Thursday, April 24, 2008

Oh right, so THAT'S what you do

Well, thank fuck for that.

There I was, going into pubs and bars without the slightest clue about how to behave inside. I used to drift around aimlessly, wondering why everyone else seemed to be having such a good time.

But luckily the owner of one of the pubs near my office has had the good sense to make life much simpler for the likes of me, and I daresay, millions of other hapless souls.

Why can't other pubs and bars follow this eminently sensible lead?

I especially like 'relax'.

It almost sounds like an order.


Maybe they should write appropriate words on every building so there's no doubt as to what to do inside.

For instance, an office block could have... WORK.
A gym... SWEAT
A swimming pool... FLOAT
A library... SHHHH!

No, no, that would be really stupid.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


This is an asterisk.


It's used to indicate a qualifying statement that must be attached to some word or sentence.

For some reason, people seem to confuse it with this person.

This is Asterix.

He's a French cartoon character who knocks about in ancient Gaul (as France used to be called a while back).

He fights a constant series of battles against the Romans along with his various friends. And, because he's got access to a magic potion, he and his mates always win.

It's supposed to be funny but, having read one of the stories, I disagree.

As you can see, there's a world of difference between the two.

So, to recap:

Asterisk - a little star-like thing that sits above a word or statement that needs some form of later qualification.

Asterix - an ancient Gaul in cartoon form who is constantly engaged in less-than-funny capers with Roman soldiers.

It's obvious when you spot it.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Very nearly

One of the most famous scenes in British television comedy. Ever.

Which means it's up against a lot of competition.

To the uninitiated (it is nearly 50 years old) I'll briefly explain. Ok, here goes.

Tony Hancock, (bloke in hat) is donating blood. He feels it's his patriotic duty to help the nation. And he rather hopes he'll get some kind of reward as a result: some token of appreciation, like a badge saying 'he helped others so that others may live'. As he puts it.

So he enters the surgery (after having pratted around the waiting room like a pompous arse for ten minutes) and the doctor takes a small sample of blood via a pin prick on the end of Hancock's thumb to determine the blood group.

Which of course Hancock thinks is all the blood he needs to give and so prepares to leave for the recovery room and the tea and biscuits he's heard about. (And hopefully, that badge.)

Not so says the doc, we need to take a pint of your blood. To which Hancock replies, using words which have since been carved in stone:

"A pint? That's very nearly an armful!"

It's beautiful. The comedic equivalent of a Mozart concerto or a Johnny Marr chord change. The writers, Galton and Simpson, could easily have left it at 'armful' or 'nearly an armful'. But they didn't.

They wrote 'very nearly'.

Like all acts of genius it walks the tightrope of soaring success across the deep, rocky valley of utter failure. One word less, one word more, and the whole gag dissolves into a mild titter. But it's become the most famous rejoinder ever uttered on telly.

Why is it so good?

Because, by saying it the way he says it, Hancock sounds like he knows what he's talking about. Even though he's never given blood before he's claiming to know the exact blood capacity of every individual part of the human body. It's as though he's been thinking about it for ages prior to visiting the surgery and has worked himself into a right old state worrying. It's also the first proof of what we have long suspected, namely that in spite of his bravado he's a complete coward. Proved conclusively when he later faints at the size of the needle.

And it also fixes the amount of blood so deeply in the audience's mind that they'll never forget it. They will quote back the line in all its precision for they know, even at the moment of first hearing, that it's so utterly perfect a mis-quote would destroy the sense of how funny is it.

So there we go. Two little words that prove to be the foundation for an entire half-hour comedy episode. And stand as a challenge to every comedy writer who has come after. Beat that.

Very nearly.

Very actually great.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Special pills

Calling all men.

There's a shop in London's Chinatown you might like.

It sells a certain type of medication that can enable your 'member' to achieve greatness.

The effects are illustrated through the medium of a tank. Just toss (ahem) a pill into the turret and the barrel goes vertical.

