Friday, March 11, 2016

Yerp - in or out - contains profanities (not mine, for once)

On Thursday 23rd June 2016 the UK Voting population will be invited to answer a simple question.  Do you want the UK to remain a member of the EU or not?

Seems like a simple question on an emotional subject where feelings are running strong.  To make a rational decision you need all of the available information, and the time (and desire) to weigh it up.  I'm not sure I have enough of either of those things, but I shall give it a go for myself (I'm not trying to influence *you* - this was one argument for staying in, recommended by a friend-of-a-friend and I understand that Stephen Hawking - who has never knowingly lied to me - is also in favour of the status quo - possibly the pink floyd and T rex as well).

David Cameron (like him or loath him) has been all over Europe seeking concessions to some of the things which annoy the UK, and has certainly secured some movement - though I'd hazard a guess not as much as he, or we, wanted.  On their part, the other countries in the UK have indicated they want the UK to stay, but that this is a one-time decision.


I am beginning to think that large swathes of the folk who'll be answering have no interest in making a rational decision.  My money is (would be, if I had any) on an 'out' result, which I think is going to be largely driven by reptilian (or perhaps limbic) fear and loathing.  In that respect, there seem to be many parallels with the Trump campaign in the US. The referendum result, more than any 'general election' has the power to change our country for many years - and I have no idea at present whether it will be for good or ill.

So why do I harbour this terrible fear?

Anyone connected via Facebook with a number of UK based friends is likely to already know the opinions of many of them - often in no uncertain terms.  Just this morning a friend of mine 'shared' a post from one of his connections championing the leave cause - no names, but I doubt very much that my pal shares the same opinions as the bloke he quoted (remember how many good people were taken in by Britain First?).  It was an interesting post - contained a number of serious grammatical errors, made a few unsubstantiated claims (for example "The EU needs us more than we need it") and reached a conclusion not supported by those same claims.  I have to admit, I was fascinated, so I went to the Facebook page for the originator where I was greeted by a middle aged fellow gurning alongside a can of Stella Artois (an overpriced tasteless EU import, ironically) and ringed by the slogan "Proud Enemy of Islam".  Now, I don't *like* Islam, in the same way that I don't like *any* religion - Id rather they didn't exist, but they do and I certainly don't think that all of the followers of those religions are evil. I have many of them amongst my friends - all of whom are most excellent individuals. Its impossible to tell how much of a person's Facebook life is locked down to their friends only - but a good guide is how much you can see if you are not one of them. In this case, that was rather a lot - of his and his pals opinions.  I got about as far as "Refugees Fuck Off", closely followed by "Fuck Islam" and decided I'd had enough. This is not a man who's opinions or morality I respect.

There is most certainly scaremongering on both sides, and that's regrettable. Most of the 'in' arguments seem based on what we might lose - which could be more positively phrased as what we currently enjoy. A great number of the 'out' comments Im seeing from the great British public seem to focus on not being bossed about by Belgians or 'overrun' by East Europeans/Muslims. But let's remember, that a 'pure' English person is most likely part Celt, part Viking, part Saxon and, most recently, part French - and stronger for it. And the EU was, in part, created after we all so nearly became completely German - so the irony of folk fearing that its a pathway to invasion isn't lost on me.

I suspect (but I'm really not sure) that we are better off in. I don't think we can escape all of the 'bad' points of EU membership by flouncing off in a huff, and if we do that we're stuck with them as we have no seat at the table. We will have stuck two fingers up to our neighbours in a fashion I'm not sure Winston Churchill would have felt comfortable with.

I'm starting to think about the whole thing emotionally too - I wonder if NOT doing so is actually impossible. Regardless of the facts and a determination to make a sensible decision I fear I may end up voting IN just to dissociate myself as far as I can from the kind of narrow minded, racist, poorly educated and dangerously stupid person whose Facebook page so recently turned my stomach - not an easy thing to do when you consider the quantity and variety of shit I've shovelled from one place to another.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Grumbler's 2015

