Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Chip Dale Story: Chapter 1 continues...

Chapter 1 continues...

I, of course, survived the dream long enough to make it a reality. At sixteen, I entered the local community college where I began to study to become a geologist. It wasn’t that I had any serious ambitions to work with rocks – or at least not of the sedimentary, igneous or metamorphic varieties – but I had to do something for the two years before I’d be allowed to strip for a living. The way I saw it, the local college's geology course gave me chance to indulge the passion for the countryside I’d enjoyed since I’d been a child. I loved to wander the Welsh hills with my geologist’s hammer in my hand and a knapsack on my back. And in the summer, I’d strip off down to my thong, which I’d taken at the relatively young age of fifteen, and worked hard hammering away on cliff faces. That’s how I first began to hone the physique that has served me so well. I can’t recommend it enough. Looking for geodes, ammonites, and pre-Cambrian trilobites is the finest way a young man can get the body of stripper.

Yet my sixteenth year was so very frustrating to me and my seventeenth birthday the hardest day of all. I still had another year before I would be allowed to dance professionally. Little did I know that the year would prove to an ideal way into the trade. It would prepare me in ways I would never have anticipated.

I was working out in the Bangor countryside one day in the middle of summer. I had found myself a particularly nice stretch of metamorphic shist in a quarry I’d often visit and I’d stripped off and had been working the rock face hard to see if I could find some particularly large minerals so I might test their hardness according to Moh’s Scale. I’d just found a pretty big garnet when a voice hailed me from high above the cliff.

‘I say? Excuse me? Young man? Could you give me a hand?’

Good natured if perhaps a little naive, I dropped my hammer with my backpack and clad only in my thong I climbed the rocky bank. At the top, I found a lady sitting in the shade of a Welsh Tourist Board monument marking the spot where Tom Jones’s uncle had taught the boy to sing.
The woman was of the typical raven haired buxom type you usually find in Welsh quarries at the height of summer. Only this one diverged from the norm by being on the heavy side of thirty and had a bold design of a peacock tattooed on one of her magnificent breasts.

‘I’m so sorry to take you away from your rocks,’ she said, shielding her eyes from either the glare of the sun or my sweating body which was just as bright. ‘My name is Flora, like the flowers. And I seem to have got myself stuck on this here statue.’

‘I can see your problem, Flora,’ I replied, having quickly worked out the woman’s predicament. ‘Your underwear has become trapped on Mr. Jones’ pick. If you’ll allow me, I’m sure I can release you in a thrice.’

‘A thrice?’ she smiled. ‘How quaint. Such a nice word and such a nice boy. I’d be most grateful.’
I caught her glancing at my thong but since it was one of the finest that money could buy, I didn’t think much about it at the time. Nor did it occur to me until many years later that if she had got herself tangled on Tom Jones’ uncle’s pickaxe, she couldn’t have seen me below the edge of the cliff. Nor could she have known that I was a young man. But faced with raven haired buxom peacock-tattooed women, a young man tends not to think rationally. I certainly didn’t think rationally as my fingers took hold of her strap and I began to work it free of the head of the pick.

I blame my innocence that I didn’t fully understand the mechanical operation of female underwear at the time. In these more enlightened times, the British Stripping Union tests you on these things but, back then, as a young Tom Jones gazed on, I yanked too hard and suddenly the whole of my life changed in one glorious moment of understanding.

‘Oh dear!’ gasped Flora as the strap to her underwear fell away and she became as abundant as nature and three times as pink. And do I hear you ask about nipples? There were certainly nipples. In fact, two of them, as large as the tins to Fray Bentos chicken pies.

‘I’m so sorry,’ I said, trying to avert my gaze but, not knowing what I was doing, trying desperately to push her breasts back into her dress. She unfortunately misinterpreted my actions as being what is now known as ‘a come on’. She grabbed me and dragged me to the floor.

‘You did that on purpose,’ she said, thrusting her lips to mine.

I tried to squirm free. ‘I did not,’ I promised her. ‘There seemed to be some kind of hooks that came loose when I tried to pull you from your entanglement on Mr. Jones’ pick.’

‘You can entangle me any day,’ she replied as she went for my thong.

‘Steady there!’ I cried, trying to move out of her grasp.

‘Don’t you want to come closer?’ asked Flora.

The question left me a little confused. I’d come out that morning looking for hard Welsh shist yet I had found yielding female flesh which I didn’t figure on Moh’s scale of hardness, not even below talc and gypsum. I looked up at the young Tom Jones but he just gazed back at me, his loins tight in their copper stretch pants.

‘Or do you think it’s wrong for a woman with needs to seek out a man with such a magnificent body?’

‘Well,’ I replied. ‘It’s not unusual…’

And there, on that sacred spot of Welsh history, I fell under the spell of a hot musk on a summer’s day in Wales.

I never touched my geologist’s hammer again.


Of my first sexual encounter, I think there’s little need to dwell any more. I would get to know Flora Betteridge quite well over the following months. It was Flora who introduced me to the North Wales stripping circuit. It turned out that she was herself stripper of some note and had found moderate fame for her novelty act involving a Burmese python. She had been at the quarry that day collecting sand for a Cleopatra’s Asp routine that was her trademark.

Flora had been working in the stripping business nearly fifteen years when I met her. In that time, she had removed her clothes in ever corner of the world and jiggled for potentates and princes. She told me that her python has almost as many air miles as Michael Palin but I’m sure Palin hasn’t been to some of dark places her snake had visited. It was Flora who first introduced me to the professional side of exotic dancing and it was she that first gave me tips that have been handed down through generations of strippers. It was Flora who first explained to me the secrets of the stripper’s art.

The experience that’s perhaps worth recounting in full is the first time I shaved south of my navel.

‘You must be smooth down there,’ said Flora one day after I’d sat in a coffee shop and explained how I intended to be the best male dancer that Wales has ever seen. ‘Chip, you must do more than take pride in your body,’ she said. ‘You must learn to groom it. There’s no point in it looking like a wig makers funeral down there.’

I didn’t quite understand the reference myself, as male grooming wasn’t something I’d ever given much thought to. In those days, men were hairy where it counted and like all true Welshman, I took my lead from the Tom Jones whose body had never seen a razor.

‘But Tom keeps his clothes on,’ explained Flora when I mentioned this fact. ‘If you want to succeed, there must be no hair down there. No male stripper has ever succeeded by leaving himself with a Rod Hull.’

A Rod Hull, I should explain, is what strippers in those days called unshaven testicles.

‘Not even a small one like a moustache?’ I asked.

‘Certainly no moustache,’ she said. ‘Do you want women to swoon or point out that your Rod Hull looks more like Tom Selleck?’

Later that day, I could barely sit down on my Telly Savalas. But I had learned a lesson the hard way. Aftershave was never meant for those parts.

