Monday, February 14, 2011

Thanks to the Metropolitan Police - and the FBI

Hey! I just received an email from Mr. Tim Godwin, Deputy Commissioner, Metropolitan Police London-UK saying:

"Your awarded fund by the British online promo valued Ј1,000,000.00GBPS has been approved to be released to you. Presently, this said Funds is under the custody of the Paying Bank (HSBC Bank Plc London-UK) therefore you are required to provide us with listed information below (for official verification)..." [list of information]

Looks pretty convincing to me.  He has even given me his mobile number.

And on the very same day I get an email from a nice FBI agent telling me I've got $800,000 waiting at:

FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Federal Bureau of Investigation
J. Edgar Hoover Building
935 Pennsylvania Avenue,
NW Washington, D.C. 20535-0001

He has given me his mobile number as well and it's a UK mobile - how convenient is that!

This is obviously my lucky day - - what could posibly go wrong?

This time next year Rodders...

Disguise N Love

(With apologies to Burt Bacharach and Hal David)

Blood-Pig Level Maintenance – A Spam Update

I was idly cruising the ‘tinned meat’ aisle of a local supermarket when I came across this compendium of Spam.

Normally I would have passed by without it registering, but I had recently been alerted to the existence of American Spam Lite and it’s accompanying User Guide (see blog: Spam Lite etc...)

The UK user guide is a mundane affair and lacks the pizzazz of the US version. It only has three instructions where the US version includes the instruction '4. Slice and fry, or grill, bake, broil, microwave, eat cold'. (What is the difference between broil and grill?)

In addition the UK guide does not appear on the small tins or the version with black pepper. I assume the manufacturers have perceived some difference between the customers of these various products but hesitate to suggest what that perception may be. Please feel free to add a comment expanding on this below.

There appears be a drive to see how much pig the manufacturers can get into one product.

A sure cure for hypoporcineahaematosis - a condition
resulting from extremely low blood-pig levels

But you have to admire this porcine overload being a 'limited edition'

Appearing in a pig-shop near you soon:  Spam - The Directors Cut with pork, ham, bacon, lard and the odd trotter.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

On The Buses II – Dawn of the Damp

(continued from On The Buses I – A Brief History of Time

It is raining, the car is in the garage and I have an unexpected day of forced idleness. 

In a spirit of new found freedom I set out for the Brighton Marina for a bit of shopping at Asda (damn it and it’s Wal-Mart family - but then again it is handy) and possibly a spot of lunch at Wetherspoons.

The bus arrives and in a spirit of re-kindled youth I sit on top at the front.

There is a bit of metal or maybe a small stone in the hand rail that stretches across the front window. During our more violent cornering  this irritant rattles along the tube with a rattling noise. Outside the Art College (or Brighton University if you insist on accuracy) we manage a high speed left and right turn and the trapped rattler makes a return journey left to righ and then right to left again - kind of satisfying in a rattly sort of way.

“It’s Bi.”

The voice behind me was quite insistent. This is Brighton and we are in St James’s Street so naturally I assume we are talking about sexual preferences. But the word ‘it’ is so politically incorrect that I am slightly confused – surely ‘he’ or ‘she’ would be  more appropriate. Maybe he is just being bitchy about someone of indeterminate proclivities. A second thought comes into my head, Brighton’s gay community don’t use buses on rainy Thursday mornings, they are all tucked up at work or something… I then feel that my stereotyping of this section of our community has inadvertently exposed some prejudicial thinking and led me into a minefield of sexual politics. And then I look around and think it is quite possible that the old chap with the slightly greasy grey hair, anorak, brown shoes and plastic shopping bag sitting in the other front seat could be gay and…

I am jerked back to the here and now “No it’s not, it’s buses."

"Au contraire" says the first voice (actually it doesn't, but it so easily could have that in my rerun of the conversation I could swear it did) "The plural of words ending in ‘us’ is ‘i’. Like cactus, which are cacti… so it's bi”

It seems I am eavesdropping a conversation about semantics and feel I have been saved from castigation by my internal thought police.

I am swept back to school in a brief moment of déjà vu. How many times have I heard this conversation, right down to using  ‘cactus/cacti’ as the example? Of course usually it is the other way round. The plural of cactus is mentioned and then someone says, that that the plural of bus must be bi and everyone chuckles and tries to find other, more absurd examples… but this conversation has reversed the process. The traditional structure is lost – can we rely on nothing in this new, big society?

The first voice should have been nasal and whiny as befits a pedant-on-the-bus, but once again stereotyping is inappropriate as the voice is in fact quite sombre and would be good for reading bad news on the wireless.

