Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Old Fatboyfat's Almanac

It's the time of year when people make colossal pillocks of themselves by forecasting the events of the twelve months heading towards us with all the inevitability and menace of a buff-coloured window envelope.

I mean, really. How predictable.As if we're interested in the semi-formed guesses of self-ordained experts.

What's that you say? I haven't posted anything in days? Oh, go on then.

Well, first of all we must, I suppose, discuss the fashion scene. Those people who have encountered the force of nature that is my wardrobe will tell you that I'm no slouch in matters sartorial. In a throwback to the early 80s, I can see the return of pastels. Waists will be pinched, shoulders will be wide. Plastics will be involved. Think Miami Vice meets Tron.

I really have no idea, do I? Let's move on.

The world of celebrities will continue to amuse and amaze. Lady Gaga, for long a woman uncannily resembling a child's drawing of Madonna, will shock everyone when she's pictured wearing sensible slacks, a Fair Isle sweater and comfortable shoes.  In other news, Elton John's partner David Furnish will spend a lot of 2011 dealing with tantrums and applying baby powder.

You're making your own punchlines now, folks.

Stephen Fry will continue to dominate Twitter, his followers reaching such a volume in numbers that he is able to declare war on Belgium. The Jolly Reasonable War of August 2011 is concluded without bloodshed although a number of infinitives are split irreparably.

Closer to home, at some point in the year the UK will suffer an extreme weather event for which it is massively unprepared. This will be the 28th straight year in which This Has Never Happened Before.

New potato crisp flavours for the New Year delight snack-lovers as Walkers introduce us to Fisherman's Friend, Special Brew and Salt 'n' Desperation varieties.

In June, the Government will issue a ruling making it illegal to use the word 'webinar'.

Seriously, I'm hopeless at this (although I quite like the webinar thing). Let me try some personal predictions instead.

I will get my Number of Mountains Climbed Rating into real, whole numbers, instead of the 0.60 it is at the moment.

The short film I wrote, which with my friends Mike and Phil was committed to tape (disc? chip?) in 2009 will finally see the light of day. Then we'll plan another. Look out for this next one shortly before our sun goes supernova.

I will double the sales of my eBook. That'll be another eight sold, then. Currently ranked at #17,284 in the Amazon rankings, I will finally crack that vital top 17,250 chart.

Another hundred or so posts will appear on this blog. And hopefully you'll be here to read them too. Thanks for stopping by this year. See you once again in the next one.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

If this doesn't move you then you're technically dead

It's Christmas, time for cynicism and acid indigestion. And while I can't do anything about the latter, short of sending you Gaviscon through the medium of the Internet, I would like to help you out with the cynicism.

One of the blogs I read regularly is The Bloggess (caution - she is sometimes not quite safe for work). Jenny is nothing short of outrageous and reading her stuff tends to put keyboards and monitors at risk from recently-imbibed liquids. But in December she's been a little busy.

She sold a whole batch of Christmas cards with her own designs and ended up with some unexpected money. So she decided to offer 20 gift certificates at $30 each to strangers leaving comments on her blog who needed help over Christmas.

So far, so good. But what happened next was remarkable.

The comments started to come in; a litany of hard-luck stories. Mothers who couldn't get presents for the kids, others struggling with medical treatment, some who were worried about the rent. But what happened when the 21st comment came in?

Another complete stranger posted a comment. "I'll send a gift card to the next person." Then another. Then another. Then another.

A trickle turned into a stream, turned into a torrent. Every time someone would leave a comment asking for help, another would leave one to keep it going. At last count over $42,000 had been distributed from one group of complete strangers to another.

I'm sorry I can't do the same. I don't have enough readers for starters (and not enough of you seem to know how to use the Comment link down there, ahem) but I thought this was something worth sharing with those of you that do visit.

After all, it's Christmas, isn't it? Time for miracles.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Arctic Struggles Under British Weather Conditions

The North Pole was experiencing chaos this weekend as it struggled to cope under unseasonably British weather.

Wave after wave of nondescript meteorological conditions are battering the region, from Baffin Bay to Finland. "We're not entirely sure what's causing it," said Bernard Derriere, a leading Canadian climatologist, "but it's weird. I've never seen drizzle like it before."

There are concerns that the native indigenous population might be adversely affected. "Yes, it is true that my people have sixty-three words for snow," commented Albert Grimes, an Inuit elder. "However, up until now we hadn't really needed any terms for endless monotonous grey sky. What's that all about?"

At least the people can adapt. "This is pissing me off something chronic," muttered Colin, 12, a Polar Bear. "I'm stuck on this ice flow, every time I sit down to have something to eat a mild breeze kicks up and it gets a little-nippy-but-not-quite-so-nippy-for-a-coat. And to cap it all, my family have naffed off somewhere else."

"I'm pretty sure Mom's gone to Iceland."

Explorers are having  to change their plans, it is rumoured, with the traditional thermal fleeces and snow boots being ditched in favour of sensible tweed jackets and wellies. Lord Montague Knee, noted Arctic specialist, commented: "Huskies don't operate very well in light mist. We're currently training up whippets, but it's just not the same."

