// March 2008
There are times when being such an appalling pedantasist (go on, it’s wide open for you) takes you dangerously close to being on the receiving end of some actual bodily harm.
For example, on Tuesday night as I queued outside the cash machine I found myself being vaguely irked by the sign in a Whorephone Carhouse window which advertised the fact that the “all new iPod’s” were in. I found myself wanting to go in and complain about this sign, but since I get stared at blankly by the staff in these places when I even ask for something as obscure as a new phone, so I thought better of it on the grounds that the finer points of grammar may cause some kind of seizure.
And you don’t want to be responsible for that sort of thing do you?
So anyway… I dragged my thoughts back to the present and waited patiently in line as before. And then over the top of the surging beats from my own iPod’ I heard the couple of people behind me chatting away. I politely tried to ignore them, but all of a sudden one of them uttered something so awful my blood turned to ice.
“Yeah,” said the camper of the two, “it’s definitely much more busier isn’t it?”
I fought to control myself at this and, thankfully, won. It would have been so easy to swing round and hit him with my manbag, it really would, but somehow I suspect shouting “for God’s sake, you don’t form a comparative with ‘more’ and a suffix you illiterate moron” in the street would have made me seem somewhat unbalanced.
Or, at least, more unbalanced than normal.
But why is it that comparative and superlative forms are so difficult for people to understand these days? Is it just because grammar hasn’t been taught in schools for years, or has there been some kind of consensus that this sort of mangling of the language is actually fine?
For those of us who took a degree in this sort of thing it’s like a foreign world sometimes it really is.
Over the weekend – where visits to Ikea, garden centres and so on were made less pleasurable by the flurry of snow – it occurred to me that I really don’t have enough jumpers. Nestling in the bottom of one of my drawers are a couple of quite slinky tight-fitting little numbers, admittedly, but until I have managed to pump up the physique considerably more I felt ill-inclined to wear them. Essentially a more chunky and standard look is definitely what I was short of, I thought
So last night, prior to a lovely evening of boozing in the Duke of Wellington with a friend of mine, I hit Oxford Street (with all the unutterable awfulness that entails) and rectified the problem with a few choice purchases. In retrospect I’m not sure the Lemon was a good idea – it occurs that more muted colours seem to suit me best – but certainly I now have an array of sweaters from which to choose.
And so this morning saw me struggling into one of said jumpers (I’ve managed to knacker my shoulder overnight somehow, which is agony), pottering round the house a bit doing my usual routine and leaving for work.
It was only when I paused to do a quick check of my attire before heading out the door that I suddenly realised that my entire look clearly echoed that of a TV character loved by millions. There in the mirror, with his short hair, big ears, maroon sweater and half-length black leather jacket stood the Ninth Doctor.
I cursed inwardly and scurried out the door before the flatmate could see. Because he would doubtless have pointed and laughed.
Some of you will be aware of the fact that I was, at the end of January, the victim of telephone banking fraud. Someone had verified they had my bank account details correct by making a small deposit on my account – in Forest Gate of all places – and then rang up Abbey and transferred a substantial sum of money out of my account.
I won’t bore you with the saga – Abbey basically are hopelessly understaffed and overworked as far as I can tell – but it took six weeks all told to get my money refunded and for an account to be made available to me again. (I am so switching accounts once the dust has cleared I tell you.) But what is irritating is the fact that other institutions with whom I have financial dealings aren’t apparently any better.
Whilst I was on holiday for example I started getting phone calls from Amex pointing out that I have missed payments and can I pay them now please? On the first day I said no, and explained why and they seemed quite happy. In fact they unfroze my cards in case I’d need them and made sure the case notes reflected this. This was a good thing and I was mightily impressed by their efforts.
It’s just a shame that no-one at Amex ever read the case notes before giving me the next phone call two days later. Or the one after that. Finally, on my return – once I’d been able to go to the bank and pick up my new card which (naturally) turned up while I was on my way through airport security the week before – they rang up asking me to pay without actually checking whether I had.
In fact I’d beaten them to it by half an hour. And their computers showed that clearly, apparently.
But then yesterday I had to deal with what I later described as “O2 / BT Vision Buggery Bollocks”. A shitty letter from O2, for example, complained I hadn’t paid and my phone was thus restricted. This was a surprise – they were one of direct debits who had acknowledged Abbey’s request to change the details – but it turns out that whilst they acknowledged the details they simply didn’t bother to action them.
