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…
- 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.
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…
I chanced upon a website a few days ago called I Found Money Today. Owned by George Resch, the website is dedicated to his social experiment in anonymous giving. The premise is simple: he leaves small amounts of money in public places with the idea that someone will find the money. He has no control over who finds it or what they do with it. However, just by initiating this random act of kindness he makes a difference to the lives of other people - changing their mood, giving them a spike of emotion and maybe providing them with a sense that they’re not alone in the world. I think we can be sure that through his social experiments he has affected a number of people in a positive way, and who knows what might have happened as a result of that. It’s not just about George either, through his blog he has inspired other people to try it.
As part of my fabulous life (something I count myself as fortunate for having) I like to engage in random acts of kindness. From simple things like leaving a Creme Egg in a lift at Easter to giving away bunches of flowers to random strangers, these acts always give me a sense of belonging. Having visited George’s website, I decided that I wanted to have a go of my own at anonymously leaving some money. So I did…
I spent last night brainstorming my plan. Rather than leaving a note hanging to a tree or attached to a building, I wanted to try something a little different. So I built a boat. Do you want to see it? Of course you do. Here it is…
Lovely isn’t it? Even though I say so myself. On the side of the boat I wrote ‘soy tuya’ which, for those of you who don’t know Spanish, means “I’m yours.” I considered it a nicer message than “up yours.” Attached to the boat was a 100 Peso note (roughly about £5) and, for artistic effect, I crafted a sail out of a (non-used) cotton bud and some paper. So what was my plan for my little boat of money (HMS Ally)? Well my idea was to take it to the shopping village next door and place it in the water fountain in the middle of the main square. There it could be chanced upon by literally anyone. Although, saying that, the odds were slightly in favour of those people living in Mexico. It was highly unlikely that an eskimo would be finding it, for example.
This morning I set about constructing my boat. Everything went smoothly and as I finished attaching the sail I sat back to admire my creation. Just a quick photograph and I’d be ready to go… or so I thought…
I took the boat outside to photograph it next to the pool. The first photograph was good. But as I moved in to get another, a gust of wind hit the sail and sent the boat catapulting into the water in a scene slightly reminiscent of The Perfect Storm. It was a disaster. A maritime disaster.
After rescuing the money from the boat, and discarding the wet shipwreck into the bin, I grabbed another sheet of paper and began to build HMS Ally II. Once again I attached a sail and fastened my (now dry) note to the mast. All was good - my boat was in ship shape and ready to go. There was just time to get some photos by the pool, this time holding on to the boat. Here is the masterpiece…
and from the other side…
Boat in hand, I made my way to the shopping village with my friend Christian. Sitting down, we scoped out the location. As we did so, we noticed a security guard keeping a watchful gaze. Timing would be crucial in this attempt. As the security guard moved from his position, it was ‘go for launch.’ I went for it…
The attempt was successful. HMS Ally II was afloat. It was time to retreat and leave my little boat to float on until some unsuspecting passer by saw it and took their opportunity. As I looked back, only the sail was visible…
So who ended up with the money? Well who knows? My only hope is that whoever picked it out of the water ended up with a smile on their face as well as 100 Pesos in their pocket. One thing’s for sure - by George, it was fun.
I receive a lot of emails from offshore web design companies asking if we would like to outsource our work to them. Normally I send the emails straight to the virtual grey, round filing cabinet without reading them. However, for some reason I read this guy’s first email and it irked me a little (always a bad thing). And he then followed it up with two more emails, which irked me a bit more. So I decided to hit him with one of my Pointless Letters. Here’s the thread, with his emails appearing first…
His First Email...
Dear Sir/Madam, I am Peter, Business Development Manager, We are an INDIA based Web Services Company with primary focus on Website Designing & Development.
We have our competency in CMS (Joomla, Modx, Mambo and other quality Content Management System) and e-commerce website. As many as 90% websites do not bring business to their potential because they do not appeal to the target audience. And the reason most visitors leave a website is because of a complex design and navigation. So is your website really customer-ready? Not really, if we go by the analysis of our experts. With an experience of developing more than 2500 websites successfully, we can help you earn more business from your website if you are ready to redesign your website. Most of our clients have benefited from our expertise. Most firms from UK, USA, Canada and Australia overseas have achieved a significant amount of savings by outsourcing either complete or part of their work to us in India. We wish you the best of luck and looking forward to a long and healthy business relationship with you. Getting started is easy. Just mail us and we will definitely help you to achieve your business goals and objectives. I look forward to your reply.
Peter Business Development Manager Disclaimer: The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act) establishes requirements for those, who send commercial email, spells out penalties for spammers, and companies whose products are advertised in spam if they violate the guidelines, and gives consumers the right to ask emailers to control it.
His Second Email...
Hope you are doing well. Haven't heard back from you, just wondering if you are interested in our services. Let me know if you are interested and we can discuss this further. I look forward to your response.
His Third Email...
I am Waiting for your response yet…… Kindly let us know if you are interested in our services, so that we can discuss it further. We will be happy to assist you and looking for your positive response. I look forward to your response.
I hope you don’t mind me calling you Pete. Actually, I’ve changed my mind. Can I call you Greg? Thanks Greg.
