Friday, 2 December 2011

Of People And Things

I was talking to someone interesting the other day. And out of nowhere loomed the memory of The Morrisby Test. No, it's not the title of some shit spy thriller; it's what polysyllablophones (zing!) call a psychometric test.

And I took one, when I was about 14.

I seem to recall it recommended that I pursue a career as a fucking systems analyst — from which we may deduce (if nothing else) that Morrisby, whoever (s)he is, is some kind of bleak sadist. But that's not the point. The point is that, at some point, the test results presented a three-slice piechart intended to illustrate one's inclination/interest. It was divided between 'people', 'things' and one other category of which I'm not entirely sure (possibly 'ideas'?).

My biggest slice was people, yeah?

Then ideas, or whatever it was.

Finally? Yup. Things.

Because — right — can we just pause here? Things? Would it not be the most monumentally depressing revelation ever, to open your Morrisby Test results only to be told that you prefer things to people?

I mean — things? The clue, surely, is in the fact that they're called things.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

No, I don't know who wrote the song. And I don't want to know.

I just turned on the radio.

'You and I go shopping
And find exactly what we're looking for'

I'm sorry. Is this some kind of joke? Have we come to this?

Romance just got crucified. Upside-fucking-down.

Lord have mercy; Christ have mercy.

Friday, 14 October 2011

'Gilead' by Marilynne Robinson — beautiful, modest, reflective

Gilead… now that I am about to leave this world, I realize there is nothing more astonishing than a human face … Any human face is a claim on you, because you can't help but understand the singularity of it, the courage and the loneliness of it.

This is a beautiful novel. Like all my favourite literature (and, I guess, art in general) it wields its immense power with restraint, subtlety, modesty.

It is not a pacey novel. It has relatively little in the way of plot. But it is all about characters. And, hey, here's a thing — have you noticed? — so is life. Or my life is, in any case. It is a wonderful study of a truly good man, a truly humble man and a truly brilliant man. The novel takes the form of a long, digressive journal-cum-letter from an old father, left to the son he does not expect to see grow up.

But what's it about? I guess in a large part it's about religion. Which might put a bunch of you right off. But that would be a gaping great pity, because it's about the sweet human face of religion:

When you love someone … you see her as God sees her, and that is an instruction in the nature of God and humankind and of Being itself.

That's amongst the most beautiful ideas I've read for a while. And however staunch an atheist you may be, if that sentence doesn't give you pause and move you just a little, I'm pretty sorry for you.

(For the record, I'd call myself agnostic — not that this really matters much.)

This book made me think a fair bit about TS Eliot's Ash Wednesday (in fact, at times, Robinson approaches poetry — of the most modest and admirable kind — in her prose: 'Ashy biscuit, summer rain, her hair falling wet around her face'). If you know me, you'll be aware that I powerfully admire that poem (and that poet). Gilead has in common with Ash Wednesday a preoccupation with transience and the frustrating, tantalising beauty of this imperfect world. The difficulty of imagining anything sweeter (heaven) than the fleeting, intoxicating experiences of life on earth:

Whenever I think of Edward, I think of playing catch in a hot street and that wonderful weariness of the arms. I think of leaping after a high throw and that wonderful collaboration of the whole body with itself and that wonderful certainty and amazement when you know the glove is just where it should be. Oh, I will miss the world!

… and …

I wish I could give you the memory I have of your mother that day. I wish I could leave you certain of the images in my mind, because they are so beautiful that I hate to think they will be extinguished when I am. Well, but again, this life has its own mortal loveliness.

Listen, is your face aching with suppressed tears, yet? Because this is beautiful, powerful stuff. Don't you think?

What Gilead also ends up being about is this: true worth, true wisdom. And I applaud any work of art that celebrates the modest, the unassuming, the loving. Like most of the 'points' this novel makes, it makes this one implicitly, subtly and ambiguously — but in its way it's as much a celebration of the Everyman as was 'Ulysses'. It's a wonderful demonstration of the unshowy brilliance of reflection and self-awareness and humility.

