Monday, 29 July 2013

Present Tense

Below is a piece of crossover fiction inspired by my recent trip to Blackpool.  It is set in the same universe as my Edward Teach stories and alludes to some of the upcoming book's plotlines, however - The antagonist is from THIS piece of Flash Fiction, you might wish to read it first.


I flew in from the south-east, down the lush valley between the Liverpool Free Trade Area and the ruins contained by the, in parts still radioactive, Greater Manchester wastelands.   I had originally intended to circle out over the Irish Sea and come in low over the water, but there had been some recent reports that the Welsh Separatists had managed to get hold of some ex-defense force artillery and were taking pot-shots at anything flying low enough not to leave a contrail.  I felt that keeping the crate in one piece made more sense than having a control surface obliterated by a misguided 'Son of Glyndwr' and spiraling into the briny deep with my aft section aflame.

Whilst I'm on the subject, I'm glad that I'm less than fifteen miles from the Aeroport, as I've a nasty feeling that last night's dinner is about to make an explosive re-appearance.  Fox Cheek Vindaloo has a wonderful effect on that palate, but loses something during its trip through one's lower intestine.  I decided to contact local traffic control to see if I could secure a berth near the Gentlemens' Conveniences.

'George Joseph Smith International Aeroport, this is the private flyer Gustavo, requesting clearance to land.'

'Roger Gustavo,' Replies the obviously electronic voice of the traffic control construct, 'please continue on your current heading and land in section Red Seventeen.'

'Acknowledged Control, are there comfort facilities near that particular area? There is a possibility of an impending gastric emergency.'

'Gustavo, do you wish to report a medical emergency?'

'Negative Control, just a minor digestive discomfort... Gustavo Out.'

I lock the navigational system onto the docking beam and proceed to land in the indicated bay.  Even as the landing legs were rebounding, I leap out of the cockpit and open the starboard stowage locker.  I pick out a rather fetching stovepipe hat with matching gecko-skin gloves, and make my way into the terminal building.  Once my urgent business has been taken care of and my composure has been restored, I show my documentation to the security team, and ask to be directed to the Hackney Rank.

The three mile ride into town is fairly uneventful, I am continually unnerved by the robotic horse that pulls my carriage giving me a potted history of the resort - It is not so much that it is, for all intents and purposes a talking silver horse, mainly it is that the damnable thing is looking at me over its shoulder all the time, rather than keeping its glowing blue eyes on the road.

We pass the first of the town's three piers, the silent hulks of the anti-Spider defense cannons still positioned down it's length.  skeins of bright bunting are stretched between them in a jarring juxtaposition.

'Why the decoration?' I ask the horse.

'If you had only come last week Sir, it was the twentieth anniversary of the last Spider attack, a suicide squadron had targeted the Tower and the men of the town shot down every single one.  At low tides you can still see some of the wreckage if you know where to look.'

Ah, the famous Tower, it had been the main landmark of the town for several hundred years, it had seen service as a circus, a ballroom, a radar station and had finally ended up being used as an airship mooring mast.  I crane my neck to look up as I pass it and see that a passenger liner was currently docked, its silver skin glinting brightly in the setting sun.

Moments later the Hackney pulled up at the Metropole Hotel, I disembark, pat the equine construct absently on the head and find my way to the reception desk.

'Reservation in the name of Anderson?' I announce, somewhat questioningly to the young girl behind the desk.

'Yes sir, do you have any luggage?'

Gods damn it! In my rush to leave the aeroport, I had forgotten to pick up my cases.  I am however unwilling to announce this to the general public, so I answer with braggadocio, 'No, not currently.  I would consider it a great kindness if you would ask your concierge to contact the finest local Gentleman's Costumiers and ask them to supply a brown leather dinner jacket and a selection of day-wear suitable for tomorrow's prevailing weather conditions.'

She injects my hand with the digital keys to my suite and I enter the lift.  In some strange quirk of fate, or more likely via some over-zealous research by a bored hotel employee, the music being played over the under-sized speakers is one of my great, great-grandfather's most popular tunes.  He was a local man himself and had enjoyed some small fame with a progressive musical group named after an eighteenth century agriculturalist.

The lift deposits me directly across the corridor from my room, I exit, cross the deep pile carpet and clench my hand against the sculpted mahogany of the door handle.  There is a brief sensation of heat as the key is read and the door clicks open.

I enter the room, the only source of illumination is from a shaft of sunlight streaming through the apparently amateurishly drawn curtains, picking out an ornately detailed silver bottle on the side table.  I pick it up and read the words 'Henri IV Dudognon Heritage' engraved around a golden badge on the side.

The sudden voice surprised me to the point where I almost dropped the bottle.

'Those are real diamonds, set in platinum.'

I turn, still cradling the bottle in my suddenly sweating palms.

'Who?' I ask.  The man stands, he is dressed in a vaguely military style, his impeccably pressed jacket so clean that it almost glows in the half-light.  He smiles, apologetically.

'Ah yes, how remiss of me, my name is Horner, I contacted you via The Great Cloud? You told me your story about the loss of the airship Simon Bolivar.'

'Of course, Mr Horner, I should have known.' I reply graciously, 'Thank you for the invitation I must say that I wasn't expecting this kind of payment.' I lift the bottle, the sun reflects from the thousands of brilliantly cut diamonds and momentarily the room is festooned with a plethora of small, dancing points of light.

He laughs emptily, 'Payment? Goodness me no, your story was interesting, and will definitely be published, but it wasn't worthy of that particular vintage.  No, that was merely a distraction.'

'Dis...?' I don't even feel the blade as it completely severs my neck, I only know that a sword is even involved because I can now see it in his left hand, pointing at the floor in the sabre rest position, it has blood dripping from it, my blood.

'I'm sorry old chap, but I can't risk you telling your story to anyone else, we value exclusivity at the G.A.A. you see.'

He takes a step forward, places his index finger on the bridge of my nose and applies the tiniest amount of pressure.  My head separates from my shoulders with a quiet sucking sound and I have the briefest view of my own back before the floor and oblivion hit me simultaneously.

Horner removes a small notebook from his inside pocket, and crosses off the name 'Anderson'. He then takes out a personal communicator and connects to The Great Cloud.  He dials in a number and when the party accepts the call he coughs politely.

'Mr Josiah, Yes? It's Horner of the G.A.A. I've received your story... I must say, it's rather good. I'd like to arrange payment.'

Thursday, 25 July 2013

It's all a game until someone gets hurt.

I'm presuming that you guys know what on-line gaming is?

I don't mean the ones where you have a little farm and you visit your friends and help them plough and stuff, or those where you swap sweets around to make cubes of jelly disappear.

Although they are certainly games, and are, of course, online, they're not what I'm talking about.  I mean things like Call Of Duty or FIFA and their ilk, games where you actively play with or against other people.

I used to be pretty much addicted to a little game called Modern Warfare (or more correctly, Modern Warfare 2) Which simulated armed skirmishes in realistic locations such as Russian Airports, The wreckage of a crashed plane, muddy fields etc. - You could log on to the server, select a couple of shiny weapons and run around shooting other real people, from all over the world, in their smug faces, with high calibre rounds, from great distances, without ever being seen.

At least that's what used to happen to me... A lot - I haven't got the lizard-like reactions that I used to have back in the day, many years of beer, bacon, and cheese toasty abuse have put paid to all that tomfoolery I'm afraid.  I mean, I'd be there, crouching behind a rock, popping my head up occasionally to take a pot-shot at a passing Terrorist / Russian / Afghan /American Special Forces soldier and get stabbed in the back by a fourteen year old boy called Buck from Oklahoma, who proceeded to tell me, via voice-chat, how killing me was a direct result of him roughly buggering my 'Mom' the previous evening (The life-choices Buck had made up to this point had obviously led him down the dark and winding road to necrophilia, as my Mother had died when he was some four years old)

I got bored with this after a while, as you would and took a break from Online Gaming, until recently, when I re-discovered World of Warcraft.

Yes, I know... Let's get all the geek, nerd, loser stuff out of the way now shall we? - Yes, there are Elves and Goblins, Yes you can cast spells, Yes, most of the female characters wouldn't get a broken nose if they fell over forwards and Yes, most of the people who play it are the kind of people who carry a flask of weak lemon drink around with them wherever they go.  But I enjoy it, it helps to pass the time when I've run out of stuff that's been Sky+'d.

