Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Most Enduring Image of 2013

Please don't tell me it's so. But can you think of anything else apart from death and destruction in diverse places and Boston? I hate to admit it but the enduring image of 2013 appears to be Smiley Virus's tongue. Is it just me or does she resemble a demented gerbil?

OK now I'm off to feel queasy in a dark place and to dream hopeless thoughts of a Miley free 2014. Happy New Year...

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Blog Disaffection and those Writers I Met on the Road in 2013

I have noticed an interesting trend recently in which many bloggers I have followed for many years are seldom blogging anymore or are just disappearing off the face of the earth. This is disturbing on a number of levels because it raises nagging questions such as:

1 Have they found a life?
2 Have they found a new technology which makes blogging oh sooo 2011?

The blogging road is long with many a winding turn

Its also make you think of those fabulous new friends you found in the first week of college who you hung around with day and night. Then suddenly, two years later they have found more fabulous new friends and when you say hi on the campus you can tell they are trying really hard not to roll their eyes.

I've hit a fair degree of blog ennui as well. I don't have a lot of time to blog anymore and when I do it's fast and on the fly. I have less time to comment on other people's blogs which is meant to be the golden rule of interaction. A blogger with zillions of followers told me a while back she spent three hours a day responding to comments and commenting on other people's blogs. That's like 21 hours a week, more than 80 hours a month. I'm lucky to have three minutes a day to comment sometimes these days. Is there a comment app that will automatically say how great a blog post is? Then again that may look like spam and I don't want to really be saying 'what a wonderful post' on the blog of that creepy guy who is recommending the best way to stone cats.

Sometimes I look at blog stats but they don't make a lot of sense. On some months when I have neglected my blog, I'm getting 400 visits a day. I even wrote a post about the death of my blog, only to see the number of hits rally the next month. Right now it's free falling to 150 but it's not a numbers game. The interactions are more important.

I have to bear that in mind on the days when I feel my blog is like a Gremlin. It seemed a cute idea at the time but now it's after midnight and it's growling in the corner, demanding to be fed. It's not always easy to feed it. I know there are some bloggers out there who feel they have just run out of things to write.

On the positive side I met some great new bloggers along the road in 2013 who have struck with me notwithstanding my periods of blog and commenting neglect. Dee at Deecoded's post 7 Lessons I Learned about Blogging is drop dead useful and great to read if, like me, you have wondered of late where your blog is going.

Thanks too to 2013 followers Patricia Lynne and Jean at Discarded Darlings, as well as Yolanda Renee and Jules Smith who is always good for a chuckle, if not a fully fledged belly laugh on occasions.

It has occurred to me to refocus my blog in 2014. Make it more focused - oh that word again. Follow some edgy writers. Make it more useful for foreigners who are cast adrift in this large place called America bereft of decent tea. Maybe I'll give it more thought - happy 2014.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Elf on the Shelf - Be Very Afraid

A new Christmas tradition this year was Elf on the Shelf. Basically the elf, who was later named Stuart, arrived on December 24 and you are supposed to put it in various places to scare the crap out of the kids before hiding it until next year.

That would be because as soon as he hears Santa's sleigh bells he's taken off to Lapland, Greenland, Detroit or whatever Godforsaken place Santa hangs out for the rest of the year as he bangs away on new toys with his elvish helpers, and bemoans the fact kids no longer want the sort of toys that require banging away on with elves.

Stu missed the boat, or at least the sleigh and hung around. It suited purposes to depict Stu as some kind of sinister spy, like Santa's KGB or the NSA. Every time a kid misbehaves, which is about every two minutes, a grave finger is pointed at Stu who is looking and listening and reporting back in a small mental elf blotter whose scribbles add up to Santa delivering a pile of steaming horse manure next year.

It amazes me that even a 9-year-old can believe Stu actually moves; even more so when I happen to be standing next to him and he's moved to a window ledge close to my hand. I have almost been caught in the act and his infernal hat has fallen off and I'm hiding it under a shoe.

Of course, Stu can do much more. He can appear in bathrooms and make sure kids are using the body wash - hence policing the scenario and mitigating against the curious fact kids can spend an hour in the bath or shower and still emerge greasy.

Policing is a good word for Stu. He's humorless and unbending. If he had a favorite country it would be North Korea where people make a big show of executing relatives. If you misbehave Stu is bad for your elf. Personally I fear Stu's rigidity may make him good material for the therapist's couch but he's better off on the couch in the living room. Looks like he may have to hang around all year until Santa waddles this way again.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Funny Thing About the Duck Dynasty Saga

I haven't followed the Duck Dynasty saga very closely but it seems to be summarized thus - hairy guy from deep south on reality TV show in which people kills ducks makes homophobic remarks. He gets suspended by A&E, which probably doesn't stand for Accident and Emergency, but maybe should - and everyone goes nuts.

The saga of Phil Robertson, who nobody had probably heard of until a week ago - has now become another piece of ammunition for the left and right to throw at each other. Even Sarah Palin emerged from whatever obscure swamp she has been hiding in for the last few years to give the English language another battering:. She posted a picture with Robertson and his family on her Facebook page with the message, “Free speech is an endangered species. Those ‘intolerants’ hatin’ and taking on the Duck Dynasty patriarch for voicing his personal opinion are taking on all of us.”

The saga even drew in Cracker Barrel which decided to pull some Duck Dynasty items and then changed its mind amid fears its rocking chairs might be unrocked in due to allegations of political correctness.

Although there are plenty of examples of PC-ness going bonkers this surely is not one of them. It's not as if aforementioned hairy guy was fined or thrown in jail for his remarks. His reality show was just pulled.

Still there's another point here that nobody seems to have mentioned. If you are going to give air time to rednecks - be they rednecks hunting ducks, killing gators, making moonshine, repossessing cars or training pitbulls - should the TV people really be so shocked when they start saying rednecky things?

It's a bit like giving a reality TV show to a serial killer and then getting all upset when he describes how he is a bit partial to killing people.

So the real message of this sad and sorry ducked up saga is surely let's stop giving TV shows to hairy idiots and get people on TV who can talk about something interesting and informative. Hey why not get some real actors and make an adaptation of a Streetcar Named Desire if you want to portray something meaningful out of Louisiana.

And while you are at it pull Keeping up with the Kardashians - just because nobody in their right mind would want to keep up with them.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Argh - The World's Most Instagrammed Places

Having recently signed up for an Instagram account and in the wake of the posting of my first picture, I was super excited to check out the list of the most Instagramed places in the world.

