Friday, 25 November 2011

Our Marvellous Men in their Flying Machines

For the first time in a while I've been moved to write a blog that wasn't taking the piss out of the news and may not be packed full of funnies.

I did a gig for the RAF last night that, whilst not necessarily surprising in its rampant machismo, blinkered prejudice and debauched drunkenness, was also extremely depressing precisely because of these three elements.

Describing this gig requires a bit of background. I've done two RAF gigs before - one at Brize Norton, which is to all intents and purposes a military airport and at Cranwell, the most elite pilot training school in the country. These gigs can safely be said to have been at opposite ends of the spectrum - Brize Norton full of Johnny Bravo lookalikes shouting for me to get my cock out (more of which later), Cranwell brimming with supersmart young men and women who were experts in engineering, mathematics, combined with whipsharp reflexes, tremendous courage and a hint of 1940s dashing good looks. They also had an attention span markedly longer than the 7 seconds of Brize Norton and 0.14 seconds of Leeming. I enjoyed both of these gigs, relying, as they did on two completely different skill sets: Brize Norton quick wit and balls-out bravery, Cranwell crafted humour and writing with a bit of banter thrown in for good measure. Not only did I enjoy them, both of them can be said to have been pretty successful.

Last night, however, was a different and throughly depressing kettle of drunken testosterone. Let's get the obvious out of the way first: it was a bad gig and myself (and the other comics) did not do well. This would be the fate of an awful lot of acts going all the way up the ladder of comedy because of the near impossible mountain we were left to climb thanks to the environment and the 'organisation'.

When we arrived at seven o'clock the 200 audience members had been drinking since four in the afternoon. Not ideal, but to be expected in the brief. Frankly if you're intimidated by drunken members of the armed forces, don't take the gig. They were all dressed as varying degrees of Santa Claus. Hugley ideal for lashings of banter, but utterly immaterial since there were no chairs to help focus them and, in the classic example of how to kill comedy stone dead, we were sandwiched inbetween virtual horse-racing and a band. The final nail in the coffin of the night was an amplification system that was inaudible three rows back, which showed a worrying level of technical ability for a group of people who were meant to be experts at communucations and electronics. Not that anyone three rows back would want to listen to us as they had the bar to hammer away at, two FHM hotties to ogle or (and I'm not making this up) a hired midget dressed as an elf to entertain them. Safe to say, all the acts suffered varying degrees of difficulty and death.

Now this almost unplayable gig is not going to scar me as a performer. All comics have serious horror stories they like to share and, who knows, some material might appear out of nowhere from it. What depressed me utterly was the behaviour and attitude of people who, if we are to follow the prevailing wind of public opinion and our political leaders, should be unimpeachably respected and revered for being 'Our Boys' and defend these shores from untold threats. That may be so, and I'm not a naive hippy who thinks that if we just made a human chain around the circumference of the UK singing 'Kumbaya' out to sea we could stave off any attack. But it really disturbed me that the people responsible for my freedom, the people who fly aid out to the world's poor and needy and the people who attack our nation's enemies (and often, by mistake, the world's poor and needy) are people who think it's the height of hilarity to shout "get your cock out" at anyone who clambers onstage, who invade the stage when a female comic goes on and back her into a corner that concludes with one of them trying to make her finger their arsehole and generally to behave in a manner that would make the average Neanderthal pull a disapproving face and write a stern letter to the 'Ug Times'.

Those are just two examples of behaviour that also included mad, homoerotic howling, chest-thumping and chanting that wouldn't have looked out of place in the gorilla enclosure at London zoo. Add in the fact that these men were all dressed as Kris Kringle it looked like the Nuremberg rallies re-enacted in Lapland. What so angered and disturbed me about this is that these are the very men that are fetishised when the media (and the public and politicians) talk about "Our Boys", our unimpeachable overseas representatives. I do not want anything to do with this behaviour. I do not want to be represented by men like this. I'm frankly ashamed to be paddling in the same gene pool as them. Now I appreciate that to many this could be the insecure ramblings of an atrophied, over-intellectual gamma-male (and those last five words don't exactly help my case) who doesn't understand the visceral nature of male (and female) bonding in the military. It could be that it is essential for men and woman who live and work in such a high pressure, highly disciplined environment and face the very real prospect of death and loss of themselves and their cohorts to blow of steam and that that blowing off of steam could manifest itself in extreme ways. But I don't think the freedom they are fighting for should be the freedom to behave like a drunken knucklehead who finds amusement in gambling, boozing, objectifying women, belittling the disabled (although to be fair the midget was perfectly happy with his £300 pay packet) and revelling in decadent behaviour.

I'm not so stupid as to expect these people to relax with a nice sherry and cross-table discussion of Proust, but this sort of party lacked any shreds of dignity, decency or class. Now I appreciate that in Christma parties up and down our nation such behaviour will be reproduced in ever more excessive and tawdry manner, but the difference is that Jim from Accounts or Julie from HR are not held up as paragons of virtue, people who simply cannot be criticised no matter what, whereas the members of our armed forces are. I do respect their need to exist, I do respect the hardship of their work, I do even respect the fact that they may have to kill other human beings to maintain the safety of the UK in a dangerous world. I don't like it, but I'm not so stupid as to think we don't live in a violent world. I just worry that just because these people do a brave and difficult job, they are allowed to behave like world championship arseholes. And then be fingered.

There's a famous story told of Winston Churchill being told of two Horse Guards being found fornicating in the bushes of a London Park in mid-winter. The PM's brilliant reply to someone clearly trying to create a homophobic scandal: "Makes you proud to be British!"

That humour does, Churchill, for all his faults does, but these partying yahoos and drunken buffoons who are apparently beyond public reproach sadly do not.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Here Today, Gonorrhoea Tomorrow

UK doctors have advised the government that gonorrhoea has turned drug resistant. One NHS spokesman confirmed the problem:

"The British Isles has become such a lubed-up fleshpit in the past decade that Sexually Transmitted Diseases such as gonorrhoea have gained a constitution similar to that of Geoff Capes. Whilst this round the clock rutting that anyone under thirty-five is engaged in is helping us keep obesity figures in check, it also means that our nation's pubic pic'n'mix of viral fungae and sexual crustaceans are growing increasingly hardy. For your average gonorrhoea infection, the past ten years have been the equivalent of a high-performance workout, resulting in some of the fittests, strongest infections the British crotch has ever witnessed. If there were a Flea Circus Olympics in 2012, Britain would be sure to take home gold in any of the pubic skiing, vaginal cliff-diving or penile gymnastics disciplines."

Doctors are developing a variety of new treatments including napalam-based creams, a genetic therapy that attempts to negotiate with the STD before capturing it in a pubic Guantanamo Bay and a protein that resembles a microscopically shrunken Jordan that it is hoped will distract the infection away from the genetalia.

However, there are concerns that this news could just be the tip of the bellend for the United Kingdom. There are rumours that a new lice-crab hybrid is currently being bred in the gusset of some particularly radioactive slags from Warrington that, if spread throughout the nation, could sterilise thousands. On the plus side Heston Blumenthal has already concotted a variety of gourmet recipes involving the lice-crab and is readying them for his Waitrose Christmas range.

Whilst the dome-headed food Frankenstein has provided a ray of light on this otherwise horrifying story of the product of national lechery, doctors all over the country were readying themselves for a winter of working at the public's crotch with a blowtorch and a set of pliers.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Feeding the Bald Eagle

Australia Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd was detained at US Customs yesterday as he tried to smuggle a highly unstable jar of Vegemite into the country. Customs officials are wary of the effect such an item could have on the delicate balance of the American food chain. Vegemite is famous in its homeland for having a high vitamin B content and providing a variety of health benefits and it seems there was a concern that the insertion of what was described as "high grade, terrorist, freedom-hating health food" into the American diet could lead to a domino effect that would make hundreds of Americans slip out of obesity.