Having read your response regarding my non-response to your response to your original email, I feel duty bound to respond. I am the Response Manager and my responsibility lies with responding to responses questioning lack of response. I do hope that makes sense.
Anyway, I reviewed your initial email and you’re absolutely right. Award yourself a big gold star and stick it to your handsome forehead, Crazy Chops. Our website is not ‘customer ready’. However, I’m sure that when I make you aware of our very niche target market, you’ll sink to your knees in amazement and realise the genius behind our work. We are actually the leading website in the world for meerkats with drink problems. That’s right - LEADING!
Now Betty, I know what you’re thinking (I hope you don’t mind the name change. I hate the name Greg - every Greg I’ve ever met in my life has been a crazy, deluded psychopath!). You’re wondering how you might be able to help us become EVEN BETTER. Well, let me lay it out for you big boy…
I believe that we could utilise your skills in Wordpress, Joomia, Modx, Jamiroquai, Scrabble and Deal Or No Deal to help us reach out to other possible target audiences. For example, elephants with halitosis or chipmunks with a gambling addiction. I’m sure you’ll appreciate that these are big markets with the potential to earn us millions of jelly babies every month.
As you can imagine, I look forward to seeing what proposals you might have for us. Not marriage ones though - we’re not in to that, unless you’re prepared line our hands with gold (or our stomachs with Gummy Berry Juice)
Anyway, I await your email with bated breath. However, with that said, I won’t be holding my breath for a response.
Yours truly, forever and ever, ‘til death do us part.
Disclaimer: The Can Of Spam Act of 2003 requires me to recommend to you a pre-cooked meat product after every email. I would like to assure you that spam can be delicious, especially when served in between two slices of pre-toasted bread, perhaps with the addition of an optional slice of cheese (note that cheese is not automatically included). If you wish to opt out of eating said pork product, you can do so by choosing not to open your mouth.
This afternoon, I had an online chat with a customer service representative from a well-known software company. Often chats like this can be dull, so I was determined to make it a little more interesting. However, he partially managed to do that himself with his incompetence at clicking wrong buttons for set phrases. Here’s the script of the chat…
You are now chatting with William from Customer Services.
William: Is there anything else I can help you with? William: Hello! Welcome to Customer Services. William: Sorry for the first statement.
Robert: No worries, you must have clicked the wrong button. These things happen.
William: Hi Robert.
William: May I please have your email address registered with your account while I review your request?
Robert: Yes, it’s …@…. (but only on weekends)
William: Thank you. William: I understand that you have ordered the software and did not receive the download link to your account. Am I right?
Robert: I’ve received the link to the login page but, I don’t know what to log in with…
William: I am sorry to hear that.
Robert: Thank you, that means a lot.
William: Welcome, Let me see how best I can help you with this issue. May I place you on hold for 2-3 minutes while I check for the information.
Robert: Sure, please go ahead. Am I allowed to hum the theme to Two And A Half Men whilst I wait? Robert: “men men men, menmen menmen men, men men men…”
William: Thank you for waiting. One moment please.
Robert: You’re welcome. I hope you don’t mind, but whilst I have been waiting I’ve been vacuuming and dusting (this office needs a damn good clean, I tell you! Are any of your friends cleaners, by any chance?)
William: Thank you for the patience.
Robert: That’s what my Doctor said yesterday when I took some of my ill friends in for their flu inoculations…
William: Sorry for the wait. Please do stay online.
Robert: I’m quite happy to do that, so long as I don’t have an urgent need to pee, bake a cake or polish my wok…
William: Not to worry, I will send you the reset password link to your email address. please login to this email and click on the password link to reset the password. Is that fine with you?
Robert: Yes, please do. Thank you. How long is the email likely to take? Is it going to be instant or should I get a sleeping bag?
William: Thank you for the patience.
Robert: That’s what my Doctor said this morning when I took some of my ill family members in for their flu inoculations…
William: I have sent you the password link. Please login to this email and click on the password link to reset the password.
Robert: Ok. I’m waiting for the email - do you know how long it might take? (I’m just wondering if I have time to hang the washing out?)
William: Let me check information for you.
Robert: Thank you.
William: Here’s the link: please click on the link to reset the password.
Robert: Perfect - that’s worked.
William: That’s great! Is there anything else I can help you with?
Robert: No, that’s all. Thanks William. If only everyone in the world was as helpful and efficient as you. May you be blessed with happiness, good fortune and a large tub of cottage cheese…
William: You may receive an email survey in reference to this interaction. Your feedback is very much appreciated.
Robert: Sure. I’ll suggest they give you a big, gold star and promote you to management. I think I’ve asked this before, but are any of your friends cleaners?
William: It’s my pleasure serving you. William: Since we have not heard from you for some time, we will now end this chat. Please click to chat with us again if we can be of further assistance. William: Sorry for the last statement. William: Thank you for contacting us. We are available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. Goodbye!
Robert: The pleasure has been all mine. Robert: What have you done with my cat!? Robert: Sorry for the last statement (clicked the wrong button!).
With the Internet businesses I run, I receive a lot of feedback emails. The majority are really pleasant and useful, and I reply in-kind. But, just occasionally, I receive one that gets my goat. I mean, it’s not difficult to be pleasant, is it? So, today, because I was in a funny mood, I decided to reply with one of my pointless letters. His email was about the search engine on one of my websites.
