Friday, 12 September 2014

Carry on up The Raj!

In the early days of the British Raj, when Queen Victoria was yet to use the title Empress of India, the sub-continent was a wild, unexplored place and drew many an adventurer from the ranks of the army to seek their fortune in trade and plunge into a life of derring-do, of steamy nights under monsoon skies and thrilling expeditions into the darkest jungle fastnesses. Shortly after The Great War, a veteran of those intrepid days was discovered in an army pensioners’ hospice in Dover by a young, keen reporter, out to make his name by writing a definitive history of the times.

In his day the former Lieutenant Colonel Farquharson had been a near-legend amongst the members of his regiment and others for his bravery under fire and his extraordinary appetite for danger. Off duty he thought nothing of stalking dangerous game and often set out alone in pursuit of the lesser big cats; the leopard, the Asiatic lion and the black-as-night panther. But none engaged his passion so much as his desire to bag a royal Bengal tiger and as the reporter furiously took notes, Farquharson recounted the sequence of events leading to a very close encounter indeed with this noble and gigantic predatory beast.

“And I tell you” said the ancient, sitting ramrod-straight in his chair, “there is no greater thrill than tracking down your quarry from the lofty howdah atop a mighty Indian elephant.”  He continued: “Once, we were in the dense mangrove swamps of the Sundarbans in the Ganges Delta. A small party; two elephants, a few beaters, the scouts and trackers… and me with my trusty Enfield pattern rifle-musket. Ahead we could hear the occasional deep growl of a tigress, probably defending a kill from marauding leopards; lazy devils, the leopard – rather steal food than kill it themselves, given the chance.”

The reporter scribbled on as the hunter continued his tale. “Suddenly, there was a cry from ahead. One of the beaters had unearthed a banded krait, a big one at that, and one of the deadliest of snakes. In an effort to rid himself of the venomous serpent he had inadvertently flicked it with his stick towards one of the trackers who, examining spoor, was unaware and took a nasty and ultimately fatal bite on the arm. Panic ensued as he thrashed about in his death agonies and as we all looked on helplessly nobody noticed the huge, striped man-eater appear from the undergrowth.”

“Nobody, that is, except the elephants who both reared and stampeded off, bucking the mahouts and me onto the ground. My mahouts fled but I had twisted my ankle and as I looked up to assess the situation I saw, right in front of me, the largest tiger I have ever seen. My weapon was lost, my bearers had fled and all I had were my bare fists. I adopted a fighting stance as the tiger leapt towards me with a mighty ROARRRR!”

Yes, it is. It's the story of Little Black Sambo!

He paused a moment, then looked straight ahead and confessed “ I’m ashamed to say, I soiled myself." The reporter looked up from his pad and said, "Under those circumstances anyone would have done the same." Farquharson shook his head sadly and went on: "No, not then. Just now, when I said ''ROARRRR!''…"

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Missing all the points…

When you dance on swords it’s important you don’t step on the sharp bits. Fortunately for Ed Muddleband, David Cam-on-down and Nick Clogg, their chances of being on the receiving ends of any actual points are vanishingly small as they head up to Jockland to put their shoulders to the Scottish Independence wheel of misfortune.

What they hope to achieve, they say – while resolutely refusing to say it in unison – is that the auld place just wouldnae be the same without ‘oor’ canny wee neighbour in the north; for mark my words, at least one of them will be taken up with their own rhetoric and  come over all Caledonian in the telling. Quite what Scotland will make of the miserable episode is anybody’s guess...

Actually it’s not. Despite what the polls say, most have their minds made up and those who are agin the union will only harden their resolve on seeing the pathetic, belated attempt by hated ENGLISH(ish) politicians to woo their vote. Those who are minded to opt for retaining the status quo will suck their teeth but maintain their preference while cursing under their breath that these idiot interlopers have revealed their desperation with over a week to go.

What was it we used to say about waiting till we could see the whites of their eyes? In the case of Glasgow that would, of course, be ‘the reds’ (in more ways than one) but the party leaders could at least have limited their damage by leaving it until the eleventh hour. This way it’s like poking a hornet’s nest with a stick. What’s that angry whining noise? It’s the sound of half a million Buckfast-fuelled Weegies sensing Sassenachs on their turf with time to mobilise against them.

I secretly hope that Scotland will go it alone; we need a precedent for the big push to get out of the EU, but it’s not going to happen, is it? Even if a Yes vote was returned I reckon the now traditional EU ruling would apply and they’d have to re-run the ballot until the politically acceptable 'correct' result was obtained. But none of that will be necessary, will it? Despite what some polls suggest, I’ve already called it at around 60/40 for the NO vote – just you watch.

