mint tea, eeerl grey…?” You: “Err, I don’t know. Tea. Just tea. I don’t want help sleeping, I don’t have prostate issues… ordinary tea!” Waiter: “Ah, ok………… juice, what juice you like?”
Finally, the waiter leaves… he’s gone to get your strawberry tea and asparagus and wheatgrass juice (you won’t have a problem with constipation today, that’s for sure!). As you sit at your table, staring blankly into the distance, your eyes focus for a brief second on a woman struggling back to her table, supporting an enormous mound of breakfast goodies with both arms. Her head is tilted to the side of her plate to see where she is going. Forget the golf carts, how about a forklift truck?
Now slumped over your table, struggling to wake yourself, you glance at your watch. It’s 10.29am. Breakfast finishes at 10.30am, so there’s little time to loose. You’re going to have to act like a contestant on the television gameshow, Supermarket Sweep - without the bright, very gay clothing and without the over-exaggerated enthusiasm. It’s too early for that. You jump up from your table, like a startled deer. Well, ok, more like a wounded wildebeest…
As you reach the food area, panting from your exhaustive journey, you notice several groups of people wandering around with their heads down and arms out, reminiscent of extras from an episode of the Walking Dead. It’s the hangover crowd. You decide it’s best to stay away from them incase they walk into you or, worse, projectile vomit over your shoulder as you inspect the pastries and cakes.
It’s time to make your first big decision: how to begin the breakfast debauchery? Being that it’s the morning, you really don’t want to have a guilt trip for the rest of the day about what you’ve eaten at breakfast. So, the best option is to start with something healthy; fruit. You pick up a piece of melon with your spoon and carefully place it on your plate… that’ll do. It’s amazing how this one piece of fruit, measuring approximately a square centimetre, can change your perspective and make you feel so much better about the mound of unhealthy eggs, bacon, sausages, toast, pastries and cakes that will inevitably follow. Afterall, your breakfast won’t have been all unhealthy, right?
And, let’s be honest, you are “health conscious.” Yesterday, you walked all the way up the hotel stairs to your room on the ninth floor… having taken the lift to the eighth floor first.
After devouring your fruit in three seconds, it’s time to move on to the cooked breakfast. Eggs, bacon, sausages, tomatoes and a mountain of toast. That brings us to one of the trickiest parts of the buffet breakfast…
Arriving at the toaster section, you’re confronted by a crowd of people with very perplexed faces, clutching pieces of bread. And they have every right to feel perplexed, for hotel toasters are always so incredibly over-complicated, with their vast array of buttons, dials and knobs (where-ever there’s a toaster, there’s always knobs). Moreover, the toasters always resemble torture devices with their mish-mash of metal spokes, prongs and cages. And why is there always one piece of ‘forgotten toast’ sitting on the exit tray; cold, getting in the way, but still optimistic of achieving fulfilment underneath a blanket of warm honey. It’s always perfectly toasted too - a miracle, in toasting terms. You can guarantee that your toast won’t turn out looking that good. ‘Hmm, you could just… no, it’s cold. Urgh.'
Having fought through the crowd, claiming to be the biggest toaster expert in the world, the torture device is finally revealed to you. Now, there’s an inevitability that the toaster will be one of two things:
Arriving back at your table with your mound of food, the waiter kindly presents you with a teapot of strawberry tea and a glass of asparagus and wheatgrass juice. Now, getting the tea from the little teapot into your cup should be easy. But, no, he’s given you the one teapot in the world with the dodgy lid and leaky spout. Consequently, when you go to pour it, the tea goes everywhere… everywhere except the cup, which remains as dry as an Arab’s flip flop. Seeing you in some distress, but clearly not understanding the gravitas of the situation, the waiter brings you a napkin. A single bloody napkin!
Although frustrated, part of you remains grateful that you’re not on board a boat with him. For, if it was to start taking on water he’d probably hand you a thimble to bail with…
At exactly 10.30am, events suddenly liven up. The lights in the buffet area are switched off, one by one. Breakfast is over… but the fight has only just begun. A mad scramble ensues, reminiscent of feeding time at the zoo. It’s a battle of wits between staff (starting to take things away) and people trying to desperately grab extra food for their breakfast. Everywhere you look, there’s chaos. Well, I say ‘everywhere’ - the fruit section remains incredibly peaceful.
You finish your breakfast and leave the restaurant. It’s all over. Behind you is a scene of carnage; bits of half-eaten food everywhere and tea-soaked table cloths as far as the eye can see. Although you arrived late, you feel contented that you aren’t the last to leave. That prize goes to a plump, married couple. There’s something not quite right though… the man has a strange muffin-shaped mound in his t-shirt and his wife is dragging a heavy handbag along the floor behind her. Forget the forklift truck - how about an articulated lorry?
I was using a supermarket self-checkout today, processing my items to the repetitive drone of “please place your item in the bagging area.” Next to me, an older couple were battling to put through their items of shopping, some (most) of which included bottles of alcohol. Most of you will be aware that when you buy alcohol at a self-checkout the attendant has to check your age. So, in this instance, their checkout light went red and a message popped up on their screen. Here is a transcript of the conversation that followed:
Lady: “Why is it telling us that we have to wait for assistance?” Attendant: “We have to check your age to ensure you aren’t underage” Lady: “Ah, ok. I suppose I should take it as a compliment, really? Ha ha ha…”
For some reason, I took umbrage at her stupid remark. I just about managed to hold back from vociferating in response:
“So, you think this piece of electronic equipment has a brain, do you? That’s mistake number one. Mistake number two is thinking that if it did have a brain, it would be stupid enough to think that you, a haggard old alcoholic woman who smells of musky piss and morning fresh, are actually a voluptuous 17-year-old woman with the face of an angel.”
“Oh, and, by the way, you should assume that the card payment machine thinks you’re trustworthy, that the supermarket’s automatic door likes you and that your trolley knows where your car is parked. Good luck!”
Rapport can be described as a state of harmony achieved when the people involved appreciate and understand each other’s feelings and ideas and communicate on the same wavelength. Here is a story of how I established rapport with a room maid during my stay in Cancun. I was feeling a little cut off and lonely at the time, so it meant a lot to me.
During my two-week hotel stay, I occupied a twin room all to myself. This meant that I received two of everything, or in the case of bath towels, four of everything. It seemed a little extreme.
