Sunday, 31 May 2009

Putting the 'fun' into 'fundamentalism'

Let's talk religion, purely because I've not been controversial enough recently. And let's be honest, one thing that unites us all is the knowledge that when it comes to a/the/the many/you-must-be-having-a-laugh-if-you-believe-that-nonsense deity, we know that we can't all be right.

Otherwise where would the fun be?

I'd never want to convert anyone to my way of thinking - after all, if everyone was nice to one another because that's how they feel society should be rather than because of a existential stick, then what would I laugh at on a daily basis?

This is why I love the area Mrs. RS lives in. She resides at the edge of Borough Park (or Boro Park in local parlance), Brooklyn. Borough Park is home to the largest Hasidic Jewish grouping outside of Israel, and it's getting larger at an eye-watering rate.

The average birth rate in Borough Park is - wait for it - 6.72 children per family, and growing.

7 kids per family on average. Jesus. I just crossed my legs, and I'm a bloke.

They have so many kids out of a sense of religious duty. I'd estimate the area to be 90-95% ultra-orthodox fundamentalists. They have their own private militia police force that is called first, their own ambulance service. Mrs RS has a seen a mob kick a mexican man to death because he goosed a Jewish woman. There has been a riot because one of the many Torah 'scholars' (that act as religious police on just about every street corner) saw a non-Jewish couple kissing in the street and was so offended that he - soon joined by others - physically assaulted them.

To quote the
font of all knowledge:

Culturally and religiously, the neighborhood is considered one of the most Orthodox in the world. "Many families do not own televisions or attend movies. The children attend yeshivas instead of public schools. Adolescent girls do not leave the house without making certain that their knees and elbows are covered, and at weddings and funerals alike, women and men sit separately to avoid physical contact, as required by religious law."

Add to this that the Hasidic sect basically believes that the second coming of Jesus Christ will lead them into the holy land of Israel. This presents a problem because the state of Israel already exists. Therefore - and I'm really not making this up, I've seen and heard with my own eyes and ears - a vast number of this community will support the destruction of the modern Israeli state to hasten the second coming.

Top notch fundamentalism there.

However they're not all bad. They're incredibly kind to their pets. One of their customs involves treating cats with a reverence last seen in Egyptian times, and many of them will carry their cats around with them at all times. In their hats.

I took a photo when I was last there:

My only question is - how Jewish was Dr. Seuss????

Thursday, 28 May 2009

As I'm now a little bit better...

...I feel the desire to share with you a small story I heard on the radio this evening. This occurred in London, but could've happened anywhere really.

The main protagonist in this story had left her car in the same parking space that she'd parked in for 18 months. On returning to the car one day, she discovered it was missing - and that freshly painted double yellow lines* were painted on the road where it had been. She knew it hadn't been stolen (for the very simple reason that the car battery was in her flat being recharged after going flat) and assumed it had been removed so that the lines could be painted.

It took her three days to find her car, as the clampers hadn't bothered to report it as being in their pound. They then demanded a large amount of money to give it back. Undeterred, the owner demanded photographic proof of her transgression (as one can do by law) and was sent a series of photos of her car parked on the double yellow lines.

She contacted her local MP, and rightly pointed out that the photos must have been faked as the car was undriveable and she had witnesses to this effect. Her MP contacted the council, whom instantly backed down (this whole process had taken two months!)

What had really happened? Well the clampers arrived with the road workers, lifted the car onto their truck, waited until the lines were painted and then put the car back, clamped it for being parked illegally, and towed it away in an attempt to make a vast sum of cash.

I feel justified in summing the whole story up in a word:


*You can't park on double yellow lines in the UK without getting a ticket.

P.S. Mrs. Red Squirrel is coming out of hospital today. Thanks to everyone for the good wishes :)

Tuesday, 26 May 2009


Now I've got the flu, will update this and emails when staring at the screen doesn't give me a huge headache.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Because I am still awake....

In my last blog I described how we'd run the catering for the stewards of certain major festivals in 2007. I probably didn't explain how the combination of the wettest summer ever (officially so) and devious business partners drove me to suffer trenchfoot and give me my first minor breakdown.

A sobering - literally - experience.