I’ve got a memory like a sieve, so I’ve often resolved to keep a diary because it would be interesting to look back on – but just like intentions to be a regular gym goer, to stop drinking or swearing, the promise has been lucky to last five minutes into the new year.
It turns out that social networking means that I have actually been keeping a diary of sorts, via the ‘book of faces’. Reading through the last year’s posts reveals that the year’s been a lot busier than I thought…
I’ve actually managed to pretty much keep to one resolution I made at the start of 2015 – which was that 90% of all beer, wine or cider drunk at Grumbler’s Oast be brewed on the premises. Shares in local home-brew suppliers have risen dramatically over the year but are poised to plunge once more as Mrs. Grumbler and I contemplate a ‘dry January’.
There have been moments of sadness. Observers may have been surprised had they been walking in the woods in January and chanced upon the Grumbler, clutching a spade, covered in mud, crouched in the bottom of a five foot deep hole in the pouring rain, bawling his eyes out. We had lost our beloved friend and companion Floyd who, for nearly fourteen years had filled our lives with so much love, shed fur, barking and horrendous dog farts that the memories (and the smell – though come to think of it, I know someone who used to blame Floyd when she ‘trouser coughed’, so maybe that’s why he’s still so palpably with us) will never ever leave us. A few months later, after having spent a nice half hour chatting with him in a field before he came down with a very nasty case of colic, I was performing a similar task for Jet, though a simple shovel wasn’t going to cut the mustard on that occasion. Jet had been Mrs Grumbler’s friend for three and a half decades and, while he was undoubtedly the ‘Victor Meldrew’ of the pony world we all loved him very much. Further from home, the passing of Terry Pratchett felt like the loss of a personal friend, having loved his books and identified with more than one of his characters for many years.
On the other side of the coin, there were some new arrivals. Arfa, who we expected to remain a tiny ‘handbag dog’ came to live with us and has grown, like a weed, into an un-trainable, lanky git with the ability to be incredibly naughty and unbelievably cute simultaneously. And Ebby has added a touch of Andalusian class, beauty and teddy-bear attitude to the stableyard. We’ve hatched chickens, collected swarms of bees, adopted goats, raised pigs and installed turkeys. (And we’ve eaten some of them too.)
I’ve discovered a remarkable ability to inflict pain on myself. I left a couple of mates drinking beer in a tent and got my first tattoo. It’s still there but I think they’ve moved on. I made a spirited attempt (with the help of a rusty trailer and a lapse in concentration at exactly the wrong moment) to permanently disassociate myself from my right thumb. While helping a pal move some beehives I managed to get stung half a dozen times with the ‘coup-de-grace’ being delivered in style by a particularly sneaky member of the genus Apis mellifera to my right eye just after I’d taken my net-curtain hat off. In an attempt to reduce the swelling so that I could see again I worked my way through the various creams, pastes and ointments in the bathroom cupboard. I’m not convinced that everything I found in there is even ours. I started with the least distasteful and discovering to my immense relief that pile cream worked a treat. On the bright side, I’m not going to get stretch-marks, wrinkles, athlete’s foot, halitosis, zits, verucas, rust, limescale or – bizzarely – a puncture in that eye now, but the few possibilities that remained after my triumphant discovery still make me shudder.
We’ve crossed a huge number of things off our to-do list (though the damned thing still gets longer). The ‘pony playpen’ is completed so the horses have somewhere to let off steam without wading through hip-deep mud. We’ve had a log burner installed in the Oast to keep us warm. At first, most of the smoke came into the house, but we’ve had the chimney extended, metre by metre, until it goes where it’s supposed to. We may sublet it to Virgin Galactic as their UK launch base since it’s halfway to outer space already. We finally won a long running battle with the council to fix the drains outside on the main road – my threat that next time I had to clear them at two am I would do so without covering my night attire (see Marilyn Monroe, but substitute Brut33 for Chanel #5) probably did the trick. The thought of being sued for mental anguish by a trucker who’s been accosted in the middle of a flooded A-road by a naked old man angrily waving his grass rake (that isn’t a euphemism, by the way) was probably too much for them.
And finally, friends were a constant feature. Good live music was enjoyed. We (well, the horses) won some prizes at shows, and we made a good friend cry by giving her a beautifully drawn picture of her favourite horse. We made another attempt on Trailtrekker – the last, if Oxfam are to be believed. Some of the team went the distance while other (self included) didn’t get much past forty miles or so. And there was Grumblefest; where the rain held off, the pig stayed on, and the drink didn’t run out.
So it’s been another year where counting our blessings would involve removing not only my own shoes and socks but those of several family members. However, as I write this in the warm office, they’re mucking out the horses (score one for me) so I really dont want to get too close to their boots.
Happy new year everyone…

Friday, December 11, 2015

'Ark at that rain, but don't call me Noah. A swearfest.

I am awoken from hard won slumber and a dream involving a lottery win, twelve gallons of Harvey's best and a bus load of naked nuns by the howls of a thousand banshees and something that sounds like my house being demolished around me, mostly because it fucking well is, by my own beloved pets.

I discover an Eight foot wide swathe of water, four feet from my house on a sixteen foot wide road with forty ton trucks (sixty tons when fully loaded with migrants from the Calais camps) going past at fifty miles an hour throwing a ten foot tidal wave at the aforementioned abode. And over me in my sodding dressing gown as I try and unblock the drains at midnight?

Meantime there's 100 kilos of mad dog in my kitchen, two busted doors and a pile of 'terrified dog' shit that looks like it weighs more than the frantically barking canine cretin that's just laid it. I like mountains as much as the next guy, but I don't want a fucking brown one in the room next to my kitchen. Especially not one that smells like Tyson Fury's breath.

And the man at the council winces when my complaint contains the word 'fuck'? Well, bollocks.

My legendary patience is ended in a searing orgy of profanity.

Tomorrow, someone's going home from the council road maintenance office with busted eardrums, radi-fucking-ation burns and an extra arsehole they didn't have when they got up in the morning. And if that doesn't fuck their Friday night up as badly as my Thursday has been, I shall visit them at 2am on Saturday and personally shit in their handbag after I've tattooed 'Donald Trump is God' on their forehead using a rusty nail and a pint of hydrofluoric acid laced with smallpox, and sublet their toilet to a tribe of psychopathic midget headshrinkers from Papua New Fucking Guinea who hold a very specific grudge against south east English local government employees.

And by way of apology for anyone who's ever watched 'the thick of it' Malcolm Tucker is a pansified amateur who can kiss my hairy arse. And if you haven't watched it, then do, and you'll know just what I mean.

Right. Rant nearly over. I am grateful, after all that I don't live in Cumbria, to the residents of which goes my heartfelt sympathy. Where's my bloody whisky. I love you all dearly, but this has really pissed on my chips. Night night.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Fifty, not out...

Ive had an epiphany, but its alright, I got ointment for it and the swelling's hardly noticeable now.

It might be an odd thing for the Grumbler to say, but I haven't got a lot to grumble about.

Don't worry, though, because that's never hampered me before and it isn't going to stop me now!

Hitting this age milestone feels a little different to previous ones. I don't feel another day older (and I'm no deeper in debt) but its more than likely that I'm over halfway through my time on Earth, and that's fine, I fully intend to be dust and memories long before the time said planet has all been carelessly used/fucked up.  Anyway, if the Daily Mail is to be believed[1] the entire population will be (a) vegetarian, (b) Moslem and (c) Chinese long before that happens, and while I've genuinely got nothing against any of them, I love bacon, can't believe in God and don't speak Mandarin (except for an appalling attempt at pronouncing something I'm assured translates to "Farting Dog"). I'd be no less conspicuous and no more welcome than half a Rocky Mountain Oyster floating in a bowl of carrot consommĂ©.

