Sunday, July 31, 2005  

A strange few days.

Still no word about the job, it could be another couple of weeks. Arse. I sort of lost myself in my thoughts these last few days. I tried to break free of this by going to play five-a-side with some of the lads I used to work with, it didn’t work. All I got for my trouble was a twisted knee, an elbow in the ribs and a sprained finger. Back in my thoughts I concluded that you don’t give up playing football because you are too old, you give up because you aren’t quick enough to get out of the way any more. The downside of these injuries is that they don’t score any sympathy points at home; in fact you get laughed at. I have now been told to retire by Tracy, I think it’s sound advice.

One of my other thoughts was about global warming and the difficulties suicide bombers would face without the ability to wear a big coat.

I was roused midweek by some aging rocket blasting off into space from somewhere in America, is it me or are these things not as exciting as they were 30 years ago ? Even after all these years they can’t manage to get a rocket into space without something dropping off the fucking thing. Now the astronauts are floating about in space with the cosmic equivalent of some bog and a beer can, hoping against hope that they can get back alive. I think I may have witnessed the decline of the US space program.

I think we should give Denmark a big world prize for this idea. Open source beer, what a fantastic show of philanthropy. Typically it was students who thought up the idea, well what else are they going to do. All I can say is…

All hail the mighty lord Vyborg !

| posted by Simon | 11:46 pm | 0 comments

Tuesday, July 26, 2005  

Apologies to Ogden Nash.

Here’s my ode to two of my favourite drinks.

A drink with more than a little something in it.

There’s something about a Margarita,
That quenches the mightiest thirst;
As deep as a seductive senorita;
Too fresh and alive to be nursed.
There’s something about a Margarita.
And I don’t think it’s the dust of Coahuila,
It could be salt crystals,
Or Mexican pistols,
But I’m almost certain that it’s the Tequila.

There’s something about a black Russian,
A drink that arrives apropos;
As numbing as a mild concussion;
As pure as the virgin snow.
There’s something about a black Russian,
That’s nothing to do with Perestroika,
It could be the coke,
But take a big toke,
And you’ll plainly see it’s the Vodka.

| posted by Simon | 1:40 am | 0 comments

Saturday, July 23, 2005  

Bulbs, booze and hairy evil bastards.

I now know why energy saving light bulbs save energy. They emit a miniscule amount of light. We had one in the hall, it blew this morning, I made a mental note to get another. So I was stood in front of the bulb shelf in our local greedymart pondering the con that is energy saving light bulbs. As an unemployed person, should I pay £6 for a replacement, or get a box of eight normal energy guzzling ones for less than £2 ? The choice was easy, and as I type this our hall is lit up like a fucking runway beacon.

Look at these dirty horrible bastards, I shudder to even think what would possess someone to do this. In fact they need a fucking slap, just encouraging the hairy evil fuckers to come near people.

Now a little poetry, two in fact and both about my favourite hobby – booze.

The Fall
Fergus Allen

The Garden of Eden (described in the Bible)
Was Guinness's Brewery (mentioned by Joyce),
Where innocent Adam and Eve were created
And dwelt from necessity rather than choice;

For nothing existed but Guinness's Brewery,
Guinness's Brewery occupied all,
Guinness's Brewery everywhere, anywhere -
Woe that expulsion succeeded the Fall!

The ignorant pair were encouraged in drinking
Whatever they fancied whenever they could,
Except for the porter or stout which embodied
Delectable knowledge of Evil and Good.

In Guinness's Brewery, innocent, happy,
They tended the silos and coppers and vats,
They polished the engines and coopered the barrels
And even made pets of the Brewery rats.

One morning while Adam was brooding and brewing
It happened that Eve had gone off on her own,
When a serpent like ivy slid up to her softly
And murmured seductively, Are we alone?

O Eve, said the serpent, I beg you to sample
A bottle of Guinness's excellent stout,
Whose nutritive qualities no one can question
And stimulant properties no one can doubt;

It's tonic, enlivening, strengthening, heartening,
Loaded with vitamins, straight from the wood,
And further enriched with the not undesirable
Lucrative knowledge of Evil and Good.