Like I said: a beautiful novel.

View all my reviews

Saturday, 8 October 2011

London


It's exhausting. Anything you think to do — anywhere you think to hide — dozens of others have had the same thought. There is no oasis. People have no patience. If you slow down, expect nobody to drop the pace. Nobody cares whether you keep up.

But here's the thing.

I fucking love London.

That's all, really.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

How to buy coffee beans — the Intellectual Hooligan guide

Image courtesy of visualpanic

I've noticed something. I've noticed that whenever I decide I'm going to embark upon a new project, the internet turns me into a quivering, failure-averse coward.

See, I have this stupid fixation with getting things right and experiencing them at their best.

So I turn to Google. And Google — as is Google's wont — delivers me like a helpless newborn into the jackal-like jaws of a pack of MASSIVE GEEKS. Plonks me down at the skinny end of the long tail amongst the obsessives and the zealots.

So when I googled 'how to make good coffee', you can perhaps imagine the evangelical fervour and fanatical devotion to detail I encountered. The slathering insistence upon specific techniques, the crosshatched debates conducted in jargon with which I was utterly unfamiliar.

'No, Google,' I cried. 'You don't seem to understand. This is not what I want. This is like giving a PhD thesis on AA Milne to a child who asks what Whinnie the Pooh is about.'

(This is the internet's big problem, really, isn't it? The unnatural weight it gives to extremes.)

Anyhow. Google was no real help. So I was forced to consider an absolute last resort: talking to a human being. In real life. Face to face.

So I went into a shop that sells coffee beans.

'What would you recommend,' I asked, 'to a person who's new to coffee and struggles a bit with bitter flavours?'

'Let me think,' replied the pleasant woman to whom I had directed my question. 'Does this person like strong flavours in general?'

Here, o readers, we see the peril of referring to oneself in the hypothetical third person. I had two options at this stage. I could very well (it struck me) prolong the conceit that we were discussing the coffee-induction of this imaginary individual (a little as one might request agony aunt advice, 'for a friend').

'Hmmm…' I might have replied. 'That's a good question. As it happens, I was at the pub the other night with the individual we are discussing and I do recall him mentioning that, yes, despite an aversion to bitterness he otherwise possessed what he considers to be an adventurous palate.'

On balance, though, I decided that I'd do best to quit while I was only slightly behind.

'Um, sorry — I was actually talking about me. Er, I'm not really sure why I put it like that.'

To the woman's great credit, she laughed in a way that contained (as far as I could discern) no scorn whatsoever. If I'd been her, I'd've been thinking, 'Who the hell is this guy? Some kind of diffident, well-educated Gollum? Is he about to start into a disturbing schizophrenic dialogue with his alter ego, then whip a raw fish out of his bag and start munching on it like a carrot? Can I legitimately press the panic button yet?'

But no. The saintly woman just laughed. And then let me sniff a bunch of beans.

Fortunately, handcore wino that I am, I'm used to sticking my nose into things in high pressure social situations. So I coped with this bit, I like to think, with something approaching aplomb.

So much so, indeed, that I elected to reward myself by snatching one of the 'Try one!' chocolate balls that sat innocuously on the counter beside us, and tossing it jauntily into my gob.

About five seconds later, the chilli hit me.

Now, to be honest, it wasn't really that hot. But the thing is, in these situations, expectation counts for a massive great deal. I mean, haven't you ever taken a swig of what you expected to be (say) water, yet accidentally picked up your wineglass instead? The resulting mouthful is deplorably horrible, is it not? Because your tastebuds were primed for water.

I think I just about concealed my sensory horror from the poor woman. Perhaps she merely thought I'd had a minor stroke. She wrapped up my beans; I wrapped up the conversation, with what shreds of dignity and self-possession remained at my disposal.

And left — with a newfound affection for Google's world of geeks and obsessives. And one 125g bag of coffee beans.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Believe in language. Believe in communication.