Having lost a mum and two dads between Mrs Grumbler and myself in a scant twelve months certainly awakens a new perspective on mortality; but its a positive one, and it's to live each day and enjoy it. Fully. We only have one life (yes, I know that others will disagree, and that's OK. If they're right, Ill wave at them from the flames downstairs...) and it's too short to bugger abut doing things you don't like, or being unpleasant to people.

I'm not sure I've always been good at not wasting my time on things I don't enjoy, but as my brother Ralf says, "I can't change the past, so I'm not going to worry about it". I'm certainly gonna make an effort to concentrate on doing what makes me happy from now onwards (excepting, of course, things which are a means to an end; like work for example), and from that perspective I'm far from halfway done with living yet. What I AM sure about is that I must be reasonably good at not being unpleasant to people. Evidence, should it be necessary, is available in the number of most excellent friends I have.

I hope you're not bored by this introspection but, frankly, if you are I don't really mind. Its taken me many years and a lot of alcohol, but I like me.  I'm still going to laugh at things; especially myself, and at you too, incidentally, but it will be a laugh of delight, not of derision. For example:

So I've made some 'new-life' resolutions. A bit like new-year resolutions, but lacking the contumelious intent to ignore them after five minutes.

  • More time with the many people I love.
  • More creative expression - think, draw, paint, turn, carve, grow, brew, cook, write, imagine, make, build, walk, run, ride, play...
  • Its OK to be covered in shit, as long as you're having fun
  • No fear of failing. Be me, and to hell with whether anyone else doesn't like it. Empirical evidence tells me enough people do, so I don't need to worry.
  • No despair in the face of unpleasant tasks, get 'em done and forget 'em
  • Above all, waste no time or energy on "Flouty pelm-vessels" [2].

These just missed the cut...
  • Dance like no-one's looking, sing like-no one's listening.
  • Work ceaselessly to standardise the bowler hat as  a measure of breast-size

And there you have it - The Grumbler on being fifty.

[1] Its absolutely NOT, under any circumstances. If a Daily Mail reporter tells you your arse is on fire, I recommend that you call for a mirror to check rather than a bucket of water to put the flames out.

[2] I was watching the news last week just before turning out the light and going to sleep, and a guy was asked by a journalist what he thought of the defection of Mark Reckless to UKIP. His response "Well, he's a flouty pelm-vessel isn't he?" actually left me chuckling as I fell asleep. I recommend that heartily, and intend to do my best to use this utterly meaningless and yet beautifully descriptive term as often as I can in future.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Insomnia's a bitch

Sleep is frequently elusive at the moment. I've tried alcohol, but once I do manage to drop off I spill it over the duvet and the resulting wet patch wakes me up.  It doesn't impress Mrs Grumbler much either.

Counting sheep doesn't work, it too dark in the country to see them in the neighbour's field, and besides which, they only have about five.

So I tend to lie awake for what feels like, and may well be, hours.

Over the past few nights the same words have been echoing around my otherwise empty head. They've been pretty persistent, so I have to conclude that they want writing down (and then hopefully they'll leave me alone for a while). They wont be satisfied if I just put them on paper and file it away, but I'm not gonna spam them over Facebook either.  At least it takes some effort to get here, and seasoned visitors know what they could be in for.

Late addition: I chatted with a couple of people after I made this 'public'. Yes, this is extremely personal, but that's not a reason to hide it - in fact I'd hope that imbues it with a little power. Almost as important is what this isn't - it's not 'sad'. And having let the words out, I slept like a log last night.

Don't panic - (ab)normal service will resume shortly...

Half awake at night, feeling empty, feeling sad
I’d give a lot for one more chance to sit and talk with dad
The cold truth hits, like runaway train
He’s far away, I can’t do that again
The memory is raw and fresh
So every passing day
I hold his hand again, warm, fragile flesh
I sit with him as he quietly slips away
The sadness burns but then I find
If I tune out the noise
And search a quiet, peaceful mind
I can see his face and hear his voice
The good, strong man I’ve always known
Is still with me, I’m not alone
Then I no longer need to weep
I can smile and drift to sleep

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Disguising vegetables and embarrassing misunderstandings

I'd thought my days of disguising vegetables so that they would be eaten by the intended victim were over (at least until one of the Grumblettes brings forth a grandchild or two) when I was finally able to admit to the aforementioned ladies that the 'cooked lettuce' that they were eating was not, in fact, Iceberg (which they love) but was actually a Savoy Cabbage (which they had professed to hate).

This week, however, Mrs Grumbler informed me that it was necessary for me to cut the grass in the stallions' field because it was 'too long' for them to eat. This is not a physical problem, you understand, the poor pampered beasts don't suddenly find it impossible to chomp a mouthful of blades once they get past six inches long. Apparently, long grass tastes too bitter for them.

Oddly, in the hundreds of years Ive known her, I've never seen Mrs Grumbler disconsolately pushing a lawnmower over the ponies' dinner. However, now that we have a 'topper' (a mower attachment - not a posh hat) for the tractor, I was instructed to mow the field. This strikes me as pointlessness of the same ilk as drying washing up with a tea towel.  Just as the washing up will dry on its own, with time, so shall the horses eat the grass, no? Such arguments cut no ice with the missus, and so I was shortly to find myself driving the tractor round the field in ever decreasing circles.

At first, I learned the hard way that I needed to dodge the low hanging branches round the edge of the field.  Fortunately, after giving it a quick suck to get rid of stray grass clippings and horseshit, I was able to pop the eyeball right back in, and now you'd almost never know it had ever been gouged out by an errant sweet chestnut tree much overdue a spot of pruning. I considered holding a chainsaw and doing two jobs at once, but the potential for calamity was too great even for a chancer like me. After the first three 'revolutions' I was safely out of their reach, in any case, and beginning to understand that I had a quite different problem.

