Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Gigi redux

I printed out about 20 missing  posters, which was about 20 too many, as it turned out.

"Sad," said my wife, as she saw Gig's forlorn features, staring out from the paper in back and white. For now all talk of being sent away to a farm, which may or may not have resembled Orwell's sinister Animal Farm, was gone.

So out we headed into the muggy May night, across the asphalt of the development, breathing in the slightly evocative smell of other people's barbecues.

We put four posters on the mailboxes, which was probably excessive. Zara said she hoped her friends would see them so as she could point out "that's my cat."

"Your ex-cat," a pessimistic voice inside me growled, convinced Gigi was roadkill, although, to be fair, he's so big we'd probably have heard the sirens as the guys with the cutting equipment tried to rescue a truck driver whose vehicle was lying on its side following the jarring impact.

There weren't many other places to put them and, although I was impressed with my creations, I had forgotten to print "missing" prominently on the top, so scrawled it on with a pen.

We concluded we could put the posters on the dumpster, although I ignored Zara's suggestion to stick them on the hole which people throw trash into. Instead we put a couple on a white fence, which mostly fails to conceal the hideousness of the whole communal dumpster experience.

We forgot about the cat for a while as we went to check out the delights of the retention pond in the twilight, but there were no turtles in sight. So we counted a few frogs as we ambled round the back of the condo, calling out Gigi's name with little hope of success.

Then two doors away from ours, we stopped. "There's Gigi," I said in a matter of fact way. He was lying in the middle of a lawn, meowing but making little effort to do anything overly active.

Taking a deep breath, I managed to lift him and drag him into the house. The whole episode was a bit of an anticlimax.

"Bugger.We need to take down those posters," I said. It would have been somewhat embarrassing to leave up missing posters for a cat that was lying on a lawn 20 foot away. Missing posters are normally for those desperate souls who have lost hope of ever seeing their beloved felines again.

So Gigi is back and all the worry, not to mention my blog post, which replaced a weighty tome on the nature of Memorial Day, all seem like overkill.

But Gigs has been rather strange since he returned and also covered in burrs and foliage. I'm convinced something sinister occurred, something ritualistic and sexual in nature that involved many raccoons, I fear.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Missing - 20 pound-ish, orange cat

Well that's bloody typical. The cat's gone missing and my wife's on the phone to me asking if I can make up some posters that we can put up round the development in case anyone's seen him. At least 20. I mean, there aren't even enough places to put 20.

Bloody typical, I say because my wife let him out, in the first place.

Now over the last x-years, Gigi has been a big old bone of contention, although you'd be hard put to find any bones as he packed on the pounds after being confined to the house, following the unfortunately incident when we let him out; he got into a staring match with the neighbor's dog and she retaliated by getting the chagrined dog to pee on our lawn in board daylight at tea time, nonetheless.

Then we had this ongoing dispute about him being declawed. My wife insisted this was necessary for the sake of the furniture, I insisted it was cruel, we dug trenches in the front room and lobbed verbal missiles for the best part of three months, with occasional re visitations of the argument.

I prevailed but the antique chairs from her grandmother got ripped to shreds.

Over the last few months my wife has been again raising the prospect of Gigs "going to live on a farm," a notion I have been lukewarm about, partly because I'm not sure how easy to it to simply "go and live on a farm." There counterpoint to this seems to be the consolation that we can get a bird that we could teach to swear.

(although I'd teach it to scream 'where's bloody Gigs?')

"Yeah, yeah," my daughter says, happy at the notion of a colorful bird replacing Gigs. I feel I am alone in fighting his corner,

Were it as easy as it sounds to go and live on a farm, I'd be tempted myself. I was more than tempted yesterday when the only way to control Jackson was to get him to sit on the pool table at the restaurant, a notion that gained me a month's quota of unpleasant looks, following some downright hostile ones when he started hurling the balls down onto the table, with an ear splitting crackle.

Unlike Jackson, Gigi has been somewhat neglected over recent years. He's certainly not underfed and I am constantly picked up on my litter box cleaning regime, which can slip without an occasional strategic boot up my backside.

But emotionally the poor big old boy is starved of love and only gets attention when he's shouted out to move off the stairs. And now he's out there in his fuzzy orange coat and it's 98 degrees and for all I know he's being tormented over his weight by raccoons.

In the spirit of making my wife feel better about the whole episode, I sent her a press release from the local police department about a spate of fox attacks, warning cats are particularly vulnerable to rabies and should not be outdoors during the current foxmeggedon.