But isn’t it the point – one of many that the gleesome threesome will never understand - that it’s for the Scottish to decide? How can we gad about the world demanding the rights of people to determine their own futures when we deny it to our oldest partners right here on our doorstep?

Is it a bir... Oh fuck, it's Miliband.
Ed McMiliband... 
a disaster coming to a country near you.

Anyway, all that’s left is to settle back and watch the Westminster Wankers, the Wizards of Odd, make twats of themselves for a day or so. Ye ken, pal? A bacon buttie is child’s play in the face of the photo-opportunity potential of a deep-fried haggis and Mars Bar pizza. And while Cameron might just about be able to pull it off, there being a clan tartan after all, Gawd 'elp us all if Ed Miliband attempts to wear a kilt…

Friday, 5 September 2014

Wooden Eye

This Friday’s saga is brought to you by way of a belated tribute to the dear, now deceased, friend who told it to me many years ago. (Please watch, this is true.) John was a fine artist and bon-vivant and many a hoary old tale was told, late at night following an exhibition opening or at the end of a frantic weekend at a gallery far, far away. In the pursuit of perfecting his art and particularly his life drawing skills, he had spent a great deal of time at the local hospital, engaged in producing detailed anatomical drawings in the mode of daVinci and it was here that he had heard of the strange case of the young man with the wooden eye.

The poor lad had lost the ocular apparatus in a strange coincidence involving a third party, a pointed stick, some larking about and the ignoring of the sage advice from many an elder that he would have somebody’s eye out one day. Well that was the day and the optical orb was deftly and permanently displaced from its orbit.

Back then, surgery wasn’t an option and so it was an eye patch or a glass’un. But fine glass was expensive and our hero was not only blind, but broke. Were there, he asked the eye technician any cheaper alternatives? The proffered solution of a hand-crafted ceramic replacement was also beyond the humble budget of our one-eyed protagonist who put on his best monocular, ‘pity me’ expression and indicated that he needed a bargain basement option.

The eye artist plucked an old wooden billiard ball from a bowl, sighed and began to paint a crude iris on its surface. It would have to suffice and for the cheapest possible fee our young man walked out of the eye unit a man intact… until he noticed small children staring and pointing and whispering to their mothers, gaggles of giggling girls and the muted guffaws from the binocularly gifted everywhere. He was so shocked at how his affliction marked him out that he retired from society and rarely ventured forth thereafter.

But times change and after a few years he heard talk of openness and acceptance and diversity and individualism and one day he decided to re-enter the world of the living. In the dim lights of a night club he figured his deformity would attract less attention and after a few drinks he was emboldened enough to consider the possibility of asking a girl for a dance. He scanned the room and discovered a pretty, shrinking violet, her hand held to her mouth, hiding away in a dark corner. He moved a little closer so that he could watch to see if she was accompanied.

She was. She had a group of close girl friends who regularly checked that she was okay. They came along and chatted and she seemed to reply, but she never moved the hand from in front of her mouth. Until, just once, he caught a fleeting glimpse. Her mouth sat vertically on her face, a ninety-degree rotated smile; this couldn’t be true. He focused his one good eye on the group and yes, sure enough, she once again revealed her anomalous, grim grin. This was his chance – how could she, with her own deformity, turn him away on account of his?

Nobody's perfect!

Soon she was alone again, her girlfriends back on the dance floor and he seized his opportunity. Walking over to her, his hand covering his wrong eye, her hand covering her perpendicular lips he raised the courage to speak. She shrank away from him at first, her hand clamped firmly over her mouth, but in a moment of raw daring he spread both his hands in a gesture of supplication and – revealing himself – asked, “Would you like to dance?”

She looked directly at him and her heart skipped a beat. She lowered her hand and said, excitedly, ”Oh, wouldn’ I?” Our man hardly paused before he responded; the instincts of years of isolation taking over, he replied, “Well, fuck off yourself… cunt face!” 

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Not for the squeamish...

So, my last Friday commute didn’t go quite as planned. With the Dartford Tunnel closed the only realistic option was to go clockwise; the long way round. Eight hours later I finally completed the 250-mile journey and collapsed into bed… but sleep just would not come as I relived the worst part of the journey. No, not the crawling, stop-start madness of canned commuters trying to get home, but the hell I witnessed when I stopped at Cobham Services to refuel.

Jean-Paul Sartre said “Hell is other people.” He was being unusually generous. My dear god, what horror. A teeming, steaming, loathsome hive of pointless human garbage, gurning into their KFCs, queuing for their Maccy-Dees and dribbling… everywhere the dribbling. Stuffing food into their gaping mouths, pausing only briefly to time their insertion so that mastication need only be interrupted for a fraction of a second and then swilling it all down with over-sized paper cups of ghastly fizzy, sugary shit. And talking, talking, talking… yabbering inanely away about nothing of consequence.

