Wednesday, April 30, 2008

On writing letters to Viz

On writing letters to Viz

It is official. Viz Comic, which isn't as funny as it used to be, is now - according to Home Office statistics obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request - exactly 98.2 per cent as funny as it was in its 1987 heyday, and classed 'Slightly Subversive - I snorted tea through my nostrils at Biffa Bacon' by Whitehall civil servants.

On the Scaryduckworth-Lewis Scale Of Rating Things For Excellence, this turns in at 17 out of 20: Kate Humble in a wet T-shirt competition. High praise indeed for the Geordie lads, I think you will agree.

In celebration of this exciting news, I have written a few missives for their legendary Letterbocks page:

Dear Viz,

"The Sun Always Shines on TV" sang hollow-cheeked Morten Harket of 80s pop act A-Ha. He has obviously never watched EastEnders, then.

Yours etc, Albert O'Balsam

Top Tip!

Ice Cream Van Drivers! Inserting a playing card into each cornet you sell. Not only do the kiddiewinks get a slightly soggy free gift, but you only have to multiply the number of packs you use by 52 at the end of the day (or 54 if you use the jokers as well) and voila - you know how many ice creams you've served!
and, of course, the one I roll out on occasions such as this:

Dear Viz

What a load of rubbish these "old wives tales" are.

Yesterday, whilst admiring a particularly beautiful sunset, I heard an old wife saying "red sky at night, shepherd's delight". The next morning, her husband - who happens to be a shepherd - was tragically killed TO DEATH in a bizarre spacehopper accident.

Hardly reason to be delighted, I'm sure you'll agree.

Dan Prick
oooh, look:

Dear Viz,

I really must take issue with Albert O'Balsam's letter. I regularly watch EastEnders on Norwegian TV, and despite the sickening sight of Sonia's bestial affair with Well-ard, I distinctly remember that the sun was indeed shining. Also, I have a well-worn video tape to prove it.

Yours, Morten Harket, Norway
This letter is 100% genuine. Honest.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

On sticking your nose into local tourism where it's not wanted

On sticking your nose into local tourism where it's not wanted

Yer actual pre-Shakin' Weymouth King's StatueThe premise: One of Weymouth's better known landmarks is a colourful – yet crumbling – statue of King George III, who – at the height of his reign - used to take regular holidays in the town. If you ask me, he must have been bloody mental.

The statue has been undergoing expensive and long-running repairs and has been hidden under a tarpaulin for the best part of a year, prompting a number of whining letters to the local rag on who might be footing the bill for Mad George's touch-up.

Time, then, for local celebrity Kim Jong-Il (no relation) to uncover the truth, no matter how uncomfortable – and how rockin' – it is:

Dear the Dorset Echo

Intrigued that I am after reading recent readers' letters regarding the King's Statue in Weymouth, I have made a point of finding out about the renovation of our town's most prestigious landmark.

I am delighted to report that much of the funding for this project had been provided by the National Lottery Heritage Fund; so unless you set about scratch-cards in the same way my charming wife and I used to scratch our legs after a visit to Weymouth's famous old flea-pit cinema, this won't be costing you a bean.

However, I have it on the lowest of authorities that the reason the job has taken so long has been a dispute over the status of the King himself. In a move seen by some as political correctness gone mad, old King George has been seen by do-gooders as "too white ruling class" and are in the process of replacing Mad George with a King that will mean more to our inclusive, modern society: ELVIS.

Of course, this has led to even more ructions at Lottery HQ, with opinion divided between Young Elvis, Comeback Special Elvis or Old Fat Vegas Elvis. In the end, they settled for a healthy compromise in Welsh Elvis-a-like Shakin' Stevens, modelled on his highly successful 'This Ole House' era. A fine choice for the people of Weymouth, I think you will agree.

Shakin' - who can only be admired for going through life with such an unusual first name - will be in the region for a concert at Lulworth Castle in July. It would be great if this all-singin', all-dancin', (and dare I say it?) all-shakin' tribute to the great man could be unveiled by then.

Would I lie to you?

Mr Kim, Portland
Status: PUBLISHED – For the WIN! And nary a mention of those 300-foot, floodlit Kylie Minogue statues that got me into all those problems with local planning officers, either.

Monday, April 28, 2008

On outraging public sensibilities

On outraging public sensibilities

Caveat: If you do not know what "Goatse" is, then you will have no idea what this post is about. If you are of a sensitive nature, I would strongly advise you not to look it up on Google, for it will almost certainly strip away every last piece of innocence that your soul once possessed.

Just take it from me – for I had my innocence stripped away long ago – that a picture of a grown man doing strange things to his bottom is neither big nor clever.

This pain-free, safe for work Wikipedia page tells you everything you didn't want to know.

The picture you see here is the English county of Dorset, the home of your humble author on the south coast of these islands.

The county, such that it is, finds itself casting envious eyes to the west, where it sees Devon and its cousin-licking neighbour Cornwall possessing their own flag. In fact, you see the black-and-white Cornish flag of St Piran on cars all over the West Country and beyond.

Why not – suggested – a chap to the County Council have members of the public submit their own suggestions? His white cross on a yellow background looks like we are surrendering, and judging by the annual invasion of Swindon and Bristol charvers every summer, he is probably right.

A flag, you say? Naturally, I took the only course of action a morally corrupt layabout would: Pretend I was a 12-year-old kid and knock out something based on a notorious internet shock site in MS Paint:

I am mostly calling it Hands across the County (although, I realise "Go See Dorset" is tons better), as an illustration of the inclusive, welcoming nature of Dorset society, and it is not – repeat NOT - a crude representation of a man's bum-hole.

You know the drill: Give me sixty-nine comments and the County Council gets it.

On a point of order: The new Scaryduckworth-Lewis List for Rating Things for Excellence - IT IS HERE

Friday, April 25, 2008

Mirth and Woe: Toad Rage

Mirth and Woe: Toad Rage

Geoff – destroyer of sheds – was my best friend, and hardly mental at all.

Geoff liked animals.

He liked animals so much, he took me on a guided tour of his parents' enormous garden, where he showed me an animal trap of his own design, a terrifying device that could club anything up to the size of a small horse to death with a ten pound lump hammer.

Lying next to the behemoth was a very flat grey, brown and red thing.

"Oh, that was a mouse."

"It works, then."

He also showed me the bruising to the back of his hand.

"Yes. Yes it does. The trigger needs a bit of work, though."