I try not to mention rabies to our daughter as she gets rather uptight about the disease, in the same way as I did at her age when I saw a TV show about rabies in which a man was foaming at the month.

It left me in a state of fear for a week and was up there with the time my father told us the sun would burn out one day, the temperature of the earth would plummet and we'd all die. Of course, I started to believe that one day was that very week.

If Gigi does come back I wonder if he'll finally be appreciated. It's true he's overweight and has a somewhat annoying habit of biting people who stroke him but I know there are worse felines out there.

And I can't help feeling uneasy that there's been a systemic parenting failure somewhere along the line here.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Shakespeare in the workplace

Whenever I have time to come up for air these days, I occasionally have time to reflect. I probably spend at least 14 hours a day conversing with people through an electronic medium and maybe 20 minutes talking to people face to face.

I wonder if it makes me antisocial because I panic in everyday situations. I become a mumbling mess at drive throughs because the owner of the voice in the grill can never tell what I am saying so I routinely end up with the wrong order, but am too socially inept to tell them because that would involve face-to-face interaction.

Better still if I can take their email address and forward my complaint while watching them pick up my electronic gripe in the drive-through window.

My other concern is that social networking, texting and the like is killing the English language. When you have a character limit, as you do with Twitter, you don't have much space to expound.

Imagine Leo Tolstoy trying to write War and Peace in 20 characters.

With this sad loss of our linguistic heritage looming large, not to mention the fear that the inhabitants of some of the more remote Shetland islands are losing the Gaelic tongue, I'm thinking of a campaign to bring Shakespeare into the workplace and to play a part in everyday situations.

Take the old elevator gas passing gaffe. You let one off when you are alone on the elevator and it's Sod's Law the door will open and someone will march it, only to be felled in their tracks as if they have been hit by a 2 by 4.

You have been caught red handed. There can be no other culprit. But who ever apologizes on the spot? Instead we mutter, cough, and look around for an imaginary person who we can blame.

I suggest in future we take it on the chin in true Shakespearean fashion.

O, my offense is rank, it smells to heaven,

It hath the primal eldest curse upon't—
A brother's murder. Pray can I not,
Though inclination be as sharp as will.

It's amazing how Hamlet can prove pretty useful in everyday situations.

Or try this one from Macbeth when you are standing in the lunch line and you casually pick up your knife.

Is this a dagger which I see before me,

The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.
I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.
Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible
To feeling as to sight? or art thou but
A dagger of the mind, a false creation,
Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?
I see thee yet, in form as palpable
As this which now I draw.
Thou marshall'st me the way that I was going;
And such an instrument I was to use.
Mine eyes are made the fools o' the other senses,
Or else worth all the rest; I see thee still,
And on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of blood,
Which was not so before. There's no such thing:
It is the bloody business which informs
Thus to mine eyes.

By now a large line of sighing fellow employees is gathering and it's cue for the grouchy server to yell: "Get on with it you soft headed idiot. Your dinner's going cold and you are holding everyone up."

Still I can't help but feeling there's a place for soliloquies in the work place and we are missing out.

So rather than silently griping about the managing director or sending hate filled instant messages, is it not better to take the nobler course and to grab and cardboard box and stand on it outside Mr. P's office to address the whole office.

Friends, photocopiers, colleagues, lend me your ears;

I come to bury Mr. P, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Mr. P. The noble Brutus
Hath told you Mr. P was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
(even though it netted him a BMW and a prime parking spot)
And grievously hath Mr P answer'd it.

In short I don't think one can get enough Shakespeare in the work place, not that this post was helped by the typo in the title. Well it was written late at night. So log out of Facebook and dust off a copy of King Lear now.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

My sock hell - two years on

More than two years after I blogged about my matching socks hell, my torment isn’t getting much better.

Notwithstanding numerous donations of socks, the problem never seems to improve. Instead the new socks seem to fall into a dark hole for socks and I wonder if somewhere in the house there isn’t a missing vault for socks that go missing in action.

Today I fear the sock diaspora is spreading. Both Jackson and Zara went to school with unmatching socks too, although at least there was some continuity of color.

I expected a full frontal attack from the hatchet faced lady at the church playgroup but she surprised me with a pincer movement.

“You have brought his diapers?”

(cue question cum statement dilemma)

“What diapers? – It wasn’t on the form.”

By the form I meant her spiky “cuddlegram” and I immediately knew I’d made a mistake because I hadn’t read any of these for months.