The list is as follows... drum roll.

The Most-Instagrammed Locations of 2013
  1. Siam Paragon (สยามพารากอน) shopping mall, Bangkok, Thailand
  2. Times Square, New York
  3. Disneyland, California
  4. Bellagio Fountains, Las Vegas
  5. Disney World Florida
  6. Staples Center, Los Angeles
  7. Central Park, New York
  8. Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles
  9. Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) ท่าอากาศยานสุวรรณภูมิ, Bangkok, Thailand
  10. The High Line, New York

I can't say I was quite as excited after reading the list. Siam Paragon is an umm shopping mall. It's also in the same city as this, by the way.

This is the Grand Palace and I still bear the grudges of Grand Palace anger having been turned away for showing up 2 minutes plus closing time. "Oh that's OK. I'll just drop by next time I'm driving to Richmond shall I?"

Times Square and Disney are rather predictable. I haven't seen any other locations on this list apart from the Fountains of Bellagio, which are a kind of lame version of the one at the new city center in Newport News.

Here some random lady does a 'selfie' on Instagram at the Bellagio, maybe oblivious to the fact you can't really make out the fountains themselves.
On the subject of selfies, this one has been doing the rounds of late.
Obama, Danish Prime Minister and British Prime Minister David Cameron, take a selfie at Nelson Mandela memorial service, while Michelle looks displeased that these 9th graders are larking around at a funeral. Counter explanation - it wasn't so much a wake as a celebration of Mandela's life, Michelle was not pissed and it was three hours anyhow so who wouldn't take a selfie with the Danish PM who, let's face it, looks a lot more fun than Michelle.
Anyhow - back to Instagram. The list of the most Instagrammed places only serves to remind me how boring we are. What the heck is the Staples Center? It looks like some oversized place to buy office supplies.
There would surely be more hope for humanity if we could get out of the shopping center and get to Monument Valley. Then again would we really want to be immersing ourselves in its serenity surrounded by folks who wear their baseball caps backwards and hang out in the food courts of shopping centers?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Good Riddance CrackBerry

I was never signed up to the CrackBerry Generation. It must have been almost a decade ago that I first saw folks sporting them in London, yuppie folks mainly. I'd look on with a disdain we non corporate folks saved for stock brokers and accountants, as I punched numbers into a reconstructed brick that looked like something Michael Douglas was tooling around with in Wall Street.

The BlackBerry was a status system; a smart phone that set smart people aside from dummies like me. I recall the delight of a friend who ended up with two BlackBerries after her work supplied another one. She'd fumble around with them both and rub it in my face in the way only two Blackberry owners can. Or rather could.

I entered the smart phone generation late and I finally made my way to one of those stores where the young people behind the counter talk in a different language and tell you what a great deal they have got for you by reducing your monthly cell phone bill from $4,000 to $3,500, about three years ago. I only opted for a Blackberry because it had chunky keys and a tray you could pull out. My thinking was already behind the times. It was as if I had showed up at Best Buy and demanded a Sony Walkman. The woman behind the counter gave me a funny look and recommended counseling.

Soon after signing up for a BlackBerry I realized that most other people had iPhones. I don't just mean yuppies either. It was not uncommon to push one's way past the lavatory cleaner before she barged in and expressed horror that someone was daring to urinate in the toilets, and to see a top of the range, $600 iPhone sticking out of the pocket of her $9 jeans from Wal-Mart.

Soon BlackBerry shame broke out. If I was at media functions I felt a sense of reticence at pulling out my BlackBerry. I started to shun such events. I even went a whole year without talking to another human being. After a week of a recurring dream of falling out of an airplane holding hands with a midget with a face like Nancy Reagan, I saw a doctor. He tapped my reflexes with a hammer. Then he asked me to produce my smart phone. Nervously I brought the thing into the harsh light and he smiled a knowing smile and uttered the words: "BlackBerry shame."

Get stuffed pal - the old BlackBerry

By this time BlackBerry was in free fall and announcing job losses at its aptly named headquarters Waterloo. The days when people joked about the "Crackberry" that was so addictive owners needed to wear special helmets to stop them walking into poles, were long gone.

I know some people suffered separation angst from their BlackBerries but mine was more of a CrapBerry. It jammed up half of the time with an enormously annoying circular timer going round like an egg timer clogged with sticking sand. The egg timer would kill the battery.As I drove along I would angrily pull out the battery with a credit card, only to find I had cracked my Visa card and the battery had flown under the car seat. At the next stop light I would fumble under the seat only to pull up a jaded chicken nugget from two weeks ago. Had I put it in the battery compartment, it may have done a better job.

Over time I leaned coping mechanisms. I used an expired Starbucks card or a Disney pass instead of a current credit card and became a maestro at battery popping. Still it occurred to me that this was not meant to be part of the whole smart phone experience.

After learning I was eligible for a free upgrade to an iPhone, I gladly took along my Crapberry knowing it was facing a certain death. The efficient woman at AT&T told me I could upgrade to a sleek iPhone 5S for a mere $200. I was going from the stone age to the cutting edge in the space of one lunch time. Admittedly the 5S looked just like the 4S to me, but what did I know? With the air of a priest performing a religious mass, she applied the protection screen, and I wad good to go.

I have now utilized about 5 percent of the iPhone's functions, but it's clear to me that this device rocks and I can do so many things that my CrapBerry failed to do miserably. I may even be able to get those videos on YouTube.

In a strange way I will miss that red light and the pinging sound. But I won't lose any sleep over it.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Nelson Mandela and the Audacity of Humility

I didn't post RIP Nelson Mandela on Facebook because everybody else did. I'm not sure I even felt an overwhelming sorrow because if you make it to 95 you can't really complain. Well maybe you can complain about being too old.

Still there is something sad about the passing of Mandela because he was part of the world I have known for so long and because it's rare to behold a figure who has endured so much hate but emerged from the shadows with humility and a will to heal. It's rare to find someone apparently uncorrupted by power, especially in the despotic world of African politics.

The idea of a world in which you have to ride on different sections of buses, go to different beaches or eat at different places; a world where you voting rights are restricted because of the color of your skin is anathema to us today. The fact it no longer seems real is in no small part due to figures such as Mandela and Martin Luther King.

That world is fading now and has already gained an edge of unreality. That's a good thing but a bad thing in some ways because we need to be reminded of the horrors of apartheid to make sure it never happens again.

