Thursday 28 January 2010

Lost Temple

Getting lost is a specialist art. It takes training, dedication and a unusual aptitude. Like much we take for granted in the western world, this skill was refined during the Ming Dynasty in China.

Monks were trained at the Lost Temple in the ancient art of Whereami. Not just anyone could be trained, there was a rigorous trial of entry. Those who sought the Lost Temple were turned away. Those who had just popped out of Beijing for a daily paper, some tea bags and a pint of milk ten days earlier and stumbled upon the temple were welcomed with open arms.

Training was harsh with few comforts and there were many disciplines to grasp before graduating as a Black Belt Master of Whereami. The nature of many of these disciplines were lost in time but a few are known from some scraps of paper found outside a newsagents near Beijing:

  • Whataroad: getting hopelessly lost whilst holding the map upside down in your hands.
  • Nootherleft: taking the wrong turning whilst being told which way to go by your partner.
  • Minesalargeone: being too blotto to get home and ending up in another pub.
  • Goneagain: actually finding the right place by accident and then convincing yourself it isn't and going off again.

The continuing liberalisation of China and the increased understanding of the need to get lost, the original Lost Temple has again become accessible to westerners.

Early in 1981 I went out of my house in Slobbering-under-the-Bed to buy some cat food. After six weeks of walking and hitching I arrived at the Lost Temple. I knocked on the huge wooden door.

"Hi, anyone in?" I yelled, "Do you sell cat food?"

"Are you lost?" came a reply.

"I don't know, that depends."

"Upon what?"

"Well, if you sell cat food, I'm not lost you see, and I can be on my way back home."

"So, if we didn't you'd admit you were lost?"

"No, I'd go and look somewhere else." I said, looking uneasily around at the empty fields. Empty apart from this one impressive building. Somewhere else didn't look much of an option.

Another, older voice spoke, "Train this one. I sense great promise in him. Or maybe it's my lunch."

The doors swung open. A tall young monk and a shorter, much older monk stood in front of me.

The older monk spoke to the tall young monk, "You may go about your duties," he said. The young monk turned, opened a door and stepped smartly through it. There was a crash. A pile of buckets, brooms, mops and at least one tall young monk fell across the floor.

Seeming not to register what he had seen, the older monk then turned to me, "Follow me," he said, without much conviction in his voice. He opened a door and we stepped into a lavatory. "I have a very nice office," he said, "at least I'm told it's very nice. I've got no idea where it is - I do have a map. Never mind, this'll do."

So began my training.

After many years I graduated a Black Belt Master of Whereami.

The picture below is of the class of '85 just before graduation standing in front of the Lost Temple:

I never did get the cat food.

Friday 22 January 2010

The 'I' of the Beholder

"So what does the I in iDifficult stand for? I understand the Difficult bit well enough."

"It's a bit like Inspector Morse. Enigmatic," said I.

"So it's short for Inspector?"


"Or is it a play on iPhone or iMac?"

"No and No."

"Is it short for Intelligent?"

"Oh please! Guess again, if you must," gritted teeth.

"How about Indigo, as in Indigo Roth? You are his evil twin after all."

"Indigo Difficult? Has your head come unscrewed? Besides twins usually share a surname. And before you start, it isn't Indiana either - I wasn't named after the family dog."

"Or like I in I, Claudius?"

"If it were then I'd write it I, Difficult. But I'm not a bloody Roman emperor, am I?"

"You could be in disguise."

"Do I look like I'm in disguise? No, don't answer that!"

"Is it Ian? Are you Ian Difficult? I went to school with an Ian."

At this point I shot him.

Tuesday 19 January 2010

I'm on the phone

Well I would be, if I could get decent reception. I checked on a map today and discovered why it is so hard for me to get my cell phone to text, make phone calls or, damn me for trying, use the internet on the move. I have highlighted certain features to aid understanding.

I don't know about you but I'd never noticed the big, red painted, mile high lead wall between the only mobile phone transmitter mast in the whole country and where I live Slobbering-under-the-Bed and where I work in The Big Smoke.

