Tuesday, 20 June 2006

Just a quick one

I paid a visit to the facilities at work today and I looked down at the urinal. Sitting there against the drain guard was quite a large orange pip. Now, I know that someone most probably spat it out post-urination but I couldn’t help squirming a little as I thought, “I bet that must have hurt.

Note - Today is Roo and my six-month anniversary (Doesn't time fly - Ed.). We're off to dinner out, hence the short post, but I'd be remiss if I didn't take this moment to shout from the highest metaphorical rooftop how fantastic life is with Robyn as my bride.

Like us but special

Another post with it’s origins in football I’m afraid.

During the England-Trinidad & Tobago match, there was a shot of Prince William and Franz Beckenbauer sitting next to each other. They were conversing like a pair of old family friends and I got to wondering how close the two countries would be (politically) if it hadn’t been for the dustup in '39? The aristocracies of the countries are more interbred than a than a rose garden and there are a lot of traits that the national stereotypes have in common – patriotic, hard working and both fond of their beer. Even the competition between Blighty and Deutschland is something a kin to sibling rivalry:
“Michael Schumacher ist dieser uber driver nach Jenson Button”

“Yeah, well we beat you in the football 5-1 last time we played.”

“Ja, but ve have knocked you out of more FIFA World Cups.”

“We beat you in 1966 and in Two World Wars!”

“Schei├če! Why must you always mention the war?”

But then there are the unique traits that we use to describe their psyche - methodical, emotionless, lacking a sense of humour. Take that into account and does that make Germany our autistic Brother?

Friday, 16 June 2006

Or I could just learn how to wiggle my nose

I think I’ve mentioned in a previous post that I’ve been getting hay fever lately. Well, I had a reoccurrence on the train into work and by the time I got to my stop I thought that perhaps the Euphrates had been diverted into my sinus and no one had thought to tell me. I stood on the packed escalator with one hand pinching my nose, hoping that I’d reach the street before I sneezed all over the guy in front of me.

As the moving stairway peaked and I could finally see the exit barriers, another previous guest of Reality Splinter showed up. Just there on the concourse were three energetic, brightly dressed, beautiful spokes models, handing away free samples of Sorbent Velvet tissues (with aloe). For just a moment I felt as if the white-toothed angels were giving away disposable hankies purely for my benefit.

As I carefully blew my nose on the way out of the station, I thought about how cool it would be to go about performing god-ish tasks. I’m not asking for epic powers like the ability to cure disease or invoke peace. Yeah, the headline grabbing stuff was best left to the professionals like Buddah, Jesus and Darwin. I’d prefer to perform more personal miracles such as causing lonely people to bump into one another in the street or creating a ten dollar note in the pocket of a coat that hadn’t been worn in a while. Even the minor feat of making sure there was always enough milk in the fridge for your cup of tea would be more than enough for me. I wonder if there’s a way of getting into the wish granting industry without selling one’s soul to Beelzebub or a life of servitude in a magic lamp?

Thursday, 15 June 2006

I wish the World Cup would never end

I stayed up to watch Australia vs Japan on Monday. It was a match with everything: goals, controversy, a moment of individual skill and the hard graft of a team playing as one. The Socceroos ran out rightful winners but they had to wait until the last minutes of the game to do so.

Kris had come over to watch the match and as soon as the final whistle blew he was out the door and off home. Sensible guy, seeing as it was 1am. For Australia the result was huge. Not only their first goals ever scored in the World Cup but their first win also. The fact that it was the highest rates broadcast ever on SBS (the terrestrial channel that is show the tournament) illustrates how interest has spiked over here.

The following morning, standing on the platform, I could spot the commuters who had stayed up to watch Viduka, Cahill & Co. making Australian football history. The hair was a little unkempt and they met your gaze with a glazed stare from their puffy eyes. All the while there was a constant half smile on their face like they still hadn’t come down from the previous night’s high. It was all I could do to keep from giving my fellow stalwarts a thumbs-up as we passed on the trains and trams.

Once I got to the office it was like being back in England, everybody was talking about football and had an opinion:

“How didn’t that Egyptian see it was a foul?”
“They should have played Kewell out wide.”
“That Viduka, great captain but have you seen the size of his head?”

