Doing battle with daily dragons

Friday, April 29, 2005

All the Right Answers

Disclaimer: I promise this will not turn into a job blog. But as I’m angling for a new one at the moment, I’m just letting off a bit of steam.

When attempting to get hired in retail, the two weasel-words that are guaranteed to get a potential employer’s attention are, nauseatingly, “Customer service” This is a nice way of saying:

If a customer comes in and behaves like a complete horse’s arse, under no circumstances will you tell them to take a long walk of a short pier. Instead you will smile and apologise repeatedly for whatever incompetancy you are guilty of and offer to anoint their dirty feet with precious oils.

I feel that I acquitted myself well in my interview yesterday. The people who were doing the interviewing were friendly, shy and bookish and recognised the inherent ridiculousness of asking me questions like:

"Why do you want to work here?"

Right answer: I’m an avid reader. I love working with other people and enjoy uniting a customer with the right book.

Wrong answer: Because I work in a tiny box all by myself and am going a bit peculiar for want of intelligent conversation. But that girl at the till when I came in…I won’t be working with her, right? Cause, like, she give me some serious evils when I brought in my application. I feel, like, you know, I’m a good judge of character and she seems like a real bitch right off the bat.

"Can you give an example of when you’ve given good customer service?"

Right answer: Last week, a woman came in looking for jewelry for herself and her bridal party. Due to my in-depth stock knowledge, I was able to find all of the right pieces for both her and her bridesmaids. She was very pleased and I was glad to have been able to find her everything she needed.

Wrong answer: I find stuff for people. But man, we have this one lady who comes in and she’s all like, “Fix my shit” and I’m all like, “It’ll be two weeks” and she gets in my face like, “I need it tomorrow!” and I go, “I’ll just go get my magic wand” and she gets all “Uh, uh, I wanna talk to your manager.” Jeez, some people.

"What duties and responsibilities did you have at your last bookstore?"

Right answer: I was responsible for the children’s section. I engaged in customer service. I met with trade reps to purchase new titles. I engaged in customer service. I assisted customers both in the shop and on the phone with inquiries. And did I mention the customer service?

Wrong answer: I picked up mostly trodden on and unsellable books that the little bastards dropped on the floor and then did a Mexican hat dance on. I got yelled at for stuff that my manager forgot cause he was too busy smoking weed out back with the stock boy. And I had to find titles for total brain donors who came in and were like, “I saw this great book in the paper the other day. It had a blue cover. Do you have it?” Wankers.

So, until next Tuesday, I’ll have to wonder if my right answers were right enough.

Thursday, April 28, 2005


Auto-suggest in the location bar of an Internet browser can be a blessing or a curse. Fabulous if you can't remember the name of a cool site you found yesterday, not so fabulous if someone's looking over your shoulder and the last site beginning with "H" that you looked at was Here's a fun, although somewhat time consuming meme I got from Defective Yeti. Click on the link below to do your own! To find your URL ABCs, simply type "a" into the location bar and copy the first URL it suggests. Repeat 25 more times with different letters.

These are my URL ABCs:
  • A is for - Sometimes funny things completely broadside you when you're not expecting it. I just about broke my chair on this one.
  • B is for -An artist who's work is both dark and lovely.
  • C is for - Erm, hi David. I don't know you or how I got to your blog, but hi anyhow.
  • D is for - Some quite extrodinary, dark art infused with bucketfuls of religious symbolism.
  • E is for - I worship at the alter of e-commerce.
  • F is for - I'm not actually a surfer, but they tend to wear more comfortable clothes than the rest of us.
  • G is for - Author of The Old Kingdom Trilogy, one of the best bits of fantasy to surface in recent years.
  • H is for I would like to thank LawGirl for my extremely fun e-card. I have no doubt that the things we'd get up to on a girl's night would not be suitable for a Hallmark greeting card.
  • I is for - Very few actually have SUBSCRIPTIONS to magazines like "People" or "Hello!" But EVERYBODY READS THEM AT THE DENTISTS WITH GREAT RELISH. No one likes to admit to enjoying a bit of upstairs scandal, but we all do. IMDB is not only a great argument settler ("No, it WAS that guy from "The Fifth Element"! I TOLD you.") but it also provides a daily dose of skank for those of us with inquiring and embarassed minds.
  • J is for - An extremely talented jeweler who did all of the accessory work on "Lord of the Rings", "Xena" and "Hercules". The Rock Star and I went to see the LOTR exhibition when it came to the London Science Museum and her pieces were just as beautiful close up as on the big screen. Mmmm, shiny.
  • K is for - A muppet fan site. It owns.
  • L is for - In my quick travels of "abstinence" sites, this one came up as one of the scariest.
  • M is for - Donations please. Cause you're all a bunch of good guys.
  • N is for - A great US domain registration site. Why pay over $20 for something that doesn't, you know, actually exist?
  • O is for - I was kind of hoping this was going to come up. In this freelance writer's spare time, she has created a rather engaging soap opera using her very unusual doll collection. Definitely work checking out.
  • P is for - Another lady jeweler doing stunning work. Boston based.
  • Q is for - A site some friends of mine from college maintain, containing a data base of stuff we say that gets repeated to us years later and makes us want to kill people for not forgetting it.
  • R is for - Blog and home of the famous mat despoiler himself, Dr. Booth.
  • S is for - Erm...this looks like a shop full of smelly, expensive things. I have not delved further.
  • T is for - The only news that's fit to print.
  • U is for - If sir is in the market for a new mobile, may I offer a humble suggestion? Unless sir is in love the idea of being plagued by constant beeping due to two unbelievablely useless buttons positioned on the side of a phone, may I steer sir away from a Motorolla? I would not blame sir for throwing his handset into traffic on the event of such a purchase.
  • V is for - Okay, you caught me. I was looking for the address of a sex shop. But it was for that post that I wrote about sex toys! Honest!
  • W is for - Just curious. Funny enough, this site doesn't actually have the answer to the question.
  • X is for - Existing between two currencies is not easy, but this site makes it way easier. This is where I find out how much cheaper I can buy stuff just about anywhere else than where I live.
  • Y is for - A sincerely useless hotel/B+B search facility.
  • Z is for - It's our old buddy, Thor. Fear the phallus.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

9 to 5

In light of what I hope is a job windfall, I thought I take a page out of and find out what the top ten career killers were. This is mildly ludicrous for me as I’ve never had anything that anyone could term “a career” and don’t ever plan to start, thank you very much. I want to listen to rock and roll, make shiny things and have babies for the rest of my life, so a career can go take a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut. But, in the interests of fun, I thought perhaps I could shoehorn my current working situation into the dictates set down by Moneybags Magazine.

“Know What’s Expected”

Have a pulse. Have full use of extremities. Count to 10. Know the difference between purple and yellow. Know not to ever use the phrase “Boy Howdy!” for any reason.

“Money Isn’t Everything”- “Don't create the impression that you're working just for a paycheck.”

Ah, but it is, and I am. Why else would I have subjected myself to 2 years in a small, cinderblock box full of shiny with a boss who’s paranoid enough to pay £50 a month in terrorism insurance?