Prodding a baited platform with a stick, there was a rush of air, and the hammer swung in a terrifying arc to snap the branch clean in two.

"Jesus", I said.

That's how he recruited me into his animal rescue organisation.

"It's called TOAD."


"We're the Twyford Organisation for Animals in Danger", he expanded.

It seemed churlish to point out that the only animals in danger round these parts was anything unfortunate enough to stumble through his hedge and into range of the Mallet o' Certain Doom.

"How many other members have you got?" I asked instead.

"Just me, so far. I've got a sign and everything."

He pointed to a large piece of scrap wood with bits of polystyrene roof tile glued to it and painted red and green.

"TOAD", it said, "fighting animal cruelty in Berskhire"

"You spelled Berkshire wrong", I pointed out.

"Don't you start."

We recruited one other member, some kid from the school playground called Phil. He passed a stringent membership test by knowing that badgers had stripy heads and "my dad run one over once. It were BRILLIANT!"

We tried a bit of the old animal conservation business, but found it too much like hard work, particularly when there were people such as vets and the RSPCA who had pretty much cornered the market. Also, my brother took the piss out of me something awful when he found out.

"TOAD?" he said, "You complete ponce."

He had a point, to be honest, and Phil didn't help matters by bringing a dead squirrel to school ("I shot it! Wiv me airgun!") to demonstrate how serious he was about the whole enterprise. He showed it to a group of girls, who had hysterics and were sick inna hedge.

With the whole project beginning to look a little limp, Geoff devised a way of getting a bit of publicity for the organisation.

"I'll add a few enhancements to the animal trap, then I'll get the local paper and TV involved. The sky's the bloody limit, mate."

He added a few enhancements, which just happened to involve replacing the ten pound lump hammer with some sort of electrical gubbins that ignited the IRA's favourite – weedkiller and castor sugar – under the poor about-to-be-rescued-from-danger animal.

The next morning, I dashed round his house to see if our unique animal rescue efforts had worked. I arrived just as the Berkshire Fire Service was leaving, having just damped down the remains of much of Geoff's garden and his father's shed. A shed, it transpired, which contained a quantity of excellent single malts and an impressive collection of continental gentlemen's literature and cine films.

"Is Geoff coming out?" I asked of his old man, who scowled at me and had to be physically restrained from ripping limbs off your humble narrator.

"TOAD!" he raged, "TOAD! I'll give you fuppin' TOAD!"

I fled. TOAD Rage nearly had me killed.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

On sudden death elimination

On sudden death elimination

H. Willoughby: Puppy smuggler100% of FACT: One in every 10,000 boxes on Deal or No Deal says "Punch Noel Edmonds in the face".

I have said on many occasions that TV reality shows that offer "sudden death" elimination should stick to their promises and offer just that.

This concept would, I think, add a certain edge to proceedings, and would – quite naturally – ensure the contestants' commitment to their new-found, fleeting fame.

Just think how excellent Dancing on Ice would have been had a stricken Bonnie Langford been seen into the next life by a lightly-oiled Holly Willoughby with an AK47, jiggling frantically as she empties an entire magazine into the former child star. And there's always the chance – for we live in hope - that a stray bullet might do for Schofield.

Or, The Apprentice, where "You're fired" takes on a whole new meaning.

I mention this once again on account of my having the misfortune of viewing ITV’s dreadful, shouty Gladiator-lite programme “Beat The Star” last weekend, in which boxer Amir Khan was goaded into wearing a ridiculous 1970s tracksuit for a series of pointless tasks against a blue-clad Plymouth copper.

Despite the claim in the trailer regarding “a member of the public who would rather die than lose”, I was utterly DISGUSTED to see that gurning beanpole Vernon Kaye they let him live at the end of the show without even the merest whiff of a pistol-whipping.

They promised blood and we got none, and I would have been on the blower to the ITV Duty Office in an instant had I not been forced by the nice doctor into wearing the boxing gloves again.

Of course, if the pleb won, they would be allowed to – quite literally – Beat The Star within an inch of their life.

Sanity restored as I switched channels just in time to see an Uzi-toting Graham Norton saying – without any hint of irony whatsoever – "Sorry, you're not a Nancy", as the screen faded to black.

Or maybe it was the Blue Nun and those lovely red, red pills kicking in. Again.

It’s like The Late Late Breakfast Show never happened.

Tomorrow: It is Toad Rage. TOAD RAGE. So shut up about it already.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

On experiencing UFIA

On experiencing UFIA

"I did not stick my hand up your arse!"

"Well somebody did," I said.

"Why would I stick my hand up your arse? I know what comes out of it."

And so, the morning of our wedding anniversary gets off to the worst possible start.

Seventeen years of marital harmony, and somebody goes and sticks their hand up my arse as I slept. Not exactly the awakening any man wants, to be honest.

I protest further, but she repeates: "I did not stick my hand up your arse!"

Perhaps a little bit of clarification is required:

I had gone to bed that night, the eve of our special day and Adolf Hitler's birthday, following a not insubstantial feast of various cheeses and a pleasant South Australian Chardonnay.

This had – unsurprisingly – led to a rather bizarre dream in which I had been commissioned to build a memorial for the Scottish victims of the Vietnam War, which had spilled over into the back streets of Dumfries as a result of a tragic map-reading error in 1971.

Using my hitherto unknown stonemason's skills, I had fashioned said memorial, which was in the shape of a large, grinning moose. When you pressed the moose's big, red nose, it plays 1958 chart-topper "Hoots Mon", and the last person to find a seat when the music stops is out of the game.

It was just as the Mad Scot was intoning the sacred words "Hoots mon! There's a moose loose about this hoose!" that it happened: UFIA.

Unsolicited Finger In Anus.

"Oooyagh!" I said in surprise and alarm, "Oooyagh!"

When I had peeled myself off the ceiling, and calmed down sufficiently to take in what, exactly, had happened to my poor, violated bottom, I looked at my bedside clock.

3.37am, it said, as my charming wife slept soundly next to me.

Or was she merely acting? Who can tell?

"I did not stick my hand up your arse!"

"Then who did? Who did?"

The can be only one explanation. We have a ghost in the house.

A dreadful, bummy ghost.

Hoots, mon.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

On breaking the house rules

On breaking the house rules

I have written on several occasions on the baffling set of House Rules bestowed on any man who dares to set up home with a woman of the female persuasion.

In a sad indictment of the way that gender roles have reversed Grapes of Wrath-style in recent years, the rules of any domestic arrangement are set in stone and usually involve death threats over the state of the toilet seat.