For once I was the proverbial one-eyed man. It was well know that I’d been hyping the tournament to anyone who’d listen for a long time and so I got more visitors to my office in the one morning than I’d had for months. People were taking my predictions as gospel and going away smiling when I told them that “Australia had a chance if they could keep the score low against Brazil and then get a result in the Croatia game.”

I know the water cooler chat will likely return to Aussie Rules and Shane Warne as soon as Jules Rimet finds a new home but until then I’ll continue to enjoy my late nights and new found status as the office Alan Hansen.

Wednesday, 14 June 2006

It’s not you, it’s me

I know I’ve been neglecting you but we just had a long weekend so I’ve been able to watch all of the World Cup games that were on, despite them all happening between the hours of 11pm and 6:30am.

So now I must sleep lest my brain turn to mush. Normal service will be resumed tomorrow. I promise.

Friday, 9 June 2006

Tunisia are the new Senegal

One day to go so I feel I should put some predictions out into the ether just to give Hagrid some fodder to mock me with after the tournament is over.

Dark Horses of the Apocalypse: Tunisia
An African team always seems to punch above their weight at the World Cup and Tunisia have a good chance of doing well in Germany. Not an easy group but I see them drawing with Spain, beating the Ukraine and then knocking over Iran in the final group game to make the second round where their likely opponents are France, who they’ll push but eventually lose to after extra time.

Sleeping Giant: France
After their hopeless turnout in Japorea, a lot of people have written off France but they have a relatively easy group that they should win. A quiet early tournament should leave them fairly fresh for the later stages compared to the likes of Argentina and Italy who will have to fight for every game they play. They are without Cisse but Henry is the form striker of the moment and ZeZu will want to do well in his final World Cup.

So much Promise: England
I really do think we have the players to win it but by all accounts Sven seems to have sent his brain on holiday. He seems to be desperately looking for his Plan ‘C’ now that his Plan ‘B’ (Peter Crouch) has had to become his Plan ‘A’. The “Give the ball to Rooney” tactic isn’t going to work now that he can’t play until the second round. I would love this year to be the one we go all the way but I think in order for that to happen, Gerard, Cole and Frank “the Man” Lampard are going to score almost all our goals. There is a chance of us getting to the final but if we do I think we’ll face Argentina and lose.

Eventual Holders of the Jules Rimet: Argentina
They have a tough group and will be pressed in all their games (they’ll most probably only go through on points difference) but I think they’ll really kick into a high gear later on and be really hard to beat. Messi is a fantastic playmaker and Crespo always seems to play well when he’s not playing for Chelsea. I think they have the right blend of young and old, talent and experience, to go all the way.

The Rest
Brazil are the Real Madrid of international football and I think their egos will cause them to self destruct. Spain rely too heavily on Raul, Holland seem to be trying too hard to be the new Italy. Big Phil has already won it and so Portugal aren’t allowed to. Italy are still a superstar or two short of a great team and Germany with Klinsmann in charge are complete arse.

Thursday, 8 June 2006

Just be glad you got something

I've had to bring work home with me tonight (which I hardly ever do) so as a filler here is the first bit of the third chapter of the book I'm trying to write. I think Roo is the only one to have already seen this so its kind of a world exclusive. Bits won't make sense but you should be able to follow it for the most part.

It was either this or a clip show.


