Monday, August 27, 2007

Nutter on the bus

Remember the Jasper Carrott sketch from the 70s, "The Nutter on the Bus"? Well you might if you are a certain age, but if not you can listen to the sketch here, but if you can't wait for it to load, it goes something like this:

When the nutter gets on the bus, why does the nutter always sit next to me?

I was on the bus the other day and I could hear this nutter getting on behind me. I can tell he's a nutter because he's calling out...

'Eeek! Has anyone seen my camel!!?'

And everyone on the bus is praying quietly ‘Please God don’t let the nutter sit next to me. I’ll do anything you want but please don’t let the nutter sit next to me’

Nutters love showing you things, "I've got an atom bomb in here!"

And he shows me a corned beef tin ...

Well once you've got the nutter everyone else can enjoy it...

Anyway this sketch came to mind this week when Radio 5 Live had on a very strange man indeed. Some bloke called Theodore Zeldin (which is a name for a mad professor, if ever I heard one), who claims that a new pressing issue for humanity is the need for real conversation. I could name a few more pressing ones, but I listened on.

Work, the decline of the family, cars and technology have, he says, all helped to isolate us and he feels it's his duty to try to make us all sit down and talk face to face about things that really matter. OK I think to myself, fair enough.

But what does he do to facilitate this? He holds a birthday party at his house which is only for strangers, who are prepared to hold conversations off a menu of his devising!

Quite apart from the fact that going on the radio and inviting everyone over to your address (with postcode) is plainly batty behaviour, he was very strange with the callers. He was quite agressive actually. He berated, one woman for engaging in "talk" rather than "conversation" and when she said she wasn't responsible for all the pain and suffering in the world so wasn't going to let it get her down, boy did he give her jip!

Lots of (predominently northern) people rang in to say they talked to everyone, on the bus, in the street, on planes; and others (mainly southern) texted in saying they died a thousand deaths when such ghastly people attempted to talk at them on journeys. Naturally Jasper Carrott's sketch sprang to mind.

Then I got an email with the solution.

The next time you find yourself on a plane, train or a bus sitting next to someone who cannot resist chattering to you endlessly, I urge you to quietly pull your laptop out of your bag, carefully open the screen (ensuring the irritating person next to you can see it), and hit this link

Be part of the problem!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Rum, sodomy and the lash....

How would Nelson have fared if he had been subject to modern health and safety regulations?

"Order the signal to be sent, Hardy."

"Aye, aye sir."

"Hold on, that's not what I dictated to the signal officer. What's the meaning of this?"

"Sorry sir?"

"England expects every person to do his duty, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religious persuasion or disability. What gobbledegook is this?"

"Admiralty policy, I'm afraid, sir. We're an equal opportunities employer now. We had the devil's own job getting 'England' past the censors, lest it be considered racist."

"Gadzooks, Hardy. Hand me my pipe and tobacco."

"Sorry sir. All naval vessels have been designated smoke-free working environments."

"In that case, break open the rum ration. Let us splice the main brace to steel the men before battle."

"The rum ration has been abolished, Admiral. It's part of the Government's policy on binge drinking."

"Good heavens, Hardy. I suppose we'd better get on with it. Full speed ahead."

"I think you'll find that there's a 4 knot speed limit in this stretch of water."

"Damn it man! We are on the eve of the greatest sea battle in history. We must advance with all dispatch. Report from the crow's nest, please."

"That won't be possible, sir."


"Health and Safety have closed the crow's nest, sir. No harness. And they said that rope ladder doesn't meet regulations. They won't let anyone up there until a proper scaffolding can be erected."

"Then get me the ship's carpenter without delay, Hardy."

"He's busy knocking up a wheelchair access to the fo'c'sle Admiral."

"Wheelchair access? I've never heard anything so absurd."

"Health and Safety again, sir. We have to provide a barrier-free environment for the differently abled."

"Differently abled? I've only one arm and one eye and I refuse even to hear mention of the word. I didn't rise to the rank of admiral by playing the disability card."

"Actually, sir, you did. The Royal Navy is under-represented in the areas of visual impairment and limb deficiency."

"Whatever next? Give me full sail. The salt spray beckons."

"A couple of problems there too, sir. Health and Safety won't let the crew up the rigging without crash helmets. And they don't want anyone breathing in too much salt - haven't you seen the adverts?"

"I've never heard such infamy. Break out the cannon and tell the men to stand by to engage the enemy."

"The men are a bit worried about shooting at anyone, Admiral."

"What? This is mutiny."