OK, I'm not going to go through the game, it's too big, there's too much to it - And it's all out there on the Internet in morbid detail.  But essentially you make a fantasy character, their race, sex, profession and physical appearance are all up to you.  Then you do 'stuff' - People send you on missions, you can fight against other real people, you could save up your in-game money and buy a hideously powerful hammer and use it to explode bunny rabbits should the mood take you. All human (and a lot of non-human) life is here.

Improbably, when you kill enemies, including animals like wolves and wild boars etc.  They mostly drop some 'loot'. Now loot could be meat (which generally makes sense I guess), money (Makes sense for the more humanoid enemies, but not so much for the bears and soforth) or weapons and armour (Don't even get me started on why a pig would drop a pair of chainmail boots or an 8' long poleaxe.)

And if you want the best 'loot' then obviously, you have to visit the most dangerous places. In simple WoW (See, World of Warcraft - There are acronyms and everything!) the most dangerous places that you can easily get into are 'Dungeons'.  These are underground (usually) areas filled with tougher than normal enemies and one or more 'Bosses' who are an order of magnitude tougher again - So tough in fact that you have absolutely no chance of killing them... On your own.

You need a team of five people, so you take four friends (If you do not have four friends - And let's face it, if you did, you wouldn't be playing WoW, the server will appoint you four team-mates) and you work together to eradicate every living thing that you find.  So far, so geeky...

But it's not that simple, the team is split into three, there's a 'Tank' Whose job is to soak up damage and keep the bad guys occupied, a 'Healer' to keep the Tank alive whilst he's being waled on and three 'DPSers' (DeePeeEssers) who kill the bad guys whilst they're concentrating on the Tank - Everyone has a job, it's just like living in modern day Britain... *cough*

Last night, I was with a group in a little place that I like to call Blackrock Depths - When I met the British cousin of my old friend Buck, from Modern Warfare (Please note... I don't know if he was any distant relation, in fact I don't even know whether the original guy's name was Buck - They were just both gits.)

He was the Healer, and he liked to do everything at 100MPH, we rushed from room to room, killing stuff left right and centre, he was constantly telling us to 'Pull more mobs' (Attack more bad guys at the same time) as he was 'IMBA' (Which is short for Imbalanced - Meaning he was overly powerful, to the point of it being unfair) - So obviously, just after he said that, we all died.

Then we all died again.

Then the Tank left the group because he was sick of dying over and over again - I pointed out to our healer, that if he could have just kept the Tank alive, maybe he wouldn't have left.

He opened up with telling me that I should 'Learn to play', and that I was a 'Know nothing Noob'.  I explained, rather calmly I thought, 'That there was the possibility that I had a little more experience, both of life and WoW than he did,' and asked how old he was.

He was 16

I told him that I was 45, he then went off on a tirade about how sad it was that a 45 year old man was still living with his parents in their basement.

I then explained that I lived in a very nice 3-storey house with my wife and children thank you very much, and asked if he'd noticed that a new Tank had joined our group and because he was so busy being abusive and not healing, that he'd died and left and that it was probably all his fault.

Then he got all shouty, and told me how I was being immature because I'd implied that I had more experience than him, just because I was nearly 30 years older.

I suggested in return that he had the reasoning power of a septic mallard.

Because we had no Tank, I took it upon myself to start to kill bad guys myself... He either refused or was unable to heal me and I died, then his friend also died as the enemies that had been attacking me, turned on her.   He was so apoplectic with teen angst and bile that he'd not been able to save her, that he quit the group himself.

His friend came up to me later and apologised unreservedly for his behaviour, saying that he was exactly the same in real-life... A shouty, spoiled brat who acted like a dick all day every day.

And they say these on-line games are about escapism and being your ideal version of yourself.

Hope not... In-game I'm a seven foot tall green dude, with a white mohawk, tusks in my lower jaw and an armoured loincloth...

Actually, now I come to mention it.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

So good to be Viviparous

The Doctor looked out of the mirrored window at the assembled news teams, collected on the street outside like flies on a rotting corpse, and shook his head.

‘What do they hope to achieve?’ He mused aloud, ‘How many scenes of a redbrick frontage will their viewers stomach before rising up against the state-sponsored propaganda machine in rebellion?’

He was a veteran, he had served in the military for several years, and had been recruited into the Royal Household many years ago.  It was an honour to serve and his senior position filled him with pride.  He had overseen the past half dozen Royal births and was something of an ‘old hand’ at the delicate procedure.

The private suite was entirely populated by the vetted and the security cleared, even if they weren't exactly ‘his kind of people’ they could be trusted.  Nothing that they heard or saw would go any further than these four walls – Especially after what happened last time, a tragic incident, but a lesson in security.  Every outsider was checked and double checked.  Every protocol for every eventuality was drummed into them, consequences were explained, and ominous threats were made towards their extended family.

There was a quiet knock from behind him and a young nurse sheepishly poked her head around the door.

‘It’s time Sir. She’s ready.’

He turned and nodded curtly, took one last look down at growing, baying, throng and moved sinuously into the orange light of the stiflingly hot delivery room.  She lay there on the bed, her gown gathered lazily around her waist. 

‘Are you ready My Lady?’ He regarded her distended stomach, ‘He looks like he’s going to be a big boy, do you require any pain relief?’

She looked up at him with her huge eyes, her mouth gaped slightly and her tongue darted out, wetting her upper lip.

‘Yes…’ She panted, ‘and water.’

He turned to the nurse and barked, ‘Fifty CCs of medetomidine hydrochloride, administered here, to the base of the throat, then fetch the scoop.’ 

Passing the gravid Duchess a bulb of water, which she immediately squeezed into her mouth and swallowed hungrily, he ran his hand across her expansive, dry forehead and into her ear, checking that her pulse was steady.  He looked at each member of the team one by one and nodded.

‘Ladies and Gentlemen, we are about to bring the newest member of the Royal brood into this cold, harsh world.  If all goes well, pray to Dazbog, and thank him for the blistering basking sun that he has given us this day… If all does not, pray for yourselves.’

He held his breath and delicately inserted the birthing scoop between the scales of her cloacal opening, applying just enough gentle pressure with the serrated edge to rupture the skin of the amniotic sac.  Once the wash of hot fluid had drained from the table and onto the floor, he reached into the cavity and lifted out the baby.  His scales glistened like stars in the glow of the heat-lamps and his pronounced brow ridge pulsed with life.

‘He is beautiful my lady, eight toes, six fingers, two opposable digits and...’ He turned the baby around, ‘...a perfect tail.  What will you call him?’

The Duchess thought for a while and then answered, ‘I will name him after his Uncle, he will be called “Zod” amongst the true people.’

The doctor raised the new-born above his head, his pronounced snout almost touching the infra-red bulbs on the ceiling.

‘Mighty Dazbog! Lord who watched over us on our long flight to this world. I call upon you to look now to your newest worshiper Zod, third in line to the throne of our soon to be Empire, conqueror of lands, despoiler of forests, maker of deserts and the heater of this dirt-world.’ He looked down at the mother, panting on the bed, ‘What would you have the apes call Him?’

‘I don’t know, his Father can decide that, it is of no great importance.’ She yawned sleepily as both sets of eyelids closed over her scarlet eyes, 'Perhaps Arthur?'

Overhead, the bright sun had been replaced by a roiling cloud, and in the distance, there was a faint peal of thunder.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Unpaid Review: The Cardamom Club, Derby

You know how I'm always banging on about something?

Whether it's how the Blog's not very popular, or how I'm not really doing enough to the book with having a day-job and everything?

Well, I was comparing this to lots of other Blogs and I've noticed that a lot of the 'popular' ones review stuff... Companies actually send them stuff to review.  Don't know how that would work out here obviously, as a lot of you know, I'm not particularly 'corporate', I like to call a spade a spade and so-forth.

I figured that the only way I'd see if I could write a review, was to actually write one, and see what happens, see if it parts any velvet ropes, see if I get inundated with offers to test hand lotion or man-sized tissues (But not a the same time, if Mr Cameron has his way)

I'm going to review the restaurant I visited last Thursday, for myself and Mrs Dandy's fifteenth wedding anniversary. (I know right, you don't get fifteen years for Murder nowadays!)


