Thursday, 15 December 2011

A fine helping of festive filth!

Once again folks, it’s that time of the year. The days are getting shorter, the weather is getting colder, and the nation succumbs to another years’ commercialised festivities. Everywhere you turn, a shop is advertising ‘Christmas this,’ and ‘Festive that’. Starbucks have even changed the colour of their take away cups from the standard white, to a more festive red. Wine is no longer poured, it’s mulled, and fat, unemployed alcoholics get their yearly call from the job centre to let them know they have landed the gig of being Santa in your local shopping centre. The nation is swept by Christmas fever and we line our wallets with our hard earned cash and face the crowds to hunt out that festive jumper or pair of socks our nearest and dearest claim to love, yet secret away in that abyss at the back of your wardrobe never again to see the light of day.
Now I never was one to follow conventions, and when I picked this person’s name out of the work secret Santa draw, I saw the potential in present and I acted upon it.
“I’m having a bit of a dilemma,” I said to my most trusted colleague (a kindred spirit if you like), “Do I get her something nice, or do I go for something filthy?”
“Filthy,” she said without having to think. “She’ll love it. And knowing that something filthy came from you, will make her love it even more.”
Yet again, I have to question why people hold a torch to the image of me as some well-spoken, sophisticated individual, when I am clearly not! How long will it take them to finally realise that behind the refined exterior, is pure, unadulterated sin? And so following in this ilk, I returned home to peruse the website of a certain adult shop.
Where to start?
I’m guessing the chocolate body paint probably isn’t a good idea and that most likely means that the ‘strawberry dick lick’ is out of the question? After a brief flirtation with the idea of a phallic shaped shot glass and something suitably creamy (Eggnog maybe?) to accompany it, I return to consulting my colleague before proceeding any further.
Are edible nipple tassells too explicit for secret Santa?
Please say yes. Please say yes and spare me from the embarrassment of actually having to go into said adult shop and purchase this intimate gift. By this time I had already left it quite late and had missed out on the free postage, and even though the allure of an anonymised debit on my account, and ‘discreet packaging’ seemed an offer I would have otherwise been unable to turn down. One can’t be too discreet with these things!
Not at all!!! was the response.
Right, now for some strategic planning. It’s not that I’m particularly embarrassed about going into establishments of this nature (although I don’t make a habit of it I should point out!) but the prospect of having to contest with the smug couple types who go in there to buy their festive underwear in various sizes of debauched is enough to make me queasy. Never mind that slightly maniacal looking spinster type trying to smuggle the latest offspring of the legendary ‘rabbit’ to the tills without drawing too much attention to herself. Well we all know she’ll be having a merry old time this Christmas! But anyway, enough of that. I was on a mission; a quest if you like, to bring filth to the festivities. Unlike the wise men bringing the baby Jesus gifts of gold and spices, I would be bringing something of a less high brow nature!
I was foiled on my first attempt, as the edible nipple tassells has apparently proved popular and sold out, leaving the far less appealing edible ‘g’ string taking its place. It might just be that I’m starting to become a bit prudish, but is there really anything particularly erotic about eating candy that has been next to someone’s back passage? Yes? Really?! You surprise me! This however, was not my main concern; I was still present-less and I needed to act fast. Seeing the frantic looking woman still trying to act casually in the dildo section, I thought it wise to stay away from her. Without displaying any of the outward signs of panic that were starting to bubble up inside, I quickly glanced around the immediate vicinity and that was where I spotted...
Willy Racing! And with a tag line of, see who comes first, how could anyone fail to love this? Surely nothing says Christmas like seeing two wind-up willies having it off across your dining table?
On taking this to the tills the shop gave me an approving smile and asked if this was to be a gift.
“Yes,” I replied, feeling slightly relieved that she didn’t think that this was for my own personal use. Again she smiled.
“And would you like to take advantage of the offer we currently have going on? This clitoral stimulator is half price when you buy anything from the range and it can make a remarkably nice gift?”
“I think that could be taking work based secret Santa a little too far.”
“Well it depends on how well you know them!”
You’ve got to admire her sales pitch, but can you ever really know someone that well?

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Definitely not a dildo!

“What is that?” he said in his thick Brummie accent.
“What is that?” I repeated, with my now trademark eyebrow raise.
“Yea, what is it?” he said again raising the phallic shaped object in his hand as if to get a closer look.
For all of you still trying to guess, the answer is not a dildo, you filthy minded individuals! Who am I kidding? You’re in good company here!
That,” I said, “is a courgette.”
The man working on the till at Tesco looked at me bemused.
“Is that like a cucumber?” he asked.
Of course it isn’t you cretin. Surely to work at Tesco you should at least be able to identify your produce, shouldn’t you? Then I noticed the Trainee badge that he sported proudly on his nylon uniform.
“Yes,” I say, taking the easy way out and avoiding any further conversation. I even gave him the smile that I save for the terminally stupid. Now if that isn’t sympathetic then I don’t know what is?
“Innit?” he replied, nodding his head in approval before putting it into my bag. Goodness knows what he would make of the aubergine that was still to come!
Why is it that every time I go to this particular superstore that I end up having such ridiculous conversations?
I was chided by my work colleagues recently after a trip to Britain’s favourite supermarket where I had an altercation with the check out worker. On placing my Twilight DVD on the conveyor, the attendant examined it carefully.
“You like Twilight?” he said with a sneer.
Don’t. Even. Get. Me. Started.
And then before I realised what I was saying:
“You like working at Tesco?”
I know, that was a pretty low blow and he did look (quite deservedly) downcast. But hang on, this was one of those few occasions when I actually thought of a witty retort and managed to use it. Yet I still felt like a dick.
Oh God, then there was that awkward silence. That LONG and ever increasing silence. How do I escape this? Being vaguely aware of the fact that I was reddening through a combination of embarrassment and exhilaration (at the fact that I actually managed to say what I wanted to, when I wanted to, not some perverted excitement at terrorising Tesco’s uneducated employees!) I plumped for the customary glare. Never fails! Scared into a frantic exaggerated frenzy by the sharp tongued, glaring southerner, I would like to point out that following my outburst I did receive exemplary customer service! Silent! The best kind!
It’s not all one sided though. Oh no! After turning 25 a couple of weeks ago and revelling in the plethora of cards highlighting the fact that I am now officially old, or as one more sympathetic friend’s card denoted; dangerously close to being old, Tesco decided to kick me whilst I was down. On one of my standard trips to the local Express store near my apartment to buy the customary bottle of red after another gruelling day, the Caribbean lady working on the till asked to see my ID. Feeling almost smug as I look up to show her my driving licence she saw my face and responded;
“Oh no, definitely over 25,” she said in lilting Jamaican tones and waved my driving license aside.
Oh well. It’s still Jack: 2, Tesco: 1.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Life's Unanswered Questions?