“Leave Gossip to the Supermarket Tabloids”

Me- OMG, you’ll never guess what.

Me- What? I’m dying to know!

Me- My boss is a psychotic passive aggressive and my co-worker could give Coronation Street a run for it’s money in the personal drama stakes! Plus, she’s stalking me!

Me- No way!

Me- Way.

Customer- Am I interrupting something?

Me- I cannot even tell you how much you aren’t.

“Flubbing Deadlines”

Most of you know that I live on a boat. But there are three kinds of people who live on boats. There are simply those who are forced to live on a boat due to stupidly high area house prices, retired folk who spend all of their time boodling up and down the canals and talking about their grandchildren and then there are “lifestylers”. If you’ve ever walked along the canal, you’ve seen them. Dreadlocks, piercings, batiqued clothing, battered hats with feathers in them, all in boats that look like they were used in the Hundred Years War for kennelling Irish Wolfhounds. There’s also usually some fairly pungent smelling smoke drifting out of the windows.

“Galetea, WTF does this have to do with flubbing deadlines?”

Patience, gentle reader. It’s just my “style”.


Being a shop that sells delicate, shiny things, we also have to be ready to REPAIR delicate shiny things when people apparently give them to their pets to play with.

“I don’t know HOW it broke. I was just wearing it and it fell off!”

“Um, there are some teeth marks in it.”

The guy who does our repairs for us is a “lifestyler”. We can tell people their shiny will be ready in two weeks till we’re blue in the face, but it’s my belief that he often gets so high he can’t find his way out of the boat.

“Cubicle Etiquette Counts”

The whole SHOP is a cubicle. I’ve never really tested the limits of Ms. Personality’s patience with Dilbert calendars or anything.

“Isolation Leaves You Vulnerable”

Isolation keeps me sane.

The Infiltrator- I’m so lonely since I cheated on my husband. I want a night out. Is your husband gigging tonight? Where? Wouldn’t it be fun if I came along?

Me- I’m not going to the gig. I never go to gigs. I like to sit at home in the dark.

“Don’t Climb Ego Mountain”

Without my Id ropes and Superego carabiners, I wouldn’t dream of it.

“Don’t Take Credit For Other’s Work”

Customer- This has been repaired terribly! It’s even more bent than it was before!

Me- I think my boss did it.

“Office Romance Invites Catastrophe”

A deafening silence.

Blessed Release!

Blogapotamus Rex is within spitting distance of release from Purgatory. Apart from an interview, which I hope is a formality, and what I imagine is going to be an uncomfortable conversation with Ms. Personality, I think I just might have a new job. So if anyone has any good karma to spare on Thursday, sending it my way in a brown paper envelope would be much appreciated!

Monday, April 25, 2005

Saving Ourselves

While perusing the charmingly named blog, “Fuck Everything” I came across a link to a site that everyone who’s tired of this pedantic “silver ring thing” should have a look at. Seriously. Have a look. But wait until your boss is on the other side of the room, because the photo demonstrations, especially the one with the hot dog, are probably enough to get you fired. Those of you who work from the comfort of your own living room, open away and have a good guffaw.

I’ve got nothing against pledges of assistance, especially when it comes to young teenagers, but I DEFINITELY object to using Jesus as a poster boy and setting up a small merchandising empire around the concept.

At least two things you might not know about the Abstinence movement:

--On the “Silver Ring Thing”site, I was particularly interested in the bit in the Q&A section covering “Second Virginity.”

"We address this question in the Second Virginity message which speaks directly to the issues and problems that sexually active students have encountered. We recognize the fact that many students who attend the SRT are, or have been, sexually active and they need to know if it is possible to begin again. The answer is YES YOU CAN START OVER and, in fact, for this reason many students attend our program. "

It’s some wicked powerful mojo that can enact a spontaneous revirginization. “Sure kid, give me 15 bucks for this silver piece of crap and you can have your cherry back.”

True Love Waits. And waits. And waits.

--"Until you are married, sexual purity means saying no to sexual intercourse, oral sex, and even sexual touching. It means saying no to a physical relationship that causes you to be "turned on" sexually. It means not looking at pornography or pictures that feed sexual thoughts. "

And in our webstore, we have a wide variety of flagellum and spiked chastity belts. And you know this means deleting that web bookmark to the Victoria’s Secret catalogue, don’t you, you cheeky little wanker?

Friday, April 22, 2005

The Season of Misery

Spring doth bloom with grace and ease,
And everything doth make me sneeze.
And suff’ring from the season’s kiss,
It’s a fucking shame my backyard doth look like this.

I would like to meet the evolutionary bright spark that invented allergies. I’d like to meet that abhorrent gene in a dark corner of the electron microscope slide and torture it with a pair of very sharp tweezers.

Okay, so spring comes, right? A time of blossoming, renewal and awakening after the long, dark months of cold. And some little bastard hiding out in the human genetic structure decides to become super sensitive to EVERYTHING THAT’S NATURALLY FLOATING THROUGH THE AIR. How does THAT constitute survival of the fittest? How is one supposed to shag with abandon with streaming eyes and a runny nose? It certainly decreases your chances of finding a partner without the aid of a brown paper bag.

The interesting thing to me is the way that we’ve come up with of TREATING these ailments. I’m not sure if this is hugely popular anymore, but when I was younger, I got allergy shots, because cleverly, I am allergic to DUST. (Stay away from THAT if you can. Human beings are walking dust factories, so it presents some interesting philosophical questions that I am, in fact, allergic to myself.) The serum in the bottles started out nearly clear, but after nearly a year of weekly shots, the liquid was almost black. To treat an allergy, you must expose yourself to it. Who was the first person to test THAT theory?

Pioneering Scientist: So, you’re allergic to cats, right?

Brave Volunteer: Horribly. I sneeze, break out in hives and my face swells up.

Pioneering Scientist: Okay, this might sound a bit wacky, but here, meet Fluffy.

Brave Volunteer: ACK! Achoo! (sound of face inflating)

Pioneering Scientist: Maybe I need to think this through.

Nowadays we have fancy pants drugs called antihistamines that block the nasty chemicals that cause the narrowing of air passageways.

Pioneering scientist: Okay, this might sound a bit wacky, but swallow this.

Brave Volunteer: Bite me.

Greetings, Muppet!

The Fraggle has discovered my secret hideout on the web. Woe is me.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Bump Strikes Back

Just a quick Bump update. These kind of things are almost too embarassing to relate. Almost. I only do it because sometimes it hard for me to tell the difference between people laughing with me or at me.

I have a fat lip. I'm sure that people probably think The Rock Star beats me. Like when I fell against the edge of the bathroom cabinet and ended up with a bruise as big as New Hampshire on my ass: I went to the gym and noticed some concerned glances being thrown my way. "That poor thing," I knew they were thinking, "I can't imagine WHY women stay with men like that." I wish I could have stood up on one of the changing benches and set the record straight (after putting my pants on) so that everyone would know that I'm just a complete spanner that hasn't learned to walk properly yet. They probably wouldn't believe me anyway. "Yes, dear," they'd say, "Of COURSE you fell down the stairs." NO! I REALLY DID FALL DOWN THE STAIRS! I'M A TOTAL GIMP!

