Cutty Sark is The World's Most Famous Ship - it's official

See that 'crossed fingers' logo at the bottom of the sign? Those fingers aren't crossed for 'Heritage', those fingers are crossed for hoping to maintain the status of The World's Most Famous Ship.

I am sure that compared to Cutty Sark the Titanic is a tin can, HMS Hood a humble dinghy, the Mayflower a mere pedalo.

I shall be at the front of the queue early in 2010, flying the flag for Cutty Sark. It will be beautiful again.

For the cynics out there - well, they could hardly write 'the world's 276th (or some such figure) most famous ship', could they?


Sock puppet ruler

I found this letter abandoned on my bedroom floor when I woke up early this morning. I can hardly believe the cheek of it. Reproduced for you below, word for word:

“My beloved, one and only Right Sock

I can’t tell you how much I’ve been missing you since we were separated in the wash last week. I miss your warm, silky fibres rubbing against mine when we snuggle up together in our drawer. I miss your musky scent in the morning, you holding me when we’re folded together.

It’s been hell, I tell you - yesterday he turned me inside out to wear me with another left sock! With a hole in it! And it wasn’t a hole in the place you’d expect to find one.

Tartan socks, for Scots that’s the biz
Schoolgirls like us up to the knee
Tintin tucks his trousers in his
But Fred, you’re the right sock for me

When we met on that Primark shelf
I’ll knew I’d never lose your thread
Wholesome in sickness or in health
You’re my sole sockish partner, Fred.

I do hope this letter will reach you somehow, wherever you may be - if I can just hop out to post it before he wakes up!

With love

Left Sock

It’s enough to make you wretch, isn’t it? The offender has been binned, and ‘Fred’ has had a good talking to. Pah! – ‘silky fibres’ indeed – they’re not even made of silk!


If it's not one thing, it's another!

Whether you're pro- or anti-cannabis, I hope you can join me in a non-marijuana-fuelled giggle at this quote from a schizophrenic who attributes his condition to smoking weed:

"Cannabis has absolutely wrecked my life. I can't go out drinking or anything like that."

Yes, I do have a jaundiced view of people.


Gardening in Russia’s backyard

It’s an expression that’s popping up all over the British* news media at the moment, and I think the most realistic definition of ‘Russia’s backyard’, if I understand what they’re talking about, is simply this:

Russia’s backyard
1. places within convenient bombing range of Russia

So technically, the entire planet is within Russia’s backyard to some degree. Now, I am aware Russia’s not the only country that does the odd bit of bombing to get what its government wants. But I think some journalists and politicians are starting to talk about Russia like it was just a grumpy landlord with inconsiderate tennants.

Let me tell you, I won’t be responding to any more of Russia's classified ads.

Grumpy old bear (dominant) WLTM submissive lady bear (for serious relationship only).
Willing to relocate (to your place?)
Has own ICBMs.

No, thank-you!

*And the Dutch media, perhaps because of the Netherlands’ horticultural expertise, says ‘Russia’s back garden’ (‘Rusland’s achtertuin’).


How we turn down job offers in the teaching game

Dear Mr Socks,

I cannot disguise my annoyance at your decision to turn down our offer of employment at such short notice. It has caused our school a catalogue of intolerable inconvenience to find a suitable candidate for the post before the start of the autumn term. Needless to say no future applications from you will be entertained.

Yours sincerely,

Mr U.N.Real, B.Ed.
Head Teacher

Dear Mr Real,

Thank-you for your letter in which you responded to my decision to turn down your kind offer of employment with your school.

I am sorry you felt my explanatory letter was unsatisfactory.

Having given careful consideration to the points you made with regard to the intolerable inconvenience my withdrawal has caused I have decided the following:

I propose to present myself outside your school gates during your Prospective Parents’ Evening this school term. I shall be wearing a placard bearing the legend

‘I turned down a job at this wonderful school, I am so ashamed.’

Thereafter I will submit myself to public humiliation by you in a manner of your choosing. I am especially fearful of being licked by Dalmatians, but am also amenable to more conventional forms of physical retribution such as flagellation or being placed in stocks and pelted with rotten fruit.

Your staff, current pupils, and prospective parents are cordially invited to spectate, and as I say, there is no limit to the punishment I would be prepared to accept while expressing my apologies and gratitude for your offer of employment.

Yours ashamedly,

Mr W.Socks

Wearing a dressing gown and ready to take on an Abrams M1 main battle tank

I don’t know what to write
But it’s like a fight
This urge to get something down
Not like my trousers
Or throwing off my dressing gown
Doing those things wouldn’t be hard
Although it might cause a frown
And give an old dear a fright
Leave her mentally scarred
So what was I on about?
Oh yeah, wishing I’d something to say
It usually is that way
But at the moment my head feels quite blank
If feeling blank is actually a feeling
Isn’t that an oxymoron ‘a blank feeling’?
Being driven over by a tank
That would hurt
A tank would leave me reeling

Love letter from bicycle to car

Dear white Ford Fiesta (with big exhaust pipe),

Hello, you might not have noticed me but we met briefly this morning and after our encounter I felt I should write to you, even though we are only machines, you and I.