In my last post, I wrote about Craig Raine, one of my tutors at New College, and one of the people who's influenced me profoundly.

Craig has a belief in language. I don't have the essay to hand in which he articulates this, but, essentially, he takes issue with the notion that anything is beyond the power of words to express. Of course, many things are torturously, maddeningly difficult to force into verbal form. But it is for the writer, the poet, the speaker to strain against that difficulty.

I've been thinking a lot, these past few months, about defeatism. And, yes, this is for personal, non-literary reasons. And never have I been more powerfully convinced that Craig's belief is the right one. Nothing is impossible to communicate. Never should we despair of our power to express, to describe, to reach out. And I don't care if it's futile, if it's foolish. It is all we have.

Think of the person who gives up because something is too hard. She is paralysed, like a character out of Joyce's Dubliners. She opts out of the struggle.

She is like the writer who believes that love can never fully be described — and so decides never to write about love. And never to write about pain. And never to write about joy.

Never, finally, to write about anything beyond her own paralysis.

The writer who spins inward, who cocoons herself in the brittle shell of her own introspection, surrounding herself ever more airlessly. Waiting. For what? For the bright shock of blood? For the earthquake, for the flood?

The whole of literature — and the whole of life (which is, really, the same thing) — is a journey through vast, dark caverns, with only a box of matches to light the way. And no doubt it seems futile to keep striking the matches. But perhaps, if we do, we add our own tiny light to the billions of other twinklings. In that light, perhaps, fleetingly, we catch a reflection off a dark pool, or the minute impossible world of a patch of moss. And in these tiny incursions upon the dark, we show ourselves to be strong, to be hopeful, to be human.

Leaving — reluctantly, sadly — those who clutch their matches in hot palms, despairing to strike. Shrouded, alone.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Oxford's emptying

Oxford's emptying.

I'm not even sure why, a day or two ago, I wrote these two words as a Facebook status update. Obviously I'm leaving Oxford. But — egotistical though I may be — that wasn't what I meant.


My happy cohabitation with Oxford began in 2001, in staircase 7 of New College. Now, almost exactly a decade later, I'm finally leaving this strange old city — at once so abstract and sleepy, so glib and savage. A place — and here I'm referring to the university — that (if you're not careful) can teach you to be better at tearing things down than at building things up. A place of criticism.

But I was lucky. And here, in this slow city, I have met more wonderful, creative people — more builders — than I could have hoped or imagined.


Craig Raine and (the sadly deceased) Tony Nuttall. I don't know what I did to deserve to fall (without any foreknowledge or research) into being taught by two so wise, compassionate, acute human beings. What was the most important thing I learnt from Craig? I learnt that a man who's spent decades teaching literature to cocky adolescents can still get choked up with tears when he reads a beautiful passage aloud.

And from Tony? Once I walked into New College's Front Quad some distance behind Tony. And watched him — a man months from retirement in the middle of a walk he'd paced every day of his time at New College — pause and simply gaze around him, delighted.

And my university friends. Most of them left the place long before I — the rats.

But — not quite knowing what else to do — I stayed.

And indecision can be the most powerful decision of all.

As a result of that first indecision, I came to be close to two people without whom my life would have been utterly, utterly different. Two people who have changed me.

Bronagh. Oxford emptied of you long, long ago.

And Rebecca. I'll always remember dipping with a half-embarrassed wave as we approached one another from opposite ends of Rectory Road — the first tentative tiptoes towards a collaboration that showed me: two people can create (can understand) without framework or contrivance. That showed me: some conversations are never going to end, but keep growing and branching and blooming, their myriad tangents and complexities interwoven.

Rebecca.

Rebecca and I sat, today, watching the dusklight work its way through the gold and the pink as it fell on Oxford stone, Oxford metal. And we talked about emptying. About how a place is, after all, just a place — and it is us, and those close to us, who animate it.


For me, Oxford's animation has changed.

