My salad dressing days

Chicklets Squished In Freak Armchair Incident!!
December 28, 2005, 10:04 pm
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Oh, and then there was the one where UC had to figure out how, um, when to take penicillin ‘on an empty stomach and at least one hour before eating’.

Four. Times. A. Day.

At Christmastime?

Are they kidding?


Merry Christmas, all!
December 24, 2005, 12:26 pm
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Madonna and Child by Guy Reid
St Matthew’s Church, Westminster, London

Deck the halls! Slash the car tyres!
December 22, 2005, 12:46 pm
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Ding dong went our doorbell last night at 8pm (actually, it was ‘thud thud’, palm on wood, ’cause I keep forgetting to plug the doorbell in).

A burly (read: overweight) teenage lad and two embarrassed-looking girls launched into ‘We wish you a merry Christmas’.

‘Stop!’ said Mr Chick. ‘You were here on Monday night!’

Background note: two lots of ‘carol singers’ graced our doorstep on Monday night. The first lot (see above) rushed through ‘We wish you…’ and when asked by Mr Chick what they were collecting for (i.e. which charity), they said ‘tips’, so we said: uh-uh. Charity: yes, ‘tips’: no.

The second lot consisted of another boy-girl-girl grouping, this time aged around nine or ten. Bizarrely, again, the boy was busting out of his oversized anorak. Again, a rush through ‘We wish you…’ and then we had a ten-second stare-off. I was waiting for them to say which charity they were collecting for and they were just waiting, looking mildly panicked.

Breaking the uncomfortable silence after I had asked what they wanted, the boy blurted out ‘sweets!’. The girls furrowed their brows and shuffled around.

‘No, which charity?’

Confusion broke out on their faces and the girls turned to look at their parents who were standing on the street, smoking.

‘Dad, what charity is it for?’

[dragging heavily on fag] ‘Children!’

‘What children?’ I inquired.

‘Daaaaaaaaaaaaaad? What children?’

‘Children in Need!’ he yelled back.

‘Children in Need’, she added, as if I hadn’t heard.

Totally unconvinced but desperate to get them and their parents off my doorstep lest they slash my car tyres, I handed the most responsible-looking girl three ten pence coins. The boy huffed and muttered some profanity as he waddled away.

But anyway, back to last night. The boy replied to Mr Chick:

‘No, I wasn’t! I was in Spain!’

Top marks for the most exotic excuse. Why not: I was at home watching telly. Or that old classic: it must have been my identical twin brother.

‘Bullshit!’ laughed Mr Chick.

‘Don’t fucking swear at me!’ replied the boy, indignant.

Oooh, the irony.

‘I didn’t know ‘bullshit’ was a swear word!’ responded Mr Chick.

Hovering in the background in my jimjams, I was thinking: I think ‘bullshit’ might be regarded by some as a swear word but I figured that it might not be helpful to point this out, so I kept schtum.

After a few ‘oh yes it is’ and ‘oh no it isn’ts’, Mr Chick slowly pushed the door shut, whilst the boy looked down at our [insert name of major car manufacturer] estate and muttered menacingly ‘Is that your car?’.

Welcome to Yuletide in south London! ‘Tis the season to be jolly!

[North Londoners, this is no time to gloat and make me regret our decision to move south of the river all those moons ago, you hear me?]

P.S. The local police are recommending the following course of action:

“Please remember that anyone (but usually children) who rings your doorbell or knocks and then starts singing carols, but have no official charity collection box or permit, are simply begging.”

“Begging by children under 16 is an offence under Section 4 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933. Anyone can detain such children and then you can call the police.”

That’s right. We should make a citizen’s arrest, detain them in our living room (so they can really case the joint) and then call the police. Super!

Slippers (sequinned and sparkly) for schlepping
December 21, 2005, 1:20 pm
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Yes, for once, I am posting shoes That I Actually Wear On A Regular Basis.

These are the bestest slippers EVER. They are sorta Birkenstocky and super-comfortable.

But hey! Bonus! They also sparkle a little (well, the three remaining unpicked-by-chicklet sequins do).

A bargain from an Accessorize sale of yore they were (five measly squids, if I remember rightly – can’t say fairer than that, eh?).

[Their rubber soles and unslipperish looks also make them the perfect footwear solution for late night, all-weather trips to the corner shop.]

Alpha males we hate to love #37: Gordon Ramsay
December 20, 2005, 2:03 pm
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[Click here for picture.]

I know what you’re thinking: This Blog Is Going Downhill. Rapidly.

C’mon, where’s your festive spirit?

Mine’s in the drinks cabinet…awaiting dusk (sunacceptable to slurp Baileys before 4pm, doncha know?).

UC investigates…
December 19, 2005, 1:19 pm
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Onlookers and bystanders: are they the same people? Discuss.

I took to the streets of the nation’s capital on a cold, wintry night to carry out my very own vox pop of the hardy folk who stand by and look on when an incident, small or large, takes place.

Believe me, people, there are a lot of them out there. Heck, you might even be one yourself, possibly without knowing!

First up, I ran into Bert, a self-professed seasoned bystander. I asked him to tell me a little about himself:

‘Well, there was the Queen’s Coronation. I had nipped into town to buy a loaf of bread and blow me, if I couldn’t get into Greggs for all the pomp and wotnot! Well, I’m no royalist me, but somehow I found myself a bystander as the carriage drove past. So I s’pose that’s how I got into the whole bystanding thing…

‘A decade or so later, and my daughter had taken me on holiday with her to Dallas. We were having a picnic on a grassy knoll one lunchtime (if I remember rightly, I was complaining to my wife Ethel about how inedible I was finding my baloney sandwich), when we heard gunshots. Well, I knew there was some big important guy due in town that day, but who’d have thought I’d be a bystander at the assassination of an American president?

