Friday, February 27, 2009

Polishing turds

I've just been to the dentist. Happily, no problems were noted and, other than the usual buff-up with some sort of tiny circular saw, neither of my teeth needed any treatment. I like the feeling of having had a scale and polish carried out by a professional (although a Radio 1 listener which is disconcerting for some reason), and afterwards I meandered through town smiling manically at passers-by, hoping they would notice the glistening shine emanating from my recently pink-rinsed gob.
"Look at me!" I shouted silently. "Look at my bedazzling smile!"

Of course, none of them did notice. One or two actually crossed the road to get away from me, depsite my friendly, extremely-fast waving, but in general, my beautifully grimacing fizzog remained unnoticed. I sighed, forced my lips back over my now very dry teeth, and considered the relative subjectivity of appearance and beauty.

In the UK, we don't find very white teeth or very straight teeth particularly attractive, or at least slightly off-kilter dentures don't worry us enough to do something about. Small, bright white teeth in perfect alignment look a bit on the frail side, sort of unnaturally juvenile like a two-year olds gnashers (although having been on the receiving end of a two-year olds bite, I know from personal experience that they aren't that frail). It smacks of excessive vanity, as teeth are naturally a sort of slightly off-white colour. Bit like having very blue contact lenses or powdering yourself up like a Geisha I suppose. Whitening toothpaste sells quite well here, but it's generally more of a half-hearted effort to stop the natural decline into tawny beige that seems to be the ultimate goal of teeth. I expect fashion will change and our children will laugh at our saffron-tinted ivories (if we've still got 'em), but for now, it's enough to keep them clean and chompy.

So why do we worry about appearance so? I'm one of the last people in the world to understand fashion. I wear Doc Marten boots because they're comfy (after a while). I deliberately try not to wear anything with a logo as I'm not a billboard.I like coats with pockets. I have a belt to keep my trousers up that becomes more of an aesthetic prop with every passing year, but my intentions were practical. One might conclude that I am, in the opinion of my wife, annoyingly unconcerned with appearance.

But I obviously do care how I look, otherwise I wouldn't shave, or brush my hair, or buy new clothes when mine are looking a bit worn, even though they could feasibly go on for years yet. In the past, I have been known to have a day on the sofa in my underpants, watching films and eating cake, but that's only when I've been on my own and not expecting company. Usually. And that was more embarrassing for the Jehova's Witnesses than me.

So concern for our own appearance is almost universal in western society becuase we don't have to worry about important stuff like our bare survival. It's instilled in us, like many things, to value the attractive, and this is often contradictory. So, here are a few things I have recently come across which are beautiful in their own way:

First, a pig:

I took this photo last Summer in France, and this delightful critter followed us around for bread and fussing, quietly nudging the back of my leg if I neglected her, but not being too intrusive. I did have to stop scratching behind her ears eventually as the sun was going down, and the look of sad reproach she gave me as I left haunts me still. Not enough to give up bacon butties, but you know what I mean.

Second, a cooked mushroom:

Fungi are typical of the ugly-but-lovely brigade. They may look like something a specialist in urogentital surgery might keep in a jar, but they taste delicous and are good for you.

Except for the ones that'll kill you, of course.

And finally, Nancy:

Belonging to a local hairdresser and allowed free reign of the shop, Nancy is incredibly gentle and good with toddlers who, after a few minutes hesitation and worried looking around for parental support, find her endlessly entertaining. I thought that the pink, genuine faux-diamond studded collar was a vain attempt to make her pretty, but after chatting to her owner he really does think she's gorgeous and thought she deserved only the nicest things. It does actually go nicely with the conjunctiva of her eyes though.

The subjectivity of attractiveness is well known. Beauty is in the eye of the beer-holder after all, and it's right that we should value it for it's inherent loveliness.

We just need to remind ourselves that it's not just about looks.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Braving the multitudes.

I've mentioned a town in England a couple of times recently, called London. It's in the south east near a large stream, with a bridge or two and a ferris wheel some carnies have erected nearby. Nice caff just near the church which does a decent egg and chips.

Obviously, I'm kidding. The egg and chips aren't that good.