Here is the email I received…
I entered the sought after abbreviation with a few leading and trailing spaces. Your search engine failed to find any expansion. This is a very poor show on your part. It's the programmers' duty to remove leading and trailing spaces, Not the users'. Please let me know when this has been fixed.
Thank you for your email. Your suggestion to remove spaces is one of the best we have received this week, second only to the idea of strapping flapjacks to pigs, which we are currently looking into (you should see the prototype, it really is something to behold).
Far from being a company who simply jump in and adopt every suggestion that comes our way, we like to take time to assess the positives and negatives of every suggestion. Yours is no exception. I’m excited to be able to tell you that we only found one negative, and it is this. As I’m sure you’re aware, several spaces in a row can make an abbreviation in itself. It is commonly used for giving a person time to think and breathe. Without these spaces, people may be forced to not take pauses between words or sentences, whichwouldbeterribleandmakeitverydifficulttounderstandwhattheyaresaying.
Despite coming up with that particular negative, we can see no others. So, I’m delighted to be able to tell you that we have taken your feedback onboard and have updated our search system to include this fantastic new feature. Now, although I’d like to take the development of our search engine a step further in assisting you and make it prepare you a mug of Bovril, massage your feet at the end of a long day and wipe your bottom for you, i regret that I won’t be able to do that. Still, don’t let that stop you from doing those things yourself, eh?
Please don’t let what I’ve said detract from the fact that your suggestion was a very good one. I have no doubt that it will improve the lives of tens of people throughout the world, all of whom might have been unable to fathom the idea of removing a space from before or after their search term before carrying out their search. May they be eternally grateful and send you Christmas cards year after year… assuming they can lick their own stamp for the envelope…
The morning of my hot stone massage arrived. Having awoken late, and with the massage due to start at 11am, I thought it best not to go overboard with breakfast. One full English breakfast, a mound of toast and fifteen pastries later, I was questioning whether I’d overdone it, as the waiter wheeled me out of the restaurant in a wheelbarrow. I was soon to find out - my massage was due to begin in 30 minutes.
Arriving in the massage suite, I was greeted by a cheerful lady receptionist - a change from the man that was managing the place two days earlier. The lady handed me a disclaimer form - exactly the same one as I had filled out two days previous. I was able to re-assure her that my name was exactly as it was then and that my gender was also the same - I hadn’t had a sex change during those two days in between. Perhaps she had though - maybe this lady had been a man two days ago. I didn’t feel it was fitting to ask. I signed the form and placed it back into her hands - her big, hairy hands…
After completing the paperwork, I was led into the massage room and was, as last time, instructed to remove my outer layers and lay on the couch, covering myself over with the large brown towel. I did so, placing my suit of armour, sword and helmet on the appropriate wall hooks, and waiting for my masseuse to re-enter. She crept back into the room quietly, as if she was the tooth fairy coming in to remove a small pearly white from under my pillow and replace it with a large, silver coin.
As I was laying face down on the couch, with my head looking through the headrest at the floor, I could hear the sound of my masseuse heating up water in the background. I wondered whether she was making herself a Pot Noodle.
Now, thinking about food was probably not the best idea at that particular moment, laying on my full stomach. My regret for consuming that extra piece of toast (the one with the face resembling Lady Gaga) was growing by the minute. I checked out the masseuse’s shoes to decide whether they were expensive and would be ruined if I lost control and covered them in a full English breakfast (and fifteen pastries). I felt relieved - they looked cheap. Cheap and tacky, in fact. She clearly hadn’t made an effort…
And, then, suddenly, my back was on fire…
Wow, that’s hot. No wonder it’s called the ‘hot stone massage.'
My masseuse rubbed the oily, hot stones up and down my back in sweeping motions, before placing a stone near the bottom of my back. In the back of my mind, I feared that the stone might actually burn its way through my stomach. I had visions that I might be walking back to my room resembling a Polo mint.
The massage was relaxing - very relaxing - and I began to drift off, listening to the sound of Enya’s voice. Then, abruptly, the music stopped - mid-song. Enya had been cut off in her prime. She wouldn’t be too happy about that, I’m sure. The sound of silence remained for a few seconds, only to be broken by the noise of a frustrated man giving the music machine a good kicking out in the reception area. The guy clearly needed to chill and relax - perhaps a hot stone massage might help him? A minute or so later, the music resumed.
After my masseuse had finished on my back, I turned over. We were half way through and I was feeling very relaxed. So relaxed that even the sound of someone dragging a vacuum cleaner around in reception (perhaps vacuuming up pieces of music machine) hardly affected me much at all.
As she worked on my stiff legs, I could feel my leg muscles loosen. I can wholeheartedly recommend that if you’ve had a hard day playing sport, you place a couple of rocks into the microwave and massage them over your legs with some oil. Obviously, I’m joking about that - it’s dangerous to put rocks in the microwave. Put them in the toaster instead…
With the leg work over, my masseuse glided smoothly around the massage table and began working on my fingers; pulling each one. My mischievous side thought about letting out an enormous fart as she pulled my index finger. But, I just didn’t have it in me. Well, I did have it in me - eggs and sausages saw to that - I just didn’t want to spoil the atmosphere, so to speak.