I was reminded of this recently because festival season is starting soon, and found this amazing video showing exactly what things were like in 2007. Bear in mind when you watch this that we were on site already and served food 24 hours a day during this flooding despite being several inches under water ourselves (we had a raised floor because we're not stupid and tried to plan ahead). We were fucking heroes.

P.S. I realise some of the guys in this video are, well, dicks, but I can't change that. The way water is flooding in to the back of the van is fantastic.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Oops, sorry.

Didn't mean to be cryptic in my last post! I had an astonishingly, amazing evening on Thursday but before I got back to write it up I got a garbled phone message from Mrs. Red Squirrel saying that she was 'in hospital' with a 'fever' and that someone was going to 'operate on her legs'.

And that was all I heard, and I got no reply after that.

To say I was disconcerted would win the the 'Stiff Upper Lip - Reward for English Understatement in the Face of Extreme Fucking Circumstances' award.

I've finally got in contact today and she's very ill in hospital with an infected wound and will be there for several days - incidentally I find the bedside manner of 'had you not come to the hospital then you'd be 99% likely to be dead right now' to be less than desired.

It's a situation that the three and a half thousand miles distance kind of sucks balls. We're hoping this can change before the end of the year....


I was going to write a happy and enjoyable tale about my week.

But for certain reasons I won't be doing so.


Tuesday, 19 May 2009

It's the little differences...

Today I found out that:

"The Met Office says it is too early to tell whether it will be a very hot summer this year, but the signs so far are that it will be warmer than our last two summers and conditions could well trigger its heatwave warning system.

In London, this would mean daytime temperatures had exceeded 32C and night-time temperatures were over 18C degrees. In the North West, it would be 30C and 15C, respectively."

I can't just be me that finds it hilarious that a heatwave in London is at 32C (that's 90F) but one in 'the North West' - a mere 150 miles away - is at 30C (86F)?

Having said that, I can sort of see the point - rumours are that the temperature around Manchester last reached 30C about 100 million years ago when what became England was positioned roughly over the area we now call Oman.

I'm not sure I even want to guess at what is considered a heatwave in Scotland... :)

Monday, 18 May 2009

You lookin' at me?

<Removed for Political reasons>

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Yes, I know...

I realise I haven't been posting much recently - a heady combination of nothing much happening (that I can talk about anyway), being very tired and lazyarseitis.

I'm not even supposed to be here today. I'm supposed to be London for my football team's final home game of the season, however Royal Bastard Mail lost my ticket along the way so I couldn't go.

We won though, and I was in no way watching an illegal stream of the game this afternoon. No way at all.

So, seeing as I have an unexpected few spare hours, I shall share a couple of things with you. Firstly, the story of Ireland's most romantic man (courtesy of
The Register):

Ireland's 'most romantic man' is complete wanker
Craic'd one off while following women

Ireland's most romantic man has been stripped of his crown following protests that he'd been convicted of "committing two acts which were offensive to public morals and decency", viz; "following women around Galway City in his car while masturbating".

Aidan Clifford and partner Ellen Spence, who met on a skiing trip in 2007, "beat off stiff opposition"* to secure the Irish Wedding Journal's "Ireland’s Most Romantic Couple" title.

According to The Clare People, the pair won a €46,000 prize, which included "a wedding reception in the renowned Parknasilla Resort in Kerry, a designer wedding dress from either Kathy de Stafford in Dublin or Blush Bridal in Belfast and a luxury Sandals honeymoon from Tropical Places".

However, the Irish Wedding Journal was unaware that Clifford appeared last year in Galway District Court where he admitted driving to Galway on his days off from work "specifically to follow women around in his car while fondling himself".

According to the Evening Herald, his solicitor claimed Clifford's lifestyle was to blame and that he was "working himself to the bone".**

The couple currently live in Kinvara, County Galway, but Clifford works in nearby Ballyvaughan, where unimpressed residents queued up to express their outrage. One declared the whole thing a "total disgrace", adding: "My own grandchildren play down in Ballyvaughan all the time. It’s bad enough to think that this man is around, never mind putting him up on a pedestal like this."
Another insisted there was “a lot of animosity here about it. Everybody is disgusted."