No, London is a fairly sizeable metropolis with literally hundreds of people in it. About 750,000 hundreds in fact. I went there last weekend to visit some chums, and in between it's an interesting place to look around, especially for a country type like me. So, I packed a couple of carrots and my overnight stuff in a hollowed out turnip and off I went. Every few years, if I find myself on my own in London with a few hours to spare, I like to visit the Natural History Museum, as it's relaxing, informative, beautiful and free. So I dutifully took advantage of my valuable self-time and scurried there, only to forget that I have never been on a Saturday during half-term.

This is what greeted me:

I was going to relive pleasant childhood memories of looking at the dinosaur skeletons, where I used to be awed by how big a stegosauruses back plates were, or amazed by how much like a giant chicken's claw a T. rex's foot looks. Unfortunately, the crowds meant it was an hour's wait just to get in to the chamber! I looked around for something else to do and saw that the museum had rightfully installed Charles Darwin's statue in pride of place at the head of the main hall:

Right, I thought, I'll go and look at the new Darwin exhibition. I'm quite a fan of ol' Chucky D and his truthful blasphemy, and thought that I should show my support for these kinds of exhibitions, educating our society about some of their greatest minds. They would have collections brought back by the man himself on the Beagle, his works from Down house, perhaps some of his tools, observations or numerous letters. It would all be a good insight into the man himself, something for me to think about.

Unfortunately, it was £8.80 to get in, so instead, I photographed an owl with a Victorian's pencil stuck in its lughole:

After a brief wonder round some other halls (including the creepy crawly one where, last time I went, I saw that the leaf-cutter ants had escaped and were cutting up lino) I decided it was too much and went for a walk round Hyde park, which is basically London's rec where people can jog and walk their horses. To get there, I had to travel by underground, and it seemed as though most of the population had decided to quit surface dwelling and opt for a troglodytic existence in the bowels of the Earth. It was like a Morlock colony down there.

And everyone wanted to go to a different bit of underground. I can't see the point of seats at all, as you can't get close to them, let alone sit on them. I took a photo of one just leaving the station:

If anyone transported sheep like that, there would rightfully be an outcry. And some dip. Yet we actually pay to get moved along like that!

You may have read in previous posts that I'm not a huge fan of crowds, but this was so extreme it was actually quite interesting. One must put aside any prior notions of personal space and aversion to body odour, and you're quite welcome to read over other peoples shoulders, or listen to their iPod (they're so close you're practically wearing their earphones), but the huge cultural mish-mash, the variety of languages and the spectrum of fashion makes for quite a good exercise in anthropology. Diane Fossey would've loved it, if she could have stood the smell.

At least the underground is helpful to drunks, and makes you give up your seat for them, as this notice demonstrates. The only thing is, you have to be so inebriated you can barely walk:

Unfortunately, I was still relatively sober, so I had to stand and examine a construction worker's armpit whilst desperately trying not to accidentally look down the lady's top next to me.

I had a good weekend though.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

You blog for fifty posts, and whaddya get?

Good grief.

Fifty posts!

Who'd've thunk I had that much wittering contained within the pink mushy bit above me eyes? Well, actually anyone who knows me probably.

I was thinking of celebrating with a huge, HUGE fanfare of links and celebratory pictures trawled from the internet, with videos of fireworks and Red Arrows flybys, with interactive flash games and academic essays on the benefits of perseverance in the face of . . . er . . . not persevering.

But then I thought, actually, that sort of thing takes little effort on my part, involving just sitting at the computer and generally surfing the internet superhighway, trying not to get distracted by porn and videos of car crashes. The whole philosophy of this blog, if it actually has one, is to celebrate life, and one can't celebrate it if one doesn't experience it. Can one? No. One cannot.

So I went out and took a couple of photos on my phone.

First, at the local supermarket where they let people advertise second hand goods on their wall. I often look at these as you can get some real bargains there, and with the advent of eBay and it's computerised ilk, it's an often overlooked source of tat, as well as the occasional useful item. Often, it's not what is for sale that amuses, but the hand written sales pitch or information to be found on the card:

It's a BABYS MOSES BASKET that is IDEAL FOR A BABY apparently. Well thanks for that. I was going to buy it to store distributor caps in. I expect they had some space to fill and thought they'd better put a description in, just in case someone buying a Moses basket didn't know what it was for, although it might have been better used to supply a health and safety warning about not using it to send newborns down-stream, as it's frowned upon. Actually, I feel a bit mean, taking the rip out of notices such as this. And it's a good price, so if anyone needs one, let me know and I'll pass on the number.