I'm sure it wasn't there when I did geography.

Monday 18 January 2010

Mind, found missing

A couple of times a week Mrs Long-Suffering goes to work early and I take Fluffy Daughter to Breakfast Club. It is always a bit of a rush and I miss things. Last week I forgot Fluffy Daughter's glasses and it took her half an hour to get out of the classroom at going home time 'cos she couldn't see the door.

So this morning I was determined not to get anything wrong.

Fluffy Daughter dressed in school uniform. Check.

Packed lunch and drinks done. Check.

Guinea Pigs fed. Check.

Cat in kitchen. Check.

Me washed and dressed. Check.

Fluffy Daughter has glasses. Check.

Go outside and lock front door. Check.

Drive to school and park. Check.

Make sure Fluffy Daughter is happily having breakfast of her choice. Check.

Kiss Fluffy Daughter goodbye. Check.

Drive to station in correct car. Check.

Park car. Check.

Train arriving shortly at platform 2. Check.

Stand on platform 2. Check. Look down.

Non-matching footware fitted. Check. No hang on! Bugger!

Friday 15 January 2010

A Funny Thing Happened to me on the Way to the Curry House

There are risks associated with every area of human endeavour. I've tried throughout my life to keep these risks as low as possible. Tree climbing. No, not for me. Shrub climbing is much safer. Sky diving is exciting but much too dangerous. Instead I joined the Slobbering-under-the-Bed Ground-diving club.

We get together wearing ski-suits and old rucksacks on our backs, stuffed with a sheet and a piece of stout string attached. We find a field and lie down in one of a number of classic formations. It's like free-fall but without the falling. The picture below is our recent triumph. Never before have we managed a 13 person formation.

I digress from the tale I was planning to tell you. There I was standing in Slobbering-under-the-Bed's high street. I was wearing my flame-retardant underpants. Safety first I say. Who knows when you might have a quite amazingly hot curry?

Out of the darkness (there are still no working streetlamps), came a old style red London bus. This, I thought, is somewhat odd. Slobbering isn't anywhere near London, and, even there, this type of bus was retired five or more years ago.

Also, like most things about my home town, it's own native buses run routes no one would want. Well, no one who didn't need quite a lot of help in the noggin department would want. There are so many pointless routes, of which these are my favourites:
  • SW1 - Open topped tourist bus that does a complete circuit of Slobbering's fine sewage works.
  • SB1N - School night service. Runs from midnight to six in the morning. The SB1 daytime service was cancelled because picking up and setting down all those schoolchildren was making the service run late.
  • TC2 - A circular route with only one stop. The other was closed because the local residents complained about the noise of the bus. You can board at the town centre and after a journey of nearly an hour, disembark at the town centre. It's very popular amongst folk who believe they are going to be re-incarnated as goldfish.
I digress again. The bus had a conductor. I got on and the bus started moving. Mr Conductor had one of those wonderful metal ticket machines with dials and a handle. He turned the handle and cranked out a small paper ticket.

"One and a ha'penny sir"

I rummaged in my pocket for some pre-decimalisation currency. Pounds, shillings and pence. Love it. Bound to have something prior to 1971 in my pocket. Whilst I was searching, I made idle conversation, "Aren't you a little out of your way here?"

"No, sir, not at all. We've always run this route. Same route since 1959. All weathers."

"I've never seen this bus before," I said, sense of curiosity somewhat a tingling.

"You've probably not been ready. Not quite in the right frame of mind. Now where would sir like to go?"

I found the money and handed it over. "I'm not sure. Can I ask where this bus goes?"

"Surely you should have done so before you got on and bought a ticket? Sir is now committed to his journey."

I looked off of the open back of the bus, but there was nothing but grey. I sat down next to one of the other passengers. "Can I come along for the ride and decide later where I am going?" I asked the conductor.

"If sir wishes, then you may." There was a hollow, far away tone to his voice.

I spoke to the chap I sat next to. "Hi, how are you doing? I'm iDifficult. Where does this bus go?"

"Are you one of Henry's men too?", he said.

