Friday, 20 May 2011

Sexy bikini in the garden

Next week the UK officially goes gardening mad, as the TV cameras, celebrities and royalty all flock to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.  The last time I went to an RHS Flower show, I saw something that had me giggling for days afterwards.  I know we’re not supposed to laugh at other people’s misfortune, but this was irresistible.
It was the first day of the show, which is when all the judging is done, so only the press, celebrities and royalty were allowed in.  I was strolling around the show, when one garden in particular caught my eye; not because of its horticultural excellence but because there was a half naked girl sitting there.  She was wearing only a tiny bikini and had obviously been ‘hired’ to attract attention to ‘the garden’. Judging by the gathering crowd, the stunt was working.  As it turned out, she got more attention than she bargained for.
I stood there smiling to myself at the shouts of “over here darlin’, give us a smile” from the dogs dressed as photographers, and I noticed the wooden bench the girl was sitting on.  It had obviously been hand-made and the legs had been carved into something resembling sea shells.  While this bench looked beautiful, it didn’t look altogether stable.
I looked around to see if anyone else had noticed this fizzing little scene and an icy chill ran down my spine.  In stark contrast to all the excitement in front of me there were a group of sombre looking ‘suits’ approaching; the RHS judges.
What followed was both pure comedy and pathos.  The judges came nearer, the cameras clicked; the girl looked as sexy as she could, but then made the fatal error of repositioning herself on the bench.  You know those moments when you feel yourself beginning to lose balance; you think you’ve got it under control but then a split second later and you’re past the point of no return. You know you’re going down. Yeah, that. 
Nothing wipes away a false smile quicker than a dose of fear.  As the girl shifted her weight the bench first wobbled and then rolled on its shell shaped legs.  In a flash she tumbled clumsily over the back of the bench, arms and legs flailing wildly in panic.  A quick scream and the bench had dumped her unceremoniously into the neatly coiffed plants.  All that remained of the previously enchanting scene was a pair of legs sticking up in the air. Dignity vanished.  The photographers witnessed the whole thing and so did the RHS judges, she was all over the papers by that evening.
I hate it when emotions fight against each other, it causes such inner turmoil. On the one hand I wanted to throw my head back and laugh out loud and on the other I felt sorry for the girl. Everything had seemed to be going so well, right up to the point where one of the beautifully designed objects was tested, and it failed.
I’m afraid my empathy was overpowered by stronger, darker forces and I had to walk away, head down; whole body shaking with laughter. I hadn’t realised flower shows could be so much fun.    

Thursday, 12 May 2011

School sports day:even the teachers were shocked by this stunt

One of the biggest events of the school year for me was sports day.  The whole school would turn out to cheer, the teachers set up a loud speaker system and there was a great buzz for the day.  For a 16 year old boy it was also a great opportunity to impress the girls.  I was always a fast runner and so every year ran the 100m sprint; arguably the sexiest event of the day.  When I say I was a fast runner, I mean I was before the other boys grew taller than me. By the time my last ever sports day came along I was the eighth fastest in the school.  Not bad...just a shame I had to race against the 7 other faster boys.
Coming last in the sexiest race of the day wasn’t an option.  So I devised a plan; and it was a beauty. I may well come last in the race but I would be top of the ‘cool list’ when it came to impressing the girls.   
Like other schools, each year was split into 4 ‘houses’ and each house had to select 2 runners for the race.  Myself, and my good friend were selected to represent our house.  We both knew, no matter how fast we ran, we would cross the line in 7th and 8th place.  If my plan was to work, I needed a co-conspirator so I shared my plan with him and he readily agreed to it.
The weather on the day was perfect, the girls looked great in their little gym skirts and they were starting to gather at the edge of the track en masse. The announcement over the loud speaker arrived and the 8 fastest runners in the school assembled.  We drew lots to find out which lane we would run in; we got lane 1 and lane 8.  Damn, this interfered with the plan; we had to be in lanes next to each other for maximum effect.  Luckily we knew the boy in lane 2 was easily corrupted (I think he later went into politics) so we bribed him to swap with us.  We were set.
We all stood at the starting line.  We needed to show we were serious athletes, so we started some dramatic stretching exercises, jumping up and down on the spot and some of that leg flicking, you see professional athletes do before a race. We both knew we would probably be in trouble after this stunt but it would be better than going red in the face with exertion, only to cross the line last.  If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime, was our motto.
This extra fear was intoxicating; only two people in the entire crowd knew what was about to happen, and that was a lot of fun.  “On your marks, get set...BANG” As anticipated the other six runners quickly surged ahead, we on the other hand adopted a new, innovative running style. 
Our heads went right back, eyes up to the sky, arms stretched out in an exaggerated fashion – just like that bloke in Chariots of Fire....but all in slow motion and with the Van Gellis soundtrack playing inside our heads. It took us a while to reach the finishing line.  Our approach scored high on appearance, but low on ground speed. We did the facial expressions and everything; we even stretched our chests out and flung our arms back as we crossed the finishing line.  We looked ridiculous. The crowds loved it.
No-one had ever attempted such an audacious stunt. To mock the Holy Grail that was the seniors 100m race, was sacrilege but no-one could stop us – even the teachers were shocked.
After the race we felt like The Beatles arriving at an airport, the crowds flocked, even the ‘cool’ kids came over to worship at our altar.  We had come last in the running race but first in the race to be cool and rebellious. 
Needless to say a short while later we heard the announcement over the tannoy that we were to report to the headmaster’s office; although I’m sure I detected a wry smile on his face while telling us off.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