At first I thought it must have been some sort of coach-trip convention composed entirely of society’s rejects, a useless army of the damned; doomed to roam, like broad-beamed Flying Dutchmen from one service station to another, clogging up Britain’s motorway network like slow moving lumps of lard in the nation’s arterial system, occasionally clumping together in clot-inducing gatherings like this. Was I witnessing a rare convocation of the fatty deposits, or was this a genuine snapshot of how British people really are?

Expressionless, saggy-titted, milch-cow mothers, coping with their demanding cuckoos by becoming vending automatons; wiping and feeding, wiping and feeding. Bored, too-young fathers gazing vacantly into mobile phones far their superiors in every possible measure of intelligence and wandering, aimlessly wandering, to and fro and back and forth and achieving the square root of zero-point-fuck-all. And the children – millions of them, to my eyes – everywhere you could see; mewling, squawking, ugly, pointless packets of piss and puke destined to become just like the herd of parents they accompanied and harried and brought low.

And at what point in history did offensiveness of appearance become obligatory for the under forty-fives? Arse clefts gaping from low slung jeans, or underpants hoist like fat spinnakers in Cowes Week. Back fat bulging from vests and blue veins pulsing feebly beneath translucent, over-stretched, pasty-white breast flesh. Pre-pubescent future criminals with insults temporarily razored into thuggish haircuts and everywhere the never-ending declaration of ignorance – tramp stamp, ‘tribal’ tattoos representing no known tribe on earth.

Mass debate
Where's Wally* (Trick question)

This mess, this mass of pulsating flesh, eating, chewing, consuming, using; sucking up and spitting out and wasting precious oxygen; overwhelming the planet’s resources and tearing out the goodness from the earth… and for what? What an insidious parasite the human race is. I sometimes wonder if the islamists have a point.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Hollywood Blues

Ah the Golden Age of Moving Pictures! In lights, the names of the greats shone from every cinema marquee: Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Errol Flynn... Donald Duck. How we laughed! How we thrilled! How we left our little lives behind for the so-short span of a movie reel and dreamed of life on Rodeo Drive. But little are we aware of the tortured lives behind the faces of the screen gods and goddesses. Some fared better than others, but many succumbed to the temptations of fame.

Thus it was with Tinsel Town’s most famous couple. The King and Queen of Hollywood; Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Rumours had been surfacing for years about Mickey’s occasional peccadilloes and the philandering ways of many of the original Rodent Pack, long before Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra cleaned it up, changed the name and made it relatively respectful. Mickey, in his wild days was a force of nature, hanging out in the teeming sewers and gutters of Dreamland and it took all the ingenuity of Disney Studios to keep the world’s press sweet.

But in the end there was nothing they could do to keep the news of Mr & Mrs Mouse’s impending divorce from the front page and as surely as encore follows curtain call, the case entered the public consciousness for a few intense weeks in 1954. Presses were held for the latest bulletins from the Los Angeles County Court and finally, sixty years ago to the day, the final arguments were heard.

Judges back then were little different from judges of today – old, slow, hard of hearing and lacking in common worldly experience – and after a long lunch at the Brown Derby, courtesy of Walt Disney himself, Justice McDuckula was in no mood for frivolity. He approached his summing up with a furrowed brow and an air of deep incredulity as he gazed out upon the public gallery, an audience whose noisy bombast he had had to quell on more than one occasion.

He fixed the assembled throng with a gimlet eye and waited for silence before launching into his summing up. “We are assembled here,” he quacked, his voice like an angry hive of high-register bees, “to consider the petition of one Mr M. Mouse of Malibu Beach.” The judge continued: “Having heard the evidence and pleas from both sides I am minded to say that a more frivolous suit it has rarely been my misfortune to hear.”

“Your honour!” interjected Mickey’s council

“Objection overruled!” growled the judge and settle back into his theme. “As I was saying, I have heard the case and weighed up the circumstances and I cannot find it in my conscience to grant a divorce on the skimpy basis of mere cosmetic appearance. Beauty is more than just skin deep.”

“But, your Honour…”

“Silence in court!” barked McDuckula “You will hear my verdict. I will not – and I repeat – will NOT, grant a divorce on the grounds of the plaintiff’s objection to the fact that his spouse of many years has buck teeth!”

A murmur began and rippled through the assembly. A few titters sprang up and died before the beady gaze of the judge… and then Mickey Mouse himself indicated that he wished to speak. The judge indicated with a weary gesture that he may. Mickey got to his feet, waited for silence then addressed himself to the bench.

“Your honour,” he said, “I bring this action, not on the grounds of Minnie’s dental work, which, by the way, is impeccable for a rodent, but because...” and here he paused a second, taking a deep breath before continuing. “I'm telling you she’s fucking Goofy!”