Monday, 25 January 2010

The wonders of Vistaprint

Today my family took delivery of our free, self-designed pens from Vistaprint. We got them as perks for ordering some Book Month promotional material. My wife’s pen says “Heather Iles, proprietor, Chambers Gallery, Annandale.” Mine says “Perry Iles, writer. Bulbous, also tapered.” My daughter’s says “Matilda Iles. I’m a horse’s butt.” As a family, our collective grip upon sanity begins to weaken.

Mega-Dolphin vs Giant Porpoise

I have it on good authority that dolphins are in fact complete bastards. A few years ago, marine experts discovered that the bodies of porpoises were being washed up on an almost daily basis along the coastline of the Solway Firth in Scotland. Studies revealed that dolphins were playing tennis with them – flipping them up out of the water and then whacking them with their tails to see how far they’d go. When the fishologists discovered the porpoises’ corpoises, most of the bones were broken. So next time you try listening to a dolphin, listen more closely.

“Prpppp, tk tk tk chirrrr, pt pt pt pt crk,” they go, and we think they’re saying “Skippy says the kids have fallen down the well!” when what they’re really saying is “Flipper’s got an ASBO. An’ that’s like, really shit, cos we’re off to Ibiza for the summer. Gonna get twatted and trash the reef. Do over some fuckin porps. Wankers. They’ve like, really cracked down since we contracted the stingray to whack that Aussie. It’s fuckin mental, man.”

So that’s dolphins for you. Neds of the ocean, hoodies of the waves, assholes of the deep. Today’s post was sponsored by the John West campaign for guilt-free tuna. Kill the fuckers. The whales are complaining about the noise, anyway.

Carry On Being Puerile.

A puerile musing on rude place-names, suggested by the newspaper headlines from the other day. Britain’s full of them, hidden within innocent-sounding little places that even your auntie could say. Huddersfield, Arsenal, Wastwater, Clitheroe, Cockermouth and my own favourites, the Hampshire parish of Wilsford-cum-Lake and of course Scunthorpe.

When travelling through Europe a couple of years ago, I discovered the Belgian town of Ave-et-Auffe. No, I really did. If they ever stage a revival Carry-On film festival, they’d have to have it there, with the ghosts of Sid James and Kenneth Williams presiding over the event while Barbara Windsor lets the twins out once more for old-times sake. (That may be a bit disappointing, nowadays. Carry On Camping was forty years or so back, after all. Maybe they could get a stand-in. Jordan’s at a bit of a loose end now that Peter Andre’s fucked off, and she’d flip her chebs out like a dead-heat in a zeppelin race at the opening of an envelope).

I also discovered the Austrian village of Fucking, the English translation of whose website reads “Welcome to Fucking Austria.” And perhaps those who prefer to gain their sexual gratification via the tradesman’s entrance could suggest that the Italian village of Arsoli be twinned with the Derbyshire town of Peniston.

There must be places like that in America, too. I’d love to be a travel writer. Hang on, I already am one. So for my next trick I should write a book in which I travelled to places with risqué names. So maybe I could have a US list, just so I can go there. I know there’s an Intercourse in Pennsylvania (they could twin it with Fucking, Austria, or the slightly less wanton German settlement of Petting if the Moral Majority got its panties in a bunch), but there probably isn’t a Dogdick, Delaware, is there? There’s the Grand Teton Mountains, I suppose, which I believe is French for big tits. That’s good enough for me, I’ll start packing.

Hey, here’s an idea! The other day I was talking about the Scottish village of Ae. Is there anywhere in the US called Zed, or Zee? I could go from Ae to Zed, travelling through rude-sounding places as I went. There. Next book sorted. God, this writing lark is such fun sometimes.


So, to the new football season, sponsored by the Campaign for Real Sport. After a summer of industrial-grade boredom watching grown-ups playing ping-pong and rich men driving cars in circles without managing to kill themselves spectacularly, we now have something to get excited about. And with it comes the dark humour of football chants, which I felt strangely attracted to from the nineties onwards, after watching twenty thousand opposition fans at Manchester United yelling “Posh Spice takes it up the arse” to the tune of the Pet Shop Boys’ Go West every time David Beckham took possession of the ball.

