The TipsyLit poll is now open ladies and gentlemen
Some real opposition this week.
The TipsyLit poll is now open ladies and gentlemen
Some real opposition this week.
I happened to stumble upon a copy of the Daily Mail yesterday. Now you all know my opinion of this scandalous rag of a newspaper. I do not hold it in high esteem, let’s say that. I’m not really the target demographic, since I’m not a swivel eyed raving Tory, and critically I’m not a woman, and the Mail aims itself firmly at the fair sex.
Anyway, I was skimming through the women’s section, Femail. I often find it hilariously funny. But one article caught my eye and roused me to righteous indignation. The headline read ‘Why longing to be a grandma is so painful-and why our children don’t see it.’ Now forgive me if I’m mistaken, but don’t couples decide to have children for themselves, not to serve the self-interests of some atavistic grandmotherly urge? It’s the couple’s business and nobody else’s Nobody else should have a say in it.
I was rather cross, so I straw polled some women of my acquaintance, and they all agreed that the woman columnist had clearly lost her way. But I suspect the columnist has an attitude that is not that uncommon. Because here’s an interesting fact. Women who live geographically close to their mothers have more children, and start at a younger age, than women who live a greater distance away. Doesn’t that suggest to you that close proximity gives a greater opportunity for nagging daughters into popping a couple of children? All so the selfish mother can become a grandmother. I think that’s indefensible.
By curious coincidence, I found this article on ReadWave just now.
Just to round things off, here’s a joke about the Mail I heard recently. A banker, a Mail reader, and a refugee are sitting at a table to share twelve biscuits. The banker takes eleven, and says to the Mail reader, ‘Keep an eye on that refugee. He’s after your biscuit.’
I wasn’t going to enter this week, but you know, I felt the need for speed. By the way, Wendy, it’s ‘colour.’
The firework display was nearly at an end. There was a dull Thud! from one last concealed mortar, and a dim stream of reddish sparks shot upwards through the dark. The crowd watched, expecting The Big One. They were not disappointed. There was an ear-splitting explosion, and a perfect sphere of orange, white, and green stars appeared. At the same time a bank of rockets fired off, and as each reached its zenith it disgorged more orange, white, and green stars, each attached to a tiny parachute. These stars from the rockets, instead of falling to earth, drifted slowly across the smoke streaked sky, swaying gently under their parachutes in the barely perceptible breeze.
Nobody except me noticed the one parachute that drifted with no star blazing underneath it. Nobody heard the tiny shrill voice screaming in my earpiece, ‘Wooooohooooooo! Holy shit! What a rush! I mean, man, that’s just the fucking ultimately insane! Ride ‘em cowboy!’ My friend Jax O’Bourne, adrenalin junkie leprechaun, had achieved his life’s ambition.
It’s easier than you may expect to be an adrenalin junkie, an XTreem sports addict, if you’re only about two inches tall. Jax had started off at a fairly low level, from the age of 14 hotwiring radio controlled cars. You know those radio controlled things you get at amusement parks? You put some money in a slot , and the radio controlled car you’ve paid to play with gets crashed into? There’s a car that hurtles round and round in circles playing at Demolition Derby? That was probably Jax in there, sitting in a shower of sparks from the shorted out batteries, and furiously kicking at the steering rack. From there it was but a short step to twocking* those petrol powered scale off-road racers. If you’ve got one of those, and it suddenly refuses to obey your commands, it’s Jax.
Jax was one of the first leprechauns to develop white-water kayaking, using a handbuilt kayak made from a kazoo he found in a discarded party bag, and the lower part of a condom for the gasket to prevent water getting in. He started off relatively modestly, honing his skills in the water features at his local aquatics centre, and moving on to greater things. His biggest achievement to date has been rafting the entire sequence of cascades in the Water Garden at Glendalough House in County Wicklow, and in doing so travelling the complete distance from the mill feeder pond to the Main Pond on the front lawn.
Jax has always been an avid bungee jumper, and has jumped off Dublin’s Ha’Penny Bridge on a rope made from the elastic strands in a single green hair scrunchie. He has also ‘flown’ from the roof of the Guinness brewery in St James Gate to Butts Bridge on Burgh Quay wearing a wingsuit made from an A4 sized polypocket cut down to size.
Freediving is another of Jax’s pastimes. Few leprechauns will forget his lung-crushing plunge to the bottom of the shark tank in Sea World at Bray. It was at the same venue that he set a new All Comer’s record (5½ inches) for a piranha caught with a handheld toothpick. An incident with an electric catfish nearly cost him his life.