After finishing with my arms and hands, my masseuse began prodding my stomach. Now, I don’t quite know what the point of it was, but I think she managed to find two sausages and two rashes of bacon. She was clearly a keen breakfast detective and was sniffing the scent of a major food crime. After the stomach prod, she moved on to my face. She added two small, warm stones onto my eyes. As she did this, a feeling of contentment washed over me. I was half way to achieving my life-long ambition to be a snowman. All I needed now was the carrot nose…
Fifteen minutes passed and we were in the latter stages of the massage. Throughout, she had been placing strategic pebbles on various points of my body (no, not on that one, before you ask. Cheeky!), By the end of my 80 minutes, I was beginning to resemble a pebbly beach. An oily, pebbly beach. I didn’t get the chance to dwell on how it felt to be a beach for too long before she began removing the stones. It was obviously time to start wrapping things up. Quite literally, in fact, as she wrapped a towel around my head.
After removing all of the pebbles from the various parts of my anatomy, my masseuse whispered to me that my massage was over and that I should take my time in getting up and getting dressed. I did just that - slowly sitting up and putting my suit of armour back on. I then checked under the pillow to find no large shiny coin. She wasn’t the tooth fairy after all. Damn her for lulling me into a false sense of security on that one. Still, I felt slightly contented that it could have been worse - whilst I was laying with the towel around my head, she could have stolen the money from my wallet and replaced it with a load of teeth…
With my clothes back on, and feeling suitably relaxed, I took one final glance around the room and spotted the equipment she had been using to heat the rocks. Silly me, she hadn’t been using a microwave at all, or a toaster… it was a Tefal Steamer!
Yabba dabba doo…
I thought I was being clever when I visited my local supermarket at midnight on Friday. With snowy weather forecast, everyone in the entire country was hitting the supermarket during the daylight hours to pack their house, garage and garden shed full of bread, milk and carpet shampoo. So, to compensate for this, and to ensure that I didn’t go without clean carpets, I decided to make a quick stop to my local Tesco on my way back from a night out on Friday. It was shrewd thinking - the supermarket would be empty and I could get in and out of the store really quickly. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, tiredness and hunger meant my decisions were slightly skewed. I managed to buy Easter eggs for the entire street, enough cereal to feed a small African village, 24 bags of of cat litter (I have no cat) and 15 boxes of tampons thanks to a special offer that I just couldn’t find the energy to turn down. So, ladies, if it’s that time of the month, you’ve got a cat with mild bladder weakness and you like cereal, mine’s the place to be…
Note: Please let me vacate my flat before you arrive, as I can’t bear to argue with you over which Easter egg you want most…
I have been on holiday in Mexico for over a week now, and the rigorous sessions of ping pong have been taking their toll. When you’re representing your country against Americans, Mexicans, Koreans and a short, Spanish kid with big teeth and over-hairy eyebrows, you have to work through the pain barrier. That doesn’t mean to say that you don’t suffer the next day. And, wow, was I suffering. I felt stiffer than a corpse’s pencil. I don’t know why a corpse would have a pencil, but let’s just go with it. Perhaps he was a writer?
Yesterday morning, I decided that some relaxation was in order. I booked myself in for a Swedish massage…
Now, I will be honest. Leading up to the massage, I had my fears - the main one being that my relaxing massage would be given by one of the following:
- A big, hairy man with tattoos on his knuckles; spelling out the words 'bad ass muva'.
- A tourettes sufferer.
- An Abba tribute band. It might consist of them walking up and down my back for an hour singing the greatest hits of Abba. Painful - too painful!
I’m pleased to say that two of my fears were immediately allayed when I arrived at the massage suite. A quick look around re-assured me that there were no hairy masseuses and no people dressed in blonde wigs and 1970s retro gear.
I paid the receptionist some money and was handed a disclaimer form. I had to confirm that my death as a result of excess pain, suffocation with a towel or drowning in oil was at my choosing. After signing my name on the death sentence, I was taken into a little room by a small Mexican lady with smooth hands and a softly spoken voice. I felt like I would be taken care of - and not in a James Bond evil villain kind-of-way. I didn’t feel the need to check to see if she had a venom-laced blade in her shoe, or a knife-wielding dwarf in the cupboard. I felt safe.
After a short chat about oils, my masseuse advised me that she would leave the room for a minute to give me time to take off my clothes, do a little naked dance around the room (she didn’t actually mention that bit, I added it in for my own pleasure) and settle myself on to the couch, covering myself up with the towel. I hid myself well under that large towel. My inner child was hoping that she would walk back in, look around the room in a confused manner and say “Mr Hazell…? Where have you gone?”
She found me. Drat!
With everything in place, it was time to begin. The relaxing music started playing - it was Enya. I have to say that when it comes to background music, Enya is to massage what smooth jazz is to soft core pornography. It just sets the mood. It helps you drift off into another world; a better world where Abba doesn’t exist and death from towel suffocation is impossible.