Perhaps our final word should come from another member of the animal kingdom. "You think you've got problems," said Jeremy, a clearly distressed Emperor Penguin. "This has thrown me right out. I think I might be a little lost."

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Walking in an urban wonderland

Yesterday's original plan would have seen us Blakesley Hall, a local Tudor manor house dating from 1590, to experience an afternoon of general Christmas-iness. There were going to be carolers a-caroling. We might have wassailed, providing someone could expressly tell us what was involved and whether special equipment was needed. There was to be mulled wine and cider.

I was particularly excited about this last bit.

But it was not to be. From first light the heavens chucked inch after inch of snow at us, and by early afternoon it was strangling most attempts at travel. Blakesley Hall's Christmas event was cancelled due to snow.

Welcome to Britain, where even the weather has a well-developed sense of irony.

Instead we retired to the house of Chris and Karen. There was no wassailing. However there was wine (mulled and non-mulled), beer, chilli and cheese-based snacking opportunities. Throughout the afternoon we would, in ones and twos, wander up to the window to watch the flakes continue to drift downwards in the way snowflakes tend to do. The realisation dawned on us that our eventual return home was going to be a bit tricky, given that all taxis had probably disappeared into a black cab black hole. So we did something really unusual.

We walked home.

I know. Weird isn't it? But apparently, these appendages at the lower extremes of our bodies - the ones we normally use to press down accelerator pedals - can be used for another form of forward motion.

And you know what? It was great.

Freed from the usual five-minute Toyota Carina-bound bubble, we went at our own pace - literally - scrunching through the snow in our sensible clumpy boots.  Double-lined coats, gloves and sensible headwear insulated us from the cold. We could see the city - well, a little bit of it - in a whole new way.

As we walked along Church Road to the Swan Island, the streetlights played games with the colours. I stopped for a moment to think about Swan Island, named after a pub that was 'redeveloped' (razed to the ground) some 20 years ago, removing a focal point on which to, um, focus.

We crossed the underpass, the main Coventry Road quieter than I'd seen in years.

"This is quieter than I've seen in years," I said to Katie.

"Don't repeat yourself," replied Katie. "Look! There's a snowman outside the Chinese takeaway."

We trudged on, feeling suitably lifted. The odd car passed us, drivers edgily making their way home. Then we saw a sight to warm the cockles.

"Now that looks quite inviting, actually. Never really noticed it before now. Fancy a portion? My treat."

"You know how to show a girl a good time. I'm full of Karen's chilli, otherwise I'd be in like Flint. Coo, look at that."

The car dealership was selling featureless shapes, arrayed in row after row like a frosty army. We moved on.

"Nearly home now. It's only taken us 30 minutes or so. You know, we should do this more often."

SPLAT! A snowball thudded into the back of my head. I turned to see Katie, an evil gleam in her eyes.

"You're 7 years old all over again, aren't you?"

Sometimes you need things to be obscured before you see them as they really are.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Pa rum pum pum pum

I was standing in a queue when I realised it. As is the English way, I do a lot of queuing. And I do a lot of realising when in queues. Quite a bit of my best thinking, in fact.

This morning I went, bright and early, to Touchwood. For those of you who don't know it, Touchwood is a local shopping centre. (An American friend mentioned today that it sounded to him more like a male strip club. Thank you Tom - I can never think of the place in the same way ever again.)

I've digressed again, haven't I? Sorry.

Anyway, I was waiting in a queue in Marks & Spencer which was moving with all the alacrity of continental drift. And I was thinking. What would Christmas be without M&S?


I've done it again. Must do better. Apologies all round.

The store's tannoy was playing various Christmassy tunes, songs we've all heard a million times. As I had nothing better for my mind to do, I let it wander as the strains of Little Drummer Boy wafted among the merrily shopping folks. And it was at that moment that I had a blinding realisation.

Little Drummer Boy is a phenomenally odd song, isn't it?

It's not as if the lyrical adaptation of a drum beat isn't peculiar enough. Even Stevie Wonder (for it was he on this occasion) was struggling to maintain his infinite cool as he pa rum-pum-pum-pum'ed his way through it. But it's the basic premise of the song that I find really hard to get my head around.

Let's break this down, shall we?

You're the Virgin Mary. (I realise that's a bit of a stretch for some of you - just bear with me.) You've just given birth in what can only be called unusual circumstances. You've had to bed down in a stable as all the hotels were booked. (Mind you, what did you expect? It is Christmas after all.) You don't mind the lambs so much, but the oxen are really trying your patience. You've already been joined by three shepherds. Your cousin Valerie had a home birth last year and none of this happened to her.

The three wise men were quite nice. Gold's always good to have, and frankincense helps to mitigate the general ox-based atmosphere that appears to be prevalent right now. You're not certain about myrrh, though. Is it some type of antelope? Never mind.

But then this kid comes in and tells you he has no present to give. Can he play you a tune instead? You're tired, you're not thinking straight and you nod wearily. Then he pulls out a snare drum and sticks.