Blog devotees will know that I have previously referred to riding a seatless bicycle across a ploughed field as a substitute experience for horseriding.  May I add 'driving a tractor repeatedly around a paddock' as another possible alternative?  Tractors, or at least MY tractor don't have much in the way of suspension. The vertical jolting was of such ferocity that I suspect the fact that my moobs are a paltry B-cup (and all muscle at that) is all that saved me from TWO black eyes.

I make a small digression to explain my familiarity with the arcane art of bra-sizing. Back when I first met Mrs Grumbler, and love and lust were both in the first flower of their youth, I determined to purchase her some lingerie for Christmas, in the hope that she'd have something nice to unwrap in the morning and I'd have something nice to unwrap in the evening.  But what of size?  I had heard of 'cantilevered' bras and, as an engineer at heart, I assumed that weight of the contents might be a useful statistic in calculating the correct fit. I should advise any gentlemen readers that approaching the boudoir with a kitchen scale and a large spoon is unlikely to have any positive effect on your chances of a romantic evening, even if you have gone to the trouble (as I did) of warming the spoon. Rebuffed, I realised I'd have to wing it on my mission to purchase frilly things.

Undeterred, I sallied forth to an appropriate posh looking shop, perused the merchandise (suffering many suspicious glares from the unanimously female customers) and, having selected a likely offering approached the lady in charge. Viciously suppressing my embarrassment by staring her unswervingly in the eyes, I pointed over my shoulder at where I'd recently seen what I wanted, and declared, "I'd like a closer look at one of those please".  In my defence, I have to say that I had no idea that the changing room was in that direction, nor that the prospective bride who was seeking her friends' opinion on what she intended to wear under the wedding dress had chosen that moment to step out of its curtained depths. Had she been less than an arm's length away from me, my index finger would have had a soft landing - which is more than can be said for the handbag which made contact with the side of my head.

Once the concussion had subsided enough for me to drive, I took myself to a Marks and Spencer.  (in another town, just to be on the safe side). You cant go wrong in a Marks and Spencer, and I know it's clientele to be drawn from both genders. Surely I was safe.  I found an even nicer possible present, and, as luck would have it, was approached by a helpful young assistant.
"Can I help you sir?"
"Yes indeed!  I'd like to buy this for my wife.  Do you have it in a size thirteen and a half?"
"I'm not sure we have that size sir, how are you measuring it?"
"Well, my hat's a six and three quarters, and each of them fit rather nicely into that..."
Suffice to say that Mrs Grumbler got chocolates for Christmas that year.

Anyway, back to the tractor, I clearly missed a few bits (beginner's luck) and so the finished job had some resemblance to Hampton Court Maze.  A carrot in the middle and the rabbits could have had their own amusement park. All in all, though, a job well done, and I sat back with a glow of satisfaction. A very short lived satisfaction, it has to be said, and more than a glow. As I have since found out from a farmer pal, I should have done most of it standing up to avoid the 'soft tissue' injuries to the nether regions.

And that, honestly, is why, when the vicar came round, I was to be found reading the newspaper in the dining room with my plums nestled in a fruit-bowl full of iced water, gently steaming.

To think I thought getting more involved with the horses was going to be a doddle...

Friday, August 29, 2014

The voices made me do it...

Some time ago I wrote a little piece about NOT owning a horse.  Its proven popular amongst those who do, and their 'significant others'.  You'd be forgiven for assuming that I'd never own a horse, but you'd be mistaken.

There has been much water over the bridge since I wrote that. In fact, there's been much water down the drive, all over the damned fields, and in next door's basement too, but that's just because George Bush messed up the weather a few years ago, curse his little monkey face.  Now that we live in Castle Grumbler, and have our own stable yard on site I have been exposing myself to horses much more frequently than I did before. Stop that now! What FILTHY minds you have.

Anyway, I rediscovered how much I actually like these animals and, on a lovely trip to see a foal which is destined to join our herd as Mrs Grumbler's new "special boy" (more on him another day) I sort of fell in love with his cousin. For the technically minded, he's an Azteca. In this particular case, thats 50% Andalusian, 50% American Quarter Horse and 50% teddybear.  Yes, I know that's 150%, but he's a LOT of horse, OK?  After much deliberation (this is, after all, quite a commitment) I chatted with Karen, his breeder, (who carefully examined my credentials) and we reached a most amicable arrangement whereby I gave the good lady a stack of pictures of Her Majesty and, in exchange, she gave me 'Tino. Yes, that's ONE apostrophe, and it's important. OK? He's on the left in the picture, with his mum.

I've made much, in the past, of the unexpected costs of horse ownership.  Quite how unexpected was brought home to me only hours later when, just south of the Dartford crossing on our way home, the front tyre of the horse lorry decided to explode. To her credit, Mrs Grumbler (for she was driving) didn't flinch, and got us safely over to the hard-shoulder.  I should point out that she and I have an 'arrangement' regarding said vehicle. She lets me pay when it needs work doing and, in return, I'm not allowed to drive it. This would work well if I could convince her that it's the best vehicle for any trip to the pub, but apparently she's not that stupid. Predictably, it took four hours for the guy to come and change the wheel, and eventually I had to buy TWO new tyres.

Once we got home It was decreed that having been cooped up in the lorry for longer than we'd expected (though he travelled very well) I should give the lad a walk round the field.  Proudly, a wandered up and down the field with my new best friend at the other end of the lead rope.  Every now and then I stopped and gazed, to reassure myself that yes, this is MY horse. Whether 'Tino was proudly thinking "Yes. this is my owner" I'm not sure. (I have since learned to read his mind.  How can anyone spend that much time thinking about hay?) But I do know that he felt the needed to have a little jump about and, I'm sure it was an accident, he managed to kick me on the right thigh with both rear hooves at the same time.  I forgave him almost as soon as I could stand up again. Do you know, if I'd been two inches to the right, he'd have missed BOTH my legs. I may not have been allowed to display that impressive swelling in the office...