My internal mouse seems to have packed up on me again and my external one is resting on a copy of Inside Hitler's Germany. There's a picture of Adolf Hitler amid frightening black banners and a sea of stern white faces. What's so unnerving about all of this it doesn't look like it was real. Nazi Germany has become a film set for one of those frightening movies about the police state which is based on Nazi Germany. It's really hard to believe that such horror clad in ridiculous uniforms could have taken over most of a continent for a few short years.

Between Mandela and Hitler we have a gulf as wide as the human condition - of hope versus nihilism of life versus death. It's hard to know what the future will bring but it's to be hoped the spirit of Nelson Mandela is somewhere in the mix.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Last Rites for Chrissy (Come Undone)

I felt for Chrissy. She never had a chance. Some people are like that. Washed out and albino and blinking in the sun. She had a nice temperament for all that, notwithstanding her penchant for warbling.

Now she's in a box, adorned with words of love but a crude box, nonetheless, a nine-year-old's rudimentary attempt at mummification. Probably not good to still be there on the table. Somebody needs to take the lead. Grab a shovel in one hand and dig and dig, heavy and furious in the early morning, breaking the frost and grunting on the bitter air. Who dares to be cast as the sexton?

Still we go through the motions amid the decay and the narrowing of days like arteries. The guinea pig in a box, a victim of procrastination, tripping on toys and cursing lightly. She was too white and too pure for this world; the angels among us alight only briefly to warm us with their sad, sardonic smiles.

(Come Undone by Duran - totally fabby song BTW)

There's a routine of sorts, like the tug of a rope, in and out of work. Tunnels open and shut. Lights come on and go out. Feelings are shuttered. Until, one day we realize we became misaligned somewhere along the road. A wrong shaped peg, that's spat from the system. To conform is to blanch and mask ourselves with the weasel words and clothes of others; to return a hollow stare. Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!

Until one day we come gloriously undone and break the confines of the miserable little box.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Turkey Day Reprize

Well it's that time of year again when people drive hundreds of miles to see family members just so as they can remind themselves why they live hundreds of miles away from them.

It's known as Thanksgiving or Turkey Day. It's rather confusing but hey it's a couple of days off work. Last night I saw Trains, Planes and Automobiles, which is a rather funny and moving film in which corporate jerk Steve Martin and disaster-waiting-to-happen John Candy desperately try to make it home for Thanksgiving. It's kind of schmaltzy and a bit heart warming, even for my cynical heart at the and, even if it made me want to chuck a bit.

My other observation on this movie is exactly how old is it? The scene where Martin goes to the rental car lot looks more like Night At the Museum.

So what's the big deal with Thanksgiving? A good question when your fridge is broken. Fortunately, I had not even got round to buying a turkey to be ruined. Who says it always pays to plan ahead. The chicken nuggets may be ruined but there's still a couple of pots of powdered macaroni cheese. Who needs to go through that sham pretense of liking turkey anyhow? Particularly four days after Thanksgiving.

On the subject of recycling. I thought I'd recycle an old Thanksgiving post. I'm rather surprised about what a rant it was. Oh for the energy to rant. Happy Thanksgiving.

Someone's feeling peckish

I kept rather a low profile during Thanksgiving. To be honest I’ve never really seen the point of this schmaltzfest, unless you happen to be a turkey farmer in the US who gets to hit pay dirt twice in the space of a month. And what kind of an American expression is pay dirt, anyhow? What does it mean? You get paid so you have to go out and do something really dirty. Which may ensure you don’t get paid again for a while. Apparently it refers to gravel with a high concentration of gold in it; not like any gravel you get round these parts.

In short I didn’t post anything on Facebook saying 'I’m so Thankful.' That’s partly because I’m a curmudgeon, although I am thankful I don’t live in Syria or Somalia, even though I have this recurring dream that I have been transported to a war zone. I'm not even sure if the feeling of peace and thankfulness was enduring because sometime overnight on Thursday it was replaced by the urge to get a cheap flatscreen TV or pair of designer sneakers and not care if it involved trampling a few elderly women half to death to get them the next morning.

But really I don’t like Thanksgiving (apart from the day off work, of course) because it’s one of those glib and smug rewritings of history for the benefit of people of European descent so that we can pat ourselves on the back about how great America is as our stomachs grumble for the rest of the afternoon parked in front of Real Housewives of Atlanta or New York or Redneckysville, Alabama.

So what are the origins of Thanksgiving? According to the Northwest Herald which is, I presume a newspaper in a cold place, it’s….

“The proclaiming of a day of thanksgiving traditionally dates from the autumn of 1621, when Plymouth Colony Gov. William Bradford invited the local Wampanoag Indians to join the Pilgrims in a three-day celebration of feasting and recreation. The Pilgrims were especially giving thanks for surviving the harsh winter of 1620-1621, during which half of the 102 Mayflower passengers had died, and for the bountiful harvest, which hopefully would help them to meet the challenge of the upcoming winter.”

But there’s also some kind of school lesson plan that does the rounds about how the Indians gave the Pilgrims their corn, that ensured survival, taught them to hunt and they all lived happily ever after. This is surely the tale that prompted my daughter to ask: “If the Indians didn’t have microwaves how did they teach the Pilgrims how to make popcorn?”

This is from the lesson plan.

“Tell first winter the Pilgrims spent in their new home was very cold. Food was in short supply. Some days they had only enough food for each new person to have five kernels of corn for the day. Finally spring came. They planted food and it grew. All the pilgrims did not die. From then on, when a time of Thanksgiving came around, the Pilgrims put five kernels of corn on each plate to remind themselves of their blessings. Let us also remember: (Written on the poster paper).”

Well that’s as clear as mud then. What is clear is that a few years later the Indians weren’t happy bunnies with a valid cause as the settlers took their land and drove them out. Philip, or Metacom, the second son of old Massasoit, the longtime friend of the English, became the head of the Wampanoags in 1662.

King Philip’s War between the Indians and the settlers that was waged from 1675 to 1678 was a bloody affair and the single greatest calamity to occur in seventeenth-century Puritan New England. Nearly half of the region's towns were destroyed, its economy was all but ruined, and much of its population was killed, including one-tenth of all men available for military service. Proportionately this was one of the bloodiest and costliest wars in the history of North America.

For the next 200 years or so the protracted and intermittent genocide of the Indian people continued, as they were pushed west to the badlands of Oklahoma until somebody decided they wanted those lands too, perhaps after hitting pay dirt in those hills.

