Friday, December 22, 2006

Season's Greetings

To you all, from me. Who could have predicted in August that the nation would be transfixed by an abandoned bath mat for five weeks later in the year? Quite literally nobody. But we were and a lot of it was due to being spurred on by your comments. So thank you.

And I may be appearing on the radio over the festive season, with Annie Mole from the excellent Going Underground blog and possibly a pigeon in an interview about unsung blogs. I think it will be on Anita Rani's show on Boxing Day at 10pm on BBC Five Live, but it might not be. Maybe there will be some kind of listen again feature on the website. I have appeared on the radio before, and I should warn you that the BBC use very poor-quality microphones that turn my rich, deep, sonorous voice into something a bit high-pitched and nasal.

Shower Scene

My girlfriend and I are staying with friends who have two young children. Because of this they do not have a lock on their bathroom door. Because of this I am always slightly nervous when I visit them, and when possible I like to let people know that I am going to use the bathroom. I do this quite casually and naturally (I am a gifted conversationalist), but I leave everyone in no doubt that that is where I am going and that under no circumstances should anyone even come near the bathroom door.

This, however, is the first time that we have stayed overnight with them, which necessitates a full undress and shower in the morning. I had thought that I had made it reasonably clear that that was what I was going to do – not only did I say, “I'll just go and have a shower then”, but I had a flipping towel over my shoulder! It was therefore with some surprise that I look through the completely transparent shower curtain to see a small boy telling me that it is time for breakfast.

I have three simultaneous thoughts:

– It would be wrong to make a big deal out of this. The human body is a natural thing, and if I shriek and cover myself up he will have a view that willies are dirty and shameful and will grow up to be the kind of person that doesn't like people seeing his willy and gets into a complete state when a small child accidentally sees his willy.

– I don't want him to see my willy! They are dirty and shameful!

– This could go horribly, horribly wrong and I could spend the next 25 years picking glass out of my food. What if he mixes up “I saw Salvadore's willy” and “Salvadore showed me his willy”? It's a subtle grammatical difference that I think might be lost on a 5-year-old, but not on 12 of my peers.

Maybe it would be better to get my side of the story in first. But even a man of my conversational talents might find it difficult to segue from “Tea or coffee, Salvadore?” to “I wasn't masturbating!”

Instead, I casually, but strategically move the loofah and say that I'll be down in a minute. And hope that they at least spell my name correctly on the register.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Funny Things That I Have Said That Really Deserved a Wider Audience #2

I was in the Olympic Stadium, Berlin, watching a football match with some friends. This, of course, was the venue of the controversial 1936 Olympics, the highlight of the opening ceremony of which was a flypast by the Hindenburg, the largest aircraft ever to be built.

And what did they have at half-time? A radio-controlled model airship flying around the stadium. It was pretty impressive, though I assume that health and safety regulators had insisted it be filled with helium, like the Hindenburg was originally designed to have been. I assume this as, with no sympathies for any survivors or relatives of victims who might have been present, the person flying it proceeded to accidentally crash it into one of the goals.

This was a golden opportunity for someone as quick-witted as myself. How many times in my life would I witness an airship crash, particularly in such resonant circumstances as that day's? But what were the chances of my friend having at least a passing knowledge of Herbert Morrison's radio commentary of that tragic event from 1937?

I had to risk it. I turned to him and, in my most anguished tones, wailed, “Oh, the humanity!”

He just stared at me. By the time I'd explained it all the second half had kicked off.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Funny Things That I Have Said That Really Deserved a Wider Audience #1

I do not often suffer from l'esprit de l'escalier (coming up with the right thing to say far too late). Instead, I suffer from something whereby I say funny things at exactly the right time, but to a particularly small, unappreciative or incomprehending audience.

Some time ago I was with a girlfriend who had a bit of a problem in her “lady area”. It was the kind of problem that can be cured with the help of natural yoghurt, so when we were out she popped into a shop and bought some Greek-style yoghurt. When she showed me her purchase, quick as a flash, I said, “Surely if it's Greek-style, you'd stick it up your arse”.

This is quite possibly the quickest that my wits have ever worked, but the audience was (a) just one person, (b) who didn't know the non-dairy product meaning of “Greek-style”, and (c) who wasn't in the best mood for laughing anyway, what with having a poorly front bottom.

How come Oscar Wilde never had this problem? Though I suppose that his partners never needed natural yoghurt...

Friday, December 15, 2006

We Interrupt This Message

Ring-ring! Ring-ring!

The telephone is ringing; this is an exciting incident in my day. I hardly ever get phone calls during working hours, and when I do they are often of a thrilling nature, like somebody offering me a job. Whoever said that bad news travels faster than good news clearly wasn't a freelance writer, in whose world crushing rejection comes in the post from people too embarrassed at the poverty of your idea to want to speak to you, but acceptance and offers of employment like to be made immediately and vocally with lots of ego-boosting encouragement. Though I am now getting crushing rejections by email as well, so perhaps whoever came up with that maxim was not only right, but remarkably prescient.