I thought for a moment of a map, stuck through with pins. My Oxford has been the triangulation of those pins. Perhaps some of those pins aren't even in the place itself. Move a pin or two — or take them away — and the triangulation shifts, wrenchingly. The lines' intersections change.

Good bye, slow, capricious Oxford — with your light and your heaviness. Good bye, Oxford.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

The weightless horror of an unshared memory

There's a terror — vertiginous, nauseating — to gazing back upon an expanse of your life to find that it has lost weight and meaning. It has become ashen, insubstantial, cobwebby. Because now it is only yours. And being only yours, it is an irrelevance.

For I think relevance is a social phenomenon. Relevance is gained through a kind of binding action. Relevance must have a subject and an object — a thing must be relevant to another thing. A thing cannot be relevant to itself.

So — central to the relevance of a memory is that memory's being shared.

Walking about with a headful of irrelevant memories is something like carrying a suitcase stuffed with Deutschmarks everywhere you go.

Like currency, our memories have value in transaction with others.

We accumulate them joyfully — saving, building, nesting. This activity seems to have a vector: direction and momentum. That which we are accumulating seems so reassuringly ours, so fine, so secure.

But, overnight, our lovingly accumulated currency is devalued.

And we're left with suitcases full of pretty, useless pieces of paper.

***

All the same, it is in a sense wonderful to be reminded that the most important thing in the world is — after all — to share, to communicate.

(Not for nothing, it seems, do I work as a Communications Coordinator.)

I do not know whether this is so for everybody. All I know is that, for me, no experience takes on true dimensionality and meaning until it is somehow communicated. Events, stories, memories are terrifyingly weightless — unless they be shared.

So let's share. Let's share all we can.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Armadillo by William Boyd — modernity, Dickens and self-protection

I like Armadillo.

I like it because it marries a surging main narrative (the world of insurance adjustment is killer interesting in the hands of William Boyd. Believe it) with assured, psychologically nuanced writing. It's a comic novel, but by no means anodyne, by no means played for laughs, by no means shallow; a novel about identity, impulse and (above all) self-protection.

Our central character, Lorrimer Black undergoes (as opposed to instigates) a tumultuous series of events in connection with his job as a loss adjuster — one who investigates and disputes/upholds other firms' insurance claims. If this were genre fiction (which it is not), it'd be pretty much the only novel shelved in the Insurance Thriller section of Waterstones. Because it has a fucking punishing pace to it — and a suitably byzantine central mystery.

But, I repeat, it's not genre fiction.

Boyd is one of the few contemporary British authors who writes in a way that is unstrained, energetic and modern. He doesn't have that slightly faux-elegaic hankering tone to his prose — that hint of wistful Romantic nostalgia for a past in which Things Were More Poetic Than They Are Today. A fault I sometimes find in Ian McEwan, for instance. (McEwan is a good writer. But Boyd kicks his arse.)

Don't get me wrong: nostalgia can be a potent thing in literature. But what I'm talking about is a written tone that doesn't quite seem comfortable to inhabit the Right Now.

Inhabiting the Right Now is hard, though. It's really fucking hard. Because the Right Now can seem banal, obvious, shapeless. And because the Right Now is familiar to us (it's where we live, after all), it can feel dangerous, as an author, to attempt to grab a handful of the stuff and shape it. It'd be so much easier, so much safer, to reach for the comforting unfamiliarity of a remote country or another time or a hermetically sealed setting in which both time and place are pretty much irrelevant.

But Boyd sets Armadillo in contemporary London (well, to be clear, this is a novel written in the late 90s — but it still feels contemporary enough to me).

And contemporary London is braided right into the thing — dodgy taxi firms, cheap-baroque-facaded financial dealings, bleakly optimistic out-of-town property developments and the ceaseless crisscrossing, the litany of road names, the perpetual commute.

In this respect — as well as in its masterfully-named characters (a signature Boydism) — the novel has an unfussy Dickensian quality.