So Eve was persuaded and Adam was tempted,
They fell and they drank and continued to drink,
(their singing and dancing and shouting and prancing
Prevented the serpent from sleeping a wink).

Alas, when the couple had finished the barrel
And swallowed the final informative drops,
They looked at each other and knew they were naked
And covered their intimate bodies with hops.

The anger and rage of the Lord were appalling,
He wrathfully cursed them for taking to drink
And hounded them out of the Brewery, followed
By beetles (magenta) and elephants (pink).

The crapulous couple emerged to discover
A universe full of diseases and crimes,
Where porter could only be purchased for money
In specified places at specified times.

And now in this world of confusion and error
Our only salvation and hope is to try
To threaten and bargain our way into Heaven
By drinking the heavenly Brewery dry.

A drink with something in it.
Ogden Nash.

There is something about a Martini,
A tingle remarkably pleasant;
A yellow, a mellow martini;
I wish that I had one at present.
There is something about a martini,
Ere the dining and dancing begin,
And to tell you the truth,
It is not the Vermouth –
I think that perhaps it’s the Gin.

There is something about an Old fashioned
That kindles a cardiac glow;
It is soothing and soft and impassioned
As a lyric by Swinburne or Poe.
There is something about an Old fashioned
When dusk has enveloped the sky,
And it may be the ice,
Or the Pineapple slice,
But I strongly suspect it’s the Rye.

There is something about a mint julep.
It is nectar imbibed in a dream,
As fresh as the bud of a Tulip,
As cool as the bed of a stream.
There is something about a mint julep,
A fragrance beloved by the lucky.
And perhaps it’s the tint
Of the frost and the mint,
But I think it was born in Kentucky.

There is something they put in a highball
That awakens the torpidest brain,
That kindles a spark in the eyeball,
Gliding singing through vein after vein.
There is something they put in a highball
Which you’ll notice one day if you watch;
And it may be the soda,
But judged by the odour,
I rather believe it’s the Scotch.

Then here’s to a heartening wassail,
Wherever good fellows are found;
Be it master instead of its vassal,
And order the glasses around.
For there’s something they put in a wassail
That prevents it from tasting like wicker;
Since it’s not tapioca,
Or mustard or mocha,
I’m forced to conclude it’s the liquor

| posted by Simon | 11:46 pm | 0 comments

Friday, July 22, 2005  

Short short list.

I had my interview today for the job I really want. I had already made the short list, this was a follow up interview, he gave me loads of stuff to read and said he’d see me next week. What do you reckon, cos I think that sounds positive ? It would be very cool to go to work in a shirt and tie, instead of crappy clothes that get covered in chemicals. You know you have a shitty job when you have to wash your hands before you have a piss. The job sounds ace though, teaching in the workplace at loads of different places around Cumbria, and the best thing, it’s a day job…. No more fucking night shifts. Cross things for me please, I need this one.

TMA three had to be handed in yesterday, crap ! I posted it this afternoon with an emailed apology. This stuff is getting really hard now; this one was about genetic engineering. I’d never even heard of a recombinant plasmid until last week, now I know their fucking life story. I have realised one thing though, gene therapy is a step too far in keeping people alive. There are people living who maybe shouldn’t be, and I know that if it was me I’d be very grateful… but at some point we must stop populating this planet and let things be. I’ve ranted about this before; it must be the cheese and piccalilli sandwiches and black Russians, a deadly combination if ever there was one. I’ve been told that eating cheese before bed makes your dreams strange; this must be what happens if you eat it during the day. Who am I kidding; it’s the vodka isn’t it ?

Not in a very long time have I heard one man utter such unadulterated fucking hog wash. Why ? Why the fuck should Rangers and Celtic join the premier league ? It will make a mockery of Scottish football and seriously piss off fans of teams that have to move to a lower division, or miss out on promotion. Talk about fucking greed. Let’s face it though; it’s the only way Strachan will ever get a job in the prem’. Now if they were to join the Northern counties league division 2 like FCUM, then maybe……

| posted by Simon | 11:17 pm | 0 comments

Tuesday, July 19, 2005  

Unidentified female infant.