"Err...there's a problem with your passport sir"

A few weeks ago my brother was listening to Ken Bruce on radio 2 when he heard him ask the listeners to email the show with any stories they had about passports.  He promptly emailed a story about something I had done many years ago. Ken obviously found the story funny because he read it out on his show, to great guffaws.
When I was a student I spent a few weeks of my summer holiday one year staying with my friend Mike in Kent.  One morning we received a post card from two of our other friends who were travelling around Europe in a VW van.  Not a camper van mind you, this was simply an old VW van.
It was the early nineties, so pre-mobile phones. This meant a post card was the only way they could communicate with us to let us know how they were.  From the sound of the post card they were having a great time, whilst we were stuck in boring old England.  At the end of the card it said ‘tomorrow we’re catching a ferry from Italy, so by the time you get this card we’ll be in Corfu’.
Feeling spontaneous I suggested that we fly out to Corfu immediately and surprise them, how cool would that be? We didn’t know where they were staying of course because they were in a van and hence ‘of no fixed abode’ we also couldn't let them know we were arriving but we thought ‘how hard can it be to find them, Corfu is surely only the size of Worthing with a few donkeys wandering around isn’t it?’  We immediately booked ourselves on the next available flight, which was set to leave in three days time.
After booking the flights, I realised there was a flaw in our plan.  I didn’t have my passport with me; it was at home, so I phoned my brother and asked him to send it to me in the post. Luckily it arrived the very next day. I put it to one side never thinking to open it and have a look.   
To say we travelled light was something of an understatement.  We had no hotel booked, we had no campsite booked, we didn’t have a map nor did we have a tent but hey, who dares wins, right?  In fact we had little more than hand luggage. 
On the morning of the flight we got up ridiculously early and arrived at the check in desk at Gatwick by 6.30am.  We went over to the passport control and I was first in line to show my passport.  However I wasn’t prepared for the reaction of the passport control woman.  She took my passport, opened it at the photo page and immediately burst out laughing.  This wasn’t just a snigger you understand, it was a proper throw your head back belly laugh.  What the hell was she laughing at? I know passport photos don’t exactly make you look your best but I didn’t think mine was that bad.
Wiping away her streaming tears the passport woman said “in all my years working here, I’ve never seen anything like that before, that’s brilliant” and handed me back my passport. I immediately looked to see what was so funny. 
Before sending my passport to me my brother had cut out a magazine photo of Sammy Davis Junior and stuck it over my photo. It fitted perfectly; his face and beaming smile, on top of my shoulders.  
Incredibly I travelled to Corfu and back to England using this passport photo, every time the passport controller roared with laughter.  Not one of them checked to see if it was actually me underneath the Sammy Davis Junior photo.       

PS Even more amazing was that we bumped into our friends the next day walking along the road - the look on their faces was priceless!

Thursday, 14 April 2011

The undiscovered diary of Jesus Christ

And now for something completely different...not quite a parent blog this one but funny.  If you liked Life of Brian and have read the Da Vinci Code, I think you'll like this

We’re told that during his time on earth Jesus was just an ordinary man. If this is true he would have done the same sort of things you or I do, he might even have kept a diary. Recently a diary, purporting to be that of Jesus was found in an undisclosed desert location.  This is an extract from that diary.  It gives an insight into Jesus the man, showing a side to him you won’t see in the bible.  This extract is from the days leading up to what we now know as Easter.

