Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Last Night's Dream

I had moved to London, but it looked more like Melbourne. I was living in some sort of large corner building, maybe a disused hotel. It had lots of rambling rooms. I lived at the top. My housemates weren't very social. They sat about in individual rooms wrapped up tight in sleeping bags. The rooms were dimly lit. Some of them were watching portable TVs. It reminded me of the old lady watching 'Words and Pictures' in 'Threads.' I had to pass them to get to my room. They barely acknowledged me.

There wasn't any cutlery or dishes in the house, but what upset me was the lack of glassware. So I hit upon an idea.

There was an old colourful kitchen cupboard, like the one in the picture above
. I dragged it down the road, across the way from the bar. I encouraged people entering & leaving the bar to leave me their glassware. Soon I had loads of glasses, and quite a few jugs too - jugs full of some sort of cherry cocktail. I brought it back to the house. The cocktail didn't seem alcoholic. I gave some to my housemates.

Later, they opened a huge new branchline of the London Underground just for Charles, Camilla, the other members of the royal family & the Cabinet. This was in light of recent unpleasantness. I went down to have a look. There was an extra new tunnel and platform but no-one was allowed to use it, as it was reserved for the dignitaries. There was a lot of shouting and unpleasantness on the platform. It disturbed me to see commuters turning on each other, as I didn't understand who could support such a strange transport policy.

I didn't get on a train but went home. There was a lot of natural light spilling into the underground station from somewhere.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

A new non-job

I got a job today...but only for today!

A woman rang me from an agency on Friday, gave me an address in an industrial estate. After some hunting I found the premises. A data processing company. They never told me what they do, but they appeared to be concerned with junk mail & spambots. Or something.

Anyway, they sat me down at a PC and gave me a huge pile of ballot papers relating to the nat west community fund.

See, all these coves and covesses and even junior coves had been filling in charity nomination forms for the 'Wye Retired Horse Relief' and 'Macclesfield Sea Scouts' and 'Snails for the Blind' etc etc etc. The winning charity gets £3000 from Nat West, see.

I had to go through hundreds of the bloody things ticking off their local Nat WEst branch and favourite charity on an internet browser. It was more corrupt than FIFA - the same handwriting appeared on dozens of ballot papers. They were all block votes for the same charities, too.

Anyway, at 4pm I asked the manager about arrangements for the rest of the week and she said 'Sorry, Nat West have cut the funding. We won't need you any more. And it's snowing so you can go at 4.30.'


Ah well. The bloke working with me says they do that all the time. He was only there for the day too. But he assures me we'll be back.

He's a nice bloke but he smokes rollies two at a time. In this weather, he smelt like damp burnt socks.

There were loads of unfinished flyers. Who will complete them?

I quite enjoyed being at work. There were some nice ladies who smiled at me and even talked to me. I must apply myself to the high-rolling world of business.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Some thoughts on the current global financial situation

David Cameron has been in China telling the natives how to behave. Not in the field of human rights, well barely; but in terms of commerce. He wants the Chinese to spend more money, so that more cash starts flowing around the global economy.

Some wags have suggested that he force opium upon them as of old, although there is some truth in this jest. For the opium wars were not just about one substance of use & abuse. Back in the mid 19th century, the British were all over tea. They were positively addicted to it, an addiction which has continued to this day. Unlike today, tea cultivation in China and Sri Lanka was at an early, experimental stage. Some cuttings had been smuggled from the east, but the only people who knew how to grow successful tea plantations were the Chinese.

The Chinese tea planters had no interest in trading with the British; all they wanted was cold, hard payment. And they refused to take this payment in any form other than sterling silver.

The British Exchequer started to worry about this one-way flow. How could they reverse this imbalance in trade and claw back some of their precious reserves? Their answer was to flood China with addictive opium, a crop they could grow in the far-flung outposts of the empire.

When the Chinese provincial governors realised the debilitating effect the substance was having on their people, they tried to ban it. So the Empire moved in and forced them to accept by force of arms.

That was one way to reverse a balance of trade deficit. But it's neither practical nor sane today, and not just because the People's Liberation Army's is made of sterner stuff than their 19th century equivalent. However, the money is once again flowing into China and not coming back out.

Some nations are doing all right. Germany has a healthy trade with China, but then Germany still makes stuff. Like luxury cars.
And like the Chinese, the Germans have come under fire for not spending enough. Too much sensible saving.

Now Cameron doesn't say what he wants the Chinese to spend money on; just that they should. I suppose the idea is that if we can get them hooked on great British exports such as shortbread, Ginsters pies and whisky they'll get us out of this fiscal black hole. Apart from Rolls Royce engines, the biggest UK export seems to be Premier League football at the moment. Everyone goes crazy for that. But all that does is line Wayne Rooney's nest with hookers and gin.

Or perhaps he wants some of the cash to flow back into the City of London, so that the bankers and hedge fund managers can gamble it on the next big venture. Where will the next bubble be found? In the developing markets in the far east?

So - is this what global capitalism is founded on? Is this the whole shoddy mess stripped bare? Everyone in the world has to buy stuff, stuff that we certainly don't need and might not even really want if we stopped to think about it. We just have to do our duty and buy tat to appease Mammon.

The citizens of China and Germany might laughingly point out to Cameron that our spend, spend spend culture got us into this shitstorm in the first place. Are they not wiser to put some away for a rainy day? Look at the example of Norway, which rather than spend all its oil wealth on needless fripperies decided to save it.

Despite the warnings, we continue to throw the money around. The tills will be ringing hot this Christmas. I was in my local Tesco this Sunday past, and the place was rammed to the gills. And the trolleys were creaking not just with essentials but with luxuries. Kia-ora, Dairyleas, Time-Outs, Blue WKD, all that sort of extravagance. The government may be cutting back, but many of us are far from poor:

The UK is the fattest nation in Europe .

UK restaurants throw away 600,000 tonnes of food a year; the general population throws away 12 million tonnes.

While in some Asian countries 40% of children are malnourished.

So how come such an extravagant, wasteful nation as the UK can be so deeply in fiscal deficit? Surely if we can afford so much luxury, so much needless food, so many pointless car journeys, so many DVD box sets we never watch, so many Jimmy Choos - surely we could afford to pay off our own deficit? Maybe we could be a bit more like the Norwegians or Germans. We could take the money we spend on all the crap & plug the hole in the economy. Because this deficit doesn't mean we'll have less fancy goods. It's all about cuts in services - education, healthcare, refuse collection, social work, even street lighting. Things which matter.

But to suggest such a thing would have David Cameron and our wise economists recoil in terror. For as we've seen, the world economy relies on us buying stuff. Even though the UK produces little of real value, we have to keep the money moving and moving and sloshing so that all those jobs in the retail & service industries are protected. And those at the top take the lions share of the money sloshing around and use it to buy more useless products but on a grander scale, until someone points out that the emperor is wearing new clothes and the bubble bursts. As with the American sub-prime property market.