I really love football, and I have a lifelong love of Manchester City, but sometimes they conspire to make me fucking sick. The sale of Shaun Wright-Philips to Chelsea has taken away all the good feelings from the end of last season and dampened any optimism I had for the new one. The signing of Andrew Cole is just rubbing salt in the wounds. Fowler and Cole, a dream partnership ten years ago, is what we have to look forward to. It’s a sign of the times when a team that finishes eighth in the prem’ has to sell its best player. By all accounts the board had little choice in the matter. Good luck to the little man, but I can’t help feeling he will be used as a seat warmer in Mourhino’s new galacticos.

I have now listened to most of the new Oasis album, and I’m pleasantly surprised. I know they are overrated, but so are Coldplay, I know they are arrogant fuckers, but their new album is better than the crap they have been peddling of late. The importance of being idle is a very good track to start with if you’re thinking of nicking it off a p2p network. Not that I condone that sort of thing you understand.

I had thought all along that the baby Lara story was very sad, but today’s follow up has revealed another side. The child was put in the concrete alive, and the ultimate indignity is the inscription on the grave stone; it certainly puts all the wailing about Shaun Wright-Philips into perspective.

| posted by Simon | 11:06 pm | 0 comments

Friday, July 15, 2005  

Just like Fu manchu.

Look what I've just found.

| posted by Simon | 10:45 am | 0 comments

Wednesday, July 13, 2005  

Pa said, "Yon lion's ate Albert!"

Chester zoo was worth the trip just for the Elephants, although the whole place was excellent. We made an error of epic proportions, thinking we were being clever going during term time and there being no kids. School trips ! Fuck ! We managed to steer clear of the smelly little things and have a reasonably quiet walk around the zoo. Unless you fall out of the monorail it’s almost impossible to get in with the animals, not that you would want to, unless of course you were trying to convert the animal kingdom to Christianity. The zoo does a lot of work on animal conservation, but even so, we were still looking at animals in cages. It was frustrating because what I really want is to interact, not easy with a Tiger maybe, but an Elephant would be ok.

I got some really nice photos, but the server is still down so I can’t put them up. I also got some very good video, unfortunately the bit with the Elephants has a soundtrack made up of an overly enthusiastic zoo keeper waffling about Asian Elephants, a herd of screeching brats and one in particular who kept repeating “eeww it’s done a poo” over and over at that pitch that only children can reach, the one that makes your spine vibrate.

A good day out, even though you get funny looks when you haven’t got kids. I did see a few other couples, but we were in a minority. As far as know no kids got ate by a Lion, somnolent or otherwise. Maybe next time.

| posted by Simon | 12:10 am | 0 comments

Sunday, July 10, 2005  

There and back – Part four.

I think it must an international con; flights home are always a long time after your hotel check out time. The hotel then tries to sell you back your room at an extortionate price, and all so you can have a shower before travelling home. Our hotel was no different, sixty Dinars for five hours extra, that’s a full day’s rate. We declined, and had plenty of time to cool down on the coach because the driver took a circuitous route inland to get to the airport. He seemed intent on showing us some of the real Tunisia before we went home. We saw herds of Camel on the dusty roadsides, shepherds and goatherds tending their flocks in the olive groves, run down business areas and even more run down housing. Tunisia has some kind of tax that is levied on finished houses, which is why the vast majority of houses look like building sites, and seems to give the whole country a ramshackle look. The desalination plants and oil refineries look out of place, too neat and tidy to be part of the dusty chaotic landscape.

My least favourite part of any holiday is the foreign departure lounge, and this one was no exception. I dislike them for the obvious reason that the holiday is over and we are going back to the crap weather and the usual everyday bullshit, but I also dislike them because they are invariably uncomfortable places. Habib Bourguiba departure lounge is far too small for the volume of passengers and this makes it very hot and sticky. There are plenty of refreshments but expect to fleeced, we tried to buy two packets of crisps for the flight and were asked for £5. He looked hurt when we laughed at him. All the shops accept Dinars, even though prior to getting into the departure lounge everyone is told to get rid of their currency as it’s an offence to take it with you, one last reminder that Tunisia is a land of contradictions. Just when you think you have left it all behind and passed through the gate to your plane, you have to get on a bus and be ferried out onto the runway. At least there were no children running about, we had the good sense to go during term time.