The Cardamom Club

Indian Fine Dining Restaurant - Racecourse Park
Sir Frank Whittle Road - Derby.

First of all, let me just say that the chap who owns this restaurant also owns a company that I used to work for - The company with the haunted offices and the vending machine with the undocumented gamble feature - And some of the people that worked with me there, just happened to be in the restaurant when I visited.

Whether this impacted on the quality of my experience... Well, I couldn't possibly comment.

First impressions? Well, It's a part of the complex that houses the local Days Hotel and I must admit to being worried initially that it might just be the 'Dining Room' for the hotel.  I've spent a significant part of my working life staying in hotels all over the country where you have to go 'next door' for your breakfast and dinner of an evening.  This is not the case here, The Cardamom Club is definitely a restaurant in its own right.

Pulling up in the car-park, I noticed the owner's Bentley parked outside, so I had an idea that the staff would be on their best behaviour - It might be worth me trying again when he's not there, just to get a balanced view and see if things are any different 'when the cat's away'.

As you walk through the main entrance you are hit by the opulence of the surroundings.  From the fountains in the lobby to the gleam from all of the polished surfaces, it was easy to forget that you were on a commercial estate, half a mile from the city centre.

We had arrived purposely early, so that we could sample the hospitality and try some cocktails, which were very, very good.  There was only one fly in  the ointment, last Thursday was one of the hottest days since time began, even when Derby was an active volcano and pterodactyls ruled the sky, it wasn't as hot as it was on 18/07/13.  Unfortunately, it was on this fateful day that the air-conditioning had decided to go on the fritz.  Fair play to the team, there was an air-con engineer on site and he managed to get everything working again within the hour.

The Staff: Everyone who had anything to do with our experience, whether it was simply showing us to our table, taking our order, delivering food and drink, or making sure we were OK were excellent.  We never felt pressured, or neglected, the staff struck a fine balance between availability and unobtrusiveness.

The Food: We shared a platter of mixed Indian starters, with onion bhaji, kofte kebabs, lamb cutlets and fish tikka - This was excellent, it was a huge amount of food for a starter and if I had not been so hungry, this would quite easily have been enough for me.  However, I had purposely been starving myself since March (Well, bikini season is coming up), so I was happy to wait the few minutes that it took for the mains to arrive - And I'm not being sarcastic there, (Which is odd for me) the main courses arrived quite literally, minutes after the starters had been cleared away.

For main, I had the Lamb Saag - One of my favourite flavour combinations, the Memsahib had the Lamb Roganjosh (Coloured to a wonderful red with Rattanjot) and both were superb, probably the best Indian food that I've ever eaten (and I've eaten a LOT of Indian food.) - We both had Naan bread, as is the custom, and my Keema Naan... Well, I don't know if you've had Keema Naan before but it's effectively a Naan (I know, Who'd have thought it?) filled with minced meat, usually mutton, but it really doesn't have to be - And from every Indian takeaway I've ever been to, the filling has been macerated to the point where it looks like the bits of donner meat that even the lower end restaurants would give to the dog... But this was real, minced meat, with real spices, which fell like spicy rain from the Naan when you tore it open - I will probably never see its like again... Which is a real shame, because I've been forever spoiled and cannot eat anything else now.

We finished the meal (or so we thought) with a Dark Chocolate and a Mango and Cardamom Ice-Cream, which was also excellent and then made ready to pay the bill.
But no! - What actually happened was that we were presented with a cake, on a decorated platter, wishing us a happy 15th anniversary and then we had our pictures taken (Which has now been posted on their Facebook page)

Funny Story: The young Asian lady you can see in that picture, dressed in pink was horrified when the side-dish of her (I presume) fish curry was a basket of Whitebait, and that Whitebait were little fish, and that little fish had eyes! - Well, it made me chuckle anyway.

The Bill: OK, now we get to the bad bit, the bit everyone dreads, the moment when you open that little leatherette folder and scan down the receipt to the number with the most digits and start to cry.  I was expecting it to be a fairly big number, and I wasn't disappointed.  What you have to remember is that this isn't an Indian Restaurant... Well, I mean, obviously, it is an Indian Restaurant... But it's a fine dining restaurant.  The average price of a main meal is about £17 (going up to £50 if you fancy the lobster) - So you might not want to go the week before payday when you're looking underneath the sofa cushions for coppers.  But saying that, it was a fair price for what you actually get if you factor in the quality of the food and the impeccable service.  All I'll say is that if you take a 'friend' then you'd do well to not expect a lot of change from £100.  I'd take, maybe twice that if you're trying to get your friend drunk for any reason, not that you should have to... If you've taken a member of the opposite sex for a meal here, their enjoyment and any possible show of appreciation, is virtually guaranteed.


So, that's my first review, hope you enjoyed it.

If you have an item or service that you would like to get reviewed by The Chimping Dandy, feel free to get in touch.  I'm open and honest.  Conversely, if you want to review The Chimping Dandy, you could do that too - People have you know, and they thought I was great!

Thursday, 18 July 2013

And not a Yorkie in sight

Another couple of short, non-me based stories today.

When ah were but a slip o' a lad I went t'college for t'learn all abaht compewtuhs an' th' like.

(Sorry, can't keep that up, it's hurting my brain)

I had this lecturer, can't remember his name for the life of me, he was great... Funny, knowledgeable, mad as a hat full of colossal squids at an all you can eat Japanese restaurant and a martyr to borderline dissociative identity disorder.  He'd come to be a Computer Science teacher after a long time as an HGV driver in the late 70's and he told a couple of stories once that came to me this morning after seeing a 42 tonne truck driver trying to back a container truck down a farm track.


He'd been working for this particular company for a few months, when they sent him on a trip to the sea-side on a nice summers day to deliver some... ah... some... Well, I suppose it doesn't really matter what it was, but he did his drop and thought that he'd park up and have a bit of a snooze in his cab.  So, he found one of those carparks that you sometimes see that have extended parking spaces for coaches and suchlike, got a nice spot where he could open his windows to hear the sea and dropped off. (I mean go to sleep, it wasn't right on the cliff edge or anything)

He woke up some hours later, looked at the clock, realised that he was late, yelled some expletives, started the truck up and started out of the Carpark.  The first thing that he had to was do a sharp left turn to get out of the parking space... And that's where the noise started, it continued when he straightened up, it was an odd kind of a grinding / dragging noise.  He stopped and looked in his mirrors thinking that he'd hit a litter bin or something, but couldn't see anything. So he pulled forwards about ten yards and the noise not only started again, but the trailer started to bounce up and down.

Then he thought that maybe the trailer brakes had jammed on and the wheels weren't turning, so he got out of the cab, and that's when he saw it - there was a car, underneath the lorry, in between the cab and the trailer wheels.  It was a convertible MGB with the top down, it must have been parked next to him as he was asleep, then as the cab swung around it'd gone between the wheels and he'd dragged it along.

Only thing was, the old chap it belonged to had seen him do it, well, he couldn't really miss him doing it, as he, and his wife, were sat in it eating their sandwiches at the time.

He moved companies shortly afterwards.


Another day, another company, this time he was up in the Dales (Think proper Last of the Summer Wine country) and he was completely lost.  Remember that this was before GPS Systems and mobile phones and all he had was the 1965 AA Book of the Road and a hand-written list of instructions taped to the dashboard.

He did a heroic job of trying to find the place he was supposed to be delivering to, but ended up in this little village where there was every likelihood that he was going to get roughly sodomised and then eaten.  It was hilly, very hilly and the signage was confusing, the roads hadn't been built with 8' wide, 60' long trucks in mind and he'd started to panic a bit.

Eventually he pulled over and asked this pregnant woman for directions.  Unfortunately, the combination of driving a right hand drive truck on the left, where the height of the cab means that you're 10' up in the air meant that she couldn't really hear what he was saying.  Saying turned to shouting, shouting and growing panic turned to yelling, and the yelling brought on the crying from the young lady.  He immediately regretted what he'd done, climbed down out of the cab, stuck two fingers up to the queue of traffic behind him and apologised deeply to the person whose only crime was to try to be a good Samaritan.

Let's look at that list of actions again shall we?  Just to see if anything obvious is missing:

Hilly village, Pull over, ask directions, shout, yell, regret, get out of truck, abuse other drivers, console pregnant women.

