Saturday, July 15, 2006


Foot Eater's Unoriginal Miscellany

The life cycle of a typical blogger:

First post: some rant about how complicated Blogger is, or an apology for the fact that this is a test. Second post: an awkward attempt at a humorous take on a topical news item. Third post: a favourable comment, together with a link, about someone else’s blog. Fourth post: a feebly witty commentary on how the blog’s going so far. Fifth post: a drunken outpouring of rage about how nobody seems to be visiting or commenting. Sixth post: a confessional-type effort about work or school days or relationships or whatever. Seventh post: a pathetically grateful effort thanking those few people who have commented and providing links to their blogs. Eighth to approximately 39th posts: various topics, received with varying degrees of enthusiasm by readers (as evidenced by numbers of comments). Fortieth to 52nd posts: more of the same, with added apologies about the infrequency of posting. Fifty-third to 80th posts: a return to the self-referential themes of the first eight (with optional lengthy absence of up to six weeks, prompting a barrage of comments asking after the site-owner’s welfare). Eighty-first post onwards: sink or swim time, in which either the frequency of posting reaches a steady state of between one and seven posts per week, or the blog owner announces tearfully that he or she is giving up blogging because of work and family commitments but would like to thank everyone for being there for him or her, etc, etc.

BBC Radio Four. What’s it like? The only things really worth listening to any more are I’m Sorry, I Haven’t A Clue, where you can hear the octogenarian jazz supremo Humphrey Lyttelton delivering some of the filthiest, most finely-judged double entendres around, and In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg, which is 45 weekly minutes of the most sumptuous and intelligent discussion of anything – art, science, philosophy – you’re likely to hear on air anywhere in the world. I still listen to the Today programme most mornings on the way to work, but lately I’ve had fantasies of a Blunt Cogs version, with Dr Maroon and SamProblemChildBride as the anchors, LindyK reading the news bulletins, Binty McShae as the sports editor (bit of a theme developing here, but then the Scotch have taken over the Beeb), and the religious slot Thought For The Day being taken alternately by El Barbudo and Anti-Barney.

I like the way Arlington Hynes updates his posts with quotes from the comments. Must steal that. Arlington did a very brilliant thing in using a gimmick – his bizarre spelling – from the outset of his blogging career. Must remember that for when I’m reincarnated.

Where’s the Emerald Bile gone?

Now for some lists.

People who aren’t nearly as funny as they think they are:

People who are funnier than they will ever know:

Swear words I will never use on this blog:

Times my finger has been poised over the Delete Blog button for more than five minutes:


Occasions on which I have posted self-deprecating comments in an obvious trawl for self-validation:


Number of people I link to whose political views I share completely:


Number of times the above has bothered me:

See previous answer.

End of lists. Coming up in the next few months: the Fenby saga will continue, and there’ll be more accounts of mistakes and misunderstandings, and probably more medical tales too. De-link now!

That’s it, that’s me for now; I’m off. See you all in a month or so. Behave.


The Misunderstanding

Excerpt from the diary of former Defense Secretary J. Barleigh Korn, published posthumously by Apocalypso Press ($19.99)

January 19th

This morning I went to my briefin with the President and he looked all serius like. I aisked what was up but he dosnt like to be aisked questions, only to speak, so I let him talk cept I didnt realy lisen properly on acount of my disorder. At the end he gave me my instrutions for the day and I was a bit suprized but my job is to take the Presidents orders and not to aisk questions on acount of how hes like the Boss and all so I went away to do what he seid.

I went to my ofice and told Marcy my secetary to hold all my calls and I sat down at my desk. I dug some wax out my ears with my pen cos Momma seys its real importent to clean your ears reglarly or else you turn into a def asshole like my Daddy before he died, only sometimes I forget to what with havin so many importent things to think about at work all day long. I stuck the wax in the waistpaperbaskit only some of it stuck to the rim and I had to scrape it of with my pen and I realized I was waisting time and the President dosnt like that.

I made lots of fone calls and the people I spoke to didnt belive what I was seying but I hollered at them that it was the Presidents orders and did they want to anser to him personly and they seid no and I seid good cos if they cuoldnt folow orders then they cuold look for anuther job. Then I booted up my Appel Mac and got thru all the securitiy paswords and shit and punched in the priming codes and it kept given me meseges like WARNIN and DO YOU REALY WANT TO DO THIS but eventualy their was no more meseges and it seid LAUNCH? and I pushed ENTER.