ME: Hello.

WOMAN ON PHONE: Er, hello. I'm phoning about BT Broadband.

Oh for goodness' sake! I am ex-directory and have removed myself from every possible telephone and mailing list, yet still these people get through. Do they not realise that I am a writer, and I might have been about to create something brilliant? Coleridge was once interrupted by “a person from Porlock” and never managed to recall the dream that inspired his poem afterwards. Though whether this person was flogging high-speed internet access is not recorded.

ME: Yeah, I'm not interested.

WOMAN: Oh, it's just that it doesn't work.

Blimey! This is the worst salesperson ever. BT can hardly blame the break-up of the UK telecom monopoly for their woes if this is the calibre of staff that they employ. Unless it is some amazing reverse-psychology technique that starts off by making you agree with how poor their services are, then ends up with you buying broadband, gas, electricity and a timeshare in the Algarve from them.

ME: I'm actually very happy with Tiscali.

WOMAN: Oh. Is there anything you can do?

It slowly dawns on me. This woman is not a salesperson, and is just a BT broadband customer who has accidentally called me thinking that I am the fault reporting department. All that I've done is to tell her that I'm not interested, that my broadband works fine, and that a competitor is much better.

ME: Like I said, Tiscali are quite good.

I put the phone down and go back to work.

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan...

Nope, it's gone.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Train of Thought

Customer Service Centre
South West Trains
Overline House
Blechynden Terrace
SO15 1GW

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing to draw your attention to this picture that I took at Kingston station recently. As you can see, the sign reads “We regret that owing to a fault no information can be displayed at present”. This is confusing because this statement is itself information, so therefore the information that the sign is displaying (that it cannot display information) is incorrect.

By displaying the information that it cannot display information this sign represents a paradox – in fact, a dot-matrix version of the liar paradox that dates back to Greek philosopher Eubulides of Miletus in the fourth century BC. Another example of the liar paradox is “This statement is false”.

Perhaps you are employing paraconsistent logic and believe that the statement can be both true and false. Or maybe you are using situation semantics whereby the “negation liar” statement can be false without contradiction. Or perhaps your employees have to spend most of their time making the trains run rather than engaging in philosophical discourse. They obviously didn’t have that distraction in Ancient Greece.

May I suggest that you reword the sign to read “We regret that owing to a fault no information can be displayed at present (apart from this bit of information, obviously)”. You may have to replace your dot-matrix displays across the network with ones that have an extra line each, but that would be a small price to pay for logic. (I feel that putting the part in brackets on a separate line that you scroll up to would confuse matters further.) This will then not perplex any passing philosophers, and thus not cause them to miss their trains when they begin to question whether the 18:49 to Waterloo actually exists anyway.

Yours faithfully,

Salvadore Vincent


Monday, December 11, 2006

Things Abandoned on the Pavement Within 100 Yards of My Home That I Have Taken a Photograph of #3

This one? This one I have no idea about. Three espresso cups and two matching saucers on the pavement. Two cups upside-down on saucers, the middle cup the right way up. What is going on?

It doesn’t fall into the category of “rubbish to be picked up by council”, nor really into “things I don’t need, but someone passing might”. Who doesn't have room for three small coffee cups and two saucers?

Had I interrupted a child’s tea party? Was it some kind of middle-class version of the shell game, fleecing passing north Londoners who failed to find the organic coffee bean? Was this the day the teddy bears were going to have their picnic?

My only other theory is that it was some kind of semaphore signal that Russian spies are leaving for each other. Down/saucer, up/no saucer, down/saucer perhaps meaning “Send more polonium-210”.

I had to know what was under the cups. I looked around for the hidden cameras and steeled myself for anything – the cups being superglued to the saucers, the saucers being superglued to the pavement, my fingers being superglued to the cups...

And what was underneath? Nothing. Nothing under the saucers either. The next day they were gone – either one lucky neighbour is sipping espressos with two friends (one of whom doesn't take sugar), or the teddy bears went down with radiation poisoning.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Bathmatwatch: A Tribute

(Watch on YouTube here.)

After a minute's silence, please sing loudly at 1201GMT on Friday 8th.

And did bare feet in recent times
Walk upon this old bath mat blue?
And has the rain of shower or bath
Now been replaced by morning dew?
And did the naked and the wet
Stand forth on this absorbent weave?
And is where dampened bodies dried
Among the fallen autumn leaves?