If it helps you remember me, I am a black framed road bike, and I was being pedalled by my owner, a large fellow who was wearing a distinctive luminous yellow jacket and brightly coloured helmet. You were carrying a group of four young men when you passed me as I was pedalled along the cycle path.

I thought you should know that one of your young men upset my owner a bit. It was something that happened when you slowed down as you passed me, and drove alongside me for a few seconds.

We would have no problem with that, my owner and I – in fact I thought you might just be a very friendly car. I thought maybe we were going to be friends. But I could sense through his grip on my handle bars that my owner felt a little tense when your front passenger window wound down.

I have to say I was pretty cheesed off by what the young man sitting in your front passenger seat did next. Did you notice what he did? He leaned his head out of your open window, his face as close to me as it could have been, then he opened his mouth and made a noise. The noise was a scream something like this: ‘Waaaah haaaa ya cunnn-tah! Waha ann kah!’

Then your window wound closed and you sped off, your big exhaust pipe burping louder than ever.

Do you know this chap? He’s about 20, perhaps older, and was wearing a baseball cap and a tracksuit of some kind. That’s all I could see from where I was. Oh, and he had a gold coloured chain around his neck. Did someone let him off his lead? Would you try to avoid carrying him again?

My owner seemed quite fed up at that moment, and I can’t say I understood what the young man was trying to say, either. I thought I would get a chance to find out, about a minute later. This was when I saw you, white Fiesta with big exhaust pipe, were stopped in a line of traffic waiting at a red light.

It’s nothing unusual for my owner to huff and puff a bit when he cycles me, but I felt he could barely contain how much he wanted to huff and puff as we stopped next to you. I wanted him to ask ‘what does this mean, young man, this “Waaaah haaaa ya cunnn-tah! Waha ann kah!” of which you speak?’ And I think he was actually going to ask. But the young man - he who was let off his gold coloured dog lead and allowed to ride in you – he was looking the other way, and would not look at my owner or me.

And I think it’s a shame, what happened that made my owner huff and puff and squeeze my handle bars and wobble a bit in my saddle. Because I think we could be good buddies, you and I. I must say how much I admire your spoiler. Does it make you go much faster? Perhaps I can persuade my owner to fit one on me. And the blue lights in your grill, they look so groovy! Your really thin tyres, your burp-burp exhaust pipe – it sounds a bit naughty but I love it! I know I’m just an old-style push bike, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with me fancying cars as well, I’m happy to come out as being a bi-cycle, hee hee.

So I hope you’ll give me a toot the next time we pass and let’s hope you’ll be able to run over that silly young man if you get a chance.

Love from

Cyril Cycle


Who needs a car radio?

An uneventful motorway journey caused my travelling companion and I to compose this ditty. There’s no particular fixed melody, but as a guideline I’d sing the first syllable of each line on a higher note, and stretch the last syllable of each line.

Here’s a singity song!
‘Cos we’re driving along!
So sing the song!
It won’t be long!
Singity singity song!

If ‘Happy Birthday To You’ can make $2 million a year then I’m sure we can find an impressario to sign us. Please send royalties c/o Wholesome Socks. I thank you.


News from our neighbours in the Netherlands

De Volkskrant newspaper reports Dutch police think they may have caught a man who has been setting nasty traps in forest footpaths. These sharp metal spikes mounted in a concrete block have been concealed in at least 4 holes dug in public forests in the Dutch province of Limburg over that last few months. Luckily no one has been seriously injured so far.

I believe the Dutch are showing their engineering prowess in relying on the public to set their own traps. Here in the UK it is local councils who take responsibility for laying traps for unsuspecting pedestrians and cyclists in the form of well hidden holes on pavements and on roads, or the less covert but far more dangerous devices such as cycle paths designed to send unwary cyclists careering directly into sign posts or trees.

Exciting sign promising 'DINOSAURS'

Fanatics, numerologists, paleontologists and those who are simply feeling a little racey, may like to note that this is post number '69' in the Wholesome Socks cannon.

More on dinosaurs.


Not Philip Larkin

They make you cross, your mum and dad
They give you their old clothes, they do
They dress you with the garb they had
From Tesco-Extra, just for you

But they were made cross in their turn
So quit moaning, you thankless scroats
Who do you think you are? Now learn!
I’ll explain and you’ll take quick notes

Man hands on old clothing to man
Otherwise it’s left on the shelf
Nick the best stuff quick as you can
And don’t buy any clothes yourself

See also: Poems not by Wilfred Owen and not by Siegfried Sassoon.


Satirical poem about school

If I were old, and bald, and sort of deaf
I’d still be teaching kids without much grace
Rapidly approaching my own brain death
You’d see me, not caring how much they lose face
Filling my pen from the old red inkwell
Reading some Exam Paper. “Load of crap,”
I’d say – “Tried to teach his father as well;
Yes, a lot of drivel on this last scrap.”
And when the tests are done and yoof unread
I’d drive myself back home and cry - ‘nuff said

Inspired by Siegfried Sassoon's 'Base Details'.

See also: Poems not by Philip Larkin and not by Wilfred Owen.

