Saturday, February 26, 2011

Dear RFU......

Dear RFU

Sometimes it's not easy being an England supporter. Sometimes I think you forget what game you are playing, sometimes you are just bloody brilliant but really, is it too much to ask that,  when organising a major tournament, you at least check that the games don't clash with my daughter's busy social diary.

Tonight England plays France. One of the best games of the tournament (and we're going to whip their Froggy asses) but where will I be? Go on.  Ask me?  I'm going to be taking four overexcited girls to see The Saturdays. The Saturdays FFS! It's not like it's even Rihanna, or Muse of even the Vienna Boys Choir. It's the blood Saturdays!  One of them is going out with Ben Foden. Couldn't he have given you a bit of a head-up?  So instead of enjoying a night of excellent rugby I'll be stuck in the Bournemouth International Centre wishing I was dead with my hands over my ears and my phone on vibrate so The Husband can text me the scores as they happen. I mean, it's not exactly going to be my greatest moment is it?

And then on the last weekend of the tournament where will I be? Go on. Ask me if you dare!  At the flaming X-Factor tour at the O2, that's where. How could you have got it so wrong? Pikey Cher and Katie Wasteofspace will be my entertainment instead of 15 of England's finest.  It's just not fair. Worse that not fair, it's just bad planning on your part.

I'm not one of these 'Johnny Come Lately' rugby fans you know. Not like half the women you see at matches these days who are just there for the bums and thighs and the faint hope that someone's shorts might get pulled down in the scrums. They wouldn't know a ruck from a maul, the blindside from the openside and the only 'up and over' they know is a garage door.  No, I was at the very first Rugby World Cup in Australia - and not just because I happened to be there either. No, I went especially for the rugby (although the illicit week with an ex-boyfriend was something of a draw too, I admit it).  I got on a plane and travelled to Australia and sat in little provincial rugby grounds and got buses round Australia to follow the teams.  I threw books at the telly when David Campese dissed the England team and cheered riotously when he was taken out in the first 20 seconds of the England-Australia game by two very large England backs. I had to put up with being forcefed beer and dancing on tables in Australian pubs singing 'Sunshine Mountain'. It wasn't easy you know.

God knows I even sat through the finals of the Pilkington Cup at Twickenham in the referee's section. Have you any idea how dull that is? Any at all?  They won't even do a bloody Mexican wave. I watched the wave travel round the stands until it reached the section where all the refs and touch judges were sitting glued to their seats and it became more a ripple than a wave with only me to continue it. Have you tried doing a Mexican wave on your own? Have you? It's not easy.  I couldn't even shout 'You should have gone to Specsavers' at the touch judges!

So what I'm trying to say is, I'm a proper fan of the game. I even played it myself. OK, it was only for 6 weeks but you should have seen the size of some of the opposition players. Dubious sexuality doesn't even come into it. And they all had names like 'Ace' and 'Crusher' while our players were called things like Fiona and Charlotte.  And binding on in the scrum  was a nightmare. It's just not natural for us girls to put their hands between the legs of another girl and grab the front of their shorts. It really isn't.

The 6 Nations comes around but once a year so is it really too much to ask you to just do me the courtesy of  a little phone call.... you know, just to check on my other social obligations? So far it's been a Right F**k Up

Your devoted fan

Wylye Girl

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Weird Wednesday

I've decided to start a regular(ish) Weird Wednesday slot where I will post something weird, strange or funny to keep you going until the weekend.

So here is my first offering...... Klepto Kitty

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Is the internet making us stupid?

Hardly a week goes by when I don't receive in my inbox some dire warning or guess what or that'll show 'em type message, usually forwarded on from their inbox.

It seems that it is no longer safe to fill up your car at a petrol station because an escaped mass murderer has just climbed into the back seat (fortunately spotted by the eagle eyed cashier who has dialled 911/999/The Samaritans), that every layby is strewn with baby carriers which are nothing but a lure for some bizarre gang initiation which will end in my certain demise and the Muslims are taking over the world/the legal system/McDonalds. Not to mention, of course, the fact that the sea is salty because of ejaculating blue whales. I mean, we know it's not true but still people felt unable to resist the urge of the 'share' button.

These are all sent to my by intelligent people but for some reason, the fact that something appears on the internet makes us suspend disbelief and, while we are adept at comparing car insurance or buying our shopping online, we seem pathologically unable to do a quick search of Mr Google to find out if this claptrap has any validity before hitting the 'forward' button and sending it speeding down the disinformation superhighway.

