Flights of Fancy

Cos sometimes it’s just too random



As a child my mum used to threaten me, in particular the head part of me, with a large stone that sat prepossessingly on the front room mantelpiece, looking like a great and calcified mass of sticky popcorn. Now, I put my current inability to eat popcorn down to that one traumatic childhood experience. Well, I’ve just seen a woman who could make the same threat and induce equal terror in her son with just one of her Brobdingnagian breasts, which were hoisted and suspended to such effect that they too seemed as though displayed upon a shelf, as if waiting to release their vast store of potential energy squarely upon his Lilliputian head. Well, far be it from me to say anything of this particular boy’s likely future aversions…but Poor Bugger!



My Favourite Bit Of Toilet Graffiti

I’m loving this bit of toilet graffiti I saw today.

I tell you, the world’s alright with me as long as there are still people who can get angry enough at a lack of soap to actually scrawl their protest onto a toilet wall.

And I like to think the arrow was completely unplanned, a streak of pure fury that just flew out the end of his pen before he even knew he was doing it. Cos that arrow is basically the equivalent of pointing and screaming, ‘LOOK! THAT F***ING BASTARD THERE!’, when there’s clearly only one other person in the room.

What makes this even better is that somebody else has decided to pick him up on the double negative. I don’t know if you can make it out, but they’ve crossed out the ‘No’ and then written ‘Any’ next to it and in brackets (Bad Grammar). Now I’m a stickler for (Good Grammar), but even I wouldn’t bother to correct someone who’d basically decided mid-hand washing to take out a pen and stage a protest in a dingy, piss-reeking toilet, thus essentially converting myself into someone who decides to take out a pen mid-hand washing and stage a protest in a dingy, piss-reeking toilet. No, I much prefer to go home, sit at my desk in the sweet swirl of potpourri and write an aloof commentary about the whole thing from my MacBook Air where I can rest my much overused wrists on a pleasant cushiony type thing. That’s much more my style.

p.s. I do have to say that the final thing I love about this is that there was actually soap in the dispenser. So whether this guy meant it or not, with the double negative it was quite simply a perfectly accurate and factual description of the soap situation in that particular toilet. This guy’s not a vandal, he’s a public informant! I’d take my hat off to him but my wrists kinda hurt.



He was one of those men that couldn’t be said to walk down a street so much as bounce along it, seemingly spending as much energy propelling his body vertically into the air as forward along the street. All in all, he gave the impression of a large piece of cork bobbing up and down on what was, funnily enough, an entirely flat sea, or a penguin chick that hasn’t yet realised that flap as it may he will never fly. Or, indeed, a human being that has failed to realise the very same thing.



Need we look any further than the recession to explain society’s current obsession with quilted garments? Faced with the blight and uncertainty of these times, can we truly look with any wonder on the fact that the weakest among us have regressed to their very earliest infancy and now seek to clothe themselves in a poor imitation of their childhood safety blanket – the very same blanket, let us remember, that represented for them the unfailing security of the ever-full breast and the unfettered freedom of the never-empty nappy? In order to cure this infectious malaise, surely it behoves our government to establish a nationwide network of drop-in centres where the afflicted may freely suck at the breast and soil themselves free from reproach or censure. The truly Big Society begins with ‘The Community Chest’ (to borrow a phrase) and a Bank where the public are encouraged to actually leave a deposit rather than forever be withdrawing. Then and only then will we free ourselves of all this bed linen and begin to live again as men.



So, I was sick all weekend, not man-flu, but genuinely (and stoically I might add) sick.

From my designated sickbed (a far greater preponderance of black than my normal one), I actually managed to have a really interesting day yesterday.

It was one of those days where one interesting fact leads you on to another and then another and then another, until you find you’ve been wandering for hours and are quite faraway from home.

Well, I thought it’d be interesting to retrace my footsteps and map my journey, detours and all down this little rabbit-hole.

