Tuesday, 23 September 2014

What's your name?

The Boy's Girl, posing next to herself as cover-girl. If she hadn't told me it was her, I wouldn't have guessed.

Me and H.I. have been in a few magazines as well, but never on the cover. I had a four-page spread in Architectural Digest once, but maybe I have already told you about that...

I have been in a four-pager of Interiors magazine as well, but I had dark hair then, so you wouldn't recognise me. I have been on the radio a couple of times, and T.V. too.

Living in Bath, I featured as a bit of local colour for a travel program, and after it was aired - nationally - the check-out girls in Waitrose treated me with a little more respect and awe than they normally do, but it didn't last. None of them let me sleep with them whilst it did, either.

My friend in Germany was watching TV there one night, and the travel program that was on also featured Bath. There was a panoramic shot of my picturesque pub, and there I was, seated at one end of the bar as usual with a beer in front of me. I don't even remember being filmed.

Every New Year's Eve in Germany, they pause the TV festivities for a few moments to remember the less fortunate who have no homes or families to celebrate the incoming year with, and they usually run the camera across a crowded bar, full of drunk people who are having the time of their lives.

Each year, my German friend would be forced to stay at home with his parents, longing to join the folk in the bar who had no families to celebrate with. Same procedure as last year, Miss Sophie.

I happened to be in a bar in Florida, watching the very last episode of 'Dynasty' as it went out. When it finished, the anchorman wondered what we were all going to do without it.

"Here's what we are going to watch!" he said, and the screen cut to a friend of mine who had already been in a Bond film, dressed in a dinner jacket and explaining the plot behind a brand new series called, 'Riviera'. Blimey, I thought, he has finally made it after all these years - his own international soap.

Sadly, 'Riviera' crashed after three viewings, leaving all the actors and crew out of pocket with expensive flats to maintain in the South of France. You can still catch it in some countries, playing around three in the morning.

About a year ago, my actor friend hit an all-time low and found himself at the other end of a telephone at a call-centre. I ran into him in the supermarket, and he said that he had enough of this job already. "Somebody actually told me to 'fuck off' today. How rude can you get?"

Fame is fickle, but notoriety isn't.

Monday, 22 September 2014


H.I. was in our local supermarket the other day, and bought two packets of bog-roll (ok, what do you want me to call them? Lavatory paper? Toilet roll? Bathroom tissue?) for the price of one - an offer which could not be ignored or turned down.

I was idly urinating (if that is possible) a couple of days ago, and my eyes strayed over the wrapper, focussing on the advertising blurb printed in bright colours on the side.

The paper was made by 'Andrex' - the most famous and over-priced bog-roll manufacturer in the UK. This company is also famous for inappropriate imagery in its advertising, and for 40 years has been running a TV campaign which depicts a Labrador puppy cavorting around on fitted carpet with rolls of Andrex paper, unrolling them and towing the twenty foot lengths all over the room in an endearing sort of way. I don't think I would find this sort of encouraged behaviour in a puppy very endearing, but maybe John would - at least it might help to clear up the mess.

The main slogan on this particular wrapper is, "I feel as clean as a shiny diamond!"

A 'shiny diamond'?! I have heard all sorts of euphemistic descriptions for the human fundament, but never one as utterly inappropriate as this.

Over the years, one of my favourites has been 'rusty sheriff's badge' - at least that conjures-up a fairly accurate visual image of most people's exhaust systems, as does the one which uses 'starfish' as one of the words.

Andrex go on to say that the things that children come up with can be very funny, implying that this 'shiny diamond' thing was coined by a child, and not a bored advertising executive sitting in a spartan office.

My experience of children is that they are refreshingly open and direct about these sort of things, and I would guess that not many of them have ever been fortunate enough to handle diamonds, shiny or otherwise.

I have heard of kids that have swallowed diamonds though, and have been forced to sit around for a few hours before returning them to their distraught mothers.

I have a friend who, years ago, became engaged to be married and was given a nice, shiny, diamond ring by her betrothed as a token.

She was sitting on the toilet one day, and as she used whatever brand of paper it was, the ring fell off and landed in the great pile of poo, sitting on top and sparkling provocatively up at her until she was forced to fish it out again. When she told me this story, she was helpless with laughter - it just seemed to sum up the whole situation perfectly, especially as the marriage didn't last.

I'm sorry to touch on this subject at breakfast time, but I was preoccupied with building Stonehenge yesterday, and I have to go out to work today and put the theory into practice.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

How to build Stonehenge

Last night, me and H.I. sat down to watch both episodes of the latest documentary on Stonehenge using catch-up.

