Wednesday, January 31, 2007

"Look at the hands"

A couple of Silver-Haired Old Ladies in the National Portrait Gallery (Tudor section):

SHOL 1: Look at the hands, they're very important. They're the most detailed part, can you see?

SHOL 2: Yes they're... aren't they big.

SHOL 1: Hands were very important then. Can you see the detail?

SHOL 2: Look at that ring.

SHOL 1: His seal, that's his seal. I love the way he clasps his together.

SHOL 2: Thin fingers.

SHOL 1: They intertwine don't they? Yes. As though he's praying.

SHOL 2: Why is he praying?

SHOL 1: He isn't.

SHOL 2: He could be.

SHOL 1: Yes. But he isn't. One wouldn't pray whilst having one's portrait painted.

SHOL 2: He could be pretending.

SHOL 1: Let's move on. Oh, now this is Henry VII. (PAUSE) Look at the hands...

That's the best thing about art galleries: sod the paintings, look at the people.

Or the hands.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Britain's tabloids have long been contorting the language so that it accords with their column widths. Here's a representative sample I culled from yesterday's super soaraway Sun.

What's interesting is that you can glean a good idea of the story from some of the headlines but with others a little extra reading is required.

So, for example, in "Torture Army recruit AWOL" we can hazard a guess that some poor teenage squaddie had his genitals singed by a sadistic Sergeant and has therefore decided that it's definitely not "a man's life in the army" and run away to hide in some woods hoping that no-one will miss him.

But with "DEAD TOT QUIZ" we're on shakier ground as on first glance this appears to be a game show for sickos about dead children. But on delving deeper into the story we learn it's another case of domestic violence as a couple help police with the investigation into the death of a five month-old baby.

Which leads us onto the synonyms or more likely, code words, that tabloids always use. Firstly for reasons of space and secondly because their readers aren't likely to enjoy an especially intimate relationship with the nuances of the English language.

"TOT" Baby. But in reality, any child under the age of ten.
"QUIZ" Interrogation. Someone is helping the police with their inquiries.
"HELL" Any unpleasant experience of hugely variable severity, preferably undergone by a 'celebrity'. So, in the two examples above we learn (on reading the whole story) that Kelly Osbourne's 'HELL' is her less-than-traumatic time in Japan where she had to use the local toilets. And Natasha Kaplinsky's version of Hades was that she discovered on the TV programme, "Who do you think you are?" that some of her distant family were murdered by the Nazis. Now, certainly, for those distant family members, the word 'HELL' is apt. But for Natasha? Well, it's hardly the same is it?
"STORM" A protest. Apparently. A big row over an issue which may or may not be of national importance. The origin of the storm frequently being a newspaper headquarters in the Wapping area of London. In our example, the "Corrie Wife" seems to have outrun a hurricane. She didn't. She got battered.

And finally...

No, it's nothing to do with G.W. Bush and his escapades in Iraq. It's actually a tale of mild-mannered Man City manager, Stuart Pearce who 'rejoices' in the nickname 'psycho' and who has apparently offered to be the manager of England's U21 football team. But his club, City, aren't too happy. Hence the outbreak of hostilities. Or a couple of grumpy 'phone calls anyway.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Today's word is... 'oxymoron'

Another entry in what is probably, due to excessive lack of imagination, the most irregular series ever 'devised'.

oxymoron n. Rhet. a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction.

I wonder how many emails they actually get?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

More baldness

Ads for those of us with slightly less on top never seem to show actual baldies anymore. Just young blokes with loads of hair.

And I'm busy wondering why.

Are they afraid that images of middle-aged men with thinning pates just don't project the kind of young, thrusting vibe that gets people hard in this day and age?

A vibe like this virile, hirsuite young buck is projecting for instance.

Whatever happens, it's all come a bit too late for 'Reg'.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Would you ring the bell?

There's more than a hint of desperation about this little notice.

Maybe that's why I love it.

I wonder how many times our nocturnal wage slave stumbled down from his (yes, I'm assuming it's a 'he' for reasons of simplicity, apologies if not) midday slumbers and struggled bleary-eyed with the lock on the door to confront, and quite probably swear at, a Jehovah's Witness, electoral canvasser, schoolchild seeking sponsorship etc.

At what point was he driven to write his note?