Flora had laughed when I told her about my first attempt at male grooming but I owe her so much of my success for putting me straight. She introduced me to creams and lotions that would do the job just as well. But for a few painful hours, I had thought my dreams had come to an end with a single splash of Old Spice.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Thonglateer Extraordinaire

Because I’ll be busy for the next few days as I sit and stare unblinking at a computer screen, I thought I’d keep the blog active by offering you all a sneak peak at my latest opus. It’s called ‘Thonglateer Extraordinaire!’ and I think it’s the most honest account of life on the North Wales stripping circuit. It also happens to be my autobiography.

Gabby is the mastermind behind the book, and she’s even designed a cover for it in anticipation of our flogging it all my gigs in the next year. The first chapter covers my early life and the training that goes into becoming a successful man of the thong. Today, I’m posting the first part of chapter 1.

Thonglateer Extraordinaire!
Chip Dale

Chapter I

The Five Mysteries of One Eye Buchanan

I’ll mention it only once so we don’t have to mention it again: yes, I know who I look like.

I’m sure it’s as much a curse to me as it’s a blessing to him. But believe me when I say that I know nothing about the Liberal Democrat’s policy on second homes in Wales and I’m also certain that Lembit Opik doesn’t know the first thing about indulging female fantasies involving pots of home-made raspberry jam and a plasterer’s trowel. Or if he does, I’m sure he keeps it out of his manifesto promises.

Which just backs up the point I’m making: I’m not him and he’s not me. I mean, if I was him, would I be stripping for a living? Okay, perhaps I would. I really can’t say. I’ve not met the man. But I do know myself and I know the path I have taken to become the most successful male stripper in Wales. And if that’s the story you want to hear, then you’re in luck. That’s the story I’m about to tell.

The path that led me to my start on the Welsh stripping circuit began one October night in the nineteen eighties when a baby was born with unusually well-defined abdominal muscles and a delight in shaking his unreasonably large genitals at all the nurses. There, you might say, the legend was born and I’ve hardly changed since. I’m still covered in baby oil, only now the nurses are often drunk, it’s usually Friday night at the Green Dragon Tavern in the heart of Bangor’s town centre, and instead of my blanket, I’m to be found swaddled in a plumber’s outfit or dressed like a bare-arsed cowboy.

With the name Chip Dale, I suppose stripping was in my stars, or at least as far as taking your clothes off for a living can be said to be augured by an alignment of the spheres, if you’ll excuse the early and totally unwarranted descent to the double entendre. There are few jobs that a man can do in Wales when he’s blessed by fantastic good looks, a body sculpted from Italian marble, and a personality to match. The fact that I disliked underwear from an early age merely added to the unusual set of circumstances which led to my declaring to my family on my sixteenth birthday that I was moving to Bangor to become the best know thongman on the face of the Welsh earth.

For the record, I was christened Crispen Walter Dale. I normally tell people that my mother was inspired by the St. Crispen’s Day speech from Henry the Fifth but I intend to be nothing less than honest with you. I was actually named after the Crisp’n Dry adverts from the seventies. My mother had an addiction to fried potato snacks, which is probably why I was known from an early age as Chip.

My life as a stripper began in my formative school years. I’d always take longer than the other boys whenever we changed for gym and I remember the PE teacher once putting me on report for taking off all my clothes when we were only meant to be changing into our pumps to watch some actors perform Shakespeare in the gym. But that was me. I knew what I wanted to do with my life and I took every opportunity to prepare for it.

It was, I see now, an unusual decision for a young man to make but stripping was my calling and I could never betray it. I remember once being given one of those computerised career tests just before I left school. When my results came out of the printer, I was shocked to see that it had recommended veterinary work. I demanded to see the career’s advisor and I marched indignantly into his office to ask him why male stripping wasn’t an option. He just turned white.

‘Why would you want to become a stripper, Dale?’ asked the man in a grey suit and topped by a wayward combover.

‘Well, sir, I think I have what it takes.’

He ran a finger around his collar, looked nervously towards his office door and then slapped down his hair which had leapt up in apparent shock. Only then did he stand up and quietly close the door before leaning his weak back against the frosted glass which magnified the rattle in his chest.

‘And what do you think it takes to become a stripper, Dale?’ he wheezed.

‘A big personality, sir.’

‘A big personality?’

‘Oh yes, sir. A big personality and rhythm.’


‘To dance, sir. I don’t reckon you can’t be a male stripper if you can’t dance.’

‘I suppose not,’ he said, his throat suddenly sounding quite dry. He walked slowly back across the room and sat down at his desk where he began to sort career pamphlets for people wanting to work at the Bradford and Bingley. The poor man. I can see now that he was well out of his depth. I don’t suppose he would have known what to say if I’d gone in there wanting to become a nuclear physicist or a Bavarian bugle salesman. ‘Well, so long as you think you’ve got what it takes,’ he muttered finally and shifted his glasses on his nose. ‘I mean, I wouldn’t like to stand in your way, Dale, but you must understand that I can’t recommend this choice of employment. You never heard it from me.’ He briefly smiled and gave me a flash of tobacco stained teeth. ‘You’ve not considered office work? The Bradford and Bingley offer a very reasonable pension plan.’

‘Office work?’ I shifted uneasily where I stood. ‘I don’t think a big personality and a dexterity about the hips suit the Bradford and Bingley, sir.’ And as if to prove my point, I demonstrated the Chipster’s hip-swivel that would later become one of my signature moves.

‘So, you don’t like the idea of office work at the Bradford?’ he laughed, hesitantly.

‘Of course not, sir. I was born to strip.’

‘Were you? Well, good luck to you, Dale. We all have out crosses to bear and I can see that yours is bigger than most.’

‘You can say that again,’ I replied and gave him another thrust of my hips.

‘Yes, well, could you please stop that now?’ he asked, the slight flush that had reappeared on his cheeks now disappearing for good. ‘And I’d prefer it if our little conversation doesn’t go any further than this room. Wouldn’t like it said that I recommended a lad take his clothes off for a living.’

‘I quite understand. I don’t suppose you get many people coming in here saying they want to become a male stripper.’

He laughed and took off his pen top for no apparent reason before realising his mistake and screwing it back on.

‘No, no, you are quite unique, Dale,’ he replied, shaking his head. ‘But so long as you think you’ve got what it takes I don’t want to dissuade you. To tell you the truth, dissuading people isn’t my job. I’m here to give you all positive vibes.’

‘Oh, I’ve got positive vibes, sir.’

‘I can see that, Dale. And good luck with them. Good luck with your big personality, your sense of rhythm, and your positive vibes. I can see that you’ve got what it takes to be… to be… er…’ He looked down a paper on his desk as he almost whispered. ‘A male exotic dancer.’

‘Of course, sir. I don’t suppose it does any harm having an enormous penis.’

He looked at me long and hard. ‘No, Dale,’ he said, with a look of utter envy. ‘I don’t suppose it does you any harm whatsoever.’