BT Vision on the other hand, were given my bank details before I went away because a bill needed paying urgently. I got a new bill yesterday asking for me to make the next payment manually and when I rang them it turned out (after a lengthy time on hold) the details were in the system but whoever had taken them forgot to submit them to the billing department.
And no, I couldn’t pay it there and then because the payments system was down.
I despair I really do. Not so much that the person in question forgot, but that their computer system takes payment details but doesn’t automatically update the people responsible for taking it. The last two months while I’ve tried to sort my life out have basically been one system or process failure after another. Stupid inflexible processes, inefficient bureaucracy, or just simple bloody minded stupidity have probably well and truly shafted my credit record for the next couple of years.
It’s no wonder all these companies are going down the tubes. They either have lax security procedures (I mean, Abbey’s is shockingly poor), or else give credit to people who have no means of paying and then make it stupendously difficult for those of us who can pay to actually do so.
Complete and utter fuckwads, I tell you. Arsewittery in the extreme.
An email dropped into my box (oo-er) this morning which had the sort of opening that you can only take offence at, really.
We thought that you would like to know that booking is now open for ITV1′s brand new big Saturday night series of ‘All Star Mr & Mrs’ with celebrity couples and it’s happening soon!
I mean… how bloody dare they? Why would I be interested in something this ghastly? Oh well… I read on…
ALL STAR MR & MRS – Hosted by Phillip Schofield & Fern Britton
‘Mr & Mrs’ is back with a couple of new twists for the new century! Phillip and Fern will be finding out whether some of the nation’s favourite celebrity couples really were made for one another.
If they’re not, what are they going to do? Gas them? Oh, hang on… that might be interesting given who’s on:
Amongst the celebrity couples taking part are: Neil & Christine Hamilton (18th March), Steve Bakley and his wife (18th March) Actor Anthony Head & partner Sarah (29th March 7.30pm), King Of The Jungle Christopher Biggins & partner Neil (29th March 7.30pm), Kerry Katona & husband Mark Croft (25th March), Vic Reeves & Nancy Sorrell (26th March), Laurence & Jackie Llewelyn Bowen (30th March 4.30pm) , Vicky Entwistle & her husband Andy (29th March 4.30pm) plus Lembit Opik & Cheeky Girl Gabriela Irimia.
It’s good to know that ITV is responding to its current hammering in the ratings by upping the quality of its output isn’t it?
My flatmate came and read it over my shoulder. I think it’s probably telling that just as we reached the list of celebrities we found ourselves simultaneously, and without any prompting, voicing one question in perfect time with one another:
“Who the fuck is Vicky Entwistle?”
Whilst in Gran Canaria, just so as to make it seem as if we hadn’t just slept, read, drunk, eaten and sunbathed for seven days (although it was a close run thing), we took the opportunity of a trip to a market town way up in the mountains of the northern part of the island.
The reason? The town was called Teror, and due to an initial misreading of the name, the prospect of “the Market of Terror” proved too much to resist. (I mean… if that isn’t a great Doctor Who story title, what is?)
Actually, as far as descriptions go the “Journey Into Terror” wouldn’t have been bad at all. Gran Canaria’s a bit of a mountainous island and thus the roads tend to circle the outside of the mountains, with sheer drops around first one side of your carriage and then the other – which for those of us who suffer from vertigo (the tour guide included) is not so great. If the roads were larger or more sturdily barriered, it might be less of an issue, but as we headed towards the highest points of the island, circling round the dormant volcano caldera there was a certain amount of looking the other way on my part – not to mention the occasional “oooohhh shit”.
Once my feet were on the ground again, though, I was fine – even at the very summit. It was just when trying to manoeuvre a BFO bus round tiny craggy roads that I found myself a bit discombobulated.
Teror itself was… well, pleasant enough. As you might expect it looked fairly like your average old Spanish town, but to be honest the market itself seemed like a bizarre hybrid of Borough and Camden: viz and to whit, various stalls of hugely tempting food stood next to stalls filled with what can only be described as utter crap.
And by God some of the religious crap was the most tatorific tat I’ve ever seen. That said, given the state of the church (the interestingly named “Our Lady of the Vine”) I can’t say I’m surprised. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t in a bad state of repair by any means – quite the reverse in fact: the chancel was by far the most gaudy and overly-gilded one I’ve ever seen. And if you didn’t think the excessive grandness bordered on tacky, then the presence of an electric votive candle stand would certainly have changed your mind. (I mean… really!)