Well, we got him stabled and settled in for the night.  Since he's a yearling, it'll be two years at least before I can ride him. That's OK, it gives me two years to learn how to.  I suspect there may be more related posts as both he and I gain impressive new skills.

My education has begun: The girls have been keen to inculcate me with some of the more arcane mysteries of horsemanship, one of which they tell me is critically important, and is called "poo picking".  This involves regularly scouring the fields in which the horses graze, and picking up their, er, "apples"; depositing them in a pile in the corner of the field.  Apparently, in the winter, this pile of poo will be distributed back over the field from whence it came.  This feat amazes me, and I cant wait to see how it goes. Faced with a request such as "empty the dishwasher" or "take the bins out", the standard response from the girls after non-compliance is "I forgot". If their memories are that bad, how the hell are they going to remember which turd is supposed to go where?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Final Last Words...

As those who know the Grumbler will be aware, my dad passed away fairly recently.

Of course, this hasn't been the happiest event in recent history from my perspective. I vividly remember the last words he whispered to me and while I know why he said them, and even agreed with him, they still made me feel sad. Until today.

It's important to note that it hasn't been without its own, sometimes grim, sometimes ironic, humour. I don't think dad'd be too upset if I shared the funnier bits and, frankly, even if he would be, he's not here to tell me so.

For example, Mrs Grumbler surprised and delighted me last Christmas morning by presenting me with a pair of tickets for the forthcoming (and now past) Monty Python Live shows.  I told dad about this, but he wasn't overly moved, having intensely disliked the Flying Circus. As if to underscore the point, he passed away on the day I was due to actually go and see them.  So, of course, I didnt.

The old chap was looked after, in his last days in intensive care by two very nice doctors; one of whom was not a gynaecologist, and the other of whom was not an oncologist. This is not at all funny until you know that the lady and gentleman are respectively known as Dr Feeley and Dr Touma.  Say it out loud if that helps.

I've been both lauded and lambasted in the past for talking and writing a "load of bollocks". Despite its funeral overtones, this post will be no different - if anything, more so. Dad was most definitely a
hoarder and, as number one (and only) son, it has been my task to sort and clear out his lifetime accumulation of "stuff". Ive encountered both expected and unexpected items - and I was delighted to reacquaint myself with these two fellows on the left.  That right, they are indeed perspex prosthetic testicles.  Now, before you jump to a horrible conclusion, let me just say dad once worked for a company that made them, and considered these two (rejects, of curse) to be a chuckle-worthy curio for displaying down at the pub.

As I laboured in the summer heat, filling black bag after bag with rubbish, and plastic crates full of stuff that I haven't decided is rubbish yet, I started to feel guilty.  Here I was, chucking away stuff that dad thought was worth keeping. It's, well, it's disloyal, isn't it? I began to worry what he'd be thinking if he was watching me and , as I continued, I felt quite certain that he WAS watching me. Odd, because I knew dad hadn't been in that room for over a year.  I think my
face even went red. Sure enough, I came across a little 'ring box' and opened it up...  Eye've a fair idea where that came from too.

Eventually, I reached the point where I'd almost finished one room. I realised there was one thing I'd been moving from place to place without making any decision as to whether it was trash, or a keeper. I couldn't really put the moment off much longer, so I picked it up, and stared at it. What was it for? Why on earth did he have it?

Here it, or should I say he, is. on the left. Imposing gentleman, isn't he?  I reckon he's a butler.

Closer inspection revealed a small switch under the base. With a childlike sense of wonder, I slid it to on.

I dropped him faster than I would if he'd turned red hot in my hands as, with a mellow strength and vibrancy I haven't heard in at least two years my dad's voice boomed out of a little speaker. Whatever I did must have erased the thing, because there's no way I could make it d it again.

"You haven't got a fat arse!" he boomed. Just the once, but once was enough.

I'll take a booming "You haven't got a fat arse" over a whispered "switch it off" as last words. Every day of the week.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Introducing the Frypo

If, like the grumbler, you greatly enjoy the practice of social intercourse - by which I'm not referring to any form of group sex, that'd be a different post - you will have undoubtedly heard if not actually committed one or two freudian slips.

These happen when your subconscious intrudes on an otherwise public exchange, and typically people refer to them when the end result is sexual innuendo.  My favourite kind, obviously.

And, if you get as many emails as I do, you'll see a few in print.  I've decided a spot of neologism is in order, and thus coined the word "Frypo" - a freudian typo. What makes these even more fun is the permanent and pervasive nature of an email, combined with the speed at which we all like to knock one out (See what I mean?).

Sometimes, these errors result in a word which is arguably even more appropriate than the intended one.  Consider the following, sent by a most excellent friend of mine to a large group of people today in response to a situation which might possible be described colloquially as "a fuck-up".

>>   XXX is manually copulating a number of failures...

I laughed out loud.  It didn't get any better when I visualised the lady concerned biting her knuckles when she realised what she'd sent, and when I re-read it and focussed on the preceding "manually" I dissolved again.  And I had to dedicate a little of my lunch break to writing this...

Now I realise that I may be increasing her embarrassment by writing about it, but I'm not going to out her by naming names here. That would (in another classic example of the frypo from another friend of mine) only exasturbate[1] the situation.

And I also realise that "making fun" of this might lower me (if thats possible) in some folks opinions but, as I once pointed out - to my mixed horror and amusement - to a group of senior managers, there's no accunting for taste...

[1]  To make something worse, on one's own...

Friday, March 01, 2013

Rent boy

I find myself in sunny California.

Or at least it was sunny until I got here, whereupon it started to rain.  Apparently its stopped chucking it down at home, leading the sainted Mrs Grumbler to assert that I am indeed a Weather God and should therefore stay away from home, at least long enough for the fields at Grumbler's farm to dry out a bit. Thus, here I am, rent[1] from the bosom of my family, and forbade to return for the time being.

