Friday, 24 June 2011

I have moved!

New updates will appear over here from now on...

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

100 Things It's Impossible To Look Cool Whilst Doing

1) Carrying three pints without looking like a Praying Mantis
2) Walking barefoot across a hot/pebbly beach
3) Manually winding down car windows
4) Getting change out of your wallet
5) Opening the little fruit/veg bags at supermarkets
6) Running for a bus
7) Eating Mini Cheddars from the bag
8) Drinking through a straw from a carton
9) Chasing and trying to pick up a bouncing rugby ball
10) Standing up on a bus if your head is higher than the roof
11) Sipping a hot drink
12) Wearing a cycling attire (helmet, lycra shorts...)
13) Asking for condoms in a shop
14) Standing around in a women's clothes shop whilst your girlfriend tries stuff on
15) Scraping dog poo off your shoe
16) Turning around after taking a turn at bowling
17) Getting up after tripping over
18) Dropping to one knee to tie a shoelace
19) Jogging from a distance to a door someone is holding open for you
20) Running whilst clutching pockets to prevent spillage
21) Holding a sparkler
22) Holding a friend’s drink and your own whilst they use a pub toilet
23) Gargling
24) Eating spaghetti
25) Eating corn on the cob
26) Climbing the steps in a swimming pool
27) Looking down a telescope
28) Chasing after money in the street
29) Picking up a bunch of documents after dropping them
30) Reading a broadsheet newspaper
31) Reaching around to plug something into the back of a computer
32) Vaccuuming
33) Wearing rubber gloves
34) Carrying toilet roll on a campsite
35) Taking a small dog for a walk
36) Wearing just socks
37) Sitting in a car wash
38) Threading a needle
39) Blowing out a candle
40) Getting food at a carvery
41) Using a footpump
42) Perching on the arm of a chair
43) Squeezing through the closing doors on the tube
44) Wearing a hairnet
45) Walking on ice
46) Sharing a pair of headphones
47) Untangling headphones
48) Squatting
49) Taking a shower when there is no wall mount
50) Getting frisked at the airport
51) Getting something out of your eye
52) Walking up a steep hill
53) Escaping from a jumper with a tight neck
54) Changing direction in the street when you forget something
55) Blowing up balloons
56) Fanning away a flying insect
57) Carrying a chair
58) Doing that shuffle thing when you need to get past someone walking in your direction
59) Buying wellingtons
60) Wiping a pair of spectacles
61) Removing a condom
62) Correcting an umberella that's been blown inside-out
63) Holding your girlfriend's/sister's/friend's purse/handbag
64) Wearing sandals/flip-flops and socks together
65) Pruning a rose bush
66) Flailing around whilst ice/roller skating
67) Wearing a wetsuit
68) Wearing a tucked in t-shirt
69) Having visible bogeys
70) Having a dentist fiddle around in your mouth
71) Using a hulahoop
72) Flossing your teeth
73) Picking out a wedgie
74) Sucking a gobstopper
75) Wearing a beer hat
76) Sneezing/blowing your nose
77) Trying to attract a waiter's attention
78) Blowing a bubblegum bubble
79) Weighing yourself
80) Sitting on a toilet
81) Walking out of an exam early
82) Packing your bags at the supermarket checkout
83) Hopping around trying to put trousers on
84) Zipping up your fly
85) Learning to skateboard
86) Crying
87) Having an eye test
88) Talking to someone who is hard of hearing
89) Being examined by a doctor
90) Throwing up
91) Trying to cool hot food that's already in your mouth
92) Singing karaoke
93) Having your nose covered in sun tan lotion
94) Wearing goggles
95) Wearing Speedos
96) Putting a contact lens in
97) Handing out brochures
98) Walking into the wind
99) Wiping anything of the seat of your pants
100) Carrying a heavy rucksack

On backstreet dentistry

This isn't a new entry as such - it actually happened some 5 years ago, before I kept a blog, when I used to just include some of my tales in emails to friends equally bored during work.

I figured it deserved a place here, so here goes:

Part 1

So, having lost half my tooth at the weekend, I went to the dentist this morning, the only one I could find near me that were still taking new patients. I think I understand why.

Alarm bells started ringing when the doorbell played a lullabyesqe rendition of the French National Anthem as I entered the building. Random. The building itself was a run down old shack that was basically someone's house with a few desks and a 'surgery' in there.