The Irish Wedding Journal duly responded by withdrawing the couple's €46k booty. The magazine told the Evening Herald: "The nature of his conviction is entirely incompatible with the ethos of Ireland's Wedding Journal and the competition and we regard his entering this competition in the first place as a breach of good faith on his part.

"With regret we have come to the decision that no prize will be awarded this year."

**Double snigger.

And secondly, someone sent me this on email. Google Street View protecting the anonymity of innocent people superbly:

Monday, 11 May 2009

Whatever will they think of next?

Just look at this store in Brooklyn:

A store that sells things for 99 cents.

Or more than 99 cents.

Or even, wait for it, less than 99 cents.

Wow! A store that sells things for 'a price between zero and infinity (in cents)'. Radical. Even better, they actually marked each item with a little sticker showing the individual price of the item!! Ker-razy!!

I dream of the day I get to see such a store in poor old England. We lack the technology :(

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

There will be blood. And Kung Po Chicken.

Picture the scene, if you will. Or don't, I'm not going to get all Hitler on you if you choose not to.

But if you do, picture the scene of two young (*cough*) lovers walking arm in arm down a street in the nicer end of Brooklyn, both hankering for a chinese meal on their final day together before parting again.

During their slow stroll past cars holding fourteen people, cars 'customised' by someone colourblind and with a love of Bauhaus, and women wheeling pushchairs holding obese babies counterbalanced with two KFC bargain buckets hanging off the handles, our young lovers rejected the first chinese restaurant they passed for 'serving fish'.

Because our young lovers take all their decisions together. Apparently.

The second, and most definitely only other, chinese restaurant they passed was packed - and with a huge crowd of people waiting to be seated. Undeterred, our dashing male lead walks straight to the counter and asks in his poshest English accent if despite not having a reservation, whether they 'could seat my good lady and I'?

Table for two? Right this way - take your pick of 3 tables.

Um....what? The young couple chose a booth. Then looked back at the packed waiting area glaring at them and realised why. One was a big group that were waiting for a table to be free. The other two couples were too fat to sit in a booth.

Not just fat. Orca fat. Own-orbiting-satellites fat.

Our dashing lead half expected Captain Ahab to come crashing though the front window at any moment to claim his prize - the great white whale.

After they'd ordered, the next table that became free was given to one of these couples. The wife especially was gross, and took up the whole of one side of a table (they had to remove one of the chairs as there wasn't room for her and it) while hilariously one of the waters subtly tested the chair in the waiting room to see if it was broken.

All was fine until the soup arrived, along with three middle-aged women who weren't obese - just that very fat weeble-with-legs look. These three women knew Ms. Blowhole as they'd all lived near each other in a place full of refineries called 'Staaten Oiland' about 20 years ago.

Five looooong minutes of screeched conversation a foot away from our heroes ensued after which a waiter finally pleaded with them to sit down.

In the booth behind the young couple.

The beautiful young lady leaned forward and whispered, "Great, now we get to hear about their entire lives."

"Surely not," our English lead replied, "now they've sat down they ought to shut up."

They did.

For five minutes. Then they did what any sane and conscientious people would do and continued their conversation with Ms. Blowhole at full volume - right across the young couple's table. And what a doozy of a conversation it was:

"Do you remember that house we lived in, back on Staaten Oiland?"
"The one down the street from the one we lived in, back on Staaten Oiland?"
"Yes, that one, back on Staaten Oiland. Well we moved after the neighbour extended his decking past our steps."
"No!" *gasp*
"Yes! We told him, the boundary is up to our front door. Not our steps. It's not how we do things on Staaten Oiland."
"No, on Staaten Oiland we treat people with respect. Do you remember those shops round the corner?"
"Round the corner from the house we had back on Staaten Oiland?"
"Yes, those shops - just down from the house we had on Staaten Oiland. Well they've been refurbished and opened up as shops."
"No!" *gasp taking in almost all the oxygen in the room*
"Yes! As shops, but different ones to when you lived on Staaten Oiland."

For. Twenty. Minutes.

Our young couple had been incapable of hearing each other over this torrent of facts vital to world security and had resorted to shouting at each other. At one point when Ms. Blowhole had stopped long enough to swallow an egg roll whole, our dashing hero commented that talking over other people was a tad 'fucking rude'.

