Monday 7 May 2012

Tesco Self-Checkouts and Self-Diagnosis

It’s a nice touch in the classier supermarket: enter the establishment, there’s the decorative table of samples. There’s the organic Shropshire lamb’s cheese; the Fairtrade Chinese gooseberry flavoured dark chocolate. But they have to get it right. They’ve got to be careful, for instance, with a new line in lime cordial. People tend to shy off that colour liquid offered as samples.
Tesco, the supermarket chain is in crisis (CLICK ON 'Read more' LINK, BELOW).

Monday 30 April 2012

The Reign in Thpain

‘Hi nigh brine kai?’ is often the first sentence you will learn in Received Pronunciation (RP) – how to enquire about the health of a brown cow at a precise moment in time.

Of course, the Queen’s English is used not only to establish the welfare of tan cattle, but to impose the way people expect us to speak. And by ‘people’, we mean society. One needs a clipped accent to be respected or to have one’s authority accepted, in order to advance in life.

What might not be appreciated so much is that that word ‘received’ is loaded. The suggestion is that one’s pronunciation should be something that should be communicated or despatched (from the ruling classes) and accepted (by the hoi polloi) i.e. received. The pronunciation must be registered (in our minds), much as one might in analogy sign for a courier-delivered parcel to verify its receipt. By wiggling one’s finger across the screen of that big mobile phone thing couriers hand you.

‘Is that OK?’ you ask the courier. ‘Is that alright as my signature?’


‘So, I could have just twitched; squiggled anything? And you would have accepted that as my signature?’


‘Or I could have forged the signature of the person who this package is for? Like forging banknotes, but instead of making fake money you can spend fraudulently, getting something random you might not want from Amazon? Like unexpected socks?’

‘Alright, mate?’ says the courier by way of taking his leave, finding an excuse to terminate the further probing of the verification process. He is on a mission to deliver as many parcels as he can, aspiring to prove to Jeff Bezos that he can meet the minimum wage on a zero-hour contract if he works fast enough and doesn’t waste time on signature talk.

It wasn’t though, as commonly thought, the British who invented Received Pronunciation. That honour belongs to...

(CLICK ON 'Read more' LINK, BELOW)

Tuesday 24 April 2012

Squeaky Nikes

Church: The theatre of revelations, both spiritual and trainers related.

Oftentimes it is only when we step into country churches that we realise that our trainers have developed a squeak. We try to act detached from the squeak, but there it is a constant companion as we step over to read that intriguing bronze plaque. ‘This one died in 1724!’ you exclaim to your partner who will certainly be as interested as you in finding the first recorded dead person in the church. But then you venture forth, checking out a bit of apse or a section of nave and the squeak tells everyone else in the church keeping it quiet (like you’re supposed to), that yes it is you making the noise. You needn’t look around trying to work that out any more. Yes, it’s me with the heretical trainers. Satisfied now? People from the country, meanwhile, know exactly where they are wearing wellies. The welly is consistent, dutiful. True to form it makes a jaunty clumping noise with every step, be they old or new. And the welly will always drag your socks off inside the boot after a short walking distance. (CLICK ON 'Read more' LINK, BELOW)

Monday 16 April 2012

Hard to Download A Good ebook

It is a slight phenomenon that people whose homes you visit always have the exact number of books to fill their bookcases. You would think that they might start with their first book, something like a ‘Peter and Jane’ (presumably edition 1a, the first in the series in which Peter is entreated by Jane to jump (paraphrasing Jane: ‘Jump, Peter, jump’; Peter cajoling Jane to reciprocate in kind with ‘Jump, Jane, jump.’), a single volume lost in the vast shelf space of a bookcase, when a book collection has ventured no further than a book acquisition.
In the Nazi era, book etiquette was primarily: bung them in a big pile and burn them. Nazi book clubs were attended not so much by literary types but people with poor circulation thankful for the warmth generated. Fascist book club members were less inclined to suggest next meeting, ‘I’ll bring along a good book’; more likely, ‘I’ll bring the marshmallows.’ (CLICK ON 'Read more' LINK, BELOW)

Monday 9 April 2012


What you will get in South Africa if you ask for 'arse cream'.