Pavlov's Room 101 Dalmatians

I thought my patented Dog Annoyer™ was pretty harsh, but the fellow in this video takes Dog Annoying out of this world (at least, I think that's what he's trying to do). Anyway, he makes me look like Gandhi pleading with Genghis Khan.

Not suitable for viewing by younger puppies.

And if anyone heeds me: I DON'T approve of kicking any animals*, and if you watch the video carefully you'll see that no animal was harmed. Please be gentle with little me.

*Unless in self-defence, of course, although I understand that a better defence against large dogs is to yank their tail playfully, as they are conditioned to interpret this as 'cheekiness' on your part, and will merely lick you. Which reminds** me...

**...This is a common scenario of summer for me. I go and sit in the park, pondering what malevolant maladvice I can write next, or even reading a book. Then a huge domesticated wolf jumps on me, followed by a bloke who is swishing the air with a wolf lead, as though to tell the world 'Look how safe my dog is! Look at him go, doesn't even need to be connected to the end of this lead!' The hound then starts to eat my face, like those rats in Room 101. Then the dog owner comes nearer and I see it is Richard Burton. And Burton says 'Winston, imagine a dog licking a human face forever', or alternately 'Ha ha ha, she'll only lick you to death!' and as I frantically try to pull the animal's tail I scream back 'I know, that's exactly what's in my Room 101'. Then I wake up and I am still a teacher.


No longer foxed

Now I’ve discovered what all the foxes have been doing since hunting was banned. They’ve been over to France to work as film extras with Kate Winslett. Which is more than I've achieved. I’m sure they’ll cross the channel again soon to serenade me with their wolvish song and dustbin orchestra outside my window at night.


Writers and journalists are not having a good week. Wholesome Socks has already noted this case of the news reporter becoming the story, and now, from the nation that gave the world Vermeer, Rembrandt, excellent water management, Edam cheese, Big Brother (well... some like it) - the list is interminable - our Dutch cousins now produce the 'throw a tomato at a writer’ festival in Rotterdam.

According to this event guide, the rotten tomatoes are charged at 25 euro cents a piece, but with a discount for missiles targeted at the Belgian writer.

I am now waiting to be called to the Olympics where I am required as an archery target.

Summary of previous post in verse

I’m sick of this scheme
Of logic and routine
I say ‘what the heck!’
Run away with Shrek
The problem is ‘because’
Then I realised I was
Actually quite hungry
That made it time for tea

The Tyranny Of The Because

Why oh why does this appear to exist?

This website is dedicated to my attempts to ‘patch thoughts together’, interpreting and making sense (or making an alternative version of ‘sense’) of my experiences and ideas, and things that other people have told me about, or I saw, or I read, or dreamt (dreamed? Never been sure of the spelling), and things which happened to me that I actually made up a little bit.

It is the bunker where I hide, like a fevered Jack in the Box, waiting for someone to open the lid so I explode into the room like a nuclear mushroom cloud. I will offer to grant wishes like an Arabian genie from the bottle, but then run away like the Gingerbread Man, leaping on my horse and hunting foxes with a pack of Gingerbread Hounds.

Not like that cute little tortured Gingerbread Man from the film ‘Shrek’.

This House of Wholesome Socks is resolutely opposed to ‘Common Sense’.

I believe that what is commonly known as ‘common sense’ is terribly overrated – ‘common sense’ is merely a euphemism for a big list of bad things that I can think of – here are just a few that I can think of at the moment:

‘Common Sense’ =

- Doing as you’re told, regardless of whether it actually serves any purpose.

- Accepting ‘authority’, regardless of the true character of that supposed authority.

- Accepting the 'view of the majority', whether or not they do represent more than 50% of people.

- Doing something ‘the way it’s always been done’, for no real reason.

- Not doing something, just because.

‘Common Sense’ is the manifestation of what I shall call:

‘The Tyranny of the Because’

‘Don’t do this because…’

‘You should always follow this convention… because…’

I’m sick of following this regimented scheme of logic and routine, but now I have to go and have dinner.


Reducing How Much War There Is - Idea No.3: Go off half-cocked

We've considered sending free-prostitutes into warzones to distract soldiers from fighting and make a ceasefire necessary. We've looked at the idea of stopping soldiers from even reaching the battlefield, and sending them to mix with their erstwhile foes in holiday camps. Here is the final instalment of this 3-part essay looking at ideas to end or reduce war.

Précis: Wars could be fought as ‘simulations’ or in the same style as ‘historical re-enactments’, instead of proper battles with real, harmful violence.

This third idea for reducing war is rather harder for me to explain. This post is about me thinking out loud, and not seriously expecting to be understood. The idea is a work in progress, and this blog post is the workshop.

Part 1:

The first bit of background to my thinking is the claim that the Persian Gulf War did not ‘really happen’, as argued by French thinker Jean Baudrillard. He’s the philosopher who popularised (in so far as such an obscure idea can be called ‘popular’) the concept of ‘simulacra’. I’m not intending to say exactly what Baudrillard said, but I’m using some of his ideas to build my own. When I talk about the simulacra, what that word ‘simulacrum’ – or simulation, if you prefer - refers to is basically this concept:

We are surrounded by representations of things. All media is formed by representations of ‘real’ – or imagined - things, and there are also representations we’re so used to, that we don’t even think about the fact that they’re only representations of something else.