“has been for the last two days," - her bulldog chewing a wasp expression turns into that of a meercat chomping on a thorn bush.

“OK, bye then.”

I went away wondering if the socks mismatch will be on tonight’s bitchslap that is the cuddlegram.

Here's my original post in 2009.

I have no sympathy for some of the figures in history who claim to have had dilemmas.

Did Julius Caesar agonize about crossing the Rubicon? Did Napoleon think should I, shouldn't I invade Russia and have to eat his horses? What about Robert the Bruce in his cold, abject cave when he saw a spider struggling to build a web and resolved to try, try again?

Tis all insignificant compared to the dilemma I have every morning when I attempt to find matching socks.

There are days when I've woken up earlier than the rooster for an early assignment or my red eye course on a Saturday. I've had enough time to slowly read War and Peace backwards, underlining all the names with "ski" in them.

Still, one way or another, I have come unstuck in the socks pile, lost my temper, hurled disparate apparel at the cat and ended up running out late wearing one red sock and one blue one.

My course colleagues didn't buy my excuse I was making a patriotic gesture.

My wife can't believe I own so many brown colored socks by the same manufacturer of such crazily different designs and periodically asks me if I was on LSD when I chose them at Wal-Mart.

Well, of course you have to be on LSD in Wal-Mart just to survive the experience.

To be fair I've never taken LSD: I was concerned by those drug talks at school when they warned you about 'flashbacks.' Admittedly if you got a flashback and you were again in Wal-Mart I'd call that a bonus.

In retrospect buying a job lot of the same socks would have made a lot more sense but mornings just wouldn't be mornings if everything matched.

Incidentally I apologize for not responsding to all the fantastic comments to my last post.  Blogger will no longer allow me to comment on my blog, which is somewhat sucky as it is was my blog when I last looked.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Infidelity and Domestic Help

My recent blog about men behaving badly sparked so many insightful comments that it's worth reflecting on them.

But, of course, I realized I'd omitted a lot of shagging scandals. We're not talking about dancing. That's another one of those things that got lost in translation half way across the Atlantic.

So when I started working on a newspaper in North Carolina and the editor assigned me to cover the activities of a "shag club" I found myself thinking 'maybe North Carolina isn't so bad afterall.' Until it turned out to be a few old people rotating around a village hall, gripping their partners so hard I thought they were having a stroke.

The main omission from my last blog was Tiger Woods. And despite Tiger's many infidelities with vacuous wannabees and porn stars, I fond myself more grossed out by the notion of Big Arnie groping up his domestic help and apparently even her 70-something year-old mother.

Maybe Arnie, Tiger, John Edwards and the former South Carolina governor should all go on a game show called "who's the most pathetic philanderer?' where members of the audience ask questions and vote off contestants.

Minus points for groping the frumpy old woman who turns down the kids' beds or cheating on a wife with cancer. Plus points for creative texting. That kind of thing.

But the Tiger episode has alarming ramifications for mankind in general because Tiger's form on the golf course plummeted after he was busted. It raises the following question. Did Tiger need a massive ego boost of illicit liaisons with a posse of brain dead floozies to make him feel immortal and to rule the fairways? And once he fell down to earth and his missis went for him with a golf club, did it shatter the self belief that made him the world's best golfer?

And what about the obliging women who are attracted by power and money?

Don't beat up too much on the men. It takes two, commented e.a.s. demers who wins my person of the week award. OK let's make that decade.

I'm not sure if Anna Gray would be quite so forgiving after her recent experience with a cad living in Britain. But at least he wasn't British. We all know Brits are impeccably behaved. Jeffrey Archer is surely an impostor etc.

Nor Jennifer Fabulous who suggests lesbianism may be the answer. As guys we are intrigued but a bit intimidated by this idea. Afterall, scientific advances mean there's not a biological need for men at all. The whole process could be so much more efficient if women were involved. Margaret Thatcher could be cloned on a massive scale and the rest would be history.

But really I have nothing sensible to add to this one, so I'll post by favorite K.D. Lang video.

Some rather pointed questions were raised by Lucy Corrander who seemed slightly skeptical about the whole lesbian improvement package option.

Daisy suggests famous types should be more careful about how they act. But I do wonder if they would have ever became famous if they were careful. Brian, the man down the street who plods to work every day and plods back and repairs cars on the side, is the careful type. He'd never cheat on his wife. But nor would he be likely to tell me he'd spent the day "pioneering cubism."

