Friday, August 28, 2009

Joke of the Week

From the mighty P J O'Rourke, a humourous anecdote about the old USSR....

An old guy's wife tells him to go to the butcher shop and get some meat. He goes to the butcher shop and stands in line for hours.
Finally the butcher says, "We're out of meat."
The old guy blows his top. He yells, "I am a worker! I am a proletarian! I am a veteran of the Great Patriotic War! I have fought for socialism all my life, and now you tell me you're out of meat! What kind of a system is this?! You are fools! You are thieves! . . . "
A big man in a trench coat comes up to the old guy and says, "Comrade, Comrade, not so loud. In the old days you know what they would do if you said such things." The big man in the trench coat makes a pistol motion with his hand.
He says to the old guy, "Calm down and go home." The old guy shrugs and leaves.
He comes back empty-handed, and his wife says, "What's the matter, are they out of meat?"
"Worse than that," says the old guy, "they're out of bullets."

I thank you.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Emasculation of the British Male

Let's face it. The average British male is fast becoming a pretty poor example of the species.

Two news items today illustrate this. The first is the number of men who choose to stay at home with mum. A remarkable 29% of British men aged between 20 and 34 still live at home. Presumably so they can get their dinner every night and their underwear ironed. BRITISH MEN!!!! These are men (and I use the word with its loosest interpretation) bred from the same stock of fearless nutcases that colonised the world a few centuries back. Members of the same gene pool who stuck it to Hitler for six long years (like my Grandad). Men who thought nothing of jumping on a ship and trying to sail off the edge of the world, and failing that, seeing what they could rob and plunder along the way.

Nobbut a few generations ago, young men were turfed out of the house the day they turned 18 and sent to live in some windswept military barracks in some of the most godforsaken spots of this tiny island we inhabit. The weak stock were ritually humiliated by the military personnel during the day and then buggered senseless by their comrades at night. If that didn't make a man of you then nothing would. It was called National Service. If that particular lifestyle wasn't to your liking and you found yourself the object of affection or disapprobriation of whoever you met, you chose one of the many nights when the weather was truly filthy, went outside, took a walk and died miserably in a ditch from hypothermia. Thus the strong survived and we continued to produce generations of sexually confused but hard-as-nails menfolk.

The other news item is the relentlessly falling intellect of the current crop of male students. Don't be misled by the headline. These numbskulls are only showing an improvement in exams compared to the girls because of the elimination of coursework from their studies. Coursework is of course simply a cipher which actually means "copying it from the internet". In the past they were obviously too thick to carry out even this simple task. This was thus removed from the syllabus in order that they stood a statistically equal chance as the girls of randomly guessing which boxes to tick in what constitutes examinations these days.

I despair.

NB: I did not do National Service and left home shortly after my 17th birthday.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Feral Parents

I've just spent the weekend at my Mum's. An unplanned weekend. She phoned me earlier in the week and I said I'd cancel whatever I had on and be there by Friday. Sounds bad doesn't it? It wasn't - don't worry.

I had to go up there (it's a 500 mile round trip so 8 hours of driving) to help her find a new car. She's 71 and needs a car to get around. A nice little hatchback runabout you might think so she can get down the shops a couple of days a week and go see the granddaughter now and again. No, it's not quite as simple as that.

This is the second time in two years I've had to rush up there at short notice and perform this particular duty. What had actually happened was she had written off ("totalled" to use the American terminology) her current car. She did exactly the same thing last time. So, in the last two years my Mum has demolished two cars in quite spectacular accidents. This is the kind of driving record your average teenager would be proud of. The kind of thing that would drive parents to distraction. Except I now find it happening to me in reverse.

These are no ordinary cars. For the last 30 years she has driven only Saabs. Big, sturdy, high-performance Swedish cars that the advertising campaigns would have us believe are designed by the same people who make a particularly intimidating and supersonic fighter jet for the Swedish Air Force. My mum likes this. She seems to fancy that driving a car modelled on a fighter aircraft lends her a certain quirky kudos amongst her increasingly elderly chums. It makes her feel she's not quite ready for the scrapheap. This is OK by me - keeps her young at heart and all that.

But two write-offs in two years? It's time she calmed it down a bit you would think. I was relieved to find when I got there she had been given a seven year old diesel powered Ford Mondeo. The kind of car it's difficult to tell is moving even when it's going flat out in top gear. This would reign here in I thought. She would be suitably contrite after managing to destroy two substantial Saabs in the last two years. Not a bit of it. She hated it. Despite it's practical attributes, she could not see past the fact it would not do 90mph (approaching 150 kph) down the motorway and blast everything else off the road as she screamed "Eat my dust losers!". She's 71 - did I mention that?

She'd already been perusing the car ads in the papers and was eyeing up locally available Saabs. She'd also been wondering whether a 4x4 would make a change. She lives in the North of England and a 4x4 is handy in the winter sometimes. Various other high performance cars were on her prospective shopping list. Audis, Mercs, get the idea. Of course, her budget wasn't quite up to her desires (isn't that always the case) and I had to point out with her budget, any car she could find on her list at that price would be likely to have had a long and probably interesting history. So it was down to me to find her something that ticked all her boxes on her wish list, but that would allow me to also sleep at night.

To cut a long story short, I had to show her the kind of car she wanted, for the money she had, to finally make here realise she couldn't afford one with anything appproaching decent provenance. I then had to find her something she would consider an acceptable compromise. Her specification was roughly as follows:-

  • acceleration of a scalded cat
  • build characteristics of a chieftan tank
  • fuel economy of a Vespa scooter
  • carrying capacity of an Antonov cargo plane
  • reliability but simplicity of an AK47
  • cheap
  • cool

A pretty unachievable wish list. We went round the local dealers. She sat in various cars, test drove a few of them. All failed to reach her demanding specification. They were all either too small, too large, too slow, too expensive, the wrong colour, too noisy, too quiet, too old, too boring, You name it - they failed the test.

I finally found her a car. It doesn't fit her spec. but it's close. It's quick, roomy, reliable, and almost within budget. It probably won't impress her friends and it won't be much good in the snow but despite her mumblings about a 4x4, she's never actually had one so I knew that wasn't her top priority. Two litre engine, six speed gearbox (she refuses to drive automatics), lots of gadgets (it's the top spec. in the 2.0) should do 90mph with ease. One of these - hope she likes it. Bloody parents.