One official was quoted as saying "we have our international reputation as a nation full of spherical waste units to think about. When people think 'America', they think 'what vile, processed, fluorescent junk can we sell them to clog up their arteries with this week?' If they know we're eating this Commie kangaroo-effluvience, our reputations will be in tatters."

This contretemps at customs has followed a pattern started when the Republicans won back control of the House late in 2010. Legislation was quickly passed banning any vegetable that wasn't complimentary to fried chicken and many extreme Tea Party fanatics took part in the vanadalising of health food stores, in a horrendous night of violence towards the purveyors of lentils. Whilst many criticised the wanton violence of this 'Tofukristallnacht', both Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin gave speeches supporting the violent mobs, emphasising that Tea Parties function best on a diet of scones, muffins and cookies, not on 'government mind-control bulgur wheat and socialist chives.'

The one positive upshot of this nutritional conservatism is for the Scottish economy, which is hoping to cash in on America's desire to treat it's cholestrol levels like a Blue Peter charity donations accumulator. After working closely with scientists at the Large Hadron Collider in CERN, Scottish gastronomes have successfully deep-fried a quintuple cheeseburger without destroying the fabric of the universe. It is hoped that the Caledonian Burger Invasion, as it is being billed, will help kickstart the economy north of the border and create a Scottish Ecnomic Tiger, albeit one that wheezes and has serious gum disease.

With so much of the global economy being viewed as full of risk, many other nations are contemplating cashing in on what Noam Chomsky has coined 'The Nosebag Principle' - namely that if you can fit a nosebag onto the tottering, rotund beast that is the American public, you will surely be able to reap the reward in brown gold from the other end.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Hakana Matata

As the New Zealand rugy team crushed Japan 83-7, pundits rushed to defend the integrity of the Rugby World Cup as a meaningful sporting event, rather than a glorified parade of whey protein silos chasing a wayward leather egg, whilst innocent bystanders in opposition colours suffer hideous injuries.

After this group game the All-Blacks face the altogether more robust opposition of a series of styrofoam crates, some newborn gazelles in lycra shorts and England. After the dip in difficulty of that quarter-final tussle, the Kiwis are expected to face a real uphill battle in the semis against a team of Bulgarian haemophiliac girl guides. It is hoped that by the time the final comes round in six weeks, the RFU will have finished their genetic programme, aimed at splicing the genes of mountain gorillas, cage fighters, jugglers and Joey Barton, to provide the rampaging host nation with some meaningful opposition.

Some commentators have suggested that this is an over-reaction, since the Japanese made an estimated 42% improvement on their last performance of 144-3. Such was the magnitude of this score, that many of the Christchurch cricket loving fraternity mistook it to mean that Japan was now an adequate Test-playing nation and sent letters of congratulations to Tokyo. This was taken as mean-spirited goading by the Japanese ambassador and it took the release from a secure acquatic facility of seven koi carp arrested for alleged espionage in 1991 to avoid a diplomatic incident.

The seven points scored by Japan today should give their fans something to cheer. However on closer inspection it appears that the try was actually scored by a member of the New Zealand team, who had sneakily swapped strips at half time and was doing a very distasteful 'squinty eyes' face whilst crossing the try-line. There is a worry that this gesture, seen as genuinely sporting by the eventual victors, could spark off a whole new political crisis in the Pacific rim.

The newly generous philosophy taken by the All-Blacks out of respect for the paucity of their opponents has even found its way into their once threatening pre-match Haka. Rather than face off against the opposition in a violent ritual, the fifteen New Zealand players take time to have one-to-one spiritual healing sessions with the team they are about to play, helping them find their power animal, cleanse their chakras and hand-feeding them nourishing grain. Whilst to the outsider's eye this last action could be intepreted as the Kiwis turning their opponents into fois-gras pre-sporting demolition, their coach insists that it is the only way his starting XV can live with themselves before they embark on yet another massacre of the innocents.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Oil Help You.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron praised Libya's post-Gaddafi authorities but says the "hardest" part of the transition to a new era lies ahead.

Holding a bucket, a hosepipe and a set of bellows, Mr.Cameron was quoted as saying:

"What's going to be really tough is persuading the newly-formed Libyan government that what is really in their most vested interests is to sell as much oil us possible to myself and President Sarkozy...(Nicolas, stop dunking croissants in that well!)...in order to kickstart the Libyan economy."

"Although it would seem to be broad common sense for the Libyan people to harvest the greatest profit in order to facilitate the rehabilitation of their own country, what will really help is filling up the antiquated, batter-crusted deep fat friers of the Anglo-French economies with tasty, life-giving oil."

Cameron then went on to outline his plans for greater Euro-Libyan co-operation, whilst using strips of gooseflesh to soak up a tea cup of freshly refined North African Crude and giggling under his breath. Plans included the construction of a Mecca bingo hall in every major Libyan city, free copies of 'In The Night Garden' for all children willing to renounce Gaddaffi and a pristine HQ for the Tripoli Young Conservatives association.

"It is an honour to be here at the dawn of a new era of self-determination for Libya, as they look forward to a bright new future of independence and progress. Now do excuse me whilst I attach some strings to the wrists and ankles of every member of the National Transitional Council."

Monday, 1 August 2011

Preparations for Jokemas

So, today is the day before the day that I go to Edinburgh and prepare for the day before the day that I go on stage for the first time in what will be my seventh August journey northwards. Is that clear?

My flat currently looks like it would on any other day, for this is a day like any other day, apart from the fact that London has decided to do a game impression of Marakesh. My least favourite part of going up to Edinburgh is that it is the most extensive piece of packing I do outside of actually moving house. Since the likelihood of my clothes entering into a short-term relationship with a washing machine are relatively low in Edinburgh I always take virtually every piece of clothing I own. The upshot of this is that prior to leaving I lay out everything I own and end up in a pique of adolescent female frustration at the complete lack of anything to wear. Actually, I approach the deficiencies of my wardrobe from a more male perspective - I see my wardrobe as a football squad: when it's all bunched up in the wardrobe I find it difficult to assess, but laid out on the bed in front of me I can see exactly where I'm exposed:

8 pairs of boxers will not act as a solid defence for the month
2 jeans and 1 pinstripe trousers leave little room for creativity and flair
18+ t-shirts are good, but clearly some old favourites are going to have to be transfer listed come the end of the month
3 hoodies + 4 shirts are solid attacking choices, but unlikely to cause the audience much trouble

All in all, what I'm really in need of is some foreign investment. Not necessarily an Abrabovich style takeover of my wardrobe, but certainly a grassroots movement to change the face of my presentation (here's looking at you Mum and Dad.) It would be nice one year to lay out everything I need for the Fringe and see:

3 perfectly tailored suits
12 individually desgined T-Shirts
24 pairs of disposable boxer shorts
5 figure-hugging dresses for those days when you just have to go all Izzard
1 pair running shoes
1 pair sneakers
1 pair crocodile skin stilletoes with added rollerskate accessory
1 green leather trenchoat
1 cane
1 monocle
1 pocketwatch

Sadly that's not going to be my sartorial inventory until I decide to become Marquis Van der Velde - Gentleman Raconteur and Rogue, and I rather think Tim Fitzhigham has that niche sown up.

Anyway, I'm going to go and put some Malaysian food in my mouth, some new jokes in my head, a fire in my belly and that totally and utterly fail to sleep. It's the start of Jokemas in three days and I want to make sure I'm on Comedy Santa's nice list.


NB This blog post was brought to you by the number 42 and letter &.
NBNB (Can you do double NB's like PPS?) The Association for Mixed Metaphors would like to apologise for the gaping inconsistency in the way this blog has been communicated. It's as inconsistent as an English middle order batsman c.1991-2004. Etc...

Friday, 17 June 2011

Greece's Goose Cooked

The EU was in turmoil last week as a series of finance ministers attempted to turn Greece upside down and waggle a knife in its slot to try and force the last few Euros out of it. Sadly after hours of sporting attempts, all that could be found was 3000 drachmas and a guidebook for the Acropolis.

