Monthly Archives: July 2008

Businessman #2

I had another businessman dream last night.

Only this time things weren’t going so well.

I was in my NYC office about to meet with some decision-makers about a big deal.

The strategy spiel didn’t go so well but I knew I had the little logo guy up my sleeve to wow them with.

So I brandished it, like a kid doing show ‘n tell.

They just looked at me with expressionless faces, like they wanted to know if I was back on the pills again.

The artwork was blank. I was sunk.

Maybe I’m not cut out for life in the Big Apple.

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Filed under Clipart dreams, Uncategorized

The sheep, who was not a sheep

There was once a cow.

‘I’m not a cow, I’m a sheep,’ he’s telling me.

He looked like a cow.

‘So do you but I’m not jumping to conclusions.’

There was once a ‘sheep’.

‘Not in inverted commas. You can always tell someone else’s story, you know.’

There was once a sheep.

On the whole he was content but he had some issues, as you may have guessed.

The sheep made friends with a little boy.

The boy saw him chewing on the cud. He heard him make the odd involuntary moo.

But he didn’t ask any questions. He enjoyed the sheep’s company and that was all he needed to know.

When his parents asked him what was going on, he pretended not to understand.

‘Well? Is he a cow or a sheep?’ they asked.

‘He is who he is,’ replied the boy.

‘And what is that?’ they persisted.

‘My friend,’ said the boy, simply.

The pair spent a happy Summer together, building pirate ships and timing each other to run to the tree at the top of the hill and back.

The sheep spoke of his dreams to be in rugs and jumpers one day and the boy listened.

They made each other laugh.

The sheep told his what-do-you-call-a-sheep-with-no-legs:a-cloud joke and the boy told his what-do-you-call-a-chilly-cow:fresian joke.

‘I don’t get it,’ said the sheep. ‘Is a Fresian a breed of cow?’

And so it may have continued until one night the boy couldn’t sleep and was counting sheep and the (cow) sheep popped up, leaping over the fence.

‘I’m sorry,’ said the little boy. ‘But you’re going to have to lie down for a while.’

And with that, he led the sheep to the side of the dream field and patted him on the head.

The sheep sat sadly for a long time as the boy drifted off to sleep.

When the sun began to rise, he pressed his wet nose against the boy’s face to wake him up.

‘Accept me,’ he said to the boy.

‘I do accept you,’
the boy replied. ‘Accept yourself.’

‘I am not a cow,’
said the sheep.

‘No, you are not,’ agreed the boy.

‘I am a sheep,’ said the sheep.

‘No, you are not,’ disagreed the boy.

‘I am a sheep, who is not a sheep,’ announced the sheep, who was not a sheep.

‘Yes,’ said the boy. ‘That is what you are.’

And the boy pulled the sheep, who was not a sheep, under his duvet and sang their song to him- an old number by Billie Holiday with Lester Young on tenor sax.

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Filed under Mini mumbo

Recipe

Butter? Melted into warm balsamic vinegar?

Please don’t play with me, God. Don’t take me to the gates of paradise, only to laugh in my greedy, salivating chops.

This is a partnership I dared not imagine but it consummated in my large intestine last night and I’m glad for the experience.

I had the same frisson of joyous presentiment the studio bosses must have felt when the news of Brangelina broke: two things of beauty, joined in one glorious unity.

Making one big mass of outrageous tremendousness.

The great thing about American recipes is they use cups to measure with, so you don’t have to pretend the grams and litres and ounces mean anything more to you than when you weren’t concentrating in maths at school. You just take out your nesting cups and un-nest them.

The bad thing about American recipes is that when you get back to living in U.K. you don’t know how to translate things back and forth and all your cakes die miserable, inconspicuous deaths from uncertain causes.

Don’t commit balsamicide with this recipe.

Go and buy the magic Uncle Sam measurers and knock it in the back of the net:

  • Chicken wings, pork ribs, any goddam animal that will surrender a part of itself*
  • Covered in the gloopy mass that results from the 12 minute simmering of 3/4 cup of balsamic vinegar, 1/4 soy sauce, 2 teaspoons of sugar, removed from the heat and stirred through with 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter. What am I saying, salted, unsalted, any butter that is butter and not ican’tbelieveitsnotbuttertypestuff.

*If you are a vegetarian spoon it over celeriac or lick it off John Humphrys.

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Dragons’ Den

My sister suggested it would make a change if I took my head out of my rear end for a moment to engage with popular culture, where it might even be possible to enter into a dialogue with another human being about something we have both experienced.

So I watched Dragon’s Den on Monday night and was reminded exactly why I find it difficult to do this.

Most shows now bring the general public into our living rooms, in the hope that we are the general public sitting in them. It follows we’ll all feel some visceral reaction towards our fellow man that we cannot muster for Trevor Eve in The Waking Dead.

For a person with fairly ready emotions this is dangerous territory. It feels similar to experiments when they hook up depressed patients to pictures of dying puppies and monitor the miserable part of their brains, to see how much it is messing with them.