Maunday Thursday
I thought we’d get the weekend going early and have a slap up meal, just me and the lads.  As usual the missus, Mary, was on at me about coming along too – she knows girlfriends are not allowed at these all boys get-togethers but you know what she’s like, nag, nag, nag... Holy Grail... that girl can go on.  
Eventually she comes up with the hair-brained scheme of dressing up as a man and sneaking in.  I told her she’ll never get away with it – long hair, no beard but hey what can you do. So after a lot of nagging I finally agreed to it. Hopefully the others will be too pissed to notice.  But between you and me diary, I think it’ll be more trouble than it’s worth, one day someone is going to rumble us, I just hope some genius  doesn’t get a picture of us all.
Boy did we enjoy ourselves; anyone would think it was our last supper.  After a few hours some of the lads started flagging so we all went into the garden to get some fresh air.  I thought this might perk them up a bit, but no.  They were all dozing off.  It’s not as if we’re old or anything, not sure about the others but I’m only in my early 30’s.  Bloody lightweights. 
Anyway, I’m out there trying to gee them up a bit with some stories, magic tricks, bit of juggling - but they weren’t having any of it; even that fucking cockerel crowing didn’t disturb them.  Actually that’s not strictly fair, Peter was still awake – he’s a true mate, in fact you couldn’t shut him up. He was having a great time winding this guy up – he kept telling him he didn’t know me.  He must have said it three times at least – he’s a card that one, he’ll go far.
 The next bit is a bit fuzzy but from what I can remember, some soldiers showed up asking for me.  I didn’t think we were being that noisy.  What I want to know is how they knew what I looked like, so much for mates, bloody Judas’s, the lot of them. 
Woke up this morning and thought; “Good..... Friday!”  As it turned out, there was nothing good about it at all.  I had a terrible day.  Everyone was really rather nasty, especially that Pontius Pilot, I even said to him “don’t you know who my father is.”  To cut a long story short; got arrested. Put on trial – what a joke of a judiciary.  It then went from bad to worse.  By the end of the day it was all getting beyond a joke and to top it all, it started bloody raining.  Definitely not a day I want to be reminded of in future.
Feel pretty rough today.  Not going to write much, think I’ll just lay low.  Just wanted to say...those guys!  Such jokers, not only have they left me in some sort of cave wearing only a sheet, but the bastards have rolled a huge rock in front of the door.  How do they think I’m going to get out, I’m not a miracle worker.  On a more alarming note I seem to have sweated so much in the night that an image of my face and body has rubbed off onto the sheet I’m wearing.  I’m not usually that much of a sweater.  Must make sure I get rid of that, don’t want it getting into the wrong hands...
Sunday and the rock blocking the door... luckily I found a fire exit (thank god for those health and safety blokes, I’m not usually one for making predictions but that’s an industry I can see will do well in the future.  If I hadn’t seen that little green sign on the wall I’d have been in a bit of a pickle). Anyway saw a few folks this morning – they all looked pretty miserable until I showed up, I said to them, “cheer up, you look as if you’ve just seen a ghost”

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

He's going straight to hell for that one...

I know we’re not supposed to laugh at other people’s misfortune, but this was the funniest thing I have ever heard a 5 year old boy say.  It was also the most irreverent and by far, the most audacious.
As a boy, I went to a catholic primary school in a middle class area in Kent.  The school was attached in some way to the local church and was run by a lovely nun.  Although the catchment area was predominantly middle class, there were small pockets within the catchment area that were, how shall we put it, a bit rough around the edges. 
Being a ‘church’ school we often had the local priest show up to say mass.  This meant the whole school getting together in the assembly hall, along with teachers and any parents that wanted to attend. 
On this particular occasion there was a good turnout of parents and the hall was full to bursting point.  The priest that showed up was known to be very much a ‘straight’ kind of man, no jokes; not many smiles.  As usual there was always a bit of a build up; the hustle and bustle of ferrying 200 children into a school hall, a few words from the head-teacher, then us children singing hymns with the accompaniment of the decrepit old piano teacher.
Then in comes the priest in all his ceremonial wear.  I’ve never really understood why priests, vicars, bishops etc. wear those long flowing robes, more importantly nor did one little boy, let’s call him Derek.  He perhaps hadn’t attended too many church services in his short life, as his grasp of the proper etiquette was somewhat lacking. 
Anyway, in walks the priest. He says a few words of welcome and then pauses for a moment of contemplation.  The entire gathering is silent.  That’s when 5 year old Derek, from one of the slightly rougher parts of town, chose his moment to ask his genuine question.  His comic timing was a thing of pure beauty.  If memory serves me correctly, I believe I’m quoting him verbatim...Derek, sitting cross-legged on the front row, shouts out: “who’s the fucking cunt in the dress?”

A few gasps, some muffled sniggers and Derek was escorted from the scene...

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Sold to the man with the mullet haircut!