The man's role in modern household decision-making has gone the way of Kate Moss's breakfast (violently purged and flushed down the lavatory) and he now sits forlornly in a corner of the room, the remote control in enemy hands as the TV screens a solid, mind-numbing diet of soaps between 7pm – 9pm, while he finds access to Men and Motors inexplicably blocked.

For example:

- There are no rules, except for the ones I make up, arbitrarily and on the spot
- No pissing in the shower
- All beetroot must be crinkle cut
- Obey all the rules

Every weekend, there's a new discovery. Some new rule that I didn't know about the week before, which has – as far as she's concerned - always existed. They invariably start with the words "In future..." as if I've been doing this wrong all my life, under watchful, unappreciative eyes, and it is time – dammit – to put an end to this tomfoolery. For example:

"In future, don't wipe your arse on the doormat. I don't care how itchy it is"

"But the dog does it ALL the time" – This kind of pathetic bleating always falls on deaf ears. It is always best, my padowan learner, to do as you are told, wait until her back is turned and ease your itching crack on the door-jamb.

I'm not even allowed to fart in the bathroom "just in case you bring the smell back to bed". Handily, I now have a jar for the purpose.

When I open it – under carefully controlled conditions at our municipal nuclear waste-and-asbestos handling plant - it goes "parp".

Then, arriving home from this chore, I have to burn my shoes at the front door "just in case you've trodden in something".

A small price to pay for a quiet life, to be honest.

Monday, April 21, 2008

On sticking one's nose into local policing where it's not wanted

On sticking one's nose into local policing where it's not wanted

Click to embiggenAfter last week's disappointment in my one-man letter-writing campaign at the hands of the Henley Sub-Standard, I have set my targets on the regional press in the far north of this great nation of ours.

Reader Graeme McKinnon prodded me towards the Mearns Leader, the local newspaper for the residents of Stonehaven, a small roped-off area fifteen miles from Aberdeen.

"Could Mr O'Balsam send a letter to my local snoozepaper?" he asked.

Why, naturally. Apparantly, Stonehaven is planning to install town centre CCTV cameras, and there is much hand-wringing over the expense. Albo's got a few things to say about that...


I note with some alarm moves to introduce CCTV cameras to Stonehaven town centre in order to combat low level crime and littering. As your correspondent in a recent edition of the Leader said, this is indeed a sledgehammer to crack a very small nut.

Instead of wasting countless thousands on this technology which smacks of the kind of brutal, totalitarian society they have in communist China may I suggest something far cheaper which will, I am certain, have the backing of the majority of Stonehaven residents.

Why not employ a number of "wardens" that can patrol the streets, apprehending and punishing litter louts and hoodies as they see fit?

These "men of the city", or "police", if we may coin a word derived from the original Latin, would have a large number of powers up to and including the 'clip round the ear' right up to 'dragging you home by the ear for a whupping from your old dad'.

Or, failing that, we can just zap litter louts with cattle prods.

Yours etc

Albert O'Balsam
Arm the police with cattle prods? Are you mad, sir? Printed and published FOR THE WIN! (Click picture above to embiggen)

As usual, we have to live with the fact that delete-happy sub-editors have excised the best, finely-crafted gag on the origin of the word "police", and they baulked at printing the name 'Albert O'Balsam', but a win is a win in these uncertain days.

The battle: It continues.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Mirth and Woe: Turkish Delight

Mirth and Woe: Turkish Delight

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan: Nothing to do with this story, at allI had been granted an audience with the Turkish Prime Minister. Recep Tayyip Erdogan was to come to our luxuriously appointed hotel in the centre of Istanbul to make a speech and to answer journalists' questions on his country's national day.

The trouble was, as I sat on the throne in my 12th floor suite, I had a turd that wasn't going anywhere.

"BLUUUUUUMPH!" it had gone, and emerged - not word of a lie - a good eighteen inches long, a testament to the rich Turkish diet and the terrifying capacity of my bottom.

It sat there, scowling at me, in the toilet, refusing to disappear. Flush after flush - the thing was made of ferro-concrete and even defied a good thumping with the toilet brush, sitting there intact, refusing to move.

There are times in your life where you have to make a snap decision.

"Sod it", I said to myself, straightening my tie in front of the bathroom mirror, "I'll sort it out later", and left for my date with destiny.

In the end, I arrived - only seconds late - for the PM's arrival, with only one thing on my mind: The Black Sea Monster, which remained, unflushed somewhere on the hotel's top floor. My carefully-honed question, mixing congratulations on this key date in the Turkish calendar, a remembrance of the life of Kemal Mustafa Ataturk and a probing insight into the opening of state media to Kurdish and Armenian minority groups went unasked.

All I could think, as the interpreters rattled away in my headphones was "I wonder if it's still there?"

I got back to my room an hour later, and it had gone.

Instead, there was the toilet roll, diligently folded into a point in the manner taught to every hotel maid in the world, and a hastily-scrawled note on Conrad Hotel-headed notepaper.

It was in Turkish, so I showed to the waiter in the rooftop bar.

He laughed.

He showed it to some of his colleagues, who also laughed.

They pointed at me, as I clutched my hideously expensive bottle of Stella and laughed some more.

"What? What does it say?"

"It say… uh… how I put this?"

"Yes... well...?"

"You dirty, shitty bastard dog!"

There was no way on God's Earth I was leaving her a tip.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

On letting somebody else do TEH FUNNAY for a change

On letting somebody else do TEH FUNNAY for a change

Yesterday - had he not have been struck down by a severe and permanent case of death - would have been Spike Milligan's 90th birthday. Poet. Musician. Ecologist. Author. World-famous spelling mistake. Funniest man on the planet.

Having a father who encouraged me to listen to The Goon Show at every opportunity, it is hardly surprising that Milligna's influence has rubbed off on me and onto these pages. I've stolen some of his best gags, and happily, he is no longer in a position to complain.

Quite possibly the funniest man of the last century, Milligoon was much more than The Bloke Who Wrote The Goon Show, and despite being plagued with mental illness, always, always had his feet firmly planted in reality:

"When I look back, the fondest memory I have is not really of the Goons. It is of a girl called Julia with enormous breasts."
A philosophy, I think you will agree, that all men should strive for.

For those of you new to Millington's work, I would thoroughly recommend searching out his war memoirs (starting with the seminal Adolf Hitler: My Part in his Downfall) and any collection of Goon Show recordings.

