Wednesday, 23 December 2009


Season's greetings. Remember, it won't last long.
Εύχομαι σε όλους καλές γιορτές και χρόνια πολλά.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

A Cautionary Tale...

...from the Daily Mail

Gareth Thomas is a ‘sporting legend’ who shocked the world rigid the other day. The Mail Online has the headline:
British Lions rugby legend Gareth Thomas: 'It's ended my marriage and nearly driven me to suicide. Now it's time to tell the world the truth - I'm gay.
Broken marriage, thoughts of ending it all, the truth out at last: FeMail is getting into some of its favourite stuff here, so get yourselves sat comfy and reach for the Kleenex. By all means feel compassion for Thomas - while not necessarily condoning his actions, of course – for Gareth and pretty wife Gemma have been on an emotional rollercoaster, a soul-searching ride to hell and back. It’s also a timely wake up call to us all, a warning of what widespread homosexualism could do to our society, one which we ignore at our peril.

If, like me, you had never heard of Gareth Thomas, here is the Mail’s introduction: ‘With 100 caps to his name - more than any other player in Welsh history - he has one of the fiercest reputations on the field, and a row of missing front teeth to prove it. At 6ft 3in and 16st of pure muscle, his masculinity has always been an absolute given.’ But how are the mighty fallen, because ‘it was all a pretence, a fragile artifice - and one which came crashing down around his ears on November 4, 2006, following a Wales game in Cardiff.’

What happened??? Did Gareth admit that he wasn’t six foot three after all? No. He was forced to acknowledge that he really liked men, to reveal that long-hidden gay secret from deep inside that had been a tight, ticking knot of a time-bomb threatening to seep out of his innermost stomach and destroy him for living a tissue of lies. 'It felt as if I had a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other.’ When matters all came rushing finally to an ultimate head, his devastated wife crumbled, and they both split up and fell apart. All this, after their fairy tale wedding in the pretty village of St Brides Major, and the heartbreak of several miscarriages. After twenty years of standing on cliff edges, dipping a toe into the water and wondering whether or not to jump off, Gareth has now taken the plunge and come out as a pouf. 'I've been through all sorts of emotions with this, tears, anger and absolute despair,' he says. He is still ‘consumed with guilt,’ whilst nonetheless happy to be ‘single and free to date whomever he pleases without fear of being 'outed'. He says he feels like a teenager again, re-living his youth, discovering who he really is.’

Heed then the Mail’s cautionary tale of Gareth Thomas, a man given to unnatural desires, one who took the momentous decision to indulge them.  He at least is happy now, having reverted to being a teenager again. Don't they always say homosexuality is caused by arrested development? Think of his wife, of the family that might have been, and ponder, deep in your heart, the wisdom of his choice. If only he had been straight, and left his wife for another woman like a normal bloke.


I always thought my masculinity was an absolute given too. I’m not six foot three or sixteen stone of muscle, but I have XY chromosomes, a dick, balls and a hairy chest, and was under the impression that I met all the requirements. I was born with them (apart from the hairy chest) and the fact that sexually I only like men seemed to me irrelevant to my masculinity. So I too have been living a lie!

For the Daily Mail readers' info, I have had it off with three prop forwards, and am able to confirm that gay rugby players are not especially rare. Most rugby players are comfortable enough in their maleness not to give a monkey's in any case. See this NSFW link if you don't believe me, and if you don't mind a bit of cock. Good luck to Gareth Thomas, and fuck the Daily Mail.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Off Shop

Christmas came early this year. The snow buggered up the trains, so I called the university and said I wouldn’t be in today. It was only a half day in any case. Few if any students would have shown, all my admin was in order, so after calling I went back to bed with a coffee and gave the place no further thought. For fourteen days, it does not exist.
So there.

Later, I crunched through the snow to Waitrose, now full of uniformed twinks stacking shelves as fast as Christmas shoppers can ransack them. I remembered my summer and Christmas job back in 1978 in a wine shop in Huddersfield. There my page-boy haired, twinky self unloaded boxes, stacked shelves, and God fucking help us, advised customers.