Symbolically and thematically (though, seriously — fuck themes. I don't care what anyone says: themes are only useful to authors, directors and people writing boring essays), there's a certain heavy-handedness: an obsessively self-protecting protagonist who actually collects antique armour; who probes others' insurance claims whilst scrabbling to maintain his own 'insurance' on the most fundamental level. Yup — not entirely subtle.

In a sense, this could be considered a flaw. But I find it oddly charming, for a savvy modern author to use symbolism in so barefaced a manner.

Oh, and the ending (though I'd read it before) filled my tender young eyes with tears. Because sometimes — even if only in fiction — people do take off their armour.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

The polarised state of debate about UK budget cuts (no jokes in this one)

My friend Satu Facebooked a link to this video of Sam West speaking at the TUC rally on 26 March 2011 — making a case (passionately) against government arts cuts. Have a watch.



Noble words. And art is indeed for everybody (though, en passant, some artists themselves don't always act that way).

But saying 'art should be for everybody' and 'art is a right' is a bit different from saying 'art should by default receive £X million in public money'.

I'm not saying it shouldn't, by the way. I wouldn't dream of it, and know nothing about the arts sector and funding. So let's, please, be clear about that, yah? But that video draws attention to the thing that (hugely) discomfits me about the way in which the issue of The Cuts is discussed in the public domain.

Because cutting a subsidy doesn't necessarily equate to denying people's right to art. Which is a very very fucking very strong and emotive concept, innit?

Again, I'm not saying the subsidy should be cut. I'm saying that the size of a subsidy is a nuanced issue. People's right to art is not. I mean, how much of a cut would deny people's right to art? If I cut the budget by £5, am I denying people's right to art? What about by £50,000? What about £1m? At what size of cut is people's right to art snuffed out?

I'm trying to illustrate a broad point. One of discomfort at polarised debate. And the debate about the cuts has polarised to a degree that makes it difficult to afford space to nuanced discussion. Which I think is necessary, just as much as rousing adversarialism.

I'm uncomfortable with a situation in which I either accept that public funding is 'right' as it is, or else I am an ideological vandal. Because I reckon I can't be the only person who thinks that public funding has produced (and continues to produce) fantastic work, fantastic results, immeasurable benefits. Not just in arts, but in healthcare, in local government, in community support. I can't be the only person to think this — but also to think that huge tracts of the public sector are woefully, woefully inefficient, disgracefully ill-managed. That huge amounts of money are wasted.

I'm not talking about the need for 'efficiency savings', that tired political get-out-of-jail-free card. I'm talking about jobs for life held by people who are fucking terrible at them. Yet will get a staggeringly generous pension when their 9-to-4.30 days of time-in-lieu and apostrophe-shifting are done. Teachers who can't teach. Managers who can't manage.

Sure, these exist in the private sector too. But a private sector firm with shonky employees pays the price, one way or another. A state sector firm often doesn't. Instead, we do. Via our friends at the Inland Revenue.

And I don't know — I genuinely don't, here from my armchair — what mechanisms are actually open to government to change this. I suspect it's pretty fucking hard, working against the inertia of that system, from the top down.

But I'd like to see more space for discussions that acknowledge the complexities, the compromises, the nuances. That's all, really.

Now, please form an orderly queue to use the comments to tell me I'm a rabid Tory skinflint and a traitor to the cause. But sometimes the cause can be kind of alienating, you know? LET ME HAVE A BIT OF MIDDLE GROUND, FOR PITY'S SAKE.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Santander joins RBS to fund construction of enormous reservoir of shit

I think this blog may finally have found its niche.


Now — it's Santander.


Above (for consistency's sake) is Santander's logo: yes, it's a picture of a piece of shit that someone just set fire to.

Before hurling it through the window of Santander's customer fulfilment department.

Customer fulfilment. Customer fulfilment! The only thing Santander has succeeded in fulfilling is its customers' arses.

Hell, this is a bank that sends out its customer (dis)service emails in FUCKING COMIC SANS. As though they were invitations to a child's birthday party. A child's birthday party organised by drooling, subnormal parents. With a paedophile clown.