For extra emphasis he's gone over the 'DO NOT DISTURB' letters twice which lends an air of menace to the communication, doubtless intentional.

But what about the underlining? Three rather wavy lines, almost artistically produced and done without a ruler. If he'd been angry they would have been shorter and straighter, but these seem sad.

And this is why I think our writer was crying when he wrote it. Tears of frustration were coursing down his cheeks as, for the umpteenth time, he'd been awoken by someone at the door.

No, I don't believe those wet splodges are rain-related. I reckon they come from the eyes of a desperate man who realises that if he doesn't get his alloted kip today then, come three o'clock in the morning, he's highly likely to lose an arm in that whirling machine he operates at the factory.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

You don't see one of these very often

A well-written, well-acted, lovingly-shot commercial that actually tells a story into the bargain.

What's more, it goes on for two whole minutes. Which, in this mad bish-bash-bosh era must be some sort of achievement.

I could sit and watch it for ages.

Or a couple of minutes at least.

Hell hath no fury...

... like a man with crabs.

Spotted in Devon during the Christmas break.

We have real anger here. Ms Pedrick's shortcomings in the vaginal cleanliness department are ruthlessly exposed by a man who, not content with merely telling his mates about her in the pub, has gone to the considerable trouble of creating some sort of stencil with which to warn this scarlet lady's prospective bedfellows.

By creating his stencil, our itchy lothario clearly means business. I saw two other locations where his dire warning was displayed, so he was obviously intent on spreading his message and leaving the local townsfolk in no doubt as to the potential consequences of a dalliance with the newly-infamous Ms P.

Who is happily spreading a little something of her own by the look of things.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Hey you get offa my stoop

They could have said 'porch' instead I suppose, or steps, but I'm so glad they didn't 'cos I just love 'stoop'.

It's so wilfully obscure, so completely undumbed-down. It challenges you to understand it and then, since some people clearly won't, gives the owners carte blanche to bollock the uncomprehending hoodie squatting outside.

This is a sign that you need an English degree to understand. Alright, maybe not. But think of the possibilities... signs that were so highbrow that no-one understood them and consequently no-one obeyed.

Imagine the anarchy.

There's such a sign on the side of a house near me. It says,

"Please don't kick balls against this wall."

Is it obeyed?

Is it fuck.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

I have an announcement to make

Those running our public 'transport system' never seem to tire of deluging passengers with messages.

Here's a sample from my varied modes of transport this morning...

"Owing to the late running of the service in front, this tram will be terminating at the next stop." Oh, thanks.

"Please stand well back from the yellow line when the train enters the platform."

"This is your guard speaking. If you see anything suspicious please tell me or a member of the on-board staff. If you require my assistance, I can be found at the centre of this eight-car train."

"On alighting from this service, please take care to mind the gap between the train and the platform."

"Please ensure you have all your belongings with you when you leave the train."

"Passengers using Oyster Pre-Pay please ensure you touch in and touch out or you will be charged the full price fare for your journey."

"Oyster Pre-Pay is not valid on this service."

"Please do not give money to beggers operating at this station. South West Trains gives a donation to various charities on your behalf."

"Due to signal failure, severe delays are occuring on the Uxbridge branch of the Metropolitan Line."

"Any unattended articles will be removed and could be destroyed."

"For reasons of safety, bicycles are not allowed on this service."

"Please move right down inside the carriage."

"Flash photography is not permitted on the Underground."

"Thank you for travelling with South West Trains."

Friday, January 12, 2007


Today's first edition of Metro carried this story about yesterday's gusts.

But in the second edition...

Leaving aside the increase in the number of people killed (although what exactly does 'up to nine' mean? Over two? er...), why the change in the wind speed? Is it that we still don't understand kph in this country?

"Kilo... what? Kilo metres? What the dickens are they, some kind of French joke? We have miles in Britain. The Queen's Own British miles!"

Or does 90mph simply sound windier to us?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Fancy a pint with Jesus?

A man gave me this in a street in Soho.

Now you can pick up almost anything in a Soho street. But an invitation to a pint with the Lord?

It's a new one to me.

I don't have to know anything about the Bible apparently, nor will I have to sing. Although if the christians ever did make me sing they'd never ask again.

Nice choice of pub name too. Mind you, I doubt they'd have picked Filthy McNasty's.