When I moved into my current house, my wife and I were thrilled to finally have some more space.  We could start doing proper grown-up things like inviting people over for dinner. As soon as the boxes were unpacked we arranged a long boozy weekend lunch with some friends.  Then we realised; we had the space but not enough chairs. 
Having just gone through the expense of moving, we certainly didn’t have any money left to go out buying furniture and I’ve never really liked Ikea. Our house is more ‘shabby chic’ than that – well...we’ve got the shabby part; still working on the chic bit. We were in a bit of pickle until my brother suggested I try the local auctions.
I’d always associated auctions with rich people buying paintings for the price of a 3 bed semi in the Midlands.  How wrong I was.  As you drive deeper into the Surrey countryside, near Ripley, there's a huge ‘Ewbank Clarke Gammon Wellers Auctions’ sign on the side of a building.  Although I’d seen this sign many times, I’d never actually been in.  The idea of going to an auction was a bit daunting – I didn’t want to look like a novice but I had a deadline, so I went along.
There’s something fascinating about watching people walk into an auction room.  As soon as they cross the threshold, in their minds, they become antique experts.  The hands are tucked behind the back and the chin struts out ever so slightly. They pick up an object and inspect it closely through an imaginary pair of spectacles perched on the end of their nose. It all felt a bit earnest.
This presented me with a problem. I’m rather fond of a bit of mischief, especially in formal situations like these. I’ve been like it all my life; sitting in church as a boy was particularly testing.  All these de facto antiques experts milling around, was like a red rag to a bull.  I was in dangerous territory.
Anyway, there were a few chairs with guide prices of £30-£40, so I went to the sale day to bid for them. The atmosphere here is very different – this is the part where money changes hands at speed. As the auctioneer works his way through the lots, and the one you want approaches, your heart starts racing and you start to squirm around in your seat.
Thankfully, when ‘my chairs’ came up there wasn’t much interest and I managed to steal them away for the princely sum of £5 each.  I’ve never had as much fun buying furniture, as I did at this auction. 
When the hammer came down and the deal was done, I was so pleased with my bargain buys that my resolve cracked and my sense of mischief got the better of me. I held up my registration number card and when the auctioneer asked me my name, with a huge grin on my face, I simply couldn’t resist answering ‘Lovejoy’...    

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Quick, the rozzers...act normal

I like to think I’m a reasonably accomplished driver, I'm a bloke after all.  I was therefore dismayed to receive an official looking letter through the post recently, from Surrey Police. The general flavour of which was that I had ‘contravened the 1861 Speed Act’ or whatever it was, and unless I paid a fine and polished the chief inspector’s shoes for the next month, I’d be sent to a penal colony in the middle of the Indian Ocean. 
They don’t hold back with those letters do they – they like to stick it to you.  My crime was that I’d been flashed by a speed camera doing 35mph in a 30mph zone. From the tone of the letter however, anyone would have thought I’d made off with the crown jewels and was in for nothing short of a public hanging.  After I recovered from the mild stroke this shock gave me, I noticed at the bottom of the letter they were offering me a ‘get out of jail free card’.
‘HOWEVER’ said, if you agree to attend one of our speed awareness courses which incidentally will cost you slightly more than the fine, we’ll let you off the three points on your licence. Ok. For an extra £10, I get to keep my driving licence as clean as a whistle.  Sounds good; I’m in.
I imagined the course would consist of us ‘crims’ being shown videos of nasty traffic accidents and that I’d probably be the only one there, old enough to grow a proper beard.  Mercifully it was nothing like that.
On arriving, I was immediately surprised to find the other people attending the course were mostly, how can I put it...septuagenarians.  There were so many silver tops in there I thought I’d arrived at an old fashioned dairy.  Most of them looked like sweet little old ladies and harmless dignified gents.  Not quite the hardened criminal underworld I was expecting. Like me, most of them had been flashed doing 35mph in a 30mph zone.
The course was run by ex-police officers and it was excellent.  I learnt so much I can’t praise it highly enough.  I was never a fast driver but the pace of modern life sometimes influences your driving.  Inevitably you’re late for something and the speed creeps up. We all do it. Seeing as the majority of traffic accidents occur in 30mph zones, probably by otherwise law abiding citizens, I can see why they gave me the option of attending the course.  It has transformed the way I drive.
There were no ghoulish videos for us to watch, just sound common sense advice about how to break the bad driving habits we all pick up. If you ever receive ‘the letter’ and there’s an option to attend the course, do it.  I think every-one should as soon as they pass their test, not just those that have been caught speeding.  If we were better educated we might not get into bad habits in the first place.