I had just returned to England after six months in France and considered myself pretty wine-savvy. It never occurred to me that drinking wine in quantity did not in itself confer expertise, and that ‘piss-head’ is not a synonym of ‘master of wine’. But, you know, in 1970s Huddersfield, it might as well have been. We were, generally speaking, as alcoholically unsophisticated as aborigines.

Wine terminology scared people. An elderly lady stood baffled before a wall of sherry bottles before asking me ‘am’t yer got any sweet sherry, love? I can only see ‘cream’ here.’ The identical problem oppressed a bloke who was obviously looking for a present for a lady. ‘Is yer dry Martini sweet?’ he asked me, with the same sotto, confidential tone a man might use to ask another if he has a spare condom. Oh, the temptation. I was going to say ‘I sincerely hope not,’ but bottled out.

A wine shop naturally attracts winos – why else would I have been working there, after all – and we had our regular piss-heads. Look, I’m sorry, stereotyping and all that, but our regular drunks were all Irish. Their preferred tipple was Strongbow cider and this we kept at the front of the long-by-narrow shop, otherwise they would pocket miniatures of whisky as they searched down the far end for ‘The Bow’. It was their custom to pay in very small coin, so vigilance had to be exercised when one of them was counting out sixty pence worth of halfpennies at the till, as his mates might be circulating and prestidigitating cans into their macs while the check-out lady was watching the grubby coin counter and holding her breath against the smell of piss. One day, a gentleman wino was a few pence short of a two-litre bottle of Bow, and said he would ask his mate in the nearby churchyard to make up the shortfall so long as he could take the bottle with him as proof of purchase. The manageress would have none of this, and the gentleman took this want of trust very much amiss.

‘YER’LL DOY DE SAME AS OI WILL!’ he said, in capital letters, pointing at her from the doorway.

‘Aye, but I’m going where it’s nice!’

A loud lady came and hollered ‘Ave yer got some wine called Pie and Peas? My mate adsum an she reckons it’s fair right nice.’

Madam refers no doubt to Piesporter. We do indeed keep it, and it is fair right nice, as madam's 'mate' avers.


Some mean-spirited company rule deprived me of a small amount of money, and in retaliation I helped myself to four cans of Carlsberg Special Brew. Spot-checks on staff bags were permitted. Nobody checked mine. My mother was horrified when I brandished the cans in triumph, and she refused to accept my contention that they were taken in righteous protest against the stingy refusal to pay twinky employees for their breaks.

Anyway, now you know, Lodge Wines, so come and get me.

Incidentally, why in England are we never prepared for snow? Every year it takes us by surprise, and transport is screwed for three or four days. In all my fifteen years in Greece, I saw snow only three times. Indeed it is so rare that to describe an event as san ta hionia, 'like the snows', is to say that it hardly ever happens. Nevertheless, when it snowed, everyone was ready. Gritters were out, chains were secured around tyres and everybody was dressed as for a skiing trip. Within hours the dusting of snow would have evaporated, and all the accoutrements put away for another five years. What Athens never seemed to come to grips with was rain. In winter it regularly pisses down for hours at a stretch, and cars float down flooded streets like logs on a river. Nobody seemed to think anything could be done about this, yet everyone was ready for a once-in-a-blue-moon flurry of snow. Weird.

View from my window this morning

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Come again?

This morning I taught a load of vocabulary pertaining to food and restaurants. After, the students were given a set of questions each to ask a partner. In the course of this activity I was called over by Khalid and Nabil to resolve a misunderstanding.

'I'm ask he,' Khalid said with the deliberateness of one resigned to being often misunderstood, 'what your favourity wedge-table and frewit?'

'Vegetable and fruit, yeah,' I nod seriously, in acknowledgement of a point well made.

'Yes. I'm ask he, what your favourity wedge-table and frewit, and he say me...'

'Pins and crap,' said Nabil, defensively.

Khalid looked at me and shrugged. 

'Pins and crap!!!' said Nabil, louder, rattled at being required to state and restate the blindingly obvious. Then seeing he wasn't taking us with him, he rifled through the course book to find the words in print.

'Shuf!* Pins and crap, here.'