An example of a media representation would be an actor in a film portraying a real or imagined character. Another media representation is the caption a newspaper editor uses for a picture, which could define what the photo is showing. The choice of camera angle is a decision made by the photographer, leading to another particular representation of something. The colours, sounds, words – basically everything in any newspaper, magazine, book, website, film, radio or TV show, painting, or song – goes towards building some particular representation of something that exists or existed (whether in the physical world or in someone’s imagination).

Less obvious ‘representations’ are things like signs. For example, the little stick figures with or without a skirt on, to show the male and female toilets. Or to take it even further, something like an alarm is a representation. If you hear a siren you know it represents a police car or ambulance so you know to keep out of the way – so you feel ‘danger’ but the siren itself isn’t going to run you over. U2 in their song Sunday Bloody Sunday used a siren to help represent what they were singing about. That’s an example of a representation of a representation. And these words you’re reading are representations of the words I typed at my keyboard – but they’re not the exact same words I saw on my screen as I typed.

So in summary of the simulacrum, lots and lots of things are not exactly ‘real’ or ‘authentic’ in themselves, they’re images of other things, but we accept them as our everyday ‘reality’. This is what Baudrillard was referring to when he said the Gulf War didn’t really happen – he interpreted the ‘war’ as the culmination of the media reporting of a ‘war’, compared to the mismatch of the coalition forces who were ostensibly ‘fighting’ the Iraqi army, but were mainly just dropping thousands of tons of bombs and bulldozing their defences.

Disney Land was used by Baudrillard as an example of how an entire ‘world’ can be composed of simulacra (and I suppose this applies to any ‘theme park’), and that people’s experiences of so-called ‘reality’ and ‘simulation’ can be very blurred. Baudrillard also suggested that the ‘simulacrum’ eventually became indistinguishable from - and sometimes preferable to - ‘reality’.

Now, the second thing I need to talk about to try explaining the idea.

I spoke with someone involved with historical war re-enactments who told me of a group dedicated to creating an historically accurate display of the Croatian army from the Yugoslavian war of the early 1990s. This group visits various historical shows at weekends to give the public an idea of how the Croatian forces looked at the particular moment of (quite recent) history. Most historical re-enactors (so far as I am aware) recreate more remote eras like the English Civil War or even World War 2, periods we can more readily accept as being ‘historical’ and sufficiently long ago to be thought of as historical (even if within living memory).

The battle re-enactments, undertaken for public education and entertainment, are simulacra in yet another guise. The living history groups are setting a good example for how war could be conducted relatively safely.

To make this idea complete, I just need to contrive a way of combining Sealed Knot-style historical displays with modern, ‘real’ warfare.


Take cover

I hope no one starts sniping at me while I’m blogging.

Georgian TV reporter hit by bullet while on air (and puts on a bulletproof vest afterwards).

I think I must be a closet sadist or voyeur, when I saw the link to this clip I said 'oh yeah?', but I don't mean to be nasty.


The Schoolmaster vs. The Boy

“Alright, chaps,
I’ve told all my stories for today,
does anyone else have a tale to tell
in these last minutes before the bell?”

“Yes, Sir, what I’d like to say…
Sir… don’t take this the wrong way,
but your lessons are… hell,
your tedious monologue saps
my will to live and…”


I’ll stop you there, irksome child,
let it be known: I have been riled.
Your comments will go in my journal
and all we’ve said will be filed,
you’ll find it uncanny how I jot all
that makes me wild.

My lessons are the least of your fears,
I suggest you learn about life’s slog,
and then, give it 50 years,
you’ll write your own ‘blog’
and email my grave - ‘Sir, cheers!*’ ”

* ‘… and, Sir, your poems sucked.’


Reducing How Much War There Is - Idea No.2: Hoard of Whores

Some people think ‘whore’ is an insult. If this idea works, to be called a whore will mean elevation to the highest ranks of heroism and a parade through the crowd lined streets of your capital city.

When the ancient Greek dramatist Astrophanes wrote (or etched) his sex-strike comedy ‘Lysistrata’ about Athenian women withholding sex in order to coerce their men folk into ending a long-running war with Sparta, he highlighted one of the key ways in which females can manipulate males.

I doubt such a sex strike would work in practice, however, unless depriving the political and military leaders themselves of sex. The men* deployed on the battlefield would scarcely have a chance to engage in sex anyway, so it would make very little difference what their sweethearts on the home front were saying.

So I feel Astrophanes got it the wrong way round. It is not through the withdrawal - but actually through the enforcement - of compulsory sexual activity that men (and perhaps women) can be forced to stop fighting and reduce war’s pervy grip on world affairs.

This is where the world’s women, in freshly recruited Sex Action Squads, would do more for world harmony than a legion of Nobel Peace Prize winners. I don’t have the financial acumen to calculate this in detail, but I imagine that the budget of something like a United Nations peacekeeping operation should buy the services of an overwhelming number of prostitutes – enough for a US Army style ‘surge’ into a warzone - especially if they were contracted en-masse and enticed by the opportunity of free travel to exotic parts of the world, soon to be freed from the scourge of conflict.

