Monday, October 30, 2006

Joke on a Monday

I've decided that, partly due to my inability to post anything interesting on the site, partly due to the fact that I've been doing some proper writing, and partly because, well, I'm just a bit crap, I am going to introduce Joke On A Monday. I can think of it beforehand, write it quickly, and you will all laugh your t*ts off, because I am so funny. Well, that's the idea, anyway...

Queen Victoria was visiting a hospital in the East End, which had been set up by a Victorian philanthropist. Only back then they wouldn't have used the phrase "Victorian philanthropist", just like they wouldn't call Bob Geldof an "Elizabethan philanthropist". Partly because you don't refer to eras by the name of the monarch until they're dead, and partly because it would conjure up images of Sir Bob dancing madrigals, shagging royalty and wearing tights. All of which he might well do in private, but he's got enough money to sue, so he obviously has absolutely no connection with such behaviour.

Anyway, where were we? OK, Queen Vic (as she was known to her friends); hospital; and patients. The Queen was going around the wards, and stopped by the bed of one man to engage him in conversation.
"And what is wrong with you, my good man?"
"I have piles, Your Highness." The Queen looked embarrassed, but quickly recovered herself,
"What treatment are they giving you?"
"Every morning they put some ointment on a scrubbing brush, and they brush my piles hard for ten minutes." Queen Victoria looked unsettled, but quickly recovered her composure.
"And what is your dearest wish?"
"An end to poverty, and peace for the world" said the patient, just as he had been coached by the hospital authorities.

The Queen moved on to the next bed, and asked the same question.
"I have syphilis, Your Highness."
"And what treatment are they giving you?"
"Every morning they put some ointment on a scrubbing brush, and they brush me hard for 10 minutes." Victoria looked uncomfortable, but she soon recovered.
"An end to poverty, and peace for the world"

Finally, Victoria was shown to the bed of a third man. She asked what he was suffering from.
"I have severe gum disease, Your Highness," and The Queen looked relieved. Once again, she asked what the treatment was.
"Every morning they put some ointment on a scrubbing brush, and they brush me hard for 10 minutes.", and she tried not to look bored as she asked
"And what is your dearest wish?"
"To get that scrubbing brush first, instead of after the other two have used it."

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Strange news on Thursday

Now, it's maybe not as weird as this slot usually gets, but I was struck by this article in The Times. Now, it may not be particularly strange at first glance, but it mentions the awful fact that Reading Students' Union support this move! Now, some things have doubtless changed since I was a student, but as far as I'm aware, the SU is elected by students to represent students' interests. And there are annual elections.

Well, Reading students, these individuals seeking re-election think that having a bus outside the university dispensing free lager is a bad thing. Yep, that's right. Ditto for publicans trying to sell students (gasp!) cheap booze. I don't know about the current political climate in student unions, but in my day at Royal Holloway (London University),when there was less commercial wooing of students by the drinks companies, and you jolly well had to make do with crap lager like Fosters on special offer at 60p a pint, and you had to mix it with cider to make it remotely potent and/or pleasant, we'd have crawled over our chip papers in the middle of the road on our hands and knees for that sort of attention. And if any SU representative had suggested that free booze should be vetoed, they would have been tarred and feathered. Now, it may be that the SU representatives of Reading have been misrepresented, and actually fought valiantly against this killjoy measure, or they may have been forced to nod meekly at the zealous Taliban ideology of senior staff against their will. Or maybe they're just sad control freaks who don't understand the joy of getting wasted. In which case, Reading students, use your votes, sort them out!

Let's face it, trying to persuade students not to binge on alcohol is like persuading lemmings not to run over a cliff.

Er...actually, it's not. I might be upsetting a few people here, especially those of about my age, who remember watching a famous Disney wildlife film where said creatures ran over a cliff. Lemmings don't run over cliffs. This explanation from the well-respected Snopes site is pretty horrible for a lot of people in my age group. in fact, I think I need a drink to get over it (preferrably subsidised and from a bus). But if the sad individuals at Reading get their way, that means a nice cup of coacoa.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

I don't believe it!

This was going to be a post for Strange News on Thursday. However, as you may have noticed, I have been rather a tardy blogger of late. This is not because I have been sitting on my lazy arse watching Coronation Street-Fred's dead, I say, I say, Fred's dead-but because I've been working towards The Heather Vineham Night at Richmond Writers' Circle. This is our annual horror short story or poem competition. I now have a 2,200 word short story which just needs a final revision. But it means I have let down my extensive readership. Sorry, Trevor.