Then some guys came in who I think were probly G-Men and they arested me and I seid why are you arestin me Im the defense secetary but they didnt sey shit and stuck me in a room. Then after maybe a half huor they came and took me to the Presidents ofice and staid with me. The President looked pised and also scared. He stared at me but didnt sey anythin for along time and I pointed at my nose.

- Youve got… I seid.

He rubbed some stuff off of his nostrel, it looked like the talcum powder Momma puts on her face when one of my new uncels is comin round to the trailer. Then he rememembered he was sposed to be pised with me.

- What in the Sam Hill have you just done boy, he hollered. He alweys calls me boy even tho Im 20 and so not a boy or even tecnicly a teenager anymore even.

- I was just folowin what you told me to do this mornin Mr President Sir, I seid.

- This mornin? he seid. This mornin I told you that your hearin dificulties was becomin a real problem and I advized you to consider a new career.

- O sory I seid, beginin to giggel. I thaught you told me to nuke Korea.

He stared at me agein all bug eyed like and then he started yellin an cursin about how he shuold never of hired a god dam Tennesee shit kicker like me but I cuoldnt help still giggelin and prety soon he was laughin too and so were the G-Men when they took me away agein. In fact it was infexious and the fierin squad was chucklin so hard they had to give up and theyre goin to try agein tomorrow. If theirs any of them left anyhow.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


The day Dick had his face chewed off

In the mid-1990s I spent six months working in the Accident and Emergency department of a district general hospital in a certain Hampshire town while I tried to decide on a career path. For legal reasons the town must remain anonymous; but I have to give it a name for the purposes of this story, so let’s call it Shipmanville. Unlike most medics, A&E doctors work a strict shift system, and one Friday night I was on duty with two other Casualty officers, Amy and Dick. (His name was Richard but we all called him Dick to annoy him, and because he was one. Doctors’ humour is at the level of sophistication of your average nine-year-old's.) Amy was Chinese, endearingly modest and an obvious future star in the medical firmament. I’ve lost contact with her over the years but I imagine she’s a professor at Harvard or something by now. Dick on the other hand liked to think of himself as a potential Nobel laureate, which he clearly wasn’t even to my untutored eye in those days. He must have been no more than twenty-seven or -eight but seemed older, not least because his hair was already thinning and he had the beginnings of a comb-over. To mask his fundamental insecurity he had adopted a rather pompous manner, with his head pulled back tightly on his neck and his chin tucked in, his eyebrows faintly raised at their inner ends and his lips pursed. He didn’t bother to conceal his frustration at being stuck in a provincial backwater like Shipmanville when what he thought he deserved was a plum job on one of the London university training schemes. It wasn’t that he was a bad doctor, merely that he was an average one who thought he was the bollocks.

The night in question had been a quiet one by Friday standards, and by midnight the three of us had cleared the backlog generously bequeathed to us by the afternoon shift and were having a coffee break with some of the nurses. Amy was entertaining us all with a hilariously filthy story about a Chinese sex practice when Dick, who had been sitting in a corner sulking because he wasn’t the centre of attention, got up to make a phone call in another room. A minute later the intercom crackled alive and announced the imminent arrival of a Blue Light. This signalled an emergency. I didn’t bother trying to decipher the story the paramedic was telling as his voice was distorted beyond intelligibility over the radio system. Normally we attended to Blue Lights on a rotating basis, and it was Dick’s turn, but as he was elsewhere making his phone call and Amy had dealt with the last one (a sad case of an elderly man who had been found unconscious and alone in his flat and had died within minutes of reaching hospital, despite Amy’s best efforts) I stood up and went to the ambulance bay to await the new arrival. It would piss Dick off since he liked to show off his middling medical skills wherever possible, and I found myself whistling as I watched the ambulance skid to a stop with an unnecessary but impressive screech of its tyres.

The two paramedics sprang down like marines and rolled the stretcher out of the back, and I held the doors open and strolled after them as they pushed it down the corridor. One gave me a running history over his shoulder.