The dentist herself was a pleasant German woman. Pleasant until she saw my form and said,
"You smoke? Stop it. Well, unless you want to grow up toothless."
After digging around in my mouth for a while, she re-endeared herself to me:
"Your teeth are in great condition, you must visit a dentist regularly."
If by regularly she means twice in the last 12 years, then yes, regular as clockwork.

So, she informs me I need a filling, and that this filling will cost me £250.
"250?!!" I exclaim. Well, mumble sheepishly, rather than exclaim.
"Well, yes, unless you want a regular filling rather than the gold?"
This rather stunned me into silence. Do I really look like I share the same penchant for gleaming gold accessories as the majority of street kids that live in Hackney? And if I could afford that, surely I would have found myself a more 'respectable' dentist. Anyway, I left kind of sated, but not before I'd had to run through the rain to find a cashpoint to pay my bill as they didn't accept cards.

I do hope their tooth repairing tools are more modern than their banking methods. If not, I guess I could get used to a mouthful of wooden pegs. At least then I'll look like a pirate.

Part 2

I returned to the 'dental surgery' this morning to have a huge fucking filling fitted. I decided not to opt for the gold one. Or the "more aesthetically pleasing" white one, and instead went for the cheapest option, the amalgam filling. It's the back of my tooth so I don't look too much like Jaws.

Already in the waiting room were two old trolls that were jibbering in what I swear was a language the scriptwiters of this godforsaken serial I found myself in had invented purely to make me feel more uneasy. Add to that the fact that their 'conversation' was punctuated at regular points either by one of them cackling insanely, or by the other standing up and performing some kind of shit jig, which I took to be a rather unfortunate, if highly amusing twitch.

On a side note, I spent close to two hours there, during which time numerous people arrived, were treated, and left. These two crones were not, which led me to believe that they were either the surgery's pets, or that my fear had caused me to imagine them.

Anyway, I was called in. The dental nurse was wearing a ridiculously large woolly hat! Surely against hygeine regulations, but I didn't like to question any member of the coven and so I let it slide. The nice German lady, or head witch if you will, sat me down, injected me and told me to sit outside whilst the poison, I mean, the anaesthetic kicked in. I was informed that it should take around 20 minutes.

An hour later, it had all but worn off and I was called back in for my filling. A procedure, surprisingly without incident. When I returned to the waiting room, the two she-devils had vanished, although I had no recollection of hearing the French National Anthem (see part 1).

I will be returning for regular check ups, if only so I can make these adventures a series of epic proportions.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

On making girly noises at burly boyses

Today I had an appointment with a throat specialist - precise details not important. I'm pretty sure I've mentioned it before, but doctors and hospitals terrify me, and waiting rooms terrify me even more. This particular one was basically the living room in an old Viennese apartment - wooden floors, high ceilings, lush decor - and for some reason, rather than being arranged like a regular waiting room, with the seats in rows or spaced against the four walls, this just had a few sofas chucked here and there and then a few random coffee shop type tables scattered around the middle. Thank god it was almost empty when I arrived and I could just cower in a corner, rather than being forced to sit awkwardly opposite someone coughy in the centre of the room.

The entrance to the doc's examination chamber was a giant wooden door, and in the hour or so I was left waiting like a chump, I could hear the muffled voices of the preceding patients but couldn't really make out anything they said. All good - if all the waiting room people could hear from me when my turn came was unintelligible noise, I had nothing to worry about right? Wrong. Read on.

So my turn eventually came and in I went. It was fucking terrifying in there. He sat me on a high straight-backed leather chair and positioned it and himself so that there was no way of me missing all the hideous, shiny metal gadgets he had at his disposal. I'm pretty sure at one point he even made a grand sweeping gesture towards them and sniggered a bit. I may be paraphrasing a little here but he then announced he was going to violently ram a camera on a pointy metal stick down my throat, and stressed "but only about 10cm down" so as not to alarm me - Just the 10cm? Thank fuck for that then eh?

At this point I'm trying to appear as casual as I can by slouching low in the chair, with my legs spaced apart. I'm actually over-relaxing, my arse barely on the seat, and it's a bit uncomfortable, but that doesn't matter. You don't scare me doc - just look how relaxed I am.