This is one reason why Thanksgiving leaves a bad taste for me. The other is the way we celebrate the Pilgrims as Godly and goodly when they were religious extremists who used to kill women who acted in a peculiar way as witches. These folks were more extreme than the tea party. In modern America they would probably be going around cutting beards off Amish people (predominantly men folk).

America makes such a big deal about the Pilgrims and the Mayflower Compact, that’s made out like a precursor to the Constitution, that they tend to forget the first successful English speaking colony was in Virginia not New England.

There’s also a certain irony in seeing descendants of these white settlers who drove out the native people arguing for the kids of Mexican immigrants who sneaked into the country, to be sent back south as punishment for their parents’ actions. Just saying.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Bosnia 20 Years On and the Darkness Within

(note uncharacteristically heavy blog disclaimer)

If you have never read The Lord of the Flies by William Golding I'd recommend you get your copy now. You can even order it on Kindle. It's almost two decades since I last read it, but few novels are so chilling, moving or relevant.

You don't realize its significance immediately. A group of kids are marooned on a tropical island after a plane crash that kills the pilot. They eat berries and try to set up a primitive society. Then slowly but surely a darkness moves in their midst. The boys split into two groups  those who want to carve out a society and those who descend into savagery. The result is war and devastation.

Many people are very familiar with this novel so, if so, ignore the last paragraph.

Still Golding's novel touches on an interesting question. How far removed are we from the savagery we like to associate with the past?

Most of us were born into Western Civilization. People were law abiding and those who failed to obey the rules were dealt with by a well established system of justice. But how easy can it break down? People went to work and usually came back. We invited our neighbors round for tea. We tended not to kill them. Judging by some of my childhood memories there was a propensity to bore them to death.

I have had lively discussions with people who argue human beings are essentially good. I'm not convinced by it. My own belief is the screen that separates civilization from anarchy is more flimsy that we think and easy to punch a hole in. Maybe I have seen too much yellow tape during my days as a crime reporter.

About 25 years ago I visited the former Yugoslavia with my sister. Dubrovnik with its old churches, city walls, sleepy cafes and tourist shops on the glittering Adriatic could have been Italy or Greece. Still there was some latent savagery up in the hills that bore the name of Tito carved in a giant relief. We took a bus south to Montenegro and stopped at a place called Bar that comprised a weed strewn sea front against a backdrop of monolithic towers of an ugliness perfected by the old Eastern bloc.

We had no idea why we were here. Later we realized we had incorrectly written down the name of a place we were seeking from a friend back in England. We stayed in a ramshackle room and the owners of the pension invited us to sample the local spirit as they talked in hushed tones about the prospect of war in Kosovo. They spoke of the recent nationalist speech delivered by the Yugolslav leader Slobodan Milošević, on the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo, and his reference to the possibility of "armed battles," in the future of Serbia's national development.

It was hard to look at the mountains and the gentle coast and to imagine war in this peaceful backwater.

But a year later war was looming Yugoslavia with its many ethnic divisions as the Serbian dominated army turned on the other nationalities. Slovenia broke away followed by Croatia.  At Vukovar in eastern Croatia, Serbian forces and paramilitaries mounted an 87 day siege with heavy armor and artillery. During the battle, shells and rockets were fired into the city at a rate of up to 12,000 a day, the most ferocious bombardment seen in Europe since Stalingrad in 1942. When the city was finally overrun, patients were dragged from a hospital and killed.

Over the next four years the former Yugoslavia descended into a nightmare. Refugees huddled under mortar fire under the same walls we had taken photos of in Dubrovnik, while in Bosnia, Serbians and Croats attacked Muslim Bosnians and pictures of emaciated people seen in concentration camps of the kind we hoped had been banished for ever since the Nazi horror, returned. Sarajevo, a city that had recently hosted the winter Olympics, became the scene of a Medieval style siege as Serbian forces shelled the Bosnian inhabitants for almost four years.

The Bosnian conflict was shocking on so many levels. The notion of "ethnic cleansing" with its casual homage to the gas chambers of Auschwitz, harked back to a barbarity that was meant to never happen again with the creation of the United Nations. The conflict also saw mass rape return as an instrument of war with an estimated 20,000 to 50,000 women raped. It was a war in which people who had lived peacefully next to each other for decades, turned on each other and killed and raped.

In 1995, I had returned from the beach in Turkey. We stopped off in Oxford and sat on a sunny afternoon on a table by the water meadows, looking over the fable Dreaming Spires. I picked up a copy of The Independent and a heavy cloud passed over the sun and my post holiday euphoria as I read about how Serbian forces had overrun the desperate little town of Srebrenica, nominally a UN safe haven. More than 8,000 men and boys had been removed from the town. Srebrenica has since become a by word for the horrors of war because we know they were taken to fields and summarily executed.

Today an uneasy peace remains over the place once known as Yugoslavia and the famous Medieval bridge that was blown up at Mostar has been rebuilt.

But the events of those years made me aware of the indelible darkness that lingers in the human spirit. The death toll in Syria currently stands at more than 115,000 including 11,000 children. It's quickly becoming a conflict on the scale of Bosnia.

In America it's easy to turn off the news. We only hear about Syria when the President is considering sending in US planes. We hear nothing about the Central African Republic. A handful of hapless people will have tortured and killed in the time it takes to read this article.

But is it so easy to shut out. Every now and then a maniac with a gun shoots up a school or a shopping center. We can turn off the TV and lock the doors, but it's more difficult to lock out the thing that's dark and nihilistic within us.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Bardot, Gunter Sachs and the Fleeting Nature of Passion

Sometimes a name, or an obscure news story will open up a window to another era and allow the glamor and excitement of a past time to come rushing back in for a short time. It was thus in Brideshead Revisited when Charles, a dutiful army officer going through the motions in a dull company, arrives at a camp close to a great house that’s now abandoned. He realizes suddenly it’s Brideshead where he spent so much of his audacious and dashing youth, alas now shuttered due to war and bereft of its inhabitants.

 Earlier this week, an article in The Telegraph also shed light on a romantic and glamorous episode, now long forgotten.

The 10-roomed apartment in Paris where French film star Brigitte Bardot and her German playboy-cum-art-collector husband Gunther Sachs, lived in when they were married is now up for sale for a mere 6.1 million euros.

Bardot and Sachs were described as “impossibly glamorous” when they were together, but few recall them now.