Last time I had a house party, my parents kindly donated a bottle of Vodka. Said bottle wasn’t just the standard Smirnoff or any of its equally commercial friends. Far from it. This vodka was something really special that had been lurking away with the bottle of Cherry Brandy and some other brown tar-like liqueur in my parent’s alcohol cabinet since... well, a hell of a long time ago!
“Did you know this vodka is from the U.S.S.R?” one of my friends asked.
“Well that must mean its good stuff then,” I reply. The U.S.S.R is Russia, right? I know I teach English but I did get an A* at GCSE geography. Evidently I didn’t take History, otherwise I would have known that the U.S.S.R was dissolved in 1991, which would have meant that in 2010, when I moved into my new flat, this Vodka was upwards of 20 years old. Added to the fact that it was a gift to my dad when he went to Russia (which he hasn’t done since I’ve been alive!) we were probably in for a rough night. After unscrewing the top and practically getting drunk of the alcohol vapour emitted, I decided that this, along with most other vodkas, was not my friend and steered the bottle in the direction of my drink hardened friends. After sinking the majority of the bottle between three of them, by the end of the night it wasn’t their friend either. Even the mention of the dreaded tipple can cause hangover like symptoms; no joke!
Fast forward a year, and after months of trials and tribulations, I was eventually settled in my new abode and ready to warm it in true binge-drinking fashion. Following the customary trip to my parent’s alcohol cabinet, where I managed to unearth a much more palatable bottle of Jack Daniels, and a full, but slightly dubious looking bottle of a Bourbon called Canadian Club whose date of manufacture pre-dated last year’s vodka, I was ready to welcome the revellers. Among the guests were various friends and acquaintances including the colleague who dances like Vanilla Ice and her equally awesome side-kick, the blogging supremo, and most worryingly, the previously mentioned, bad influence and instigator of mischief extraordinaire, Hayley. On spotting the Canadian Club, she remarked with glee that it combined her two most favourite things in life, Canadian’s and whiskey, before setting about devouring the bottle with a little (a lot!) of help from yours truly. If it carried on like this, it was going to be a very messy night!
In order to safeguard my cream carpets from my growing drunkenness, and especially after making such a song-and-dance about everyone bringing non-staining drinks (after all I am now a homeowner, thus take full responsibility for vomit on the carpets, whether mine or otherwise) I decided it was time to steer the gang in the direction of a local cocktail bar, for water of course.
I started to realise that I was on the slippery slope to complete inebriation after trying to limbo under the barrier at the multi-story car park (why we were even in a multi-story car park still remains a complete mystery to me) followed by trying to pole dance on a lamp post.
Just to be on the safe side I carried on drinking as I was pretty sure that I wasn’t entertaining enough already and threw in a few dares just to add to the excitement. After completing many thrusts and singing to randomers, I turned the tables onto someone else.
“Your dare,” I slurred to my colleague, “is to sing ‘You’re just too good to be true’ to that man over there,” as I point vaguely in the direction of someone I’m hoping was male. Surprisingly, not only did she understand what I had asked, she actually did it! If I could do that Ali G style finger clicking and could pull off a fake Reggae accent, now would be the time that I would say Respect! Nonetheless, after harassing the majority of the cliental, it was necessary to make a well timed exit as this was a place that I actually quite like, so didn’t want to run the risk of being ejected... as that would seriously narrow the amount of places that I was able to visit with a shred of dignity intact.
Now for those of you who know Birmingham, there are very few choices to head on to when you are in that state of drunkenness (Broad Street excepted of course, as in fact I was probably way too sober to be heading in that direction!)  apart from the alcohol dependent and wastrel’s Mecca that is Snobs. To give you an idea of the type of place this is, the last time that I had been there (at the end of a date nonetheless... nothing says romance like Snobs!) I witnessed a drunken guy who was passed out on the pavement wet himself. Yet I still went back for more and shamefully, embarrassingly, and probably any other adverbs to describe my drunken actions, this was the second time that I had been to Snobs in the space of a week and if I was not so wasted at this stage I would have been thinking please don’t recognise me, but instead focused on please let me not seem too drunk to be refused entry!
And this leads me on to how I decided on the title for this blog; Life’s unanswered questions, (and don’t worry, I’m not about to get all deep and philosophical and break the habit of a lifetime!)
But I will now pose the following questions:
After discovering the Facebook status... Jack is lost somewhere is Snobs, a particularly sympathetic friend pointed out that it is laid out in a circular pattern and so forming the first question of How the fuck can you get lost in a circle? Well it’s not exactly an unanswerable question if you subtract the near lethal quantities of alcohol from the equation, but it’s still a bit of a doozy.
The second question: What exactly did happen in those three (yes three) hours that I spent at Snobs until four in the morning? Which the leads me onto my third, and most puzzling question.
What. The. Hell. Were we all doing that night to mean that the hardened 6 who remained until the bitter end, woke up the next morning (admittedly horribly hung-over/ still drunk in my case) with our necks completely locked?!
Answers on a post card please.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Don't mess with the routine.

Every day at 6:11 my alarm clock goes off, happily telling me that it’s time to start my day. I then happily ignore it and put the snooze on.
Every day at 6:16 the snooze on my alarm clock goes off, telling me more firmly that I really should be getting out of bed by now.
Then, at 6:17 I check Facebook on my phone (naturally!) to see what excitement has happened since I last checked it, seven and a half hours previously when I went to sleep, no later than 22:40.
All this means that by 6:19 I can be in the shower and by 6:31 I can be sitting down watching Bill and Sian on BBC Breakfast, munching on a Pop-Tart and feeling a lot more human and a lot less like the walking dead.
Needless to say, this is a well oiled routine that demands the upmost of respect in order for me to have the type of uber successful day that befits a young professional such as myself, and if this routine is out by even a minute it can cause an absolute disaster. Say for example, if I decided to let the snooze on my alarm kick in again I would get up at 6:21 which means I would then be in a massive rush to get showered and dressed in order to be sitting down with Pop-Tart in hand by 6:31, which would then mean that I would still be sitting there when the Irish weather girl who tells you, in an unnaturally perky voice for such an ungodly hour, that it will be raining today, and pretty much every other day in the Great British future which really gets my goat. This is turn would mean that-I-didn’t-leave-the-house-until-seven-which-meansthatsI’llgetstuckintrafficandbelateforworkandhaveaprettyFUCKINGMASSIVEMELTDOWN!  
(And breathe!)
I’m sure you get the picture?
Anyhow, as it happens, last Friday morning played out exactly in line with the daily routine which meant that I was about to leave my flat at 6:50 by the clock on the cooker and head down to the car.
Now, in the days leading up to Friday I had been having some problems with the electric clicker to raise the metal security door and let me out of the garage (all of this had been compensated for time wise by getting up at the first ring of the alarm at 6:11 rather than the more desirable 6:16) which meant that a few precious minutes would be lost whilst clicking. Well today, after the previous weeks average of two minutes clicking time I realised, much to my trepidation, than the minutes were slowly ticking away, threatening to mess up the routine.
After five minutes of clicking I resorted to hitting it hard on the steering wheel of the car as that, in the past, had worked.
Not this time.
After ten minutes I decided that I would get out of the car and try and find the receiver for the clicker’s remote. Again, no such luck.
Whilst all this was going on the radio in my car went from playing the usual chart toppers to Scott Mills gleefully announcing the first play of a Christmas song on BBC radio this year, and so, to the warbling tones of Mariah Carey telling me about all I want for Christmas at 6:55am, in OCTOBER, I saw red.
So I swore. Then I swore louder, and then more explicitly. And then I kicked the door just for good measure. I even tried asking it politely to open, much to my own disgust.
None of this made the blindest bit of difference mind you; the garage door was still well and truly shut.
Desperate time call for desperate measures: I was going to have to phone school to explain my current predicament. As most of you know, I had previously been sent home from school for ripping my trousers so this should not come as a complete surprise.
I’m stuck inside my garage so I will be late, was the message I sent to my boss.
Good luck in there! was the reply I received a few minutes later, containing considerably less sympathy than I was hoping for. The fact that this excuse wasn’t even questioned obviously shows that they were more than familiar with my idiocy already.
Anyway, after a further half hour of sitting there getting more and more irate, making an angry phone call to my building manager (who is a relatively butch chap, yet his calls go through to the answer phone of a husky voiced Brummie called Sally) I was eventually saved by the arrival of a man in a Audi with a correctly working clicker and I was once again free!
I’ve escaped! was the message I sent to my boss to let work know I would be on time after all.
Think of the blog was the reply.
And so I did.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

This time I make a fool of myself to a catchy soundtrack!

