Big trouble in little Bielefeld

Bielefeld by night....apparentlyThere is a conspiracy in Germany that Bielefeld does not exist.   There are even Wikipedia entries about it.   So, for any Germans reading this, it may surprise you to know that I have actually been there, eaten food and drank various soft beverages there and in fact was arrested in that veritable Bermuda Triangle of Germany.

First, the conspiracy:

Apparently it started off as a Usenet joke which took on its own life.   Made much worse some years later when Google Maps misaligned their satellite hybrid view, so that the street overview was placed on a blank forest area.   Apparently the council of Bielefeld even went so far as to create an advertising campain with the slogan “Bielefeld gibt es doch!” (Bielefeld does exist!” and they still recieve calls and emails that doubt the very existence of the City.

There are 3 questions that you need to ask yourself:

Do you know anybody from Bielefeld?
Have you ever been to Bielefeld?
Do you know anyone that has ever been to Bielefeld?

If you answer yes to any of the questions, you are part of the conspiracy…

Based on this, it is my belief that the Flying Spaghetti Monster is based there and not, as people were led to believe, in Kansas.

My personal memories of Bielefeld as a city are somewhat cloudy.   I get glimpses of the place in sort of random 4 second snapshots…Almost as if my memory was wiped in an alien abduction/probe kind of way.

That said, I do clearly remember being there with around 5 other guys, at about 8 in the morning on a Sunday.   I don’t actually know why though, seeing as there a no shops open on a Sunday.   I quite like that, even though I am not religious, you get Sundays as a proper day of rest…unless you work in a Bakery.

Or a restaurant.   Or a bar.   Or cafe.   Of course the Kiosks are open obviously.   Other than that nothing is open.   Oh, mustn’t forget the people that operate public transport.   So other than bakeries, restaurants, cafes, bars, kiosks and public transport…everything is.. wait, swimming pools.   And fitness centers.   Almost forgot cinemas…oh and the souveneir shops.   As you can see, they feel really strongly about making sure that the Germans get their day of rest…you can even get in trouble for washing your car!

Anyway, back to Bielefeld…so myself and 5 others were wandering through Bielefeld playing Def Leppard at a reasonable volume (if we were deaf) when the police arrived and asked us very politely to turn it down arrested us.   It might have been OK if we had simply turned it down when they turned up and spoke to them, instead of scattering like cockroaches when you turn the light on.   Apparently, the police don’t like getting exercise that early in the morning…especially before they have had their morning doughnuts and coffee.

It took them around 20 minutes to round us up.   We were slowed down considerably by not knowing where the hell we were running to..although let’s face it, where we were running from was more important at the time.   We, of course, played the dumb English card to try and get away with it…the 2 German lads that were with us did this too, albeit somewhat less convincingly.   Unfortunately English is a little more widely spoken than we gave credit for and we were well in the shite.   Well…as in the shite as 6 kids can be when facing a noise pollution charge…it’s not like we robbed a bank or anything.   I am pretty sure they were just trying to shock us.   The problem was that we were cocky little bleeders…at least I was.   I may have even tried to tell them we had diplomatic immunity *cough*

Still…we got away with it and our parents were none the wiser.

Actually, speaking of the German lads trying to pretend they were English..   A loooong time ago, I was heading to visit my folks in my battered Morris Marina when I remembered that I needed to get some cash out of the bank.   I left work early and headed into Newark to do just this.

I was in holiday mode and not really concentrating too much…so much so that I just followed the traffic into the Market Square.   I pulled up outside the bank and nipped inside.   I left the keys in the car as it was impossible to start without knowing how.   I got to the cashiers desk and was waiting for my money when I heard the distinctive sound of my car trying to start.   A quick glance out of the door and I suddenly notice the world.   A world in which the Market Square is full of Market traders…on Market day no less.   I had followed market traders onto the market square and had parked in just the right position to stop any of them moving their vans around to pack up and leave.

Thinking quickly, I whip off my work ID badge, pickup my money, put on my sunglasses and head outside.   It is fair to say that the guy trying to start my car, along with his 10 friends…were not happy.   He immediately starts swearing at me to move my “fucking car”.   Panicked, I put on my stereotypical German accent and pretend to speak broken English.   I am left with the image of my getting into the car, starting it up and then being guided whilst reversing by a load of market traders talking loudly and in very simple English words.   Trying to explain where to head and making sure everyone was out of my way…   I got my karmic retribution though, a 3 hour journey took 9 hours thanks to an accident on the motorway…

Accents are fun…and can get you out of the odd sticky situation I guess…just try and using them for good

Gotta get back in time

Clothes discarded earlier today…. as Huey Lewis and the News once sang.

I have been spotting a disturbing trend around Frankfurt recently from a certain group of people.   Well, I say recently, but in reality I just kept forgetting about it…you know, how the mind blocks out traumatic events to protect our fragile little minds.

