Saturday, September 29, 2007

Bons mots

Have you ever spontaneously said something really funny and clever, but in a context that takes so long to explain that you can never repeat it to anyone without making it a long, boring anecdote? Well, to heck with it. Even though the line itself isn't funny unless you were there at the time, here's an abridged-as-humanly-possible summary of the online conversation.

Me: Yes, I forgot to take my hat when I got off the train. Twice.
Friend: Tut, didn't you read the manual? Rule one: Never take the hat off.
Me: (reading manual) Hey, also, you're not supposed to keep chickens in one.
Friend: Yep, I had a problem with that once. So many eggs...
Me: That's only a problem if you forget to check it's empty before you put it on. And even if you do, you can always quip "Boy, do I have egg on my face!"

Anyway, Dublin beckons! It's a flying visit, in more ways than one, I'll only be on Irish soil for about 24 hours, but in that time I'll get to hang out and watch the rugby with Charlie Garavan (who conveniently lives very close to my hotel) as well as talk with The Panel about memory and hats. I even get a write-up on their website!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Where the hell is the thunderstorm coming from?

In honour of Blogger's continuing corruption by the German language, and the fact that I found an old Fix & Foxi comic in my flat today, I'd like to share with you the one-page English-language comic strip it contains. Fix and Foxi are popular German comic and cartoon stars, and they help to teach young Germans to speak English, too. It's very impressive, and the kind of thing that really should happen in British comics too - if I'd grown up reading Dennis the Menace occasionally having adventures in German, maybe I'd be able to hold a conversation with all those fluent-English-speaking German and Austrian memorisers.

Still, much as I admire the good intention of the uncredited writer of this story, I do have to giggle at the quality of the translation - the grammar is just plain wrong in a couple of cases, but my favourite line has to be the one I've titled this blog post with. Teaching small children to say "Where the hell" could get them in trouble if they go to America, where that kind of talk can shock and horrify people.

So sit back and enjoy Foxi burning Lupo's house to the ground (it's okay, because it's educational).

I'm pretty sure nobody ever taught me the German for 'tranquilizer' (even if they didn't spell it right) in all my years of education. So it's not my fault I can't speak the language.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Woo! I did it!

No, not achieved anything noteworthy like writing my book, but I did manage to say no to someone on the phone today. Regular readers will know this is something I find impossible, but this afternoon when I got an email from a guy at Radio Solent followed immediately by a phone call from the same guy asking me to be on the breakfast show early tomorrow morning, giving tips on how to remember answers to quiz questions, I politely declined. Even when he continued to try to persuade me to do it, even after I'd explained that I'm rubbish at remembering facts, or anything halfway useful. I felt quite pleased with myself.

I did agree to another TV thing, but just a quick bit of filming for a taster sequence for some kind of ITV show currently in development about impressive mental and physical abilities. I'm going to do that next Thursday, since I'm already in London that day being shown up by a chimp. It's funny how the requests keep rolling in lately - I didn't get asked to do anywhere near this much when I actually won the world championship. And I don't even think Tony's publicity people are pestering the press about me any more either.

In other news, while I may not have achieved anything noteworthy today, I did give blood, and that's the kind of thing that makes up for being otherwise a lazy slob who cares about nothing but his next television appearance. The blood people who do the health check form had never heard of Bahrain and had to look it up in the book to see if you can donate after visiting there. You can. It must be a healthy place.

Oo, Blogger's gone German again! Tastaturk├╝rzel: dr├╝cken Sie Strg zusammen mit: B = Bold. I thought it had fixed itself...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Of all the creatures in the world, except for gazelles, the one most loathed by Winston Churchill was the pelican. He had developed a deep-seated prejudice against them during the Crimean War, when he had read a book that mentioned pelicans the day before getting his legs blown off by an exploding gazelle. During his lifetime he would regularly take a break from his prime ministerial duties and go to London Zoo to complain about the number of pelicans housed there, and after his death his ghost could occasionally be observed wandering the streets and muttering unpleasant slurs against pelicans and those who support them.

The irony is that Churchill spent his entire life and afterlife under the mistaken impression that pelicans were a kind of insect. The book he had been reading, "Weevils!" by Charles Dickens, only mentioned the birds in passing without giving a detailed description, and his copy of the only other book then published that mentions pelicans, "Weevils!" by George Eliot, had been eaten by a gazelle before Churchill had a chance to open it.