In contrast Pablo Picasso was fairly up on cubism. He also had a number of mistresses. I haven't done a scientific study on this but there seems to be something of a correlation here between intelligence and ability and faithlessness.

But how does this explain some of the woman the rich and famous take up with? The sad answer may be opportunism. As guys we can be lazy. Mildred Baena it seems was within easy reach of Arnie's "grabby hands" with a feather duster at his beck and call. John Edward's mistress Rielle Hunter apparently chased him with a video camera. Camilla apparently said something to the effect of "Our grandparents did it - how about it, Chuck" to the fresh faced, big eared Prince Charles at a polo match.

Now none of these women were finalists in their local beauty pageant, but they still got their man in one way or another. Are men just lazy or perhaps as Rek points out, powerful men can't cope with powerful woman who could compete with them. They'd rather be with someone called Mildred as a form of catharsis.

Sue points to a power imbalance that can lead to the woman being intimidated into complying. However, in the case of Mildred, it seems she was rather eager to be intimidated into complying. But was this because, and, like Marnie, I tread delicately for fear of being labelled shallow, but was this because Arnie's maid looked a bit like his great uncle Fritz who lived in a cave in Austria in the Middle Ages. Just saying.

Talking of caves it even appears that great hater of all things westernized, Osama bin Laden, had a few mistresses and had become a more sinister version of Hugh Hefner in his Burka Boy mansion. As if being killed by the Americans wasn't bad enough for the image of this architect of evil, after his death his depravities made the front page of the National Inquirer, which decided to give him the Mel Gibson treatment.

But we can psychoanalyse and take all of this too seriously. If you took the men Robyn manages to dig up from under stones in her hilarious blog too seriously half of the world's population would get a complex; or at least put in a request for a couple of hundred more brain cells.

And where does marriage fit into this? According to Emm, it's an outdated, useless institution.

Jayne is always so worth reading and her comment on this issue is pertinent. 

"Our species is not innately monogamous--to never stray takes an immense amount of discipline and determination. Man is hunter, gatherer, and predisposed to roaming."

Perhaps the modern lack of roaming opportunities has made us worse. In the past we could head over to the Crimea to lose a couple of legs or go to sea with Captain Cook. Today we are faced with carpet texture choices at Home Depot.

I'm not making excuses here for man's failings. Just saying. Affairs dominate movies but Damage as well as The End of the Affair, have always been the most poignant movies of this genre to me, and not just because no crazy jilted women come out of the bath with a knife at the end.

In Damage, Jeremy Irons is a government minister with a big house, a well to do if somewhat annoying wife and a glittering career. Of course he's cold and work obsessed. Then things go awry when his son gets engaged to Anna Barton.

Not only is Anna Barton more interested in the minister than his son but she's Juliette Binoche for goodness sake; she's French and alluring and mysterious and rather bad.

So on one hand Irons can sacrifice his wife, his son, his house, his career and his reputation - on the other he can sacrifice Anna.

It's no contest really because she's Juliette Binoche - for goodness sake.

Damage makes it rather clear that marriage is often safe and dull. The alternative is excitement and danger and ultimately catastrophe.

This still doesn't explain away the housekeeper, though. On a final note it's interesting that few guys commented on the shagging post, apart from Oilfield Trash. Does this speak to our latent tendency not to want to address the issue?

Or maybe I am reading too much into it. Now about that guest spot on the Dr. Drew show.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

It's been a bad week to be a guy

Let's face it dudes. This has been a very bad week to be a guy. So much so that I've spent most of it speaking in a squeaky voice, wearing florals and telling anyone who cares to listen my name is Mavis.

Because it's better to be called Mavis than to be outed as a member of the male sex.

It all started with Dominique Strauss-Kahn, an unremarkable looking middle aged guy who just happened to be in charge of the International Monetary Fund and was apparently in pole position for a run for the French presidency.

That was until he was accused of attempting to rape a maid in a New York hotel room.

This whole episode seems remarkable to me. If the allegations are true, it makes you wonder why Strauss-Kahn couldn't have found someone who would willingly dress as a hotel maid for the right price; afterall I assume he has access to the all the money in the world.

It seems remarkable that such a figure, allegedly lost self control to such a degree that he ended up throwing away a glittering career in a matter of seconds.

He'll have plenty of time to think about his actions as he sits in his dingy apartment counting his $250,000 annual separation allowance from the IMF.

Just days later another episode of a man behaving badly was revealed. Actor cum California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's wife's Maria Shriver announced she was leaving Big Arne. We knew Tipper Gore, style revelations would follow shortly and we were proved right.

