Friday, 25 January 2013

25/01/13 - Sticky Bogeys

There was a large, sticky bogey gummed to the plughole in my bathroom sink this morning. It was still tenaciously clinging to the spot where I’d flicked it the night before.
It’s not mine, you understand, but rather something gloopy and stringy that I fished out of my baby daughter’s nose at bath time. Baby bogeys are incredible things – once you’ve grabbed hold of the end of one and started pulling, they just keep on coming and coming until you think you’re going to end up with a brain on a string. They’re impressively tacky too, somewhere between Sticky Fixers and golden syrup. Babies are, understandably, not altogether keen on letting you extract this magical snot; they’ve clearly put a lot of effort into making it and won’t give it up without a fight. This is also true of poo, particularly the larger, stinkier, messier shits that you can smell long before you get within visual range. These are wholesome, home-made creations, and evidently worth hanging on to. If you want a sticky bogey, daddy, go and make one. This is mine.

What I find interesting about these assorted fluids, pastes and semi-solids (aside from the fact that they’re not actually that gross – it’s amazing how rapidly and totally your squeamishness diminishes when you’re confronted with ickiness on a daily basis) is that they’re basically things that we made happen. We decided to make a person, and now that she’s here there’s a significantly larger amount of poo and bogeys in the world. None of this would have otherwise existed. We created something, and now that something is creating more things in an inexorable spiral of stuff, stuff and more stuff.

Take our living room coffee table, for example. It’s quite a nice one – nothing expensive or fancy, just a thing we bought in Homebase to replace the crappy Ikea job that our landlords provided. It’s made of some kind of light-coloured wood (sorry, trees aren’t really my speciality) and has little black metal embellishments here and there. It’s a good height for a coffee table. It can comfortably hold a number of coffee cups. It has a drawer in which one might store an address book or stack of gas bills. It is pretty much your bog-standard functional coffee table.
…except that now, after ten months of exploration, climbing, poking and chewing, it’s a parents’ coffee table. It has spongy rubber things attached to the corners to protect small heads, and the edge of it has a sort of glossy sheen from having been relentlessly gummed by an inquisitive little mouth. You can forget the blocks, balls, bells and books – that coffee table is the best toy ever, and it’s delicious. And there’s a whole lot of slobber on there. Slobber that never existed before.

The process of bringing up a nipper is basically a series of firsts – first solid poo, first time they sleep through the night, and so on.
Well, actually that isn’t true, but that is how it seems to outsiders, because that’s the kind of thing you talk about. On the inside, you’re just getting on with things day-to-day, watching them grow and develop and learn to pick things up and bang them together. But the firsts are the lead stories, the things that you’re most keen to share, for better or worse. They’re creating stuff all the time, whether it’s fluids, sounds, memories, emotions or moments of sheer panic. I’m looking forward to some of these milestones more than others…

First word
Well, that’s a tricky one. She’s kind of said her first words already, but where do you draw the line between sounds and words, and are they only actually ‘words’ per se when they’re used in the right context or applied to the right object/person/thing/whatever? For example, she’s been saying ‘mamamama’ and ‘dadadada’ for some time, but is she actually referring to us? Hard to say. I think that she is now, perhaps, although it would have been terribly advanced to have given a name to ‘mama’ a few months ago. So at what point does that sound become a word?
We’ve got a little book in which to document all of her significant firsts, and of course one of the blanks to fill in is ‘first word’. It’s a real bugger. I think I might just write ‘mamamamama’ in there and hope nobody questions it. Either that or I’ll put something complex and unexpected, like ‘verisimilitude’ or ‘Toyota’, so she’ll at least get a story out of it in later life. (Also, she did recently make a noise that sounded exactly like 'Edward Boobyhands'. Seriously.)

First day of school
Oh, piss off. I don’t want to think about that. It’s traumatic enough thinking about her first day at nursery in a couple of months’ time. She’ll be fine, obviously – babies are resilient, and nurseries know what they’re doing. It’s more that I know my wife would far rather be at home being a mum than handing her new best friend to someone else for the day and having to go back to work, it’s an emotional minefield. I’m also crapping myself over the cost. Do you know how expensive childcare is in London? We’ll be paying as much in nursery fees as we’re currently paying in rent. For fuck’s sake.
The first day of school, when it eventually comes, will be the start of a wonderful journey of making new friends and learning interesting things. But also, kids are bastards. They’d better be nice to her or there’ll be trouble…

Another thing I’m not prepared to think about. I’m burying my head in the sand on this one. The day she takes an interest in boys may be the day I have to start telling her what these boys are actually thinking. Dirty little sods. I know what boys are like, they’re appalling.

The puberty/menstruation terror
Christ, where do you begin with this one? Mummy can deal with this, I think. She won’t want to talk to me about it anyway, right?