Basically, teenagers of a certain decent in Frankfurt seem to be modelling themselves on a combination of Robert Smith/B52 Girls   hair styles (the Girls), MC Hammer trousers (the girls) and Chris Isaak mullets (the guys).   Additional styles include Skinny drainpipe jeans (the guys) and black jackets with the sleeves rolled up (the guys).   Of course, I couldn’t forget the fact that the jeans will be black, slightly too short and will be finished off with white socks and black shoes.

It is like something out of Don’t mess with the Zohan…honestly, either that or from some hip, cool and groovy pop video circa 1983.   Actually, the guys with the black jackets look like a sort of Gothic Miami Vice…

The guys will invariably have half a ton of Brylcream in their hair and bum fluff mustaches, whereas the women will be wearing some spangly faux gold/diamond pair of shoes that give you an epileptic fit whenever they start walking.   Oh, and bum fluff mustaches.

They will all be wandering aimlessly and normally near/around the local internet cafe.   If found on trams/tubes they will be listening to music (probably 2 Unlimited) by utilising their mobile phone as a stereo…shit music being played through a single shit speaker.   Based on their look, I can only feel blessed that we aren’t forced to listen to the MIDI version, as you can almost reasonably expect their phones to be as dated as their look.

If they were in England, they would be wearing Burberry clothing, drinking 20-20 behind the school bikesheds and smoking Lambert and Butler cigs.   They would live on a council estate and drive around in a Mk.1 Fiesta (1.1 poplar) with a wooden spoiler hoisted on the back that was made out of wooden pallets.   In short, these people are Germanys very own Chavs.

In the spirit of education, I present to you two classic music videos that really captures the essence of the Chav.   Enjoy first, “In Me Burberry”:-

And now the classic “Chavhemian Rhapsody”

I’ll be the one getting his head kicked in outside the kebab shop later…

Mistaken identity and other strangeness

hospital wallSome years ago I was working in a hospital doing general network support.   It was actually a great place to work and had the distinction (at the time) of having a corridor that was almost 2 miles long.   That bit wasn’t quite so enjoyable as having to go from Pathology (furthest point along the corridor), to fix an issue in Maternity (furthest point in the other direction) was not my idea of a good time.   I had a few weird moments in this place, some technical and others not.

The boss had this amazing idea that, if people needed less than 10 network points, I would install them myself.   As you can imagine, this led to me being some sort of network point pimp and extolling the virtues of having (in some cases) 9 spare available because “You never know”.   When this failed it was left to me.

Now, anyone that knows me will tell you that I cannot perform basic DIY.   It is simply something I am not genetically made up for.   Shelves fall down, holes in plaster get miraculously bigger…I invariably hurt myself.   Yet here I was, embarking on a terrifying journey of drilling holes in hospital walls.   I remember having to put a new socket in the Pharmacy to replace an existing one where the cable was broken.   I exposed the cable run and started to trace the cable I needed to replace.   The idea being to tie the new cable to the old, and pull it through.   This reasonable theory hit a few snags, namely that the cable run went through walls into other rooms, corridors and even outside for a few meters.   It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realise that I made a mistake and disconnected the wrong cable…meaning I had to do it all again.   It’s just aswell there was someone there to help me..oh that’s right, I was on my own.

I had to get through a wall that was around 4ft thick in the Pathology department, but the biggest drillbit I had access to was just under 3ft long.   Confident and complete with tape measure, I was absolutely certain that I would be able to “Eurotunnel” it and meet up from either side.   In the end, and after turning this wall into swiss cheese, I tracked down some builders and stole their giant drillbit to do it.

I had to turn one of the Doctors on-call bedrooms into an office, which involved drilling down from the attic space.   Unfortunately the attic space wasn’t big enough for me to stand up in and my trusty tape measure didn’t appear to be so trusty, so I took to crawling along the corridor on my stomach to try and work out where to drill.   The Doctors knew that there would be some noise and drilling going on.   I am fairly confident that this particular, sleeping, Doctor didn’t anticipate being woken up to plaster falling onto his bed, a drill screaming through the ceiling followed swiftly by a large eye looking through the hole and apologising profusely.   I wouldn’t have been surprised to discover that Doctor sleeping in his car from there on in.

That said, learning from my mistakes at that point wasn’t so easy to me, and I managed to repeat this feat…only this time in the Maternity department….into a room where they were performing ultrasounds…I can’t be certain, as I was rapidly accelerating into the distance, but I may have caused a number of false alarms and possibly a premature birth or two that day.

It wasn’t all about me scaring the crap out of Doctors and patients alike, I had my fair share.     Like sitting at my desk quietly, running a stress test on the LAN with the development team….in the middle of the test, the rocket I had just fired at the head of the Duke Nukem across the courtyard mid air, followed seconds later by “Network Connection Lost”.   Glancing up, I see the network monitor screen…and all of the lovely green symbols were turning a nasty looking red colour.   Half the network was down, I call the developers to see if it was them (they were losing after all) and start running down the corridor to the first place that had gone red.     As I am running, I can see that the ladder into the attic space is already down…getting closer still and I can hear drilling.   I hit the ladder and scramble up without stopping, until I see an electrician merrily drilling away.   I briefly consider asking him how he worked out where to drill so effortlessly, but shake that off and check the comms cabinet….which is unsurprisingly devoid of any flashing blinking light type doodahs.   A quick look behind the cabinet and you can see that it has been unplugged…and replaced by a beaten up, paint spattered cord of the workmans drill.   I beat him about the head ask him nicely to stop drilling and plug the cabinet back in.   Wordlessly I point to the rather large sign that instructs people not to remove the plastic cover and unplug the cabinet…before heading off to find the foreman, relieve myself in the toilet and have a large brandy to calm my nerves.

