Monday, November 19, 2007

Smoking Zone

Lemmy's in big trouble. Not the acid or speed catching up with him, nor even any of the 2000 birds he's shagged. Nope. The diehard rocker has (gasp) smoked a cigarette on stage! I bet 1000s of horrified heavy-metal fans clutched their tattooed knuckles to their noses and rushed for the exits as soon as he lit up.

And he might have got away with it on the night, too, but oh no; Sheffield Council Officers are on his case, one said," Other venues on the tour will be notified and appropriate action may be taken should any further incidents take place." Bloody hell. I really really want to be there when some oik from the Ways and Means Committee gets up and asks him his name, half way through Ace of Spades.

Things could get even worse if the tour takes in Naples. No chance of nipping out for a quick puff between sets there. The council has banned smoking outside, in public parks and during "demonstrations and cultural events" if children or pregnant women are nearby.

I wonder whether anyone actually sat down and worked out the odds about being struck down by 1 tobacco smoke molecule per squillion cubic litres of air? Here's a helpful article saying that the dangers of it happening are slightly less than winning the lottery whilst being struck by lightning during a blue moon. No matter. Naples Council will say you can't prove that never happened, can you? Aha then! Banned! Next!

It's neo-eco-envy-health-fascism, it really is. What is it with people that they have to find some other group or individual to detest and persecute. I think the demonisation of smokers, or reveling in the trials of people like Britney, Amy and the McCanns happens because so many desperately need someone else to be better than... that it's easier for people to focus on others instead of on improving their own selves.

I really do hope that next time Mt. Vesuvius erupts nobody gets hurt. But if a tragedy does occur, that Sheffield Council is on a twinning visit to its Neapolitan counterpart at the time.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Ginjinha joints

First of all, a couple of hints for how the whole experience of jetting off on a lovers break could be improved by the Powers That Be:

Airlines: Take a stand on fatties. To protect the comfort of normally-sized passengers, anybody over 12st. must pay excess baggage. And you know those frame thingies at check-in that cabin-baggage has to fit into before it can go aboard? Well make one like a plane seat. And if they can’t get their arses into it, make them pay for two seats or throw them off the flight. Serves them right.

Passport Control:
OK, here’s a test. If it takes about 20
seconds to check each document, how long will it take for a planeload of 200 passengers to get through immigration? Answer: Over an hour. So given that a plane lands at Luton every 5 minutes, why have only two officers on duty? Oh wait.... it's the Home Office, innit? Useless gits.
Well, here I am back in cold, dank, over-complicated England, torn away from hole-in-the-wall Ginjinha bars where you sip sweet cherry liqueur for a euro a tot, lazy outdoor lunches of freshly caught/freshly grilled sardines and young-pressed vinho verde, world class coffee and pastries, and aromatic roast chestnuts to be relished in late autumn temperatures in the 60s and 70s.
As you’ll have guessed, I spent the whole flight home squashed up next to a member of the Obese Community who needed a seat and a half to pour his blubbery bulk into and then God knows how long queuing up with the Poles, Romanians and Bulgars for the privilege of being allowed back into my own fucking country.
But Lisbon is beautiful. It has a vibe, charm and pace all of its own, more like a provincial town than a capital city even though the whole museum, arts and opera thing is there if you look for it. It’s got a unique lived-in feel to it thanks to its central shopping and cultural area being right on the doorstep of its residential heartlands, so that tourists share easily in the everyday world of Lisboetas. And luckily for everyone, the Portuguese have resisted the worst excesses of mass Starbuckisation, so instead of having to search around for a ‘typical’ experience, you can drop in anywhere and be served with the courtesy, friendliness and natural hospitality that’s the hallmark of this gentle, decent country.Sadly, this might be the last foreign sojourn for quite some time. Our terrier (who is far too spoiled to be left in kennels) disgraced himself by widdling on the curtains of the lady who looks after him while we're away. So unless another can be found - that's it. But good to have gone out on a high... Portugal was the first holiday I ever shared with Mme., many years ago. It's aged well.. so has she. We had no money, drove all the way through France and Spain with a tent in the boot of a little car. A memory that's stuck with me all this time is of a rifle range at a small town fiesta. You had to fire at a target that released a spring so's a furry toy tied to a length of elastic flew at you when you hit. The prize was a glass of ginjinha - I couldn't miss and at 5 shots an escudo, I had them lined up along the counter. Cheers and shouts of "mais ginjinha!" went up from a growing crowd of hangers on every time I scored a bullseye - we all got merry except for the poor stallholder who got ever more miserable as he just kept on pouring.So there I was again... downing ginjinha with the priceless extra benefit of its flavour bringing back the memories, as tastes, sounds and scents always do best. Life is circles.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

**** OFF, YOU ****!

"**** off Gordon ****ing Ramsey and **** yourself, you ****ing jumped-up ****ing ****er. Oh, so you think the ****ing food in ****ing Skegness is ****ing atrocious do you? Well let me tell you, Mr. ****ing so-called Michelin One Star (One B*****k more like) Ramsey. You’re ****ed because nobody comes here to eat your poncey ****ing rocket salad on a bed of sun-dried ****ing organic bananas ***p anyway. So do us a ****ing favour and **** off to ****ing Bognor ****ing Regis instead where they don’t know one ****ing end of a ****ing King Prawn ****ing Biryani from the other." Mabel Thorpe (Mrs.) (69).