In real terms, I simply cannot bear to witness the disappointment of other people. This is everything to do with the way I handle it myself, and nothing to do with a deep-seated love of humanity.

Episode 1 of Series 6 re-visited the balancing formula that throws together the viable with the mind-bendingly absurd, so that we can marvel at the business prowess of the panel and have a right laugh at the wannabe twerps in-between.

(Knowing this to be the case, in what category do you suppose you might fall if you had invented a a sheet with a line sewn down the middle to provide objective demarcation to your loved one of your respective bed territory?)

The panel has worked hard to polish their brands, so to speak. The website tells you how they earned their credentials –‘James tried to sell his grandmother to the childminder when he was 3’, ‘Duncan knee-capped his dog so he could rifle through the vet’s account books’ etc.- so all they have to do is put the finishing touches to their schtik: a jumbo pin-striped suit for Peter, a pair of twinkly specs for Theo, something to pin the horns down on Deborah.

Then all that remains is to sit back and let the alchemy take place, to a pleasantly familiar rhythm:

Theo Paphitis: My bollocks are bigger than yours
Duncan Ballantyne: No, my bollocks are bigger than yours
Peter Jones: I could put all your bollocks in my bank, float a 20% share and still buy a £20 million yacht, stuffed with bollocks.
Deborah Meaden: You’re all annoying, fat and ugly with stupid mug written on your greasy foreheads. I laugh in the face of your fucking awful personalities. And for that reason I’m out.
James Caan: Listen to my velvet voice. It’s smooth, isn’t it? Would you like to stroke my bollocks?

I can handle the playful pitches and ping-pong questions, which probe how thoroughly the needy have crammed the quarterly figures into their perspiring heads.

I can admire the 20-something girls with their talking party trees and the cheeky Hammerpot band, spitting in the eye of the record labels.

I even quite enjoy the gimmicks used for building tension: the flicking of the £50 notes, a Dragon’s eyebrow raised in curiosity, the suspenseful music, while the entrepreneurial lambs agree the terms of their slaughter amongst themselves.

And on this occasion, I felt quite close myself to helping the dividing sheet couple introduce their vision to the incinerator and work out a way it could be erased from the memories of anyone who had ever had the misfortune to come into contact with it.

But I absolutely cannot deal with water-cooler Barry being told he is a horrendous excuse for a human being. I cannot watch Mr. Graduate Connections having his youth-inspired idea booted into offensive oblivion by father-of-six Duncan. And I had to burrow under 3 cushions wailing ‘Make it stop’ when the chap from Asda had his traveling pillow laughed maniacally, out of the den, in surround sound.

Talentless people can learn a craft or become famous. People without common sense are up the creak without a paddle. Which is why it feels so much more personal to be told your energy-invested business baby is nothing but a Cabbage Patch doll, than to be told you sing like a diseased whale.

Nevertheless, if I were Asda chap I’d call up my fellow rejectees, the garden fence team, and commission them to make a panel with a ginormous portrait of the Dragons on it. Then I’d shoot poisoned darts at it, singing‘I will survive’ very loudly down the phone to the BBC. In perfect pitch.

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Flirting with my builders

So you know the old one about the housewife waiting for the milkman in her negligee?

Well, it’s outdated; everyone knows that the noughties’ M.I.L.F buys her dairy from Waitrose. However, there is another kind of serviceman in great abundance on the streets of central London today.

Bob the Builder!

He shouts flattering obscenities at you in the street, loves your tea and pleasant demeanor (some people don’t even offer hobnobs) while at the same time improving the value of your property.

I’ve got two on the go.

Piotr is Polish, natch, and Nick is English. Not only that but he’s posh. Not posh like Harry Enfield doing a sketch but sort of foppish. He does lots of standing on one leg and hopping about, which can be quite sexy when you’re discussing emulsion coats.

Back to Piotr. He’s rosy-cheeked and well built but what’s really going on between us has to do with attitude. He GETS THE JOB DONE. He had his tape measure out on our first encounter quicker than I could say solid oak flooring. He told me what I wanted then left me with a DVD of kitchen porn my sister felt uncomfortable watching with me. He has coined the ultimate builder catchphrase,‘anything is possible’, and is brutally honest: ‘No, this is bad idea. It is looking horrible’.

Nick is masterful and maybe a bit naughty. He looks me up and down, which is kind of a shame because I’m normally wearing padded moon slippers from M & S. He’s got a 3 year-old and has just had a fresh one so he looks tired a lot, which I can identify with.

These are the foundations of our flirtation:

1. He’s seen me vulnerable (leaking roof, broken lights, damp-rot wall)
2. We have been alone in a bedroom together (looking at the collapsed ceiling in the flat upstairs)
3. We share a distrust of the feckless girl at the managing agents
4. He sorts everything out with the feckless girl at the managing agents
5. He knows I am completely at his builder’s-quotes mercy. I actually say things like ‘Do whatever it takes’ and ‘If that’s what it costs‘.
6. I have amusing names for paint and stuff. I told him I didn’t want dentist-waiting-room white on the walls but that I did want a dimmer switch in the hallway for the caught-escaping-from-prison lighting. He laughed both times.
7. I am nice to his men (see tea above). He’s nice to them too. Shared middle class guilt?