At any rate, while walking through the supermarket, with my arms full of groceries, (why a basket didn't occur to me, I don't know) I picked up a gallon jug of squash. Trying to rebalance, I lightly tossed the bottle in the air to get a better grip on the handle and ended up hitting myself in the mouth really rather hard. I was so embarassed, I didn't even say "Ow." when my lip exploded. I met The Rock Star by the till. "What happened to you?" was his incredulous greeting.

Soft drinks can be dangerous. Handle with care.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Never Let Your Daughter Go Into Show Business

I have to admit to a small tinge of jealousy today. The Girl has gotten into drama school.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m really hugely happy for, and very proud of The Girl. It takes a huge amount of determination to get through the audition process without becoming a nervous, incontinent wreck, and she obviously had the bollocks to get through it. But it definitely drove home the point for me that it’s probably something I’ll never do.

I’m a card carrying member of the Useless Degree Society. (“Member since 1998. Rejoicing in Knowledge You Will Never Use.”) I graduated with a BA in Theatre and a minor in Communications. (Feel free to laugh in anyone’s face if they ever have the gall to sound snotty about having a communications degree. Chances are they don’t any more idea of what their degree means than you do.) I was ready to do the starving artist bit, I really was. And for a good few summers during my university career, I even got to put “actor” in the Occupation bracket of my tax forms. But then, after moving to the UK, I had an absolutely shattering realization.

I don't really have a performance personality. You know the kind of people I’m talking about. They’re like supremely practiced swordsman, darting and dallying with words; anything you throw out, they can parry. They’ll get up in front of anyone and do absolutely anything. It should have occurred to me earlier, really, when I proved to be not really all that great at improv. Here’s what a good improv scene should sound like:

Actor 1: I’m just a pebble, lying on the beach.

Actor 2: Pleased to meet you, pebble, I’m a rhinoceros.

Okay, it’s not a GREAT improv scene, but you get the picture. Here’s what one with me sounded like:

Actor 1: I’m just a pebble, lying on the beach.

Me: Um….okay. That’s kind of weird.

At any rate, it just didn’t work out. I think, despite being an ESFP, I’m actually quite introverted and inhibited despite throwing my bra on stage at the Rock Star once in a particularly rough pub. I suppose I’ll just have to settle for “being artistic.”

To drown my sorrows, I’ll do my old favorite, My Top Five Theatre Moments of all Time. (inspired just a little bit by Izzle Pfaff)

5. All the Queen’s Men- Let me first say, I came out of this moment a lot less embarrassed than some other people. My senior year, I played Andromache in a rather wordy anti-war play called “Tiger At the Gates”. The moment can be attributed to a small carpentry mishap when a bench that I had been sitting down on just FINE, thank you very much, for the last 6 performances, suddenly gave way, and I ended up on my ass. One of the background guys, a friend of mine who I’ll call The Mexican, rushed, in character, to my aid. “My Queen! Let me help you up!” Unfortunately for The Mexican, his costume (basically a skirt) was a little too short for him and the entire audience was, from that moment on, in no doubt that he did indeed wear tighty-whiteys. (“Dude,” said one of the other background guys later, “Did you not think about wearing bike shorts or something underneath?” The Mexican had not considered this option.)

4. Cat Wrangling- I did some time backstage as well, helping out a friend with his senior performance piece called “The Strangest Kind of Romance.” This piece required the use of a cat. I don’t remember the discussions leading up to the decision to use a real, live cat, but I can’t imagine I was part of them, because if I had been, I think I know what my counsel would have been, especially as I was the one who actually had to be in CONTROL of the cat when it was not making it’s stage debut. However, determined to use a real, live cat my friend WAS. Anyone who has ever met a real, live cat can probably imagine it’s reaction to being in a play, so I won’t go into that. Suffice to say there that the band-aid box was empty at the end of just about every rehearsal. The people who LOANED us this cat gave us some animal tranquilizer for the performance. “She only needs half a pill,” they said. So the day of the performance rolls around. Cat is given her half pill. We wait. Cat doesn’t really seem a whole lot calmer. Friend decides to give cat WHOLE pill and another half. The Rest of Us are not really sure about this course of action, but it's time for Curtain Up.

Ragdoll cats are a great breed. They’re completely pliant and go limp when you pick them up. The cat in question was NOT a Ragdoll, but as I was standing backstage with it, it was certainly exhibiting similar characteristics. I picked it up by it’s armpits and it looked like a big, fuzzy, unconscious sack of flour. One of the lines in the play ended up being an involuntary audience laugh riot. “Look at how she stares at me!” complains the cat-owner’s girlfriend, “Like one jealous woman to another!” The cat, at the time was nearly upside down with it’s eyes crossed and tongue hanging out. I honestly thought we’d killed it, but it seemed okay, albeit with a hell of a hangover, post show. Before I get lots of hate mail, let me just say, IT WASN'T MY IDEA TO DRUG THE CAT INTO OBILVION. I LOVE CATS. Thank you.

3. Cross-gartering- Anyone who’s ever read “Twelfth Night” will recognise the famous scene in which the steward, Malvolio, thinking he’s caught the attentions of the Countess Olivia, comes before her wearing a fashion she hates (cross gartering) and a color she detests. (yellow) In a touring summer theatre production, I played Olivia opposite an exceptional comic actor who loved to try to break me on stage. His “reveal” was care of a pair of Velcro stripper pants which not only revealed cross gartered, yellow legs, but a pair of yellow, smiley face boxer shorts. I had tears in my eyes on opening night from biting my tongue. His totally uncalled for pelvic thrusting in my direction didn't help.

2. Full Moon- The same actor and I starred in our first major college production together in “High Tor”, a rather bad play by Maxwell Anderson. At the end of the play, our characters kissed and stared off stage left at the “beautiful sunset” which was, in fact, the entire cast, with their pants down around their ankles.

1. My proudest ever stage moment- Moliere's "The Imaginary Cuckhold". All in rhyming verse. I was playing Martine, wife of the main character, Sganarelle. Our "house" was a large, beautifully painted flat, suspended from cables attached to one of the batons in the rigging. Halfway through our final performance, both cables mysteriously let go, bringing the whole thing down. There was deadly silence.

I don't know where it came from, but I blurted out,

"Oh my goodness Sganarelle,
Look at that; our house just fell."

I nearly got a standing ovation in the middle of the show.

Perhaps I could have made it after all.

Monday, April 18, 2005

....Marathon Mouse

Part two, in honor of Marathon Day in London.

Time alarm clocks went off: 5 am. Painful for all involved, but at least everyone except the Rock Star could look forward to a day of NOT running 26 miles.

Time of departure: 6.20 am

Number of completely jammy parking spaces acquired: 1. Someone who had been to London on marathon Sunday last year whispered in our collective ears of a legendary space that we somehow managed to find and steal. I’d tell you where it is, but I’d have to kill you afterwards. Let’s just put it this way: The Queen shouldn’t leave her bathroom curtains open.

