Category Archives: Odds & Ends

I have frittered this five pounds like a fool

Just spent £5 on 60 minutes of hot-spot wi-fi action in a hotel room. Here’s what I’ve chosen to do with this wondrous gift:

  1. Collected my e-mail (1 spam – I checked it earlier at work)
  2. Uploaded a video of the hotel shower cubicle to YouTube
  3. Checked my comments on Flickr (1 new comment)
  4. Reloaded YouTube a few times – video’s uploaded but not appearing yet
  5. Checked tonight’s TV listings (nothing on)
  6. Tried YouTube in another browser. Still not appearing.
  7. Posted this crap

If anyone has any better ideas please can you mail them to me in the next 14 minutes?


phones4u.gifPhones4U is a shitty horrible chain of mobile phone shops in the UK. Their sales assistants must be on 100% commission because you can’t get more than a yard into one of their garish hell-hole shops without being ambushed by at least two of them. I went in once for a bean-on-a-string handsfree kit (cost: £4.99). I was met at the threshold by two chaps who wanted to know how they might serve me today. “I’d like a handsfree kit for a Nokia Whatever-it-was, please,” I said. “Not a Bluetooth one, though. Not even a Nokia one. Just your cheapest tangly-nasty-wire-type-one.”

“No problem, sir,” said No. 1, lunging between me and No. 2. “Come on in, the water’s lovely.”

Honestly, he really did.

I bet that night he told someone how he’d “closed the sale at four nine nine”, conveniently omitting the decimal point. Actually, no: I bet that night he sat eating a microwave lasagne for one and imagined telling someone he’d closed the sale at four nine nine.

No, wait – I bet he told the lasagne.

One day when I’m really bored I’m going to set myself a challenge to touch the back wall of Phones4U and get all the way out again without being asked whether I need any help there mate.


It’s not every day you get an invitation to an exclusive black-tie dinner and cocktail soirée from one of the big .com corporations.

Nor is it every day that they send you a grovelling and personally addressed apology for having mistaken you for someone they would invite to an exclusive black-tie dinner and cocktail soirée.

The icing on the cake is when they personally address it to the first-thing-that-came-to-mind, fart-arsed name you made up when they first demanded it in return for a free download.

Oh happy day.

Book meme

I’ve been served a book meme by Anthony “WMD 404” Cox – a kind of Desert Island Discs only with books instead of discs, and only 5 instead of 8. And no desert island. Anyway, here goes…

Number of books I own: I haven’t counted, and I don’t like to boast, so let’s just say we’re talking double figures.

Last book bought: About Grace by Anthony Doerr

Last book read: Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami (an absolute masterpiece!)

Five books that mean a lot to me:

  1. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro – my all-time favourite book, and as fine a study of British emotional constipation as you’re likely to find.
  2. Scepticism, Inc. by Bo Fowler – the only thing I’ve ever read that describes my own world view perfectly.
  3. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving – probably the book I’ve read more than any other. It’s become like a nice pair of old shoes now, and my copy is falling apart. I always make the same mistake of starting to read it at Christmas for the enchanting chapters where the boys are growing up in a snowy Maine wonderland, and forgetting that that’ll leave me in January with the depressing second half where they’re getting blown to pieces in Vietnam. Doh!
  4. Life of Pi by Yann Martel – utterly beautiful, and a very close runner-up to Remains of the Day as my desert island book. In fact, no, this would be my desert island book, if only for chapter 58:

    I pulled out the survival manual. Its pages were still wet. I turned them carefully. The manual was written by a British Royal Navy commander. It contained a wealth of practical information on surviving at sea after a shipwreck. It included survival tips such as:

    And so on.

  5. Katie’s Zoo by Me (No link because I haven’t finished writing it yet. Or had it published.) – 10-year-old Katie comes home one day to find a crocodile called George behind her settee. He talks her into letting him stay, but Katie gradually begins to question whether George is really as harmless and mild-mannered as he seems. In fact, she wonders if he might have something to do with the mysterious disappearance of a local cat. As Katie starts to investigate, matters only get more complicated – and that’s before further strange and uninvited guests start to arrive…

Who am I going to tag? Er, nobody. Sorry, I just don’t know any other bloggers who haven’t taken part already. The trail stops here. Please return to what you were doing.

“Who wrote a Zimbabwean Othello”

When I have a whole day to spare and I want to spend it getting a headache, I like nothing better than to attempt the Guardian prize crossword. They’re usually set by Araucaria, a setter of fiendish reputation. Probably his best known crossword clue was an enormous anagram to do with Jeffrey Archer.

Sadly that one was before my time, but I am glad to have encountered another gem of his in the prize puzzle on the 5th of February:

Wee dram for a Glaswegian: the rot’s mended: ‘Who wrote a Zimbabwean Othello’ (5,3,1,9,4,5)

I pretty soon figured out that it was an anagram of “Wee dram for a Glaswegian: the rot” but I couldn’t make head or tail of the rest. A good deal of head scratching later, it finally clicked that the answer was the first line of a purpose-written limerick, of which the second line was “Who wrote a Zimbabwean Othello”. From the letters available and the pattern of the answer I could even get as far as “There was a [something] from [somewhere]“, but it still took another fair while and a couple of paracetamol before I finally cracked it. Ever since, I’ve been chuckling every time I think about it:

There was a tragedian from Gwelo