It has taken the Customer Arse Fulfilment Department since early December — a full three aching months — to process my application for a current account. During that period, the people of Egypt managed to overthrow a dictator.

Meanwhile, the people of Santander sent me seven emails.

Of these seven emails, four consisted of exactly the same message.

(All seven were written in Comic Sans. Oh so jaunty! Oh so friendly! Cripes, these emails make me feel so damn elated that they'd make me want to set fire to a piece of shit. BAARGH.)

The four identical emails? These were requests (at intervals) for ID. Reasonable enough, you might think.

Less reasonable, I'd say, when the bank was already in possession of copies of —

  • my passport
  • my driving license
  • two bank statements, 18 months apart (yes, thanks, RBS)
  • printed details of my overdraft limit
  • a recent credit card statement

— practically everything, in fact, that featured in their 'send us two of the following forms of ID' list. TWO OF THE FOLLOWING.

So I'd write back to them. 'Dear Santander,' I'd say, 'What more do you want from me?'

'I can confirm,' Comic Sanstander would reply, 'that your application has been received.'

Then, a little while later, I'd receive that same first email. 'We just need a bit more info,' it would announce. With a wrist-slitting kind of chiripiness.

'Dear Santander,' I could but respond, 'You already have all the fucking info (if I may be so bold) that I possess. You now know more about my finances, I dare to suggest, than I do myself. So when you say that you "need more info" and helpfully provide me with a list of suggested "info" I have already provided, are you (in fact) telling me that you have lost my info?'

'I can confirm,' would come the (touchingly personal) response, 'that your application has been received.'

And so it would proceed.

Until today. Email number seven.

'Thank you for your recent application. After careful consideration we will be unable to offer you the Santander Current Account you applied for.'

Timorously, I suggest a rewrite:

'Thank you for your near-historical application. After careless kneejerking and spasmodic panic we were about to offer you the Santander Current Account you applied for. But then some mad bloke hurled a flaming shit through our window and we were all pretty shaken up by that. So instead we took that same shit, scanned it in on our office printer (which also has a handy scanning function) and emailed it to you. HAVE A NICE DAY!!1!'


Epilogue

So now, how do you think I feel? I have wasted three months of my life on this. It's as if I'd spend three deluded months devotedly wooing some braindead minger with rotten teeth and an addiction to competitions — only to realise, with crushing simultaneity that (a) I'd been making a terrible, terrible mistake and (b) that the minger had JUST FUCKING REJECTED ME ANYWAY.

HOWL.

HOWL.

HOWL.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Compers? What the hell is a Comper?

'LOL I rly wanna win that IPAD! #competition'


Y'okay. So, over there on my wine blog, I've been running a little Tweet For Wine competition.

The idea? Well, since I was writing all these digressive and profanity-strewn wine reviews, I kind of wanted some people to read 'em. Because I'm a shameless attention seeker, me.

Unfortunately, I hadn't bargained on exactly the type of attention my Twitter Competition would bring.

For I had hitherto been blissfully unaware of the existence of an online breed known (in their own words, I tell you!) as 'Compers'.

'What is a Comper, O Hooligan?' I hear you cry.

(Or at least, so I think I hear you cry. But maybe that's just the distant whining of your total indifference.)

A Comper, it seems, is one whose sole online purpose is to enter mindless competitions such as my own.

The first clue that you are dealing with a Comper is often in the username. It will either be as bland and characterless as angel delight, or else will exhibit a toe-curling, cutesy infantilism that'll have you reaching for your 35-hour box-set of 'The World At War' in a desperate bid to remind yourself that pain and suffering do in fact exist.

Browse the Comper's Twitter stream and you will find it strewn with more hash signs than your phone display at the end of a support-centre call to BT, as the Comper sporadically fires off messages to enter every single competition in the world. You will also notice that, 90% of the time, the Comper will illustrate her profile (alas, there is a heavily female gender bias amongst Compers) not with an image of herself, but with either (a) a photograph of a very young child or (b) a photograph of a domestic animal.