My first few evenings in Cancun were spent outside of the hotel. However, on my fifth night at the hotel, I was enjoying a rest before dinner when there was a knock at the door. I opened the door to a maid, who presented me with a towel before wishing me a good evening (in Spanish). “This is ridiculous,” I thought, “what the bloody hell do I need ANOTHER towel for?” Despite this, deep down inside me I felt a tingling sense of increased security: if I should need to have 10 showers a day, I could! Furthermore, if I ran out of money, I could start my own laundry shop… ;)
Opportunities can appear when you least expect them to. As I stood there, towel in hand, a childish idea came into my head - ‘towel origami.’ I could have some fun with this towel and put it to good use. So, this is what I made…
Say “hello” to my towel man, Enrique; made from one bath towel and one hand towel (together with a few bits and pieces from the complimentary bathroom pack). I left Enrique sitting at the top of the second bed; to greet the maid the next day. Next morning, I went out for the day, returning in the evening. As I walked back into the room I spotted that Enrique had disappeared… to be replaced by Mariana (complete with flirty eyes)…
Mariana was to become a fixed guest in my hotel room - she stayed there for the rest of my holiday, accompanied by varying arrangements of flowers and adornments. After a few days, I concluded she might be lonely. So, I gave her a friend…
Meet Simon the swan, made from a single bath towel, together with a rose (made from a tissue). Ok, I admit it, my skills at origami towel creations are no match for the maid’s. However, I didn’t have all the elastic bands, stickers, flowers, etc, that she had.
Simon lasted only one morning. The room maid created her towel arrangements out of old towels, so they were allowed to remain. But, mine were made from in-use towels and were taken away to be washed. Hence, by the time I returned from breakfast, he had disappeared and Mariana was on her own again (albeit, accompanied by a mini bouquet of flowers).
The maid’s towel origami was in evidence elsewhere in the hotel too. Later that morning, as I went to get the lift down to the swimming pool, a new towel creation had appeared. Sitting on the table opposite the lift was a rather phallic work of art…
Is it supposed to be a snail? Answers on a postcard on that (and on what the flower is supposed to represent).
On my final morning, as a thank you to the maid for providing the towel entertainment and Mariana, my towel friend, I left her a tip. Not to be boring, I made her one final towel creation - Cyril and Celia, the cygnets, forming a heart…
I didn’t ever properly converse with the maid, as she didn’t speak more than a couple of words of English and I didn’t speak more than a few words of Spanish. However, it does go to show that communication is not all about words - it can take so many other forms. We had both shown parts of our personalities by way of a simple, everyday piece of cloth. The result - smiles, entertainment and a warm feeling of understanding.
Note: I would just like to add that despite all of the towel origami shenanigans, at no point was anyone in the hotel deprived of a towel… (so, there’s no excuse for that man in the lift to smell the way he did…)
Last night, I visited my local store on a late-evening mission of some urgency. I’m sure that most of you reading this have been in a similar situation before.
As I strolled through the front door of the store, it became all too obvious that it was nearing closing time. Why? Well, the shopkeeper looked positively suicidal and the only items left on the shelves were a salad labelled with yesterday’s date and a half-eaten doughnut. If I hadn’t known better, I could have easily assumed that the townsfolk had entered into Emergency British Panic Buying Mode - an event that normally occurs when weather forecasters predict a flake of snow to fall somewhere within 100 miles.
So, why was I venturing out in the middle of the night? Well, I had experienced the ultimate nightmare. No, I’m not talking about waking up in bed, with a heavy hangover, lying naked next to your best friend’s grandmother (don’t pretend you’ve never had that dream!!). I was running low on toilet paper.
Cutting straight to the chase, I managed to find the aisle with the toilet paper. Good news awaited me - the brand of toilet roll that I normally buy was on special offer - hooray! Cue a quick dance and spin on the spot to celebrate. My glee didn’t last long, however, as there was a sting in the tail. They had sold out of every colour… except “Blossom Pink.” So, standing there, perplexed, scratching my head in deliberation and feeling increasingly desperate for the toilet, I had to mull over the following two options in my mind. Should I:
a) Buy the blossom pink toilet paper and risk the jibes of friends when they come over. So, what would my mates think about my very feminine, pink toilet roll - surely it’s a given that they’ll take the piss (pun intended)? More importantly; as a single man, what impression would the blossom pink toilet roll give to any ladies when I invite them over for dinner and they visit the bathroom?
b) Opt for the more expensive, alternative brand of super-quilted, quadruple velvet, gold-lined ‘bog roll’ (available in manly colours such as ‘duck tape grey’, ‘camouflage green’ or ‘gun barrel beige’).
Which option did I choose? Option a). No wonder the shopkeeper had a big smile on his face as I walked back out of the door…
Last Saturday evening, I attended a Murder Mystery Evening with a group of friends at Leeford Place in Battle. I had never attended this type of event before, so I didn’t quite know what to expect.
Before the evening had begun, the mischievous side of me was pondering about joining in with the scenes of impending death. I had an idea in mind - I would stand up during dinner, shout “You BASTARD!!!” at the person next to me, then clutch my chest, make some “urrgghhhhhh” sounds and fall down dead, face first, into my bowl of vegetable soup (watching out for any sharp-looking croutons).
Mercifully for the person seated next to me (and around the table, bearing in mind the potential splash-impact of the soup), I decided not to follow through with my plan.
The evening started off well - we had arrived early and were well into our third bottle of Sauvignon Blanc before any of the actors appeared. Once they arrived, they quickly made themselves known. I’ve never heard so many raised voices in one room since the get together of the local Society Of Deaf Town Criers.
The murder story began in the bar area, with the theme being loosely based around an X-Factor crossed with Strictly Come Dancing theme. Characters such as Anton De Berk, Simon Coward… you get the idea. Thoughout the evening, the two contestants (who were supposed to be dancing for a million pounds) dropped dead in two separate incidents. That left us with four suspects - the three judges and the host (who was doing a very good impression of Bruce Forsyth). At various points during the meal, each actor would join us at our table and allow us to ask questions. One member of our table took it upon himself to question Sharon, the lady judge (wearing a very nice, tight outfit), in great depth… as he sat her down on his knee and pumped her for answers. He continued this method of interrogation with two other ladies during the evening - concluding that they definitely weren’t actors. His research and insight proved invaluable… ;)
To summarise the events: the first contestant died of poisoning on the dance floor. The second contestant died outside in the lobby, where gunshots were heard. Following the second murder, Brucie announced that one member of our table would be allowed outside to view the body and take notes. They were attempting to keep up a level of privacy… which didn’t quite work as the body was lying right outside the men’s and women’s toilets. So, as people went out to ‘spend a penny’, they were told to cover their eyes and clamber over the body. Thankfully, the women and men all ended up in the correct toilets… though Mr Incontinent from table 4 clearly received an advantage from the situation.
When the opportunity arose for our table to inspect the body, I put on my Columbo face and strode out into the lobby. Two things happened at this point:
After surrendering and handing the notepad back to her, I staggered back to the table with my own pad in hand, on which was this cleverly constructed drawing of the murder scene - an invaluable clue summary for my detective colleagues…
One last questioning session followed dessert and it was then time for us to choose some sensible answers for the murder method, the motive and the murderer. Writing “Colonel Mustard, in the bathroom with the loofa” felt tempting but inappropriate (I didn’t want to make our team look any more foolish than they already did).