Radio 4 Saturday Play: Terence Rattigan’s In Praise of Love — Radio 4 three-part series The Rattigan Versions — BBC Four documentary The Rattigan Enigma with Benedict Cumberbatch –What John Gielgud was caught and fined £10 for cottaging in 1953! — Wikipedia, please, what’s the origin of the term ‘cottaging’ –Victorian common name for public toilets designed like cottages — That’s a shame. Hoped it had something to do with cottage cheese — Wikipedia, tell me the history of Polari. Any cottage cheese there? — Oh look blagger, clobber and drag all come from Polari and hahaha willets means boobies — Google Images WILLETS — Oh wait, Safe Search Off. Google Images WILLETS — Urghh Universities Minister and birds of the entirely avian sort — Wikipedia: Phillipines Swardspeak — Theives’ Cant — Daily Mail: “Convicts use ye olde Elizabethan slang to smuggle drugs past guards into prison” — Justice Department issue national alert to all prison staff and Elizabethan slang handbook — The history of undeground Argentine Lunfardo — ‘Verse‘, Spanish syllable-based backslang — Jeringonza, Opamaparipi — Bollocks what’s that word which means inserting one word inside another — Right, Google , what can you do with Abso-bloody-lutely + term + grammar? — Damn Google, you good. Tmesis — And Wikipedia, what do you have to say about Tmesis? — John O’ Grady’s Australian poem ‘Tumba Bloody Rumba’ — Ok, that was a bit shite — What else you got Wikipedia? — Hello, Stephen Fry says tmesis is his favourite of all tropes, interesting. And a link too. Don’t mind if I do — Stephen Fry talks at the Border Kitchen in Holland — Stephen Fry is Jewish?! — ‘Unbe-fucking-lievably’ — Oh look Radio 4 has a new word-based panel show, WordAholics and Stephen’s on the first show — Right, that was bo-goldie-locks — BBC 2 Fry’s Planet World: Episode One Babel — Awesome! — Radio 4 Fry’s English Delight: Language of Persuasion — I wonder what NPL courses there are — Oh look, there’s a free weekend one – And now you’re my slave!

Being a man, of course what I left out in all of that was the male constant which isn’t so much a journey as a hamster wheel for a particularly small hamster:

Sex — Balls — Food — Sex — Thirsty — Itchy Balls — Sex — Itchy Balls and Arse — Ah-Ah-Ah, Gonna Sneeze, Achoo! — That didn’t feel like an eighth of an orgasm — Snot — So still need to clean up then — No Tissue — Sleeeve?–Sleeve! — Need Sleep Now.



Who are these people that are failing to grasp the meaning of an engaged sign?

They are the vacant of this world and yet they take up so much space, pushing when they mean to pull, bashing their head when they ought to mind it, confusing red with green and silence with talking, turning left instead of right and turning right and still being wrong, going forwards when they mean to reverse, regressing in the very midst of progress. They continusouly move when told to stay fast and then lock down when ordered to bolt, they think with their feet and land on their heads, they are downright plebeians with upbeat failures, they exert idiocy where others exercise caution, they head for warnings they should heed, they career towards disaster instead of success and all the while they profess that, yes, they could care less…Bloody Americans!



After centuries of almost singular predominance, the traditional Oxbridge undergraduate is now thankfully a dying breed. Nevertheless, he may still be found among his clan stalking certain corners still hospitable to his species, such as chapel at Evensong or anywhere where he might tread solemnly upon the alabaster grave of his ancestors and test his Latin. Though rare, his species can be recognised – and thereby avoided – by certain distinctive markings peculiar to it alone. It is an evolutionary anomaly of the race well remarked upon that he will often drape himself in a flowing black gown to protect himself from commonness and will scavenge scraps of leather from wherever he may to place upon his elbows to protect those from the wear and tear of never being set upon table tops. It is made a great deal easier to spy the traditional Oxbridge undergraduate and all his kind for they are rarely seen out of doors out of corduroy. As a species they show a great predilection for the colour pink, something they share with the Lesser Flamingo of East Africa and a baboon’s arse. Nevertheless, in season they will shed their corduroy for a strange covering known to them as jodhpurs. If at all, then this creature is to be approached with extreme caution, but if necessary can be appeased with port or sherry, but only at the appropriate hour, if not you are wont only to stoke the fires of his rage. The sole factor to which the traditional Oxbridge undergraduate owes his continued existence in this world is his unwavering and quite rampant dedication to inbreeding, though throughout history one or other of his species has been tempted by one or more of the horses with which he surrounded himself, lending to the features of the whole a certain equine quality, by which – incidentally – they may also be detected. Driven by this irresistible biological imperative, when encountered the traditional Oxbridge undergraduate will invariably utter his mating call, equally the cry uttered by every dying member of his species throughout history: “I believe in God, the Holy Trinity, and the Devil, but by the heaven’s above and grandpapa below do not ask me to believe in the existence of other universities!”



It’s a Saturday, a lazy one – the perfect time to gather some thoughts that are too brief, too fleeting, or simply too random to warrant a post of their own. Some will be just a line. Some may be more. I don’t know yet, don’t stifle me!