I remember trying to lift a server on my own…that was clearly too big/heavy for me, but noone else was around to help me…and hearing my knee pop.   I get on the phone and Andrew comes running down to me, pushing a wheelchair that I have always hoped was empty when he found it.   I remember, through the pain, feeling quite lucky that this had happened in a hospital, that had a ward dedicated to looking after people with leg/knee pain.   So you will forgive my shock when I was told I would have to make the journey across town to go to Accident and Emergency before they could see me.   Oh how I cursed their computer systems that day…certainly they wouldn’t be high on my list in the future……

I could go on and on…what do you mean I already have?   Ah well… :-p

When I first joined the support team there, they always sent the newbies on a rite of passage…the morgue.   I can still recall the smell of the place as I headed inside…where the morgue technicians tell me that the computer with the issue is in the main fridge room…they have, of course, left the doors open just for me.   I realise that this sounds a little disrespectful…but damn if I didn’t laugh my ass off….when I had finished throwing up of course.

Probably the most memorable, and terrifying thing though was when I was walking back to the office one quiet and peaceful afternoon.   One of the problems associated with being in IT within a hospital is what you wear.   Generally I wore black trousers, a white shirt…professional looking tie and of course a pager.   I had been mistaken for a Doctor on numerous occasions and was quite used to explaining that I wasn’t, and even running off to find them a Doctor from time to time.   One of those things you might say.   Until this day.   Walking back towards my office and a panic stricken woman bursts through the door of the chest/lung ward that was opposite our office.   She clocks me and without a word, starts dragging me into the ward…and practically throws me into a room where her husband (I assumed) was suffering some form of breathing attack.   As I finally start to realise what is going on, I try to explain that I am not a Doctor…but quite obviously this woman didn’t want me talking to her…I managed to focus enough to hit the panic button on the wall and within seconds Doctors and Nurses start piling in the room to help.

I stand back and watch these amazing people go about their business with this efficient calm about them.   A few minutes later and the husband is calmed, breathing more easily and the wife is clearly relieved.   I have the upmost respect for Doctors and Nurses…there is no way I could do what they do.

On top of all that, the wife came to find me later and thanked me for helping….She had forgotten the panic button was there and couldn’t focus to find anyone.   I didn’t know what to say, certainly I had done nothing worthy of thanks from this woman.   People are amazing though was a woman so clearly going through hell and she found the time to thank some poor scared cretin who managed to hit a button.   Also, it shows what having a little faith can do…her husband made a full recovery and left the hospital 6 weeks later.

I like people sometimes, I really do.

Electricity chafes…

I nominate these guys for this year…tis true. Years ago, I was working for a software house in Cheltenham.   During this time the company were undergoing some major changes, including shutting down an office in Surrey and moving operations to Cheltenham.   This meant getting 2 new buildings and setting them up from scratch.   During this time we had mucho fun getting everything ready, and very little sleep was had by myself and Matt.

I point this out as, at some point on the Sunday, Matt and I were checking all of the PCs and printers etc to make sure that everything could login and would work as expected.   The move had actually begun at 17:00 on the Friday and everyone was expecting to begin working as normal at 08:00 on the Monday morning.   Not a lot of time to move some 300 people and all of their equipment.   We managed it…barely.   Anyway, back to the checking of PCs… I think we got to the 3rd floor and went around as before switching everything on.   Matt notices that one of the PCs didn’t fire up…so as we are taking a break, he decides to whip the case off and take a look.   He didn’t take the usual precautions of unplugging the machine, grounding himself etc, but no matter…generally these things don’t pose an issue.

We are chatting away and pretty much trying to stay awake when he asks me for a screwdriver.   On hindsight, I should have questioned why, but as tired as I was I passed one to him.   There then followed this set of events:

Matt:   “Thanks, I think I see what’s wrong”
Matt: THUD
Matt: Slide
Matt: THUD
Matt:   “AAaaaaaaaargh”

He ended up about 10 feet away from where he started, with a hairstyle not dissimilar to Yahoo Serious of Young Enstein fame.   In a moment of genius clarity, he had noticed that the power supply fan was not spinning, decided to jab the screwdriver into it and wiggle around, hoping to dislodge whatever was causing the fan to stick.. Only he went too far, jabbed the screwdriver a little too deep into the gubbins of the PSU and gave himself something of a shock.   The shock sent his body hurtling backwards like something out of a film, the force of this caused him to smack his head into the desk that he was underneath, drag his hand through the gubbins of the PC and eventually smack his head into the wall 10 feet away.