Being a teenager
Now, this could be entertaining. I’ve made the decision to be as embarrassing as possible when she gets past the age of fifteen-ish, with my noisy old cars and rock ‘n’ roll records. ‘Dad, you’re so embarrassing! Why can’t you just be cool?’
I’ll be wilfully uncool, smotheringly over-protective and generally a bit of a cringe. I’ll pick her up from parties in a Capri, I’ll walk her to school in a Thin Lizzy t-shirt (‘What’s a Thin Lizzy?’ ‘I don’t know, just keep walking…’), I’ll ask her friends who their favourite member of One Direction is (‘Dad, that was fifteen years ago! Everyone’s listening to Billy Spleen and The Enchiladas now. You’re so sad’). I’ll enjoy that. 

Learning to drive
The worst thing a passenger in a car can ever do is flinch. When you’re instructing a new driver, however, it’s tricky not to.
My dad took me out around the country lanes when I was seventeen in my mum’s mkII Fiesta, and he was calm, measured and totally unflustered. I won’t be like that. I’ll be shouting ‘Christ, mind that lamp-post! How fast are we going now? Stop riding the clutch, that’ll cost a fortune to replace! Bloody hell, you just ran over that man’s dog!’ I feel that this will instil in her a sense of mortality and awareness that will stand her in good stead on the open road. There’s a lot of lunatics out there. (If you’ve got one in the car with you, that’s one less to worry about.)

Going to university
aka ‘First time living away from home’.
Too far away to think about, to be honest. Too complicated. She’s ours, she lives with us, stop saying she’s going away some day. Stop it.

Getting married

No, I can’t deal with this yet. Can she stay small and cute for a while longer, please? I’m very happy with the sink-bogies and stinky bum, thank you very much.

Tramampoline! Trambopoline!

Kids these days. Always finding new ways to hurt themselves.

Actual Facebook Graph Searches

Facebook have only just launched Graph Searches, and already Tom Scott is exploiting it for comedy. Click here.

Man Of Now?

OK, so Kia Australia have made a terrible new advert. Here it is:

...but, as always, the internet has saved the day. Behold, a superb parody:

Doc Brown - My Proper Tea

WTF, Evolution?

Sometimes, evolution gets distracted. Clicky.

Winter of '63

Think it's cold out there now? Be thankful it's not fifty years ago...


Advertising is an inherently wanky business. Here's a new blog that calls agencies out.

Piranha Scissors

This is how MacGyver chops twigs.

Fighting Dirty in Scrabble

Friday, 11 January 2013

Brian Butterfield's Sports Warehouse

Hooray! This was on CBBC, of all places.

Movie Urban Legends

A massive and near-exhaustive list of movie-related urban legends, either confirmed or debunked - click here.

Metal Squared

Robots playing Motörhead? Holy crap!

Murder Map

Grisly in the extreme, but also rather compelling. Click here.

News Bloopers

Some old hat, but some cracking new ones in there too.


Britons, it's about to get super-cold out there. So click here for a selection of images from The Atlantic to get you in the mood.

Ghost Driver

Some genuinely amusing reactions to this prank.

Friday, 4 January 2013

04/01/13 - The Dice Game

I once owned a Ford Cortina. Well, I was born in Southend, it was bound to happen sooner or later.

Among a plethora of old Fords that have had my name on the logbook over the years, including three Capris, six Escorts, a Sierra and two Fiestas, the Cortina was arguably the most Essex-y of the lot. It was a 1970 four-door, running a 1600cc crossflow and upgraded to GT spec. The door cappings and dash were made of that kind of substantial, chunky wood that would have been too agricultural for a Jaguar, but put the plasticky efforts of 1990s Rovers and the like to shame; that was wood that actually came from trees, you could scrape your thumbnail over the grain. Rugged, hardy timber.
The car had started its life as a pale blue family runabout, but had been converted into something rather more aggressive by the guy that I bought it from. I love the thought that it was used through the seventies to ferry the kids to school and nip to Tesco at the weekend – if only those kids could see what it became, resprayed in a menacingly glossy shade of black, its blue vinyl seats dyed black to match. The headlining (that’s the covering on the inside of the roof, non-car folk) was trimmed in fluffy leopard-skin, while the gangster-tinted windows featured millions of purple skulls on the inside. It may not sound cool, but it bloody was. It had a Mountney steering wheel and a Lotus gearknob. Under the arches were a set of 15” Superlights, while the suspension was several inches lower than it would have been in its former life. That’s the endearing thing about classic cars – they evolve and transmute over the years, being personalised by their owners and enjoying love and devotion as they enter each new and diverse phase of their existence.

