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Heavy Plant

Walk past a "Heavy Plant" warning and wonder vaguely if the trees thought it was for them; if whoever put it up had enough imag...

Sunday, December 12, 2004

christmas

As I have no time to type anything new here is an oldie but a goldie. Enjoy:

I hate Christmas. Bollocks to Christmas. Newspaper hacks and stand-up comics like to write little skits at this time of year stating just how much they despise Christmas. No they don’t. Christmas has, for a change, provided them with something approaching a universal experience to witter on about. They find certain aspects of Christmas confusing but they don’t hate Christmas. I hate Christmas. I hate this time of year so much that I have taken the time & effort to write this. Written out this is a four page document comprising nearly three and a half thousand words and I don’t feel that is even nearly complete enough. That’s how much I hate Christmas. In fact there are so many reasons to despise Christmas that I have had trouble sufficiently encapsulating them at all. Christmas is a time when we are reminded that despite our distinctly privileged position as a wealthy western nation we can easily create enough problems for ourselves to turn what ought to be paradise into utter purgatory. There is no other single time of year when such avarice is displayed, when emotional blackmail is openly used as a control mechanism by your relatives, charities and as a marketing tool by every consumer product corporation that thinks it should have first call on the money you make. Christmas really only serves to illustrate just how foul we can really be and the worst part of it is if you point this out to people and you are regarded as some kind of killjoy, a freak that hasn’t understood the question, a scrooge. So not only do you have to actively take part in the worst display of the bad side of human nature you have to enjoy it as well. NO. FUCK OFF & TAKE YOUR CHRISTMAS WITH YOU. Never one to pander to people’s preconceptions I have decided to tell it like it is. This extended rant will hopefully serve to illustrate just how bad Christmas really is.

Christmas often brings out the absolute worst in people, not least in myself. There are exceptions to this but such people are so rare that they serve only to highlight the disgraceful mess around them. No good deed shows up the rest of us like a good deed at Christmas, so we give money to the charities & silently pray that they do their work invisibly. Surely that’s not how it’s meant to be. Having discovered the inherent guilt in Christmas every charity under the sun now gets the idea that I somehow have some spare money left after succumbing to the raging materialism all around. They then decide to go on a bizarre and, frankly, pointless mission to relieve me of my few remaining pennies. This I truly resent. Fine, manipulate my guilt if you really need the money but not all at once and not using the same, rather lame, justification: you’re going to spend so much on yourselves that really you ought to be giving us money to make you feel better about it. And who let the fucking kids in on this? The snivelling, spotty, snot-encrusted, money grubbing little whingers hammer on your doorbell, perform the most tuneless cursory effort at a Christmas carol and then demand money with menaces. This is just another version of the trick or treat idea, which the Americans can take back any time they like, please. Parents are plainly instilling their children with more business acumen than musical talent. I blame the Thatcher bitch, under-fund education & flog off our national assets & what can you expect from an example like that. Charities are, at least, going to do something beneficial with your money. What is that 13 year-old going to do with your cash? Exactly what you would have done with it at that age; take it to the nearest off-licence and blow it on ten B&H and as much cider as it can turn into rancid corrosive vomit in an hour.

The English language takes a pasting at Christmas. On no account should Xmas be used. This appalling abbreviation is among many Americanisms for which I would happily institute the death penalty. Crimbo, whilst native, also needs to be stricken from the nation’s vocabulary. Gratuitous use of the word "festive" becomes almost compulsory. Holly is no longer a prickly nightmare but "festive". Mince pies are also "festive", plastic snowmen are no longer naff but "festive". Even the humble robin is "festive", put a toy robin in the garden & watch as the real one rips it to shreds in a territorial homicidal frenzy. Festive my arse. Every time someone uses the word "festive" attempt to pluck out one of their nasal hairs. That should curtail its’ use a little.