After I stopped laughing, I checked to see if he was ok.   He was…although he had a lump on his head and his hand was bleeding like a good ‘un.   All that was really needed were a small flock of birds to circle around his head, throwing stars up in the air and for smoke to come off his head.

The PC started working though, so it just goes to show …mind you, his watch was never the same again.

This was the company that is essentially responsible for the Fester’esque black circles around my eyes.   Thanks to working an average (honestly) of 21 hours per day, 7 days a week for 9 weeks.   Part way through this, they tell me about the impending closure of the southern office and send me down there to arrive just as the meeting is called.

It was all very cloak and dagger, and not at all pleasant for me.   I had to wait outside and, when the meeting started..someone gave me the signal to get into the building, where I had 25 minutes to lock down and protect the data, admin accounts and even the comms rooms.   This was simply following due dilligance as instructed by the insurance company, but still…I felt like an arsehole.

It worked out ok in the end, but there were a lot of upset people there, not least of all the guys that reported in to me.

Heh, just remembered a trip back with the head of facilities.   We were driving back from Cirencester to Cheltenham in ridiculously thick fog.   It was one of those where you couldn’t see much past the front of the car, so we were driving appropriately slowly as the situation demanded.   Pete mentions that we have to be really alert, as there is a new roundabout around here somewhere..with that, a car goes flying past us and had to be travelling over the speed limit…2 seconds later we realise we are on the roundabout.   I forget the exact chain of events, but Pete points out of the car, up in the air…where we can see red lights…as we come around it is obvious that the red lights belong to the car that had gone past us a couple of seconds earlier…and is now about 30 feet in the air and falling to the ground after hitting a lamppost across the other side of the roundabout.

Pete, being the kindly soul he is…starts calling the guy all sorts of names as we wend our merry way at 5-10mph.   In fairness, we did check that the guy got out ok…but then left him to it.

I think he learned a valuable lesson right there….

The birds and the bees

Be Careful Now...It probably isn’t as prevelant as it once was, but in bygone days quite a lot of guys had to undergo a rite of passage…normally with their father.   There were a number of these rites…first beer, first live sporting event and so on.   None of these things though, could prepare you for “The Talk”.

Obviously these days, most kids/teens are more aware of STDs and how to put a condom on a banana than their parents are, mainly due to school lessons…but it wasn’t always the case.   I was unfortunately caught in that time when kids were becoming more aware, but parents weren’t.   A bit like when the government switched from O-Level to GCSE in schools…only somewhat more embarrassing.

Picture the scene; A 16 year old Laughing Wolf arrives home at sometime before noon…having been out the entire night at his girlfriends place.   Dad is in the kitchen as I grab something to eat and drink…small talk ensues.   Football is discussed, schoolwork is discussed, would I take my brothers with me on Sunday to blah blah.   I remember feeling a little confused…sure, Dad and I regularly nattered about little and nothing, but there seemed to be some sort of unspoken uneasiness.   I couldn’t quite place it, nor could I work out why Dad was refusing to make eye contact with me.

I took my food into the living room, sat down and put the TV on.   A few minutes went by and Dad came in, sat next to me and said “I think it is about time we had a talk son”.

I, of course, shit myself was curious as to what he wanted to discuss.   I racked my brain, searching for what indiscretion had transpired…that I could have been caught for.   Maybe he had noticed the missing Apple Korn bottle, found my stash of smokes at the bottom of the garden…that my tape deck had been broken for months and I had wired up a walkman to the stereo to hide it.

Dad turned the TV off and looked distinctly nervous.   He ummed and aahed for a few moments, and I remember thinking that I was in serious trouble…Dad is never lost for words you see, so his discomfort was instantly passed onto me and I didn’t know what to make of it.   He put his hand on my shoulder and started to say the almost timeless “Son, there comes a time in…” and was cut off.   At the moment he began to speak, Mum walked into the living room..sized up the situation, realised what was going on and said “I wouldn’t worry about it Gordon, I have just been putting his washing away and saw a load of condoms in his drawer”.

The realisation of what Dad wanted to talk to me about hit me…the relief in Dads face was visible.   He patted my shoulder and said “Good we had this talk son” and he was gone.   I couldn’t believe it…my Dad, for just a few seconds, was a walking talking clich??.   I put my uneaten food in the kitchen, and legged it outside for a smoke.

You see, I have never been to war…but I really felt like I dodged a bullet there.   That said, as I sit here now, I kind of wonder what he was going to say…after all, it could come in handy in the future.

Did any of you dodge this bullet, or were you forced to endure the torture that is “The Talk”?

Cruel to be kind

Oh my God I look Cute!!Firstly, apologies for the password protected post.   Maybe I will open it up in the future, but right now…that one is for me.

Anyhoo, I was chatting to DS yesterday and was reminded (I forget how) about something that happened a few years ago.

I was walking through a shopping center (mall to you non Brits) when I noticed, some way in front of me, a parent caring for a child in a pushchair…as I got closer I could see that the child was in some distress and was coughing a lot.   Obviously, as a parent myself I was concerned for the little mite, and was even a little relieved when I got close and saw that he had calmed down and was no longer in clear distress.