After a mix-up with our answer sheet (someone had spilled water on it), we were left with about 15 seconds to write down our answers. So, I scribbled down that the murderer was Piers, the motive was an Indian betting syndicate and the method was poison and gun. Simple.
To my surprise, we were absolutely spot on, and finished second. Why second? Well, another team had written more detail than us (the poison came from a frog, the gun was made from digestive biscuits and the murderer was wearing Superman boxer shorts… or something like that).
Anyway, the important thing is that we finished second and we won two boxes of chocolates…. which my team mates promptly wolfed down, forgetting to leave me one. Talk about shared bloody glory - I could have killed them!!
I spent Saturday evening in the company of friends (plus others) at their house, which they share with their two children of ages three and five years. Alcohol was present (that’s not the name of one of the children) and, inevitably when people get slightly tipsy, one person had a rather childish moment…. and it was me who had that moment (why aren’t you surprised?). Well, life’s too miserable to be short… or something like that.
Having consumed a couple of drinks, I spotted a collection of plastic magnetic letters stuck to the fridge. I felt sorry for them - all jumbled up in no particular order (or possibly spelling something out in Greek) and longing, with unfulfilled ambition, to become part of a glorious word from our wonderful English language. I felt their pain (though that could have been indigestion from the sausage rolls and sandwiches). So, to appease them, I strolled over and spelled out the first word that came into my head from my extensive and colossal vocabulary…
Walking slowly back to my chair, I felt happier. But I still believed, inside, that I could do better…
There were a lot of letters remaining on the fridge; sulking and hoping against hope for a second chance. So, I pulled myself together for one last mission; to construct a phrase that would live long in the memory of the children… a message that they would one day pass on to their children…
I strode back to my seat feeling very happy and proud of myself. Mind due, the fridge was pointing out that some of that sentiment could have been due to the alcohol…
I’m sure that the faces of the children next morning would truly have been a sight to behold!
On Friday evening I attended my second speed dating event. For those who haven’t read about the first action-packed speed dating adventure, you can read it here.
Now, I believe that it’s very important to make the right impression at these events. You should walk in with enthusiasm and a positive and happy attitude. First impressions are important - you need to demonstrate that you’re fun, confident and have a passion for life. Seemingly, no-one had mentioned all of that to the man who walked in, plonked himself on the sofa in the corner, fell asleep and started dribbling on his own shoulder. I felt very tempted to walk over and draw a Poirot moustache on him…
Friday’s speed dating event took place at the Oceana club in Brighton in one of their many themed rooms. We were in the ‘Parisian Boudoir.’ It is described as “intimate and plush” with velvet cushions and a seating area in the middle that resembles a four poster bed. In short, an ideal location for a detective murder mystery or a 19th century swingers party.
Before beginning the speed dating, I think it’s always important to have a quick scan of the competition (not just to check for electronic tags). Scanning the room, the other men looked as nervous and scared as a guide dog in a Korean takeaway. The two lovely hosts (bonus points for me when they read this), Emma and Casey, signed everyone in with the words “here’s your date sheet and your pen” - they should then have continued with “and here’s a complimentary . The emergency exits are here, here and here and we encourage you to relax, not to look like you’re about to shit yourself - this isn’t the bloody dentist!”
Have you ever been speed dating? Here’s a quick re-cap for those who haven’t. Ten women sit at numbered tables (or laying on plush beds), 10 men rotate around them and chat awkwardly for 5 minutes about nothing in particular whilst trying not to yawn, spit out bits of their dinner or discuss the current state of the economy. At the end of the allotted time, there’s a shake of hands, a tick of a box (‘date,’ ‘friend’ or ‘no thanks’) and a quick memo of “reminds me of Hercule Poirot and seems to have a strange stain on his shoulder” in the ‘notes’ section. Then it’s on to the next victim…
To aid my own conversations on Friday, I came up with another useful list of questions to ask. These included:
The event was fun and much hilarity was had. By the time we got to the end, even ‘Poirot’ looked like he was enjoying himself.
Following the event, a few of us got together to chat with a drink. One guy recounted the story of a previous speed date involving a disabled man who was speaking using a computer and voice synthesiser. That brought into my head the very humorous vision of Professor Stephen Hawking on a speed date…
A day or so after the speed dating, I was sitting in a cafe and received the email containing my results. Just as I was opening the email, a message which informed me that no-one had ticked my ‘date’ box (though 6 ticked ‘friend’), a Bee Gees song began playing in the background. The irony was not lost on me… “Tragedy… when the feeling’s gone and you can’t go on it’s a tragedy… it’s hard to bear, with no-one to love you you’re going nowhere…”
For those who haven’t read my last speed dating article, it is available here.
Do you have any funny speed dating experiences?
In preparation for the event, I scoured the Internet for some advice and tips and also some suggestions for questions that I could ask. The advice was useful, but the question suggestions were either boring or ones that I’d rather smash a pint glass over my head than ask. For example, “So, which character in friends do you most identify with?" Uh!
On the evening of the event, I arrived at the pub and was presented with a card on which there were a series of boxes. I was told to write the number and name of each lady in the left hand column boxes after I had sat down and made my introduction. Next to those were 3 smaller tick boxes - “date,” “friend” and “no thanks.” Notable by their absence were the options for “quick shag outside by the back wall,” “restraining order” and “call the police, I’ve seen this guy on Crimewatch.”
There was also a column on the sheet marked “notes”, in which we could write facts about the person in order to aid our memory in the time that followed the event. Such scribbles could include “psychopath,” “reminds me of Margaret Thatcher” and “DO NOT GIVE YOUR PHONE NUMBER TO THIS LADY EVEN IF YOU ARE COMPLETELY PISSED!” Obviously, we were told not to write the notes infront of the person whilst talking to them. E.G: “I notice you have a glass eye, spit when you talk and look like my best friend’s ugly aunt, I’ll just make a quick note of that on my sheet…”
Helpfully, on the reverse of the card there were some ideas listed for questions that we could ask if we suddenly found ourselves in the middle of an awkward silence (so, no need for me to use my emergency ‘Friends character’ question). Bizarrely, one of those questions was “what’s in your fridge?" It was so ridiculously random that I used it several times throughout the evening (phrased in a jokey manner). It did, however, backfire on me on one occasion, where the lady spent the following minute and a half listing everything in her fridge… I actually tried interrupting her in the middle, but she refused to stop until she had named everything. Perhaps a sign of OCD? (I used the time to jot that down on my ‘notes’ sheet whilst she was finishing her fridge items list). Definite traits of a Monica there (albeit a bit older).