On the downside I am condemned to an indefinite suitcase existence, but on the upside, 'er indoors obviously thinks I'm a God, even after twelve years of marriage. I have to be careful here, though.  As a confirmed atheist (is that an oxymoron?) and a God, I may suddenly cease to believe in myself and disappear in a puff of self contradiction.

In fact, I am saved from delusions of divinity having been brought solidly back to earth via the good auspices of the Hertz Car Rental company.  Occasionally, on one of my many visits here, Hertz have come up trumps by surprising me with an interesting vehicle upgrade. Sometimes I've been let loose in a soft-top, and once or twice I've made my getaway in a brutish muscle-car.  This trip is not one of those occasions, my vehicular needs being fulfilled by a Dodge Chalfont[2]; so named because it truly is a pain in the arse.

Driving the Chalfont can make you cross eyed; going in a straight line (which you do a lot of round here) the steering wheel is pointing firmly at about two o-clock.  How on earth can that be achieved without actually taking it off and putting it back on bent? This directional eccentricity might prove troublesome were it not for the fact that the car itself is as strangled and gutless as Francis Dereham during the later stages of his execution after having played "hide the sausage" with Henry the Eighth's fifth wife.

Even though its unlikely to do anything surprising, the Chalfont has a strange habit of beeping, whistling or clicking at bizarre and unfathomable moments.  Its impossible to tell whether these are warnings or, as I am beginning to suspect, R2D2 is trapped under the acres of plastic which form the dash and is screaming to be let out for a wee.

Fortunately it's nearly time to fly home, leaving Dodge's piles behind for the grumblers' ancestral pile in Blighty. R2, where'd you stash my lightsaber?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The News

If you've sought out the grumbler deliberately, you're not after a dry, learned discourse. This posting is as close as it gets to that in these parts, though.  But stick with me, the tasteless and barely acceptable vulgarity you love so dearly is in here, somewhere...

For the past few weeks the news in the UK has been dominated by the campaigning, antics, badmouthing and general shenanigans associated with the election of the president of the world.  Well, given the coverage, you'd think this was the world presidency we're talking about, except, of course, you only get a vote if you're a citizen of the USofA. In some ways I'm surprised its not actually billed as the World Presidency - after all the fact that not many people outside the USA take part in it hasn't prevented baseball's biggest competition being called the World Series, has it? Precedent is clearly set.

Mind you, it's not so long ago that the majority of the population was disenfranchised even here, in the United Kingdom;  a country which might not be the cradle of democracy, but was probably one of it's first "big boy" beds...  A mere couple of centuries ago if you wanted to vote here you needed to own land and, more importantly, a willy. Perhaps I should say "be physically attached to a willy" since Mrs Grumbler seems to think, by virtue of a marriage licence, that she "owns" one.

So, given the awesome global power wielded by POTUS, as I've seen the office called, I suppose this slight lack of empowerment I'm feeling would be familiar to any Victorian woman - though much stronger in their case.  It's perhaps fitting, then, that ladies were apparently instrumental in returning Mr Obama to the Oval Office, preferring him over an alternative who's been painted in some instances as a misogynist.

Anyway, its done and dusted now and barring the occasional aftershock the news in the UK is returning to the subject that preoccupied it beforehand - the unpleasant business of Jimmy Saville's alleged abuses and the disastrous handling of the same by the BBC.  First they 'buried' the story - and endured a great deal of criticism for that, and now they've apparently overcompensated with the result that an ex-senior politician, and a very rich one at that, is mightily pissed off with them and threatening to take them to the cleaners.

Clearly, someone ought to be answerable for such shabby reporting, but I'm not sure that the target of their revelations should be "entitled" (oh how I despise that word) to much more than a very public, very grovelling and very protracted apology in a best attempt to wash away the stain on his character.  When you fling shit at someone, some of it sticks - even if they are completely innocent of any accusation. This fellow, though, is richer than creosote.  Which, according to the UK's superbly un-egalitarian defamation laws means that he can afford to sue their arses off.

That's right.  To win a libel case in the UK you've got to be rich - or hugely dedicated and prepared to lose everything in pursuit of justice.  The same is true of defending yourself against a suit when an unscrupulous party takes umbrage at statements you make that fail to paint them in the best light.  (Take a look at Simon Singh vs the Chiropractors for a good example)

Back to the unfairly fingered politician. I'm sorely conflicted about whether or not this guy (note, I'm not using his name, just in case) ought to sue or not.

On the pro-side, no one should have to stand by while an uninformed, stupid or malicious twat throws any kind of unfounded allegation at them. The originators of such life damaging lies ought to be ritually disembowelled with a spoon.  A wooden one. With splinters in.  Failing that, they should be made to pay - a very great deal.

On the anti-side, this guy doesn't need any more money.  And who loses if the BBC is forced to pay damages?  Anyone with a TV in the United Kingdom, is the answer to that, since the BBC is a publicly funded organisation which receives most of its money from the TV Licence - a concept many American friends might find really quite strange. Maybe there might be even more losers - after all, the BBC's output is watched or listened to in many countries across the world.

On balance, I think a grovelling apology and complete retraction of any accusations ought to do.

To bring this rant to a close in the manner that you would expect of me, I'll state that the BBC needs to be a bit more careful about what things it says, and how it says those things.  Consider this week's "Any Questions" on BBC radio 4, where the business of the maligned politician was discussed at length.  All of the folk on the panel repeated the phrase "We are determined to get to the bottom of this."  Think about it guys.  It was this alleged determination to get to things' bottoms which started the abuse saga in the first place.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Relativistic Time Dilation for Donkey Wallopers

Ever the optimist (yeah, right, that why I haven't posted anything for over a year, isn't it?) I decided today to try to explain the concept of relativistic time dilation and the "Twins Paradox" to the Grumblettes who are, well, twins. So there's a connection there, right?  Personally, I blame James May, who has been burbling blokeishly about Einstein on the TV here at Grumbler Towers.