I was given special dispensation to leave school early that day and I never went back. Nor did Mr. Morris who I’m told arrived at the staff-room complaining of feeling unwell and went home soon after lunch. He was never seen again. Some say he retired to a monastery but others say he went to live in Thailand before he died after spending five years indulging in untold carnal delights. Some say he just back a Liberal Democrat. I don’t like to think my interview had anything to do with his disappearance, though when the nights are long and my spirits depressed, I often think of Mr. Morris, his grey suit, his combover, his weak chest. I wonder if the Thai air did him any good, or whether once touched by Chip Dale’s dream, he couldn’t live with himself. In a way, you might say that just the dream of being the Chipster had killed a lesser man.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Jobs and Dogs

I’ve spent the day filling out an application form for a job. That’s right. I said I spent the entire day ticking boxes and writing in tiny block letters to get everything in the space provided. And I’m still not finished.

The problem I’m having is with people who think we all fit into those boxes. What happens if you went to more than one school? What happens if you have more qualifications than boxes? What happens if you your life doesn’t neatly shrink down into three lines? What happens if your life doesn't reduce to the synopsis of a bad B movie? Also, what happens if you don’t want to admit to what you last did for work? And why am I expected to tell them my last salary? Is it any of their business? What possible reason could they have for knowing it except to offer a pound a week more instead of the salary they printed in the job ad?

Glossing over these details is what a CV is for, I suppose. But in that case, why not just ask for a CV and leave the forms for the bare minimum: sex, age, address, email, hat size.

However, I don't want this to get in the way of the real reason I’ve come online. At the risk of turning my blog into the sort of place where we conduct thought experiments, I want to pick your brains.

A good friend stopped me in the street today and we had been chatting for a while when a pretty aggitated dog passed us by. My friend told me not to worry. She knew the perfect way to disarm a dangerous dog. She explained that her mother had once told her that it’s possible to kill a dog by taking its front legs and pulling them apart. She swore it was true though I didn’t believe her.

I’ve looked all over the web for evidence to back up my friend’s claims, but I’m beginning to think that it’s one of those myths, like the one about what to do when a pitbull has got you in its jaws. As you know, a pitbull’s jaw are supposed to have some mechanism to stop it being forced open once the dog has you in its maw. According to legend, you stick either a pen, a pencil, or a finger up its rectum, thus triggering a hard-wired response in the pitbull’s brain which forces it to let you go. I don’t know if it’s true but you can be sure that I’d let you go if you tried the same with me.

Unfortunately, I don't think this could be considered proof. So, your task for today is to find out if either of these are true. I don’t care how you do it but extra credit will be given for a practical demonstration. (And yes, Mopsa, I'm looking at you. I know you have at least one dog you could try the rectum trick on.)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Bangor Beach

If you just measure these things by shrinkage, the Bangor shoreline is not a good place for a man in his underpants to be on a cold day in September. However, give a talented photographer a few filters and a pair of old socks and it's astonishing what they can make of it.

The modelling assignment was the first decent job I’ve had in months but it might not have even happened if I hadn’t been experiencing problems in my relationship with all things Romanian.

For the last fortnight, Gabby just hasn't been happy with my making money from bare-knuckle fighting. After my last match when I poleaxed the UK's bare knuckle gypsy champion, she told me to choose either her or the fighting. I had little choice, especially when she had a knife at my throat, but Gabby seemed genuinely relieved and marked my decision by using up a favour she had with the photographer who does all the shots for the Cheeky Girl albums. It turns out that he was in Wales and looking for somebody to model a pair of underpants. Gabby suggested my name and the date was set for last Friday. You can see the result above.

You might be a bit surprised by the amount of clothes I’m wearing. All I can say is that you all know me well enough by now that it will come as no surprise that I normally won’t allow myself to be photographed in anything more than a thong. But this mattered more to me than my image. My relationship with Gabby was at stake. If I had to wear clothes, thought I, then let them be clothes about to be torn from my windswept body by a chilly south-easterly. It’s the reason for the obvious shrinkage but in a way it makes it more suitable for a family audience.

The photographer promised me that it would look tasteful and I think he’s kept his word. I’m not sure about the dark patches on the sand and I think if he was going to spend so much time airbrushing out my ponytail he might also have touched up the raw human sewage. I can tell you: I barely touched my champagne, the stench was so overpowering.

However, we must all suffer for our art and I hope the picture will bring me more modelling gigs. Just, next time, I want a warmer day. That shrinkage is really quite disappointing.

Monday, September 24, 2007

My First Political Memory

Steve at The Daily Referendum has tagged for me my first political memory. Tough question. I don’t really have political memories. I have lots of literary memories, such as the first time I read 'Death of a Salesman', travelling home on a train on a sunny day with the fields stretching out to the distance. The carriage was empty. It felt like the rest of the world was working and I was blessed to be able to sit and read that book. I cried too much. I have lots of memories like that. I suppose my first political moment was when Labour MP Doug Hoyle tore the canvas on our Land Rover. It was during a strike in the late seventies, and my Dad had travelled up to some big union meeting. The crowd of protestors had used the back of the Land Rover as a platform. Hoyle climbed up and gave his speech and got so angry that his nails made a hole in the canvas. For years after, sitting in the back, I’d get wet whenever it rained. I think it taught me everything I needed to know about unions and politicians.

As with these taggings, I'm supposed to nominate a few others but I can't bring myself to do so. I'd only sit here half an hour, worring about who I should pick and then I'd sit worrying about the people I might have forgotten to pick. I want to do other things with my day.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Marcel Marceau

I hope perhaps against hope that there will be nothing written on Marcel Marceau’s grave. In a world of blogs when people can’t seem to shut the hell up, Marceau made silence into an art. I hope the media give the man as much coverage as they did Pavarotti, though I suspect that they have a bias towards noise.

I suppose it’s hardly surprising when loud comedians are all in fashion. Friends look at me with a kind of benign pity when I tell them that I sit down at night and watch Keaton or Chaplin. They don’t even know who I’m talking about when I mention Harold Lloyd. Yet they gasp with outrage when I criticise the sometimes tediously unfunny 3 Stooges. Much as Laurel and Hardy are well loved, their silent work is little known, and the same is true of W.C. Fields, one of the world’s great physical comedians and jugglers.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Thank You Mr. Calvino

In a one of his shorter essays, Italo Calvino tackles comedy and begins with something that is very close to my heart. ‘One component of satire is moralism,’ he writes, ‘and another is mockery. I would like these two components to remain foreign to me, partly because I do not appreciate them in others.’

I read these words for the first time this week and they caused me to fret. How am I to exist if I’m not allowed to moralise or to mock? Take away my hands, my thongs, even my tongue, but not my ability to moralise and to mock. And I was particularly concerned because, on Monday, a good friend rang me to say that she had sent me a present, knowing how much I appreciate good books. It finally arrived, gift wrapped, in an Amazon parcel this morning. I don’t want to give the surprise away too early but the book was called ‘Perfect Ponies: Here Comes the Bride’ and, in case you don’t know, the Amazon blurb describes it as:

The first story in an unmissable series about a group of yard girls and their ponies, by the ever-popular and keen rider, XXXXX XXXXX.

Calvino now has me questioning my next move. Once I reveal the name to you, how is it possible for me to neither moralise nor mock? If the name were Jilly Cooper, I suppose it’s an easy thing to avoid. If the name were Jeffrey Archer, it’s harder but still quite possible. But what if there name were Katie Price? Or, if you want to be informal about this, what if the name were Jordan? What would Mr. Clever-Clogs-Italian-Novelist-And-Thinker say then?