No, that all seems... Ah, wait a minute... Did you spot it?

Not a single mention of a handbrake.

The truck started to roll and gathered speed quite quickly really, by all accounts, and went off straight down the hill in the middle of the road. people were screaming, children were pointing, our hero was sprinting after it, dogs lay with cats and a mighty voice from above declared 'AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO'S NOTICED THAT THERE'S A T-JUNCTION AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BLOODY HILL?' And God was right, there was a T-Junction, and on the other side of the T-Junction were more houses and shops.

Luckily, the truck had started to weave about a little by this point and clipped a Talbot Sunbeam, which wasn't big enough to stop it, but was just right to divert it enough to get it around the corner so that it could grind along the row of shops and houses, ripping off signs and smashing windows until it ground to a halt outside the local Police station.

It was shortly after that that he left driving for ever, got himself a degree, and became a teacher.

Safer for everyone I think.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

What? All of my clothes?

Professional strippers feature fairly heavily in the backstory of The Chimping Dandy, I mean... The still burgeoning time-bending powers of my super-villain alter-ego were initially  forced into being in a strip-club in Birmingham.  I was even one myself once, briefly...

But in general, there are two kinds of people where strippers are concerned, those who REALLY like them, usually people who drink cheap lager and wear three-seasons old football shirts, and people who can take them or leave them.  Me? Believe it or not, I'm firmly in the second camp - I mean, I like naked ladies as much as the next big, hairy, chock full o' testosterone, bloke - But I can't see the point if you're not allowed to... erm... You know... How should I put it?.. Have a go on them (OK, some some ladies who class themselves as strippers will let you 'have a go' for a medium to large financial consideration, or so I've heard, but they are the exception rather than the rule.)

I know that sounds mercilessly objectifying and terribly misogynistic, but while those ladies are happy to portray themselves as commodities for (as I understand it) large sums of money, as exotic dancers, I'm happy to watch them without knowing their personal motivation and / or lifestory.

Right, before this turns into a discussion of the human trafficking of sex workers from Eastern Europe, let's drag it back on track... Strippers are nice people with attractive bodies who make money by showing them to people.

I knew this guy, many, many, years ago, who had his own business and would often entertain clients in pole-dancing clubs (For those who are unaware of the difference, the young ladies in the pole-dancing clubs tend to keep their underpants on - There are all sorts of health and safety issues otherwise - I'm not going to explain this, you should be able to work it out for yourself. Especially if you have prior experience of ladies front-bottoms) - He used these places so regularly that he became 'known' to the girls and they would say hello and give him a peck on the cheek if they saw him in the street.  This was only fair as he was probably single handedly putting all of their children through private school (Yes Katie Hopkins, Ex-Apprentice Harridan and Wholesale Bigot, a fair proportion of strippers send their children to private school because they make more money than you and I put together).

Anywho, he took me a couple of times, there was free beer and naked ladies, as you'd expect and whilst I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy the lewd and lascivious behaviour of some of the professional ladies there, it was far more entertaining when they weren't 'performing' and would just sit down next to you and chat... It took a little while to get over the novely of talking to a pretty lady wearing just a sparkly thong about how they used to get bullied at school for having one ear slightly higher than the other - And I also admit that I sometimes had to work fairly hard to maintain eye contact, but I'm a bloke and to an extent, we're hard wired to be attracted to stuff like that, sorry ladies - But it's true - Ongoing continuation of the species and all that.

Then I told another friend of mine about this chap and he said

'I've never been to one of those places you know.'

Now, I was genuinely shocked, I'd assumed that it was sort of a right of passage for young men, everyone had done it, like kissing a girl then running away when you're eight years old, or tipping a cow over when it's asleep or thinking you look cool and then only realising some years later when you look at photos that you in fact looked like a complete cock.

So we went to a local strip-club that provided both kinds of entertainment.  There was a pole in the middle of the dance-floor where a rota of young ladies performed every fifteen minutes or so and there was also a... not sure what the correct group noun is... A flirtation perhaps? of honest to goodness, will take it all off in three minutes or less and position themselves two inches from your nose, strippers.

I believe our American cousins use a phrase 'Like a kid in a candy store' that aptly describes my friend's first reaction as he stepped through the door.  His eyes were like dinner-plates, as the popular simile goes, as he realised that even fully clothed strippers didn't wear a huge number of garments.  We had a pint, and sat, and watched a couple of poledancers whilst he tried to get a hold of himself (No... Stop making your own jokes up please, I'll do the humour thank you very much).  All was well until an attractive, naturally pneumatic, auburn haired lady approaced my friend (We'll call him Albert, but that was not his name) and spake thusly:

Lady: Would you like a dance?

Albert: Erm? [Looks at me in panic]

Dandy: [I shrug] Do you? She seems very nice.

Lady: Come and have a dance, it'll make you feel better, help you relax.

Albert: I... uh...

Dandy: It's his first time

Lady: Really? - Oh! - Well in that case I'll take special care of you. [She holds his hand]

Albert: [In a daze, stands up] Well, I'll have a go, but I'm not a very good dancer.

Now the young lady in question, because she was a consummate professional, just smiled and led him into the 'private' area - I however dissolved into that type of raucous laughter normally reserved for Hyenas drawn by Disney animators.  In fact, I think I may have even given myself hiccups.

They emerged five or so minutes later, her with a broad grin, him with a dazed expression and an air of unfulfilled tumescence.  They sat and chatted for about three quarters of an hour - It seems that they'd gone to the same school as each other (her starting some years after he'd left, obviously, otherwise it would have been weird)

Small world innit?



If you should ever feel the need to ask your wife if you are allowed to go to a strip / pole dancing club - Do not bother, her answer will be no... Even if she says 'Yes', she means 'No', it is a trap of Admiral Ackbar proportions.


Some while ago, whilst the current Mrs Dandy was still the prospective Mrs Dandy, we had arranged to go and see (IIRC) a Bon Jovi tribute band called Blaze of Glory at a medium sized venue in her home-town.  We went seperately as I was still an unknown quantity to her dear Father and wasn't allowed to just pull up at her house on a large motorcycle and whisk her away to parts unknown. (He loves me now of course, I'm like the free IT support guy that he never had)

So, we met there, in the club.  She had arrived early with her mates, and I had rode there.  I parked the trike right outside, OK'd it in a doorman to doorman stylee with the frankly gigantic Afro-Caribbean bouncer who was really rocking the Crombie coat / Dreadlocks combo and went inside.  It was heaving, there were wall to wall people and it was virtually impossible to find my 'date' - So I thought the best thing to do was get a beer, and circle the room like a leather clad vulture until one of us spotted the other.

Yeah, the leather, maybe we should take a second there to explain... I was wearing a black leather bike jacket and leather jeans, combat boots, a tight, white cotton t-shirt and wrap-around shades - I was also a few stone lighter than I am now, my chest was bigger than my waist, and could still, just about, pick up a 3500 V8 Rover engine on my own (Yes, I've let myself go, yes, I'm suitably ashamed)

It only took five minutes for someone to grab my backside and shout, over the noise of the DJ,

'You're Late! where have you been?'

I turned, and looked down.  It wasn't who I'd expected, it was someone's Mother, I'm not sure whose, but she was certainly someone's.  I looked confused and took a sip of my beer.

'We're over here.'

She grabbed me by the wrist and started to drag me across the room, shoulder barging people out of the way like a miniature Norwegian Ice-Breaker, until we got to the bar - I'd assumed that she was one of my soon-to-be-wife's work friends.

'Have you got your music?'

'I'm sorry? I don't know what you mean...'

'Your music? a CD? that you dance to?'

'Dance? I.. erm?'

Now, the next two things happened almost simultaneously, My now-wife had seen me being dragged away and had followed, she was now standing directly behind me, and the other woman asked...

'You are the stripper, aren't you?'

It seems that replying 'That depends on whether you've already paid or not.' was not the reply that the Mrs Dandy in waiting was expecting... And resulted in the first of many 'Paddington' style hard stares.

We made our excuses and left.


So fair readers, I hope that our swift foray into the world of paid clothes taker-offerers has expanded your horizons a little, and always remember...