I recognised the voice. "Haven't we met before?"

"Yes, I think we did. In your wooden hut. I was on my mower. Went back through the tunnel and a Frenchman got me with his fiendish weapon," he opened his coat to reveal a French loaf protruding from a seeping hole in his chest. "We routed them Frenchies though." he added proudly, "Made 'em sit upstairs too we did."

This it has to be said, was something of a conversation stopper. I didn't much fancy looking at the unnatural hole in the mans chest, so I turned the other way. The girl on the other side didn't have much of a neck and the top of her head was unusually flat. "Suicide," said the man with the bread. "Jumped off something, stupid thing to do if you ask me."

"Nobody did ask you. Paralytic-in-the-Wardrobe's Pier," she said sadly by way of an explanation, "the tide was out."

The penny dropped and I yelled, "Excuse me. Mr Conductor. I need to get off this bus. I'm not dead!"

"If you take up extreme sports, sir can expect to die occasionally," said the conductor calmly. He had very deep-set eyes and somewhat hollow cheeks. He looked like he could really do with a visit to the Euthanasia.

"I'm not dead. Anyhow you said extreme sports?"

"Sky diving. As I said, sir can expect to die occasionally."

"I do Ground-diving. I was never more than six inches off the ground. No one has ever died doing Ground-diving. Although, admittedly, Alfred had a pretty close miss with a combine harvester last Tuesday."

The conductor looked me up and down. Then down and up for good measure. He took my wrist and felt it with his cold boney hand. He looked crestfallen. "Bugger," he said under his breath. "Can I see your ticket please?"

"You only just sold it to me."

"TICKET INSPECTION!" he shouted.

Reluctantly I held out the ticket. "Well, that's a first," and then more slowly, "I seem to have sold sir a return."

Tuesday 12 January 2010

Living like Roth

Those of you who have read Indigo Roth's blog must wonder what a day in the life of the man is like. Or indeed a morning. Being intensely private (apart from writing everything he does in a blog), I can only imagine what his routine is like.

Roth's Diary - Tuesday

7:30: Woke to the sound of Bear having a shower. Hope he doesn't use all the water. Or the shaving foam.

7:45: Order an extra large deep pan meat feast with green chilli and lashings of extra sauce. There's nothing like a good breakfast to set one up for the day.

7:47: Check blog visitor stats.

7:50: Make triple espresso. Shaken, not stirred.

8:00: Pizza arrives.

8:01: Finish pizza and recycle box.

8:05: Shower and morning ablutions.

10:35: Dress in Savile Row suit and choose a matching tie.

10:40: Pick out coat. Accidentally fumble a button and watch coat turn into Christmas Pudding and catch fire.

10:45: Pat out remains of previous coat and put in bin. Consider written complaint to Q.

10:50: Put on second coat, but much more carefully.

10:55: Go downstairs and read mail. There is a short note from the neighbours complaining about the half-eaten wildebeest on the back lawn and King rummaging through their freezers when they were out.

11:00: Leave house and get in Aston Martin. Adjust door mirrors. Looking good. Set car for semi-invisible. What's the point of looking this good if no one can see you?

11:05: Spot periscope poking through drain grill at the end of the drive. Text iDifficult and ask him how he is.

11:06: Periscope vanishes and a text reply appears - "Should I turn left for the North Sea or right? Navigating a nuclear submarine through the sewers of Paralytic-in-the-Wardrobe is not easy you know."

11:07: Text back - "Left, then straight on"

11:08: Drive to Mayfair in London to meet my contact.

12:35: Park Aston Martin. Set invisibility full on. Less parking tickets that way.

12:40: Speak to contact with secret code phrase: "My grandmother feeds her kippers with mashed potato." The man replies: "This is a greengrocer. Secret service is next door." "Oh."

Due to the official secrets act and state security we shall leave Roth's day there. I'm fairly sure there must have been a further pizza. Possibly a curry and several more espressos.

Monday 11 January 2010

Extra Special

It was a dark night in Slobbering-under-the-Bed's unique high street. This was partly because it was the middle of winter, but mostly because the street lights were still broken from my last visit. In any other town they'd have pulled their fingers out and got some replacement bulbs. Not Slobbering's Council, oh no. Not them.