However, I noticed something…something far more insidious and I recognised it immediately as the possible cause of the poor childs coughing fit.   It was an allergic reaction, and it was so obvious to me that I had to mention it to the father.   I guess that, as a parent, you can’t always notice the dangers around your child, especially from something so innocuous.

So, being the kind hearted parent and good citizen that I am, I leant in close to the father and mentioned..”I think I see what caused your son to choke, I am pretty sure it is an allergic reaction”.   The father looks up at me, somewhat quizzically now, but not dismissive of this strangers advice.   “What is it?” says he.

I take a deep breath, almost a sigh really and point my finger in the direction of the child…pointing directly to a mark on the childs chest.   So obvious now that I come to think of it, I almost felt sorry that this father was so clearly blinded by the love for his child and the distress that he had felt.   He followed my gaze to the offending mark and that’s when he realised and I saw a look of understanding….it was the Manchester United crest on the childs shirt.   A glimmer of recognition flashed across his face and he turns to see me nodding sympathetically.

“That’s close to child cruelty right there” says I, “You are lucky I don’t report you to child services mate” as I back away from the loving fathers swinging fist.   Such a strangely angry reaction for such a random act of kindness from a stranger.

As I rapidly accelerate away, I think to myself:

“There is just no helping some people”

I like driving in my car

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VI Tommi Makinen EditionI am considering buying a car at the moment.   I am looking at the new Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution.   It is expensive, but if I am honest, there are two things that appeal to me about the car.   The first is that I live in Germany, the land of fast motorways..the second is the thought of seeing the face of my kids as I pull up to get them in their favourite car.   Let’s ignore the fact that I can’t afford one for now..

There is a third thing, and that is the fact that it would be new.   I still miss my old Alfa, sure it had it’s annoyances and foibles, not to mention how much it cost to do anything with it, the noise it made going round in circles and all the other faults that drove me insane.   Finally it blew a valve once too often and I got shot of it, but I knew everything about that car and especially how to make it tick.   It was comfortable I guess.   I could never have an Alfa now though, I look back at all the reasons I loved that car and realise that there are far more why I don’t.   Plus, when I got it, they were rare…now they seem to let anyone drive one.   So I think it is about time I got myself a new car, it has been long enough without one of my own…you can only borrow one for the night so many times before you want one to drive whenever the mood takes you.

Let’s face it though, I live in the land of the BMW/Mercedes/Audi and Volkswagen.   I don’t like the new Volkswagens, have never been keen on any Mercedes other than the sports versions that I could probably never afford, Top Gear have said that an Audi is officially the car of the Cock these days…which leaves a BMW as my only realistic alternative.   The problem of course is that the BMW held the title of Cockmobile for so long, I wonder if it will regain its title soon after I buy.   Which takes me back to the Evo.   Such a great, full of electronics (me likey)…oh and did I say fast?

I have had some great cars in my time..not necessarily great cars, but great memories with them and therefore great cars to me.

My first was a pristine Morris Marina, which was older than me when my Mum and Dad presented it to me, one owner from new and immaculate.   All I remember really was that it had the capability to be run ragged and keep going.   It had a solid steel bumper and because the suspension comprised of these weird elastic band type things, the back end was quite high.   This led to a number of issues.   The first was when, on a winters night with the windows iced up, I reversed into my (soon to be) wifes neighbours car.     The question that was raised the next day to her was “Does Daves car have a towbar?”…which it didn’ I did the only thing I could do…I owned up and paid for the damage shook my head and commented on “dishonest bastards”.   The self same bumper also did about ?1000 worth of damage to a Ford Sierra that rear-ended me at traffic lights.   I pull up at some lights, and start to take a swig of my coke when, BANG, idiot smacks straight into the back of me.   I motion for him to pull over after the lights change and we both get out.   When I get to the back of my car, I notice the massive amount of damage to this guys car, seriously, the bumper was hanging off..the grill was completely wrecked and his bonnet was crumpled.   I think one or both of his headlights were knackered aswell.   I quickly look to my car…just in time to see a small fleck of rust wafting its way to the ground like a leaf in the autumn.   I didn’t feel the need to get the guys insurance details and I went on my merry way.

The constant abuse that I gave the car almost came back to hurt me though, when a bearing came loose from the gearbox and literally shot out of the side of the gearbox housing….it was only blind luck that it didn’t come into the car….

I had a Ford Sierra (other wise known as a Ford Clitoris..every cu…nah) a Vauxhall Nova that had the distinction of breaking down whenever I wanted to go anywhere, especially if there was any rain.   There was a Renault 19 that lasted pretty well, until some idiot joyriders smashed into Sarah when she was driving it home.   Come to think of it, they were driving a Sierra…I hate Sierras, or at least they hate me.