Chemists have a section in their shops called ‘Family Planning’. But it’s woefully underprovided. Not one brochure. No suggestions like why not take your kids to the zoo? Or how about a trip to Alton Towers? Yet proper family planning would be so useful in the summer holidays, for instance, when the kids could do with a bit of structure to their day. All there is in the Family Planning section, is a selection of condoms. You can’t just give them a condom you got from Family Planning and say there you go have a nice day; look forward to hearing all about it when you get back. Life doesn’t work like that.
Anusol has taken over from condoms as the embarrassing item to buy over the pharmacist’s counter. The name of the ‘piles alleviator’ has helped achieve this. (CLICK ON 'Read more' LINK, BELOW)

Tuesday 3 April 2012

The War to End All Dinners

Upon the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I, we might expect a commemorative dinner hosted by Heston Blumenthal. Let’s only hope then that he doesn’t insist on doing his own research for the theme, else his cooking staff are in trouble. Here he is conceptualising:
‘I’m going to do a cut of beef – beef culottes (we’ve all heard of skirt steak, but Heston would have found a rarer cut, not quite skirt but culottes, named after the 1980s-favoured flappy shorts that looked like a skirt (the only instance of optically deluding garment)). Now I want the perfect marination with the ultimate enhancer of beef – mustard. But how best to infuse the meat? Aha! Well, I have help on hand. Here’s a letter dispatched by a Private Tommy Farrell of the Royal Fusiliers from the Western Front. In it, it says:
“To my dearest Elspeth,
Well my darling, I hope this finds you in good health…”;
Blah, blah, blah, until we reach what for me is the most interesting passage:
“… the warning went up, masks on. Poor old Sergeant Fellows couldn’t get his apparatus on in time. Bought it I’m afraid. Mustard gas…”
Mustard gas! That’s it! I submerge my culottes in a trench – much like the New Zealand Maoris do with their hangis, burying the meat underground – and waft over the mustard gas. In its gaseous form that mustard is going to penetrate the beef to the max…’ (CLICK ON 'Read more' LINK, BELOW)

Monday 26 March 2012

Hip Hop Don't Start

The non-mysogynist Monty Don.
One hears of West Coast rappers and East Coast rappers, but is the rap world a little too geographically exclusive? There could, for instance, be some very decent ‘spitters’ of lyrics living in the hinterland, not considered ‘seaboard’ enough. The problem for those with a smaller deposit (the ‘less bling’ in hip hop financial terms) is that it’s quite difficult securing a mortgage on a property on prime coastal real estate. Though estate agents can offer some help. They’re very good at the dressing up language:
‘How about this, I’ve got a five bedroom villa slightly more your budget, set back a little bit from the sea front. How do you feel about that?’
‘Ain’t exactly West Coast. I dunno man. How’s that goin’ down in my rhymes?’
‘Yes, I thought you could do, erm, instead of “I’m from the West Coast”, something like “I’m from the hinterland, Boasting stunning sea views, Just a five minute walk from the beach”…’ (CLICK ON 'Read more' LINK, BELOW)

Sunday 18 March 2012

The Hardest Word to Say is ‘Stutter’

Verbal stammerers are easy enough to interpret. For instance, when a stammering school headmaster says, ‘You’re going to get the cocaine,’ we anticipate a dose of corporal punishment more than we do a drugs push. But what about people who develop a stammer communicating with sign language? In signing, the word ‘coat’ is got over with the action of hefting a coat over the shoulders (although how you then finesse that to say ‘jacket’ or ‘jerkin’ is of interest, or yet to be pioneered). The signing stammerer will however put on many coats. The message is ambiguous. His audience will be left wondering: ‘Am I communicating with a stammerer or somebody with a circulatory problem?’