Later on, I went to a playgroup. Obviously, I had my kid with me as otherwise that would just be weird. Whilst there, one must suffer the indignities of being dressed by two year olds, and they were particularly insistent that I wear this:

It's a US style fire-persons hat. Because children have no sense of gender equality, I was forced to wear it as I was the only man there, and therefore would apparently be more convincing as an employee of the fire-service, even though I'm far more likely to accidentally start blazes than deal with them. I made a mental note to tell the mothers to go to the next fire-station open day and show their children that women are also employed there, and some aren't even lesbians. That way, they could be the ones receiving the nit-infested toy hats and I could watch tolerantly from the sidelines, eating chocolate biscuits and complaining about not losing my baby weight.

Whilst putting it on (after checking for poo, obviously, as it does have a rather potty-esque feel to it), I did note the irony of the warning label inside:

Of course, if I was a real firema . . .person, I would probably request exactly the same label. Only sensible really.

So there you go. I've got my half-century of posts in, and it's simply a smattering of pictures from my phone, with full intention to carry on in the same vein.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Bear with me . . .

On this blog I like to post photograms that I've taken myself, often with the help of my mobile telephone, which has a camera sellotaped to it so you'd hardly notice, although getting the film out has proved wearisome at times.

Occasionally, a photo or two slides down the interweb tubes to land on my doormat which either amuses, impresses or inspires me, like in this post last year.

Today, a couple of images tickled my fancy, so apologies if you've already seen them. They are both ursine in nature, and I like them because it makes you wonder what you would do in that situation. The first is this 'un:

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking "Yogi" aren't you? Give him a pic-a-nic basket and he's a happy bear. Well, I'm no bear expert, but I'm thinking this one would treat such niceties as a mere appetiser before eating your face. I think we've been led astray by childhood images of cuddliness, but it's understandable. I'm not sure Yogi would've been as popular a cartoon if Hannah Barbera had gone for realism, so that he just marked his territory, tore the heads of salmon and had the catchphrase "Rraarggh!". And just imagine trying to staple a fetching green hat and tie onto this bugger.

I'm not totally convinced that the above photo is real however. It's either the last photo found in a half-digested camera film, a set up or, as is more common these days, a Photoshop jobbie. The next one, I'm given to understand, is real however:

Ooh dear. When I imagine what I'd do if I was in the situation faced by the remarkably calm photographer in this piccie, it usually involves some squealing, lots of running and a whole suitcase full of spare trousers. Look at the size of the head! That's got all teeth in it, has that head. And see those paws? They can take down a beluga whale with them. A whale!

Despite Coca Cola trying to christmas them all up with portrayals of sociability and a fizzy-drink addiction, a veritable multitude of wildlife documentaries on the world's largest land carnivore means we all know what polar bears are really like. If one gets even the slightest whiff of you on the ice sheet , and you're within 5 miles without a gun or a Toyata Hilux, then you may as well strip off, garnish yourself with mustard, lie down and wait for the inevitable.

And they're tough. They traipse quite happily across the top of the planet and, if it melts, they just swim. Polar bears are so hard that even their livers can kill you. That's how hard polar bears are. If Yogi had been a polar bear, his catchphrase might've been "I'm viciouser than the average bear."

And sometimes, they kill and eat each other! It's almost as though they think "Well, all these seals, whales and naked, mustard-coated humans aren't much of a challenge, I think I'll take on another polar bear. Liven things up a bit."

Polar bears are in fact so tough that they rarely need to prove it to us, so in fact there have only been 8 deaths from acute polar-bearitis in all of Canada in the last 30 years. In the UK, we have even fewer polar bear related deaths, thanks to an ongoing government initiative of anti-polar bear signs and local legislation outlawing them.

Of course, I don't want to scare anybody, but there is one type of bear that's even more unpredictable than a polar bear.

A bi-polar bear.

So stay safe folks, and always keep some anti-bear spray on you. I have and it obviously works. I have never seen a bear round my house.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Name that tuna

In order to get things back on track, and to stop veering off into a world of rants and spoof fiction, today I am simply going to blog about names. Not human names though, because commenting on the current fashion of naming your child by randomly stabbing pins into words in magazines is starting to wear thin. I presume that's how it's done anyway. Certainly explains why there are fewer Janets and Peters, and more Marabaya-Chantelles, Rygon-Mullets and Fantavia-Savingsaccounts doing the rounds.

