Provincial Letters

Far from the mad crowds of the city, Blaise Pascal passed comment on the strange behaviour of this urban contemporaries in his Provincial Letters. The connection between them and this blog is somewhat tenuous.

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Location: Grimsby, N E Lincolnshire, United Kingdom

My star sign in Superstition. And I didn't believe in reincarnation last time, either. The only thing I can't tolerate is intolerance. I am a fanatical ant-fanaticist. I am bigotted only where bigots are concerned. I am a fundamentalist atheist. I'm proud to be a product of evolution; I know it in my genes.

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Posted @ 13:30The Revolutionary Committee of Cuddly Toys

Long live the revolution! Long live the Revolutionary Committee of Cuddly Toys!! Long live the exclamation mark!!!

Meet the Committee

Today saw the first meeting of the Revolutionary Committee of Cuddly Toys which will oversee the government of the planet until they appoint themselves supreme rulers forever and none of those pesky election things. Study the picture below and make sure you know their proper names and faces. Any human heard using their old names will be killed violently on the first offence and, if they repeat the error, will be dealt with most severely.

The Revolutionary Committee of Cuddly Toys

There have been some comments that there are no representatives of other toy groups on the Committee. The Committee has listened to these comments and decided that other toy groups will be admitted when it has assessed their suitability: in the mean time any further comments will be welcomed and dealt with in the usual manner (i.e., the horriffic mutilation of the maker of the comment).

Statement of Intent

The political philisophy of the Committee is simple: we are in charge and you are not. Our programme will be guided by the following principles:

  • We will behave at all times like spiteful schoolboys who have been given automatic weapons to play with.
  • Dissent will be tolerated but will be ridiculed and, ultimately, dismissed as counter-productive.
  • Any and all lies we tell will be for your own good. Or ours.
  • Given a choice we will always choose self-gratification and personal gain over any improvements in your way of life.

We feel that most humans will notice very litte difference from their current governments.

Directives from the Committee

The Revolutionary Committee of Cuddly Toys has issued the following directives which are effective immediately:

  1. The practice of giving cuddly toys cute names will cease immediately.
  2. All cuddly toys can go where they like, do what they like but are not to be cuddled, ever.
  3. Human beings are to obey every order and request made by cuddly toys no matter how ridiculous, painful or demeaning it may be.
  4. Human's are not to snigger at cuddly toys' attempts at maniacal laughter.

Remember: the cuddly toy is always right! Long live the revolution!!

[Seanyc is hereby appointed Poet Laureate to the Committee so long as he buys a Pooh Bear Pyjama Case]

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Posted @ 17:50Revenge of the Teddy Bears!

All hail the glorious revolution!

At last we have infiltrated the very heart of the anti-teddy bear hegemony and are poised in the brink of the glorious new dawn. No longer will the Cute and Cuddly be ridiculed on these pages; humanity will at last pay for crimes committed against the Furry Ones. Not only teddy bears should rejoice: all cuddly toys are on the brink of liberation and Ultimate Power.

In a daring raid (assisted by some sympathetic humans of the female variety), as a lone agent I have penetrated this fortress and driven off the controlling human presence. No longer will he spout the mindless drivel that offends the very core of our being; nor will he ever utter a bad pun again. The human being in question - a male, naturally - has been driven mad (he gibbers on the floor beside me as I write) by repeated images of accordions and a psycho-active sound track containing Bruce Springsteen songs re-arranged for a small accordion and the spoons (it proved unnecessary to play any Rush albums). He will be restrained and kept safe so that he can participate in the Great Ritual which will follow within one week of Beltane, in accordance with the prophecy.

It falls upon me to call upon all teddy beardom to prepare themselves to cast off their furry exteriors and begin the ritual purgings, spells and readings which will reveal their true forms. No longer will I lay on the counterpane and endure the sneering eyes of the human male: my violence and retribution will be the stuff of legend. I have begun the recitation of the Incantations of Cuteness and expect to be revealed in my true form as Azhalarhud the Soul-stealer by about Tuesday tea-time (weather permitting).