Bring me my towel; And now my pants;
Bring me my talc (my feet perspire);
Bring me my Lynx deodorant!
Bring me my dressing gown of fire!
I will not cease my Bathmatwatch,
Nor shall the words of doubters scotch,
Till we have somewhere warm to stand
In every bathroom in the land.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Bathmatwatch: A Nation Mourns

It is my sad duty to inform you all that the bath mat has disappeared. Unconfirmed reports at 1145GMT suggested that the bath mat was not there any more. This was confirmed at 1150GMT on the way back from the shop. A thorough search was made under cars and in nearby front gardens, but to no avail. There was a glimmer of hope that perhaps it had gone back to its original home, but that was cruelly snatched away with the circulation of this photograph earlier this afternoon:

Tony Blair has paid tribute to the bath mat in the House of Commons, saying “It was the people's bath mat”. The Queen has ordered all flags on royal palaces to be flown at half-mast, and all bets are off for the Christmas number one as Elton John has announced that he will be recording Bath Mat in the Wind.

The street where the drama of the last five weeks took place was quiet this afternoon, though it is understood that floral tributes are now being laid by the wall at the bath mat's original home.

Nearby streets are suspiciously clean, but when asked to comment on the movements of street sweepers in the past 24 hours, a local council representative said, “Er, I'm not really sure. Can I call you back?” No call came, and one angry fan has already pointed the finger of suspicion, declaring, “It was the street sweeper, in the road, with a broom”. Meanwhile, Mohamed Al Fayed has blamed Prince Philip for the disappearance, and Oliver Stone is busily scrutinising the grassy knoll area in the upper right of the photo.

This is not a time for recrimination though. This is a time to remember the happy times that the bath mat has brought us all and to reflect on its passing. There will now be three days of official mourning – please sign the book of condolences below. As a mark of respect, the Scrappy-Loo and matching bath mat (available in blue or cream) will now be donated at random to one lucky mourner.

Bathmatwatch: Day 36

Bath mat “missing”. More soon.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Bathmatwatch™: Day 35

As you may have read in the business sections of the Sunday papers, Bathmatwatch, like MySpace and YouTube before it, has been taken over by a massive media conglomeration. There was a frenzied bidding war between News International, Google and Yahoo, each keen to expand their portfolio of Web 2.0 sites, but the outright winner was JonnyB’s Private Secret Diary.

Evil media magnate JonnyB, who allows the Chinese to censor his blog, and who smashed the comedy sidekicks’ union by bringing in Short Tony as scab labour, has insisted that this blog start turning a profit, so to this end I have introduced a number of revenue-generating promotions that will happily sit alongside the innocent daily picture of an abandoned bath mat. Honestly, you will barely notice the difference.

Text alerts! For just £1.40, get a daily text alert for a whole week about how the bath mat is sent straight to your mobile, BEFORE the rest of the world gets the blog posting. Invaluable if you are on holiday, or just away from your computer.

Picture alerts! For just £3.50, get the daily picture of the bath mat sent straight to your mobile for a whole week! Again, this will be BEFORE the rest of the world gets the blog posting. Imagine the envy on your friends’ faces when you tell them that you know where the Honda Civic is!

And remember that every donation made before midday on 8th December gets entered into the prize draw where you could win your very own Scrappy-Loo. People really are giving money, so don’t delay – it could be you! And the more you give, the greater your chance of winning!

To use these services, just send your UK mobile phone number in along with your PayPal donation. You will get seven daily text messages or picture messages, though I’m not responsible for network delays or incompatibilities, or the bath mat disappearing, or the fact that I might be away at Christmas. I promise never to give the number to anyone else. Nor will I use the number for making dirty phone calls to you – anyone who says that I will is lying.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Bathmatwatch: Day 34

Click for answer

Spot the bath mat. The Honda Civic owner is not making things easy for any of us. (Click photo for answer.)

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Bathmatwatch: Day 33

I might have to rig up some floodlights till the clocks go forward...

Friday, December 01, 2006

Bathmatwatch: Day 32

Bathmatwatch continues with its invaluable work of providing a daily photograph of an abandoned bath mat. But this work comes at a cost – shoe leather, broadband fees, danger money etc. So today I am launching Bath Mats in Need and asking you for donations to help this work to carry on. It's easy to give – just click the 'Make a Donation' button on the right and pay via PayPal. Every penny you give goes towards helping Bathmatwatch continue.

And as an extra incentive to give, one lucky donor will receive their very own Scrappy-Loo, an actual blue toilet mat in the post. The more you give, the higher your chance of winning, so please be generous. This is a game of skill, not a lottery – to enter the draw just answer this question in the PayPal Note box: What is the subject of Bathmatwatch? (a) It is a bath mat, or (b) I am an idiot and wrong – it is something else like a carpet sample. Only correct answers will be entered into the draw. All private information such as real names and email addresses will be kept secret. The draw will be held on December 8th 2006.

NB Scrappy-Loo prize does not have eyes or mouth, nor does it speak in any way. Your statutory rights are not affected. Probably.