Now sports aren’t really my forte at the best of times. It would be fair to say that I was PE teachers’ worst nightmare; I was that kid who just couldn’t be bothered. Unlike those potential athletes or aspiring international rugby stars that treated each PE session like it was the Olympics, I would rather stand at the side keeping well away from any physical action. And let’s face it, we all know rugby is just a way of making it more acceptable for the academically challenged jocks to beat up the self confessed geeks like me without it being called bullying, but rather dubbed as character building as that’s much more PC. Much to my teacher’s disgust, my standard response to why I wasn’t joining in on all hormonally fuelled rough and tumble was that I couldn’t be good at everything and you’ll just have to accept that. Oh to be a teenager and have suitably sarcastic and well informed answer to any possible elicitation. (Well it must be better than admitting that I seriously suck ass at pretty much any sport). All the years of this in my teens and yet I’m still infuriated by the little know-it-alls who test my patience with their snippy teenage wisdom. I guess there is such a thing as karma.
Since leaving school my relationship with sport has become considerably less strained and on a fine day I might even be seen heading to the gym for a session on the treadmill (although not the cross-trainer mind; that thing just gets faster and faster until there is absolutely no other option but to fall off it. A health hazard if I ever did see one). Personally I don’t think the whole sports malarkey is at all aided by the fact that I have sporadic control of my limbs at the best of times. So imagine my trepidation when an email arrived to my work account announcing staff Zumba. Rather than admitting that I wasn’t actually even sure what Zumba was, and that fact that it sounded a bit like zoom (which as we all know is a rather energetic verb) suggests it might involve quite a lot of hard graft!
Are the more perceptive of you starting to sense a new opportunity to stage my idiocy? You are?! Excellent; a gold star for you!
Anyway, after conveniently forgetting my change of clothes on the first opportunity, one of my colleagues and fellow Zumba recruits, kindly reminded me with the following imperative:
Zumba- 2moro! That is all!
At this point I’m starting to realise that I might have got myself into something that I was soon to regret. Time for good old Google to once again, put my worries to rest.
Do men do Zumba?
Google’s always right so I’m bound to find answers there, right? I found particular reassurance in the following:
At my Zumba class there are no men, apart from those who (not so) sneakily come to ogle over the women there.
So as I’m sneaking out of the men’s toilet, hoping and praying not to be seen on my way to the dance studio, I bump into one of my senior colleagues. Masking my humiliation behind the facade of being in a rush, I try to get away with the standard friendly hi and a head nod that usually suffices. But not this time... oh no, I wasn’t going to escape without a quizzing.
"Are you off to...Zumba?” he asked with the tell tale raise of an eyebrow.
What do I say without appearing completely moronic?
I lost a bet?
I was tricked into it?
Zumba? I thought I was going to cage fighting?
I settled for I’m proving a point before adding this little gem; Taking one for the boys and there might have even been a little action to go with it too. What was I thinking? I have never said anything like that in my life! His knowing nod made any possible verbal response void and with that I scuttled off. 
I’m procrastinating aren’t I? Much like I was on the way to said Zumba class. But then again, you’ve probably only read this far in the hope that I’ll make a fool of myself at some stage: Fear not dear reader it will all be worthwhile.
Much as I expected I was the only guy at the class, which I’m pretty sure is not a positive indicator for what is to follow.
Boy was I right.
Luckily for me I was joined by a couple of my rebellious colleagues who accompanied me in making a bee line for the back of the class in order to hide our inability (or make a quick exit should the sudden need arise) together. Then, to the pumping beats of a quasi-reggae/salsa/latino soundtrack and the delighted yelps and whoops of the instructor, what would become an hour of boogying, shaking, shimmying, weaving and probably most scarily... thrusting, began and I quickly realised that this would definitely not be an activity I would excel at! What began as a relatively well structured aerobic inspired work-out, evolved to something more akin to the moves I bust out on a Friday nights at one of Birmingham’s more seedy venues after my fifth Jager bomb.
“I’m just freestyling now!” said one of my colleagues as they gaily boogied past me in the sort of ethereal haze that Vanilla Ice or one of his eighties cronies would be proud of and that looked like my kind of fun!
Now I’m one of those people that doesn’t really do failure (even though I did fail my driving test 6 times, which proves my next point) but if I do, I do it in a dramatic fashion. So as the movements are getting more risqué and the tempo is starting to speed up I decide that failing spectacularly was the only way I was going to get through the next 40 minutes. So that was what I did; I failed.
I failed at the clapping and shaking.
I failed at the shimmying big time!
I failed at the whole co-ordination thing ‘cus I just can’t move my arms and legs in time; its actually impossible!
I very definitely failed at the whole ass wobbling, gyrating Beyonce-esq style movements (but that’s quite a relief if I’m honest as there aren’t many/any guys who can really pull that off!)
(I probably didn’t fail on the thrusting, but from the comments afterwards about the level of gusto that I put into this, maybe failure would have been a better option!)
But you know what I learnt from all of this, (well apart from the fact a nationwide ban should be enforced on me ever attending a Zumba class again) is that sometimes, much as it pains me to say this, it’s ok to fail. Just make sure you fail in epic proportions and you’ll be fine!

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

When in Rome... Or Venice to be more precise.

Let me paint you a picture of a perfect Venetian escape: A converted palace nestling in the corner of a picturesque square with exclusive access via its own private bridge: A quintessentially Italian balcony overlooking a canal used by actual, real gondolas: A typical Italian meal cooked every night by an in-house chef.
There are some things money can’t buy, but for everything else... 35 Euro per night will get you a bed in the Venice Fish! But sheets are extra mind, as is a key, and to use the shower and pretty much everything else. Apart from the bed bugs, those are on the house.
Bought you back to reality with a bit of a bump, huh?
Staying in a hostel is something that everyone should experience at some point in their life. On the one hand, it’s a great way to see a city for a few pennies, but on the other there is the fact that you are going to be staying in a dorm (if you are particularly penny pinching like me) which therefore means that you probably will be privy to some things that you really shouldn’t see. In this case, it was the bible-bashing guy from Louisiana on the bunk beneath me, who had obviously decided that he was going to cut loose on his statutory, early twenties Euro-trip-of-self-discovery funded entirely by daddy dearest, and well and truly discover himself... and a few others along the way. Now I’m not going to claim to be a prude, ‘cus I’m not, but even so, as I’m lying on my top bunk being (not so gently) swayed to sleep by him and the Korean girl fornicating on the bed beneath me, I realise that I’m getting too old for this. I mean I’m a teacher, a profession synonymous to responsibility and being sensible! (Note to self: Must stop using that as an excuse as it’s becoming less believable, especially after what I’m going to reveal.)
Anyways, the hostel I was staying at specifically said on the booking form that you shouldn’t stay at this place unless you were sociable and prepared to party, (hard) every night. Blimey I’m thinking, it’s more like an application form than a reservation. Just to be on the safe side I decided to take back-up in the form of my straight talking, whiskey drinking accomplice, Hayley, just in case things got out of hand. The fact that she bailed two days before we were due to arrive, means that I lay the blame for what is to come squarely on her. Yes Hayley, I blame you. (Weirdly, as you already know, going to the cinema by myself in Birmingham, the place where I live, is a more traumatic prospect than going to a foreign country alone, but you guys should know I’m unconventional like that.)
After reading the full spectrum of reviews I was expecting a completely wild time here, and to be honest, there was some room for improvement: I’d give it a B+. But oh well, I would be starting work the next day so an early night wouldn’t be quite so bad.
So where did it all go wrong/right?
It definitely wasn’t the little shop down a pretty dodgy looking alley that temped in any unwitting tourist under the guise of We’ll fill any bottle with wine for 1 Euro. In fact, I can barely even remember that experience so it definitely couldn’t have been that.
The rest of the evening passed in a blur of... well, blurriness, until I heard the three little words that can simultaneously strike fear and a childish sense of excitement into even the most responsible adult.
Spin. The. Bottle.
Spin the bottle? I’m twenty four! I don’t need to participate in some hormonally driven game of debauchery in order to have a drunken snog with somebody who’s almost good looking if you’ve drunk a bottle of wine and kinda squint through your right eye.
Then again, I was in Italy, the land of romance. In Venice, one of the most romantic cities in the world so surely that can justify and any eventuality of pursuing romance marriage a night of entertainment until one or other party check out the next morning.
But this was not like any normal schoolyard game of spin the bottle. No sir-ee. The conventional bottle was replaced by a full grown man. A full grown naked man at that.
How would that work, I hear you say? A marble floor, and olive oil... lots of it. After sharing this with my colleagues back home when I felt that the staff room conversation with starting to stagnate, there were various mutterings about “chafing” and regular intervals and many of them are probably still trying to figure out the logistics behind this feat. Let’s just say it’s one of nature’s miracles. Nevertheless, as with the official rules of spin the bottle, no exceptions to could be made, therefore I shall omit the following section and leave it up to your own imagination. (N.B. for the more liberal readers I would like to point out that I do have some standards. Some, not many mind you. For those who are of a sensitive disposition, why the hell are you reading my blog anyway?! You should know better by now!)
So I shall end this post on the following note:
To my parents, who will undoubtedly read this; I’m sorry; I’ve disgraced the family name once again.
To everyone else, it’s the Venice Fish. That’s V-E-N-I-C-E   F-I-S-H.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Lost in Translation