And that’s why I put no faith in these rascally foreign uber-critics. Umberto Eco has never given a good bit of advice in his life and Calvino is the same. Neither can tell me how I might properly convey my absolute hatred for this woman. Were my gums to bleed, my teeth rot, my skin to fester, boils burst, intestines drop through my arse in fistulas the size of cabbages, I would not experience a fraction of the agony I feel when this woman’s books appear in bookshops. Abhorrent is not the word for it. It would be ‘abhorrent’ rolled in newly laid animal faeces, speckled with anthrax, and left to fester by a jackal’s carcass in a grave dug by Satanists on hallowed ground. Should every saint of the Holy Roman Church come back to life to renounce Christ and go Club-Med holidaying with Richard Dawkins, it would not amount to the blasphemy I feel when I see Jordan’s swollen glands given pride of place in a bookshop.

Bantam Books should be ashamed of themselves, though it’s yet another example of how we can’t expect corporations to act morally when there’s easy money to be made. I have often spent hours wondering what kind of dim witted person buys Jordan’s ghost-written pap but now I’m more concerned about what kind of dim witted parent buys them for their children? I suppose they’re bought by the same cretinous hole dwellers that think she’s a fine role model for children raised in a world where big tits are better than big brains. When children dress for sex, sex dresses children, when porn stars teach children to read, and when blowjobs and boobjobs are more synonymous with bookshops than poetry.

Calvino might not appreciate moralising and mockey in others but I prefer it to mindless succumbing to advertising and an unthinking moral and aesthetic relativism in which there’s no room to criticise vacuous ghostwritten novels with more meat to mouth action going on than you’d find in Jamie Oliver’s Sausage Handbook.

But, of course, I'm not supposed to resort to moralising nor mockery. Which leaves me only one option. I'll let Jordan speak for herself...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Spectacles, Testicles , Wallet and Watch

Budgetary cutbacks brought in by my new Romanian chancellor have left The Thonged One without his morning paper but it's not all bad. No longer am I victim to the weekly price hikes of The Times and the daily incoherent ramblings of Rod Liddle. I now make do with the free paper that’s pushed weekly through the letterbox. I might no longer be up-to-date with the Middle East but I am now an expert in local charity drives, open evenings for adult learners, and I have memorised the description of every conman claiming to be a British Gas fitter in the Bangor region.

In a way, it was fortunate that gave up the newspaper when I did. Watching BBC’s New24 with my morning Alpen, I had an epiphany as vivid as Natasha Kaplinsky’s lip gloss. I suddenly knew what’s wrong with this country of ours. I knew why we’re being humbled daily by the Dutch, why we’re the butt of Belgian jokes, and why we’re seen as the slowest member of the European family. It’s all the fault of Specsavers.

It’s happened so slowly that we haven’t noticed but we’ve become a nation of people wearing ridiculous glasses and the rest of the world think we look like fools. No longer are we satisfied with spectacles in plain brown plastic. Gone are the big John Major bin lids. We’ve become a country of people wearing letterboxes in bright red and striped yellow. In the quest for fashion, people have adopted the style of the barber’s pole. To present themselves as ‘individuals’, the masses have fallen under the spell of Specsavers.

I don’t hesitate in saying that Specsavers are a blight on our land. Their adverts should be enough of a warning. They begin with an average guy in a perfectly normal pair of glasses. Then some domineering girlfriend insists that he goes to Specsavers and he comes out looking like Jerry Lewis’ twin from the 23rd century. Everybody applauds in a grisly echo of Orwellian brain washing techniques. And the outcome is that nobody can see where they’re going because of fashionably small lenses. Mortality rates increase as more people walk under buses.

There’s a social meltdown coming, people, and I’m here to give you the first warning. I can smell revolution in the air. We must choose sides now before it’s too late.

Do we really want a country where we ghettoise people who should have gone to Specsavers but didn’t?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A Weekend In Film

Since they seemed popular, a few more of my mini film reviews from the weekend. I went a bit overboard on the movies, though I think I should begin to mark which films I watched because of Gabby and which I chose myself. This weekend, it was mainly Gabby who was making the selection.

Rule of thumb: if it involves horror or long range target shooting, you can be sure it's not one of mine.

Dreamcatcher – a somewhat under-rated adaptation of a Stephen King novel uses horror in a snowy landscape to good effect and is only let down by Morgan Freeman’s fake eyebrows.
1408 – An even better film adaptation of a Stephen King short story. John Cusack alone in a hotel room that plays his own nightmares against him. Excellent.
The Contract – John Cusack again, with Morgan Freeman in Bruce Beresford’s low key thriller which is actually quite good apart from Cusack’s apparent facelift
Spiderman 3 – Somewhat bloated with enough story for two films, it begins heavy on the cheese but gets better as it becomes darker. Toby McGuire has lost too much weight and the CGI has got worse with each film.
Oceans 13 – one of the best heist movies in recent years and the best of the Oceans films, mainly due to the absence of people called Zeta Jones and the presence of people called Pacino.
Every Which Way But Loose – can’t believe I loved it as a child, I now can’t get past the fact that Clint is playing redneck trailer trash. I could never get myself to like Sondra Locke.
Year of the Dragon – from the days before actors had facelifts and when Mickey Rourke was considered a very promising actor, Cimino’s blistering story of cops fighting the Chinese gangs in New York. A bit heavy on the melodrama but good nonetheless.
Sniper 2 – Perhaps one for the Tom Berenger completists only but a low budget thriller with better production values and acting than you usually find in low budget thrillers. Berenger is one of those actors who could (and should) have been bigger. He stole Platoon and steals this.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Recommended Reading

If, like me, you're into reading other people's private correspondence, you might like The Carlyle Letters Online. I've spent a fascinating hour reading letters between great Victorians. And what's better, there's not a single reference to X Factor.

A Week in Films

Perhaps because I've been so busy writing for much of the week, I've been overdosing on movies at night. Here is my last seven days in films, both on video and cinema. And yes, it does mean I have watched more than one in a day. I have to suffer Gabby's love of horror films before she goes to bed and then I relax with something more uplifting.

The Simpsons Movie – A terrible shame. A few laughs but a film that didn’t live up to the hype. And why no Mr. Burns?
The Dark – a not too bad Welsh horror film if you’re in the mood for not too bad Welsh horror films.
Black Sheep – an independent New Zealand horror film about zombie sheep but a good premise is let down by a not particularly funny script. How can you miss with Zombie sheep?
Death Proof – tedious, tedious, tedious… until the end when cars with big engines get to do their thing. Kurt Russell looks great with the scar but when will Quentin realise that two groups of women sitting around talking for an hour is not storytelling?
The Cowboys – which *is* storytelling as John Wayne teaches young cowboys how to be a man and proves his point by taking a great beating by the cowardly Bruce Dern.
Green is for Danger – fantastic whodunnit with the equally fantastic Alastair Sim.
Wind Chill – understated but intellgient ghost story about couple trapped in a storm.
The Reaping – another damn horror movie but not too shabby if only because of the delectable Hilary Swank for whom the Chipster declares his undying love.
Red Dawn – John Milius fable about a group of teenagers caught in occupied America after the Russians and Cubans invade, made even finer by the much under-rated Powers Boothe.
Big Nothing – Very smart small film with a wonderfuly line in black humour.