Slobbering-under-the-Bed has a particularly active and adventurous town twinning policy. The town is twinned with the Bermuda Triangle and Atlantis. The whole town council has been missing on twinning duties for nearly nine months. I am eager to see the Atlantean delegation on the return visit. The Bermuda Triangle delegation had arrived on a large sailing vessel, but when townsfolk went on board, there was no-one there, although the table had been set for dinner.

I was planning to meet up with Roth. I could see him looming down the street. I continued to lurk near a streetlight. It's a division of labour thing. Demarcation - he does the looming and I do the lurking. He did try to teach me how to loom, but I just don't have the talent for it.

Roth arrived. I opened my mouth to greet him, but was interruped by a small dapper waiter, dressed in a fine flame-retardant evening suit.  He seemed to have appeared out of nowhere.

"Would sirs like to order?" he explained further, "It'll save time. I can run ahead and the chef can be cooking before you even get there..."

"Why the rush?" I asked. I didn't ask how he knew we were going there, or where he'd appeared from. That was old ground and it was most unlikely I would get a better explanation than I had before.

"Sir wouldn't want to be late, would sir?"

"Late for what?" we said in unison.

"You'll see. No time to loose. I'd recommend the Extra Special." He hands us a menu each.

I glance at the menu and spot the Extra Special, "Oh. That looks nice. Minimum 2 people, needs to be ordered 48 hours in advance... Hang on, we can't have that, can we?"

"I said I'd run on ahead, sir"

Roth looked at me with the quizzical, one eyebrow raised look he learned off of Roger Moore. He'd nearly perfected it. When we looked back for the waiter, he'd gone. There was pudding to order, dammit.

We set off down the street for the Euthanasia Curry House. We arrived and the waiter took our coats. Mine growled at him, leapt out of his hand onto a nearby hook and continued a low level snarling. The waiter was left holding Roth's coat. He obviously fumbled a button by mistake, because it transformed into a Christmas Pudding and caught fire.

"Q said that'd be useful." muttered Roth, "I still can't see how."

"Does it contain nuts?" I suggested helpfully, "Useful against megalomaniacs with peanut allergies. Or maybe you could just throw it at them?"

"You're just in time," the waiter said with slight disapproval in his voice. Although he didn't say it, he clearly thought we could have made more effort, time wise. Or maybe he just didn't like our coats. "Would sirs like your usual booth, we've just finished re-building it after your last visit."

We sat down. The waiter lit the spring loaded candle. It shot flaming into the ceiling as soon as he turned his back.

With barely a delay the Extra Special arrived. It looked and smelled magnificent. Bits of it were bubbling. The occasional chilli broke the surface. I felt a strong relationship to this dish, like I imagine Captain Ahab might have had to the Whale.

Being on a single dish of the finest weapons grade stainless steel, Roth and I split the dish neatly in two and created a small no-man's-land between the halves. A period of silence with only the flash of fork, knife and spoon began. Errol Flynn would have been proud.

A waiter greeted a guest at the door. "How's the filming of Captain Blood going?"

"Very well. Loads of sword fights. Love it." The guest looked over at our silent but animated eating. "Damn, I'd be proud of that!"

We finished the main course, and after a short but polite pause a waiter cleared the debris that was left of the Extra Special. "We have but one pudding on this evening," he said once he had finished, "But it is a one off, worth all the hurrying. Crème brûlée. I'd strongly recommend to sirs. The chef hates being turned down, it ruffles his fur terribly."

Presently two huge furry paws placed two giant, but crisp and golden Crème brûlées between us. Roth looked up and smiled broadly. On seeing the teeth I fumbled in my pocket for a crucifix.

"Bear!" yelled, greeted and enthused Roth.

"Bare what?"

"Behind you!"

I turned. Roth's friend Bear was the guest chef. "Singed my paw fur playing the blowtorch on those I did, so enjoy", I distinctly heard him say, although his mouth didn't seem to move.