Bad television programs are par for the course over Christmas and have become so much of a tradition that bitching about them is almost pointless. Nevertheless it must be stated for the record that the Christmas "special" is anything but. It is an excuse to fill time with the kind of formulaic tripe that causes irretrievable brain damage whether it be soap opera or "light" "entertainment". The only excuse to put the likes of Scilla Black, Michael Barrymore and Dale Winton on television is for the population at large to witness their agonising deaths by torture as an object lesson in how not to behave. Putting them all on a stage at once with the nation’s entire stock of D list celebrities with a teen pop soundtrack & calling it the Royal Christmas Variety Performance should rate as a crime against humanity. Although the upside of this is that at least one royal is subjected to this gruesome parade of dying career after dying career. We get to watch as the "upper class twit of the year" grin that they arrive with fades into mentally damaged grimace as their head-guts slowly dissolve as the performance goes on. The reason the royals have had such a tumultuous recent past is that each & every one of them has, at some point in the last two decades, attended The Royal Variety Performance. This has left them with all with little nervous system to speak of & a total inability to comprehend the world in terms of anything other than pantomime: "I’m not married", "Oooh yes you are" "Ooooh no I’m not".

Our barely suppressed gluttony springs into overdrive at Christmas. The usual benefits of huge food all the time and as much drink as you can pour down your neck are rapidly overcome by, raging indigestion & stinking hangovers day after miserable day until you finally realise that you are actually poisoning yourself & that gout is a distinct possibility should you keep on in the same vein. What better way to celebrate the birth of our Lord & Saviour (stick with it you know I’m going to get to that bit in a minute) than by eating and drinking until we pass out, puke, or both. The faux Christianity that takes hold of the nation at Christmas is not only depressing but tantamount to heresy. Not that I have any Christian leanings of any description, its just that I find it faintly disgusting that an entire faith is wheeled out once a year, not because of any deeply held respect for the basic tenets of it, but to justify what, when it gets right down to it, is a big piss-up. There are more images of Father Christmas on Christmas cards than there are of Jesus. Saint Nick was taken out of his traditional green robes by no less an evil than Coca-Cola who put him in their company livery. Craven idol anyone? Rampant commercialism? Personally I’d plump for just plain fucking evil. For the Churches, of course it is open season. Time to suck in the guilty ones who haven’t been to a service since last Christmas and brainwash their children. Sink the fangs in whilst they’re young and you can feed off the imparted guilt and fear for the rest of their lives. You can almost smell the anticipation in the notices outside the Churches. And what about those religions that perhaps don’t quite marry up with the dominant Christian faith, well they just have to watch while we shut the country down for a week and make idiots of ourselves. I bet that gives them all a lovely warm glow, not to mention a fucking good laugh.

Another fine reason to hate Christmas is mistletoe. Old ladies, strangers, scutters and munters of all shapes, sizes, ages and states of physical and mental decay, your relatives and the office slag use mistletoe as an excuse to indecently assault you. Who started this ridiculous tradition? What perverted fiend decided that, just because it’s Christmas, a leaf & some berries, poisonous by the way, constitute grounds for impinging on my personal space in such an overt corruption of the accepted norms of social interaction? Should I really have to be groped by the physically repugnant because some deluded wench has managed to procure a small amount of a parasitic plant? If, in the unlikely event, that you see me standing under any mistletoe I will probably be smiling. But stop, think, and use your imagination. That smile is not because I am looking forward to a sloppy clinch with every slathering deviant that walks past. It is because I am concealing a small sickle which I will use to slice off your lips if you even get close to me. Guess what I’ll do with them then.

Christmas decorations are also distinctly bad. For some reason everyone feels the need to cover the entire country with shiny fire hazards. They are a kitsch, gaudy eyesore that often act as a trigger for use of the word "festive", which is itself reason enough to prohibit them. At no other time of year would you countenance bringing a pine tree into your house to shove up a fairy and slowly kill by progressive degrees of dehydration (if you really want to sexually assault a fairy with a conifer you need your sex drive rewired). In a final desperate act of revenge the tree spreads agonising pine needles through your house inflicting a thousand irritating puncture wounds on unwary feet. These will only just have given up their grip on the carpet by next Christmas and you can guarantee that even then the last needle will somehow manage to embed itself in your sock. Baubles are a fantastic way to spread broken glass around the living room and fairy lights melt the chocolate monstrosities that everyone mercifully steals before they begin to drip. Anyone who has ever had a cat will be able to testify that keeping a Christmas tree vertical when it has so many tempting toys for a feline is next to impossible. The resulting explosion of broken glass, pine needles, chocolate and terrified moggy will inevitably rouse you from the stress-relieving bath that seemed like such a good idea just ten minutes previously.