The Cat in the Hat

I went out in a hat today, couldn’t be bothered to do the do. As I ventured out in this teacosy I realised that people were still staring at me – fixedly. And there I was all this time thinking it was the hair. I must just be Ravishing. Either that or they think I’m some sort of legendary being whose return from faraway lands has been long prophesied and it’s long been said that that being when he came would be ravishing. Those are the only two possible options I can think of….Oh, I don’t mean ravishing in the sense of taking their women. I think they’ve had enough of that sort of coming.
The Intricacies of Eating in the Street
Yesterday, I was eating a KFC in the street on my way home. I do the Colonel a disservice – this was substandard chicken from a second-rate establishment. I have no desire to know Mega Burger’s secret blend of 11 herbs and spices.
Anyway, the point is, as I was walking chomping down on the leg of a chicken that no doubt died from a steroid overdose (I think the popcorn bites were made from his shrunken balls), I suddenly had the sensation that I was committing a gross faux pas.
Eating in the street in Bolivia is fine, of this I’m sure. In fact, it seems to be where most people prefer to do their eating – think al fresco without the piccolo. However, as I was indeed plodding along, wiping grease from my mouth – not the delicate way, but with long, lingering swipes of the back of my hand that brought back memories of a certain former editor (Oli will know who I mean) – I realised that nobody I’d ever seen eating in the street in Bolivia had been in transit at the same time.
Now, I don’t know if that’s because they can’t multitask. It may well be. I, on the other hand, have been known to walk, eat and find a cure for cancer all at the same time. But my guess is that it’s actually a subtle unwritten rule here that eating in the street is fine as long as you remain perfectly stationary.
To err in this case is quite subhuman. But Bolivians I beg your forgive my transgressions.
Oh, What Are We To Do With Those Druken Sailors?
The word for porthole in Spanish is ojo de buey – ox’s eye. I like that. What business does an ox have out at sea?
Garage Sale
To my surprise I looked out my bedroom window this morning and saw a hurried group of people weaving their way in and out of weathered wardrobes, exhausted hoovers and veteran sofas that had been left on the pavement. But dear reader this was no council estate (ooh I’m gonna ruffle feathers with that one), this was the American Embassy’s perennial garage sale.
Apparently every so often the Embassy’s employees flog their stuff off when they get reposted. For several hours, large teams of people busied themselves binding, lashing and tethering hulking pieces of furniture to the roofs and trunks of beleaguered-looking cars.
I don’t know why they bothered, it was all tat!
Talking of ruffling feathers, the Quetzal is the currency of Guatemala I learnt today. It’s named after the bird as the Mayans used to trade in its colourful pinions.
Kiss and Tell
I’m in a café and there’s a birthday party on the table next to me. A latecomer just arrived and promptly went round kissing everybody in the group. There were about 20 of them, it took forever. But I thought, “hey, what’s one more”, so I offered her my cheek for a kiss. She slapped me. I offered her the other one. She slapped me again. I don’t think she saw my funny side.
The Fifth Element
None of the four humours are particularly humorous. Funny that. I submit a fifth – Jocose.
Bills, Bills, Bills 
My travails with the good people at TIGO, my network provider, labour on. They are to a man useless. Ok, I shouldn’t be unfair: there’s a girl that works there too – she’s also redundant.
But my experience with them yesterday showed just how unable to think outside the box they are. It’s ironic as the ceiling of their cubby hole is sky blue.
The employee I had the pleasure of dealing with this time was about to turn me away to charge my phone just because the printer wasn’t working and he couldn’t print my receipt. I asked him what would happen if maybe, just maybe, I left his booth without the little bit of paper confirming my purchase at the princely sum of £3.25.
By the look on his face I’m pretty sure he achieved enlightenment right then and there. I felt like Morpheus with the red pill. I might change my name and shave my head.

P.S. Anyone who read ‘piccolo’ earlier on and understood small flute rather than tiny coffee, shame on you, you uncultured swine.

P.P.S. I recant that statement about shaving my head. A moment of madness.



How many of you have ever been on a bus stuck in traffic just yards from your stop?

Did it go a little something like this?

You’re there. You can see your stop. Almost touch it. It’s there. Right there. But, oh, you can’t get there. No, there is over there and you’re here – trapped.

Now, you’ve looked up at that ‘only in case of emergency’ door release, haven’t you? Eyed it. Furtively at first. It’s for emergencies only, you’ve probably committed some sort of crime just looking at it.