A meeting later today should finalise plans to shut Greece down and begin the process of liquidation. In a move that is causing the Mediterranean country to be declared 'the Woolworths of Europe', all its remaining assets - including a hummus pic'n'mix, an Usborne Book of Greek Philosophers and the Euro 2004 trophy - will be stripped and sold off to the highest bidder. Stavros Flatley will also be executed for crimes against humanity.

Yet even as this noble country is boarded up and Bulgaria is warned against fly-posting, there are rumours of a relaunch. Taking inspiration from their Turkish competitors who straddle the Bosphorus, this failing country is set to re-open in February 2012 under the new trading name of Geese. It will specialise in exporting fat, rather than oil and will boast a fearsome army, capable of breaking a mans arm with their beaks. The new People's Repubeak of Geese will attempt to follow Iceland's lead in electing a post-recession leadership with a stronger female core, under what is being dubbed the Mother Goose legisation. There will also be a revaluation of the currency according to the Golden Egg Standard and it is hoped that by the end of the decade this new bird-based form of political-economy will help restore Geese to its past glories.

The only area for concern is that neighbouring Hungary may finally give in to its cravings and declare war/lunch against Turkey and Geese. A British Foreign Office spokesman has already confirmed that should this occur, our armaments industry is ready and willing to provide seasoning.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Arise Sir Brucie!

Bruce Forsyth has finally been knighted after years of lobbying by pressure groups who clearly have nothing better to do. Whilst most collections of people bothering their MPs have been concerned with eradicating child poverty or improving care for the elderly, a concerted number of conceited maniacs have been determined to get this creaking walnut lech a nice day out at Buckingham Palace where he can meet another couple of doddery OAPs who are several apples short of a crumble.

Many commentators are seeing Forsyth's knighthood to be a complete accident, as the aging monarch has never liked 'The Generation Game' and found him to be an unnecessary and faintly embarrasing edition to Strictly Come Dancing, akin to watching a dog playing the tuba or a German attempt empathy, something she knows all too much about. Further weight to the case of a mistaken knighthood comes from the fact that other gongs included an MBE for Otis the Aarvark, a Damehood for (now) Lady Jeremy Clarkson and a CBE for some pot pourri she found in the Windsor Castle gift shop.

When asked about her appointments at a press conference before the Trooping of the Colour, her Highness was quoted as saying: "Where's my cake? It's my fucking birthday and all Phillip got me was some TENA Lady with the royal seal on it and £20 in gift voucher for M&S. Fetch me something really spongey filled raspberry jam you filthy turncoats or I'll throw a corgi at you!"

Later on during the ceremony the Queen was seen to be vomitting into her consort's bearskin hat and loudly declaring "Wee-wee time for Lizzie!" It's believed that she took her drinking to extreme measures after being disappointed with the Guard's adoption of the 4-3-3 formation with wingbacks. Aides escorted her away and left the duty of undressing her and putting her to bed to the new Duchess of Cambridge, who is already growing into her role as the newly commissioned Groom of the Stool.

After this the Guards were dismissed and told that anyone interupting the royal hangover on Sunday morning would face a firing squad.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

The Men Who Rule The World

This Thursday the most secret elite cabal of politicians, leaders and businessmen - the Bildeberg Group - will be meeting to discuss the future of the world.

There are only 150 invitees, hand-picked by Bildeberg, thought to include ex-US President Bill Clinton, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, the Sultan of Brunei and Simon Cowell. Since the meeting is so secret no one will know that they are invited and will only discover this when they awaken from their chloroformed daze, having been captured by Bildeberg's army of velvet ninjas. Guests will remain blindfolded for the entire meeting so as to make identifying any of their cohorts or their surroundings nigh on impossible. Throughout the evening they will communicate in the language of Bildebergian, an esoteric tongue which is specially desgined to change its grammatical structure every year. It is rumoured by linguists that this years formation will include 27 genders, ummlauts over several consonants and no word for 'haddock'. This has been seen in many quarters as a blow to the fishing industry.

The group will meet for one night only in a hollowed out replica mountain somewhere in Switzerland. In order to make the event difficult to trace the mountain is erected and dismantled in a different part of the Alps every year and is guarded by a team of crack mercenaries on armoured mountain goats. Dinner will be provided for the guests by the offspring of Heston Blumenthal and Michel Roux, who kindly contributed their semen to a human genetic engineering experiment. Once this unique wunder-cook has created the sevent course banquet, he has been genetically programmed to gently disintegrate into a delicious elderflower and jasmine mousse, that will be served as a palet cleanser between courses three and four.

After the meal, cigars will be handed out to everyone - with the exception of the giant lizard contingent who will gorge on mutant fly carcases and the entrails of their yearly victims - and the evening cabaret will begin, hosted as ever, by the Chuckle Brothers. After the formalities of this five-hour feast have been completed, the guests will get down to business. There are rarely more than four issues on the agenda at any one conference and the minutes are taken in invisible ink, so it is difficult to discern what has been decided. Rumoured to be top of the priorities this year are how the revolutions in the Arab word will effect sales of Justin Bieber's new record, the possiblity of fixing the global economic crisis by altering the value of '7' and outlawing decimal points and the concerning rumours that cat-bin lady is planning a military coup in Guinea-Bisseau.

Once these issues have been fully discussed, the members remove their clothes, apart from a ceremonial thong branded with Bildeberg's own coat of arms, and join each other in a ritualised body-popping competition. Clinton is rumoured to be reigning champion for the last three years, having as he does the ability to pop other people's bodies as well as his own. Once this strange last rite is completed, the delegated will be escorted to their room by Bildeberg's specially created army of clockwork butlers, where they will again be etherised.

They will awake back in their chambers of state in the morning, transported there by Bildeberg's minions, whlilst Bildeberg can happily slip his mask back on and creep away into the shadows for another year, safe in the knowledge that the major issues are under his control and he can go back to his day job of managing Real Madrid.

Bahrain Drain

The Formula 1 ruling body, the FIA, last night refused to countenance cancelling this years Bahrain grand prix unless the authorities there agreed to brutally murder over 50% of the population.

Max Mosely, Obergrupenfuhrer of the FIA, was quoted as saying: "The people of the Middle East have an innate love of fast objects speeding round and round in circles and occassionally exploding, and it would be a terrible shame to deprive them of this joy. Unless the government takes its level of wanton violence to the stage where ever other man and young boy is taken out of their family home and shot, we shall be staging this vitally important race as planned. The people of Arabia may be rebelling for their freedom, but Sebastian Vettel has 25 crucial points to win and Lewis Hamilton needs to get his fortnightly flounce out of his system. Anyway, I must go, it's time for my 3 o'clock appointment down in the stables with Fraulein Carbarretenstup."

Plans are already afoot for the 2012/13 racing calender to include races in Iran, North Korea and the ice moon of Hoth. It appears that the millionaire sociapaths in charge of the other reckless millionaires are unhappy with the level of safety that has been brought into the competition over the past few years. Since the chances of a really spectacular flameball-related death on the track are becoming increasingly smaller, the FIA are now hellbent on spreading chaos and disaster throughout the whole event to maximise the death toll to include engineers, race strategists and the majority of the crowd.

Whilst the FIA is toying with the idea of booby-trapped pit lanes for next year, they aim to road test more local ideas in Bahrain. Plans to inflame tensions there include banning all sponsors other than Danish bacon, having the pit lane girls dress up as the Prophet Mohammed and wrapping copies of the Koran around the car tyres. It is hoped that these measures, along with plans to take races to ever more war-torn and unstable parts of the globe will put the key element of danger back into F1 and it will begin to win back its global audience from the rutting mongrels promoted by the bribe-snaffling palanquins of FIFA.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

The Little Pop Theory

Scientists from the sleepy middle-England town of Buxton working on the origins of the universe are fast coming to the conclusion that the Big Bang theory is too bombastic and should be replaced with the Little Pop. In a move that suggests generations of egotistical scientists have being talking up this branch of physics too much, these findings add growing weight to the argument that the idea that this universe is unique to be erroneous.