This cannot end well. Even with the ox and lamb keeping time.

I've got a six-month-old niece and I'm not convinced I would be welcome round at my brother's house if I attempted to give my interpretation of In the Air Tonight. I think general crankiness might be involved.

All in all, I think Silent Night had much the better idea.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

The Mysterious Airborne Article

It was, in some ways, like a giant Mint Imperial. In particular it had the Imperial shape. However, it didn’t have the Imperial colour, being a flat, matt silver.

I didn’t check whether it had the Imperial flavour, but I suspect it would have been somewhat lacking in the mintyness department. Its size – a distinctly non-Imperial 30 feet in diameter - made up for it, I suppose. That, and the fact that it was floating through the sky in broad daylight.

The good people of Area 51 and its surroundings are probably unsurprised at weird shapes taking to the skies. Whether they’re from long-distant worlds or underground laboratories, arcane flying vehicles hardly raise a Nevadan eyebrow these days.

But this was not Area 51. It was Kings Heath. Area B14, if you like.

I was eight years old and sitting at the dinner table in the front room. That means it was a Sunday. It was my father who noticed it first.

“What on Earth’s that?” he said, staring out of the window, a forkful of roast beef mid-way on its terminal ascent from plate to mouth.

We turned to see the afore-mentioned not-very-minty-Imperial device sailing serenely through the suburban seventies sky. All of us saw it; me, my two brothers, even my mother. Brother number 1 ran out to the front step. In the manner of little brothers the world over, I followed half a pace behind.

In seconds the object had moved out of view, but we'd definitely all seen it. No mass hysteria here. Ours was not a family given to such unnecessary emotion. And then, as if to underline the point, came my mother’s voice, booming through the wall.

“Get back in here now, or else there’ll be no Queen of Puddings for you two!”

When we do eventually make first contact with higher intelligence, my mother will be easy to spot. She’ll be the one who’s brought scones.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

I like bacon. I like cupcakes. But which is better? There's only one way to find out...

Make Lard History's Massachusetts correspondent (oh, alright then, my cousin-in-law from Salem) has provided me with some very disturbing news. Steel yourselves, ladies and gentlemen, for this is a biggie. Hold onto your emotions and, where necessary, undergarments. I don't know how life can ever be the same again.

According to the Serious Eats people (and you know what you're getting with a website labouring under such a name), bacon has for the first time been overtaken by cupcakes in terms of searches on Google.

I know. For many years the opposing camps have fought bitterly. We remember the Great Frosting Campaign of 2006. We watched in growing astonishment as the Apple Smoked Fightback rumbled on throughout the latter part of the decade. However it seems to have been one desperate rearguard action too late. For now it seems as if the porky product movement has finally succumbed to disciples of the Magnolia Bakery.

For shame.

Of course, in this house we're no strangers to both. Indeed, we have our somewhat pudgy feet in both calorific camps. She Who Must Be Obeyed has made the odd cupcake in the past. And it's fair to say that we are ardent followers of pretty much anything that can be done with cooked pig flesh. We have a bag of pork scratchings on the kitchen worktop at the moment, for instance. They look for all the world like a giant's toenail clippings. There's a warning on the pack: "Do not attempt to eat contents unless you have strong teeth."

I realise I'm not exactly selling this to you, but I offer no apologies.

So can't we put our differences to one side? Can't we all come together - sweet and savoury - in this, the season of conspicuous over-consumption?

Oh. Wait a minute.

I am really behind the curve on this one.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Ten more questions science must answer

I know, it's only December 2. I've finished my month of daily posts, I don't really need to come back and do another one right now. I'm showing off, like one of those blokes who runs a marathon then jogs home.

But I was reading this today - ten questions science must answer. And it's OK, I suppose. I mean, knowing how the universe expands and understanding the concept of consciousness is all well and good. But I was struck that the ten questions weren't the ones I wanted answering.

So, science, have a crack at these instead:
  1. Where's my hoverboard? I know Back to the Future was fictional, but it's been twenty-odd years and you'd have thought someone would have got to grips with the whole 'standing on a piece of plastic with no visible means of support' malarkey. And don't try to soften me up with Segways.
  2. Astronomers believe that 90% of the universe's matter cannot be seen or measured. Is that what's behind my sofa?
  3. Vacuum flasks keep hot things hot and cold things cold. How do they know?
  4. James Corden appears on TV on a semi-regular basis. Why?
  5. What insane branch of mathematics is employed by minicab drivers when calculating fares? "How much do you normally pay, mate?" I don't know, pal. It's different every time. You're all Toyota-bound random number generators as far as I can tell.
  6. Seriously. My hoverboard. I'm not mucking about. Where is it?
  7. And don't even mention personal jetpacks. 
  8. Has anyone ever sold worms in cans? They must have, otherwise where do we get the phrase from? And what on earth were they thinking at the time?
  9. Do living badgers actually exist? Because I've only ever seen ex-badgers at the side of the road. I'm not convinced they're real animals. Does someone put fake corpses out overnight?
  10. Why is it always so tricky to put a list of ten items together?


    Related Posts with Thumbnails