But you’re so close to your stop. So very close. Excruciatingly close. You can see people walking – no – strolling, ambling past you.  This isn’t right.  And they have none. You’re the one who chose to pay good money for motorised transport after all. You should be beating these people.

Now, you’re looking at that lever again. Glancing at it. You look away. You look back- still there. You’re still stuck. You see an old man plod pass you. Plod. Bloody hell, you remember flying past him at the last stop. That’s when you still had it good.  When you had miles of open road before you, or so you thought. Ha – you remember thinking why doesn’t he just get on, he probably travels for free anyway. Don’t you feel the fool.

He’s walking past your stop now. You can see him. You can see it. It’s right there. If only you could break free. If only you could use your feet, your young, unslippered feet, you’d be there by now. You’d make that pensioner eat your dust.

You look at the lever again. By now you ‘re staring at it. You’re a caged animal. You have to get out and this  is your key. You formulate a plan.

You look at the lever. You look at the driver. Back at the lever. Back at the driver. Lever. Driver. Lever. Driver. Could he get to you? He’s pretty far away. And that lever looks pretty simple, invitingly, seductively simple. You could pull that. Just reach up and yank it. One sharp, swift tug and then you’d breathe the sweet, sweet air of freedom. But it could go wrong. It could. You might fumble it. What if you’re caught? Then you’d be done for. The punishment must be grave?  What lengths  won’t a bus driver go to to protect his bus?

No, it’s too risky. It’s not really an emergency after all is it? You can wait. You’re patient. So what if you’re losing seconds of your life. Vital seconds. Seconds that old bastard’s enjoying now. Those are your seconds.

Your hand twitches. You catch someone’s eye. It’s nothing. No, it’s something. It’s definitely something. You look back. Yes, they’re willing you on, they’re complicit. You look around. They’re all complicit. Looking at you, looking at that lever. And there’s that look in their eyes. They want you to be their leader. They need it. You’re sure of it. If you go, they’ll follow. You won’t be alone.

Your hand twitches again. It’s a fist clenched inside your pocket now. The lever’s calling your name. You size it up again, scrutinise the instructions. You interrogate them for hidden meanings. Analyse those four words: “Turn Right And Pull”. There’s a diagram as well. But you don’t trust that. You know better than to trust that. You know everybody lies.

“Turn right and pull.” “Turn right and pull.”You look away, make sure you can still remember those words. Make sure they’re committed to memory. You plan it out. Step by step. You visualise it: first turning right then pulling. You can see it. It almost feels real. Almost. But which hand do you use? Your right hand? Surely? You’re right-handed after all. But, then, your left hand has always been the stronger. You’re torn.   Strength or dexterity? Strength or dexterty – which do you go for. You don’t know. There was nothing to prepare you for this. It’s an unknown.  It’s unknowable. You’re going to have to try it.

You think about it. Surely nobody’s ever dared use it before – it must be stiff. But what if there’s a knack to it? Is turn right a simple turn to the right or is there a little up and down to it? What if there’s a small turn to the left? What then? Even the tiniest twist to the left and you know that would throw you.

You begin to lose your resolve. You crane your neck and press your head against the window. You need to get a vantage point on the traffic. That’ll show you you were mistaken, that it’s actually all clear up ahead. You look. It’s not moving at all. There’s no road, just cars. And that old man’s long gone now. But still, you tell yourself it won’t be long now. Even if you did get off you’d probably still get there at the same time.

You start to convince yourself. You were mad.  What were you thinking? It would have been stupid, reckless to risk it. Especially, when you’ll be there any minute now.

But then you turn your head. You look straight into the eyes of one of your would-be-followers. You remember that look. That hope, that expectation. He knows this bus isn’t going anywhere. In your heart you know it too. You can’t let him down. You feel your resolve returning. It’s like a ground swell. You clench your fists – left AND right. You’re confident either is up to the task.

You start to recite your mantra again: “Turn Right And Pull”, “Turn Right And Pull”. Everything else goes quiet. Then you catch the driver’s reflection in the glass. You’re sure he knows what you’re planning. What if he can read your thoughts? The people around you did. But no, he’s the oppressor. Only the oppressed can tell the thoughts of the oppressed. It’s an opressed thing.

These are you’re people. You’re Ben Hur, you’re Spartacus, you’re Moses leading a nation to freedom. You’ll guide them safely over the 40 yards to that promised bus stop. You will let your people go.