We had a mammoth 7 minutes to talk to each lady, with 10 ladies in total. They stayed on the same sofa/chair/bar stool/hammock (no, not really) whilst the men rotated around the room looking like cows being led to the slaughter house. The 7 minutes seemed like a long time at first, but actually flew by on every occasion… with the exception of one. During that particular episode, the lady repeatedly answered my questions with one-word, nondescript answers - she was definitely a Phoebe!
There was a real mixture of women at the event and I got along well with all of them. Some were being very serious about the whole thing. E.G:
Lady: “I come to these regularly to find dates… what’s your star sign please?” Me: “I’m not sure, but I think it’s in the constellation with Uranus…” Lady: ………
Other ladies were taking things less seriously. With that being said, I was disappointed not to get an opportunity at any point to ask a question from my list of unusual questions, such as:
After all the 7 minute torture sessions where over, everyone headed to the bar to relax, and, in the case of a few people, get completely shit-faced. The results weren’t pretty - at one point one of the ladies pulled down the top of her trousers to show me her ‘Mr Tickle’…
Anyway, enough about tattoos of Mr Men characters (well, what else did you think I was talking about?). This speed dating event was fun. However, due to the fact that I had chosen an “over 30s” event, everyone there was older than me and most were over 40 (hey, I still got 3 phone numbers). It’ll be interesting to compare it with a speed dating event for a 26-39 age group (which I hope to attend in a couple of weeks time). I suspect they will be less fun, more serious and won’t be arriving by way of their free bus passes…
…I wonder what they’ll have in their fridge? Hey, come to think of it, what have you got in yours?
Why not read my latest speed dating article, speed dating in the boudoir?
A list of the most stressful experiences that anyone can go through in their lifetime will include events such as the death of a family member, divorce and moving house. I think that supermarket self-checkouts should be added to that list…
When approaching the checkouts with your three items of shopping, there are usually two choices open to you. You can queue up behind the hoards of families putting their monthly food shop through the tills of the spotty trainees or you can risk your mental health by using the self-service checkout systems. The world of personal shopping really has gone out of the window, to be replaced by a form of torture only previously seen on bad Japanese game shows. Still, it can’t really be that bad…. can it?
A few days ago, I gave the self-checkout a try. My first challenge came with deciding where to queue. There were three rows of checkouts and other customers seemed as perplexed as me about choosing which queue to join. They were all milling around looking like they were mentally building complicated mathematical algorithms to decide where to go. I found myself joining in with this pointless exercise…
“Should I opt for the queue with the fewest people or should I also take into consideration the number of items in the basket of each shopper in each queue? In addition, should I factor in the likely intelligence of the people in the queues?”
There was one certainty with all this - whichever queue I chose would be the wrong one. Sure enough, I got stuck behind a lady who couldn’t find the barcode on her packet of Ryvita, a teenager who needed to individually select 15 different flavours of muffin using the on-screen interactions, an old lady who spent 5 minutes sorting through her over-large collection of plastic loyalty cards and, finally, an elderly man who delayed one-second too long in putting an item into his ‘bag for life,’ setting all the alarm bells off. At that moment I was so filled with rage that I wanted to strangle him (rendering his ‘bag for life’ useless forever after)
When I finally arrived at the self-checkout machine, frustration turned to stress. I suddenly felt all self-conscious that it was my turn and realised that everyone in the queue behind me was watching me, waiting for me to do something stupid and forming opinions based upon the combination of items in my basket. I really should have given it more thought before proceeding through the self-checkouts with condoms, lube and an extra-large cucumber…
It was then that I wished I’d taken my items and hidden them under a loaf of bread on one of the conveyor belt checkouts. I tried to scan the items quickly and, inevitably, set the flashing lights and alarms off. In my mind, I could hear an announcement being made over the supermarket tannoy system:
Security announcement: unexpected contraception has been found in the bagging area… and he's got an extra-large cucumber too, what's he going to do with that?
Locked out from the system, I felt completely helpless. I looked around desperately for assistance and a lady in uniform came to help me (no, not the police). She scanned her card through the system, gave me a look as if to say “can’t you do anything right?” and then told me to carry on. In the meantime, I could hear the people queueing behind me tutting, huffing and whistling to themselves (it could well have been to the tune of ‘Right Here Waiting For You,’ I was too busy panicking to be able to tell). Sweating profusely, I paid, grabbed my bags and beat a hasty retreat.
What an ordeal! If I’d wanted to spend my precious time scanning shopping, I’d have applied for a job as a (non-spotty) checkout operator. It’s not service, it’s not quick and it’s certainly not personal - I don’t even get the benefit of having a pointless conversation with a miserable checkout operator. Quite simply, it’s me working for the supermarket and not being paid for it. There’s no fun or benefit to me in that.
Well, it was inevitable. Your partner bought you cake and chocolates for your birthday and now they’re showing on your waist. You looked in the mirror today and your self-esteem dropped through the floor. Thank goodness your home was built well, otherwise you might have plummeted through the floor with it. With the weather being so cold outside, the idea of a run seems about as enviable as a night in doing your tax return. There’s only one thing for it - you’re going to have to make a visit to the gym…
Prising yourself out of the warmth of your home, and wearing your most fashionable leotard, you head along to the local fitness centre - Waist Management.
After paying your entrance fee, you squeeze through the turnstiles and are greeted with a plethora of torture devices. It’s decision time; should you try the rowing machine, the cross-trainer or the treadmill?
As if things aren’t already uncomfortable enough for you, in your over-tight leotard, you’ve just spotted someone that you know and, inevitably, hate. It’s your work colleague, Hal (surname: Itosis), a man with a mouth so gargantuan that he could use a broom to brush his teeth. He enjoys winding you up with his sarcastic comments (whilst wafting a mixture of marmite and espresso breath past your nostrils). The annoying shit is leaning on the water machine trying to pretend he’s Arnold Schwarzenegger. He’ll no doubt take pleasure in watching you prance up and down on a cross-trainer looking like the back half of a pantomime cow.
Whilst thoughts of dread echo through your mind, one of the cross-trainers becomes free, as the man drags himself off and crawls away towards the water machine. He’s left behind a present for you - his sweat; all over the machine.
After dragging the entire contents of the paper towel dispenser across the room, tripping up several people in the process, you dry the cross-trainer, clamber on and start your exercising. You set the machine to level 1 difficulty so that you can move really fast and look far more impressively fit than you are. Instead of looking at you, everyone will be looking at the guy to your left, Jim, who is struggling on level 10 (whilst listening to ‘Eye Of The Tiger’ from the Rocky film). You’ve nicknamed him Jim because of his uncanny resemblance to Jimmy Saville.