Never one to bow to political correctness, Spine Milligun delighted and exasperated right up to his final days, and some of his greatest work thoroughly deserves a repeat viewing.

I met him once.

"What do you want?"

"Can I have your autograph? Please?"

"No. Bugger off."

"But... But... this is a book signing."

"Ah... yes."

On not being particularly bothered with the democratic process

I can't be bothered to hold a Thursday vote-o this week, what with all that car-crash stressy bollocks making me pleased that I write these pages at least two weeks in advance.

Instead, I have a cunning plan for choosing the Friday Tale of Mirth and Woe. The last person to comment on this blog entry when I log in tomorrow morning gets to pick the story.

Choose, then from the following, and may the last man / woman / none of the above win:

Shandy --- Top Gun --- Wem-ber-ley --- Turkish Delight

Democracy's totally over-rated. At least I'm open about cheating, Robert Mugabe take note.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

On the Scaryduckworth-Lewis Method, again

On the Scaryduckworth-Lewis Method, again

E. Thompson: STAYS ON THE LISTIt is that time of year once more.

As the month of April rolls around, it is time to explore the zeitgeist of modern mank in order to create a new list for the Scaryduckworth-Lewis Method of Rating Things for Excellence.

For the uninitiated, the SD-L Method is a list, tried-and-tested down the years, that allows the casual reader to judge the worthiness of any particular product, item, cultural artefact or concept against a universally-agreed reference table.

For example, the music lover would rate Westlife's latest effort as a bit 'Judy Finnegan squatting over a glass table', whilst Michael Jackson's Thriller is still 'Billie Piper on a Spacehopper after all these years'.

The 2007 list in full:

0. A shaven-headed Britney Spears in a roll neck sweater
1. Lightly-oiled Ann Widdecombe giving you the eye
2. Margaret Thatcher leather whip “happy finish” massage

3. Judy Finnegan squatting over a glass table, squeezing out a portion of nutty slack
4. Vanessa Feltz in a negligee, selling a flash of her pinkness for a packet of chips, and begging for "girth"
5. Jade Goody writhing in Mango Chutney on the floor of an Indian takeaway shouting "Shilpa Poppadum" to passers-by

6. Victoria Beckham in a bikini, lapping at the very gates of Geri Halliwell
7. The Princess Anne unnamed many-tentacled woe
8. Lorraine Kelly taking advantage of Eamonn Holmes' morning glory with a chirpy "Och, there you go then!"

9. Cherie Blair and Margaret Beckett strap-on action in the back of a caravan
10. Heather Mills-McCartney using her removed wooden leg to facilitate the pleasure of Myleene Klass.
11. Susie Dent in shiny black rubber mini-dress, looking up swears in the dictionary while Carol Vorderman rubs herself against a bollard for "one easy, monthly payment."

12. Emma Thomspon on a street corner asking for "business"
13. Felicity Kendall wrapped in clingfilm, with Penelope Keith talking dirty in the background
14. Kate Winslet keeping her clothes on, mostly

15. Martha Jones discovering, to her gushing pleasure, Setting 27 on The Doctor's sonic screwdriver, screaming "I'm not Rose! I'M NOT ROSE!" at the height of her ecstasy.
16. Kate Humble in a wet T-shirt competition
17. Konnie Huq in a bath of beans, whilst Zoe Salmon scrubs her back with a french stick

18. Billie Piper riding a space-hopper over a cobbled street.
19. Nigella Lawson whipping up a creamy sauce with her tongue
20. Sarah Beeny wrestling Kirstie Allsopp in a paddling pool filled with baby oil

So: I ask for your suggestions for this year's list.

Where, dear reader, does Amy Winehouse fit in the grand scheme of things?
Does Princess Diana's sexxxy ghost make a comeback after ten years? And - riddle me this - Fern Britton: sick inna hedge, or taken roughly over the kitchen table?

Mr Rikaitch has already set the standard with "Tessa Jowell showing us her Olympic Ring".

You decide. You. YOU. How low can you go?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

On sticking one's nose into the London mayoral campaign where it's not wanted

On sticking one's nose into the London mayoral campaign where it's not wanted

And so I must report my first failure in the snappily-titled Operation Send Stupid Letters to the Local Press.

It is my sad duty to out The Henley Standard as a bunch of humourless windbags who have probably never quite forgiven me for belming on their publication's front cover all those years ago.

Here, then, is the beautifully-crafted letter they received earlier this week, the only consolation being that I read the letters page in the newsagents, my 50p staying firmly in my pocket.

Dear the Henley Standard

I note with some fascination Henley MP Boris Johnson's bid to become mayor of the great metropolis of London. Should he succeed in his noble quest, I fear that his days as the town's representative at Westminster will be numbered thussly: zero.

I, for one, will miss the great man careering down Greys Road on his mountain bike screaming "Get out of the way proles!", flailing away at passers-by with an antique cutlass in one hand, autographed copies of his latest fiction in the other. Who says the age of the Great British Eccentric is dead?

This fine town of ours has a grand tradition of electing such blond-haired leviathans of political culture (my charming wife still comes over in a sweat at the very thought of the Baron Heseltine), so it is with no little pride that I clutch a packet of Nice'n'Easy Baby Blond colour formula to my chest and announce my manifesto to the hard-working citizens of Henley-on-Thames.

- Stringent, heavily-armed border patrols on all entrances to the town, with orders to brook no mercy during Regatta Week. Henley is proud of its excellent – not to mention exclusive – reputation, and the hoi-polloi should be excluded at all costs. I've got a buddy in the SAS who can pull some strings on this – nudge, nudge, eh?

- The above point illustrated in the form of a 300 foot, floodlit statue of Sir Steven Redgrave doing something extremely unpleasant with an oar to TV's arch-lout Jeremy Clarkson. Towering athwart the Thames like some muscular, gold-medalled colossus, Mega-Redgrave will inspire the lucky few who live here to strive for greater glory, and strike the Fear of God into those who wish to destroy our precious way of life with cheap lager and so-called "wacky baccy", whatever that is

- To prevent Henley from drifting into urban decay with a soulless identikit town centre like so many lesser municipalities, I propose the complete rebuilding - brick-by-reclaimed-brick - of the old Regal Cinema on its original site, to be completed after a swift, twenty-year planning inquiry and leafleting campaign

- A range of the latest US-designed "bunker-busting" nuclear weapons aimed at Reading, just in case they get any funny ideas

Ours is a simple town with simple needs. I make a solemn promise to rule over Henley-on-Thames like a benevolent dictator who will only introduce floggings outside the Town Hall as a last resort.