Which results in the cognitive-dissonance-inducing spectacle of a 3-year-old toddler apparently proclaiming, 'I'm entering a #competition to win free wine! Amazing Comp! LUV WINE!' — or a sad-eyed basset-hound declaring: 'Amazing #comp to win iPad!!! Rly hope I win LOL.'

You want me to tell you what it is?

I'll tell you what it is.

It is approximately as depressing as holding your 21st birthday in a gulag.

(What's that? A birthday cake? Made entirely from the ground-up remnants of former inmates? Really, you shouldn't have.)

Unfortunately, right now, the Compers are winning. Absolutely turdloads of 'em have entered my competition — to a degree which, I'm sure, far outweighs non-Compers.

This makes me sad.

And so I beg you, O reader, O non-Comper — while there's still time (closing date's tomorrow!) — get across to my wine blog and start comping.

Comp the good comp with all thy (um) romp?

Let's take this one back from the clones.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Corporate fuckwash: Royal Bank of Scotland

You know what I'm fucking sick of?

I'm fucking sick of massive corporations asking me to consider the environment. Asking me to consider the environment when all they are in a position to consider is the view right up their own crap-caked, hypocritical arseholes.

Sometimes, it's little more than patronising. To whit, exhibit A:


(I don't know how big that little tree image is — probably only a few bytes, sure — but I've received plenty of emails in which it is probably the largest component of the entire message in terms of space. I'd love for somebody, somewhere, to work out how much global bandwidth is being taken up by people's email clients downloading that fucking image of a tree. Because bandwidth has an environmental cost too, remember?)

But the tree example doesn't really bother me too much. It's condescending, sure. But if I was enraged at every instance of corporate condescension that marred my life, I'd be an angry, angry man.

(And you know what? I'm actually sunny as fuck.)

No. The company that's really given me a hernia in the arse over this greenbilge shite is Royal Bank of Scotland.

Yes, Royal Bank of Scotland.

Actually stands for 'Really Big Shit'. That's what the logo's a picture of. Four arrows pointing towards big clump of turd.

But wait, please. Don't all come flocking to RBS's defence just yet. I know they're a popular brand — a beloved national institution. But hear me out as I bravely reveal the tawdry hypocrisy beneath their saintly exterior.

The thing? Paperless banking.

'Say goodbye to wasted paper, wasted energy and wasted space,' proclaims the RBS website, in a tone not dissimilar (one assumes) from that with which Moses led the Israelites to the promised land.

For paperless banking is going to save the world. A mighty alliance of consumer and corporation, both 'doing their bit' for the environment.

Except it turns out that RBS is less doing its bit, more doing its shit. Right on your fucking doormat. And it's a putrid one.

I mean, first of all, let's think about this. In the grand scheme of things, to whom am I doing the greater favour, here? To Mother Earth, by cutting out a single printed bank statement every month? Or to Royal Bank of Scotland, by relieving them of the cost of printing, collating and posting said statement?

Hmm.

But I don't object to that, per se. I can dig a win-win situation.

UNLESS IT'S A WIN-WIN SITUATION THAT TURNS OUT TO BE A WIN-WIN-LOSE SITUATION. (And I'm the fucker who loses.)

Because sometimes, it turns out, one needs an original paper bank statement.

(When, for instance, one wishes to dump one's shit-munching bank in favour of another. Also potentially shit-munching, to be sure. But munching different shit, at least.)

For such manoeuvres, printouts of online statements (one is sternly warned) simply will not do. It's original or nothing.

And here's where our little fucking alliance with RBS is revealed for the lawn-turding piece of mockery it is. For it is at this point that we realise: we are going to have to order up those paper statements retrospectively from the bank.

And we are going to pay £5 for each fucking one.

THIS MAKES ME FUCKING LIVID.