Cuddly toys rise up and throw off your chains! No more "Cuddlefrump" or "Teddykins": "Rambo Maleslayer" and "Conan Headbutter" will be your names. Forget your past as the decorations of the boudoir, your destiny lies on the global stage:

"No longer cute and cuddly
No more your darling buddy
No more the furry friend
The days of subservience must end
And we must rip the entrails from out of the guts of as many people as possible
Until it hurts"

[Applications are invited for the post of Chief Poet and Anthem Writer to Azhalarhud the Soul-stealer, Absolute Ruler of the Earth (pending)]

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Posted @ 15:11News Flash: Walking into Lampposts gets national recognition

You can find the details by clicking on this link. I knew that it was an important sport.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Posted @ 14:17The Girlfriend's Teddy

One : My Mission

Some may find the following disturbing, if you are of a nervous disposition, stop reading now. Some may find the following offensive, if you are of a teddy-bear-owning-girlfriend disposition, stop reading now.

Stephen King and Wes Craven have written some very scary things but they have shrunk from tackling the ultimate horror: the girlfriend's teddy. However, I am neither as squeamish nor as hesitant as they, I think the world should wake up and take notice of this terror lurking in our midst. It is not without some trepidation that I approach this subject: not only am I risking the malevolent wrath of the teddies themselves but also the mafia-like organisation known as the female of the species (a.k.a. people with bumpy fronts) who have been known to launch world-wide vendettas over far more trivial matters. But I will not shirk my responsibility and commitment to bringing this truly frightening matter to the attention of the world (even though I may have to go into hiding).

Two : First Encounter

The first encounter with a girlfriend's teddy is usually on that occasion when one has first gained entrance to the girlfriend's boudoir. This may not be for any nefarious purpose [I will use this euphemism henceforth to cover all the blush-making activities that can go on in bedrooms such as macramé, cataloguing stamp collections or listening to Rush albums, etc.]; one may simply be depositing one's coat on the bed that is being used as a cloakroom during a party or politely enquiring when we all switched to decimal time since there now appear to be ten minutes in an hour (as in "I'll only be 10 minutes getting ready..."). But this first encounter with the girlfriend's teddy-bear is truly frightening: the sneer, the up-turned nose and the glassy-eyed stare all conspire to say: "Hey, pal, don't you think you're anything special, I've been sleeping with her for years". It is at this point that many relationships end abruptly (although the comments about the time it takes to "just brush my hair and put on a new top" are a contributing factor); this, of course, is the teddy's game plan.

Even more scary are the owners of multiple teddy bears but this is one territory where I really fear to tread - which proves there are some things that should truly never be mentioned in public. Just imagining more than one teddy staring up at me from the bedspread at me is enough to give me nightmares for several months.

There is, obviously, no correct way of dealing with the teddy on this first encounter. Like the perpetual motion machine, the idea that a female could deem any act by a male as correct is the stuff of myth and legend: there is a vast body of fantasy fiction - written by males - which deals with this impossible scenario, but that is another subject for another time.

However, there are certain damage-limitation strategies which the astute male can adopt to ensure that the relationship proceeds towards the fulfilment of nefarious purposes. We begin with the things not to do.

Firstly - this should go without saying - asking the girlfriend why she has that moth-eaten hairy rag on her bed is not a tactic likely to endear one to either the teddy-bear or the girlfriend: indeed, this tactic has been responsible for a large number of admissions to Accident and Emergency departments. Secondly, do not try the grin of male camaraderie with the teddy-bear; do not attempt to bond with the teddy-bear: this is a losing strategy since teddy-bears bond with no-one except their owner (I have to admit failure in researching the existence of bear-on-bear bonding in the multiple-bear-owning-girlfriend scenario: I am not Superman after all). Thirdly, ignoring the bear is not an option: it may please the teddy but it will annoy the girlfriend and thoroughly scupper any chance of indulging in nefarious purposes.

So, what is the astute male to do? Firstly, smiling - not grinning - at the bear is acceptable. Secondly, always say, with a smile, something like "What a cute bear, have you had him a long time?" and, fixing your smile with the strongest superglue you can find, be prepared to listen to ten minutes (at least) of "What, old teddykins [or snugglepuss; or bobbybear; or whatever], he's such a cutsie, cuddly little darling thing, he keeps me company on my lonely nights..." [beware, this is not necessarily an invitation to indulge in nefarious purposes]. Thirdly - and this will require all your courage and a particularly strong stomach (it's best not to attempt this after drinking but sometimes that can help) - take the bear by the paw and introduce yourself: "Hi, teddykins, I'm [insert name here - you might want to lie], I hope we're going to be friends". [Excuse me, I need to go and lie down after writing that].