The masseuse started on my feet. Now, I feel the need, at this point, to confess that I am slightly ticklish. So, I’m sure you can imagine the problem here. To stop myself from bursting out in fits of giggles, I desperately tried to take my mind off the sensations occurring in my tootsies…
‘Think of something non-ticklish, think of something non-ticklish…. feathers…. Bastard, I really hate my mind sometimes…'
Mercifully, the work on my feet lasted only a minute or so, and she began to work her way up my body. After massaging my back for a while, she whispered softly in my ear to turn over. We were half-way through already. I slowly wiped the dribble off my chin and turned myself over, like a beached whale trying to roll back towards the sea (but with less blubber). She moved some towels around a bit, and then placed one around my head. I reassured myself that although I had moved one step closer to suffocation, it was still fairly unlikely.
I settled onto my back, started to relax and was gently drifting off and then… ‘Oooooh no, not the feet again. Think of something non-ticklish, think of something non-ticklish…. feather duster… for Christ’s sake!!'
Again, thankfully, the torture was short-lived, as she put my feet down and moved on to my legs.
I must confess that from there onwards, I don’t remember an enormous amount. My mind drifted and my body relaxed, as Enya warbled gently in my ear.
And then that moment came. It was over, and it was time for me to depart. “Mr Hazell,” she said, “it’s time for me to finish now. If you would just like to take some time for yourself before dressing and meeting me outside.”
I wondered to myself, ‘how much time can I legitimately take? Would 7 hours seem excessive?’ I then raised myself from the couch, with a towel still wrapped roughly around my head, and prepared to get myself dressed. Now was definitely not the time to do another silly, naked dance around the room. It would be inappropriate. Oh, sod it…
I strolled out to meet my masseuse - walking a little bit like a spaceman who had just landed on the moon. She offered me some cold tea (it was supposed to be cold, they weren’t just lazy with their tea making) and I accepted. I then turned to her and said… “thank you for the massage… the words I’m singing. Thanks for all the joy they’re bringing. Who can live without it, I ask in all honesty?”
I have to say that I really enjoyed my massage. So much so, that, after looking through the list of other massages available, I’ve been tempted into trying another. My next massage is booked for tomorrow. The 80 minute Hot Stones Massage. Just leave my bloody feet alone!!
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:
- 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)
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 visited London today to meet up with a friend of mine, Marcus Oakey (Marcus - you owe me a tea for the shameless plug!).
On the train journey home, I was checking my work emails and, as usual, sifting my way through the spam that had somehow fooled my spam filter (possibly with some kind of cloaking device or tomfoolery) and made it to my Inbox. For some reason, one particular email tickled my funny bone and I felt obliged to respond in the most stupid way I could think of. Here is the email, together with the message that I sent back in response…
Spam email (from ‘Wooden sticks for ice cream’):
Wooden sticks for ice cream, medical sticks and sticks for coffee.. (Birch, alder) Origin- Ukraine
94x10x2, 114x10x2, 150x16x2
Dear Mr Wooden Sticks For Ice Cream,
Thank you for your email informing me that you sell wooden sticks for ice cream, coffee and medicinal purposes (presumably for jabbing into people’s mouths, ears and up people’s bottoms - although, one hopes, not at the same time). I’m delighted to tell you that your email couldn’t be better timed. I have an urgent requirement for a wooden stick for soup - do you do those? Do you? I hope you do. Do tell me you do do do do do those?
No, seriously, do you?
Before you respond, please allow me to explain a little more about my enquiry. I am, very shortly, due to undertake a world record attempt for charity that involves swimming in a gigantic bowl of soup and I will be needing a robust, unyielding stick to stir said (tomato and basil) soup. The stick will need to be approximately 20 feet long and strong enough to take my weight as I lower myself in (I will be dressed as a crouton for added flamboyance).
The aim of my world record attempt is to raise money and awareness for the WWF (it’s an animal charity, I believe… I can’t say I’ve ever heard of it… I’m only really doing the challenge because I love soup). With that in mind, I am therefore wondering whether it would be possible for you to make the stick fatter at one end and sculpt the end of it for me? I know what you’re thinking - this could all too easily end up becoming a spoon - but ‘stick’ with me on this! Anyway, I was thinking about making the end of the stick resemble the shape of an extinct animal - a Dodo, Tyrannosaurus Rex or Goldfish would be perfect! Is it possible to construct, carve and fudge together such an amazing masterpiece?
Moving on to available budget, I have worked hard to put together as much money as I can for this
spoonstick. I’ve emptied every savings account (including those of my elderly neighbours), sold my mother-in-law and scavenged the backs of every sofa in every Costa coffee shop south of Birmingham. I hope you’ll therefore appreciate it when I tell you that I have raised… and I think this deserves a drum roll… £1.42. Yes, THAT MUCH!! :-)
Please give time to think over my proposal. I look forward to hearing your response, oh kind and honourable stick man.
I stared blankly at the shopkeeper, with a confused smile; I was experiencing a moment of sheer perplexity. My conversation at the till in a local card and gift wrap shop had been very interesting and going well until it came to a sudden and abrupt halt. I was asked a question to which I was struggling to find an answer. The question was this…
“would you like your wrapping paper rolled or folded?"
I’m sorry, what? Can you not start me off with something a bit easier, like… ‘what causes gravity?’ or ‘if a one-legged hen laid an egg and a half in a day and a half, how long would it take a monkey with a wooden leg to eat a packet of Maltesers?'