How is the flirting manifesting itself? Eye locks, mutual smiles, anticipated words. In some ways we are communicating via a young Cockney, a bald-headed Irishman and a middle-aged Geordie who thinks Bruno is called Boris.

What am I really saying when I ask Mick if he wants a sugar? Or George if he lives in the area? Then there’s the Dulux palette range pamphlet. When we discuss almond white, is marzipan all we’re thinking about? Does he feel the same way about jasmine? What about heaving petting?

And what was going on with the jute samples for the common parts? Did he actually say carpet burns?

At the end of the day, it’s the man who removes the air-conditioner unit from the kitchen, who can have me over the daydream kitchen table.

And if he promises to cart away the rubbish afterwards, Geth will want to watch.

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Filed under London Mumbo, Mumbo Life

Upwardly mobile

I’ve upgraded my mobile phone and as a result I feel upgraded as a person.

I’m not really into gadgets because I’m too lazy to learn how to use them. So I have adopted a counter-cultural point of view, to protect myself: by pretending that I don’t care about the make and model of my roaming dog and bone, I’m not in danger of getting it wrong.

Nevertheless, I would rather be found dead- with a hands-free cord around my neck- than own a pink one, revealing that, deep down, I do believe you are what you dial.

18 months ago I signed up with ‘T-Mobile’, only to discover (passed the date you are allowed to discover things) that there is no reception for it in my flat, unless I lean out of one of the windows. Shouting.

I hoped to intimidate a pimply youth when reasoning for a cessation of the contract but as you press ‘5’ for wanting to leave the company, you get connected with their hostage negotiators.

These people dig so far into your psyche that even if you argue like a barrister on Death Row they are absolutely not ever going to release you, ever, ever. Plus now they know you wake up in the dark and hear the screaming of the lambs.

So when I received a rival network call from out of the blue telling me my contract was up for renewal, I was pre-disposed to listen. I was going to take out a revenge contract even if it only had reception in a Cirencester tea-pot, just so I could tell the mean ‘T-mobile’ muppets.

And that’s what I did.

Quite a bizarre process it turned out to be too.

When I asked how the poachers knew my time was coming up there was all manner of fumbling and mumbling and fake interference noises. Amongst the babble I caught the word ‘database’ but it was clear to me a private dic was on board.

The plot thickened as they slithered out of my request to have something through the mail to look at, saying all business was conducted over the air-waves. I tried to be suspicious and responsible the first 20 times they called but in the end capitulated and gave them my soul.

‘Who was that?’
‘A go-between agency for a new mobile network I’ve signed up for’.
‘What’s the name of it?’
‘The agency or the network?
‘Both.’
‘I don’t know.’
‘Which one?’
‘Either.’
‘You didn’t give them your credit card details, did you?’
‘Yes. And my national insurance number and porn-star name.’
‘Are you stupid?’
‘No, but all the operators are very cheerful and have Welsh accents.’
‘Phew, thank God for that.’

When they asked me which model I wanted, I positioned myself as a refreshingly relaxed client, with just a few stipulations: it should be about the size of the recommended portion for a tuna steak, in case I don’t have a deck of cards handy, for the purposes of measuring; I won’t need to take wacky photographs of myself wigging out at concerts; and I don’t need to know when someone leaves the Big Brother house, as I indulge in the thinking man’s reality T.V. instead: blogs.

Of course, I did take a little look on the web to check out my allocation wasn’t pink and I have to tell you, I liked what I saw. So much so, I even clicked to see it from different angles, including the slide that opens the phone out.

On its arrival it didn’t take long for the new gadget headache to clear and I was already starting to feel self-important. There was something about its weighty hand-feel; the illuminated green, red and blue Simon Says answering icons; the calming ring-tone, with bells and bing-bong noises, that sound like a B.A. ad targeted at babies. I felt a new status coming over me.

Suddenly my trusty old handset looked like a toy phone- brash and tacky and incapable of serious communication. I realized how incomplete I had felt with it. It gave me the cringe.

So here sits my new Nokia. It’s not a Crackberry but it has somehow validated me a-new.

I should now be officially let into club-class lounges. People might mistake me for a movie star agent, in L.A. I could be remotely authorizing the purchase of a Monet at a Sotheby’s auction.

‘3‘ may well be voted the most unpopular network by some non-believers but not by me.

Yes, goddamit, I will take that call.

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In the mood for pseud: morality

The moral absolutism of conservatives, paraded as integrity, is actually a luxury they afford themselves because they know they probably won’t be naughty.

The moral relativism of liberals, worn as open-mindedness, is an insurance policy they adopt because they know they probably will.

If, like me, you are too principled to be naughty and too naughty to be principled, I recommend avoidance of real life and immersion in mumbojumbo.

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Filed under Beermat wisdom