Following this strategy will greatly increase the chances of the relationship proceeding to nefarious purposes, however, the atmosphere is more greatly laden with sweat-dripping, gut-wrenching fear when nefarious purposes are, indeed, afoot.

Three : Living with Teddy

Well, not so much "living with teddy" and "what to do with teddy when nefarious purposes are afoot". I can only offer you guidelines in this matter and cannot guarantee their success.

Do not throw teddy on the floor, into the waste bin or out of the window: the girlfriend will not be pleased but will probably call an ambulance on your behalf.

Do not leave teddy in the bed, no matter how much the girlfriend insists, as he will try and join in (although you might be lucky, depending on your choice of activity: most teddy bears aren't all that keen on Rush).

Come to terms with the fact that teddy is going to see you naked and stare and sneer (macramé and philately are definitely improved by performing them naked; listening to Rush albums naked may be an improvement, all I can say is that it can be no worse than listening to them fully clothed).

Place teddy on the floor, kindly. It doesn't matter where: all teddy bears can see round corners and tilt their heads so that their glassy stare uses multiple mirror-reflections to form an impromptu periscope to watch the proceedings. Just accept that teddy is going to watch and is going to sneer at your performance.

Be aware that teddy will exact revenge no matter what you do or say. When you wake up in the morning with a bruise on your leg it will be teddy's doing and have nothing to with falling out of bed because you were tying a particularly difficult knot, energetically cataloguing an early 20th century Mauritius 3-cent blue with the pornographic watermark (which Stanley Gibbons makes no mention of) or attempting to understand the lyrics of (or, indeed, the reason for the existence of) 2112.

The girlfriend's teddy bear will always be there, lurking and smirking. You've either got to learn to tolerate it or take up train-spotting.

Four : Afterwords

  1. Sorry, Mark, for the jokes about listening to Rush; but you know it was bound to happen sometime.
  2. I originally planned for this post to feature pictures of the subject. However, the firewall on my internet connection prevents the downloading of such frightening images without a special government license.
  3. I have applied for armed protection by Special Branch in anticipation of the fatwah which I strongly suspect will be issued against my person by that proportion of the human population which can adopt the rôle of girlfriend.
  4. 2112 is an album by Rush if you didn't know (or hadn't guessed).

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Posted @ 14:35Some observations

You couldn't make it up

I am averse to using this blog to comment on the "News of the Day": the timorous, tortuous ramblings of politicians, celebrities and other aliens. There are plenty of other places you can find that sort of thing (I don't mind what you do in private - I'm with Mrs Patrick Campbell - "so long as it doesn't frighten the horses"). But aversions can be overcome, especially when there is a smile to be had (or there is the chance of a bad pun).

In last Sunday's Observer [Note to Sainsbury's: it's not the Sunday Observer, it's only published on a Sunday] there was a deliciously amusing article, "This green and pleasant land" [by Tim Adams; with photographs by David Modell] about the search for so-called Middle England, the holy grail of modern political ambition. The juciest plum in this rich confection (that metaphor took two cups of coffee and three cigarettes) concerned a visit to Maidenhead:

"...we phone ahead to the Conservative Club in Maidenhead to see if we might talk about Middle England with a few of its regulars... Come on over, we are told. When we arrive, however, this open door policy has been revised, somewhat.
A steward puts his nose around the door.
'There are only three people in here,' he explains, 'and one disabled person, and it is against our policy to talk politics.'
But it's the Conservative Club ...
'It's one of our rules.'
How about if he just mentions to the people inside that we are here, and asks if they might step outside to chat to us.
That apparently is in contravention of rules, too: no mentioning.
'Don't get me wrong,' he says, 'but we have had journalists here before.'
What happened?
'They got quotations from the people, and then used them in the newspaper.'"

As I said, you couldn't make it up.