Jax loves the idea of snowboarding, but he’s somewhat hampered by the lack of snow in Ireland. He has put in a few hours on the artificial slopes at the ski centre in Sandyford, not far from the Stillorgan Industrial Park. He narrowly avoided being crushed by a member of the Dutch national ski team, who practice there not because there’s a lack of snow in the Netherlands, but a lack of hills. Jax has also spent some fruitful time at Malin Head in Northern Ireland, where there is hail on 48 days of the year.
In 2007, Jax travelled to the England, and to Thamesmead School in Middlesex, where they were holding a charity balloon race. After stowing away on one of the red balloons, he ended up in Middleton near Saxmundham in Suffolk, a distance of over 160 km (100 miles.) Some of his other finest results have been in England too. In 2012 he became the first person to free climb the world’s tallest and extremely colourful, Lego tower (Legoland Windsor, 32m approx. 105′,) and then BASE jump off it. That night he spent alone in the graveyard at the model village just up the M40 in Bekonscot, another first for this notoriously haunted place. Then he travelled down to Kew Gardens, and spent two weeks living off the land in the Tropical House.
If you ask Jax what his greatest achievement was, before the rocket trip, he’d have his answer at the ready. He invented the sport of tube surfing. Not riding the outside of the DART trains. No, travelling in the money pods that supermarkets transport around the store using pneumatic delivery systems. Jax has even surfed the famous Colossus tube system at Europe’s biggest hypermarket, the Tesco in Naas, Co. Kildare. That was a ‘real fucking headrush man,’ even if he did have to wait nearly an hour for someone to open the door to the cash office so he could get out.
So what next for Jax, the man on the thin edge? Who can tell? Even he probably doesn’t know yet. Now I’d better go and find him and get him back to civilisation. For now. I am his manager after all. It’s the least I can do in the circumstances.
*Footnote. In the UK, stealing a car is known as ‘taking without owner’s consent,’ hence twoc, hence twocking as a neologism.
I speak here from a position of power. Because I did it. I know how it works.
Do not get me wrong. I do like smoking, and I do like smokers. I am not one of the proselyting recent zealots. I simply stopped. Just like that. Six months ago to the day.
I had rolled myself a fag, took a pull on it. It made me cough, and the nicotine rush was absent. But I hated the coughing, the feeling rubbish.
I simply stopped, right there, right then. I chucked away all my baccy, got up walked away. I had several lighters, as smokers do, gave them away, all my rollie papers, just gave them away too.
I’ve never looked back. And I just realised that the 5th of March gave me my six month anniversary. Well clearly not an anniversary, since it’s less than a year, but I’m sure you get the idea
If you missed Part 1 you can find it here
This is by way of an addendum, and features a couple of truly unpleasant delicacies from the more northerly parts of civilisation, though the term ‘civilisation’ only applies very loosely to these foodstuffs.
First out of the hat, kiviaq, also kiviak. This is as weird as all get out. It’s an Inuit speciality, and given their somewhat adverse living conditions, you can sort of see the logic, where you find food when and where you can and store it to get you through the difficult extremes of winter. So in the spring there’s a copious quantity of little auks flying around since it’s the breeding season. So what you do is catch 300 to 500 of these little birds, but you don’t eat them now. Oh no, perish the thought. What you have to do is shove them in the skin of a seal, sew it all up so it’s airtight, smear the sewn joint with seal fat to keep the flies out, and press all the remaining air out by burying the stuffed skin under a pile of rocks. You then leave nature to take its course, and the bird carcases ferment. When they are good and rotten, you can eat them. All of them. This delicious morsel smells so bad that traditionally it’s only ever eaten outside. No big surprise there, is there?
Then there’s the Icelandic hakarl. To prepare this you need a Greenland shark, which as it happens is toxic when raw. You bury the body on a beach for six to eight weeks, under a pile of rocks to force the body fluids out into the sand. Then you take the flesh, cut it into strips, and air dry it for a few months. Cut it into cubes, and you’re hot to trot.
One of the reasons Greenland shark is toxic is because the flesh contains large quantities of uric acid. During the fermentation (ie rotting) process, this is broken down. Now as you all know, the major breakdown product of uric acid (and urea) is ammonia. This will probably explain why hakarl has a smell similar to many household cleaners, Apparently it doesn’t taste as bad as it smells. Be grateful for small mercies, eh?
PS Yes I have spelt ‘carcases’ correctly. It’s a British spelling, but you will find it in Merriam Webster, so stop sneering.
I happened to be watching a programme about alligators over the weekend, and thought I’d dust this off.
You never know when this advice will come in handy. Encountering one of these beasts is unlikely in, say, central London, but we live in strange times.
Let’s assume you’re somewhere where these reptiles are native. They are real mean muthas. They’re very successful predators. They’re big and as a predator you don’t get to be big without being good at your job. They’ve been around pretty much unchanged for about 500M years. Nature might have done something about their design if it wasn’t efficient. They are hardy too. They must have survived the Permian extinction. Not a lot of people can say that.