‘After that, there were a few more minor incidents (a carjacking outside Seven Sisters tube station, a bit of a to do when the neighbour’s cat got stuck up the monkey puzzle tree in our front garden) but then I developed arthritis in my left knee. Well, I can’t stand still for long now. It’s been hard and I find myself more of an onlooker these days. Shame really, but there we go. Mustn’t grumble. My daughter camped outside Kensington Palace three night’s before Princess Diana’s funeral, and I took my deckchair in the morning. Got a great view of the cortege.’

Then we ran into Sarah, an embittered twentysomething office administrator and former bystander from Plaistow:

‘Well, I’ll admit it, I wasn’t all sure about this bystanding lark, but my boyfriend said it was alright and that he had been an innocent bystander a few times. I told him ‘I don’t want no trouble’. We stood by a few fights after last orders at The Frog and Iguana, but we never got involved.

‘But then one day, someone accused me of being a ‘guilty bystander’. Well, I told him where to go and that I could understand his girlfriend wanting to sleep with his best mate if that’s the sort of mouth he had on him. That’s when the bystanding thing turned nasty for me and I told my boyfriend ‘I want out of this’ and we broke up.’

Asked if she had considered onlooking instead, Sarah replied:

‘Nah. Not interested. If you ask me, there’s not much in it: bystanding or onlooking. It’s all the same people doing it. Alright, some of the onlookers prefer to sit down, but not all of them! I think everyone should listen to Dionne Warwick and just ‘walk on by’. It’s kept me outta trouble for sure.’

Surly Girl quite reasonably inquired as to whether my research had taken in hangers-on. I regret to say that, whilst hangers-on did feature as part of the original remit, none of the hangers-on I came across wished to be identified on account of them all being in denial about their hanging-on status. Somehow, the sad losers all imagined themselves to be part of the ‘in’ crowd. Quod erat demonstrandum. Ahem.

Sunday night soporific
December 18, 2005, 10:45 pm
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The opening paragraphs of ‘Under Milk Wood’ by Dylan Thomas

To begin at the beginning:

It is spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black, the cobblestreets silent and the hunched, courters’-and-rabbits’ wood limping invisible down to the sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishingboat-bobbing sea. The houses are blind as moles (though moles see fine tonight in the snouting, velvet dingles) or blind as Captain Cat there in the muffled middle by the pump and the town clock, the shops in mourning, the Welfare Hall in widows’ weeds. And all the people of the lulled and dumbfound town are sleeping now.

Hush, the babies are sleeping, the farmers, the fishers, the tradesmen and pensioners, cobbler, schoolteacher, postman and publican, the undertaker and the fancy woman, drunkard, dressmaker, preacher, policeman, the webfoot cocklewomen and the tidy wives. Young girls lie bedded soft or glide in their dreams, with rings and trousseaux, bridesmaided by glow-worms down the aisles of the organplaying wood. The boys are dreaming wicked or of the bucking ranches of the night and the jollyrodgered sea. And the anthracite statues of the horses sleep in the fields, and the cows in the byres, and the dogs in the wetnosed yards; and the cats nap in the slant corners or lope sly, streaking and needling, on the one cloud of the roofs.

You can hear the dew falling, and the hushed town breathing. Only your eyes are unclosed, to see the black and folded town fast, and slow, asleep. And you alone can hear the invisible starfall, the darkest-before-dawn minutely dewgrazed stir of the black, dab-filled sea where the Arethusa, the Curlew and the Skylark, Zanzibar, Rhiannon, the Rover, the Cormorant, and the Star of Wales tilt and ride.

Listen. It is night moving in the streets, the processional salt slow musical wind in Coronation Street and Cockle Row, it is the grass growing on Llareggub Hill, dew fall, star fall, the sleep of birds in Milk Wood.

Listen. It is night in the chill, squat chapel, hymning, in bonnet and brooch and bombazine black, butterfly choker and bootlace bow, coughing like nannygoats, sucking mintoes, fortywinking hallelujah; night in the four-ale, quiet as a domino; in Ocky Milkman’s loft like a mouse with gloves; in Dai Bread’s bakery flying like black flour. It is tonight in Donkey Street, trotting silent, with seaweed on its hooves, along the cockled cobbles, past curtained fernpot, text and trinket, harmonium, holy dresser, watercolours done by hand, china dog and rosy tin teacaddy. It is night neddying among the snuggeries of babies.

Look. It is night, dumbly, royally winding through the Coronation cherry trees; going through the graveyard of Bethesda with winds gloved and folded, and dew doffed; tumbling by the Sailors Arms.

Time passes. Listen. Time passes.

Come closer now.

Only you can hear the houses sleeping in the streets in the slow deep salt and silent black, bandaged night. Only you can see, in the blinded bedrooms, the coms and petticoats over the chairs, the jugs and basins, the glasses of teeth, Thou Shalt Not on the wall, and the yellowing dickybird-watching pictures of the dead. Only you can hear and see, behind the eyes of the sleepers, the movements and countries and mazes and colours and dismays and rainbows and tunes and wishes and flight and fall and despairs and big seas of their dreams.

From where you are, you can hear their dreams.