At Christmas your relatives expect you to be with them and exert the kind of emotional pressure on you to come home that makes oppressive regimes look positively light handed. I’d rather face down an Indonesian secret policeman armed with an electric cattle prod than try to explain to an disappointed mother why I’m not going to be there to provide culinary & moral support. They also expect presents, and to be treated nicely and to play God-awful parlour games that remind you that just how refreshing it was to finally leave primary school and just how infantile your family’s sense of humour really is. If I want to see granny spit her dentures across the room I will punch her in the stomach. I don’t feel the need to play charades just to get the same effect. You are made to spend your hard earned on them & then told to be happy about it when really it’s just the capitalist profit motive in action and you didn’t put up much of a fight against it. Oh, but it’s the thought that counts though, no really it is. I am made to associate with these people that I dislike &, in some cases, actively despise, then I’m told not to throw sprouts at them or be rude to them, or pour gravy in their handbags because I’m related to the buggers. I do not particularly wish to be reminded of that whilst watching my grandfather spreading bread sauce all over his chin. At least at funerals I don’t have to watch them eat, not unless the cannibalistic urges really get the better of them.

The Christmas turkey can always be relied upon to ruin my day. The thing about such an enormous bird is that you have to cook it properly. This means slowly, which means getting up excruciatingly early with the second worst hangover of the year to get gory to the armpits by pulling the giblets out and stuffing the fucking thing. This brings on an attack of nausea so overwhelming it threatens to finish the day before it has even begun. Not to mention that the poor creature has probably been kept indoors in a shit covered pen with eight hundred others like it, given just enough room to breathe, force-fed growth hormones and antibiotics until it is so grossly oversized that it can’t balance properly. And you want me to eat that? Turkeys do not reach 24lbs on their own, ever. If you think you really need 24lbs of meat buy two turkeys, seek help from a trained professional (a caterer or a psychologist, either will do), or buy beef, you may have noticed that cows regularly exceed 24lbs. The brief unhappy life of the turkey is brought to a close by a bath of electrified water & the combined auto-plucker and evisceration machine. Just a little something for you to think about if you are under any illusions about Christmas dinner. Just hope I don’t get the urge to tell you what chipolatas are made from.

The task of eating the turkey is, if anything, more unpleasant than cooking it. Most people can’t cook; even people who can cook have trouble cooking turkey. This is a task usually requiring yards of foil and greaseproof paper, several ounces of butter and numerous bastings to stop the total desiccation of the unfortunate avian. It comes to the table in a blaze of glory that is intended to be the highlight of the main course but in reality only hides the dishevelled state of the cook who has suffered nervous trauma as a result of attempting the near impossible. This tactic usually works until the turkey is carved when almost anything can happen, often this means discovering that the damn thing is half-thawed and stuffed only with a small plastic bag of luke-warm stinking giblets. At best the meat will crumble into a tangled fibrous mass.

On the plate the meat is an unpalatably dry and rasping slice of unpleasantness that soaks up gravy somewhat more efficiently than kitchen paper. Forcing it down removes the skin from the back of your throat and leaves you with what is essentially a large shredded sponge in your stomach soaking up the beer, wine and sherry that you’ve chucked back and expanding, expanding, expanding. It is for this reason the 24lb turkey that you thought would only just feed the family could, in fact, feed several. Bringing me to the perennial problem of the leftover turkey. I am yet to come up with a way of getting rid of this. Dissolve it in acid, throw it on the fire, create small accessories from it’s leathery skin, try anything because come Boxing Day evening the cat will turn its’ nose up at it and the tramps on the street corner will laugh in your face if offered turkey. If in doubt bury it, but whatever you do, do not attempt to make another meal from it. There’s nothing quite as transparently unappealing as "a nice bowl of soup" or "a good curry", everyone has had enough of turkey for a whole year and disguising it as something appetising will earn you some seriously dirty looks as soon as taste-buds uncover the awful truth. Serving it up straight from the fridge should be avoided at all costs: there is a reason that heroin withdrawal is called cold turkey and I re-discover it every Boxing Day.