For the last hundred years or so, the political battle has been between the left and the right. Between the free market and regulation, between socialism and capitalism. The left has been widely discredited, whether through the totalitarian horrors of Stalin, doctors working as factory operatives in Cuba, or the broken power of the unions here in the UK. Yet socialist China grows in wealth and influence, and if we're relying on them to save our economy, what does that say about us?

Surely it's time for some alternative economic system, some third way. And I'm not talking about Tony bloody Blair or the Lib Dems. Back in the days before the recession, people were seriously challenging the overuse of the world's finite resources with a green, ethical philosophy. Now we're being told the only way to get out of recession is to churn them out and buy them up. It doesn't feel wise.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Soup Review

This is a new soup from Baxter's. It costs more than normal soup, presumably because it has a tiny amount of brandy and lobster in there.

I found it on the shelf at Tesco. In the soup aisle. It was with all the other soups in tins. The packet soups are lower, to the left.

At first, when I tried a spoonful cold from the tin, I thought to myself 'This isn't going to pleasant.' It tasted like mashed pilchards in tomato sauce.

But after I'd gone to the trouble of heating it in a pan, it got better.

Very thick, quite filling. It is a weird mix of fish and tomatoes, though. A bit like spaghetti marinara, but without the spaghetti bit. I'm just not sure if fish and tomatoes work well together. They are from different realms of the earth.

I prefer pasta marinara with a cream and cheese based fish sauce.
I use whale milk to make this, when it's in season. I disguise myself as a Minke calf and shuffle in amongst the pod, squeezing the teats of great lactating cetaceans.

I'm having a pint of tea and and some oak-smoked cheddar as an accompaniment. They are the soothing cello to the harsh discordant kettle drum of the lobster bisque.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Last swim in the sea

I just went in for what will be my final swim of the year. It's ok when you're in the water, but when you get out it's bloody FREEEEEZING.

Plus, I could see some folks eyeing me anxiously from the shore. They stared and pointed and pointed some more.

When I got out an old bloke in a pacamac told me off, saying he thought I was off to top myself.

"You should leave a note pinned to your bike," he said. "We couldn't see a towel or anything so we thought you'd gone in to......you know......"

Yes, a big note pinned to my bike saying "I AM NOT OFF TO KILL MYSELF" would definitely reassure peole. It would not arouse suspicions at all.

Then, when I was cycling off, a car pulled up beside me and a bloke wound down the window. "Were you just in swimming? Out to the buoy and back?"

"Yes," I replied.

Silence. He had a big dark angry head on him & looked wild upset about something.

"Why?" I enquired.

"Oh we just had a 999 call, I'm from the coastguard," he replied grumpily.

I just cycled off. What does he expect me to do, climb back in the sea and start drowning?

I'm fed up with people trying to rescue me from myself

On the cycle home I realised I couldn't feel the fingers or toes. I got indoors and spent half an hour under a hot shower but am still cold. The tips of my fingers were purple. I'm currently wearing a woollen jumper with a hot water bottle undrerneath.

It's not worth it, is it?

Though in the name of charity, I may make one final effort, later in the year

I'll let you know, and you WILL sponsor me.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Apprentice Week Two

This week, posh Raleigh had to go home because his brother stepped on a bomb in Afghanistan. Get well soon, Raleigh's brother.

This meant the 'boys' team was one 'boy' short. So Stella stepped over to theirs to act as chief boy for the week. Either none of the men are tall or else Stella is a giantess, as she towered over them. According to the papers, Stella was/is a gangster's moll. I like her. She is dignified, even when the 'boys' sniggeringly tried to get her to strip down to her pants for a model shoot.

But I'm jumping ahead. Today's task involved making an interesting & unique thing to take to the beach, then pitching it a la 'Dragon's Den' to the buying departments of major retailers.

I go to the beach a lot. While I'm in swimming, I'd like some sort of locker to keep my stuff in. Maybe one that could be buried under the sand. I'm scared of thieves, you see.

Something to clean the sand from between my toes would be good too. Don't you just hate that feeling when you put your socks on with sand in them? Don't you HATE it? Eh?

Sadly, neither team solved my problems. The boys invented a towel with a coolbox/storage compartment in it. The coolbox doubled as a pillow. It rolled up like a sleeping bag. Not such an awful idea.

The girls invented a plastic & canvas beach lectern. Yes. You put your book on the lectern, see, and then you read from it. Possibly aloud or at least with your lips sounding out the letters. Because you'd have to be pretty stupid to buy this shit.

When you need to turn the page of your book, you get up from the comfy position you are lying on the beach, remove the book from its cellophane holder, go to the next page, and replace the book in the cellophane holder. Then you lie back down on the beach.

Easy as. Yeah?

Oh, and you had to build it yourself. Few items in 'The Apprentice' ever come pre-built; it's a standard ploy by the producers to make the candidates look stupid as they fanny around legoing their items together in front of buyers.

When I'm reading at the beach, I like to position my book in a ready-made holder. I call it 'my hand.'

The girls managed to squabble, bitch, fight and squeal their way through the whole task, led by yeller-in-chief, Joanna. There's a lot of Alpha Females in this year's Apprentice and they are hell to listen to. Laura, the team manager this week, is one of the quieter ladies and behaved like a student teacher faced with an unruly fifth-form class. She dithered and huffed and broke down in tears.

Absurdly, the buyers at Boots said they would take some of their daft products if the girls offered exclusivity. But dithering Laura decided not to. Why, I don't know. I would have paid someone in pints of my own blood to take them off my hands. The girls did not sell one single item as a result of this error, as Boots wanted to corner the market in shit canvas book holders.

So Stella's boys won and got to knock balls with her at Wentworth golf course.

The girls' team yelled their way through recrimination time at the greasy spoon cafe and yelled their way through the boardroom.

I'm just glad my parents didn't send me to an all girls school.

Lord Sugah (doesn't that sound like a rapper or maybe 1920s jazz artiste?) told them off for yelling and then sacked quiet, unassuming Joy. She seemed nice in a jolly hockey-sticks sort of way but then nice doesn't win reality TV shows.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


It's been another glorious day and I've been for a swim. I'm all over this Indian summer. Still, sunny days and misty nights.

I have upped my exercise quota to try and shift the last few inches of fat. Rather than just swim, I have been cycling and swimming. Then cycling back home.

Yesterday, I rode nine miles to Millisle and swam out to a rocky outcrop about half a mile offshore. A seal came up to observe me, gradually inching closer & closer through the water until he was about fifteen feet away.

I saw a giant rat newly killed on the dual carriageway at Groomsport.

I often see flatfish hiding on the sandy bed, proabably brer flounder or turbot, but they scoot off before I can catch them. Maybe I should carry a spear.

I've met a few big eating crabs but when I chase them, they chase me back!

There must be plenty of fish out there, because there were huge amounts of gannets on a boat expedition I went on, out by the Copeland Islands last week. There were many of seals out there too.

I swam with four or five seals last week, I don't particularly care for the way they stare at me with those glassy eyes when they pop their heads above the water.