Saturday, September 15, 2007


I’m so glad that Finland is no longer recognised as the world’s suicide capital. We might get back to the good old days when it was the Swiss who led the world in precision engineered watches, quality chocolate, and 101 uses of a noose and a bottle of painkillers. The Swiss always carried the honour with a certain nihilistic pride; proving that any nation consisting mainly of hikers and ramblers will eventually bore itself to death. Normality has been restored and leaps from Alpen peaks will once again become as monotonous as Roger Feddera’s backhand.

It was never good that Finland could claim to lead the world in self-destructive tendencies. We must question the mental well-being of any country had has ninety two words for different types of snow and where it was normal for hairy men to spend hours together in the sauna. And children the world over worried needlessly about stories that Santa had massacred his elves before turning the shotgun on himself. Of course, in the real Finland, there are no celebrities. There are just reindeer. And that’s their problem. A nation without celebrities is a nation with neither a heart nor a soul. Look at Wales. We’d be reaching for the bleach if it weren’t for Aled Jones and Max Boyce.

It’s why we’re collectively so blessed here in the UK with so many fantastic celebrities to keep us mentally happy. People like Simon Cowell, Stephen Fry, Jordan, and Victorian Beckham are cultural endorphins. It’s why we live in a nation free of anger, hatred, or depression. While everybody is happy here in the UK, it can’t be any surprise that so many Laplanders cut themselves with sharpened elk horns when the greatest Finnish celebrity is chef Orsk Numglad, known for his reindeer testicle stew. I'm just thankful we've got Jamie Oliver to keep us all sane.

Friday, September 14, 2007

A New Enterprise

At last, some good news about The Chipster! I’ve found a new source of income. You might know about the trouble I’ve been having lately. Since the EU introduced new regulations on thong usage, the exotic dancing isn’t paying like it used to and I’ve been keeping an eye out for alternative means of supporting a Romanian and her twenty seven chickens. Now, the search is over. Two nights ago I was offered a tempting proposition.

I'd just finished doing a routine in the Shangri-La when a guy I knew from the old days came up to me and complimented me on my physique.

‘You’re looking great, Chip. Been working out?’

‘Every day,’ I said, causally flexing a bicep.

He nodded thoughtfully as he smashed a bottle of lager across my head. When I didn’t flinch, he seemed to take that as a good sign. Of what, I wasn’t quite sure.

‘You have thick skin,’ he said.

I said that I hadn’t noticed.

‘I could do with a man of your unique qualities, Chip. You’re strong like a lion, lithe like an eel, and you don’t cut easily.’

‘Like a Tesco chease and onion pastie?’ I quipped.

His eyes narrowed. ‘Want to earn some money? I mean serious cash?’

I didn’t need asking twice.

‘Well come to this address at nine o’clock tonight,’ he said, scribbling a number of a house near the Bangor docks down on the back of a beer mat. ‘You might want to bring somebody to help you. Preferably somebody with a gentle touch and some medical training.’

I had just the person sitting at home, writing obsessive letters of complaint to the Guinness Book of Records about their unwillingness to consider world records involving razor sharp knives. I told Gabby about the chance of work and she was excited and agreed to help. Not only does she pride herself on her gentility but she’s had five years of medical training at the Romanian territorial commando school.

‘It good Chip get job,’ she said, as we left the flat at eight thirty. ‘You be able to buy car like you want. Perhaps get Mini.’

The thought did excite me. I don’t own a car and the fact that I have to walk or cycle everywhere is good for the heart but less impressive when it comes to my employability. Thoughts of money, success and a larger carbon footprint ensured that I was buzzing by the time we reached the old warehouse. The harbour was silent except for a few drunken merchantmen coming up from a Russian trawler moored by the warehouse.

At the warehouse, we were met by two bulky guys standing guard at the door. One checked my name on a list before the other led us inside and through to an office at the back where my old friend met me.

‘Chip! So glad you could come. People were excited when I mentioned your name.’

‘What’s the gig?’ I asked. ‘Some kind of stripping, I assume?’

‘Stripping? No. Not unless you prefer to fight naked.’


‘The game’s bare-knuckle fighting,’ he said. ‘No gouging, no punching below the belt, and no elbows. Other than that, you can do what you want.’

‘I won’t let you do this,’ said Gabby. ‘You must protect your looks, Chippy. Let me fight instead.’

Perhaps I’ve been watching too many John Wayne films lately but I couldn’t let Gabby fight my battles. As for my looks, I had enough confidence in my fighting skills to know I couldn’t get too hurt.

I stripped down to my thong and emerged in a warehouse full of punters. It was there that I met my opponent: a Russian sailor, six three, and probably seventeen stone. He had a scar like a sickle running down his face and into his bottom lip. His name was Sergei and a tattoo on his arm boasted that he’d taken the lives of ten men in the ring and at least two dozen more outside.

I won’t deny that the first three rounds were painful. I’ve not fought in years. I studied the martial arts back when I was a rather wayward teenager. It’s to my shame that I was once considered the best street fighter in Bangor. That’s before I discovered dance and changed to the ways of the thong. This, however, was different. There was money at stake and the continued happiness of a Romanian pop star and her feathered companions.

I held in there, my guts making up for my ring rustiness. Gabby gave me good advice but my reflexes were too slow, honed to the drunken mauling of overweight legal secretaries on a pub crawl. Not ex-Soviet merchant marines with a perchance for headbutting.

About the fourth round, I began to regain my edge. I’d cut the Russian over his eye and I was bruised but fine; my friend's observation about the thickness of my skin proving a good one. A few jabs set up my right hook which lifted the Russian off his feet and set back Glasnost by a decade. The fight was over and the cries of ‘Chipster’ rang around the old warehouse.

I’m fighting again on Sunday when I’ll be up against the Welsh gypsy bare knuckle champion. You’re all invited but the location is still a secret. I’ll try to email you with details sometime on Saturday, so those of you who can make it, I’d welcome your support.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Rules For The Wannabe Brit

As promised, for Momentary Academic, some helpful tips for the Wannabee Brit.

Forget pomp, circumstance, or anything you’ve picked up from watching Ealing Comedies. To be a modern Brit, you have to begin with the essentials. Tattoos must be visible at all times. Own a big dog that can chew a caravan in half. Own a caravan too and attach it to a car with a length of old rope. Now hit the motorways and get in that fast lane where you must weave erratically. Families with less than 1.5 cars per person will not be tolerated and cars must be parked on the pavement when not in use. Drunkenness is a social responsibility. Children must be loud, obnoxious, and tattooed. You must have at least seven of them. If babies, it is preferable to keep them all in one big pram.