A few minutes later…
After three minutes on the cross-trainer, you’re beginning to feel bored. No-one is sharing conversation (so much for the gym being a social thing). Instead, everyone around you is wearing earphones; plugged into their music mix of Lady GaGa, Bon Jovi and the Village People. In need of something to break the tedium, you stare at the television that sits bolted to the wall at the front of the room. It’s showing music videos. Well, they’re supposed to be music videos. They actually seem to be a mixture of nudity, sadomasochism and debauchery… with lyrics that you can’t actually hear.
Ten minutes more hard work go by…
You’re kicking up quite a sweat. The realisation then hits you that you’ve been in a trance for the last five minutes - unable to drag your eyes from the hypnotic movement of the female walrus on the running machine in front. Determined not to focus on her repetitive buttock movement (RBM), you look back up at the television screen. The music channel has taken a commercial break and the television is now taunting you with an advert for fish and chips. Wow, that looks good…
There must be some consolation for this continued torture - the exercise must be doing you good. You’ve probably burned off enough calories for…. fish and chips. You look down at your screen for some statistics and it’s only too willing to show you - you’ve been exercising for 15 minutes, you’ve burned off 100 calories and your heart rate is…. it’s not showing. It was showing a minute ago, but now it’s not. That’s it then - you’re dead. You decide to warn Jim on the machine next to you that he may need to call an ambulance. He’s still got his headphones in, so you’ll need to scribble it down…. “Dear Jim, please can you fix it for me to have an ambulance, as I think my heart has stopped?”
Life and death
Ten minutes further on and you’re still alive and kicking - it looks as if you won’t need that ambulance after all. The same can’t be said for poor Jim, who is laying face down on the floor. A brief, cruel smirk rises across your face as you remember that he was, ironically, listening to a song by Survivor ten minutes ago.
Looking around at the other people in the room, the walrus has finished on her running machine and is now fiddling with her briefs to try and extract them from her bottom. The gym instructor is looking frustrated at the immense pile of paper towel sitting on the floor next to your cross-trainer… you decide not to acknowledge him and hope that he doesn’t realise you were responsible. Wondering where Hal’s gone, you look behind you and realise that he’s been on the weight machines staring hypnotically at your bottom for the last 20 minutes. The shit - he’s going to have a field day with this one.
After finishing your workout, you stagger to the water machine. As you stand there, feeling tired but good, the paramedics carry Jim past you on a stretcher. The poor bugger.
Gym session over. Tomorrow you’re going to feel stiffer than a w*nker’s hanky. The question is: which will hurt more - the aching from your gym session or the sarcastic comments from Hal?
Right, time for fish and chips….
The guy (or woman - this isn’t a gender-specific annoyance) who walks into a cafe on a cold day and leaves the door open. It only takes 2 seconds to close the door and save everyone from a chilling blast of arctic cold up their jacksey.
Yet this idiot, wearing his super-thick winter coat, doesn’t think about that, does he?
So, what happens next?
You get up from your chair and walk across to ‘ferme la porte’, ensuring that you slam it hard enough that the noise resonates around the room and shakes all the pictures off the walls. Everyone looks up at you, except for the ignorant ‘merde’ who left it ajar in the first place. You then trudge back to your seat (although in your mind you’re walking up to the man, grabbing his head and bashing it onto the counter infront of him).
You sit down, feeling irritated, and continue with what you were doing (the crossword in the newspaper, in which, coincidentally, the answer to 4 across is ‘tosspot’ - well, it’s not really, but it does fit, so f*ck it!)
Just as your mood begins to return to somewhere near normality, the inevitable happens. The guy has ordered take-away and, having paid for his sandwich and coffee by emptying the entire collection of loose change from his wallet, bag and coat pockets into a heap on to the counter, he opens the door and goes to walk out. You’re waiting for him to either shut the door behind him or give you the motive for murder.
Instead, he taunts you by doing neither and begins a long goodbye speech to the cafe owner (with the door wide open). Well, that’s enough for you - you get up off your chair, spilling the unfinished crossword to the floor, and sprint across the room, slamming the door in his face and knocking him and his coffee half way down the street. That’ll teach the little ‘4 across!’
Update: To my delight, I've just found out that there's a 'Close The Door' campaign in the UK. Find out more about it here.
One wonders who hates Valentine’s Day more - the man trying to find something suitably romantic for his partner or the guy who receives nothing and ends the day unloved… and locked up for stalking.
So, for a man, how does a typical Valentine’s Day shopping trip turn out…
It’s February the 13th and you’ve left it late. It’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow and you’ve put the dreaded shopping trip off as long as you can. Your prayers for a nuclear holocaust have gone unanswered. What’s more, your clever scheme to coat the 2010 calendar in dog food didn’t work either. Your hungry dog, Charlie, ignored it and chewed through your favourite pair of slippers instead. There’s only one thing for it, you’re going to have to go out shopping.
So, what should you buy? You’re going to need one hell of a romantic gesture to beat last year’s effort. Spelling “I love you Catharine Elizabeth Alexandra Mackenzie” in your own blood, whilst bungee jumping from a crane, resulted in a month in the Intensive Care ward. You can only blame yourself… for choosing a partner with such a long name. On the plus side, the effort did win you immense respect (from other men).
Not only do you have to contend with bettering last year, but you also have to out-romance your partner’s best friend. A week hardly goes by without your partner’s friend bragging about the romantic gestures that her husband makes, and your partner thinks nothing of mentioning them to you in conversation. The cow (that’s aimed at the friend, obviously, not your partner!).
The Card Shop(the easiest part of the shopping expedition… supposedly)
So, what message should you look for in a Valentine’s Day card? If you’re in a relationship, you’re looking for a card that gives the message “I love you more than life itself," without going over the top. If you’re playing the field a bit, you’re looking for the card that says “you are the one and only," in a ‘buy one, get one free’ offer…
You walk into the card shop and are immediately greeted by a sea of red Valentine’s Cards, going on as far as the eye can see. The last time you saw this amount of red concentrated in one place was when you drunkenly knocked a bottle of Merlot on to your friend’s carpet (and proceeded to try and lick it up). Standing in front of the abundant rows of cards are lines of confused-looking men, scratching their heads, leaning to one side and dribbling from one side of the mouth. You walk over to join them. At this point one of two things happen:
Choosing a Present
Right, so, you’ve bought the card. Now you have to think about a present…
Flowers are a good option for your loved one for Valentine’s Day (and they represent your relationship well - after a while they wither and die). Now then, would she prefer red, yellow, white or pink and how much should you spend?
Ordinarily, chocolates would make a good present. But you know fully well that she’ll only scoff the lot and then ask you the question “do you think I look fat?” two days later.
A romantic idea. However, you’ll only get the wrong size and, besides, the last time you tried to buy lingerie you were thrown out for ogling the breasts of the sales girls.
You could take her out for dinner. But you’ve left it late and all the decent restaurants have been booked up already. So, it’s either a meal at the local greasy spoon or a take-away kebab.