Take this for example:

The bank manager thought it amusing enough to have it published in The Times (apparently)
Dear Sir,

I am writing to thank you for bouncing my cheque with which I endeavoured to pay my plumber last month. By my calculations, three nanoseconds must have elapsed between his presenting the cheque and the arrival in my account of the funds needed to honour it. I refer, of course, to the automatic monthly deposit of my Pension, an arrangement, which, I admit, has been in place for only thirty eight years. You are to be commended for seizing that brief window of opportunity, and also for debiting my account £30 by way of penalty for the inconvenience caused to your bank.

My thankfulness springs from the manner in which this incident has caused me to rethink my errant financial ways. I noticed that whereas I personally attend to your telephone calls and letters, but when I try to contact you, I am confronted by the impersonal, overcharging, pre-recorded, faceless entity which your bank has become. From now on, I, like you, choose only to deal with a flesh-and-blood person. My mortgage and loan payments will therefore and hereafter no longer be automatic, but will arrive at your bank by cheque, addressed personally and confidentially to an employee at your bank whom you must nominate. Be aware that it is an offence under the Postal Act for any other person to open such an envelope.

Please find attached an Application Contact Status which I require your chosen employee to complete. I am sorry it runs to eight pages, but in order that I know as much about him or her as your bank knows about me, there is no alternative. Please note that all copies of his or her medical history must be countersigned by a Solicitor, and the mandatory details of his/her financial situation (income, debts, assets and liabilities) must be accompanied by documented proof. In due course, I will issue your employee with PIN number which he/she must quote in dealings with me. I regret that it cannot be shorter than 28 digits but, again, I have modelled it on the number of button presses required of me to access my account balance on your phone bank service. As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Let me level the playing field even further. When you call me, press buttons as follows:

1. To make an appointment to see me.
2. To query a missing payment.
3. To transfer the call to my living room in case I am there.
4. To transfer the call to my bedroom in case I am sleeping.
5. To transfer the call to my toilet in case I am attending to nature.
6. To transfer the call to my mobile phone if I am not at home.
7. To leave a message on my computer (a password to access my computer is required.
A password will be communicated to you at a later date to the Authorized Contact.)
8. To return to the main menu and to listen to options 1 through to 8.
9. To make a general complaint or inquiry, the contact will then be put on hold, pending the attention of my automated answering service. While this may, on occasion, involve a lengthy wait, uplifting music will play for the duration of the call.

Regrettably, but again following your example, I must also levy an establishment fee to cover the setting up of this new arrangement.

May I wish you a happy, if ever so slightly less prosperous, New Year.

Your Humble Client

(Remember: This was written by a 98 year old woman; DOESN'T SHE MAKE YOU PROUD!)

Well actually no. A 98 year old woman who still has bank loans AND a mortgage? I know we're in tough times at the moment but do we really believe that there are 98 year olds with mortgages.  In other versions, she is American, Canadia or Australian and varies in age from mid-70s to late 90s and, given that this particular urban legend first appeared 12 years ago she's most likely dead anyway.

But why do we believe these things when ever a cursory glance should have alarm bells ringing.  There are two possible reasons. The devil is in the detail.  It was published in The Times, very credible and all that, but of course a complete fallacy.  It mentions the Postal Act. All sounds like she's done her research so it must be true. Except of course there is no Postal Act in the UK. There is a Postal Services Act but unless this lady can add clairvoyance to her other prodigious talents, the Postal Services Act having not come into force until two years after she 'wrote' her letter, then it is another indication of the fact that this is just nonsense.

In fact this came from a spoof letter written by Australian columnist Peter Wear in the Perspectives column of the Courier Mail in Brisbane, Australia in 1999. It was a humourous piece inspired by his bank bouncing a cheque.  Bet he's really cross he's not getting royalties!

Most people probably received at least one - or in my case five - e-mails telling me how this year July has five Fridays, five Saturdays and five Sundays and OMG this only happens once every 823 years.  Once again, it draws us in with the detail. 823 years? Hmm, if it said 100 years would be believe it? Probably less so but 823, that sounds plausible.

But let’s think about this, a year can only start on one of seven days, so there are seven possible basic calendar years. Add leap years, and there are fourteen basic calendars. And one of those calendars only gets used every 823 years? How would that be possible? It’s not of course, all fourteen calenders get cycled through regularly, in fact 2010 uses the exact same calendar as 1999. So don't throw those old calendars and diaries away, you'll be able to use them in the future.