The Big Bang Theory has always had a grandeur, pomp and circumstance about it that has suggested this to be the only universe in existence, but Little Pop theory instead asks us to imagine a nexus of being similar to a giant cereal bowl in which various universes snap, crackle and (the successful ones) pop into being. Whether or not this process has to be begun with some sort of celestial milk being poured into the bowl is unclear, but many working in Buxton are coming to the conclusion that many of Einstein's theories make even more sense if we consider the universe as being semi-skimmed. One maverick has suggested that this universe is not actually the result of an eruption of matter outside of time, but rather is the novelty toy that you pour into your cereal bowl by mistake, end up choking on and then suing Nestle for oesophigal damage.

This grand theory of creation has been backed up on a quantum level with the emergence of silly string-theory. This branch of physics is proving particularly popular amongst proponent of the world-view that life is essentially irrational. Scientists in the CERN facility have discovered that life is inherently absurd on a sub-atomic level, after firing tiny particles at each other at huge speeds and finding that the resulting residue was a randomly pulsating string which briefly formed into a tiny fascimile of Tommy Cooper.

These particles, Cooprons, are in turn orbited by pairs of positively and negatively charged specks of matter. The positively charged particles are known as Morcambles, Barkrite, Quooks, whilst the negatively charged particles are Wiselles, Corbetteze and Moorons (one particularly dissastrous experiment some Cannonium/Ballium was created, orbitting a Pasqualean core, but it soon evaporated into obsolesence and insignificance.) It is believed that if we could harness the potential comic energy contained within these, we would be able to provide the laughter track for BBC sitcoms well into the next century.

A spokesman for the CERN facility was quoted as saying: "We're really excited about this new breakthrough after months of people seeing us as just the world's most expensive metal bagel. We hope that these findings can really help to push our understanding of the universe forward, unlike those lying scum at Buxton, who will just publish any old shit."

A spokesman at Buxton was unavailable for comment as he was too busy bathing in Coco Pops and claiming to be the Lord of All Matter.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

School's Out(raged)

A school in Glasgow is revising its uniform code and encouraging parents to buy their children baggier clothes in order to deter paedophiles. Apparently the sight of an obese child in tight-fitting shorts is just too much for the perverts of Strathclyde and it is hoped that cocooning the children in disused parachutes will stifle their attractiveness.

Parents are already complaining that this is PC gone mad. One mother said, in-between gulps of Special Brew, "I bought my daughter, Bacardi, a gorgeous new set of suspenders and a Pepper Pig garter belt which she was dying to show-off to her new boyfriend and the lad in year 8 who she's having an affair with. Now the school are insisting she wears an old potato sack and ritually scars her face with a Brillo pad at breaktime. It's disgusting."

Other precautionary measures put in place include:

* making the school photograph entirely pixelated as it has been proven that children are 63% less attractive when their head is shaped like a rhombus.

* staging sports day at night without floodlights and blindfolding all parents who attend.

* French lessons are to be replaced with lessons in the Birmingham accent so that children can fend off advances by sounding horrendous.

Meanwhile in another school two seven year old boys have been reprimanded for playing at soldiers without inhabiting their characters with sufficient depth. The boys, who cannot be named for legal reasons, are currently being held at a military facility in Herfordshire awaiting court marshal. They were caught running around their playground pointing their fingers at each other and shouting " Bang! Bang! You're dead!" at full volume. When she caught sight of this their teacher, Miss Stablehunch, 43, was shocked:

"I asked them what they were doing and they said they were playing Tommies and Talibans, but they didn't appear to have made even a rudimentary attempt to depict the hardships of warfare in the Afghan theatre. I quizzed them as to why they hadn't sourced any weaponry and they said they wanted to keep the game as true to life as possible. I chided them for this satirical cheek and then quizzed them about the fact that they had spread what looked like mayonaisse on the floor. Their response was that they had set their game in the Helman's Province of Afghanistan. Investigating even further I found that they had fashioned their own Improvised Explosives Device but were attempting to detonate it with a Nokia 9300, when any idiot knows that model doesn't have that function. Disgusted by the bad example they were giving I quickly sent them to the headmaster who notified the MoD. Later that day they were taken away in an unmarked car."

This bring to an end of a difficult week for the school. On Monday the PE teacher had been found giving bribes to the local football academy to make sure that the under-5s Kick-A-Boo football tournament was held on the playing fields. He has since being relieved of his duties and replaced by someone who looks exactly the same as him and will behave in precisely the same way.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Oh That's Another Gorgeous Bribe

The FIFA executive committee has been thrown into turmoil since Mohammed bin Hammam was accused of offering other delegates a go on his shiny new tricycle in return for World Cup votes.

In a letter leaked by Jack Warner, head of CONCACAF and self-proclaimed healer of lepers, it is alleged that bin Hammam said:

"Look at it, with it's gorgeous pedals inlaid with precious amber, alpaca-hide saddle and Thomas the Tank engine bell.  I'm just going to leave it here by the FIFA canteen and if any delegates should want a little ride, that's fine by me.  Oh, and apparently Qatar is lovely in January so I've heard."

Warner also alleges that he saw bin Hammam offering His Dairylea Dunkers to various African board members, though it is unclear whether this is being seen as bribery or just a lack of catering facilities on FIFA's part.

In a new twist, Sepp Blatter has said future World Cup bidding processes will be much more transparent, as he will simply display the details of his Swiss bank account on a video screen, state the price of his bribe and the first country to deposit it in his bank account will become hosts.  

2022 hosts Qatar are already favourites to win the 2026 bid.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Hail to the Chief

Barack Obama's visit to Britain has taken a sinister turn as environmental groups are gathering together evidence that suggests the CIA triggered the latest eruption of an Icelandic volcano in order to provide suitable cover for Air Force One against potential threats of land-to-air missiles.

The CIA claims that it had intelligence suggesting that some Irish dissidents had decided to try and move ahead of Al-Qaeda in the World Terrorism League by taking out their top target whilst he was over Irish soil. Whilst not strictly a contravention of the rules as laid down by the Competitive Association of Terrorist Sports (CATS) this is seen by many as the equivalent of stealing the Park Lane card from behind the Banker's back when playing monopoly. CIA sources believes that the Really Real IRA had managed to fashion a rather dangerous missile launcher out of disused hurling equipment and some decommissioned hunting crossbows and was intending to launch their attack as the Obama's plane took off for England. However the eruption of the volcano necessitated a take-off twelve hours earlier than planned and the terrorists had only just checked into their hotel and were inspecting their training facilities as the President left.

Meanwhile over in England, the English Defence League and Muslims Against Crusaders decided to down placards and join forces for one day to show their unified displeasure at Mr.Obama's visit, on the grounds that he was a better dancer than them and that he made up his middle name respectively. The Daily Mail and Express continued to fly the flag of Donald Trump's birther cause, both carrying articles that Obama was not born of woman, and was instead grown in a special Democrat laboratory in Chicago, sometime in the early nineties. Both published what they claimed to be the recipe for growing a fresh Obama. In response the White House has released intimate pictures of Obama's real life parents buying a pram in 1963.

Both the Obamas have been looking forward to remaking their acquaintance with the Windsors, who they were charmed by on their last visit to this country. Prince Phillip is also looking forward to it with relish, as he appears to be under the current apprehension that he is a memeber of the 1957 West Indies cricket team and so any race hate words that leave his mouth will be interpreted as being jovial camaraderie, rather than the usual terrifying fistballs of embarrasment. Meanwhile David Cameron has been doing his very best to convince the nation that really, some of his best friends are black. He joined forces with Mr.Obama for a quick game of basketball at a local secondary academy and proved himself quite adept at blocking any creative moves from the pupils they took on. The undoubted highlight was a slam-dunk by Mr.Cameron, although on closer inspection this was done with the aid of sitting on Nick Clegg's shoulders. Clegg was later seen sporting a flowery pinny and spraying deodouriser into Mr.Obamas sneakers.