So, assuming the effect is the same for a gent as it is for a tank, he's likely to end up squirting off into his own face.

Not really a plus I would have thought.

There's some copy too.

I like it, straight and to the point.

Which, fingers crossed, is also the effect of the pills.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Tosser alert

It's axiomatic these days that most posters are shite. Why businesses feel the need to spend good money telling the general public very little in the dullest way imaginable is a question that continues to defeat me.

But here's one that really takes the proverbial biscuit.

My goodness, it's bad.

And having, alas, had the time to read the words printed on it, I can only assume they were written by the smug hero of the ad itself.

Or, his twin brother.

Unfortunately, because the picture's too blurred I'll have to quote the copy here. Apologies.

It begins: "Chris had a long face. The wife wanted a new family car and..."

Hang on, "the wife"? We seem to be back in the 1970s.

"...this had the potential to blow a huge hole in his finances, not to mention the other plans he had for the money."

Oooh, what 'other plans' Chris? Do tell.

"A little bird told him..."

'A little bird'? What, like a Robin?

" get down to Cargiant where he bought a quality used car that kept the wife..."

Whoops, back to the '70s again... Minder, The Sweeney et al. Laaarvly!

"...more than happy and saved himself a tidy little sum in the process."

Here comes the finale. Hold on, 'cos it's good.

"Just enough for a wicked weekend in Paris... with the girlfriend, tweet, tweet!"

Brilliant! Bravo! Bravo! Encore! Oh, I'm overcome with emotion... so moving!

Yes, moving. In a moving-right-down-to-the-other-end-of-the-platform-to-be-sick-into-my-bag sense.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Quiet please, you're looking at some art.

So behave properly. And no chewing.

Welcome to the first floor of London's National Portrait Gallery.

As you can see, it's not exactly crowded. As usual. That's because it's full of portraits and busts of lots of scary people. The sort of people who 'built the British Empire'. In other words, men with strange facial hair who went around the world shooting the local tribes for the crime of not having been at Eton.

Here's one of them...

Just look at those whiskers. I believe the correct anatomical term is 'bugger's grips'.

The type of man who was born to say things like:

"Some of these chaps actually live in mud huts."

It is of course a history lesson, which may well be another reason why it's never busy: the history of stern-faced men not having much hope of attracting the masses when set against crowd-pullers like the recent Hockney exhibition or photographs of the late Princess of Wales.

But if peace and quiet is your bag and, let's face it there's precious little of that in London, then this place could be your thang.

So, up the steps, turn right and leave the tourists and parties of school children asking if Paul McCartney's still alive far behind. Now enter a world of military heroes, cannons to the right of them, zulus to the left of them; eccentric scientists posing with skulls; frowns, moustaches, side-whiskers... and the undying belief that Britain was jolly well the best place on earth, and if you disagree we'll come and ruddy conquer you.

So there.

Monday, January 21, 2008


Very occasionally on the London Underground the advertising contractors will strip away the layers of posters all the way back to whatever it is they're pasted on to. I suppose they don't do it often because there's so much to get rid of but when they do it's like going back in time.

In this case, back to 1992. I suppose 16 years between bouts of cleaning isn't too bad by the standards of London's tube but I daresay they could manage it a little more regularly.

Anyway, at Piccadilly Circus station they've uncovered this romantic double-bill that was showing at the MGM cinema in Chelsea. Where the phone number began '071'.

I suppose that if the poster thus uncovered had not been advertising a cinema classic before it actually was one, it wouldn't be as interesting. Although, even if it was for something shit, it would at least give you the opportunity to wallow in nostalgia and think to yourself, "huh, I remember that shit".

Then again, what if they uncovered an old cigarette poster and didn't cover it for a while? Would London Underground be prosecuted for breaking the ban on tobacco advertising?

Sheesh, I guess anything's possible in this crazy world.