Still, the landscapes were lovely, the food was good, and it was a nicely diverting day out. And, lame though it may have been, the endless possibilities of the town’s name kept our little group amused all day, I tell you. Everything became a story title: the Market of Terror, the Steps of Terror, the Church of Terror, the Waitress of Terror (actually, she was really scary), the Toilets of Terror and so on.
The highlight of the day for me, though, was – sorry – the Cat of Terror. Some old moggy in a perfumery with only two teeth (the cat, that is, not the shop) took a shine to me when we visited – not least when I pulled my usual trick and used Rob’s Magic Fingers?¢‚Äû¬¢ on its ears (Cats love me for that – they become putty in my hands).
Actually I think I made a friend for life there – it looked ever so upset when I left.
Hello! Did you miss me? Probably not – I suspect you never knew I was away. But I was, having spent the last week happily ensconced in Gran Canaria.
It was very nice, though, thanks for asking. Whilst the temperature barely rose above 22, I was still subject to seven hours a day of baking sunshine which was very pleasant. The wind, mind you, did mean that the afternoon on the beach had a vaguely exfoliating effect, and I am still finding bits of sand in places I never knew it was possible to get sand into, but there we are.
So did I learn anything from this trip? Well, yes I did actually. Here in no particular order are the things I learned or discovered while I was out there:
- I really should pack more books. I seriously under-estimated how many I’d need and as a result once I’d finished my four, I then had to read the flatmate’s ones as well. (Although actually he’d taken them from my bookshelf anyway, so I was effectively rereading my own. Still, “The Vesuvius Club” and “The Devil in Amber” are definitely worth revisiting.)
- The people most inclined towards naturism are generally the people who have the least to show off. (There should be a law against people of a certain sagginess from doing it, in my opinion.)
- One of the best gay bars in the world is called Detox Retox and serves incredibly nice fruit smoothies or shakes (for the detox) and some amazing cocktails with suitably smutty names for the retox. It’s beautifully appointed too, with some lovely staff, and it was there I made my next discovery….
- You can barely walk after a Double Penetration. But it’s so worth it.
- Another of the best gay bars in the world is called Centre Stage and is inevitably oriented around show-tunes and theatricals on its big screen, where snippets from Morecambe and Wise rub shoulders with clips from Ab Fab, Kenny Everett, Lily Savage and the like. The only downsides are a) its extremely limited capacity and b) the extremely painful hour in which I made my next discovery…
- I hate American Film Musicals. Really. With a passion. The thigh-slapping idiocy of Calamity Jane, the pastel and primary-coloured hell of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, or anything that has even the vaguest hint of being Rodgers and Hammerstein-esque makes me feel so fundamentally uneasy that I have to leave the vicinity. And this is especially true of The Sound of Music, a musical so nauseatingly saccharine my stomach is churning just thinking about it.
- That said, Howard Keel was a bit of alright in his day wasn’t he?
- I’d never have believed it possible but the Daily Mail has, if anything, got worse. (Look, I was stuck, I couldn’t find a real newspaper anywhere.)
- The most amazingly sublime understatement in the world is found in the Dorling Kindersley Eyewitness Guide to the Canary Islands and it reads as follows: “Vegetarians will suffer in the Canaries.” Thankfully, for Michael’s sake, on the last day we discovered Valentines - possibly the only restaurant to have a selection of vegetarian options (as opposed to just one starter), where we were all able to eat heartily and also enjoy the warm, attentive and friendly service of our hostess, Ms Beverley Hills. Not to mention the desert:
- Caipirinha Tiramisu. A revelation, let me tell you.
- On the subject of food, on another occasion I also found that Reindeer is extremely tasty. So thanks to the “OK! Restaurant” for that (and I must point out to the owners that its name really is really under-selling it by quite a large degree.)
- Vodka measures in the Canaries are about six times that of an average UK double. (Poor Michael. And, for that, matter Poor Chris.)
- The best way you can survive on a flight if you don’t like flying is to be seated next to someone who is more scared than you. This happened to me on the return flight and despite the turbulence I found myself quite happily sitting there and enjoying it. (The wine may also have helped.)
- However much you loved your time away, your own bed is always the best.