The doctor then comes over and orders me to sit up straight with my feet and knees together and my hands resting on my knees. He then straddles me. Imagine that - I already look like a tool and we're not even started on the camera fellatio yet. He then pulls on a rubber glove, gently grabs my tongue and asks me to make a "heeeeeeee" sound so as to raise my epiglottis out of the way of the camera. Now having initially sworn this as impossible, I've since tried and it's not difficult at all. Try it yourself - hold your tongue and go "heeeeeeeeee" all high-pitched. My words alone cannot do justice to the pathetic sounds that came from my face when I tried, so I've made you all a nifty little audio clip:

Five times I did that, and each time a little more pathetic than the last. I think the doc might have even been amused initially but the novelty soon wore off as he time and time again failed to get the camera to its indented destination, whereas as soon as I'd realised that a girly sigh was all I was gonna manage I ceased being horrified and had to stifle a few sniggers myself. I even physically gagged a couple of times, just to make myself look like even less of a man.

And my throat is fine, so the whole emasculating experience was for nothing.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

On faking identity

Last night my girlfriend, Vicky, had plans to go out to a gig. Some Austrian magazine's birthday party shindig featuring a bunch of DJs and bands in one location. It didn't appeal to me and I certainly didn't want to shell out the €15 for a ticket to see a bunch of shit bands and disc spinners. If I did go I would simply have to drink lots of booze, which would mean more needless expense. Vicky insisted I go though and when she offered to pay my entrance fee I figured what the hell and tagged along, quickly downing a couple of drinks as we left to get me in the mood.

Our plan was to meet a couple of friends of hers, all with pre-bought tickets, and then hope I could pick one up outside the venue.

During the journey, I managed to destroy the zip on my fly meaning I would face the night with a gaping hole there. Classy. That put me in a bad mood before we'd even arrived but whilst Vicky was fruitlessly attempting to pin my flaps together in a public bathroom, her friend burst in with some good news. She'd been asking passers by if they had tickets to spare but had found a better, cheaper solution. One girl she asked knew a name on the guest list - one Erwin Uhrmann - so we decided I'd pretend to be him and Vicky would sell her own ticket and come along as my guest. It didn't matter that none of us had any idea who he really was.

I was a little apprehensive as it was clearly not an English name and my German skills were far from good enough to successfully imitate a native speaker. especially not when a little tipsy, so we agreed Vicky would accompany me to the guestlist booth and do the talking whilst I stood with her and tried to avoid having to talk.

So from my point of view as an ignorant English bystander here's what happened: We go over and Vicky explains in German that we're the two people arriving under Erwin Uhrmann's name. The girl in the booth (whom it turns out is a friend of a friend of Vicky's) gets a little excited and replies, then looks up at me, saying something else in German. Vicky nudges me, smiles and gives me a less than subtle head nod which I understand I should imitate. I simply nod and say, "Ja." The girl say something else I don't catch. I elaborate with an "OK" on top of my "Ja". We get our wristbands and we walk away, the girl all the time gazing at me with some kind of adoration.

I then asked Vicky what just happened: When Vicky had initially mentioned 'my' name the girl had exclaimed, "You know Erwin Uhrmann?!" to which Vicky had casually replied, "Sure, I'm his guest tonight," and gestured toward me. The girl had then mentioned something about all the great books I had written and gone into detail about how one was sitting on her bedside table right now. That was when my "OK, ja," came in. Clearly I am not impressed by her admiration.

A little later, the friends we'd arrived with had gone over to their friend, ticket booth girl, and she had exclaimed to them how impressed she was that Vicky knew one of her heroes.

She also called a friend and said, "I just saw Vicky with Erwin Uhrmann! Did she break up with the English guy?!"

Of course we Googled this chap when we got home and bizarrely it turns out he was born in the same year as me, and also sports a scruffy beard and generic man hair. We also wear the same glasses.

I should apologise now. Erwin, if you're reading this for some reason, I probably didn't do you any favours in the personality department but thanks for lending me your identity - you have at least one avid fan out there. Next time I pretend to be you I assure you I'll be more charming. And I'll fasten my pants.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

On the most uncomfortable hour of my life

I'm writing this up a couple of years after the event, having happened across an outline of the event in an old email to a friend. I figured it deserved a place here.

Some background info - for the latter half of 2007 I spent six months or so in excruciating pain - I had a slipped disc in my lower back, and due it not being diagnosed early enough it was eventually accompanied by a twisted nerve, leaving me with the physical dexterity of a 90-year-old, and a whiny one at that, until February the following year when they operated on me and fixed me.

During these months I tried a multitude of useless painkillers, as well as a brief course of physiotherapy, provided by the NHS. This is the tale of my first physio experience...

It was a hot and humid August morning and a rare one in that I'd woken with the pain at a barely noticeable level - typical that this should happen on a day when I was due at hospital rather than one I could take advantage of by going for a jog or something (I have never been for a jog in my life, but that's beside the point). It was as if my pain was a sentient being that fucking hated me.

