Sunday, 28 September 2008

Perhaps "Knock On Wood" would have been appropriate?

The other day I was in the passenger seat as my boss drove us around the Warwickshire looking for a suitable conference venue.

I'm a nervous passenger at the best of times, continually doing that 'finding a brake pedal in the footwell' thing. But with Richard at the wheel, the discomfort is magnified somewhat. Don't get me wrong, he's a perfectly safe driver. But he only knows two speeds; stationary and warp.

After visiting a couple of less-than-satisfactory places ("Oh yes, I'm sure we could get 150 people in here. They don't need to be able to breathe, do they?") we made a detour and dropped in on a hotel on-spec. To be greeted by a vision.

The carpark was rammed, filled with line after line of gleaming, black hearses. Of all sorts - from coachbuilt Bentleys to mundane Mondeos. And they were all open - the business end of each one ready to receive its cargo.

I'll be honest. It wasn't the most welcoming thing I've ever seen.

"Bloody hell," muttered Richard as we took it all in, "has there been a plane crash or something?"

It turned out that the hotel was hosting a convention for undertakers, funeral arrangers and allied trades. It's one of those things that never occurs to you, but even in this line of business you need to network. As I walked past a row of eco-coffins (basically the largest wicker baskets I'd ever seen) it all made sense. Gurney manufacturers have to get the word out, I suppose. And maybe in the evening, when you've talked about brass casket handles all day, perhaps you'd want to let your hair down? Even morticians might like to cut a rug once in a while, surely? Quickly we formed our own setlist for that night's disco (from where I got this post's headline).

And as we were leaving, we saw the following - a title for one of the group discussions the attendees were having later that day:

"Creating a better society".
I can't help thinking they're missing the letter 'm' from the first word.....

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Reasons to be busy (part three of three)

Oh yes. There was a third one, wasn't there? After escorting my mother around the Emerald Isle and then driving a Ford Galaxy 1,800 miles in five days while mainlining Jaffa cakes. There was a third Daft Thing to do this month.

And it's happening later this week. I shall be treading the boards. The roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd, and all that. Nothing too highbrow, you'll be pleased to know. A group of us are putting on three nights of comedy at a local theatre, in aid of Asthma UK.

Luckily, someone else has done the hard work and written our material, we're just performing the sketches. The one's I'm in include the Four Yorkshiremen one, Pete & Dud's One Leg Too Few, Tom, Dick and Harry (a Rowan Atkinson monologue) and Gerald the Gorilla from Not the Nine O'Clock News ("Wild? I was livid......").

Oh, and The Parrot Sketch. Apparently it's the law, or something.

I fully realise that almost none of the people who read this blog live anywhere near enough to be able to see the real thing. But here's the link anyway.

God, this is scary. I haven't done this for about fifteen years. This whole 'learning lines' malarkey is turning out to be a real worry. To distract you while I go off, lie down and breathe into a paper bag, here's Gerald for you. Enjoy.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Sleep deprivation and really bad food

I'm back again. Well, I think I am, at least. If I'm not, then something really odd is happening with my laptop to cause these letters and words to appear.

Hello. How are you? You're looking good, you been working out or something?

Those of you who've been checking over at the Queasy Riders blog will know of our success in getting a bunch of cyclists and the European Jaffa cake mountain from one end of the country to another in two and a half days. I'm going to update that blog with all of the inspiring and uplifting stories of athleticism and human endeavour. Some of the other observations fit better here, though.

Scotland. Scotland is bloody huge. To paraphrase the late Douglas Adams, you might think that the trip down to the corner shop is quite long, but that's peanuts compared to travelling the length of Scotland. Coming home on Monday, we left John O'Groats at 9.00am and were still in Scotland, ooh, several weeks later. Or so it seemed. It just keeps unravelling out in front of you, like a heather-lined conveyor belt.

It's beautiful there, though. Look at this:

That last one was from the banks of Loch Lomond (and yes, one of the people in our party did actually call them "bonny"). We drove up from Dumbarton, past the Loch, through Fort William and on to Glencoe. And it was breathtaking, stunning, veer-into-oncoming-traffic-with-your-mouth-open good.