Your Pal,

Albert O'Balsam, Henley
The battle: It continues. News of a North-of-the-Border victory to follow.

Monday, April 14, 2008

On dicing with death, again

On dicing with death, again

A fine figure of a manThe Scaryduck Fun Run of Certain Doom: IT IS DONE.

I did what I set out to do: Complete my Sunday morning jog round the mean, mean streets of Dorchester, whilst refraining from hurling my guts into nearby hedgerows.

Others weren't so lucky. The Run was swarming with kids running on behalf of their junior football teams, all of whom set off at a sprint, before collapsing with exhaustion 400 yards down the road, necking their entire Lucozade supply in one gulp.

"It was like an orange-coloured fountain," said my daughter, who despite having custody of the camera, failed to capture this moment for posterity.

I, on the other hand, had other fish to fry. I had eyed up the field, and had already decided who I would race in my own, private competition.

And, dear reader, I can humbly report victory. I BEAT THE NUN.

A real nun, too. Not some hairy arsed rugger-bugger in a whimple. Sister Mary of the Holy Order of St Paula Radcliffe, stopping every 200 yards to let fly with a stream of ... oh, never mind, you get the idea.


All this, I might add, carrying minor injuries sustained on my drive home on Friday evening.

My car! My lovely, lovely, crappy car!You may remember my dice with death the other week, miraculously escaping injury in a multiple-car smash-up on the M3. Like the film Final Destination, however, fate caught up with me in the most ironic way possible, by sending someone to rear-end The Silver Hornet whilst sitting at some traffic lights in Salisbury.

My neck and back are full of ouchies, but it was the thought of making Baby Jesus cry that spurred me on on Sunday morning (not to mention the best part of £200 for Cancer Research), as I roared past Sister Mary with a cry of "LOL!" to my ultimate penguin-thrashing victory.

I did not sick inna hedge.


Friday, April 11, 2008

Mirth and Woe: Invisible Touch

Mirth and Woe: The Hot Bag II - Invisible Touch

Any excuseWembley. Venue of Legends. Home of the Famous River of Piss. Graveyard of English sporting hopes.

And latterly, scene of My Bottom Shame.

I've done some great things at Wembley. I've attended some great concerts, took part in a genuine football riot and, of course, scored a hat-trick on the famous hallowed turf.

I've also done some pretty rubbish things there, too.

For a start, I paid genuine cash money to see Genesis.

Phil Collins Invisible Touch Gor-Blimey-I'm-A-Right-Old-Geezer-Me Genesis.

Separated from friends, I found myself drawn to other musical refugees, disappointed first by the support (Paul Young) and secondly by the main act, whereby the unbelievably chirpy Phil Collins spent much of his between-song banter sucking up to Princess Diana in the Royal Box.

I'll let you take hold of that mental image for a short while, taking it down alleyways and darkened underpasses of your mind, leaving you feeling cheapened and slightly aroused. I, like those around me, surrounded as we were by the smug Italian-knit, designer label-wearing mid-eighties young urban professional set, knew we had made a terrible mistake, and resigned ourselves to a jukebox of Phil's Greatest Hits, slinking off home before the encores.

"Lads," I ventured between aural molestations, "Shit."

"Yeah, it is, innit?"

"No. Need one."


Poisoned by a killer hotdog, sold to me by a CMOT Dibbler lookalike in the streets leading to the stadium ("Guaranteed to come from at least one named animal"), I found myself in dire need for relief, but too far from the Wembley toilets and the infamous Wembley River of Piss to get there in time.

In the words of the respected international movement of the Round Table: Adopt, Adapt, Improve.

We grabbed a plastic bag, and with my new-found friends forming an outward-facing circle around me while I went about my grim task as if I were merely cutting off a length in my own shed, as any grown man would.

Usually, when you go to the toilet at a festival, you wee into a plastic coke bottle, and throw it as far as you can, in the hope of completely ruining somebody's day with a shower of yellow rain.

This is wrong, and I would never do such a thing. Particularly not in a crowd full of rugby-playing public school types, even if they are wearing pink pringle sweaters tied around their necks, laughing at all of Phil's awful jokes and goosing the bottom of their unfeasibly attractive blonde girlfriends. Bastards.

I had in my possession, then, a diligently-tied Waitrose carrier bag filled with semi-solids.

I could not bring myself to throw it, as I was too far from a) Phil Collins or b) Princess Diana to make any difference. And for shame, having scored a direct hit on either might have changed British history for the better.

Instead, I decided to place it somewhere safe and out of the way. Somewhere safe where it might be cleared away later by some poor sap on two quid an hour.

Standing next to our little gaggle of bored concert-goers was one particularly obnoxious, braying couple. Wearing matching designer outfits with matching Genesis tour t-shirts and jackets, they were conspicuous consumption personified, going as far as having a little patch of the Wembley turf all to themselves as picnic area and jealously-guarded personal space.

They wouldn't, I thought, notice just one more bag – from a respectable retailer as well – amongst their assorted folding chairs, picnic rug and expensive concert souvenirs. So, I gave them another souvenir of their day trip to North West London. An official Wembley Stadium Hot Bag, squeezed out on the Hallowed Turf.

Live Aid. The White Horse Final. The Summer of '66. And now: The Duck's Turd.

My only regret was not being around when they finally got it home:

Scene: A converted warehouse in East London's Docklands. Formerly storage space for raw marmite and nuclear waste, the £2,000 per month rent is now paid by Jeremy and Jemima, who both work in the City selling pork belly futures with a sideline in kicking Big Issue vendors

Jeremy: I say, that was a wonderful evening, wasn't it?

Jemima: Phil Collins AND Princess Diana. Heavenly!

Jeremy: And over four hundred pounds on concert souvenirs. Just wait until somebody invents eBay! I'm so bloody rich, I could have bought the entire stock, and still had change left over to have some poor people beaten up. Oh look! Here's one more bag for you

Jemima: Oh, darling, you shouldn't have

Jeremy: Shouldn't have what, honeybuns?

Jemima: It's lovely. Official Genesis Invisible Touch Tour turds. It's... so... so... you

Jeremy: I try my hardest. Shall we go out and kick some poor people now?

Jemima: Not tonight, dear. It's your turn for the strap-on

Jeremy: YOINKS!
Or, in reality:

Hot bagging. The gift that keeps on giving.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

On summer sports

On summer sports

With the football season coming to a close, and with no British interest in the forthcoming Euro 2008 tournament, it is time to get ready - as a nation - for the sound of leather on willow as two stout teams of England's finest gather to face each other in mortal combat on this great nations' verdant village greens.