I figured I'd look like a chump if I went for physiotherapy and didn't actually have any pain for them to work on, so I decided to walk to the place, hoping I'd get a twinge at least. But in true Bramish fashion I took it a bit too easy, and got a bit lost to boot, and thus had to rush to make my appointment.

I eventually got to the hospital and announced my arrival to the receptionist, and then had to sit in an unfeasibly hot waiting room. I'm pretty sure one of the other patients was a tropical lizard of some description, although it may just have been an scaly old lady. Within five minutes, the heat, combined with the effort of rushing to get there, and the fact that I fear waiting rooms in general, had given me a big-time all over body sweat. I had no time at all to acclimatise before I was called in to meet my physio, who transpired to be a ludicrously attractive young student. She ushered me into her torture chamber and began questioning me. I'm sweating like a swine and my general nervousness in hospitals isn't helping. Then she invites me to change into my gym clothes. Gym clothes?! Nobody mentioned this to me! Horror of horrors I'm asked to just undress to my pants like a forgetful schoolboy in PE class and I'm left standing there in all my sweaty, flabby glory in nought but pants and brown socks. BROWN SOCKS!

The next step in my horrific trial was to lie down on one of those tissue covered benches as she prodded and massaged me. As I imagine the horror she must be experiencing with each touch of my slimy body, I sweat more, and pretty soon the tissue is disintegrating in parts. I have to turn over, bits of paper sticking to me, the sweat and embarrassment rising until finally my ordeal is over.

But no, she makes me sit, dripping and semi-naked as she explains the exercises I should then do at home. And to top it off, when dressed I had to sit in the waiting room again to make another appointment. I couldn't even make a quick getaway as the session had brought the pain back to its usual levels, so I had to hobble out pathetically, and I think I may have even shed a single solitary tear, although that may have just been my eyeball perspiring.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

On loving meat so much it hurts

My girlfriend made meat loaf the other day. It's delicious. So delicious that I ate it a bit too aggressively and chomped a great hole in the side of my tongue with a combination of top incisor and lower molar. True to form, this wound soon developed into a giant ulcer, more vicious looking than the Sarlaac pit and more painful than it's possible to describe to anyone who has never suffered from giant tongue ulcers. Its location meant it was constantly resting against a tooth and any movement of the tongue, no matter how slight, caused immense, tear-inducing pain. This made eating, talking, and even swallowing and yawning a harrowing trial.

I'm a couple of days in and there's no respite in sight. I can't talk without looking and sounding like a drooling stroke victim, and I can't eat anything without looking like a bird trying to chug back a whole fish.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

On looking a bit murdery

On the way home tonight I picked up a couple of bottles of red wine for myself - nothing unusual there, except tonight I decided to treat myself to something a little more expensive than what I usually drink, just to see if it's worth the extra few Euro (in retrospect I shouldn't have, since the tastiest, smoothest red wine I've had from a supermarket here is only €1.99, and it's delicious. Plus it has a twist top - all will be revealed as you read on...).

So, I get home, relax a little, put on some music, and decide to uncork the beast. Except I remember I don't own a corkscrew. I despair briefly and then remember I've used a certain screwdriver to uncork a bottle before, so all is not lost. I gently screw in the tip, at which point I realise that this is the most ridiculous cork ever created - it seemed to defy all laws of chemistry and physics, apparently having a core made from dust and sponge cake, but an outer surface fashioned from octopus suckers and cement. The screwdriver got no purchase, but sank through the "cork" which stuck fast to the edges of the bottle. I couldn't pull it up, so after much internal debate I decided the only way was down and in. This is where it all began to go wrong. Or wronger.

My kitchen has white walls, a white ceiling and white appliances. The wine is red - you see where this is going but allow me to continue. Using as little force as I can I gently begin to ease the cork down, except the cork, being the bastard that it is, decides to then relinquish all grip on its host and just dive in. Imagine the force with which a cork erupts from a champagne bottle but going the other way, into a load of stainy red stuff. Displacement occurs, and how. The red wine is forced out and all over every single surface in my kitchen, including I believe, some that weren't even there before and came into existence just to be coated in my scarlet foolishness. I whip off the soaked shirt I'm wearing and begin desperately scrubbing everywhere. My kitchen overlooks an abandoned parking lot but beyond that is the street, with a view directly up at me. Anyone happening to pass at that point would have seen a half-naked man, covered in red, meticulously scrubbing the walls and ceiling of ominous red stains, frantically glancing around in case he missed a spot.

The wine was average at best.