Dress. The more casual the better. Ladies, remember to wear slippers around the supermarket and leave at least one bra strap hanging around your elbow. Teeth are optional in public. Gentlemen, trainers at all times and remember that you can’t go wrong with a vest. If you must wear a t-shirt, try to wear one sporting an obscene phrase advocating out common hatred of the French.

Heath and hygiene. Washing your hand is optional in most parts of the UK. There’s a national spitting policy so remember to huck up a lung for every two miles you walk. Walking is not recommended. Public urinals are not for urinating in. That’s why we have shop doorways and subways.

Next decide what kind of Brit you want to be. If successful, look for high paying jobs in window cleaning, plastering, plumbing, and the electrical trade. If you’re less ambitious, start out in the lower ranks. Think of working in the health industry as a doctor or nurse, or perhaps the education sector. Teachers are poorly respected so if you meet one, please laugh, point, or simply punch them. They are legally obliged not to fight back.

Have you an addiction? If not, get one. Heroin is popular on many of Britain’s estates. Perfect your addict shuffle. Walk five times the speed of a normal person while maintaining a look of grim determination on your pallid (and preferably tattooed) brow. And please dispose of your used syringes in designated areas – school fields, train stations, or wherever...

Finally, as soon as you get here, you’ll need to think about getting away. In one word: Spain. Sing incoherently, belch loudly, drink incessantly, urinate freely, and tell the bloody foreigners where they’ve gone so bloody wrong all these years.

Rule Britannia!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I've Been Busy...

Sorry for the silence. Life just sometimes gets a bit complicated and utterly bewildering. I’d say more but there’s a time and place for discretion. I’ve just decided to hide it all away in my Walrus Clogs and try to get back to my usual Thonglateering self tomorrow. It all depends on whether the goat herd decides to press charges against Gabby and if my puncture wounds begin to heal. I just wanted to drop in and say that the ointment is working but it is making my ears peel.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

News Channel of the Year?

Sky News has become obsessed with describing itself as ‘the news channel of the year’. They love nothing more than announcing that they’ve won another award for news coverage and animating their latest trophy in lovely shiny 3D graphics. Sky News are great at self-promotion. Perhaps it's the reporting of that sort of news which wins them all the awards. The other news – you know, about the things that actually affect those of us in the UK – is all a bit below them now they’ve streamlined and have their own helicopter.

It’s probably a question of money. Sky News has been something of a loss leader for News Corporation. Last year, Sky News sacked many of their staff, reducing their workforce as part of a relaunch of the channel. The same relaunch brought in the promise of a 15 minute news cycle and the Sky News Helicopter, which they said would help them bring us the news as soon as it happens. They haven’t failed to live up to either of their promises.

This morning I’ve watched an hour of news coverage, including forty minutes of an SUV going down a road. The McCann’s had arrived back in the UK at noon. An EasyJet plane landed in the East Midlands, an event that the Sky News anchor described as an ‘extraordinary moment’. Then came the SUV carrying them home. It was like watching a police chase but without the element of the chase. It certainly was the latest news but only in the way that standing on a street corner watching traffic pass by is the 'lastest news' about something happen to someone.

There was a time when Sky News deserved all their accolades. They were, head and shoulders, the best news channel in the UK. The BBC had lagged behind (as they usually do) in investing in a rolling news channel. Then the BBC caught up and (as they usually do) with the full resources of the license fee behind them, provided the best service that money can buy. They’ve done the same on their website. Slow to respond but unbeatable once they get going, the BBC now provide the sort of news coverage that Sky News invented. They report a wide range of subjects, have a good variety of special features, and their anchors have lost the stuffiness that was once their biggest problem. They now chat casually between themselves, giving the news a welcome bit of unscripted humour. It was precisely this kind of casual reporting of the news that made Sky News so watchable in the days of the great Bob Friend.

Now Sky have streamlined their schedule and the whole operation has the stench of professionalism. They now report less news, do so in a totally scripted and unedifying way, and have become the most boring news channel. I’ve give them an award only I’d worry that they’d turn up to accept it.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Let Me Offend You

It occasionally happens in the comments section but usually in the form of an email. A few times I had a gift wrapped box delivered to me full of horse excrement. They all amount to the same thing. I’ve gone and offended somebody again.

I swear: if I wrote a post about knowing a man who likes to sniff toenail clippings collected from the footwear department of M&S I would get an indignant email from somebody who likes to sniff toenail clippings collected from the footwear department of M&S. They’d defend their right to sniff toenails and insist that in this plural society of ours there’s nothing wrong with toenail sniffage. They would say that an appreciation of toenail aromas should be taught in school alongside every other alternative lifestyle. Why should toenail sniffers be treated any different than your average man or woman? Actually, scrub that thought. There is no such thing as the average man or woman. We’re all individuals and our likes and dislikes shouldn’t be brought into question.

My reaction is usually the same.

I begin by reflecting on how you can’t underestimate the stupidity of people. Not all people, you understand, but a sizable minority who have made stupidity their chosen fetish. Say 45% of the world’s population.

Then I wonder what percentage of people were born with a sense of humour. I fear it’s a terribly small fraction. Probably too small to form an action group. Let’s say 5%. If I assume a small overlap between the two groups, then I calculate that I write this blog for around 3-4% of the people who find it. That’s people intelligent enough to understand what I’m doing and with a sense of humour to appreciate it.

One problem is, of course, the web. It’s just too easy to use. It’s too easy to set up a webpage for toenail sniffers, to brings them together and unite them in their fungal delights. The web makes it too easy for these poor delusional bastards to form action groups to promote their fetish and to castigate anybody who doesn’t treat it with respect. They probably use Facebook.

Respect is a word that’s big on the web. I’m often accused of lacking respect. Paris Hilton fans have written hateful emails accusing me of insulting their hero. I’m ‘too stupid’ to understand why she’s famous and why people love her. I’ve had Harry Potter acolytes tell me that I don’t know what I’m talking about and that I should ‘get a life’. I could go on. The list of people I’ve offended runs to many pages.

I personally blame John Major’s ‘care in the community’ initiative. At one time we’d medicate these poor fools. Now we help them print up t-shirts. I sometimes also wonder if I should change my ways. Then I realise that it’s impossible to avoid offending somebody these days. Many Americans are so thin skinned they don’t actually have skin. Everything you say to them cuts straight to the bone. All those ads for accident liability have made us all super-sensitive to hurt. And if you’ve not been hurt by others, then you probably have a claim right there for neglect.

The rest of us, the 3-4% of people who understand what I’m taking about, have to console ourselves by going to our windows and shouting the immortal words of Peter Finch in Network:


Friday, September 07, 2007

Tributes to Pavarotti

Death is a great sales gimmick. A famous tenor dies one day and he climbs back up the album charts the next. Since Pavarotti died, I’ve had countless emails from different companies asking me to pay my respects to the great man by buying some of his albums. I think they believe they're being timely. I think it’s just another reminder that big business can never be relied upon to do the moral thing.