Then I had a black Peugeot 306 Turbo that tried to kill me on the way to work when all of the electrics failed at around 100MPH….meaning I couldn’t use the electrically assisted brakes.   This woudln’t have been too much of a problem except for the huge traffic jam a mile or so ahead of me…and all of the traffic around me that basically wouldn’t let me pull in.   In the end I had to use the handbrake to slow down and force my way across traffic to the hard shoulder…with black smoke pouring off my tires.   My lasting memory of that was phoning my bitch boss from hell at the time and telling her what had happened.   All she asked was “Well…how late are you going to be?”.   Nice.

I have already mentioned my next Peugeot, and just before I got the Alfa, I had a Ford Mondeo.   Although, just before the Mondeo was delivered I was driving around in a rented Vauxhall Vectra (sorry Top Gear) for a while…that Sarah reversed into a concrete wall one night.   Our driveway at the time was very long and had a (surprise) concrete wall along the length of it.   She was taking Lisa home on a very foggy night and when she started to reverse she asked Lisa if she was clear.   Lisa, thinking that she was referring to other cars, said yes.   Unfortunately, she was referring to the wall.   Cue acceleration and a loud noise, which put a sizeable scratch/dent combination into the passenger side.     A few weeks later, I am making sure the scratch/dent combination is covered in dirt as I had to give the car back to the rental company….fortunately the guy collecting the car was on the phone and didn’t notice..thanks to some crafty parking by me ;-)

So there you have it, maybe I shouldn’t buy a car after all…it will only end up in disaster

Scared of the dentist…me?

Uros Petrovic - RevengeThis post dedicated to MK, who had quite a substantial dental op yesterday and came through it with flying colours :-)

I have quite bad teeth, I will freely admit that and I am currently trying to pluck up the courage (and the money) to get them sorted out.   A brief checkup revealed that fixing them is not a huge job, but it will cost a bit.

That said, the main sticking point is not really the money…it’s the fear.   I have had a number of bad experiences with Dentists in my life, but one really sticks out.

Oh, did I mention that I seem to have an immunity to the numbing agent that they inject you with?   No…glad I cleared that up then.

A few years ago I woke up with toothache.   Nothing particularly unusual there really…lots of people get toothache.   Me being me, I choose to ignore it and hope it goes away.   It doesn’t.   Why does ignoring it rarely work…anyway.   Two days later and I wake up in ridiculous pain.   I head to the bathroom for some painkiller and catch glimpse of the Elephant Man in the mirror.   Essentially, I look like a cartoon version of myself…a cartoon version of myself that has stored a football in its cheek for the winter.   In short….not good.

I go into the bedroom and wake Sarah up with a pitiful “Help me, it hurts” and we head off to the dentist.   They agree to see my right away and tell me that it is an abcess.   I have since learned that with this type of dental issue, they must treat the infection with antibiotics before they can remove the affected tooth.   Enter Dr Australia.   I call him that not because he had won best doctor in Australia, but because he was Australian and frankly I can’t think of another suitable nickname without being abusive.

This guy takes one look and tells me that he has to extract the tooth immediately, abcess and all, as…and I quote… “If that thing bursts, you will be in serious trouble”.   He gives me two injections around the area and leaves me for a few minutes for them to take.   As he is prodding and I am still yelping, he gives me two more.   This goes on around 5 (I think) times.   So I have now had around 10 injections and can still feel everything…determined to work through the pain, Dr Australia gets to work (what a trooper).   The pain was unbelievable and I am shaking as a result.   He stops and informs me that I have to be still.   I lean under the chair, grab hold of the metal struts underneath and tense for all I am worth in an effort to stay motionless.   Dr Australia is still struggling to get the tooth out and after a few minutes (I am quite literally crying at this point), he stops and moves away.   Whereupon he chooses to basically shout at me to stop moving, telling me that I could die if it bursts etc etc.   I nod, defeated, and tense so much that I am practically breaking through the struts underneath the chair.   Eventually, he manages to get the tooth free.   It wasn’t alone, a golf-ball sized abcess (I shit you not) came out with it, and I practically pass out from the pain.   Free of the tooth pain and now only dealing with the aftermath, we stagger to my Nans house so that I can sleep it off.   I glance in the mirror and it looks like I just lost a fight in the UFC.   Bruises over my face where he was leaning and pushing and generally trying to get leverage, everything was swollen and my eyes were bloodshot.   It was a good look.

A few hours later we head home and I go to bed again.   Unfortunately, just as I get to the top of the stairs, I black out and tumble down them.   Sarah calls a doctor who checks me out and then informs Sarah that it would appear that the anasthetic had finally taken hold…which was enough to knock out a large waterbuffalo….and before you say anything, even my ample size only accounts for a small waterbuffalo…

Not all Dentists are bastards…just small Australian ones working in North Nottinghamshire

Bring on the heat

pimentasI was talking to the guys at work yesterday, as it would appear that some of them are missing the national food of Great Britain…namely Hot Curry (and yes, the capitalisation is necessary).   Apparently, a place has been located that understands the term “English Hot please”.