"It's not that, sir. It's just that they're afraid of being charged with murder if they actually kill anyone. There's a couple of legal aid lawyers on board, watching everyone like hawks."

"Then how are we to sink the Frenchies and the Spanish?"

"Actually, sir, we're not."

"We're not?"

"No, sir. The Frenchies and the Spanish are our European partners now. According to the Common Fisheries Policy, we shouldn't even be in this stretch of water. We could get hit with a claim for compensation."

"But you must hate a Frenchman as you hate the devil."

"I wouldn't let the ship's diversity co-ordinator hear you saying that sir. You'll be up on a disciplinary charge."

"You must consider every man an enemy who speaks ill of your King."

"Not any more, sir. We must be inclusive in this multicultural age. Now put on your Kevlar vest; it's the rules."

"Don't tell me - Health and Safety. Whatever happened to rum, sodomy and the lash?"

"As I explained, sir, rum is off the menu. And now there's a ban on corporal punishment."

"What about sodomy?"

"I believe it's to be encouraged, sir."

"In that case... kiss me, Hardy."

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Summer's over

What, you blinked and missed it? Word has it that Father Christmas has already shown up at Harrods.

Well you can't buy a pair of sandals or a swimming cozzie to save your life. What is it with 'getting ready for the next season'? Does no-one actually purchase things when they need them, rather than five months in advance? Is it only me who is either disorganised or impulsive (dependent on your outlook)?

Anyway I spotted this Back to School sale sign, and had to share the lurve...

On a bit of a tangent but not dissimilar tack, my local rag is bleating about the apparent crime wave (that is their take on the fact that this information has been made available under the Freedom of Information Act).

They have this very useful information:

Age of youngest person arrested for gun /firearm possession: 12

What a load of inflammatory alarmist clap trap! The kid in question (not one of mine) had a toy gun that shoots yellow plastic beads!

We do NOT have marauding gangs of gun toting feral children in this sleepy Berkshire backwater. It is frankly pathetic, to log a child with a toy gun as a firearms offense.

What is it with everyone in this country? One minute parents are criticised for wrapping their obese kids in cotton wool and force feeding them a virtual video world. The next a kid out playing with a toy gun is nicked on a firearms charge!

I had some splendid weaponry as a child. (My older relatives had the real deal as they were brought up playing on bomb sites in London, and handguns with live ammunition were widely available). But I was given a tremendous long arm spud gun from the 50s (by an older relative, who had grown out of it) which didn't half make the back of your legs sting when you took a plug. Then I had a proper air rifle. Now I rejoice in a longbow, with which I or my sons, were we so inclined, could do a dammed sight more harm than with an air gun that pings plastic balls.

Surely childhood is the time to work out your cowboys from your indians, to learn your cops from your robbers, by crawling about in the long grass, camouflaged up, armed to the teeth, pouncing on pirates?

Does no-one today remember Peter Pan? The epitome of childhood is the waging of bloodthirsty wars and doing noble and heroic deeds at great personal danger. If we don't expose our children to this traditional role play and physical activity, we are doomed to a nation of children who are either too timid to cross a road alone by the time they go to university, or so insular and anally retentive that they believe on-line gaming to be reality and with no empathy or proper role models, just go and blow people away. For real.

Yes it's obscene that young lads are gunning each other down in their beds and on the streets. But those children have not been allowed to be children. They are old before their time. And some of them are in their graves. Well before their time. Many of these children are bullied into crime by their older 'friends' who hide behind the children's relative immunity under the laws of criminal responsibility. This is different issue. And the mingling is silly tabloid journalism at best, at worst it will lead to a generation of desperately dysfunctional people.

The fear of litigation and the conflation of play with actual crime has led to a dichotomy in society whereby we have the pussycats on the one hand and the thugs on the other.

The Scandinavians are deliberately building risk back into children's playgrounds, the contention being that without risk-taking in play, children do not learn risk assessment and as a consequence are unable to see how to master risk situations when they do arise. Bless 'em, they can actually see that a bit of rope burn and scraped knees make our children safer, not the reverse.

I contend that unless children work out their fantasies with imaginative play in the physical world, they are in grave danger of being unable to cope with the reality that those of my generation know.

There is a bit of a backlash and Conn Iggulden's Dangerous Book for Boys is a joy and a delight to any parent of sons. But even that is tamer than it sounds. To my younger son's great chagrin, there was nothing in it at all about explosions...

Wherever did English childhood go? Where are the endless summers of youth? And what have we in store from a generation of children who never played? Let's build the risk back in and have society grow up a bit by remembering what childhood really is.