Bardot was one of the best known sex symbols of the 1950s and 1960s, while Sachs was one of the leading playboys of his generation. Bardot had put the tiny and little-known fishing village of St Tropez on the map in the Fifties after making the film And God Created Woman there.

They met in St Tropez and, by all accounts, the sexual chemistry fizzed. Sachs famously dropped hundreds of red roses over her St Tropez beach home from a helicopter, then dropped out of the helicopter and swam up to her back door with two suitcases in tow.

Later, knowing Bardot’s love of animals, he bought her a tame cheetah.   

It was a hard act to follow, and it seemed they failed to live up to the early pace. By the time they married in Vegas in 1966, Bardot was already becoming irritated by her lover’s antics. Their marriage lasted three years and died amid acrimony. In the latter years of their marriage, the apartment bore the brunt of the acrimony.

“The marble floors and lack of carpets must have made this anideal venue for cup-smashing. Mind you, there were plenty of rooms to stomp off to, including a rather elegant billiards room and an oval-shaped, glass-roofed discotheque, said to have been inspired by the celebrated Chez Rėgine nightclub, just off the Champs Elysées,” wrote Christopher Middleton in The Telegraph.

So, it seemed a relationship that started with roses ended up like the War of the Roses.

Still, it was glamorous while it lasted and the older we get the more we cling to those shards of erstwhile glamor.

We’ll never know if Sachs thought of the roses one day in 2011 when he took his life in his villa in the jet-set Swiss resort of Gstaad fearing an illness he would only call A, which is thought to have been Alzheimer’s, would take over his body.

Bardot is still alive but has lived a reclusive life for many years, her animals her best companion. A recent article in the Daily Mail described her as a recluse with a dubious private life who hasn’t aged well. In her defense, she is 79-years-old.

The relationship between Bardot and Sachs could teach us many things – passion is fleeting or the French will never get on with the Germans.

More than anything else, it’s probably a reminder to seize the moment before we are hobbling around seeking out a hip replacement.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Resurrection Blogfest II - The Human Touch

Soooo I entered Mina Lobo's Resurrection Blogfest II at Some Dark Romantic which is quite something because I don't have time to do blog hops anymore. I don't want this to sound pretentious. It's not that I am 'sooooo over blog hops.' I just have some dull worky stuff going on to complement my dull non working stuff right now.

But I thought hey - I did it last year and Mina is kool; not just because she like Duran Duran. There was also the not insignificant fact that this hop involves recycling an old post. However, I was rather concerned to just notice it's actually today and there are all sorts of linky rules and Twittery things to do to have any chance of winning a gift card. Now what did I do with that badge?

The Human Touch was published on December 28, 2012 and represented a rare foray into the world of flash fiction.

The Human Touch - a Work of Flash Fiction

Captain Jarrold Barnes lay back and the cyolene embraced him. He sunk deeper into the chair, there was a mechanical noise as its fine adjusters moved to meet his body. He breathed out and in, encapsulated by the moon - and then another.

Lo hung closest in the heavens, a brilliant orange sphere, half in darkness and half in brilliant light, stars twinkling around its dizzying circumference. Europa was smaller but less gaudy. Its pinks were subdued and paradoxically it was more attractive. Although pink from a distance, Barnes knew it to be a world of howling winds and blue ice. Barnes flipped through the pages of the feasibility study. Perhaps a colony all the way out there was not so far fetched.

"Beautiful," breathed the voice of the girl in his ear. He fell more deeply into the cyolene, a warm sleepiness moving over his features and he spoke back to the girl. "It's my favorite time of night."

And then he switched off the small speaker that hung on a long stem by his ear and the girl's voice was cut off. Sometimes he wondered about that voice. Had it ever belonged to anyone?

The pod was warm and he dozed close to the window, the craters and dead seas of the planet, sweeping away in all directions from the sweep of glass. Sometimes the idea of venturing out there seemed abstractly appealing. It didn't look like it was -480 degrees. He swatted away an image as if it were a speck of alien dust; the day Corporal Lizard walked out there and tuned to powder. Poor chap's odd utterances had been rattling round the base camp's usually silent walkways for weeks beforehand.

Barnes realized he had slept fitfully. A bleak, flat light was slanting across the bare plains revealing the nakedness of the land. It was refracted from a distant sun. It was multiplication day. He would dutifully walk down to the clinic and help ensure his chromosomes were used to build the next generation. There would be a blast of high sounding flute music and the probe would come out of the wall, prick his finger and the cloning machine would do the rest.

He heard it was a much more painful and messy business in times gone by. Nobody cared to elaborate.

After his appointment with Docktor Anality, a buzzing and flashing machine that barked out instructions in metallic little soundbites, he received a neuromessage that informed him to go to the delivery bay. He'd almost forgotten about the shipment of belongings from his great uncle Arthur who had died a couple of years ago on Mars.

Barnes had little perception of Mars or desire to go there. All he knew it was close to the old place that perished and his uncle had a reputation as an eccentric who researched the old ways and spent a good deal of time in a reeducation program that wasn't entirely successful.

Even picking up the package could be deemed as subversive. In the delivery bay Barnes sighted another humanoid form behind a frieze of plastic swirls. Such proximity was unusual. He checked himself a couple of times and considered leaving before he engaged the dark little girl in conversation.

"I'm picking up a package from Joseph Arthur," he said through the barrier.

The girl giggled.

"You find that funny?"

"No. Just a quaint sort of name," she said.

"Can I have the package?"

A door opened and a ragged box moved down a conveyor belt.

Barnes took the package and moved off quickly to avoid suspicion.

When he opened it back in his pod, a series of strange paper bundles trapped between pieces of cardboard with words on them fell out.

The dust between the covers immediately aroused Barnes' suspicion.

The line drawings alarmed him even more. Men and women entwined in the most curious and unthinkable of ways. It was entitled "The Human Touch."

The cycolene creaked and he fell further into it. A cold, cruel and haunted light crept around Europa in its freezing swathe of space. The images of the people entwined caused a tiny pain deep within him, so small it was closer to an itch than a pain. There was a germ here of a memory and suddenly it was gone. He willed the lights to go out above him and he was in high lunar darkness again.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Bye Bye Blockbuster - BlackBerry and JC Penney Are Surely Next

I often wonder what happened to Steady Eddie whose tiny video store was the only show in town in a small market town in rural Norfolk where there weren't so many shows in town.