Anyway, I was struck by this story. Now, I'm not looking to poke fun at the person who got this score; it was the second round of the competition, so he did better than most of the contestants. It was just the choice of his specialist subject: The films of Jim Carrey.

Now, when I was growing up, I always wanted to win Mastermind. It meant that you were really intelligent. OK, you were normally male, wore an ill-fitting suit, and the people who would eventually create Mister Bean were watching to useful effect, but the specialist subjects were fiercely academic. Anglo-Saxon weaponry; the writings of John Knox; English stamps between 1840-1940. Now, I think that the range of subjects was a little narrow. But, for the love of God, the films of Jim Carrey as a specialist subject on Mastermind!!

I don't want you to get the impression that I'm a film snob. I don't spend my days seeking out subtitled Russian works about existential nihilism. Nor have I ever watched any celebrated examples of Iranian cinema. I enjoy a good, well-made Hollywood comedy. I love Planes, Trains and Automobiles-"they're not pillows"-and I like Jim Carrey. He was excellent in "The Mask", and his energy adds something to all of his films. But, specialist subject on Matermind??!

The contestant in question said that his mistake was "not to watch the films a second time". Now, I would suggest that Jim Carrey's films are, in many cases, not all that rewarding to watch a second time, on an intellectual level; on a three glasses of wine and wanting a giggle level, maybe. With a literary work, or an intellectually demanding film , yes, study is required. You can examine the social nuances of the work, and...oh...all sorts of stuff I remember from student days, which I would suggest is a bit difficult for most of these extremely funny films. The only exception I would make is The Truman Show.

This film does have something to say about reality television, celebrity, and the nature of what we perceive to be reality.

Subject on Mastermind...still not sure.

Monday, October 16, 2006

HP sauce shocker!

Some interesting news from The Telegraph today about HP sauce. For those of you reading this outside the UK, I should explain that HP sauce is a brown, tangy condiment with a spicy taste, used on things like chips, cold meat, and sausages. Mind you, if you're reading this outside the UK you're probably American, so when I say chips, you think I mean what we call crisps, when what we actually mean by chips are what you call French fries. And I'm not sure you understand the concept of the sausage, either, I think you call them hot dogs, even if they're not in a bread roll. It's used a bit like ketchup, and a bit like mustard.

Anyway, the sauce is a fixture of English life, so English that it has a picture of The Houses of Parliament on the label, and it's served in the canteen there. For US readers, this is the building where Tony Blair rubber stamps everything Bush tells him to.

Sorry, that was a cheap shot, I know several Americans and they're all nice, well-educated, charming, and not, for the most part, very keen on Bush.

Anyway, you can read the fascinating history of this yummy relish in this Wikipedia entry. The point is, some MPs are now demanding that the restaurants and canteens in The Houses of Parliament boycott the sauce, and there are even calls for HP to remove the famous picture from its label, as they are making all 125 workers at their English factory redundant and moving production to Holland.

Culinary tip: add a tablespoon to chilli, beef stew, or even a beef curry for a nice colour and enhanced flavour.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Strange news on Thursday

As regular readers of this blog might know, I grew up in Cornwall. When I was about 10 I was part of a children's choir, and we toured the church halls of our county singing songs. It says something about the entertainment on offer in early 80s Cornwall that people would bother to come out to a draughty church hall to hear a bunch of kids sing, but we're talking about a place which wouldn't allow The Life of Brian to be shown in any cinema in the county.

Anyway, some of the songs we sang were in Cornish. Cornish is a little known language, and the last proper native speaker died in 1777. At one point, in about 1880, I think, they were down to just six people who could speak it at all. Since then, a small band of people have kept it up as a hobby, if that isn't a slightly demeaning word; there are about 400 fluent Cornish speakers, and about 5000 who can speak it to some extent. I never had much interest in it, or progressed more than singing a few songs in the choir, but it was a good experience. For anybody interested, it's a bit like Welsh, and very like Breton, which is spoken in Brittany. It's also related to Irish and Scots Gaelic.

Anyway, I was surprised to see this story today about a band who perform Beatles hits translated into the language. Go for it, Skwardya!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

New blog on the block

There is a new blog in town. My friend, the novelist Joanna Stephen Ward, has launched Outback Writer. It promises to be a good read.

Not posted for a bit because I've been doing some proper writing. Must try harder!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Strange news on Thursday

You know what it's like. You've had a few drinks, the pub has closed, and you feel you need to do something interesting before you get a kebab. Why not go hug a panda? It's a shame the guy's memory is so hazy.