So how does one get such an abstract theory across to a pair of youngsters with a terminal horse obsession, and as much interest in science as I have in dressage (clue, when dressage is on our telly, I stare at the wall it's mounted on in the desperate hope that the paint thereon hasn't finished drying yet).


"Kirsty, Katy, you're both on horses in a field at 11:30 in the morning. It must be at least ten minutes since you have last eaten.

Kirsty, you ride your horse around the edge of the field at a significant fraction of the speed of light.  Since its a big field (lets call it, I don't know, yes, thats it! Yorkshire!) it takes you about a minute, even at such a grand speed. When you get back, it's just a minute later according to your watch (which is in a drawer in your bedroom as we've never got round to having the strap shortened so it doesn't fall off) and the first words out of your mouth (after "Gamble's faster than Charlie") are, "I'm hungry, whats for lunch?"

To which Katy will reply "I got fed up with waiting for you to come back, and I had mine an hour ago.".

That's relativistic time dilation, that is."

By Jove, I do believe they got it!

Fortunately for me, as far as I know, none of the ladies' mounts are that feisty, so time dilation doesn't enter into it. But that doesn't quite explain the many Sunday evenings I've sat in the kitchen in the accumulating gloom, accompanied by a slowly congealing roast dinner wondering about the difference between their "home for seven-thirty" and my "having dinner ready for eight".

Could it, might it, possibly be, that they are better acquainted with old Albert than I am?


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Eh? Storm in Eh? Teacup

Canadians Kathy Witterick and David Stocker are causing a great deal of consternation.

But then confusion ought to be the default state in Canada - consider:

  • It's about the same size as the US, but has the population of Morocco, meaning that there are three and a half people per square kilometre - compared to the two hundred and fifty in the UK. So, it can get a bit lonely.
  • Half the populace speaks nearly English, while the other practices a disdainful French dialect which would shame a Parisian. (Not often a problem, given the population density you're lucky if you have someone to talk to anyway)
  • It's situated on the North American Continent, yet it's not a part of the United States and its inhabitants will bristle if you refer to them as Americans (can't say I blame them; I come out in hives if someone calls me a European).
  • It worked very hard to gain independence from Britain, yet retains the Monarch as its head of state.
  • Many Canadians put a great deal of effort into pretending to come from somewhere else.  For example, James Doohan, famed as "Scotty" in Star Trek, was, in fact, Canadian despite the tartan accent.

So, given the background level of WTF, how have this couple achieved their not inconsiderable feat?  Simple. They are refusing to disclose the gender of their latest child - who they have named "Storm". Their objective in fostering this ambiguity is to allow Storm to be whatever it (I'm sorry, but I don't see that I have a choice there, under the circumstances) wants to be, unfettered by the social norms associated with males and females.

Storm's two older brothers are only slightly less unconventional, being given complete freedom over how they dress and behave. Apparently, both have wardrobes which would have induced huge pangs of jealousy in the young Eddie Izzard and, with their braided hair, are almost always assumed to be girls. Of course, this cross dressing won't be too out of place in Canada since a recent survey conducted exclusively for and by the Grumbler has revealed that 72.3% of Canadians are lumberjacks. Those of us who have been enlightened by Monty Python will immediately recall the propensity of said tree-fellers towards flower pressing, dressing in womens' clothing and hanging around in bars.  So. transvesticism is a national sport in Canada (the home country achieved all three podium finishes in the drag queen event at the Montreal olympics) and these kids have a head start - doubly so for Storm if it turns out to be a girl.

Storms dad maintains that "If you really want to get to know someone, you don't ask what's between their legs."  Bollocks!  (And that was an exclamation, not an answer.)  Several people asked me last month, and the answer was "It's a Triumph Tiger mate".  Of course, this assertion falls down where Mrs Grumbler is concerned.  If you were brave enough to ask the good lady that particular question, half the time she'd give you a funny look and say "Its called a horse, you fuckwit."

So, all things considered, it's clear that most Canadians must exist in a permanent state of puzzlement.  Which actually explains one thing that's perplexed me for ages - which is why Canadians seem to end every sentence with a question.

I mean, if you lived there, you would, eh?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

How Not to be Deluged by Lobsters

Have you ever wondered why you never notice that something’s become a habit until someone points it out?  Think about it for a minute - you spend years practicing something completely harmless, like saying the word “Burp” while belching, for example, only to absent mindedly perform in the middle of the office one day and cause your colleagues to look at you “in that way”…  It’s perhaps fortunate (for me and any potential witnesses) that I have never become unconsciously competent at aping Le PĂ©tomane’s rendition of La Marseillaise.

My pal Pete "Codger" Cogle (from PC Podcast) and I were in “The Sussex” when we discovered the latest ‘thing’ that we do regularly enough for it to be called a habit is to attend the Great Escape festival in Brighton. And yes, it was pointed out to us in startling fashion when the barmaid greeted us with “you were here last year, weren’t you?”  How on earth does she remember two blokes who turn up once a year and get mildly sloshed?  Please don’t tell me that this might be the only place I’ve ever successfully farted the French National anthem, because I really hope I could remember something like that!

Anyway, to the unusually serious point of this post.  It's more than likely that you're reading this in the interwebby thing, and so its a fair bet that you're Facebooked, a member of the Twitterati and no stranger to the world of internet commerce.  Do you know what Clickjacking is?  Put simply, its one of the latest ways of having your information stolen, or your computer/account hijacked to do something you didn't intend.  This might have consequences as simple as you posting on all your friends' Facebook walls something like "OMG, my ex-keeps checking out my profile!" or a little more complicated, like sending your bank account passwords to a bunch of intergalactic hackers from the planet Zog.  Its hard to explain, so I'm not going to bother; see wikipedia.