I felt unprepared for such a demonic attack on my grey matter. When you’re on a quiz show, such as ‘Who Wants To Be a Millionaire’, they at least start you off with a simple question, such as “how do you spell ‘moron’?”, before moving on to questions of higher complexity.
After a long pause of bewilderment, and with a fleeting evil grin, I turned the question back onto her: “well, I really don’t know. What would you recommend?” I could see her brain short circuit as she stood there with a blank, confused look. It appeared that no-one had ever turned the question back onto her. After a spell of silence, she replied, “do you know what, I never can decide that myself!” Suddenly, I felt less alone in the world… :)
So, what should one answer? Well, let’s look at the options available in the world of gift-wrap carriage (that’s ‘carriage’ and not ‘carnage’). I could choose to have the wrapping paper rolled. I could then carry it home, wielding it like a weapon, tripping people over as I walk by and hitting old ladies over the head. I have discovered on previous occasions that there’s something special about carrying it like a baton that gives one an incredible sense of power. I suddenly transform into a superhero; ready for a bank robber to run out of the local Natwest so that I can bludgeon him to death with my flowery, pink wrapping paper roll. “I can take anyone on… oh, shit, it’s started to rain…”
The alternative option is for the shopkeeper to fold the wrapping paper. That’s much more sensible, allowing me to easily fit it into my bag. However, when I go to wrap the gift, it’s going to end up with great big folds in it. Still, if I have it rolled then it’ll end up battered anyway. So, maybe it’s the best of a bad bunch.
Do you know what? The real reason I can’t ever come with an answer to the question “would you like your wrapping paper rolled or folded?” is because I don’t care. That’s right, I don’t give a shit whether they fold the paper, roll it or make it into a giant paper hat so that I can wear it home. I mean, sod it, come up with something creative: “Would you like your wrapping paper rolled, folded or crafted into an origami swan? If you like, I can set fire to it or blu-tack it to the neighbour’s cat.”
Creativity is what is required here. Now, where did that pesky moggy go… ;)
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…)
Today, I have decided to work from Costa; as a break from being at home. I’ve got my coffee, I’ve got my sandwich and I’ve got my berry muffin. Unfortunately for me, I’ve also “got” a teenage couple sitting on the table next to me. These two teenagers have clearly just discovered the delights of kissing (they’re sitting there sucking each other’s faces off). Now, anyone normal would find a corner somewhere to engage in this private and newly-exciting activity. But, no, they’re literally sitting right in the middle of Costa.
I could move all my stuff (laptop, jacket, bag, coffee, sandwich) onto another table nearby. But, instead, I’m going to sit here, moan lots and think up some mischievous ideas for what to do next. I could:
- Tell them to get a room at a hotel (one that allows children!)
- Tut loudly
- Do nothing (and plug my earphones in)… far too sensible, that one!
- Hit them. Lots.
- Start singing. Perhaps a song such as "it started with a kiss…" by Hot Chocolate. I wonder, is there a song called "f*** off and do that somewhere else before I strangle you with my scarf and bury you both in a plant pot!!"
- Find the nearest supermarket, buy a can of beans, scoff the lot and… well, you can probably guess the rest…
- Take photographs, threaten to tell their parents and then blackmail them for everything they've got (£2.43 in pocket money and half a packet of Chewits)
Maybe I’m just jealous. Do you think I’m jealous? When I was a teenager, I was just happy for a girl to notice me (usually followed by a face of disgust or a comment of “why are you standing outside the girls' changing rooms?"). I’m not bitter… ;)
Oh crap. I’ve just noticed. I’m looking around at the other tables in here and EVERYONE is a teenager. I’ve accidentally walked into the local puberty asylum. There’s only one thing for it, I’m going to have to put on some tracksuit bottoms, spray myself with 13 cans of Lynx deodorant and don a baseball cap.
You know what, I’m going to be a bit nicer to this couple. I mean, we were all young once. I haven’t eaten my muffin yet, so I could give them that… in small pieces… projected with velocity at their faces!! No, you know what, I’ll go and buy them a present… do they sell Chlamydia Test gift tokens in Boots? ;-)
I realise that I normally write humorous articles. But, for once, I’m going to go against the grain and write a personal story - an account of my long journey home for Christmas. Unless you’ve had your head stuck up Rudolph’s bottom, you’ll know all about the severe cold weather that has hit Europe over the last week.
On Tuesday morning, I arrived back from a week-long trip to Sofia, Bulgaria. I had originally booked to fly back last Saturday. However, on Saturday morning the skies over the UK airports opened and dropped what can only be described as a “shit load of the white stuff”. The whole of the South East of England looked like a scene from the movie ‘The Day After Tomorrow’. Airport chaos followed, with runways closed and flights cancelled on a mass scale. I spent the next two days wondering whether I’d be home in time for Christmas. Thankfully, I found and booked a flight back to a different London airport, and so began 15 hours of travelling in an experience that contained both frustration and exhilaration.
So, why exhilaration? Well, the trip truly made me realise that when people face a common goal or a common enemy, they really can come together to face it as one. My 15 hour trip took in 1 taxi, 1 plane, 2 trains, 2 coaches and an automobile. But, more importantly than those statistics, it allowed me to meet and talk to other people, all of whom had the same goal - to get back to their families in time for Christmas.