Number of railway stations that couldn’t have been more inconveniently closed: 1. The Rock Star, while trying to reach the start of the marathon in Greenwich, discovered that one of the major stations in his route calculations, Charing Cross, was closed. This involved a rather complex rerouting and he ended up at the start feeling probably more knackered than one should when one has 26 miles ahead of them.

Resolve to live in St. James Park full time during the summer months without detection by groundskeepers: High. 7.20 on a Sunday morning is not exactly prime time in the park. We were, in fact the only people there apart from a couple of guys with plastic bags on their feet who look like they DO live there full time. The sun was out, all of the trees were in full bloom, the ducks, geese, swans and pelicans were all drifting around in the glittering lakes, exchanging pleasantries…stunning.

Distance from jammy parking space to London Bridge: 3.65 miles. It was a gorgeous morning and we enjoyed seeing the city as we’d never seen it before; completely empty. But I was beginning to have the first inklings that I’d chosen the wrong shoes.

Encounters with the Mob: 1. While sitting in a small café in Tower Hill, the manager of the restaurant who was holding court with I guy that I can only guess was Tom Hagen, made many fatuous references to having someone killed. The staff was obviously terrified of this guy and made many deferential bowings and scrapings in his general direction. I told Boy Racer that we might want to think about asking for the check before someone came in to whack Sollozzo and Captain McCluskey.

Celebrities glimpsed: 2. Well, 2 that actually do anything useful for a living. Paula Radcliffe came zooming by much faster than we were expecting and Matthew Pinchot ended up starting one of the races for children that began as we were making our way to our vantage point.

Useless celebrities glimpsed: 1. Jimmy Savile on the back of a truck. Maybe they were finally hauling him away.

Celebrities that had a wazz on national TV: 1. “Well, I hope the nation forgives me,” Paula Radcliffe commented, “but I really had to go.”

People shouted at: Lots. For those who have never attended a marathon, lots of runners have their names written on their apparel so they can be easily encouraged by the crowd. Those who HAVEN’T written their names often compensate by wearing silly costumes. It was rather surreal. “Go, Adam! Go, Jane! Er…Go, Batman! Go Entirely Blue Guy!”

First glimpse of the Rock Star: about 11.30 am, just over Tower Bridge. His Bumlasers t-shirt was visible as he came yomping toward us. (For those of you that sponsored him with that particular stipulation, we’ll have photographic evidence on line shortly, so now you gotta pay up! HA!) (For everyone else, it’s just a convenient mild curse that the Rock Star came up with that kind of caught on.)

Distance from London Bridge to jammy parking space: 3,460 miles.

Shoes lost in the Thames: 1. A small and surly child, near where we settled down at the 25 mile marker to see the Rock Star for the second time, was kicking stones over the wall of the Embankment. To his horror, on his last kick, his improperly tied shoe sailed over the edge along with the stone. Apparently (as Boy Racer related the story to me) the look on his face before screaming, “MUM!” was priceless.

Difficulty level in finding The Rock Star following the proceedings: Middling. Now, I certainly wouldn’t want to have the job of uniting almost 40,000 runners with about 3 times as many family members. The Rock Star, who was hobbling around aimlessly called to ask me where we were in relation to him. I asked HIM if there were any identifying land marks he could see. “Um, well, I’m standing next to 3 giant Cornish pasties who’ve just finished the race.” It took me a minute to recover from that.

Number of spouses that needed carrying to the car: 1.

Number of tickets received in jammy parking space: 0.

Number of very proud Potamus’s: 1.

Congrats to everyone who ran!

Friday, April 15, 2005

Country Mouse, City Mouse...

The Rock Star and I are bumpkins. We both grew up in the country. We like trees and grass and not having people urinate in the grate below our bedroom window. But occasionally, we like a little foray into the urban wilderness of London. Here are a few statistics that I compiled on our little journey today:

Time on train on the way down: 1 hour. We live 30 minutes away, but apparently there was a “signal problem” somewhere that caused us to move at a speed that could have easily been matched by The Rock Star’s Nan on her Zimmer frame.

Number of harassed mothers in our carriage: Two that I could see easily, one whose distress was played out only inches from our face. I hope, that when I have children, I can put off taking them into the city until they’re old enough to buy ME dinner.

Number of drunken twats in our carriage: 2. You know you’re in for a long ride when, at 2 in the afternoon, two guys clad in Burberry get on, each clutching a can of Stella in both hands.

Amount paid to relieve my bladder at Euston Station: 20p. I’m not sure where this cash is going, but at least one stall looked as if it had been the scene of a rather gruesome homicide.

Record number of pamphlets offered to me personally along Oxford Street from one end to the other: 26. Today, luckily, only 5 pamphlet pushers threw themselves in my path.

Number of Japanese tourists in Top Shop: 284,953.

Distance you have to throw a stone before hitting a Starbucks: approximately 10 ft.

Number of hairy rockers encountered: 1. (2 if you count The Rock Star, but he's kind of a given, really. We're talking surplus hairy rockers, here.)

Pints of cider consumed: 1 ½.

Number of accidents caused in the pub: 1. My circulation is notoriously bad. Even on warm days, I sometimes have pretty cold hands, let alone when I’ve been sitting outside for over 40 minutes. To manoeuvre my way through a very crowded pub on a Friday evening, I touched a girl on the back (which was bare, by the way) to let her know I was behind her and obviously, she was somewhat surprised by the chilliness of my digits, because she literally yelped and threw what looked to be Campari and soda all over the guy she was talking to. Oopsie. Exit stage left.

Number of fast food meals consumed: 2. Blarg.

Amount paid to relieve my bladder at Euston Station: Another 20p. Previous visit’s murder scene had been discreetly removed.

Time on train on the way back: 40 minutes.

Number of tired bumpkins:

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Some Thoughts on XXX

(This is not another entry about sex toys, just in case you were wondering.)

The Rock Star likes Roman numerals. Everybody has a geeky little trick they can do, and that’s his. He can immediately decipher any puzzling formation of M’s, C’s, L’s, X’s in the blink of an I. So when I sighed deeply about turning 30 today, he randily suggested that it was DEFINITELY the best birthday, Roman numeral wise. For the next year, I’ll have the same rating as “Super Butt Sluts” 1, 2 and 3.

So, in honor of this momentous life occasion, I think a Top 10 List of the Most Memorable Life Occasions is in order.

10. Getting born- Cause let’s face it, without this one, it wouldn’t be much of a list. But since I can’t actually remember it, it has to go at the bottom of the list. I’ve always had a bit of a thing about the number 4 because of my birth: Born on the 14th day of the 4th month at 4.44 in the afternoon. So perhaps I’ll need to wait til my 44th birthday for something truly auspicious to occur. On my 4th we had paper flower hats and on my 14th, I think I got a Swatch.