Broadening out slightly from this observation, we ask ourselves should we need to rewrite history? And why? Revisit footage of Adolf Hitler delivering his haunting speeches and we see why. In Hitler, we recognise a stammering signer. We realise that the hand signals he makes, he repeats several times over (see clip). Revisionists will say that the hard-of-hearing attending his rallies would have been quite sympathetic towards the Nazi leader, commonly remarking: ‘I haven’t a clue what he’s saying, but that Fuhrer’s got himself a terrible stammer’. (CLICK ON 'Read more' LINK, BELOW)

Sunday 11 March 2012

Squealing About Deliverance

'Is it 5 to 1 already?' a phrase much heard by delivery men. 

When we have something delivered to our home, we are promised its delivery between 8 and 1 on the basis that we take the time off work and wait in for it. Then it arrives at 5 to 1. The cynical will say why don’t we go about our work and just make sure we’re in to receive in that five minute window between 5 to 1, and 1 o’clock, because that’s when delivery men turn up in reality? But the fact is, the delivery companies don’t because they hate to feel that they have wasted your time. By delivering at the far end of the spectrum, they can say it really was worth staying in that last five minutes of the five hour possibility, because if you’d waited and gone out at 5 to 1, they would have come, you would be out and you would have waited in all that time for nothing. (CLICK ON 'Read more' LINK, BELOW)

Sunday 4 March 2012

Bonus-Bonkers Bankers

'Oi! 'ope you washed yer 'ands,' a Cockney will ask of a Merchant Banker offering to shake hands.

Bankers are terribly misunderstood. It’s not surprising that they misbehave when we consider that they are confined to gated communities. This is what people do if they are put behind bars. They become institutionalised. They live cheek-by-jowl with other bankers, learning from each other how to do things like claim tax credits when they haven’t paid tax in the first place, how to restructure debt and refuse to lend to other people. So that when they get out and into the office, they fall into learnt patterns of behaviour.
We can just imagine how they’re brought up. ‘Did you tidy your room?’ asks a parent.
‘No. If anything it’s messier,’ answers the latent banker.
‘Not good, Stephen. There’s only one thing for it. I’m going to have to raise your pocket money.’ (CLICK ON 'Read more' LINK, BELOW)

Monday 27 February 2012

The Decorating Jumper

The decorating jumper elevates a man in the eyes of the rest of mankind as a DIYer. It says I have an owner who has a go at being self-sufficient. Not in the same league as television survivalist, Ray Mears, who could knock you up a meal out of detritus, like a moss sandwich, but a dab-hand all the same at doing handy things like painting the skirting board… and asking down the hardware store for rawl plugs and knowing what they are. The decorating jumper says this is a man who had the foresight and wherewithal to limit the disposal of age-flawed pullovers, to collect them in a clothes drawer for this eventuality. (CLICK ON 'Read more' LINK, BELOW)

Monday 20 February 2012

Moody's to Boobies

‘We’re downgrading you from AAA to AA,’ say Moody’s or Standard & Poor’s, the credit rating agencies (CRAs). ‘And that’s a bad thing,’ they add, in case you didn’t know it. Basically, what they’re saying is we look at your country’s economic health and come up with some letters to show how worthy you are of borrowing money. All seems a bit abstract until we realise that the system of categorisation they use draws parallels with bra sizing’s. (CLICK ON 'Read more' LINK, BELOW)

Thursday 16 February 2012

Scott of Milton Keynes

Scott would never make it to Milton Keynes.
Sir Edmund Hillary conquered Everest and the planet’s last remaining unchartered territories at the Poles. All that was left to explore, in fact, except for one location – Milton Keynes. Milton Keynes eluded Hillary mostly because it didn’t exist until 1967, long after he had hung up his parka. Hillary had grown up with fantastical stories of far-away, mythical, unattainable places like the gold-haemorrhaging El Dorado and Utopian Shangri-La. Similarly, he could but dream of the multi-storey car parks, the ease of road navigation on Milton Keynes’ grid system and the mini-roundabouts. These were exotic, futuristic town-planning schemes. (CLICK ON 'Read more' LINK, BELOW)