In speeches in Parliament, Churchill would frequently compare his political enemies to pelicans, referencing their scuttling movements, many legs and habit of causing damage to crops. 'Pelican crossings' were so named by special order of Anthony Eden, just to get on Churchill's nerves. A plan to replace the statue of Nelson in Trafalgar square with a giant bronze pelican, approved by the Commons and Lords in 1972 in what became known as the Teaching Winston Churchill A Lesson For Being So Fat And Stupid Act, was abandoned when it was realised that Churchill had died several years previously and wouldn't have recognised the statue as being a pelican anyway, because of the aforementioned confusion.

On the other hand, pelicans generally liked Winston Churchill. His approval rating among pelicans and simliar species polled at London Zoo varied from 89% during the war years to 69.7% in the late fifties. Giraffes, staunch socialists all, were much less supportive of his policies, while the gazelles refused even to answer questions on the subject for fear of Russian reprisals.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A follow-up to last Tuesday's post

No, actually, I mean the Tuesday before last. The one where I talked about Batman and Doris Day. You know, the 1960s Batman series is rubbish! This isn't one of those cases where fond childhood memories make for entertaining viewing as a cynical thirty-something. I must have grown into a bitter old man accidentally. And the "Legends" documentary tonight was Alma Cogan, who's definitely dead, so there were no shocking revelations there either.

But on the other hand, Ripping Yarns is on right now and it's Across The Andes By Frog. Yay!

I really need to do stuff with my life...

Monday, September 24, 2007

I hate unsolved mysteries

This morning I had a tune in my head. It was a catchy tune, but I had no idea where it came from or what the words to it were, if any. Since I was in town, I whistled it to myself to keep it flowing through my brain so that I could hum it to someone later and find out what it was, because it was bugging me. But then I walked through the market and on a tailor's stall there was a sign advertising "SHORTNING TROUSERS £6.99", which of course immediately started my brain singing that mama's little babies love short'ning trousers and wiped out the previous tune, whatever it was. So now I'll never know.

I can't imagine a stall in Derby's indoor market does much business in shortening people's trousers for £6.99, anyway.

Anyway, the day wasn't a complete loss. I did some practice with cards and found that I can still do a pack comfortably under 30 seconds and get it right two times out of three. That was turning it over in the old way, following which I tried a couple of packs shuffling them between my hands in the way that I think could be faster if I work on it, but it's going to take me a while before I can do that as impressively. Need to train my fingers to move in different ways.

Tomorrow I'm going to a recruitment agency in Birmingham for a registration interview arranged last week, despite the whole publicly-announcing-that-I-maybe-don't-want-to-be-an-accountant thing that several of my readers have pointed out might have been a bad idea. Although I said I'd pad out my CV a bit more (even though the CV they have is the one prepared by the Nottingham branch of the same agency on my behalf) and I haven't done it yet. Feels like I haven't done my homework and the teacher's going to tell me off.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Is there a job where the ideal qualifications are fatness and laziness?

Well, I didn't do any memory training today. In fact, I've done nothing at all all day, unless you count doing a couple of extra-difficult hanjie puzzles and watching a heck of a lot of sport, sitcoms and cartoons on telly. I haven't written my book either, and you promised to pester me about it, so it's your fault, readers. There are times when I'm frankly disgusted with myself. What I need is a slavedriver, to force me to do things that I really want to do but am too idle to actually sit down to. Where does one hire a slavedriver these days?

I have been thinking, though. Did I tell you I've left my job at NCN now? No, that's right, I deliberately refrained from mentioning it because I felt vaguely ashamed of being voluntarily unemployed again. But frankly, that's silly. It wasn't much of a job, and if I can't get a good permanent job that I really like (which, judging by the last few months, is surprisingly hard to do), I don't need to spend my time doing temp jobs (even temp-with-the-possibility-of-making-it-perm-later jobs like that one) that I don't particularly enjoy.

In fact, to take things one step further, I think I might have issues with the whole accountancy thing. Perhaps it's time to stop saying that I don't want to try to make a living from the memory stuff, and really try it to see if it actually is possible. You never know, I might like it. And now's the time to try, while I still have money sitting around in the bank. If I'm honest about things, a main reason I've been reluctant to try it before is that I didn't want people to think I can't hold a proper job like a normal person. Well, I think I can get round that mental block if I really try - after all, I'm nearly 31, I've been an accountant for well over ten years now, my mother's going to be disappointed in me whatever I choose to do for a living and everybody else actually would think I was quite cool if I was a professional memory man.

So I'll give it a go, while still looking for a good office job at the same time. I'll sit down and work on the book, and also look into performances and TV appearances and writing other things and so on. Yay! This is the dawn of a bright new era, or else the dawn of a lot more sitting around doing hanjie puzzles and watching telly. We'll see.