Where was I? Oh yes, names. I was thinking about animals in particular, and I concluded that it doesn't half help when picturing them if they are given a name that is very descriptive, although it does risk being a bit boring. You can be pretty sure the Whale Shark is going to be fairly sizable, and the fact that it's a shark makes it exciting. The Proboscis Monkey is probably not going to have a tiny schnoz and being a monkey is cool, and the giant soft-shelled turtle . . . well, take a guess. Of course, a house mouse is a mouse that lives in a house. Even it's scientific name Mus domesticus means . . .er . . . house mouse. It's not exciting but there you go.

In the old days, adventurous biologists (who were as apt to shoot new species as study them) would have free reign as to what they might call any new animal they came across, and they could use local lingo (e.g. Kangaroo; Macaw), their own highly educated minds (e.g. Hyrax, Ceolacanth) or just randomly choose something daft to see if it would stick (e.g. Aye-aye, Frog).

Biologists are probably running fairly low on original names nowadays, so I expect it's unlikely that there'll be anything as esoteric as a Salamander or Narwhal announced to National Geographic in the near future.

No, all that's left are subdivisions of animals that we already know about, so naming them is less down to imagination or classical education, and more to do with what you're actually looking at. A seahorse from the south pacific, for instance, is likely to be named a South Pacific Seahorse.

Marine biologists are especially good at this, because they're discovering new species all the time, what with us having only explored a fraction of the oceans. They have to be pretty realistic, and a good example of this can be found in aquariums. Or is that aquaria? I was at the Birmingham Sealife Centre just the other day and saw these two signs for denizens of the same tank:

A starfish with all red knobs on it, and a little fish, shaped like a box, that was yellow. Twenty seconds thought by Jacques Costeau's descendants and job done. Simple as that.

Of course some were more cryptic. Take this fishy critter for instance:

I can just imagine the thought process that went into this nomenclature.
"Hey, Jacques, what shall we call this thing with the big eye?"
"Er . . . hang on . . . I'm having an idea . . ."

This makes me sound like a bit of a curmudgeon, but I'm not really having a go at animal names. For every dull name there is a corker. You have the Common Crab versus the Sally Lightfoot Crab, the Pigeon versus the Magnificent Bird of Paradise or the Brown Rat versus the Naked Mole Rat.

My current favourite name of a bird, apart from the obvious and brilliantly named Blue-Footed Booby, is one I saw at the same place as the Wandering Whistling Duck, and it's this:

It's called a Crested Screamer.

Now that's a cool name, and it's descriptive.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Crime Story - With Pictures!

The victim's body lay on the bed, black dressing gown on like some dark, fluffy, overpriced shroud from Marks and Spencer, eyes rolled back in his head like the rolled back eyes of some dead bloke. At first glance, and even second and third glances, it seemed like a simple case of self-suicide. The local police had assumed as much, and were about to call in the corpse-monkeys and their wipe-clean stretcher for quick disposal. At the last minute, DCI Walter Vweegoteer decided to have a look. Vweegoteer was a maverick, a no-nonsense, never-play-by-the-rules, old-school cop with an attitude as big as his drink problem, and his drink problem was life-threatening. He was a worried man, his rumpled suit and sharp words to the uniformed officers testament to his inner turmoil. There had been no murders for three hours on his manor and he was in danger of lagging behind Midsomer Murders for body count. Midsomer Murders was just behind Robocop and From Dusk Till Dawn for number of senseless deaths per minute. It was a close run thing and Vweegoteer would be damned to heck and back if he was going to let John Nettles edge into the lead.

"This," he said to a pouting police-lady who had been specially trained to look nice in a stab-proof vest " is a murder."