In decades to come, elderly ladies will have much to be proud of when their little ones – who, I admit, may be of uncertain paternity - ask them ‘Granny, what did you do in the war?’, and they tell the story of how they won the coveted War Whore medal.

For Hollywood it will be another 'based on a true story' movie. To the soldiers, it will be the difference between death and survival.

*For the sake of simplicity I am discounting homosexual and mixed-sex armies from this argument, and I will not be touching on the subject of battlefield rape, important though it is.

Reducing How Much War There Is - Idea No.1: Mutually Agreed Downsizing

Imagine 2 opposing countries, Country A and Country B, about to launch into war against each other. For argument’s sake, suppose that both A and B have evenly matched numbers of individuals capable of military service – 100,000 a piece.

So, not counting potential civilian casualties, A and B stand to lose up to 100,000 people each. These people will either be killed in battle and lost forever, and in any case they’re temporarily of no economic value to the country, as they have had to leave their regular jobs to join the military.

Either way, there’s no benefit from these people being in the armed forces, other than to square up against their opposite numbers in the other country.

Now. The peace talks have broken down. The negotiations have come to nothing. 200,000 troops are set to clash. There is little for them to look forward to other than destruction, death and misery.

That is, unless they participate in Mutually Agreed Downsizing.

This is how I suggest it works. Each of the individuals serving in the military is scored with a ‘fighting factor’ on a scale of 1 – 10, with 1 being a soldier who might have trouble enlisting with Dad’s Army, and 10 for Herculean warriors who make the SAS look like sissies.

The scores of an individual’s fighting value could be decided by volunteers from a neutral country - It could even be done on the internet, with a 'HotOrNot' style website, where volunteers view the soldiers' photos and use those to rate their machismo and fighting power. ''? Never mind.

With the volunteers' ratings published, the belligerent countries must then ‘down-size’ their armies, each expelling equal numbers of soldiers of comparable combat value. These de-mobbed soldiers are sent to internationally monitored camps – I’ll call them ‘Non-Combat Sanctuary Zones’ for the moment. Using the word ‘Zone’ should appease war-mongers because it sounds like military jargon, and the generals can pretend it’s all part of their strategic plan - while the name encapsulates what it basically is – a hide-away for retired cannon fodder.

Ex-soldiers from both sides would have to mix together in the Non-Combat Sanctuary Zones, so they serve as ‘human shields’ for each other, disincentivising either country from wishing to attack the N-CSZ.

Ideally the armies actually conducting combat operations could be reduced to a few dozen, allowing the war to be settled quickly and with minimal casualties. It would also be impossible for one country to occupy another’s territory with just a dozen or so troops. Invading armies would be ridiculed and probably battered by old men with pitchforks.

That is basically the idea.

Probably wouldn't work.

However, I believe Mutually Agreed Downsizing of armies would be a worthy avenue of diplomatic endeavour, alongside economic sanctions and that sort of thing.

3 Ideas To End War Or At Least Reduce How Much War There Is: Introduction

The following few posts will form a mini-essay giving more or less what the title says.

During my time I’ve had several ingenious - or at least innovative* - ideas for ending or reducing the amount of war that takes place on this planet we call Earth. Remember that earth is also the name of the substance that people end up covered with if they pursue war through to its logical conclusion, which is death. While helping to 'kill ' the planet (figuratively) they are ironically offering themselves up as fertiliser at the same time. But do soldiers ever think about that before sacrificing their lives?

The Earth could aptly be renamed ‘Mars’, after the Roman warrior god, despite the confusion this may cause. The other planet currently called ‘Mars’ could also be re-named, but I see no real need for this.

In these modest proposals I have discounted ideas which may be impractical, such as sending all soldiers off into space to conduct warfare on our moon, or some other environment where they will cause no harm to non-warring parties. However, I believe such fantastical ideas have potential for future development.

What will end war? Some people promote peace talks. Some said ‘flower power’. Still others would form a noble League of Nations, debating world problems and finding solutions.

The deterrent value of ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’, facilitated by huge stocks of nuclear weapons, is believed to have helped keeping one half of the planet from trying to destroy the other half during the Cold War. MAD may have postponed war, but it certainly hasn’t made it impossible.

Then there have been the protesters – shouting and waving banners at politicians, sometimes making token actions such as smashing jet fighter aircraft before they leave the factory, or camping outside military bases. They have made their mark on the collective memory, but we can’t really quantify any real difference they’ve made.

To paraphrase Winston Churchill, I have nothing to offer but blood, sweat, and 3 ideas. The ideas follow in the next posts to this blog.

*Another way of saying I can't be sure that no one else already thought of these ideas, but I haven't found any evidence of that.


Stop Press - WAR

The first Gulf War* came along at the same time that my elderly neighbour and reality decided to go their separate ways.

Having seen the latest TV pictures of the British hostages being held as Saddam Hussein’s human shields, my neighbour would come to the garden fence, shake his head incredulously and say something like ‘I can’t believe those chaps went out there to get involved with this. Why couldn’t they just mind their own affairs like everyone else?’

He apparently believed that the ex-pat hostages were some sort of feckless ‘war-tourists’ who’d decided to jet out and take the kids to Kuwait especially to witness the Iraqi invasion.