I did try to explain to Codger in the pub, though; "It's like pressing the Espresso button on the coffee machine at work, and instead of being served a lukewarm cup of something that's nearly coffee, you actually get hit by a deluge of lobsters". We obviously weren't the only folk to find the lure of the beer in there to be impossible to resist because just then we were approached by a fellow #tge'er, doubtless attracted by our dayglo writsbands, and most definitely feeling no pain. "Were you guys planning who to see tonight?"  Well, we had been planning to, before I got sidetracked into the murky world of internet toeraggery, and "Deluged by Lobsters" would be SUCH a good name for a band.  I'm afraid I did tell a few little while lies before we supped up and parted ways...

So it only remains for me to apply to stage my own brand new concept show (a flatulent execution, in every sense of the word, of the greatest hits of Abba) at next year’s event, and to apologise to the poor fella who trundled beerily away from Codger and me late on that afternoon of the first day determined to see the superb New Zealand based “Deluged By Lobsters” perform tracks from their Psychedelic album “Drenched in Reverb” at a secret street gig…

And if you want a little more about The Great Escape, can I recommend Pete's Podcast, Episode #350?

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Being horsey

As anyone who's lived with a horse owner will be able to tell you, it can sometimes seem that they play second fiddle to the horse(s).  It's certainly true that the good ladies of Grumbler Towers spend an inordinate amount of time dealing with their own animals and, as a grumpy old man, I've occasionally wondered what it takes to get some attention.

Well, on the one hand, you can try to be a little more horselike. Presumably one could undertake a certain amount of cosmetic surgery to attach a tail and it must be possible to apply for a licence to crap in the street from HM Government (these appear to be two of the primary attributes of the target animal).  However, I'm not really up for a diet of grass and sugar beet, and there are only a limited number of circumstances in which I am prepared to let Mrs Grumbler anywhere near me while wearing shiny boots and carrying a riding crop. And I'm not sharing those with you lot.

There's also the old dictum "If you cant beat them, join them". Actually, I've tried that, having owned a rather nice horse called Max for a few months. As it happens, I didn't have the time or dedication needed, I just wasn't cut out for it. Now, I'm sure you're wondering "how hard can it possibly be?"

Well, for you, dear reader, here's how you can discover that for yourself, without actually having to buy a horse....

The Grumbler's guide to pretending to own a horse...

Dressing the part isn't essential, but if you want to be authentic you will need an anorak and a pair of skintight stretchy trousers which are at least a size too small and have holes where they shouldn't. Note that this is the inexpensive part of horse ownership; you need only one of each, since neither will be washed more than twice a year. You should be militantly indifferent to your appearance, because the horse doesn't actually care what you look like, and therefore neither should anyone else. Footwear, however, is important. You do need a pair of boots, which you should soak in cold urine every night. so that they quickly attain that 'Je ne sais quoi...' (That's French for 'pervasive smell of wee-wee').

Your pretend horse is going to require a certain amount of looking after - physically and financially. Be prepared to spend up to two hours before and after work each day in the middle of a field, shovelling wet twenty-pound notes into a shredder (note that shredded paper from companies who really do print money is sometimes used as horse bedding, the analogy isn't that far fetched) while a crazed accomplice pelts you with dung. Obviously, that should be horse dung, but since you don't actually have a horse yet, cowshit will do.  One cautionary note - if you are using cowshit, make sure its fresh - those dried out "frisbee" shaped cowpats can have your eye out in skilled hands.

You have now successfully recreated the authentic mucking-out experience, while at the same time getting used to feed, accommodation and vet bills.  You see how easy I'm making this for you?

You might be thinking this is a dirty, smelly job - and there's a grain of truth in there. But look on the bright side - it's not necessary that you be indifferent to how badly you reek because you wont actually notice it. That part of the experience is for other people, such as your loved ones (remember those boots?  They should be about right by now...)

While I think about it, you must occasionally have someone knock you down, drive over your foot, smack you in the shin/stomach/groin/head with a hammer, or trap part of your anatomy in a door. Your accomplice must do this when you least expect, and when it will cause the maximum amount of inconvenience; it will acquaint you with being barged, stood on, kicked or bitten. Remember, though, that this is only happening because your 'horse' loves you, so the only thing you should do to your accomplice is offer a nice rosy apple or juicy carrot as a reward.

At weekends, you will have time to 'ride' - this is, after all, why you're pretending to have a horse. After the first field based money shredding experience of the day (yes, that happens at weekends too), obtain a bicycle, by borrowing or stealing if necessary (by now, you are unlikely to be able to afford your own).

Spend at least an hour cleaning the bike before letting all of the air out of the tyres and, if you are planning to go on a public road, loosening the nut which holds the handlebars straight. Its finally time for your reward for all of that hard work - ride that bike backwards and forwards across a field which has been freshly ploughed.

Once you are exhausted and have cracked at least two vertebrae, you may go out onto the highway, but only if there is traffic. Every time you hear a car, it's important to move a little further into the road and slow down. You must wobble alarmingly (this is why you've undone your steering) and, if at all possible, you must cycle sideways like a drunken crab, while pulling a series of spectacular "wheelies". This is all just to remind the driver that he needs to slow down and stay far, far away, since should he end up with a hoof (wheel) through his windscreen it will be his fault under UK law, whatever the circumstances.

By the time you arrive back at your 'stables, you should be almost too exhausted to move. Now you must clean the bicycle again, and finally remove the saddle and hang it in a shed. If you're very lucky, the saddle will still be there in the morning, unless you've been visited by a collection of thieving Pikey bastards (triple tautology) overnight. Now, cover the bicycle with a blanket, go back into the field and shred another wheelbarrow full of cash.

If you still want a horse after all that, then I heartily encourage you to contact a livery stable and learn how to do it properly, since you're clearly a nutcase with a bad case of obsession which I'll never begin to understand.  Anyway, hope that's helped. I cant sit around here all day writing to you folk, I've got several motorbikes to clean and polish....