Arnie, it appeared, had fathered a child with a member of the household staff. One report even went as far as to suggest he had unprotected sex, which I had almost figured from the child aspect to the saga.

When the Brit press led the way in identifying the housekeeper - it's clearly been domestic appreciation week - it became obvious the actor certainly hadn't been capitivated by her looks.

A colleague described it as the "Divine Brown factor" after the somewhat rough loking prostitute Hugh Grant was busted with. What is it about America that gets Europeans into such trouble?

"I mean he was dating Liz Hurley," My colleague told me in disbelief.

Cleary when we are talking about guys there's no rhyme or reason. We're just great big idiots whose brains are in our pants.

And men misbehaving is clearly widespead, particularly in the world of politics. My wife used to always go on about how she admired John Edwards, his family values and his apparent closeness to his wife etc....until the inevitable happened.

The Republican wannabees for the next presidential election include Newt Gingrich, a man who famously had a six year affair to someone he later married.

This is quite remarkeable - not so much that he should run for president - but that anyone would want to have an affair with Gingrich.

Last time round Rudy Giuliani was the Republican candidate with the extramarital affair in his portfolio. It can surely only be a matter of time before the South Carolina governor who visited Argentina via the Appalacian Trail announces his candidacy.

Democrats never have affairs, of course, if you discount JFK and Bill Clinton. But it's always strange how some politicians go under and others survive the scandal. While Clinton remains popular few people could say the same about John Edwards.

In Britain when the media revealed the Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown had an affair, it did little to harm to his career, perhaps because he didn't have much of a career, although the Sun headline Paddy Pantsdown has followed him for the rest of his life. Must be awkward when he walks into a pub for Sunday lunch with his wife and somebody shouts out "Paddy pantsdown" before ducking under the bar.

In short, it seems, as guys we are feckless and reckless and beyond redemption. And we'll even be distracted by women as plain icky as Monica Lewinsky.

Well she had nice hair, come to think of it. I'll get my coat.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

On big, yellow inflatable things

The backsides of American cities usually leave me cold. I have spent too many hours among the crumbling concrete acres of parking lots gazing at the linear roof of a box store to ever appreciate beauty again.

Or maybe when I do I'll go a little bit crazy and come over all American. I'll start screaming about how beautiful Buckingham Palace is when, we all know, it's an ugly oversized pile.

It only took me three pages of Christopher Hitchen's memoir to realize the guy is, in fact, a god, albeit a conceited and pompous one.

He describes how he looked over a woman's shapely shoulder to the "horrible wedding cake architecture of Sacre Coueur" and it made me think of my last visit to Paris when I kept telling myself this church was meant to be beautiful but it struck me as forced beauty.

Likewise Gaudi's unfinished Sagrada Família in Barcelona is magnificent and iconic but ultimately left me unsatisfied, probably because it is unfinished.

Although I was obviously not as unsatisfied as an American woman who started shouting "look, look" and pointing in the direction of the soaring ediface.

"It's a Polish bus," she screamed at her rather nonplussed husband.

In contrast to the Sacre Couer the greatest buildings of the world seem less self concious as if they have grown up effortlessly from the ground. The architects who built Florence's magnificent cathedral surely had the wings of angels and designed the heart of this city with little conscious effort.

I won't say America has no architectual legacies. The Chrysler Building in New York is one of my favorite structures.

But away from the big cities, art seems to have taken a hike and lost its tent en route.

So I drove through the endless suburbs taking little in, until suddenly something completely unexpected and audacious caught my eye, like this giant yellow inflatable gorilla by the side of the road advertising a gold shop.

I was so impressed by the size of it, I decided to take my kids to see it for a day out, although I fear it could give them nightmares.

Even so the free days out citcuit is starting to become a bit predictable, the lobsters at FarmFresh and the fish tank at the Pro Bass Shop. And sometimes a turtle makes an appearance in the retention pond near our development.

Time to book my tickets to England before the excitement round these parts gives me a heart attack.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Fountain of the Eternal Gut

I always found it ironic that the 16th Century Spanish explore Juan Ponce De Leon searched for the Fountain of Youth and found Florida.

I don't mean jarringly ironic like that annoying Alanis Morissette song my timewarp radio station always plays. Just quietly ironic.

I can almost imagine the explorer's confused, and by now rather worn, face as he toured round The Villages today in a golf cart watching all the geriatrics hobbling around in those distinctive kids of green geriatric golf pants.