I thought the same recently when I saw the new Nike adverts with the cast of Dirty Sanchez playing the fool with Wayne Rooney (and yes, I agree, that can't be that difficult). Most people won’t have seen Dirty Sanchez on MTV and fewer still will have enjoyed the sight of grown men putting industrial staples through their fingers, hitting their genitals with rulers, or sticking dozens of hypodermic needles through their arms until they were awash with blood. Nor will they have seen a few other of the stunts these guys get up to: licking the sweat from a fat wrestler’s armpit being one of the more tasteful. And at least it didn’t involve the less savoury bodily fluids they eat and drink in some of their other tricks. If you really want to know how bad things get, follow the previous link and then begin to wonder where the money of your Sky subscription goes.

I suppose I’ve always had a naive faith in capitalism, believing that freedom gives people the chance to do great things if left to choose how to spend their money and live their lives. I now realise that capitalism succeeds because money gathers were people are at their weakest. Sex, war, food, addition, violence, horror. Freedom allows idiots to do stupid things and for the masses to follow them. And that’s ultimately where the money is and where the capitalists feed. Do companies like Nike or MTV really care about their target audience? Or would that be to take a moral stance and suggest that they care about the way we educate our young or give them meaningful idols to look up to?

There are some things more depressing about Pavarotti’s death than the simple facts of his dying.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

A Knock on the Door

There was a knock on The Chipster's door this morning. I was going to let Gabby answer it but then I remembered that she’d mentioned nipping out to the library where she was going to help move some tramps who had taken over the reading corner previously set aside for the Romanian immigrant community. I was in the house alone.

I pushed myself away from my desk, adjusted my bright yellow summer thong, and headed for the door. And as soon as I opened it, I felt something strike me across the bridge of my nose. I fell down, tears thick in my eyes and the unmistakable smell of an oil-based lubricant overwhelming my senses.

‘And you Chip?’ asked a voice.

I scrambled back on all fours and I scuffed my right buttock against the toe of somebody’s boot.

‘Nice thong,’ said the voice and I then I heard footsteps enter the apartment and then the door close.

‘Is that him?’

‘Where do we do it?’

‘Come on, I’ve got a dentist’s appointment at two… They charge extra if I’m late.’

When my eyes cleared, I found myself sitting in the middle of my living room surrounded by five women in various states of undress. Each was wielding the sort of weapon you can’t mention these days in polite company without the inclusion of a few rubber asterisks.

‘What do you want?’ I asked but I should have known full well what they were there for.

‘We’re the hit squad of naked porn stars you requested,’ said the woman dressed in a gimp uniform with cut away holes for her breasts. I thought she smiled but it might have been an trapped bubble of air under the rubber mask.

‘Hang on,’ I replied, ‘is this all over the things I wrote in my blog about the job writing for the porn magazine? I thought he was only joking.’

‘Peddlers of pornography rarely joke,’ said the gimp. ‘In fact, they’re not known for having great senses of humour.’

‘Aren’t they?’

‘Have you ever read Playboy and come away laughing?’

‘Well there was one issue with Latoya Jackson in it…’

A woman wearing a thong shrugged and looked at her companions. ‘He has a point,’ she said and then lashed out with her oddly-textured rubber baton.

‘Listen smart mouth,’ she said. ‘This is a warning and we’re doing you a favour because you’ve done so much for thongs wearers in Wales. But in future, stop posting stuff about us. It’s only going to end in pain.’

‘Yes,’ said the gimp. ‘You don’t want us to come back and get serious.’

‘I could go to the police,’ I reminded them.

‘And say what? You had five naked porn stars in your house and they gave you a good spanking? You’d be front page in the News of the World before your cheeks turned red.’

They had a point too.

That's when a woman wearing fur earmuffs and wielding a machete grabbed my pony tail and thrust her chest in my face.

‘You listen good,’ she hissed. ‘You post another thing about us and we’re coming back. You understand?’

I understood. And only an idiot would go against such good advice and I won’t post on them again. Promise.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

A Telephone Call From Pornland

‘Why the hell did you go and post that for?’

I took another look at the handset. I wasn’t certain I’d picked up the right phone, despite the fact it had been ringing.

‘This is XXXXXXXX,’ I said. ‘Are you sure you have the right number?’

‘Of course I’ve got the right number. And I read what you wrote about us. The problem with you, Chip Dale, is that you were stupid enough to include your website address on your CV. I’m just glad I read your blog today and saw how you totally misrepresented our interview.’

‘Ah,’ I said, the thing clicking in the mental place where things go click. ‘You’re the bloke from the porn publishers!’

‘Yes, that’s me and I’ve rang you to set some things straight.’

‘I bet you did,’ I said, as quick as a flash with the patented Chip Dale double entendre.

‘Now why couldn’t you have said something like that yesterday?’ he asks. ‘You might have been in a job if you could come up with that sort of stuff instead of lying about our waving pictures of women with vegetables made out of rubber. And it wasn’t an A2 display it was A3. And there were lots of breasts. There were three.’

‘Depends on your definition of breasts,’ I replied. ‘That's more than I’m used to.’

‘But it’s hardly lots.’

‘Lots to me. Would you be happy if I changed it to read more than a handful?’

‘Listen,’ said the caller. ‘I demand that you change that story to reflect the facts.’

‘I will not hide the truth,’ I told him. ‘And to be honest I’m surprised you even bothered ringing. I thought you’d be too busy writing strap lines about dear Brenda and her famously large breasts.’

‘So you refuse to remove the lies?’

‘I certainly refuse,’ I said. ‘It’s not as though I’ve mentioned your company by name.’

‘But you’ve mentioned our publications. Do you want our readers to get the wrong idea?’

‘Listen mate,’ said I. ‘I'm pretty sure that the readers of Hairy Hungarians already have the wrong idea about a few things and I’m hardly going to disillusion them over the matter of the size of your flip charts. If you really want my story changing that desperately, couldn’t you just get a hit squad of naked porn actresses to come round and beat me senseless with their rubber cucumbers?’

The voice on the phone went silent for a long second. ‘Who said we haven’t?’ he asked and the line went dead.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

So Sad Because It's True

A true story.

It happened to me late last night and early this morning. Things like this always seem to happen to me. Nothing is ever as straightforward as it seems.

So, you know that I’ve been looking for a job? Things have been getting pretty bad and I’ve become pretty desperate to find something with decent pay while allowing me to continue to write. Well, at ten thirty last night, Tricia from the job agency rang me up.

‘Chip?’ she says, ‘we’ve an opening for a writer or sub-editor to work on a magazine in your area. Would you be interested?’

‘Would I?‘ I gasp as my chin hits the floor. This is the woman who usually offers me work in telesales. This was a writing job. Let me emphasize that so you don’t misunderstand me: this was a writing job.

‘Yes. They’re desperate for somebody to start soon,’ she says. ‘Should I read you the job description to see if you’re interested?’

‘Of course, read away,’ I reply, having to sit down to calm myself.

‘Well, they need somebody who is hard-working, creative, open-minded, and who enjoys meeting people, is comfortable on the phone and relishes working as part of a team’.