Germans don’t do spicey food..they place a 3 chilli warning sign on what are essentially tomatoe flavoured crisps.   They consider standard, run of the mill bell peppers as excessive.   When you ask for chilli on your kebab…they look at you strangely when you ask if they have real chilli anywhere.   Not a spicy hot food nation is all I am saying.   Very occasionally, I will concede, you get a surprise…I went to a kebab shop some months ago and went through the usual routine:

Me: With chilli please
Kebabman:   *lightly introduces concept of chilli to kebab*
Me:   No I said chilli please… I am English, the hotter the better
Kebabman: I have put chilli on
Me:   No, you have given the kebab a theory lesson on what chillis are
Kebabman: *sighs* Ok, more chilli
Me:   Thankyou
Me:   Bites into kebab
Me:   Head explodes
Me:   Recovers and (hopefully) successfully hides the nuclear reaction going on in my mouth

Suffice to say, he is my favourite Kebabman.

So consequently, the curries here (whilst full of flavour), do not require a gallon of beer to cool off…which of course increases the enjoyment factor…as long as you get in touch with your inner lager lout.   So, a “proper” curry house has been discovered and we will be going for a heat competition in a couple of weeks.   For my part, I will be ensuring that there are plenty of toilet rolls in my freezer for when I get home.   I will also place paramedics on standby and maybe eat some candles…Homer Simpson stylee.   When I return from my dream walk with the talking fox…I may blog about hallucenigenic curries and their effect on inner city Frankfurt.

I digress…. the conversation about thermonuclear curries reminded me of a Chilli that my Mum cooked many years ago.   We like reasonably hot stuff in our family, but my Dad had a friend coming over..and Mum said she would cook a Chilli for everyone.   This prompted said “friend” to ask if it was going to be a proper Chilli or some weak thing.   My Mum insisted that we like our food HOT, but that wasn’t enough and it turned into a macho “I can eat food so hot, they can power small countries with the ‘output'” conversation.   My Mum assured him that it would be suitably hot and she felt sure he would enjoy it.

So the night arrived, and I stumble into the kitchen to get a drink and notice that Mum appears to be making 2 individual pots of Chilli.   One of the normal family size variety…and one of the somewhat smaller and, dare I say it, sinister…evil..child of Nosferatu variety.   Various spoons and possibly the bottom of the pan were most definitely melting.   My Mum may have been cackling as she dropped small and unassuming ingredients into this smaller pan…each of them met with a cloud of purple smoke, a smell of the sulphurous pits of hell and a distinctive gurgling sound.   I think what gave away her intentions though, was the leather apron…welders mask and lead gloves she donned whenever she went anywhere near this smaller pot.

So dinner is served and we all tuck into our Dads friend failed to notice that all of the plants with 10 feet of him had withered and died the second that Mum walked past with his Chilli in a specially reinforced bowl, and began to munch away.   No sooner had he got the first spoonful to his mouth, he broke out in an instant sweat.   His head was so red, I literally thought he might pass out…every few seconds he would glance across at us..quietly munching away, chatting normally and generally enjoying the experience.   After the 2nd mouthful..I believe he lost the use of his tongue, and his speech became slightly slurred.   He made some pitiful excuse shortly after, something about having a big dinner and he was really sorry, but couldn’t eat anymore.   At least, that’s what I think he said…to this day I couldn’t understand him properly.

The moral to this story is of course…do not cast aspersions at my Mums cooking…she may try and kill you.

Wish me luck…

Oh…thought I would leave you with this Chilli cookoff story :

Notes From An Inexperienced Chili Tester Named FRANK, who was visiting
Texas from the East Coast: “Recently, I was honored to be selected as a
judge at a chili cook-off. The original person called in sick at the last
moment and I happened to be standing there at the judge’s table asking
directions to the beer wagon, when the call came.

I was assured by the other two judges (Native Texans) that the chili
wouldn’t be all that spicy, and besides, they told me I could have free
beer during the tasting. So I accepted.”

Here are the scorecards from the event:



JUDGE ONE: A little too heavy on tomato. Amusing kick.

JUDGE TWO: Nice, smooth tomato flavor. Very mild.

FRANK: Holy shit, what the hell is this stuff? You could remove dried
paint from your driveway. Took me two beers to put the flames out. I hope
that’s the worst one. These Texans are crazy.



JUDGE ONE: Smokey, with a hint of pork. Slight Jalapeno tang.

JUDGE TWO: Exciting BBQ flavor, needs more peppers to be taken

FRANK: Keep this out of the reach of children I’m not sure what I am
supposed to taste besides pain. I had to wave off two people who wanted to
give me the Heimlich maneuver. They had to rush in more beer when they
saw the look on my face.


JUDGE ONE: Excellent firehouse chili! Great kick. Needs more beans.

JUDGE TWO: A beanless chili, a bit salty, good use of peppers.

FRANK: Call the EPA, I’ve located a uranium spill. My nose feels like I
have been snorting Drano. Everyone knows the routine by now get me more
beer before I ignite. Barmaid pounded me on the back; now my backbone is
in the front part of my chest. I’m getting shit-faced from all the beer.