“…and dice is plural, one dice is called a die.” it continued.

“No it’s not.” interjected the second voice which had that accent which may be Sussex or may be south London or somewhere in between “One die is called a die, two of them are called dice…”

"That’s what I said." retorted the newsreader.

“No, you said once dice was called a die.” Rejoined Mr In-Between.

“Well, it is…”

“Oh forget it, the point is that it would only be ‘bi’ if the root of bus was Latin.”

“It’s a 7.”

“What’s a 7?”

“The route of this bus…” This is an attempt at humour to let the pressure out of the dice dispute.

“And the root of bus is omnibus…” said  Mr In-Between ignoring the attempt at reconciliation, and then added quite brilliantly “…which comes from Yorkshire.”

I expected the newsreader to contest this, but he countered with a stunning left hook “No, that’s charabanc, omnibus is Lancashire.”

“Well, whatever it’s not Latin.” They seemed to agree on this. Incorrectly as it happens.

“And um.” Said the newsreader after a moments pause.

I considered the ways in which we fill awkward spaces with meaningless sounds to bridge a void or relieve some uncomfortable situation, but once again I was sideswiped.

“You know, like referendum. Two of them should be referenda.”

“Sadly not.” reposted Mr In Between. “I was watching QI on”  and he mentioned some cable channel no one in their right mind should be able to remember “only last night and Stephen Fry said that the plural of referendum was referendums.”

“Well, what does he know.” Said the newsreader rather stupidly.

“Quite a lot actually, my sister sat next to him once.” And then after a suitable pause, while the two of them considered the elevated status bestowed upon the sister by virutue of such close proximity to Mr Fry he added “it’s something to do with referendum being a gerund and gerunds don’t have plurals…” he faded off unsure exactly where he was going with this.

We finally get to the marina and I do my shopping, and repair to Wetherspoons. The food and beer are average, but the faux-holiday circumstances make up for any disappointment. I read the Argus and note that Mr In-Between’s sister’s friend, Stephen Fry has been awarded an honorary honour of some sort by Brighton University, or maybe it was Sussex, or maybe the Art College.

On the bus back into town I once again sit at the front on the top. There is a big bloke sitting in the other front seat. I deduce that this guy does not use buses very much, if he did he would have taken advantage of the extra three inches of legroom allocated to the seat I am sitting in.

We get back to Kemp Town and the traffic snarls up. “Fuck.” Says Mr Big. We stay snarled up and more “fucks” and “bloody hells” escape into the damp air.

There are several police people and traffic wardens at various junctions directing traffic away from the sea front. “Fucking old bill” intones Mr Big. “Community police, that’s a laugh. Bunch of midget lesbians…”

My earlier suspicions are confirmed as, for the first time, Mr Big directs a comment directly at me. “I never use the fucking bus, but my daughter said it would be quick and easy and I’ve got a train to catch.” I turn round and recognise the face of the actor who plays Detective Inspector Bastard in the long-running TV series Rozzers

Generally it is sensible not to join in these essentially one-way conversations, but I am happy that I am with an bona-fide actor and not a proven psychopath and worst thing likely to befall me is being roughly luvvied to death by an invective against the police. So I respond that I too am new to the buses of Sussex and we growl softly at each other, railing against the slings and arrows of just about everything.
Mr Big, or DI Bastard as I am now thinking of him, attacks his mobile and starts making apologies to someone for his expected absence at a film preview he is supposed to be attending later this very day in London. The party at the other end says something that engenders the response “Bloody old bill, always going over the bloody top…”
Artist's impression of DI Bastard on the dog and bone
The call ends and he turns to me and says that the police have shot someone on the seafront and have closed Brighton. “Bastards.”

We have started moving again and with an obtuse logic he leaps up and heads for the stairs casting his parting words over his shoulder “How long will it take to walk to the station?” He does not wait for a reply and is last seen following the bus on foot. Not really his day. Bon chance DI Bastard.

Bastard's Last Case
And so my future is laid out before me. When I am 60 I will get a bus pass and ride around the country talking bollocks with (almost) complete strangers. Perfect.

Friday, February 11, 2011

On The Buses I – A Brief History of Time

Like most places Brighton is crap in the rain in February and today it is raining and it is February so it is crap and I have shopping to do.

I have a list of things to take back to France most of which can be obtained from the costermongers lining the London Road. Usually I drive there, park in the Open Market or some other suitable (i.e. free) car park and forage. I buy the stuff, making occasional visits back to the car to stash it.

Today’s crap is courtesy of my car being in the vets having stones removed from its hooves. Deprived of a car, I am limited to buying only as much as I can carry.