I have been searching for this myself but am sad to report is I only found a drinking fountain and the water tasted so foul it probably took a couple of years off my life.

So maybe I should have been flattered today when an elderly woman at checkout in FarmFresh asked for my identification when I bought a bottle of Pinot Noir.

But in reality I felt annoyed. I felt like saying: "look dude. It was legal for me to drink when the Romans were putting the white lines down the Fosse Way, when Julius Caesar was saying 'I have a bit of a stabbing pain in my back.'

I had read somewhere that exercise makes you feel envigorated so we took out family membership at the YMCA. I quickly found it's easier to take our membership than to actually go, but we have been making a concerted effort over the last few weeks.

Usually work out rooms are depressing because the people in them don't look like they need to work out. I am pleased to report there are some decidely untoned people at this Y. There are people with bottoms wide enough to balance a pint of beer on each love handle, if you should so wish. I haven't had the courage to try this one yet.

There are also some people who appear to be even older than me, which is always a big plus.

The last time I joined the Y, 20 minutes on an exercise machine left me feeling all the symptoms that the notice on the side of the machine says you should stop exercising if you feel; dizzy, pained and short of breath.

My collapsing on a mat routine gained me some alarmed glances although I got the impression nobody would try to administer first aid should a cardiac have arrest set in.

Strangely enough I seem to be fitter a few years later and a few years older. The cranky old elliptical machine in the living room, may have helped me in this respect, even if it clanks and alarms the cat, who now looks like a furry baby elephant. Sadly I couldn't get him on the family membership.

After two weeks of exercising my arms feel a lot firmer but I can see absolutely no progress on my gut. People still ask me "what are you going to call it?" at the most inopportune of times.

After 20 minutes of controlled sweatiness, I went into the pool to hang out with the fam. in the hot tub. Now I have no complaints with the Y - it's a smart, new facility, a million light years away from the cloying gyms and freezing chlorine loaded pools that I grew up swimming in back at home.

But they're a bit puritanical. I don't think they'd take it too kindly if you headed to the hot tub with a large bottle of pinot grigot and a few glasses.

Now my joints hurt but I'm starting to feel it may have been a waste of time. Something to do with the heavy duty Italian meal I whipped up tonight that seems to have done few favors to that gut.

Maybe I need to do something more radical. Maybe I need to go to Kentucky and search for the fountain of youth. Knowing my luck I'd lose it at Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The secret of Royal wedded bliss

Here's the good news for any of you Royalists out there. Wills and Kate haven't yet split up. They celebrated two weeks today!

(sorry about the exclamation mark - I'm always leery about people who use them in copy).

I'm not quite sure what's the secret to wedded bliss in the Royal family but this picture may offer a subtle clue.

It's no wonder really that a commoner hasn't been allowed on the Buck House balcony since Winston Churchill and he had to do something remarkable to be allowed up there, winning a war perhaps..

By the way, I may have been distracted this week but I'm sure my last entry, albeit a rather quick one before heading to work, wasn't poor enough to merit no comments.

I'm sorry if your comment was wiped out. Blame Blogger, but say it quietly for fear this entry will vanish too.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

British schoolboy wears a skirt to school

How's this for a skirty protest?

A 12-year-old school boy from Cambridgeshire, England, was so unhappy about his school's policy of barring boys from wearing shorts in the summer, he showed up to school in a skirt.

Chris Whitehead claimed it was discriminatory that girls were allowed wear skirts during the hot weather and turned up to school wearing one to make his point..

It seemed Chris discovered a loophole in Impington Village College's uniform code, and decided to address 1,368 pupils at morning assembly while wearing a black skirt. As one does.

I don't recall my school allowing shorts in the hot weather, either. We just became more and more sweaty, which was fantastic for the development of science project grade acne on our faces.

But I would never have had the guts to show up to school wearing a skirt for fear of being branded a 'big girl's blouse.'

Clearly times have changed for the better.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Ghosts of rural North Carolina

I went to North Carolina again tonight to meet a man in the empty parking lot by a rural courthouse where I used to spend far too many wasted hours sitting through board of commissioners meetings.

We went into the old jail house that had been converted into the kind of museum that nobody ever visits. He told me about the Civil War for an article I'm researching.

He didn't seem to realize I'd interviewed him a few years earlier in the same place and insisted on giving me a tour of the museum that lasted about five minutes.