You’re primed. You’re ready. Yes, you’re going to do it. Shit, you’re going to do it. You’re actually going to do this. Your eyes are locked on the prize. All eyes are fixed on you. It’s penetrating. It’s galvanising. Your muscles tighten. Your breath quickens. Your pounding heart’s the only sound that breaks the silence. This is your moment. Your perfect moment. It’s here and now. There’s only here and now.  Nothing else matters. Nothing but you and your freedom. No walls can contain you.

You take a deep breath. Maybe your last.  Your hand reaches up, and up, and up, and up and you…press the bell – twice!

The driver’ll get the message. He doesn’t. You wait for your stop.



The man of leisurely disposition and somewhat given to quiet reflection will often treat himself to a long country walk to aid him in that particular pursuit and before leaving his house, which is his castle, will frequently fix upon his head a hat, not only seeking the protection that accessory affords his otherwise naked pate, but equally calculating that same appendage will lend to his person an aspect not altogether displeasing to the eye and once taken as a whole together with the rest of that day’s elected drapings will rather propel him towards that golden standard that via the Greek philosopher we now know to be the harmony of parts.Lithograph poster showing a man wearing a tuxe...

But that same man of leisure and quiet reflection once setting foot outside his home, which has until now been unfailing in its duty as castle, redoubt and sanctuary, finds that once outside its protective walls, he is beset on all sides by the elements, and chief among them the second – namely the wind, which does conspire to dis-place that same covering from the perch where not five minutes past it was placed and not without some considerable attention paid to its aesthetic and umbrageous arrangement.

But the wind, caring little for such niceties, makes it his sole and express purpose to dislodge that ornament from atop his head and so, by a practised manoeuvre of backdraughts, updraughts and even occasional sidedraughts, works upon it with such vigour, buffeting and rocking and ceasing at such a time, one can only assume, as that hat is removed not only from its wearer’s head but quite beyond his floundering grasp too and settled, no doubt, in any great number of muddy pools with which the first and fourth elements have seen fit to bespatter his path in preparation for precisely this event.

But the man, already established as a gentleman more accustomed to leisure and quiet reflection and not the vexed pursuits of war, finding himself thus misused and abused adopts a more bellicose humour and resolves against all odds that his person and his headpiece must remain one and must by no means part ways.

And so, by degrees, he forms a strategy of his own, first rearranging his hat upon his head to give it greater purchase upon that structure, that is to say adding to the normal and universal effect of gravity in keeping it there and positively pulling it down front, back and side around his ears as though it were in fact a balaclava and not a bowler.

However, this method, while holding its own against the backdraughts and the occasional sidedraughts when they come, soon proves paltry defence against the many updraughts the wind counts among his arsenal.

And so our man of erstwhile leisure and quiet reflection, by no means forsaking his considerable powers of intellect for having now adopted a more bellicose humour, determines instead to outdo his foe, seeking to pre-empt his frequent sallies with a hand readied and poised to rescue his hat from the very best of his onslaughts and volleys.

But the wind, being altogether too cunning and wily a fellow to be outfoxed in this manner, forever catches our gentleman unawares and before his hand has barely left his side very nearly prizes his hat clean off his head, threatening at nearly every step to plunge it into any number of the aforementioned bemired basins with which the whole embattled panorama is littered.

And so our once proud man now reduced considerably in stature is forced, quite against his will and his Hellenic sense of all that is beautiful, to walk with his hand planted firmly on his crown for no other reason to keep his hat flying thence.

Now the sensitive reader needn’t be told that the man of famed leisure and quiet reflection looks quite the fool reduced to striding along with his hand a permanent fixture upon his pate and obliged – having no other recourse –  to acknowledge every passer-by with the manipulation of the whole cumbersome apparatus of head, hat and hand into a single awkward bow.

So, exasperated and not a little embarrassed by several encounters of this very sort, our man of leisure and quiet reflection hurries home, his face now red due to the equal operation of chagrin and the wind upon it – his hat, despite his earlier efforts, having remained throughout everything a bowler and not a balaclava.

And so our man of harried displeasure and pronounced disaffection, now reinstalled safley inside his caslte, slams his door upon the great and allied forces of water, earth and wind and promptly enlists the help of their as yet unnamed fourth member to torch his bastard hat.

upbeat failures, they exert idiocy where others exercise caution, they head for warnings they should heed, they career towards disaster instead of success and all the while they profess that, yes, they could care less…Bloody Americans!


One thought on “Flights of Fancy

  1. Ralph says:

    I actually read and enjoyed all your anecdotes. Ralph 😀

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