‘A1, 44, NFA, ethanol NFS, PFO, blunt trauma to abdo, LOC negative, GCS 13/15, two litres DS IV and third running.’

Translated, this was: a forty-four-year-old white male of no fixed address, whose alcohol intake was Normal For Shipmanville (i.e. approximately eight cans of strong lager a day), was pissed and fell over (PFO) and sustained some sort of non-penetrating injury to his abdomen (it later transpired that one of his friends had kicked him in the stomach); he was conscious but inebriated and had had an intravenous infusion of two litres of a dextrose and saline mix. This suggested blood loss from somewhere, probably inside his abdomen.

We got him into one of the two resuscitation rooms and set to work, myself and two nurses called Debbie and June. His name was Dave, according to the paramedics who had obtained this information from the friend who had kicked him just before the police had carted him off. I glanced at his face but he wasn’t one of our weekend regulars. He was able to respond to simple commands and was compos mentis enough to shout fuck off at me whenever I touched his abdomen, and I quickly established from this that there was no significant head injury. From the state of his abdo, though, it appeared that the kick to his belly had ruptured his spleen. Together we stabilised him haemodynamically and eased his pain, and I asked June to contact the surgeons as he needed an exploratory operation and probably a splenectomy.

June came back and told me that Dick had heard I had stolen his Blue Light case and was on the warpath, her hand making wanking motions as she spoke. I shrugged, and wrote up my notes while I waited for the surgical team to arrive.

They took their time, and after a while I wandered out into the corridor to see what was happening. Further down on the left was the second resuscitation room, and issuing from it were strident Ulster tones I recognised. I put my head round the door. There, on either side of the bed on which lay the body of the elderly man Amy had tried to revive earlier, were Dick and O’Connor, the surgical registrar. O’Connor was a snarling Celt from Belfast who always seemed to be fighting down a raging wind of fury within himself when he wasn’t fighting with someone else, which he was much of the time.

‘Why d’ya waste my focking time like this?’ he shouted. ‘Yer man is focken dead.’

Dick stood hapless, his pomposity turned to bewilderment, peering down at the dead man’s medical notes through his goggle spectacles.

‘And he’s never forty-four, ya blind twat,’ O’Connor continued, spittle flying. ‘He’s eighty if he’s a day. Christ sakes, you Caz officers, yer a shower of focken shite.’

With that he stormed out, glaring maniacally at me as I stepped aside to let him pass. Dick frowned down at the corpse on the bed, then took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. I have never seen a man so crushed.

It turned out that Dick, enraged by missing out on the Blue Light while he was on the phone, had misread which resuscitation room Dave the drunk was in and had instead gone into the room with the old dead man, who was peacefully waiting for the porters to come and transport him to the mortuary. Shortly afterwards O’Connor had come down, seen that Dave the potential splenectomy had been allocated to Dick on the board (Dave had, rightfully, been Dick’s, and the roster on the board had dutifully reflected this), and had accordingly sought out Dick and found him, not with a middle-aged live trauma victim but with a cooling stiff.

I felt sorry for Dick that day, and we all went easier on him after that. Well, after several weeks of supreme mirth at his expense, anyway. I've lost contact with him too, and for all I know he's achieved his dream and is a jet-setting Oxbridge luminary with publications in journals like Science and Nature (though if so, he must be using a pseudonym as his real surname hasn't registered on the radar yet). I hope he's content, wherever he is. Bless you, Dick; you made my six months' penance a little more bearable, even if you are a shower of focken shite.

Friday, July 07, 2006


The Magic Roundabout: filthy Communist propaganda

I wanted to post this as long ago as 1976 but the technology back then wasn’t up to the task. Nonetheless, in the wake of last year’s film of The Magic Roundabout (released, stupidly, as Doogal [sic] in the US), I feel I cannot keep silent any longer. What follows might just save you or at least your children from the hell of totalitarian enslavement.

The Magic Roundabout (henceforth TMR) was a stop-motion animated children’s series on BBC television that ran from 1965 to 1977, with a brief resurrection in the 1990s. I was a devoted fan in the early seventies, and it’s a miracle I wasn’t taken in by its foul ethos. For I can, indeed must, now reveal that it was part of an insidious KGB operation to brainwash British children; and its continuing popularity, as evidenced by its frequent re-runs and the 2005 cinema offering, indicates that the spirit of Bolshevism is still alive in these supposed post-Cold War days, and is if anything even more dangerous for its subtlety.