They have a very bad attitude. No crocodile ever became a Zen master. But they do have a soft spot. If you encounter one in the water it’s all over, I’m afraid. But meet one on land and you might, you just might, live to tell the tale. All you need is a bamboo pole about 6’ long. Carry one at all times.
You can’t outrun these buggers, so you need to outsmart them. So there you are breezing along and suddenly you go,’Oh damn. There’s a crocodile.’ Take your trusty stick, and tap it very gently on the croc’s snout. Very gently. A remarkable thing will happen. Said reptile will sink to the ground, become very still, and open its mouth. This is a fearsome sight to behold, and you may think about losing control of your bowels, but fear not. Gently tap its teeth and gums. Gently. Then walk away. Don’t run. Walk. Think Green Cross Code, and you’re there.
Because the croc thinks it’s at the hygienists. Crocs have lots of hard to reach places in their mouths, since they only have very short arms, So they have come to an agreement with a small bird, actually a species of plover. This bird carries out the task of cleaning the bits of gazelle (or human) from between the croc’s teeth. So when you tap the snout, a croc thinks it’s dentist day. Open wide and keep still, it thinks. For all I know it may even tell the plover about the holiday it’s just had.
I’ve seen this trick pulled in Kenya. The guy doing it actually waved his arm through the open jaws. I believe, but can’t guarantee, that it works on alligators too. Might come in useful next time you’re in the Florida swamplands. Oh one other thing. It won’t work in South America. They have caymans there, and although these are close relatives of crocs, they do not enjoy the services of the avian hygienist. I’m afraid it’s all over of you meet one of these.
Back to Africa. There’s a fair number of venomous snakes there. Most are wallflowers, very shy and retiring, and won’t bother you unless you bother them They’re a bit hippy, to be honest. One however has a very bad attitude. The dreaded black mamba. They are the skinheads of the snake world, always up for a pagga. They move faster than you can run, and the venom is one of the most powerful neurotoxins known. It also hammers the blood clotting cascade, so you haemorrhage as well, and then get gangrene. So all in all the black mamba is best avoided.
So you’re on a nature ramble through the savannah, and you see a black snake. ‘Ohmigod! A black mamba!’ This is a heartstopper of a moment, but it’s also a wrong moment. Black mambas aren’t black. It’s an easy mistake to make, assuming that a black mamba is black, but they aren’t. They’re a rather fetching shade of green. The only bit that’s black is the inside of the mouth. Get to see that, and it’s ‘Goodnight nurse.’ The moral of this tale is simple. Don’t mess with any snake that’s green.
I may as well deal with sharks here, too. Like crocs, they’ve been around quite a while, and like crocs they’re good at what they do. Most of them won’t bother you. I know this for a fact, having done fair bit of scuba diving in my time. They either swim away, or give way to curiosity and come for a nose around. It’s strangely exhilarating to eyeball a shark that’s staring through your facemask. It is, honest. Try it some time.
However, if you meet one on a bad day, here’s all (all!) you have to do. Turn said piscine upside down. Seriously. Turn a shark upside down and it goes into a state of torpor. It just stops. It’s like a DVD player on standby. Leave it long enough and it will drown, since sharks have to swim to move water over their gills.
That’s a useful tip, isn’t it? Not sure how useful if you’ve got an 18’ Great White on your case, but it has to be worth a shot.
Professional shark tamers use this trick. Now there’s a job for heroes, eh? Professional shark tamer. It’d look very good on your CV for an office assistant’s job, wouldn’t it?
When I have a bit more time, I’ll give you some tips about rhinos, hippos, Komodo dragons, and bears. You’re all agog now. Leave ‘em wanting more, that’s my motto.
Well here we go again. Some gems here today
Originally posted on Tipsy Lit:
Duncan: Speaking in Tongues
OK the TipsyLit poll is off and running. So if you liked ‘Speaking in Tongues’ maybe you could pop over and leave a cross in the box
This originally saw light of day very early on on this blog, at a time when nobody was reading me. However, since this week’s Prompt was inspired by me (thanks Wendy) I decided to resurrect it, modify it a bit, rename it, and stick it in for the Challenge. http://tipsylit.com/2014/02/24/prompted-speaking-with-another-voice/ So here it is.
In the unlikely event that you did read the original, you’ll see I’ve toned down the language a bit. This is a family show.
If you like the Charlie character, and lots of people do, you can find her and her further adventures in extreme violence and foul language here http://www.wattpad.com/story/7477422
When I was still gainfully employed I worked with a really nice Frenchman, Laurent. Highly intelligent though he could sometimes accidentally obscure this fact. He was a pharmacologist for a major drugs firm.
His grasp of English was generally good, much much better than Charlie’s or my la plume de ma tante level French. But slang expressions could get the better of him. And he had a regional French accent you could cut with a knife.