There’s always the romantic thought of cooking her dinner. But last time you cooked beans on toast you accidentally destroyed her favourite saucepan and set fire to Charlie. She’d never forgive you if you did that again, and neither would Charlie (what’s left of him).
It looks pretty hopeless - you’d better find yourself a bungee cord and a crane (I suggest you just draw a heart this year and forget about her name!).
Worried by what you’ve heard, you switch on the weather forecast and, within seconds, it comes up with a no-nonsense summary of what is to come: Severe Weather Warning: Heavy Snow. You go into a momentary state of shock and, for a split second, the weather forecaster transforms into the Grim Reaper and points his scythe at you. Sensing the need for urgency, you make a quick decision: It’s time to panic in a way that only British people can… begin Benny Hill music
The Supermarket Trip
Worried that other people might buy up everything that would help you survive being snowed in by the anticipated 20ft of snow, you jump straight into your car and speed to the local supermarket. After fighting your way into the car park you squeeze into a small space; parking half on the grass verge and half on the man collecting the trolleys. You grab a trolley and sprint through the supermarket doors, spinning a little old lady to the ground as she stands perusing the Easter hot cross bun offer. There’s no time for checking she’s ok - you’re panic buying, for goodness sake…
You dash through the store, heading straight for the bread and milk. Afterall, there are no better survival foods during two weeks of violent snow storms, and 20ft snow drifts, than bread and milk. Tins of food are not going to help and, therefore, should not be given consideration - what a stupid idea!
As you approach the bread aisle, you are greeted by a scene from a nuclear holocaust - the shelves have been decimated. A gust of wind from the stock room sends a bread bag rolling along the aisle towards you, like tumbleweed. Just as you’re about to give up, you spot a wounded survivor in the distance - a baguette; broken in two with a piece missing from the end (and a suspicious child-sized bite mark). This is no time to be fussy. You rescue the stricken bread stick and lift it gently into your trolley, as if you were lifting an elderly lady out of a chair (or off the floor, together with her hot cross buns). Great, your emergency survival kit is underway.
Next stop, milk. As you reach aisle 435, having fought your way through the crowds of 75 year olds scrapping over the last few boxes of Ritz crackers, it becomes obvious that you’ve once again arrived too late. The fridges are empty and there are puddles of milk lying stagnant on the floor. The scene bears the hallmarks of a battlefield after the biggest milk fight in history. You feel like crying, but can’t, for obvious reasons - it’s spilt milk and crying over it would make for a terrible pun.
So, what are you going to do - an emergency survival kit is no good without milk? I mean, you’ve got the baguette, surely you can’t be defeated at this late stage? And, besides, it’s a known religious ‘fact’ that “man cannot live by bread alone”… You have two choices:
1) Choose different milk. UHT, for example, has a much longer shelf life.
2) Slowly prowl around the store, like a stalker with squeaky shoes, and try to locate a trolley with milk in it. Then, using your ninja skills, sneak up and extract the milk from the owner’s trolley without them noticing. I mean, it’s not stealing, is it…
Any thought about trying option one leaves your head straight away - you’re in panic mode, this is no time for sensible thinking. So, temporarily abandoning your trolley, you walk around from one aisle to the next, taking cover behind other shoppers and large boxes of shredded wheat, and casually inspect the trolleys of unsuspecting shoppers. After a few minutes, you spot a young Mother and her trolley, which contains a big two pint bottle of milk - perfect. The milk starts calling you from the back of the trolley - you can clearly hear it (but, strangely, no-one else can!). It’s in a tricky position though - perched directly underneath the Mother’s four children, who sit squashed into the trolley’s single child seat. You convince yourself that your cause is greater than that of her four kids and so, whilst she is building up her emergency supply of Pampers nappies in a second trolley, you sneak up, distract the kids with lollipops taken from the end shelf, extract the bottle of milk and escape quickly, like a fart in a jockstrap.
Feeling elated, you stroll casually back to your trolley with a big grin on your face. However, a shock greets you as you return to your trolley… someone’s nicked your half-eaten baguette. The little shit!!
You feel desolate and bereft of ideas. In desperation, you do what any insane, panic-buying person would do… you head back to aisle 433 to fight over the Ritz crackers…
Some time later, you emerge from the carnage of aisle 433 (The Battle of The Ritz) - battered, bloodied, with a sore ankle where a ninety year old man bashed you with his zimmer frame (prior to you stamping on his toe and poking him in the eye with your remaining lollipop). Before you hobble to the checkout, you must get toilet rolls. However, another battle lies ahead for you. You push your trolley to the correct aisle, only to spot four children having a fight with the toilet rolls. It seems that their Mother left them there whilst she went off looking for some missing milk…
Exhausted from your shopping trip, you check out and leave the supermarket. One final challenge awaits you as you stand there surveying the car park. Where is your car? Three feet of snow fell during your 10 minute shopping expedition, so it’s not obvious. Thankfully, you spot the legs of the trolley collection man…
2009 will be remembered for a lot of events. The inauguration of the first black American President, the death of a pop icon; Michael Jackson, and the worldwide spread of an infectious contagion that originated from a porker… no, not swine flu. SuBo (Susan Boyle).
Not only is it the end of the year, it’s the end of the decade - a period in which the phrase “I’m going to play with my wee (Wii)” became a normal thing to say, rather than something to be immediately sectioned for.
It’s now time to look forward to the new decade and that means the usual new year rituals. So, are you going out with friends, staying in with family, hosting a party, joining a party or burgling the houses of those people who are out celebrating? Here are the options, laid out:
1) Going out with friends
One of the most fun and eventful ways of seeing in the New Year is to go out with friends to a local pub / club / strip bar and have a drink / dance / young, naked woman / man / could be either (depends on how much you pay) dance and sit on your lap. You drink lots, party hard and see the new year in in style. Whoohoo!
For extra fun, have a bet with your friends, at the start of the evening, on which one of you will be the first to pass out with your head over the toilet bowl, with the smell of alcoholic wee wafting up your nose.
2) Staying in with family
As you get older, this becomes the preferred method of seeing in the New Year. Sitting in your lounge with a drink whilst people on the television do the wild partying and celebrating for you. It’s always such a long build-up to midnight, as you sit there sucking on a Werther’s Original or chomping on some of the sweets, mince pies and rotting fruit that are still left over from Christmas Day. Finally, midnight arrives. You hum a rendition of ‘Auld Langsyne’ to yourself, wish your family a happy new year and then, as the fireworks go off around the neighbourhood, you go to bed. New Year celebrations over for another year.
Unfortunately, you forget to switch off your mobile phone and are woken up at 3am by a message from your drunk brother… “Heppy Nu Yar”
3) Hosting a party
So, you’re hosting a party. That means a lot of preparation - you need to ensure there are enough snacks, that you have entertainment and that you move everything that is precious to you… from the house and the surrounding neighbourhood. In fact, it’s probably best to be completely safe and move it all into storage… in the Netherlands.