The police complained. It was an open and then not-open case. Look, there was a body. It had a leg and everything:

Next to the body were a packet of pills, and one of the first things Trainee Constable Plod and Plodette learn at Bacon Academy is that pills are used to commit suicide, just after which way round their hat goes and how to escort a suspect downstairs without breaking them. The pills were known to be toxic to anyone with a Y chromosome due to their dangerously high nag content:

A young policeman who used to be in Grange Hill in the eighties and looked sort of funny now that he'd shaved his head to appear tough, braved the acrid, smoked-stained glare of the DCI.
"How you know it murder, no saddy saddy suicide?" he asked, having recently being disciplined for doing a bad impression of a Gujurati man and having to work his way through every accent in the world to show he wasn't a racialist.

Vweegoteer flicked his cigarette at the window, wished momentarily that it had been open, and looked askance at the constable. The man wavered, turned green and swallowed a bit of sick back down, but he stood resolute. Veegoteer was quietly impressed with his composure, and dignified him with an answer.

"When you've been in this game as long as I have son, you see the clues that really count."

"What am dem dere clues den, Cracker?" The equity-sensitive police officer enquired.

With a glance at the younger man, and a positive eye-fondle of the totty police-lady in the low-cut armour, Vweegoteer wandered over to the body and, with a hefty kick and a dead man's gurgle, rolled it onto it's front.

" 'Ere, you carn't go 'eavin' t'body on t'front. That's evidence, is tha'."
But the colloquialistic complaint was ignored by everyone in the room, for the DCI's hoof had revealed that the back of the victims head was missing, and instead of gooey-pink brain, the only thing to be seen was ivory-white skull.

"Oh, ma Gawd!" shouted the parity-minded officer, "E's only gorn and fahnd anavva clue, an' 'e?"

Vweegoteer looked as close to smug as he ever did, which was very, and said in an almost whisper "I know who the murderer is as well."

"No way." gasped the police-lady, clasping her hand to her bosom and going slightly pink-cheeked, but being glad no-one could see that.

"Naw weah!" echoed her colleague.

"Indeed I do." Vweegoteer thought about smoking a cigarette, but realised it would be unprofessional so took a nip from his industrial-sized hip-flask instead. "This man was killed by none other than the Mad Brain-Scooping Fiend Of Olde London Towne!" and with that, he turned to face them all, stance wide, a triumphant look on his physiognomy.

"But we ain't in goddamn London." pointed out the fairest policeman in the area.

"There's a direct line." Growled Vweegoteer, "And National Express do it for £13.99 return if you go on a Tuesday and you're okay to arrive between eleven and eleven thirteen." He glanced at someone who was taking notes and wearing glasses, so probably knew everything that was going on. "When did the murder occur?"

The bespectacled scenes of crimes officer glanced at his notes, paying particular attention to underlined words, "Judging by the rigor mortis and rate of decomposition, as well as the species of fly that is currently laying eggs in the victims retinas, I would say eleven sixteen." He pushed his bottle-tops back up his nose and, with appropriate gravitas added "On Tuesday."

Vweegoteer's smug stance widened, as the station was but minutes away, a fact all the police in the room knew as they'd used it themselves to get there, budget cuts having reduced the number of police cars available. The officers on scene were, however, tenacious and would not to let go of their doubt so easily.

"Thircumthtantial evidenth." said the equal-opportunities policeman, who had decided it was only fair to move on to disabilities, "We'll need a damn thite more than that!"

Vweegoteer snorted some cocaine out of his hat, and looked up through angry eyebrows at his junior colleagues. Wearily, he pushed aside a bit of sheet on the bed next to the de-cerebrated body, and nodded as yet more gasps of disbelief, awe and, in one case, orgasm, reached his ears.

It was almost the perfect crime, but for one tiny clue. Either accidentally, or as some sort of twisted message to the cops, the Mad Brain-Scooping Fiend Of Olde London Towne had, unprecedentedly, left his weapon behind:

It had been licked clean.
Now, for the first time, they had a lead.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

M.M.R. - Makes Me Rant

There's a bit of an internet furore going on in the UK at the moment, and it's one that I have a strong viewpoint on; who will be Paris Hilton's new best friend?

No it's not, it's about the MMR jab.

A dopey DJ in London (a town by the coast in South-East England, has a big house near the High Street. And a zoo) dedicated 45 minutes of her show to try and persuade people that the Department of Health was scaring parents into having the jab, even though it might be dangerous, and all just to protect children from a minor disease such as measles. There's a brief synopsis of the web-ding-dong (in particular between the DJ , Jeni Barnett, and the Bad Science blogger Ben Goldacre) here.