However, armed with a little knowledge, maps and a few quid the world of The Brighton and Hove Bus Company is opened up and one gets a chance to see how the other half struggles.

A bewildering selection of multi-layered travel
deals are on offerif you can understand them.

I bought a Day Super Saver City Go Anywhere All Day In The Rain special.

£3.70 on the bus, £.30 at one of the special
inaccessible Travel Shops or £3 online
(requires more planning than most of us can muster)
Having done the first lot of shopping and laden with bags I stagger to a bus stop...

Some of the booty waiting for a bus.

The bus arrives...


...and I take the booty back to Pete’s house where I drop it off and sally forth for the next lot.  No wonder poor people are unemployed, it takes all day just getting the shopping done… [I feel you are missing the point. Ed.]

One of several bus journeys (I forget which)
Brighton has a rather good system of displays telling you exactly how late the buses are. It may be mendacious, but it is kind of comforting as it is just possible that it is true. For instance it may say ‘5B 3 Minutes’, this changes to ‘2 minutes’ after a period not entirely related to time as we know it. Trying to work out how long a B&HBC minute is on planet earth helps pass the time.
Not all bus stops have a display, but never fear. The stops are all named and coded. You can text the code of the bus stop to B&HBC and they will text back the times of the next bus - and I assume lighten you bank account by a suitably annoying amount – you know not enogh to complain about, but close to the amount you saved by getting a Day Super Saver City Go Anywhere All Day In The Rain special.

This bus stop did not have a display so I had to take a picture of the one on the stop across the road.

Living by bus is a deadeningly slow process. But today I have no other pressing engagements and need a break from sitting in front of the computer.

Slowly the hidden advantages become apparent. Once one has faced the horror of car-withdrawal and the only pressure on one’s time is waiting for the garage to call and say it’s ready, the bus opens up new opportunities. I do not worry about parking places or tickets, or steering, or having a second pint at lunchtime. In fact a couple of pints and a spin along the coast is almost like having a holiday. I might even go the whole hog and buy an Argus…

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Spam Lite, Tone Rite, Looking Good, Spelling Shite

I dropped in on Sal, Andy, Milly and Will the other day. There is always something new chez Roberts. Sal was up to her tush organising a Mother Funkers gig ( and was suffering from a severe case of mobile goal post syndrome. Milly was off to a cast-and-crew after-show party following a production of Grease. And Will was off on a bike ride, returning to practice his growing array of musical instruments, currently euphonium, trombone and piano.

Meanwhile, Andy was busily decanting some evil looking hooch from a demijohn.  It had been donated by the owner of a hostelry that he and fellow twang-meister Hank, had patronised the previous week on the grounds that “it tastes disgusting, and if you don’t take it away I’ll pour it down the drain”. Actually, it tasted rather good if you like liquid Christmas pudding with a side order of marmalade, and was not a little volatile. OK, somewhere between dry-cleaning fluid and rocket propellant. It would probably be rejected as airline cabin baggage on the same grounds as they take a dim view of Semtex or nuclear waste.

Another culinary goody collected in the furtherance of the ‘No Hall too Small’ tour was a can of Spam Lite which Hank found in the US.

"Great New Look, Same Great Taste" Hmmm...

Like Spam Original but even better…
Fortunately it comes with a comprehensive user guide – I kid you not:


On a more musical note Andy found a rather splendid armoured jack-to-jack guitar lead while on safari in Camden Town.

Two and a half metres for under a tenner – bargain!

I suggested a three-step destruction-test program involving trapping it in a flightcase lid, shutting it in a door and crushing a doubled over length beneath the heel of a cowboy boot heel. I await the results with interest but have little expectation that the test will take place, well, not in controlled conditions anyway.

Talking of which, down in the basement there is something of a studio-cum-guitar-laboratory where Andy gets up to all sorts of musical experiments.

Reader competition:
Using your skill, judgement and imagination
devise an experiment using the items pictured above.

It is also where he keeps his guitar collection. 

Some are old and have been conditioned by years of use. These have developed a mature tone which is usually an improvement on their original sound. The process is much valued by plank virtuosos but takes valuable playing time – until now that is.

Technology has intervened in the form of Tone Rite ™. Simply attach to the immature instrument and set the desired parameters and turn on.

Before you can say something that takes a few days, your guitar will have developed that Strad sound and will be ready to deliver a lifetime of sultry sophistication.

Blimey! Who'd have thought it.

So much to learn, so little time...

The Brown Stuff

I was having a bit of toast and Marmite this morning and was in pensive mood. There were two jars in the cupboard one big and one small.

