Friday, June 30, 2006

The Greatest Website In The World

Holy Sh#t, am I hungover today. And I’ve got a job interview in two hours. So rather than read about how I managed to shave off my beard in a drunken stupor last night, why not click on THESE BLUE WORDS THAT ARE UNDERLINED to discover a treasure trove of internet wonderment. And while you’re there, place your bets for the sporting event of the year.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Outgoing... INCOMING!!!

Due to a “space crisis”, my column below will not be making an appearance in today’s Daily Record because it “has been squeezed out by adverts”. (If the adverts are for Viagra, I’m really gonna fail to see the funny side.) However, it may appear in tomorrow’s edition. Then again, it may not.

Alert readers with finely-honed short-term memories (i.e. women) will recall that last Tuesday I made a desperate plea to find a new job due to the fast-approaching expiration of my current employment contract. With only three days left to work, I’m disappointed to tell you that the response to my appeal has been somewhat less than overwhelming. In fact the only contact of any consequence has been a constant stream of phone calls from that annoying Angelina Jolie woman begging me to be her new childminder. Although the basic salary was attractive enough, the associated bonus and benefits package - “travel the world to help me clear landmines” - was not really what I had in mind.

Despite these setbacks, I am not disheartened and am confident that a beer-tasting vacancy will open up soon. In the meantime, I am tying up a few loose ends in the office (my rubber band ball is now the size of a melon) and filling my time with productive activities similar to those I enjoyed at school in the days leading up to the summer holidays. Yesterday, for example, me and my best mate Blousie (so-called because he writes like a woman) decided to play “soak the smokers” with a fire hose from the fourth floor balcony. Although we both laughed to the point of needing fresh underwear, the memo from Security pledging “swift and uncompromising justice to the perpetrators” obviously failed to see the funny side.

Pranks aside, this week has been one filled with thank yous and goodbyes and I’d like to take a moment to make special mention of some of the rich cast of office characters who have made the last twelve months so enjoyable.

For a start, I need to say a big thank you to my boss Valerie for all her help and support and for allowing me to strike a harmonious work-life balance by “working from home” when I’ve had an important golf match to play. She’s also going to let me bring in some board games for my last day on Friday.

Then there’s Geeky Cyber Dude who, when he eventually turns up three days late to fix my computer, introduces me to entirely new branches of the English language. For example, GCD likes to tell me about his surreptitious “crop-dusting” pursuits; the fine art of silent farting as he passes through the office. (Note to self: consider “crop-dusting” for Thursday’s prank.) His latest is “batmobiling”, meaning to put up emotional shields, and refers to the retracting armour that covers the Batmobile.

Neil: “So, Geeky Cyber Dude, how are things going with the girlfriend?”
GCD: “Aw man. Last night she wanted to talk marriage. So I, like, totally started batmobiling.”

And finally, I couldn’t move on to pastures new without giving a big “shout-out” to Crazy Plant Lady. As well as being famous for – I am not making this up – giving pet names to both her breasts, Crazy Plant Lady owns the only green shrub in the office, a pathetic looking specimen (Latin name: “Specimus Patheticus”) which she expects me to water whenever she’s on holiday. If I ever forget, she’s quick to unleash a torrent of abuse using the endearing pet name she has for me in the process. (I couldn’t repeat it here but it rhymes with granny.) I will miss our cultural exchanges and I wish her and her “ample girls” much success and happiness for the future.

To them and all my valued colleagues I say this; if you have time to join me for a drink* in the pub on Thursday, that would be great and I’ve really enjoyed working with you. If you don’t, please confirm the correct spelling of your names so I can “out” you in these pages next week.

And now if you’ll excuse me I have to get back to work. I’ve still got a tense game of Kerplunk to complete and then I must go and buy Clingfilm for tomorrow’s toilet prank.

*To clarify – by “join me for a drink” I mean, of course, “BUY me a drink”.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

All Positions Considered. Anyone?