Have you wondered where I was?
Of course you have!
(Well you probably haven’t but I’m gonna tell you anyway!)
Italy! That’s where! For the last few weeks I have been inflicting my idiocy on the continent, and believe me I’ve lived up to expectations. In a similar way to when the new settlers in America gave the natives syphilis, I offered myself up to the Italian education system in the vain hope that I might be able to impart some of my limited knowledge of Italy’s next generation. As if I haven’t done enough lasting damage to British youths, the Italians seemed more than happy to welcome me into their country (and for particularly unsuspecting families) their homes in order to enrich their understanding of English.
Whilst I’m pretty sure the families were expecting some dictionary toting English boy, drinking tea and fawning over the monarchy. Instead they were faced with me; a pseudo-Brummie, binge drinking, potty-mouthed 24 year old with a penchant for insulting small children, large children, parents, Catholics, the Pope and pretty much everything in between.
And this year I’ve even learnt enough Italian to do it in their own language! Score!
I learnt very quickly that with Italians they find certain English words particularly difficult to differentiate; ear and eye, angry and hungry, (although it would seem that most words are prefixed with an elongated “h” sound as they don’t have it in their silly 21 letter alphabet!)  as well as the much more frequently used No! and everybody run around, hit each other, cry and generally cause as much chaos as possible. Do you get my drift?
Well as it happens there are some Italian words that sound pretty damn similar too, and with my shamefully limited intellect this was just another disaster waiting to happen.
To get you in the picture, every week whilst in Italy, I decamp on a new family who take me into their lives, feed me, water me, and engulf me into the ample bosom of every Italian nonna. It’s a pleasure, it really is. I guess that’s why I feel like such a shit for offending them quite so often. Like when I went to my boss’s house and noticed the pictures around her apartment with a bearded Italian man.
“Wow, you’ve met Pavarotti loads of times,” I said trying to make polite conversation.
“What?” she said.
“You and Pavarotti,” I repeated, gesturing to the closest picture.
“That’s my husband,” she relied in a tone tempered with annoyance, pity and possibly even a bit of loathing.
You’d think that once is enough to embed in my mind? Y’think?
My repeat performance at a latter host family: “When did you meet the Pope?” Turned out to be her husband. Right.
But now back to that language point that I seem to have got a bit distracted from, but trust me it’s worth the wait. So it’s a Saturday and yet again I arrived looking dishevelled at a new host family to the usual hearty welcome and this time I’ve properly lucked out; this family were awesome. And I mean every different kind of awesome with a few extras thrown in for good measure. After a night in their guest suite and air conditioned to the point that I was actually cold (which is a pretty steep challenge in Italy, in August!) I stumbled out of bed in time for the usual breakfast of coffee before by embarking on my busy schedule of lounging by the pool, sunbathing, and drinking copious amounts of the legendary Spritz. It’s a hard life, what can I say!
Now at this stage I had been in Italy for several weeks and was feeling pretty confident about my growing language skills. (Although ironically, the night before I had sidled up to an extremely attractive bar tender and asked her for a tortoise, to which she responded, “You’re English aren’t you?” What gave me away I will never know!) So to get back to the situation in hand, I was revelling in the general perfection whilst waiting to be fed more of quiet possibly the best food I had ever had. The sun was shining, the barbecue was sizzling, and most importantly the wine/spritz/beer/limoncello (at lunchtime?!) was flowing.
On seeing the family’s four year old daughter positively throwing herself into the swimming pool and demonstrating levels of bravery that Evil Kenevil would be proud of, I decided to test out my still developing language skills and tell them their daughter was crazy.
“Cazza,” I point and smile feeling pretty smug that I have used the correct inflexion to denote a female subject (clever innit?) Well that got their attention.
Cazza?” said the host mum looking perturbed.
Cazza?” said the host dad looking angry.
Cazza?” I said with growing concern.
“Do you know what that means?” they asked.
“She’s crazy,” I say cautiously.
Then they smile, and then they laugh, and then they laugh some more.
Cazzo, means head-of-dick,” the host mum said, enunciating each syllable with a hand gesture to match the beat, “Pazzo means crazy.”
So in return for the hospitality I was receiving, I’d just called their daughter a dickhead. How do you recover from that? I’ll tell you how; you retreat to your deckchair, alcohol of some description in hand, only to spectacularly capsize it, throw your drink all over yourself, and take out the now laden barbecue in the process.
Subtlety was never my strong point.
“Cazzo,” said the voice of the four year old.
(Of course she didn’t actually say that, but wouldn’t that have been brilliant?!)

Monday, 15 August 2011

Do I look like a parking warden?

“Can I park here?”
A perfectly reasonable question you might say? Of course. So reasonable in fact that I didn’t think this question was destined for me! Yet as I walked across the village car park whilst back home in the ‘shire I hear this question repeated once again.
“Excuse me? Can I park here?”
I glance around. Nope, no one else within ear shot so this disembodied voice must be talking to me. It was way too early in the day to be having auditory hallucinations so I start looking around for where this question is coming from and notice the man in the blue car. He is staring at me intently even though I am wearing my usual neutral slash uninterested slash I haven’t had my morning coffee yet so you can fuck right off expression, yet his questioning persists.
“Well can I?” he says again with added gravitas.
“Er... yes?” I say uncertainly, as it does seem to be a pretty silly conversation to be having... in a car park. Come on, it’s not exactly cryptic.
“Yes I know that,” he says, “but do I have to pay?”
As I have already established, yes this is a car park and, to elucidate further, yes, it is pay and display. Still with me? I know it’s complicated but I’m sure you can keep up.
“Well it is pay and display. Has been since the start of May,” I say before yet again discussing the 10p for four hours parking charge debacle that has been, well, quite possibly the most controversial thing that has happened in Ellesmere in pretty much forever. Or at least since the last murder, sex scandal or the like. I’m kidding. No, that all happens in the next village along. It’s all go in Shropshire, that’s for sure!
“Can you make an exception?” he then asks, looking at me earnestly.
This is getting ridiculous I’m thinking, looking down to check that I haven’t by some miraculous coincidence somehow acquired a parking attendant uniform or even the appearance of someone who gives a shit.
My bemused silence is obviously not what he was hoping for.
“I only need a piss,” he says as if that will somehow validate this whole conversation, “Do you want me to just do it down my leg?”
If we are talking about stuff that I want him to do, urinating in front of me is not exactly high on my list, in fact it doesn’t even feature within the top ten.  I could quite easily provide him with a range of ideas of things that I would like him to do, starting with this; leave me alone, you weirdo!
“I’m disabled,” he continues.
Mentally? I want to ask yet think better of it. By this time my patience is wearing thin and I now have only 3 hours and 55 minutes of my own parking time left in which to buy the newspaper so I’m sure you can appreciate the urgency of my predicament.
“It would appear that you have already made the decision that you are not going to pay the 10 pence, so I think that regardless of what I say it will make very little difference to your final action,” I retaliate, flashing a winning smile at the same time to diffuse the mounting venom.
At this, I decide this is a logical point to stop this conversation before it turns into a whole to-do. Judging by the fact that following my last comment he then drove off to park his car, in the car park, so did he.
On my return to the car park a few minutes later, I see the man once again, this time at the ticket machine. He must have heeded my advice, I think and feel a momentary swell of triumph. As I carry on walking I smile at the lady passing by only to hear this from behind me as she reaches the machine a few seconds later:
“Do I have to pay for parking? I’m disabled!”
And so the cycle continues.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Going it alone.