A time of year that invariably ends in national humilation at the hands of a bunch highly skilled, better dressed foreign Johnnies.

Yes indeedy: Socks and Sandals Spotting Season is open once again.

Let us, dear S-and-S Spotter, discuss the scoring system of this most complex of summer sports:

* Leading the way in this finest of summer traditions is celebrity wonky-mouthed bore and girlfriend-basher Geoffrey Boycott with a superb innings of 27 not out, sporting a suberbly sensible pair of khaki flannels, finished off with 80% cotton M&S patterned socks and a pair of Pound Shop Jesus Creepers.

Score guide: Old bloke, standard S&S - 10 points

* Also spotted leading the trend is Liar to the Royals, butler Paul Burrell, sporting matching pink socks and sandals, which once belonged to Diana, Princess of Wales but were "given to me as a gift, I've got a receipt and everything, in a drawer, honest".

Score guide: Posh bloke, girl's sandals - 30 points

* I myself have spotted - right in the middle of the chav's paradise that is the inner city ghetto of Reading, a teenager clad in hoodie, baggy jeans and the obligatory iPod. Then, from the ankles down, he was his grandad - white socks, seaside tat shop sandals, scoring double points for the committed Socks and Sandals spotter.

Score guide: Teenager, hoodie, trendy, 'He ought to know better' and white sock bonuses - 60 points

Happy spotting!

Next week: The Sky Sports guide to the Girls in Tight, White Summer T-shirts Spotting European Championships, sponsored by New Look

Real sports update: I ran five miles yesterday in preparation for The Scaryduck Fun Run of Certain Doom, just to prove that I can do it. I am now walking like Herr Flick of the Gestapo, and I no longer want to have legs.

There's still plenty of time to sponsor me - at this rate your money is totally safe.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

On getting a bathroom each

On getting a bathroom each

So, the house move's OFF again. With bespectacled git Howard Brown living the Life of Riley at the expense of us, his loyal customers, the Halifax went and put up their demands for new mortgage business last week.

To whit: A requirement for a deposit of 20 per cent of the house's value to pay for Howard's bar tab and assorted fallen women. I won't mention the sum involved, but it is somewhat more than an arm, a leg and most of my vital organs. Even that one.

Short of sending him a deposit of my own (and believe me, it is proven by SCIENCE that the brown trout through the letterbox is the only language people like this understand), we are resigned to abandoning our year-long plans to move house and sit out the current banking crisis in our otherwise luxuriously-appointed beachfront property, catapulting gin-soaked bits of bread at the seagulls for top LOLs.

Unfortunately, having seen what the rest of Weymouth has to offer in our quest for alternative housing, it appears that my charming wife has developed a thing for bathrooms. Lots and lots of bathrooms, and this will be her new outlet.

As we rose on Sunday morning in our loft bedroom that cost me in blood, sweat and loads of money, she announced "I've had this brilliant idea", a phrase that usually leads somewhere incredibly expensive.

"How much will it cost?" I replied from our bathroom-with-a-sea-view as a large tanker slipped its mooring in Portland Harbour.

"Why don't we let Scaryduckling have our bedroom…"

"What? And lose our ensuite?"

"…then Scaryduck Jr can move into his sister's room…"

"Yeah, makes sense – right next to the bathroom…"

"…and we have his room."

"Right. And what's the point?"

"I haven't finished. We turn the spare room into an ensuite bathroom. For us."

"So… we end up with three bathrooms, then? With two thirds of the world unable to find access to clean water?"

"That's right," she says, and: "Sod 'em."

"But… but… we've already got two toilets as it is."

"And you still crap in the shed."

Bang to rights.

"Riiiiight," I say at length, "Riiiiiiiiiiight – but on one condition."

"What's that?"

"We get to keep the Star Wars murals in the boy's room."


"You started it."

"They've got to go." She pointed out in that tone of voice that tells me this particular lady is not for turning, "They're Phantom Menace."

She's got a point. Jar Jar's just GOT to go.

"One other thing," I ask.


"The dog. Does she get a bathroom?"

"Eventually, yes. When we build the extension. That's my other great idea."


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

On having a You've Been Framed moment

On having a You've Been Framed moment

Now, there's something you don't see every day: a little old man crashing his shopmobility scooter into a tree.

Granted, if you're the bloke at ITV who puts You've Been Framed together, you probably see little old men crashing their shopmobility scooters into all kinds of stuff before exploding in a ball of flame, leaving just one wheel and a shoe with a whisp of smoke coming out of it.

Day in, day out, nothing but hideous electric wheelchair accidents until you wish you were dead and/or were working for the other side watching Graham Norton telling people "You could be a Nancy" without the slightest trace of irony in his voice.

Aaaaand... Back to the chase. So, I was crawling to work the other morning along Reading's Bath Road, when I noticed – with some disgust, as I unpacked the contents of my left nostril – that a smug-looking senior citizen on a mobility scooter was overtaking me on the inside through judicious use of the cycle lane.

Building up a sizable lead over your humble narrator in The Silver Hornet, he went past car after car, probably chuckling to himself how he was going to cruise round town, picking up women and having his wicked way with them over the shopping basket.

Then, with no warning whatsoever – and clearly the work of some strange gravitational field – the pavement-hogging hooligan's machine lurched violently to the left and careered straight into a large tree, foolishly left at the side of the road by Reading Borough Council.

SPANG! He went like an elderly Marc Bolan, before driving off seemingly none the worse for wear.

Naturally, I was concerned for the old codger's wellbeing, and showed the sensitive side of my nature by laughing like a stupid.

I LOLed, in fact. I LOLed out loud, before driving off to work, pausing only, now that the red mist had descended, to mow down the queue outside Caversham Post Office for further LULz.

"Was it a plane tree?" a colleague subsequently asked.

"Yeah. It didn't have any leaves on it."

Strangely, this little episode occurred on the same bit of road I saw a cement lorry overturn last year, as if DRAGGED DOWN by some sort of localised Bermuda Triangle.

It is cursed.

Worse than that.

It is curs-ed.

Monday, April 07, 2008

On sticking your nose into the suburban sex industry where it isn't wanted

On sticking your nose into the suburban sex industry where it isn't wanted

Click to embiggenLoyal reader Debster has sent me another letter from her local newspaper.