Regular readers will know that I rarely use this column for my own selfish needs or for personal financial gain. I suppose there was that one time when I was desperately seeking a new room-mate and used this space to flesh out the essential attributes each candidate should possess. But since none of the applicants agreed to take part in the swimsuit parade section of the audition process, that doesn’t count.

This week however, I’d like to take a break from my usual subject matter of why the pizza is the Greatest Invention Known To Mankind*, and concentrate instead on more pressing issues that require your assistance. To get straight to the point, my contract of employment runs out at the end of this month and the company are giving me the opportunity to further my career elsewhere. Or as the nice lady from HR put it to me the other day, “Don’t even THINK about pocketing that stapler when you go.”

While the prospect of a little ‘down time’ is appealing, I doubt you’d enjoy opening this paper every Tuesday to read, “Long lie again. Watched ‘Loose Women’. Had a right good scratch. Made mental note to change underwear sometime. Took nap. Watched football. Went to bed.”

So here’s where you come in. Out there somewhere I just know there’s an avid reader who’s aware of an upcoming vacancy in the Quality Assurance department of a major Belgian beer company. Or perhaps there’s someone who’s heard that Angelina Jolie is looking for a childminder - that thing with Brad Whatshisname will never last - and can pass on her telephone number? (I will also accept her telephone number even if she isn’t looking for a childminder.)

I realise of course that you’re not just going to hand me one of these much sought-after positions without some kind of screening and interview process. (I’ve purchased new Speedos in case you’re thinking of including a swimsuit parade.) So noted below is my Curriculum Vitae - from the Latin ‘Curriculum’ meaning ‘list of’ and ‘Vitae’ meaning ‘total and utter bollocks’ - to allow you to assess my qualifications and suitability for any available role.

Personal Attributes:
A self-motivated and hard working individual with twenty years work experience and an excellent track record, although please note, I am not a horse. Can work as part of a team but prefer to use my own initiative. An excellent communicator at all levels within an organisation as long as it’s by email. In fact it’s probably best that I not work with people. Good problem solving skills and adopts a creative approach to expenses claims always. Computer literate with exceptional keyboard skills - currently at level 10 of Lara Croft Tomb Raider Legend.

Previous Experience:
1978 – 1982 Newspaper Delivery Courier. Learned fast how to work with animals and administer emergency first aid. Often simultaneously.
1983 – 2003 Twenty years of devoted and loyal service to numerous companies.
2003 – 2005 Took a year out to travel around the world. Got lost.
2005 – 2006 Low key, office-based role which afforded rapid advancement on the Professional Internet Surfing circuit.

Education & Qualifications:
10 O’Grades, 6 Highers and a 25 metre swimming certificate.

Any Criminal Record:
Once charged with unlawful handling of staplers and other assorted office supplies. Never proven.

Marital Status:
Single. Unmarried. Unengaged. Unattached. No commitments. Alone.


As I’m sure you’ll agree, this CV speaks for itself and I await notice of all interesting vacancies with eager anticipation. You can reach me at the usual address between the hours of 4pm and 6pm after my afternoon nap, Monday to Friday. Except Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays when I’ll be playing golf.

*Before you throw your little cell phone in the ring to challenge the pizza’s rights as the Greatest Invention Known To Mankind, take a glance at the recently discovered personal journal of super smart historical Scot, Alexander Graham Bell.

March 10 1876
Today I invented the telephone and called my assistant Mr Watson.

“Mr Watson,” I shouted into the transmitting instrument. “Come here. I want to see you.”

Mr Watson duly arrived in an excited state and confirmed that he’d heard and understood what I’d said in his receiving instrument.

“What now sir?” he asked breathlessly as tiny beads of perspiration doth appeared on his brow.

“Phone Dominos and order me a 14” Meat Lovers with the cheese filled crust. We’re gonnae celebrate!”

More newspaper stuff here.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Unashamedly Smug

The third round of the U.S. Open (it’s a golf tournament) has just concluded. Who do you think shot the lowest round today?