So, what did we get from our holiday ? A really relaxing week away from all the shite that fills our lives, just what a holiday should be in my opinion. Even though I disagreed with Paul Theroux about travelling, I wouldn’t rule out doing something like that in the future. Maybe a nice train journey through Europe would be different, but not as relaxing as chilling on a beach. I did rediscover the beauty of Tunisian food, the best meal we had all week was in a Tunisian restaurant. I also liked Boukha so much that I brought a litre bottle back with me; it is sitting in the bottom drawer of the freezer as I type this, ready to be poured into a tall glass, over ice, and topped up with proper coke. Tunisia in a glass, cheers !

| posted by Simon | 5:18 pm | 0 comments

Saturday, July 09, 2005  

Starter for ten.

Tell me where we went yesterday from the clues below.

1. We got on the M6 at Penrith and drove for two hours.
2. Our destination was in a 2000 year old county town.
3. Of a palatine county.
4. We had to pay admission.
5. We learned that Giraffe shit bounces, and...
6. Meerkats are only slightly less cute than baby Elephants.

| posted by Simon | 4:41 pm | 0 comments

Friday, July 08, 2005  

It’s the bomb that will bring us together.

So many things going through my mind in the last day and a half. I admit to being cynical, then resigned, then dumbfounded, then unbelievably sad, then very angry, then cynical again….. then finally very very weary. Tracy’s sister was too close to one of the bombs, although we didn’t know it at the time. There was no anxious wait; we were just told she was ok.

Being unemployed means being able to watch television all day, although I don’t, but yesterday I did. What was interesting was Fox and CNN coverage, their use of key words was fantastic, I had a full house inside two minutes. I’m sure the powers that be will use the bombings as an excuse to push through ID cards. The thing that really pisses me off is that the British public, whilst not supporting Al Qaeda, were against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. This kind of attack against innocent people will only serve to swing opinion in Blair’s favour. We’ve seen it so many times in different countries in the past, and the revenge attacks have started already with at least one Mosque being burned down. As well as being cold hearted, murdering, cowardly fucking scum, the terrorists are actually thick as a short fucking plank. In our local paper tonight the lead story is “4000 sent home from Sellafield”. All non essential staff have been told to stay away because the alert level has been put back to where it was after 9/11. As I look to the sky with nervous eyes I find myself musing about an escape route, but fuck them I’m going nowhere.

I really didn’t feel it was right to post part four of the holiday diary, somehow a story of coming home didn’t feel right when so many people won’t be. I have also cut a paragraph from this post because I felt it insensitive; I’ll keep some political feelings to myself for a while. Instead, Elton John.

Have you heard his most recent attempt at a pop song ? It’s called “electrizziddy” the lyrics sound like they have been written by a nine year old, and a cheesy one at that. I really can’t believe it got past all the record company executives, it’s fucking awful. Too many similes Reg’. The bloke that normally writes his stuff (Bernie Taupin I think) must have been on holiday, or maybe Elton has bought himself the new Acme lyricomatic and put the cheese dial right the way round to fucking max’.

| posted by Simon | 10:49 pm | 0 comments

Thursday, July 07, 2005  

There and back - Part three.

I didn’t want this to be a report about how nice the hotel was and who we met and how fabulous the staff were, but obviously some of that is going to creep in; I’ll try and keep it to a minimum.

This was essentially a relaxing beach holiday, and the only thing we did different was to alternate between the beach and the pool. You can take it as read that the hotel was very nice, and importantly very clean. The staff were excellent and the food and drink was first class. I know it’s a cliché but you do have to be up very early to get your towel on a sun lounger before the Germans but it’s worth it. In my opinion there are few things in the world as relaxing as lying on a sun bed, on a beach, in the heat of a summer day with a soft breeze tickling your skin. If you also manage to lose yourself between the pages of a really good book then you are getting close to a perfect day.