You purchase a LOT of alcohol and the usual selection of party snacks - crisps, biscuits, sweets, chocolates and those horrid cheesy footballs that no-one ever eats (leaving you to feed them to the foxes the next day… who also reject them). Once the guests have arrived, you spend the entire evening running around making sure everyone is ok. This means that by midnight, you lie exhausted in the corner of the room, asleep, and miss the celebrations. Next morning, you wake up to find your lounge is a mess. The carpet is covered with cheesy footballs and red wine and, as you survey the devastation, you spot Wayne lying slumped over the arm of the sofa with a cocktail straw sticking out of his ear.
4) Joining a party
The New Year house party, without all the cleaning up. Fantastic. You make your way around to your friend’s house to join the party, only to discover that all of the fun people have changed their minds and absconded to the local pub. This leaves you to have a party with all the boring, unsociable people who sit there staring at the carpet all night, unable to decide whether the colour is light brown or beige. Still, at least Alan is there to chat to - the guy who spends every weekend adding to his impressive collection of jam jar labels.
Hey, it’s a party, you need to look at the positives - there’s food and wine. You pick up a wine bottle to fill up a glass and discover that it’s Tesco Value red wine, which tastes of squirrel piss (you should know, you accidentally drank some whilst out camping last year). You reach for a handful of snacks and… it’s those bloody cheesy footballs. Pissed off, you sling them onto the floor, spilling your wine in the process.
Luckily for you, your cheeky idea to post details of the party onto Facebook pays off, and the house quickly fills up with strange people that you don’t know. Things quickly liven up and before you know it, it’s midnight. So, you take another sip of squirrel’s piss, give a snog to the two woman hanging off either arm and then pass out across the arm of the sofa, with a cocktail straw sticking out of your ear.
Getting The Message Out
Whichever choice you make for your New Year celebrations, one thing is for certain. At midnight, you’ll try to wish all your friends and family a “Happy New Year”. You decide that you’re not one of those spoil sports who sends a text message BEFORE midnight, to try and beat the mad midnight rush (is there anything quite so pointless and disappointing as being wished a happy new year before it’s even happened?).
You’re also not someone who actually likes to talk to your friends and family. So, that leaves you with two options:
1) Wish all your friends and family a Happy New Year on Facebook… you miserable sod. Where’s the effort in that?
2) Join the fight for mobile phone network space and attempt to send a standard ‘Happy New Year’ text message to the 443 people in your contact list (no time for personalised text messages). Based on past experience, you have come up with an ingenious plan. You prepare the text message a couple of minutes before midnight, put your finger on the ‘send’ button and hold the phone by your side. Then, at the very second of midnight, you hit send and… “message sending failed.” You then spend the next hour hitting the ‘retry’ button until, at 1.13am, the message goes through. Ok, so that plan didn’t work very well.
Maybe next year you could try sending carrier pigeons instead? That’ll work… as long as everyone else in the world doesn’t send carrier pigeons too. It could get very messy!
However you celebrate the New Year, I wish you a happy one…
“Heppy Nu Yar”
Some people do it in January. Others leave it until much later in the year. No, I’m not talking about the shameful breaking of New Year’s Resolutions. It’s Christmas shopping. You can certainly tell it’s Christmas. The women featured on the covers of men’s magazines are all wearing red thongs… ;)
What is it with Christmas shopping that makes it become such excruciating torture? Never mind about jail sentences for convicts, send them out with a difficult Christmas shopping list on December 24 instead. That’ll sort them out.
Perhaps those traumatic feelings are caused by the way in which the festive season has been taken over by retailers; continually pushing their Christmas offers in our faces from as early in the year as possible. “There are only 242 days of our Christmas sale remaining…”
Your Christmas shopping story…
After beginning your Christmas shopping ordeal expedition, you invariably end up in a shopping centre full of chain stores. You enter a shop and walk around, hoping that something will pop out and hit you in the face, saying “I think I’ll be an ideal present for Auntie Mabel. Buy me!” Whilst browsing the tat on offer, the shop offends your ears with a horrendous selection of cheesy Christmas music to get you in the ‘spirit of things’. However, all it seems to do is irritate you to the point where you want to grab a piece of tinsel and hang the shop manager from the end of it…. “Chipmunks roasting on an open fire…” Bah humbug! You walk out and into another shop, where you encounter a refreshing change: this store is playing non-festive music… “why do birds suddenly appear, every time you are near?” (that probably has something to do with the box of Trill that I emptied into your back pocket this morning)
1 hour later
Having left it to the last minute (a month before Christmas) to shop for Christmas presents, you find yourself buying items at twice the price that they were three months ago. Sure, the shops have “SALE” plastered all over their windows, but it’s certain that the stuff that you’re interested in isn’t reduced.
We’re in a recession, so you’re looking for a bargain (defined as something no-one really needs at a price you can’t possibly resist) and the shops are quite happy to push all sorts of stuff at you. Being under pressure, you’re considering everything, including the sort of crap that ends up down the charity shops two days after Christmas, or the female pampering packs that are left to rot in the receiver’s bathroom cupboard before being passed back to you three Christmasses later. You can bet your bottom dollar that eBay will be full of that stuff on Boxing Day (so, a great opportunity to shop early for shit presents for next Christmas!).
3 hours later
You’re beginning to lose the will to live - you’ve bought presents for so many people. But you still have to find something for that difficult person who seems to be impossible to buy for. Auntie Mabel - a woman who doesn’t eat chocolate, has a hayfever allergy, changes waist size like a puffer fish watching a horror film and doesn’t have any hobbies, favourite foods… or a bath! To frustrate you further, whilst scouring the shops for a gift for Auntie Mabel, you spot brilliant ideas for those people that you have already bought for!
5 hours later
You enter Poundland for the fifteenth time. Whilst walking around with a bewildered look on your face, a member of staff, wearing a silly Christmas hat, approaches you to try to assist you. “Are you ok, sir? Can I help you at all?”. The guy acts so jolly that you instantly hate him. So, you turn to him and say, “Yes, I’m looking for a present for a 3 foot tall midget with webbed feet and eyes that look in different directions. Can you suggest anything?….. hello?”
6 hours later
After another hour of looking, you’re now dribbling profusely and leaning to one side with only one eye left open. Then - miracle - you spot that there’s £10 off a George Foreman grill. Perfect. Afterall, it’s been a while since Auntie Mabel had a Lean Mean Machine in her house…
You snatch the box off the shelf with both hands, causing a stack of other grill boxes to avalanche down onto the elderly couple standing to your left. Your focus remains intact as you turn around to search for the checkout. You spot the checkout far away in the distance and, inevitably, there is a queue. It’s not a small queue either - the line of people snakes around every aisle, from one end of the store to the other. So much so that whilst your eyes follow the line, your head rotates 360 degrees around your neck.