With Two gone, my life has fallen into a terrible state of disrepair. I have so many overdue fines at various video shops that I have been blacklisted. I had to open an account at a video store half an hour away, under an assumed name, just to rent a copy of The Godfather. On top of that, in the absence of Two, no one is about to put a stop to Ed’s harebrained ideas before they get out of hand. He’s started carrying out what he calls his ‘Investigation into the Entropy of Human Waste’. This involves him eating a banana while he takes a dump. Keeping a bowl of bananas in the bathroom is pretty disconcerting, but not half as bad as when I spied the measuring jug on top of the cistern. “What is this for?” I asked as I dropped the jug in Ed’s lap.
“Be careful. This is an integral part of my experiment. If you throw the calibration off I’ll have to start over.”
I knew I was going to regret it but I asked the question anyway. “How is it a part of your experiment?” Whatever he used it for it couldn’t be as bad as some of the stuff I’d imagined.
“Well I’m trying to see if the body performs better at full capacity. You know, if there is always the raw materials around then the furnace can burn at full flame.” I nodded but I didn’t like where this was going. “So I need to know how much I displace so I can replace it.” Please don’t say he has been…”So I pee into the measuring jug and then I know I have to drink at least as much water as I’ve just ejected.”
I didn’t know quite what to say. I thought for a moment he had been drinking his urine, so it wasn’t as bad as that but it still wasn’t good. I played the hygiene card, “This can’t be good for you. It’s piss. Surely you’ll get sick or something.”
“Urine is sterile, you can drink it. I know this ‘cause Tyler knows this.” Bloody Fight Club. I knew taking Ed to see it was a mistake. He is exactly the kind of person who would be stupid enough to ask you to hit him in the face as hard as you can. “And besides, I’m not drinking it, just measuring it, then it goes down the loo. I also sterilise the jug after every trial. It helps me to align my karma. I am perfectly in balance. What ever goes out is replaced in equal measure.”
What could I say? “It’s just gross.” Not the best argument but I really couldn’t think of a better one. And that’s the problem. I like Ed, he is a little left of centre but at least he’s not dull. If the third flatmate wasn’t running around Spain trying to sort things out with his possibly homosexual girlfriend, he would have found a way of stopping Ed eating bananas on the bog.
Then there is my work ethic. With Two constantly studying (he uses the line “I do this or people die. It’s as simple as that.” The tragedy is that his Jack Nicholson impression is so bad that I just laugh at him) I used to get shamed into doing at least a couple of hours work a day. With him gone, its got to the point where I’ve had to fake the last three entries. Steve was on my back the other day “Where the hell are the Naktong River, Nakuru and Nakuru Lake entries Jez?”
I held the phone over the keyboard and randomly tapped the keys. “I can’t understand this.” Type-type-type. “It says I sent them to you yesterday.” Type-typety-type. “I’ll try sending them again.”
Its not like they were important so I just used last edition’s and updated a little. The 2002 Encyclopaedia Britannica entry for Nakuru read:

Nakuru, town, west-central Kenya. It lies near the Mau Escarpment, 95 miles (153 Km) northwest of Nairobi, near the heart of the Kikuyu people’s homeland. An important agricultural centre, Nakuru is the headquarters of the Kenya Farmer’s Association. It is the site of Egerton College, an agricultural training school. Nakuru is a busy commercial and transport centre of west-central Kenya. Pop. (1984 est.) 101,700.

The 2007 Encyclopaedia Britannica entry will read:

Nakuru, town, west-central Kenya. It lies near the Mau Escarpment, 95 miles (153 Km) northwest of Nairobi, near the heart of the Kikuyu people’s homeland. An important agricultural centre, Nakuru is the headquarters of the Kenya Farmer’s Association. It is the site of Egerton College, an agricultural training school. Since 1998, it has benefited from an increase in tourist numbers and has become the number one Kenyan destination for European travellers. The main reason behind this is the large open-air concert, Barlowstock, which is held at the end of October every year. Initiated by Gary Barlow (former member of British pop group Take That) in 1997, it has now become the world’s premier music festival, with as many as 100,000 people from all over the world attending. Nakuru is a busy commercial and transport centre of west-central Kenya. Pop. (1984 est.) 101,700.

It could be true.

Wednesday, 7 June 2006

Things I did as a kid #7 (continued)

I still don’t know why I did (maybe Mum or Dad can help out here) but I played softball for a season when we lived in Eastbourne. It wasn’t long after we had arrived in New Zealand and though I was an overweight Pom, I somehow decided that it would be a good idea to choose the sport that the boys too rough for cricket were exiled to and given aluminium bats.

Other than my bulging waistline, I bore no resemblance to Babe Ruth. I couldn’t catch, my throw was about half that of my team mates and I would strike out more times than Charlie Brown. In fact, the only chance I had at bat was if I bunted and even then I’d have to rely on a miss-field to give me any chance of making first base. As a result I was put at the tail of the batting line-up and normally thrown into deep left field when we took to the diamond.

There were about 11 players on my team but with childhood illness and family holidays there were always a couple of kids missing except once, when the planets aligned and on this particular Saturday, everyone turned up to play. At the same time, our opposition had a player AWOL. It was only the equivalent of little league so our coach took me to one side and said I was lucky because I got to play a whole game for the opposition rather than only half a game for our side. I was shy and didn’t want to collaborate with a bunch of kids I didn’t know so said that I’d rather play half a game but he just laughed and sent me over to the enemy.