Port El Kantaoui is a purpose built resort and does have a more European feel than the other resorts in Tunisia. The resort is centred around a man made marina full of all manner of craft from small two seater dinghies to million pound yachts. The marina is surrounded by shops, bars and restaurants and really comes alive at night. Most people staying in the hotels make their way here after dark for a drink or a bite to eat. Unfortunately all the shops seem to sell is cheap tat and tacky souvenirs. We usually like to bring something back to remind us of our stay, but here we tried all week to find something and failed dismally. Eventually we gave up and had a trip to Souse but found that to be exactly the same; even in the labyrinthine maze of the medina the shops sold the same old tourist crap. Things really had changed in the ten years since we had been there. It’s not really a complaint because we didn’t go for the culture experience, it was just sad that such a strange place was being irrevocably changed into something that seems bland and homogenised. Sad because it doesn’t need to change. I suppose it’s the eternal cry of the tourist and in the end it’s our fault, if we didn’t go to these places they would stay exactly the same as they always have. Marmaris in Turkey is a prime example, 30 years ago it was a nice quiet fishing village and now it’s a fucking awful place with Burger king and McDonalds on every corner.

Swimming in the sea is a real treat for me, I know I live 30 seconds from the beach but would you swim in the same water that passes Sellafield before getting to you ? No I thought not. The Mediterranean was warm and calm and much safer than swimming in the hotel pool. For those who feel energetic, or just easily bored, there are plenty of water ports to have a go at. A 20 minute row around in a canoe was the extent of my physical exertions and it was soon back to the sun lounger for me. I suppose a condensed version of the holiday would look like this:

1. Get up ridiculously early to claim a sun lounger.
2. Back to bed for a couple of hours.
3. Breakfast.
4. Laze on the sun lounger until lunch time.
5. Lunch.
6. More lazing in the sun.
7. Siesta.
8. Evening meal.
9. Wander around the town and marina.

Sprinkle in a few insane taxi drivers and some really inventive carpet salesmen and you have our holiday in a nutshell. It was just what we wanted; the only thing left was the nightmare of getting home.

| posted by Simon | 12:12 am | 0 comments

Tuesday, July 05, 2005  

There and back - Part two.

Hell is usually a foreign airport arrivals lounge, although you do very little lounging. Habib Bourguiba airport, named after the country’s first president, isn’t as bad as you would expect. It took about an hour to get through passport control and baggage collection, about another twenty minutes to negotiate the time share touts and trolley dollies to find our coach, and finally a further thirty minutes to get from he airport to our hotel the Occidental Allegro Riviera. Just over a kilometre outside Port El Kantaoui, our hotel was slap in the middle of the most westernised part of the country; although things had changed so much since we last visited we could have picked any of the main centres.

If Africa was an iceberg Tunisia would definitely be above the water, but make no mistake this is still Africa. The tourist areas are very green and full of colour from the Bougainvillea, Marigolds and night scented Jasmine, but they are only possible because of the water from huge desalination plants. If you travel inland just a couple of hundred meters you see the real landscape, dry and scorched with sparse grasses, Olive groves and Juniper trees. Just what you would expect from a country whos south west corner has been swallowed by the Sahara desert.

Tunisia only gained independence in 1956 and is currently on only their second president, who happens to have a home about ten minutes from the hotel in which we stayed. An insane taxi driver pointed it out one day whilst taking us back from a trip into Souse, “regardez, la maison du president” he said, totally ignoring the road. This was just after a lengthy conversation about football. It doesn’t matter where I go I always seem to get into these conversations. I had finished arranging the price for the taxi journey and got into the back, he launched into the conversation with “You eenglish yes ?” I barely had time to reply when he went off on a mad monologue, “Tott-en-ham, Noteengham, Leeverpooool, Char-el-ton, Noteengham, I am Leeverpool but they are sheet. Kaput seence Keegan, kaput seence Dalgeesh”. He asked which team I supported and we both voiced our hatred of the red side of Manchester. All through this exchange he was weaving in and out of traffic at an alarming speed, tailgating is a necessity because if you leave a car length between you and the car in front, someone nips into it. At one point we were no more than three inches from the bumper of a large coach traveling at well over forty miles per hour. The alternative is a tuktuk, little purple three wheel carriages quickly renamed deathdeath by Tracy because of their worrying habit of tipping over whilst going round corners.