Eddie was a character and fearsome in his own way. To walk into the video store was like walking into a foreboding tomb in the mummy movies he was so fond of. You would fight your way through the thick blue fug of cigarette smoke to be confronted with Eddie with his lank black hair and equally black heavy rimmed glasses accompanied by a Welsh accent as thick as the smoke. He was like a caricature of Elvis, who was himself a caricature of Elvis in his last days. But Eddie was never a pretty Elvis.

Eddie's stare could terrify kids at 9 paces, 10 probably. And the omnipresent cigarette hanging from the corner of his mouth gave off an odor as unpleasant as his demeanor. Eddie would give lectures about the best videos in the world and tongue lashings accompanied with heavy fines for late returns. He was a VHS fascist of the highest order but you didn't mess with him for fear of being barred from the only show in town and having to hang out in the nearby graveyard all night. I once drove all the way back from work one lunchtime, a 30 mile round trip to avoid Eddie's wrath and his fine.

I don't know what ever happened to him. I guess Blockbuster cleared up, but this is only an assumption. Blockbuster had a better selection of videos and large overpriced bags of M&Ms But I'm sure it didn't have the same sort of selection of under the table videos that Eddie used to hand over in brown paper bags with a sparkle in his eye and a lecherous wink.

In Barking some years later, Blockbuster was the only show in town. We'd walk through the rain and find the store was the only bright light in a Godforsaken street where glue sniffers and gangs hung out in alleyways.

Blockbuster was a fun Saturday night. It injected an element of glamor that we lacked overlooking the gas holders and the rail tracks. It brought Californian beaches and palm lined boulevards into our living room. We may not have been living but at least we could pretend we were.

The terraced house in the East End is long left behind. The terracotta patio we spent so much money on to fool ourselves we were in Tuscany is cracked and withered, the white walls faded. The rose garden I planted in pastels was allowed to die by tenants who filled the yard with trash. The oasis was a mirage. The terms are interchangeable.

Now even Blockbuster has gone. Today Blockbuster announced it is closing its remaining 300 stores in the U.S. The ones in Britain have already shut down. Staff are encourage to apply to BlackBerry and JC Penney, brands that may not survive 2014.

It occurs to me those nervous trips into Eddie's cave were almost 20 years ago. Although I can't imagine he is still there, I have found an online listing for him that makes me wonder.

Most of Eddie's advice was suspect. No the Mask of Zorro was not so fantastic. But one thing sticks in my mind. When we asked for a recommendation he pulled out the Shawshank Redemption with Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman. We were hooked on the movie and I'd still say it is one of the best movies of recent years.

As for the Blockbuster story I should not feel sadness. Blockbuster put mom and pop shops like Eddie's place out of business. Now it has itself being killed off by Netflix and Red Box. But I can't help feeling sadness and nostalgia every time I see one of those closed down Blockbusters in a strip mall that time forgot.

Because for a while it basked in the sun and must have felt invincible. We can all remember that. Then it withered in the face of time and tide just like we will one day.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

It Seems I Just Became an Expat

Recently I joined a group called InterNations which is a community for expats ie. poor misplaced and misguided souls like me who are cast adrift in inhospitable foreign climes and forced to drink awful tea.

I had in the past avoided the expat tag. It made me think of stuck up English aristocratic types in Kenya who played too much tennis at the club, treated the locals like crap and murdered each others' wives. In other words I had watched White Mischief a couple of times too many.

Bruges (Cavalier JY)

But some of the problems I have had assimilating and relating to people who give my jokes odd looks, made me start to seek out some of the trappings of the old country. I think it was this more  than the lack of warm beer. The small reminders were not enough; the party down the English shop with cut outs of Wills and Kate on the day of their wedding didn't really do the trick but at least I was able to wade into a fantastic plate of sausage rolls with some old and befuddled and lost souls from Burnley.

On another occasion I sought out a nearby British shop to plunder some Jammie dodgers and real white bread. However, most of the clientele was Scottish and I sensed a small undertone of resentment to those south of the border. Don't get me wrong; the Jammie Dodgers were great.

I joined InterNations about six months ago but forgot I had joined almost as soon as I had forgotten my password. The invitations came and went but they were for nights out in DC. Then a group was set up in Norfolk. I resolved to go but still missed the first four meetings.

Then a meeting was organized at the German restaurant just 20 minutes from home. It was time to take some action and meet some people from the old world. It was time to be an expat in a non sneering way.

When I walked into the restaurant and saw a group of people on a table, I felt a sinking feeling. I think it was the dorky badges with our names and national flags on. Still something that struck me as soon as I arrived was the lack of awkwardness which is in stark contrast to meeting strangers who are American. There was no stilted conversation or small talk. Everybody was having a roaring good time in the total absence of mental mind games. There were no Brits. There was one American guy but no American women of the kind I usually run into who can easily spend two hours holding court on the virtues of the Shark cleaner against the Dyson as I find out whether or not it is possible to cut off my head with a plastic knife.

As I spoke with some ladies from Belgium, France and Sweden, I realized I had never met anyone from these countries in all the time I have been here. Everybody was drinking beer liberally without looking furtively around them for the beer police as Americans so often seem to do when confronted with the evil specter of alcohol.

I spoke to a German who had worked as a journalist in the old East Germany and a French Canadian. We spoke about Bruges, Cologne and Brussels. We spoke about drugs and old style man-woman athletes from the DDR and the way immigration has changed the old place so much. It hit me then how much of Europe I have left behind in a discarded memory pocket and how much I missed it.

The brown cafes of Amsterdam and the curious green light on the canals of Bruges suddenly seemed a long way away.

When my inflated beer and food bill arrived the organizer just smiled and said the night was on InterNations. All I had to do was spread the word and say something positive about it. Frankly that's not a hard thing to do.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Pros and Cons of Blogging by iPad and Other Stories

I can be resistant to new technology, which is why I am writing my first blog from an iPad this morning. Overall the experience is going well. To be fair I have only written two lines, though.