The visit is expected to come to a climax tomorrow as Mr.Cameron unravels the traditional Sir Anthony Eden begging mat and gets down on all fours to individually fellate each of the President's toes in a bid to make sure the Americans don't desert Britain in the midst of the current financial crisis. Obama is likely to take this with the traditional good grace, before boarding Air Force One, muttering "well, Cameron certainly puts the special in that relationship" and getting back in his giant test tube full of restorative organic matter.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Going For Broke

The credit crunch is coming to influence every single sphere of our lives. Utility bills are up, taxes are rising to cover national debts and even the humble 99 flake will now requires a down payment of 75p upon order, just in case you become insolvent in the time it takes to make and flake it.

But the current inflation is hitting some people in the place it hurts most: board gamers. It’s not just a simple matter of having to play Connect 9 in order to achieve what was a Connect 4 in 2007, nor that the Game of Life now has squares marked “Wonga.com revokes your loan – you have three minutes to vacate your premises before the heavies come round.” Inflation has damaged some of our most beloved board games irreparably.

Scrabble has become virtually unplayable since all the vowels are now worth the same as a letter ‘K’, whilst ‘J’s, ‘X’s, ‘Q’s and ‘Z’s have all been commandeered for Bankers-Only versions of the game. There is now an illicit black market in these premium letters, with some maverick dealers offering a ‘!’ for twenty points if anyone is daring enough to use a sub-Saharan click in a championship match. Monopoly has been similarly ravaged by the economic instability of the day. Old Kent Road is now so dilapidated that once you have four houses on it, you don’t buy a hotel, you are just the owner of a dangerous council estate. Meanwhile any hotel on Pentonville Road is actually rebranded as a brothel, Free Parking isn’t any more and is patrolled by ruthless Nigerian traffic wardens and anything built on Mayfair or Park Lane is immediately populated by a homeless man slumming it in style. The pieces have also been replaced, so that instead of a top hat, a Scottie dog and an iron there’s now a beanie hat, a pit bull and a syringe.

But perhaps the game that has been hit hardest by these turbulent times is Risk. Reflecting as it does the international nature of the financial meltdown, this once much loved parlour game has fallen into disrepair as players roll the dice to see if they have enough money to move their armies beyond their borders, only to find them ill-equipped, demotivated and suffering from battle fatigue. Ultimately it just becomes a bitter war of attrition to stop your own pieces revolting against you and plunging your already pitiful empire into civil war. Roll anything less than a three and you’re Ceausescued, whilst anything between a four and a nine means that your power relies solely on intimidation by your secret police. Your only hope is to keep rolling double figures and gently spread your tendrils of doom into surrounding territories until you finally grind out a miserable North Korea-style one-party state over the entire face of the earth. If you’re losing the only real tactic is to hope for a natural disaster (luckily, this being a board game, tectonic activity is fairly easy to simulate by just picking it up, as is attack by a radioactive monster if you own a pet.)

Right, I’m now off to play Cluedo to see if it’s possible to murder a rural vicar armed with nothing more than a giro book and some broken NHS spectacles.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Mormon Basketball

An American basketball player has been banned from his university team for having pre-marital sex, because this contravenes the strict Mormon 'honour code' of his university. All students have to agree to refrain from fornication, swearing, alcohol and drugs, including coffee and tea. Any breaking of this code can lead them to be barred from competing in university teams and participating in any other sphere of university life.

Whilst this may seem an incredibly harsh example of religious belief gone mad I actually think it's an inspired idea and should be replicated over here. I suspect if the English Premier League adopted Sharia law it would stamp out so many of the disciplinary problems that currently blight it. The next time John Terry is booked for dissent the opposition defence can stone him to death, if Wayne Rooney decides to lead with the elbow when going for a header an FA disciplinary committee will sever the offending limb and Carlos Tevez has to wear a burkha. At all times.

Obviously there is a great risk in imposing this extreme version of Islam on the Premier League. An astute manager like Sir Alex Ferguson could radicalise his players into becoming footballing jihadis and motivate them with the promise of 72 virgins - only this time they won'y be photographed by the Daily Star afterwards. And any time a team set up a defensive wall against Newcastle there would be the latent threat of suicide bombing from Joey Barton.

Perhaps a better answer would be to encourage ascetic Buddhism for these young millionaires. One can imagine the cerebral Arsene Wenger encouraging his charges to try and commune with the infinite as they reach for footballing perfection and attempt to score the goal that will help them achieve transcendence from the mundanity of everyday league football. Mere trophies are not what drives Arsene, but a genuine desire to connect with the Brahman. One feels that he is searching for that one glorious 154-pass goal that will result in his entire team exiting their bodily forms and being absorbed into the ever-living ether. Apart from Nicholas Bendtner, who is as capable of transcendence as a starfish is of gaining a degree in economics.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Fishy Regime Change

One of my friends tried to plant a seed of discomfort in my mind last night by suggesting that the current uprising in the Arab World could be this generation's shooting of the Archduke or appeasing of Hitler.

His worry is that amid the jubilation of removing hated dictators, the countries will lurch even further towards radicalised Islamism and intensified hatred of the West, not least because of the West's sponsorship of some of the more unpleasant dictators in order to serve their own strategic needs. With more extreme leaders in charge they may form a unified bloc against Israel (remembering, of course, that Mubarak was a key ally of the Jewish state) and exert pressure on it and, by proxy ourselves, America and the rest of Europe. As oil prices sky-rocket and tension levels reach breaking point, it will only take one lucky punt by an Iranian missile or a piece of over-confidence by the Israelis for bedlam to be unleashed in a mushroom cloud.

So the apocalyptic thinking goes. But then we both took a sunnier view, that perhaps this Arab Spring could turn out to be the start of a joyous domino effect across the region. That maybe over the next few years dictators will be toppled across the whole Middle East, into Central Asia and all the Stans and finally, miraculously, up to the Far East. North Koreans will celebrate the birth of liberal democracy by growing their own David Dimbleby in a lab and you will finally be able to read the BBC website in China without fear of having lit matches stuck under your eyelids.

But I hope the sweep won't finish there. There are other terror regimes and brutal monarchies that urgently need to be swept aside. Once the wave of democracy surges east I hope that it keeps going past China and into the Pacific to remove that most hated of royals, King Neptune of the Deeps. For centuries he has presided over a rule marked by vanity, overuse of power and a lack of basic rights for krill. The large piscine majority has been brutally suppressed for years by the mammal-shark alliance who deplore the diversity of life they display. Although there were many dolphin and shark led genocides, these vicious creatures soon learned that even such heavy-handed behaviour couldn't make a dint in the numbers of fish, not even with the help of the similarly piscacidal (to use the correct term) humans and their taste for fish flesh. The most heinous act of these violent henchmen of Neptune has been the enforcing of the law that insists squids must hide themselves with ink at all times, so as not to display their suggestive form to the wider ocean. Some more extreme factions even wanted to extend this ruling to all cephalopods, but after the Oysterbank threatened to wreck the Pearl Standard in protest, there was a back down.

However, emboldened by the rumblings of discontent on land, fish are beginning to rise up against this heinous state of affairs. Communicating via sonar and Plaicebook, whole shoals of fish have been engaging in civil disobedience against Neptune. With the recent shift of power seeing barracudas and giant lobsters join in this grass roots (ok, seaweed stem) revolution, more and more fish have become confident of change. A series of suicide bloaters attacking Neptune's palace in the past few weeks have scared enough of his followers away that he is currently protected by his own elite SAS (Seriously Angry Sharks) and there are reports of former Neptune henchmen handing themselves in to Seaworlds the all over the American Western Seaboard.