I got to thinking why would anyone would have two sizes. When I were a nipper Marmite used to be almost cheap. These days the content of a large jar is fast approaching the price of the most expensive commodity known to man - bubble jet printer ink. Dollop for dollop small jars cost significantly more. For something that used to be scraped from the arse-end of the brewing industry and fed to pigs this is quite an achievement.

There was also a jar of Bovril in the cupboard. 

It reminded me a an exchange I have had with a number of, otherwise sensible, people along the lines of:

“Have you got any Marmite?”

“No, but I’ve got some Bovril.”

Why do some people think these are interchangeable, that  one is a suitable substitute for the other? It’s like saying have you got a bicycle? No but I've got a shed. Just plain stupid.

Of course the reason is that these two foodstuffs have some things in common. They are brown and can be put on bread or diluted to make a drink. The other main similarity is the shape of the jar.

If you could be bothered to soak the labels off and swap the lids around your average non-specialist would be hard pressed to tell the difference. 

Both products are made by Unilever and I suppose the jars come from the same place... hmmm.

Another blind spot which is revealed by the crass suggestion that these two products are synonymous is that Marmite is 100% vegetarian. And while Bovril does include yeast extract, the major ingredient is the body parts of dead cows and consequently fails miserably in the ‘being nice to animals’ stakes in which Marmite ranks so highly. The current Bovril label even has a graphic based on a cattle brand which reads BEEF - how clear can you be?

Moving on to the ubiquity of Marmite...

Twiglets must have been the first commercially produced Marmite flavoured snack.

And anyone who has had the pleasure of visiting a British pub in the last 20 years is likely to have come across Marmite flavour crisps.

You can just hear them at Marmite Towers "hmmmm, too good for Walkers, let's make our own"

But Cashew nuts?

Then things began to get really silly.

I first noticed when they started to sell the stuff in squeezy bottles. Not only are they upside down, but the large size doesn't even say Marmite on the front (well, it does but only on the little cooking pot for which the tuff is named.)


And for the last few years they have been on something of an offensive.

Champagne Marmite
for Valentines day
Guinness flavour?

The Official Spread of the
England Cricket Team
Marmite with added cheese
And if a pot of Marmite with cheese doesn't quite grab you how about a block of cheese with added Marmite:

Too lazy to actually spread the damn stuff yourself?

 Or maybe you do love spreading it yourself and never leave home without it:

We are obvioulsy going to hell in a handcart, time to blame some foriegners...

You can enter the ‘completely predictable conversation is about to happen’ stakes by saying the word ‘Marmite’ to an Australian who is almost guaranteed to utter a sentence including the work ‘Vegemite’ probably with some expression of brand preference which is unlikely to favour Marmite.

Fer Christ’s sake, it’s not even
in the right type of jar…
And I have it on good authority that it is entirely devoid of vitamin B12. This is what happens when you get your yeast extract from a brewery that makes Fosters, Castlemaine and those other frozen parodies of beer. I wonder what the sheep equivalent of Bovril tastes like...

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Victorian Values II

Quiz time: In which English City is Victoria Station? There are no prizes if you say "London". This is not becaue you are wrong but because it does not really need saying. Sure, there are Victoria Stations in other cities (well, I can only think of the Metro station in Manchester - but do let me know others) so it may be worth including this on a web site or directory, but surely the London terminus does not need clarification of its location above the door.

“Oh! I thought I was in Milwaukee…”
But apparently the management think it necessary to do just that.

But you can tell it’s London, the clues are all around. Not least evidenced by the bus drivers' casual attitude to cyclists.

Some poor sod is going to be seriously pissed off when he/she gets back to their bike.


Talking of things Victoria Station-toilet-related, travellers are required to part with 30p to use the station’s toilets. The sign helpfully explains that it is 30p for each visit. I wonder if they do a season ticket…
For the more discerning there is an altogether superior scatological experience only a few yards away at The Grosvenor Hotel


The entrance is somewhat understated, but this is the back door. 

Mind you the main entrance is no better.


But once inside it is rather nice

And you get serenaded to the facilities

The old toilets used to be on the ground floor but these are now kitchens. I wonder how many other people push their way into the kitchen in the process of loosening their trousers (oh… just me then)

The new toilets have moved down some very shiny stairs.


The urinals are kept apart by a sqaudron of ceramic sharks

And the wash hand basins have electronic taps 


and their own lights.

There are some high-tech hand dryers which I suspect are an attempt to mimic the rather splendid new Dyson driers. It must be said they fail miserably. 

Fortunately, there are also low-tech paper towels which are much preferred

 And all for nowt. Bargain!

Just don't tell anyone else.