Being an only child I’m used to doing things on my own; it kinda goes with the territory. And it’s not as if I’m averse to it either! I’ve flown half way around the world by myself, I’ve moved to a new city by myself; I’ve done plenty of things by myself, so why is it that going to the cinema by myself last night really got to me? It’s not as if it’s a place you go to have a conversation? That’s why you go to the dubious and overpriced all-you-can-eat buffet next door, thus rendering yourself incapable of conversation for the next two hours for fear that the extraordinary quantities of food might surreptitiously reappear should you open your mouth. In fact it’s positively frowned upon if you utter so much as a whisper or ask the person next to you to pass the pop corn, and God forbid you should lose track of the plot and have to be filled in on what’s happening. Let’s face it, some films need some explanation as you go along otherwise how would anyone have ever understood Inception?  But no, as a rule, cinemas should be exclusive caverns of solitude where one can go to appreciate the latest rom-com, action blockbuster, or in my case the final and most epic instalment of Harry Potter, in silence.
Now let me set the scene. As I walk through the cinema doors I’m feeling pretty good about this whole thing. I’ve even invented a little story to tell anyone who might ask why I’m there by myself; in town on business, night to myself, figured I’d have some down time with HP. That should make me sound busy and important enough! No one need know that I actually live round the corner and had ventured out after eating my ready meal for one... alone. Add to this that fact that I not only went to the cinema by myself, I did this on the night all singles fear the most; date night.
That’s when I first saw them.
The couples.
Hoards of them queuing with their share sized popcorn and giant sized Sprite with two straws. By this time I’m having flashbacks to the awkward teenage years where the cinema seems like the best place to go for a date, ‘cus let’s be honest, it’s not the sort of place where you get those long awkward silences that usually result in me blurting out something completely inappropriate to dispel the deafening silence. More specifically I’m reminded of the time when I was dragged by a quite attractive girl (yes, that really did happen, thank you very much!) to go and see Lord of the Rings much against my better judgement, only to have her consume the whole of the supersize drink and need to go to the loo four times. FOUR TIMES! Unless you have some seriously weird fetishes, that sure ain’t a basis for romance. If anything I should be thankful at having the opportunity to be able to go by myself!
Whilst looking ‘round to see if there was any other single cinema goer and realising very quickly that there wasn’t, I glanced at the couple in front of me and whilst I’m not in the least judgemental (I am really!) it would seem that even the morbidly obese had found love this Friday night. And with these two, you couldn’t even use the excuse of she had a pretty face as that would just be a lie.
To remain in keeping with the important businessman persona that I was cultivating, I reached for the obligatory Blackberry (the one I scorned at the time but now am almost surgically attached to) and penned what could be an important email, but was actually a sympathy quest text to my friend:
I’m starting to realise how mortifying it is going to the cinema by myself.
To which I received the response:
Are you already there? You don’t HAVE to go! If it’s any consolation, Kate Winslet is apparently a big fan of going to cinema on her own and she is a legend!
Well who can argue with that? Apart from the fact that I have one less Oscar, about 20 less million in my bank and am not a smoking hot sex bomb. As a 20 something unattached male, who invents a scenario to defy any question of singledom, I’m not even close.
Ever the wise words, but of course I knew I didn’t have to go, and faced with the option of leaving because you are so conspicuously alone is probably a worse hit for the ego that if I actually go through with it. As it happens my inner turmoil was interrupted by a terse Yes? from the girl at the ticket booth.
“Adult for Harry Potter at eight,” I say with fake confidence.
“Just the one?” she replies, using the inflection that denotes pity at the end of her sentence.
“What’s wrong with going to the cinema by yourself? Kate Winslet does and she’s a legend!” I want to blurt out, but instead manage a more conventional “Yes” through gritted teeth. Seriously, if this was a scene in a film, it would be black-and-white, in slow motion with the opening bars of All by myself being played over the top. Pathetic.
After making is past two more similarly simpering attendants, I headed for a seat at the end of a row near the back so that I could make a swift exit should the need dictate (or more to the point if the canoodling of the couple next to me passes the boundaries of social normality and I need to run for the hills!)
Trying to escape this I text my friend again:
This will all be worth it for HP.
To receive:
It will be- the film is brilliant! Don’t cry- I didn’t but my friend and her husband did!
Yeah likely! Crying over the boy wizard... I’m made of stronger stuff than that! It’s not as if I haven’t grown up with the stories being an integral part of my childhood or anything, or queuing for an hour just to reserve the next copy when it comes out in 2 months time, or making my parents drive me around various book shops (or actually any shop at all in a crazed panic) until they find it.... right?
So just over two hours later, after what was quite possibly one of the most seminal experiences of cinema that I’m ever likely to experience I receive the following message?
Any tears? Blubbering on your own in the cinema is never a good look J
No. No it isn’t.

Monday, 20 June 2011

V is for Vagina

There are certain things that you just shouldn’t talk about, and others that are best kept to yourself. Like when you’re out with your mates on a Monday night and you glance at your watch to realise, “Rubbish, I’m missing Glee! I mean... football... and porn... and Die Hard,” and then quickly down your pint and put your hand down your trousers to check that you haven’t in fact grown a vagina. Or that no matter what everyone else thinks, you reckon Susan Boyle would be wild in the bedroom and that you’ve actually added her to your freebie list. Stuff like that should be kept quiet, or maybe shared with a psychiatrist in a secure environment.
Now, during my lunch-break at work, my colleagues and I whittle away the hours discussing the various tribulations of the day, moaning about that particularly annoying child or two... or 47 to be more precise, and generally entering such a vegetative state in order to allow what remains of our sanity to be nursed back to health in time for the next tirade in a matter of minutes. God help any child brave enough to knock on the door and disrupt our moment of calm; trust me, it’s not worth it. As it happened, on that particular lunch time we were having an especially enthralling conversation about a rather impressive lunchbox sported by one of the members of staff (it had a built in ice pack; how cool is that?! Get it; cool? Well I’m laughing.)
Anyway, my usual semi-comatose lunchtime state was disturbed by the comfy middle aged lady who chaperones and mollifies the community’s old folks on their weekly visit to be entertained. Cheerfully called “Wednesday Club” this is an opportunity for us teachers to talk to the crumblies about things that are young, and fun, and alive in an although-this-is-optional-you-really-should-do-it-or-else, kind of way. I already spend twenty hours a week educating wayward youths so I think I’ll spend that hour polishing my halo thank you very much. So imagine how perturbed I was when I heard this gem pop out whilst I was tucking into my lunch:
“Well last week we had a rather fascinating talk about contraception. It did cause quite a stir you know; one of our most controversial sessions.”
Y’don’t say?
Whilst I am usually pretty happy to partake in conversations of a sexual nature and am quite open-minded, the thought of a group of over 70s putting condom’s on wilting bananas (make of that what you will) is enough to turn my stomach: definitely not a conversation to be having over lunch.
Nope. Nu-uh. Not happening.
But I was not going to escape that easily. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed the woman glance around the check the coast was clear, then in a stage whisper (the sort that is favoured by my Nanna when asking whether we think the two nice men over there are life partners, and pretending to be ok with it although secretly cringing) she cheerfully announced:
“It was very informative, we learnt all about vaginal dams.”
Well that got people listening. In fact her razor sharp enunciation pretty much silenced the staff room. Almost. For it was at that exact moment that, quite overcome by this sudden announcement, I lost all ability to chew and my sandwich decided that my wind pipe was a pretty good place to take up residence. Way to play it cool Jack; one mention of a vagina in an unexpected context and I’m actually choking.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the concept of the vaginal dam, this is a piece of later rubber used when administering oral sex in order to not have the taste the various juices secreted. Well that was the definition that I offered my various stunned colleagues. Apparently I’m a dark horse. Pah! I think it was probably for the best in that case that I chose to neglect to mention that these implements are also used when rimming. Yes that’s right. Rimming.
Thinking Hoping Praying this discourse is reaching its natural end (and if not thinking that it is probably time to commit conversational euthanasia) none of us were prepared for the final, earth shattering blow.
“They come in all sorts of flavours too, just so you can tell the difference between that and licking a piece of cling film. Strawberry, chocolate and lemon!”
As if standard minge flavour wasn’t acceptable? Or perhaps a more authentic fish flavour would be suitable? Just imagine the old dears sitting there with their knitting needles and a selection of contraception in those otherwise useless china dishes, turning into latex connoisseurs, lightly licking and commenting of the construction of the bouquet.
Did I go too far?
“Quite a selection, although the lemon one wasn’t too well received. Imagine the zing on your hoochie!” which was followed by the knowing look that Miss Marple gets when the final piece of the mystery has just dropped into place: Poor Mrs Wainwright, I did warn her that the lemon flavoured vaginal dam had a bit of a kick to it and look what came of it.
So now I leave you on this slightly disturbing thought; next time you are having afternoon tea with granny don’t be tempted to go rummaging through her draws, you never know what you might find. You can still learn a thing or two from the old folks; they’re the real dark horses!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The best laid plans...