In actual fact any month with 31 days will have five Fridays, five Saturdays and five Sundays. Go and have a look.

So I'm afraid I didn't pass it on to 823 friends or my eyes would shrivel in their sockets and my teeth would fall out and 48 days later I am neither blind nor dentally challenged.

The other reason why people of otherwise sound intelligence pass these on is that they believe the source. It came from my old mate George and he's a lawyer so he must be telling the truth.  If I said it came from Newsbiscuit or the Lib/Dem Shoutout we'd all be going 'Pah!' into our cornflakes.

Of course the growth of social media has made it all too easy to disseminate these hoaxes with the click of a button and while some may take it upon themselves to correct you, it doesn't alter the fact that you have advertised your gullibility to 823 of your friends. In the old days you'd tell your best friend. They'd say 'don't be ridiculous' and that would be it.

I don't personally believe that the internet is making us stupid. More gullible perhaps and more prone to passing on bad information but nowhere else would the response to disinformation be so immediate. Presented with such compelling proof of their gullibility, even the most diehard will eventually succumb to common sense.

So, here for your delight and delectation are some more of the most popular hoaxes so next time you get one in your inbox you can smugly point out it's urban legend status and save those 823 friends the bother.  (got this last week) (friend posted on Facebook yesterday)  (no she didn't) (seen last week on Facebook)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Important life lesson No. 2 or 'when love and affection causes a chain reaction'

How's that then? Two important life lessons in two weeks. I feel I am making a really positive contribution to the betterment of your lives.

So what is this week's important life lesson?

Don't give an affectionate squeeze to a cat with diarrhoea - unless you are wearing protective clothing........ eeuwww!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Well Curry My Weevils!

I know that the Showaddywaddy encounter was probably the one that you most want to hear about but I really want to find the photo which I'm sure is lurking in one of our many boxes so bear with me while I give you my failsafe recipe for Weevil Curry, a speciality of the Middle East in general and Bahrain in particular.  It was The Native's story of the curry cook-off at her local pub that reminded me and, had I had the chance and the odd weevil, I might just have entered myself.

A bit of background... In my 20s I moved out to Bahrain to work for Gulf Air, where I got to wear probably the most ridiculous uniform in aviation history. Sadly it seems that it was so ridiculous that no photos of it exist on t'interweb. 'Oooohhhhhh.....' I hear you groan. No, really, don't worry because my lovely friend Trish kindly let me use this one of her and her friend modelling said uniform.
Smile laydees!

What the photo doesn't show is our lovely 'winter' uniform of nylon A-line skirt and fitted jacket in a strange faecal shade of brown.   We lovingly called it 'minky brown'. The summer uniform, as modelled by Trish and Susan, was marginally more attractive and, even better, in the presence of a lighted match it could put on a great firework display before melting onto your skin and causing first degree burns.

Time for bed!
Rumour has it that the airline had approached a famous French fashion designer who produced a design for a new uniform to replace the pyjama suit, as modelled on the right, which was a standing joke among other aircrew in the 70s and 80s, then the airline nicked the design and produced their own budget version madee with more synthetic materials that your average Hollywood starlet, ideal for the hot, humid Middle Eastern climate.

But check out the hat in the new(er) uniform.  The hat was our signature piece - as well as being a fire hazard.  The veil was not quite long enough, or the fabric fine enough, to drape it in a chic manner and the crown was stiffened by a bit of old Cornflakes packet (almost).  After a few months it would start to collapse and we would cut up the onboard safety cards and feed them into the crown to make it rigid again. I don't think the management ever quite worked out why the safety cards kept disappearing and it's not as if anyone ever really reads them anyway.

Party on!
The late 1980s were the end of the best years in the Middle East when our tax-free salaries were high and our benefits even better. It was during the Thatcher years when money was king.  As a 20 year old I was earning more than I could have dreamed of and living a hedonistic existence of speedboats and sunshine, 5 star hotels, lavish parties and foreign travel. Money was no object.  Bahrain was a strange sort of place. It was the financial centre of the Middle East and home to around 3000 single women under 30 who worked for the airline and a similar number of predominantly young single men who worked for the banks. My four years there were like one long party - well except for the time when I was stuck in Bangladesh for nearly two weeks during anti-government riots. We played Trivial Pursuit so many times that in the end we were giving the answers and guessing the questions.