You CAN keep your hat on.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Edge-Lit 2 and Shameless Plugging

Well, that was a bit of a weekend chaps wasn't it?  Highest temperatures ever recorded on any planet in the known universe ever (Including that really hot day that we had on Mercury in August 1976 - Phew! what a scorcher - as I believe I said to Bremzag the Unclean, First grade Chinwok of the Mercurial Royal Family, at the time.)

So what did you do?  I'll bet it involved being outside, possibly burning some meat, whilst wearing inappropriate clothing... Whether the meat you were burning was your own, or came from an ultimately more bovine or porcine source is neither here nor there and essentially is between you and your Priest / Shaman / Robotic Richard Dawkins impersonator...

I spent a number of hours on Saturday in one of those modern, glass eco-friendly hippy buildings that people are so fond of building nowadays.  You know the ones, they never look finished and they've all got passive air-conditioning - In as much as when it's hot, they open a window and when it's cold, they offer to sell you genuine foraged alpaca wool ponchos and all the money made gets put towards a charity concerned with re-homing the fifth generation offspring of itinerant Turkish pit-ponies.

I was at the Edge-Lit 2 Convention(?) in Derby - (Please note, the question mark there isn't meant to imply that I wasn't exactly sure where I was - I knew where I was... At first, but I wasn't sure if convention was the right word - Never been to one you see.  I'd always thought the word convention implied CosPlay.  There was sadly no CosPlay, not that I noticed at least).

I got there nice and early, as it was also to be the day that I, your kilt-wearing hero, was to finally meet the Internationally accepted God of Flash Fiction, James Josiah and Neil Sehmbhy the Supremo Author of the upcoming The Corporation, Jinx and Sunder Wars books.  Now, because of the unusual way that the Internet works, I've know these guys really well for ages, but I've never actually met either of them in the flesh as it were.  They're both thoroughly nice chaps though, you should go and follow them now... Go, do it now.

So, we went in, with a fair amount of trepidation if I'm honest, none of us knowing really what to expect, and registered.  We were given a 'goodie bag' of frankly excellent books (Which more than covered the price of entry), a sheet of A4 paper with some words on it and a name-badge for us to fill in ourselves - I considered filling it in humorously, but as there was only the one pen, and a queue of sweaty Sci-Fi/Horror types behind me, I just wrote my real name and the name of this blog.  I noticed that some people wrote their life stories on theirs, reams of added paper disappearing into the distance making them look like the personification of 'Snake' on an early Nokia phone - Seriously, there was this one guy with a particularly long trail, during some confusion about which room he needed to be in for a particular Author panel, he crossed the streams, created a Moebius and immediately flipped into another dimension - His memorial service was lovely, we nicked some tulips from the traffic island outside, I cried.

We attended a couple of Writers' Panels, one on 'World-Building', which was where published authors talked about how they went about creating the background for where their books are set, the stage on which their characters perform.  It was really good, not just in that it gave me a couple of great ideas for how to improve the 'Edward Teach' Stories, but it showed me that no two authors do anything in the same way - Everyone pretty much just makes it up as they go along - It really filled me with confidence.

The next was on 'The future of Fantasy' and was quite interesting in a 'blue-sky thinking' / 'I'm just pulling this out of my rectum' kind of way.  But the number one, double diamond, glittering ruby, shaped like a cherry on the top of a birthday cake made of pureed Angelina Jolie and solid gold hundreds and thousands thing about this was the questions from the audience section.  OK, so a couple of people made salient points with real, erudite questions about the possible future of a widely unknowable medium, and the panel did their best to answer them.  But the guy who asked the last question was an absolute gem, I assume he was writing a book, he was very keen... Very, very keen... and very excitable... Very, very excitable.  I only picked up about one in every three words because he was talking so quickly, but there was something about people having brands or tattoos on their backs that specified who they were, I think, and rather than ask a question, he sort of gave us all a warp 7 synopsis of the book, it was a joy to see five professional authors sat there with their mouths open whilst they were bombarded by a wall of... erm... well... I'm not exactly sure what it was a wall of, but the three of us spent the afternoon trying to fill in the blanks, our ideas got more and more outlandish after every pint.

You see, for us, this is where it all went a bit pear shaped.  We went to the pub at lunchtime, nice place, The Brewery Tap (or Royal Standard if you're old like me.) just down the road - Does nice beer and snacks... And we looked at the running order to see when we needed to be back, it turned out that we had almost two hours to kill, so we had a few pints and wandered back to the venue in plenty of time - Only to find that the sheet of A4 paper that we'd all been given when we'd walked in was a list of changes... And pretty much everything that we'd planned on doing / seeing was now either full or all on at the same time... So we did the only noble thing we could - We had a go on the raffle, had a chat to a new local publisher who may have been looking for fresh talent *cough* and then went back to the pub for a couple of hours.

Then I woke up on the floor at home, with my kilt up around my waist, with no real recollection of how I got there or what the burning sensation was.

All in all, a great day - I would definitely recommend Edge-Lit 3 in 2014 (should there be one, which I hope there is)


Ages and ages and ages ago, I mentioned that there may be some Chimping Dandy merchandise in the works... Well, I have struck a deal with New, up and coming merchandising company Hash Togs to provide things, clothing, phone backs, mugs and other stuff no doubt that bear the Seedy the Pangolin logo - Here is a T-Shirt that I have - You can buy one for yourself for a measly tenner:

This is on the Back

This is on the front

They've very kindly supplied me with a phone back for my iPhone too, but as I have fingers like sausages, I couldn't get it off to take a photo of it, I will need to let the MiniDandy to explore it with her arachnid-style digits later on.  They deliver really quickly, the proprietor is not not completely mental and they will quite happily do whatever your little heart desires on whatever your little heart desires (within reason - They won't print a haddock on a live pig, but only because they can't get it through the presses without it making a helluva noise.

And yes, they paid me to say that, but in fairness I would have said it anyway. (So I win that transaction - Mwahahaahahhahahaha!)

For any questions, quotes etc. please get in touch with these guys, not me, because my stock answer will be huh?

They're on Facebook here - Hash Togs on Facebook
Or you can eMail them Here - Hash Togs eMail

Thursday, 11 July 2013

And, having writ, moved on...

Yadda - Yadda - Yadda... Authoring, Yadda - Yadda - Yadda... Empowerment, Yadda -Yadda - Yadda... Worthiness, Yadda - Yadda - Yadda... I'd like to thank the Academy... Boring Boring, Boring...

You get it by now, I'm sure - I bang on about it all the time, I consider myself a writer, not just because I am completely up myself, but because I write stuff.  Since November 2012 I've written this, my semi-daily funny / ranty Blog - Which attracts on average maybe 50 hits per day.  Not brilliant, but I don't think it's bad for one that doesn't have any particular theme, doesn't get asked to endorse anything and doesn't have (very many) naked pictures of the author and his friends (For which you should all be truly grateful, trust me... OK, I looked pretty hot in the Beard Blog, but other than that, you'd want your eyes bleaching afterwards.)

I'd just like to take a moment to apologise to some people who've found me accidentally via Google, especially those people who were trying to find the popular, and incredibly naked Cam-Girl 'Dandy' - on a website whose address involves the word/s 'Ishotmyself' and got a story about Me, The Dandy, shooting myself one day by accident.  And the many, many gentlemen (I presume) who were searching for the same lady, but were concentrating on her mammary protuberances, and accidentally loaded a page about my love of shopping at ASDA / WalMart.

If you follow my Twitter or Facebook, (And if you don't... I'd be genuinely interested to know how you got here - Unless You're Russian of course, then you'd have probably searched for 'The Internet Saying', 'I sit here on the verge' or 'The Doors Lock' - Leave a comment, we're all friends here, I'd really like to know.) then you'll have heard that since May 2013 I've been trying to write Britain's next, greatest, youngish brother / sister / male / female protagonists, aspirational, Airship Pirate novel of the 21st. Century - It's going pretty well, 40,000 words (as of 10/7/13 - That's 10th July, not 7th October for the unusualy colonial types).  It's had some good WiP reviews, it's been mercilessly torn to pieces by proofers and it's been re-written more times than a Conservative Party list of Election Promises.  I'm sure you'll all buy a copy if I ever manage to have a meaningful relationship with an agent / editor / publisher.  I might even sign it for you if you send me gifts of cake, or compromising pictures of yourself that I can use to blackmail you in the future, should you ever become even slightly famous.