And up here, north of the border in Scotlandshire, we ask ourselves the age-old question. Who will win the Premiership out of Celtic and Rangers? Scotland likes to think that as a country, it’s an international player in the world of football, but apart from Celtic and Rangers we don’t have a lot, other than the glorious Hibees. So, in defence of its national weaknesses, Scottish fans try to bring their chants up to an international level of offence by citing sectarian differences between the Catholic and Protestant sections of the community. It’s laughable really, the idea that believing in fairies in different ways could command such hatred, but then the Scots have spent the last few centuries fighting amongst themselves, so there is a precedent. They do like a pagger, which is why the Rangers fans express the desire to be up to their knees in Fenian blood, and why, to the tune of She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain, they still sing “Could ye go a chicken supper, Bobby Sands?” at the Celtic fans every time there’s an Old Firm derby.

But one my favourite chants comes from England, from the grounds of Tottenham Hotspur, a London club with strong Jewish affiliations. Casting against type, Spurs bought Jurgen Klinsmann from Bayern Munich a few years back, and the Spurs fans on the terraces, digging out their encyclopaedic knowledge of Mary Poppins, sang:

Chim-chimminy, chim-chimminy
Chim-chim, cheroo
Jurgen was German
But now he’s a Jew.

Then, en masse, they’d drop their trousers and wave their circumcised dicks at the Chelsea fans on the opposition terraces, who responded by resurrecting the sixties golden oldie of “Two world wars and one World Cup, doo-dah, doo-dah” to the tune of Camptown Races. Right back atcha, Jurgen.

Football, One; political correctness, Nil. The beautiful game.

Anne Robinson; Don't You Just Love Her?

The Welsh, according to the Scots, are living proof that the English fuck badgers. You’d have thought that the Scots would effect some kind of affinity there, what with the celtic connections and the common English enemy, but as I’ve said before, the Scots are always looking for someone else to fight, and the Welsh spill their metaphorical pint on a regular basis. Especially where rugby is concerned, which to me is just a stupid game played by men with odd-shaped balls. Coachloads full of Welsh supporters pass through Annandale every time there’s a Six Nations Tournament, or whatever you call it when rugby players get together for a mutual bout of eye-gouging and handbags. Most of the locals refer to rugby as “a poof’s game” and taunt any visiting leek-munching cheese-on-toast-eaters by walking effeminately down the street with one arm cocked on the hip and the other held in a limp-wristed Hitler salute. Then they try and make them eat Haggis, which the Welsh consider to be a cooked sheep’s bladder stuffed with those parts of the animal that even the English won’t eat.

I’ve been to Wales. It’s something I feel the need to experience every so often to see if it’s as bad as it was the last time, like Kentucky Fried Chicken. And usually it’s just as bad, especially in the north. Their hotels are overpriced, their attitudes avaricious, and their countryside isn’t as pretty as they like to think it is because they’ve got slate mines all over it. And everyone over forty has Welsh Face, an affliction that strikes in middle age when all the teeth have rotted away, the jaw shrinks and the nose strives to make contact with the chin, like an old Punch cartoon.

Then one day I went to South Wales. This is where my wife comes from, the small village of Pant-y-Gyrdl, down in the valleys. There, they sell houses for the price of a family saloon. Go to Kensington, and you’ll see estate agents’ notices advertising bijou mews flats for £1.2 million. Then go to South Wales, where houses are advertised, with the prices on, on bits of hardboard in the front garden. “House, £5,999. Free garage, innit?” But when I got to South Wales, everybody was lovely. People in my wife’s old street remembered Jenkins-the-post from forty years back. “Here, I knew him. He murdered my brother. And his family. Brutally, mind. No, hang on, that was Evans-the-axe, wasn’t it? So, what’s occurring?” And they’d shake your hand and laugh at the shared memory. And there were sheep everywhere. Not just in the fields, but in the towns and the gardens and the alleys. They’re cheaper than lawn-mowers, apparently, and you can eat them afterwards. When you stop the car on any road in south Wales, the sheep run towards you, not away, and jump up like friendly dogs to eat your sandwiches. I bought lamb and mint sauce butties deliberately, so I could watch them all eat their children. Feral sheep, only available in Wales. Lovely country, lovely people, except in the north, where they switch languages and turn their backs on you every time you walk into a pub because they’re a bunch of ignorant savages whose idea of an entertainment centre is a ewe tied to a lamp post.