A strange thing I have have noticed about seals, terns, gannets and other such fish-hunting wildlife :- they come in close to land when the breeze is moderately strong; offshore rather than onshore; and the sky is bright. Go down to the sea at Groomsport on such a day and there are seals 10 foot from shore. But hardly anyone but me knows they're there, because few people open their eyes to what's happening around them.

Due to the fishing quotas, all our local trawlers are raiding the mussel beds instead of chasing fish.

I am almost certain there is a pair of hen harriers round here. I've never seen hen harriers before, but I can't think what else they might be. Big fat white arse on them. Too stocky to be a buzzard, and no wedge tail. Swoops low at dusk over ploughed fields, sits in the field too. Must be a Hen Harrier, eh?

There's no point me ringing the RSPB again. It'll be like the time I saw the poor ravens mobbed by hundreds of rooks & jackdaws. They won't believe me.

Today, I cycled about six miles to Helen's Bay to swim. On my return,
I was cycling along Bangor seafront when I had to slow down for a young man swaying all over the coastal path. He was eating something out of a Tesco carrier bag.

"Here mate come and have some of this popcorn!" he drunkenly beseeched me. I declined, but he tried to press me into acceptance. "Popcorn fuckin popcorn argargharh come on!"

I rode away.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Apprentice Week 1

I'm going to cook some sausages and run about Bangor like a big fecking twat forcing people to eat them. It'll be something to put on my CV for when the headhunters from the private investment banks come calling. And if I don't sell any, you get the blame. Not me. Because I never fail, I only ever win. At everything.

The Apprentice, then: was same as it ever was, still good, but if they showed a repeat from three years ago it would take me a while to notice.

The task this week was making sausages and then selling them, though the candidates spent the first part of the show thinking up inspirational names for their team. (Apoplexy and Sanatogen were the winning entries.)

First they bought the meat. It turns out that according to market traders, meat is cheaper in the morning, then gets more expensive throughout the day. Let's hope supermarkets and butchers don't adopt this practice. I'm a late sleeper.

Then they went to a sausage factory. A man demonstrated sausage making then the teams had a go. It was just like 'The Generation Game.' Brucie would be a great replacement for Sir Alan,Lord of Sugar.

Next, off onto the streets of London to try and ram food down unsuspecting throats.

What's the obsession with all these tasks down the years forcing candidates to carry a portable hotplate/BBQ, make food, cook it and then encourage passers-by to eat it? I'm sure this isn't the first time sausages have been cooked in the open.

Isn't that Masterchef? Or Home Economics GCSE?

Anyway, back to this season's selection of well-groomed twats with well-groomed egos.

One bloke was a surgeon. Nice to see he's dragged himself away from saving lives on the operating table for this farrago of fuckwittery. I bet his family are so proud of him.

One candidate styled himself an "Unemployed Communications Manager" or somesuch.

No you're not. You're just on the dole, like the rest of us.

The women won this week, meaning they all got to spend the weekend at a naturist retreat. Or maybe not. But there are a lot of lovely ladies this year! Even the mad one with the huge glasses who says 'Sauce Ahges' instead of 'sausages' like it's the greatest joke ever told.

The actual prize for the ladies was that they got to eat more sausages, and there was an unnecessary, lingering shot of the Cheryl Cole-alike one (Elizabeth?) stuffing a banger in her mouth.

The men were led by a pointlessly aggressive chap who acted like the sort of teacher we all hated in school; one who only kept control of his class with sarcasm and aggression. One who couldn't teach, but thought he was God's gift to the world of education. He was bloody useless.

Though keep an eye out for Stuart, a man who thinks that a 'good salesman' behaves like someone from the movie 'Boiler Room.' A career in timeshare or double glazing surely awaits. I think he is a mobile phone salesman, which might be much the same. I've never ventured inside a mobile phone shop, just in case.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Man in Steam Room

You may recall me writing about a strange character I met in the leisure centre.

Well, I met another one last week.

After my weight training and swimming session, I walked into the steam room in the health suite.

There was a big, bald gentleman in there, dressed in a black plastic suit. He was counting out loud. "Forty....Forty One...Forty Two..."

Whilst doing this, he was shadow boxing and pacing round the room in circular fashion.

I sit down in the corner, near the door.

"Hello there," I venture.

In response, he launches words at me in some sort of West Country/Bristolian accent:

"Hey, you've got to keep moving don't you? Got to keep moving. I only managed two sessions last week. I usually do three or four. My wife......."

at this point he gives a grim chuckle, then continues:

" Well, you know what women are like. They're all lazy f**king bitches. It's alright for her, eh? Lazy f**ing bitch. Sitting on the sofa. Anyway I'm forty-six you know! It's hard to keep the weight off. You've got to keep moving."

Well! Naturally at this point I'm eyeing the exit, and thinking about beating a hasty retreat to the spa bath. But the niceties of social convention keep me in my seat.

"Is that a special sauna suit you're wearing?" I ask. I've seen my friend Gerry wear one. Apparently it helps him burn extra calories.

"No no no this is just a tracksuit," he replies.

(Now. Here's a thing. At this time this fella and I were the the only people in the health suite. So later, when I went to get changed, the kit bag in the changing room must have been his. And beside the kit was a clear plastic bag with an insert upon which was written 'Vestement de sudation/Sweating Suit," with a picture of yer man's exact outfit. Why on earth did he lie to me?)

So, by now he's stopped counting but he's still shadow boxing while bouncing around the place.

"Gotta keep moving, don't you? Gotta keep moving. I like to spar but it's hard to find someone my own age and weight. Younger blokes, they're not as strong as me, but they're more athletic. Fitter. They just defend defend defend. Wait until I get tired, see? Then they go after me and put me down."

I'm wondering where this is leading. Does he want me to spar with him? To get up and start boxing him in this oh-so-hot steam room? I might be a big bloke, but I couldn't punch my way out of a clingfilm greenhouse. Nor do I want to.

But the conversation leads nowhere as he soon starts up again on another tack:

"We need some music in here eh? Some beats. It's boring in here. Too quiet. Something to keep us moving."

The steam room is a place for rest and relaxation. Not a place for mentalists to bounce around shadow boxing. I make my excuses and leave.

I go and get changed. As I leave, he has pinned the poor attendant down in an intense one sided conversation. He was telling him how Christians were not be trusted; how they had invaded Africa; how they had recently turned three thousand non-Christians out of their homes; how their religion was evil, dealing only death and destruction. Then he started on the need for music again.

I wonder how he turned the conversation to that topic?

Oh, and as I pass the communal showers an attractive young mother is towelling her toddler dry. Nothing wrong with that, apart from the fact she's stark naked. (The mother not the child!!!) I didn't know where to look. Well, I did, but I tried hard not to.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Billiard Headed Man

I've been cutting my own hair for about fifteen years now. Though for a lot of that time I didn't cut it all, and I looked like something Cat Stevens would drag in.

But for the last few years I've been keeping it short with a hand held trimmer. Such as what a sheep shearer or barber would use, like so.

