Monthly Archives: March 2012

‘Coma-cise’ Vs Wireless tramps…

Various news forums have been reporting on an experiment taking place in Texas where homeless people are being used as mobile wireless hotspots. At first the article prompted amusement at its absurdity (‘my wifi has wandered off’), before horror at what was described as  ‘the commoditisation of people.’ A subsequent tangential riff at work prompted this silly, slightly more benevolent slant on human behaviour…


…Tobias wasn’t about to give his heart away to any old woman – ohhh no – he was waiting for the one – someone who didn’t mind that he was a little bit podgy and dull, or that he didn’t have two pennies to rub together, or that he wasn’t particularly great around people. So when Phyllis came along with her lovely ringlets and her patience Tobias gave a satisfied sigh of relief and whispered ‘I have found her.’

However, Phyllis turned out to be something else entirely and, when the season changed, she blew through Tobias’ world like a tornado, taking with her all of his hopes and dreams. Desperately, desperately distraught and unsure of what to do Tobias went for a drive in the dead of night, but he couldn’t see for tears and crashed his car into a tree.

‘Could be ten years, could be tomorrow,’ the doctor informed Ralph; Tobias’ one and only friend. ‘He may never wake up.’

Ralph sat beside the bed for a long, long time, and it was only when the sun was rising for a second morning that he was struck with a wondrous idea.

The faked note proclaimed that ‘in the event of my falling into a coma I should very much like you to stick me on an exercise bike and stimulate my muscles with tiny electrodes.’

‘It’s a very unusual and specific request,’ the doctor replied somewhat bemused, ‘but it would help prevent atrophy setting in, and I suppose no harm can come of it.’

Ralph burned the midnight oil customising the exercise bike so that his friend’s involuntary actions would spin a dynamo that, in turn, generated electricity.

Tobias looked rather dapper in his emerald tracksuit as they fixed him into position. Tiny sparks animated his dormant body as he unknowingly burned through 1000 calories and filled five large batteries with energy. The first trial was such a success that the doctor agreed to repeat it five times a week.

Ralph sold the batteries to the national grid and deposited the money in his friend’s account.

News of Tobias’ strange treatment spread, first through the hospital, then the town, then across the country. Well-wishing cards began arriving from the farthest flung corners of the globe.

‘You’re looking good’ Ralph informed his friend as he peddled alongside. ‘You’ve lost weight, but you’re a little pale. What you need is some sun.’

Tobias apparently had no opinion on the matter.

Getting outside once a day turned out to be impractical, so Ralph had a tanning booth installed around the bike. ‘That’s better,’ he said. ‘Girls love a man with a healthy glow. Please say something.’

But his friend was lost for words, so Ralph resolved to maintain his silent vigil and dug in for the long haul.

And in this state Tobias remained for seven years – cycling, tanning, generating and networking, until one day, quite unexpectedly, he awoke – a bronzed Adonis, known and loved the world over and rich beyond his wildest dreams…

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A town called Mortality…

It was with a certain degree of trepidation that I boarded the train at Reading and took the three-hour journey north to the once industrial but recently gentrified city of Sheffield. There I met with seven similarly wide-eyed souls. Nothing had physically barred us from returning, and yet it had taken a group of relatively motivated individuals fourteen years to get their acts together. There was understandable excitement, but also a little nervousness. Will it be how I remember it? Was this a good idea?

Cautiously we ventured out. The students (who had all been toddlers and foetuses when last we’d lived there) regarded our sensible, practical clothes with vaguely amused condescension, whilst the older locals were complicit in their acceptance where previously their had been only judgement.

We found our old stomping group much changed, but also strangely familiar. Large towers had arisen, and some intimate settings had been swallowed up, but the sense of rediscovery was palpable – What did that shop used to be? Oh look, that’s still there! 

Emboldened we sought out our most cherished haunts. First there was ‘The Broomhill Tavern,’ originally famed for having light fittings strong enough to swing off, then the fantastically named ‘Springvale Beer Engine,’ before finally our hall of residence ‘Tapton,’ a building that, when seen through objective eyes, was a garish (and now derelict) 1960’s monstrosity. But our eyes were anything but objective! To us glorious snap-shots in time had afforded the bricks and mortar an awkward kind of  grace. Speaking to a security guard we learned that demolition plans had once again been blocked by the surrounding neighbourhood. A great symbol of our past was to cling to existence a little while longer.

An Italian restaurant was the scene of our most shameless reminiscing. It was here that we proposed a series of increasingly self flagellating speeches and basked in the glory of having stayed in touch over the years; growing through various trials and tribulations, joys and disappointments, births, deaths, marriage triumphs and failures.