"Sir," a concerned resident wrote to the Richmond and Twickenham Times, "we note from your paper the police closed down a brothel in Lower Mortlake Road.

"Some of your male readers may like to know," Mr Name and Address Witheld said at length, "that the sex den in Wills Crescent, Whitton is very much open for business despite complaints from local residents. Your disgustedly etc etc"

Sex dens? In the leafy, prudish Royal Borough of Richmond? Heavens above – something has to be done. A concerted letter-writing campaign, for a start:

Dear the R&T Times

I note with some concern your reader's views on the so-called 'sex den' operating in Whitton. Of course, Mr/s Name and Address Withheld is correct – no respectable society should put up with such lascivious behaviour on our doorsteps and I applaud the Constabulary's efforts in closing down such establishments.

Of course, this leaves us with the environmental time-bomb of lust-crazed former "Sex Den" customers driving round Richmond in their gas-guzzling VW Touaregs, polluting the atmosphere with needless CO2 emissions whilst looking for sordid knocking shops that have no place on our proud streets.

I propose, then, one of Mayor Ken's redundant Routemaster busses – converted to run on 'green' bio-fuel – that can collect these people from approved pick-up points, transport them to Hillingdon or Ealing where standards are that much lower, and drive around in circles until their filthy desires are sated.

It's a "win" for all concerned – the environment, the punters and, of course, the morals of the people of this fine Borough. Better still, we can charge it all to their Oyster cards so every penny is accounted for and appropriately taxed. Never has "Touch in, touch out" been more appropriate.

Yours etc

Albert O'Balsam
Did they print it? Of course they did. Another victory in my campaign to prove that local newspaper editors will print anything.

So: Are there any issues in your local newspaper that you think need the wisdom of Albert O'Balsam, or the on-the-spot guidance and 300-foot floodlit Kylie Minogue statues of Korea's Dear Leader Kim Jong-Il? Drop us a line – preferably with links to your local rag's internet presence and we'll take it from there.

I am not mad.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Mirth and Woe: The Hot Bag

Mirth and Woe: The Hot Bag

A shameless rewrite and repost of an old Tale of Mirth and Woe from 2004 which is proving rather popular in B3TA's Question of the Week. Completely rewritten, this new version contains exactly 127% more jokes than the old story.

In the words of Frank Zappa: "This is a true story. Only the facts have been changed."

I am currently in the process of moving house away from our luxurious but somewhat limited beachfront pile to a lovely place further inland that offers no less than four toilets. Count them: FOUR - a far cry from the mono-shittered place where I currently live.

To be perfectly frank, having four people in a house with only one toilet is always asking for trouble, especially in these enlightened days where crapping on passers-by from the tree in your front garden is somewhat frowned upon by the forces of law and order. And I should know, for I have experienced for myself the terrors of finding oneself without a pot to …well… shit in.

It all went wrong one Sunday morning whilst I sat in my pyjamas watching the repeat of the previous night's Match of the Day. As the hideous, gurning faces of the Chelsea First XI appeared on my 37-inch plasma monster, my body was gripped by a dreadful spasm of abdominal pain. It wasn't simply the case of a turtle's head – it was a whole bevy of turtles, all fighting to get out of my bottom at once. Big, sloppy, poo-smelling turtles.

Clutching my churning guts, I staggered up the stairs and headed for the toilet to do the necessary in order to relieve my agonies.


Not only was the bathroom occupied, but it was engaged for the foreseeable future by the charming, delicately flavoured Mrs Duck in the process of washing and conditioning her hair and in no position to allow intruders, no matter what the emergency.

With a supreme effort using techniques taught to me by monks in my days spent as a Ninja in the Far East, I relaxed sufficiently to quell my desire for explosive bowel movements and resumed my vigil in front of Match of the Day.

Then that jugged-ear Spurs bastard Gary Lineker turned up and we were back to writhing pain on the living room floor, with a small trickle attempting to escape.

It's at life-or-death moments that your Ninja training kicks in. As they say at Ninjitsu School: "Adopt, Adapt, Improve"

I staggered to my feat, grabbed a Tesco carrier bag from the kitchen, and headed to the only place I knew where I could find sufficient privacy to finish this most urgent of jobs.

I'm not proud.

I did a shit. In a Tesco carrier bag. In my shed.

Not just any old shit, either. It was what can only be described as a brown laser of foul semi-liquids containing, I am sad to say, Green Giant sweet corn.

Of course, there's a problem with supermarket carrier bags that you don't think about when you're busy adopting, adapting and improving: they make them with air holes to prevent stupid people from killing themselves TO DEATH by sticking a turd-filled bag over their heads. And I don't blame Tesco for this – the smell must be awful.

Alas, these air holes also allow semi-solid turds to escape as you dash up the garden, hoping to conceal your foul mess behind the water feature, showering your carpet slippers with turds.

It was only when I turned the hosepipe on the mess and screams emerged from the upstairs bathroom window that I realised that my charming lady wife was still in the shower.

I fled for the safety of Match of the Day, leaving the hot bag where it fell.

Then, the seagulls came. Loads and loads of seagulls.

Postscript: The charming Mrs Duck only found out about my morning of terror when this story first appeared in my excellent book. She wasn't pleased.

Postscript II: Don't forget to sponsor me in the Scaryduck Fun Run of Certain Doom

Thursday, April 03, 2008

On taking part in the Scaryduck Fun Run of Certain Doom

On taking part in the Scaryduck Fun Run of Certain Doom

My charming kids are trying to have me killed.

They are trying to kill me TO DEATH by putting my name down for a so-called 'fun run' organised by Dorchester Lions Club, where I am expected to run several miles, have fun, keel over with a heart attack and collect money for charity.

I'm on a hiding to nothing as I have – somewhat foolishly in a moment of pizza-deficient weakness – agreed to take part. Either the short, round, red-faced, forty-something journalist takes part in this certainly fatal race, or the organisers come round and set their lion on me as a short, round, red-faced, forty-something tasty snack.

So: next Sunday (Aaargh! NEXT SUNDAY!), while normal people will be taking part in the walk in the park that is the London Marathon, I shall be pounding round the streets of our county town in a Chelsea football shirt (the publicity blurb encourages runners to arrive in fancy dress - I'll be taking part as a wanker) and almost-brand-new white trainers begging spectators to strike me down out of mercy.

And all this for charity, which is where I now post a cunningly-worded invitation to part you from your hard-earned:


Sponsorship money will be split between the Dorchester Lions Club (and I sincerely hope they get enough for a new lion) and the charity of my choice.