The programme was originally French, but was adapted – rewritten and narrated in English – by one Eric Thompson, now deceased (or is he?). A cursory glance at Thompson’s life is enough to sow the seeds of unease in any right-thinking brain. He trained as an actor (in other words, a shifty dissembler), and was father to Emma Thompson, star of stage and screen and a noted supporter of the left-wing Labour Party.

TMR's characters represent a veritable Who’s Who of Communist archetypes and icons. Dougal the dog, long-haired and grumbling, is the slovenly Lennonist working-class hero dissatisfied with his lot and clearly longing for a goateed leader to urge him on to insurrection. Brian the snail, in ever-present Russian steel-worker cloth cap, is the stolid, truculent working man so beloved of latter-day leftists like John Prescott. Ermintrude the cow blatantly symbolises the Stakhanovite ideal of the Soviet man/woman who surpasses what was hitherto thought to be humanly (in her case bovinely) possible in the pursuit of the building of a Socialist society. (In her case, the tremendous feat is the consumption of enormous quantities of grass.) The weird spring-like creature Zebedee is red in colour – no subtlety there, methinks! – and, tellingly, in the first ever episode shown on French TV he is seen bursting free from a box in a nakedly revolutionary act. Dylan the guitar-strumming rabbit, invariably portrayed with a suspicious-looking cigarette between his fingers, is an obvious homage to Matt Dillon, the hero of the American Wild West TV series Gunsmoke, and admittedly does not fit into my thesis so well.

The human characters include the little girl Florence, a.k.a. The Gentle Soviet Mother Figure; the roundabout operator Mr Rusty, whose resemblance to Karl Marx is astounding; and Mr McHenry, who drives a tractor just like one of those kulaks Stalin professed to represent yet slaughtered in their millions. Mr McHenry closely resembles Friedrich Engels, for good measure.

The TMR plots are without fail ultimately about co-operation between the various characters, leading to a happy resolution for all concerned. There is never a hint of war or bloodshed. Such Utopian storytelling is, I submit, the most horrendous, corrupting drivel that could ever be inflicted upon an impressionable mind. The world is just not like that.

My friends, the Communist threat, far from having been defeated, is only just beginning, and can be found in your child’s video collection and on your television screen courtesy of the taxpayer-funded BBC (or should that be BBCCCP?!). Join me in resisting the vile Leninist menace! Sign my petition by clicking here:

Saturday, July 01, 2006


The Mistake

‘You’re too hard on yourself.’
She shifted closer to him on the sofa, rested the backs of her fingers against his cheek. He slumped forward, staring ahead, morose.
‘It’s not so bad.’
He gave the barest laugh, a quick dart of air through his nose. After a moment he said: ‘I screwed up.’
‘I’m a failure.’
‘No!’ She grasped his shoulders and turned him to face her, gazing at him until he was forced to meet her eyes.
‘Listen to me. Listen. You made a decision. It might be the right one, it might not. It could turn out to be a mistake, in which case you just pick yourself up, dust yourself off and move on. Chalk it up to experience.’
‘But nothing. You’re a good man, darling. You’re good at what you do. But you’re also human. Nobody expects you to be perfect all the time.’
He watched her, suddenly filled with a surge of love for this woman he had known so intimately for so many years. He remembered the real struggles they’d faced together, when his drinking problem had threatened to tear their home apart, and how she’d been there for him, believed in him, and in the end helped him see it through and emerge intact on the other side.
‘You sure know how to push the right buttons,’ he murmured, and realised what he’d said a second after she did. She put her hand up to suppress a giggle.
There was a tap on the door and it opened discreetly. Harris stepped in, crew-cut and serious, the faintest tic in his left cheek the only flaw in his mask of impassivity. Through the doorway behind him was a storm of siren noise and panic.
‘Mr President, please. You have to go down into the bunker. Now.’
They stood and followed Harris, hand in hand, a small smile slipping between them. Perhaps she’s right, he thought. It’s not the end of the world.

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