Phil ‘I look like I’ve had a lobotomy’ Mickelson?
Vijay ‘Women should be banned from playing’ Singh?
Ernie ‘Nice weeeeeed man’ Els?
Colin ‘F#ck you’ Montgomerie?
Tiger… no sorry, he’s already gone home.

Nope, the lowest round of the day was shot by ME, as evidenced by the scorecard below. Granted, I was playing in a different tournament several thousand miles away on a course 1,200 yards shorter. But hey; it’s the first time in my life I’ve ever shot under par (that’s a GOOD thing) in a real tournament so I’m pretty f#cking pleased with myself.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get to the emergency room ‘cause I’ve just smashed my big inflated head off the doorframe.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Just Click

Courtesy of my smart and sassy future sister-in-law Kathryn (who, in her cd collection, has Metallica next to the Dixie Chicks – don’t get me started on the alphabetisation crime in evidence here) sent me these very funny links the other day. I’m not clever enough to “embed” them in this website (in fact up until recently I thought the verb “embed” meant something completely different) so as the title says, just click. Oh and make sure your sound is on.

Click HERE No.1

Click HERE No. 2

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The One About... Something Or Other...

Something really funny happened last week that I’m dying to tell you about. It involved someone famous who had the misfortune to endure some kind of mishap with a piece of household fruit or a gardening tool. Come to think of it, perhaps it was a household pet. Or a one-armed vet. Or a misshapen courgette. Or a monk in Tibet. Thing is, my memory isn’t as reliable as it used to be so the entire amusing incident is now just a blur of colours and sounds that might well have been induced instead by the consumption of excess Belgian beer.

That’s the trouble with getting older – you tend to forget important things. Like how old you are. Often, during family gatherings, my mother will hone in on some so-called rogue aspect of my behaviour or point to my Burberry baseball cap and say, “For goodness sake Neil. What age are you?” To which I’ll reply, quite sincerely, “17?”

So after the shock of checking my birth certificate and discovering that I am, in fact, 42, I’ve decided it’s time to face up to the reality of these memory lapses. For a while there I was starting to wonder whether I might be coming down with Whatshisname’s Disease but it seems the diagnosis is much more straightforward. My. Brain. Is. Full. Or to be more accurate, my brain is packed with useless crap left over from 42 years of watching Saturday morning television and absorbing obscure sporting statistics.

To this day I can recite the entire theme song from “Casey Jones” (steamin’ and a-rollin’) or list the European Cup-winning Ajax side from 1973. But ask me if I remembered to put underwear on this morning and I’d have to check and see. (Note to self: Checking for underwear during annual appraisal meeting does not go down well with boss.)

If you think you might be approaching an age where these memory issues are becoming problematic, then I recommend trying American comedian Steve Martin’s suggestion as to how the middle-aged can easily kill a good half hour.

1. Place your car keys in your right hand.
2. With your left hand, call a friend and confirm a lunch or dinner date.
3. Hang up the phone.
4. Now look for your car keys.

But two weeks ago I stumbled across the perfect place to utilise a brain packed with 42 years worth of useless crap. It’s a centre of excellence for the gifted and afflicted – a bit like that school run by Patrick Stewart in the X-Men movies – where like-minded souls come together to share their wisdom and search for answers. You may have heard of it. It’s called The Pub Quiz.

At the Pub Quiz, no-one looks down on you when your memory manages to list all the Ingalls children in “Little House on the Prairie”. No-one judges you when you come up with the collective noun for caterpillars (an ‘army’) and you’ll receive respectful nods of approval when you remember the Spanish vocal duo responsible for 1977’s “Yes Sir, I Can Boogie”. (Baccara)

But a word of warning. The Pub Quiz can also stretch your powers of recall to the limit. At these stressful times you may find the conversation going a little something like this.

Neil (to friend 1): “Right, what can I get you to drink?”
Friend 1: “Pint of lager.”
Neil (to friend 2): “And you?”
Friend 2: “The same.”
Neil (whispers to friend 2): “What did thingmy want again?”