One day we had him and his flatmate round our place for dinner. Charlie pulled Laurent up on some linguistic gaffe, and he got a bit cross. Being French and hence gallant, he always called Charlie by her full name. His version of it anyway.
‘Shallot, yur meck furn of me all zee tarm.’
’It’s nothing personal. We make fun of everybody all the time.’
‘Yur sink ah nur furk nussing, burt zat ees not rart. Ah am smarrt. Aburt pharmacology ah durn’t nur furk nussing; ah nur furk all.’
‘Laurent, that’s very disturbing news. Remind me not to take any of your company’s drugs.’
‘You’re a Gallic idiot.’
‘Burt ah ave not been eatin gallic.’
Despite the misunderstanding, this was strictly true. He was a sucker for Charlie’s and my full bore roast dinners, and we’d spared no effort. I think she was trying to build him up, since he weighed about ten stone soaking wet. Even I weigh more than he does, but I do exceed him by a few inches. In height. The rest I can’t comment on.
Charlie went into full ‘Launch depth charges!’ mode.
‘Bugger me, Laurent, how’s life in Clochemerle? You’re a nice guy but such a hick.’
‘Hein? Burt zat ees summsing yur meck on zee nake of yur lovair, non?’
‘That’s a hickey. And it’s American. Cut down on the junk television. Rick, we’d better start having French lessons. What we have here is a failure to communicate.’
We never did manage to wean him off saying knickers when he meant pounds.
Laurent’s flatmate was Vladimir. He has a basso profundo voice, and a Russian accent you could also cut with a knife. He sounds like a bad guy in a Bond film. He looks like a shotputter or as if he works in a shipyard banging rivets in with his fists. In reality he’s an acupuncturist. For this reason Charlie and I referred to him as Vlad the Impaler. Laurent didn’t get this joke at all, but there’s no real reason he should.
‘So, Vladimir, what do you do when you aren’t sticking pins in people?’ I asked.
‘Sometimes I go fishing. But mainly I like crime. I like to commit crimes. The pins are, how do you say, a front. I am big boss in Mafiya.’
Even Charlie stopped short at that one.
Vlad laughed and glasses and cutlery danced around. ‘I am pulling your plinkers. I have got some of your English sense of humour, have I not?’
‘That’s plonkers you’re pulling,’ snapped Charlie. ‘You must be a bit heavy handed, because in case you hadn’t noticed, I don’t have one, so you must have torn it off. I hope you’re gentler with your patients, or you may as well get a job on stage shoving knives through a box containing your beautiful assistant.’
‘My lovely Charlotte, if she was as beautiful as you I would use the stems of red roses, not knives.’
I swear that Charlie simpered at him. Only for a couple of seconds, but I swear she did. Normally Charlie is so hardnosed I suspect hers is made of depleted uranium and could be used to knock out armoured vehicles. She could probably disable an APC simply by headbutting it.
‘So really,’ she simpered, ‘what do you like to do?’
‘I like ikebana and growing Bonsai trees.’
‘Bugger me. Are you sure you’re Russian and not a sign of improving Sino-Japanese relations? If you’re turning Japanese, why not take up a part time job as a Sumo wrestler?’
Vladimir chuckled, and cutlery danced around again. ‘Alas, I do not have the ability to withdraw my bullocks.’
‘You mean your bollocks, and it’s more information than I strictly need. No, I do not want to see that you can’t do it. Don’t even think it!’
‘Alas, beautiful Charlotte, I have offended you. I hang my head in shame.’
Charlie simpered again. What is it with men from other countries and the magnetic gallantry/charm stuff? If I’d used a line like that Charlie would have sneered, but both Laurent and Vlad had things off to a tee.
Laurent couldn’t always understand Vlad’s English. Charlie and I sometimes struggled (unless she was simpering at him), and it’s our native language. And Vlad couldn’t always understand Laurent’s English. So occasionally they conversed in Spanish, a language they were both proficient in. You need to hear that, a Frenchman and a Russian talking Spanish, but you still wouldn’t believe it. It sounds like a conversation between two snake-handling Pentecostalists speaking in tongues just before swooning. Charlie and I would look at each other, and mouth the words ‘What the…?’ Then one or other of them would translate for us. Having a conversation with those two was quite hard work.
And it was a problem of our own making. Why didn’t we know Spanish, or Russian, or have better French? We brought it on ourselves. We both felt mildly ashamed.
Instead of going to all the trouble of actually writing something, I’m going down the slacker route. Here is a link to an article that is just so death defyingly stupid it beggars belief.
By the way, if you happen to believe that weekly use of white sage is an essential part of your spiritual maintenance, don’t bother telling me. Tell Mary. Her email address is right there at the end. While you’re there, ask her about her bank balance, eh?
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