I can see why he may have had this misconception – after all, it was pretty much what he and several hundred thousand other Brits (minus the kids) had done in France, in khaki, 50 years earlier.

Then the time when I told the neighbour about cancelling my planned holiday in Yugoslavia.

‘But why? You told me you were looking forward to going!’ He was more incredulous than ever.

‘Oh, I’m just silly, you know. I hear there’s going to be a better war starting in Portugal in a couple of months so I’d rather hold on until then. Get some winter sun at the same time’.

The Foreign Office is now warning Britons to leave war torn Georgia. I wonder if I can get anything on

* By which I mean the 1990/91 war, not the counting the Gulf War of the 1980s. I’m not sure why no one really counts that war – maybe because America wasn’t in it.


Gordon the Brown Engine

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown is recommending the Thomas the Tank Engine stories and the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales for today’s children.

I read all the stories of Thomas and his colleagues. The main thing I recall is the appalling behaviour of those ‘troublesome trucks’, who were always trying to cause a rail disaster for Thomas and the other engines, and it really contributed to my cynicism about teamwork.

Later on, around the age of 10, I came across those vicious vignettes of horror and mutilation known as Grimms Fairy Tales. I don’t think I ever felt so delightfully nauseated when reading something. Those stories helped make me the twisted, dark-minded individual I am today. I commend Mr Brown for his tastes.

Wholesome Socks especially recommends Grimms’ ‘A Tale of One Who Travelled to Learn What Shivering Meant’ as a bedtime story for children you are looking to psychologically scar, especially if the child is a second-born son.

Good night.

Boy Banned

The BBC news website asks today ‘Is the world ready for a new wave of girl and boy bands?’ What are the criteria of readiness for new manufactured pop? I don't know. Does the world have a choice? I think the world is more ready for an asteroid strike.


Roobarb and Custard: Dog Annoyer

Take one 3 litre Coke bottle (or similar).

Drink or otherwise dispose of contents.

Remove cap and blow across the top.

Make sure your blowing creates a beautifully modulated, deep, soulful, resonant, dirge-like sound.


You now have your own environmentally friendly Dog Annoyer. The sound can be used to irritate dogs up to half a mile away, inciting a chorus of vengeful barking to warm the heart of even the most jaded of cats.

Health and Safety notice:

Your Dog Annoyer should not be used within attack range of a dog, and not used at all unless you have checked your catflap is lockable.

Younger cats should seek the help of an adult.

Wholesome Socks cannot accept reponsbility for any woe. I am totally irresponsible.

Roobarb and Custard.

Thick as a Brick

After feeding ourselves like ravenous bears, there was only one thing left to do. A game had to be played. I reached for the chess set.

‘That’s no good, there are 3 of us,’ Zavile shot the idea down. (They’re Lithuanians, in case you didn’t read the previous bit).

‘Yeah, makes it more interesting with 3,’ I tried. ‘We’ve got some extra pieces from the other chess set, so we could set it up as all-against-all…’

The chess set was placed back on the shelf.

‘You’re Russian, you should be good at chess,’ I followed up.


As an aside, I’m paraphrasing these conversations. I’m no longer allowed to take notes as they’re speaking, as this was getting on their nerves.

‘Hey, what about this?’ Sister had found something lurking in the darkest corner of the games cupboard. The bottom dropped out of the tattered old box, showering wooden bricks on the floor like a grain silo sabotaged by a hungry bear.


I hadn’t seen the Jenga for a while. Forgot it existed.

You build the wooden blocks into a tower, and the players take turns to gingerly remove blocks from the structure, and place them on the top, until it becomes a kind of Babylonian tower waiting for God to withdraw planning permission.

The player who demolishes the tower must do what the Jenga instructions call a ‘dare’, which is written on the last brick they tried to remove.

I looked at a couple of the ‘dares’.

‘Mime 3 things you do before going to bed.’

‘Have you ever left the house without underwear? Details!’

I stroked my chin thoughtfully. ‘We can do all these anyway, they’re so tame.’

‘Pretend to be a chicken.’ (My memory’s failing me, now).

‘Tie your shoelace with your foot on the ground, while putting your other foot on a chair, so you look silly.’

And so on.

‘But it sounds like fun!’ Zavile protested.

‘I’m sure it is fun, but why do we need to mess around with building towers and waiting until it falls over, we can just do all these dares anyway. What’s the point?’

I've learnt not to expect a point to most things. But in the meantime, I find it interesting to come across articles like this. The gentleman from the University of Minnesota posits a 'Jenga hypothesis' , supporting conspiracy theories to explain the collapse of the World Trade Center. Certainly an idea to mention if you are trying to distract someone who wants to play a board game.

The sprinkler sprinkled

‘Lies are a social lubricant and I am a slippery customer.’ - Sockrates

I have a Lithuanian friend. Her sister came to visit. We went to buy some food for the evening.

I was getting the impression that the sister’s English was not as good as I’d been led to expect, when suddenly her face lit up as we were leaving the house.

‘You’ve got one of those!’ she pointed at the bunch of keys I’d just taken from the hook.

‘What, are Volvos the in thing in Lithuania?’