Just over two years ago I gave up the graduate job that I had always wanted, hung up the suit, shredded the business cards and decided that I was going swap the board room for the classroom and become a teacher; a decision that actually rendered my then boss speechless for a number of seconds (which, I should add, was not an easy feat!)
But fear not, for I had a plan!
Before moving to Birmingham in September to start my training I would retreat to Shropshire to the sanctity of the family home to sort my life out, whittling away the months in a rural idyll; mowing the lawn, feeding the chickens and serving pints to the motley crew at my local pub. Perfect. (Blimey, I almost said lovely! Almost!)
Anyways, as luck (no, that’s not the right word) – fate would have it, my dad left his job to set up his own business at the same time so I would not be alone in my sabbatical. This meant that for my already overworked mum, the two men in her life would be spending a lot more time around the house, whilst she was out slaving away at a job she hated to support the her now housebound family. That’s fair, right?
So as it happened, my plan for a few months at home; saving money before heading back to the big city, didn’t quite work out as I had anticipated. After 3 years of working hard working for my degree, involving many hours of slaving over the books in the library and forcing umpteen pints of snakebite down my gullet (I believe that’s worthy of mention and should receive the necessary recognition!) had in fact rendered me completely unemployable. I was now confined to my parents’ house... which suddenly seemed very small and remote. After the initial fervour about which of us would do the cooking and cleaning, my dad quickly lost enthusiasm and I became what my friends hilariously dubbed a “house-child.”
Even though it turned out that I had a bit of a talent with the Dyson, this was not part of the plan!
After sending out my CV to as many places as possible, only to be told that I didn’t have the correct credentials, I took what was left of my self esteem to the job centre; the spiritual home of lost causes, alcoholics and serial baby makers; and signed on.
“How is your job search going at present?” the generic employee asked with the sort of enthusiasm that minimum wage buys.
“Well considering I used to work in recruitment, it’s pretty ironic that I can’t find myself a job.”
A panicked look passed across her face at the realisation that she wouldn’t be able to fob me off with the first job that comes along, for this lost cause knows his onions all right.
(Moment of frantic typing)
“Would you consider industrial cleaning?”
I honestly don’t think my eyebrows have ever reached such heights before.
It was now time for serious action and at times like this there is only one solution, and no I don’t mean turning to male prostitution, selling parts of my anatomy or working at McDonald's (listed in ascending order of the progressively horrific!) Google it is then! If that can’t solve it then nothing will! So tearing myself away from my busy schedule of, well... nothing, I made it my mission to find employment.
Google Search: Summer Jobs
Google Search: Summer Jobs Abroad
Now that’s more like it!
I mean I’m seriously lucky in having quite possibly the world’s most awesome parents, but after a couple of months of being stuck in 18th Century Shropshire with seemingly endless discussions of the dog’s toilet habits (“Bladder crystals, very nasty”), I needed to escape. And emigration (even temporarily) started looking like a pretty good option. Anyways I came across a website that was advertising for English tutors in Italy. You want to know the best part of it? The job description essentially asked for people who were loud, outgoing and not afraid to make a tit of themselves; a sure fire hit! Beware Italy; my idiocy is going international! And how hard can it be to teach Italian kids? Y’know, chow and all that? Pizza, Pasta, Pavarotti; I even had a Fiat! They were going to love me!
Where is this going I hear you ask? After an initial kink in the plan, I went to Italy. Twice in fact, and somewhere in there managed to get my teaching qualification to boot. This year in my absence I’ve sent my awesome and slightly madcap friend Hayley (the sort of friend who bullies me into walking 26 miles under the pretence of it being for a children’s charity, resulting in near hallucinogenic levels of blister pain and tiredness) off to learn about the joys of songs about jellyfish, finding out what a nickel and a dollar can buy, and teaching the most highly strung children known to man.
So now I’m sitting here, reminiscing about Italy and revelling in the irony that the first year I’m actually earning proper, real, grown-up money is the first year I can’t afford to go away. Sad face.
What was it they say about the best laid plans?
Fuck ‘em and move to Italy!

Sunday, 15 May 2011

High Standards?