Gratitude and Thanks

This blog you are so very kindly reading has received not one but two awards in this last week. This constitutes a cracking start to 2010. 

The first award is from my best mate, fellow blogger and nut-house fodder, Indigo Roth. He has sent me the wonderful Feels like Home award:

One of the conditions is that I need to pass this onto five other bloggers who make me feel welcome in their strange worlds:
The second award is from the Cat Lady herself - the I'm a BadAss award:

I shall do my very very best to live up to the accolade.

Wednesday 6 January 2010

2012 Olympics

The London 2012 Olympics are being held at a number of venues outside of London in addition to inside the big smoke. All over the country in fact. I am very relieved to hear that Slobbering-under-the-Bed has, after a short battle with neighbouring towns, won the right to host the Apathy events.

Apathy is a small range of events introduced especially for the 2012 games. The Apathy Events are:
  • Synchronised Apathy where a small team can't be bothered to do anything or think about it. Together. In formation. 
  • Triple-Apathy where one athlete can't be fussed about three different things in quick succession. This is also known as the Hop, Skip and Bluuuuh.
  • Ap-Cycle. Sitting dead-still on a bicycle, without putting legs down and falling over sideways.
The mayor of Slobbering, Sir Percy Snodburger, gave an interview to the local paper, when they could be bothered to turn up, praising local Synchronised Apathy team members, Mavis, Joe and Edna. He is reported as saying "We have a world class team here. Edna's recent death has only improved her performance, and we are hoping that Mavis and Joe may pop their clogs before 2012. We're going for gold, silver, perhaps bronze. Well, we'll turn up. Probably."

Monday 4 January 2010


My greengrocer has a wonderful selection of fruit and vegetables. He sells celeriac, can spell it and knows how to hurl it at a shoplifter and get him squarely on the hoodie. He has a few under-the-counter items too. Often a customer would come away sheepishly with a small brown bag. I witnessed the following dialogue:

"Umm, errr", muttered customer, blushing slightly.

"Something for the weekend, sir?", says greengrocer in a sotto voice, pointing at the counter.

"Umm, errr, yes. Please", scarlet customer says.

"The ladies love 'em", he adds with a knowing grin, "About 3 lb fine with you?"

Scarlet customer nods, and retracts head further into coat.

Greengrocer hands him a small brown bag in exchange for some notes and coins of the realm and the customer hurries away.

Afterwards, he looked over to me. "Confession is good for the soul", he said and adjusted his cassock.

"You told me a while ago you weren't in that business?"

"Diversification my boy, diversification", he grinned broadly. I thought about posting letters. "You've seen corner shops containing small Post Offices, I suppose? Well, I had a word with the Vatican and they said they'd consider my idea".

"What idea?", I asked, puzzled.

"Opening a small church inside my greengrocers shop", he said, still smiling. "I've got the new name going up later this afternoon. St Tuppence-a-Pound. Good egh?"

Quick change of subject needed, I thought.

"What did that man want?", I said, referring to the puce gentlemen with no neck buying a paper bag from under the counter.

"Him. Oh, that's Mr Smith - I'm sure that's not his real name - buying sprouts for a roast dinner this weekend. I've convinced him they're banned since we adopted the European Charter of Human Rights.", he grinned again, but much more broadly still. I wrote out next year's Christmas cards. "I charge him £1.50 per sprout, fantastic!"

"Should you be doing that, I mean especially since you're a man of the cloth, so to speak?" I tried to keep the disapproval out of my voice.

"Yeah, apparently I can stand in my own confessional for half-an-hour and I'm all straight. I used to agonise for days when I overpriced or sold rotten fruit and veg. Last week when I sold you seventeen red snooker balls and told you they were really hard, really fresh tomatoes and needed plenty of cooking I could bearly look myself in the eye", he caught my stare, "Bugger! I shouldn't have said that should I?"

"Oh that's why! Explains almost everything. I fed them to my tortoise".

"I'm sorry."

"No you're not. I came out half-an-hour later and he'd painted one white, one black and was well on his way to a break of 147"