After three months of walking, you locate the end of the queue and join it. Infront of you is a little old lady and, after joining the line, a group of teenagers join the queue behind you. Standing there, promising yourself that you won’t leave it so late to do your shopping next year, you get battered from all sides by wafts of pungent smells. First, the little old lady’s perfume, ‘Musty Barn’, enters your nostrils, hammering on your sinuses like a woodpecker on a tree. Then, as your headache builds, you get hit from the back by the stench of teenage deodorant. The so-called ‘Lynx effect’, presumably because it sinks its teeth into your neck area and suffocates the life out of you. Why is it that teenagers feel that spraying an entire can of deodorant on to themselves makes them extra attractive to young ladies? Yes, they probably do seem attractive; if the girl in question is wearing a gas mask or has a heavy cold.
Thankfully for you, standing in the line, all that practice in your bath at home has paid dividends. Not only are you the world record holder for holding your breath underwater, but it means that you are able to survive the nasal bombardment.
7 hours later
Having bought your item, you stagger out of the store, navigating your way through the Christmas clowns, stilt walkers, jugglers, thieves, murderers and men in tight shorts (yes, there’s always one, even in winter). Then you spot one of those ‘wrap for charity’ stalls, where, for a small donation to charity, a little kid will wrap your present for you. You decide that it’s worth a pound of your money to get them to wrap the present that you bought for your Great Grandmother earlier. So over you trundle. “Hello, can you wrap a present for me, please?” you ask. “Yes, sure, where is it?” he replies, with a polite smile. He isn’t smiling for long, as you open your shopping bag and reveal a giant cactus…
8 hours later
Exhausted, you head off home and find yourself summing things up with a Churchillian line: “Never, in the world of shopping, has so much effort been given by someone, for so little!”
Christmas shopping can be horrendous. It should come with a public health warning and a free shot of valium. Perhaps the answer is to get pissed on mulled wine beforehand? Just don’t throw up in Poundland… (would it cost you a pound if you did?)
Can I have a ‘p’ please Bob? No, you bloody can’t, Bill, you’ll just have to wait for the interval. Monday night wasn’t Blockbusters for the over 70s, it was Quiz night at a traditional old pub in Hastings Old Town.
I joined a team of regulars to do brainiac battle, in what turned out to be a rather competitive and controversial contest of knowledge and wisdom. Just to clarify the difference between the two - knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting one in a fruit salad. Got it? Good.
After sitting down with my new team mates, I was handed a piece of paper and a pencil. This, I was told, was not for me to draw funny caricatures of my team mates, but to use to write down my answer to each question, before showing it to the team captain. The idea was that it stopped us from all shouting, at the same time, "I know the answer, it’s errrrr, what’s his name, you know, the guy with the funny limp and the glass eye" or blurting out the answer in earshot of the other teams. I did attempt to use the ‘accidental blurting out of the answer’ as a tactic to put off the other teams, but they saw straight through my “it’s a seagull” answer to the question “what bird is traditionally used by Asian fisherman to help catch fish?”
The quiz lasted eight rounds, each consisting of six questions. Eight multiplied by six, that’s…. err…. nearly a thousand questions. Wow, it went fast. The rounds ranged from the usual ‘general knowledge’, ‘sport’ and ‘geography’ to ‘murder’ and ‘initials’. I had hoped that the ‘murder’ round might have been the perfect opportunity to bump off some of the other teams, but, alas, they spoiled my fun by reading out questions instead. I have to say that none of the rounds were really in my specialist field of knowledge. But then I guess I shouldn’t expect quizzes to have rounds like ‘famous tiddlywinks champions of the 90s’, ‘fruits beginning with the letter q’ and ‘indoor decorating for eskimos’.
A short way into the quiz, it become apparent that I was about as much use (to our team) as chopsticks in a soup kitchen. The other team members - serial quiz buffs - were doing very well without me. It didn’t help that all the questions seemed to be about the two billion years leading UP to the 1980s. It’s not that I didn’t know some of the answers. For example, I knew that the acronym NATO stands for the ‘National Association of Transexual Organists.’ It’s just that the other team members knew the answers already - damn them to hell!
To give you an idea of my quiz prowess - the last time I took part in a pub quiz was about five years ago and we relied heavily on a great new tool called WAP (Internet on your phone). Some of our team members sat drinking beer and looking down under the table. Others sat drinking beer and then took regular toilet breaks. We must have seemed like a load of depressed alcoholics with bladder problems. The reason for the ‘depressed look’ was that our ‘WAP’ members were madly typing into their mobile phones under the table, trying to get answers from Yahoo! The pub owners were gobsmacked at how a bunch of drunk twenty-somethings managed to win the contest several weeks in a row. In this week’s quiz, however, we had a much more useful tool than WAP - his name was John (his surname may well have been ‘Wap’ - I didn’t ask!)
Going back further in time, like Doctor Who on an episode of ‘Who Do You Think You Are?'… in the first pub quiz I ever attended, we didn’t take things very seriously at all. If we didn’t know the answer, we simply entered something ridiculous. In fact, I recall one quiz night where we entered nearly every answer as Danny La Rue (the drag act). This got a few murmurs of hilarity from the other teams throughout the evening, so it was worth the little effort involved.
So, how did we get on last night?
Well, there was a moment of controversy that lost us the contest. The question “name the longest river in England?” had our team wondering which of two answers to go with. Without boring you too much, there is the River Severn, which is the longest river, but it flows partly through Wales. On the other hand, the longest river to flow entirely through England is the Thames. So, we went with Thames (but also added that if it included Wales, it was the Severn)… and the answer given was Severn. Now then, try a Google search and it leads you to several pages that tell you that Thames is the correct answer. In actual fact, we were 100% correct with the answer we wrote, as this article proves.
Despite much protest from our team, and much more protest (leading to hatred and utterances of an unpleasant nature) from one particular team member, the Quiz Master stood his ground, like a fat man at the dessert trolley, and wouldn’t give us the point. We ended up losing by that single point. If only we were able to obtain proof that we were correct. This got me thinking, in my own mischievous way…
With the power of Wikipedia being all about human editing, how easy would it be to look something up on your mobile phone, change the information for that entry, then present it to the Quiz Master and say, with an honest face, “look, look… this says that I’m right?” I found a good example of that just the other day, in fact. Someone had altered Wikipedia’s entry for Lumber to include the words genitalia and penis (see screenshot below). To be honest, I can’t see a question about that coming up in a quiz contest anytime soon.
Anyway, to sum up: We lost by a point and by the end of the night my piece of paper was as blank as a Blankety Blank cheque book (and pen)…