Then there's my published work, perhaps the most currently meaningful part of my portfolio as far as serious writing is concerned.  At around the same time I started this Blog, I also started submitting Flash Fiction stories to the august institution that is The James Josiah Flash Project (This was the first one I ever had published)- You should all be visiting this site regularly.  Short stories that you can quite easily read which performing many kinds of bodily function. JJ has published a couple of anthologies too (Of which I am perpetually honoured to have a couple of my stories feature in each), which you can download for your Kindle - Go to Amazon, do a search for 'James Josiah' and you'll find both of them. Then buy them, because they're only 77p each - In fact, buy all three of his books - Right now! - 'Stories I Shouldn't Tell' will make you cry, and if it doesn't I'll happily kick you in the shins, repeatedly. (Oh, and should you REALLY be interested, I'm credited as the Illustrator for volume 2 of the Flash Fiction Anthology under my real name... Bit of insider knowledge for you there. *wink*)

We're even going on a kind of Project Outing on Saturday, Well, some of us are attending the 2nd (Hopefully) Annual Edge Lit Festival in Derby.  It's an opportunity for authors and lovers of SF, Fantasy & Horror to get together and have a bit of a mingle.  There are writing workshops, guest speakers, book sellers and competitions, you should definitely go... I mean, we'll be there and everything.  OK, it's £25 a ticket, but you could learn something - And you get to hang out with creative people (And probably some geeks, and maybe some fully grown people who still live with their parents  - But who are we to judge?) - I intend to enjoy it immensely, and take pictures (if such shenanigans are allowed) and bore you with them next week

So be warned.


So, as the Top Ten of most popular Posts has taken a bit of a beating recently, I thought I'd provide an updated countdown.  Remember, these are voted for by you, you only have yourselves to blame.

10: An eye for an eye - Tales of Horror, inflicted by my Mother (When she was still alive) on a small child, using her own false eye.

9: Second contact closing fast, bearing 076 - A story about the time when, working as a glorified delivery driver, I caused a lorry driver to spontaneously combust and a motorway to be closed.

8: A discussion of pornography, do not read - A treatise on sexism, erotica and the popularity of soft-core pornography.

7: Then I posed, and he took my picture - About the time I may have had accidentally posed for a photospread published in a German Gay porn / Fetish magazine.

6: I need your clothes, your boots and your motorcycle - A guide to the etiquette of fancy-dress parties and how to teach children to field-strip a .50AE Desert Eagle.

5: Barnaby Wilde (Pt. 1) - The first installment of my three-wheeled motorcycle memories.

4: Boobs, Melons and Jumper-Lumps - It's not what you think... It's about My enduring love of shopping at ASDA / WalMart.

3: One more rusty nail - A serious one, (Apart from the farcical bit in the middle) about how many people confuse the word 'Muslim', 'Terrorist' and 'Psychopathic Madman'.

2: Thermodynamics, it's the law! - This little beauty had been at number 1, since it was written, back in January 2013 - This story involves my Father, a cryogenically frozen bird and the trapped, screaming spirit of a mentally compromised secretary.

1: Pogonophilia is for everyone, even the young - The new number one, only a few days after it's publication, it had received three times as many hits as the last number one had ever had in it's sad little life.  Pimped by semi-professional Bloggers, promoted internationally by the real live famous and hooptiously wonderful comedians Rufus Hound and Al Murray - My diatribe on all things bearded and how you are more likely to be considered manly by a modern female if you can grow a luxuriant facefull of fluffy fly-catcher.

Have a read with a chocolate digestive, see what you think, let me know, ask me questions, pop in and say hello on Saturday, I'll be the one in the green kilt (If it doesn't need ironing)

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Let loose The Kraken Th'Noo

Long time readers will know that I sometimes make and wear kilts, both in the classic Tartan pattern, and in the more specialist PVC, for the discerning wearer attending special events.  They're very liberating, especially when worn 'traditionally' and can be a source of boundless hilarity at the higher end of the Beaufort Scale.

It all started about ten years ago, when a good friend of mine decided, for one reason or another, to get married in full Scottish dress, I looked at the prices at the wedding suit hire place and thought 'Bugger that' and decided to make my own.  It's not hugely difficult, you just need 8 or 9 yards of material, put a few pleats in it, bang on a waistband, hack a couple of belts apart for the fastenings and One Eyed Murdo that lives in the croft up the road's your Uncle.

You have to be pretty confident to get away with it though, certainly in England.  I get abuse shouted at me occasionally by the odd white-van man as they drive past at speed, cleverly forgetting about that time that they dressed as Ginger Spice, edible thong and all, for 'Our Chardonnay's 13th Birthday party.'

But the positive responses far outweigh the negative.  You have to be carefull of course, I mean, there's the whole 'crossing your legs' minefield (Am I right ladies?) and if you're sitting on a low seat, knees akimbo, and there's someone directly opposite you... Well, watch their eyeline to see if you're accidentally doing your 'Last turkey in the shop' impression. You also need to be aware of a little something that I like to call 'Unsolicited female attention'.

Now, being:

a) An average bloke

b) Not a male model by any stretch of the imagination

c) Not rich

d) Not young

e) Not famous

I don't normally tend to get followed around by clouds of adoring females trying to let loose the Dandy Kraken, but when I'm all kilted-up... Well, that's a different kettle of HRT therapy,  I've lost track of the number of times that I've been ruthlessly assaulted by hordes of (presumably Kraken-Starved) middle aged women, or hen parties, in pubs - And it pretty much always plays out the same way.

  • I'll walk into a bar (I've been told that I tend to throw the double doors open and strut into bars like Frank 'n' Furter facing into a wind machine, or Michael Jackson in the video for 'Bad' , when I'm in the kilt - thinking about it, It's possible that I bring some of this attention on myself) and heads will turn.
  • Men wearing football shirts will shake their heads, mutter 'F'kin homo inna skirt' under their breath and try not to make eye contact from that point on, because they'll immediately turn gay, obviously. (Ignoring for a second that I'm a heterosexual as a Grizzly Bear with a Chainsaw, jumping out of a burning Lancaster Bomber eating a dinosaur drumstick with mushroom gravy.)
  • Women, usually groups of women with between 5 and 8 members will nudge each other and point as I walk to the bar, there may be the occasional quiet 'Och Aye th'noo' Which I can quite happily ignore, with me not being particularly Scottish.
  • The people I am with will shake their heads in a 'Not a-bloody-gain' way get their drinks and wander off to find a table.
  • There'll be an 'Excuse me' or 'Are you Scottish?' from behind me, they mostly come at you from behind you see... Mostly...  So I turn around and see a female person, who has probably had a few more Bacardi Breezers or WKDs than is strictly good for them, and is slightly red around the cheeks, and has been styled by Vivienne at Primark.
  • I turn around and say 'Aye?' - Meaning 'What can I do for you, lady who would probably be quite pretty if you weren't wearing the entire Boots No.7 display counter and if you had drawn your eyebrows on when you were still sober?'
  • They then invariably ask, 'Are you... you know?' and stare at my Gentlemans' Area - It doesn't help that I don't wear a sporran either.  Because I invariably wear a jacket with pockets, and Scotsmen will tell you that that's what it's for, it acts like a medieval man-bag - That's not it's main use - It's mainly there to disguise any physical evidence that you find someone particularly attractive.

(It's the old question... The one that always gets asked... Do I wear a kilt in the 'Traditional Style?' - Let me put this one to bed right now... You're effectively asking if I, with malice aforethought, go out into the public space, with only a thin scrap of loose fitting material covering my genitalia, knowing full well that I'm only one inquisitive toddler away from a conviction for indecent exposure?  Is that what you're asking?

Well the answer is yes, that's exactly what I do...)

  • So I stand there, look them straight in the face, and say 'Why don't you find out?'

(Yes, I'm also a Man-whore, get over it...)

To date, only one person has taken me up on my kind offer, she was less than gentle... Not only did she look like Quasimodo, but she had his Sally-pulling expertise as well - I was quite traumatised, not to mention strained, twisted and bruised, for some time afterwards. I still get flashbacks, it's like my own personal Vietnam.

You'd think that would stop me saying it wouldn't you? No? Well obviously you've been reading this blog for too long then.