For the last five years, a team from Birmingham University and Germany have been carrying out an electronic survey of the vast area around the monument, using sonar-type detector gadgets, towed behind tractors and quad-bikes, which also sent out mapping information to satellites using what must be GPS.

The results were spectacular, showing up hundreds of other large structures and henges which have been all but ploughed-out, covering an area of many square miles. A phenomena whereby grass goes a patchy brown when struggling for water during drought, showed the exact position of the handful of missing stones that formed the uprights to Stonehenge, but what happened to these 40 ton blocks remains a mystery.

Any unanswered questions were handled in the usual way - barely thought-out conjecture which jumps to ludicrous conclusions illustrated by low-paid actors and extras. If you believe this stuff, then you will also believe that Britain was populated by a load of unwashed hippies who - although so skilled that they could fashion beautifully intricate arrowheads from unforgiving flint and conduct brain surgery with flint implements - could not sew to save their lives and dressed in rags and festering animal-skins.

Archeologists spend so much time staring minutely at stuff, that they never see the bigger picture - unless it is displayed on a large screen right in front of their noses.

The country's leading expert on the massive 'Sarsen' stones which make up the bulk of Stonehenge, took us to the Sarsen Valley (about a mile from Avebury which, although about 10 times larger than Stonehenge, was never mentioned once) where these monoliths lie around in their hundreds, waiting to be dragged 30 miles away to - but not down - the A303, having been dumped there by a melting glacier.

She walked to one prone stone and said with great authority that this rock was so hard that it could only be worked using the same stone, then she picked up a small boulder and began bashing the surface of one against the other. In about 20 seconds - quite a long time to be smashing a five pound lump of stone up and down with both untrained arms - she had enough pale dust to fill about half a thimble.

How the hell can an experienced archeologist ignore all the flint tools that have been collected from the area, and proclaim that the builders would have shunned them in favour of a method which was pretty much useless, using a material the same hardness as the very stone they wanted to carve? The thing is that almost nobody associates axes with stone - they universally believe they are only used against wood. I have about six steel stone-axes in my toolkit, and I use them often.

The unintelligence of modern archeologists lies in the fact that they refuse to ask anyone about something who might know better than them, for fear that it would blow their personal theory about something else, and they cannot bear to have that happen. They would rather appear to be stupid.

There then came the inevitable reconstruction of the method used when transporting the 40 ton blocks the thirty miles to the Stonehenge site.

A handful of filthy hippies struggled and strained with a half-ton pebble which was laid on a log sledge, pulling it backwards with a suspiciously modern-looking hemp rope, falling over every six feet or so and looking as though they were going to drop dead from exhaustion at any moment, which they probably were.

The two runners of this sledge were simple poles with bark still attached, which hadn't even been cut at an angle, and ploughed deeper and deeper into the earth with each pull on the rope. You would have thought that anyone who could lay-out and build an astronomical monument as impressive as Stonehenge, would at least have some rudimentary grasp on the practical theory of sledges, and how their use depends on cutting down friction as much as possible, wouldn't you?

Just off the top of my head, if someone came to me and asked me to manually move a forty ton block of stone a distance of thirty miles over rough ground, I would immediately have a picture in my head of the smoothest wooden runners on a sled as possible, and a series of equally smooth, moveable planks to run them on, which would be constantly lubricated with water as they were shifted from back to front in relay. I know this because I have actually done it, albeit with a two ton block, not forty. Rollers do not work on rough ground.

They should have come to me as advisor for this part of the program, but it was fun to see a load of besmirched hippies falling over in the mud and earning every penny of their fees for doing it. I can just see the blank looks on their faces as they queued up in front of the catering van on the windy plain.

"You look like you want sugar in your tea. Am I right?"

Friday, 19 September 2014

"If at first..." (Robert Bruce)

The massive electrical storm which rumbled and crashed its way across the West of England last night, is now rumbling over the East and out to sea, having rumbled over the Palace of Westminster as they sat up all night to hear the outcome of the Scotland vote. I cannot tell what God was trying to say about it, but - like the Queen - he is supposed to be neutral, I think.

The whole of the South of England was affected by this tempest, and it lasted for as long as the coverage of the Yes/No vote took to decide who had won.

My suspicions have now been officially confirmed: Just under half of all Scots hate the English, the other half cannot afford to hate us and 10% haven't got the energy to say one way or the other.

What an unbelievable turn-out, though - almost 90% across the country. There were about 5000 spoilt ballots, but that is probably to do with how drunk they were on party-night. The 10% who did not turn up at all probably reflects various elderly, infirm or isolated people who found it impossible to vote. I think we can see it as an effective 100% turn-out.