‘No, no, Tesco!’ she jiggled my Tesco clubcard key fob. It confounded me to think how someone who’d only been in the country for a few hours should have any idea of what Tesco was, or be excited by my clubcard loyalty (= sucker) card thingy.

‘Oh yeah, it’s just a … my… what, don’t you have one? But at the airport…you’re supposed to have been given one. It’s a government requirement!’

The innocent visitor looked at me with wide puppy eyes. I don’t know what she thought ‘Tesco’ was, but I thought she had the impression it was something pretty darned important. A secret police organisation, for example.

‘This is more important than your passport,’ I pressed on, ‘we’ll have to get you registered pretty soon.’

Then the puppy eyes narrowed. ‘Ahh ha. It’s true! It’s true!’

‘Well, of course it’s true.’

‘No!’ she went in for the kill, ‘It’s true, my sister told me - you are full of shit!’


Dutch kick up a stink after smoking ban

Our friends across the North Sea will try anything to undermine their recent ban on smoking in bars. Now that the clouds of cigarette smoke have gone, customers in Dutch cafés are complaining of other unsavoury odours, such as sweaty feet, general body odour, and drink smells, which were previously absorbed and carried away by the tobacco smoke.

This is according to a report in De Volkskrant newspaper (and interpreted here for your delectation).

Some café owners are now apparently installing ‘smell machines’ which are programmed to pump out a scent of the landlord’s choosing – with strawberries, pineapple, and ‘Bounty Beach’ (!) being popular choices.

I smell a rat in the story, as I don’t recall any previously undetected whiffs revealing themselves when smokers were banished from British pubs, and I don’t believe that the Dutch are any smellier than us, probably the reverse, if anything (I, for one, have not washed for 3 days).

It seems rather dictatorial that only the café owner should have a say in which smells the clientele are bathed in. Now, if the patent for my toilet-bowl inspection light doesn’t come to fruition, I am sure my latest invention - a Juke-smell-box tailored to the British market – will be a hit.


I wasn’t always Mr Toad of Toad Hall on a bike.

It was Piccadilly Circus without a single motor vehicle to be seen or heard. It should have been the perfect opportunity to freely cross the Queen’s Highway.

Surely that right is enshrined in the Magna Carta?

And with several thousand people present, protesting against reliance on cars, surely my right to cross the road was secured.

Traffic lights on red for road vehicles, green man for pedestrians.

Out I stepped into the road.

Back I stepped from the road.

‘Erm’ I said, apologetically, although none of the thousands of swarming cyclists was listening. ‘Look, the light’s on red for you, so we can cross now?’

Then one of them took a skid and I went ‘aaaaahhh’ like a malevolent child. Well, there’s no point in me lying here, now.


A recent song called ‘Thou Shalt Always Kill’ by the duo ‘Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip’ states:

‘Thou shalt not think that any male over the age of 30 that plays with a child that is not their own is a paedophile… Some people are just nice.’

This is true, but it can also be that the male was riding a bike which collided with the child, who was running across the cycle path without looking, and the male is desperately trying to placate the 3 year old and hoping for some parent or responsible adult to turn up and take the child back and, to be honest, perhaps get them checked out at the hospital.

It happened to me in Holland, in front of a café terrace full of chillin’ tourists. From some of the looks I got, I thought I’d be nailed to a windmill and lynched. But luckily for me, they were far too chilled out to do that. And mum was too chilled to do anything, in fact.

After some long minutes a woman stood up from a table, and came and picked up the girl. It was when I was just starting to learn Dutch.

‘Sorry, your girl, she run, whack, sorry…’

‘Oh, she never looks where she’s going’.

I thought ‘well, surely she must be nearing the end of her nine lives by now?’ (or is that only cats?)

'But face, her face mark... Look'.

'Thank-you.' Thank-you? At this point I stop existing for her. 'Now let's go and get an ice cream...' were the last words I could make out. I was still thinking about x-rays but they say that 'mother knows best', and I think that's probably right.

Anyway, the AD newspaper reports today that Rotterdam is experiencing a backlash against racing cyclists who are allegedly forcing pedestrians, joggers and regular cyclists to take cover. A 74 year old Rotterdamer’s desired solution is ‘big speed bumps, so they fall off hard’.

A racing-cyclist has left a comment under the article replying ‘You have to brake every 500 metres or you get another dog in your front wheel.’ Another dog?


Lav nav

Looking through kids’ class work from Design & Technology I was stunned to find one truly ingenious blueprint.

As my eyes took in the engineering proposal before me I consciously made the decision to throw all the other children’s work over my shoulder as far as I could, scattering a dozen perfectly laudable sketches for solar powered cars, ergonomically optimised chairs, space rockets and similarly practical, but otherwise trite, conceptions fluttering down like giant confetti.

For once, my luck was in, and there was no other member of staff standing there unbeknownst to me.

Then I made for home, intent on contacting the Patent Office to stake my claim to the toilet with a light mounted inside the bowl. The light is controlled by a switch on the side of the cistern, and just like an oven light, is intended to help the user – for whatever reason they may wish to do this – to inspect the contents of the toilet bowl.

Production starts this month.

(I've since discovered that someone's already invented a similar gadget, but nothing actually housed inside the toilet bowl itself).