Sunday 12 February 2012

Rape, Pillage and Estate Agency

A Viking Des Res.
The Vikings named Greenland in an attempt to encourage people to settle there. ‘Green is the new white’ they proposed to get over the fact that Greenland is an island made of glacier. The Viking estate agent hoped to appeal less to the kind of person who nowadays would tune into the TV show ‘Location, Location, Location’, more to a type watching something like a ‘Location, Location, Oh-fuck-it-let’s-just-buy-anywhere’.
‘Come to Greenland*’ would have been the wording to the marketing campaign, the asterisk followed up by a footnote in very small print saying ‘Terms and Conditions apply.’ (CLICK ON 'Read more' LINK, BELOW)

Thursday 9 February 2012

A Less Savoury Dunkin' Donuts

A sign found hanging in a London patisserie:

'Making patisserie with passion?'... put me right off their doughnuts.

Monday 6 February 2012

Diving Divas

Diving foreign footballers are often blamed for the ruination of the English game, which makes us wonder what impact imported talent would have on the sport of high diving? Some would say that a career change from football to diving is a natural transition. After all, a certain type of foreign player has not only a highly developed eye-to-foot, but very good arse-to-surface co-ordination. (CLICK ON 'Read more' LINK, BELOW)

Saturday 4 February 2012

The Futon Phenomenon

The first time a student felt dissatisfaction with his bedroom furniture was when he discovered, on getting lucky, that he was sleeping with another person on a single bed narrower than one single person and that a wet patch needed to be avoided. That situation remained the norm right up to the 1980s when one undergraduate suddenly decided that they wanted a lot more out of their bed. One of the conditions was that it should be a cheap bed by night, a sofa you can keep slipping off while you’re sitting on it during the day. The idea took off and the UK found itself the biggest importer of futons outside the Orient. And so it continues.
So perhaps now is a good time for the UK to export to Japan, in exchange, some of our culture that centres around our old futon-substitutes, our beds. (CLICK ON 'Read more' LINK, BELOW)

Thursday 26 January 2012

Friday 20 January 2012

Triple Jumping for Joy

A depressed-looking triple jumper.

Miffed marbles players, hacked-off hockey players, pissed-off polo horsemen and horseladies. All sports people are prone to depression. But the worst afflicted have to be the triple jumpers. When you’re low, the last thing you feel like doing is skipping and that’s exactly one-third (33.33%) of the tasks demanded in the triple jump, otherwise known as the ‘hop, skip and jump’. Picture this scenario at an athletics meet:
‘What was that?’ demands the depressed triple jumpers’ coach after a sub-standard attempt.
‘I don’t know. Don’t feel like skipping. I’m fed up,’ retorts the triple jumper skulking off.
‘You hopped and then you jumped. You didn’t even make the sandpit.’ (CLICK ON 'Read more' LINK, BELOW)

Monday 16 January 2012

Fart Imitating Life

The default singing accent in pop music is American. And for a reason. Had Art Garfunkel sung ‘Bright Eyes’ in a South African accent, it would have been a quite different song. Instead of a requiem, a lament, a tribute to a life passed, it would have been more about the passing of wind… the disappointment of the brief flame created by setting light to a fart (see clip for confirmation).

Friday 13 January 2012

Familiar Faeces

The default singing accent in pop music is American. And for a reason. Had the band Tears for Fears sung ‘Mad World’ in a Scottish accent it would have been quite a different song. Instead of a soul-search for the meaning of life, it would have been about a sewage engineer trying to sort out a pipe blockage (see clip, below, for confirmation).

Monday 9 January 2012

Public Enema No.1

How the slightest change in singing style might radically transform the message of a protest song - from the dangers of swallowing spoon-fed propaganda, to the way an enema is applied.

Thursday 5 January 2012

Table Tennis Elbow

We think of people taking smack cocaine on dirty mattresses first getting into drugs smoking marijuana tablets; or accidentally sniffing Pritt Stick in Arts and Crafts lessons; or through preparing to compete in the men’s 100 metres. Similarly, table tennis is a gateway sport encouraging people to become addicted to the full-fledged ‘furniture-less’ tennis.

A tennis pusher grooming through table tennis.
 (CLICK ON 'Read more' LINK, BELOW)