Ah, yes, beans and grapes. I see. 


*shuf  'look' in Arabic. 

Monday, 7 December 2009

How do I bug thee? Let me count the ways

If you are a student looking for a foolproof way of getting up a teacher’s nose, let me recommend ‘Telling Him How To Do His Job'. This is especially irritating if you, as a student, are a teacher in your own country. You can tell your teacher how you do things there, and compare his approach unfavourably. Never mind if you teach physics and know diddly squat about language teaching – all the better to piss him off. More tried and trusted ways are offered below.

  1. Sit sulking in silence for most of the lesson, then well over half way through, complain that you are not being allowed enough opportunity to speak. Point out that in your country, the teacher has students read aloud around the class, thus affording everyone the opportunity to drone a few lines of text while everybody else either scans the page to calculate which bit he will be required to read, or nods off. You should be prepared for the usual teacherly nonsense that reading aloud is not something most people are called upon to do in ‘real life’, that it is quite possible to read aloud without understanding a word, and that it is mostly pretty sort of pointless, really. Dismiss such objections. You didn’t scrape pre-intermediate level by the age of thirty-five in Libya by speaking spontaneously, did you? Well, then.
  2. If your teacher, mindful of your previous objection, brings in a poem or a dialogue for reading aloud, pull a face. Object that poems and dialogues are only used for kiddies in your country. Bear in mind that he will have excuses, as ever; poems are written to be read aloud, whereas editorials from The Independent usually are not. A dialogue has potential for some entertaining work on stress and intonation that The Economist entirely lacks. Have none of this. Are you not an economist? In seminars you will want to bore everybody into catatonia by reading aloud ad mispronounced, mind-numbing nauseam, as you would back home.
  3. There’s a kind of English language teacher that will work very hard to draw you into conversation by forever eliciting your views and encouraging you to elaborate on them. You’ll recognise the type: Alexander Technique poise, perpetual inviting smile, eyebrows arched encouragingly. Usually perches on the front desk, bright eyes trawling the room. Watch that taut bod sag like a dead octopus on the dot of 2.45! Until then, respond costively. Allow the ingratiating pillock to ply you with questions for about half the lesson before flouncing out, huffing that you came here to learn English, not have conversations!
  4. Wait until your teacher has spent a good fifteen minutes leading into a reading text, teaching relevant vocabulary, trying hard to engage your interest, striving to relate the topic of the text as much as possible to your experience in order that you might know the satisfaction of successful comprehension... ah, just watch the poor sap try… then say ‘yes, but I sink phrasal verbs are more important dan such tings.’ The counsel of perfection here is for you to be a pernickety, clench-sphinctered Swiss banker of twenty-five going on fifty, and say ‘Freissl Wurbs’. How your teacher will want to gob you one!

Happy aggravation!

Saturday, 5 December 2009


I've noticed that comments are disappearing from this blog, or that the number given below the post does not always tally with the actual number of comments. Some of my own comments have vanished from other blogs I follow. So, man, I'm like, WTF, innit, you get me?

It seems that Blogger have this down as a 'known issue' and are trying to sort it out. Meanwhile if any of your astute observations or witty ripostes has slipped through a hole in cyber space, it's Blogger's fault, not mine. I haven't censored them.

I noted also that the 'reactions' feature is wonky as well, with the numbers of 'funny' and 'interesting' ticks dwindling on some posts. A shameless tick whore, I was really pissed off about that.

Friday, 4 December 2009

If You Fancy Some Pussy...

Under my crusty exterior, beneath my irrascibility and misanthropy, there beats a heart of the purest blancmange. For me this video is (just short of) a minute's worth of bliss, reminding me poignantly of my cat William, who departed this life a year ago this day, age 17 years. I know cats are no-good, wheedling manipulators, that they are horrible to mice, or in William's case to Greek cockroaches, and that they are total control freaks. Your dog will adore you if you provide him with food and affection. Your cat will take the food and affection as no more than his due. The dog will think you are God, and the cat conclude that he must be God. Despite this appalling presumption, I delight in every sound and movement of a contented feline. You can please yourselves.


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