They shut up again for five minutes while Ms. Blowhole inhaled a small lamb and spat out the bones.

"AMANDA! Do you remember Amanda? She lived down the street from that house we lived in, back on Staaten Oiland."

Exit one young couple halfway through the meal. The Staaten Oiland Fat Club* had driven them from their food.

*The first rule of Staaten Oiland Fat Club is 'No fucking lettuce.'**
**The second rule of Staaten Oiland Fat Club is 'No FUCKING lettuce, capiche?'

Monday, 4 May 2009

A brief interlude...

....before I get on with the posts that have been sitting around to be posted for a fortnight now.

I posted a couple of months
ago about a company football game where one department (staffed with young, regular players - as well as a couple of girls) took on all the other departments (staffed with old, fat men) in a 90 minute try-not-to-have-a-heart-attack 'game' where us old people managed to lose 14-1.


Well last weekend I organised the rematch. They had the same team, whereas I cunningly drafted in a few decent guys to make it an even match. My organising was going swimmingly until five days before the game when our three best players all reported back injured from the weekend's games and pulled out.


I cajoled one player out of retirement and two people brought 'mates' along on the day. I've put mates in quotes because our goalkeeper turned up ten minutes before kick-off having not stopped drinking all night and had dragged along someone he'd met in the pub the previous night who 'fancied a game.'

All in all, a recipe for an absolute stuffing. Again.

And indeed, our goalkeeper lasted all of twenty seconds before trying to catch one of three balls he could see - completely missing it - and letting it dribble slowly and sadly into the net.

We managed to get to half-time only losing 3-0. I even hit the crossbar in our one decent chance.

Enter Super Squirrel Manager who changed the team round, put myself out on the left wing (as I was the only person in our team who could still run), reorganised the defence and gave a rousing speech along the lines of 'let's kick 'em a bit and see where it gets us'.

Within five minutes of the restart we'd pulled it back to 3-2, then let in a silly goal, then piled forward and got it back to 4-3. They started to panic and substituted off their only girl and replaced her with a six-foot-four-brick-shithouse of a player.

We pressed and pressed but just couldn't get an equaliser, and then two late goals on the break and an even later consolation for us made it 6-4.

Which I'm sure you'll agree is better than 14-1 :)

Here is actual proof of yours truly lining up a swift punt to the nuts of the player in blue. I even got part of the ball first.... :-P

P.S. My arms are incredibly pasty because I'm wearing a long-sleeved top with white sleeves, my left leg is pasty because I'm wearing a white elasticated bandage to stop my knee parting with a sad 'boing' noise, and my right leg is pasty because I'm very pasty.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Bonus Drunken Post!

It's 3:30am and I don't care. I'm up late because it's my girlfriend's birthday and we don't share the same continent so I'm working off island time - kapesh?

So in the true tradition of drunken (yet impeccably spelt) posts, here are 5 things about me I've never revealed before. I reserve the right to delete this post when I wake up tomorrow)

1) I'm allergic to everything. Not a joke either. I have bad eczema exacerbated by cats, dogs, heat, cold, soap, any cleaning product, rubber, anything acidic, anything alkali, anyone coughing near me or potentially existing in the same universe. Basically - it's your fault :)

1a) And when I say 'allergic' - a mere second in the presence of any surfactant will make my skin fall apart, often in real time.

2) I hate boats. I hate anything on water. I struggle to cross bridges. The mere concept on being on water freaks me out. I blame this entirely on a) seeing Jaws aged 8 and b) my Dad dropping me in the Canal de Bourgogne and despite my frenzied pleas to get out of said canal, being denied. I probably can't swim. I'd probably do a Moses if forced.

3) My first real girlfriend gave me hepatitis and destroyed half my liver forever. She did that by cheating on me in our month's 'trial period' after two years of going out. I can never forgive this.

4) I often think the world would be improved by 3,000,000,000 people dying. At least.

5) As a consequence of point 4, I'm not sure I deserve to be in the right half.....

Forgive me.

Friday, 1 May 2009

I say!

Someone from the US Department of Justice* decided to use my blog to learn how to speak Bristolian.

Should I be worried?

Oh, and I promise to do the New York posts this weekend. Been mega-busy/ill/a lazy fuck.

*Oxymoron, define thyself.