One hopes it will only be a matter of time before we see a Republic of Fish declared and Neptune's body appearing in some terrified trawlerman's net. Once that happens the world can turn its eyes onto Lapland and the vile Claus gangster family and its naughty and nice protection racket. Vive la Revolution!

Friday, 25 February 2011

Double Summer Time

A report commissioned by David Cameron has come out in favour of Britain adopting Double Summer Time, meaning that we'll move our clocks forward by two hours in the summer to come into sync with the Continent. It will lengthen afternoons, lower accidents and gently boost the deckchair industry. But what I'm most charmed about is that the name - Double Summertime - sounds like the most magical place imaginable.

Somewhere east of Marioland and west of Ambrosia, it will contain the near endless joy of sticky wooden tables outside pubs, long shadows in the park and the gentle fuzz of sunstroke tempered by cider. A place where everybody looks louche and happy, the sun becomes a blazing lollipop at midday and clouds morph into the shape of ice cream whips, raining down hundreds and thousands upon cheering gingerbread citizens. Double Summer Time will shine with the glow of a million childhood afternoons spent playing in a paddling pool.

Now before I go overdrawn in my whimsy account, I fear that a bit of reflection is necessary. This blessed window of idyllic opportunity isn't, sadly, being created so that Britain can live a more continental lifestyle of alfresco dining, but for productivity. Woe betide that we the British people take this extra hour gifted to us by our benevolent Coalition overlords and waste it on anything as fleeting as fun and relaxation. No, we must use this extra hour of summertime daylight to squeeze out those extra precious percentiles of G, D and P to get this country out of its sorry mess. This isn't a free period children, it is lunchtime detention on the warmest day of the year. You think you're getting iced tea and Beach Boys, but it is actually going to be sticky tar and Magic FM. In roadworks. With the air conditioning broken.

The more I think about it, the more the name seems less enticing, less full of childlike wonder. It's almost Orwellian - we may be in austere times, inflation may be rising and jobs decreasing, but don't worry, this summertime's going to be twice as good - it must be, the clue is in the name. We should get incredibly worried if Cameron tries to tempt us with Half Winter, Triple Spring and Pi Christmas (the number keeps going on forever and so will the holiday. Terrifying.)

Who knows, in a few years time he might move on from the seasons to the months: Smilevember, Daveuary and, that most totalitarian of months, March. Hours of the day will be given different personalities too: ten to freight, quarter to war and half-past tax, not for getting the all important social inclusion five minutes of twenty-five past fun. By the time Uncle Dave has bamboozled the nation with his mastery of our clocks he will have become some sort of wizened Tory Father Time, manoeuvring the fourscore and ten of every citizen until it matches a carefully calibrated flag chart designed by George Osborne. Or as he’ll be known by then - as Cameron’s temporal sidekick – Minutes.

We thought that the austerity coalition was going to destroy our lives by removing benefits and public sector jobs. It’s far worse – they want the very seconds of our lives.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Cricket, eh?

With the Ashes safely in the bag, the England cricket team have reverted to their true role of providing amusement in the most unlikely of places, this time by sneaking a victory against those giant redwood's of the game, Canada.

It seems as though every few years an unexpected new nation appears on the international cricketing roster, each more unlikely than the last. When I was a young boy, the sight of the Irish or Scottish rocking up to the crease, looking as though they had got lost on the way to hurling practice, was enough to make me do a double take, but now they are proudly followed by the Dutch, the Afghans and the Namibians. At least the last two here can claim the excuse of having great cricketing nations as there neighbours, but the Dutch's inclusion in cricket looks to have been based solely on the fact that their accent has been perfectly designed to say the word 'googly'.

So now we can add the friendly Canadians to this merry band of willow-thwacking minnows. In many ways, it is a more charming list than that of footballing small fry (as appealing as Lichtenstein against Andorra sounds, the reality is just a bunch of unemployed skiing instructors kicking lumps out of each other) and there must be a genuine love of this bizarre game to encourage them to take it up, rather than just a desire to chase after Wayne Rooney's shadow and then have an asthma attack. But what is so beguiling about our friends from across the Atlantic joining in is just that - they're from 5000 miles to the west. It's confusing enough having the Argies wanting to play a bit of rugby, but now there's a desire for a Mountie XI.

Obviously, cricket was the sport of the Empire, and was embraced by both Britain's jewel and its mass prison, as well as its diamond quarry. All of these places took up the game with one aim in mind: beat the bloody Poms. But there has never been particularly bad blood between us and the Canadians and they already have the highest standard of living in the world, so why the desire to beat us? The cricket pitch is a place renowned for top class, acerbic banter and I can't imagine these bland, uber-polite people will get the hang of sledging either - "Hey Strauss, you're wife's lost weight! Good job, eh!", "Pietersen, have you been working out, eh?" "Beautifully ironed creases in your whites Swanny. Eh."

To be honest, the match I'd love to see would be Canada vs. Holland. The most polite team in the world against the most laid back. It would just be under arm full tosses from the Canadians which the Dutch were too chilled out to bother aiming at. Over in ten balls. Almost the perfect innings to some cricket-haters.

But who's going to be next? Cricket and rugby have always been fairly aligned in the nations that take part, so soon we might be blessed with the sight of some tubby Samoans wobbling up to the crease. Maybe Canada's neighbours will get in on the action, although the thought of a game being played for five days and then ending in a draw could be potentially fatal to most Americans. No, I think the next team to join the cricketing pantheon must be the Falkland Islands - they're part of the Commonwealth already, they can knit their whites from their flock of sheep and if we can beat them we get to keep them. Forever.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Great Artefacts of Literature

Divers off the east coast of America have just discovered the remains of the Two Brothers, the ship captained by the man who inspired the character of Captain Ahab in Moby Dick. This is completely amazing as far as I'm concerned. It's like discovering a gravestone with the name Magwitch on it, the remnants of a Wellsian tripod or even that classic object of great fiction, the Ark of the Covenant.

After doing some basic research, I have found evidence of more great objects from literature than have been discovered in recent years and humbly present top five:

5. The Chrysalis of the Very Hungry Caterpillar - This fascinating piece is hidden away somewhere in the bowels of the Natural History Museum, delicately stored in a tiny glass phial and kept under close guard by the Caterpillar's estate. The charming autobiography of a titan of the insect world has gone on to entertain many a young and enquiring mind, but not many people know that this book was actually about a dreadful eating disorder. The caterpillar in question may have made light of his voracious appetite in this volume, but his later works based on his own life - The Worryingly Obese Caterpillar, Self-Image Problems in the Chrysalis and The Butterfly Special Effect - Plastic Surgery for Red Admirals - suggest an insect mind in turmoil.

4. The Hat of the Cat in the Hat - This is a hat with a great history. Originally belonging to one Mr.M.Hatter, he bequeathed it on his deathbed to his friend the Mr.M.M.Hare. Sadly, Mr.Hare was a figment of the Hatter's mercury-addled imagination and so was buried with him in his paupers grave. Several decades past and the gorgeous green felt and velvet hat remained buried six feet above ground with its now deceased owner (this was Wonderland after all). However, word had got around to the currently hatless Cat, that there was an item of headwear that could propel him to worldwide fame.

Having struggled for years on the variety circuit as the Moggy in the Mac and the Pussy in Pyjamas, the Cat finally decided to hunt down what he thought would be the key to his success. Under the cover of darkness the Cat left Dr.Zeuss' Late Night Cabaret Bar and Gentleman's Club and took a cab out west to Wonderland. Having paid off the driver with $50 in unmarked bills and watched his lights disappear into the darkness, like two glowing cherries on a never-ending black forest gateau, the Cat headed to the site of the Hatter's burial-(above)-ground. Soon he found it. Suspended a full six feet above ground, preserved as perfectly as a pickled Inca-mummy but for a gentle casing of dust, was the titular Hatter and his velveteen hat.