Mind you, the fact that we'd had only a few hours sleep in the previous three days didn't help. The effects of sleep deprivation are not pretty. At one point we were having a discussion about how one would get a giraffe to ride a jet ski (the secret is, apparently, to get marmosets to help with the navigation).

There may well be video evidence. It won't be nice.

The Travelodge Hotel at Monmouth Services, south Wales, was monumentally grim. You book at a Travelodge, saying to yourself that it doesn't matter, you just want a bed for the night. But this was the sort of place that would have prison visitors on the phone to Amnesty International. The shower had two settings; off, and nuclear fusion. The one saving grace was that we probably spent about three hours there before moving off.

The memory fades but the pain still lingers.

We regressed over the weekend to a Cro-Magnon state. We talked about bloke things, ate service station food out of plastic packaging, indulged in the odd belch and sang aloud to really bad music.

And we found humour in the lamest things:

"Andy. Andy! Wake up! That Polish truck's numberplate spells out the word 'craps'!"

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

End to end

Right. I'm going to be away for a few days. Being busy, and so on.

You can keep track of my whereabouts by checking in here.

But don't forget to come back here when all the excitement has died down.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Come fly with me

Birmingham airport. It is teeming with rain. Absolutely hooning it down. Rainfall of biblical proportions.

In fact, I'm just ready to hear Gabriel's trumpet. It's as close to Armageddon as I think it's possible to get.

And there is nothing - and I mean nothing - funnier than the sight that greets us as the taxi driver drops us off. All the people streaming out of Arrivals, all clearly returning from sunnier climes.

And all of them are wearing the classic Brits-abroad combo of shorts and vest tops.

The collective look on their faces as they negotiate the car park, amidst a torrential downpour, the wind whipping at the puddles and sending up spumes of spray, is priceless.

The fact is, I find this sort of thing funny. Does that make me a bad person?

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Reasons to be busy (part two of three)

Because only having one blog to keep updated is so 2007, isn't it?

Because there's nothing better than driving from one end of the country to the other - twice - over a long weekend.

Because being in the company of sweaty cyclists is a reasonable way to spend one's time.

Next Tuesday I revert to normality after my Irish weekend. A couple of days to get the stout out of my system. Then I'm going to Land's End on Thursday evening. I'll turn 180 degrees in the early hours of Friday morning, hit the accelerator and, all things going to plan, end up at the other end of Britain about three days later.

And then I'll drive back home. Just as well, really. One hell of a commute, otherwise.

I'm driving a support vehicle for colleagues who are cycling the 900-odd miles from Land's End to John O'Groats to raise £10,000 for a cancer support charity. I've also been appointed as the team's diarist - so for more details, head on over to the Queasy Riders blog.

We could use a little interaction.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Reasons to be busy (part one of three)

I'm looking at my diary. I'm checking to see what September has to hold.

Bloody hell. I think I'll need to break this down into chunks.

OK. This weekend I'm off to Ireland to catch up with a side of my family I've never met before. Yes, I have Irish ancestry. My mother's parents came over to England in the 1920s. There are some delightful photos of them wearing clothing I was about to call 'period costume', but what at the time probably qualified as just 'costume'.

Most people who claim Irish heritage normally do it in the days running up to St Patrick's Day. I'm sorry, but having a liking for Guinness or owning a Pogues CD doesn't quite cut it. But it's a source of shame to me that, other than a brief stop-over at Dun Laoghaire a few years ago, I'd never visited what the tourist board probably still calls the Emerald Isle.

I didn't even realise I was pronouncing 'Dun Laoghaire' all wrong until relatively recently. Shocking.

It's doubtful whether I'll be kissing the tarmac at Cork Airport on Saturday afternoon. For one thing, I'm escorting my mother, who doesn't stand for things like that.

And when I come back I've got several other Pretty Big Things to do this month. More detail to follow.


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