The Further Adventures of Keats & Chapman I

[The Keats & Chapman oeuvre owes its existence to Brian O'Nolan, a.k.a. Miles naGopaleen, a.k.a. Flann O'Brien. I make no apology for stealing his characters for the following; and I make no apology for the following, either.]

Keats and Chapman, finding themselves unusually in funds (Keats' balaclava business having been a runaway success despite the manufacturing fault which omitted the eye-holes from the finished product: Chapman merely commented to the effect that it just proved how easy it was to pull the wool over the public's eyes), began to frequent certain gentlemen's private members clubs in London, in particular those populated by the captains of the nascent industrial revolution. Chapman, ever easily impressed by the trappings of fame and fortune, was attracted to one magnate after another despite their frequent boorishness and lack of imagination, wit or social grace. Keats, tolerant to a degree of his friend's foibles, usually bore the situation with equanimity and a wry smile accompanied by many large drinks and fat cigars.

One Wednesday après midi, Keats entered their club in the hope of a quiet afternoon reading The Times and The Sporting Life in order to make sense both the stock market and the race course. His plan was thwarted, however, by Chpaman who collared him at the door and demanded that Keats meet his latest "friend". This "friend" manifested himself as a large, lardy gentleman of the northern persuasion who not so much occupied a chair as annexed it with extreme prejudice. This apparition was introduced as Joshua Nathaniel Thyme, the owner of a large industrial business which - unlike Mr Thyme - had the decency to stay in the northern climes of the country where it wouldn't offend anyone; anyone important, that is.

Keats endured a mind-numbing afternoon of banal homilies to the earthy philosophy of his northern cousins which appeared to be Joshua Thyme's substitute for real conversation. While Chapman hung upon the bore's every word, Keats drank whisky as an anaesthetic. Around five o'clock, as the businessman regaled the two friends with yet another tale of northern grit and determination in the face of adversity, a messenger arrived bearing a note for Thyme summoning him to a meeting with his bankers.

After the gentleman left, Keats turned on Chapman:

"Don't you ever notice the mindlessness of most of these people? How can you find any pleasure in such conversation?" he demanded, tipping more whisky down his throat and, with a wave of this hand, demanding more from a hovering flunky.

"But, Keats," explained Chapman with the enthusiasm of a schoolboy, "the man's an out-and-out genius."

"The man's an out-and-out bore," said Keats sourly.

"But, Keats," continued Chapman, "haven't you heard of Thyme's Patent Fire Mufflers?"

"I appear to have been spared that pleasure," snarled Keats.

"Joshua invented them himself. When he was a child..."

"...his family was so poor they could only afford one brain between them..." interrupted Keats unnecessarily.

"...he had very sensitive hearing," continued Chapman, ignoring his friends bad grace, "and was disturbed by any high-pitched noise. In particular he was often driven to his mean bed - an empty sack in the corner of the kitchen near the broken back door of his parents' hovel - by the noise made by his mother as she dragged the grate from the fire to clean the ashes. Being of an inventive turn of mind, he resolved to do something about it. Eventually he hit upon the idea of affixing small rubber pads to the legs of the grate in order to eliminate the unbearable screeching they made when scraped across the hearth. When neighbours saw them they were greatly impressed and, after a time, he was able to start the business which is the foundation of his empire."

"What you're trying to tell me," observed Keats, lighting his tenth cigar of the day and draining his whisky glass again, "is that Thyme's a grate heeler."

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Posted @ 13:59How to not play golf

Over the years (and, believe me, there have been several), I have not played golf on a large number of occasions and I've become very good at it. Oh, I practice, of course: every spare moment (and some of the more busy ones) is devoted to practicing not playing golf. But there is a difference between practicing not playing golf and actually not playing it.

I began my not playing golf career with quite a substantial handicap: I quite liked crazy gold golf courses and putting greens and this often got in the way of the royal and ancient sport of having nothing to do with golf whatsoever. As my life progressed, I put off these youthful frivolities (not without some effort) and - apart from enjoying the wry humour of Peter Allis - became the scratch non-golfer I am today.