This isn’t some feel good movie, I still sucked but for once my ineptitude with bat, ball and glove was actually helping my team to win. About half way through the game, just after my second dropped catch, a car pulled up and a young boy came running across the playing fields bat in hand. The missing player had turned up! I started walking towards where my side was sitting, waiting for their turn at bat, when my coach started complaining that once a player had begun a match they couldn’t swap onto the other team. The other coach wasn’t going to get stuck with some no-hands defector so he argued that it was only fair that the new kid had some game time. After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing, a compromise was met and the late arrival took my place while I had to sit out the rest of the game.

Having seen the ugly side of organized sport, I chose not to play softball the following year. I did eventually take up cricket and while I was no Don Bradman, at least I always made it on to the field of play.

Monday, 5 June 2006

Things I did as a kid #7

I went to primary school with a kid, lets call him Donald Dunkins*, who was the Bart Simpson of my peer group. The one child that Dad was reluctant to allow at my twelfth birthday party because he was scared that Donald would set fire to the shower or add heroin to the hundreds & thousands sandwiches or put aluminum foil in the microwave or something.

One time Donald boasted that when he went to the rugby trials that weekend, he was going to put rocks in his pockets so that he got to play against the bigger, rougher boys. Once again, my juvenile brain misunderstood the context and believed that the stones in his pockets would hurt the kids trying to tackle him, making him look more like John Kirwin and therefore putting him into a team with the tougher boys in the years above us. What I missed was that the coaches split the young kids by weight rather than age so that the early testosterone gorilla boys don’t end up mugging the Niles Crane look-alikes every Saturday.

I played soccer at first but with the country on a high from the first Rugby World Cup and the All Black devotion that you just can’t escape in En Zed I had decided to give rugby a try that year. However, the prospect of cracking my jaw while trying to tackle an opponent who was trying to pull a geological Ben Johnson was all a bit too risky for me and so I returned to the safe fields of Eastbourne F.C.

Next time on “Things I did as a kid” I’ll talk about the ill-fated season I swapped cricket for softball.

*Possibly not his real name

Friday, 2 June 2006

Couldn’t find his arse with both hands and a map

I had to work late this evening and the company has a policy of paying for the taxi ride home if you need to stay after hours. So I got my travel voucher and flagged down a cab on the road outside our offices. I got in and said “Flemington please.” To which the driver replied, “Can you tell me how to get there?”

As the picture shows, I wasn’t asking him for a ride to Tranquillity Base. This was a 30-minute drive across the city centre. Flemington is where they have the Melbourne Cup every year so at the very least it would have made financial sense for the cabbie to have known how to get there. And this isn’t an isolated incident. Not long after I arrived in Melbourne I had to find where we were going on a map and direct the taxi from the passenger seat. It was as if I was paying for the privilege of being the navigator for a really crap rally driver.

One thing is for sure, the taxi drivers in Melbourne would definitely benefit from a little bit of The Knowledge.

Thursday, 1 June 2006

Today’s post is brought to you by the Order of Canonical Hygienists – Australian Youth Echelon

I started flossing my teeth about four years ago. Up until that point I somehow thought of it as something that only Americans did. My dentist at the time was a fierce Scotswoman who gave me an ear bashing during one appointment “What’s the point in brushing if you’re not going to floss?” She asked like Professor McGonagall with a dental probe. The combination of Hibernian fervour and a fear of future root canals (caused by not using dental floss) started me down the road buffing my teeth with a piece of string.

Another factor preventing me from improved oral sanitation was my poor past experience with floss. The stuff I’d used in the past would split during operation so that I’d just end up with all these individual threads stuck between my teeth. But this time we (Robyn had also been to see Ms. Braveheart by this stage) used dental tape and the difference was massive. It couldn’t break, wouldn’t split and didn’t get snagged, making the entire flossing experience a lot less fuss.

And now I floss every night (I know I’m supposed to do it after every meal but baby steps) and when I think about skipping it so I can get to bed that little bit quicker, I remember Jock McTartar’s intimidating face and figure that I’ve already brushed so I might as well floss as well.