Finding that I cannot accept cheques made out to Caring Assistance for the Scaryduck Household (CASH for short), I will instead be offering my services to Cancer Research UK, who are very excellent.

For the purposes of internet donations, I've set up a page on the Just Giving website, so you can give me genuine cash money and claim Gift Aid tax relief without the unpleasantness of coming round waving a sponsorship form in your face and threatening you with a recently deceased lion.


My target is modest. After all, I'm not walking, Mosher-style, halfway across Europe. A hundred of the Queen's pounds and I'll be a happy man.

I am not utterly mad.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

On recruiting foot soldiers in the war against Western Civilisation

On recruiting foot soldiers in the war against Western Civilisation

Entirely gratuitous picture of Osama bin Laden's niece Wafah Dufour. No reason. No reason at all.Worst job in the world: Recruiter for Al-Qaeda.

Let's face it, you're hardly going to have the best of West End offices with beanbags and a giant Jenga set, are you? More likely, you're going to be working from a cave in the middle of nowhere, or worse still, Yorkshire.

Mr Angry recently wrote his thoughts on this very subject, and not to be outdone, I've copied him added to his compelling arguments.

Let us compare and contrast current and previous Reigns of Terror.

Frankly, back in the old days of the IRA, you knew where you stood as a terrorist recruiter. You'd be getting yourself young hardworking lads of a particularly cruel/enlightened*, murderous/heroic* bent who'd think nothing of bombing pubs full of civilians/legitimate targets*, shooting some bloke/legitimate target* in front of his family or torturing captured squaddies/legitimate targets* to death. But they'd be committed to the cause, and they only way they'd end up dead would be if they did something particularly dim-witted/courageous*, like starve themselves to death/ascend to martyrdom for the cause*.

Don't get me wrong. They weren't golden days by any means. They were shit. For a start, the bastards blew up my 13th birthday present, and I've never forgiven Gerry Adams. I work with a number of people who served in Northern Ireland and equal numbers who lived there who saw the full horror.

These new-fangled Al-Qaeda terrorists are a different kettle of fish. When you got a potential terrorist/freedom fighter* through the door, they'd say "Oh aye, I'd die for the cause", and you knew they didn't really mean it. In fact, they would much rather somebody else died for the cause, such as Earl Mountbatten.

The cause being, of course, to share power with Ian Paisley under a London-based democratically-elected government. Funny old world.

These days they cut out the whole reign of terror bit and go straight to the martyrdom. That's the impatient "Me" generation for you.

So, full circle, and there are groups of determined lunatics running about trying to kill us all TO DEATH again. And, as noted many times in the past, the current crop are just a bit disappointing. Shit, really. A sad indictment of the malaise afflicting our society since New Labour came to power.

In truth, Al-Qaeda's UK volunteers did record one spectacular success in the 7th July bombings, a nasty bit of work that probably made it harder for their followers to work in this country or across Europe. But when you note that their success, and their subsequent spectacular failure are known for their dates - 7/7 and 21/7 - the work of the Provos and their equally determined Loyalist opposite numbers all melds into one, dreadful murderous whole lasting decades because their operatives tended not to rub themselves out of the equation.

And there's the nub.

Recruiter: "Are you prepared to die for the cause?"

Terrorist: "Yes. Yes I am."

Recruiter: "Here's ten pounds of chapatti flour and a five gallon drum of hair bleach. Off you go then."

It's a self-rectifying problem. They're prepared to die for a cause. They die. They will not repeat offend. The number of available terrorists/freedom fighters/flash little twerps* tends to zero very quickly. Or in the case of any post 7/7 bomber, they get caught and spend the rest of their lives in Belmarsh Prison, getting bummed stupid by former IRA men.

Terrorist recruiter: Shit job.

Hardly a career, is it?

* Delete according to your political beliefs

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

On squeaky bum time

On squeaky bum time

Any excuseMy 100 mile drive from Weymouth to Reading of a morning usually presents me with something to write for these pages. I use the two hours to sort out the contents of my brain, and nine times out of ten, something falls out that is suitable for public consumption.

And so, managing a less than respectable 55 mph up the M3 motorway in the early morning rush, I found the answers to three of life's great questions:

1.Have you left enough room between yourself and the car in front?

I swear I wasn't distracted. I was merely de-constructing the words of Kate Bush as she warbled about running up hills and making deals with God, who is a busy deity these days. Why waste the big man's time, I ask myself, when she could get a quad-bike? Or better still – being a girl – a pony. They're excellent at getting up hills, and there's no need to write a song about it.

I wasn't distracted because I noticed the slow-moving lorry pull out to overtake the other slow-moving lorry several hundred yards ahead, causing White Van Man to brake heavily and spin around in an impressive 720-degree skid. Several others thought this would be a great idea, threw out the anchors and pretty soon the East-bound carriageway was littered with cars and vans doing their level best to swap bumpers and headlights.

My own braking was entirely under control, and my shouts of "Shitfuckshitfuckshitfuck I'm-going-to-die shitfuckshitfuck" were purely coincidental as the car glided over the wet concrete roadway towards the van in front, who was, by now, facing me.

I stopped exactly four inches short, where I waved a cheerful 'hello' to the terrified bloke staring back at me.

Answer to Question 1: Yes. Yes I have.

2. What's the last thing you think before you crash your car?

A: "Where can I plant this without it hurting?"

I've survived the Corporation's Hostile Environments and First Aid course, where you are taught how to react when blown up in a minefield or kidnapped by mad foreigns (The answer to both of which being "Try not to die. Think of the paperwork").

I was told by the seen-it-all fire-fighter who ran the course that the majority of car crash victims break their right ankle because it is planted – hard – on the brake at the time of impact. At last, after vowing that I wouldn't be so stupid in the event of an accident, I see his point.

"Pump the pedal", he said, "Pump it."

Crap. I forgot. All you think about is aiming for the least deadly gap and hope the nobody else aiming for the same spot.

Pulling up alongside the chap I narrowly avoided creaming all over the carriageway, because I had - excellently - left enough room between myself and the car in front, I wound down my window.

"You alright?" I asked

An ashen-faced wreck looked back at me: "I shat meself."

Poor sap. I went before I left.

All this on top of advice that I'm supposed to be taking it easy, which brings us on to the third question:

3.What are you supposed to think about when you're meditating?

I hope it's enormous bosoms and/or Kate Bush in a leotard. Otherwise I'm doing it wrong.