Returning to the place that was the making of you evokes feelings that go way beyond nostalgia. There is delight that streets not walked in over a decade can still be considered home, marvel that rose-tinted recollections really were as good as you remember them, and yet at the same time it’s as though it all happened to someone else – in my case a slighter, hairier, less cynical self. Having said all that, and despite its blandness, I find that the word ‘lovely’ seems to sum it all up just right.

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…It’s just been revoked

How I yearn for the halcyon days when, having been slighted in some fashion, a chap could challenge the offending cad to a duel, get up at the crack of dawn, fire a musket round through his heart and be done with it.

Simpler, happier times.

Fast forward two hundred emasculating years and we’ve evolved to mumbling ‘That’s the third time you’ve incorrectly formatted this spreadsheet. Prepare to feel the wrath of my carefully-worded-so-as-not-to-get-in-trouble-with-HR, passive aggressive, sent before running away, email.’

He won’t do that again the cheeky little expletive-deleted.

Of course he will. I am powerless to stop him.

At the office I’ve been lobbying for a practice along the lines of the police’s guns and knives amnesty – a ‘Bring your rant to work day’ if you will. For one glorious day of the year you could saunter up to the lazy, ineffectual office gimp and, with complete impunity, bombard them with the abuse they so richly deserve, before putting the secretary across your knee as punishment for that memo she badly typed six months ago (it’s the only way she’ll learn). So far my suggestion has been met with stony stares and a call for me to go on something called ‘gardening leave’?

My female boss clearly doesn’t understand me.

But flippancy aside (I don’t advocate the spanking of women except by mutual consent) you have to be careful. For example – I was once sitting minding my own business when the following message arrived in my inbox:

‘Dear Martin, I am writing to let you know that I am having a name and gender change. From now on I shall be known as Rachel. Yours, Richard.’

I met with Rachel for lunch. For the sake of argument I’ll refer to her as ‘she’ even though, at this stage, she was still packing heat. Rachel wasn’t a happy camper and told me that she was in the process of making  a formal complaint. Management were refusing to let her  use the women’s toilets even though she was dressing and living as a female in preparation for the full op.

I said to her that she was a genius and that, if I got the use the women’s loos, I’d wear a dress to work, at which point she made a complaint about me.

Women eh! Cuh.

On a related but reversed theme I would encourage you to check out the very fine blog of Transman:

Also: In the interest of merciless self-promotion I have set up a Facebook page. If you feel so inclined please like it, love and cherish it, print it off, mulch it down into papier-mache and make your very own blog-based companion etc. I thank you.


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The wheel is turning, but the hamster is dead…

An uber-confident and instantly dislikable fop minced over to me at a party and, without introducing himself or asking my name boldly stated: ‘I can deduce what type of person you are with five simple questions.’

Perturbed by his arrogance I vowed to thwart him. ‘I doubt that very much, but go for your life.’

He adjusted his annoying quiff and began. ‘Question One. What do you do for a living?’

‘I’m a wizard.’

‘A wizard?’

‘Is this your second question?’

‘No, but you’re a wizard?’

‘Yes, I write spells and mix potions.’

‘OK.’ He wasn’t so sure of himself now. ‘Question Two. How do you feel when you hear an ambulance siren?’


He didn’t bother asking the other three questions. Perhaps my desire not to be pigeon-holed by a complete stranger made me a little bolshie, but I very much enjoyed the experience of two diametrically opposed people meaninglessly firing words at each other and not connecting on any level.

Many years ago whilst on holiday a Thai tour guide informed me that he was learning English and asked if he could try out a few phrases. I was facinated to know how another culture would approach learning our own language and welcomed the prospect. His teaching companion was a coverless, dog-eared tome. Opening it at a random page he proclaimed that ‘Every part of my body is in pain.’

I wasn’t sure how this sentence would ever be useful to him, or more precisely, if he did find himself in need of it then a limited grasp of the local dialect was likely to be the least of his worries. ‘Which part hurts the most?’ I asked.

‘I don’t understand,’ he replied.

He tried another page. ‘Excuse me my good man, could you tell me where I can purchase a box camera.’

‘You need to throw this book away,’ I cautioned, ‘No good can come of it.’

He shrugged and shook his head. ‘I’m sorry…I…er…’

I felt no small amount of guilt as we parted company; leaving him clutching the manuscript that would almost certainly lead to his being beaten up in the not two distant future.

Back in 2005 I went to Cuba with a couple of friends. Having got lost trying to find The Bay of Pigs (‘Bahia to Cochinos) I collared a hombre and enquired ‘Desculpe, donde es el bahia de cojones?’ which roughly translates as ‘Excuse me, where can I find the bay of bollocks?’ To his credit he kept a straight face, and his directions were surprisingly informative. He did however take offence when he overheard us referring to his farm animals as ‘communist pigs.’ (It’s a well known fact that communists don’t approve of satire, and are required to all have exactly the same sense of humour…which is a shame).

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