The big transition is proving to be the one from clunky, touchable keys to on screen keys. I have always had a problem with this, being the kind of guy who is prone to fumbling and dropping. Don't meet me for lunch unless you fancy spending the rest of the day as a spaghetti hologram. I have no idea what a spaghetti hologram is but it sounds like fun. I fear I digressed again. The rather groovy thing about the Apple iPad is the fact it's great at correcting misspellings as you write them, which makes up for some of that fumbling. It even knows how to correct the spelling of groovy, a word which I always imagined anchored in the days when we hung out in VW campers, daubed with peace symbols, smoked pot and engaged in free lurve to the backdrop of San Francisco
Bay.  And suddenly I found a downside of the spell check - lurve became purveyors,

Come to think of it, I never had the chance to do that unwashed free love thing. I was born in the Summer of Love (yeah look it up, no clues) although I doubt if my parents realized it. They were too busy collecting Green Shield stamps to get money off tins of baked beans. I doubt if the hippies were rad enough to do that, which is probably just as we'll because you don't want a baked bean heavy diet if you are packed into a VW camper.

This brings me back to the march of technology, something the countermovement was keen to stifle. I am thinking back to the proud moment a teacher wheeled in a gigantic silver device and shoved a plastic brick in it. The school had invested more than $12000 in a video player. We watched the pre-mating ritual of hippos through the horizontal lines of Betamax. It was a great moment. It was the future. It felt awful, though.

I remember the time too when David C- he of the truly awful halitosis - set me up on the Worldwide Web for the first time, frightening me with names like Yahoo and Alta Vista. "Click through the categories," he implored.

"Can I do it later," I replied. I just wanted him to go away because his breath was about to make me pass out.

Colleagues crowded around me expressing amazement at this bold new world I had entered.

"Is there a category for pornography?" asked Willy Woodencock. "I'm doing an article about the effect of pornography on society and would like to see what's out there on the Information Super Highway."

"I doubt if it has that kind of thing," I replied. "It's the Information Super Highway, not the Smut Highway."

So, in some ways I was ahead of the curve and in some ways behind. I didn't get my hands on a BlackBerry until It was obsolete. It was like showing up in the age of gunpowder, boasting of my smart new weapon - the club. I will so be upgrading to an iPhone once I've sorted out those pesky parking fines.

Overall I'm thinking the transition to iPad is going quite well - it even adds apostrophes which is no mean thing in today's apostrophe illiterate society. This may catch on. At this rate I'll have to do something about my Sony recorder that comes equipped with real cassettes and 2x record time and tends to alarm people every time I pull it out.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Wedding That Went Down a Bomb

I'm not one for recommending anybody makes spurious bomb threats, but it's hard not to feel some sympathy for would-be bridegroom Neil McArdle.

The Liverpudlian for some inexplicable reason had decided to get married to a woman described in reports as his fiancee.

There was one small hitch. On the morning of the ceremony McArdle remembered he had forgotten to fill in the paperwork required for the wedding.

Such dilemmas suggest a number of possible courses

1 Jump off the eighth floor of a building
2 Leave your clothes on the beach and disappear for 200 years
3 Make a bomb threat at the aforementioned non marrying venue.

McArdle chose the latter, reports Britain's Guardian newspaper. He could not face telling his fiancee because she had been talking the hind legs off a donkey about the wedding for the last six months to anyone crazy enough to listen.

As she slipped into her white dress, he slipped into a phone box - one of those quaint red things they still have here and there in England.

He called Liverpool register office and said: "This is not a hoax call. There's a bomb in St George's Hall and it will go off in 45 minutes."

When McArdle, his bride and the happy families arrived at the building in the center of Liverpool, nobody was in the mood to throw flowers, although the police had thrown a cordon around the place.

Later when the staff tried to go ahead with the "delayed" ceremony, it came to light that no booking for the wedding had been made. McArdle's would-be in-laws were already suspicious about him. And this was before the couple had tied the knot. The bride's sister was overheard telling McArdle in fine Liverpudlian grammar: "You probably done the bomb scare yourself."

It didn't take long for police to trace the call and the hapless wannabe groom was arrested, confessing to his "embarrassment and shame."

McArdle has just been sentenced to a year in jail. Apparently he's still with his fiancee, but the story did not allude to any future wedding plans.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Excerpt from Reportage - Chad's Party

There really are times in our lives when we know the only solution is to have a great, messy out of control party where really bad but exciting things happen. Like the ones we had 10/20 years ago...fill in the blanks.

There's not to much point for me as the house usually looks like the aftermath of a party, anyhow. Defeats the object, really. Still there are a million party triggers and they do tend to go off with an alarming regularity.

Those were the days - reporters get a bit excited about the surrender of Japan - National Archives and Records Administration

My second novel Reportage has proved to be slow going, but I have been reassured by the fact that when I get down to writing I can churn out large chucks of maybe 2,000 words at a time. I have no idea really where I am going. That makes it more fun but at times leads to mental road blocks I fear. Ones patrolled by big hairy border guards who yell: "You shall not pass." I usually do but it can take a few weeks.

I am still thankful to have completed my first novel Red Savannah. Indeed if I can find out the makers of that cheap brandy I may write to them to thank them. My search for an agent has so far been unsuccessful and lackluster. If I continue to drag my feet any longer, agents may be abolished and I can hit on the new thing. There was a nice lady in New York who looked terribly well-to-do in her twinset and pearls who led me on - in a literary way only do dismiss me, but at least it was a polite dismissal. Wannabe writers will clutch at any straw.

This is a small snippet from Reportage.

Chad Schmultz tried not to get into arguments with his ex-wife on most days. This was not one of those days.

Usually in his dealings with Amanda,  Schmultz aimed to maintain an air of professional indifference. It was not always easy. On this particular Wednesday he hadn’t eaten much and had been disaffected by his daughter’s general indifference and her constant wittering about the softball team.

He was late picking her up which meant he was late dropping her off with her mother. Later that day he was to recall the scene as if in slow motion. He watched his hands turn the steering into West Thomas Street. He was in control of his car. He was perfectly in control of his neat reversing action into a space. But as soon as Amanda came out of the house and stood with her arms folded he knew he would no longer be in control of the scene because the gesture infuriated him.

There was no precursor before her onslaught. “Where have you been?”

“I would have thought that was obvious. Usual place.”

“But not usual time Chad.”

“I’m a bit late. Granted.”

Gary’s coming round to take use to the movies. I haven’t even washed my hair.

“Oh you’ll be fine. He works in a fast food place. He’s used to grease.”

Chad found the constant Gary name dropping was a surefire recipe for him to revert to sarcasm.

“Fuck Chad. I suppose you think you are funny. You play with words at your stupid newspaper and use them against people.”

“At least I use them Amanda.” It was clearly another dig at the monosyllabic Gary.