Sign language

I'm wondering if this sign at a Tesco supermarket is sexist in its representation of gender relationships (that is, assuming that it is intended to depict a male figure leading a female. Another interpretation could be that the female is trying to hold back the male, who is perhaps trying to avoid communication with her).


Previously I’d found it only to be older men who referred to their spouses ominously as ‘the wife’, the words typically uttered while despondently studying the bottom of a pint glass, accompanied by what the casual listener may understand to be a complaint against their life-long companion, but on careful examination can only be interpreted as a spiritless appeal for emotional support in their day-to-day drudgery and inner emptiness.

Then I heard a 24 year old, with barely a whisker to his name, sighing ‘…the wife’, as though consciously realising for the first time that he was married, that he didn’t want to be, and that he had no viable option other than to knuckle down and see who died first.

With kids ‘growing up’ (= getting into trouble by themselves) so fast ‘these days’ (= since recorded history began) perhaps it is only justice that misery should also start younger.

A Blogger's Plea

Any comments or questions?
Maybe constructive suggestions?
Though I like to jest
You are my guest
And I'd welcome friendly directions

Devil's brew advocated

I heard recently that alcoholism is a disease, and has no connection with an individual deciding how much alcohol they drink.

While I appreciate that there are probably nuances to this idea which I haven’t delved into, my instinct says the concept of alcoholism as disease is best described thus:

‘…the idea is as a tramp in the gutter, serenading the bemused ambulance crew with a 19th century temperance ballad, while slurping whiskey from a bottle in a wet plastic carrier bag…’ - Sockrates

I once knew a man who, when someone joked about him having ‘a drinking problem’, would jokingly reply, ‘it’s not necessarily a problem, hic.’ He drank lots, died at 50 due to drinking lots, and while this may have prevented a few post-50 problems, I don’t think it was really the solution he was hoping for.


England's chances ruined by rain

A steaming hot day in Tunbridge Wells was tempered by a brief and welcome shower.

A rather cute American visitor to this isle was so delighted she could not contain her exclamation.

‘Oh my gahd it’s raaaaaining,’ she announced, peering into the heavens, ‘but that’s just sooo English!’ she climaxed.

‘You’re quite right,’ I said, ‘it’s a traditional English ceremony, we’ve put on this rain especially.’

This is me trying to ‘reach out’. I do it sometimes.

Sometimes an expression of surprised joy and an expression of surprised disgust can be very similar. I make mistakes sometimes.

'Is the temperature OK for you?' I offered. 'I can get them to adjust it if you like’.

The babe looked suddenly nauseous and turned away from me, I thought to be sick. Now I saw she had one of these mobile phone tooth things that sits on your ear.

'Urgh, this guy, he just started talking to me, are you far away?'

You can't fight in here! This is... oh, never mind...

Phone call done, time for me to pedal off my merry way (to safety).

But one of the youths broke off from the fight. He had other ideas.

‘Hey mate, why’d you call the police?’

‘Well, you lot are rolling around like dogs. Someone’s going to get hurt!’

‘Oh yeah, yeah. Safe!’ He gave a thumbs-up as he said this, and turned back to the melee – a busy man, lots of fighting to do – can’t stand around chatting, you know.

Ah, if only every situation was so easy to talk my way out of.

And how selfish of me to object to people beating each other and getting blood on my street.

The Lady’s not for turning (in her grave)

The UK media is debating what should happen with former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher after her death.

The Guardian newspaper reports that ‘Lady Thatcher is expected to be granted the rare honour of a state funeral when she dies’.

I think it would be a greater and more useful honour for Thatcher if she were to be granted the state funeral while still alive. The former political leader would have the chance to appreciate the pageantry and outpouring of national gratitude for her service to the country.

My vision is of Thatcher being carried through the streets of London sitting up in an open coffin, taking the salute from massed ranks of soldiers and smiling serenely, as though at peace with the world.



If you’re on your way to a lesson and you pop to the loo, you don’t really want to take all your stuff into the cubicle or try holding all those papers under your arm while you stand at the urinal, you want somewhere to put those marked exam papers, lesson plans, or whatever it is you’re taking to the lesson – and when you go into the toilets where I work, you’re likely to have a thought like this:

‘Oh that’s handy, there’s a plastic table thingy right there’.

You will never have that thought again.

Where I work the bins are like Venus flytraps. They’re a new design and look harmless enough – waist height plastic rectangular buckets with the contents hidden by an attractive table-like lid. And that is the master stroke of these deviously designed receptacles, which are positioned all over the building in the classrooms, corridors, and toilets.

All looks well with the pile of kids’ exercise books and the lesson plan and your car keys sitting there on the table. Your trousers are undone and you’re at the point of no return and SWOOSH! Crunch! The hungry bin has struck again!

That table is just a trapdoor on a hinge, and it swings inwards, but not right away – if you place something on that trapdoor it holds steady for long enough that you feel safe to turn your back. That’s when it opens with the noise of you losing all your work, and I can tell you that’s a shocking noise when you’re standing there at a urinal.

So heed my warning and think about it the next time you’re relieving yourself before an important meeting (or before anything, for that matter) and when someone has a wet patch on their trousers.

Further toileting here.
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