I let my hair get slightly long, until it outgrows the 'Action Man' felthead look and starts to take on the beginnings of a furry microphone cover.

I trim my head with scissors and then set to work with the electric blades. I prefer a nice clean No.1 buzzcut, or perhaps a No. 2 if I require some extra hair in unseasonable weather.

So tonight, with my hair beginning to spring out in unusual directions, I set to work. First I attacked it with the scissors, leaving longer lumps here, and lesser clumps there, as any haphazardness would be evened out by the trimmer.

But when I went to turn the device on, it gave out a weak, sickly hum. The blades were barely vibrating at all. I opened it up with a screwdriver and cleaned the insides, oiled the blades, fiddled with screws. That seemed to work, as the hum from the motor got louder, but then when I went to cut my locks it seemed to yank them by the roots rather than cut them. Then it died a death. Bah.

That'll teach me to buy a £5.99 budget trimmer from the bloody Argos value range.

So now I was left with a head half-cut, half long, partly shaved. I could either wear a hat and sneak out tomorrow to buy a new trimmer, or shave the lot off.

I've opted for the latter. It took me AGES. The top of my head was OK as I'm thinning there. But the sides, and particularly the back, are very thick. I went through three disposal razors and ended up using the Gillette Mach 3 (the king of razors, razor fans.) My head is covered in wee cuts. And I don't like my big deformed face.

But worse, I've been made into a hypocrite

Thursday, August 26, 2010


On meeting a casual acquaintance in the beer garden:

Me: "Hi there, how's it going?"
Acquaintance: "Surviving."


What's that supposed to mean?

You've decided existence is meaningless and are only taking on enough sustenance to fend off death?
You're being hunted by hitmen, and move to a different safe house each night?
You have a potentially fatal illness and you take a cocktail of 32 different drugs up your arse every morning, just to get out of bed?
You were the only survivor of a coach crash on the M2, and watched all the other passengers,including your wife, burn to screaming death in front of your eyes as you battled to drag her to safety before you were beaten back from the flames, smouldering and weeping?
You were filmed on CCTV shutting a cat in a bin?

Seriously, help me out here!

I don't know you very well and your body language isn't telling me much.

Am I supposed to reply with a wry chuckle and say "Oh, tell me about it! Still, worse things happen in China!"

Or am I supposed to put a comforting arm around you and state meaningfully, "There there. I'm here for you. It's OK to cry. It's natural."

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Meeting a famous Australian

I was having dinner in the all-you-eat restaurant at the Sunshine Plaza.

I went up and got Vietnamese pork and roast spuds and gravy.

I could feel this bloke eyeing me from the next table, out of the corner of my eye. Suddenly he leans over and takes a handful of potatoes off my plate and transfers them to his and starts eating them.

'Hey' I said 'What's all this about buddy?'

I looked over at him. He seemed familiar.

'Don't I know you from somewhere?'

'Hi,' he replied. 'I'm Rhyce Shaw. I play for the Collingwood Magpies. I'm the son of former captain Ray Shaw, and brother of Heath Shaw. I'm also the nephew of premiership captain and Norm Smith Medallist, Tony Shaw and former Collingwood player Neville Shaw. My cousin, Brayden (son of Tony) was drafted to Collingwood, but failed to play a game before being delisted in 2005.

'Pleased to meet you,' he said, extending his hand.

I shook his hand warily and said, 'Why did you steal my spuds Rhyce? You've knocked half of them off my plate and spilt my gravy all over the table.'

'Sorry about that,' he said, eyeing the floor. 'I guess I was just hungry.'

'Rhyce mate, it's all you can eat! You've got your own plate! Didn't you pay your $10 at the door?'

'Yeah I did' said Rhyce. 'But you got the last of the roast spuds at the buffet table. And when I asked the waitress, she said it would be 10 minutes before the kitchen cooked some more.'

'Christ mate! Where's your self-control?' I spluttered. 'You could have had chips instead!'

Rhyce smiled shyly, still looking at the floor.

'Don't like chips, only roasties' he said quietly, shuffling his feet.

'Alright Rhyce, you have the roasties,' I sighed. 'And I'll have the chips.'

I got up and filled my plate.

When I returned, he'd gone to a different part of the restaurant. It looked like he'd stolen a piece of cheesecake off a little girl's plate and she was crying. Her dad was yelling at Rhyce and he was staring at the floor.

Later, I saw him put about $50 into one of those glass-fronted machines with the grabber arms, he was trying to win a stuffed Tasmanian Devil toy.

Unwanted Rescue

As mentioned in a previous entry, I've been doing a lot of sea swimming.

And having kept it up all summer, I'm now what is referred to as a 'strong swimmer.' I was out on one of my regular routes the other day, out to the buoy at the mouth of Ballyholme Bay, over to the edge of the reef at Ballmacormick Point and back to shore,
in triangular fashion.

The whole journey is about a kilometre and a bit and takes me about an hour.

As I was nearing the beach on my return, I could see a big orange speedboat heading straight for me from the west, out of the corner of my eye. I thought it might be one of the rib-boats the yacht club uses to lay its buoys, but my worst fears were confirmed as it closed on me.

It was filled with around a dozen serious-faced folks in yellow helmets and fluorescent life jackets. They were obviously bent on intercepting me.

Some bastid fool had called the Coastguard.

They came to a halt about ten foot away and bobbed in the water. The one at the prow took off her helmet and yelled "Are you alright?"

By this stage, I was nearly back at shore and swimming in about three feet of water. So I stood stock upright on my hind legs from the waves and answered,

"Yeah, I'm alright."

"It's just someone rang us about you, they said they lost sight of you in the water."

"I'm not in any trouble," I replied.

I think that was obvious.

I apologised profusely for wasting their time and putting them to this bother.

'Oh no no no,' she assured me. 'Better to be safe than sorry.'

Then the lifeguards sat in the boat with the engine idling.

I stood in the water.

For some little time.

To break the awkwardness, I said my goodbyes and swam back to shore.

They turned their craft around and sped off in the direction of Bangor.

At the beach, two more coastguards were waiting for me. They were middle aged, portly fellows who didn't look like they'd be much use at striding into the surf and plucking drownees to safety.

Once again, I was very apologetic, and once again they said no harm done, better safe than sorry, blah blah blah.

One produced a notepad and took my name, address and phone number. In retrospect, I should have told him to eff away off, but I meekly volunteered this information. Fool that I am.

Then they gave me their number. They told me to ring them EVERY TIME I go in and out of the water.

'Every time?' I queried.


Every beach?'

'Yes. Just to be on the safe side,' they said.

Well, I took the number and lost it. I'm not ringing them every time I go in and out of the water! It's still a free country, innit? We may as well chisel caves out of the White Cliffs of Dover and let the Talibans camp there like bearded puffins.

As I made my way home, an old man beckoned me over. He told me I'd drowned in the sea three months previous.