The weekend was only one and a half days long so we always played hard and one of our favourite pastimes was hiring a fishing dhow and poor unsuspecting crew and sailing out to the islands where we would spend the day water skiing (drinking), (drinking), jet skiing, (drinking) before retiring to the Yacht Club for sundowners. 

Well of course you can't actually
waterski behing a dhow, as
demonstrated here
I should point out at this juncture that prior to moving to Bahrain I didn't drink. An unfortunate encounter with a bottle of Martini and a Catholic priest (no, not like that... be quiet at the back!) at a party when I was 16 put me off drink for life, well most of it at least. On-board sanitation was basic, consisting as it did of a cabin strapped onto the back of the dhow with a hole in the bottom which emptied straight into the sea.  You always made sure to check which way the wind was blowing before you ever used it. Many an unfortunate received an unexpected watering when some newbie had forgotten this important rule.

Come Friday, the start of the weekend, we'd load up the Eskies with cold beers, picnics and another local favourite, Drunken Watermelon. 

Drunken Watermelon

Take one large watermelon and slice off the top.
Using the handle of a wooden spoon, make deep holes in the flesh of the watermelon
Fill holes with rum
Replace 'lid' and leave in fridge overnight to marinate and voila Drunken Watermelon

When ready hire one fishing dhow
Sail out to islands
Slice up watermelon, eat and get very drunk!

Drunken watermelon was an absolute essential to get through the onboard entertainment which usually consisted of some elderly arab gentlemen blowing on the bladder of a sheep (dead) and wailing incoherently while probably secretly plotting jihad against the immoral westerners.

What? No more?

On this particular dhow trip, having consumer huge quantities of Drunken Watermelon, I decided to invite my friends back for one of my famous curries.  You know how some people get the munchies? Well I get the urge to entertain.

Back at our flat, I bumbled around the kitchen in a semi-drunken stupor getting together the necessary ingredients for a marmalade chicken curry, a deliciously fruity affair with lots of  err.... fruit, while my houseguests went home to change/sober up/think up a suitable excuse for not returning.


 I chopped up my chicken and marinated it in spices while I peeled some apples. It wasn't easy but I found that if I closed one eye it wasn't quite so hard to focus.  A healthy dollop of marmalade was added I put it on the hob to start cooking. After simmering for 10 minutes it was time to add the all-important sultanas.  It's an unwritten rule in the Middle East that you  never add dried ingredients unless you have checked thoroughly for weevils who, along with the cockroaches, existed solely to make life interesting and usually for all the wrong reasons. On this occasion, mental function being somewhat impaired by rum, I just tipped of good measure of dried fruit into the gently bubbling curry.  The sultanas appeared to be moving.  I tried shutting the other eye but nothing changed. I took a closer look.  The mixture was full of weevils doing the front crawl, the backstroke, even the butterfly.  I vaguely thought 'Oh bugger' before the realisation dawned on me that it was the weekend so no shops were open, I had no spare ingredients with which to make another curry and I had about 10 people arriving in half an hour. 

I scooped the chicken out of the saucepan and rinsed it under the tap to remove the weevils before starting the futile task of trying to scoop out the remaining ones which were now cooking gently in the curry.  It soon became apparent that I was completely outnumbered so I took the decision to just stir the rest of them in and have done with it.  Without the unwelcome influence of alcohol I would probably have realised that serving up a generous portion of weevils to my friends was a bit anti-social but hey, what you don't know can't harm you... can it? 'Extra protein' I told myself in order to justify my actions.

My friends arrived and, with thoughts of the unusual extra ingredient pushed firmly to the back of my mind, the curry was served - to them at least. I told them I wasn't hungry. Well what did you expect me to do? I couldn't knowingly eat weevil curry, could I?

As the last person scraped their plate clean the curry was pronounced "the best yet".  "Ah, that will be my secret ingredient" I told them, smiling sweetly.  To this day, they don't know just what that secret ingredient was.

So, who wants to come round for dinner then? I've got Fly Fricassee, Coq(roach) au vin or Bug Bourguignon.....

Click on any photo to enlarge it..... if you dare!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Important life lesson No. 1 or 'how to almost be a YouTube sensation'

Don't text while walking towards the stairs to an underground car park. 

Just as I was about to step into the void I was yanked back by a very chivalrous young man.

"Thank you soooo much" I said

"No problems. You were lucky I couldn't get to my phone in time otherwise I'd have filmed you falling down the stairs and stuck it on YouTube" he replied

I think he was joking.....

Just think, this could have been me!