9. Starting school full time- I was in some form of education from the time I was 2 until I finished college at 22. But when the heady days of afternoon kindergarten draw out into the shackles that turn out to be full time elementary school, it’s a bit of a shock to the 6 year old system. You have to endure the horror of the big, yellow bus, (with the horror of middle school kids who, given half the chance, would dangle you out the window.) the cut throat world of the lunch room (did anyone else get milk in little bags instead of boxes? Or was that just my completely brain dead school district?) and worst of all, scissors that you can actually cut yourself with. (But only until the two class fuck-ups, who will retain this title until graduating high school, stab eachother with them and then you are returned to the familiar comfort of safety scissors.)

8. Driving Across America
- I think I’ve mentioned it before, but when I was 8, mom, dad and I went on a monster road trip. The red line on the map was our rough route. To be honest, I’m not sure I could do it today as an adult with nothing to do in the car but stare out the windows. But back then, I could READ in the car without yawning in Technicolor all over the back seat. I vanquished most of the Nancy Drew series and I think one of the Star Trek movie novels on that trip. (I’ve been a geek for a pretty long time.) The most memorable moment was getting caught up in an unbelievable wind storm in the Badlands and having the only tent in the campground that survived, but only because we had a nice neighbor in an RV who wrestled it out of a tree. I think we all slept in the car that night.

7. The First Kiss- A lot of people look back on this moment with a great deal of fondness, and I suppose, from across the expanse of time, so can I. But what I mainly remember is wanting very badly to run away. I don’t know about most people, but I imagine that a lot of first kisses are quite a sweet, closed lip affair. Not so lucky, I. I was surprised by a ravenous dribble beast when I was 13 at performing arts camp. I think today he’s a conductor with a major symphony orchestra or something.

6. The First Real Job- I envy today’s high school students. They have the choice of all KINDS of groovy coffee bars and bookstores to work in. But when the job hammer came down in my house, the only alternative was stamped with the seal of the Golden Arches, complete with megalomaniac managers, late night, violent junkie Big Mac consumers and that one really weird shift guy who used to cut the heads off of the Happy Meal Barbies with the bowie knife he had in his boot and throw them in the drive-thru bags.

5. Graduating From High School
- Over here in the UK, this doesn’t seem to be a very big deal. The Rock Star says they all had a few cups of punch in the student lounge, were handed their diplomas in brown envelopes and told to get lost. In America, the High School Graduation is a thing of mythic proportions encompassing sometimes WEEKS of celebrations. Unlike the UK, we were even given an all-expenses paid, all night “Safe and Sane” party after the ceremony instead of being encouraged to drink until we went blind.

4. Leaving Home for University- 500 miles is a long way from home. (And if anyone says they’ll walk that far and more, just to be the man who walks that far to fall down at my door, you’re in for a smack.) If you want a flavor of the experience EXACTLY, listen to The Dixie Chicks “Wide Open Spaces”. That IS my leaving home experience. My first evening in the dorm, I was sitting on the balcony wondering what I was doing, as a borderline agnostic, at a fairly conservative religious college when a great whooping and hollering erupted from underneath me. It was two naked men with paper bags on their heads and a big sign that said, “Welcome Frosh!” running around the fountain below before disappearing up 8th St. (These two particular gentleman were fairly well known to the local police by the end of their time at university.) I remember feeling then that everything was going to be okay.

3. Getting Married- Anyone who gets married isn’t likely to forget it, for whatever reason. Maybe it was magical and romantic or maybe your nan dropped her dentures in the punchbowl, but whatever happened, you’re going to remember it. For all the silliness and hilarity surrounding our nuptials, the day itself was fabulous. I lucked out in the husband-finding stakes.

2. Leaving the Country- The first question almost everyone asks me is, “Do you miss America?” and I almost always reply, “Not really.” I miss my friends and family, but I suppose America is kind of a big concept. Do I miss warm summer nights in my parent’s garden with the buzzing of crickets, katydids and cicadas and the blinking of fireflies? Of course. Do I miss being able to have a cup of tea with my girlfriends? Immensely. But the whole of America…not so much. England is just as much home as I’ve ever had.

1. Today- I’m a firm believer in trying to make every day the best day of my life. I’m not saying it happens very often, but I gotta keep hoping. Happy Birthday to me.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Galileo Makes a Move

Galileo finally has a new mooring! And there was much rejoicing. (yaaaaaaaay…..)

During the 5 years that The Rock Star and I have been occupying our little floating home, we have had some pretty dreadful places in which to park it, although, to be fair, it is not easy to find spaces to park things that are 6 feet wide and 57 feet long.

Our first marina was in a nearby town called “Cow Roast”. (Guess what they used to do there?) It was rather like a soggy caravan park. All the boats were literally parked in neat, tight little rows, making it impossible to get any other view out your window other than what your neighbor was watching on TV. And, since it was like a caravan park in every other way, it was bound to be Eastenders. The only positive thing about it was Jake. Jake was a massive moggie who turned up in our boat in the middle of the night when we accidentally left a window open. We heard a crash in the engine room that woke both of us up.

Me: What was that?

The Rock Star: Uh, don’t know. Monsters?

The Monster in the Engine Room: tingle, tingle, tingle

At that point, a furry cannonball shot out of the engine room and leapt on us, nearly causing soiled bed linen. We were at first horrified, as we’d been out cruising that day and immediately jumped to the conclusion that we were guilty of catnapping with diminished responsibility. (It’s not like you can be totally responsible for monsters that jump through open windows when you’re not looking.) We were, however, relieved to discover that this stripy beast actually belonged to our next door neighbors and she (yes, she. Our neighbors weren’t particularly observant.) spent many hours curled up on our couch with us in the evenings until we departed for our new marina in Pitstone.

For the last few years at Grebe, we’ve been once again sandwiched in trailer park style, although there’s a lovely little bridge and a willow tree to look at, so that’s a plus. The boat across from us, however, has obviously been floating there since the reign of James I and contains a seriously impressive spider metropolis. This boat is like New York in spider community terms. Not only that, but our marina owner decided to erect two large poly-tunnels directly behind our mooring for all of the boat maintenance. We were particularly impressed with the early Saturday morning angle grinding.

But lo, with the departure of two long term residents, we did solicit mightily to be granted their space. The only thing beside us now is open water, ducks, big ugly fish and other boats. Not only that, but we have a solid shore for summer barbecues and other tomfoolery. So, come one, come all, roll up, roll up, drag your butts on down for a brew.

Oh, and for some odd reason, our TV reception is better than it’s ever been. All the better to watch Eastenders with, my pretty…

Monday, April 11, 2005

What Would Jesus Buy?

Okay, correct me if I'm wrong, but there's no other world religion that engages in this tacky bullshit, right? Even if you ARE one of the faithful, SURELY it's obvious that commercialism cheapens a rather serious message, yeah? Should any of the other global faiths catch the merchandising bug. We might see offerings like these.........

Wild Kingdom

Just a little wildlife update: We had a pheasant in the garden yesterday evening. His name is Pete. This is why you should never let boys name animals.