He'd seen it all: I'd suffered some sort of attack in the water and sank beneath the waves; a man in a kayak reached me and dragged me to shore, but too late; the ambulance crew arrived quickly but their efforts were in vain. He'd even seen my family scatter my ashes there, some days afterwards.

'That's why those people lost sight of you,' he said. 'You're a ghost now. Insubstantial. You blend in and out of the white surf and it scares people.

'Those weren't coastguard, they weren spirit watchers. They're here to keep an eye on you. They want you to stop going in the water and frightening the living.'

'Are you a spirit too?' I asked.

'I died the day I was born,' he laughed. 'I was a baby komodo dragon that got eaten by a seabird. It's taken me four thousand years to evolve into this form.'

'But you've evolved much quicker.'

Food for thought. I flew home, eating a starling I caught on the way.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Arsenal's Samir Nasri faces one month out after cheese incident

<span class=Samir Nasri in action for Arsenal at Liverpool.

Arsenal midfielder Samir Nasri has been ruled out for a month after eating ten kilograms of Red Leicester cheese in one sitting.

The 23-year-old Frenchman, who missed the first part of last season with a broken leg, was eating the snack while watching the movie 'Bladerunner' last Sunday evening.

It is understood that he became so engrossed in the action that he accidentally munched his way through ten kilograms of cheese.

Aresenal club doctor Paul Coughcoughcough estimates that it could take one month for the dairy produce to exit the midfielder's system.

'We knew Samir has a problem with this foodstuff,' a club spokesman confirmed. 'We are feeding him castor oil and monitoring the situation.'

It comes on the back of the Gunners being without midfielder Cesc Fabregas for that match because he is recreating the Battle of Bunker Hill in miniature figurines with some men he met online.

Meanwhile, Arsenal have been hit by an outbreak of self-absorbed existentialism.

Alex Song can't be bothered, Denilson doubts the relevance of football with so much suffering in the world and Aaron Ramsey wonders whether any further physical action is appropriate as all existence is futile.

Nasri, who missed out on a place in France's World Cup squad in the summer but played in the recent friendly against Norway, joined Arsenal when he parachuted into a game during the warm-up.


He signed papers immediately and scored after only four minutes of his airborne arrival in the stadium for the Gunners. He became a key player in his first season at the club, during which he made 44 appearances.

But his 2009-2010 campaign was almost over before it began after he became invisible and no-one could see him.

His latest injury could see him ruled out the start of Arsenal's Champions League campaign and also France's Euro 2012 qualifiers against Belarus and The Nation Of Sea Lions.

To the woman abusing the Romanian 'Big Issue' seller

To the woman abusing the Romanian 'Big Issue' seller on Bangor Main Street:

The woman who looked like a more masculine version of Shirley from 'Eastenders.'

The one who had the dyed red hair and the fag dripping from her mouth who berated the poor girl for ages calling her 'horrible' and 'disgusting' and that she should 'get back to her own country.'

Well, I've chatted to her and she's not horrible. She seems pretty dead on to me. I know who is horrible.

Not that I give money to the Romanian Big Issue sellers. As my friend DW said, being long term unemployed is their job. As is selling the Big Issue. Or 'Big Issues', as DW says they don't sell the official magazine.

They've been there for years now, day in and day out. Each girl/lady has her own pitch. At the end of the day, they pool their money, buy groceries and head back up to Belfast on the train. I think they live in Botanic.

OK, I admit I give them money sometimes, at Christmas or when it's raining. But it seems like a shiteful job to me. They must earn less than the minimum wage. They have to put up with dogs' abuse from many lovely charming Bangorians, the intelligentsia of the suburbs. And it must be boring and cold sitting there all day. I wonder if they have considered getting a proper job? Surely there must be something better paid & easier for them to do.

Anyway, I am magical now and can transform myself into a giant eagle. So I went behind the shops and metamorphosed into this graceful hawk, and flew up above Main Street. Then I swooped down and picked up the abusive woman in my claws. I was so quick no-one saw.

She screamed for me to put her down. I told her I would if she agreed not to be a racist.

She said she would stop being a racist and I let her down gently in Ward Park. But because I'm a magical eagle, I could see inside her heart. She was still racist.

So I caught her again and took her into a high conifer. I plucked her skin and bones with my talons and beak and ate her. I ate her all up but spat her bones beneath the tree. The police have begun an investigation but are baffled.

She wasn't very tasty. Nasty people never are.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Valse efter tor lohne Pt1

Restaurant Review: Red Panda

I ate out last night at the Red Panda, and thoroughly enjoyed it, despite being surrounded by people and staff.

When we got there it was packed to the gills, so they sent us to the bar and told us to hang tight for ten. But they called us back in five.

We had no starters. There was soup and that, if you like starters.

I had beef in oyster sauce. A bit bland in truth, I was scared off the Sizzling Szechaun Beef as it was described as 'very hot and spicy' in the menu. I should have taken it. My beef would have been better with a bit of mustard and some bread, for to make a sandwich. The sauce was nothingy.

The egg fried rice was good, but was £2.50 extra. I think they should include it for free, but it's a dog eat dog world. Hardest business in the world, the restaurant trade.

Vegetables were included. Stir fried tiny corn and beans and beansprouts. It was crunchy but I like that. You don't want soggy old vegetables, not while your teeth are healthy.

Three tattooed, scowling bald headed men in light coloured polo shirts & jeans sat on one table to the next of me. They barely spoke to each other. They were drinking Tiger lager.

A bloke with a terrible stutter was on the other side, he elongated his words so every sentence took a minute. Such as, to give you an example, instead of saying 'Dinner' he said 'DDDDDIIIIINNNNNNEEEEERRR.' I didn't mind. If anything, I enjoyed it. Life's rich tapestry and that.

His girlfriend/companion was pretty quiet. My mum said she was older than him but I didn't crane my neck to look.

They were all eating fatty red pork. It looked lovely. I was tempted to ask if I could have some, or thieve it. I'll get that next time. There was heaps of it.

I drank one Guinness, one Tennants and one Irish Coffee. They filled the coffee with whiskey, I was a bit tipsy by the end.

My companion (my mum) had some awful caramelised prawn shite, the sort of confectionery-based, over sweet sauce she favours in such establishments. Prawns in sugary goo, it was called. Probably.

She had three scoops of soft-served ice cream for dessert like a big wain. But it looked good. She also had a straw made from biscuits. She ate that first.

I didn't have dessert. What's the point of dessert? You never really enjoy it, you just feel guilty for being such a glutton guts. I said that to the waitress but she just smiled.

I left a £5 tip and took a little mint from a dish.