‘Great,’ I say. ‘Anything else?’

‘Yes,’ says the agent. ‘You'll need to be flexible and versatile, writing everything from strap lines, captions and headlines to 3,000 word stories…’ And so it went on, every word of it sounding perfect. A well paying writing job less than 5 miles away from my doorstep, three minutes on the train. I immediately arranged to go for an interview this morning.

So, at eight o’clock, I’ve dressed myself up in my very best suit, with a pile of my shorter written pieces in a folder just in case they want to read some of my work.

I get there early. It’s a modern office block used by a dozen other companies who rent office space. One corner of the building belongs to the people I’ve gone to see about the writing job. Their foyer is dull, just a sneering woman behind a desk with the name of the company embossed on the pale vanilla-yellow wall, comfortably chairs from IKEA, and the usual discarded biro next to a plastic cup with half an inch of cold coffee at the bottom. In a corner there’s a drinks machine demanding exorbitant prices for cans of Fanta and Coke and next to it sits a plant that might have been real, might have been plastic, might have been triffid. I really don’t know.

The sneering woman tells me to wait. I don’t know what she has against me so I don’t make conversation. I wait ten minutes before a man comes in through an insignificant little door and shakes me by my hand. He’s one of the young confident Turks you often get in business. All determination, arrogance, and a hint of a personality imbalance that might make him qualify as a sociopath.

‘Mr. Dale?’

‘Hi,’ I said and shake his hand back.

‘Good of you to come. Come on through. I’ll take you to my office. Do you want a drink first?’ He nods towards the machine.

‘No thanks,’ I reply, ‘I don’t live far away. Not long since I had breakfast.’

‘Ah, local!’ he replies. ‘Excellent. Well come on through…’

And that’s when I realised that somebody had made a very big mistake. I know I hadn’t made it. The guy offering the job hadn’t made it. Tricia at the job agency certainly had.

Before I go on, I want you to look back on the job description that Tricia read to me. Notice anything incongruous here?

‘hard-working, creative, open-minded, and who enjoys meeting people, is comfortable on the phone and relishes working as part of a team. Flexible and versatile, writing everything from strap lines, captions and headlines to 3,000 word stories…’

I’ll give you a clue. It’s not the missing comma that should have followed ‘headlines’. It was the bit about being ‘open minded’.

I walked through the door and was immediately greeted by an A2 flip chat containing a large photograph of two ladies sharing something that looked like a large vegetable but wasn’t. It was made of rubber. Then there were the breasts. Lots and lots of breasts.

‘We publish some of the country’s top men’s magazines,’ explained my host who must have noticed that something was wrong when I turned white and began to make gagging noises. ‘Twizzler, Minge Weekly, Mammary & Matrons Monthly?’ He gazed up at the ceiling as he ran through the full catalogue of speciality publications. ‘Hairy Hungarians, She-Man, Bikers And In Her Tubes, Rubber Lover…’

I know that somebody in my game shouldn’t be shocked by this stuff but I have my limits…

The interview didn’t go well.

‘Any questions?’ he asked once he’d finished giving me a brief resume of my tasks.

‘Just a few,’ I said, having recovered enough to ask what was uppermost on my mind. I began by asking what exactly is a strap line?

‘I know it’s not the strap on a bra because these women don’t wear them. And what exactly am I meant to describe? Do you want me to be literal or metaphorical? Am I meant to write that “‘Brenda has large breasts which she likes to fondle against fairly random industrial backdrops” or would you prefer that I say “Brenda often has her hands full at work and often finds it hard to satisfy the health and safety officer”? If I’m meant to be literal can I use medical terms? If I can use medical terms, what is that pink thing called? I know it’s not a nipple. I know what they look like. I have two of my own and they’ve won awards. What you’re got there look more like two disproportionably sized midgets attending a garlic eating competition while balancing bowls of soup on their head.’

He looked at me in a vague and confused way so I just continued with my questions.

‘And what story needs 3000 words when you have pictures like that to illustrate it? Do the words matter? Does anybody read the words. What kind of stories are they? Human interest? What kind of human has these kinds of interests? Do they know you keep their names on a database?’

‘I can see you’re not impressed,’ he said, going quite cold at my rant. ‘That’s a shame because this is a great opportunity.’

‘An opportunity to become a soulless peddler of pornography in this increasingly decadent age when footballers can hire Yorkshire prostitutes and nobody bats an eyelid? I ask. ’And what exactly is attractive about a Yorkshire prostitute? Do they sound like Geoff Boycott and always talk about the corridor of uncertainty? Perhaps it’s a Portuguese thing.’

After that, things turned ugly. I didn’t get the job. In fact, they had to escort me off the premises.

Like I said: a true story.

Monday, September 03, 2007

It Can't Be True!

I’ve had an unbelievably very late phone call from the job agency. I’ve been asked to go to an interview for a writing job not five miles from my front door. I’ll have to be up early tomorrow but I’m now in a blind panic, printing out examples of my work. To think I might be paid to write! Deep breaths, Chipster, deep breaths...

Wish me luck!

Walrus and Fox

Give me an hour or so and those of you who’ve asked to see what’s inside Walrus Clogs will get invites for the new blog.

I’m only sorry it’s taken me so long to get it up and running. I’ve not had much chance to do much of anything this weekend. Gabby insisted that I help her clean out her allotment shed and I spent my whole Sunday up to my ears in bags of fertilizer and cans of chicken lubricant. We did see a fox, though, which appeared from the thicket that runs along the end of the allotments. It was amazing to see so rare a creature up close. Its pelt was so red and glistened with rainwater brushed from the low hanging leaves. The appearance of the fox made me realise how lucky I am to live so near to the countryside. Then it made for the chickens and Gabby managed to stun it with her spade before finishing it off with her Rambo knife. For my part, I was shocked to see how casually she dispatched the poor animal, but I didn’t say a word when she began to skin it. That’s just Gabby. She’s a woman who doesn’t understand compassion and has a personal vendetta against the RSPCA.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Going back to bed...

I had a tough day’s travel yesterday, visiting family. I’m only just back after staying the night and I really need to catch up on my sleep. I had hoped to spend my Saturday getting the new blog in order and sending out the invites but I’m so tired I think I’ll have to leave that until Monday.

I now intend to spend some quality time in the dark and trying answer the questions which struck me yesterday. Such as:

1. Why do the staff in Woolworth’s always seem reluctant to serve customers? Are the staff in Woolworth's really the nation's dimmest?
2. Why have the branch of Borders near my family home taken away all the seating from the fiction section?
3. Why do people dress the same? You can see nine year olds dressed like 15 year olds, dressed like 27 year olds, dressed like 47 year olds and older… And can’t the government step in when parents allow children to wear more suited to strippers?
4. Did Big Brother end? Did it even begin? How did I manage to miss every minute of it?
5. Why does any small town need seven coffee shops?
6. Why did a troop of seven women decide to demonstrate Irish folk dancing in the middle of a rainy street to an audience of three? And why was there only one man dancing with them? And wouldn’t they let me join in with them?