We’ve heard him doing his rusty door hinge/car slamming on breaks impression for the last few weeks, but I had yet to actually get a look at him until he wandered into the garden last night, looking handsome, yet vacant at the same time. Pheasant plumage is beautiful up close. A luminous rusty orange, a black iridescent head and fabulous red mask. Most people only get to see them briefly in the headlights of their car before they become colorful roadkill, (They are not the cleverest of birds.) but it was wonderful to see one close up and moving around like a stately Lord of the Backyard.

There’s some fascinating wildlife here in the Shires. Although this is due mostly to nearby Whipsnade Zoo. There are 3 species that roam our hills freely that you might not expect to encounter in rural England.

- Chinese Water Deer or “Munkjacks”
- Wallabies
- Elephants

Okay, the elephants aren’t actually free range or anything. The good folks at the zoo like to take them on walks in the Ashridge forest. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be a visiting hiker encountering an elephant in the English wilderness.

“Look, Emma, there’s a Blue Tit sitting over there on that branch! See him? Right between the AAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!”

The wallabies and munkjacks are escapees from the animal penitentiary. Apparently both species managed to elude authorities and now have flourishing colonies on the surrounding hills. It’s very odd indeed to be driving through the Chilterns and catching sight of a bouncing wallaby out of the corner of your eye.

I know some people get their knickers in a huge twist about zoos. And obviously, the welfare of animals needs to be first and foremost, but my feeling is that they are an extreme boon for the conservation movement. It’s all well and good to tell our children that despoiling the habitat of the tiger is wrong, but until they actually SEE the magnificence of such an animal, the tiger is merely theoretical; a picture in National Geographic or just so much moving light on a David Attenbourgh special. It’s harder to look such a beast directly in the eyes and say,“Your survival doesn’t matter.”

Preachy bit over.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Fear Factor

I’ve had a chance this weekend to think about phobias. In this wide world there are plenty. According to Schott’s Miscellany, some of the more unique psychoses include bariohobia, the fear of garlic, pteronophobia, the fear of being tickled with feathers, barophobia, the fear of gravity and keraunothnetophobia, which is the fear of The International Space Station falling on your head.

The Rock Star’s gigs on Friday and Saturday took us to some venues that I probably never would have frequented even in the days when I thought that being stuck in a jostling mass of the sobriety impaired was a good night out. I believe I’ve discovered that yet another little quirk I’ve gleaned from my father’s genetic pool is agoraphobia, which is a fear of crowds. However, I’m open to the idea that it might just be the TYPE of crowd that makes me distinctly nervous, so a more apt description of my ailment might be intoxodorkaphobia, which is the fear of 10 drunk Rugby players jumping up and down in the middle of the dance floor to The Proclaimers “500 Miles” after consuming 12 pints of lager.

Your own phobias are obviously serious and sometimes debilitating. However, other people’s are almost always hilarious. Three cases for your consideration:

The Girl- A word to strike fear into the heart of…well…just her really: The Girl is the only female member of The Rock Star’s band. As a side note, in her absence this weekend, I discovered that the tone of the evening gets lowered considerably when she’s not around. (I obviously don’t possess enough estrogen for the lads to consider that I might be offended by the copious, spontaneous and tumultuous passing of gas.) For some reason, when we were all on holiday in Banff, she let slip that the word “gristle” physically made her teeth itch. Naturally, it’s been slipped into nearly every conversation since just to see her make “the gristle face.” We figure it’s only a matter of time before she meets the man of her dreams and discovers, to her horror, that his surname is Gristle. Then, after they’re married, every doctor’s waiting room would be a nightmare.

“Mrs Gristle?”

“Ack, ack ack ack, ack…..”

The Rock Star- Mr. Hand: It’s my fervent hope that everyone here knows what I’m talking about- My favorite episode of the Muppet Show when I was younger was the one on which Senor Wences, famous puppeteer and ventriloquist, was the guest star. (I’ve just discovered, courtesy of a huge Muppet fan boy, that it was Episode 104, originally aired on May 30th, 1981. I love the Internet.) One of the puppets he used was simply his own hand (using his thumb for a mouth) covered in a wig. This is a horror that makes the Rock Star fall of the couch. If I want to give him a terminal case of the heebie jeebies, all I have to do, is bring out Mr. Hand. For extra ick factor, sticking your other thumb through the “mouth” of the other hand creates an unpleasant illusion of a tongue which I inevitably try to snog him with. A grown man trying to climb out of his own skin at the sight of a talking hand should be on everyone’s “to see” list.

Papapotamus- Sly: I grew up in the woods. Seriously, my house was surrounded by what could have passed for the set of The Blair Witch Project. (Filmed only 35 minutes away from our house, actually.) Taking the dog out for a wee at night may as well have been a death sentence for a child with an over active imagination. I knew there were things with lots of tentacles in the woods that wanted to eat me back then and I still know it now. My father’s fear of the woods, however, is slightly different and it has to do with Sly.

Sly is a 5 ½ foot long black snake. He’s been living under my parent’s patio in various incarnations since I was a sophomore in high school. Black snakes are entirely harmless, but any animal that’s almost as long as you are tall and can slither up your trouser leg is bound to give just about anyone the willies. Sly has been spotted:

in my father’s tool shed. He got caught in chicken wire and my mom and I had to wrestle him while my father cut him loose. In gratitude, once free, he flung himself at dad, obviously intent on giving him a big, snakey hug.

on the grill. Dad came in after lifting the cover on the grill and asked my mother forlornly, “Um, can we grill some other night?” “Oh for pete’s sake!” mom replied as she marched outside, grabbed Sly by the tail and threw him into the woods. He bit her.

on the bookshelf in my parent’s bedroom. All I can say is it’s a good thing Dad found him there during the day as snakes like warm places at night. I think waking up with a snake in his bed grinning at him would have truly finished my father off.

Any phobics out there want to share their tales of woe?

Thursday, April 07, 2005

The Fine Art of Obnoxious Conversation

In general, I would choose NOT to use my blog as a bitchspot, but today I am. In the words of a massively irritating geek I met once, “Let me give you a scenario.”

It is 5.20 on Wednesday afternoon. I have spent a thoroughly mind numbingly tedious day in Purgatory saved only by the rather spectacular book, Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, which I’m not technically supposed to be reading at work, but since my boss, Ms. Personality, wasn’t in, I didn’t give a toss. Purgatory is a tiny little box of a shop with four close walls to bounce off during moments of extreme ennui.

Needless to say that Blogapotamus is ready to go home. The totals are tallied (not a large job as only 3 members of the human race (and 6 people in total) chose to visit our little hidey-hole of commerce, the heater is off, the CD player is silent and all I have to do is run down the clock.

Cue the absolutely worst kind of customer you can ever have at the end of the day; someone who has no idea what they want.

This is common in Purgatory. We have a bohonkus buttload of jewelry that often confuses lesser minds that enter. To be fair, I’m like this myself when confronted by a whole lot of shiny, but I do NOT possess the decision making disorder with which this woman seemed to be afflicted.

“Are you closing soon?” she asked, first thing. This, I thought, was a Good Sign.

“We’ll be closing at half five, yes,” I said through gritted teeth, “but can I help?”

“I know I want earrings to match a turquoise bracelet,” she says.