I bought the car blind on eBay, which is a damned stupid thing to do. (But we’ve all done it, eh? Eh…?) The seller was up in Birmingham and, to be honest, I couldn’t be arsed to get a train up there, test drive it, come home, wait a few days, bid on it, then go back, so I just threw a bid in and crossed my fingers. I ended up winning it for about £1600 which, in today’s terms, is a bit of a bargain for a well-specced, solid, MOT’d old Ford. (It was about five years ago that I bought it, but the point stands. I sold it after six months for over £3000 – I think it’s the only car I’ve ever actually made money on.)
With an envelope stuffed full of filthy banknotes, I caught the train northwards to see what I’d bought…
Thankfully, it turned out to be pretty much as solid and clean as the seller made out, which I was enormously relieved about. So I had a cup of tea with the owner and talked through its history, took it for a spin, exchanged signatures, handed over the cash and was on my merry way back down south.

It was somewhere on the M25 that the smoke appeared.

OK, it wasn’t actually smoke, but steam. This was also something I was enormously relieved about – smoke is, generally speaking, bad. But it was clear that the cooling system was a bit knackered, and the boiling coolant was billowing from the sides of the bonnet in great cartoonish puffs. I dove off the M25 to find somewhere to stop.
Unfortunately, I didn’t really know where I was – and this was pre-smartphone/sat-nav – so I found myself on some motorway or other leading into London, in total gridlock and with nowhere to pull over. I could almost feel the engine boiling. You know when you’ve just bought a car, and you have that euphoric ‘I love this new toy’ feeling? And the first sign of anything being wrong with it makes your heart lurch and sink? Yeah, that. It was a real pisser of a journey.

I eventually managed to get it home, wheezing and sighing in a fug of its own vapour. It was obvious that there was a little more wrong with the engine than just its cooling system. It had managed to blow out the dipstick and spurt oil all over the engine block (lovely smell, that – and that does create some real smoke), which suggested the trademark crossflow death-knell of breathing issues was about to open up my wallet and tear out anything of value. Ah well, them’s the breaks.

Rather stupidly, I had to make an embarrassing phone call to the seller when I got home to ask him a couple of important but dumb questions: how do I open the bonnet, and how do I get the car into reverse…?
Basic actions, right? But when he’d been showing me around the car, I didn’t pay attention to how he opened the bonnet; having got back home and spent the best part of half an hour scouring every inch of the interior for levers, cables or switches, it turned out that you pop the hood by pressing the ‘Cortina’ badge on the front of the car. Something that any random passer-by could do. Jesus, it’s no wonder so many of them get nicked…
And reverse gear? The way to select it on the old four-speed wand ’box is to grab the gear-lever, pull it really hard so that it feels like you’ve broken it, then yank it brutally left and down as if you’re hellbent on destroying the thing. Who’d have guessed?

So, yeah, I had to put a new engine in it. But this isn’t as horrific an endeavour as it would be with a modern car, which would set you back thousands. I sourced a 1600 crossflow from a mkII Escort for £250 from a classic Ford breaker, then got a local garage to swap them over for about £200. Could’ve been worse. It worked brilliantly after that.

This quite dull story brings us to the crux of this week’s JuicyPips: The Dice Game. [capital letters to denote significance – read it in a General Melchett voice]
I had a set of fluffy dice in the Cortina. Of course I did, it was a Cortina, you have to.
My friend Chris and I used to go out into the winding country lanes of Surrey and play The Dice Game – me driving, him handling the dice. The rules are simple: roll the furry dice into the passenger footwell to determine your route. The die on the left tells you whether you should turn left or right (odd numbers = left, even = right). The die on the right tells you which turning you should take; i.e. if you roll a three and a four, you’ll be taking the fourth turning on the left. If you roll a two and a five, take the fifth turning on the right. And so on. You keep doing this until you come to a pub. Then you go into the pub and have a drink. Then you get back in the car and carry on.
Obviously the driver can only have soft drinks, but it’s still a game which both of you will thoroughly enjoy; the driver gets to spend the afternoon thrashing down some twisty lanes at high speed, while the passenger gets smashed. Win-win.

So, that was quite a convoluted and lengthy way to offer you a suggestion for your weekend. Why don’t you and a mate go off into the countryside and toss your dice around? You’ll enjoy it, I promise. If you can get hold of a mkII Cortina with racy suspension, you’ll have the time of your life.

NYE 2012/2013

Two rather cool New Year's Eve thingies here. Firstly, some great photos from NYE around the world - click here.
Secondly, a trippy video of the Melbourne fireworks in reverse.

The Big Internet Things of 2012

Living in a cave? Here's what you missed online last year - click this.

'The Motherhood'

Amusing little ad from Fiat.

The Home Alone Burglars

Those burglars in Home Alone took an absolute pasting, didn't they? This medical analysis tots up just how fucked they were - click here.

Holland vs the Netherlands

Did you know the difference? I didn't.

Sex Problems

An accurate depiction of men, women, relationships, sex and love in modern Britain.