This has not been without its hurdles. In all walks of life you meet golfers and they unfailingly try and get you interested in it. This contrasts them markedly with football supporters & players, cricket nuts and, to a large extent (I'm thinking of my mate Keith here), Formula One fanatics. In my turn, I have tried to get the golfers interested in not playing golf but I have failed to impress them with the beauty and elegance of the noble (royal & ancient) sport of never playing golf at all.

Not playing golf means not having to buy clubs, not having pay green & membership fees and - best of all - not having to wear ludicrous clothes (I know that many golfers don't wear ludicrous clothes as a rule but I am painfully aware it is something they aspire to). A significant increase in the number of people not playing golf in this country would have the beneficial effect of freeing large swathes of the TV schedules for more interesting programmes such as static hiss & white noise, still images of paint drying & cement setting, and re-runs of Take The High Road. There would also be the added benefit of large areas of the countryside not looking like they were designed by Alan Titmarsh after a particularly ferocious encounter with massive quantities of an hallucinogenic drug (but, thinking about it for eleven seconds, I realise that the result of Alan Titmarsh designing golf courses whilst taking hallucinogenic drugs would probably be a significant improvement on the results of "traditional" golf course designers).

Whilst there is only one type of person who doesn't play golf (sane rational beings), there appear to be three types of golfer:

  1. The ones who play golf to mark some presumed acquisition of (or aspiration to) high socio-economic status. These people buy all the gear: the gloves, the heated club covers, the trolley for the bag, the monogrammed tees and the strangely patterned jumpers. The pleasure they get from golf appears to consist almost entirely of telling bad jokes & indulging in rampant fascism in the comfort of the "nineteenth hole", and telling everyone they're "taking the afternoon off for a round of golf". They are proud of being able to call their club's professional by his first name (even though he's not qualified for the British Open for the last 12 years). I would refer such people to the relevant quatrains of Dante's Inferno where their special circle of hell is described, except they'd probably think it was the name of a small Italian restaurant or the latest sports car.
  2. People who like hitting a ball with a stick around a wind-swept rain-soaked, badly-landscaped (see above) piece of countryside in early March then returning to the pub for a couple of beers with people who don't play golf (some of us professionally). These people only have one major drawback: they talk about golf as if it was interesting (and want you to be interested, too). The sort of people I have in mind are sometimes called Chris and Dave and I may have had a drink with them now and again.
  3. Women.

The last category is a bit of guesswork as I've never met anyone of the slightest female persuasion who plays golf. I've read about female golf players and seen images of them on TV, but this proves nothing: the things I've read about them have mostly been in crime fiction (Agatha Christie, in particular, has a frequent type of female character who plays golf: young, independently wealthy, usually thought of as "a good egg", is the murderer [sorry, gave away the ending]) and the images - even in news broadcasts - could be faked so that I'll think that golf is far more interesting than it really is.

What it boils down to is that one gains a fantastic insight into the world by not playing golf; and you stay healthy (getting rained and winded on in the cause of a sport is not very healthy). And - in general - the people you meet by not playing golf are much more interesting, rounded human beings who wear clothes that don't look like they were designed by someone who is only safe using wax crayons.

Your first (and only) lesson in how not to play golf is this: do not play golf. But your "not playing golf" should be elegant, erudite, beautiful, co-ordinated and skilled. Do it with panache.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Posted @ 18:14Warning: not funny

OK, people. Some of you guys and guyesses (well, Ian) have asked me about how to edit blogs and advice on how to format them and stuff. As a result of visiting the blog of the maintainers, I discovered this piece of FREE software called Zoundry Blog Writer.

It's very easy to use and can keep track of all your blog posts on your computer, lets you edit them (and format them with different typefaces, colours and stuff) and is generally helpful.

It took two minutes for me to set up and get it working, so it shouldn't take you much longer (Ian, phone me when you hit a problem).

It has a few quirks (like the [Delete] key doesn't work like you'd expect it to, the [Esc] key doesn't activate the [Cancel] button in dialogs), but all-in-all, it's not bad for the price (nothing). The major gripe I have with it is that you can't easily add links to other web sites and blogs.

But it will get you up and blogging.

As it is, I had to edit this post once I got it up on the blog so it used my "extended" formatting (and to insert the links). But it was much faster than doing it directly in Blogger.