JUDGE ONE: Black bean chili with almost no spice. Disappointing.

JUDGE TWO: Hint of lime in the black beans. Good side dish for fish or
other mild foods, not much of a chili.

FRANK: I felt something scraping across my tongue, but was unable to
taste it, is it possible to burnout taste buds? Sally, the barmaid, was
standing behind me with fresh refills; that 300 lb. Bitch is starting to
look HOT, just like this nuclear waste I’m eating. Is chili an



JUDGE ONE: Meaty, strong chili. Cayenne peppers freshly ground, adding
considerable kick. Very Impressive.

JUDGE TWO: Chili using shredded beef, could use more tomato. Must admit
the cayenne peppers make a strong statement.

FRANK: My ears are ringing, sweat is pouring off my forehead and I can
no longer focus my eyes. I farted and four people behind me needed
paramedics. The contestant seemed offended when I told her that her chili
had given me brain damage, Sally saved my tongue from bleeding by pouring
beer directly on it from a pitcher. I wonder if I’m burning my lips off?
It really pisses me off that the other judges asked me to stop screaming.
Screw those rednecks!


JUDGE ONE: Thin yet bold vegetarian variety chili. Good balance of spice
and peppers.

JUDGE TWO: The best yet. Aggressive use of peppers, onions, and garlic.

FRANK: My intestines are now a straight pipe filled with gaseous,
sulfuric flames. I shit myself when I farted and I’m worried it will eat
through the chair. No one seems inclined to stand behind me except that
slut Sally. She must be kinkier than I thought. Can’t feel my lips
anymore. I need to wipe my ass with a snow cone!


JUDGE ONE: A mediocre chili with too much reliance on canned peppers.

JUDGE TWO: Ho Hum, tastes as if the chef literally threw in a can of
chili peppers at the last moment. I should take note that I am worried
about Judge Number 3, He appears to be in a bit of distress as he is
cursing uncontrollably.

FRANK: You could put a grenade in my mouth, pull the pin, and I wouldn’t
feel a damn thing. I’ve lost sight in one eye, and the world sounds like
it is made of rushing water. My shirt is covered with chili, which slid
unnoticed out of my mouth. My pants are full of lava-like shit to match my
damn shirt. At least during the autopsy they’ll know what killed me. I’ve
decided to stop breathing; it’s too painful. Screw it. I’m not getting
any oxygen anyway. If I need air, I’ll just suck it in through the 4-inch
hole in my stomach.


JUDGE ONE: A perfect ending, this is a nice blend chili, safe for all,
not too bold but spicy enough to declare it’s existence.

JUDGE TWO: This final entry is a good, balanced chili. Neither mild nor
hot. Sorry to see that most of it was lost when Judge Number 3 passed
out, fell over and pulled the chili pot down on top of himself. Not sure
if he’s going to make it. Poor Yank, wonder how he’d have reacted to a
really hot chili?

Gopping 'Orrible

Some Now there is a word you don’t hear very often anymore….unless you are talking to my Mum, who has tried (rather unsuccessfully) to keep it alive within the English language.

Gopping…used to describe something rather unpleasant…somebody could be gopping, something could taste gopping – It is a word for many occasions….none of them good.

When I was younger, it was regularly used but kind of went out of circulation along with many others.   Lush is another one, although the Welsh seem to have successfully comandeered that and kept it going.   Again, people can be lush, things can taste lush and so on…generally considered good.   Not to be confused though….calling someone lush is good – Calling them A lush is bad and suggests alcoholism if I remember correctly.

As far as I recall, we can blame (or thank) Lenny Henry for making Wicked and Crucial a part of our language for some time…thankfully they didn’t make it for too long…although I occasionally hear wicked..I tend to dismiss it as being spoken by morons which therefore proves the case for it to be left behind.

We also seemed to steal a lot from the Americans…I am not quite sure why, but things like Fresh (meaning new and good), Radical (or rad) meaning good….Bad or sick, also meaning good.   The same can be said for Gnarly and Word.   Let’s face it, we probably heard them on a film or TV show and decided they sounded like we would all be instantly cool if we used them…NOT!   (sorry for the Waynes World referencette).

My fave though is not a nice term to use toward someone…but it is Swamp Donkey… I honestly don’t know how old it is..or even where it came from, but it sounds great and for me at least, it allows you to insult someone and put a smile on their face at the same time…and that can’t be a bad thing…can it? :-)

There are other ways to use normal everyday words to mean other things though…for example, you can use a number and a day of the week to describe being drunk.   For example…”We were seventeen kinds of Thursday last night” or “Six ways from Tuesday”.   It just works, try it yourself…you don’t even have to use days of the week, think of “three sheets to the wind” and mess around with it and you get something that is understood by English speakers everywhere as “pissed”, even if they have never heard the statement before.

I know it is a relatively short post, and will be my last for a little while as I am visiting my kids back in the UK…so I will clearly have more important things to do..for a short while at least.

What are your guilty pleasures regarding language use, new and old?

Almost forgot…if you, like me, want to bring back “Gopping” then join my Facebook Group Here