I sometimes wonder if I’ll turn into one of those grumpy old men who sit around moaning on about the youth of today, discussing the good ol’ days and handing out Werther’s to anyone under the age of 30 in the vague hope they might help me across the road or clean my gutters. Or worse, become one of those toothless old men who sit in their recliner chairs ogling the lusty widow across the street, uttering the groan inducing “In my day...” or “When I were a lad...” at the beginning of every other sentence. If I do, then it’s probably time to have me committed. Either that or bump me off and inherit... well... whatever’s left to pay on my student loan and the various Premium Bonds that seemed like such a good idea at the time.
But then I got to wondering about who I’m going to share my latter years with? Who’ll be the Bonnie to my Clyde; the Kate to my Wills; and more importantly who’s going to be there to help me try out some of the stuff from Sex for the over 60s?
I guess I’ve been thinking a lot about relationships recently; mainly the fact that I’m not in one and everybody else is. This was reinforced by the fact that I had to separate two thirteen year olds from exploring each other’s tonsils only to be greeted with, “But Sir, they’re in love.” Love? What do thirteen year olds know about love? The only love they know is for the latest emo pop princess, or the most recent incarnation of a sultry blood-sucker.
Fear not; I have a solution!
I have signed up to online dating, because let’s face it, if that doesn’t result in true love, then what will?
Now the first time I dipped my toe into the pool cesspit of internet dating, this was courtesy of the old housemate and her friend. I should have been suspicious that something was going on; after all there is only a certain amount of time two girls can stay quiet before a plan for world domination (or fixing up single friends) comes about.
“Have you checked your emails recently?” was the innocent tag to my imminent romantic humiliation. On opening my inbox I saw this message;
Re: Registration for My Single Friend
What?! Am I really so socially inept that even my friends realise that I’m not going to be able to meet someone without a) serious external influence of relationship veterans, or b) a page about me on what can only be described as an online cattle market!
“What is this?”
“Well you’re not exactly doing much to help yourself, are you?” was the response.
I would just like to point out at this stage that as a 24 year old male, I see nothing wrong with sitting in at 8 o’clock on a Saturday night, wearing my pyjamas, drinking hot Ribena (it was a cold night!) and watching X Factor (although it might be slightly unforgivable that I was actually quite enjoying it!) I mean what woman wouldn’t find that an attractive combination? Surely all I’m missing is a copy of Reader’s Digest and a snowflake print jumper and I’d be quite the catch!
Needless to say that after a few minutes of perusing the various talent (if that’s the right word) that Birmingham has to offer, and finding out that I actually had to pay £30.99 for the privilege of admitting that I couldn’t find love like a normal person, that I quickly put this idea to bed. But then I discovered...
Free Online Dating.
Score! What can possibly be wrong with that?
(Now did you want the full list or the abridged version?)
The first thing that should have started the alarm bells ringing was the fact that as well as the usual Are you looking for a relationship, dating, friends etc, there was a button that said intimate encounter. Let’s face it, it may as well have said, No strings fuck, can’t guarantee it will be great but if you are desperate enough to use this site what do you expect. STI included in the package. Needless to say I didn’t tick that box.
Anyway as luck would have it, soon after I signed up to this site I received notification that BubblyBunny176 (or one of her equally desperate friends) had sent me a message.
“Hey babez, yu luk cute. B wikid to hear from ya chick. Msg me bak. Xxx”
If anyone can translate what that actually means through the plethora of phonics and substitutions, then please enlighten me!
I should mention that on my profile I said that I was a Masters student and that I worked within the generic area of “Education”, so what on earth made BubblyBunny176 think that I would be attracted to poor spelling and appalling grammar? I mean seriously? I spend enough of my life correcting shoddy grammar and adding punctuation at work. I’ll tell you something love, nothing gets me going like a girl to can punctuate; use a semicolon correctly and I’m yours.
Let’s face it; I’m going to be single forever.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Everybody needs good neighbours...

When it comes to neighbours, I don’t seem to have much luck. As it happens I would like to think that I am a pretty awesome person to live next door to; I don’t throw loud parties or play loud music at random intervals throughout the night, granted you might hear some extremely questionable renditions of chat toppers when I’m in the shower, but other than that I’m pretty damn good. So why is it that everyone around me seems to think that they need to make up for this by pushing the boundaries or what is socially (and in some cases morally and psychologically) acceptable?
This story all starts with the eponymous “Lumber” and more to the point Lumber’s girlfriend. The illusive Lumber was a Computer Science student who lived in the room directly above me in halls. He was the sort of guy to whom the normal rules of social etiquette didn’t seem to apply and he existed singularly in a world dominated by a circle of online friends. He did however make rare appearances to wonder the halls, dirtying our toilets and (even more unforgivably) stealing that one slice of cold pizza left in the fridge that was meant to cure that throbbing Sunday morning hangover. Much to mine and my other housemates’ surprise, it turned out that Lumber did not live a completely solitary existence.
Enter the girlfriend.
Now as Lumber was the shy, retiring sort, I was expecting his girlfriend to be similar in her habits. Boy was I wrong. Enter the drama student with an afro nearing the size of her shapely derrière, and a booming voice to match. I guess opposites attract and all that. Unsurprisingly, Lumber secreted away the Girlfriend in his room and nothing more was heard of them.
(Much later on...)
Hmm? What? I’m sleeping!
That’s not a voice I recognise?
Then it dawns on me; Lumber is also called Jack.
“Oh Jack!”
Holy Mother of Jesus, this is not happening!
As we all know it’s bad enough having to endure hearing other people having rampant sex, but hearing this interspersed with our shared name being shouted out and a sudden warped vision of the most dysfunctional shagging ever, is simply perverse. If my name is being shouted in relation to some sort of sexual activity, it’s only polite that I should be involved in some way! The fact that was emanating from a couple who most people would be cautious about putting together even if the survival of the human race depended on it, was just rubbing it in!
As luck would have it, (and I’m pretty sure that’s not the best way to describe what is coming next) both parties reached a very loud and excited orgasm quite quickly and I was finally able to get some sleep. Nonetheless, I discovered the next morning that their antics had escaped from the bedroom. I uncovered this fact much to my horror when I caught sight of a rather long and curly hair stuck to the wall tile; the afro was gaining its revenge. Now I’m one of those people who’s a bit OCD about cleanliness, especially in the bathroom. I actually got into trouble at uni for suggesting that the cleaner could leave some cleaning products so we could clean when she wasn’t there only to have to face her wrath as she took this to mean she wasn’t doing her job properly. (But now that I come to mention it, Vera dear if you’re reading, that brush like thing next to the loo is for cleaning it not for decoration; just so you know!) So imagine my horror when I discovered that the Girlfriend seemed to spontaneously shed her afro after sex. (Please God let it have been the afro!) Kind of reminds of that spider that sheds its skin then eats its partners... come to think of it I hadn’t seen Lumber for a while, but then again that was nothing unusual. Anyhow, it was when the little Afro Monster reared its head from the drain and decided to attach itself to my toe that I made a decision; I needed to live alone.
Now before I was able to achieve this I had to grapple with the following;
The Chinese with their smell
The historian with the panty-liners
And last but by no means least; the psychologist with the knife.
This all ends with the fact that now I’m all grown up and soon to be entering the world of the home-ownership, and wonder with much trepidation what the permanency of this will entail following on from my previous spate of bad luck? I’m just waiting to see what the Good Lord of Apartment Blocks has got in store for me, ‘cus let’s face it, I’ve had a bit of a raw deal recently!
I think it’s time to kiss goodbye to the dream of the blonde with the bikini and resign myself to the fact that it’s going to be the serial killer with the chainsaw.
Of course it is.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Now that's classy!

Oh Birmingham! I’ve only been gone two weeks and what’s happened to you?
I’ve always rather liked the fact you don’t have any airs and graces. I like that you don’t try too hard to be cool, and that you’ve got a bit of a funny accent. I like that on a Sunday morning you look like you’ve had a damn good time the night before judging by the amount of empty bottles and used condoms on the floor. Admittedly I’m not too keen on the unsavouries that hang around in your underpasses, armed with a house brick and ready to swap your new phone for a nice concussion, but everyone has their bad points.
So imagine my shock when I returned from two weeks in the ‘shire to find a certain Mr Jack Wills residing on your high street! What on earth is that doing there? Did it aim for Stratford and miss?
To prove that my eyes were not deceiving me, and under the pretence of needing a new pair of shorts, I decided that it was time for further investigation. Now much as it shames me to say so, I have graced the floors of one of Mr Wills’ shops before, (well when in Chester it is quite acceptable for one to pay a visit to a University Outfitters of such distinction), but was met with such fug of hedonism and chorus of yahs, daaaahlings and daddy-I-absolutely-must-have-this-pinstripe-blazer-immediately-or-I-will-simply-wither-and-die, that I became rather nauseous and left.  
Now before crossing to the dark side, I decided that I had better make some sort of effort not to look like the regular high street riff-raff, so made sure that my shirt collar was flicked up in a way that says I might be posh, but I’d trounce you in a game of slaps round the back of the boat house, and tried to look like I belonged there.
On arrival at this shop establishment, I was welcomed by one of those smug bastards who are paid to stand by the door and show you what you could aspire to should you choose to shop there.
“Good afternoon, how may we help you today,” he intoned with hugely elongated vowels that suggested his native Brummy accent had been subjected to years of elocution lessons. Nonetheless, the look that accompanied this sent a much stronger message; “Actually mate, Primark’s that way.” But no, I was not deterred. I would get to the bottom of this imposter that had sneaked its way in whilst I wasn’t looking.
Needless to say I wasn’t met with the same level of hedonism and vulgarity that its Chester counterpart demanded. Instead I was greeted by the sight of a couple of bemused looking kids who has obviously stumbled in, too illiterate to read that this was not actually a further branch of Jack Jones, and a couple of haughty looking girls asking if that gillet is available in sunflower? (Sorry luv, we’ve only got the body-warmers in yellah, will that do?) For fear of dirtying the upper floor of the shop with my critical gaze, I was swiftly directed to the gentleman’s department on the lower floor.
Anyhow, I figured whilst I was putting myself through this rather surreal experience that I would look for said pair of shorts that I entered the shop under the pretence of buying. After several minutes of perusing the casually cluttered shelves I spotted a pair that I thought would do the trick, all the time under the watchful eye of a shop assistant who obviously thought I was in no way capable of affording such fine fashion. Nonetheless I kept up the charade of browsing until I established that the shop assistant was indeed correct; I couldn’t afford the shorts (nor would I want to at nearly sixty quid!) so left whilst my dignity was still intact, because let’s face it, this probably would be a perfect time to stage the latest chapter of my idiocy.
“Come back soon,” the guy on the door said as I stalked out.
He may as well have told me to fuck off.
So anyway Birmingham, I didn’t think you were the kind of city to give in to peer pressure in order to fit in with the likes of Oxford and Cheltenham, but you do seem to be making an effort to reassure me that you’re still the place that I know and love. And just so you know, I thought it was a nice touch that one of your Big Issue men (you know the one; he sounds like he has had his voice box ripped out as he slurs Biiiiisssue outside the cathedral) actually sneezed on it before he offered it to me this time.
Now if that’s not classy, then I don’t know what is.