The Cat quickly assembled his portable step ladder and gently removed the hat from its original owner with all the care of a neurosurgeon ensuring that he doesn't make his patient awaken to speak fluent chicken. He descended the latter and placed the hat, his hat, on his head. The moment it covered his ears of serrated catflesh he felt an overwhelming sense of lunatic joy and was simultaneously knocked flat by a cacophanous sonic boom. Luckily, being a cat, he landed on all fours. As he dusted himself down he looked up to where the hatter had been and saw a gently fading purple and puce afterimage of his body, dopplering away into nothingness. The hat was now his and the rest is now history.

3. Yossarian's Draft Card - If you go to the Museum of Congress in Washington and know the right person to ask you can find all sorts of artefacts far more surprising than anything hidden in the Nevada desert: a protoype for Bradbury's Hound, transcripts of Phillip.K.Dick's dreams (complete with drawings of android sheep), judges scorecards from the first Fight Club. But the most poignant piece of history contained within is this draft card. Battered and careworn, with what appear to be teeth marks all around the edge, it shows the picture of a bright, happy and optimistic young man, taken sometime in 1940. There is a twinkle in the eye that suggests he knows how to seduce the broads and a sharpness to the pressing of his uniform that can only mean promotion is close by. Sadly, we know that the war had a dreadful effect on this potentially wonderful human being and that is reflected in the code scribbled and stamped over every last patch of the card, like some sort of administrative tattoo: C-22. C-22. C-22.

2. Original Manuscript of "There and Back Again" by Bilbo Baggins - Never has a re-discovered folio caused greater contention in the press. At first dismissed as yet another Hitler's Diary, then lauded as a greater discovery than Love's Labours Won and finally confirmed as proof of Tolkein's stunning ability as a cross-dimensional war correspondent, this tattered 254 page vellum booklet is a remarkable piece of literary history. Discovered concurrently with Tolkein's diaries which confirm his use of the cellar of the Eagle and Child pub in Oxford as the hub of his dimension-jumping adventures, this manuscript, tells of one brave hobbit's travels around his idyllic village as the first rumblings of the Great War of Middle Earth began to stir.

The layout of the work is fascinating, with each sheet divided in two: one half showing Baggin's scratchy runic recounting of his adventure, the other showing Tolkein's more elegant hand translating and annotating. Littered with crossings out and amendments, one can really see the thought process as Tolkein's mastery of Hobbitian is pushed to the limit as he tries to translate Bilbo's vernacular into a cohesive narrative comprehensible to the human mind. Just as the North Sea arms race between Britain and Germany at the start of the 20th century can be seen to prefigure WWI, so Bilbo's encounter with the dragon and trolls can be seen in the light of a shift in political power to the rogue state of Mordor.

This piece is not to be confused with the shambolic and ill-conceived fake manuscript bandied around Oxford at the same time by the charlatan Lewis, who claimed to have found a Lion, a man-goat hybrid and some sort of autistic Scandinavian royalty in his digs. It was later revealed that a mix of jealousy and an addiction to mildly psychedelic loganberry port had addled Lewis' mind beyond repair, and his work made him the laughing stock of British Academia. The nadir came at the ceremony of Tolkein's investiture into the Brotherhood of Trans-Dimensional Journalists (previous members including Mr.H.Bosch, Ms.M.Shelly and Mr.W.Blake) when a clearly disturbed Lewis turned up sporting a giant unkempt beard, a Viking helmet and some homemade angel wings, hollered "Aslan's alive!" and passed out on the top table.

1. Scrooge's Christmas Turkey - Now owned by that famous gastro-historian, Dr.H.Blumenthal, this huge skeleton is the only proof we have that Dicken's great fable is in fact based on truth. Historians were first alerted to this possibility when burial records in Victorian Islington showed that a rich man by the name of Abanazar Scrounge had been laid to rest in the main cemetery in Angel. Scrounge was a remarkable character - the grandson of a grand vizier of the Moorish court, his father moved to London at the turn of the century and caused a great stir by converting to Christianity. At first not accepted by the uptight Victorian establishment, Scrounge Senior won them over with his years of philanthropic work.

His son, however, grew up a conflicted man. Torn between the homeland of his forefathers and his adopted country and weighted down by his fathers great name, Scrounge became an embittered spendthrift. Convinced that his father had been a fool to forgo his family's birthright of a powerful place in the Moorish court in favour of tending to the undeserving poor, Scrounge's years as a young man about society were marked by bitterness and sniping. He longed to return to the land of the Moors, but knew that as a man brought up with the manners of an English city gent, would never fit in. Rather than follow in his father's footsteps he remained tight-fisted and sour-faced, until the famous episode with the three ghosts as recounted by Dickens.

Clearly his father's generously-spirited genes could not be denied, and in his later years Scrounge - or Scrooge as he became in the story - threw the grandest and most opulent of Christmas feasts. The carcass of this turkey shows it to have been a whopping 23 pounder and electro-imaging techniques have discovered that it was stuffed with quail, ptarmigan, pigeon, coot, goose, duck, chicken and starling, though probably not in that order. This turkey was so symbolically loved by Scrounge that he was eventually buried with it. The turkey had a separate coffin and was interred by Scrounge's side, and is hopefully now gobbling away up in heaven along with this great man.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

A Disobedient Mind

I have an extremely disobedient brain. Ask it to assist in the performing of the simplest of social interactions and it starts misbehaving like an overexuberant St.Bernard in the hands of a geriatric owner.

Here is the basic instruction I gave my brain today: do not stare at ladies' cleavages. Now, I don't want you to think I'm some sort of mammary-obsessed lech (no more so than any other owner of a fleshy gearstick), but because I know that the socially-accepted, polite norm is to look a lady in the eyes whilst talking to her, my brain automatically focuses them about 10 inches south. I don't do it out of lust and base impulses, I don't do it because I think women enjoy my leering, I don't do it because I'm a slavering, testosterone-heavy beast with no control over my libido. I do it because my brain knows I shouldn't. And because my brain knows I shouldn't, I don't do it overtly, just the mere flicker of a retina suggests that my brain has been disobeying its direct orders. But they know.

If only it were just these simple occasions on which my noggin stepped out of line. But it always sends the wrong orders to the rest of my body. I burp really loudly in public. Again, this is as much to do with me being uncouth as staring at ladies' airbags has to do with my unbidden libido. I love a good sonorous burp in private. I'll pretend to be some sort of deep-sea troll calling to his mate whilst burping away in the shower. But I appear to have got so atuned to doing this that they just rattle out of me at any old time when I'm walking along. For similar reasons, I happily hum, sing, whistle, buzz and warble in time to my I-pod as I walk down the street. That, interjected with my weapons grade burping and the odd impression of whatever silly voice is in my head must make me sound like a Stravinsky Suite scored for One Man Band with Tourettes.

So, when I'm not accidentally checking you out, I'm quite likely to be merrily polluting the atmosphere by detonating my belly-bombs orally. I think my brain needs to be trained by some sort of Crufts training. Maybe I can get some sort of neurological strict spinster to shout appropriate instructions to my cerebral cortex to make it sit up and obey.

Monday, 7 February 2011

On the Edge of Dreams

"How can you deny the existence of God when the Ark of the Covenant is downstairs in the garage?" says my Dad.

"It's not the real Ark", I reply "it's a fake made out of cardboard and tinfoil. Please don't twist things Dad, you're as bad as those Seven Day Adventists I met on the Great Wall of China earlier this afternoon."

"I'm sorry son, but this is the real world, now get down and pray or I'll..."


And then I wake up.