So anyway, back to that story of the one-armed Tibetan and his… em… wait, it’s right on the tip of my tongue… nope, sorry it’s gone.

More newspaper stuff here.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

When The Moon Hits Your Eye...

Every week I expect the newspaper to contact me and dish out sagely advice about column composition, plot structure and subject matter. Stuff like, “For f*cks sake Neil, stop writing about pizza!” But since they never do…

When the sun is shining I find there is no better way to spend a Saturday than to drop in on old friends unannounced and help them consume their newly acquired stock of ice cold Czech beer. This may sound straightforward in principal, but in practice, the timing of your arrival is crucial if you want to reap maximum rewards from the visit. Turn up too early in the afternoon and chances are you’ll be handed a paintbrush or some kind of gardening implement with the expectation of physical exertion in return for your adult beverages. Turn up too late and the only thing left on offer will be a small bottle of supermarket-branded, light beer and half a cold spring roll.

So after years of trial and error I’ve discovered that the optimum dropping-in time is exactly 5.13pm. Chores for the day are coming to an end and your arrival gives friends the excuse they were looking for to finish up their grouting, decking, stripping, erecting, filling, laying or whatever the hell else it is that people in suburbia get up to these days. Their eternal gratitude will ensure you’re ushered smartly towards the back garden where you’ll be offered a selection of hastily assembled garden furniture in which to relax and enjoy your beer.

As time passes, thoughts inevitably turn to food. Even if your friends have plans to go out later in the evening it’s highly probable you’ll be invited to stay long enough to share a snack or two. But if you’re really fortunate - like I was on Saturday evening - their social lives will be as barren and desperate as your own and you’ll hear the magic words that, up to this point, have only ever been a long-held mythical fantasy, often whispered but never said out loud.

“We’re having home made pizza tonight. Why don’t you just stay for dinner?”

At this point, time will appear to stand still and you may have trouble breathing. But it’s important to try and compose yourself because your reaction in the seconds after hearing this statement will define your relationship with these people for years to come.

Obviously your natural instinct will be to leap from the garden furniture and career wildly round the lawn screaming some combination of, “YES! AT LAST! ABOUT TIME! YA F*CKING BEAUTY!” before sliding to your knees, Thierry Henry-style, and giving thanks to the Lord as if you’ve single-handedly knocked England out of the World Cup. Before you know it though, Christmas cards will stop arriving, phone numbers will be changed and you’ll become intimately acquainted with the precise distance of 100 feet, as defined by the restraining order.

So take a moment to slow the rhythm of your pounding heart. A useful tip to buy yourself some extra thinking time is to glance at your watch to give the impression that you might have somewhere more exciting to go. If you can manage it, attempt to cast your eyes to the floor in a sheepish manner so your friends will know that you really don’t want them to go to any trouble for you. And when you’re ready to reply, blush coyly and say, “That would be lovely. Thanks very much.” You may find you have to repeat this answer after your first attempt emerges as an excitable, high pitched squeak that only dogs can hear.

After dinner, it’s good manners to offer to help with the washing up but make sure you’ve checked that your friends have a dishwasher before tabling this proposal. And if you’re wondering which magic words should signal your speedy departure, stay alert for the phrase, “It’s time to watch Celebrity X Factor.”

Sunday, June 04, 2006

No Sh*t Sherlock

I think it’s about time I got myself a job in one of those stating-the-frickin’-obvious scientific research projects. Last week, microbiologists at Birmingham University announced that “sweets really can give you energy” after bacteria fed on caramel and nougat waste produced hydrogen which energised a fuel cell. The muppets could’ve saved themselves the bother by feeding chocolate buttons to three year-olds and then standing well back.

So I’m currently seeking substantial levels of funding for my “beer really can make you fall over” and “sex really can make you sleepy, eh sorry, happy” projects. Oh, and I need a couple of lab assistants. Interested? (Not YOU Dave!)