I also tend to get adopted by groups of drunken Scots, and have to start using my fake Billy Connolly accent and pretend to be from Kirkaldy (pron. Kayrcoddy) to avoid being torn to pieces after someone mentions the Battle of Bannockburn and I forget which side I should be cheering for.

Everyone should wear a kilt at least once in their lives, I'm probably going to end up wearing mine HERE on Saturday what with it being hot and everything.  You could come along too if you wanted - Come up and say hello, you should be able to tell if I'm pleased to see you.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Будь готов!

In 1908 Lt Gen Robert Baden-Powell (Who you really should have heard of), Hero of the Second Matabele War and possible repressed homosexual,  Wrote a book called 'Scouting for Boys'.  Had it been written more recently, I fear that it would have had slightly different connotations.  But at the time it was a rewrite of some military manuals that B-P (As his friends called him) had written some 20 years previously.

In part 3 of that weighty tome, Beepy (As I liked to call him, during our times of fraternal intimacy) decided that the Scout motto was to be:  BE PREPARED.

Nice, simple, straight to the point... Be prepared for anything that might happen, be aware of the situation, and plan for things that might happen.  It's good advice - I mean he also says that you should also be prepared to give your life for your country and suchlike and he goes off on a bit of a 'Dulce et Decorum est' kick for a bit.  But generally good advice.

Most of us do it, we're aware of danger, we sort through the possible outcomes of our actions and generally plan, using our previous experiences as reference.

This should scale up wouldn't you think?  I mean, if I can look after my two children, out of the kindness of my heart, with the bare minimum of lost limbs and emergency replacement of bodily fluids, then surely... Someone whose job it is to look after something should be able to look after it.

I'm talking, in a roundabout way of course, about the people who look after our transport infrastructure.  The average range of temperatures that we have to put up with in England is somewhere between about 6 and 14 deg C during the year and we get about 3 feet of rain and 1,500 hours of sunshine. Now do you foreign types understand why the English are usually depressed?

So, in the Winter, it snows on the high ground - Which mainly inconveniences people who have chosen to live in places where there's a nice view, or have particularly hard sheep.   You'd expect there to be all kinds of carnage wouldn't you?  But strangely, the people who get hit hardest by this weather tend to plan for it, they drive proper Landrovers (not the new ones that look like that one they designed for the first Judge Dredd movie) - You can tell the people I mean by the way they're always using phrases like 'Southern Softies' and 'This isn't snow - We've not had real snow since 1963'

Then comes the Spring.  Now, two things happen in the spring (Well, a lot of things happen in the Spring, but we're only interested in a couple of them).  In a warm Spring, the snow on the high-ground melts, runs down the mostly granite mountains and quadruples the volume of water that's being dumped into little streams.  These streams carry on as best they can, flowing themselves out to the coast until they hit something man-made, like a canal, or a diverted river that now goes through a town-centre or a housing estate that was built on the cheap on a flood plain by a company more interested in profit than anything else.  So you get a few weeks of news reports showing new Ford Focus' (Because it always seems to be a Ford Focus, or at a pinch, a Renault Laguna) being carried out to sea, and sandbags, and worthy people who can't get insurance sleeping in the local church.

If it's a cold Spring, we get snow on the low ground.  Not Northern Territories of Canada fifteen feet deep snowdrifts, not majestic untrodden snowfields as you might see on the rolling Steppe of whatever we're supposed to call what we used to call Russia now (Probably something with 'Stan' on the end) but about four inches of grey slush that's only really a problem for motorcyclists who've forgotten their waterproofs.  What happens after the first afternoon of snow?  The entire country shuts; Offices close, public transport stops, Electricity pylons are brought down.  Councils complain that they've not bought enough grit and everyone else complains that we should be more like Iceland in our preparedness (But not necessarily in our banking or volcano situations)

Then, as surely as Summer follows Spring... Ah... Perhaps I should have used a different simile there... We have Summer.  A usual English summer is six weeks of moaning about not having a summer, a week and a half of all the red-top newspapers having the words 'Phew!', 'What', 'a' and  'Scorcher' on the front page every day and then eight weeks of people meeting up at random and saying 'Well, I guess that was Summer then.'  Ice-cream sales septuple, as do those for suncream and ironic sunhats.  Everyone who has a caravan makes for the coast, there are a couple of pileups due to inexperienced drivers being hit by crosswinds but it's pretty quiet really.

But there was one thing... On my way into work this morning I heard a traffic report that was about a stretch of road that I use every day being partially closed for emergency maintenance as... Wait for it... ONE OF THE CARRIAGEWAYS HAD MELTED!

British roads are coated in something called Asphalt (or Tarmac...Which you will probably have some spare of and can do a lovely job on my drive, If you happen to be a member of the Irish Travelling community) which has a melting point of about 120 deg C... The temperature yesterday was about 26 deg C. - So, how does that happen?  Well, a lot of asphalt isn't exactly 'new' It gets re-used, melted down, mixed with thinning agents and re-laid.  If you do this on the cheap, it can lead to it taking on the consistency of toffee - Highways Agency doing things on the cheap? Surely some mistake!

Phew! what a Scorcher!

Then Summer rolls into Autumn, and Mother Nature covers the English countryside with a beautiful golden cloak of leaves.  Or, as the rail companies call them, thin sheets of uncontrollable, train-stopping organic matter that bring the country to its knees!  OK, I admit that modern commuter trains have fairly piddly engines, about 800 Bhp or so, but you'd think that there'd be a mechanism for handling the track being a bit slippy, like a brush in front of each set of wheels, or one of those 'cowcatchers' that you see on front of trains in Cowboy films, or an unemployed person strapped to the front with a couple of cheap wallpaper scrapers and a determined expression.

But all these things happen every year, If I can write about them and I'm effectively a know-nothing chancer who lives to make people smile, why can't clever people think about them and solve them before they happen?

This country was called Great Britain for a reason you know, (Actually, they say that it was to distinguish it from Brittany in France... Brittany in this case meaning 'a bit like Britain' - like Irony means 'a bit like iron') And we should go back to those times and resurrect Baden-Powell, he'd have us sorted out in minutes.

For as the great Man said himself, 'To get a hold on boys you must be their friend.'

Actually no, that doesn't really... erm... Oh Bugger-it!

Friday, 5 July 2013

Pogonophilia is for everyone, even the young.

Let me start by saying... You probably read the title wrong the first time.  Your mind is so used to seeing that other 'philia' that starts with the letter 'P' and has an 'o' in it that it just automatically fills it in, especially if you read the Daily Express.

Pogonophilia is the state of admiring, being fond of or having a fetish for... People who have beards - You see I said people, not men because there are ladies who wear full beards proudly.  But in fairness, I am actually going to just be talking about men, because: ewww.

I've lost track of the number of posts I've seen on twitter and other blogs and Facebook that start with things like 'Oh, I saw this guy with this completely lush beard at the Railway station this morning and I just wanted to rush up to him and run my fingers through it and get naked and have his babies right there outside WHSmiths.' or 'I'm sitting in Costa and there's a guy sitting opposite me with a Brad Pitt beard and a sharp suit, reading Dostoevsky's treatise on the vagaries of the human condition and I'd go over and jam my tongue in his ear but I seem to be temporarily stuck to the chair by my own lady-juices.'

What is it that's suddenly made beards fashionable and/or desirous?

Ok, so Brad Pitt seems to have gone a bit Worzel Gummidge, and La Depp seems to be hanging on to a watered down version of the Jack Sparrow goatee, George Clooney is rocking the Silver Fox look, Mel Gibson looks like a boggle-eyed anti-semetic musketeer, Colin Farrel, Billy Connolly, Daniel Craig, Viggo Mortenson, Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale - All of these guys currently sport, or have sported in the recent past facial hair.

In the past, (like, 50-60 years ago, not prehistoric times - where beard wearing wasn't a lifestyle choice, it was a neccesity) - Beards were the preserve of Fishermen and members of The Royal Navy (Yes, I know there's a salty seaman joke in there - feel free to fill it in yourself - I can't be bothered) Then if we move forward slightly you get everyone being clean-shaven except for the Hippies and Beatniks, From then until 2010 it was just Bikers, Tramps and Santa.

Look, here's an example... This was me in about 1994.