The toilets were OK, quiet enough and clean. Bit dark though.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Alex Higgins' Funeral

I couldn't decide whether to go to Alex Higgins funeral or not.
It's not as if I knew him or particularly liked his public persona.
So I dithered and left it too late.
So instead of heading to Alex Higgins funeral, I've been to the butchers and bought fourteen rashers of streaky bacon and half a pint of cream. It's for a quiche lorraine. Some bacon will be left, for sandwiches.
Then I'm off to Marks and Spencers. I'm picking up two pairs of Leather Whip Stitch Brown Loafers I ordered online. They didn't have size 9 1/2 so I bought a pair in size 9 and a pair in size 10. Hopefully one will fit and I'll get a refund on the other. I'll try them on in the shop.
I'm also picking up a checked shirt for my brother.
Oh, and I'll drop off my latest entry for the HMV competition in the local paper. Every week they offer £15 worth of vouchers, and no-one else must enter because I've won two out of the last three weeks.
I put my entry on a 'Princess Diana Queen of Hearts' postcard every week, but this will be my last one as I've run out. I got a load of cards free years ago with the Belfast Telegraph. They've proved lucky. She's cradling a little African AIDS victim in this one. Last week she was getting married in a horse wagon.
I just bought some new postcards on Ebay. They're artistic black and white tourist board photos for the British Isles. They were taken by a Swede.
It's what Alex Higgins would have wanted.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Lord Jebus came to me

Lord Jebus came to me.

He said 'Son, when you were eighteen years old you were as horny as a dog with two dicks. But I cursed you. Even though you were attractive enough to some girls, I made you tongue-tied and awkward. So if you ever came close to any women you became a crimson-faced blubbering mess.'

'True, Lord Jebus,' I replied. 'But now that I am thirty six years old you have cursed me again. For now I am still attractive to some women, indeed more women than I used to be. For now I am big and strong, and have a way about me. I am not like most other men. And let's face it Lord, women of my age group can hardly afford to be choosy.'

'True, my son' said Lord Jebus. 'And since I am Lord Jebus, I know what you are going to say next. Let me save your tongue and say it for you.

'Even though you are more attractive to the opposite sex, I have cursed you by taking away one quarter of your sex drive. And you have taken away another two quarters with all the drink and drugs.

'And then I have cursed you with the dawning realisation that sleeping with strange women doesn't make you any happier in the long run. You'd rather be home watching an extended version of 'Have I Got News for You,' even though you feel like you should be doing something else on a Saturday night.'

'Except on that one Saturday in five when you have a raging bone-on.'

'True, true Lord Jebus,' I admitted. 'But now that you've shown me this desire for strange women is hollow, why can't you take away my desire for strong drink?'

'I can't do that,' laughed Lord Jebus. 'I need to answer the prayers of the publicans and victuallers too, you know!'

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Usher Interview

Each week, I'll be trying to interview a fashion, art, music, or cinema personality. They'll deliver their feelings on the most special day of the week: Sunday. This week, the singer Usher answered my questions via telephone from his penthouse suite in Atlanta.

What do you wear on Sundays?

This morning, I am only wearing a smile! Yes I am completely naked. I like the freedom. Sometimes, I wear pyjamas. Also, trousers & a shirt. Maybe a hat. If I'm going out, I might wear a pair of low slung jeans and an 'Usher' tour shirt.

What do you eat on Sundays?

That’s the day I cook for the entire neighbourhood. I invite my block over to my urban one acre farm/petting zoo. We herd goats into the 'killing zone,' a area fenced off with upturned pallets. Then we spear them to death. We make a type of sausage from the blood, I think you call it black pudding in your country? Then my friend Royston, he's a butcher, cuts and skins the goats. We barbecue them over coals. The hindquarters, the ribs. We throw the heads and tails to our dogs to rip up. It's quite a scene.

Have you ever had any trouble from animal rights activists?

They don't know 'bout it.

What do you watch on TV on Sunday?

Cartoons or the Antiques Roadshow, maybe bit of Last of the Summer Wine. And Heartbeat. Yeah, we get all your UK shows in Atlanta! Or I get my homies in Croydon to burn me copies and send them over.

What do you drink on Sundays?

Hmmmm.. a pint of tea, then some Guinness Extra. When we're barbecuing the goat we usually down a bottle of Buckfast tonic wine and smear the goats blood on our faces. Sunday evenings, things get pretty messy and I'll drink anything. Sometimes, you find me on the corner with a can of Special Brew. I love all that UK culture.

The people you see on Sunday?

Hmm.... I see the people from the neighbourhood. But you know that Derek Hatton, former deputy leader of Liverpool City Council? Expelled from the British Labour party for militant tendencies? Well, he is in Atlanta now. He is my homeboy, we chill together in my crib. And when his mate Arthur Scargill is in town we all hang out, smoke some reefer, kick back to some R & B. We're all working together on some new songs about the plight of the manual labourer and lack of union involvement in the workplace. Uh-uh.

Who do you dream would wake you up on Sunday?

I'd like to be woken by Jane Fonda circa 1970. She could wake me up by licking my frenulum. The frenulum is is an elastic band of tissue under the glans that connects to the prepuce or foreskin to the vernal mucosa, and helps contract the prepuce over the glans.

You mean the banjo string?

If you want to be crude you could call it that.

This interview is terminated.

Thanks Usher, have a great Sunday.

You too. (at this point there is a great crashing sound on the phone line and muffled shouting.)

You still there Usher? Are you OK?

Yeah, it's cool. Derek Hatton just fell over the lead to my vacuum cleaner and bust his head on the wall. It was pretty funny actually.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Movie Review: Inception

****Many Spoilers Alert******

I enjoyed the start and end of this movie.

Old Dog's Mess Leonardo Di Caprio leads a crack team of people who go inside your dreams and mess around with them for a fee.

He needs an extra recruit so he gets the girl out of Juno. Last time she was playing a pregnant sixteen year old. Now she's playing a genius architecture undergraduate who looks about twelve years old, I felt like a paedo every time she came on screen.

Irishman Cillian Murphy is a humourless Aussie in this movie.

Michael Caine has a pointless cameo as Di Caprio's dad. He has maybe five lines. He could have youtubed his performance in, if he happened to live near an airport departure lounge & a lecture theatre, the locations of his two scenes.

I recognized most of the other actors but couldn't name them.

Her out of Juno is recruited to build architecture in dreams. Di Caprio's gang enter people's minds and nick industrial secrets by taking loads of drugs and wiring themselves up to machines.

Only on this mission, they have to enter Cillian Murphy's mind and make him divide up his late fathers business into many small parts, at the behest of a Japanese rival businessman. So the Japanese fella can win at business.

A bit like the boss of Tesco's persuading the boss of Sainsbury's to divide up groceries and clothing and furnishings and stationary into different stores.

(I don't know why they need to enter his dreams to do this, I could have given it a decent shot with a PowerPoint session and a night at a lapdancing club.)

So the gang enters his dreams to persuade him to do so.

The very disappointing thing about all this, is that these subconscious noodlings just involve many sequences of Bruce Willis/007 action happenings. Lots of bang bang, shoot shoot , things crashing into things, things falling off things in industrial landscapes.

Because it's the subconscious some basic laws of physics are mildly affected - things happen more slowly and there's the odd fight in midair. Didn't we see that in 'The Matrix'?

But the filmmakers had the entire weight of Holywood CGI to create a dreamworld.