I had a listen to the programme, and the letters 'WTF' sprang to my mind, which is an internet acronym for 'I question that interpretation'.

Does she really think measles is a minor disease? Apparently yes. The fact that science has worked it's arse off to make it appear minor in the western world hasn't occurred to her. Untreated, it can lead to respiratory problems, encephalitis and, occasionally, death. It's not just a rash.

She said she doesn't trust allopathic medicine, and gave lots of credence to a homeopath. She's made a decision not to vaccinate her children without actually knowing what's in the vaccinations, because of a roundly condemned piece of research a few years ago by a discredited doctor pursuing non-objective research. She's very lucky her children are healthy, and this is largely because they haven't been exposed to measles as all their friends have sensible parents who took advantage of evidence-based medicine and it's benefits.

A nurse phoned up to remonstrate with her about the damage she was doing, and was labelled as vicious by the errant DJ. This was rubbish, as the nurse seemed polite and determined to me. This annoyed me so much that I thought I would add my ha'penneth to the debate, hence this post.

If nothing else, it's an interesting example of an ignorant parent listening to media scare stories and thinking they are represent the truth, whilst condeming the Department of Health for scaremongering. It may also explain why programmes like this are at least partly repsonsible for the reduced uptake of vaccinations (under 60%) in London, and the increase in measles cases we're suddenly seeing. In 2006, the UK had it's first measles fatality for 14 years!

Anyway, not really much of a whimsical post this, and of course it's the parents choice, but you might be able to tell I'm not exactly on the fence when it comes to my viewpoint on getting kids immunised.

Rant over.

For now.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

I may be some time . . .


A couple of inches and the UK is brought to a complete standstill. The schools close, shops shut, the road gritters skid into ditches and the snowploughs are rusted to the depot floors from lack of use, so as a country we're completely flummoxed by a phenomenon that occurs every bloody year.

Okay, this February is a bit worse than it has been for a decade or so, but we're still not seeing drifts of the cold stuff lapping the eaves, or digging tunnels out into the road to hunt for cats-eyes like when I was a nipper. And we seemed to be able to get to school on a depressingly regular basis. At one point, it's reported that there a foot of snow dropped in one night! I almost feel the need to add another exclamation mark at the end of that news.

And then I made a foolish tactical error. Whilst visiting someone down a steep road, I parked up and nipped inside for 40 minutes. "Ooh," I thought, as I skipped lightly down the pleasantly frosted road, "These large flakes are pretty."

Unfortunately, it's been so long since I've experienced proper snow that I forgot what it does. It stays put, is what it does. I should have noted that all the local yokels had parked way away from that hilly place, walking up to their vehicular conveyances that they'd cleverly left adjacent to the main road. When I came out I was completely unable to move the car, although I was very successful in making my clutch smell like a burning refinery.


Cue an hour and a half of digging two paths for my wheels and liberally spreading the council's precious, precious grit in each track so that, eventually I could reverse back up the hill:

I was knackered. In fact, I think you could market snow-shovelling as a sort of hard-core exercise for people who find triathalons a bit tame. Think of the marketing possibilities of selling Quicksilver shovels for £99.99, or Nike Wellies.

It worked though, and I reversed back up to a flat bit and was able to be towed out to the main road by a convenient 4x4, with the clutch now smelling like someone had set fire to a bear in the passenger footwell.

So I got home, and was greeted by a snow-proof toddler who obviously wanted to go outside and build a snowman. Unfortunately, I was very tired and was more interested in drinking brandy and regaling the family with tales of my heroic Scott-esque adventures that day.

So instead of a snowman, I whipped up a quick snow-gargoyle:

He stared at it bemused, but he does that with snowmen as well, so I consider it a success.

In fact, I am going to put that extra exclamation mark in:


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Feed my eyes!

Eating in a restaurant with a positively multicultural feel to it (Indian food, Polish waiters, British clientele), I was struck by the use of themes in decorating. I like a curry house to be stereotypically Indian, as though you had been transferred to the very heart of unexplored Bradford itself. I want gold, I want elaborate drawings of blue chaps and scantily clad zither-pluckers, I want sitar music and a model of a tiger fighting an elephant.