A feeling of melancholy came over me as I looked through the bars of the windows at the occasional isolated light twinkling  far away across the fields. It seemed so long since I had been here that the historian didn't remember me. And it felt so much longer since I had arrived here. The time since I had last been home was stretching out like the miles and miles of fields around me. For a second or two I felt I was gazing at the earth from afar, while lost in the wastes of the Sea of Tranquility on the face of the moon.

I was glad to get the interview over and to be driving home but rural Carolina, as opposed to the beach, has always made me feel strange and insignificant. The roads dissecting the flatness, the gaping depths of the swamps, the storm clouds gathering above the over ripe trees, the sinister humming of the wires and the trailer homes of the poor, conspired to unnerve me.

This was a world away from the manicured English countryside with its duck ponds, cricket and gastro pubs. It was the hinterland of a vast and still untamed continent.

And when you cover news in such an area you start to see things other people don't see. In your mind's eye you see the bodies that have long since been removed.

On the winding road north I noted the landmarks, the school whose construction I wrote about at tortuous length, now completed and looking like any other school, the curve where a truck wiped out a family. With the pink twilight falling over fields and swamps, this landscape was shuttered up, its few residents sequested away in their homes. I wondered how they could live there, year in year out, looking at the blurred world of fields and trees and telephone wires and not lose their ambitions, the aims or their reason for living.

Reaching a straight section of road, a strange feeling came upon me and the hot air from the blower, descended a few degrees. It came back to me now, the message on the scanner and the freezing rain of Christmas Day. I was wearing my Christmas fake leather jacket that neither kept out the cold nor the rain, the photographer her Christmas dress.

And we stood there in the highway behind a fire truck, a couple of police cars and an ambulance as the rain drove through us.

There was a mean roadside store and yellow tape round a trailer. We kept on walking until a police officer told us to stop. In front of the charred trailer a body lay under a tarp.

We beat a retreat from the rain and the law, back under the awnings where a ragged man dragged on a cigarette and told us the victim was his crippled cousin. His wife had recently died and he didn't want to spend Christmas alone. There was a spark as the story came together but it was hard to keep up our spirits at this godforsaken incident scene on Christmas Day, with the rain pricking us like needles and running in icy rivulets down our backs.

It struck me that so many hours and days a months separated that freezing day from this warm May evening and that this tiny and sad tragedy had been left behind like the asphalt on the road behind me. But then I spied the mean little store that the dead man had owned, that was now closed down, boarded up. And I was shocked to see the trailer behind it, its windows still gapping and black, the scorth marks still livid and black as if the fire took place yesterday.

In these parts of North Carolina much changes but much stays the same.

Yet it felt eerie to be in on the story and to have witnessed this obscure tragedy whereas most would drive by in blissful ignorance.

Friday, May 6, 2011

why I'm not going with the Flo from Progressive

Yesterday we were driving to Starbucks in the car before school.

Jackson was yabbing away to himself and Zara was singing: “live from Progressive, live from Progressive, call or click, call or click.”

I’d have slammed my foot on the brake if I thought it would have worked.

Isn’t there something suspect with a society in which the most recognizable face is the woman from the Progressive ad.; who seems to be taking over from the Geico lizard as the TV personality with the most airtime.

At least they are easier on the eye than someone else who has been swallowing up a lot of air time lately, Donald Trump.

While it’s true that America has elected some dubious presidents in its time, I have enough confidence in America not to elect someone with a dead fox on his head to the Oval Office, just as I have enough confidence to believe the nation would not elect Sarah Palin, who has the mental acumen of a dead fox.

For the benefit of anyone who has been living in a cave or a mansion near Pakistan’s military academy in the last five years, Flo. Is a nerdy and dangerously enthusiastic Progressive sales person, who was created by copywriter John Park and art director Steve Reepmeyer, according to Wikipedia.

She’s rather unlike most sales people we encounter who merely grunt and give the impression they want you to go away. Case in point – the woman at JC Penney last night when I showed up 15 minutes from closing time, who growled a lot and slammed around boxes before suggesting after my purchase that I take on online survey and rate her customer service skills 5 out of 5.

Sadly my sarcastic side usually deserts me at such times and I nod meekly instead of asking her if there’s a minus category.

Flo is really the actress Stephanie Courtney who isn’t exactly a household name, even though she’s a household face. Nor might she be in real life. It apparently takes an hour to create Flo’s retro hairstyle and another hour to slap on her makeup. Remembering waiting for my sister to put on her new face when I was a teenager to get into the bathroom, I think this represents good value.