Why do the dreams you have at 8 in the morning, after the first chirruping of your alarm clock, but before you achieve full consciousness, have to be so bizarre, yet so vivid and in some small, twisted way, so plausible? It's almost as if this small window back into the land of the id is giving you the DVD extras of your dreams: the visions they tried to ban - to hot for midnight. It's a dreadful thing to spring on your mind just before you take on the real world. Maybe it's an evolutionary protection system, your brain saying: "you think today's going to be bad? Think you can't handle a Monday morning hole-punching 754 memos? Well here's how fucked-up the world could be - get up, get on with it and thank the lord that existence isn't scripted by David Lynch."

I wonder whether people on this planet with truly wretched lives have similar pre-waking dreams. What could their minds possibly concoct that was worse than they had to deal with. Maybe all the starving, the tortured, the dispossessed, in the moments before they achieve lucidity, see nothing but a constant re-run of the 1986 Scottish League Cup Third Round highlights. Poor bastards.

I'm told by friends of mine who own dreamcatchers in all seriousness and are able to keep a straight face whilst using the term 'spirit guide', that the best thing to do in these situations is to try and steer the dream. Lucid dreaming it's called. Apparently the trick is to realise you're in a dream without realising so much that you actually wake up - a trick almost as hard as making love to a beautiful woman whilst simultaneously trying to imagine that you're de-lagging the pipes in your old house, so as to stave off climax. (I use the classic 'lagging-the-pipes' Tantric technique here, so as to intrigue the initiate in the ways of sexual force. Safe to say, I currently use methods far more advanced to maintain my sexual prowess, including visualising untangling the laces of old walking boots, peeling PVC glue off my hands and Eric Morecambe.)

Once you're in this state of lucid dreaming, on the flightdeck of your imagination, you can start to actively interact with the plotline the little Stephen Moffat in your head has decided to give you, and gently guide it to where you want to go. Now, this is all well and good in practice, but the male psyche is an unsurprisingly simple beast and no matter how much you try to guide it towards revealing cosmic secrets, it will invariably head Due Libido. And so this is why the last image I had in my head before I emerged from sleep for the second time this morning was of a naked and unfeasibly hot lady bursting forth from the Ark of the Covenant like a stripper from an over-sized birthday cake.

I hope no one ever finds the black box from the wreckage of my wrecked dreams.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Royal Rumble

I am currently sat on my sofa watching England make a hash of beating Wales at rugby union. On Wednesday I completely ignored Newcastle failing to beat Fulham. And on Sunday morning I was slightly disappointed by Andy Murray painting the entire tennis court black and shouting at the crowd about how they didn't understand him and he was going to sulk in this room.

But all these great sporting occasions (quiet there at the back, any visit of Newcastle to Craven Cottage is a great sporting occasion) paled into insignificance compared to what I witnessed early on Monday morning: the Royal Rumble.

Even if someone was able to restage Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey using Thomas the Tank Engine figurines to the theme from the A-Team, it wouldn't inflame my nostalgia glands in the way that watching a collection of pituitary stereotypes bludgeon each other out of a ring for an hour and a half.

The oddest thing that struck me about it was how life-affirming it was: there were all kinds in the ring. True, muscle-bound egomaniacs in tight speedos were in abundance, but in what other arena would you witness men both seven and a half feet and three and a half feet tall compete? Unless the basketball court in 2012 gets double-booked for the Olympic and Paralympic teams. Where else would tactics of 5-on-1 be encouraged, never mind allowed? Where else would you find joyous names like Diesel, Hornswoggle and good old William Regal?

I think that the Royal Rumble could be used to solve all sorts of disputes. No more penalty shoot-outs - if a game finishes in a draw, stick all 22 players in the centre circle, last man in there wins. No more hung parliaments - turn the whole Commons chamber into a wrestling ring, lock the doors and whoever has the most MPs left in there at the end of 24 hours gets to stay in power (Egyptians are currently trying an extreme version of this in Tahrir Square.) I think you could even solve relationship disputes with it. Why bother with a divorce lawyer? Turn litigation into a full-on, in-house, family feud. Each member of the marriage selects five of their hardest family members into the house in dispute, all possessions are weapons and yet again, last man standing wins.

The simplicity is joyous. Who knows, in the apocalyptic future, with the world's resources at a premium, the entire human race could be drawn into a worldwide rumble, loading your opponents onto spaceships and slinging them over the top rope of the ozone layer and into oblivion, ready for the Wrestlemania prize that is the survival of the species.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Church of St.Michael

Whilst I'm currently having a cracking time in Kiev, amongst the giant frogs, pig tongue, luck-shitting pigeons and blue Santas, one thing has very much annoyed me: a church. This is no surprise, really, given my dim view of Christianity, but the inside of the Church of St.Michael, whilst impressive and ornate, is also a heinous display of bullshit. I do not mean to mock its congregations' desire for solace, solemnity and salvation, nor their seeking of a place for meditation, reflection and enlightenment. I just think that this is not the place for it and I despair that so many human beings choose it to be so.

So why do I have such a strong dislike to a place so many would be in awe of? I shall mostly leave aside my philosophical disagreements with the Church and concentrate on three facets of the interior.

The first is general: there are far too many pictures of people holding swords. This is a place of worship not a military hardware catalogue. I know that many saints had a combative edge and I am not so naive as to forget we live in a world with conflict as its dynamo, but for somewhere that is meant to be a hub of piece and forgiveness I just think that every fifth picture shouldn't feature a man (or woman) with a broadsword. Stick to shepherds' crooks instead.

Next is the fact that there is the most vivid and graphic picture of some angels slaying a nine-headed hydra-dragon-demon. Now don't get me wrong, I think this is fucking cool. If it featured in a summer blockbuster or a campside fairy tale I would be all for it. But that's because I know dragons don't exist. I know they are an enjoyable part of the human imagination, probably even a Jungian archetype for a whole host of human characteristics. What they are not is something that should be part of a belief system that people base their ethics and morality on.

"But Ben," I hear you cry, "surely people don't actually believe in these hideous demons and homunculi?" Maybe not, although some surely do, and a great deal more will believe in angels, resurrections and a three-for-the-price-of-one god. And if you are going to believe in those, and the bi-partite world view they are part of, then you have to have the dragons and demons too. You can't play pic'n'mix at church. Cool as beasties and monsters may be, but I think I'll leave the motors of my morality to be rational doubt, liberal utilitarianism and positive transcendentalism.

This final element takes me to the final part of the church that I find so upsetting. As you exit, there is yet another frieze on the wall. To the left it's all happy angels, to the right, skulls full of worms and several sinners unmistakably burning in hell. A nice little reminder to those who rely on this church for hope and support that if they wander astray, court an alternative world view or even think too much for themselves, it's nothing but sulphur and suffering. I worry less about the people of 2011 when I think of this and more for the millions of people in times gone by who were functionally illiterate (and thus were even more awed and intimidated by vivid artwork) and would be gulled into subservience by these hideous displays. It's the same old rule of iron fist and fear. We condemn communist Ukraine for this. We condemn present day eastern oligarchs for this. More people should be brave enough to condemn the Church for this.

So what's my alternative? As I said before there is no shame in desiring a quiet space for your own thoughts, to wish for the betterment of your family, friends and soulmates, to hope for healing for the sick and respite for the needy and to ruminate on what it is to be human generally and yourself specifically. But these misguided, warped houses of violent fable and coercive morality are not these quiet spaces, despite having the appropriate solemn atmosphere.

I humbly suggest wilderness instead. It doesn't have to be the Hindu Kush or the Rockies, the expanse of the Australian outback or the tundra of the Arctic. It can be the Town Moor in Newcastle, Hyde Park, your back garden or your rooftop. All it need be is a place of stillness and emptiness where you can understand yourself as a small part of a large whole: your family, your neighbourhood, your community, your society, your country, your continent, your planet, your galaxy, your cosmos. It may take time to focus up and down again on these things, but I believe doing so can give you perspective and power to be humble and driven, honest and dynamic, kind to all and kind to yourself. No one need be coerced or patronised and questions remain powerful tools, not threats that need be suppressed. And there isn't a sword in sight.