Brontes Redux

Today’s missive is sponsored by Mattel Toys, and comes with your free Charlotte Bronte Doll! Pull the string; she says “Hi, Heathcliff, I’m Cathy! Will you be my friend?” Three to collect! Get the whole series!

I was in Yorkshire the other day. Don’t ask me why; I didn’t want to go there. Something about picking up a kitten, I think. Dear old Yorkshire, famous for its Dales, Pudding and Ripper. In the course of my travels, I drove past the Bronte Parsonage in the village of Haworth and was filled with the habitual sense of catatonic boredom that always overwhelms me whenever I have to think about Victorian chicklit. I was dragged round the Parsonage once, long ago, by a woman who no longer features in my life. Fuck, it was tedious. Here’s a dress just like Charlotte might have been wearing when she thought up the plot of Middlemarch! Here’s a reproduction of the writing desk Emily wrote The Mill on the Floss at! Yes, dear, it’s lovely dear. I’m hungry, can we go now? It was worse than shopping.

And as far as the Bronte sisters go, they could do with a bit of a makeover, couldn’t they? I mean, looking at brother Bramwell’s portrait of them, I’d slip Emily a charity shag, but Charlotte looks like a bulldog chewing a wasp and I swear Anne’s got Welsh Face. Uptight vicar’s daughters? No. Let’s re-invent them. There were three sisters and a brother, so they were a bit like the Corrs in that respect. There was Posh Bronte, Even Posher Bronte and Lezzer Bronte. Not good enough. Let them be Britney Bronte, LaToya Bronte and Barbie Bronte, the naughty sister that never amounted to much. Daughters of a televangelist. And the name won’t do; all this pretentious umlaut nonsense. Let’s change it to Bronty, or better still Bronti, because the “I” gives them a certain girlie cuteness, like Bambi. Hey, that’s it! Bambi Bronti! Now let’s re-write the books. Wuthering Heights? What’s a wuther? Is it a verb? I wuther; you wuther; he, she or it wuthers? Do heights wuther? Fuck that. Change it to Heights of Passion or something, and pretend it was written in the eighties, based on that old Kate Bush song (you know, the one that goes: “Out on the wily, windy moors we’d roll and roll in brie. You had a temper, like my cheddar cheese; so hot so greasy.”)

So, the film versions: Heights of Passion by Bambi Bronti, starring Renee Rottweiler and Colin Firth’s arse. And the sequel, Jane Eyre’s Shoe Dilemma Diary, with Hugh Grant’s chin and Sarah Jessica Parker’s nipples (which make her look like she’s smuggling peanuts on the opening credits of SATC). Ker-fucking-ching, go the tills across this sceptred isle. That’s put that fucking Austen bitch back in her place, hasn’t it? Although they could stage an Austen/Bronti rivalry, like they did with Blur and Oasis or Nirvana and Pearl Jam. There you go: Britlit, a whole new genre. Where’s Cecelia Aherne now, eh? In your face, you daft chicklit-by-numbers Irish brood-mare! Come on, there’s a whole career for the taking here! And they could get bad sister Crack Whore Bronti to fall out of limos outside nightclubs with a coke-spoon down her cleavage and pose topless for Nuts magazine (This week only! Get yer mitts round the Bronti Baps!), just to keep the publicity machine rolling. And the brother could stop being an artist and get a career as a papparazum instead, or whatever the singular is.

What is the singular of all these Italian words, anyway? What do you say in an Italian restaurant? “Darling, can I try just one raviola from your plate? I’ll let you have a scampus in return.” “Sweetheart, you’ve dropped a spaghetto into your lap.” What do you call that singular piece of pennum that falls onto the stove and causes that terrible burning smell? Or those big penne that make up a cannelona? Fucking Italian food. At least you don’t get that problem with Rosbif a l’Inglese. With Yorkshire Pudding.

So that’s Mattel revitalised the Brontes. Next week: Adolf and Eva, the untold love story of our times, sponsored by Treblinka Soap Products: “It’s Concentrated!!®”


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