Among the myriad of reasons for despising the "festive" season one stands head and shoulders above the rest. The most vile foulness that ever saw airplay, the most disgraceful excuse for a marketing ploy and the one element of Christmas that can almost always be relied upon to send me into paroxysms of napalm-spitting rage is Christmas music. This brings with it and the concomitant fuss over who will have the Christmas number one. Who gives a shit? It’ll either be a song aimed at the only people that are allowed to enjoy things like Christmas & chart music (i.e. children, and drunken children at that), or some sentimental drivel by a washed-up/ born again star from many decades ago. Christmas is treated by the music industry as an excuse to abandon the normal mores of recording, production and marketing taste. It seems to be okay to record, produce and market a record completely devoid of all artistic merit as long as it is Christmas themed. I like to think of Christmas music like football records, there isn’t really much difference, except that the football team in question may just have a bit of hope behind it, there is no hope for Christmas records. They are cursed to be locked away until mid November every year until ruthless advertising agencies and moronic DJs dust them off and play them non-stop for six weeks before locking them away again. Just for those people I have a very special message, I’m going to use simple language but any DJs should still get someone to explain it to them, carefully: CHRISTMAS DOES NOT REPRESENT AN EXCUSE TO PLAY SLADE RECORDS, DO YOU FUCKING UNDERSTAND? Glam rock came out of the west midlands in the 1970’s. That should be enough to put anyone off.

Michael Jackson, Bing Crosby or any of the Mafia backed Rat Pack shite, The Wombles, Cliff Richard etc. they can all roughly be grouped under the heading of "Play it, and I will genitally mutilate you". White Christmas gets singled out for special criticism at this point, drooling sentimental rubbish that it is. The song is twee, sickly sweet and in no way accurately represents the emotional anguish that surrounds Christmas. But it isn’t really the song so much as concept that I object to. It’s not meant to snow in December where I live. It’s meant to be cold, but not really snow. Yet every year the Met office give us odds on a white Christmas, it seems to be the number one conversation starter. Again only children should want things like this. Our country is not well equipped to deal with snow and it would be inconvenient at best. If you want a white Christmas let’s have a twenty-foot snowdrift. Let’s have so much snow that you can’t open the front door, that the power lines go down & halt your oven in the middle of ruining your turkey dinner. Lets have it so cold that the water pipes freeze and your central heating fails so that you have to sit inside wrapped up in your winter coat and your duvet. All there is to watch is the wine freeze in your glass and ice crystals form on the inside of the window instead of the mind alteringly poor television. Let’s have so much snow that Aunty freezes to the toilet and expires with a look of constipated pain on her rapidly solidifying features. Let’s have so much snow that you are trapped in your house with only the fading hope of rescue by the paralysed emergency services who are still desperately trying to dig out their snowploughs and thaw their petrol tanks. Forced to witness the slow indescribably painful deaths of your entire family one by one until you are the only one left you eventually take your own life with a sharpened slice of frozen Christmas pudding. Still want a white Christmas you CUNT?

I still don’t think I have satisfactorily captured the true horror of this time of year but the sheer effort of considering it in all its hideousness is taking it’s toll on my nerves. I must stop before I turn into a shivering jelly of psychological trauma.

Merry fucking Christmas.

This year dataphage will be in Fiji for Christmas, far from family and the madding crowd, not to mention turkey and Slade records. Something that pleases him greatly (posted from Noosa in Australia's sunshine coast).

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

ever have trouble finding your banana in the dark?

Then what you need is a glow-in-the-dark bananaguard.

Alternate uses for this odd bit of plastic on a postcard please.

breakfast

I think it's going to be quite an inspiring day, I may even post more than one thing today, which would make this the most successful day ever for this blog.

The day had quite an inspiring start. It being a friend's birthday we went to a pub for breakfast. A pint of Guiness before you've had anything to eat can be quite an inspiring experience. Not quite as inspiring however as watching your friends do lines of coke off the table after eating the biggest, meatiest fry-up I have ever eaten. That was very inspiring.

My filth levels aren't quite set as high. A full English and a pint of Guiness is about all I'll stretch to on a weekday. I finished my pint and went to work.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

no it's not working...