“Okay,” I said calmly, one eye on the clock, “which variety of turquoise?”

This might sound silly and rather boring to the non-lapidarily minded, but there are MANY different colors of turquoise. However, we only carry two; North American and Chinese, so my esteemed customer had at LEAST a 50/50 chance of getting it right.

Here we come to the heart of my bitch. She pulls out her mobile to phone a friend. Not only does she speak to this friend about her current conundrum, but also goes off on a gossiping tangent that lasts for nearly 5 minutes.

Perhaps after feeling the daggers that I was projecting into her head, she finally hangs up.

“Sorry,” she giggles, “I haven’t heard from her in a while.”

“How nice.” My saccrine is running near empty.

It’s now 5.27. She resumes her perusal of our wares when her dratted phone rings again. It’s Vodafone, doing a customer service check.

I know I’m in for the long haul when I hear, “Well, no, I’m not completely satisfied with my service and I’ll tell you why…”

The Rock Star put it this way: If you were in a shop being served and someone from the phone company walked up to you and asked if they could have a few minutes of your time, you’d tell them to cram it up their connection charge. SO WHY, IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT IS HOLY IS IT ANY DIFFERENT WHEN THEY RING YOU?

I don’t want to hear about why you’re unhappy with your phone service. I don’t want to hear about what you’re doing Friday night. I don’t want to hear about why Aunt Ellen isn’t speaking to Aunt Iris. I don’t want to hear about your kid’s soccer game. I don’t want to hear about which pub Gemma left her knickers in and I DEFINITELY don’t want to know why. I don’t want to hear about your report that’s due tomorrow morning. I don’t want to hear that you’re on the train. I KNOW YOU’RE ON THE FUCKING TRAIN! YOU’RE SITTING RIGHT NEXT TO ME, TAKING UP TWO SEATS WITH YOUR FAT, CORPORATE ASS AND SHOUTING IN MY EAR! NOW SHUT YOUR MASSIVE CAKE HOLE BEFORE I THROW THAT COCKING DEVICE OUT THE WINDOW!

“I’m sorry,” she giggled again, after hashing out her entire cellular plan, “that was a bit rude.”

I smiled wanly, dreaming of a day when etiquette and technology could meet happily on the middle ground.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

A Short History of Getting Off

As someone who’s often made jokes about the feasibility of certain sex toys, I was rendered completely speechless by a link that I discovered this morning pertaining to a 24” dildo called Thor. It’s always been my opinion that a good many “toys” sold in sex shops would be more handy for shattering heavy masonry than getting off, but Thor really takes the metaphorical biscuit.

The mighty Thor however, got me thinking that this kind of thing doesn’t just happen overnight, (Although I have to admit to that not being my VERY first thought.) so I’ll give you a brief timeline encapsulating the evolution of instuments of self-gratification that I have put together following literally 20 minutes of ceaseless searching on the Internet.

500 B.C.- We’ll go flying straight past the Egyptians as we all know they were very clever and probably managed to invent all kinds of stimulatory devices that are now lost to antiquity. For heaven’s sake, one of their primary gods, Amun, was only appeased by copious displays of male masturbation, so one can only expect they were fairly liberated. (“Ramses, you’ve been in the bathroom for an HOUR! What are you doing, worshiping Amun in there or something?") Around 500 B.C, however, the Greek port city of Miletus, on the west coast of present-day Turkey, is credited with popularizing the modern day dildo. Called olisbos, they were sold widely as sexual refuges for lonely women. Knowing ancient Greeks, however, women were probably not the only customers of olisbo merchants.

“Can I borrow your olisbo, Kopria, my dear?”

“I’m sorry, Leaina, I just lent it to Diogenes.”

“Oh, bum.”

Personal lubricants were pretty much restricted to whatever you could find, which, in ancient Greece, happened to be olive oil. All the better to enjoy your olisbo and nice on your salads too.

(It also occurred to me that the phrase “son of an olisbo merchant” might have been the cause of many brawls in Greek taverns on Saturday nights.)

300 A.D- Thrusting forward in history 800 years to the Kama Sutra, we come to the first mention of penis extenders, which, at the time, were made from wood, leather, buffalo horn, copper, silver, ivory or gold. You can still buy them today in all shapes, sizes or colors. I might be imagining things, but I can’t imagine that a penis extender is all that much fun for he who is extending his penis, but rather for she that is reaping the benefit of the penis extension. This is just my perception, however, not owning a phallus myownself. Plus, who wants one in neon pink? Penises, I imagine, do not like to be thought of as neon pink kind of creatures.

1200 A.D- Just a brief stop off here for the invention of the ever popular cock-ring. Men of China used the eyelids of goats with the lashes still attached to encircle their manhoods for greater stamina. The lashes were left on for her, presumably. I can only imagine there were a lot of pissed off, blind goats in China in the 13th century.

1400 A.D- Leave it to the Italians to revolutionize an idea from the past that allows them to pleasure themselves in new and interesting ways. The old olisbo makes a comeback (forgive the heinous pun) in 15th century Italy as the diletto, from the verb “to delight”. Dilettos were handmade by master craftsman and exquisitely made ones went for huge sums of money. Your basic diletto, however, was made of wood or leather and you had to raid the pantry for some olive oil to avoid chaffing, and let’s be honest, splinters.

1791 A.D- Our dear friend, Mr. Nipple Clamp himself, The Marquis De Sade makes his literary debut and gives a voice (and not a few ideas for new toys) to the nacient BDSM scene. Of course, here we add the word “sadism” to our dictionary, as well as “masochism” which comes from Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, who wrote a novel about male sexual submission.

1844 A.D- The first successful vulcanisation of rubber. Need I say more?

1869 A.D- The invention of the first vibrator. Originally developed as a device for treating “female hysteria”. Hysteria comes from the Greek for "suffering uterus," involved anxiety, irritability, sexual fantasies, "pelvic heaviness" and "excessive" vaginal lubrication -- in other words, not getting any and being incredibly frustrated. As you can see, the original model wasn’t exactly discreet. For one thing, it was steam powered and probably sounded like The Flying Scotsman when fired up. It’s not like you could go for a sneaky “workout at the Y” (one of my favorite euphemisms) in the upstairs loo without everyone on your block knowing about it.

It should be no surprise that the Victorians brought sex toys along in leaps and bounds: Who else but the extremely repressed would dream up the butt plug?

1890’s A.D- The invention of the motion picture. It should be a shock to no one that literally, seconds after the damn things were invented, there were movies of women going at it with strap-ons.

Today A.D- Thor. Thousands of years in the making, all leading up to your right to buy something that you can use to beat intruders in your home to death with or possibly use for some sort of sexual gratification that I can’t get my head around.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Wedded Wierdness

I got an e-mail link from my father this morning that made me laugh. We’d been talking last night about our fast approaching trip out to the Western US when I mentioned that, during our stay in Vegas, The Rock Star and I were thinking of renewing our vows in front of an Elvis impersonator, just for a bit of a rom-com type giggle.

The link was from a site called Las Vegas that offers you a staggering array of tacky matrimonial ideas. What made me smile were the options on the contact form that bade the bride and groom “check all that apply.”