“You think so much of yourself don’t you Chad? Gary may only work at a restaurant but he’s made management now and he earns more than you ever did at your dumb paper. Look at you. You bum around doing God-knows-what, pick up Jessica and hang out at your paper all night. The same useless thing every day. At least Gary’s going places.”

“To the wholesaler to pick up more cancer burgers I suspect?”

A vein was bulging in Amanda’s forehead. Chad noticed with some satisfaction that her hair did look greasy but couldn’t find a way of weaving the observation back into the conversation.

“Just go back to your sad life and leave me along,” snapped Amanda, shooing Jessica back into the house.

Chad caught a tiny sad wave and a sheepish expression from the girl as he drove away. A small feeling of triumph rose inside him but it had subsided by the time he had driven two blocks.

As he joined the interstate to make his way to the newspaper the sense of having made this drive too many times hit him. He resolved to do something different to prove he wasn’t half dead. He resolved to have a party.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Robbie Williams is "Gutted" After Being Told He's Too Old for Radio 1

Call me old and all that. OK just call me old - wheel out a contraption that old people use and leave me alone in a corner to dribble on myself.

Yes the rather sobering news is Robbie Williams has been deemed too ancient for Radio 1.

Feel by Robbie Williams

You may not realize the importance of this if you are Stateside but when we grew up Radio 1 was the epitome of cool youf when I was growing up. So were HMV record stores and they have all closed down now.

Radio I embraced Take That when they emerged in the early 1990s as the first of a generation of manufactured boy bands. Even then I felt a tad old, looking down on Take That as lightweight, although they were far more accomplished than what followed.

Robbie Williams, now 39, was the most high profile member of the band and made a name through his bad boy antics. He fell out with the band, went solo, packed on the pounds and appeared to be destined to disappear into obscurity when his star unexpectedly soared.

He's since sold more than 70 million records and is Britain's biggest selling contemporary solo artist.

Nevertheless, Robbie is said to be "gutted" that he's no longer being played on Radio 1. Bosses have decided he's getting on a bit and have shoved him in the Perry Como file with the carpet slippers.

Radio 1's breakfast DJ Nick Grimshaw has said Williams, 39, was "not relevant" to his target audience of 15-29 year olds.

"I liked Take That when I was little, but I'm not little anymore," he told Five news.

So there you go. Robbie has a rather less impressive profile Stateside. I recall having a conversation with a colleague about him once.

Back for Good - Take That

"I've never found him funny," she said.

Erm. And then she went on to mention Good Morning Vietnam and I realized she was talking about Robin Williams.

I haven't listened to Radio 1 for a very long time, owing to my presence in a different country. Needless to say I wouldn't recognize the station anymore.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Chilling on the Eastern Shore of Virginia

It had been a while since I last drove to the Eastern Shore of Virginia, but I had to make the trip to attend a Harvest Festival this week. I have had worse working days - grazing as much seafood as you can eat in exchange for getting a few people to sign up to a newsletter and taking a video, beats a usual day in the office.

And after the festival was over I got the chance to drive around a bit and check out the scenery.

The Eastern Shore is connected to Hampton Roads by the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel which is 20 miles long and is known as one of the seven engineering wonders of the modern world. By the bridge's own website anyhow. The others include the Channel Tunnel, the CN Tower in Toronto, the Hoover Dam and Dolly Parton's bra.

The Eastern Shore seems to have eschewed the cutesiness of much of the coastline around these parts. It's known for hardy fisher folk, half abandoned villages and artists who toil away in fly filled cottages battling mental illness. As such it has a rustic charm that has been lost in much of the Outer Banks. There are deserted white beaches and historic taverns off the beaten track that can feel like a find when you stumble on them.

Only Chincoteague with its famous wild ponies embraces some of the trappings of tourism. Here are some of the places I checked out.

We love the giant love chairs at Kiptopeke State Park
House set back off the highway, Cape Charles
With a tug in tow
 Fishing pier in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay
A strange place for a souvenir shop - store on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Alanis Morisette and When You Oughta Know It's About You

Have you ever got the uncomfortable impression someone was talking about you?

These days when we can make oblique references to people on social networks or blogs can be a surefire recipe for paranoia.

I recall a friend S. who I had been exchanging a few emails with in relation to a delicate situation she had found herself in with a none too important politician. My advice had mostly been tactful but I recall firing off a one line joke that was possibly sailing too close to the wind.

I received no reply which was uncharacteristic. Then I noticed a rant appearing on her Facebook page about outrageous advice from hypocritical people. Naturally I assumed she was not referring to me but I had this uncomfortable feeling it might indeed apply to me.

My suspicion gained some ground when I was unceremoniously defriended. Then six months later I was suddenly emailed out of the blue by S. who informed me I was forgiven. Which was kind of big of her.

It's bad enough to think you are being written about on Facebook. But it must be much worse when you are the antagonist in a popular song that's on every radio station.

There are few more vitriolic songs than Alanis Morisette's 1995 hit "You Oughta Know." There was much speculation at the time that it was written about her ex-boyfriend Dave Coulier.

Just this week Dave revealed he also has a bit of a hunch it was about him.

“There was a lot of familiar stuff,” he said. “But the one that got me was, ‘I hate to bug you in the middle of dinner.’”

“We had already broken up,” he said. “She called and I said, ‘Hey, you know, I’m right in the middle of dinner. Can I just call you right back?’ And so I remembered that line when I heard ‘You Oughta Know,’ and it was more like, ‘Uh-oh.’”

That would certainly be an uh-oh  moment particularly as the lyrics of the song are not particularly charitable to Dave and include the verse.

Did you forget about me Mr. Duplicity
I hate to bug you in the middle of dinner
It was a slap in the face how quickly I was replaced
Are you thinking of me when you f*** her?

Yeah sorry I don't have an adult content button on my blog. I've thought about it but most of the content is too juvenile for that.

Dave seemed to take it in good spirit saying his ex was really a good natured person who was not vindictive in the slightest. As Morisette's former nanny can testify - in a court of law, most likely.

Another famous song that has long been seen as a way to get back at an ex was You're So Vain by Seventies singer Carly Simon.

Quite a few of her ex-lovers thought the song was about them as well as fitting well into the lyrics - including  Mick Jagger, Kris Kristofferson, Cat Stevens and Warren Beatty. Indeed Beatty was said to be convinced the song was about him.

So it was something of an anticlimax when the singer revealed in 2010 the song wasn't about an ex at all but openly gay record producer David Geffen.

For those from a younger generation a record is ... never mind.