Yes, Skegness is in the news again. Twice in fact. But more of that, as they say, later. Last time a famous cook tried to change eating habits, it was Jamie Oliver’s doomed effort to wean the nation’s schoolchildren off Turkey Twizzlers (cost £486m, results - falling school-dinner sales and fatter kids). Now TV’s celeb chef Ramsey wants to start a crusade to change the menus at Britain’s seaside resorts – this in the country that has introduced the All Day Breakfast to the Costa Blanca and whose national dish is Chicken Tikka Masala.

I can’t see it myself. Blaming the restaurants for poor food is like blaming the BBC for Strictly Ballroom – if there wasn’t an appetite for this kind of ready-chewed pap, they wouldn’t offer it. We have to face facts... Britain is dumb and tasteless. Sad but as true as any generalisation ever can be. Newspapers realise this, so do record companies, fashion designers, retailers and advertisers. So does the Government, for that matter. In the end, the consumer always gets his way. If enough people want rubbish, that’s what they’ll get. And we do. That’s why the biggest selling tabloids appeal to the worst instincts of the barely literate, music has been the same old tosh for years, tat clothes are sold on the basis of having the ‘right’ labels, shops cash in on the shopping-as-a-hobby OCD and goods are sold on image rather than features.

But forget the food, ignore the weather... Skegness has triumphed in the British Toilet Association’s prestigious Best Loo Award of 2007 (sponsored by Dyson Airblade), winning the coveted Four Star Commendation for several of its conveniences. So there you are, Ramsey. Shove that up your ****ing **** and smoke it. We’ve got our priorities straight without you. Our best selling plat du jour might only be chips with cheese, but when we go, we go in style.

Saturday, November 03, 2007


I can’t work out whether having a bandage on my car is something I should do something about or not, what with your motor being that most obvious symbol of your psyche and all. I’m kind of hoping that people will see it as meaning I’m so confident in myself, that I don’t need to boost my self-esteem with a manhood-enhancing boy-toy. This might be self-defeating, of course, if they (rightly) guess that I’ve lost the will to be interested in what anybody thinks since we moved out here. Anyway, it needed two front tyres for its MOT, so I took it into town. The spotty-youth at KwikPhytt annoyed me so much with that all-encompassing "Urr?" that they all do in the motor trade when they’re asking you what you want, that I reversed into a post on the way out and smashed the bumper.

Well, apparently you aren’t allowed to have sharp edges showing, so it’s been covered over with gaffer-tape to be MO’d and looks like Pudsey Bear. Or a pair of broken specs held together by Sellotape. Sod it..... I could claim on the insurance but I’m still hoping somebody will run into me so that I can get the front bumper fixed as well to make it worthwhile. That’s also been bandaged since I stood on it to reach the windowsill one night when I’d locked myself out of the house. What I really need now is to be gently shunted from the rear into a tree by somebody not too worried about their No Claims Bonus.

Mme. is just back from the supermarket. She says the youth at the checkout got as far as a bag of chestnuts before ringing his bell and shouting, "what are these?" to the supervisor. Wonder he didn’t just hold them up and say, "Urr?". It’s lucky it was Mme. and not me – she would just have fixed him with the withering stare that freezes nitrogen. I’d have gone into a strop and reversed the trolley into a display of soup cans. I’m still spitting feathers since the girl at B&Q corrected me for putting an ‘r’ in the middle of February whilst writing a cheque. "Well that’s not how you say it", she said. I hadn’t realised how well I can roll my rrrrs until then, "Febrrrruary, Febrrrrrrrruary!" Never able to do it before or since.

But there we are. None of us knows everything. I’m buggered if I can understand, for example, how easyJet can charge me less than a tank of petrol for a return flight to Lisbon. They can, though, and I shall be reporting from there in a week or two, if relations between Britain and Portugal still permit it. Since Tony Parshole, in his Mirror column told their Ambassador to "shut his stupid sardine-munching mouth", they might have cooled a bit. You’d think somebody who sees himself as a bit of an intellectual could come up with a better one than that. But no. In the land of the Urrs, the half-baked thug is King.

(That last line isn’t too smartarsed, is it Tarkwith?)

(Very possibly, dear boy.