First was Frank, who I met on the Bulgarian Airways flight to London Heathrow and who was, coincidentally, scheduled to fly home to London Gatwick on the same two flights as me that were previously cancelled. Throughout the four hour flight, we chatted non-stop, almost in relief at being with someone in a similar predicament. It turned a frustrating, slow flight into an interesting one as we chatted about our time spent in Bulgaria and our funny experiences of Bulgarian people (more on that in my next blog post). Our mini-friendship continued once we arrived at the airport, as we collected our luggage together and found our way onto the train network. It was at that point that I bid him goodbye and we set off separately on the next stage of our journeys.
After leaving the train, I made my way to the coach terminal. It was there that I began chatting to a young lady who was waiting for a coach to Reading. She was very calm about all the delays and the horrendous weather outside, choosing to sit quietly on the freezing cold seats and read her book. A pair of pink and white socks adorned the handle of her suitcase. I sat there with my coffee and sandwich and stared up at the departures board. The words “Delayed - wait in lounge” were splashed all over the television screens. At one point, there were 7 coaches due to arrive to take people to my next destination, Gatwick Airport, all of which were delayed.
Eventually, 3 coaches arrived (typical of the phrase about waiting for buses and three coming along at once). After a session of ‘musical buses’ in which we were moved between several different coaches, we finally left. During the journey, I got talking to a Scottish man named Simon. He had flown back from Kazakhstan and was 17 hours into his trip - that easily beat my 12 hours. His final destination was Aberdeen and he was hoping to stay overnight at Gatwick Airport before flying up to Scotland the next day. He was perfectly calm about it all - refreshingly different from a few other people who had lost their temper during the boarding process.
As we set off down the motorway, it began to snow very heavily. Quite how the young coach driver stayed on the road was beyond me, but all the passengers on the coach were hushed and you could cut the tension with a knife. In all honesty, our coach driver deserved a medal for getting us to our destination, and I duly thanked him afterwards and gave him some money to buy himself a pint when he got home. He certainly was a hero in a crisis.
Once at Gatwick Airport, it was time to run for the train, as I said goodbye to Simon. Well, I say that. I said goodbye to him, ran off the coach, grabbed my luggage and then sprinted for the lift. I then ran through several corridors, following the signs for the trains. After about 3 minutes, I was running along another corridor and the door from the stairs opened… it was Simon. He had calmly made his way from the coach and yet had managed to get ahead of me, despite my desperate running. Bloody typical. I ran past him, half tempted to call out the words “you bastard…”
Out of breath from running and dragging my suitcase, I made it to the platform in time for the train and I began to feel more confident about getting home. I sat down on the train, opposite a Spanish girl. During the next 15 minutes, I noticed her repeatedly look at her phone to read her text messages, before letting off a sigh or giggle. I felt obliged to converse with her. It turned out that she was on the other end of the travelling experience to me. Where-as I was on the last leg of my journey, she was making her way back from the airport after her flight was cancelled. Clearly disappointed, it was dawning on her that she was now destined to spend Christmas with friends in Eastbourne rather than back home with her family in Madrid. Despite that, she seemed cheerful enough in talking to me.
The train continued on its merry way and I began to feel so confident of getting home that I started tweeting that my journey was coming to an end. Big mistake. After 14 hours of travelling, the train ground to a halt 10 minutes from home. And so began the frantic running from one end of the train to the other by the driver, as he sought to fix the issue. The conductor, Derek, kept us entertained, throughout, by chatting to us - he was in a cheerful mood.
An hour later, and we were moving again… however, the driver decided that if he stopped for any more stations, he would most likely end up getting stuck again. So, he drove straight through the remaining stops to the end of the line, with the conductor promising us that a bus would take us back to our required stations. Now, if you felt sorry for me, spare a thought for the male cabin crew attendant who hadn’t slept for 57 hours. He looked absolutely dead on his feet, and yet remained chirpy about it. “I’m used to long hours,” he said, before giving me the itinerary of his work, involving 4 long haul flights; one after the other. I was amazed that he was still standing, let alone cheerful.
After alighting at the station, there was no bus waiting for us. Instead, only a bitterly cold wind was there to greet us outside the station. I wondered how I was going to get home - taxi, perhaps. Just at that moment, a man shouted out that he was going to my destination and generously offered a lift. I jumped at the opportunity and crammed into the back of the car, with his teenage daughter on my right and a railway employee with halitosis on my left. We chatted all the way home and it made for the perfect end to my journey.
I had made it home. But, more importantly to me, I’d experienced human kindness again and found faith that people really can be friendly and help each other through when the chips are down.
So, that is my journey of Planes, Trains and Automobiles. One I’ll never forget.
As someone who runs my own business, I’m used to making difficult decisions. However, today I found myself facing one of the most challenging decisions I’ve made in a while. That’s right - I went to buy a new toothbrush.
Before you laugh, just consider what a complicated decision it has become to choose a new toothbrush. I spent several minutes pondering, bemused, in the supermarket aisle because I couldn’t decide between green and blue, soft and firm, springy head or non-springy head, tongue cleaning or non-tongue cleaning…
What I found particularly funny, other than imagining the sight of me scratching my head infront of the toothbrushes, was some of the marketing on the toothbrush boxes themselves. For example, the toothbrush that I ended up buying (because it was on special offer) was labelled as ‘professional’. Now, what exactly does that mean - can I call myself a professional tooth brusher? There seems little justification for being awarded this title. Surely I should have attended a training course, passed an exam and been presented with a certificate before achieving such an important honour?