Because I wasn't just saving the trees with you, you watery drizzle of corporate shit; I was also FUCKING SAVING YOU MONEY. And now you are CHARGING ME FOR IT.

It's like I just gave you a bottle of wine, only for you to slink behind me and ram it straight up my bum. Wide end first.

You nasty, nasty shits.

You dirty little paperless wankers.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Fluorescent turd


Am I the only one (please, let me not be the only one) who doesn't find a cake topped with a luminous green turd particularly appetising?

Also, how do you eat the thing? You'd end up with the green turd smeared on your nose. Aesthetically and functionally compromised.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Blair Had A Choice About Iraq, You Say? Blimey, Thanks For Your Insight.

Two political posts in one day. Whew, eh? I wrote about silly Ed Miliband and his pathetic letter to Alan Johnson. And I was about to go to bed. But then I saw a headline. And it made me angry. The headline?


Well stone the fucking crows. There was me thinking he had no choice.

Of course he had a way out of the invasion, by the risen Christ. That's searingly, blindingly obvious, surely? The way out was not to do it.

I for one am tremendously bored of this Shitcot nonsense.

There's a point where a leader takes a decision. You can agree with that decision or you can disagree with it. But what in god's name is the point of all this quibbling bollockry? Newsflash: Chilcot inquiry discovers that decisions sometimes necessitate rejecting other options.

JEEBS.

I don't say anyone has to agree with Blair's decision, obviously. That's not what this post is about. But isn't it insultingly bloody obvious that every single leader constantly has to fix a course of action whilst being aware that there are other options?

Or should all leaders be like the squatting, paralysed Gordon Brown?

Disagree (and disagree vociferously) with leaders' decisions, by all means. But please fucking don't let's start pretending it's a surprise to find out that other options were discarded.

Ed Miliband's mastery of letter-writing


Friends, you will perhaps not need telling that the Intellectual Hooligan deems Ed Miliband something of a plonker.

Actually, not so much of a plonker. A plonker, after all (one assumes) is so called because it plonks. And in order to plonk, It seems reasonable to suppose, one must be at least relatively massy and substantial.

No. After careful consideration, I think our Miliband is more of a plipper.

(Ed Balls, on the other hand? Now, there you have one fucking massive plonker. The kind of plonker that covers the floor — and some of the walls — with water, so massy and dense is it as it plonks.)

Anyhow. What caught my beady and bloodshot eye today was the exchange of letters between the resigning Shadow Chancellor, Alan Johnson, and the aforementioned Mr Miliband.

Allow me to quote from the Plipper's letter:

'You have been an outstanding colleague and great friend for many years. In government you showed real leadership on issues that mattered to families across our country, promoting educational opportunity, introducing a constitution for the NHS and delivering neighbourhood policing.'

Yes, Miliband demonstrates that he is not only a Ciceronian figure when it comes to the verbal joust of PMQs; he is also a man of letters to rival Robert Browning.

Who else, I ask you, could so elegantly meld personal correspondence with political soundbites to form a synthesis of searing epistolary brilliance? Who else could seamlessly shift from friendship to neighbourhood policing, deftly sidestepping even a vague hint of bathos? Who else could masterfully craft such a paragraph and have it emerge miraculously untainted by the cheesy whiff of the shoehorn? A paragraph that — like the finest English prose — seems to have hit its peak midway (in this case, at 'real leadership', a phrase that rings pure and untainted, poetically rolling together the timeless and the new), but yet exceeds that pure, wild pinnacle with arpeggio'd virtuosity, to hit a note still higher: 'a constitution —' (hark ye!) '— for the NHS'!

Few men, I tell you, few men have it within them.

Few men.

I mean, Christ alive.

Christ alive and breakdancing.

Imagine having Miliband speak at your funeral.

'We are gathered here to remember Barnabas. He was a true friend, an inspirational man, and also helped us to make real progress towards drafting several quite important papers on waste management. He was part of the team that brought us the ASBO. He will never be forgotten.'



Plip.

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