__We would like a traditional wedding.
__We are on a budget
__We would like Elvis to perform at our wedding.
__We would like another impersonator or theme
__We would like a quick wedding
__We are so confused!

As you might expect. When faced with the choice of being married by Elvis, Captain Kirk, Al Capone or James Bond, who wouldn’t be?

The Rock Star’s and my wedding was a much more sedate affair. (Well, sedate in that no dead celebrities were in any way involved with the ceremony.) We had the church, the big white dress and church hall reception. There were at least two notable exceptions to normality, however.

The Wandering Minstrel
- My mother planned 98.9% of my wedding. I know some women would have been climbing the walls over this, but not me. Not only was I not living in the state where the wedding was taking place at the time, but I’m bad at planning big things and my mother is really quite marvellous at it. It got so complicated at one point that my father phoned me in Minneapolis while the Rock Star was visiting and offered us $15,000 to head over to The Chapel of Love at the Mall of America and get it over with. “Trust me,” he said, his voice heavy with the burden of a wife who’s gone straight over the edge, “I’ll still come out ahead.”

So, my mother was in charge of just about everything, but I was happy to rubber stamp everything she brought up. Until the morning that she informed me that she had hired a wandering troubadour for the reception. “You hired WHAT?” was my first reaction. (If there’s anyone who DIDN’T imagine a total prat with a floppy velvet hat, ribbons tied around his breeches mincing around and singing “Hey nonny nonny” to lute accompaniment, I’d like to know.) Oddball as the decision was, she seemed really quite keen on it, so, come the day of the wedding, we had a wandering troubadour.

Believe it or not, he was actually a great boon, although he DID actually have a lute and I'm not entirely sure, but I think I did hear at least one "Hey nonnny nonny". Not only did he know some lovely ballads which, to the Rock Star’s mortification, he tried to force him to sing to me, but also a rather impressive array of stunningly dirty songs (The Scotsman being the most memorable) that he and some of my college friends began belting out in the corner, right next to the table with all of my mother’s conservative church cronies. Not only that, but he made the Rock’s Star’s best friend jump around like a monkey for our amusement.

Did I mention that we had a dry wedding?

The War Stories- Everyone on the planet has a walnut in their family apple tree. Ours is dear old great uncle Norbert, which I will call him for the sake of all concerned. Only related by marriage, Uncle N has always been a bit of an odd fish and my late great aunt Petunia was universally considered something of a saint for her time served with him.

As I mentioned, our wedding was dry, much to the chagrin of all Brits involved, so all of them came to the ceremony armed with hip flasks. (Including my mother in law) After his much-fretted-over best man speech, my brother-in-law and the monkeyboy groomsman nipped off to the men’s room for a bit of liquid refreshment. That’s when they ran into Uncle Norbert.

If you are a normal person beginning a conversation with someone you don’t know in a men’s room (although, perhaps this isn’t really an act of a normal person) you would think that you would, at the very LEAST, preface your dialogue with “Hello.” Not Uncle Norbert. Upon entering the men’s room and seeing two young men having a drink, he walks up and launches straight into a story about his time in the Pacific. It went something like this:

“I was stationed in Hawaii during the war and our chaplain was real mad cause all the native girls kept walking around with no tops on. So he got ‘em some t-shirts to wear, but you know what they did? They cut the titties out.”

Boy Racer (my b.i.l) and monkeyboy looked at him in stunned silence as he meandered out of the bathroom, feeling that he’d imparted an important piece of knowledge.

That story made the rounds in the family for a long time afterward.

If the Rock Star and I DO renew our vows this summer, Elvis will not be the strangest thing that has ever happened in our marriage.

Friday, April 01, 2005

5 Things I Didn't Know Last Friday

1) Yes, Virginia, You Really CAN Cram 4 People Onto a Canal Boat For 3 Days

I had some doubts about the comfort of ourselves and our guests over their brief stay with us. 6’x 57’ is just about enough room for the two of us on most days and with the addition of two more bodies, I was afraid that our guests might begin to wish they’d stayed at the slightly less hygienic youth hostel down the road. But luckily, our Yankee friends were of the minimalist packing variety. I have to say, I was highly envious of their skills. Whenever the Rock Star and I go anywhere, half of our belongings come with us. Our luggage is guaranteed to cause hernias among airline baggage staff. But not our lovely guests; two little carry-ons were all they needed for two weeks away from home. This consequently kept clutter on our little house-craft to a minimum and made for a fairly comfortable experience all around.

2) If You Stay in Academia Too Long, You Run the Risk of Going a Bit Peculiar

As part of the weekend’s activities for our guests, we caught the bus over to Oxford for the day and hopped on one of the sightseeing busses for a bit of The Knowledge. We had a VERY animated and enthusiastic tour guide who was simply brimming over with bizarre information. My favorite piece of info regarded "Hunting The Mallard" at All Soul's College. Once every 100 years, the Dean of the collage and all of the professors dress up in their full academic regalia and go on a procession that leads them all around the college, over the rooftops and down to the cellars. The unusual thing about this procession is that the Dean, who leads it, carries a dead duck on a stick and periodically shouts out, “WHERE IS THE DUCK?” while the professors follow him with burnt out torches and pretend to look for it. At the end of the procession, the duck is “found” and everyone goes to an enormous feast. I remarked to the guide that it sounded like something that would happen at Terry Prattchet’s Unseen University. He said I wasn’t half wrong.

3) Antique Toys Give Me The Abber-Jabbers

There’s a shop in Covent Garden that deals in antique style toys. Ornate paper dolls, ghoulishly painted puppets, china dolls with big blonde curls and glassy eyes and other bits of children’s Victoriana. I followed my friends into this shop and was immediately stuck with a sense of intense foreboding. To some, this collection of memorabilia radiates a feeling of calm and innocence. To me, it felt like being trapped in the Village of the Damned. Those dolls are the reason I check under my bed at night. Give me bright, colorful inane playthings ANYDAY over the gruesome collection of giggling circus freak toys that inhabit the halls of yesteryear. I excused myself from the shop and went to listen to the ever present string quartet; gladly paying the basket beggar a pound to try not to let my imagination believe a load of little china hands were reaching out of the shop door behind me.

4) Punk is NOT Dead

Camden Lock proved this to me beyond a shadow of a doubt. You occasionally see miniature mohawks on confused Goth children in the centre of Aylesbury, but for the real deal, egg whites and all, Camden is the place to be. There was some EXCEPTIONAL hair on display there. I saw some hair there that could impale passing pigeons. In a different vein, I also received a flyer from a tattoo parlor that featured a picture of Satan tattooing an angel on Christ’s chest with the tagline: Give in to temptation. Classy.

5) “Beware of Kaboola, God of Cheese”

This is not my warning, mind you, but I have it on the good authority of whoever graphed it on the top of Carfax Tower in Oxford that this might be something to be concerned about. We all know he exists. Who else do you think is giving you indigestion at 3 in the morning after eating that entire bag of grated mature cheddar? I’d watch out if I were you.