Tunisia is a very safe country to wander about in; in fact the worst thing that will happen to you is getting lured into a carpet shop and given the Arabic version of the hard sell. They will try everything to get you in there, their favourite being “Hello, I’m your waiter, I served you last night, do you remember me ?” “I will take you and show you something that no one sees, you will get good photographs” Yeah, you’ll get good photographs of the inside of a carpet shop. The most inventive one we heard was about a sheep sheering festival, the bloke worked really hard for a good few minutes telling us about this festival in the medina, eventually ending with the line “come I show you”. With that he ran into a nearby shop expecting us to follow, we didn’t because we were too busy laughing. As with most countries that rely on tourism everyone is very friendly, but they have another trick. The currency is closed, you can’t buy Dinars outside Tunisia and it’s illegal to take them out, whatever you change you have to spend.

So, after we had filled in all the forms in order to check into the hotel, we were given our room. By this time it was after midnight local time and I was hot and tired. The only solution to this is to crank up the aircon’ and lie bollock naked on top of the bed. After ten minutes I felt much better, put on a pair of shorts and went off to find the bar. It wasn’t long before I was sat drinking a large Boukha (locally produced fig brandy) and coke. Boukha is an Arab word for water, and strangely it also means insane, and when you have had a few of these you understand why. It’s not long until fig brandy becomes frig bandy. Suffice it to say I slept like a baby that first night, and woke up early ready for the start of the holiday proper.

| posted by Simon | 10:39 pm | 0 comments

Monday, July 04, 2005  

There and back - Part one.

Sat in the back of a taxi bound for Manchester airport terminal two, on a hot and sunny Sunday afternoon, my mind turned to the question of travel and tourism. The two words conjure up two very different images in my mind, and during the course of my holiday the images were given substance by the view from my balcony and the words in the book it took me nearly a whole week to read. This holiday was all about being there, getting there was a means to an end. You can travel across time zones and be on another continent in less than three hours, and if all you want from a holiday is to relax on a beach then why complicate things by taking your time getting there ?

Throughout my holiday I read just one book, “The old Patagonian express” by Paul Theroux. His trip from Boston to Patagonia by train was long, slow and hard work and that is exactly the description I would give to the book. He makes the point that it’s the getting there that matters, and once you have arrived, your journey is over. He argues that the gradual change from the familiar to the foreign eases the transition. My experience, of boarding an extremely small space with a couple of hundred others, travelling at over five hundred miles per hour high enough to clear the summit of Everest by a margin of about seven thousand feet, was a foreign way to travel, what better way to get to a foreign place ?

My musings in the back of the cab were punctuated by the usual pre holiday thoughts….. “Where did I put the passports” and “I wonder if that timer I put on the fish tank light will work”. As the surliest taxi driver since Surly McSurle, the surliest taxi driver in surly town, whisked us towards terminal two my thoughts turned to our destination. I hadn’t been there for over ten years. Last time we immersed ourselves in the culture, wandering around the souks and medinas, chatting with the locals and eating in the little back street cafes. This time our destination was a more European resort, none of the cultural distractions and all of the beautiful weather and clear blue Mediterranean Sea.

My holiday starts the moment the luggage disappears down the chute, and my boarding card is safely tucked inside my passport. I really enjoy flying, sitting in the seat after the plane has taxied to the end of the runway and the captain puts his foot down, or whatever pilots do to make the plane hurtle down the runway, feeling the force push me back in my seat. It’s an exhilarating start to a journey. We were on our way to North Africa, Habib Bourguiba international airport, Monastir.

| posted by Simon | 10:52 pm | 0 comments


Just got back from a fantastic week in Tunisia.

Cheers Zed, I've had a quick look and there is an extra div tag, but removing it only seems to fix half the problem. I'm going to have to take the whole code apart and rebuild it. Arse, never mind.


I've just realised what was wrong...... what a fucking idiot ! I'm not even going to admit what it was. I'm going to put on a pointy hat and sit in the corner. If you are a blogger employee reading this in order to find the answer to the problem I emailed you, just go and have a coffee. Everyone else just carry on. If someone else had done what I did, then asked me for help I would be sat shaking my head and calling them a fuckwit.

| posted by Simon | 12:47 pm | 0 comments
a good book
tres bon
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