I would have thought that one of the fun things about setting up an eaterie based on sub-continental Asia would be the huge number of imaginative and colourful concepts you could use to decorate your premises. You could dress your staff in swathes of gilt-edged ghagras and luminous turbans. You could have a toilet shaped like the Vidhan Sabha and a Taj Mahal of a coat storage area.

The possibilities are, as the old saying goes, numerous.

That's why, whilst the food was decently Indian in the aforementioned place, the decor was somewhat unfulfilling. And that's the strange thing, because whilst it was perfectly acceptable and clean, it still didn't do it for me.

Their motif was - The Square. Everything was square. The plates, the wine glasses, the windows, all had a square thing going on. Even the head waiter had beige jacket with mole-skin elbow patches. Not being able to take photos in the eating area itself (not for worrying about offending their sensibilities, but mainly because the wife might ram my camera phone somewhere only a trained coprologist would be able to answer it), I took some photos of the loos.


Square. very square. The sink:

Even the taps and faucets:

If we put aside for a moment concerns about the dubious nature of a grown man taking photos of a restaurant toilet, you can see what I mean. But why have I taken offence at this?

If the restaurant was, I dunno, French say, I don't think I would've paid any attention. It must be to do with expectations. You wouldn't want a man in a bandana and combat fatigues serving you at Costa Coffee. You expect a size 16 girl in size 12 black trousers to do that, and that's what you get. No-one services your car wearing a tuxedo and top-hat, you expect and get a man in overalls with a squint and a carbon-monoxidey cough.

It's not the restaurants fault. They have made a nice building a bit nicer using some contemporary design. It's my fault. I should be pleased they've put a bit of thought into matching the plates to the porcelain, but what can I do.

I want flock wallpaper and a ceramic Vishnu with light-up eyes.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit . . .

I thought I'd show you who I share a house with. This is Bert:

Those of you educated in the finer points of the animal kingdom might recognise him as a rabbit. In fact, he's a House Rabbit, and by House I don't mean that he's a fictional medical genius with a limp and sociopathic god-complex who looks just like Prince George off of Blackadder the Third, but that he lives in the house. With us. He's got a cage that he sleeps and poos in, and a robot lady rabbit that he . . . er . . . enjoys, for want of a better euphemism.

Now, when I was a nipper, rabbits were things that were kept in a hutch in the garden, to be mucked out by your parents after you'd promised to do it, but before you realised that this would take effort and a modicum of responsibility on your part, so you meandered off to make a ramp to jump over on your Raliegh Grifter. These rabbits were famous for two things; first for not being seen for weeks on end and, second, when they were levered out of their hutch and forced into the cloying arms of a pre-pubescent hug, for having a bite that would make Mike Tyson knuckle away a tear in envy. How many children at school bore the scars (both physical and emotional) of being unexpectedly savaged by Thumper? Of course, the reason these poor buggers were so vicious was due to insanity brought on by loneliness, a fact which has been brought home to me now when I see just how friendly Bert is.

What I like is, when you come in from work after a long shift, he circles round and round your feet, honking gently and establishing utter, utter ownership of you, or at least your socks, Which he also enjoys. It's very welcoming, especially if there's no-one else at home. He took 2 days to housetrain, and in general doesn't chew cables although we do have to watch him with the skirting boards and bottoms of sofas. He's very curious, which is hilarious if you've got a bag or box to put down. After cleaning his cage, it's not unusual to have to remove a demented bunny from the hay bag:

Of course, he's spoilt rotten. This is evident in the following photogram, where he can be seen choffing that staple of lagomorphic dietary requirements, a box of chocolates. Presumably he likes the carrot centres:

Obviously, it was the wife's idea to get a rabbit, as it usually is in these situations, because let's be honest, how many men are going to wake up one morning and think "I want a pet rabbit!". But they do grow on you, and you begin to get mildly insulted by the suggestions of edibleness which invariably come from all your friends. And he now has his useful side too, having been appointed Officer in Charge of Animal Appreciation to our infant son, who is fast becoming gentle, tolerant and understanding of the other creatures that inhabit our world.

I've heard it said that House Rabbits are the pets of the future, and I agree. Perfect for those who want a companion but don't have time for a dog, a flap for a cat or space for a rhino.

So may I issue a plea to all rabbit owners everywhere, especially to those who might not have seen theirs for a few days - go and give 'em a fuss.