...I still don't want to post anything. It's all too boring, I can see I'm going t have to keep a diary of some kind.

Friday, March 19, 2004

pigeons

According to my television pigeons do not have a stupendous sense of direction granted them by some weird sixth sense. Instead they follow the roads. They do not in fact sense the earth's magnetic field but have a copy of the AA road atlas. The overactive imagination kicked in almost immediately:

"Coo coo....Ere, 'scuse me mate. *flap flap* Do you know how I get to Walton-on-the-Nase from 'ere do you. Only I've just got off the M11, traffic was shocking, droppin' out of the sky they were, and I'm a bit lost."

"Coo, er yeah. Always gets like that at this time of day. Walton-on-Nase? You're almost on top of it. Coo coo. Carry on down here for about a mile, left at the roundabout past the Red Lion on your left. *flap flap* Good bit of lunch there, picnic tables outside, messy eaters, crumbs everywhere if you know what I mean, barmaid's a bit soft-headed might be good for a free lunch, nudge wink etc. Coo, coo *flap flap* Two miles after that take right at the reservoir and just follow your beak. Can't miss it."

"Cheers mate. Coo coo. I've made it all this way from Doncaster *flap flap* but its always the last few miles that get you innit?"

"You've got that right. Cooo coo. By the way there's a bastard of a ginger cat that creeps up on you at the birdtables in Walton, watch your step. Good luck." *flap flap flap....glide* Thinks: didn't warn him about the fifteen year old with the airgun, oops.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

word of the day

Spatchcock: a young game bird split up the middle? I say, the word really is as rude as it sounds.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

the therapeutic hammer

My work has become consistently easier since I started using a claw hammer as a paperweight. For some reason people don’t ask stupid questions or bug you with irrelevant rubbish when there is a hammer sat on your desk. Getting rid of people that you aren’t too keen on talking to has become a matter of looking at them in a curious manner and slowly walking your hand towards the handle. My laptop seems to have taken the hint and has behaved itself remarkably well ever since I got my new paperweight, operating crash free for nearly a fortnight now. It clearly feels vulnerable. Even telephone conversations have become shorter, more to the point and more successful. Obviously this is a result of the confidence and assertiveness that the hammer instils in me rather than some mystical property of the hammer itself but is still no bad thing (not that I was short on either confidence or assertiveness to start with). Throughout the first three days of this week I didn’t have my hammer and I was having a very bad week, things weren’t getting done, I couldn’t concentrate and people wouldn’t give me a straight answer. Yesterday I put it back on my desk and miraculously things begun to turn around. In short, I have a better day when the hammer is on my desk.



I came to have a claw hammer on my desk as I was moving offices and taking apart and re-building furniture required the purchase of a hammer (on expenses naturally). I found something comforting about the hickory handle and the heft of the thing. I found myself strangely unwilling to let go of it so on my desk it stayed. I began to notice the curious effect it had on my colleagues and even the facilities maintenance guys, who surely must be used to the sight of a co-worker with a claw hammer. One of the boiler-suited knuckle-draggers had to stand on my desk to get to an access panel, seeing the hammer he rather sarcastically asked whether I had a lot of use for that in my job. Putting my head on one side and with a slightly distant smile I told him that he would probably be surprised. I turned back to my laptop and began to type furiously. He did his work swiftly, with none of the usual requests for cups of tea, cursing or obscure questions about the air conditioning, and left without another word.