Calm down ladies... I know... 26 years old, full of beans and brimming with so much rebellion that I should be driving James Dean's Silver Porsche.  A veritable love machine of the old school (Ignore the washing machines... Long story).


So, why did I grow a beard originally? Well apart from the whole motorcycling thing?  It's because I'm a mutant - It's all my Mother's fault you see, she had a freakishly small womb (Obviously, this was whilst she was still alive.) and I spent a significant portion of my gestation period with my forearm jammed into my chin causing a certain lack of mandibular development, making me look a little bit like Beaker, off of the Muppets when I shave my beard off. (Which is why I don't, ever, not even to go to a Muppet themed fancy dress party - I go as Sam, the American Eagle - Gives me the opportunity to paint myself blue... again)

While we're on the subject, did you know that the only animal other than humans to actually have a chin is the elephant? - Which is strange, because scientist believe that the chin's job is to support the muscles required to move the lips well enough to enable us to speak.

But over the years, I've developed my hirsuteness from full Captain Birdseye (You should never go full Captain Birdseye) to the interesting Goatee/Walrus moustache with disconnected sideburns combo that I'm rocking here - I have stuck with this style as it seems to work for me:

That's the MicroDandy by the way - Yes, he was cute wasn't he - You'll also note that my hairline has... Retracted slightly from its position in the previous picture.  I think it makes me look distinguished - And I lie to myself regularly about other things too.

I would have used a current picture, but I'm growing my hair at the moment and it's in that difficult 'In between short and long' stage that makes me look like a startled clown.

That's why I have a beard, but why do I think women like men with beards?  I think it's part of a cycle.  The late 70's / Early 80's were the golden age of 'The Man', the one who'd jump from a helicopter, scale your trellis (ooh-err) and deliver you a box of chocolates.  Hard drinking, Hard fighting, Hard loving men who made women feel like women and misogyny was a normal and expected part of everyday life.  Then, as the 80's turned into the 90's and political correctness and sexual equality became increasingly popularised, Men (not men... But Men) started to be regarded as anachronistic, overly neanderthal buckets of testosterone who, if anyone ever invented a cucumber that could mow the lawn, would be consigned to the cupboard and only brought out for the process of procreation.  Thus causing the Golden Age of the metro-sexual - These chaps were characterised by their fantastically quaffed hair, Gucci manbags, colour co-ordinated silk ties, socks and pants and legendarily low sperm counts.

These amazingly successful subspecies dominated advertising and finance for many years until everything went a bit pear-shaped. Benetton and Gap spiraled out of control and became satires of themselves, the stock market and banks followed suit and every news report seemed to show slightly effeminate males running around trying to grab the last few lettuce and watercress sandwiches after there'd been a run on Pret-a-Manger and having a bit of a cry.

It was time for a change, someone needed to take charge and steer the ship towards land, who were those people? Who could emerge from a cloud of dry-ice wearing just fireman's trousers or a kilt with a good quarter pint of baby-oil smothered over their pecs? Who could we trust to buy their food from a roadside greasy spoon which only sells thick slices of bacon, sausages with indeterminate contents and pasties that just have meat and potato in them?

Men, that's who... Men with beards... Beards that say 'Yes, I can both change a plug, spatchcock a donkey and make love to a beautiful woman until she is incapable of anything other than lying there shaking whilst muttering "thank you, please sir can I have another?" over and over again.'


The Mark of a Man.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

All virus' have a laughing Jolly Roger

OK, an apology... No Blog for three days - I'd not blame you if you left me wallowing in my own self pity...

Go, no really, I don't deserve you, please - I deserve it... Go now!

I'm so alone...


[Looks up sheepishly] Have they gone?

Phew! - I like to do a cull of the people who don't really want to be here every once in a while - I like to surround myself with hardcore readers like you (You know you you are, you're all my special friends)

But I do apologise, Monday and Tuesday were a bit of a blur.  My car failed its MOT quite catastrophically and it was cheaper for me to go and buy a new (Well, new to me at least) one.

And Yesterday? Don't talk to me about Yesterday - If John Lennon were alive today, and he was a IT Analyst instead of an International Musical Sensation and Professional Hippy - He would look in his notebook and change the words in one of the single most recognisable songs of all time from:

'Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away'
'Yesterday, what the buggering b*llocks was going on with the bloody network?'

Which would have made it a completely different song I think you'll agree, but just as snappy...

What was (indirectly) wrong with the network was, of course, something to do with an American gentleman, who ticked a box, on a spreadsheet, years ago, that may have saved us a few thousand dollars in the long run, but cost us a few more yesterday when a box in a darkened room went *bang* and we hadn't paid the 'Quickly replace boxes that go bang insurance'

Which brings me onto today's Blog subject.

'Mericuh! - On this, their Independence Day (Read that in Bill Pullman's voice, it sounds better)

America's great, it's big, It's bright, it's brash and love it or hate it, it's currently the leading superpower on the planet.  How that should make you feel probably depends on which of our world's many Gods you give thanks to before you sit down to eat your dinner and which stereotype you think of when someone says 'American'

I've worked for big American companies an awful lot over the past 30 years - Dealt with their support staff, chatted with their management and attended their meeting (on endless conference calls) And the one thing that I've established is that they tend to treat us like a bit of a poor relation.

You get the feeling that if you have a major problem, someone called Chet or Brad will explain that you really shouldn't worry your pretty little head about it and the guys with the smarts, over there in Boston, or New York, or Los Angeles or wherever will have it sorted 'in a jif'. We should just go back to... Erm... Whatever it is we guys do to pass the time.

I honestly think that some Americans believe that the UK is a small rowing boat, anchored off the East coast of Ireland that contains four chaps in bowler hats, a football hooligan, a mad cow and precisely no dentists.  If one of these City Gents were to take a telescope and look to their South East, they would see the country of London, where there are historic buildings and airports and Macdonalds and things that your average colonial tourist would instantly recognise - And everyone knows the Queen - But this has nothing to do with England.

I can see why we look insignificant, let's take a look at some hastily Googled statistics

UK - 62,740,000
USA - 316,570,000
There are 5 times more Americans that there are normal people

UK - 243,610 Sq KM
USA - 9,826,675 Sq KM
America is 40 times the size of the UK

Now I'm not going to do the easy thing and do stats for guncrime and people who have no access to free healthcare, because they're boring and depressing...

Beer consumption per person per year (Litres)
UK - 74
USA - 78
Pretty close...

Fat consumption per person per day (Grams)
UK - 145
USA - 161
Again, not a lot in it...

Number of rollercoasters
UK - 160
USA - 624
Four times as many in a country 40 times as large?  Although the amount of rollercoasters per person is about the same.  Also, did you know there's only one rollercoaster in Uzbekistan?

So, I guess it's just about the actual size - Well, I guess that I get that a lot.. *cough* it has been cold.

But don't let this make you think that I'm Anti-American - I honestly think that it's a great place that would be made measurably greater by me being in it. American TV's great, the vast majority of the programmes (or shows as I believe they call them) I enjoy watching are American.  Stuff like Game of Thrones, Supernatural and Star Trek are all great and filmed in that slightly fuzzy 'America-o-vision' (Because I don't have an HD TV)

My favourite... Show, by quite a huge margin, that knocks my next favourite, Storage Wars, into a cocked hat by a country mile is... Wait for it...


It is pure genius... One of the nicest people on the planet (at least from what I can gather from TV and Twitter) and Brooklyn native, Adam Richman, travels around the US, introducing us to diners and restaurants that serve infeasibly huge portions of food - He regularly eats stuff that weighs in excess of 7lbs - That's the same size as a newborn baby!

At the end of the show there's invariably a competition, whereby the proprietor invites Adam to take part in a challenge that only a very small amount of people have previously managed - If he wins, he gets his photo on the wall, or maybe a T-Shirt... If he looses, well, he looses in front of millions of people.
And no-one wants that.

I understand that Adam has retired from taking such food challenges now and I can't say as I blame him.
On this American Independence Day, let us all face west and Salute Adam Richman.  One of the greatest living Americans.

Adam for President - Most definitely.

You! Ess! Ay! - You! Ess! Ay! - You! Ess! Ay! - You! Es! Ay!

P.S. Still not sure that I forgive them for the whole Boston Tea Party thing... Awful waste.