Having graciously accepted this title (by agreeing to pay £2.50), I wonder whether it’s time for me to update my CV to include “professional tooth brusher?” Perhaps I could also include the fact that I do a ‘professional’ job of wiping my own backside too? (though I do say so myself!)
Onto another point now, regarding product marketing. I bought some toilet rolls today and on the packaging was a big star containing the text “Voted product of the year - consumer survey of product innovation 2009”. Have I been transported back in time several centuries? According to Wikipedia, “the first documented use of toilet paper in human history dates back to the 6th century AD, in early medieval China.” So, they seem a little late in recognising this fantastic “innovation” (and, lets be honest, our bottoms wouldn’t be the same without it). One wonders what other products of ingenuity received awards at the same time - the wheel, the cocktail stick and the hairpiece, perhaps?
I can imagine that the 2010 awards will see another ‘hard fought’ competition, with the innovation of the year being something like… ah, yes, that new concept called the ‘bar of soap’…
Whether you love it or hate it, texting has become a major part of our daily lives. From keeping in touch with our friends to competitions and promotional offers on television and radio, these days we struggle to be away from our mobile phones for any length of time.
I saw a classic example of the promotional use of texting today whilst watching daytime television. A quiz was sponsored by a de-congestant and they were enticing people to find out more information by texting the word “mucus” to them. Lovely! What next?…
Latest offer: Win a pair of underpants. Simply text the words "I've soiled myself and my spare pair are in the washing machine" to 63352
Over the past few weeks, I’ve had numerous discussions with friends about frustrating text message conversations. Based upon those stories, I thought I’d write a post listing some typically frustrating types of text chat. You’ve probably been involved in some of the following types of conversation before:
Textual HarassmentThis label applies to those people who bombard us with text messages. I'm sure you've been in the situation before where you finish writing a text message, hit send and a reply arrives back on your phone before you've even had the chance to put it down and take a sip of your tea. By replying, you're signing a mini-contract to waste the best part of your day engaging the other person in pointless chatter. What a waste of bloody time!
Textual harrassers will, invariably, end up becoming stalkers and/or participants in late-night radio phone-ins.
Textual DysfunctionTexts arrive on your phone but don't make sense. Why? Because they are full of:
- mis-spelled words
- txt speak... E.G: "b4 u go out l8r dont 4get 2 put ur shoes on"
- words that have been changed by the 'predictive text' on the sender's phone
Beware of number 3. A casual phrase, such as this one describing your dinner preparations:
“I have topped off the plate with some peas”
can easily become:
“I have tossed off the slave with some pear”
Now, you’d think that people would read a message through before sending it. But, no. People suffering with textual dysfunction are busy using their single brain cell for another use (breathing, probably) and so have no available capacity do this. As a consequence, you spend half an hour deciphering the message. Text conversations with textual dysfunction sufferers are a constant frustration.
Premature Text EjaculationThis occurs when someone gets half way through writing a message and then accidentally pushes the send butt…
Textual FrustrationYou send an important text message requiring a quick response and stare longingly at your mobile phone - waiting for a reply to come back - for days on end. Nothing. Has the message arrived on the recipient's phone? Should you send it again? Perhaps they have replied, but it didn't send properly. One thing's for sure, you can't possibly pick up the phone and call them (that's far too sensible) so you'll have to just sit there and get frustrated until you end up throwing your phone at the wall (and missing, with your prized iPhone smashing straight through your 54 inch plasma television). Now you're even more cross...
Tosser... I'll never speak to him ag... ah, what's that bleeping sound coming from inside the television?
Those who engage in textual harassment tend to regularly suffer from textual frustration… usually within about 5 seconds of sending their message.
Rebound TextThis occurs when you dump your existing phone, after becoming bored with the features, and get a new model, with a new number. You must immediately send out the obligatory message to your entire contact list (3 people) to make them aware of your new number.
Textual DepravityThis label can be given to those people who regularly indulge in sending rude and tasteless jokes.
We all like a funny joke or two. However, there are some people who not only text jokes around to their entire address book, but also consider themselves to be the King/Queen of party entertainment. They pull their phone out of their pocket at gatherings and recite their entire list of jokes to everyone in the room. They chortle loudly at their own jokes, thinking they’re funny. However, everyone just thinks they’re a tosser.
Textual TensionThis label is for a text conversation where, due to the fact that text lacks emotion, something is misread and interpreted the wrong way, leading to a fight. Your sarcastic message to your other half telling him/her "thanks for cooking me dinner tonight, I wish I could say it was delicious..." may well receive the reply of "well, f*ck off then, you can cook next time..." This mistake is an expensive one, usually requiring flowers, chocolates and plenty of grovelling (in person and in text)...
To Conclude:Far from being joyous, texting can be an inconvenient and frustrating pain in the arse. It's time to take a good look at yourself. Do you fall into one of these categories? If so, keep it to your bloody self!!! ;)
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:
- 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!!!!!"
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!!