The hammer effect is even more pronounced on the people with whom I work directly. A lot of my colleagues are trained counsellors and therapists and so are trained to read behaviour and interpret it. This also means that they are extremely adept at emotional and behavioural manipulation and often when told they can’t do something or given bad news will try to get around it somehow or offload it onto someone else. Often they attempt to hijack you whilst you are off guard. They arrive at the office unannounced with a written list of questions which they interrupt your work to ask you, as if you were some kind of all-seeing oracle. I have tried to explain to them that email would allow them to ask these questions from afar and would elicit a far more considered and accurate response. However, therapists almost universally regard technological means of communication with suspicion and in any case want to be there in person to read your behaviour. Whilst talking to you they adopt their listening poise of open body language and neutral face but with intense eye contact. This is extremely off-putting and induces random attacks of guilt for no good reason. You continually check yourself to make sure that you are telling the truth. Much of the time you aren’t and are having to tell them half-truths and be a little loose in your use of words doing so. Not giving this away in your body language and eye movements is a real skill. Thankfully I have some acting experience which comes in very handy for this, but distraction techniques are even better, and far more amusing. If a therapist can’t concentrate on you they can’t interpret your behaviour and jump to daft conclusions. I have employed various methods of doing this. Refusing to make eye contact and instead looking intently at whichever ear is closest to you is a good one. If they start to cotton on to this look at the tip of their nose instead, this is particularly effective as it makes you look very slightly cross eyed. Therapists are a naturally empathic lot and in conversation will usually do everything they can to avoid mentioning your “visual impairment”. Eyeing them up also works a treat as not only is this overstepping the “boundaries” of work but also the vast majority of them are the best part of twenty years older than me, of a variety of genders and sexual orientations. They will again be trying not to ask about sexual preferences in case you are a little sensitive about it. They won’t know whether to feel flattered or threatened.

Whilst effective as these games are they have only a limited lifetime with each individual. You have to balance how well each of the therapists feel they know you with how much you use each technique as eventually they will ask what the hell you think you are doing. The hammer has proved far more effective than any of these techniques, stopping awkward questions dead and actually preventing many of the problems from coming up in the first place. Attempting to negotiate with someone who keeps a claw hammer on their desk is probably not advisable. For this reason the hammer may prove to be a little more recyclable. For long periods of harmonious working the hammer may not make an appearance at all but as the therapists become more uppity and work becomes a little more fraught the tip of the handle may be visible protruding from a drawer. As things become more difficult I may hang it off the arm of my chair by its claw or have it nestled in my lap. I intend to experiment with the hammer effect by taking it to meetings and looking everyone in the room straight in the eye before slowly placing the hammer within reach, and perhaps periodically stroking it. I have a feeling that average meeting times will drop sharply and discussions will suddenly become calm, rational and well reasoned rather than impassioned and lively. Deliberately dropping the hammer at some point so that it clatters across the floor, waiting until everyone looks at me and then calmly saying “oops” before picking it up is well worth a go. The possibilities are quite mind boggling: combining the hammer dropping with a Herbert Lom style twitch, maybe even a giggle or two, using it as a gestural implement or a pointer in presentations, the list goes on. Not overdoing it will be the key to sustainability. Over-use of the hammer may result in me getting sacked for being a swivel-eyed maniac that menaces his co-workers with hand tools, which isn’t something I do, much.

Strangely it was the one therapist that I never have to distract and who is cooperative and helpful who has no problem with the hammer on my desk and who first called it The Therapeutic Hammer. I think his idea of this that if we were having a hard day we should take something satisfyingly smashable into the courtyard with the hammer and beat it ‘til it breaks. I’m finding my use of it far more therapeutic though.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

you never know it might work

For the past bloody ages I've been meaning to start writing again but never seem to get round to it. Even when I had the time to write I blew it on learning to do web stuff. Whilst that does mean that I now have my own web resources I haven't written anything in bloody ages and I haven't written anything good in even longer. I'm hoping that having a "blog" will force me back into writing. Though I have no idea what I'll write, I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Having thought about it for the best part of a pico-second the word "blog" has now got me in a lather. What an uncomfortable piece of slang. What was wrong with web-log? Or is that the limit of geek? Unnecessary neologism makes the language difficult to use and confusing to the dyslexic i.e me.

Whilst no technophobe I am beginning to be increasingly baffled by what technology is doing to the English language. The horrific combination of teenagers and mobile phones produced a confusing mixture of laziness and communication in the form of the abbreviated text message language that they created. This reduced teenagers, never the most comprehensible of life-forms, to strings of consonants that would have had Roland Barthes jumping up and down and frothing in Gallic glee. The worst thing about this was not that it made its way into mainstream culture so quickly but that my mother started using it. That is of course after she figured out how to send text messages, a respectable two years after first being given a mobile phone. I now get text messages at work from her while she is on holiday in Africa that I have to decode before I realise she's just boasting about her holiday.