The last ballot to be declared was for the Highlands and Islands - even in these days of modern communication, there are some places up there which are very hard to get to, or get back from.

Glasgow voted 'yes' and Edinburgh voted 'no'. That was the least surprising outcome of the whole event. Edinburgh is made up of about 50% English ex-pats anyway, who failed to return from the Fringe festivals of the last 20 years or so.

The Royal Bank of Scotland is the only establishment which is allowed to say, 'it's business as usual', because now they don't have to spend a few more billions of pounds of your money moving their head office down South.

For Westminster, it is the beginning of years of hard work to fulfil the last-minute promises made in desperation as they panicked about the possible 'yes' outcome on the advice of the pollsters, who had gone around various pubs and bars, asking drunk people what they thought about it.

About a year ago, Cameron said something like, "Go on then - have your little referendum and then come crawling back!" Everyone laughed in derision, never dreaming that Scotland felt so strongly one way or the other.

This was why they left it to the last couple of weeks to even begin to think of the implications of a split - they never thought they would have to!

I have to say that I am greatly relieved, and I actually felt quite emotional at about 6 o'clock this morning when the results became clearer. I would have felt emotional either way, I think, and this surprised me. Maybe I was just tired.

Despite what Hollywood tells you, nobody ever shouts "FREEDOM!" when they are being disembowelled.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Mystery object - your help needed

Here's something to take your mind off things for a brief moment - what is it?

All I know is that it is made from a marble-like, mottled stone; is about 6 inches long; has a floral motif around the top half; a stylised lion's head with a grinning, toothy, human smile; a roughly carved well in the centre and three grooves which slope downwards - making cigarettes difficult to balance, before you say it is an ashtray.

It does not look English, and it appears to be very old - it has traces of mud in the recesses which indicates that it has been dug up.

My initial feeling is that it is an inkwell or paint-container, and the three grooves are to rest pens or brushes with their ends on a table.

Your help would be greatly appreciated - especially your qualified help if you work for the British Museum. Any conjecture would be appreciated as well.

Mini update: I am pretty sure this is a calligraphic inkwell (see photo below of a traditional but new, Chinese one which also has lion motif) but I would like to be sure of the country. It looks more Indian or Persian to me, and not Chinese. Any experts out there?

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Auld Lang Syne

I'm going to throw in my heartfelt plea to the Scots to not break up the United Kingdom this week, not that anyone will take any more notice of me than they do Bob Geldof.

It really all boils down to the fact that nobody can afford a split like this at the moment, either financially, psychologically or spiritually.

The Queen can keep Balmoral and Holyrood, it turns out. She will just turn into Elizabeth, Queen of Scots whilst she's up there, unless Scotland takes the next step and breaks away to form a Republic. Then they might end up with an 'elected' king of the S.N.P.

I have not asked my friends who own castles and villages up there what they think about it, but I daresay they might not care one way or the other. It's hardly going to affect their B & B business too much, unless they find themselves without a credible bank account - or have their property confiscated by Zimbabwean-style 'farmers'.

About forty years ago, an Englishman created an oyster farm in a loch up there, and the locals bitterly resented him for it, accusing him of stealing their natural resources and preventing them from making their own oyster farms in the same loch. The fact that they had no intention of creating an oyster farm was not the point. They mellowed a bit when he reduced the unemployment figures in the area, though, but they still haven't forgiven the Campbells.

I do wonder how they are going to channel the power from the hydro-electric plants away from Liverpool and back up to the homeland, as well. Maybe they will just sell it to them, like the English do now to the French, who then sell it back to England at a profit.

They might have to go back to the old days of teaming up with France to avoid the excise men, and drink brandy instead of their own home-brew.

If anyone should team up with France, it is Cornwall. Everything about Brittany mirrors the Cornwall of 3000 years ago, and it's only a short hop over.

Both areas are virtually ignored by their central governments, and they both share a common - if virtually dead - language.

The thing about Cornwall is that you can stay right next to someone whilst on holiday there, and your neighbour will know absolutely nothing about you, nor find anything out for a whole three weeks.

Up in the sparsely populated Highlands, people can hear you fart from 50 miles away. The talk in the bar on the evening of your fart will go something like this:

"Did you hear that English couple with the dog who are renting a caravan from the McClarens' in Crinnan for 8 nights, fart at 10.30 this morning?"


Monday, 15 September 2014

Petula Clarke


I went into a charity shop today and saw a box set of the first series in DVD.  I thought I would buy them as I haven't seen one single episode.
The lady told me there was one disc missing - disc one.
I still haven't seen one single episode.
Help me, John.