The sad thing about all of this is that Flo now has 2.4 million followers on Facebook. In October 2009, the Boston Herald referred to Flo as "the commercial break's new sweetheart," and said that Courtney was "attaining TV ad icon status".

She's so recognizable there's apparently a Flo Halloween costume out there.
This either suggests

A – What's on TV is dire

B – There a lot of people who don’t have a life

C – both of the above.

How sad that a character from an insurance commercial has attained cult status. And, for the record, I preferred the Geico cavemen.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

on avatar sex and basketball sized breast enlargements

Oh my giddy aunt. I'm watching a show called Taboo on National Geographic which proves there is some originality and bravardo left on TV.

At present the show features a "very happy family man" from Florida called Kevin who is part of a virtual game called Real Life in which the guy is the avatar Stroker.

Shortly after taking the kids to the park and maybe before dinner, Kevin (or rather Stroker) will be on the computer having virtual sex with a female avatar controlled by some woman from Texas.

Oh and Stroker even has sex with his daughters in Real Life.

Now his wife may put up with this but call me Victorian and all that but I'm thinking Kevin's a very sick bunny.

Now the show has moved on to a woman called Shayla who has had so many cosmetic procedures that she's had ribs banged out to make her slimmer. And she's had so many breast procedures her breasts are now as big as basketballs.

This is perhaps easier to explain away than Kevin's issues. It's thought Shayla has BDD (Body Dysmorphic Disorder) which is a type of chronic mental illness in which you can't stop thinking about a flaw with your appearance, in Shayla's case her no longer so flat chest.

I didn't like that segment so much as it entailed gory operations.

Oh and how sick is this? A woman from Russia who want longer legs has checked into a hospital to have them broken and stretched.

"I think I will be far more confident after my legs are longer and I can get married," she said.

So that would be totally worth the pain, the risk of amputation and three months in bed for an extra inch for $26,000 then?

This wasn't at all entertaining. Now we're on to a lady boy from Thailand whose getting himself a new face. It's called facial feminization. Suddenly it strikes me that Taboo is featuring too many gory surgical procedures. This isn't cricket mate. What happened to the woman on the trailer who has a sexual obsession with her automobile. Or the grown man who likes to wear a diaper?

Or, for the matter, the lusty Welshman who likes to get on his welly boots and race up the hillside to give his sheep the willies?

Time for a spot of taboo of my own. There's a doughnut in the kitchen that has my name on it.

How did you spend your Wednesday night?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Kate Plus Hate and 8

Here's startling new evidence I am existing rather than living.

Tonight Kate Plus 8 showed up on TV and I didn't even have the energy to switch the channel. It doesn't help when you have lost the remote control and have to switch buttons on the stone aged TV. I normally hit the wrong button anyhow and retreat defeated with a crap show blaring out even louder. At least it's almost the weekend.

So Kate Plus 8. What the hell's that about anyhow?

Mildly annoying unremarkable peroxide blonde person takes her kids to the zoo in Australia. I'm waiting for something to happen, the loss of the odd limb or something in the jaws of a croc and nothing.

So the only remarkable thing about TV's equivalent of a steaming heap of wallaby poo is unremarkable peroxide woman, who may or may not have had a boob job, has more kids than some of us. Although there are certain nights after wine when I swear I have gained six more kids.

I actually work with a guy who has 13 kids. He's unremarkable but I find myself thinking he'd make better TV than Kate.

A reality show about a guy clipping his toe nails would probably make better reality TV than this. At least it's gritty. And to think I once wondered who or what is Justin Bieber? Compared to Kate the guy has talent. Sort of.

Eventually I managed to shift from the bed, alarmed in the knowledge that my YMCA membership kicks in this week. If it was Kate Winslet, Beckinsale, Middleton even or Cate Blachett, I might have avoided this embarassing fumbling back to the dark ages of manual TV. But there was no way I was putting up with another 10 seconds of Kate Goblin.

Reluctantly I was back on the news channels. I fear I'm already bored with the post mortem on Osama Bin Laden. Don't get me wrong. I don't wish many people dead but I make an exception with this evil stain on the face of humanity. But why do the networks have to go on about it, trying to find new angles on something with few new angles? At least until Donald Trump demands his death certificate.

And while we're on the subject of new angles I'm thinking Kate might want to think about reviving an old one and getting together with good for nothing ex Jon.

Because who wants to see Kate being nice to everyone as she trails round a zoo? The only thing that kept the show going before was her relentless bitch slapping of Jon.

Easter and the Coronavirus Pandemic

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