Monday, 18 April 2011

All Grown Up

If you had asked me aged five what I wanted to be when I grew up, the likelihood is that I would have told you I wanted to be a train driver. At age seven, following a trip to Sea World, I would have answered Marine Biologist. As a ten year old I decided I wanted to be a barrister because I liked how it sounded (which, let’s face it, is hugely important at that age!) I’d be happily married to my primary school girlfriend and we’d have so many children that we’d have to drive them around in a double-decker bus.
Then I became a teacher and realised that celibacy looked like a pretty good option.  
Nonetheless, I like to think that I have a good relationship with my inner child, although he still gets me into trouble sometimes, like laughing at inappropriate things or eating a whole packet of Haribo in one sitting. Recently, this has manifested itself into an unnatural urge to not just jump, but launch myself feet first into any puddle that I might come across. In fact as a child I had a dedicated ‘puddle jumping’ outfit for a number of years so it’s no surprise this craze has come back once again (although thankfully without the waterproof onesie of the first instalment.) Now back in the shire this is still teetering on the edge on acceptable behaviour for a 24 year old, but in the city, well that’s a whole different kettle of fish! I actually feel sympathy for the sensible people who have to put up with the slightly maniacal puddle jumper who roams the streets of the midlands. Scratch that; ditch the Blackberry Mr Lawyer, and forget the fact that your shoes cost more than my car; befriend your inner child and join me on my rampage. Go on, I dare you!
But now, at the ripe old young age of 24, much as I hate to admit it, I think I might have become a grown-up.
I can practically hear the sharp intake of breath.
But why now? What is so significant about this day approximately half way through my 24th year of existence, rather than, let’s say for arguments’ sake, the day I left home, or the first time that I realised that if I drink a whole bottle of wine to myself I would be sick, or even the realisation that doing stuff just to wind up your parents is actually way more effort that its worth?
Because today, I applied for a mortgage; an actual, real, I’m-going-to-have-to-pay-proper hard-earned-money-every-month-until-I’m-sixty mortgage! Am I insane? Quite possibly! This isn’t at all like the time I bought Clarence House in Monopoly and then had to sell it to my dad to make a quick buck to pay my rent, because no amount of brightly coloured Monopoly money and parental pestering if going to get me out of this if it all goes tits up! In the words of that generic grandparent, You’re on your own now, lad.
I’m now realising that this mortgage will more than likely be the longest and most expensive relationship I’ll ever have, (and let’s face it, with my previous relationship history that isn’t going to be difficult!) But this isn’t something that can be easily terminated if it doesn’t pick up after itself, or if we agree after two years that it just isn’t working out; if we break up, it gets the house. In a round-about way the nice mortgage man (for want of a better description) even asked me what I would do if I died! DIED! I am now quite literally tied to this mortgage until death do us part, But only if your insured, mind you. Can’t be too careful these days!
I think I’m going to need to find a pretty big puddle to jump in to get over this.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

The Educational Value of Idiocy.

I often think that I am the sort of guy that attracts disaster. I’m the sort of person who laughs outwardly at those unfortunate stars of ‘You’ve Been Framed’ who run into the closed glass doors at full pelt or slip on black ice, whereas inside I am secretly remembering the moment when it was my face hitting the solid glass or nursing the bruise on my arse after yet another frosty morning. That’s me; I really shouldn’t be let out alone. Ever.
Now it might come as a surprise to you that as I am 'that sort of person' I should make my career by imparting my limited knowledge on the youth of today. Noble you say? Unlikely! I view the workplace as merely a larger venue in which to stage the comedy of errors that is my daily life. A captive audience of thirty of the harshest critics you are ever like to encounter; let the games begin!
So after arriving at work at the usual ungodly hour I went about my business prepping for another busy day, checking off the various things on the obligatory ‘to do’ list and after seeing how many Post-It notes I can cover my desk with, I paid my daily visit to the store cupboard.
My recent mission has been to inflict some of my organisational skills on those around me and in doing so I have discovered the benefits of many plastic wallets, and most recently coloured plastic wallets.
So on my way back from said store room with a replenished supply of wallets balanced precariously I was ambushed by a small step that sprung out and attacked my foot. But that could have happened to anyone right? Of course! And the subsequent dropping on the wallets is again completely plausible. It was not until I reached down to gather up those escaping wallets that I felt the twang and heard the ripping of material.
Holy Fuck.
Realising that I am now in a situation that no amount of plastic wallets can save me from, I decide it’s time to check for damage. Sneakily reaching to the back of my trousers, I feel the frayed material and start to establish the severity of my current situation. Realising that my underwear is suddenly on display in a considerably hostile environment, I am hit with one further piece of crucial information; today was laundry day. This could mean only one thing; those unsightly cartoon strip boxers that had remained hidden in my draw since the dawn of time were now the only thing concealing my decency. Whilst I’m sure that the educational content of the plot line that was developing on my left cheek would ultimately result in some sort of thrilling climax by the time the cartoon strip reached my right one, this was not the type of literature I was used to working with!
Think Jack, think!
There was only one thing for it. I had to get help and this would mean leaving my classroom and facing the growing crowds now culminating in the corridors. So with my arse pressed against the wall to conceal the final remnants of my decency, my perilous journey to the staff office began.
It was on my arrival here, and feeling a miniscule amount of smugness that my arse sliding plan had worked a treat, that I then had to sheepishly knock on the deputy-head’s door.
“Are you feeling unwell?” was her first response as I entered the room looking decidedly flushed.
“If only!” I thought as I turned a deeper shade of mortified after seeing her puzzled yet slightly critical look.
For some unknown reason, as I began to recount the trouser rippage incident, the hilarity of this situation hit me at full force, and I was left not only with my underwear on display, but now completely bereft of the power of logical though or speech. Needless to say I was sent home to rectify my situation and told to return once I had regained composure.
It was not until last week that this incident reared its ugly head for one final blow. When marking one of my student’s books, I found this anecdote;
“As a teacher I thought that buying a pair of substandard trousers from a certain high street chain was a good idea. It was not. Not only did I embarrass myself, I lost the respect of all colleagues and students.”
A footnote followed;
“It’s ok Sir, we like that you’re an idiot”
In a final blow to an already traumatic event, my life has been turned into an anecdote about failure by a thirteen year old.
But at least my idiocy is valued.