Where's the melting clocks?

Where's the slicing up eyeballs, uh uh ho ho?

In short, the dreamworld is just endless gun battles. Where's the fantasy element? No-one's dreams are endless gun battles, not even Jean Claude Van Damme's. Where's the surreality?

Old Juno-bake may be called Ariadne, but there's nothing here to compete with the terrifying genius fables the Greeks created 3,000 years ago, with their beautiful seductive white bulls and half-man, half-creatures and the nine-yearly sacrifice of virgins.

Just lots of explosions. Like, storming the fortress of someone's subconscious involves storming an actual fortress. It's a very literal dreamworld.

The denouement is better, where Di Caprio and Juno go into a collapsing dreamy city in the manner of Douglas Coupland's Girlfriend in a Coma to get to heart of the former's marital problems.

But overall, it's an opportunity missed.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Strange Sights

Walking into Bangor along Groomsport Road, a taxi pulled into Ballyholme beach car park. Nothing strange about that, except the taxi had a southern registration - "An MhĂ­," or Meath I believe it is in English. This was confirmed by the sign on top which said "Meath Cabs."

It pulled up by the beachside. A man got out of the driver's side door. He was a tall, slightly rotund, bearded man, with a crown of long, curly greying hair. A bit like a tubbier Billy Connolly. Two small young dark boys got out as well. I heard them refer to the big fella as 'Daddy.'

'Lets go Daddy!' they said. And then they all stripped down to their underwear. It was a showery day, and it had just started to rain heavily.

As he was removing his trousers, the man looked at me. I looked at him. And then he said, "Sorry, did you say something?" in what I took to be a broad Meath accent.

I replied "No, I didn't say anything." Because I hadn't. I was thinking a number of things, but I hadn't said anything. Then I did say something. "Long old drive from Meath, that's some fare those young fellas have totted up!" I remarked in what I hoped was a humorous fashion.

In response, he turned his back on me and waved a dismissive hand, as if being stripped to his underpants in a car park in north County Down, far from home, on a damp afternoon, was the most natural thing in the world.

The rain got heavier. As if in response, he and his two sons ran into the sea. I walked on. As I went out of sight, I looked back to see them wading about in the sea up to their chests in the soaking rain. They looked as if they were having a good time. They had the beach to themselves.

I'd like to know the story behind this. Did the gentleman get up in the morning and say to his sons, "Stuff the taxiing today lads, pile in, we're going north!" I do hope so.


I went into Bangor and did my messages. The weather improved and it became warm and sunny. On the way home I saw the second strange thing of the day. In Ballyholme Park, there were a bunch of Italians. I know they were Italians, as I have a smattering of their tongue.

On a small hillock was a stern faced, grey haired gentleman. He had a little digital video camera set up on a tripod. Below were a bunch of teenagers, about ten in number, male and female.

The elderly gentleman barked some orders in his native language and the teens took up what seemed like prearranged positions below. Then they began to dance in set moves. The tune they were dancing to was the theme from 'Fame' - you know, 'Fame, I'm gonna live forever.' But they didn't have any sort of sound system, they were singing the tune in English as they danced.

Soon, the teens collapsed in a huge fit of giggles. The stern faced gentleman didn't laugh. He seemed aggrieved at this. He barked out some more orders, which I took to mean 'Lets take it again from the top,' as the kids all resumed their original positions. After he gave them another order, they recommenced the dance as before.

What was going on?

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Taliban House

Yesterday, I went to Poundland and bought two powerful magnifying glasses.

Then I bought some varnish. From Price Attack, because Poundland didn't have any. I also bought some superglue and the strong adhesive known as liquid nails.

In my garage, I have a number of planks of wood. I'm going to cut these down to maybe one foot long, half a foot across.

On these pieces of wood I'm going to write some fictional addresses in felt-tip pen, in my best signwriter's hand:



Then, on a hot sunny day, I'm going to burn over the writing with the magnifying glass by focusing the solar rays on the writing on the wood surface. All careful, like.

Next, I shall varnish over my signs and leave them to dry.

In the middle of the night, I'm going to go around various government buildings in town and stick these signs next to their doorways. Buildings like the Bru (that's the dole office to non-native speakers,) the Housing Executive, the rates office, and maybe the old telephone exchange.

Just imagine the employees' faces next morning! And the worried emails flying between departments, asking who decided to rename their office "QUIMLY HOUSE."

It'll be well worth the conviction for criminal damage/extraordinary rendering I receive when they google this and catch up with me.

Clive Tyldsley and Jim Beglin

At the start of the Holland - Uruguay match, Clive Tyldsley claimed "Uruguay last made the semi-finals in 1970, before these players were even thought of."

How can he know that for sure?

For instance, the oldest player in the squad, Andres Scotti, was born in 1975.

How does Clive know that Mr and Mrs Scotti were not trying fruitlessly to have children for several years before the joyful birth of Andres?

Or perhaps they had decided to see how things went career wise for a few years before starting a family.

Or perhaps Andres has older brothers or sisters and his birth was just a natural progression, maybe based on the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

All I'm saying is, I hope Clive did the necessary research before making such a bold claim. We all remember the scandals involving Blue Peter, Ant & Dec and This Morning. For sure.

Vale Jim Beglin. He wasn't ill. He's dead. He came out for his hotel room late one night and bumped into Kevin Keegan in the corridor. Jim thought he'd seen a ghost and dropped down dead from fright. Marcel Desailly fed him to the lions in a game reserve, not sure why.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Revenge on Neighbour

Often on Sunday mornings, I lie in bed and say 'Oh Lord, I want to die, I want to die.' in a groaning voice.

This is because I've had too much to drink the night before and I get the most amazing hangovers. My head pounds like the Ballymacarret Loyal Defenders are practising their Lambeg skills inside my cranium.

I might also call out 'Oh Lord, I want to die, I want to die' for the additional mental anguish as the terrible and stupid things I did the night before come back and haunt me. Like trying to do sex with other men's' wives. Or stealing a bottle of Rose wine (Blossom Hill) offa large lady at Groomsport festival as I did on Saturday, causing her to angrily bawl me out (I thought she'd gone home, I really did.)

Anyway, one Saturday night a few months ago I was having a rare night off the devil's buttermilk and was lying in bed listening to the shipping forecast on the radio, as you do. I had the window open and heard a bit of noise from next door as my neighbour was having a few friends over for a drink.

I wasn't really listening as they were just being the usual loud and lairy drunk folk. Indeed, I was just about to close the window to block them out, when suddenly I became aware that my neighbour was doing an impression of me!

'Oh Lord, I want to die, I want to die,' he was saying in mock agonised tones and laughingly telling his dreadful mates about my behaviour.

Well, I angrily slammed my window and went to sleep.

In the intervening months, I have exchanged pleasantries with this gentleman. About the weather and our respective gardens and that. But I have never forgotten the remarks he made.

So when I arrived home on Saturday night/Sunday morning in the wee small hours, and found him having another drinking party, I saw my chance for revenge.

In my garden, I have a rose arch. It has a big bushy rose and a honeysuckle growing up around it. Inside is a bust of Julius Caesar. That's not really relevant, I'm just painting you the picture. My neighbour was in his garden behind his hedge with his drunken mates, about ten feet away.

Now I don't really know anything about the bloke, his name or his habits (apart from smoking) or employer or anything. But I do know that he has a bald head.

So I nestled down in the deep foliage beside Caesar and the the rose and the honeysuckle and sang him a song:

"Oh Bald Headed Neighbour

Bullet Headed Man

Smooth Head, Smooth Head,

Billiard-Ball Headed Man

Look at your moon head"

etc etc.

I can't tell you the tune because I made it up. Think mournful Irish air/Japanese national anthem.

After I sang it for a bit, the party fell silent and listened to me. I can't tell you their reaction, because I was still rather drunk and just kept on singing and singing about his bald head.

Then I crept inside and made a sandwich and fell asleep.

When I awoke the next day I had a hangover and began groaning 'Oh Lord, I want to die, I want to die.'

Saturday, July 03, 2010

My dream the other night

I met a bearded Greek guy up near the Flagship Centre.

He was on a bicycle.He asked me if there were any good hotels in the area.

I personally took him round all the hotels in Bangor but they were full. So I told him he could stay at my house. I gave him my spare room.

He was slightly irritating and humourless but this was no excuse for what happened next.

Reader, I murdered him.

I got up in the early dawn and bashed him over the head with a hammer, then smothered him with the pillow.

Seeing no way out of the resulting crime-based dilemma, I went out to the garage and hanged myself with spare boot laces which I knotted together. From the rafters. I was weeping as I died.

As you can imagine, I awoke full of the joys of summer.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Letter to the Managing Director of Halfords.

9 ...... Park
Co Down
BT** 6 **

The Manager
Customer Services
Halfords LTD,
Icknield St Drive,
Washford West,
B98 0DE

Dear Sir/Madam,

At Christmas last, I decided to buy a bicycle as my last one has worn out. So I bought one from Argos. However, it arrived in pieces and when I tried to put it together the pieces didn't fit.

So I took it back and got a refund. I decided that I would get a pre-built bike from a proper shop.

We have two specialist bike shops here in town but I don't like either of them. One is run by two little dwarfish brothers who tend to be rather pricey. They charged me £50 for some fairly minor parts and service on my previous bike. I don't trust them.

The other bike shop is too intimidating. It is run by one of those lycra-clad semi-pros who probably do a 60km training run before breakfast and sneer at you if want anything less than some carbon, titanium and kryptonite-based vehicle costing £700.

So on Christmas day itself I took advantage of a special offer on your website & bought an Apollo Crossways bicycle for £161.99. The website said it was reduced from £400. Bargain, I thought.

I went round to collect my bicycle a couple of days later from your branch at Clandeboye Business Park, on the Bangor ring road.

Some people might slag Halfords off but my dealings were always pleasant. When the previous old rusted bike I own went kaput, the bloke there fixed the rear wheel for me using some old stock in an afternoon and only charged me a tenner. This was a lifesaver as I worked besides Halfords at the time and do not drive. I live 3.7 miles from the shop, so it would have been a long walk home. I think the bloke who fixed my bike was called Mark.

There were some initial teething problems. When cycling to work, the handlebars suddenly came out as whoever built it hadn't tightened the nuts. And the gears weren't biting.

So I took it back and Mark fixed these problems. Well, at least some of them. Although he tightened the cables, the gears never really bit properly & kept slipping. So I just found a gear I was comfortable with and left it there.

There was also a strange rattling from the pedal housing; the pedals seemed a bit loose in there. I couldn't work out if this was a design problem or a fault with my particular vehicle.

There was also a problem with rust; after a few weeks some of the fixtures and two of the rear spokes rusted. This despite that I always garaged the bike at night.

But otherwise it was good. I put up with these faults because I had bought a bike for £161.99 and it cycled smoothly. I wouldn't have paid the original £400 for it. That would have been taking the proverbial. But for £161.99 I thought it was OK.

I've only used it for commuting the 3.4 miles to work and cycling around town in the last six months. The rear tyre has worn right away since Christmas. Is this normal? Are rear tyres supposed to wear away so fast?

Anyway, onto the main problem.

A few weeks ago, I thought that the rear wheel had buckled slightly. I couldn't tell with the naked eye. Certainly, it seemed to have a slight kink, but I thought it may have been a trick of the mind, so to speak.

But maybe it wasn't.

Because when I cycled up to get the morning paper, travelling at some speed down the road, my back wheel suddenly locked and sent me spilling all over the tarmac. I lay there for a minute just to make sure I was still alive before slowly getting to my feet. It happened right in front of a bus, and facing the local secondary school. Thankfully the bus was empty of passengers so no-one sneered at me.

The bus driver got off and helped me. It was drop-off time at the school and a sympathetic teenage girl picked up my now smashed rear light and batteries for me and fussed over me. She offered me a lift home with her mum. When I looked in and saw an attractive brunette I was sorely tempted. But I declined as the mother remained mute and there was nowhere to put my bike in a black Audi sports car. Maybe it was karma's way of telling me not to buy the Daily Mail. But I bought it anyway.

Raymond the newsagent was also sympathetic and offered to take the bike home in his van or lend me spanners. But I walked it the ten minutes up the road.

I escaped with a skinned knee, a lump on my chin, and a sprained wrist. Lucky. The sprained wrist took a couple of weeks to heal. My knee became infected but is scabbing up nicely now. I had to change the dressing on it every day for a while and it leaked pus into my trousers. Yuck.

I got the rear wheel free and pushed the bicycle the 3.4 miles to Halfords. Mark the bike repair bloke wasn't there so I explained to the young fella at the counter that it was under warranty and could he repair it for me? I wrote down the list of faults with the bike for him to look at.

Well, that was about a month ago and my bike has not been repaired. When I called in a couple of weeks ago I was told by a different member of staff that Mark the bike repairer has been off on the sick and then was about to go on his holidays.

This member of staff told me that he had tried to repair my bike but he "couldn't get the frame loose." He couldn't understand how I had jammed the frame and asked me if I had taken the bike to some rival bike shop to be repaired?!? I told him I didn't have a clue what he was talking about. I still don't. I had no idea that the frame was jammed.

Anyway, he told me that my bike might need some spare parts or a whole new frame, but that "he didn't have the authority" to OK such actions. He would have to wait for the bike bloke to come back from sickness/holiday. He did leave a long note for him in the special Bikehut diary & took my mobile number.

That was about 3 weeks ago, meaning my bike has been in Halfords for a month in total. As I said, I don't drive. I'm having to walk everywhere or pay a pound on the bus. As I'm on Jobseekers' Allowance this is a luxury I literally can't afford.

Here's a deal. I bet you buy these bikes for £30 a pop from Chinese factories. How's about giving me a new one? It is under warranty and only 6 months old. I NEED MY BIKE!